Disclaimer: I don't own 'Waking the Dead' or any of its characters, the BBC has that honour – I'm just taking them out to play for a bit.
Content: Fluff, Romance.
Rating: T/M, for language, adult situations. Probably ;)
Spoilers: Nothing specific but since this is set about six months after the series finale, 'Waterloo', I guess anything is fair game.
A/N: So, I have various post-'Waterloo' pieces in the pipeline…and this was the one yelling the loudest at me at the moment! I think it's basically going to be fluff…with maybe a hint of smut thrown in later on ;) For the purposes of this story, I'm sticking with the names for Grace's children that I've used in 'Ebb & Flow' and elsewhere, namely Gina, Nick & Beth Sutton. Anyways, hope you enjoy – thanks so much for reading and for keeping the Boyd/Grace dream alive!
Grace Foley relaxed contentedly against the enveloping cushions of the sofa and took a large draw from her wine glass, the burgundy liquid warming her throat pleasantly as she surveyed the room around her. The cottage was intimate yet spacious, the rich earth-tones of the décor and the soft light from the crackling open fire creating a cosy, inviting atmosphere which had so far proven utterly successful in banishing the stereotypical chill of autumn in the Lake District. Grace smiled as she allowed the wave of happy chatter in the room to wash over her, her heart swelling as her eyes fell inevitably upon her youngest daughter, who was lounging casually on the floor atop a haphazardly scattered pile of beanbags and cushions. Beth Sutton's head was thrown back in jovial laughter, her pale skin aglow with warmth from the fire and she grinned as she caught her mother's eye, raising her glass in a silent salute before resuming her somewhat raucous conversation with the group of girls surrounding her. Grace returned the gesture, her eyes flickering to her left as her attention was caught by the presence of another figure settling on the couch beside her and she smiled broadly, reaching out to take the proffered hand.
"Enjoying yourself, love?" she asked in amusement, her grin widening at the predictable, reactionary groan.
"If she wasn't my sister, I'd run a mile," Gina Sutton replied gruffly, taking a long swallow from her glass before her features slackened in fond sentimentality. "I suppose it could've been worse."
"It could've been a lot worse," Grace agreed.
"Not that she'd have invited us if she'd decided to go to Ayia Napa or Ibiza or one of those other God-awful places."
"Oh, she would. She just wouldn't have expected us to come."
"And she'd have been right. Bloody hell, Mum, can you imagine? It would've been the Hen weekend from hell."
Grace chuckled. "You sound like you're in your fifties, Gina, not your thirties."
"It's just not my bag now I've settled down a bit. I'm honestly so glad she chose something relatively benign in the end."
"Hm. Claire seems to be having a good time, though."
Gina rolled her eyes in a gesture of long-suffering affection. "She's as bad as bloody Beth."
"Things okay with you two?"
The younger woman smiled easily, her cinnamon eyes radiating happiness as they glanced across the room and lingered over the soft curves of her partner's body. "Oh, yeah. Couldn't be better."
"I'm glad. She's good for you, love."
They lapsed into a brief, comfortable silence, Gina shifting to tuck her feet beneath her on the sofa and taking another sip from her wine glass before speaking again. "God, I can't believe it's only two weeks till the wedding," she said. "How long do you give Beth before she starts stressing out?"
Grace smiled fondly. "I'm sure she's got it all under control. You know how organised she is."
"That's true." The younger woman gave her mother a sideways glance. "Has she been on your case yet?"
The psychologist frowned, her features creasing in confusion. "About what?"
Gina laughed incredulously. "About who you're bringing, of course."
Grace felt her mouth fall open in amazement, the unexpectedness of her daughter's statement causing her to draw a sharp breath. "What?" she managed eventually, a sense of dread flickering ominously across her chest.
"Oh, come on, Mum," Gina intoned lightly. "Surely you must have known this would come up eventually?"
"This is the first I've heard of it," Grace replied wryly. "And I'm not even sure I've got anything to say on the subject."
"Beth said she was going to talk to you…."
"She's expecting me to bring someone, then?"
"Well, not necessarily expecting. I think she just thought it would be nice."
Grace narrowed her eyes as she absorbed the steadfast neutrality of her daughter's expression, the deliberate avoidance of her gaze. "And are you and Nick also part of this conspiracy?"
Gina sighed loudly. "Oh, for God's sake, it's not a conspiracy. It's just something we've been talking about, that's all."
"For how long?"
The younger woman grimaced sheepishly. "For a while, admittedly."
"So you leave it until there's only two weeks to go before you mention it to me?"
"I honestly thought Beth had brought it up…."
"Well, she hasn't…and even if she had, it wouldn't have made any difference." Grace shook her head, faintly irritated. "What's the problem with me coming by myself, anyway?"
"It's not a problem," Gina replied, reaching for her mother's hand anew. "But look, Mum….I'll be there with Claire, Nick's got Rosa and the kids…."
"And, what? You don't want to spend the whole day worrying about me being by myself?"
Grace sighed. "It's sweet of you, love. But you really don't need to."
Gina raised a sceptical eyebrow. "You're telling me you'll be happy watching a roomful of sickeningly loved-up people whispering sweet nothings to each other all evening, dancing, kissing and Christ knows what else?"
"Sounds like you'll be at a different wedding to the one I'm going to."
"Come on, Mum. You've got to admit you'd have a much better time with someone else next to you."
"Well, even if that were true, it's irrelevant, Gina."
"Why?" The younger woman looked suddenly serious, her eyebrows knitting together in a concerned frown as a sense of realisation settled about her shoulders. "Oh, Mum. Don't tell me it's because you feel bad that Dad won't be there?"
Grace sighed, a soft exhalation of air from her lungs at the mention of her late husband. "It's not that, love. I mean, of course I'm going to miss him, it's a special day in the life of any parent…."
"We're all going to miss him. But you can't let that hold you back from bringing someone else with you." Gina squeezed the older woman's hand, trying not to dwell on the delicate bones beneath her grip. "He'd want you to, you know."
"Oh, I know. But I'm not exactly in a position to ask anyone, alright?"
The younger woman looked unconvinced. "So you're not seeing anyone, then?"
"No," Grace replied in surprise, glancing sideways at her daughter in astonishment. "Whatever gave you the idea that I was?"
"Oh, I don't know. Maybe the fact that every time I call you on a Friday night you're not in?"
"Am I not allowed out, then? I know I'm the wrong side of sixty, love, but I'm not exactly geriatric."
Gina grinned broadly, knowingly. "So who are you with?"
Grace shrugged, feeling an intense desire for evasion beneath her eldest child's scrutiny. "Just…friends, that's all."
"Any friend in particular? Peter Boyd, for instance?"
The older woman rolled her eyes at the teasing undertone, the mention of her former colleague's name causing an odd constriction across her chest. "I can't give you an answer to that without inviting the Spanish Inquisition, can I?"
Gina laughed. "It's not a problem if you're seeing him, you know. I think we'd all actually be quite relieved the pair of you have finally got around to it."
"I'm not seeing him," Grace insisted firmly. "At least, not in the way that you mean."
"Well, what other way is there?"
"Oh, for goodness sake," the psychologist intoned wearily before taking another generous draw from her glass. "He's a friend, Gina, alright? We go out for dinner, we drink decent wine and we have long and sometimes bloody infuriating conversations…."
"Ah. Are you deliberately omitting the bit where you ask him in for coffee next?"
"Gina!" Grace admonished sharply, her eyebrows darting towards her hairline.
Her daughter's eyes were shining mischievously though she maintained an expression of studious innocence. "What?"
"You've obviously had far too much wine if you're asking me something like that. I'm still your mother, you know."
"Mum, don't take it so seriously. We're all very happy for you."
"Oh, God," Grace groaned. "Read my lips, Gina: there is nothing going on…."
"Well, it sounds like you're a couple in all but name…."
"…and that's the end of it; okay?"
Gina held up her free palm in a gesture of placation. "Whatever you say."
"Good. Can we talk about something else now?"
The younger woman laughed loudly. "On one condition."
Grace sighed heavily and glared darkly at the beaming face of her eldest child. "Why do I have a feeling I'm not going to like this?"
"Because you're too bloody clever for your own good?" Gina sobered slightly and shifted to link her arm through her mother's, her voice softening. "Will you at least ask him?"
"Just ask him. What's the worst that could happen?"
That I make a huge bloody fool of myself in front of the man who I…She shook her head firmly to prevent the fatalistic completion of the thought. "Fine," she intoned grudgingly. "Will you give it a rest now please?"
"Absolutely. I promise to spend the rest of the evening in a suitably drunken stupor and never mention it again."
"You do what you like. Just remember I'm too old to hold your hair back while you're being sick."
Gina's easy grin returned to brighten her features. "That's what you think."
"That's what I know, love."
"And on that note, I'm going to get a re-fill. Want anything?"
Grace smiled and shook her head, watching her daughter rise from the sofa and towards the group relaxing on the floor, her slender body settling closely next to that of her partner's as she sat down to join them, her fingers closing enthusiastically about the nearest bottle of wine. Grace felt her heart overflow as she observed the elation on the faces of both of her daughters, their strikingly similar features creasing with laughter as another member of the group regaled them with stories of frivolity, and she felt an immense sense of gratitude warm the bones of her chest. I'm so glad they've all found someone to share their lives with, she mused happily, her thoughts moving to additionally encompass those of her son. God, when I think of the mess I've made of my own love life since their father died….She sighed slightly, trying desperately to assuage the perpetual, siren call of melancholia, aware of the ease at which her thoughts on the subject could spiral into despair. And now this mention of Boyd….Christ, I don't even want to go there; that ship sailed a long time ago…didn't it? She gave a determined shake of her head to dispel the tiny ember of hope that burned incessantly in her soul. I'll ask him as a friend, she thought steadfastly. Nothing more. And even then he'll probably say no….Taking a deep breath to quell the rising flood of sorrow through her heart, Grace forced herself back to the present and to the increasingly cacophonous laughter bubbling infectiously from across the glowing room.