A/N: Dear readers, this is my very first Midsomer Murders story. I hope you will enjoy reading it as much as I liked writing it! But even if you didn't like it at all, please leave me a review. That way I can improve my writing.
Disclaimer: I own nothing. If I did, I would be rich by now.
Gavin rested his head against the cool glass of his bedroom window. In his hands he held a cup of tea that had gone cold hours ago, but he could not bring himself to empty it or put it down. This way he did not have to stare at his trembling hands; this was no time to show any signs of weakness.
Almost five hours ago Tom had been stabbed. It was not the first time Tom was injured on the job; Gavin could still clearly remember the time he had nearly been strangled and quite a few other close calls. Yet this was the first time Gavin hadn't been able to do anything but press down on the wound in an attempt to make the bleeding stop.
A shiver coursed through him as he recalled Tom's blood seeping through his fingers. Panic had gripped at his heart, tears had begun to cloud his vision. Of course he had blinked them away rapidly so he could tend to the wound. But Tom had seen them and had managed a weak smile before telling him he would be fine.
Gavin had smiled at those words himself; it was so typical of Tom to say something like that. It had given him the strength he needed to keep control of the situation. Within seconds he had called for backup and an ambulance.
Everyone always said that waiting was the hardest part. Until today Gavin had not known what they meant. But as he had sat there, watching Tom lose more and more blood, he had understood. Gavin was well aware that blood loss could kill. But to see your friend become increasingly paler and see more blood soak through the jacket you are using to staunch the bleeding was something completely different than reading about it.
Especially when the man you're trying to safe is so much more than a friend. Because after working with Tom for over seven years he had lost his heart to him. He was well aware of it by now, even though it had taken him a few months to realize it.
This was all such a mess. After finally finding the courage to admit to himself that he had fallen in love with the much older man he worked for he had thought that all he would have to do was figure out whether it was worth telling him about it. Now, he might never get the chance to say those three little words.
Because Tom had lost quite some blood before the ambulance had arrived. He had barely been conscious when he had been taken to hospital, his heart had been beating too slowly and his blood pressure had been too low. The last thing Gavin had heard before the doors of the ambulance had been closed was that Tom would need to be operated on as soon as possible.
After that, things were a blur. He had called Joyce to tell her what had happened to her husband and then he had driven home. The last thing he remembered was asking Joyce to call him as soon as there was any news and her promise that she would.
He desperately wanted to be able to hold Tom's hand, to whisper soothing words in his ear and be close to him so he wouldn't have a reason to believe things wouldn't be alright in the end. But he couldn't do that. Joyce and Cully were Tom's next of kin, there was no reason for him to be there; they knew who was responsible. And he would only complicate matters if he demanded some time alone with Tom. After all, his wife and daughter would have every right to ask for a reason, which he couldn't give them.
Gavin rubbed his face. It was only ten in the evening, yet he was feeling extremely tired. The adrenaline he had been running on since five o'clock that evening was no longer enough to sustain him. Or to warm him, for that matter. The blanket he had wrapped around himself before felt too thin.
Suddenly his phone rang. The sound was too shrill, too loud in the silent room. Fear threatened to overtake him; what if something had gone wrong and Tom was even worse now? What if he hadn't survived the operation? He shook his head; Joyce would not tell him that over the phone. Taking one last deep breath he picked up.
"Gavin Troy," he said, hoping that his voice sounded stronger than he thought it did.
"Hi, Gavin," Joyce spoke. He could tell her voice wasn't as steady as it normally was, either. "It's me. Tom is out of surgery. The doctors are confident that he will make a full recovery. It will take some time, though."
Gavin released a breath he hadn't known he was holding; the man who held his heart would be alright. He closed his eyes for a second as he processed the information, the room spinning around him because of the joy bubbling up inside of him.
"That's amazing news, misses Barnaby," he said. He was certain she would be able to hear just how much he meant it.
The blanket slid from around his shoulders as he shifted to acquire a more comfortable position on the window sill. He didn't bother picking it up; he had no use for it anymore. He would be making a trip to his kitchen soon to dispose of the cup of tea and after that he would probably turn on the television. There was no way he would be getting any sleep that night. Even though Joyce's words had taken away most of his fear he wouldn't believe Tom was alive and well until he had seen him himself, which would be tomorrow.
"It certainly is, Gavin. And call me Joyce," she gently admonished for the thousandth time. He didn't know whether to smile or cry at those words. The woman was such a gently, sweet creature and all he really wanted to do was steal her husband from her. Fortunately he managed to keep himself from groaning in despair.
"I will make sure not to forget I have that privilege from now on," he said. "I'm sorry for being so formal, but it's been a trying day and it's getting late." It was not an excuse, it was an explanation. He didn't want Joyce to think he did not appreciate everything she had done for him or didn't think of her as a friend.
There was a moment of silence before Joyce started to speak again. Gavin was glad when she did, as he had been making to draw her attention to him long enough to end the call. Not that he didn't have any questions anymore, but he thought it would be safer not to ask them; it would be strange for her to be asked whether Tom was resting comfortably, whether he had everything he needed, even if it was Gavin asking.
"It's not that late for you young people now, is it?" she teased gently. "Or at least I hope not. I was just about to ask you whether you would meet me at our house. I'm collecting some things Tom will need in the next few days, and I think we need to talk."
Gavin's mind refused to cooperate for a few minutes after she said that. What did she want to talk to him about? Had he done or said anything that might have made her realize he had feelings for her husband? He discarded that thought almost straight away. He had always been careful not to show her or Cully his love for Tom. Maybe it was because he had been there when Tom was injured; maybe she thought he would understand better than whoever she had talked to so far.
"Alright, I will meet you there," he finally managed to say, his heart still thumping too fast and too loud. There was nothing else he could do, not after all the meals she had let him share or the times she had let him use the spare bedroom. If she needed him, he would be there for her. It was the least he could do.
As there was no need to say anything else, Joyce simply ended the call. Gavin was already rummaging through his pockets for his car keys, which he discovered in his back pocket, before the line went dead. He was grateful he had decided against slipping into some more comfortable clothes when he had arrived home as it saved him from having to change again.
As he opened the door he noticed that it had grown even colder than it had been during the day. Even though it was only fall and winter wouldn't arrive for another two months, it was hard to believe that. Pulling the jacket he had hastily thrown on tighter around him, he crossed the street to get into his car.
Gavin was immediately assaulted by the range of smells in the vehicle. The sandwich he had eaten that afternoon, the cardboard box he used to transport groceries, his own aftershave mixed with Barnaby's. And woven through all of that was the scent that was unlike any other Gavin had ever smelled and that was uniquely Tom's. It was a scent that lingered on his clothes when he returned home after a day of working in such close proximity, and it lingered in his car as it was the one they used for work.
Because of this smell, it felt like Tom was sitting right beside him as he drove towards his house. Gavin knew very well that he wasn't, but it seemed as if the distance separating them was no longer as large or impossible to cross. He would get to see Tom again, would get to be around him for breakfast or dinner. He didn't have to be afraid of losing him anymore.
The idyllic country side was a lot more appropriate for feelings like these than for the anguish and pain he had been feeling before. It had made him feel out of place, as if he was tainting the beauty that was present all around him. He smirked at the childish thought; honestly, he was thirty two, there was no need to behave like a toddler.
Gavin lowered the window on the driver's side. There was no need to smell like Tom from being surrounded by his scent. In ten minutes he would be at his house, which was barely long enough to chase away the scent. And the fresh air would do him good as well, there was no need for him to be a nervous wreck upon arriving.
Soon enough he turned into the street where Tom lived. The lights were burning in most of the windows, but the atmosphere was peaceful, calm. The people living here were blissfully unaware that someone they knew had been stabbed and that the outcome could have been tragic. Then again, maybe that was for the best; Joyce needed some time to wrap her head around what had happened and she wouldn't get that chance if her neighbours kept checking on her.
Gavin parked his car on the driveway, as he did every time he came around. Joyce's car was there as well, which told him she must have left right after she'd called him. He found that slightly odd; why hadn't she stayed with her husband as long as possible? She had probably visited him before calling and had left straight away as Tom was still drowsy from the anesthetic.
More out of habit than necessity, Gavin let his gaze sweep over the house and his surroundings. As a police officer he expected trouble when none was to be expected, after all. The kitchen light was on, as was the light in the hallway. Behind a room on the first floor he could see Joyce walking around with her arms full of clothing. The only sounds he could here were the cats and dogs in the surrounding gardens.
I really have been doing this too long, Gavin inwardly muttered. What was I expecting, a burglar crawling through a window or a murderer leaving the scene of the crime? Good gracious Lord… He shook his head. He had always been cautious, but ever since joining the police things had got even worse. It was an expected occupational hazard, but still it vexed him sometimes.
Walking up to the front door, he smoothed down his shirt. For some reason he felt as if he looked rumpled, even more so than was to be expected after seeing your partner being stabbed. It probably had more to do with the lingering traces of his previous nervousness than with the way he actually looked, a though which he banished to the back of his head.
He knocked, but there was no response. The same happened when he hit the doorbell. Misses Barnaby was obviously too busy collecting some of her husband's belongings to hear him. Gavin pushed down the handle and the door swung inward, surprising him just a little; he hadn't thought Joyce would be trusting enough to leave the door unlocked. Then again, this wasn't a normal situation, so he should probably take that into account.
With one last shrug of his shoulders, Gavin stepped inside. The brightly lit hall looked slightly different than on the other occasions he had set foot in it, he immediately noticed. At the foot of the stairs were three suitcases. One of them was definitely Tom's; he recognized it because Tom has used it when he had taken Joyce for a weekend in Hampstead two years ago. The others had to be hers, they were vaguely familiar.
The question why they were there was not so easily answered as the one who they belonged to, though. Was misses Barnaby planning on staying with Tom at the hospital? Or had she rented a room somewhere closer to the building? Or was something else the matter? And why had she packed more of her own things than she had for Tom? It might of course be because she was a woman, but Gavin felt as if there was more to it.
"Joyce, I'm here!" he called out, pushing those thoughts aside. It really was none of his business, Joyce was a grown woman and could make her own decisions.
"Come on up, Gavin. I'm in the master bedroom, it's the last one to your left!" came the reply from said room. Joyce's voice was trembling less, it sounded more like it did whenever he arrived for breakfast and she would tell Cully to make him some toast. This calmed him down a little; normalcy might return more quickly than he had anticipated.
Climbing the stairs, he saw that the landing looked more like a battlefield than the very organized place it normally was. He grinned silently; it was common knowledge as well as a well kept secret in the household that Joyce would keep her house organized except for the occasions when she was looking for something she could not find. Apparently, it was happening again. Tom would certainly cringe at the state of the landing when he returned home, unless Joyce managed to clean things up before that. Which Gavin was sure she would.
The mayhem was slightly less pronounced in the bedroom, he discovered a few seconds later. There were some boxes and pieces of clothing scattered around, but most of the mess was on the bed and more or less sorted into unstable piles. It seemed as if they had been pulled from the closets in neater piles but had gotten somewhat disheveled as Joyce went through them.
"It seems you're almost done packing," he said, not managing to keep the surprise out of his voice. "I wish I could have done more."
Misses Barnaby smiled at him, shaking her head as she picked up one of the boxes and slid it into the back of the wardrobe. Thinking it would be rude to intrude on their privacy even more than he was already ding, Gavin succeeded in keeping his gaze averted from the closet.
"I wanted to do this myself, Gavin. There was no need to have you search through all of this," she waved her hand around as she said that to indicate the room. "It might have taken longer than it did. And you can still do more than enough to help me. For example, you could take the suitcase when you go to visit Tom later."
The young man was certain he had misunderstood. Was she seriously thinking he would be driving to hospital? Not that he didn't want to, but Cully was with her father and Joyce would most likely be heading back soon. He would only be intruding, complicating things and making a fool out of himself. She had probably just misspoken.
"Don't you mean tomorrow? It is half past ten already," he gently pointed out. With all that had happened she was bound to have forgotten to look at the clock; Gavin knew he hadn't done so until she called, because it seemed as if seconds lasted for hours and hours were as long as days because of the precarious situation Tom was in.
"No, I mean later. As in as soon as I've added this to the content," she said as she showed him a photograph of Cully being hugged by her father. "It's the last thing I have to put in, it will make him feel more at home. And he'll need it. The doctors think he'll be in hospital for at least a week, probably two."
Gavin's head spun; Joyce was sure of this, she really wanted him to go, but the why remained a mystery to him. At her indication towards the bed he followed her lead and sat down on it, too dazed to do anything else. She drew his attention back to something else than his reeling thoughts by taking his hand in hers and squeezing it.
"But Cully is with him. He isn't alone. So why would you want me to go to the hospital tonight? Aren't you going back as soon as I've left? And if you are, then why are you asking me to take his suitcase there?" None of it was adding up and he did not like it in the least.
Joyce lifted his chin with her hand so that he was no longer staring at his knees, as he had been doing for the last few minutes. Her eyes were as kind as always, and it felt every bit as wrong as it had for the past nine months. Maybe even more so because he was certain that he would confess his love to Tom now; almost losing him had given him the shock he needed to gather his courage.
"I want you to go there because Tom wants you to be by his side. Yes, he does need me and Cully. I am his friend and Cully is his daughter, and he loves us both very much. But he needs you there. He loves you. I know he does, even if you don't realize it because he hasn't told you yet," came the soft reply.
Gavin blinked rapidly a few times in an attempt to chase away the vision sitting next to him. This was not real, it couldn't be. Tom was happily married to Joyce, had been for twenty four years. This was some strange hallucination, maybe brought on by the stress he was under, because Joyce would never say something like that.
"How do you know?" he eventually croaked, his voice sounding more hoarse and trembling than it ever had before.
"Because when Tom woke after the surgery it wasn't my name he spoke, it was yours. He tried to find you, he kept looking around and said your name until I told him you were safe at home. He might not have been coherent, but your name did come out. As did Cully's. Mine was the last," she confessed.
Gavin's mouth dropped open. Tom had wanted to make sure he was alright? Of course Tom worried about him every day, but he should have put his own needs first; Gavin was old and wise enough to take care of himself and he had not been the one who got stabbed. It also warmed his heart and fueled the small flame born of hope that he had been carrying around for nine months. Maybe he did stand a chance with Tom. There were still some questions that needed answering first, though.
"But that doesn't have to mean anything, does it? I was there when Robert stabbed him, Joyce. What's to say that the medication he was on did not cause him to forget what had happened to me and he was simply worried about his friend? Or that he thought he was telling you to ask me whether we had already arrested Robert Fay? There could be so many explanations," he told her.
Joyce would undoubtedly realize he did not want there to be any other explanation than that Tom loved him, but he had to say this; he needed someone to tell him that he was the one for Tom, because he couldn't believe it. He always attracted the wrong people, and now he had caught the attention of the man he loved more than anyone or anything in the world?
"Tom has been looking at you in the same way he used to look at me for over eight months. And he's been touching you more often than before, you must have noticed that. I confronted him with my findings three months ago, and he confessed that I was right. He still loves me, but no longer like he did when we first got together. It's you he's I love with, Gavin. I've been looking for a place to live since that day, and I was supposed to move into the apartment I found next week. I've decided to move out now, though. He will need you to get through this and I don't want to be in the way," she said.
Gavin knew Tom had been resting a hand on his arm or knee more often, or that he would always touch his hand for a little longer than was necessary when he handed him the papers that needed to be filled out. Without exception these touches made electricity shoot through him. And without fail he would put them down to Tom finally being comfortable enough around him to let his guard down.
"I… I don't understand," Gavin finally managed to bring out. "Why are you letting him go, Why are you not fighting to keep your husband with you? And what will Cully say about this? Does she already know?"
Joyce let go of Gavin's hand before sliding further up the bed so she could sit somewhat more comfortably. He took the lead and also shifted positions slightly. For a moment neither one of them speak, but Joyce eventually continued the conversation.
"I would fight for him if I stood a chance, Gavin. Believe me, I would. But he loves you, he is in love with you. And I won't hold him back. Tom deserves to be happy, even if it isn't with me anymore. He had gone through so much and he had earned it. You are what makes him happy, Gavin. And yes, Cully knows. She was as aware of her father's attraction to you as I was. She is okay with this as well," Joyce told him.
Gavin brought up his hands to cover his face. Had he truly been the only one not to realize his best friend was in love with him as well? Had he really been that dense? Well, it certainly wouldn't be the first time, and he doubted it would be the last.
"I was so scared to tell him. He looked so happy with you and Cully, you were my friend. I didn't think he could ever love someone like me, someone so young and inexperienced. But when Robert stabbed him all I wanted to do was tell him. And now you're telling me that I can, that I should. I can't believe this is happening," he admitted.
Joyce wrapped her arms around him then, which made Gavin's eyes fill with tears. For the first time he allowed his emotions to surface; the salty drops trailed a path down his cheeks. Joyce held him and whispered sweet nothings in his ears much as his mother had when he was a mere child. Finally, after what seemed like hours, Gavin found the strength to sit up straighter and brush the tears away with his sleeve.
"Tom hasn't been as happy as he used to be for quite some time, Gavin," Joyce finally said. "I don't know why, but he couldn't hide it. He never could. I don't mean that he was depressed or truly unhappy, but he was missing something in his life. And eight months ago he and I both realized that it was you he was missing. Don't be afraid, Gavin. Follow your heart. Like Tom is doing."
Gavin hugged her again; the weight that had been pressing down on his chest for so long was finally gone. There were so many things he wanted to say to her, yet he couldn't find the words. They wouldn't have been sufficient anyway, he thought. So instead he tried to convey all the emotions coursing through him by saying two simple words.
"Thank you," he said.
The smile Joyce gave him told him that she had indeed understood what he'd been trying to say. He was grateful that she was so smart and perceptive; the very quality he had thought would help her figure out exactly why Gavin was coming over so often was the quality he was now grateful she possessed. Had the situation been any different, the irony if it all would have made him laugh. Now, though, he was simply to out of his depth to care.
"Come on. It's nearly eleven. You should be heading for the hospital. Cully will be leaving soon. Her husband's waiting for her," Joyce said. She took Gavin's hand and pulled him off of the bed.
The young man followed her to the stairs. His heartbeat was back to normal by that time, but he was still a little shaky. As soon as Joyce handed him Tom's suitcase, that feeling disappeared, though. Maybe it was the realization that she was really giving him permission, maybe it was the fact he had something else to do than wait; he didn't know and he didn't care.
"Is there anything you want me to tell Cully or Tom, should he be awake?" he asked as they stepped onto the driveway.
Joyce was silent for a moment before shaking her head; she had her arms wrapped around herself against the cold. Gavin shrugged out of the jacket he was wearing and draped it around her shoulders. He was cold as well, yet he felt it was the right thing to do. She gratefully accepted it before answering his question.
"Tell Cully I will visit her tomorrow. And tell Tom I still feel the same way I did two weeks ago when he wakes up. He'll know what it means," she told him.
Gavin nodded as he opened the car and placed the suitcase on the passenger's seat before sliding in behind the wheel. There was no need to say anything else. And even if there had been he didn't think he could have spoken.
As he backed out of the driveway he saw Joyce stand in front of the door. She looked like a gray shadow against the soft stone of the house. The only thing that made her stand out was the impenetrable darkness of his black jacket.
When Gavin arrived at the hospital he parked the car as quickly as he could. The entrance he needed was at the right side of the building and he was lucky to find a spot barely ten yards from the doors.
The smell of disinfectants and medication wasn't as heavy as he had anticipated to be as he stepped inside. He was grateful for it; he wasn't very keen on hospitals and the smell was part of the reason. The other part was of course that as an officer he had spent more time there then he would have if he had had a different job.
Gavin looked around for a nurse. Fortunately, he saw one coming out of one of the rooms. She looked to be around forty, with still brown hair. He walked over to her, taking out his identity card and police badge as he did; it might save him some time.
"I'm sorry, could you tell me where the elevators are?" he asked.
He held out the badge to keep her from protesting. He was normally a very sweet, in control type of person, but he didn't think he would be able to deal with being told they were not allowed to let anyone but family in after hours. Fortunately, she let him in after one look at the credentials.
"At the end of the hallway. It's at your left, you can't miss them. Make sure to let the nurses on duty know you have arrived; we don't want them to panic when they suddenly find you there," she said.
Gavin hurried towards the elevators. As he waited for one to come down, he could only hope the nurses at the intensive care unit would be as kind as Helen had been; he did not want to waste any time. The only thing he wanted was to be as close to Tom as was physically possible.
He stopped thinking about what he might do when they refused to let him in when the elevator arrived. Luckily, it didn't take more than a few second to reach the third floor.
As he stepped out, he realized that it was calmer there than in the rest of the hospital. The sounds of heart monitors were much more frequent, but there wasn't as much talking being done. Most of the patients were probably asleep and the nurses probable had some time left before they had to make their rounds.
Gavin walked over towards the desk. Immediately, a young woman appeared. According to her badge her name was Amelia. She was carrying some files under one arm and a cup of tea in the other; it seemed Gavin's assessment of the situation had been correct.
"Hi, my name is Gavin Troy. I'm a detective sergeant at Causton CID. I'm here to see mister Thomas Barnaby," he told her.
Amelia took the badge and identity card he offered her. She apparently had no doubt they were legitimate, because she nodded.
"We were told to expect you here. His daughter was very adamant you should be at his side. His room is the second to last one on the right side of the hallway. His daughter is still there," Amelia told him.
He thanked her and set off to find the room. That didn't take him too long; before even half a minute had passed he softly knocked on the door. He heard Cully tell him to come in, which he did.
"Hi, Gavin. I'm so glad you're here," she said. She sounded tired, more so even than he had expected. It was probably because all of the adrenaline that had been coursing through her during Tom's operation had by now worn of.
"I came as soon as I could. Your mother asked me to stop by on my way here," he explained, lifting the suitcase.
Cully took it from him, placing it against the wall beside Tom's bed. It pained his heart to see that the older man did not respond to the sounds they were making in any way, but he knew Tom was heavily drugged; the pain would be too much, the nightmares too frequent to give him any rest.
"She told me she'd do that when she left. I'm glad she kept her word. Not that I had any doubt, mind you. Mum's always been like that," she smiled.
She gestured for Gavin to follow her, leading him to the door after he had nodded once to show his consent. He chose to stand close to the door so he would be able to hear and see it if anything were to go wrong. Cully also kept an eye on her father as she spoke.
"Gavin, I know what she told you. And I want you to know that she meant it and it is the truth; my dad really does love you. I also wanted you to know that I think it's amazing that you love him, too. You're two wonderful men and you deserve to be with each other. I won't think anything less of you. Just screw the word and be happy together; that's all I want for the both of you," she said.
And then, she hugged him. Gavin held her as close as he could, his chin resting on her head. He had always cared about Cully, who is five years younger than he is. But it was never in a romantic way, as many presumed. It was more in the way a brother cared for a sibling, or maybe even something different than that. He'd never been good at explaining it.
When Cully released him, she gave him a small push towards the door, her eyes twinkling now that she was sure someone would be there for her father during the night. Someone her father loved, trusted. Someone who had their numbers and would call them if needed. Someone who wasn't there because it was their job.
"Go on, go in. go hold his hand. I'm sure he'll realize you're there. It'll probably keep him calm through the night," she said.
And before Gavin had the time to do anything but blink, she had turned around and was disappearing from view. He thought about following her for a moment, to properly end the conversation, to tell her what her mother had said and assure her that he would do everything she advised him to do. But the prospect of being at Tom's side was too tempting.
Once inside, Gavin spotted the chair standing in the corner. He quickly pulled it up to the bed so he could sit in it; he could hardly sit on the bed and he needed to be at least somewhat comfortable. Else, he would be suffering from muscle aches even more in the morning.
He slumped down on the chair ungracefully. He didn't mind, though; there was no one here to see him. And his body was no longer cooperating as it usually did. He had no energy left. As he realized that, he felt his head begin to tip forward.
Gavin fought to keep his head upright. He was tired, he was well aware of it. That was why he was having a hard time focusing on anything but the soft beeping noise of the heart monitor by the side of Tom's bed. His eyes were stinging, it was becoming increasingly difficult to keep them open. But he did not want to fall asleep. The image of Tom laying in the ground was still too fresh on his mind to forget it, and he was certain it would haunt his sleep. He did not want to take the risk of disturbing Tom's much needed rest, despite the fact the older man was fidgeting every so often.
But there was no point in fighting. He had been up since six thirty that morning, as was always the case on the days he was on call. It was now twelve fifteen, which meant that he had been up for over seventeen hours. He sighed; the chair felt more comfortable than it was because of the fatigue. Even the conversations he had had with Cully and Joyce weren't enough to chase the tiredness away.
Slowly, Gavin lowered his head. He rested it against Tom's arm, shifting slightly to acquire a more comfortable position. The older man moved a little as well so that his fingers were now resting against Gavin's neck. The touch made the younger man feel more at ease, even though he knew Tom was unaware of it.
Before Gavin even realized it, he had fallen asleep. The nurse who entered the room to check on mister Barnaby smiled when she saw him laying there and covered him with the blanket that had been laying on the second chair in the room before leaving them.
The first things Gavin became aware of when he opened his eyes the next morning was that someone was combing his fingers through his hair. For a split second he wanted to run, until the memories of where he was and who he was returned. At the same time he realized he was still holding Tom's hand, and that the older man had twined their fingers together.
The younger man subconsciously pressed even closer despite the ache in his neck and back. He wanted to treasure this moment, he wanted to hold on to it. He had been this close to Tom before, of course, but this was the first time he did not feel as if he was crossing any lines.
"I know you're awake, Gavin," Tom suddenly said, speaking in barely more than a whisper. His voice was not as strong as it normally was, but it was no at all as fragile as Gavin had anticipated.
He lifted his head so he could look at Tom. He was greeted with a beautiful smile, which he immediately returned. Tom's eyes were every bit as bright and alive as they normally were, which filled Gavin with a tremendous sense of relief.
"I didn't know you were awake, though, Tom," Gavin said, following Tom's example and using his first name. It made a warmth he had never known before spread through him, an intense feeling of belonging took possession of him.
Tom pushed himself up somewhat, cringing a little as he did so; Gavin immediately leaned over to help him. This made the older man squeeze his hand gratefully as soon as he was seated comfortably. Gavin had to fight the urge to lay his head back down to be as close to Tom as before.
Tom must have realized that, because he pulled Gavin closer. The younger man happily complied. The one-armed embrace he was given made him sigh in pleasure; it felt like coming home after a long journey.
"I love you," Tom whispered in his ear. "I know we need to talk, but I want you to know that I love you. And that I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner. I will talk for hours on end later, but right now I just want to hold you."
Gavin knew that Tom was right. They needed to talk; they needed to figure out how they were supposed to work together as a couple. They would have to find a way to spend as much time together as they could without drawing any attention to themselves. They would have to figure out how Joyce and Cully would fit into the picture. He needed to ask Tom about what Joyce has said last night. But Gavin also agreed that being held by Tom was something he would like better than to have that conversation.
"I love you, too. And I would very much like for you to hold me," he admitted.
Tom pulled him onto the bed, despite the pain it obviously caused him. Gavin immediately turned towards him, his hand coming to rest over Tom's heart.
Yes, there would be difficult times ahead for them. The population of Midsomer was not as open-minded as the inhabitants of the city and Tom would need time to recover. But they loved each other. And no conversation or discovery could ever change that. That Gavin was certain of.
And before long they were both asleep again, dreaming of how their future would look.