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.
Pairing: Samantha Stewart and Christopher Foyle
A/N: This A/U story of Sam and Mr Foyle is based on scenes from "The French Drop,""Enemy Fire," and soon, "They Fought in the Fields." I welcome your feedback.
So many thanks go out to my shipmates: Jewell, who wrote half of this chapter; my wonderful beta Hazeleyes (who may someday get me to remember to keep dialogue sounding like actual mid-20th century speech); and TartanLioness, Treva Rea, and Persiflage, who contribute ideas and listen to me whinge about writer's block on a regular basis!
The silence in the small office was deep and powerful. Two of the room's occupants held their breath, awaiting the explosion they imagined was to come from Christopher Foyle.
Gillian Stewart stood, her face flushed a high colour and her chin held just as high.
But the explosion came from her daughter.
"Mother! How could you be so cruel?" Her face red with emotion, Sam threw a distraught glance at her fiancé and fled the room. Out in the hallway Sam shoved the door with a furious motion, but realised at the last second that to slam it would make her appear childish, as if storming from the room hadn't. She caught the door at the last second.
She sighed with vigour; the violence of the attempted door slam had released some of her tension. She felt a small degree calmer. Calm enough to know that one of her parents would soon be coming after her—probably her father, if the past were any indication. She needed to hide her bag quickly; she was sure her father would be able to detect the incriminating nightie just as clearly as if it were waving its lacy hem at him and shouting, "Sin!"
The Ladies was no good; there was just a shelf where she kept a brush and some hairpins. The tea room—no, too far. Milner's office, then. The office cabinet next to the doorway had no files in it; Paul usually kept his lunch there. She knew her bag would fit, and if she couldn't retrieve the bag before Paul found it… Well, it was certainly better than either of her parents learning of the contents.
Reverend Stewart looked first at Mrs Stewart and then at Foyle. Apparently deciding that his wife could hold her own against the policeman, he quietly slipped out of the room. Gillian Stewart's gaze, like Milner's, was fixed on Foyle, who was studying the wood grain on his desktop intently.
Smouldering, Milner imagined.
But when Foyle eventually looked up and met Mrs Stewart's stare, his face was filled with pain, not anger.
"Yes," he said, softly, "I will likely die before her and leave her alone at far too young an age." He glanced down, and when he looked up, his eyes were on the doorway Sam had gone through. "That is my only, only regret."
Foyle took a deep breath and looked back at Sam's mother. "Mrs Stewart, as you know, there are no guarantees in this life. Samantha and I love each other, very much. I understand that you have doubts. I hope you will give us a chance to show you that our marriage will be as good for Sam as it will be for me."
Sam's mother seemed disconcerted. She had expected this man to become angry, and to issue vehement and strident protests. She not only expected it, she wished it to prove her point – he was not good enough for her Samantha.
Instead, here he was looking at her with eyes filled with anguish, and she didn't know what to say.
"I, it... it's just that Samantha is our only child, and I do worry so much…"
Mrs Stewart took a deep breath and said, "Samantha had a brother, you see—yes a brother a year and a half older than Samantha he died in his cot when he was almost six months old and I've never got over losing little Iain and I've lived too much of my life through my darling Samantha and now you, an older man, are telling me that you are taking her away from me!" She finished with another deep breath.
Both men had the identical thought: She talks just like Sam!
Foyle murmured, "I'm terribly sorry, I didn't know that. Sam's never mentioned it."
"My fault, I suppose. It was so painful for me to speak of it, she quickly learned not to talk about him. But, Mr Foyle, I understand you've suffered a loss, too…?"
Foyle cleared his throat, glanced at Milner, then said, "Yes. Yes, I have. My wife died of typhoid when she wasn't much older than Sam is now. I understand how difficult it is to speak of such things. I don't."
"Ah, yes. I see." Mrs Stewart paused, looking tensely at her shoes. "I have been rude and I apologise. Please forgive me; I was quite overwhelmed. I can see you are a man I should have got to know better, before I passed judgement." Another long pause. "Shall we gather up Iain and Samantha, and go somewhere for tea?"
Gillian suddenly remembered there was another man in the room. She turned to him.
"And you, Mr...uhhh?"
"Mr Milner, will you join us?"
"Thank you for your offer, but I'm afraid I must be getting home. Goodnight, Mrs Stewart. Sir." His polite nod included them both.
Foyle nodded his farewell, pretending not to notice the relief that crossed Milner's face as he made good his escape.
I'm still in the fire; I can't afford to be relieved.
"Let's go and find the others, shall we?" he asked, gesturing to the door with his hand, silently indicating 'ladies first'.
"Samantha." Reverend Stewart's usual soft tone was back in place. He'd already spoken her name twice, but his daughter continued to glare mutely at the wall opposite the bench where they were seated in the station corridor. "Samantha, please listen. Can you understand, darling, why your mother is so upset?"
"Why Mother is upset!" The young woman's eyebrows were heading for her hairline as she turned toward him in an exaggeratedly slow movement. "Seems to me you attacked Christopher just as much as she did!"
"Well, yes..." her father began, apologetically. Even without having heard Mr Foyle's halting acknowledgement of Gillian's bald-faced statement, Iain had begun to feel sympathy for the man; perhaps he'd been too hasty in accusing him. Heavens, the way he had looked at Samantha... any father would be happy to see that much devotion glowing in a potential son-in-law's eyes. Oh, and then there was that; odd as it might feel to have a son-in-law only about seven years one's junior, Iain could not dispute that Foyle's intention was to marry Sam. And that trustworthy Sergeant Milner had explained why Sam had not let them know yet. Iain wondered whether Sam's hesitation in letting them know was from worry that her mother would have just such a reaction. He sighed.
The Reverend bent towards Sam, patting her hand. "I'm sorry, my dear. Being a parent is fraught with these mistakes, I'm afraid... we're... like a cat protecting her kittens from any outsider who comes near, sometimes."
Sam shut her eyes to keep sudden tears of relief from flowing.
He went on, "I think this was a shock to me because... well, when I talked with Mr Foyle in the autumn, I had no inkling that he... em, cared for you in such a way." He paused, thoughtful. "I suppose that probably reflects well on him; he isn't a dishonest man, but if he already felt that way then, he at least was not recklessly acting upon it..."
Sam bit her lower lip. She decided not to tell her father that Christopher had confessed to her that he had indeed been romantically interested in her even then.
Just then the door at the end of the hall shut quietly as Milner emerged from Foyle's office. "Mustn't forget my house key again," he murmured, sending a smile Sam's way that seemed to say, Don't be worried. It's going to be all right. Sam smiled wanly back as her father nodded to Paul. The younger man disappeared into his office, and Sam held her breath. Would he look in the cabinet where she had stashed her small suitcase?
As it happened, Milner didn't open the cabinet until the following morning, when he went to put his packed lunch in it. As he had not slept well and didn't recognise the beige-and-white case, he didn't immediately associate it with the events of the previous evening until he opened it. Along with a skirt and blouse he had once seen Sam wear was a blue nightdress. Absently rubbing a bit of the shining cloth between thumb and forefinger, Paul had the small crease between his eyes that often appeared there in times of deep thought or consternation. Ah, that's right—Sam had this case with her when she ran from her parents last night. She must have hid it here so they wouldn't ask her about it. Part of him was amused, but a greater part was wistful... Jane had been gone for more than a month now, and he was in an odd limbo.
Paul and his wife hadn't discussed a divorce, but it was increasingly hard for him to imagine wanting to reconcile, even if Jane were to offer to try. She had been so cruel to him, at the time when he needed her most. After the long lonely near-year he had spent fighting, he would have been happy to see her old smile and feel the touch of her hand on his, let alone know again her kisses and caresses and more. But she behaved as if he had purposely brought on this injury to horrify and inconvenience her. She had not so much as pecked him on the cheek since he had returned.
Paul sighed as he thought about warm and lovely Sam. If he were free, and she were not in love with another man, would he want her? She thought nothing of asking me to dance with her, he reflected now with a hint of a smile. To her I'm not damaged goods. He liked her so much, and objectively found her beautiful, but he didn't feel that kind of attraction somehow. Sam was like a sister, almost. He hoped she would always be a part of his life.
But, God, how he wished there could be someone. Someone who looked at him the way Sam looked at Mr Foyle. It had been so long. Work and life would be easier if he had the comfort of a woman in his arms.
He set the case beside his desk away from the door and wondered as he sat down how everything had gone for the couple during the conciliatory tea the previous evening.
Half an hour earlier, DCS Foyle had opened his front door to his fiancée, who had come to collect him and drive him to the station. They had mutually decided to cancel the notion of spending last night together, even though the Stewarts had driven back to Lyminster after dinner and Sam had brought Christopher home. Both of them had been exhausted by their lack of sleep and the emotional turmoil of the day.
Nevertheless, after pulling up to the house, they had talked for a little while, still sitting in the car. Foyle had cleared his throat, then sighed.
"Well, I think we may have won them over, but I'm very glad it was your mother, and not your father, that stayed to talk to me. He might have asked me something I wouldn't want to answer..."
Sam had giggled. "Mmm. I don't think he would even wish to contemplate that. I'm glad we've decided on a simple wedding, so the 'white dress question' won't even be on anyone's mind."
Now Christopher smiled to think how matter-of-fact she'd been about it all. "How did you sleep, dear girl?" he asked with concern as he pulled away from their far-too-short kiss of greeting.
She hugged him. "Well enough, all things being considered," she answered wryly. "You?"
"The same." He looked into her eyes as he pulled her close again. "But I missed you."
"Mmm," she said dreamily, a minute later. "We'd better stop that, Mr Foyle, or we shall be late two days running."
He sighed and shot her a little sideways smile, reaching for his hat. "Here we go, then."
"Erm... Sam?" Standing in his office doorway, Milner smiled shyly at his young colleague just as was about to follow DCS Foyle into his office.
"Be with you in a tick, Sir," she told Foyle, then stepped into Sergeant Milner's room. He pushed the door nearly closed and said quietly, "Just wanted to remind you not to forget your case before you go home."
Despite her usual level of comfort with Milner, Sam could not help but blush. He had to have opened it to know it belonged to her. She gave him a little crumpled smile of embarrassment. "Thank you, Paul. Please forgive me for trespassing so baldly—it was, um, a bit of an emergency."
His warm brown eyes were reassuring as he nodded. "I quite understand." There was a slight pause until Sam chirped, "Very good, then! I shall do—come for it this evening, I mean. Thank you." She turned to go.
"Sam, I wonder..." he began, his eyes on the sun-streaked floor.
She cleared her throat nervously. Oh, dear. I do believe he is about to ask something rather personal. But she was determined to be as supportive of him as he had been to her and Christopher, so she waited for him to lift his gaze, so that she could look him in the eye.
This increased his confidence. "I just wanted to let you know how happy I am for you and Mr Foyle. I know he probably has told you… I certainly think it is a wonderful thing. I hope I didn't speak out of turn to your father and mother last evening."
"Oh, no, Paul! You were, I truly think, a help. My father maintains his great respect for you. And my mother thought you 'a nice young man'—her very words. You mustn't worry."
"Are they... have they come around, as far as the two of you are concerned? If you don't mind my asking..." he added diffidently.
"Ohh... I think so. I believe they have a bit more pondering and considering to do about it. But Mother and Christopher had a talk after I left the office, and seemed to make peace. Well, you were there."
He nodded. "It looked a promising shift in the way things were going, but I just wanted to be sure. Things are so uncertain in these times..." his eyes grew distant.
Sam chewed her lip gently. "Paul... are things still the same at home? Jane is at her sister's?"
The way he nodded made it plain that it was a relief to have Sam asking about it. "She... doesn't come right out and say she wants to be divorced, but I think she does. I suppose I'll have to let her divorce me, although..." he trailed off, his voice tight. He paused yet again, not closing the terribly private conversation. Somehow he just couldn't.
Before two nights ago, Sam might have been too afraid of indecorum to say what she said next. More earnest communication between her and Christopher had been a liberating thing, and she had a sense that Milner reluctantly was feeling envy for their greater happiness, his own loneliness more acutely thrown into relief.
"It isn't right, really. She is the one deserting," Sam stated gently, but firmly. "But however you are able to begin anew, Paul, I think would be best." She put her hand on his forearm, squeezed gently. "Please let me—us—know if ever you need to talk about it, or need testimony of some kind or other."
"You've both been so kind," Milner said wistfully.
Despite the trouble that public intimacy had wrought the evening before, Sam's first act upon entering her boss's office was to hug him tight. She would never take for granted how fortunate they were.