AN: Hello! This is a little one-shot that has been sitting on my hard-drive for an age, and I though I would post, because, well Believing The Lie is killing me softly. Oh, and the lyrics and title come from 'You Must Meet My Wife' from Stephen Sondheim's A Little Night Music.
Warning: Fluff ensues.
She lightens my sadness,
She livens my days,
She bursts with a kind of madness,
My well ordered ways.
My happiest mistake,
The ache of my life,
You must meet my wife.
He knew it was stupid. He knew he shouldn't have done it. He knew that his mother would all but murder him when she found out. Regardless of that, of all that, he was glad he did it. However, after taking his new wife's hand in his and running joyfully to the airport, after disappearing off the face of the earth for two weeks, Thomas Lynley had decided it was now time to face his family.
He parked his burgundy Bristol 410 in front of Howenstow; where silently they sat, looking at his estate. Eventually he spoke.
"Could you do me a favour?" He asked gently, only looking at her on the last word.
"Come back in fifteen minutes?" She offered, smiling understandingly at him, her perfect green eyes shining with affection. He sighed, relaxing. Why had he been so worried about this? It was moments like these he was reminded why he'd married her. He took her hand, brushing her hair back with his fingers while they were still laced with hers, brought the hand to his lips and kissed it, then her.
"Thank you." He muttered. Finally he looked away from his wife's face just in time to see a car pulling up beside his.
"Too late?" She asked, wondering which of his mother, sister, or brother had just pulled up.
"It seems – " He stopped himself, "no. It's St James." A smile broke across his face at the sight of his best friend – well his best friend with whom he wasn't sleeping.
"Simon?" She grinned, her head whipping around. She pushed open the door and flung herself into her friend's arms, almost knocking him over. Although she had become more openly affectionate over the course of their – or more accurately her and Lynley's friendship, her throwing her arms around him in a bear hug was a little unprecedented.
"Um...Hello..." Simon said eventually, a bit stiffly.
"I'm so glad to see you." She grinned against his chest.
"Are you trying to make me jealous, Barbara?" Lynley smiled, leaning on the roof of his car and watching his wife. Deborah stepped out of Simon's car now, having organised herself, and took in the scene in amusement.
"Is she quite all right, Tommy? What on earth did you do to her?" Deborah St James laughed her tinkling bell's laugh, walking around the car to stand beside her husband.
"I didn't do anything bad to her, if that's what you mean." Barbara released Simon, shooting a playful glare at her boss. Her husband. Good lord, that was surreal.
"Ignore him, Deb, he's impossible." Barbara teased easily before embracing the redheaded woman. Deborah pushed Barbara back by the shoulders, studying her sceptically. There was something going on with her, something different. She dismissed it, letting her hands fall down her friend's arms, but her eyes bulged out of her head when she squeezed her friend's hands and found something new. She wrenched Barbara's left hand up to eye level. A high pitched noise escaped Deborah as she excitedly glanced between the rings on Barbara's finger and the smug look on her old friend's face.
"When did you get engaged?" Deborah asked, almost bouncing with excitement. She looked back to Barbara's newly bejewelled hand – to the stunning square Peridot and the and the white gold band with tiny diamonds encrusted around it – and did a double take, her lips forming the word 'two'. The noise repeated, only higher. "When did you get married?" Finally Lynley was done with observing the scene from a distance. He crossed to his friends and wife, smiling much like the cat that got the cream.
"Engaged three Thursdays ago, married that Sunday. Now may I please have my wife back?" He queried, wrapping his arms around her waist and pulling her back into his embrace.
"Oh, Tommy! Congratulations!" Deborah said earnestly, kissing his cheek.
"Yes, congratulations." Simon smiled. "I can't say how happy I am for you. However, I'm devastated that you didn't ask me to be your best man."
"It was actually only the two of us, St James." Lynley mollified his friend.
"Not even...? That explains a lot." Simon murmured, more to himself than his friends.
"Explains what?" Lynley's eyes had narrowed suspiciously.
"Well, I had a rather carefully modulated telephone conversation with your mother, Tommy. She asked if I'd spoken to you. Deborah and I were coming up here to visit my family today anyway, so we thought we'd pay her a visit. She did seem worried – in that particular way of hers. Am I to suppose she doesn't know any of this?"
"You are. Since you're here, I was wondering, could one of you keep Barbara company while I – "
"Try and break it to Daze gently?" Simon smirked wickedly. Simon had instantly interpreted "company", and quite correctly so, to mean "out of harm's way".
"Subtle, St James." The sardonic tone was not lost on Simon.
"Well, I was going to try and steal Ebony's soul while the light's in the right spot. You're most welcome to come, Barbara." Deborah smiled.
"St James?" Lynley asked, obviously hoping to have his friend's naturally calming presence with him for support – or perhaps hoping that his mother would see the two of them together and remember that they had maintained a friendship – a fantastic friendship – through the most awful circumstances purely because of Simon's capacity for forgiveness; that she would in turn realise that if Simon could forgive him for the accident, she could forgive him for not telling her he had married.
"Oh no, Tommy, this is something you have to do on your own. I would say I'll carry Deborah's camera to the stables for her, but I have the sneaking suspicion that she and Barbara want some time for gossip. So, I'm going to visit Nancy and Kate." He said decisively.
Lynley, facing Barbara, waiting for an appropriate moment to say something to her, spoke absently to St James. "They're in the kitchen. Kate's taken quite a shining to pasties and Nancy's decided she might as well learn to make them."
Simon laughed. "Kate's all of how old now?"
"Seven? Seven and a half?"
"Oh well, start training them early, eh?" Simon shot a playful look at his wife, earning a glare in return. "Right." St James said, indicating his imminent departure. He removed his crutches from the car and set off towards the house. He paused after four or five steps. "Are you coming, Tommy? Or are you too scared?" He joked.
Lynley's eyes didn't move from his wife's. "I'll catch up to you."
Both taking their cues, Simon continued towards the house, while Deborah busied herself about removing her photographic equipment from the boot of the car, taking her time about it.
"You okay?" Barbara joked.
"I'm fine. But stop worrying."
"I'm not." She deadpanned. He shot her a look.
"Alright, so I am, but not as much as you are." She was, of course, correct.
Deeply he kissed her, cupping her jawbone with one hand and keeping her body pinned against his with the other.
"I love you; and I'm glad I married you. Remember that." She nodded; her eyes gleaming, alive with affection.
"Ready, Barbara?" Deborah asked after shutting the boot loudly, pointedly. The couple parted.
"Have fun with my horse." He smiled, peeling away from her.
"Have fun with your mother." She shot after him. He looked at her over his shoulder, sceptical laughter in his eyes.
"I think I know which is more likely."
Barbara walked over to Deborah, picking up one of the bags of lenses at her feet.
"Shall we?" She asked, smiling at her redheaded friend.
Deborah grinned girlishly. "Only if you agree to tell me everything!"
Barbara greeted Lynley's horse with a light-hearted "Hey, Eb," stroking his nose. She'd always had a bit of an affinity with the animal. Without a word Deborah photographed the pair of them, Ebony throwing his head up playfully and Barbara laughing in response. The lighting was beautiful, slowly bleeding Ebony's pitch black head into the pure whiteness of the sky – or at least it would look pure white in the photograph.
"Oi! That was not part of the deal." Barbara rounded on her friend. She had an intense aversion to photographs.
"I know." Deborah grinned. "So he really proposed just like that? On the spot?" It seemed uncharacteristic to Deborah. Tommy was a man who liked to have plans laid out, huge romantic gestures and such... The journey to the stables hadn't revealed a great deal - this was largely due to the fact that Deborah had paused almost every three paces to photograph something or other that caught her eye - but had begun to set the general scene.
Barbara nodded, glancing over her shoulder while flicking Ebony's mane onto the right side of his neck. "Just like that. We were walking back to the car, and he stopped following me. I turned around and he just said it."
"What did he say?" Deborah asked, sitting on a milk crate and looking at Barbara like a small child awaiting a fairytale.
Barbara laughed shortly. "'Marry me'."
"Just 'marry me'? How did he look? What did you say? I really meant everything, Barbara."
"I said 'what?'. He looked... I don't know. Blank. He had that 'you don't know what I'm thinking but whatever it is I'm thinking it hard' look. You know that look." Barbara had turned to face Deborah, leaning against the stable wall, and Ebony was searching her hair with his nose to try and win back her attention. Absently she scratched beneath his forelock.
"What was he wearing?" Again, Barbara laughed.
"We'd been at work, Deb; he wasn't exactly trying to make an impression. But," she added, seeing the disappointment in her friend's eyes, "he did have that black overcoat on, so he looked pretty yummy." Deborah smiled now.
"So, after you said 'what?' what did he say?"
"He said 'marry me'. It really wasn't the most original proposal."
"What did you say then? Please don't make me beat it out of you!" She pressed.
"Alright, alright! I just kind of gaped at him; he walked over to me and said that he didn't mean to do it like this, but after today he didn't want to waste any more time."
Deborah's brow furrowed. "What had happened that day?"
Barbara sighed deeply. "We had a really tough case. This married couple... They'd both been shot, but the husband survived. He was a total mess; said he didn't want to live if it was without her. Said that he wasn't a whole person without her. We found the killer but we couldn't charge him because one of the bloody constables took the gun from the suspect's house without a warrant, and we didn't have a case without it. We were leaving their house – the couple's – when he asked me; we'd just told the husband we couldn't charge him."
"Oh god, Barbara. What an awful day."
Deborah didn't mean to be heartless, but two of her best friends had just gotten married totally out of the blue, and she wanted to hear the story.
"So, he didn't want to waste time, what did you say?" This time Barbara laughed at herself.
"'Are you sure?' He laughed and said yes. He said he'd left the ring at home but 'say yes anyway'."
"What did you say?" Deborah asked, wonderment and awe in her voice. Barbara held up her left hand.
"What do you think I said, Deb?" Deborah rolled her eyes at herself. "Right. Did you cry?" She almost sighed. Barbara blushed lightly.
"Where have you been!" Dorothy Lynley railed at her son, standing abruptly when she saw him enter the room.
Lynley was cowering a little internally, but summoned all his inner strength and said quite calmly: "Perhaps you should sit down, Mother."
"I will do no such thing until you tell me where you've been!" Her voice was uncharacteristically shrill, and it struck him how much he must have actually worried her to evoke such a reaction.
"I was on my honeymoon."
Involuntarily she folded into the chair behind her, her hands clasped neatly in her lap, her back rigid, her face blank.
Her eyes met his again. "Your what?" Her voice was quiet.
"My honeymoon." He kept his voice gentle, trying not to distress her further. An 'I-see-right-through-you' smile broke across her face.
"But you're not..." She paused as she caught sight of the new white gold band on his finger. "Oh... But who - ?"
"Barbara?" Her brain was failing to make the connection.
"Barbara Havers, my partner. You've met her."
Now she was truly annoyed. "All of four times, Tommy! You never said you were even..." She trailed off. Connections in her brain were now beginning to form. He'd been different. Of course she'd noticed it; she just never pressed him on it. "This is why you've been so – "
"Happy?" He supplied. She mouthed the word in wonderment.
"And I wasn't invited because?" There was an accusation here.
"No one was, actually. It was rather a last minute decision."
"So he gave you the ring when you got home? Where was it?"
"Would you believe it was in his sock drawer? Not his safe, or his desk, his sock drawer!" Love him as she did, she really couldn't explain some of his actions.
Deborah shook her head. "I can't decide if I'm surprised or not. But the wedding! Tell me about the wedding. I can't imagine that he always intended it to be so small."
"No, I don't think he did. We woke up on Saturday morning and he said something like 'you don't really like big weddings, do you?' And I don't – I don't think he was particularly keen on the idea either, so we went to the town hall on Sunday. It was really perfect, actually."
Deborah leant forward, resting her head on her hands. Her meaning was clear: Every single detail. Now.
"What do you want to know, Deb?" Barbara laughed.
"Well, 'everything' seems to be rather lost on you, my dear, so what did you wear?"
"You know those grey pinstripe high waisted trousers? And that silky white shirt thing that Tom likes."
Deborah's lips curled wryly. "I still can't believe he lets you call him that."
"I don't think I really gave him a choice."
"Did you have a bouquet?"
"He bought me flowers on the way." A light blush spread across her fair features.
"Why're you blushing? It's lovely!"
"Because I'm no good at all this! It makes me uncomfortable."
"Oh pisch." Deborah dismissed. "What did he wear? Did he look gorgeous?" She drew out the last word for emphasis.
"Does he ever not?" Barbara retaliated, before reflecting for a moment. "He wore the charcoal suit."
Deborah murmured appreciatively. Although she was in no way still romantically interested in her ex-lover, she was well aware that he was a very attractive man. "Which shirt? Which tie?"
"White shirt, no tie."
"No tie?" Deborah's eyes widened in amazement. Barbara cocked an eyebrow and nodded in response. "I am impressed."
"So you mean to tell me that my eldest son, my responsible son, married his sergeant on a whim at a town hall? Good lord, Thomas, did I not raise you with any sense of what's seemly?" He knew he was in trouble from the use of his full name, and somehow that knowledge angered him a little.
"Of course you did. But I know my own mind well enough to know that I couldn't really give a damn, and it was in no way a whim. I love her. She may not be part of the aristocracy, or have gone to Wycomb Abbey, or have money and a title, but she's the best person I know and I love her." He drew a breath, and barely managed to get his next point in before his mother interrupted him. "And I married her the way she wanted to be married, and quite frankly I don't care who is unhappy about it as long she isn't."
Deborah was about to ask one of the more intimate details of the wedding when she noticed someone approaching them carrying buckets.
"Hi, Pam." Barbara said, turning to the stable hand with a smile.
"Barbara! I didn't know you were up."
"Last minute decision." She replied.
"Eh, if the mood's upon yeh, why not?" Grinned the other woman cheekily. "Do you want to feed His Majesty?" Barbara's brow furrowed in confusion. Did she mean His Lordship? And did she mean by spoon? Because that was not going to happen. Oh. God. What if he'd been hiding strange fetishes until they were married? Realisation suddenly washed over her when Ebony pawed at the ground loudly and impatiently.
"Oh, you mean Eb." She laughed a little at herself. "No, I think I'll leave the hard work to the professionals."
"Probably wise." Pam responded with a wink, before adding as an afterthought: "Evening Mrs St-James."
"Evening." Deborah, who had been sitting in silent amazement up until that point, smiled. She waited until Pam was out of earshot before turning back to her friend.
"I'm starting to wonder if there's anyone here you don't know. When did that happen?"
"What can I say? I'm just a bit of a fixture."
Yes, Deborah thought. It rather seems that you are.
"Okay." Barbara volunteered. "Good bit." Deborah nodded and leant forward, intrigued. "He left his phone at home."
Deborah's green eyes widened. "He left his phone at home?" She repeated slowly. Barbara nodded. "I don't think he's ever done that since I've known him! Well, I mean, since they invented mobile phones..."
"Well, I met him since mobile phones, so it was an absolute first for me."
"What about vows?"
Barbara smiled a little. She was actually quite proud of this little self devised scheme. "Shakespeare."
"Shakespeare?" Deborah asked, eyebrows shooting skyward and mouth curling into a grin. "What, Romeo & Juliet? Or Twelfth Night?"
"The Tempest, actually." Havers informed her friend. She may not have been a scholar, but in her younger days she'd had a bit of a penchant for sneaking off to the Globe for five quid tickets just to escape her parents after Terry's death. The redhead waved her hand, bidding the policewoman's continuance.
"I am a fool
To weep at what I am glad of.
At mine unworthiness that dare not offer
What I desire to give, and much less take
What I shall die to want. But this is trifling;
And all the more it seeks to hide itself,
The bigger bulk it shows. Hence, bashful cunning!
And prompt me, plain and holy innocence!
I am your wife, if you will marry me;
If not, I'll die your maid: to be your fellow
You may deny me; but I'll be your servant,
Whether you will or no." Barbara recited flawlessly.
Deborah's voice came out on an emotional waver. "Barbara, that's absolutely beautiful."
"It's slightly abridged." Confessed the sergeant.
"I don't care. It's perfect. Tommy must have absolutely swooned!" Enthused the redhead. Havers shrugged dismissively, but the truth was he had done something rather similar to swooning. Well, probably something as close to swooning as six-foot-two aristocrats could do.
Her son had gone to fetch his partner. His new wife. Her new daughter in law. Daze was reeling with the influx of information. She knew her son – or at least she thought she did – and he was not the kind of man to do something like this. He did things properly. Weddings had hundreds of guests, kilometres of white silk, and a multitude of canapés, not two people and a town hall. She had followed him out of the house after he'd gone, and was staring absently into the garden, her cardigan pulled about her slim frame against the early evening chill. The sea breeze would pick up and be bitterly cold by nightfall. It would whistle through the ancient house with no regard for its sleeping inhabitants, and nothing any workman could do would manage to stop it.
It wasn't long before she was able to make out two figures approaching. The way her son moved was as familiar to her as the 1812 Overture, but today, walking beside the woman he claimed to love, he seemed freer than he usually did; loose and untroubled. She noticed their hands clasping each other's, their bodies turned towards each other, and when he got closer, the look of absolute love in their eyes. They paused for a long moment, Tommy nuzzling against her hair and whispering something in her ear before kissing Barbara in a way Daze had never seen him kiss Helen. Her fingers curled around his shirt, creasing it appallingly, Daze was sure. After a long moment their lips parted, a tender smile forming on her son's, his eyes still closed. When, at the exact same moment, their eyes opened Tommy collected her hand in his once again and led her to where Daze was standing observing them.
"Mother, you remember Barbara." He said easily, a lifetime of public-school-politeness coming through, before adding pointedly: "my wife."
"Hello, Lady Asherton." The Sergeant greeted her politely. Daze couldn't help but soften.
"I think it may be time for you to start calling me 'Daze', my dear."
"Thank you, mother," Tommy grinned, his gratitude absolutely blatant as he stepped forward and kissed her cheek.
"I think, perhaps, a Pimm's is in order." Stated the Lady of the house, before turning neatly on her heel and leading them into the manor. Lynley pulled gently on his wife's hand and mumbled into her ear:
"Welcome to the family."