Ever Steady
Rated: K+
Pairing: Martin/Ann
Disclaimer: Neither the characters nor the plotline belong to me. It was written by John Esmonde and Bob Larbey for BBC 1.
Spoilers: Contains spoilers for Season 3 episode 2: One night stand.
Summary: Only now that the danger had been adverted, the misunderstandings had been cleared and everything had returned to its neat and normal order – just the way Martin preferred it- she was ready to admit to herself just how afraid she had been. Ann ponders on the events that took place in 'One night stand.'
Genre: Romance

-*~EDC~*-

Martin had already fallen asleep, his arms wrapped lightly around her waist, snoring softly into her neck, a contented smile on his lips, even as he slept.
Looking back at him over her shoulder every now and then, Ann herself smiled into the dark, snuggling herself a fraction closer against him.

She had never been one to fall asleep easy, especially not after they made love and after the emotional roller-coaster ride that the last three days and especially this evening had been there was not the slightest chance of her falling asleep anytime soon.

Only now that the danger had been adverted, the misunderstandings had been cleared and everything had returned to its neat and normal order – just the way Martin preferred it- she was ready to admit to herself just how afraid she had been. How very afraid and heartbroken.
Martin´s bewildered confession of infidelity had uprooted her world in a way that had surprised her. Refusing to believe it at first, she had dealt with his words in the way she normally did when she thought her husband was going overboard; brushing it aside with her common sense and a hint of impatience. Surely this was simply one of Martin´s antics again, she had told herself. But as his grave words and dejected manner begun to sink in she´d started to feel as if a stone had settled on her stomach.

He wasn´t exaggerating. He wasn´t caught up in some delusional fancy. It was all very real and very true. He´d gotten drunk and he had taken some tart to his bed. Even if he hadn´t meant for it to happen, even if that woman hadn´t meant anything to him, it had very much happened. And his betrayal hurt her like little else could.
Looking at him in that moment, she could feel something break between them. The unbendable believe in his kindness that she´d had up until then. That deep conviction, that despite everything else that might not be ideal in their marriage, he would never intentionally hurt her.

He spoke of a divorce and timeframes, wanted to know what would happen to them now and she hadn´t had the faintest clue. A dull numbness had settled over her and she still struggled to comprehend fully what he had told her.
As the days wore on she´d still found the concept too unbelievable to grasp… Martin, her decent, unbendable husband abandoning his marriage vows for a one night stand with some… floozy. If it hadn't been for his guilt-ridden face, his slumped shoulders and the constant air of disillusionment that hung about him she would never have seriously considered it to be true.

But it was true and his meek manners and his going out of his way to oblige her in every manner possible had been unbearable. She´d wondered and fretted every minute of those days how they- how she was to go from here.
Could she ever trust him again? Could she ever let him touch her again, knowing where he´d been… and what he´d done…?

She had never expected herself to be in this situation. Not with Martin. In a dark corner of her heart she´d always believed that if ever, she would be the one to leave him. Now she recognized how vain a thought it was. Faced with the reality of losing him, she realized how much she needed him. How much she loved him really.

What was she to do? Could she live without him? Could she continue to live with him? If she could no longer trust him? If she despised him for what he´d done to them? And if she couldn´t trust Martin not to hurt her, then who could she trust? Martin, above all other things, above everything that he lacked, had always been kind to her. So very kind and loving in his own way. And wasn´t that all that mattered in the end? Passion eventually burned out, being in love was only a phase… but kindness and love remained.
'And trust, honour and loyalty…' her treacherous mind told her, and the same circle of thoughts started all over again.

She´d been determined to keep her head up tonight. She had dressed up in her prettiest dress, had put up her hair and applied her make-up with extra care. No-one would know from her behaviour what was going on. Not Howard and Hilda with their nauseating happy couple-routine and not Paul with his all-knowing smile.

They hadn´t even finished their first course before she could tell something was off. The tension at their table basically went through the roof. Martin was sitting next to her, his eyes firmly on his plate, miserably munching away his Brussels's Sprouts. Paul, trying to lift the atmosphere by cracking one silly joke after next, while his date Allison wore a permanent blank expression on her face and Howard and Hilda ignoring Martin by directing snide comments at him at every opportunity they got.

It had finally dawned on her that Martin must have said something and his apologetic "I told them, Ann" had confirmed her worst fears. Her embarrassment had been complete, until he'd given her his explanation, wearing the expression of a stray puppy, kicked to the curve. "I did it for you, Ann. I'd been thinking that if you'd appeared at all upset at this function, that you were not to be blamed for it. I am the guilty party, you shouldn't have to suffer at all. That makes sense, doesn't it?"

In that moment she had known for certain that his man, who had owned up to his friends and neighbour what he had done out of consideration for her and because his own moral compass had dictated him to so and who rather sat through an evening of scorn and disdain from his friends than to let her be blamed for appearing out of sorts, could not have been able to take a hooker to his bed for a meaningless night of carnal pleasure, no matter how drunk he was.

After that, events had happen in a rather swift order. Paul, who she suspected later, also had his doubts about Martin's infidelity, had introduced her to this Rex fellow, Martin's colleague and a man she now despised wholeheartedly. After Paul had put in a few well-aimed jabs, Rex had been more than willing to spill the story of how he had played an epic prank on Martin Bryce.

Her desire to serve this punk a swift blow in the face had only been outdone by her desire to get back to Martin and rescue him from his distress. For as long as she lived, she would not forget the look of startled surprise when she had taken his hand and pulled him to the dance-floor with her. His hand had automatically gone around her waist, his touch on her back however shy and hesitant, as if he felt he no longer had to right to touch her.

But as they had fallen into the rhythm of the song together and she had explained the situation to him by whispering a few sentences into his ear, his relief had been palpable. Suddenly he stood straight again, as if the weight of the world had been lifted from his shoulders. His hand on her back became a firm pressure, pulling her close against him and it had been him who'd initiated their kiss. Her arm coming up around his neck, her body finally relaxing fully into his, she'd felt more alive, more carefree than she had in years.

The second high-light of the evening had been when Howard had admitted to punching Rex on the nose. Any bit of annoyance she might have felt with him for being so judgemental of Martin had evaporated instantly and was replaced by immense gratitude and a hint of jealousy.

Paul had invited them over for a glass of champagne and half-jokingly she had told her still somewhat anxious husband that he probably would get to sleep with a wanton woman that night and remember it as well.
But for the rest of the evening he had remained uncharacteristically quiet and entirely focused her, constantly touching her and keeping her close. After only one glass of champagne he had stood up, rather decisively, and announced that he wanted to call it a night, almost pulling her with him in his hurry to leave.

The rest, as they say, was history. Despite his faults - and hers for that matter - if he wanted to, Martin could be very loving and attentive.
His arms around her tightened and he mumbled something inaudible against her hair. Turning around in his arms, Ann nestled her head against his shoulder and draped her arm across his chest, vowing to herself that she would remember this night as well before drifting off to sleep.


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