Hello! This is my first Death in Paradise fic. Hope you enjoy it :)
"So, drinks all afternoon then, hey?" Camille grinned smugly as Richard set down his phone on the table.
"Yes, alright, you win. No need to gloat," he replied, rolling his eyes and half-heartedly attempting to sound grumpy. "D'you want to go out, or shall we stay here? There's beer in the fridge, but if it's cocktails you're after, then we'll have to go elsewhere."
"Oh, I think we'll stay here for a bit. We could even sit on the beach," she teased.
"And get sand everywhere? Don't push your luck, Detective."
He disappeared into the kitchen and returned a moment later with two bottles of cold beer. Passing one to Camille, he leant on the balustrade next to her and they gazed out towards the horizon. The sky was completely clear now, and there was the just barest hint of a breeze. It was as if there had never been a hurricane.
"They only knew about the storm because Dad saw it on the news, you know," said Richard, "I'm sure he wouldn't have checked the weather forecast for an island on the other side of the world otherwise."
"Why can't you just admit you were wrong?" Camille ribbed him, her amusement evident, "They do care what happens to you after all."
Richard huffed quietly in reply. Camille turned to look at him, but he appeared not to notice. He seemed quite deep in thought. Camille hesitated for a moment, weighing up whether or not to broach the subject she was almost certain he was contemplating. Deciding it was worth a try, she spoke softly.
"I know you think you've let your dad down, but really, he should be proud of you."
"What about your mother? What is she like?"
"Oh, you know what mothers are like - you get to a certain age and they're desperate for you to settle down, produce a few grandchildren for them to coo over. Every time I see her, she's asking questions, dropping hints-"
"-setting you up on blind dates-"
"-That sort of thing. 'Oh, you must meet so-and-so's daughter; she's very domesticated, you know, and she's single!'" he mimicked. "I mean, does anyone really expect that to work? It's not like hiring a cleaner, you have to... you know..."
"Find the right person."
"Yes, exactly! Yeah."
"And do you think you will find the right person, one day?"
Richard glanced up at this, and caught her eye for a very brief moment; but quickly looked away again. He took a swig of his beer and stared back out to sea.
"Maybe... I don't know... I thought I had, once."
"Oh?" asked Camille, her interest piquing. "And what happened?"
Richard took a deep breath.
"I asked her to marry me; she said no," he replied briskly, not looking at her. "Probably for the best in the end: turned out she'd been having an affair with a colleague for the previous six months."
Camille winced in sympathy. "Ouch. With her colleague?"
"No," he shook his head, eyes still steadfastly on the horizon. "With my colleague."
"My God! What kind of people did you work with?!"
"Not the nice sort," he replied with a wry smile. He straightened up and slowly turned to look at her, "Not the sort I work with here."
"And you want to go back there?!" she asked incredulously, shaking her head.
Apparently he had no answer to this, so he merely raised his eyebrows and took another sip of his drink.
Not content to leave it there, and because he hadn't told her to get lost yet, she decided to push the subject a little further. "Do you think there will ever be anyone else, or was she...?"
"Oh, I don't believe in soulmates, or any of that rubbish, if that's what you mean. Doesn't mean it's any easier to find someone you 'click' with, though, especially when you're a pedantic, grumpy old git like me."
"Well, there's no rush."
"No, but... I feel bad, sometimes, you know... I mean, I know how much my mum wants grandchildren - it's practically all she talks about - and I feel like I'm kind of… letting her down, I suppose."
"If you're going to get married and have kids, you have to do it for you, not for your mother! And it's not fair for her to make you feel guilty about it."
"I know... But I kind of get where she's coming from. I mean, I'm forty-two, for god's sake - most women my age either already have kids, or don't want them."
"Do you want them? Or just your mother?"
"I don't know; maybe? I suppose it'd be nice to have the choice, at least."
"Well then; you'll just have to marry a younger woman," she smiled, waggling her eyebrows.
Richard frowned. "I don't see too many of them queuing up, do you?"
Camille shook her head slowly, a wry grin accompanying the expression of mild exasperation she now wore. "You know something, Richard Poole? For a supposedly observant man, you can be incredibly blind."
He looked up again at this, regarding her rather oddly. He stood there for a moment, not knowing quite what to say to this. Camille stared at him and quirked her brow pointedly. Looking decidedly uncomfortable, he glanced down at his shoes briefly, before drawing his gaze back to hers.
"I, um, that's meant to, um…?" he stumbled.
Camille merely cocked her head slightly and continued to stare at him.
"And I, er… I'm supposed to formulate some sort of response, despite the fact that I have no idea what it was supposed to mean…? I will never understand women."
"Think about it," she replied quietly, but firmly. He did, and after a moment, began to speak cautiously.
"Well, there is- was… someone… I thought might be… interested, but..."
"Well, you know!" He threw up his free hand to express his confusion, "What if I'm wrong? What if I've completely misread the signals and she's not interested at all? I'm just saying, it's a hell of a long shot. I'm not exactly... well, you know... I'm not the easiest person on the planet to get on with…
"Shut up!" he chastised, as he noticed Camille biting her lip to stop herself from agreeing wholeheartedly. "She… probably just wants to be friends."
"And would you rather just stay friends?"
"I'd rather stay friends than completely humiliate myself and have you run a mile!" he blurted.
Camille's eyebrows shot up even further, and she was forced to clap a hand over her mouth to stifle the giggle that was threatening to escape.
"HER! Than have her run a mile... Oh god…" Richard closed his eyes, mortified, pulling at his collar as his cheeks coloured with embarrassment. He quickly turned away to avoid seeing the look on her face. Pacing the veranda, he ruffled his hair in frustration and sighed.
"Is that all that's stopping you?"
He turned slowly back to face her, and glanced up warily. "Well... yes, I suppose. And now I've made a complete fool of myself, I know. But don't worry, I'm not going to-"
"-'Cause I'm not running anywhere," she interrupted. "But I wish you would stop running. What are you so scared of? Is this all because of what happened in the past? Because I can promise you, I won't be running off with Dwayne or Fidel!"
"Very funny!" Richard pulled a face. "No, I just… We get on so well, you know... most of the time, anyway. But if we…" he waved his hand between them in a helpless gesture, "…and you change your mind, or get bored of me, then... Well, it'd ruin everything. I couldn't stay on Saint Marie."
"You mean you were actually thinking about staying? What happened to going home?"
Richard scoffed. "I haven't wanted to go back to London for months. Truth be told, this feels like home now. It might be hot, and sandy, and crawling with insects - and snakes - and I know it's silly, but I feel like I sort of belong here, you know? Not in this ridiculous climate, obviously, but for the first time in my life, I actually look forward to seeing other human beings. I've got friends. Me! And I miss mum and dad - I do - but they have their own lives, with their bowling club, and their afternoon tea parties, and their days at the races, and I'm not part of that. They haven't a clue who I really am, or what I want out of life. Do you know what they sent me for my birthday? Socks and a tie! I'm on a Caribbean island, and they send me socks and a tie. I mean I wore them, but..."
Camille tried and failed to suppress a snort of laughter: Richard was in full-on rant-mode now, and a large part of her found it ridiculously endearing.
"I know, I know. I'm as bad as they are, but there's something about sticking with what you know - it's comforting."
"It's okay to want to be reminded of home," she reassured him, "and it's alright to be shy and maybe a little awkward sometimes. I meant what I said: I like it - I like you - but sometimes you have to be a brave Richard, and step outside your comfort zone, if you're going to get what you really want."
"There are steps, and then there are bloody great big leaps..."
Camille put her drink down on the table and moved closer to him. Then, gently removing his own empty beer bottle from his grip and placing that on the table too, she took his hand.
"How about you let me hold your hand, and I'll leap with you?"
He shifted his feet uneasily, staring at the wooden floorboards, but he didn't pull his hand away. He seemed to be summoning all of his courage, and when he finally looked into her eyes, he appeared to be searching for something. At last, he responded tentatively.
"Would you, really?"
"Yes. But you're going to have to loosen up a bit," she smiled, squeezing his fingers gently. "If you're planning to stay here, there's no point in pretending you're still in England. The tie has to go," she announced decisively. Releasing her grip, she moved both hands to his chest. She felt him tense as she made contact, but to his credit, he didn't pull away as she gently tugged his tie undone and draped it loosely round her own neck. Then, very slowly, so as to avoid startling him, she carefully unfastened the top button of his shirt.
"There. That is better," she declared as she brushed imaginary dust from his shoulders and smoothed down his shirt.
Richard released the breath he'd been holding and smiled shyly, still hardly daring to meet her eye. Then, with great effort, he almost managed to resist flinching as she pulled the tie from around her neck with one hand, and threw it over the rail onto the sand below.
Her palms once again resting gently on his chest, she could feel the heat radiating from his body. She could just make out his heart beating, and idly wondered if it was always that fast. She was also vaguely aware that one of the two of them was shaking slightly, though she couldn't be sure who. Suddenly feeling brave, she knew it was now or never.
"But you know what would be even better?" she asked.
Without waiting for a reply, she slid her hands up to his shoulders and pulled him closer.
Leaning in, she met his lips with hers, ever so gently. Richard froze momentarily, rigid with nerves, but just as she was about to pull away and consider apologising, he tentatively began to kiss her back. The kiss was very tame in comparison with others Camille might have had, but still it seemed to set every nerve in her body alight. When she did finally pull away in order to breathe, he placed firm hands on her waist and pulled her back in for another - decidedly less innocent - kiss.
As he wrapped his arms tightly around her, she allowed herself to relax as they both became lost in each other and in the moment. She was under no illusions that it would be plain-sailing from here, but getting him to admit his feelings was a very good start. And the tie was all but forgotten…