Disclaimer: I do not own the copyright for Waking the dead or its characters – all rights belong to the BBC
Content: Boyd and Grace
This is the first thing I have written in a while so thanks so much for reading – as always I appreciate it immensely. I really do hope you enjoy. Massive thanks to Joodiff for all her encouragement, persistence and help.
Dedicated to the lovely OHT. *hugs to you all*
The Long and Winding Road
Boyd steadied himself against the wall as he slid his legs into his trousers. Stretching down he reached to retrieve his hastily discarded shirt and pulled it around his shoulders, fingers moving deftly to fasten the buttons. Slowly he pivoted his body around, turning his gaze towards the still sleeping figure, his mind a myriad of emotions. Her cheek was pressed comfortably into the pillow exposing the other side of her face to the early morning sunlight which illuminated the gentle peach hue of her skin. Boyd sighed deeply. This was how it should be, he decided resolutely. It was always inevitable. This was where it was destined to end. No regrets.
The previous evening had started out much the same as countless others before it. The four of them, himself, along with Grace, Spencer and Eve, meeting in the local for drinks, only this time the purpose wasn't only to drink away a tough week but to say goodbye. He hated these things, hated the fuss, especially when he was the focus of attention, but Grace had been quite clear that he had no choice but to attend.
"Don't be so ridiculous, Boyd, of course you're going," Grace had said incredulously.
"Aww, Grace ... you know I hate these things, they're torturous. I'd rather just close the door and leave," he'd answered with a dismissive swipe of his hand.
"You owe it to your friends, they want to say goodbye. I want to say goodbye," she'd retorted, emphasising her need.
"You could say it here, it's quite easy ..."
He had watched the now familiar frustrated roll of her eyes at him and for the first time had felt a pull on his heart as the implications of his impulsive decision began to impact on him.
"I want to do it properly. I mean, it's not every day one of your closest friends re-locates to America ..."
"Dinner..." he'd suggested.
"You could buy me dinner, just the two of us. I could just about cope with that..."
"And what about Spence and Eve?" Grace asked.
He'd shrugged. "What about them?"
"Honestly, Boyd, I don't know why we bother. Spence and Eve are your closest colleagues, you've worked together for years and they want to do something nice for you, though God only knows why."
"But I ..."
"Look, you're always the same with these things. You make a big fuss about not wanting to go, stating that these evenings are a complete waste of time, and how much you hate them but inevitably you end up going and being the life and soul of the party."
"This one's different," he'd sulked.
"In what way?"
"Well, I'll be the centre of attention won't I?"
"Boyd, you always end up being the centre of attention in one way or another!"
He hadn't been able to prevent the hint of a smile that had lighted upon his lips as he'd tried to continue to make his protest. "But ..."
"Oh grow up! It's one evening, and you are going."
She was right of course. Grace was always right. Deep down, for all his grumbling and complaining he would have felt quite put out if the team hadn't arranged anything for him, and he'd known that ultimately he would be there, and ultimately he would enjoy it. And he did. Immensely.
They had drunk, and laughed and reminisced about old cases, and colleagues, raising their glasses to absent friends. He had seen the tears well in Grace's eyes as they spoke about Mel, each sharing a story, reminding themselves painfully of how much they all still missed her. And he had smiled knowingly when he received a text from Frankie apologising for not being able to make the evening but ending her message with a cheeky …
'I'm gonna miss you, handsome, though God alone knows why. ;) xx'
Frankie hadn't called him 'handsome' since they were together. She knew he bristled against it, but she also was acutely aware that privately he liked the boost to his ego. Boyd and Frankie hadn't been together in many years. In fact, they had only started re-building their friendship a year or so ago after an initial and painfully awkward meeting at one of Grace's birthday parties. Usually Boyd wouldn't have even made the attempt to reconcile, preferring to forget and move on, but he liked Frankie; she had been a good friend. Their affair had been brief, and although not altogether meaningless, they both had known that neither was the love of the other's lives. He had regretted how it ended. Regretted the pain he had caused, but he'd never regretted their time together, nor the fact that they had now both moved in their personal lives.
Grace had excused herself from the table to get some air outside, citing the heat and noise as an excuse. She had been gone for almost half an hour when Boyd, growing worried about her, had decided to find her to make sure that she was alright. She wasn't difficult to find. As he opened the door to the riverside bar he saw her familiar form standing with her arms leaning heavily on top of the railings looking out towards the sparkling lights of the city. He'd had the foresight to grab her coat which he'd draped over her shoulders causing her to jump at the unexpected contact.
"There you are, I was beginning to get worried about you," he opened as he rubbed her arms gently to generate warmth. "…. You're freezing, Grace."
"Really? I hadn't noticed." She shrugged. "I only came out for a breath of fresh air but the city looked so beautiful and peaceful … I must have lost track of time."
Boyd mirrored her position, his gaze following the river towards Westminster. He'd seen this view many times, but that night there was a freshness in its beauty as though he were seeing it for the very first time. The lights reflected seductively upon the Thames, the splendour and grandness of the city displayed for the world to see.
"It's hard to believe that London can be this beautiful knowing the horrors we have had to deal with these last ten years. That this majestic city can house and hide so much evil when it looks so peaceful tonight."
Boyd lowered his head to observe her. "Unfortunately London is not unique in that regard, Grace. There's evil the world over."
"Yea, but London is our home … well …. mine anyway."
"London will always be home, Grace," he said quietly shifting his gaze back out across the river.
"But not where you will live."
He shook his head intently. "Nope, but I'll think of its dank, wet, greyness with fondness as I'm basking in the sun," he said turning to smile widely at her. She returned his smile easily, but there was something hollow in her eyes shrouded only by a trace of sadness. They stood in silence, Boyd fully aware of the shift in the atmosphere between them. He swallowed heavily as he broke the silence. "In all seriousness, I will miss London, Grace, but I'm gonna miss you more."
Grace's deep eyes immediately became glassy as tears pooled within them. Helplessly he watched as one by one they started to fall silently down her cheeks. Instinctively he reached out, wiping them away with his thumb.
"Aww, come here …" he said drawing her to his chest. "Come on, Grace, don't cry please. This is what you've always wanted, getting rid of me. Think of how simple your life is gonna be from now on." He tried to lighten the mood, gently stroking the back of her head as she nestled into his body, but as he held her he felt an insurmountable sadness rise within him. Eventually he felt her breathing settle, and gently eased away from her so he could look at her face.
"You okay?" he asked kindly as she wiped the remainder of her tears from her eyes.
"Yea, yea, I'm fine," she said embarrassment lacing her tone. "Too much wine I suppose …"
Boyd nodded, not wanted to prolong her embarrassment and yet not wanting to lose the moment entirely. Conscious that his arms where still wrapped around her he pulled her back into himself resting his chin gently on the top of her head. "I mean it though, I am going to miss you, Grace."
He felt her arms tighten around him, almost as if she thought that if she relinquished her grip he would suddenly disappear. He kissed the top of her head softly his mind instantly registering the smell of her hair. What was it with women that always made their hair smell so intoxicating? Slowly he felt her grip on him release as she stepped back, her eyes meeting his. He smiled tenderly down at her. She looked so small and vulnerable lost in the expanse of his arms. He gently dropped a kiss on her forehead, before brushing his lips quickly against hers. He hadn't planned it, certainly wasn't expecting it. But in that moment there was nothing else in the world that felt more right.
Neither of them spoke. They just stood, silently lost in the depths of the other's eyes. Nothing had changed, not fundamentally, not yet, and yet they both knew that everything had. Slowly Boyd reached his hand up and gently stroked her face, his fingers following the line of her jaw. Grace closed her eyes at his ministrations, seemingly as lost as he was; captured in that instant of time. Cautiously he bent his head, his lips once again covering hers, but this time he didn't break contact. This was no longer a brief goodbye kiss shared between friends. This kiss contained so much more. It was the kiss of want, of need, of desire. Of lovers.
Grace responded willingly to him, her hands tangling through his hair as she pulled him tighter to herself. They both knew where this would lead. Undoubtedly and undeniably. He reluctantly pulled away from her searching her eyes intently.
"Grace…. I ….."
She silenced him by reaching for his lips again, her lips soft against his as she explored the newness of his mouth. Pulling away, she grabbed his hand. "Come on, let's get a taxi."
He'd considered leaving before she woke, telling himself that it would be easier for her if she didn't have to face him again. He had imagined this moment many times over the years, but never had any of his imaginings included him sneaking away in the morning. So he stood quietly watching the rise and fall of her chest as she slept peacefully. Suddenly she stirred, opening her eyes and immediately locking her gaze with his. Boyd felt embarrassment rise within him as she caught him voyeuristically watching her. He shuffled uncomfortably as Grace pushed herself to a more upright position on the bed, gathering the covers tightly around her.
"Morning," he mumbled awkwardly. "Sleep well?"
She smiled lightly as she answered, "Yes thank you, I did. You?"
He nodded. "Yea."
An uneasy silence fell between them. This was new territory for both of them, and he had no idea what to say. What he should say. This wasn't them. Theirs had always been an easy relationship, one where words flowed between them like water. There was nothing they couldn't talk about, nothing off limits, and yet in the confines of her bedroom the effortless banter seemed lost to them.
Finally Grace spoke, her voice shaded with accusation. "You're still leaving, aren't you?"
Boyd's gaze fell towards the floor, his adams apple rising and falling heavily as he swallowed. Slowly he lifted his eyes to meet hers again.
"Do you want me to stay?"
His words hung in the air like autumn mist lacing the atmosphere between them with heavy expectation. Grace's breath hitched as she silently searched his eyes, holding his gaze for what became an uncomfortable amount of time. Whatever she was searching for she didn't find. Or maybe she did, for suddenly she shook her head forlornly.
"No; no, I don't," she replied decisively.
Her barbed words painfully pierced Boyd's heart with an unexpected ferociousness. When he'd posed the question he hadn't known which way he had wanted her to answer, but now that she had, he felt immediately bereft. Essentially, he knew that he couldn't stay, but there was a part of him - a considerable part - that was silently pleading with her to convince him to at least make the attempt. Her words of rejection left him almost breathless.
"I see," he replied, unable to disguise the hurt that was hurtling through him.
"You would hate me for it," Grace explained.
Boyd once again pulled his eyes away from her, fixing them firmly on the cream painted wall in front of him. Sighing deeply, he curled out his bottom lip and acknowledged her words with an exaggerated nod of his head. "Ah, would I?" he answered quietly.
"You know damn well you would!" Grace replied, the sharpness of her tone cutting through his reverie and igniting an antagonistic touch paper within him.
Defiantly, Boyd shrugged his shoulders, internally attempting to displace the disappointment that had begun to encompass him. "Yea you're probably right," he said dismissively before curtly adding "... as always!"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"You know exactly what it means! You're doing what you always do, Grace, assuming you know what's best for me like I'm some frigging twelve year old boy who can't think for himself."
"You know I don't think that ..."
"Do I?" Boyd heard the sting in his own voice as he watched Grace nervously fumble with the sheets pulling them even tighter around her. Unshed tears pooled in her eyes shimmering like diamonds in the sun. Protectively she drew her legs up to her chest and wrapped her arms around her knees.
"I'm sorry you feel that way," she finally offered softly. "I didn't realise I made you feel so ... inadequate."
In his dejection Boyd had wanted to lash out at her, hurt her as he was hurting, but his heart began to soften as he saw how vulnerable she looked slowly retreating into herself and away from him.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean ..." he assuaged.
"No, no you did and you're absolutely right," she conceded. "If I made you feel that way then I'm truly sorry. You must do whatever you need to do, Boyd; it's your life."
"But you don't want me to stay?"
"I won't ask you to, no."
"And last night ..."
"Changes nothing. Look, Boyd, we're not silly teenagers with unobtainable illusions of happy ever afters. What happened between us was ... inevitable in many ways, but I care too much for you to ask you to stay. You would be trying to become something you're not, and deny it all you want, you would eventually end up resenting me."
"Retirement doesn't suit me, Grace."
"I need to work, keep my mind active, you know? When I'm not busy it gives me time to think, about Luke ... what a mess I've made."
"You don't need to explain, Boyd."
"I want to," he replied inclining himself towards her, his voice low as he continued. "I feel like I've somehow taken advantage of you - used you, and it wasn't like that, Grace. I would never do that, not to you."
Grace laughed lightly. "I know that too, and it's been a very long time since anyone has taken advantage of me ..."
"You know what I mean ... " he said irritably.
"Yes I do, but as far as I can remember I wasn't exactly fighting you off," Grace appeased gently.
"I just don't want you to think that now I got what I wanted that I'm leaving without a second thought, like it meant nothing."
Still smiling Grace reached out and gently covered his hand with hers. "I wanted it to happen, Boyd, and am very glad it did, but I think if we are honest we both knew that as special as last night was, it would never happen again."
Boyd's head slowly dropped towards his chest, his gaze falling on her small delicate hand encasing his. The memory of the softness of her skin against his cascaded wantonly through his mind. So gentle. So fragile. So Grace. His arms, which had held her tightly to his body throughout the night, felt strangely empty now. He swallowed back the biting desire to climb back into the enticing warmth and security of her bed. She wouldn't object, he was sure of it. It would be so easy. But fear swiftly constricted around his heart pulling him out of his fantasy. He knew that if he were to hold her again there was a chance – a very real chance – that he would never let her go. That he would never leave, and he needed to. He needed to escape the demons that too readily lurked around every corner of London, painfully reminding him of what he lost. "Maybe if we had given this a shot years ago ..." he offered.
"We'd have killed each other by now!" she retorted playfully.
"You think?" he asked raising his eyebrows.
"Yea, don't you? Still we'll never know now ..."
"Guess not... You could always come with me, I suppose." He looked at her, his own mind reverberating with the same shock at his words that was clearly written on her face.
"You suppose? That doesn't make me feel wanted exactly." Grace deflected.
"That's not what I meant."
"Quite honestly, I think it is. You don't want me tagging along, holding you back. This is supposed to be a new start for you. Anyway, you don't really believe that you and I could co-exist in harmonious domestic bliss do you?"
"No, but we could try ... "
Grace laughed nervously causing his heart to sink. What was it that he even wanted from her?
"Lovely thought, Boyd, but not all of us can pack our lives up and take off half-way around the world."
"Why not? What is there to keep you here?"
"My work, family ..."
"Everything I don't have, you mean ..." he retorted, his tone echoing the deep sadness he felt.
"Don't, Grace, please. I don't think I could bear your pity ..."
"I wasn't ..."
"Or any of that other psychobabble crap you spout ..." he dismissed with a wave of his hand. The room filled once again with silence as they both steadily regarded one another.
"Just promise me you'll be happy?" Grace asked, her voice gentle.
He held her gaze, his mind tumbling over all the past conversations which had led them to this moment. He couldn't make that promise, couldn't appease her by telling her what he knew she wanted him to say. He knew he had forgotten what happiness was. Last night had been the closest he'd come to contentment and peace for as long as he could remember, but Grace was right, deep within himself he had known it could only be a stolen moment that was fated to them briefly.
Boyd inhaled deeply as he got to his feet motioning towards the door. "I ... ahm ... I should leave you to it," he said hesitantly.
"Have you much still to do?"
He cleared his throat as he answered, "Just a few last minute things, everything else has been finalised."
Grace nodded. "Pass me that please," she asked pointing towards the dressing gown draped across the chair. He smiled lightly as he offered her the garment before gentlemanly turning his back to her nakedness whilst she dressed. He heard her walk around the bed and approach him.
"Okay?" he asked turning once again to face her, his memory flashing images of the beauty that lay beneath the thin material now tightly wrapped around her.
She nodded her head slowly.
"Good ... c'mon then." He held out his hand which she readily accepted as he led her towards the bedroom door.
The hallway of Grace's Victorian semi felt freezing, causing Boyd to wonder if it was because of the chill of the early hour or the fact his blood was running ice cold through his veins. He stopped abruptly at the bottom of the stairs.
"Would you like breakfast? Coffee?" Grace asked pointing towards her kitchen.
He smiled warmly. "No thank you, I better make a move," he answered lifting his coat from the banister and putting it on.
"Yes, of course," Grace replied, her voice betraying her as he detected a hint of pain in her tone.
He sighed deeply. "If you ever need anything, anything at all, you call me okay?"
"I think we both know that's not gonna happen."
Boyd nodded softly, his pursed lips turning to show the briefest ghost of a resigned smile. When he spoke his voice was deep and his words considered. "Last night ... it was the most ... honest I've been with you during all the years I've known you. That's who I am, Grace, how I feel ..." he dropped his head wearily as he admitted softly, "... How I have always felt."
"I know," she whispered but her words were lost as she reached over and gently covered his lips with her own. Her hands found his as their fingers entwined together comfortably. A bolt of electricity surged uncontrollably through Boyd's body as he felt himself immediately respond to her touch. Deepening her kiss, he eased her back against the coolness of the wall. The quiet, tender, intimate words spoken in the darkness of the night came flooding back to him with every caress of her hand causing him to believe his heart would explode. He never imagined it would be this difficult, that leaving her would cause him this much physical pain but just the very thought of it was threatening to rip him apart.
"You should go," Grace murmured breathlessly.
He stepped back as he considered her. He could never work Grace out. In all the years they had known each other what went on behind those soulful midnight blue eyes had remained a complete mystery to him. She wanted him to leave, he wanted her to make him stay. 'Just ask me,' he thought as he nodded inanely. Yet instead of arguing with her he heard his voice reply. "Might be a good idea, otherwise I may never leave ..."
His words lingered tantalisingly between them before falling to the ground around them. "I'm gonna miss you," Grace said, tenderly rubbing her thumb across his bearded cheek.
"And I you," he replied simply.
This was it. This was the moment they parted. The last time he saw her face, and unexpected it may have been, but he swore he felt his heart break.
"Goodbye, Grace," he said quietly, brushing his lips lightly against hers. He heard her take an audible intake of breath and felt her tremble against him as her eyes gently closed shut at his nearness.
"Goodbye, Boyd, and good luck ..."
He stepped back once again, his fingers still locked with hers and silently committed every piece of her to memory. It was hard to conceive that he would never see her again. He felt himself smile softly at her, not because he was leaving, but because he had been with her. Without saying another word Boyd opened the door and walked into the early morning air.
The air was cool, the sun yet to find its heat and he felt himself shiver in its embrace. Momentarily he stood on her doorstep closing his eyes in a bid to shut out the light as he leaned his back heavily against the closed door. He needed some time to gather his thoughts ... and strength. It was then that he heard her. Heard her sob quietly on the other side of the heavy wooden divide. He spun round swiftly, the overwhelming desire to ring the bell burning through him like fire. His fingers instinctively rose and hovered over the button. Pressing it would be the easiest - and hardest - thing to do. Boyd hesitated, his finger still resting on the bell. Poised. Ready. Bombarded with thought after thought, he gently rested his forehead against the door for what seemed like an eternity as the sound of Grace weeping seeped through the wood.
In the years that followed Boyd would often wonder what drove his decision that morning. As he lay awake during the small hours of the night he would replay the scene many times, always, inevitably, with a different conclusion to the reality that had actually unfolded. It had taken all his strength to do what he did that day, strength he hadn't even known he possessed. But that moment would be etched painfully in his mind and he accepted that it probably would be until the day he died.
With crystal clear clarity he'd see the scene replay time after time. Grace had been crying, crying for him - for them – and he had been insurmountably torn. But that hadn't been enough. It hadn't stopped him. He would never be able to determine the reason why, but her tears, his heartache, hadn't stopped him from pulling up the collar of his heavy coat, turning slowly and walking down the path that led away from her door.