DISCLAIMER: I own nothing.
Making A Statement
Increasingly irascible and impatient, but genuinely making a concerted effort to contain it, Boyd paces up and down in the narrow hallway, snatches of Shakespearian verse running through his head. It's been a long time since he bothered trying to employ any such questionably successful calming technique, but today… today he's doing his absolute best to keep his notoriously unpredictable temper firmly in check. For very many reasons, not the least of which is still upstairs slowly and calmly doing whatever it is that women find to do at such times. Still pacing, he checks his watch and grimaces at the far from understated reminder of his current attire. White gloves. White gloves, for fuck's sake. Muttering irritably, he halts at the bottom of the stairs, experimentally tries a single deep, steadying breath and then gallantly attempts a patient and strictly decibel-limited, "Grace? Are you ready yet?"
"Nearly," Grace's muffled, disembodied voice filters down. "Why don't you go and wait outside?"
Boyd glances down at himself and snorts. "Dressed like this? You're fucking joking, aren't you?"
A soft laugh precedes, "Well, it would certainly give the neighbours something else to talk about."
She's probably right. The big black Audi currently parked on the road outside the house is distinctive and there's very little doubt that its increasingly frequent overnight presence on Grace's drive has been noticed from behind twitching curtains. Boyd really doesn't relish the prospect of being the subject of even more idle gossip. Sighing heavily, he retorts, "Just… get a move on, will you?"
"Patience," the infuriatingly serene voice calls back.
Oblivious to the fact that he's grinding his teeth, Boyd returns to restlessly pacing. They're not actually running late yet – far from it – but he's been on edge all morning and manfully struggling to suppress his ever-increasing frustration is becoming something of a Herculean task. He stubbornly wouldn't admit it to anyone even under physical torture, but Boyd is uncharacteristically nervous, and he's very quickly remembered that it's really not a sensation he enjoys. With nothing better to do, he stops in front of the big antique mirror that dominates the hall and critically surveys his reflection. Unfamiliar as it is, the dark dress uniform looks good on him. He's easily vain enough to recognise that. Picking irritably at a non-existent bit of fluff, he wonders how many years it's been since he was last called on to don the heavy, belted tunic with the highly-polished silver buttons and the distinctive red crowns on the epaulettes. Many, is his imprecise conclusion.
Maybe he should go upstairs and see for himself just how bad the situation really is…?
Not a particularly good idea, Boyd decides immediately. He knows damn well that when Grace claims to be nearly ready, there's an exceedingly good chance there's still a long, long wait ahead of him. She's no different at work. Though in this case what he's petulantly wondering is not how long it really takes to date and sign a long-overdue report, but how long it can possibly take to put on a dress and slap on a bit of make-up. Women. They're all the same.
Not remotely true, of course, he immediately concedes. In so many ways Grace Foley is very unlike almost all of the women Boyd has got to know well over the eventful course of his adult life. But it still seems to take her an age to get ready for anything.
Still looking at himself in the mirror, Boyd sighs again. She's going to tease him mercilessly the moment she sets eyes on him, no doubt about it. In fact, if he's any judge of her character – and he is – she's going to gleefully rip the piss out of him until she's virtually crying with laughter and he's almost apoplectic. He's not sure whether it's going to be the ridiculous white gloves or the officious peaked cap with its superintendent's silver braid that she'll seize on first, but the end result will be the same. If they're still on speaking terms when they finally reach Hendon, it'll be a minor miracle. Then, maybe, just maybe, she'll be grudgingly impressed with the colourful row of medals on his chest. Probably won't stop the relentless piss-taking, but…
Turning on his heel, he prowls back to the foot of the stairs. Staring upwards, he demands loudly, "What the hell are you doing up there?"
"For God's sake, Boyd," the still-muffled voice replies. "Shouting isn't going to help."
"I'm not shouting," he protests immediately. He's really not, and she knows it. He's nowhere near the truly impressive volume he's capable of when he's riled. "Grace, I'm begging you here – hurry up."
"I'm going as fast as I can."
"Fine," he says despairingly. "Fine, you take as long as you want. After all, I'm sure they'll all be more than happy to wait for us."
There's no response to the sarcastic comment. Possibly, that's a very bad sign, but Boyd's virtually beyond caring. He checks his watch again. Reassuringly, they're actually still well ahead of schedule, but he's no intention at all of telling her that. It all seemed like such a good idea at the time, inviting Grace to be his guest today. A tacit but very public nod to the way things are between them now. More, a chance to demonstrate something to her, something he's not altogether sure she really believes, deep in her heart.
His phone starts to ring, distracting him, and he curses as he fumbles to answer it wearing the bloody stupid white gloves. A little more aggressively than he intends, he barks, "Boyd."
"Pete?" a calm male voice responds mildly.
There are no more than five – possibly six – people on the face of the planet with the balls, figurative or otherwise, to call him that, and even fewer that Boyd grudging lets get away with it. Immediately less belligerent, he says, "Jamie. Everything okay?"
"Yeah," his nephew's voice confirms. "All suited and booted ready. Mum wants to know if you're on your way."
The inquiry is no great surprise to Boyd. For some long-forgotten and largely spurious reason, his glacial sister-in-law remains utterly convinced he's an unreliable pain in the arse that simply can't be trusted to fulfil familial obligations without being continually reminded what, when and where. It's not Jamie's fault she's the way she is. Gravely, he says, "Tell her I'm on a shout in Woolwich."
There's a moment of silence before an incredulous, "You're kidding, right?"
Boyd resists the impulse to roll his eyes in a very Grace-like manner. "Of course I bloody am. I'm in Highbury waiting for Grace to finish getting ready."
"Good luck with that," Jamie's voice says cheerfully.
Jamie has met Grace. More than once. Even so, Boyd growls, "And we'll have a little less cheek from you."
"Yes, Uncle Peter," is the very definitely amused reply. "Guess I'll see you later, then…"
"Guess you will," Boyd agrees laconically. Gruffly, he reluctantly adds, "Enjoy it. You'll be fine. Just try to keep in step, and don't forget to salute the bloody Commissioner."
"Fuck off, Jamie."
In a very male, very reserved sort of way, Boyd is tremendously fond of all his nephews and nieces, but particularly of James who is almost the same age as Luke… would have been. Banishing the painful thought quickly, he puts his phone away and glances despondently up the stairs again. Still no sign of his errant… partner. The clumsy, inelegant word makes him wince, but he simply can't think of a better description. Not given their age and situation. It's a problem. A minor problem, but an exasperating one nonetheless. Partner it will have to remain, at least for today. And if anyone cares to challenge him over the title…
Boyd is well aware of the risk he's running. Is well aware that some of New Scotland Yard's finest will be in attendance at Hendon today for the traditional Passing Out Parade, is well aware that he will be noticed. He knows, too, that just who he's with will be noticed. He's sick and tired of all of it. All the games, all the pretences, all the subtle omissions and half-truths. Let them think what they will; let them draw the obvious – and correct – conclusion if they must. He simply doesn't care very much anymore.
Despite himself, Boyd sneaks another look at his watch. Squaring his shoulders beneath his uniform tunic, he grimly starts up the stairs.
His approach is heavy-footed and quite deliberate. He's on his way, and he wants Grace to know it. Reaching the small, gloomy landing, he heads straight for the front bedroom, a room he's become very pleasantly acquainted with over the course of the last few months. The panelled door is wide open and he doesn't bother to knock on it. He does, however, announce himself with, "Grace…?"
She's sitting at her dressing table fiddling with various items of jewellery. It seems that things are not as bad as they could be – as far as Boyd can tell she looks as if she's more-or-less ready. Regarding him in the mirror as he steps towards her, she smirks and says, "Oh, I really wish you'd told me it was fancy dress, Boyd."
He's really not in the mood for the entirely predictable mockery. "Piss off, Grace. What the fuck is taking you so long?"
She shrugs casually. "It's not my fault you turned up early."
Shakespeare be damned. Boyd is reaching the very limits of his endurance. "I turned up on time. I know that's a difficult concept for you to grasp, but – "
"These," she interrupts him, holding up a pair of earrings for inspection, and then another remarkably similar pair. "Or these?"
He grits his teeth, attempts to summon the very last lingering vestiges of his threadbare patience. "Oh, dear God… Those. Or those. Either. Just hurry it up, will you?"
"Well? What do you think?"
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded… He glowers at the inoffensive items of jewellery. "Why on earth are you asking me? I'm a man, Grace."
"Yes," she says calmly, "I had noticed that. These, I think."
Leave not a rack behind… "Please, Grace. Please. Just for once, will you do me a huge favour and get a bloody move on? I swear, you can turn up for work as late as you like on Monday morning and I won't say a damn word, just as long as you – "
"Ready," she announces smugly, standing up and smoothing down her dress. Turning to look at him, she smiles a little uncertainly and asks, "Well?"
We are such stuff… As dreams are made on… Boyd is already heading for the bedroom door and he barely spares her a glance. "You look wonderful. Marvellous. Stunning. Let's go."
It's a mistake. Obviously stung by what she immediately perceives as indifference, Grace demands, "That's it? That's your considered opinion?"
Boyd stops and slowly – very slowly – turns to face her. Deliberately making a great show of looking her up and down, he nods. "Yeah, that's my considered opinion. You look great, Grace. Absolutely great."
"Thank you," she says frostily.
He'll make amends later, but right now all he wants to do is get her out of the house and into the damned car. "You're welcome. Can we go now?"
He's not sure whether to scream, shout, bang his head repeatedly on the nearest section of wall or just give in to the sudden and incredibly strong impulse to throttle her. Maybe he'll just try bursting into tears of rage and frustration, because it doesn't seem as if anything else is going to work.
Get a grip, man, Boyd orders himself sternly. With brittle and unnatural composure, he says, "Okay. No problem."
She does look extremely good, he'll give her that. Infuriating as it is, the time taken has definitely been worthwhile. Not that she isn't an attractive woman anyway, but today she looks –
Suddenly right in front of him, Grace is reaching up to straighten his tie. Regulations clearly state that even in dress uniform it should be a clip-on. It's not. Boyd has always interpreted such regulations fairly liberally. After all, no-one – present company quite possibly excepted – is going to attempt to strangle him in the formidable presence of maybe three hundred or more graduating police cadets and a plethora of assorted senior officers. Looking up at him, she says solemnly, "You really do scrub up well, don't you?"
"Surprisingly so?" he teases gently, bristling impatience momentarily forgotten.
"Very handsome," she concludes with a slow nod. "Distinguished."
He grins ferociously. "Oh, you don't get round me that easily, Grace."
The look she gives him in return is doe-eyed. "Please don't be cross with me, Peter."
"Stop it," he orders in mock-disgust. "I'm not falling for that one, either. I know you far too well."
Instantly giving up the pretence, Grace pats his chest and smiles. "It was worth a try. Why are you so worked-up, anyway? We're nowhere near late."
"Why do you bloody think?" he demands incredulously. "It's my nephew's Passing Out Parade and I'm going to cause enough of a stir showing up with you on my arm without making things worse by…" Too late, he sees her expression cloud over. The gentle hand on his chest falls away. Mentally kicking himself, Boyd makes a hasty attempt at damage limitation. "I didn't mean that the way it came out. Fuck. I just meant – "
"I know exactly what you meant," Grace says, her tone flat. She turns away, picks up her bag – surprisingly small and discreet – and moves to push briskly past him.
Boyd is a fraction faster, and he easily blocks her path. "I meant, this is an important day for all of us and I don't want to screw it up by arriving late and drawing even more attention to myself than is absolutely necessary."
"So why the hell invite me in the first place?"
He frowns in bemusement. "Christ, Grace, why on earth do you think?"
"I have absolutely no idea," she retorts, and the biting frost is back in her voice. "Did you lose your little black book?"
"Oh, come on. That's beneath you."
Putting her bag down again and steadfastly refusing to look him in the eye, Grace says pointedly, "I thought you were in a hurry?"
Obstinately, Boyd holds position. "Listen to me. Most of my family and half the top brass from the Yard are going to be out there on that parade square today, and every last one of them will be looking at us and speculating. You think I'd deliberately endure that if – "
"You know what I mean," he says swiftly. "Christ, Grace, if you're going to start analysing every word that comes out of my mouth today we're going to end up in all sorts of trouble. Yeah, I'm a tactless prick who doesn't think before he speaks. Old news. I'm sorry, okay?"
"It doesn't matter," she says turning away from him.
"Oh God…" he declares fatalistically. "Now I know I'm really in the dog-house."
"You're going to be late," Grace says frostily.
Boyd does not miss the deliberate pronoun. Nor does he move an inch. "I'll get there even if it means blues and twos, but I'm not leaving this house until you listen to me."
"Why are you so stubborn?"
"Why are you so insecure?"
"I am not insecure," Grace says, glaring at him over her shoulder, but there's a strong defensive note in her voice. "If you didn't want to be seen in public with me, why the hell did you invite me?"
Boyd shakes his head in confusion. "This is bloody ridiculous…"
She turns back to face him again, and the icy glare has intensified. "Oh, so now I'm ridiculous, am I?"
Striving for calm, he counters, "That's not what I said. Christ, you could drive a saint to drink, you know that? All I was trying to say was that drawing attention to ourselves by turning up late is a very bad idea, and suddenly we're arguing because you're intentionally misinterpreting every – "
"So it's all my fault now, is it?" Grace cuts in snidely. "It couldn't possibly be your fault for being an insensitive – "
The very last tattered thread of Boyd's patience finally snaps under the strain. Striking her is completely out of the question – doesn't even occur to him – so he settles on the last traditional refuge of the truly beleaguered lover. He seizes her by the shoulders and he kisses her. As a silencing technique it's very effective. There's a moment of angry, affronted resistance, but it's only a fleeting moment. As expected, Grace does not simply meekly acquiesce; she accepts the implicit challenge and makes a fierce duel of it, giving him absolutely no quarter. He likes it. He likes it a lot. Somewhere beneath the medal ribbons, Boyd's heart is suddenly hammering hard against his ribs, and when Grace roughly pulls away from him his only instinct is to pursue, to recapture her mouth with his own. Only a surprisingly firm hand on his chest stays him.
He looks down at her, blistering impatience channelled along a very different highway now. To hell with Hendon and –
"Down, boy," she says, fending him off, and now there's clear amusement and affection in her blue eyes.
"What am I, your bloody lapdog?" he grumbles.
"If the cap fits," she says, her gaze pointedly rising to his headgear – now slightly askew, he notices in the mirror.
Boyd grimaces. "Oh, very good, Grace."
She smirks at him. "I rather thought so."
There won't be any apologies now, not from either of them. There's no point. It's taken them a long time – years, in fact – but they have learnt how to move on from a moment of tension once it's been successfully defused. No, there won't be any apologies, but Boyd does take it into his head to say, "You know there's no way back from this, don't you? If we do this – "
It seems Grace isn't in the mood for further discussion. "Just put your cap on straight, Boyd, and let's get going."
Strange as it seems, sometimes he actually does know better than to argue. Moments later, they are both heading down the stairs.
She spots them immediately, despite the crowd and the number of very similar uniforms present. Detective Superintendent Peter Boyd, a tall, broad-shouldered figure with a neat goatee beard and dark, restless eyes, and Doctor Grace Foley, small, slight and unquestionably attractive in a mature but ever-so-slightly unconventional way. They are oddly complementary, she realises, watching them. One of those mismatched couples that shouldn't work, but somehow appears to. And there's no doubt at all in her mind that they are a couple. Their body-language all-but screams the fact. The slim hand on Boyd's arm is unconsciously proprietorial, just as his stance is both possessive and protective.
She nudges the man at her side, and at his questioning look nods towards the couple just taking their seats a little way away. Her companion frowns and says quietly "Boyd and – "
"Doctor Foley," she confirms. "It seems there's rather more truth in the rumours than we thought."
"What the hell are they doing?"
"Making a statement?" she suggests. "You know Boyd. Anything short of downright insubordination to remind the world that he's his own man."
"That's one loose cannon we really need to do something about, and soon. The whole Linda Cummings debacle has been deeply embarrassing, to say the least."
She nods. "Oh, I agree with you, Ken, but Boyd's sharp; I can't see him taking his eye off the ball long enough to let us get the leverage that we'd need to haul him back into line."
"Hmm," the man at her side says pensively. "Leave it with me, Maureen. I have an idea that might just kill two birds with one stone."
He raises his eyebrows at her. "I think it's about time that young DC Howard was moving on to pastures new, don't you?"
"Quite possibly. Why, have you a replacement in mind?"
"A spy in the camp, as it were?" she probes.
He shakes his head. "Now, now, Maureen, you know I couldn't possibly condone such a thing…"
"Of course not."
A short silence is followed by, "Politically and operationally, the CCU still has its uses, but its commander may have been allowed far too much autonomy for far too long. You understand me?"
"I think so."
Out on the parade square, the graduating cadets are finally marching into view. Row upon row of young, eager faces and smart dress uniforms. This is their day, a day to shine in front of their friends and families, but amongst the watching crowd there are a great many subtle statements being made and just as many complex agendas being hidden, a fact that Deputy Assistant Commissioner Maureen Smith knows only too well.
- the end -
Author's note: in the WtD episode "Waterloo" Maureen Smith's rank is credited as "DCC" – Deputy Chief Commissioner – a rank that doesn't actually exist in the Metropolitan Police. I hope the nit-picky will forgive me for altering this to the factually correct "Deputy Assistant Commissioner".