BREAKING UNWRITTEN RULES
Barbara finds herself in the arms of her boss, being kissed by him and kissing him back. It's what she has wanted, for far longer than she's prepared to admit, but it simply cannot happen.
A first time story.
Written: April 2007. Word count: 1,700.
No. Barbara's mind screamed at her. A split second later, she obeyed the negation.
"No!" She cried, as with more force than she thought she had, she yanked herself from Lynley's arms, staggered backwards and stared up at him. "No," she repeated, as much for her benefit as for his.
"Barbara," he stretched out his hand towards her. She took another step backwards.
"Go," she ordered. "Just go, sir. Go."
But he ignored her. "It's all right, Barbara," he said softly, now taking a step towards her. He was smiling down at her; his eyes were full of emotion. Emotion she would not let herself acknowledge.
Again she took another backwards; this time she ran into the wall. "No. It isn't," she said, now glaring at him. "Go. Get out, or I'll . . ."
He halted. "What? Call the police?" His tone was light; he was laughing at her.
Suddenly she saw the toff she'd first despised, the Earl who merely played at being a detective, rather than the man she'd come to like, to respect, to call 'friend', to . . . Love? She ignored the thought. More than five years of growing affection and closeness fled in that instant, as she just stared up at him.
Her face must have shown her feelings, as his changed too. It become more distant, colder, he looked at her as he hadn't done for years. And then that look fled too, and it was replaced with sadness and . . .
She didn't know what else.
She didn't care what else.
She just wanted him out of her house.
Out of her life.
Out of her mind.
No, you don't.
"Yes, I do!" She hadn't meant to speak the word aloud. As she did so, and she saw puzzlement cross the handsome, aristocratic face. But she ignored that too.
Instead, she dug her nails into her palms and said coldly, "If you'd be so kind to leave now, sir." She put as much derision into the final word as she could; far more than she had ever done before. And she chose her words carefully; deliberately mimicking the kind of thing he might say.
Now she saw pain on his face, as he shook his head. "I'm sorry, Barbara," was all he said, as he turned and let himself out of her flat, closing the door quietly behind him.
She tried hard to ignore the tears that flowed down her face. She had just broken her own unwritten rule: 'Never fall in love with boss. And if you do, never act on your feelings'.
As he strode down the street to where he'd left his car, Tommy cursed what had happened; what he had let happen. He had always vowed that he would never act on his growing feelings for Barbara. So much for rules. But then throughout his life, he'd broken most of those anyway. But this one, his self-imposed, unwritten one, he'd always thought he would keep.
Damn it. It had just felt so right, so natural; it still did. Having her in his arms had touched something inside him that even Helen or Deborah hadn't touched, hadn't reached.
But it was all wrong.
Not because of Barbara's background, that in itself didn't matter. For all their faults, the Lynleys had never been troubled by something as outdated as 'class'; at least not consciously. And anyway, his mother had liked her, and Barbara had liked his mother.
Nor was it just that she was his colleague, but she was his partner. Over the years, he had slept his way around the Met, not something of which he was particularly proud, but even he had some morals. One didn't sleep with one's partner. Not that he and Barbara had got that far. But you wanted to. He ignored the voice; of course he'd wanted to.
There was something about Barbara Havers that had fascinated him from the moment they'd been partnered. Both mavericks in their own way, they'd been thrown together in an attempt to get rid of both of them, in particular Barbara. However, it had failed, and rather than losing either of them, the Met had, instead, found its top team.
And they'd become more than just working partners; they had become friends. She'd lied for him; he'd supported her; she'd been there for him after Helen's death; he'd been there for her after her father's. They worked; he didn't know why or how, even that surpassed all logic, but they did.
He'd been attracted to her for longer than he'd let himself admit, even whilst Helen had still been alive, and he had thought, in fact had been certain, that she had felt the same. And with her mouth under his, just for a fleeting, scant second opening to him, how she'd felt in his embrace, how she'd put her own arms around him, he'd thought . . .
But clearly he had been wrong. Except he hadn't been wrong. He knew that. One thing Thomas Lynley did know was women, even women as contrary and confusing as Barbara Havers. He had not been wrong; she was attracted to him. He'd read that in her kiss; in the way she held him; in the way she'd tore herself from his arms.
And for her it wasn't all simply the dressing of his title, the money he had, his car, his clothes, all the trappings that meant nothing. She wasn't superficial, unlike so many of the women who had passed through his life. If anything his title and background and money made his unattractive to her. However, she did care; that was evident, and had been for quite some time.
But as he drove away, all he could see was the look on her face as she ordered him to leave her home. The look that took him back to their first meeting.
He banged the steering wheel, cursed his foolishness and drove far faster than the speed limit permitted.
THE NEXT DAY
He arrived at his office to find an order to see the Commissioner immediately upon arrival.
"Ah, Lynley, come in. Come in."
"I'll come straight to the point. Sergeant Havers came to see me a short while ago, she wishes, no, that isn't strong enough, she insists on being partnered with someone else." The Commissioner leant back in his chair and stared unblinkingly up at Lynley, clearly watching him, appraising him, waiting for him to respond to the news. What else had she told him?
Lynley forced himself not to react, falling back on the old school and what he'd been taught. He knew he was impassive. "I see. And did she give any explanation, sir?"
"No. She didn't. Just said something about it being time to move on. What's happened, Lynley? Has she finally tired of your ways? Talk down to her once too often, did you?"
"I have never talked down to Barbara, sir. Look, I can sort this out."
"You'd better. Because, to be honest, Lynley, we both know that although she has, shall we say, mellowed since you and she became partnered, few other Inspectors, if any, will want her on their team. She's too volatile and disrespectful."
Both accusations were true, but Lynley wasn't about to confirm that. "May I go, sir?"
The Commissioner waved his hand, dismissing him.
Aware that he had one shot at this, that whatever he said to her had to be good, or else he'd lost her completely and utterly, Lynley strode through the office. "Have you seen - It doesn't matter." He saw her and quickened his stride to catch up with her. "Sergeant Havers, I think we need to talk."
"There's nothing to say, sir," was her response, as she shook off his hand and walked away from him.
He followed her.
She turned and went into the Ladies.
Well, that wasn't going to stop him.
"What the -" A woman, he didn't waste time trying to remember her name, said; her tone one of anger.
"Excuse me, but I need to have a very urgent word with Barbara," he said, smiling at the other women who just stared at him. He grabbed her arm and tried to get her to leave, but she stood her ground.
"I told you, sir. There is nothing to say."
"Please, sir. Just go." So many 'sirs' in such a short space of time, told him more he suspected that she knew she was revealing.
Aware that they were fast turning into a sideshow, he lowered his head and began to speak, his voice low, but forceful. "You know, Havers, even before you were partnered with me, I'd heard all kinds of reports about you. Things, not very pleasant things, were said, and during our five years together, I find that I agree with a lot of them. Equally, a lot more were unjustified. But one thing I have never heard anyone say about you, one thing that I would never have believed you capable of is cowardice."
Her eyes widened. "What? I'm not a coward."
"Really?" he said, letting go of her arm and moving towards the door.
"Sir -" The door swinging shut silenced her.
The three women behind her were silent, but she could imagine what they were thinking. How they must just be waiting for her to leave, so they could gossip.
She stood there for a second, torn. Torn between just letting him walk away, knowing that he'd keep out of her life, as you told him to, and going after him and . . . If she went after him; if she stopped him, everything would change; everything. But if you don't, everything will change.
She pulled open the door. She could still see him striding down the corridor. "Sir," she called, starting to follow him.
He didn't stop.
She opened her mouth.
She had a split second, no more, to make her decision. Images flowed through her mind, chasing one another, tumbling over one another. It was everything she despised; he was everything she despised. It was wrong. All wrong.
He reached the end of the corridor and began to turn.
"Tommy," she cried.
With the single word, she sealed her fate and her future.
The First Step is the sequel to this story.
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