DISCLAIMER: I own nothing.
A/N: Bit of a departure for me, posting something in installments. Let's see how it pans out, shall we? ;)
Ending the Endgame
Laughter, harsh and cruel. That's what wakes her, and she struggles for several moments to come to terms with the fact that the mocking sound belongs only in her nightmares. She is cold, bitterly cold to the very core of her bones, yet she is sweating in panic, her heart is racing and the muscles in her stomach are tightly knotted in fear. Something infinitely warmer, infinitely more real than the contemptuous laughter starts to reach in through the fright and confusion. Him. It is him. He is there, right behind her, and for a moment she desperately needs the ferocious heat of his body.
"Christ, Grace," he says, his voice deep and low in the darkness as he quickly eases closer to her. "You're absolutely freezing. Come on, relax. It's all right. I'm here. You're all right. Relax."
The same voice that laughs endlessly in her nightmares echoes spitefully in her mind… "Pathetic old woman…"
Grace starts to shiver; can't stop herself. She feels Boyd move, feels the strong flex of muscle as he reaches over her, and a moment later the bedside light comes on, pushing the frightening darkness back into just the deeper, more insistent shadows at the edges of the room. He's looking down at her, concern written across his face, showing starkly in his dark eyes. Tousled, unshaven and weary, and infinitely more precious to her in that moment than anything else has ever been, or ever could be.
He asks quietly, "Linda…?"
She nods. Linda. It is always Linda.
He watches her for a moment, seems to come to a decision. "This is fucking ridiculous. You can't go on like this, Grace. You're going back to the doctor if I have to drag you there myself."
"Boyd," she protests, but there is no strength in her voice. She sounds just as old and weak as she feels, and she knows it.
He says nothing, just settles back down and gathers her gently against him. He is warm and smooth and solid… but even though his presence is incredibly reassuring, at her insistence the bedside light stays on all night.
"I'm a psychologist," Grace says pointedly, watching him from the bed as he shrugs into a clean shirt. He's still a little damp from the shower, and as he moves she detects a subtle, humid hint of soap and aftershave in the air.
"And that means what, exactly?" Boyd asks, methodically fastening buttons. "That you're somehow immune to the effects of trauma? That I must be imagining the fact that you're waking up night after night completely bloody terrified?"
"He will never love you, Grace," Linda's voice taunts, somewhere deep in her mind's vulnerable shadows.
But he does. He must do. Why else would he stay with her night after night when she is too weak and too exhausted to do anything except curl up pitifully against him in a desperate search for warmth and comfort?
Pushing the thought aside, Grace counters, "That's not what I'm saying."
"I'm very glad to hear it. Ring the doctor and make an appointment, because if you don't, I will."
He means it. She knows he does. Can see it in the stubborn tilt of his chin, the look of challenge in his eyes. It's infuriating; it's wonderful and strangely humbling. It's not something she's used to, this overt, fierce and completely single-minded devotion to her, but it's something she thinks she could grow very accustomed to. She sighs, says, "All right. I'll mention it at the hospital tomorrow."
"Not good enough," Boyd tells her impatiently, fiddling with his cufflinks. "Do you really want me to treat you like a child? Make the appointment, Grace."
"No," he says. "You can 'Peter' me all you like, but you're going back to the doctor."
This is not a battle she has any chance of winning. He's simply too stubborn and it seems he cares far too much. Grace sighs, tries to lighten the mood with, "Are you going to drag me there in handcuffs?"
Slyly, Boyd raises a dark eyebrow at her. "Would you like me to?"
She pretends to think about it. "Maybe not…"
Grace is barely two steps into the squad room when Boyd spots her, and his reaction is a gruff and very predictable, "Oh, for God's sake… Go home, Grace."
She's slept most of the morning away, managed to eat a light lunch and now she has every intention of settling behind her desk for a few hours, if only to work on the back-log of reports steadily accumulating in her in-tray. Her colleagues are seated around the room's central tables, and four pairs of eyes are regarding her steadily. It's Eve who says, "Grace. How are you feeling?"
"Not too bad," Grace tells her truthfully. "A little tired, but I'm okay."
Eve starts to reply, but she's interrupted by a growl of displeasure from Boyd. "Don't encourage her. Grace – "
"Spence," Grace says, cutting across him. "I need the files for the Ashford case. Can you…?"
"One move from you DI Jordan," Boyd raps out immediately, "and I'll have your balls as well as your warrant card. Do I make myself clear?"
Grace shakes her head as Spencer looks from her to his superior and back, plainly not sure what he should do. Common-sense seems to prevail and he says sullenly, "Sir."
Acutely aware of the mounting tension in the room, Grace says calmly, "Boyd. A quiet word, please."
He's already on his feet, already pacing towards his office. Over his shoulder he snaps, "The rest of you, get on with some bloody work. Playtime's over."
"We had an agreement," she says sharply once the office door is closed behind them.
"I'm well aware of that," Boyd replies irritably. "I'm also well aware of the fact that you could barely drag yourself out of bed this morning."
"I'm feeling better."
He looks incredulous. "And it naturally follows that you should therefore come to work? Jesus Christ, Grace. Are you deliberately trying to wind me up?"
She meets his glare steadily. "No, I'm trying to fulfil the terms of my contract."
Unsurprisingly, the decibel level of Boyd's voice rises immediately. "Screw the bloody terms of your contract. And don't even try to tell me I don't have the authority to order you straight out of the building because you know damned well that I do."
Grace scowls at him, demands, "What gives you the right to throw your weight around?"
After a moment, at considerably less volume and with admirable restraint, he replies, "I'm not even going to bother to answer that. Go home, Grace."
"And do what? Watch daytime television? Take up knitting? I want to work; I'm here to work. We agreed – "
"I know what we agreed," Boyd says, suddenly sounding very tired. He leans against the edge of his desk, runs his fingers through his hair as he watches her. He asks, "Did you call the doctor?"
For a moment Grace considers lying to him, but immediately dismisses the idea. She shakes her head. "No. Boyd, all the doctor will do is give me some sleeping tablets and put me on the waiting list for a few sessions of counselling."
"Which you feel is obviously way beneath you to accept?"
The acute observation stings; more so because it is uncomfortably close to the truth. Biting back the impulse to lash straight back at him, Grace sighs. "There's nothing a counsellor can tell me that I don't already know."
"That's not the point, though, is it? It's not about identifying the problem, it's about resolving it."
Grace stares at him in surprise. She can't quite prevent a tiny, ironic smile. "So he does listen and learn, after all."
Boyd glares at her again. "God, you're infuriating when you want to be."
"Says the man who has elevated being infuriating into an art form."
His response is unexpected. "Just… come here, will you?"
Perhaps because the request is so uncharacteristic, or perhaps because she realises how much she needs it, Grace does, stepping into his embrace quite naturally, resting her head against his shoulder. Neither of them move. Eventually she quietly she asks, "Are we being watched?"
"Oh yes," he says, a real trace of amusement in his voice. "Most definitely. Furtively, but most definitely."
"There goes your reputation."
"Don't worry, I'll go and put the fear of God in them all later."
Smiling against him, she asks, "Therapeutic shouting, Boyd?"
"Works for me," he says with a nonchalant shrug. "Grace…"
"All right, all right," she says, already resigned to the fact. "I'll book an appointment."
It is much, much later, it is dark, and Grace is in bed, curled on her side trying to warm up. It seems she is almost perpetually cold these days, and she assumes the harsh cocktail of drugs she is still taking on a daily basis is mainly responsible. The bedroom door opens with a slight creak and Boyd pads barefoot into the room bearing a glass of water and the small plastic container that she knows far too well. More tablets. Grace isn't quite sure when he appointed himself primary care-giver and chief administrator of medication, but he takes both roles seriously. Far too seriously, sometimes. He is gruff, but he is kind, and she grudgingly finds that her affection for him usually outweighs her irritation.
He paces towards the bed, tall and broad-shouldered, a solidly reliable vision in traditional flannel pyjamas – her choice of night attire, most definitely not his. The immediately discarded pyjama jacket, however, remains unworn in a drawer somewhere, but that's absolutely fine by Grace. She approves of compromise. As he hands over the tablets, he says, "Spence has taken the meeting with the CPS off my hands. I'll come with you to the hospital."
"There's no need," Grace tells him firmly. "It's just routine."
"You don't want me there?"
She senses a touch of uncharacteristic insecurity beneath the composure, immediately feels the need to reassure him. "It's not that. I just worry about you taking so much time off work. It isn't passing unnoticed, Boyd."
"Bollocks. I've worked my arse off for the CCU for years and everyone knows it. If they really want to challenge me over taking a few hours off here and there, good luck to them."
Something has changed in him. Whether he knows it himself, Grace isn't sure, but she sees it very clearly. It's a change that started with his son's death and has been evolving ever since. He's a quieter man now, a man with more perspective. True, Peter Boyd is still one of the most volatile people she knows, and true, he still works obsessively given half a chance, but the man who abruptly made the decision to march straight into her private life and her bed is not the same man she used to fight tooth and claw with at every possible opportunity. He's calmer, steadier, less given to bristling fiercely at anything he perceives as a personal affront. He has, in fact, mellowed. Just a little.
Grace says, "I don't want you to give them an excuse – "
" – to cut me down? They've been trying to do that for years. It's water off a duck's back, Grace."
"Mm," she says, unconvinced. To Boyd, though, it almost certainly is. He can be incredibly stoical when it suits him. She swallows down the tablets and puts the water aside as he joins her under the covers. As ever, she welcomes the intense physical warmth of him, and as he settles she kisses his chest. "Thank you."
"Oh God," he says. "Please; I can't cope with any more sentimentality today."
Grace smiles to herself, turns in his arms to adopt her favourite position, shoulders against his chest, back against the curve of his stomach. It's gentle, it's intimate. It's the way she hopes things will remain between them. What makes her smile again – infinitely more mischievously – is the instinctive response of his body to her proximity. She arches back a little, doesn't even try to pretend the motion isn't quite deliberate.
"Stop it," he grumbles. "Put the light out and go to sleep."
"I'm not feeling very tired."
"Well, I am. Some of us had to be at work for eight o'clock."
Linda's voice murmurs, "He will never love you …"
Linda's voice is wrong. He does. Taciturn and bad-tempered he may very well often be, but he loves her, and in her heart Grace knows it. Every night he sleeps at her side, holds her when she needs to be held, warms her when she is chilled to the bone and somehow exercises an iron-willed self-discipline that's truly remarkable. Softly, a little shyly, she asks, "Do you want to…?"
"Stupid bloody question," Boyd says irritably. "Put the damned light out, will you?"
She does, and in the darkness she listens to the sound of him breathing, deep and regular. Grace is not a puritan; there are times when she wants him so keenly that the frustration almost consumes her – but the combination of exhaustion, nausea and stress inevitably takes its toll. Tragically, she can count on the fingers of just one hand the amount of times they have made love since he started spending most of his nights not at his own house but at hers. Grimly, she holds on tightly to the promise of a better, happier future. For a few moments more she lies still and quiet, but in a testament to how well she actually feels on that particular night, her idle thoughts slowly become more speculative, begin to take on a real edge of arousal.
She kisses his bare shoulder. Says into the darkness, "Think you could manage a quick fumble…?"
The answer is a derisive snort. "The day I can't will be the day I throw myself off Waterloo Bridge, Grace."
"You're a pathetic old woman…" Linda's voice sneers, but she defiantly tells herself that she isn't. Not at all.
There are no gymnastics, no attempts to prove anything. Neither of them actually moves very much; they whisper and they caress and eventually he simply eases gently into her from behind and they stay as they are, quietly entangled, her back firmly against his smooth chest as he slowly rocks his hips, and it's blessedly good for both of them.