EVER MORE WITH YOU
Tommy is debating whether to ask Barbara to go home with him for Christmas.
An established relationship story.
Written: December 2014. Word count: 3,580.
Tommy lay in his bed lightly trailing his fingers up and down Barbara's spine as she slept. She was lying on her stomach with her head turned towards him and she was smiling. She always smiled when he when he touched her like that, even if she was asleep; in fact she smiled pretty much all of the time he touched her.
It was fourteen months since he had taken her into his arms and kissed her for the first time. It had been a move which had stunned and shocked her, and for a moment she had looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights of a car, before she stopped struggling and trembling and tentatively began to kiss him back.
For fourteen months they had dated, worked together, slept together and Tommy knew he loved her as much as he had ever loved Deborah or Helen - in fact he loved her more; much more. More than once he had asked her to go and live with him, but although she was happy to spend nights at his home and pretty much ever weekend, and had quite a lot of stuff at his house, she always refused.
He knew it wasn't because she didn't love him, because she did - she had told him so. She had told him in the way she pretty much did everything, apart from her job, in a slightly off-hand, dismissive almost, self-protecting way. And although he had told her many times that he loved her, she had only said the words that one time. She showed him in other ways, in the way she would smile at him, in the way she would let him buy her a new jumper or CD, in the way she would make real coffee when she actually preferred instant, and in lots of other little ways. But the actual words she had only said once.
Tommy knew why she wouldn't agree to live with him; why she had only said 'I love you, Tommy' once; why there were times when she wouldn't see him for several nights in a row; even why she preferred to make love in his bed, in his home, and how he was rarely invited into her home. He knew and it saddened him; it saddened him very much. She was protecting herself; she was protecting herself from the day when he woke up and realised he had had his fun with the working class girl and playing at being a detective, and walked out her life forever to return to his Estate and take up the mantel officially as the Eighth Earl of Asherton.
It saddened him that she had that fear; that whilst she loved him, respected him, trusted him as far as she could, she couldn't trust him quite far enough. Also, that she didn't believe in herself, didn't think herself good enough to hold onto him. It saddened him that a part of her, a part he believed, thought, hoped, got smaller and smaller as each week went by, still thought he was only an upper class toff just having his fun with the working class, council house girl.
He couldn't change who he was; he couldn't just decide to stop being the Eighth Earl of Asherton; he couldn't change the fact that the day would come when he would choose to stop being a detective and return home and fulfil his destiny. He couldn't change his public school and university background; he couldn't change his upper class views or vowels; he couldn't change the fact he enjoyed going to good restaurants and eating good food and drinking fine wine; he couldn't change the fact he would rather have a suit made for him than buy one off the peg from Marks & Spencer's. He couldn't change his taste in literature, art, music, films, politics and he knew that actually she wouldn't want him to - not just for her. Love didn't mean changing yourself into someone you barely recognised.
He couldn't change himself, just as she couldn't change her background, couldn't change the fact she had grown up in a council house; couldn't change the fact her parents had wished she had been the child to die rather than her brother. She couldn't change the fact she hadn't gone to university; she couldn't change her working class views or the things she liked and didn't like. And he wouldn't want her to - he loved her as she was. He loved the real Barbara Havers, not the girl many girls might have tried to change themselves into.
Except to an extent they had both changed a little. She had grown used to eating at fine dining restaurants and he had got used to grabbing a MacDonald's. She had let him buy her a few really nice, but nothing overly special or expensive, outfits, and he wore some of the awful ties she bought him. She had gone along to art exhibitions with him and he had gone to films he wouldn't normally have gone to with her. They had both made small changes, but not in anything fundamental - not in any way that truly changed who they were deep down.
He didn't just want her to live with him; he wanted her to marry him; to be his wife, the mother of his children, the Countess of Asherton. He sighed as for a moment his fingers stopped moving, she made a soft noise almost of displeasure and shifted slightly on the bed, moving a little more towards him. He smiled and returned to letting his fingertips trail up and down her spine again. After a moment or two she settled again and the smile which had faded when he had stopped stroking her reappeared.
He was fairly certain that if he was just plain Thomas Lynley, the she might agree to be his wife; might be prepared to be Mrs. Lynley and have his children. But whilst in most respects she would indeed be Mrs. Lynley, at the end of the day she would also be the Countess of Asherton and he knew she would never agree to be that. She might be happy to dine at the kind of restaurants toffs went to - but gaining title would be too much for her. Of that he felt quite certain.
So no matter how much he loved her, no matter how much he longed to be married to her, no matter how much he wanted to go shopping and buy her an elegant, but simple engagement ring and ask her to be his wife, he knew he wouldn't. Love meant different things to different people, to different couples, and to him love meant not putting Barbara into awkward situations.
His desire not to do that was the main reason he hadn't yet answered his mother's 'Are you going to bring Barbara home with you for Christmas' enquiry. He knew his mother, Simon and Deborah (whom Barbara actually knew and liked a lot), his Estate Manager and other close friends wouldn't look down on Barbara, wouldn't laugh at her if she used the wrong fork or wince at her accent or any of the other things which would go through Barbara's head if he asked her. But what if someone did? What if someone from the Estate or the village, someone who wasn't that fond of him said something, even in jest? Or looked at her oddly? He couldn't have that; he wouldn't put her through that. And yet . . .
And yet he wanted to take her home with him. He wanted to show the people he cared about and who cared about him the woman he loved. He wanted them to see what a lovely, genuine, kind, compassionate person she was. He wanted them to get to know Barbara Havers as he knew her. Who cared about forks and clothes and accents? No one - well, no one who mattered.
But Barbara did; Barbara would; he knew that. Oh, she didn't care when she was with him, they would laugh together; she had even become confident enough to use the wrong fork if she felt another one was a better choice - and he loved her for it. But he remembered how she had been in the early days of them dating, days when whilst she was happy to go to his bed, she was less happy to actually go out with him; less happy for people to see him with her. She had become so much more confident; he didn't want her to slip back, and he feared Christmas at home would be too much for her.
He sighed again, bent over her and kissed her slightly warm cheek, before kissing his way down her back and finally, one arm loosely over her, he settled down to go to sleep.
A FEW DAYS LATER
Tommy was in the bathroom when he heard his home phone ringing. "Answer that would you, please, Barbara," he called. A moment later he heard it stop ringing, so presumed Barbara had done as he had asked.
They were going out to dinner to a restaurant which Tommy knew had become a favourite of Barbara's, even though it was the kind of place she would, at one point, have scoffed at and not been seen dead in.
"Who was it?" he said, picking his jacket up from the chair and putting it on.
For a moment she just stared at him before smiling and saying, "Your mum. I said you'd call her back."
"Oh, did she say what she wanted?"
She hesitated and then smiled again and shook her head. "No. Just . . . Hadn't we better get going?"
Someone was wrong; in that instant Tommy knew that something was wrong. Her tone was just a little too bright; her smile not quite the smile she normally gave him when they were alone. He strode towards her and put his arms around her; for a second he felt her flinch - something was definitely wrong.
"What's wrong, Barbara?" he said gently, pulling her a little nearer to him.
"Nothing," she said, her tone far too bright. She put her arms around him and quickly hugged him, before letting them fall and said, "We really should get going, Tommy. We don't want to be late." She even moved back against his arms, and after a second or two he sighed silently and let his arms fall from around her.
"Barbara -" He started to say.
"Let's go, Tommy." Again she smiled; again it was not her usual we're alone smile.
He sighed silently again, grabbed her coat which she had put on a chair and held it for her. Her smile as she glanced at him was her normal we're alone smile - well, it almost was. He checked his wallet and picked up his own overcoat and put that on before opening the door for her. Again she smiled her almost normal we're alone smile.
She became more normal when they reached the restaurant and the manager not only hurried over to greet them, but was the person to take her coat and they exchanged a few words; he even made her laugh. Tommy stood and watched them and realised she was suddenly far more relaxed with Alastair Phillips than she had been with him on the way to the restaurant.
By the time they were shown to their table and Alastair had pulled her chair out for her and put her napkin on her knee, which again made her laugh - it was a standing joke between the two of them - she seemed to have slipped back into being the Barbara Tommy knew and loved and when she smiled at him it was her usual smile. Tommy, however, was not completely reassured.
They got back to Tommy's house and Tommy made coffee for them whilst Barbara wandered around the kitchen; she seemed unable to stand still. "Um," she suddenly said, coming to a stop. "I don't think I'll have coffee after all; I'll just get off."
Tommy started. "Aren't you going to stay?"
"No, not tonight. I -" She broke off, fiddled with a button on her jacket and then said quickly, "I don't think I've got any clean knickers here."
"I did the laundry two days ago; you have several clean pairs."
"Oh." Again she fiddled with the button. "Well, I still think I'll go home."
He strode over to her and put his hands on her shoulders. "What is the matter, Barbara? And don't tell me nothing, because I know that isn't true." And then suddenly something came to him. "Did my mother say something to you?"
"No! Of course not. I mean . . ." She sighed and looked up at him. For a fleeting second he thought he saw a hint of a tear in one of her eyes. When she spoke again, her tone was flat. "She asked me if I was going home with you for Christmas." Her gaze was steady, but he could see the pain she was trying to hide.
He swore under his breath and put his arms around her. To his horror she actually struggled, but he held his ground and wouldn't let her go. "It isn't what you think, Barbara," he said.
Her head was now bowed and she was rigid in his arms. "Isn't it?" He hated the fact he could now hear a hint of tears in her voice. What had he done to her? The old Barbara wouldn't have cried over something so unimportant. Had he done this to her? Unless it was important - to her.
"No," he said softly. "Look at me, Barbara. Please," he added, when she didn't look up. Slowly she lifted her head; he could see she was biting her lip. "You have to believe me - well, you, don't, but I hope you will - when I tell you again the reason I didn't tell you that my mother had invited you to go home with me for Christmas is not for any of the reasons you're thinking. Truly, it isn't, Barbara. On, my . . . Well, whatever you would like me to swear on; I will."
She swallowed hard. "Then . . . Then why didn't you ask me?" In his arms he felt a tiny bit of the tension fade away. It was barely noticeable, but given how often he had held her, he could tell.
He took some small comfort from it. He brushed part of her hair back from her face, letting the tips of his fingers brush against her cheek for a second or two, and took another small bit of comfort in the fact she shivered slightly, as she tended to do when he touched her so gently.
"Let's go and sit down in the sitting room," he said softly. "Please," he added again. "I'll tell you then."
For a moment she hesitated. Then she nodded. "All right."
Without asking her, he poured a glass of brandy for both of them and handed one glass to her. She hesitated for a moment before she took it. As her fingers brushed against his and she didn't pull back, Tommy again allowed a moment of comfort to pass through him. It would be all right; he would make it all right; it had to be all right. He could not, he would not, lose her.
"Well?" she demanded, as soon as he had sat down. "Why didn't you ask me if I wanted to go home with you for Christmas? The truth, please." For a second she paused and he thought she was going to use his name. However, she remained silent - he told himself at least she hadn't resorted to 'sir'.
He sipped his brandy and tried to compose his words; somehow he knew he had one chance and one chance only to get this right. He had to say the right thing the first time. "I didn't want to do anything that might make you uncomfortable," he said honestly. "I love you too much to want to ever do something like that, Barbara."
She sat for a moment in silence and simply stared at him; she seemed to be trying to decide if he was being honest with her. Finally, she sighed, took a sip of the brandy she still held, looked away from him before saying, "And you think I would have been uncomfortable?"
Again Tommy hesitated; again he knew he had to get this right. "I think, Barbara, that you might well have said 'yes', even if you didn't actually want to come home with me."
"Why do you think I'd have done that?"
Tommy leant forward and touched her hand. "Because you love me," he said softly.
For a moment she frowned and her eyes blazed as she glared at him. Then the glare and frown faded and she sighed. "You still could have asked me," she said. "You don't have the right to make decisions for me."
Tommy gasped and blinked as he stared at her. Once again she seemed angry. "I thought -"
"No, Tommy," she said, finally using his name. "You didn't think. Well, not really. Oh, I know you thought you were doing the best thing. But you weren't. What if I'd been Helen?"
"What?" Tommy said, stunned by her choice of name.
"No, not Helen. Your mum knew her. Okay, well some other woman from your world. Would you have asked her if she wanted to go home with you?"
Tommy closed his eyes as her words hit him. "Oh, Barbara," he whispered, opening them and staring in horror at her. "Oh, Barbara. I . . . You have to . . . I'm sorry." His voice was low, he could hear the anguish in it, he knew he had become ashen and he was shaking. What had he done? Had he lost her?
To his surprise, rather than continue to look angry, he saw a smile creep over her face and the next minute to his deeper surprise she was laughing. "You know," she said, not only leaning back on the sofa, but also tucking her feet up under her. "For all your fancy education, you're really quite dim at times. Oh, I know what you were trying to do and six months ago, maybe even less, I'd have walked out. But now . . ." She shrugged and held out her hand to him.
Slowly he stood up and made his way towards her. He took her hand and let her tug him down next to her. "Tell me I haven't lost you," he murmured, her hand warm in his.
She seemed to be considering the question and then she laughed again, before she shifted positions on the sofa and moved nearer to him and put her head back so that he could kiss her. Something he was very eager to do; she went into his arms, fitting perfectly as she always did, as he put his mouth on hers and kissed her deeply, intimately, lovingly. He slid one hand into her hair and cupped the back of her head as she slid her arms around his neck and began to stroke the back of it. He moaned softly and manoeuvred her and himself until they were both laying on the sofa, their kisses becoming more and more passionate by the second.
SOME TIME LATER
"Well?" she demanded, smiling up at him. "Is there something you want to ask me?"
He swallowed, pushed away the thing he really wanted to ask her and instead said, "Barbara, would you like to come home with me for Christmas - Deborah and Simon will be there," he added.
She smiled; her truly honest, open smile. "Yes, Tommy," she said. "I would. I'd like that very much."
"Would you, Barbara? Would you really? You're not just saying yes to -"
"Make you happy?" He nodded. "No. I'm not. I really would like to come home with you. On one condition. I want you to promise me something," she added.
"Name it." At that moment he knew he would promise her the moon, the stars, the galaxy even.
She smiled, and for a moment her cheeks became slightly flushed. "Promise me you'll never not ask me something again, even if you think you're doing it for my own good."
He stared at her and slowly pushed himself upright. He took her hand. "If I make you that promise, Barbara, there is something else I have to ask you."
She sat up as well, moving until she was sitting crossed-legged looking at him. "Well?"
He hadn't got a ring. It wasn't in a romantic setting. He hadn't thought it through; planned it. He couldn't do it like this. He had to -
He took his hand in his and looked into her eyes. "Barbara Havers," he said slowly, she smiled at him. "Will you marry me?" He waited just watching her.
She became quite still and her gaze never left him. Then her smile increased and she leant forward and brushed her lips over his. "Yes, Thomas Lynley," she said softly, her tone serious. "Yes, I will marry you." And then to his delight, she smiled and said softly, "I love you, Tommy."
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