By Shayenne

Disclaimer: All characters belong to Elizabeth George or the BBC, the order of the words belongs to me.

Rated PG-13


She thinks of him as a friend, and he's all the more precious for that reason. Barbara has few friends; she pushes them aside with her sharp tongue and acrid self-hate and they retreat in the face of her prickly exterior. So even though he's "Sir" to her and she's "Havers" to him, there's an understanding between them; hard-gained, strung fine and tenuous. Barbara thinks of it as human hair, whisper-fine, but oh so strong.

It didn't come easily, this understanding. Two broken pieces placed together to make a whole, their jagged edges clashing and bumping, seldom meshing. But over time they've worn away the rougher edges and the whole is softened, yet stronger.

Barbara knows she was set up to fail. "You're working with Lynley," a sergeant said to her in the break room when she got her assignment. She leaned toward Barbara in an attempt at girly-confidentiality. "Bit of a spunk, in that annoying upper-class way."

Barbara had shrugged. "I hadn't noticed. If he stays out of my hair I'll be happy." And she'd stirred sugar into her tea so hard the spoon drummed the cup like a car rattling over a grating.

The sergeant had stared. "He won't stay out of you way. He needs control. Watch your step, Barbara."

She hadn't answered, the frustration and simmering anger roiling just below the surface once more. "Why'd they put me with that fucking ponce?" she'd thought, choking back the bitter words the sergeant hadn't deserved, and her face contorted with the effort of holding back the hot, angry tears that were never far away.

She remembers the first time he used her name. It was also the first time that she thought he really saw her, rather than a cardboard cutout sidekick. In his car; that flashy Jensen--she only knew its make from the comments of the envious--he'd stopped the car as she requested, and she'd told him her father had died an hour earlier. She could hardly bring herself to say the words, as speaking them aloud made them real, and once real there was more guilt. Guilt for not being there, guilt for not being able to do anything. Guilt for being secretly glad she was far, far away and didn't have to live the moment that was his last.

"I'm sorry, Barbara," Lynley had said, and for a moment she'd thought he might touch her, draw her into a hug of comfort. But her brittle composure and too-bright eyes must have dissuaded him. That and his own reserve.

She knows he's hurting too. Over and over he rises to his knees when life has brought him down. The first time she ever saw him he was standing with stiff upper lip as his best friend married the woman he loved. Then there was Helen--a petulant, oddly colourless woman to attract someone like him--and the baby they lost. And then he lost Helen: first by her doing, and then finally, to a misplaced bullet.

Barbara had keened inside for him. How could any one person stand so much hurt? But in those times when the echoes of his pain pulsed around him, she had never been happier with her own life. A place of her own: tiny, disorder in every room, but hers. A friend: sure, a child, but to be wanted for yourself was a new and precious thing, and she valued Hadiyyah's friendship for that reason. Then there was the job she loved, and a boss she respected for his abilities, and liked for himself. Most of the time, anyway, when she wasn't snarling and scrapping at him.

He'd come to her door once in the night, when he couldn't go home. And she'd given him tea, awkward at having him in her home, light-years from his space. She's seen his house, been inside, seen the antiques and the understated good taste, the bone china cup for her tea. Barbara has mismatched mugs emblazoned with product logos, or that once held Easter eggs.

But he'd come to her door, and slept awkwardly on her small sofa. She saw him, when she slipped silently through the lounge to the loo for a midnight pee, curled uncomfortably, one hand above his head. When she passed in front of the sofa, she saw his eyes were open and glittering.

She'd wondered then, when he sat in her tiny kitchen cradling the Curly Wurly mug, if he'd expected more comfort from her than simply her stumbling words. Men like him could take their pick of women, and he probably regarded sex as something that came his way willingly whenever he wanted. But there had been no hint of that in his words, and his eyes were distant, looking through her to see Helen; selfish Helen, so turned inward there was no room for him.

Barbara knows that he doesn't see her as a woman--most of the time she doesn't either. She's just Barbara, sexless in her jeans and huge, hairy coat, with bad hair and no makeup. To him, she's slightly-stupid Barbara, given to amusing comments, occasional flashes of insight, and more frequent instances of antagonizing the wrong person at exactly the wrong time. To him, she's two-dimensional. She fits a series of moulds: colleague, subordinate, buddy, comic, confidante, assistant, child, irritant.

Of course she's wondered what it would be like to have him in her bed. To have that long lean body rising over her, moving with her. But she never thinks about it for long; such thoughts usually end up with a self-deprecating twist to her mouth and a muttered "Don't be so fucking stupid, Barbara!" before she lets her mind and her fingers work along more predictably stimulating lines.

She's sure he's never entertained similar thoughts about her, not even briefly.

Besides, things like that have a habit of detonating in her life, smashing the careful pieces she's put together brick by brick, and their unfurling friendship is without doubt the most precious relationship she has.

Of course, she still thinks he's an upper-class twit at times; he still tells her to get over her pitbull attitude and reverse snobbery. She still flays him for relegating her to the background, batters at his unyielding superiority which is so bloody irritating.

Yes, she's saved his life, and someone told her that the Navajo believe that it means she holds a piece of his soul. She's not sure she wants it. She wants him to hold his own soul, whole, unbroken, as unbruised as is possible in this world. She wants life to go on as it does in their rare moments of total accord. When she can turn to him and say, "So, shall we hit the pub?" When he smiles at her and his eyes rest gently on her face.

In those moments, she thinks he almost sees her as she really is: three dimensional.


Feedback? Please. Shayenne

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