TITLE: Plus One

AUTHOUR: TaleWeaver

FANDOM/PAIRING: The Inspector Lynley Mysteries (tv-verse), Lynley/Havers friendship

DISCLAIMER: The characters of TILM were created by Elizabeth George, and the TV show belongs to the BBC and possibly Acorn Media. Some dialogue taken and paraphrased from the script of 'A Great Deliverance', written by Lizzie Mickery. No profit is being made from this work, and no copyright infringement is intended.

SPOILERS: 'A Great Deliverance'

PROMPT: AU Bingo - Alt History: Canon historical event changed (something from 'precanon' went differently)

SUMMARY: For AU Bingo. Lynley and Havers were teamed up six months earlier than canon, and he asks her to be his 'plus one' to the St James nuptials.

As a long-time, experienced wallflower, Barbara Havers was an expert at wandering through crowds without actually talking to anyone. Clutching the delicate crystal champagne flute she'd just snagged off a passing tray as camouflage, she twisted and dodged her way through the designer label wearing crowd. In this case, however, she was a woman on a mission.

Finally – finally! – finding the opposite door of the banquet room, she surveyed the hall with narrowed eyes, searching for the most likely place.

As a long-time, experienced wallflower, Barbara was also an expert in finding a quiet spot where no one would bother you.

Too bad for Detective Inspector Tommy Lynley, Eighth Earl of Asherton.

Letting out a quiet sigh, Lynley ran his thumb over the delicate engraving on the cigarette case that Deborah had given him.

A prickle of awareness ran down his spine even before the echo of a set of thick heels clumping on stone reached his ear, and he turned to find his Detective Sergeant approaching, the medium-high heels hindering her usual fast stride.

Six months ago, he'd barely known this woman existed; now, trying to imagine life without her made something dark and nauseous twist inside him.

Stopping beside him, she handed him her glass and set down the bottle she must have liberated from the bar when the waiter wasn't looking. The stone steps leading up to the side entrance were still wet and slick with rain, making her place her feet carefully before lowering herself to sit next to him.

Neither of them said anything immediately, content to simply sit together and contemplate the elaborate garden spread out before them. Havers sipped her champagne, while Lynley slipped the cigarette case back in his trouser pocket.

After several minutes Havers ventured, "That was very brave of you, Sir... what you did in there today. I know a lot of people couldn't have done it. Not sure I could have."

One side of his mouth lifted in a tiny, rueful smile. He really couldn't imagine his rampaging griffin of a Sergeant ever failing at something simply because it was painful or difficult. "I suppose there was always hope."

Havers looked at him questioningly. "Did you really think she wouldn't go through with it?"

One of the few things she'd respected about her DI almost right from the start was his intelligence. Thinking that Deborah would change her mind about marrying Simon St James didn't strike her as very bright. More like downright daft; the two were so deeply in love it was almost sickening, and that was just her. She could only imagine how much worse it was for the man who'd loved Deborah first.

Lynley shook his head. "No."

He'd had a few wild daydreams, but he'd never really thought... Deborah and Simon were so much in love it seemed to radiate from them. God knows, Havers had certainly rescued him from more than a few situations with the future – now in truth – Mr and Mrs St James over the last six months. It was probably why he'd asked her to accompany him today; somehow he'd fallen into the habit of relying on her to extricate him when it became too painful, and he teetered on the verge of doing something stupid. She'd probably said yes – even though today represented pretty much the pinnacle of all the class prejudices he'd been slowly grinding away at during their partnership – simply because she'd become used to it as part of her duties as his Sergeant.

"Besides, it would have been a waste of a good speech – I spent hours on that!"

"Yeah, Sir, I know. I had to listen to you read it out from London to Shrewsbury, remember? And listen to re-writes all the way back. I'm glad you used the joke about the garden gnome, though - it went down a treat."

Lynley smiled slightly. "I'll have to remember to thank Fowler. Who would have thought such a talented comedian was hiding beneath the surface of a mild-mannered Custody Sergeant?"

Havers reached down between them, and grabbed the open bottle of champagne she'd brought out with her. She topped up both their glasses, before looking at the label. A line of scrolling print along the top edge told her the style, vineyard and year of the champagne, but the main text on the label was Simon and Deborah's names and today's date.

Specially-made labels for what had to be top-shelf champers, and from what she'd seen at the bar the number of bottles approached or even passed the three-figure mark. Havers shook her head imperceptibly and bit back a sigh of exasperation.

Honestly. Toffs!

"Tell you what - when everyone's a bit more drunk, I'll find where they're keeping the unopened bottles of this fancy champagne, and nick one. You can stow it in your cellar-"

"Lay it down, Havers."

"Whatever, Sir. Five years from now, we'll bring it back here - hell, I'll even let you bring one of those ridiculously overpriced picnic hampers from the Harrods food hall. We'll come back here, get good and drunk, and you'll think back to today and can't believe you ever felt like this."

Lynley looked at her, unable to hide his hope and yearning. "Promise?"

"Cross my heart and spit," Havers grinned cheekily.

In spite of his heavy heart, Lynley couldn't help but snicker as they clinked glasses to seal their pact; Barbara Havers was really the only woman of his acquaintance who'd say such a thing. Not that you'd know it to look at her at the moment.

This was probably the first time in their partnership he'd seen her wear anything but trainers or hiking boots. The slightly Goth-style ankle boots were a little unusual for a wedding, but the lacing up the front made them fit her feet more securely, and she was much less likely to trip and fall this way.

Her earrings were simple gold studs, with a strand of green Venetian glass beads around her neck (probably from the last time Deborah dragged her off to the Portobello Road markets) that set off the forest green dress she was wearing. Again, a simple, classic style; fitted but not tight, with a knee-length skirt, gently scooped neckline and elbow-length sleeves. Even her hair somehow looked deliberately tousled, instead of like she'd hacked away at it with the kitchen scissors again. His tough as nails, defiantly blue-collar Havers looked the equal of any woman here.

Of course, he already knew that she was.

"You really do look lovely, Havers - I should have told you before."

Havers rolled her eyes. "I'd just say bollocks, ordinarily, but Helen worked too hard on putting me together. Must admit, it was the least painful shopping trip I've ever been on – even if you count the eyebrow waxing. She just shooed me in to the change rooms, sent stuff marching in, made me twirl, picked one, and marched me out. Long as I don't spill anything on this, it'll do me for just about every fancy event I have to go to for the next five years or so."

Taking another sip of champagne, Helen Clyde happily eavesdropped from behind the doorway. Even with her vivid purple and gold silk ensemble, she'd managed to keep the Met's best team from noticing her. She wasn't sure why she was hiding, but she always found Tommy and Barbara's banter highly entertaining.

Deborah and Simon thought so, too - Barbara probably had no idea how well thought of she was by Tommy's closest friends. The only reason Barbara hadn't been given her own invitation to the wedding was that the first thing they all understood about Barbara was that her loyalty would always be to Thomas Lynley.

Noticing her glass was empty, Helen wandered off to see if the desert had been served yet, secure in the knowledge that Tommy was in the best possible hands.

FINI