DISCLAIMER: I own nothing.
A/N: It's B/F, people, but hey, Grace gets the last word. Vive la révolution! Oh, and it'll probably help if you're at least on nodding terms with the episode "In the Sight of the Lord". If you can remember Boyd's wisecrack in the lab, even better... ;)
The sun is streaming in through a narrow gap in the heavy curtains when Frankie finally wakes up. Bright summer sunshine that makes her groan and rapidly bury her head back under the duvet. The warm, stuffy darkness is comforting, but the growling headache doesn't retreat and neither do the bits and pieces of memory that are slowly starting to surface through the thick, alcohol-induced fog that seems to be blanketing much of the preceding night. Frankie tries squeezing her eyes as tightly shut as possible, but quickly finds that it doesn't help at all. Nor does it stop her quite literally breaking out in a cold sweat of utter mortification as one very salient point begins to relentlessly hammer its way into her skull.
Throwing the duvet off, Frankie sits up sharply. There's no-one to hear her as she mutters, "Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck."
Cursing doesn't help, either. The headache's still there, she's slightly nauseous and desperately thirsty, and rapidly packing her bags and immediately emigrating to Australia suddenly seems like a very good idea indeed. Certainly a far, far better idea than going back to work on Monday morning.
She's still partially-clothed she realises, looking down at herself. Makes sense. She only has the very vaguest recollection of stumbling out of a taxi and making her way clumsily up the stairs to her apartment, and none at all of actually reaching the bedroom, let alone the bed. The big, bold modern clock on the wall tells her in no uncertain terms that most of Saturday morning has already passed. Staggering uncertainly to her feet, Frankie risks a glance in the mirror. The woman who looks back at her is pale, hollow-eyed and every kind of dishevelled.
"Fuck," she mumbles again, swaying slightly as she picks her way through the debris of discarded clothes towards the half-open bedroom door.
She vaguely remembers Mel insisting on sharing the large bottle of Sambuca that mysteriously appeared from somewhere after they all trooped back from the Duke's Head mid-evening. Definitely remembers Grace sorrowfully shaking her head and making some amused comment about "leaving them all to it" before quietly retreating from the CCU's squad room. Remembers eventually deciding to go outside and get some air. Remembers…
Again, "Oh… fuck."
The bathroom mirror is even less forgiving than its compatriot in the bedroom. Reluctantly, Frankie peers at herself and pulls a face at what she sees. Mid-thirties going on about sixty-five. Her hair is standing up in tufts, what's left of her make-up is smudged and smeared, and there's a deeply suspicious red mark on the side of her neck that forcibly reminds her of certain ill-advised amatory adventures in her late teens.
Not just an alcohol-induced hallucination or a very bad dream, then. Fuck.
She can smell him on her skin. A natural, musky and very male fragrance cut with something sharp and expensive. Just the faintest trace now, but her mind gleefully seizes hold of the still-surfacing memories and wilfully exaggerates the lingering scent.
Australia is looking better and better by the minute.
Or Canada, maybe. Anywhere at all that isn't London, in fact.
"God, Frankie," Mel's voice says brightly. "You sound absolutely wrecked."
Damp from the shower and sprawled listlessly on the sofa with a forearm clamped tightly over her eyes, Frankie grimaces and holds the telephone away from her ear for a moment. The volume and pitch of her friend and colleague's voice is just a little too strident for her still sullenly pounding head. Mournfully, she responds dryly, "Yeah, thanks, Mel."
Impish laughter precedes, "Hey, don't blame me! It was me and Spence who finally managed to get you into a taxi, remember? Even though you decided all you really wanted to do was spend the night on the lab floor."
"I did?" Frankie says blankly. That, she doesn't remember. Not at all.
"Oh, yeah," Mel continues cheerfully. "Right after we managed to persuade you that going outside to find Boyd was a really, really bad idea."
A little feebly, she manages, "Boyd…?"
"Yeah, don't you remember? He called a cab just after midnight and you decided you were going to go out and find him in case he was getting lonely waiting…"
The unabashed amusement in Mel's voice makes Frankie grind her teeth. Defensively, she grumbles, "I was drunk."
"Drunk? You were absolutely paralytic…!"
"And you weren't?" Frankie asks snidely.
"That's different," Mel says breezily. "It was my promotion we were celebrating. A bit late, admittedly, but never mind. Hey, did you hear what Spence said about…"
Most of the rest of the conversation passes in a nonsensical blur, and Frankie's unusually glad when it finally ends. Deeply fond as she is of Mel, she's really not in the mood for excessively loud and exuberant chatter and gossip. Putting the phone aside, she sits forward on the sofa and stares glumly at nothing in particular. Things could be worse, she tells herself determinedly, but the trite words don't help. Yes, things probably could be worse, but from where Frankie's sitting, they look pretty bloody bad enough.
Maybe she's not the only one who's having trouble remembering everything that happened? Maybe he…?
"He's not gonna forget something like that, is he?" Frankie growls at the empty room. Thankfully, there's no reply to her rhetorical question.
Forgetting is highly unlikely, but she suspects there's a very good chance he might choose to studiously ignore the whole matter. She thinks she could live with that. Maybe. A deliberate conspiracy of silence. Never mention it, pretend it never happened.
She fancies she can still feel the intense heat of him, the raw strength of him, and in direct response Frankie stands up quickly, seeking to shrug the dangerous illusion away. Don't think about it. Not now, not ever. Didn't happen. Did not happen.
But the blatant mark on her neck and the slight, not altogether unpleasant tenderness of more… intimate… areas tell a completely different story.
"It just… happened," she tells Dombey glumly. Dombey is large and ginger and belongs to her middle-aged Dickens-loving neighbour. He's supposed to be an indoor cat, but he's surprisingly good at escaping out onto the adjacent balcony, and even better at jumping from one to another without any fear of the three storey drop below. He's sitting in the sun washing his whiskers and regarding her quizzically with knowing amber eyes. Frankie glares at him. "It's all right for you. What the hell am I going to do on Monday morning?"
It's a good question, but it seems Dombey doesn't have an answer.
Leaning on the balcony rail, Frankie studies the thin, hazy strip of Hampstead Heath that she can just about see between the crowding buildings and rooftops. It's late-afternoon now, and she's almost tempted to go out for a walk. Almost, but not quite. The grumbling headache's almost disappeared and after a very late lunch she's feeling a little more human, but there are so many thoughts and questions chasing through her head that she barely notices the improvement. Her thoughts are entirely on other things. On one other thing, in fact. On the inescapable fact that she… that he… that they…
And as far as that particularly activity goes…
"Actually, it wasn't bad," she tells Dombey seriously. "But now I'm screwed."
Maybe Boyd won't remember. After all, the last time Frankie saw him, he was just as drunk as the rest of them, thanks to the whiskey-chasers in the pub and the almost-full bottle of Glenfiddich conjured from his desk drawer later on. Though she distinctly remembers him drawing the line at the Sambuca. It's far too late to fervently wish she'd followed his example.
It's all Grace's fault. If she hadn't decided enough was enough and headed off home…
Actually, it's probably all Mel's fault for suddenly taking it into her head to finally celebrate the promotion bestowed on her months ago.
It's maybe even all Boyd's fault for showing up back to work after the Easter break sporting the short, brindled beard that suits him so damned much.
It's definitely not her fault for getting completely wasted, or for deciding on a whim to go outside for some fresh air. After all, she didn't know he was already out there by the fire escape, drunk, mellow and congenial, whiskey tumbler still in hand.
Dombey looks up at her in that penetrating, incisive way so characteristic of felines large and small.
"Oh, I know, I know," Frankie says crossly. "Yeah, okay; it's all my own fault. Happy now?"
It's no big deal, she decides as the evening starts to draw in. Really, it's not. It's just one of those unfortunate things that happen sometimes. It's not as if she's an impressionable teenager or a naïve young recruit. And… it would all be a lot worse if it actually hadn't been quite as… successful. Try looking the boss in the eye afterwards if he… Well. No such problem to fret about, despite the prodigious amount of alcohol consumed by both parties. The shadows are gathering in earnest and eventually Frankie reluctantly abandons the sofa again to switch on the lights. She could order some food in, settle down in front of whatever mindless banality her television has to offer. Maybe open a bottle of wine…
No. Bad idea. No more alcohol. Not now, not ever. Well, not for a day or two, anyway.
The knock on the front door makes her jump. Frankie very rarely has uninvited visitors. It might be Dombey's worried owner seeking intelligence on his errant pet. Or the irritating woman from downstairs who still hasn't brought back the corkscrew she borrowed months ago.
It's not. Even the briefest glimpse through the spyhole in the door confirms that her visitor is an entirely different sort of creature.
"Fuck," Frankie mutters. It's become the mantra of the day.
Her car's not in the car park; she could pretend to be out. Boyd won't believe it, given that he can probably clearly see a crack of light underneath the door, but it might be worth a try.
A deep, familiar voice on the other side of the door says, "Frankie…?"
Not loud enough to disturb anybody else. Yet.
There's another knock, louder and more insistent than the first. "Frankie."
She kissed him. The thought hovers annoyingly in her mind as she awkwardly makes coffee. He wasn't exactly slow to respond, but the galling fact remains that she was the one who made the first move – and they both know it. Boyd looks a lot less embarrassed than Frankie feels as he leans casually against the tiled arch that leads into the well-equipped kitchen alcove. He's watching her steadily as she fiddles with mugs and spoons and tries to feign complete nonchalance. A little sheepish when she first opened the door, perhaps, but utterly self-assured ever since. Damn him.
The weekend look suits him. Old jeans that fit in all the right places – and Frankie wants to kick herself extremely hard for noticing that specific fact – and a casual short-sleeved shirt that shows off tanned and surprisingly sinewy forearms. She doesn't want to notice that, either, but somehow she does.
She kissed him. Can't quite remember exactly why, but she doubts the reason actually matters. Maybe just because he's handsome and charismatic and she secretly likes him a lot more than is good for either of them.
She can't bear his self-possessed silence any longer. Not looking at him, she says, "So…?"
Exasperating man. Casting a baleful look over her shoulder, Frankie says, "So… what are you doing here? And I warn you, if you say anything along the lines of 'we need to talk', I'm calling the men in white coats. Or Grace. Or both."
Eyes even darker than her own survey her sardonically as he inquires mildly, "How's your hangover, Frankie?"
"Better than it was when I woke up this morning," she says tartly.
"I told you to leave the Sambuca alone. You really can't trust the Italians."
Frankie turns on her heel and ungraciously thrusts a steaming mug of coffee towards him. "Here."
"Thank you," he says gravely.
Leading the way back into the main living space, Frankie collapses onto the sofa and watches as Boyd settles into one of the two big, comfortable armchairs that flank the open door to the balcony. The slight evening breeze is very welcome after the heat of the day. She asks hopefully, "I don't suppose you've come here to tell me you can't remember a bloody thing about what happened last night, have you?"
He studies her calmly from the far side of the large glass coffee table between them and then shrugs. "I'm afraid not. I could lie, if that would help?"
"Not really," Frankie admits. She takes a breath and then exhales sharply. "Let me guess, you're here to tell me we need to be terribly adult and professional about what happened last night?"
Boyd shakes his head slightly. "No."
"No?" Frankie echoes in surprise. "Oh, come on – no lectures about boundaries and propriety?"
"Yeah," she says sardonically. "'Cause I was really looking forward to sitting through that little speech."
She glares at him. "Will you stop doing that? It's incredibly annoying."
Boyd leans back a little more comfortably in the big armchair. "I am incredibly annoying. Or so I'm often told."
"Yeah, you are."
"A trait we have in common."
"Oh, piss off, Boyd," she tells him, but without real ire. One trait they definitely have in common is an abstruse sense of humour that's mordant and often very dark. It doesn't surprise her at all that he merely grins in response. It's a shark-like grin. Predatory. Lots of teeth. She remembers him biting her neck. Hard enough for her to feel it, hard enough to leave a mark. Not nearly hard enough to actually hurt her. Taking another deep breath, she says, "Look, we were both very drunk."
"Disgracefully so," Boyd agrees laconically.
"Do you have to be so flippant?" Frankie complains, but it's not difficult to understand his attitude. She's beginning to realise that beneath the calm façade he's every bit as embarrassed as she is. Maybe even more so.
Boyd folds his arms across his broad chest, unconsciously assuming a defensive posture. "What do you want me to say, Frankie? It's been a good twenty years since I've found myself in anything remotely like this position. Believe it or not, I don't make a habit of shagging my staff, drunk or not."
"So delicately put."
"Says the woman who slurred 'so, about those nine inches' in my ear and then stuck her tongue down my throat."
Frankie winces. "I was really hoping you wouldn't remember that."
Again, there's a definite glint in his eye. "I bet you bloody were."
Striving for some semblance of dignity, she tries, "I was talking about the Western case."
"Nails, Boyd. Nine inch nails."
"Musically deficient, but apparently surprising popular with disaffected teenagers."
Frankie rolls her eyes and says, "And anyway, as far as last night's concerned, I have absolutely no recollection of anything even remotely resembling nine inches."
Despite everything, she grins at him. Ferociously. "You brought that on yourself, Boyd."
"You didn't have to enjoy it quite so much."
"Are we still talking about last night, or…?"
"Stop it," Boyd grumbles, but he unfolds his arms again. "So what happens now?"
"Strategic amnesia?" Frankie suggests promptly, sipping her coffee and immediately grimacing at the bitter taste. "I mean, we were both completely smashed, weren't we? Things happen. And no-one else knows, so… God, this is embarrassing… Want a real drink?"
"Oh, great idea, Frankie," he says, the sarcasm heavy in his voice.
Even with the windows wide open the room's stiflingly hot, and in the subdued light from the bedside lamp his smooth chest is gleaming with sweat. Hands behind his head, Boyd watches her, his silence making Frankie wonder about the nature of the thoughts hidden behind the enigmatic gaze. He's infuriatingly unreadable, but whether it's his skill at masking exactly what he thinks and feels, or her lack of perception when it comes to such things, she isn't altogether sure.
Reaching for the half-empty bottle of wine by the bed, she mutters, "God. What a monumental balls-up."
He doesn't move. "Succinct."
"Come on, Boyd," she says, refilling her glass before roughly setting the bottle aside again. "A drunken knee-trembler under the fire escape is one thing, but this was just rank stupidity."
"Oh, I don't know…" he says languidly.
Frankie shakes her head, studies him over the rim of her glass. Early-fifties; tall, broad-shouldered. Ridiculously good-looking. Oh, yes, he's an attractive man. But difficult, driven and notoriously temperamental. This is a mistake. He is a mistake. No matter how much she actually likes him. No matter how much they flirt or how strong the sparking sexual chemistry between them sometimes is. Instinct tells her to back away, to tell him to leave and then do everything she possibly can to forget their recent… indiscretions. Suddenly Frankie feels foolish, confused and exposed – and it's not a feeling she likes. She looks away, tries to martial her thoughts into a suitably cool and calm dismissal.
Unexpectedly, Boyd sits up, slides an arm around her waist and rests his chin on her bare shoulder. The gentle bristle of his beard against her skin is faintly sensual, but also strangely comforting. A very human touch. His voice is soft. "Talk to me, Frankie."
"Yeah, because listening is really your forte, isn't it?" Frankie says, surprised by how bitter she sounds. "It's time you were leaving, Boyd."
"Why are you being like this?" he asks her, and if there's a note of anything in his voice, it's quiet bewilderment. "I thought – "
"No," she says quickly. "I don't want to hear it. We're not doing this, all right? The whole 'sensible adult discussion' thing. There's absolutely no point."
She pulls away from him, sets her glass down and scrambles to her feet. As quickly as possible she snatches the light robe from the back of the bedroom door and wraps it securely around herself, hiding her nakedness, her physical vulnerability. Forcing herself not to look round at him, she walks out into the quiet darkness of the big living-room. The door to the balcony's still open, carelessly forgotten in the heated tussle on the sofa that rapidly escalated into something much more dangerous.
It's cooler outside. Somewhere in the distance Frankie can hear the faint melancholy wail of a siren. The discordant sound reminds her painfully that it's just an ordinary Saturday night in the big, sprawling city that's been her home for so many years. There's nothing remarkable about it. Nothing at all.
Boyd moves so quietly that she doesn't know he's there until he leans on the balcony rail next to her. Bare feet, bare chest and soft, faded jeans, the belt left casually unbuckled. She wants to kiss him, wants to grab his hand and tow him back into the bedroom. Stupid. So very stupid. When he doesn't immediately speak, she says, "I'm useless at this sort of thing."
His only response is to glance at her and raise his eyebrows a fraction before returning to what appears to be an intense scrutiny of the dark, scruffy patch of communal grass below them. Not encouraging.
She tries, "My personal life's a complete disaster area."
Boyd turns, leans back against the balcony rail, puts his hands in his pockets. He looks down at her, expression thoughtful. "Something else we have in common."
"Go home, Boyd," Frankie tells him quietly. "Before one of us says or does something really stupid."
He snorts. "Bit late for that, Frankie."
"We can still draw a line under this."
"But do you really want to?"
There's a quiet note of challenge in his voice that calls forth an answering touch of defiance in her. "Why? Are you offering me hearts and flowers and happily ever after?"
"No," he says simply. "You know damn well I'm not. I'm not offering you anything. Except maybe the chance to occasionally forget how bloody hard and lonely life can be."
"Great chat-up line, Boyd," she says sardonically.
"Nearly as good as yours," he says, hands still in pockets.
"I was drunk."
He inclines his head. "Yeah, and now you're sober it's still not nine inches; I know."
Frankie starts to laugh. She simply can't help it. The solemnity of his tone and expression and the altogether more roguish look in his dark eyes is a devastating, winning combination. She knows exactly what it is that compulsively draws hitherto perfectly sane women to him. A unique mixture of good-looks, toughness, vulnerability and self-deprecatory humour. She understands what eventually repels them, too; his volatile temper, his blistering impatience and his stubborn single-mindedness. Shaking her head, she says, "It's all right, I kind of like you, even if you did oversell the goods."
"Yeah, well, I kind of like you, too."
"Careful, Boyd, you're dangerously close to becoming disgustingly sentimental."
Finally taking his hands out of his pockets, he catches hold of her waist. "Not a chance."
"And tomorrow?" Frankie asks, grasping his hand hard and doing her best to keep in step with him. It's Sunday morning and the summer sun's beating down mercilessly on the Heath, but he still walks with a long police officer's stride that covers the ground quickly and efficiently. Whenever they reach even the slightest steepening of the continual incline, she feels as if she's being relentlessly pulled in his wake.
Boyd doesn't break step. "You ask too many questions."
"I'm paid to ask questions."
"Wrong. I'm paid to ask questions; you're paid to provide answers."
Frankie sighs loudly. "Whatever. Well?"
"Oh, God, please don't start all that again."
He stops walking and together they pause to gaze at the famous view of the city that Parliament Hill provides. He says, "I have a job to do, and so do you. If a conflict of interests arises…"
"The job wins," Frankie finishes for him. "Yeah, I get that. I just mean… You really think no-one's going to notice?"
"I think," he says steadily, "that unless our professional integrity is called into question, it's no-one else's damned business."
"Grace will guess," Frankie points out, wondering if it's the right thing to say. Voicing anything that comes near to being a personal comment on the close, contradictory and often unstable relationship between the two most senior members of the CCU's core team is widely considered to be completely taboo. "Grace will guess in about two minutes flat."
Boyd simply shrugs, however. "Oh, I've no doubt about that."
"And that really doesn't bother you?"
"I've known Grace a long time."
"Meaning?" she asks curiously.
"Meaning that Grace won't interfere in things that aren't anything to do with her. Not unless she's given a very good reason. Which we're not going to give her, are we?"
He gives her a sideways look. "Fuck off, Frankie."
Grinning, she remains silent for several moments before saying, "Boyd?"
"We're being incredibly stupid, aren't we?"
"That's one way of looking at it."
She nods and studies the view. "Good thing the sex isn't bad."
Monday mornings are never particularly joyous affairs in the CCU's ever-depressing squad room. Sometimes there are hangovers, and sometimes there are grievances from the preceding week; usually there are problems that have arisen over the weekend. Generally some combination of irritating factors culminates in an excessive amount of shouting and swearing from Boyd's office, and that, in turn, often feeds down to the rest of them in impossible deadlines and muttered imprecations about their general incompetence and complete lack of initiative. No-one ever takes it personally – they all know the unit's commanding officer far too well for that.
Frankie is not at all surprised to be summoned by a deep, impatient bark the moment she steps foot in the squad room. She merely rolls her eyes in response to Mel's quick, sympathetic grin and heads into his office. Eyebrows quizzically raised, she opens with, "Yeah…?"
He looks different. Of course he does. Immaculately groomed, expensive suit, forbidding glare. Without preamble he demands, "Where the fuck's the DNA for the Marriott case?"
Hackles rising, Frankie shrugs deliberately. "How should I know? You told me to send everything from the evidence store to Central Lab, remember? Something about not subsidising CID's shortcomings out of our budget."
Boyd frowns and she can clearly see the thought processes at work. He'd forgotten, he's realised it, and now he's deciding whether or not to back down or simply keep shouting until sheer volume alone affords him a pyrrhic victory. Either outcome is possible. Apparently he decides on the former, because he eventually grumbles, "Well ring 'em up and tell them to pull their bloody fingers out. Christ, why doesn't anything get done around here unless I stick a rocket up someone's arse?"
It's not the wisest thing to do, admittedly, but Frankie starts to grin. He's just so incredibly… petulant.
The dark eyes flash a clear warning at her. "And while you're at it, find out why we haven't got the ballistics through from Southwark yet."
"Yes, Great Leader."
"Out," he orders.
Still smirking, she asks innocently, "While I'm here, do you want to sign off on the Western case for me?"
"One word, Frankie. Just one word…"
"And what do you want me to do about all the nine – "
"I mean it," Boyd warns.
" – inch nails still kicking about in the lab?"
For a moment she honestly thinks he's going to spring out of his chair and be round the edge of the desk before she can retreat to a safe distance, but for once it seems he finds an admirable amount of self-control from somewhere and though his glare doesn't abate, she's fairly sure there's a touch of dark amusement lurking beneath it somewhere.
From the doorway behind her, Grace's voice says, "Boyd…?"
His gaze shifts. "Grace."
"The natives are getting restless. Are we having a morning briefing today, or not?"
"Yeah," he says, getting to his feet. "Doctor Wharton was just leaving."
"Actually," Frankie says, struck by sudden devilment as she starts towards the door, "Doctor Wharton was just asking – "
" – for suggestions about what to do with nine inches," Boyd finishes for her, eyes glinting dangerously.
Grace looks neither bewildered nor scandalised. She simply tilts her head and says serenely, "I see. Well, she's obviously asking entirely the wrong man about that, isn't she…?"
Boyd's reply is pithy. But it makes both women laugh.
- the end -