A/N: For chapter titles and for future chapter content, credit goes to the wonderful JoannaMC21 for providing me with the French translations.
To Grell Sutcliff,
Stop writing letters and get back to work. Honestly... I refuse to be the reason for your slacking off. I will never cease to be amazed at just how much useless gossip you have managed to squeeze into these letters. In any case, it's only been a month, and one of my desk drawers is already full b/c of your letters and your glasses. Since there are four months left to my stay, I demand you slow down on the current rate of mail.
William T. Spears
Grell was ecstatic, no, more than ecstatic. He was beyond giddy, his heart was going to pound straight out of his chest, he could feel it. His William had finally written a response! He had pranced around the office like an imbecile when he had seen the letter sitting in his inbox, squealing with joy. He had even sat in his chair for a good while, almost unwilling to open it for fear of ruining the perfection of the envelope. After all, it had been been sealed by- Grell had to put a hand to his nose immediately to avoid staining his paperwork with blood. When he thought of the fact that the letter he held in his hand had been sealed by William... had been licked and sealed by his William... Oh it was too much.
But after some time, he had finally calmed down enough to open the letter at last. Although it had only taken him about a few seconds to read the entire letter, he was still excited by the time he had finished reading. For some reason beyond his expectations, it was perfect. His perfect penmanship, the coldness of the contents, the brevity of his thoughts, but most of all... Most of all, the fact that William had taken the time out of his busy schedule to finally write a response, it was all perfect. He had to share his joy. Grinning madly at the letter in his hands, he planted a kiss on William's perfectly scrawled name and leapt up from his desk, startling some of the nearby dispatch members.
Prancing over to Ronald's desk, he waved the paper in front of the young death god's eyes, then clutched it to his chest with a dreamy sigh and whispered, as if it were some dastardly scandalous secret,
"Will wrote me a letter~"
Ronald gave Grell a raised eyebrow in response, before leaning back in his chair with a half grin. Watching Grell squirm in his desk from across the way had been amusing, but now that he knew that Grell's excitement was for something so tiny, he really wanted to laugh aloud. He knew he shouldn't laugh, but the most control he could muster still allowed a small chuckle to escape with his words.
"That's hardly a letter, Mr. Sutcliff. Really more like a memo."
"It's a letter, Ronnie! Look at how formally he signed his name, this is a bona fide love letter from my darling William." Grell pouted, pursing his lips out at Ronald.
"If you say so, but what does it even say?"
Grell held the letter out in front of Ronald's eyes again, this time allowing him time to read the actual contents and frowned deeply when Ronald did nothing but laugh aloud once again.
"Mr. Sutcliff, all he's saying is for you to get back to work! That doesn't qualify as a love letter at all!"
"What doesn't qualify as a love letter?" Eric asked curiously as he and Alan wandered over to Ronald's desk. Clearly none of them felt like doing their paperwork and were more curious to know why Grell had been practically screaming all morning at his desk.
Grinning, the braided man rested an elbow on Ronald's shoulder and leaned over to read the letter Grell was still holding out. When Eric also let out a snort of laughter, Grell pulled it back from their disdainful eyes and clutched it to his chest once again. None of them understood just how romantic it was!
"Wow, that's a shitty love letter if I ever saw one, and I'm pretty bad at writing things like that." Eric laughed and ruffled his hair some, shooting a knowing glance at Alan who merely returned it with a knowing glance of his own. Not that he had ever personally tried to write a love letter to Alan, but he was sure that he was less than eloquent, and that it would turn into an unmitigated disaster. Alan would probably still enjoy it though, and he would certainly appreciate the thought. Trying to clear the thought from his head, Eric then clapped Ronald on the shoulder and winked at the younger death god.
"Ron here should give Spears some pointers about how to write a proper love letter. I bet this little playboy writes them all the time for about five different women at once."
Ronald grinned cheekily in response.
"Please, Eric. It's really more around three."
The two of them laughed, and Alan and Grell both rolled their eyes exasperatedly. Alan wasn't really sure how Ronald got away with being a notorious playboy around the office, but somehow the women he courted really didn't seem to mind. It was a different generational mindset, perhaps, that found monogamy so boring, but that was besides the point. Grell on the other hand, was determined to prove them wrong.
"Ronnie's infidelities aside, this is a perfectly romantic love letter, you guys just don't know how to read William properly. Honestly..." he continued, adjusting his glasses and imitating Will's most frequently used phrase, "...and you call yourself his employees?"
Eric whistled, pretending to be impressed and waved his hand at Grell.
"All right then, what about that is so romantic then?"
Grell pulled back slightly, all of a sudden at a slight loss for words. Looking over the letter in his hands, he re-read it a few more times trying to pin out something that would be considered romantic to the others.
"Well... to start, he took the time out of his busy day to write this for me in the first place. To be honest, I wasn't expecting any responses from him at all." The last part he said under his breath, though he knew they could still hear him.
"Well he didn't take very much time, did he? It's so short, it might as well be a memo." Eric quickly retaliated.
"That's what I said!" Ronald chimed in and Alan clapped them both upside the head.
"You two are horrible."
Grell shot a thankful look in Alan's direction. Spurred by the support of even just one person, he found renewed vigor and determination in his task and scanned the letter briefly again before finding more to it.
"Here he mentions the gossip I wrote to him..."
"Which I'm sure he really doesn't care about..." Eric interrupted, but Grell hissed at him, and he put his hands up in defeat and clamped his lips shut. He made a mocking zipper motion over his lips to indicate his promise for continued silence.
"...which means that he's read my letters. All of them. How else would be know their contents?"
Eric waved his hands, as if to allow Grell this one small victory but his face was proof that he remained unconvinced. Grell then realized the next sentence was probably the best one to prove his point.
"And look here! It says that one of his desk drawers is already full with my letters, which means that he's not only reading them, he's keeping them! Safeguarding them as treasured keepsakes forever and ever, that's what he's doing with them!"
Grell sighed dreamily, having only realized this little revelation only because the others forced him to look for it and now that he had, it was even more perfect. There was more thought to the letter after all, even more than he had initially realized, and it was raining butterflies in his stomach to think about it. He could just imagine it, he could see it clearly in his mind's eye... William sitting at his desk, tired and worn after a long day at work, probably irritated with his French co-workers, needing a relief for his stress. Lo and behold, his eyes catch sight of his desk drawer, maybe with a key in it so that no one else could accidentally peek in and see this scandal... He opens it with a soft smile on his face, seeing the letters that his beloved wrote to him, happy to have them to keep him company in a strange new place, happy to have them make it feel a little more like home... Maybe he'd remove one from the drawer and place a gentle kiss on the envelope, over the kiss mark that Grell himself had left... Grell had been so preoccupied with his day-dream that he failed to notice the others talking until Ronald finally tapped him on the leg.
"-right, Mr. Sutcliff?" Ronald had said.
"Hmm? What?" Grell snapped out of his daze.
"I said, you and the Boss were in the Academy together, right?"
Oh, and more memories were sparked! Grell clutched the paper tight to his chest as he remembered those days as well... when he had first met his beloved man. He was sure he had told the story a million times to anyone who was new to the division branch. Then he remembered that Eric had been around for longer than any of them, so Eric would not have been blessed with the story, as he was never a newcomer in Grell's eyes. This was made more obvious when Eric raised an eyebrow at him and asked to clarify.
"You and Spears were in the same year?"
"Of course! We were... partners," he accentuated the word carefully, "for the final exam."
Eric's face remained incredulous as he listened.
"Oh really, now what's that look for?"
"Well, it's just kind of rare. They don't really put people in the same year into the same division. For example, I'm not working with anyone from my year in the academy. Usually they distribute the new death gods so that they're evenly spaced at all the different branches, which means you don't get to stick with your classmates."
Ronald and Alan nodded, realizing that they were also the only ones from their particular year or class in the Academy to be working in London. Only when Eric mentioned it did the realization dawn on the others as well. But Grell only had a sly smile to offer in response, teasing,
"Oh, a lady has her ways to get what she wants..."
The other three shot each other a mutual look of understanding and curiosity, knowing that surely Grell had done something extremely unorthodox to end up in the London division with Spears. The question was whether he had done it with violence or with sex appeal. They only knew for certain that they weren't about to ask, not out of politeness, but because they really were afraid of the answer. Instead Eric had another question on his mind.
"So what attracted you to Spears anyway? He's kind of your polar opposite."
Alan and Ronald both gave Eric mild looks of surprise but then turned their attention to Grell, eager for him to answer the question that was asked. It was clearly a question they had all been curious about for some time, and Eric had been the one to find the perfect opportunity in which to ask it. Asking Grell was also a better bet than asking William, which would surely earn them copious amounts of overtime for their insolence. Grell was eating up the attention, of course, happy to tell them exactly why he loved his darling William so very very much.
"Oh, it's impossible to expect a lady to explain her feelings, Eric!" Here Grell put a delicate hand to his cheek, even springing up one of his legs behind him to appear more feminine. "It's a number of reasons, really. After all, he is such a wonderfully cold man..."
He gave another dreamy sigh, and Ronald gave a small snort of amusement.
"So you like him because he doesn't like you?"
"That's not true, I'm sure, deep down, he's infatuated with me as well, he just doesn't realize it yet. In any case, it's all about the chase, Ronnie."
And here he gave a scandalous wink, and Ronald raised an eyebrow, but mentally, he had to admit that he kind of agreed with Grell. The women who flocked to him with flirts and praises were flattering, and he certainly wasn't going to turn them away, but it was always more exciting to chase after a woman who was playing hard to get. He supposed it was something about the challenge, it was something Grell obviously appreciated as well, perhaps to a sinful degree. But Alan seemed apprehensive.
"But then, does that mean you'll lose interest once you've, I guess, caught him?"
Grell paused for a second, placing his index finger on his chin, as if considering the question, when in truth, he had the answer already. The answer was absolutely not. Somehow, William had wormed his way in, no matter how much he had initially fought it, he was completely different, entirely special, all too precious to let go. But it wasn't any fun if he didn't keep the others guessing. So he merely gave a sly grin, tilted his head with a lopsided grin, and sang out,
"Oh, we'll just have to see, won't we?"
But whatever response Alan might have had to that was immediately stifled when he saw their new division manager, Jean-Baptiste Laroche, walking up behind Grell towards them with a slightly stern expression on his face.
"Vat eez going on here?"
Eric and Ronald immediately dropped their heads, looking away rather conspicuously, Alan didn't break gaze but shut his mouth quite tight, and Grell merely shot him a glare. It wasn't a surprise to anyone how much he disliked their new manager. Jean merely looked at Grell down his nose with raised eyebrows, then spoke.
"Slackeeng off again, Meester, Sutcleef? All-vays zee same with you. I don't know how Villiam Spears ran zings around here, but all of you need to get back to vork!"
"Don't talk about William like that, you puffed up, French poodle!" Grell's eyes were flashing. He disliked the man as it was already, he wasn't about to let him badmouth William on top of his own pompous behavior. "You're always flirting with the women in the other departments, maybe you should get back to work before you lecture us."
It was something of a low blow, and Jean-Baptiste was clearly not amused. Catching sight of the letter Grell was clinging to, he snorted.
"Vat eez zat? Anuzzer letter to Villiam? How pathetic, he never even writes you back!"
Snatching the letter from Grell's grasp, he held it arrogantly between his fingers and began to read it aloud, raising his eyebrows at first when he realized it was actually from William, but the smirk returned as soon as he had finished reading the contents. Laughing, he carelessly tossed the paper back to Grell, who dove to catch it, not wanting to let William's precious letter touch the floor.
"Ha! He does not even care about you!"
Grell opened his mouth to retaliate but was immediately stifled by the continuation of Jean's words.
"Even he wrote to tell you to get back to vork, knowing vat a slacker you are. Zis... zis nonsense is why you write your silly letters on company time?"
"Hey, that's a bit-"
Ronald's interjection was quickly stifled by Jean-Baptiste, who was in no mood to entertain outside interference to this argument. At this point, it wasn't even about going back to work, he wanted to put Sutcliff in his place. All he ever did was prance around the office like he owned the place, as if he were the boss, and since Jean's arrival, he had not shown him an ounce of proper respect and deference. Jean had come up with a number of different hypotheses for how William T. Spears had dealt with such behavior. On the one hand, it was possible that Grell Sutcliff was honestly very well behaved around William. There was the other possibility that William himself had simply not known how to handle him. But when he had realized that Grell was spending every other day sitting at his desk not doing paperwork but writing letters to his former superior, Jean dared to entertain the idea of them being lovers. But this letter was surely proof that no such relationship existed between them, it only existed in Grell's mind. And that gave him perhaps more satisfaction than it should have. But that was besides the point.
"Here I thought you vere some kind of big-shot, but really, you're just a love-sick fool."
Grell clung to his letter, biting down on his lip, his eyes not visible under his bangs. Ronald could feel the tension building between the two and knew that any moment, Grell might rev up his chainsaw and go after Jean. And that would surely get him transferred, or fired, or worse. Grell Sutcliff was not one to hold back his anger or irritation, and Jean knew nothing of his murderous streak as the better half of Jack the Ripper. Rising from his chair quickly, Ronald hurried over to Grell's side and held his arm back, feeling how much the red reaper was trembling. Inserting himself into the argument whether Jean wanted him to or not, he raised his chin in defiance.
"What of it? That's none of your business. Sir." The last word was punctuated with particular disdain and a narrowing of his eyes.
Jean was slightly taken aback by the sudden rise of support from Ronald Knox, who had been one of his better employees in the duration of his stay in London. He had not expected that the other employees would actually defend the redhead, as he had assumed that he got on their nerves as much as he got on his own. Clearly he had been at least a little mistaken. Scoffing, he rolled his eyes and decided the argument wasn't worth continuing.
"In any case, get back to vork, all of you!"
Then turning on his heel, he stormed into his office, slamming the door behind him like a petulant child, leaving the others looking after him incredulously and with at least a little bit of contempt.
"Who does he think he is? Doesn't he get that he's the outsider here?" Eric sighed and remarked, his eyes passing over Grell, whose eyes were still adamantly glued to the floor. Walking over to the both of them, he gave Grell a light clap on the shoulder and grinned. "Nice self control there, I was sure you would have gone and killed him after that first comment."
"It was good of you to hold yourself back." Alan added, stepping forward.
But the explosion had only been delayed, and suddenly, Grell's eyes shot upward with a flash, his razor sharp teeth bared and ready. Shoving away from all of them, he stormed off. The others were about to pounce and stop him from barging into Jean's office, but their call to action was not needed as Grell merely stormed away from all of them, in the direction of the elevator, clearly intending to leave work and not come back for a while. But such shirking of duty wasn't anything new for Grell Sutcliff and the others only sighed as he left.
Eric slumped his shoulders and said what they were all thinking.
"Man, Spears needs to hurry up and come back here. I don't know how much longer we can keep the two of them from just going at it in an all-out war."
"It would be best if Grell could just ignore whatever Jean says." Alan remarked, his eyebrows furrowing in concern as well.
"Or for Prince Jean to stop picking a fight. He prances around here more primped up than Sutcliff ever does. What nerve..." Ronald chimed, all of them situated around his desk solemnly.
"Four more months. We'll just have to see how it goes." Alan said with finality, then turned around to return to his work. It was better than standing around thinking about how much they needed William back to hold the team together.
It was funny, Alan thought as he resumed his seat at his desk for paperwork. He hadn't really thought much of it before, but William T. Spears really was necessary to have around to hold the department together. As stoic as he was, as unsociable, as impersonal as they all thought he was, he probably knew them all the best out of anyone. He knew which cases were best to assign to whom, he knew which partnerships worked best when making people work on cases in groups, he looked out for them in all the ways that were so easily overlooked. And as the only person in the department who could handle Grell Sutcliff, that most of all was what he contributed to the team not falling apart.
It was true, nothing about what they currently had between them could be considered a relationship, that couldn't be denied. But at the same time, it was probably true that they just didn't know how to read William. None of them had really noticed what he contributed to the team dynamic until he had left. Alan hadn't realized how much William had taken his condition into consideration, assigning him fewer amounts of field work to avoid taxing his body. Jean, on the other hand, was assigning him as much field work as everyone else, and it was extremely tiring on Alan's body. Looking back on it, at first he had been angry with William for coddling him and giving him special treatment. But as he had nearly collapsed several times while on duty, he was beginning to see things in a different light. Whether or not he wanted to admit it, his diseased body had limits. And clearly, William had known these limits better than he himself had, and he had even managed to lessen his dispatch duty without making it obvious to anyone. Alan certainly hadn't noticed until after William had left and Jean had assigned him more work than was advised.
In addition, he remembered back when Grell was facing an inquiry for the Jack the Ripper incident. William had jumped through many hoops and risked a demotion himself to defend Grell in his case. If he was as careless a supervisor as everyone liked to believe, then he certainly wouldn't have taken the effort to preserve Grell's job as he did. On some level, he understood that Grell was the most efficient dispatch worker, and the best fighter that they had on the team, but if it was just that, he didn't think William would have gone so much out of his way. He let a small smile escape as he worked. Perhaps Grell was right, the others just didn't know how to read William properly.
"What are you smiling at?" Eric leaned over his desk, curiosity twinkling.
"Nothing. Get back to work, you." Alan chided gently.
"All right all right."
Eric put up his hands in defeat and sat down at his desk finally, staring at the paperwork he had already finished. He might have been a procrastinator, but that was partially because when he worked, he worked extremely quickly. He only had a little bit of paperwork left to do, and he wouldn't get much more work as the day went on so he leaned back in his chair and relaxed a bit, letting his mind wander.
His thoughts meandered to Grell and Spears, what was between them, what wasn't between them, and then a thought struck him.
"What is it now, Eric?" Alan was slightly exasperated, mostly because Eric had startled him with his sudden outburst.
"We should throw a welcome-back party for Spears once he gets back!"
Ronald's ears perked at the word "party" and leaned over backwards in his chair to contribute his opinion.
"I'm down! And then we can all give him a solid punch for leaving us for so long!"
"That's probably one of the better ideas you've had, Eric."
Alan chimed in and grinned. William really was vital to their team after all.
A/N: Wow, that got a bit fluffy there at the end. Sorry about that, but I can't resist the themes of everyone working together and team bonding and whatnot.