DISCLAIMER: I own nothing.
Dedicated to... everyone who still loves WtD and the B/G 'ship.
On Saturday Morning
It's far too early on a Saturday morning. Far too early. He should still be in bed. Preferably accompanied by something young, nubile and blonde. Quite possibly the intriguing lady barrister from the otherwise highly-tedious official function of a few nights before. He's not. Either in bed, or accompanied by the young blonde. He's crouched alone on Grace Foley's North London drive and although he's both covered in oil and chilled to the bone, Boyd is dead set on proving a point. He's fairly sure that he's been the victim of a deliberate female conspiracy, that he's been very shrewdly out-manoeuvred, but he's trying not to think about that too much as he takes his temper out on a particularly obstinate and rusty bolt that doesn't seem interested in any kind of easy surrender. Only the certain knowledge that he's being watched – from the smug warmth of the house – prevents Boyd from standing up, violently throwing the oily spanner currently in his hand across the small front garden and then kicking the living crap out of the recalcitrant vehicle that's so stubbornly defying him.
He's definitely been expertly led up the figurative garden path. No doubt about it. Worse, he's only got himself to blame. He never learns. They grab him firmly by the male ego and then they squeeze until he inevitably rears up at them. Every single time. Bloody women. They're such a bad combination, Doctors Foley and Lockhart. Boyd doesn't begrudge them their increasingly close friendship, particularly give the former's recent health scare, but he sincerely wishes they'd focus their malevolent attention on some other poor sod occasionally.
The bolt – or rather, the nut restraining it – gives way abruptly and he growls in pain and fury as a good amount of the skin on his knuckles goes with it. This time, Boyd can't restrain himself. He's on his feet and repeatedly kicking the elderly car's nearest rear tyre before he can think twice about it. Bastard bloody thing.
They do it to him so easily. He's damned certain they thoroughly enjoy it, too. What makes him a far more interesting and amusing target than Spencer, he's not altogether sure, but the wretched pair of harpies are absolutely merciless. He kicks the tyre vindictively one last time and then reflectively sucks his bleeding knuckles. Blood and oil. Just add sweat and tears. A bespectacled young man appears on the other side of the low boundary fence, and Boyd glares misanthropically at him, daring him to say a single word. He doesn't. He scuttles quickly into the house next door and closes the front door unnecessarily loudly.
"Yeah," Boyd mutters to himself. "And you can fuck off, too."
He's not a mechanic, he's a Detective Superintendent, for God's sake. A senior police officer who commands an elite, specialist unit. It's cold, it's bloody Saturday morning, and here he is in worn old jeans and an exceptionally scruffy jacket and teeshirt, liberally covered in blood and oil, and he's utterly convinced someone somewhere is having a fucking good laugh at his expense.
"Boyd?" a very familiar female voice says from the vicinity of the doorstep.
Summoning what's left of his threadbare patience, Boyd turns to face her and says quietly and courteously, "Grace."
"Coffee?" she offers, holding up a plain blue mug that appears to be gently steaming.
He can spot a bribe a mile off. But he saunters towards her anyway and reaches out to take the offering. "Thanks."
Grace frowns slightly. "What on earth have you done to your hand?"
"Collateral damage," he tells her, contemplating the gory injury for a moment. "When was the last time you had this old wreck properly serviced?"
"In the summer," she says haughtily. "Look, if you're struggling I can call the garage…"
Red rag to a bull. Obviously. Through gritted teeth, he says, "I am not struggling. You really think I can't do something as simple as changing brake pads?"
He swears there's an amused twinkle in her blue eyes as she replies, "Far be it from me to ever think such a thing, Boyd."
Bloody woman. Bloody women, to be exact. Oh, yes; Boyd can see Eve's handiwork quite clearly in this whole infuriating… pantomime. He grunts and takes a mouthful of coffee. Hot, strong and just about sweet enough to take the harshest edge off the underlying bitterness. At least she's prepared to make coffee exactly how he likes it. He nearly chokes on it when Grace unexpectedly takes hold of his hand to inspect the damage to his knuckles. He doesn't know why, he just very nearly does. Something like a tiny electric shock jolts straight up his arm to his elbow, his shoulder and beyond. Her fingers feel like they're burning him, and he's not altogether sure if it's simply because he's so damned cold, or…
"Nasty," is her considered verdict. "That could do with a dressing."
Boyd's instinct is to pull away sharply before she can get any further ideas in that particular direction. He doesn't. He simply stands stock still staring stupidly at the hand firmly grasping his. Small, pale hand. Delicate and very fine-boned. His is much, much larger, all the lines and creases picked out with black oil and rust-coloured dried blood. Suddenly he's hyper-aware of the physical contact between them, and the sheer intensity of the sensation disconcerts and confuses him. In all the years they've known each other, they've never been especially tactile. The occasional steadying hand or reassuring touch; the odd brief, spontaneous embrace in traumatic moments. Nothing more.
"I said – "
Boyd reclaims his hand rapidly, too conscious that the twinkle has become unabashed amusement. Grumpily, he says, "I heard what you said. It's just a graze. You want this bloody job done, or not?"
"Well, if you're quite sure you can manage…"
"Fuck off, Grace."
She's a hairsbreadth from laughing, Boyd just knows it. He growls at her, already aware it won't even slightly bother her. It doesn't. She's known him for far too long to be remotely intimidated by any posturing display of belligerence and bad-temper, and in an odd sort of way that pleases him. If there's anyone on the planet who knows that beneath the superficial gruffness and the mercurial temperament he's actually a lot quieter and more amenable than he cares to pretend, it's Grace Foley. Oh yes, she knows his bark is generally far, far worse than his bite, and she knows he knows she knows it. It's infuriating. And deeply gratifying. All part of the game they've been playing for more years than Boyd actually wants to think about.
Standing on the doorstep as she is, the height difference between them is not so pronounced. He's still a little taller, but for once Grace doesn't have to look up at him. Almost eye-to-eye, they regard each other, and he's sure she's going to start laughing at any moment. He can see the giveaway twitch at the corner of her mouth, can see the merry sparkle in eyes that shine such a true, clear blue in the thin winter sunshine. Bizarrely, the hairs on the back of his neck are standing on end. The impulse to kiss her comes from nowhere, as intensely powerful as it is completely ludicrous. Boyd has always been too impetuous, far too given to precipitously following his instincts. Thinking is her forte, not his. He doesn't think, he just acts on the plainly ridiculous impulse.
It's not much of a kiss, barely a quick, gentle brush of his lips against hers, but to say Grace looks startled is a significant understatement. Startled doesn't come anywhere close. He can't help grinning triumphantly at her. She frequently accuses him of immaturity, and today she would be absolutely right in her scathing assessment. Pressing home his sudden advantage, Boyd places the mug back into her hands and nonchalantly throws the spanner he's still holding into the air, catching it easily. Absolutely deadpan, he says, "Brake pads."
He can feel her gaze on him all the way back to the car. He's incredibly tempted to glance round, to see if she's still looking quite so stunned, but resolutely forces himself not to. It's all about holding onto the advantage for as long as possible. It's a good twenty, thirty seconds or more before he hears her front door close quietly, and when he does, Boyd grins again, just fleetingly. Best not to think about the reason for the gleeful surge of self-satisfaction. But he does. Of course he does.
The task in hand should be enough to distract him, but somehow his mind keeps wandering back to that absurd moment of recklessness. He's not exactly embarrassed – it takes a lot to embarrass Boyd – but as the initial mischief fades there's a slight shiver of discomfiture running up and down his spine. For heaven's sake, he's far too old to be stealing kisses from anyone, much less from a woman who's been his friend and colleague for close on a decade. Grace will put it down to sheer devilment on his part. He hopes she'll put it down to sheer devilment on his part. Of course she will. Won't she?
This is all Eve's fault. What started as a joke, a spot of cheeky office banter to liven up an otherwise dull working day has culminated in his presence on Grace's drive on a bright but cold Saturday morning, and there's no doubt in Boyd's mind exactly who's to blame. Grace is quite capable of causing trouble on her own account without being cheered on by the estimable Doctor Lockhart. They're nearly as bad a combination as Mel and Frankie were, all those long years ago. Except Mel and Frankie were considerably younger, and a hell of a lot easier to intimidate into behaving themselves. And he had a notable soft spot for the pair of them. Not that he doesn't for Grace, but Eve… Eve remains something of a closed book to Boyd, despite the years she's been with the team. Friendly enough, and damned good at her job, but he still doesn't find her particularly… approachable.
Settling back on his haunches for a moment, Boyd wipes his oily hands on his jeans and wonders again why he's spending his Saturday morning cold, bad-tempered and filthy. It's not as if Grace can't afford the time or money to have the local garage do her vehicle maintenance for her. He sighs. He's spending his Saturday morning cold, bad-tempered and filthy because he's a man with a large and extremely healthy ego, and Doctors Foley and Lockhart are both extraordinarily good at playing on that. He didn't stand a bloody chance. They gleefully baited the hook, threw it into the water and he dutifully bit.
Damn bloody fuck. And his abused knuckles are starting to hurt like hell now.
Next time, he's going to tell her to call the garage.
Who the hell's he trying to kid?
Next time he'll run his head straight into the noose just as tamely. Bloody women.
Morosely, Boyd goes back to work. The job itself is no problem. He's reasonably handy, rather enjoys the challenge and the opportunity to do something physical and practical. He's not the sort of man who employs others to mow his lawn or decorate his house. In a way, such things are a good outlet for the oppressive stress that relentlessly builds up in him during the week. He actually doesn't mind fixing the brakes on her wretched car; he doesn't even mind that he's only doing it because the pair of them deliberately implied it was far too practical and menial a task for him. It's just… Well. It's just that Boyd's not at all sure he likes the idea of them quietly gloating together about just how easily they can manipulate him.
Then, Grace has always possessed a worrying ability to get him to dance to her tune. On her own, she's a bit more subtle about it, but with Eve as a willing and enthusiastic co-conspirator…
Boyd straightens up and flexes his back. Maybe he'll send them the chiropractor's bill. Or not. No point in reminding either of them he has another weakness they could potentially exploit; an old, old injury that still ruthlessly plagues him from time to time. Hands on hips, he surveys his handiwork. Job very nearly done. Put the front wheels back on the rusty old heap and then take it for a careful test drive round the block. He knows how much Grace earns, knows just how much money from his limited budget goes on sustaining a full-time CCU criminal profiler, and yet she still insists on driving the kind of vehicle that any sane police officer would have towed away for scrap on sight. Typical Grace.
She's as idiosyncratic in her own way as he is. He likes it. Though often infuriating, the quirks are also interesting and amusing and the obstinate independence of the woman definitely appeals to him. He's not at all surprised she's spent the better part of the time he's known her determinedly single – Boyd doesn't know a man strong enough or stubborn enough to take her on, nor a man who wouldn't bore her senseless within just a few days. It's laughable, really, how very alike they are in character. At least in some ways.
It's you, you idiot, a clear, impatient voice in his head abruptly says. Fuck's sake, Peter, just how stupid are you?
Boyd blinks at the moment of clarity.
Well done, that same tetchy voice says wryly. It's only taken you… how long?
Clearly, he's on the verge of some kind of complete breakdown. He's obviously finally going stark staring mad, because if he's not…
Grace? Him? Him and Grace…?
Oh, come on.
He's not going to think about it. He's really not going to think about it. He's going to put the wheels back on her car, make sure it's roadworthy and then he's going to go home, have a long hot bath and look for the intriguing young lady barrister's phone number which he's almost certain is on a scrap of paper tucked neatly into the inside pocket of his dinner jacket. If he's really lucky, her name's on that bit of paper, too, because he's fucked if he can actually remember it. Potentially a tad awkward. Victoria? Charlotte? One of those painfully pretentious middle-class names, anyway.
She nearly died. Grace, not the nubile lady barrister. Nearly died at the hands of a psychopathic bitch who's caused him almost as much trouble dead as alive.
Boyd's not going to think about that, either. Or about just how much it hurt when he eventually found out Grace wasn't at any conference and deliberately hadn't told him just what she was potentially facing.
Christ, and she says he's insensitive?
He's so wrapped up in his thoughts that he doesn't hear the front door open again, doesn't hear Grace approach. He jumps slightly at the voice that says pointedly, "Is everything okay? Only, you've been standing there staring into space for about ten minutes now…"
Slight exaggeration. She's a little prone to them. Just as Boyd is prone to not thinking before he speaks. He asks bluntly, "When were you going to tell me?"
Grace appears at his shoulder, her expression one of faint puzzlement. "Tell you what?"
"That you were ill."
"Oh," she says immediately, and the flatness of her tone tells Boyd it's a question that she's been waiting for. She doesn't shrug, but Boyd can hear it in her voice as she admits, "I don't know. I didn't really think about it. Once I knew exactly what the situation was, I suppose."
Logical. Not particularly palatable, but logical. "Right."
There's a moment of strained silence before she inquires, "Why now?"
"Why what, now?"
Grace sighs loudly. "Don't be any more exasperating than you have to be, Boyd. You know what I mean."
"Dunno," Boyd says truthfully. He scratches his beard for a moment and jerks his head towards the car. "You need a new offside front tyre."
"I didn't want any fuss."
He doesn't look at her. "Yeah, you said that."
"I didn't want anyone to worry unnecessarily."
"Eve overheard a private phone call and guessed the rest."
"Fair enough," Boyd says flatly.
Another long silence precedes, "Anyway, it's all water under the bridge now. Isn't it?"
Trying not to sound petulant, he says, "You should have told me, Grace."
Her reply is quiet. "I know. I'm sorry. Look, I was frightened and I wasn't altogether thinking straight. Please don't tell me you've been brooding about this for months?"
"All right," he says, stooping to pick up the nearest wheel. It's bulky and heavy and he can feel the answering resentful twinge in his back. "I won't. Shift yourself, woman; you're in the bloody way."
He knows that patient, slightly condescending tone – knows it very well – and he can't help wincing in response. "Oh, God. No, Grace. No. Subject closed, okay? Get back in the warm, will you? I'll bang on the door when I'm done."
She hesitates, but evidently decides against arguing. A moment later she quietly turns and walks away. Boyd waits to hear if she slams the front door behind her. She doesn't, which is encouraging. Somehow fighting with her isn't nearly as much fun as it used to be. In fact, more and more often he finds himself going out of his way to avoid clashing with her if he possibly can. It takes him a while, but even Boyd is capable of learning from his mistakes. And there have been some near-catastrophic mistakes with Grace in the past. Times when they've both gone far too far, when the spatting and sparring has become very personal and very painful. For both of them.
Face it, Peter, the irritating voice in his head says. Something's changed between you, and if you're too stupid to work out what it is…
He's not good at women. Not on the fairly fundamental level of comprehension and communication. He's good at flirtation, pretty damned good at seduction, too, but at understanding them…? Forget it. So close to sixty that it makes no bloody difference, and he still has no real clue how their minds work. Doubly so her mind. Not only is she ferociously intelligent, but she thinks in an abstruse, convoluted way that is completely alien to Boyd. He's fairly smart himself – stupid police officers do not end up as Detective Superintendents – but he relies far more on instinct and natural cunning than Grace does.
But it isn't Grace Boyd is struggling to understand. Not this time. This time he's struggling to understand himself.
One wheel back on the car, one to go.
She's not his type. Good-looking woman, no doubt about that – he's always been perfectly well aware of her physical attributes. Uncomfortably so, on occasions. She's just too… complicated… for him. That's the word. Far too complicated. Too complicated, too intense and… well, a little too old to catch his eye in that way, to be brutally frank.
You're an idiot, Peter, his inner tormentor says contemptuously. Why the fuck do you think you're freezing your balls off doing a job she could easily have paid someone to do when you could be at home in the warm screwing Victoria. Or Charlotte. Or whatever the hell her bloody name was?
Muttering darkly to himself, Boyd goes to work on the other wheel. Self-awareness doesn't come naturally to him. Self-criticism and condemnation, yes; self-awareness, no. He doesn't often look deep into himself for his own sake. It's too uncomfortable, too unsettling. Automatically his thoughts shift away from himself and back to Grace. She has her faults – plenty of them – but she's one of the most compassionate, tolerant and non-judgemental people he knows. If not the most. She doesn't forgive and forget because she's naïve, doesn't see the best in people because she's incapable of seeing the worst. She does it because that's who she is. She knows the worst of him but never fails to see the best in him.
Which is a very good quality to find in a friend.
What, you still can't face the truth? the voice in his head mocks.
"Don't know what the truth is," he growls under his breath, tightening the car's wheel nuts with far more force than is strictly necessary.
Oh, you do, Peter. You do.
The jeering inner voice is infuriating him. Why is nothing ever simple when it comes to Grace Foley?
Maybe he should just march straight into the house and…
Both wheels are back on. He just needs to jack the car up a bit and remove the axle stands. Nearly there. God, he's so fucking cold.
He's definitely going to give Victoria-or-Charlotte a call. Later, when he's warm, clean and presentable. There's a lot to be said for pretty young women who coyly admit to preferring much older men. Especially when they're patently about as interested as Boyd is in the idea of a long-term emotional relationship. He'll take her out to dinner because it amuses him – and because he likes having a pretty girl on his arm – but he's got a hunch that dinner isn't strictly a necessary step. Not from the way she latched onto him so early in the evening, much to Spencer Jordan's disgust. Not from the lingering good night kiss or the arch, parting look she cast over her shoulder at him.
No effort required. None at all.
Boyd likes the chase. Likes the way the unpredictable slowly but surely becomes the predictable if the game is played properly; likes the thrill and anticipation of it all. He's a predator, and other predators immediately recognise that about him. The stray thought brings him unwillingly back to Linda Cummings and that long, difficult day when it seemed that he was going to lose so very much. He thinks of Linda and he thinks of Grace, and how completely natural and obvious it had seemed to offer his life for hers. There's no doubt in Boyd's mind that he would have made that sacrifice for her, too, if Linda had allowed the game to play out that way. It doesn't even seem particularly noble to him; more a question of a lonely, weary man being stonily pragmatic.
It's all pointless anyway, Boyd reflects, as he gets into the car and starts the engine. The cards didn't fall that way, and the only person who died on that day was Linda herself. A serious and inevitable headache for him, given the circumstances. It's all over now. None of it matters anymore.
He drives cautiously at first, but the old car's front brakes are suddenly pinpoint sharp again, and he's grudgingly pleased with his handiwork. Spencer's going to owe Eve fifty quid on Monday morning. Boyd has very sharp hearing and a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Very little of what goes on behind his back actually gets past him, a fact that perhaps only Grace is fully aware of.
There she is again, mixed up in his thoughts. Anyone would think…
Oh, getting there at last, are we? Well bloody done. Jesus, and you're supposed to be a detective?
Parking the car back on her drive, Boyd locks it, gives it a final baleful glare and heads for the front door, idly swinging the keys as he goes. Grace opens the door before he reaches the step, looks at him quizzically. "Well?"
"All done," he says smugly. "I told you, Grace, I'm a man of many hidden talents."
"And I told you, I've never doubted that for a minute. Come in."
"I'm covered in crud and oil," he protests half-heartedly, handing over the car keys.
Grace shrugs. "So? Just don't sit or lean on anything expensive."
Boyd follows her into the house like a lamb. Like a lamb to the slaughter, in fact. Waits for her to close the door behind him before saying, "Take it a bit easy for a day or two until everything's bedded in."
"Yes, dear," she says solemnly, and chuckles at his sharply-raised eyebrows. "Oh, you sound just like a concerned husband, Boyd."
He snorts. "Fine, you go right ahead and stamp on the bloody brakes like you usually do. Find out the hard way; see if I care."
"That's better," she teases. "Much more like the Peter Boyd we all know and love. Coffee?"
"Yeah, go on, then," he says without really meaning to. She heads for the kitchen and he obediently trails after her, finally settling himself against the doorframe to say, "Spence owes Eve fifty quid."
Grace doesn't look round. "Why am I not surprised?"
Casually, he suggests, "We should have a quiet chat about this sort of thing, you know. Respect for rank."
"It's a lost cause, Boyd, trust me. Even Kat knows you're a pussycat at heart."
Sadly, Grace is probably right. He feigns a glare. "Thanks so much for that."
"You don't have to be feared to be respected, you know."
He groans, not altogether in jest. "Spare me, Grace. It's bloody Saturday and I'm off duty."
She turns to lean up against the kitchen counter. "It is, and you are. So what's this afternoon's treat to be? Feet up, a few bottles of beer and Match of the Day?"
"Not exactly what I've got in mind," Boyd says, trying to will an enthusiastic vision of Victoria-or-Charlotte's curvaceous charms.
Her expression becomes knowing. "Ah ha. Something a little more buxom, perhaps?"
He bares his teeth at her. "You can fish all you like, Grace. I'm not giving you any ammunition. You or your playmate."
The banter is easy, familiar. They're very good at it. Arms folded comfortably across his chest, Boyd watches as she makes coffee, and wonders why both of them are determinedly avoiding making any allusion at all to his earlier touch of mischief. It's as if it simply never happened, and yet if he concentrates he can still clearly feel the softness of her lips.
Abruptly, he asks, "What's that thing called… When you're suddenly aware of the voice of your thoughts?"
She glances at him. "Internal monologue?"
"That's the one. What does it mean?"
Something inside Grace seems to engage with the question. She gestures slightly with one hand, drawing random patterns in the empty air with a teaspoon. "Well, that rather depends on the context. It's perfectly normal for people to have an internal dialogue with themselves. Sometimes our thoughts are abstract, images rather than words, but sometimes they can take the form of a very clear inner voice. Why?"
"What's the difference between that and actually hearing voices?"
Grace regards him with a thoughtful expression. "Do you really want the full psychological explanation, Boyd?"
"Probably not," he admits.
"I thought not. All you need to know is that there is a difference. A huge difference."
"What about the subconscious?"
"You're full of questions today," she observes mildly. "If I didn't know you better, I'd almost be tempted to think there was something you wanted to talk about. I take it you're aware that the word 'subconscious' has no valid meaning in either psychology or psychiatry. If you were talking about the unconscious mind – "
"Okay, I'm sorry I asked," he says quickly. "Do you think that voice exists to tell us things?"
Grace frowns thoughtfully. "As a psychologist, I would say that may be one possible function for it. But you have to understand that – "
Boyd cuts her short again. "What if there are things we know, but aren't really consciously aware of?"
She hands him a mug – white with a bold geometric pattern this time – and says, "All right, I'm listening."
"Something's obviously bothering you," she explains patiently, returning to her former position against the counter. "So why don't you save us both some time and just tell me what it is?"
Part of Boyd genuinely wishes it could really be so simple. He shrugs noncommittally. "Nothing to tell."
She rolls her eyes at him; a very typical Grace mannerism. "Right."
It's all so complicated. Him and her. Complicated and contradictory, and even if he was prepared to be brutally frank with her – and just the thought makes Boyd shudder inwardly – he realises he has no idea whether anything he's beginning to understand is in any way reciprocated. She's fond of him, he knows that; fond of him in the way she'd be fond of a cheeky, wayward child or a boisterous and disobedient Labrador. Both of which she's used as a direct comparison in the past. There's a considerable and frightening expanse between being fond of him and –
He focuses on her. Her expression is mildly quizzical and slightly guarded.
Boyd sees, quite suddenly, the trap he's unwittingly fallen into. He's not the cerebral one, she is. His way is not to think, but to act. To follow his instincts and deal with the possible repercussions afterwards. He's a predator. It's time to forget introspection and start acting like one. Grace is watching him from the other side of the room, evidently trying to decide what's going on in his head. Something lifts from him; the weight of doubt and confusion, perhaps. Putting the mug aside, he lowers his head a fraction and starts to stalk, slowly and precisely. He says, "If you want the truth, there's this woman. Can't seem to stop thinking about her."
Grace laughs, short and sharp. "Let me guess… is she, by any chance, a pretty young barrister?"
Boyd doesn't pause in his slow, deliberate advance. "You've been talking to Spence."
"Actually, Spence has been talking to me. Complaining to me, I should say. He really doesn't know how you do it."
The space between them is dwindling rapidly, and yes, for the very first time Grace is starting to look a little… uncertain. Not exactly apprehensive, but very definitely uncertain. As if she really can't decide what to make of his revelation. He grins at her. "It's easy."
"So modest," she says dryly.
"They just fall at my feet, Grace."
"Only when you want them to," she points out. She frowns, apparently realising how close he suddenly is. "What are you up to…?"
Boyd is a predator, and Grace has become his prey. Though he rightly guesses that any foolish attempt to say as much would end in unsurprisingly swift and painful retribution. Not fancying the idea of a sharp knee in the balls – metaphorical or otherwise – he settles on gazing down at her and saying, "Guess."
"It was a rhetorical question, Boyd. A polite euphemism for – "
He goes for the kill half-expecting a heavy-handed slap – or worse. Doesn't happen. It seems Grace is more than ready for him. No suggestion of startled surprise this time. Her reaction is immediate and fierce, and suddenly Boyd isn't at all sure which of them the predator supposedly is. Whatever he was vaguely expecting disappears in the force of the moment. He's the one who's startled – but only for a split-second. Then he isn't thinking about anything except the feel of her, the taste of her, the unanticipated ferocity of her. Who the hell knew she could be like this? Who knew she'd bite his lower lip, force her tongue into his mouth, tangle her fingers roughly in his hair?
It's over far too quickly, but the way Grace draws back from him is triumphant, not meek. The blue eyes are intense and they reflect a myriad of conflicting things. Love and fury, challenge and passion, victory and indecision.
They stare at each other, tension and disbelief hanging in the air.
Boyd clears his throat, but it's Grace who speaks, her voice and expression both impossibly calm as she says, "Go home, Boyd. Call your lady barrister – I know she gave you her number, Spence told me."
Not what he expected her to say. Not, he realises, what he wanted her to say. Caught by her response, he finds himself replying with simply, "Grace…"
She puts a hand on his face, her touch feather-light. "Go home, Peter."
Boyd leans into her, deliberately using his greater weight and bulk to prevent any attempt at escape. Grace makes absolutely no attempt to move. There's no fear in her eyes, just something that looks very much like resignation. Regret, even. Boyd doesn't understand. He follows his instincts, kisses her again, but gently this time. Gently, slowly, deeply. He doesn't need to tease a response from her. She's with him. Whole-heartedly. Everything he gives, Grace gives back with no trace of hesitation or restraint. They are both willing explorers in completely new territory. Shivers of arousal run up and down Boyd's spine, and his heart is beating so hard and so fast that it's surely impossible for her not to feel it. He wants her. Wants her blindly, stupidly; unequivocally.
Again, Grace draws back, and again, there are far too many contradictory things in her eyes. There's a tiny smudge of dark oil on her cheek. Carefully, Boyd wipes it away with his thumb and silently asks her all the questions he can't even begin to verbalise. Grace smiles, a small, flickering smile that's followed by a quiet, "Go."
There are hundreds of things Boyd could say. Thousands. He settles for, "Why?"
"Because if you don't…" she says, letting the sentence trail.
He thinks briefly of Victoria-or-Charlotte, of her bright, teasing smile and her coquettish expression. He looks down at the woman who's in such close physical proximity, and he knows. He just knows. He could resist; he could run. He could attempt to reason with himself. There's no point. Boyd shrugs his shoulders nonchalantly. "…I won't be going anywhere for a while?"
"You see?" Grace says, suddenly amused again. "I've always maintained you're far smarter than you look."
She smiles again. Her tone is placid as she says, "Go upstairs and have a shower, Boyd."
It's a struggle not to laugh at her quiet audacity. Raising his eyebrows, Boyd asks mildly, "I'm staying, then, am I?"
"I'm afraid so," she tells him gravely. "I'm sorry, but you completely failed to take advantage of the opportunity to escape."
It surprises Boyd that there's no immediate desire inside him to kick obstinately against the firm suggestion of inevitability. It's only the devil in him that makes him say, "I'm not house-trained, you know."
There's something else in her expression now, something that causes a very primal reaction in him as she replies, "It's really not your domestic prowess I'm interested in, Boyd."
The visions suddenly chasing through Boyd's head are startlingly vivid. Now it's not just a shower he needs, it's an extremely cold shower. Or not. He knows he's grinning as he says, "Oh…?"
"Go on," Grace says, putting a hand squarely on his chest and pushing gently. "Get upstairs."
"You know, there's something about assertive women that really does it for me," Boyd informs her. Still not releasing his grip, he studies her for a moment longer, the implications of what's happening making him suddenly uncharacteristically cautious. Suspiciously, he asks, "Shouldn't you be telling me at great length that we need to talk about this?"
Snorting, she says, "After all these years, why would I waste my breath even trying?"
She has a point.
Still, Boyd pushes her with, "This could be a really bad idea, Grace."
The question is a gentle challenge. A dare, almost. Put it into words, make it real. Say the unsayable. Reach beyond the tired, familiar games. He growls, pulls her even closer. "Think you've got me on a piece of string, don't you?"
"No," Grace says against his chest. "You mistake affection for complacency."
Could be true. He rests his chin on the top of her head. "Maybe."
Sounding slightly muffled, she eventually asks, "What are we doing?"
"No bloody idea," he admits, still not releasing her. "Just trying to find our way, I suppose. Like everyone else."
Silence. Complete, but not harsh.
Grace says, "You do realise I'm absolutely covered in oil now?"
Boyd grins to himself. "Sorry about that. I'll share the shower with you, if you like."
More silence. Neither of them move, they just stand there in her kitchen, holding onto each other.
"Spence owes me fifty quid, too," she confesses meekly.
Really, Boyd's not remotely surprised. Then, the way the day's unexpectedly going he's beginning to suspect that nothing could actually surprise him very much anymore.
Later, it turns out he's wrong. Grace certainly manages to surprise him. More than once.
And – Victoria-or-Charlotte completely forgotten – Boyd happily makes the most of every damned minute of it.
- the end -