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The Inspector's Wife

Chapter Text

* * * * *

He was sitting at the dining table when she came home. Sitting at the empty dining table with his forearms resting in front of him and his hands clasped almost in a prayer pose.

She didn’t have to ask if he had been waiting for her, or if he wanted to talk, or if it was serious. The way he was sitting there made all that very clear, and he didn’t even have to say a word.

All thoughts of laughter and joy with her friends from their afternoon chat flew out of her mind as soon as she saw him sitting there, like he wasn’t part of the executive branch of the law but rather of the judiciary and had just sentenced her to something grave in her absence. Or like a father waiting for his child to come home from breaking curfew, ready to dish out a lecture and then a lengthy grounding.

She sat down corner to him, like she always did, folding her hands in front of herself on the table. She looked at him but for a while, maybe it was just a few moments but it felt longer, he didn’t speak.

What is it, Thomas?” she asked finally, quiet and hesitant, mind already drawing up a number of scenarios, each worse than the next.

Lucy…” There was absolutely no comfort in the way he said her name. None. “I got a transfer.”

She blinked a few times, then swallowed. “To where?”

For a short moment their eyes met but then he looked off into the distance again, somewhere in front of himself. “Kembleford.”

She frowned in thought. “Where is that?” She had never heard of it before.

“Gloucestershire.”

She nodded slowly and swallowed again. “I see.” She estimated that Kembleford was several hours away from London, where they were living right now.

He glanced at her again and his fingers twitched but he remained otherwise unmoved.

She wet her lips and pressed them together before she spoke again. “Do you want me to come with you?”

Immediately his eyes flew to her again and his face portrayed a rare show of emotion – bewilderment.

What?” Detective Inspector Thomas Sullivan blurted, a rather unexpected instance of ineloquence. Any other time he would have minded his manners and said something along the lines of ‘Excuse me?’, ‘Pardon?’, maybe even ‘I beg your pardon?’. But today, in this moment, it was ‘what?’.

“Do you want me to come with you?” she repeated, bitterly proud of the way she managed to keep her voice to the most miniscule of trembling.

“You’re my wife,” he said in a way that made it clear that he didn’t understand the question or why she had asked it, at all.

I am,” she agreed simply and found the courage to meet his eyes. “Do you want me to come with you, Thomas?” she asked a third time and a furrow formed between his brows.

I don’t understand why you’re asking me that, Lucy. You’re my wife, we’re married.” He frowned more deeply.

She breathed as deeply as she could without making it too obvious. Her heart was beating hard and fast in her chest. “We don’t have to be,” she brought out courageously.

“I beg your pardon?” He remembered his manners and at the same time managed to sound even ruder than ever before.

“I don’t have to come with you, if you don’t want me to.”

He stared at her. “You’re my wife, why wouldn’t you come with me?” He looked and sounded like he couldn’t make that make sense, at all.

Lucy Sullivan pressed her lips together once more. “You don’t have to be married, if you don’t want to be,” she told him, daring to find his gaze and not shying away from the storm and the sharpness she found in his blue eyes as he finally caught the drift, as he finally found the meaning in-between her words.

Are you asking me for a divorce?” he burst out, standing quickly and towering over her angrily. The chair was pushed back with an unpleasant scraping noise.

No, I’m not,” she answered as calmly as she could. “But you can’t blame me for thinking you might wish for one.” It was the most confrontational thing she had ever said to him, and the loudest he had ever spoken to her. They had never fought before.

Why would I wish for a divorce?!” He sounded like it was an absolutely crazy idea that he would wish for a divorce, when it had been something she had been thinking about him wanting for quite a while. Years even.

But she stared back at him just as incredulously. “Because you seem to loathe me?” she retorted and stood as well, not wanting to feel so much smaller next to him although she always did.

I seem to loathe you?” The disbelief on his face intensified and it was almost overwhelming to see so much emotion in him all at once.

Well, you certainly don’t seem to like me very much,” she pointed out somewhat bitterly.

Don’t seem to like you very much?” he parroted dumbly.

She stared at him for several moments and then looked away. “I apologize, I was out of turn,” she said, voice void of everything that had been in it moments before. It was her ‘yes, honey’ voice and until that moment he hadn’t realized how different it was from how she spoke to her friends.

Lucy went to leave the room, a hasty retreat, but he didn’t let her, reaching for her arm and grabbing it firmly, turning her around.

No, you’re not,” he growled at her, tightening his grip on her but letting go when she pulled on her arm with so much power that she stumbled back and almost lost her footing.

Don’t touch me,” she told him in a quiet but sharp tone and he at once realized his mistake.

“I’m sorry, I-“ he said quietly but one look from her silenced him.

We’ve been married for three years,” she said with a shake to her voice but after she took a deep breath her voice was steady. “Before we got married, you would take me out to dinner. And dancing. And remembered my birthday. Brought me flowers. Made me feel wanted, and important, and pretty. Then we got married. You never take me out to dinner anymore. Or bring me flowers. Or take me dancing. You’ve never remembered our wedding anniversary and you’ve forgotten my last two birthdays. You never kiss me or touch me anymore.” She looked at him, a mix of daring him and begging him to say something. Before he had just grabbed her arm, she couldn’t even say when the last time he had touched her had been. Maybe a kiss on the cheek in greeting when someone else was there? He only ever did it when someone else was there.

Unfortunately, he stuck with the last of what she had said which, to her, was of the least importance. “I never kiss or touch you anymore?” he snapped, taking two big steps to her and grabbing her face in his hands, lifting her face for a rough kiss. He followed when she stumbled back, until her back hit the wall and he pressed her against it, going in for another kiss, just as rough – and unwelcome – as the first.

A moment later she got her hands on his shoulders and pushed. “Stop!” She shoved him away from her, now he was the one stumbling back. “What are you doing?” She wiped her mouth and shook her head at him. He was shocked to see tears filling her brown eyes. “This isn’t what I meant,” she choked out, gruffly wiping a tear that had begun to run down her cheek. “This isn’t what I want . I just want to know-“ She swallowed thickly. “I just want to know if there is even a point in me coming to Kembleford with you because I won’t come if it’s going to be like the last three years, Thomas. You may not care for me at all, you may loathe my sheer existence, but I don’t deserve to be treated like a puppet you’re sick of anymore.” She turned on her heels and fled the room.

 

* * * * *

 

The train rolled into the station, slowing down, and from where she had peered out of the window for a short moment she had already spied a tall man in a blue suit with a gray hat on the platform. The train came to a stop and she got off with the help of the conductor who also lifted her suitcase down.

Thank you very much,” she told him politely, stepping away from the train. She had just reached for the case’s handle when another hand got a hold of it quicker than her.

I’ll take that,” a familiar voice said stiffly and she straightened up to see her husband now in front of her. “These are for you.” He offered a paper wrapped bunch of flowers to her.

Thank you.” She took them and inhaled deeply the hint of sweetness the flowers permeated.

You don’t like them.” He was eyeing her with a very familiar expression, scrutiny mixed with some irritation and just a hint of displeasure. Like he was watching her closely but whatever she did, it always irritated and displeased him. It had started after their brief row following his revelation about the transfer to Kembleford and it had brought her to say even less in his presence than the few words she had spoken to him before. Making their home even more silent and awkward had not been her intention at all but here they were.

Here she was. Arriving on a train in Kembleford a week after the movers had moved their belongings to the police cottage that came with the post. She had been meant to come with them but then her mother had fallen down the stairs and she had had to help out. Right in this moment, when he was scrutinizing her with displeasure again she didn’t know which was worse – the week at her parents’ house or the prospect of sharing a house with the stranger who was her husband in a new town.

They’re beautiful,” she told him and she meant it. The flowers were absolutely beautiful, vibrant colors, perfect scent, not a petal or leaf damaged or drooping. It was just that these were just flowers, just any flowers wrapped in paper. They hadn’t been given to her because he wanted to give her flowers, because he wanted to make her smile, or give her a treat. He had given them to her because he obviously felt like he had to. They felt just as displaced and meaningless as the fancy dinner he had taken her out to before their move. The glaring absence of anything that included physical touch, be it dancing, or kissing, or anything within the confines of their bedroom, particularly stood out to her.

He gave a curt nod and picked up her suitcase, turning to leave without saying another word. Something else she was all too familiar with.

Even though she had asked him head on whether he wanted her to come to Kembleford with him or not, he had never answered the question. A few days after their very short-lived row, he had begun talking of the move in a way that somehow seemed to include her. She hadn’t been absolutely sure until he had asked her which furniture she would like to take with, as the cottage he had found for them came semi-furnished, apparently.

 

The drive to the cottage passed in silence with Lucy eagerly taking in her new surroundings. Everything looked so different, in this small town, out in the countryside, but she found herself liking it already. Kembleford definitely deserved to be called quaint and she was sure it would take some getting used to but she was looking forward to it. At least something to look forward to, right?

The cottage itself fit in well with its surroundings and was in need of some love and care on the outside as well as on the inside as she quickly registered as her husband led her inside. Through the door you stepped right into the living room and your gaze was instantly drawn to the fireplace to the right. That would make for cozy evenings by the fire when it was cold, she thought to herself. Near the fireplace the radio was already set up with Thomas’ favorite armchair right next to it. A dining table was on the other side of the room. There were a few moving boxes lined along the wall next to the dresser they had brought which Lucy would have arranged in that exact spot as well. She tried to give her husband a tentative smile which he returned with his usual tight look.

The kitchen is through here,” he told her and went ahead into the decent sized kitchen, with enough space for another table to have breakfast at.

She was left just enough time to have a quick scan of the room before he opened the backdoor and held it open for her to go through.

Oh!” She stepped through into the space that made a knot somewhere in her chest diminish. A lovely garden, somewhat unkempt but not unsalvageable she figured, went out behind the cottage and she could already picture several flower beds and tending to her own vegetables and other plants. Not that she knew much about gardening, having grown up in the city just like her husband. But it was something else to do and fill the day somehow. Another thing to look forward to.

However, it made no difference if they were in the small flat in London or in this lovely cottage in Kembleford, the awkwardness and silence were the same here or there. She was well aware of his hawk eyes as she found a vase in one of the boxes on the kitchen table and put the flowers into water.

Sergeant Goodfellow and his wife have invited us for dinner tonight,” he told her just as she was about to ask whether or not he had done some shopping so she could fix something quick for lunch before he went back to work.

Oh.” They had only spoken on the phone twice since he had left for Kembleford, once when he had made it there and then yesterday to confirm her journey and arrival today. He hadn’t mentioned anything about a Sergeant Goodfellow thus far, and she had only gotten half a sentence that Kembleford was ‘fine so far’ after she had pressed him on it. “That’s very kind of them.”

Yes.” Thomas gave a short nod. “I have to go back to work now.” He gave another nod, turned on his heels and left. A few moments later she heard the car start and drive away.

 

Well then,” Lucy said to herself and gave herself a firm nod. “Let’s see the rest of this cottage.” Thomas had only shown her the lower level but there were stairs leading up and no further doors.

A few of the steps creaked as she climbed them which she already knew would wake her frequently when he came home late from a case again. Wonderful.

There was just a small landing space, enclosed by three doors. The one on the right opened to the bathroom which was small but housed a bathtub of a good size and the toilet. Directly across was a smaller room (by comparison when she then got to the last door) in which there was one of the two items of furniture she absolutely had to have brought here. A carved wooden writing desk that she had inherited from her grandmother. He had arranged it right under the window which went out onto the street. Exactly where she would have liked to put it herself.

The last door unsurprisingly revealed the bedroom. It was bigger than the other upstairs room and the windows went out towards the street as well. The bed on the right was immaculately made, as it always was when he did it. Cupboards were built into the walls on the left and he had already put up all his clothes just as tidily when she looked inside. There was plenty of space left for hers as well.

Even though the bed was made perfectly, she could tell which side was his. Not only because she wasn’t stupid nor blind and knew that he preferred the side closer to the door but also because on the far side next to the bed was the dressing table she had also inherited from her grandmother, the second piece of must-have furniture. Although he had told her that the mirror had broken during transport, as she stepped up to it now the mirror was perfectly in one piece. She sat on the stool that went with it and looked at herself for a moment.

She still saw the familiar brown hair, brown eyes, slightly on the long side shaped face, the proportionate nose but slightly disproportionate mouth. (‘You have a large mouth, dear, don’t you go putting such lipstick on it to make it even larger.’ Thank you, mother.) She looked well enough for after a longer train ride but she would have to freshen up a bit before Thomas came to get her for the dinner at the Goodfellows.

But it wasn’t her supposedly larger lips or the small smudge by her ear she then found that made her turn away with a sigh. No, it was the small furrow between her eyebrows that seemed to have taken up permanent residence there. When had that moved in? She didn’t know but it had been there for a while and it didn’t seem like it was going anytime soon.

With another firm nod to herself she stood and resolved to get some unpacking done until Thomas got back. If they had dinner plans with the Goodfellows that meant he would have to clock off at a reasonable-ish time, right? Not that he had any idea what a reasonable time to come home was. She’d gotten so used to cooking dinner for two but eating alone and leaving something for him on the stove for when he got home that she had had to hastily set another place when he had come home in time for dinner almost every evening the week before the transfer. Maybe it would stay the same here in Kembleford? Her stomach turned slightly at the prospect of having any more of the stilted, awkward and uncomfortable dinners. Maybe Kembleford was quaint and small and sweet, but still had plenty of crime. Like murders, murders always seemed to run him the most.

 

* * * * *

Chapter Text

* * * * *

The Goodfellows were absolutely lovely. Sergeant Goodfellow opened the door and invited them in very warmly. His wife was putting the children to bed, he told them, offering a drink which Thomas accepted, Lucy opted for a cup of tea instead. Then there was the sound of little feet and two little heads, one with dark hair, the other with hair the same color as her father’s, could be seen peeking around the corner.

Aren’t ye supposed to getting ready for bed, girls?” the sergeant chided them but the tone of his voice was warm.

The two girls giggled and came out from around their corner, hands behind their backs and very visibly aware that there were guests in the house but also very obviously curious about those guests. They ran to the sergeant’s side when he sighed and waved at them, crowding to his side where he was sitting in his armchair, opposite of the Sullivans on the sofa.

So here we have Charlotte, who is six,” he introduced, ruffling the blonde one’s hair affectionately, “and Grace, who is five.” He tapped the top of the dark haired head. “This is the new inspector I was telling you about,” he said in a more child-oriented voice to his daughters then. “Detective Inspector Sullivan and his wife, Mrs. Sullivan.”

Lucy gave the girls a warm smile. “Hello, Charlotte and Grace, it’s very nice to meet you.”

The girls looked at her with interest and the younger one boldly said: “I like your dress.”

Thank you very much,” Lucy smiled, running her hands down her skirt. “Teal is my favorite color.”

My favorite color is red,” Charlotte announced, resembling her father so much with her light hair and a few freckles across her cute button nose. Grace made a face.

My favorite color is green,” she established with much importance and Charlotte took a deep breath, opening her mouth, but then her father cut in.

Now, now, girls, no arguing just before bed,” he said, preventing what would have been a heated discussion about whether red or green was the better color and why. “Say good night to Inspector Sullivan and Mrs. Sullivan and go up to your room. I bet Mummy is already looking for you.”

She is,” another voice added and immediately Charlotte and Grace displayed sheepish expressions on their faces. “Yes, yes, you two. Up you go, brush your teeth and hair, I’ll be right there.” She sent the girls off with a prompting wave of her hand and the girls ran off after biding them all a good night very politely.

I’m sorry for them, they were terribly curious to meet the new inspector and his wife,” Mrs. Goodfellow said to her two guests. Lucy instantly liked her, she exuded the same warmth and kindness as her husband. She was a pretty woman with dark brown hair and light brown eyes, and a kind smile. And just as much as Charlotte resembled her father, Grace was a carbon copy of her mother.

Oh, they were no bother at all,” Lucy hurried to assure the other woman. “They were delightful.” She gave a prompting look to her husband who only managed a quick nod.

That’s very kind of you to say,” Mrs. Goodfellow smiled. “I see my husband has offered you refreshments already. I apologize for taking so long with the children, Teddy has been a little poorly lately.”

Oh, it’s no problem at all, Mrs. Goodfellow,” Lucy said quickly, giving an understanding smile. “Children have their own minds and all that.”

That they do,” Mrs. Goodfellow chuckled and disappeared.

 

Dinner was delicious and the company wonderful. Save for the few awkward moments that always happened when something had to do with Lucy and Thomas both. Lucy couldn’t speak for her husband but she definitely saw the little looks that Mrs. Goodfellow and Sergeant Goodfellow exchanged every now and then, and she knew that the distance between ‘the Sullivans’ had become even more noticeable.

Besides that, it was the perfect first evening in the new town and at the end Annie, as she asked Lucy to call her, insisted that Lucy come over for a cup of tea very soon. She also offered to show her around the town, all the shops and those things, for which Lucy was very grateful. The farewell between sergeant and inspector was less cordial which Lucy knew was much more to do with her husband than with the sergeant. She thanked the Goodfellows again for having them over before she hurried to slide into the car where Thomas was already holding open the door for her.

They’re very lovely,” she said quietly when they had been in the car for a minute or so.

Thomas only hummed in response and Lucy erased any other words she would have said next from the tip of her tongue.

The stairs creaked even more under his heavier steps as they went up to get ready for bed. Somehow, without ever talking about it, their nighttime routines had evolved to where they never got in each other’s way even a little bit. Thomas brushed his teeth and did his business in the bathroom while Lucy got changed, she did her bits in the bathroom while he meticulously removed and hung his clothes before sliding into bed, usually before she came back. Sometimes they mumbled some sort of ‘good night’ at each other and that was that.

Lucy lay on her side, facing towards the window, staring into the darkness. She could hear that he hadn’t fallen asleep yet and wondered if he could tell that she hadn’t either. The pattern of his breathing changed when he did and he also stopped shuffling every few moments. What were her little tells? She doubted he knew them.

I didn’t know your favorite color is teal,” he spoke suddenly and as embarrassing as it was, Lucy flat out gave a start. One that he could probably feel at the other end of the mattress. Splendid. “I thought it was yellow.”

Yellow is beautiful too,” she felt the need to… soothe him? Pacify him? Assure him? She didn’t know.

He didn’t say anything after that and sometime while she was waiting for someone, him, her, to say anything else, the pattern of his breathing changed and he stopped shuffling every few moments. It was only then that the lump formed in her throat and she pressed her lips together. Her husband of three years had not known her favorite color.

 

* * * * *

Mrs. McCarthy, good morning!” Annie waved to an elderly woman coming out of a shop a few doors down with a friendly smile. “Good to see you,” she said when they met the woman halfway.

And you, Mrs. Goodfellow,” the woman replied, inquiring eyes already trained on Lucy.

Have you met Mrs. Sullivan yet, Mrs. McCarthy? Inspector Sullivan’s wife.”

I haven’t. Pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Sullivan.”

Lucy wasn’t sure how much of a pleasure it really was to Mrs. McCarthy to meet her but she replied the same politely. It felt more like Mrs. McCarthy was already filing away things about her for future reference, with the way she gave her a barely concealed once-over. People always seemed to do that when they found out she was a policeman’s wife.

Likewise, Mrs. McCarthy.”

Mrs. McCarthy is the parish secretary for St. Mary’s and Father Brown,” Annie explained and Lucy nodded in understanding.

I missed mass just this Sunday but I’ll be sure to attend the coming one,” she told Mrs. McCarthy whose face brightened.

Wonderful! And will you be bringing your husband?”

Lucy kept her friendly smile on her face purely due to frequent practice. “I’m afraid not. My husband has rather fallen out with it all, too much cruelty he has seen in his job.”

Mrs. McCarthy pursed her lips slightly, in disapproval no doubt, but nodded. “Yes, he must be very familiar with the evils of humanity,” she agreed. “As is the Father.”

I’m sure,” Lucy replied tightly. It was clear which man’s approach Mrs. McCarthy approved of and which she didn’t. Maybe Lucy had said too much already and she had just set up her husband as talk of the town over his loss of faith. Wonderful.

How are you liking Kembleford so far, Mrs. Sullivan? Certainly different from the big city, I reckon,” Mrs. McCarthy asked and Lucy gave a smile, of sorts.

It is very different but I enjoy it very much. Mrs. Goodfellow kindly offered to show me around so I have been getting a good look at everything today.”

Bit late to learn your way around the shops, isn’t it?” Mrs. McCarthy’s eyebrows rose somewhat. “Didn’t the inspector arrive a week ago?”

He did,” Lucy confirmed and reminded herself not to rise to the bait right on the first day. If she messed this up, the time in Kembleford – however long it would be for her, or them – would become even harder. “I was helping out my mother who fell off a ladder and broke her leg and only arrived yesterday.” And if not for Annie’s kind help she would have had to do this exploration all on her own. Thank the Lord for giving Thomas such a lovely sergeant with an even lovelier wife.

Oh, well, that’s very kind of you,” Mrs. McCarthy hurried to say. “Well, I hope you’ll settle in wonderfully and hope to see you soon at a meeting of the Women’s Institute maybe?”

Of course, I’d be glad to attend.” Lucy nodded and gave a smile in parting.

Well done,” Annie told her once Mrs. McCarthy was well out of earshot. “Mrs. McCarthy can be rather tricky.”

Lucky chuckled. “Thank you. I suppose the town will know the inspector’s wife has arrived by lunchtime.”

Most certainly.” The two women exchanged an amused look and then Annie continued to show her around some more.

 

* * * * *

It seemed like Thomas was keeping up his new habit of being home in time for dinner because he came in about ten past six while Lucy was still putting on the finishing touches on the casserole she had in the oven. She congratulated herself on having set two places just in case and offered her husband a refreshment before she turned to take out the casserole. He was still standing in the door when she placed it onto the trivet on the kitchen table, as opposed to going upstairs to wash up before dinner.

Is something wrong?” she asked slowly, straightening up and wiping her hands on her apron quickly. He liked chicken and mushroom casserole, she was very certain of that. Or maybe he had just never complained to her face about it? The only thing she knew he didn’t like was the pineapple pie she used to make where each piece she had left out for him she had found untouched the next morning. Or buried a little further down in the trash bin, assumedly hidden from view.

It’s nothing,” he said, almost like an afterthought, snapping out of whatever moment he had been having.

Are you sure?”

He gave a short, precise nod. “Yes. I’ll go wash up.” He turned and left, the stairs creaking on the way up.

While he was upstairs, she made sure the table was perfectly set and took off her apron, smoothing down her dress and hair although it made no difference or matter to him, she knew. He came back and sat down. She followed suit and began to fill his plate.

This looks good,” he said and she almost let the second spoonful drop next to the plate in surprise.

“…thank you,” she replied quickly and set his plate in front of him before she started to fill her own. He waited to begin eating until she had picked up her own cutlery and then for a while there was silence while they ate.

What, uhm, what did you do today?” he asked when they both only had a few bites left on their plates.

Lucy looked at him, feeling thoroughly thrown at having him speak more words with her in the past half hour than he had said in a whole week in London, it felt like. “Annie, Mrs. Goodfellow , called this morning and showed me around town. She even asked her mother to mind Teddy so she could show me everything.”

That’s nice,” Thomas responded a little flatly but it was still more than usual, much more than usual.

We met Mrs. McCarthy, the parish secretary, and she invited me to mass and to the Women’s Institute.”

Ah, yes, Mrs. McCarthy.” Something in his tone told her that he had met the woman as well and possibly had felt no less judged by her than she had. “And Father Brown of course.”

You don’t like him?” she dared to ask at his undertone.

His eyebrows pulled together. “He should stick to minding his own business.”

Lucy blinked in surprise at his surprisingly open tone of disapproval, and of a priest at that. “Oh.”

I trust you’ll be attending mass at St. Mary’s then, come Sunday morning.”

She eyed him, trying to read anything from his face but it was impossible. It was the same mildly irritated front he regularly wore. “I would like to, yes.”

He looked at her, eyebrows pulling together again. “You don’t need my permission to attend church, Lucy.”

Her own eyebrows rose a little. “I didn’t think I did, Thomas,” she replied flatly and finished her last bite, rising the moment she had swallowed. He had been finished for a little longer and watched her gather the dishes.

The atmosphere between them remained cool as they spent the rest of their evening in the same house but separately. He sat downstairs by the record player listening to music and having a drink while she sat at her desk upstairs in the small room, twirling a pencil between her fingers but never setting it to the paper laid out in front of her.

He came up shortly after she had started getting ready for bed and surprisingly he was sitting on the edge of the bed when she came back from the bathroom. She stopped short for a moment but then proceeded to her side of the bed, depositing her used clothes in the laundry basket.

What is it?” she asked him when his staring had unnerved her enough.

He opened his mouth but nothing came out, then he shut it again.

What happened?” She didn’t know where the question had come from, why she was even asking another question when it was clear that he had nothing to say to her, but surprisingly that did it.

A man died today,” he told her and she blinked, slowly sitting down on the bed as well. “Suspected murder.”

She remembered thinking just the previous day that maybe Kembleford had plenty of time consuming investigations, like murders, to keep him busy. Now he had a suspected murder on his hands and he had still made it home for dinner. One evening was not a big enough sample size but she tentatively didn’t like where the signs were pointing.

I’m sorry,” she offered belatedly and inwardly scolded herself. I’m sorry? What even…

He was at a retreat for shell shocked veterans because his wife told him she’d leave him if he didn’t do something about it, because she couldn’t stand the silence and stillness anymore,” poured out of him next and she blinked again, even more taken aback than before.

Only he didn’t say anything else, looking off to somewhere on the wall or the floor in front of him.

And Lucy didn’t know what to say either because he had never told her about one of his cases before, and this was a murder, and she was just a housewife, and what was she supposed to say now?

I’m sorry, not something appropriate for pillow talk, won’t happen again,” he said finally, quickly like he was embarrassed or unsure and she-

No, it’s-“ He paused in turning down the duvet to climb into bed finally. “It’s alright.” She tried a tentative smile of sorts. “You can tell me about your cases, if you want.”

He regarded her with a contemplative look before he nodded ever so slightly. He got in but didn’t roll over onto his side like he usually did. She got in as well and was about to turn to her usual sleeping position when he reached over her and- pressed his lips to hers?

Wha-“ She broke off the obvious question of what the hell was going on when she felt his hand sliding down to her hip. “Thomas.”

He froze.

I very much hope you will not take this the wrong way, despite knowing you probably will but: what are you doing?” she asked him as evenly as she could, swallowing against the lump in her throat and the burgeoning feeling of dread because him planting those kisses on her at the end of their row a few weeks ago was much different than him kissing her when they were in bed and-

Unfortunately, or fortunately?, he didn’t say anything. He only returned to his side of the bed and got into his usual sleeping position. She stared at the back of his head for a few moments until it was clear that he wasn’t going to say or do anything else.

Sometimes I wish you would just tell me what is on your mind,” she whispered and only after the words came out she became aware that she hadn’t just thought but actually said them. Trying to breathe her sigh as quietly as possible in the silent and still room, she made herself comfortable on her side and stared at the opposite wall until her eyes drooped with sleep.

 

* * * * *

Chapter Text

* * * * *

What is going on here?!”

Lucy whirled around at the surprising, and angered, sound of her husband’s voice, her laugh breaking off abruptly.

Whoa, easy,” the man standing on the kitchen chair said, nearly hit in the shins with the screwdriver that Lucy had been handing him, and looked over his shoulder. “Inspector,” he greeted Thomas politely with a nod and went back to what he was doing.

What are you doing here, Carter?” Thomas demanded to know, glaring at the back of Sidney Carter’s head, alternating with dark looks at Lucy.

Hanging a lamp,” Sidney answered plainly, stating the obvious as he was standing on a chair and fiddling with the kitchen lamp.

I can see that. What are you doing in my house?” Thomas’ eyes bored into his wife now.

I didn’t expect you home yet,” Lucy said, not the cleverest thing to say as she instantly was aware. Thomas scowled.

I can see that too,” he ground out. “What I would like to know though, Lucy, is what a known petty criminal is doing in my kitchen hanging a lamp?”

Lucy shot a look up at Sidney who gave her a sheepish, apologetic look. “Well, I was talking to Father Brown and Lady Felicia, before I forget – we are invited for a soiree at Montague, and they suggested Sidney when I mentioned that there are a few odd things to do around the house since the previous-”

Which I told you I was going to do myself,” Thomas cut her off, almost growling now.

Sidney was long done with the lamp by now but deemed it safer to stay up on the chair for maybe a few more moments.

Lucy’s lips curled into a displeased purse. “And when was that going to be? I’ve been asking you to hang the lamp we brought from London for almost four weeks.” She gave her husband a defiant look while Sidney badly concealed a snort in a cough that also brought him to step off the chair finally . “Sidney’s done everything I asked you, and a few more things, all in one afternoon for just a few shillings.”

Thomas eyed the handyman warily.

Hung the lamps, fixed a few cabinet doors, oiled some hinges, the likes. Gonna dig up the garden next so Mrs. Sullivan can plant her flowers’n things,” Sidney explained, shoving his hands into the pockets of his trousers.

I don’t believe you will,” Thomas stated very precisely.

Sidney looked towards Lucy who was not looking any happier with her husband as the minutes went by.

And why not?” she asked darkly, crossing her arms over her chest. “Are you going to do it instead?” She gave him a challenging look.

He has a record the length of my forearm, I forbid you fro-”

Lucy’s face did that thing it had done during their row when he had told her about his transfer, it went completely blank. “Oh. I see. You forbid me. Well, I’m sorry then, Mr. Carter, as you heard my husband forbids me from accepting any more of your helpful services. I’ll walk you out.” And there was that sugary sweet voice again that made the hairs on the back of Thomas’ neck stand, and on Sidney’s as well from the looks of it.

Sidney gave him an awkward nod, grabbed his toolbox, then followed Lucy to the front door. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to get you into trouble,” he told her quietly, glancing back to the kitchen door.

It’s not your fault,” she told him and gave him the money they had agreed on when he’d arrived. “Have a good evening, Mr. Carter.”

You too, Mrs. Sullivan.”

 

Lucy closed the door behind him and stayed standing there for a few more moments. ‘I forbid you from’ echoed clearly in her head. There were a number of things he had been displeased enough about to express such which she had made careful note of and tried her best not to repeat but he had never outright forbidden her from anything.

And who was he to forbid her from getting some help to finally fix up the things she had been asking him to do, as nicely and patiently as she could, for weeks? The doors on the bathroom cabinet had been driving her spare since the first day she had arrived and it had taken Sidney not even two minutes to fix and oil them. Th e glass l amp Sidney had hung in the kitchen they had gotten as a wedding present and Lucy was rather fond of it for its warm and homey glow. And the garden… The garden was a project to undertake, one she could not impose onto her husband on top of his heavy work load. If Sidney was willing to do it, then why would she not take him up on that offer?

But to him, Sidney Carter was just a petty criminal with a record the length of his forearm. That he was actually a nice, funny and decent man, that he had made Lucy smile and answered all her questions about how things worked without making her feel stupid or silly, that he had only asked for a very reasonable compensation for his troubles – all that didn’t matter to Detective Inspector Thomas Sullivan. Did anything matter to Thomas? Lucy wasn’t so sure.

 

When she finally came back into the kitchen, he was still standing in the very same spot. As she grabbed a rag to wipe down the chair and table that had both gotten a bit dusty/sandy during the hanging of the lamp, she could feel him watching her. When she washed it out in the sink afterwards, she could feel herself sag. She turned around and looked at him.

I don’t know what to do,” flowed over her lips before she could stop herself. “I’m trying… everything to make a home for you and to be the least nuisance to you but whatever I do, I just can’t do it right.”

He stared at her with his mouth slightly open.

This is why I asked you if you even wanted me to come with you to Kembleford. Because sometimes my mere existence seems to irritate you and-”

You’re not a nuisance to me,” he said and she fell silent. “Your existence doesn’t irritate me.” She looked so sad and hopeless that he wished he knew what else to say but he didn’t.

But what do you want from me?” burst out of her desperately. “I’m trying everything to be a good wife to you and you just… don’t care!”

I do care,” he tried to convince her but, well, it wasn’t very convincing and he could tell she didn’t believe him even if she didn’t say it. “I do. You’re a good wife, you…”

He didn’t continue the sentence and she could read off his face that he didn’t even know what to say to back up his claim. Still she waited, and waited, and waited, for him to say something, anything. Anything. But he didn’t.

Eventually it was more than crystal clear that nothing more would come from him and she had to turn away, fiddling about with the sopping wet rag so he wouldn’t see her tears.

Lucy…” Her name was almost a whisper, and a plea. For what, she didn’t know.

I don’t think dinner is going to be more than a few sandwiches tonight, I’m sorry,” she brought out, trying to keep her voice even and normal but it came out plenty wet and shaky.

I… that’s alright.”

She nodded and quickly wiped her cheeks before she set about fixing something for dinner. When they sat down to eat it not much later, she couldn’t bring herself to look up and face him and dinner was a silent, uncomfortable affair once more. She stood the moment he had finished his last bite and started clearing the table. He remained sitting for a few more moments but then went over into the living room and she heard the radio turn on a moment later.

 

* * * * *

Lucy heard the steps coming up the middle aisle and remained sitting where she was even as they drew closer and closer. They stopped at the row she was sitting in.

May I?”

She peeled her eyes off the altar and looked at Father Brown. “Of course.”

I don’t want to intrude if you would rather spend some time alone with Him, Mrs. Sullivan,” he told her warmly.

I don’t think it matters, I’m not getting an answer any way,” she replied somewhat dryly.

Ah.” The Father sat down. “It does seem that way sometimes, doesn’t it?”

What if that ‘sometimes’ has been three years?” she asked but then shook her head. “I already know the answer.”

You do?” He looked interested.

Not to that. To the other thing.” She let out a slow breath. Marriage was a sacrament and breaking it… “I heard about the rosary, I hope your friend is alright?”

The Father smiled lightly. “Ambrose is just fine.”

She nodded slowly.

That is not the friend you meant,” he realized and thought about it for a moment. “It was an uncomfortable but in the end harmless bout of stomach upset for Sidney. He was not happy about being poisoned, naturally.”

Who would be?” she asked dryly.

Your husband made sure that Sidney made it home alright.”

Lucy nodded lightly.

May I ask you something, Mrs. Sullivan?”

She looked at him with slightly raised eyebrows.

Are you alright?”

She stared at him for several moments, completely taken by surprise by the question and the heartfelt way he had asked it. She fought with herself not to tear up. Nobody had asked her that in a very long time.

I’m as alright as I can be,” she answered finally and neither of them commented on the fact that it was a non-answer. As alright as she could be, in her situation, with a husband that didn’t hate her but didn’t care for her at all, in a town where she had one tentative friend and no one else? That was not very alright to begin with, was it.

St. Mary’s is always open for anyone,” he told her warmly.

Thank you.”

He nodded shortly and stood. “I’ll leave you to it then, Mrs. Sullivan. Should work on my homily, I suppose.”

She gave him a smile of sorts. “Good luck with that, Father.”

Thank you.” He tapped the end of the pew and left.

 

* * * * *

From the look on his face Lucy could tell that Thomas had forgotten all about what she had reminded him of every day this week. That on Saturday she was minding the Goodfellow children so that Daniel could take out Annie for a day in Gloucester for their wedding anniversary.

Are you sure it isn’t a bother?” Annie fretted, fussing over their youngest, Teddy, whom she had deposited into Lucy’s arms because he didn’t seem to want to stand on his own.

Absolutely. You go and have a lovely day on the town and we’ll have tea next week so you can tell me all about Daniel sweeping you off your feet.” Lucy smiled and gave a wink to Daniel who smiled back. “We’re going to have the most fun day, aren’t we, Teddy?” she asked the three-year-old who didn’t seem much inclined to answer though, his head comfortably snuggled against her shoulder.

Thank you so much again, Lucy,” Annie said, seeming to finally accept that they needed to go. “Say bye to Mummy, loves!” She was immediately swarmed by Charlotte and Grace, giving them hugs and kisses. “Bye, Teddy, be good for Lucy.” She pressed a kiss to her son’s cheek as well and stepped back.

Daniel Goodfellow put an arm around his wife’s back and gave Lucy another smile. “Thank you, Lucy, we’ll be sure to return the favor one day.”

Of course,” Lucy replied with a slightly frozen-into-place smile. “Enjoy your day!”

First we gotta make our train, don’t we,” Daniel said, leading his wife away.

Lucy closed the door and turned around, chuckling when she saw that Charlotte and Grace had already upended their bags in the corner she had told them they could play in. Teddy still seemed perfectly content hanging onto her shoulder. The only person who didn’t seem perfectly content, though a case could be made for him never seeming that way, was Thomas who was watching the scene with bewilderment and confusion still.

I told you every day this week that I’m minding the Goodfellow children on Saturday so Daniel can take out Annie for their wedding anniversary,” she told him flatly and bounced Teddy lightly.

You probably did,” he replied and while she was glad that he wasn’t arguing it, it also told plenty about him listening to her when she told him things. He didn’t.

We’ll be out in the garden for a while,” she announced. “Come on, girls, I’ve got a wonderful blanket to play on.”

Charlotte and Grace jumped up, collected their things and followed Lucy through the kitchen into the backyard.

 

However well behaved the three Goodfellow children were, children were a lot of work and when Teddy had finally gone down for his nap upstairs and Charlotte and Grace were playing together somewhat quietly in their corner, all Lucy wanted to do was to lie down with Teddy for a bit. But she still had to clean up after lunch and plan some more activities for the afternoon until Annie and Daniel got back after dinner.

She was coming in from collecting the rest of the toys strewn about the backyard and folding up the blanket she had laid out when she noticed that Thomas had come downstairs from the study (it wasn’t a proper study but it also wasn’t a room of another function so they had unspokenly agreed to call it study) and was tinkering about at the stove.

Can I help you?” she asked hesitantly and left him to it when he shook his head. One peek around the corner told her that Grace was still playing with her doll while Charlotte had opened a book. They’d be fine for another few minutes while she did the dishes.

Sit.”

She jumped when Thomas addressed her with the instruction and looked at him with widened eyes.

He fumbled for a moment. “I mean, please sit.” He gestured to the table where she now saw two cups of tea prepared and waiting to be drunk.

Er, thank you,” she said, trying not to sound as surprised as she felt. He got out the sugar and milk as well, pushing over both towards her first. She quickly added a splash of milk and a spoonful of sugar to her tea before she watched him add some milk to his own, no sugar.

Thought you could do with a cup of tea as well,” he said in an almost conversational tone.

One can always do with a cup of tea,” she replied very decidedly and saw the corners of his mouth quirk. “Thank you for making me one.”

He nodded and stared into his cup for a moment before he took a sip. “Do you want kids?”

It was just as well that she had only just put down her cup because she would have either choked on a sip of tea or dropped the entire cup into her lap at the unexpected and extremely serious question.

Pardon?” was all she got out.

Do you want to have children?” His blue eyes bored into hers from across the table.

She stared back at him with a stunned expression for a long moment before she closed her mouth and trained her gaze onto her cup of tea, twisting it between fingers of both hands. “No,” she answered quietly .

There was a moment of tangibly disbelieving silence. “You don’t? You used to say you wanted a whole bunch of kids.”

Lucy nodded lightly. “I did.” Before they had gotten married.

Why do you not want any now?” he asked next and she swallowed, wishing he hadn’t so she didn’t have to say this to his face. She closed her eyes for a second then looked up at him with a pained expression.

Because I don’t want them to have parents that have nothing to say to each other,” she answered softly.

Whatever he had meant to say next never came out as he stared back at her, now the stunned one himself. “I see,” he croaked and cleared his throat. “I understand,” he added, much more quietly and sought her eyes to see if she understood as well, which she did.

Their situation was too… she didn’t even know how to describe it, but they weren’t going to add children to this. At least they could agree on that.

Lucyyyyy!” Grace called from the living room then and Lucy quickly drained her tea, standing up.

I’m coming!” she called back to the child, eyes still on her husband. She rounded the table on her way to the door and, acting on a spontaneous thought, brushed her hand over his shoulder, not expecting him to reach and put his hand on hers but appreciating that he did. They exchanged another look and then she went out.

 

* * * * *

Chapter Text

* * * * *

Getting called to the Women’s Institute meeting was not what Detective Inspector Sullivan had expected, or planned, to be doing on a Friday afternoon but alas, here he was. Mrs. Cholmondeley-Carter’s call had been a bunch of furious gibberish, according to Sergeant Goodfellow who had been the one to take the call. There had been a short moment of worry growing in the pit of Sullivan’s stomach, knowing that his wife was at the scene, but then Goodfellow had told him that nobody was hurt, apparently, but a ‘gross act of indecency’ had been committed. Whatever a ‘gross act of indecency’ could mean in the context of a women’s meeting, Sullivan had no idea but he had a feeling he was not going to like it.

They pulled up at the town hall to all the women standing outside the town’s community hall in small groups, no doubt blabbering away about the incident. A priest seemed to be guarding the door, talking to Mrs. Fortescue, the head of the Women’s Institute, and Mrs. McCarthy of all people. Sullivan quickly found his own wife standing with, who else, Annie Goodfellow and a few others. There was another gaggle of women surrounding one that was sitting on a chair fanning herself with a pamphlet.

I’ll quickly go and check on the missus,” Goodfellow said once they had gotten out of the car.

Sullivan gave a nod and put on his hat, squaring his shoulders before he went over to Mrs. Fortescue and crew.

Inspector! Finally!” Mrs. Fortescue gasped when she saw him. “It’s the most horrible thing!”

Sullivan then found himself subjected to a grand and dramatic retelling of the meeting’s developments which, while possibly in breach of indecency laws, did not sound to him like they warranted the fuss that the women were making. Instead of the film Father Roland swore he had rightly delivered to Mrs. Fortescue, of his mission trip to Swaziland, a very different kind of movie had been shown – at least until someone had remembered how to turn off the projector.

Someone must have stolen the original and switched the films!” Mrs. Fortescue insisted on her innocence, naturally.

I will be confiscating the film and we will be investigating this, of course, Mrs. Fortescue,” he assured her impatiently, an eye on where Lucy and Annie were now standing chatting with Lady Felicia Montague of all people. Lucy had been on his case for a while about finally accepting the invitation to a soiree at Montague and he did not need Lady Felicia affirming his wife, he did not.

Inspector Sullivan closed his notebook and let his gaze travel over the assortment of women before he made his way into the community hall that looked like it had been deserted in a hurry. All for an indecent film. He went over to the projector and turned it back on, the film running for a few seconds before he blinked a few times and shut it off. That kind of indecent film. He turned around when he heard steps.

This area is not open to the-” he called out impatiently.

I know it’s blocked off,” Lucy cut him off with a roll of her eyes.

You shouldn’t be in here,” he told her.

I forgot my purse inside. Mrs. Fortescue and Father Roland rushed us out of here as if a bomb was going to go off.” She shook her head in irritation and grabbed her handbag from a chair in the third row.

This movie is inappropriate for the public,” he pointed out. “It might even be illegal.”

It’s certainly not the film about African orphans that Father Roland promised,” she stated dryly. “It was rather shocking and scandalous.”

Are you alright?” he asked, considering what the situation might do to his wife now.

Lucy chuckled. “The sight of a little bare flesh will hardly cause me to have the vapors,” she smirked.

Unlike Mrs. Cholmondeley-Carter,” he added knowingly. She didn’t confirm it but her expression said enough. “I’ll be sending the women home now.”

I’ll see you at home then.” She turned to leave.

Sergeant Goodfellow and I will be driving the both of you home, of course,” he told her quickly. “If you can stand to wait a few more minutes.”

What an unbearable burden you expect us to suffer through,” she joked with a smile on her face. “Wait a few minutes! The audacity!”

He stared at her for a moment and the smile slid off her face, her lips flattening.

It was a joke,” she explained meekly, grasping her handbag in front of her middle. “Of course we can wait for a few minutes.” She turned around quickly and slipped through the door before he was able to say anything.

I knew it was a joke,” he said to the empty room and sighed.

 

The women disbanded quickly when he released them, word seemed to have traveled fast and so a number of husbands came to pick up their wives, all of whom wanted a quick word with him to stress the importance of finding the culprit. He assured them as best as he could that they were going to leave no stone unturned to do so and by the time they did make it to their wives, quite a bit more than just a few minutes had passed. Nevertheless, Lucy and Annie were standing chatting calmly with Lady Felicia who was still hanging on despite her driver standing in wait with the Rolls Royce a bit further down the street, having a cigarette.

Inspector Sullivan,” Lady Felicia greeted him as pleasantly as ever.

Lady Felicia,” he nodded at her. “You can assure Lord Montague that we will be investigating this incident with the full-”

Never mind, Inspector, I’m sure you’ll do your very best to track down the source of this thoroughly thrilling, ahem, disturbing incident,” she cut him off. “And speaking of tracking down, I was just speaking with your lovely wife and wondering when we could welcome you to a soiree? Perhaps next weekend? Tomorrow being, of course, reserved for the town fair.”

Of course,” he echoed slowly and her face brightened.

Splendid! I’ll be sending you an invitation promptly then. Good evening, inspector, sergeant.” She nodded at the two men and gave a more cordial goodbye to the two women.

That’s not what I-” Sullivan spluttered but admitted defeat as the countess was already making her way towards her car. The sparkle in Lucy’s brown eyes informed him that maybe all of this had been quite intentional. He sighed. “Let’s take these ladies home, sergeant.”

 

* * * * *

He hadn’t expected to be back in the midst of the Women’s Institute’s circles right the next day but alas he was. Only this time there was no furious gibberish from an exasperated woman, there was an actual body.

He got some information from Constable Pugh and examined the body first, taking several samples of evidence to be sent to the lab, before he went around and started taking witness statements. At some point, one of those was his own wife.

This wasn’t a heart attack or something, was it?” Lucy asked him quietly, looking paler than usual and a bit unsettled which he figured was to be expected if a woman next to you just dropped dead in the middle of the town fair. “She was choking.”

He had a split second to decide whether to gloss things over or to be (somewhat) honest and the look she gave him decided that for him. “I don’t believe it was, no.”

She nodded slowly and let out a deep breath. “She won best Victoria sponge and Miss Thimble was not happy about it,” she told him, glancing over to the pavilion where the undertakers were now gathering the body to be brought to the coroner’s surgery. “Constable Pugh had to step in.”

He told me.”

I won best scones,” she told him then, flatly.

He looked at her in surprise but then forced a smile onto his face. “Congratulations!”

She gave him a dark look and the smile slipped.

You’re not happy about it?” He didn’t understand. He had been eating scones for the last two weeks while she perfected her recipe, so much that he had been taking them to work, much to the other men’s delight though. Going by his colleagues’ praise of her pastries he maybe shouldn’t have been as surprised?

No!” She gave him an exasperated look. “Of course not! For the past fourteen years, Mrs. McCarthy has won with her strawberry scones and I’ve barely been living here for two months and win with my no better than average raspberry-lemon balm scones? It’s a disaster!”

He stared at her. “A disaster?” He didn’t understand. “But you won.

Yes, and now Mrs. McCarthy is upset with me. I’m already being eyed up by all of them because I’m the inspector’s wife and new and now I’m also the one who pushed Mrs. McCarthy off her throne without even trying!” Lucy shook her head vigorously. “It’s a disaster.”

Pushed Mrs. McCarthy off her throne? Don’t you think you’re exaggerating a bit?” he questioned with raised eyebrows and found himself on the receiving end of another dark look.

Of course you wouldn’t understand,” she huffed. “What do women’s squabbles over pastries matter to you? Or I, for that matter.” She stalked off and he only kept himself from calling after her because he was very aware of way too many pairs of eyes on them.

 

* * * * *

With the case going on, Lucy wasn’t surprised to be spending the rest of her Saturday alone. She didn’t mind so much. First because at least then she could fret in peace without Thomas being far from understanding of her plight, and second she had plenty to do in her garden and she didn’t need her husband hovering with his bad conscience since he had forbidden her from engaging Sidney’s further help which had brought her to take care of digging up all the beds and digging out the hazelnut bush to relocate it, all by herself. It was hard and dirty work but at least it was her work.

Someone clearing his throat behind her made her squeal in surprise and whirl around which of course brought her off balance and down to her bottom on the freshly dug up soil with the spade nearly falling on top of her. She sat in the dirt with shock written all over her face for several moments while Thomas stood by, visibly trying not to laugh.

Yes, go ahead and laugh,” she grumbled, crawling out of the flower bed and brushing herself off. Not that it was much help but then again she had been wearing these clothes for yard work specifically and they were filthy.

Are those mine?” he asked with a straight face but amusement coloring his tone.

No, they’re Mr. Carter’s,” she shot back darkly. He scowled. “Of course they are yours, Thomas.” She was wearing both an old shirt and an old pair of trousers of his that were naturally more than several sizes too big on her but with a few strategic safety pins they were alright. She didn’t own any trousers anymore, not since he had once made an offhand remark that he found then unbecoming on women. It had been early in their marriage and she had still been trying all the stops in the books to catch his interest again, a futile endeavor that she had given up a long time ago. Now she wore all the lipstick and hairstyles she wanted and although she hadn’t bought a pair of trousers since, it was now very high on her list again.

They suit you.” If it hadn’t been the first smile on his face in such a long time that she couldn’t remember the last one, the amused grin pulling his lips apart would have probably made her grab a hand of soil and throw it at him. But it was the first smile on his face in what felt like forever, and besides if she threw soil at him that it was not he who would have to wash his nice suit but her.

Well, thank you,” she replied flatly and bent down to pick up the spade again.

Can you come inside for a moment? I need your help.”

Her eyebrows developed a life of their own, shooting up. “ You need my help?”

He nodded. “As far as I know you’re probably the biggest expert on lipstick in the whole county.”

Her eyebrows did not come down at that. “You need my help about lipstick ?”

Come inside, I’ll show you.”

She followed him to the backdoor and carefully took off her old and dirty boots that she had sacrificed for yard work only because he had gotten her a new pair last Christmas. And then had to return them because they’d been too small. Luckily he had been able to swap them for a bigger size so now she had nice new boots and these old ones could get as dirty as they liked. She washed her hands and joined him at the table.

There was a paper bag on the kitchen table that he carefully opened and from the writing on it, she quickly deduced that he had brought a piece of evidence to her.

Is this from the case?” she asked with big eyes when he extracted a cup with saucer from the bag and carefully placed it on the tabletop.

We found this at Miss Thimble’s house, she was also murdered this afternoon.”

Lucy let out a gasp and sank into a chair. “Two? Two murders? In one day? Two women from the WI?” She stared at the cup with even wider eyes.

Yes,” he answered tightly and eyed her for a moment. “We don’t know how they’re connected yet…”

She nodded mechanically but then her head snapped up. “ How they are connected? So you think they are connected.”

Unfortunately yes.”

Holy Mary, mother of God,” she whispered shakily. “They were arguing earlier, like I told you. Mrs. Bunyon won the award and Miss Thimble was convinced it was her cake. And then I-”

Won the scones.”

She nodded weakly.

Which is why I would like for you to go over to the Goodfellows’ and stay there until I have solved this case. Sergeant Goodfellow will be staying home as well since I’ve got Constable Pugh running the case with me.”

She nodded again.

I won’t let anything happen to you,” he promised softly and took her smaller hand in his, squeezing it.

I know.” She looked at him and for a moment he wasn’t sure he deserved the trust he could see in her eyes. “I’m just… two women died today, Thomas.”

I know.” He squeezed her hand again. “Do you think you can take a look at the lipstick stain and maybe tell me what kind it is?”

She took a deep breath and nodded. “Can I pick it up?”

We’ve already got all the fingerprints from it.”

She picked up the cup carefully and inspected the lipstick stain closely. “It’s definitely a kind of berry color,” she contemplated out loud. “I’ll be right back.” She set down the cup and rushed out of the room, he could hear her on the stairs a moment later, racing up and then shortly after coming back down again. She went up to their cupboard and took out one of their own cups, sitting down and then pretending to… drink from it? “A- ha !” She smiled triumphantly and held out her cup to him. “Roseberry Crush by Elizabeth Arven.” She stood the tube of lipstick on the table next to the evidence cup.

Thomas took the cup and also the one they had found at Miss Thimble’s house, comparing them. They did seem very familiar.

Are you sure?”

She gave a decisive nod.

You have this lipstick?” That only then registered to him. He stared at her painted lips, the lipstick not at all wanting to fit with the rest of her with her rumpled hair and dirty clothes.

Apparently so. Not like you’d ever notice,” she replied with a bit of unexpected, and unplanned, bite. “But then again you don’t like lipstick on me.”

I don’t like lipstick on you?” He frowned at her in confusion. “When did I say that?” Had he said that? He couldn’t remember doing so but then again his wife believed he loathed her and he had definitely never said that to her so he couldn’t be so sure.

Lucy eyed him for a moment then looked away. “You wouldn’t kiss me anymore when I wore lipstick but then you stopped kissing me altogether so maybe it wasn’t the lipstick after all.”

He swallowed and looked away as well. “It’s not the lipstick,” he croaked.

I know,” she deadpanned so sharply that his eyes snapped back to her. “It’s me.”

His mouth opened but no words came out.

I’ll go pack a bag for the Goodfellows.” She was halfway out the door before she had finished speaking and he listened to her go up the stairs again, only dropping his shoulders and head when he heard their bedroom door open and close.

 

* * * * *

Going to mass the next day was intimidating but Annie made everyone else go with so that made it a lot better. There were a few dirty looks from Mrs. McCarthy that Lucy noticed but she tried to ignore them to the best of her ability.

Father Roland’s homily seemed rather serious and harsh, if you asked Lucy, but it also made her think. Temptation and the sins of the flesh. She had definitely struggled with some level of temptation before they had gotten married, her husband was a handsome man and had once been very charming to her, but the few times they had been together in that way had thoroughly put her off anything to do with either of their fleshs. A woman could only bear so much before… Thomas had never seemed enthusiastic about… that, rather like he was only doing it under sufferance. It had not been in any way enjoyable, like her girl friends had been raving about before their wedding. So temptation and the sins of the flesh were very not something that were a problem in the Sullivan house.

Being with the Goodfellows made it difficult to stick with these rather dispiriting thoughts. Teddy had barely been able to sit still on her lap during mass and was only too happy to roam the church grounds freely afterwards. Charlotte and Grace ran after him, Grace pulling Lucy along with her and so Lucy went. If she wasn’t going to have her own children, she could spoil her friends’ a bit, couldn’t she?

 

It was late when Thomas appeared at the Goodfellows’ house but the children were still up, egged on by Lucy’s presence to extend their bedtime despite their mother’s and new favorite person’s insistence. There was a knock on the front door while Lucy was trying to break up a spat between Charlotte and Grace after dinner but she listened up when she heard her husband’s voice and then saw him step inside.

Good evening, Sergeant Goodfellow, Mrs. Goodfellow. Sorry to bother you so late but we’ve caught the culprit so I’ve come to take Lucy home,” Lucy heard him say to Annie and she was quite sure that Charlotte and Grace had heard too but were very much pretending not to have heard anything at all. She almost felt like joining them.

While his sisters were still bickering, Teddy snuck up to Lucy and held up a book to her, eyeing her with an expression Lucy could not describe as anything else but a cautious puppy dog look. He was bordering on overtired and was sure to throw a tantrum relatively soon she feared.

Do you want me to read the book for you, Teddy?” Lucy asked him gently and he nodded lightly.

Alright then.” She had a look around but saw no stool or chair nearby so she shrugged to herself and sat down on the rug that designated the play area.

Oh, no, Mrs. Sullivan!” Sergeant Goodfellow gasped, jumping into action at the sight of his boss’ wife sitting on the floor in her pretty Sunday dress. Most of the time he called her Lucy but whenever her husband was there, she was Mrs. Sullivan again. She couldn’t blame him. “Let me get you a chair!”

Nonsense,” she waved him off with a smile. “I’m already perfectly seated, aren’t I, Teddy?” The three-year-old had just crawled onto her lap and made himself comfortable.

Teddy looked up at his father earnestly and nodded.

Daniel spluttered for another moment or two but then admitted defeat to his superior’s wife’s sweet and disarming smile. Lucy glanced at her husband who was watching the scene with a strange look on his face she couldn’t place . The slight pinch between his eyebrows foretold that he would probably have something to say about this later on and she gave a little sigh into Teddy’s wonderful smelling toddler hair before she opened the book.

The Velveteen Rabbit,” she read the title out loud and waited until Teddy had finished tracing the drawing of a rabbit on the page with his little index finger before she turned the page.

They only got about half a page into the book before Annie had about had it with her bickering daughters and decidedly sent everyone to bed. Teddy insisted, to the point of tears, on Lucy coming with so she shot her husband an apologetic look and followed.

 

Who was it?” she asked when they were at home and getting ready to slide into their bed.

Constable Pugh.”

Her mouth fell open in surprise and shock and she stared at him with wide eyes. “Constable Pugh?!”

Or rather, his name is Steven Evans, the son of a wrongly executed local man who wanted to take revenge on the three women who falsely testified against his father.”

Lucy blinked several times. “How did you find that out?” she marveled but Thomas only scowled at the question.

He made an attempt on Father Brown who had apparently figured it out because of evidence and information he did not share with me, once again,” he ground out and pulled back the duvet rather roughly.

Huh. He does have a way about him.” Lucy did the same on her side and climbed onto the mattress.

He grumbled something under his breath then and she resigned herself to having irritated him again. There were several moments of silence until he unexpectedly spoke again: “Lipstick does suit you.”

She was, once more, glad that their usual sleeping positions meant they couldn’t see each other’s faces. “It does?”

Yes. The one from yesterday, the berry one, I like that one.” He paused for a moment and she couldn’t help but smile into her pillow. “Although that might sound weird given the circumstances, I’m sorry.”

Mrs. Fortescue wasn’t the murderer after all though.”

True.”

I like when you wear the blue suit.”

A beat passed. “…you do?”

Uh huh.”

Why?” He couldn’t have sounded more puzzled if he’d tried.

Lucy sighed inaudibly. “Because it brings out your blue eyes. I like your eyes,” she admitted quietly, shyly. She didn’t just like his eyes, was the truth. He was a very handsome man and she had really liked all of him, outside and inside, before they’d gotten married. Then the varnish had come off rather quickly after the wedding and now it was three years later and she was wondering daily how this was the same man she had once upon a time fallen in love with.

I like when you smile,” he confessed just as quietly. “Not that I give you much reason to.”

I used to smile every time I thought of you or saw you,” slipped out of her mouth and she wanted to suffocate herself in the pillow because she had just ruined their lighthearted moment again and now he was going to retreat back into himself again and not say any nice things to her for another three years and-

I’m sorry,” he said and her heart stopped. Not because he had said it, he been apologizing for some things lately, but it had never sounded like this, like he genuinely meant it. He even sounded sad as he said it this time. “Maybe I should have asked you if you wanted to come with me to Kembleford.”

I did. I do,” she answered thickly and it was mostly the truth. “I guess I’m a hopeless romantic like that, still holding out for my husband maybe liking me again in the future.” That she could feel her hope waning steadily was something she wouldn’t even admit to herself.

He didn’t say anything to that and she hadn’t really expected him to but it still hurt in some way. What did it matter if he thought the berry lipstick suited her and that he was sorry that he wasn’t making her smile anymore, if he never changed anything? Or talked to her about why that was? Another piece of hope crumbled as she pressed her eyes closed and tried to fall asleep quickly.

 

* * * * *

 

Chapter Text

* * * * *

 

The silence in the car as he drove and she sat in the passenger seat was familiar, but not as usual. She was not as usual and he had noticed right away when he had gotten home from work. The entire week she had been excited for tonight’s soiree at Lady Felicia’s, but now she seemed like she wanted to be anywhere but. Especially anywhere but where he was.

Lucy was stiffly staring outside the car as he drove and her mouth, perfectly painted with a lipstick matching her new, dark red dress, was a tight line, hands folded in her lap tightly. Everything about her screamed tension.

Are you alright?” he asked when they were getting closer. They still had the chance to turn around and feign illness, or something.

Fine,” she answered curtly and the tone shocked him because she had never spoken to him like that before.

Are you sure?”

She didn’t answer but next time he glanced at her, he could see that her jaw had clenched.

They arrived at the Montague estate and at the big entrance stairs they were greeted by a member of staff whom Thomas handed off his car keys to with short hesitation. He offered his arm to his wife and she took it even though she still looked like she wanted to be anywhere but here, anywhere but with him.

And then they came up the stairs and beyond the open entrance door was were Lady Felicia and her husband, greeting the arriving guests, and it was like a switch had been flipped. Suddenly there was a sweet smile on Lucy’s face, and her voice was soft and mellow, and her body wasn’t stiff and tense on his arm anymore, she was actually leaning into him now and giving him a smile as Lady Felicia greeted them and introduced them to Lord Montague. He almost felt like he’d gotten whiplash with the radical change in his wife but then he saw it. When she looked at him with that smile again, he saw it in her eyes. It was still there, just hidden under the smile and the voice and the demeanor.

 

Dinner was exquisite and delicious, and rather quiet on Lucy’s part. There were other couples present, Lady Felicia had introduced all of them and Lucy had done her best to stand next to her husband with a smile on her face and something nice to say when spoken to. She was seen and not heard when they were out in public, just like he wanted, just like he expected.

The other couples included Commissioner Busby with his wife whom Thomas could at least relate to in terms of their jobs, but the others were different people from London and other bigger places who were quite a lot more colorful than a detective inspector and his quiet wife. Of course, London gave them something to relate to but it was still a little strained for them.

Then after dinner they moved over into another room and Lady Felicia turned on some music, prompting everyone to make use of the dance floor. She went first with her husband who didn’t seem too interested but it did prompt several others to join in. Lucy stood off to the side and felt her cheeks already starting to strain with the soft smile she had stapled onto her cheeks.

May I have this dance, Mrs. Sullivan?”

A hand appeared in her field of vision and she had to follow it up the arm and shoulder it was attached to all the way to the head atop that shoulder, to understand that it was actually her husband who had asked her for a dance.

Please?” he added quietly, pleading at her with his eyes.

She swallowed and put her hand into his. “Of course,” she said but her voice didn’t sound like her own even in her own ears.

Thomas led her out onto the area that had been declared dance floor and pulled her into position. They went off easily, falling into the rhythm of the music and the known and practiced steps. It was like muscle memory, being led across the floor in his arms, twisting and turning as he silently prompted her to do with a squeeze of her hand or a subtle shift in his hand on her back.

They danced for a while, others trailing off, others joining, new couples forming. It was so easy, and so nice, and Lucy found herself smiling earnestly, receiving a smile from her husband in return as she fell back into his arms as he had twisted her out and then back in. But her smile faded as their gazes held and the expression on his face sobered. The song ended then and he released her, not as if he was dropping a hot potato, they were in company after all, but near enough. She stared at him a moment longer and turned on her heels, mumbling ‘excuse me’, and he was left behind looking after her like he hadn’t seen the tears rise in her eyes.

Lucy left the room as quickly as was socially acceptable and didn’t look left nor right, just walked and found herself hurrying out of the front doors, down the steps and onto the gravel of the driveway. What now? She stood still and exhaled a shuddery breath.

You alright, Mrs. Sullivan?” asked a voice suddenly and she turned to see Sidney Carter pushing off the wall where he had evidently been leaning and having a smoke.

Fine,” she answered tightly but couldn’t fool anyone with how shaky and wet her voice sounded. “Just… needed some air.”

He was about to say something to that when another person came hurrying outside. Thomas. Of course.

Lucy, where-” He cut off his question abruptly when he saw the driver. “Of course. Of course you’d be out here sniffing around my wife, Carter.”

Hold up a minute there, I was out here havin’ a smoke when she came running out in tears, alrigh’?” Sidney pointed out firmly, standing to his full height which was significantly taller than Thomas Sullivan was.

I was not in tears,” Lucy stated stubbornly but it didn’t matter.

Come back inside,” Thomas ordered, coming down the remaining steps and reaching for her arm.

Don’t touch me,” she snapped at him, brushing off his hand and marching back up the stairs all by herself. She felt both Thomas’ and Sidney’s gazes bore into the back of her head as she did so but she didn’t care. Or she did care but she didn’t have the strength for this right now.

 

The rest of the evening was stilted, Lucy standing at Thomas’ elbow as he made small talk with the men, smile stapled onto her face again. When they were finally leaving, it was Sidney who was bringing their car around and she carefully avoided meeting anyone’s eyes as she got in without her husband’s offered helping hand.

What is with you and Carter?” he asked a few minutes into the drive and Lucy had to take a very careful breath and exhale it slowly.

Nothing is with Carter and I,” she answered finally, eyes fixed into the dark passing by outside again. “I would never betray you,” she added quietly. Weakly, in her own ears.

He didn’t seem to have anything to say to that and that was just as well. Before she ever betrayed him, she would ask for a divorce which was something she was probably never going to do of her own accord so she was stuck with this husband who didn’t like her, never mind love her, and who only seemed to care when his possessive side was challenged.

She opened the door of the car before he had even fully stopped and was at the front door unlocking it before he was out of the car himself. She hurried inside, out of sight, and he stared at the open front door for a few moments before he went inside himself.

He found her in the kitchen, standing in front of the stove with her back towards him. He could tell she had heard him because she folded her arms over her middle but then neither of them said anything. Then suddenly he heard a sniffle and the next sound was a choked off sob from her throat as she covered her face with her hands.

Just go!” she got out between her cries but it didn’t sound nearly as strong and snappish as she’d wanted it to.

But you’re crying!” he exclaimed panic-stricken, still to her back.

What does it matter to you if I’m crying?!” she snapped at him, finally turning around. Her makeup was beginning to run down her face and the lipstick that had outlined her lips so perfectly earlier was smudged.

You’re my wife?!” he tried to explain but she only gave a scoff. “You are.”

Like that means anything to you, Thomas,” she told him bitterly. “Like I mean anything to you.” She gathered herself then, wiping under her eyes. “I’m going to sleep down here tonight, I’ll just quickly get some things from upstairs.” She made to pass by him but he held an arm out, careful not to touch her like she had told him earlier but stopping her all the same. “Thomas.”

What happened?” he asked on a whim. “What happened earlier? Before I came to pick you up. You looked like you’d been crying then too.”

She stared at him unmovingly for a moment, her lips trembling.

What happened?” he repeated, in a softer tone, and fumbled in his jacket for his handkerchief which he offered her then. She let out a breath at that, accepting the piece of cloth, but only twisted it between her fingers instead of wiping her face with it.

My mother called,” she said finally and his eyebrows pulled together. Neither of them were particularly fond of his mother-in-law as far as he was aware. “She…” Her chin wobbled. “She keeps bugging me about when we’re finally going to give her grandchildren and she just won’t stop. She keeps saying I’m doing something wrong, that I should go to a doctor, that I should just… lie there and… plan my garden in my head or something while you…” She shook her head vigorously. “That it’s my duty as a wife to… do that and my duty as a daughter to give her grandchildren. And that you’re going to leave me if I don’t… if I can’t…” She broke off, shaking her head again and crying. “But it’s not my fault!” she sobbed.

Thomas stood there in growing horror, at what his mother-in-law had said, and his wife sobbing in front of him, and the fact that it really wasn’t Lucy’s fault that they weren’t having children, and… He didn’t know what to do though.

It’s not your fault,” he said finally, hesitantly, unsurely. Lucy looked at him through reddened, black smudged eyes. “It isn’t your fault.”

But I’m your wife, I’m supposed to…” She looked away. “I’ve tried everything. Everything. I made myself look as pretty as I could, then I wore no makeup because of the lipstick. I…” She swallowed. “I wore nicer things, to bed… then I wore nothing. I tried to find a perfume you liked. I said and did the things my friends advised but nothing worked. I read some truly… filthy things to make you happier but you didn’t…” She shook her head. “Nothing helped and I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, what I did wrong…”

You did nothing wrong,” he told her but he could see she didn’t believe him. “You didn’t. I didn’t even… notice these things.” Only when he saw her horrified face he realized how terrible that sounded. “I didn’t mean… I mean…” He was lost for words.

You didn’t even notice?!” She gaped at him with complete disbelief. “Not a thing? Nothing?”

He shook his head sheepishly. “I’m sorry.”

She turned to the side, thoroughly stunned. “But… do you even look at me? At all?”

Of course I look at you,” he said quickly.

Her gaze bored into him then. “Which dress did I wear yesterday? Did I wear something in my hair or not?” she shot at him and he struggled for words.

I… uh… you…” He didn’t know.

Lord almighty, and here I was trying for absolutely nothing.” She was completely stunned, shaking her head. “All that work for absolutely nothing, you didn’t even notice!” She shook her head again and sank into a chair, still fiddling with his handkerchief. Suddenly she went very, very still. The atmosphere in the room changed and he couldn’t tell why. Then she looked at him. “I think I understand now.”

He blinked. “You do?”

You’re not… interested in me,” she said cautiously, carefully watching his face for any movement, any reaction.

What do you mean?” He didn’t understand.

You’re not interested in…” She hesitated but then she said it. “You’re not interested in women.”

The sentence stood in the air for a frozen moment before its meaning fully registered with him and then:

I am not gay,” he roared at her and she jumped in her chair, shrinking in her seat at the rage suddenly written into his face. “How dare you- I am interested in women, I’m just not interested in you!” he spat out scathingly, uncaring about how she became even smaller at that. “I wish you would just stop asking me questions and nagging me about everything! I don’t want to touch you and you don’t want to have my children because you think I hate you so what does it matter? Maybe you should have stayed in London after all, maybe I should have never married you. If I’d known what it would be like…” He shook his head and stormed out of the room.

 

* * * * *

 

The next morning she heard his alarm go off at the usual time and turned over to face the back of the sofa just before he came downstairs. His steps came a little closer, then there was a moment of silence, then he went into the kitchen. Sometime later the front door closed after him and she was left behind with the silence once again.

She could barely make herself get up sometime later but she knew she had to. What for, she didn’t know. She got dressed and made herself some tea, grabbing a cushion to sit on for the garden and resolving to do just that for now. The house was clean enough and the garden was what it was and she just really couldn’t find it in herself to care about anything right then.

The tea in the cup had long since gone cold when the door bell went. With a deep sigh and summoning all the energy she had, she brought herself up and went to answer the door, finding Annie behind it. Annie took one look at her and gently pushed her out of the way so she could come inside.

I’ll make some tea.” She ushered Lucy into the kitchen, pushing her into a chair, and went about making tea. She also found some biscuits but just the sight of them made Lucy’s stomach churn.

I had a visitor this morning,” Anne said casually, pouring their cups.

Lucy just looked at her.

It was Sidney Carter.”

Lucy gulped and nodded lightly. “Did he arrest him again?”

Annie looked at the woman in front of her and couldn’t help but feel deeply worried. There was something off about the Sullivans but she had decided to be a good friend to the new inspector’s wife and it was easy, Lucy was a lovely woman. But today she looked like she wasn’t there although she was sitting right in front of her.

No, he didn’t.”

Lucy nodded again and finally dumped a spoonful of sugar into her tea. Annie pushed the milk towards her and Lucy looked at it for a moment like she didn’t know what it was before she poured a splash of it into her cup as well.

He was actually…” Annie didn’t know how to breach the subject delicately but she felt like she had to, seeing the state the other woman was in. “He was actually rather concerned about you.”

Lucy blinked. “About me?”

He felt like there might have been a little disagreement between you and Thomas last night and…”

Lucy sighed and shook her head. “They’re always butting heads… Thomas got really upset when I had Sidney do some odd jobs around the house and he forbade me from hiring him again.”

Annie eyed the younger woman closely. “Does he get upset often?”

Who? Thomas?”

Annie nodded.

We hardly ever speak so no,” Lucy scoffed, quietly.

But when you do speak, he gets upset?”

Sometimes,” Lucy shrugged and took a sip of her tea, then added another spoonful of sugar.

What does he do when he gets upset?”

I don’t know, sometimes he shouts, sometimes he just leaves.”

Does he… touch you, when he’s upset?”

Lucy frowned at that and finally looked up from her tea. “He never touches me.”

Annie gaped at her. Lucy looked back and after several moments her lips formed a small o.

Oh my God. Oh my God. Annie. You think… Sidney thinks… Oh my God.” She leaned back in her seat, a hand over her chest. “Thomas doesn’t hit me! He never touches me, Annie. Ever. Like…” She swallowed. “He hasn’t touched me in… years,” she admitted bashfully. “Well, he tried for a moment just after I arrived but…” She shook her head and stared into her tea again. “That’s the whole thing.” She felt a lump grow in her throat all over again. “He never touches me, he never looks at me, he didn’t know my favorite color or my shoe size, he forgets my birthday and our anniversary… Before we moved here, he hadn’t been home in time for dinner for probably well over a year.”

Lucy, that’s terrible.” Annie couldn’t believe what she was hearing. There had been something off with the Sullivans and she had noticed how Inspector Sullivan seemed very awkward around his wife while Lucy tried her utmost to be perfect around him. But she hadn’t ever expected it to be something like this.

Lucy made a sorrowful face. “It is terrible, isn’t it?” She fiddled with the sugar bowl in front of her. “But I’m a good Catholic wife so.”

Annie let out a breath and reached over the table to squeeze her friend’s hand. Lucy nodded and covered it with her own hand, feeling like maybe it was the only thing keeping her connected at the present moment.

 

* * * * *

Chapter Text

 

 

* * * * *

 

Lucy only noticed that the time for dinner had come and long gone when she looked at the clock in the kitchen and it was gone eight. She stared at the clock for several moments, somehow uncomprehending for a while, but then she just nodded to herself and went upstairs into the study.

It wasn’t surprising, was it? That he would miss dinner after the night they had had. Most of all it shouldn’t have stung some weirdly still tender and fragile part in her, but it did. Although dinners were still a little awkward and sometimes neither of them said much at all, she had kind of gotten used to having a regular dinner time again and sitting down with him to eat.

But today he didn’t come, and she didn’t expect him to make it to dinner anymore now. He wasn’t interested in her, he never should have married her, he’d said. Why he had come home for dinner since moving to Kembleford was absolutely beyond her.

Anything to do with him was beyond her. Why he had married her at all. Why he was still married to her. Why he insisted on keeping her around when he had no interest in her.

She sat at her beautifully carved desk, tracing the lines and swirls in the wood, twirling her pencil mindlessly between her fingers. She had not done one stroke on the paper in front of her since coming to Kembleford, and tonight was not going to be the night where she finally did.

He came home at shortly after half eight, she heard him come in and go to the kitchen first, then he came up the stairs. She listened closely whether he would take the left or the right door. The slightly different creak as he pushed down the handle told her it had been the right door.

There you are,” he said after opening the door and not saying anything for a few moments.

She considered if she could even say anything to him, but then she just nodded somewhat.

I’m sorry I missed dinner, I got new case files just as I was about to leave and-”

I didn’t cook anything anyway,” she cut him off listlessly.

He fell silent.

Usually she would have offered to make him sandwiches or fry an egg or something else. But she couldn’t bring herself to.

I’ll leave you to it,” he said quietly and closed the door behind himself.

What if he really left her to it? What if he just… left and didn’t come back? No, she chastised herself, she couldn’t think like that. He was a police inspector and his job, while it involved a lot of desk work too, was dangerous. She would never forgive herself if something happened to him and she had… No. She was a good wife, she had been raised to be a good wife, and good wives didn’t question their husbands, they didn’t do things that made their husbands shout at them, they didn’t think of leaving, or a divorce, or their husband leaving and not coming back.

Her mother had been a good wife to her father for almost forty years now and she had gone through much… different things than Lucy had with Thomas. So what did she have to complain about? A husband that left her to her own devices? There were worse things than that.

 

She was still in the same spot, in the same position, when he came back up later, likely to get ready for bed. The white sheet of paper was still untouched, unmarred, in front of her. Only the pencil had probably done a thousand twirls since.

She heard him go into the bedroom, then into the bathroom, then back to the bedroom. She could see him in her head, his entire nightly routine, could imagine all the sounds even as she heard them differently or not at all being in a different room than usual.

Just as she knew he would be making his way into bed, there was a light knock on the door and it opened again.

I’ve left your bedding downstairs, would you like me to-”

She shook her head.

“… good night then.”

She nodded.

After a moment the door closed and then she heard the bedroom door close as well.

I’m just not interested in you.

I don’t want to touch you.

Maybe I should have never married you.

If I had known what it would be like…

She was a good wife. A good wife. She didn’t… She stared at the blank page in front of her. She was a good wife.

 

The next morning she woke up crouched over the desk with no recollection of how she had fallen asleep. The house was quiet, the light coming from outside told her that Thomas had likely already left. Lucy sat up, the muscles in her neck, shoulders and back screaming from the awkward angle she had slept in, the blanket from the end of their bed slid down from where it had been tucked around her shoulders. But it wasn’t only that that made her stop still, her gaze had fallen onto the paper in front of her.

So she had drawn something after all, finally.

She stared at the page, fingers hovering over the lines tracing them. She had drawn herself on her wedding day but this was nothing like the beaming picture they had framed downstairs on the dresser. This bride had no eyes, eyelids and lashes yes, but no irises and pupils, and thick, dark tears were running from the corners of the empty eyes.

A good wife , she had written next to it in her tidiest script that she knew her mother would still have criticized because it wasn’t picture perfect. Nothing she had done had ever been picture perfect. She grabbed the drawing and stared at it for a moment longer, then crumpled it into the smallest ball she could manage, casting it aside.

A good wife.

 

* * * * *

 

Working in the garden had become her favorite thing to do very quickly. There was much to do and most of it required digging around in dirt or hard labor. It was everything her mother would have abhorred, and everything Lucy loved.

Annie had helped her make a plan for it, drawing up a little sketch and labeling the beds with what Lucy planned to plant there. They had even made a list of tasks to complete, before Thomas had forbidden her from hiring Sidney for them. As she didn’t have much knowledge and skill in regards to gardening, things were probably taking a lot longer than it would have taken someone else (like Sidney) but that was neither here nor there.

She was standing back to survey her digging work when someone came around the back of the house. She eyed up her shovel but it wasn’t necessary when she saw who it was.

Sidney stood there quite awkwardly, almost sheepishly, taking her in in Thomas’-turned-hers clothes, probably covered in dirt and smudged again as she was still battling with the hazelnut bush.

I can’t-”

I just-”

They spoke at the same time, and fell silent simultaneously too. Lucy nodded for him to go first.

I… was in the area,” he tried to pass this off as a random, casual visit.

Annie talked to me,” she stated rather flatly.

He nodded shortly, his lips thinning for a moment.

It’s not true,” she felt the need to point out, very firmly. “And it’s also none of your business,” she added because while his concern meant something to her, if Thomas heard of it… It wasn’t likely to end well for either of them.

I know.” He dared to look at her then, eyeing her carefully. “Could make it my business if it was. True, that is.”

Lucy sighed deeply and brushed a stubborn lock of hair out of her forehead, aware that she had probably just wiped dirt on her face again. “Thank you for your concern, Sidney,” she said softly. “But it really isn’t true. He doesn’t do that.”

Know enough of his folk who do,” he insisted.

Her gaze sharpened for a moment then her fingers quickly flew down the buttons of Thomas’ old shirt, the garment sliding off her slender shoulders easily, leaving her in a vest. Sidney’s eyes had rounded at that but she just stared at him stubbornly. She held out her arms in front of herself then turned and as she faced him again, he nodded shortly. Not a single bruise or other mark in sight. That there very well could have been bruises or marks in other places went unsaid but so far, so good, for now.

Bit stubborn, that bush, huh?” he asked conversationally while she buttoned the shirt back up. “Probably need to hack it out of the ground.”

She made a face. “Probably.”

I’ll lend you some tools,” he decided.

I don’t-”

Can say they’re the sergeant’s or somethin’,” he offered with a quick grin. “I’ll leave them here.” He gestured to the corner he had just come around.

Lucy swallowed. “Thank you.”

He nodded. “Good day, Mrs. Sullivan.”

Good day, Mr. Carter,” she replied and then he left.

 

* * * * *

 

She heard him come home, late for dinner but earlier than the previous days. It had become almost customary now for her to be up in the study when he made his reappearance. Just like it was still customary for her to stare at the blank paper in front of her, once again.

From the time between him coming home to him coming up she figured he had eaten the dinner she had left out at the stove for him. It was probably still warm, not hot, but warm enough. She had barely managed to finish the casserole, climbing the stairs had taken the rest of her energy and now she was sitting here.

Like always, he knocked lightly before he opened the door.

Your show is about to be on,” he told her. That meant it was Thursday, apparently, and her favorite game show would be broadcasted shortly. But just the idea of going back down the stairs only to have to climb them again later… She had slept in their bed the last two nights, the cricks on her neck and back after a few nights over the desk and on the sofa had brought her there.

Lucy nodded lightly but he didn’t leave. “I’ll be right there,” she heard herself saying and made to stand but then everything went a little blurry and dark in front of her eyes.

Lucy!”

Suddenly he was there with her, steadying her with his arms around her, guiding her back into the chair.

You look faint,” he said worriedly, looking her over while she was still fighting for the room to come to rights again. “I’ll call the doctor.”

No.” She made a grab for his arm but it took a second attempt until she got hold of him. “It’s fine, I just haven’t eaten, I think.”

He stared at her, undecided. “Are you sure?”

She nodded.

Come downstairs, there’s still leftovers.” He helped her up again, carefully monitoring her reaction, and then guided her downstairs onto the sofa. She heard him tinker about in the kitchen while her radio show started but she couldn’t focus on it. “Here.” He reappeared with a plate and a fork, handing her both. “I’ll get you some water.”

She stared at the food on her lap and couldn’t detect any appetite nor hunger. Still, she poked at the food and somehow brought a forkful to her mouth. Only as it touched her tongue and she started to chew it, she began to feel like it might not make her sick.

Thomas came back with the glass of water which he put on the end table and sat in his armchair, watching her eat. It was a bit disheartening, him watching her eat but the more she ate, the more she noticed that maybe she was hungry after all. His brows furrowed when she put down her fork with half the plate still filled but she shook her head. If she ate any more, she might actually be sick, she was sure.

Are you ill? You’re very pale,” he noted when she had put the plate next to the glass of water.

No,” she answered, blinking slowly. “Just sad.” She didn’t know where that had come from but it was the truth. She was sad, indescribably sad.

He gaped at her but then nodded. “Did your mother call again?”

She shook her head but then also shrugged. “I don’t know.”

You don’t know?”

I didn’t know it was Thursday until you mentioned my show.”

He stared at her again then but remained silent.

I’ll arrange for you to visit your friends in London.”

She looked up, and away. “No, thank you,” she said quietly.

Why not? You can have some fun out on the town with your friends, shop a little if you like. Certainly more exciting than little old Kembleford.”

Because,” she said and stood, a hand going out for the back of the sofa but she didn’t need it this time. “If I went to London, I wouldn’t come back.”

His face sobered at that and he nodded, in understanding she was surprised to realize. “Couldn’t blame you if you didn’t,” he remarked flatly.

Her fingers curled into the back of the sofa then. “Why not?” she dared to ask.

You just said it yourself, Lucy. You’re sad. Doesn’t take much to see you’re unhappy here.”

She didn’t know what to say to that. Nothing in the days since the soiree had indicated that he had taken any note of the state of her.

Do you want to go to London?”

She shook her head. “Do you want me to go to London?” she asked back.

And then he didn’t answer.

She stared at him, feeling what little color had remained drain from her face as well, as he sat there silently.

The dread had already eaten up the pit of her stomach and hot tears were welling up in her eyes as she turned to escape this horrible moment that felt even worse than after the soiree, when he finally said: “No, I don’t.”

She blinked, a few of the tears escaping and rolling down her cheeks. She wiped them away hastily but he still saw. “Are you sure?” she had to ask, to make sure, because he didn’t look like he was-

I’m sure. Don’t go to London.”

She met his eyes and there was something in them that she couldn’t quite put her finger on what it was but it made her nod and swallow against the lump in her throat. “I won’t.”

 

* * * * *

 

Chapter Text

* * * * *

 

Whenever the phone rang, it filled Lucy with dread. She did get nice phone calls almost every week, whenever Annie called, but you never knew who was calling and she also got plenty of unpleasant calls. And then there was the kind of call she hoped, prayed, to never get.

“Kembleford 731,” she answered it after several moments of contemplation, wiping her hands on her apron as she was in the process of cooking dinner.

“Good evening, Mrs. Sullivan, this is Sergeant Goodfellow calling from the police station,” the familiar voice explained and Lucy froze. No one had ever called from the station before which could only mean- “I’m calling because the inspector asked me to phone you if something happened to-”

“I’ll be right there,” she said quickly and slammed the receiver down. Within seconds she had jammed on the first pair of shoes she got hold of and was halfway out the door before she remembered the pots on the stove. Haphazardly she ripped them off the stove, tossed them onto trivets, turned off the stove, before running out the door again.

 

By the time she made it to the police station, she was a mess. The shoes she had put on had been a pair of Mary Jane’s with a medium heel to them, absolutely not suited for running from one end of the town to the other in a desperate gaze. Also they were absolutely ruined now.

She didn’t know at what point she had started to hyperventilate and cry but she had. She had never received a call from the station before, not even from her husband himself, and Daniel had said the inspector had asked him to call if something happened to him so. In her mind several horrible scenarios played out. Thomas shot, or stabbed, or beaten, seriously injured in the line of duty. Maybe even dead. She felt sick to her stomach and icy cold everywhere else at the thought of it.

So now her shoes were ruined, she hadn’t even put a jacket or anything on but was still wearing her apron, her face was blotchy and wet, she was seriously out of breath, she felt like she might vomit at any next moment, and her husband might be dying, or already dead. How quickly her evening had turned around.

“Where is he?!” she gasped, bursting into the police station’s reception area where lo and behold Sergeant Goodfellow was sorting some papers.

“Lucy!” He gaped at her, absolutely stunned to see her just fifteen minutes after he had called at the Sullivans’ home. “What are you doing here?”

“You called and-” She gasped for air, taking a few more steps forwards and leaning heavily against the counter. Now that she had stopped running, the world was kind of blurring at the edges a little. “You said he asked you to call if-”

“What the hell is going on out here? I’m trying to conduct an interv-”

And there he was. All in one piece, not a hair out of order, his suit a little more wrinkled from the day than it had been in the morning but otherwise pristine, looking first disgruntled at the disturbance and then confused.

“Lucy, what are you doing here?” He looked at his sergeant. “Didn’t I ask you to call ahead that I’d be late?” He frowned disapprovingly.

“I did, sir, I didn’t-”

“You’re fine,” Lucy interrupted with her whisper that was very clearly heard by both men anyway, and promptly burst into tears all over again. She covered her mouth with her hands but that just made her sound like she was suffocating.

Thomas shot a desperate look at Sergeant Goodfellow but then thought better of it. “Come through to my office.” He herded his inconsolable wife through the door and closed it firmly behind her.

 

“What is going on? Why are you here?” He pushed her down into the chair in front of his desk and peeled her hands off her mouth. “Breathe!”

“I thought something happened to you!” she choked out, still breathing heavily.

“Why would anything have happened to me? I just got in a new suspect and was going to be late for dinner so I asked Sergeant Goodfellow to phone you to let you know.”

She stared at him through still tear-filled eyes. “But you’ve never done that before?” she asked weakly.

“Yeah, well, the sergeant said he always did it to let Mrs. Goodfellow know so I thought-”

There was a knock on the door and Thomas ripped it open, mouth opening to bark at whoever it was, but it was just Sergeant Goodfellow with a glass of water.

“I’m sorry, sir, I didn’t mean to upset her,” he apologized sheepishly.

“Yes, well, you did,” Thomas snapped at him and snatched the glass of water out of his hand. “Put the suspect in the cells for later.”

“Right away, sir.”

Thomas closed the door again and went back to his wife, handing her the glass of water. “Drink this.”

Lucy accepted it with shaking hands and took a few sips slowly. Slowly her breathing evened out and she’d stopped crying too. She still looked a fright though, he noticed then. Reddened eyes and cheeks, hair falling apart everywhere, dirt splashed all over her legs and her shoes… He winced at the sight of them, they were absolutely ruined.

“Did you walk here? From home?” he asked in disbelief.

“I think it’s more like I ran,” she answered bashfully and set down the empty glass of water.

“You ran, from home, to the station.” He stared at her.

She nodded slowly.

“Why?”

She looked away and remained silent.

“Why would you run from home to the station in your heels, with your apron on but no coat, crying?” He rounded his desk and dropped into his chair heavily. “I don’t understand.”

“You never do,” she replied quietly and he was shocked by how weary she suddenly sounded. “You have work to do, I should go.” She stood and he saw the grimace as she put weight on her feet although she tried to hide it the next moment.

“You’re not going anywhere.” He rounded the desk again and guided her to sit back down. “Not on these shoes.”

“They’re kind of the ones I came with, I didn’t bring an extra pair,” she noted dryly and made a noise of pain when he pulled one of them off her foot, however carefully he tried to do it.

“Bloody hell,” escaped him and it was true in more ways than one. Her feet were a bloody mess. The shoe had rubbed against the back of her foot where the Achilles tendon was and at the sides where the joints of biggest and littlest toe were as well as around the edges of the shoe’s opening, right through the skin and in some spots even through the blisters that had formed. She had also worn through the soles of her shoes and there was even- “I’m going to get the first aid kit, wait here.”

As if she was going to go anywhere like this, she thought bitterly, remaining right where she was. By now she could feel her feet hurting but even worse than that, she felt completely and utterly embarrassed. Humiliated even. Here she was, Inspector Sullivan’s silly, hysteric wife, running to the station on a misunderstood phone call like she was a caring and loving wife. She’d probably just made her husband the laughing stock of the whole station and there was no way to take that back.

She stared straight ahead at the filing cabinet when he came back and knelt in front of her again. He lifted her foot very gently to rest the slightest bit on his knee without touching any of the raw spots.

“You’ve got a piece of gravel stuck in your foot,” he told her. “I’ll try to get it out as quickly and painlessly as I can.”

From the corner of her eye she could sort of tell he was looking up at her but she kept looking straight ahead, only nodded. He did get the piece of gravel out very quickly but it still hurt a lot and her fingers curled around the armrests until her knuckles were white.

“I’m sorry,” he said quietly and she nodded again. “This will sting a bit.”

She just sat there and let him do to her feet whatever he deemed necessary. She winced while he cleaned her wounds and there was another piece stuck in the other foot, a shard of glass this time, which made her grip onto the chair again, holding her breath until he was done. But she didn’t made a sound, she didn’t say anything.

“I’ll get the car around and drive you home,” he told her when he was finished, standing up with the soiled supplies in his hands, her feet now mummified with white dressings. “Are you alright?” he asked when she still didn’t reply. “Are you hurt anywhere else?”

Yes, she wanted to say, in my heart. “I ran here because I thought something had happened to you, that you were injured or dead. I didn’t care what shoes I put on or think about that someone would have come to get me if if that had really been the case. I thought something happened to you and that I needed to be there, so I ran here. Because I care about you,” she told him finally, also finally looking at him again.

He stood in front of her, holding the disgusting, bloodied medical supplies, and looked like a deer caught in the headlights.

“And it’s okay you have nothing to say back about that,” she went on, her voice going a little hoarse. “Because I know it’s not the same for you, and somehow I have to be okay with that. I can’t force you to care about me. But I wanted you to know that I care about you because if something did happen to you, if you did get injured or something, you wouldn’t be alone. I’d be there as quickly as I could.” Her chin quivered lightly as she finished. “That’s all.”

Thomas stared at his wife for another moment, like he had never seen her before, then he swiftly dropped everything he was holding on top of his desk, no matter how filthy it was, and held his wife instead. She made a sound of surprise when he basically knelt down again in front of her and pulled her into his arms but she adapted quickly, molding into his embrace.

“Thank you,” he whispered into her hair, ear, side of her head, somewhere, but she heard.

“Please be careful,” she whispered back and he nodded.

“I promise.”

 

The drive home was quiet but not awkward like car rides with him usually were. He had pulled up the car as closely to the front door as possible and Daniel had given her a warm and apologetic smile when Thomas had led her out to the car on her mummy feet. She would have liked to tell him that she didn’t blame him at all but there was no time and she doubted Thomas would have liked it.

He opened the door for her, which he did most of the time unless she was desperate to get out of the car, and then… swept her off her feet, which he most certainly didn’t usually do.

“What are you doing?!” she yelped in surprise, arms automatically clamping around his neck. “Thomas!”

He didn’t reply but carried her up to the front door. He had to set her down for a moment to open the door and made to pick her up again when he had but she went in ahead of him.

“Lucy,” he chastised her, frowning as she stood in front of him in the middle of their living room. “You’re supposed to be off your feet.”

She gave a snort. “So what, you’re going to carry me around everywhere? Gonna cook dinner too? Because I didn’t quite finish that.”

He looked conflicted but remained silent.

“Go and sit down, listen to the radio while I finish dinner,” she instructed him and went back into the kitchen.

How long had it been since she’d rushed out like a headless chicken? An hour, maybe. Somehow being in the house, with him just next door, felt very different now.

Dinner was just a simple affair of mashed potatoes, grilled green beans and sausages. The sausages were half cooked but would probably be alright reheating them. The green beans were salvageable but soggy now, she usually liked them quite firm. The potatoes weren’t fully cooked yet so she put them back on the stove as well, glad that she wouldn’t have to throw anything out.

The potatoes were nicely boiling and she had just put the pan with the sausages and green beans back on when the music in the living room shut off. She paused for a moment but thought nothing much of it – until Thomas appeared in the door and proceeded to take a seat at the table.

She turned to him with a confused look but he just sat there quietly. So she turned back to the stove and tried not to read too much into it, for now.

When she was mashing the potatoes, he got up again and delivered another surprise – he went to the cupboard and got out the dishes to set the table. She watched him for a few moments, utterly stumped once again, but went back to mashing when he glanced at her.

With the table already set she was quicker bringing dinner onto the table. He left the room for a few moments then, returning with the stool he liked to rest his feet on when listening to the radio. He gestured for her to sit down and situated the stool under the table so that she could rest her feet on it.

“Thank you,” she said quietly, completely taken by surprised – and also a good deal confused, by his care.

He just nodded at her and sat down himself. She said grace quickly and then reached for his plate to fix it for him.

“You first,” he declined quickly, holding a hand over his plate.

She blinked at him but then nodded slowly. “Thank you.”

He nodded again and fixed his own plate after she was done with hers.

There was nothing much said during dinner but she was very aware of his eyes on her often. Whenever she looked back at him, he’d become very interested in his plate but she caught him a few times through the curtain of her lashes.

He was behaving very oddly and it continued after dinner when he insisted he do the dishes and she sit down by the radio. He even got a little stubborn about it, a little pushy even, which she hadn’t ever seen him behave in such a way before. He all but ushered her into the living room into his arm chair, brought out the stool quickly and turned on the radio for her. Then she got to listen to him banging about in the kitchen over the radio that she hadn’t turned up quite as much as he usually did.

 

He came to sit with her when he was finished in the kitchen. There were a few splotches of water on his shirt, he had shed the waistcoat upon arrival home like he usually did. She was curious to see the state of her kitchen, and the dishes, but she had a feeling if she tried to get up again, he’d just tell her to sit down again. She also didn’t want him to feel like she was checking his work, lest that make him never do it again. Not that he had ever done it before. But somehow tonight was different, very different.

“We can listen to something else,” she offered when something came on that she knew he didn’t particularly enjoy.

He hesitated but she gave him a smile so he found something else. She gave him another smile when he sat back down, noticeably more pleased with the music now.

“Maybe you should see a doctor tomorrow,” he said then.

“Why?” Maybe he thought she was losing her mind… It almost felt like that some times.

“So your feet won’t get infected. They were quite dirty and I’m not entirely sure I got all of the glass out.”

“You basically bathed my feet in disinfectant, Thomas,” she pointed out.

He frowned slightly. “Still. I’ll see if I can drive you after I’ve interviewed the new suspect.”

Her instinct would have been to say that she could very well go to the doctor’s herself but that was the whole problem, wasn’t it? She would have to go , as in walk , on her feet. She could still feel several spots throbbing now but it was much better putting them up.

“Alright,” she agreed. “Thank you.”

He nodded awkwardly and then they were silent for a while again.

“It was nice of you to ask Sergeant Goodfellow to call that you’d be late,” she mentioned cautiously because that had been stuck in her mind ever since he had said it. That Daniel always called home to let Annie know he’d be late and that Thomas had followed suit.

Thomas made a face at that, probably because of what that call had turned into. “Maybe I should call myself next time.”

Lucy couldn’t help but smile at that which he regarded with a slight hint of wonder. “I’d like that,” she told him, feeling pleased at that prospect. If Thomas called himself, that would be nice. Really nice actually.

“I’ll remember it,” he promised and she smiled again.

 

Later they butted heads again, at the natural point of contention when it was time to go to bed. Thomas was still very keen to keep her off his feet and didn’t seem to care that that meant he would have to carry her up the stairs while Lucy found his fussing quite a bit silly and excessive. Alas, she acquiesced lest they get into a real argument about it. The evening had been much too nice to ruin it over something like that.

It was quite silly, as it so happened, their staircase was too narrow for him to walk up straight with the added width of her in his arms. He tried his best to keep her from bumping into things but it didn’t quite work so well. Luckily that amused rather than angered her so she was giggling at the silliness of it all when he tried to carefully set her down on her side of the bed but did drop her a bit. She giggled at that too, bouncing on the mattress a little.

“Here.” He grabbed her nightdress from the back of her chair and laid it onto the bed next to her. “Be right back.” He left the room and lo and behold returned balancing her hairbrush, toothbrush and toothbrush mug filled with a little water.

“Thomas…” She couldn’t help but shake her head at him but he just gave her a look so she took the items, and brushed her hair sitting on her bed, and brushed her teeth to the best of her ability sitting on her bed. He brought everything back into the bathroom and did his business there as well from the sounds of it which she quickly used to stand and change into her nightdress while he couldn’t come and chastise her for standing on her feet. She was already under the covers when he returned, sitting up against the headboard.

He arranged his clothes the way he always did and got under the covers as well, not lying down yet though. She swallowed against a quickly developing lump in her throat when he reached over to take her hand and held it gently in his.

Neither of them said anything for a while, they didn’t know what, but it was the most comfortable silence they had ever shared. Eventually he leaned over and gave her a kiss on the forehead, almost her temple, before he let go.

“Good night,” he said quietly.

“Good night,” she replied just as softly and then they laid down on their respective sides but somehow the space between their backs feeling smaller than before.

 

* * * * *

Chapter Text

* * * * *

 

Lucy?“

Out here!” she called back, turning in her chair to see Thomas coming through the open back door. Whatever she had been meaning to say next, like teasing him that she was sitting with her feet up just like he had told her in the morning, got stuck in her throat.

He came closer, his expression turning a bit sheepish, maybe even a little shy, and held out the flowers to her that he was carrying. It was just a small bunch, nothing that could be compared to the last flowers he had given her when she’d arrived in Kembleford, but they made the tears rise into her eyes as she took them. Because of the way he gave them to her, with a shy, hopeful look in his eyes, and the hint of a smile on his lips. Because he was giving them to her because he wanted to.

They’re beautiful,” she croaked, smelling them carefully.

I’ll put them in water,” he told her and took them back from her reluctant hands. “Where might I find a vase?”

His question almost made her chuckle but she did her best to suppress it. She could read on his face that she didn’t fully succeed though. “Top left cupboard.”

He nodded and went inside. She heard him take out the vase and fill it with water, leaning back in her seat. Maybe ruining her feet and a perfectly good pair of shoes did have its positives too.

I’ve got the car out front and I called ahead so they’ll see you when we get there,” he explained when he came back and she honestly felt like crying again because what? Not only was he taking time off work to drive her to the doctor’s surgery. No, he had also called ahead to make sure they would see her? Never mind that he had almost brought her breakfast to bed, as if she were severely ill and not just very silly.

Alright,” she said quietly and let him help her out front and into the car.

 

At the surgery Thomas did the same, supporting his wife as if her feet were gravely injured. Lucy let him, too amazed at how he was behaving to stand her ground that she could very well walk on her own.

Good morning, Mrs. Crawford,” he greeted the woman behind the desk politely. “Inspector Sullivan, I called ahead about my wife, Lucy.” He gestured to Lucy next to him.

Good morning, Inspector, you can go right ahead,” the woman told him, gesturing to a door and giving both of them a polite smile.

Thank you.” Thomas ushered her through and closed the door behind them as the doctor looked up from his desk. “Dr. Crawford, this is my wife that I was talking about earlier.”

Inspector Sullivan.” Dr. Crawford nodded at the man. “Mrs. Sullivan, hello. If you wouldn’t mind taking a seat and telling me what ails you.”

Lucy sat down, Thomas beside her, and hesitated because how did she explain this in a non-embarrassing way? What she didn’t expect was for her husband to speak up.

My wife ran across town yesterday because she thought there was an emergency and her shoes were not well suited for the feat,” he said calmly and Dr. Crawford just… took it as it was told to him. This man had probably seen different and worse things than a pair of sore feet.

He asked her to sit on the examination table and carefully removed the bandages Thomas had applied the evening before, then called in who turned out to be his wife, Oona, to bring him some warm water as the fabric was stuck to the wounds. Together they worked on removing the bandages as cautiously as possible and although Lucy didn’t look, she could read from Oona’s face that her feet were nasty.

Well, you sure got yourself a good bunch of blisters and sores there, Mrs. Sullivan,” Dr. Crawford commented, cleaning each wound on top of her feet with antiseptic before he looked under her soles.

There was a piece of glass in her right one near the heel, I’m not completely certain I got all of it out,” Thomas added in, watching on with a frown crinkling his eyebrows.

Dr. Crawford had a look and prodded around a little until he declared her foot glass-free. He put an ointment on those wounds as well and dressed them up again.

That all looks to be in order so far, now we just have to wait for it all to heal,” he told them when they were sitting in front of the desk again. “I’ll prescribe you this ointment, you should clean the wounds with warm water and apply it then redress them once a day. If any of them become red around the edges and more tender then see me again immediately as it might point to an infection.”

Lucy nodded dutifully and so did Thomas who also accepted the prescription

Thank you, Dr. Crawford, for seeing us so promptly,” he thanked the doctor as they shook hands.

We do what we can, Inspector. All the best to you and Mrs. Sullivan.”

Thomas drove them to the apothecary right away and went to get the prescription filled himself while Lucy waited in the car. She felt cautiously cheerful that Dr. Crawford had not mentioned anything about staying off her feet although she had a feeling that Thomas might have a different opinion on that.

It didn’t take long before he came back from the apothecary and brought her back home. He made sure to assist her inside and then made to hurry off again.

I’ll go back to the station now, I’ve got-” he said as he put on his hat and Lucy found herself thinking that she ought to get him a new hat that matched his suit. She had mentioned it very early in their marriage once but he hadn’t been very fond of the suggestion then. Maybe she’d just switch them and he wouldn’t notice, although that was probably impossible. Some things he noticed very much.

No, you’re going to sit down in the kitchen and I’m going to make you something quick for lunch since you’re already sacrificing your lunch break for me. I won’t let you run ’round on an empty stomach,” she stated very decidedly and for once he seemed to accept it, following her into the kitchen and taking off his had and jacket again.

Lunch was a very simple affair but still kind of nice, having him home for lunch for once. He spoke a tiny bit about his current case and she listened attentively. They were still looking for a suspect on the run, a young Chinese woman who had escaped some weeks prior, but he didn’t have much hope of finding her by now. Naturally the whole town had heard of the feigned attempt on the Father’s life and then the colonel’s nephew and adopted daughter running away together. This town sure saw a lot more drama than Lucy had expected when they had moved here.

I’ll call if I’m late for dinner,” he promised yet again when he was finished with lunch and stood up. “Stay seated,” he told her, gathering their plates to bring them to the sink. “Stay off your feet as much as you can,” he instructed one last time, coming around to… He kissed the same spot he had the night before, where forehead and temple met.

I’ll try,” she responded belatedly when he was already out the door, touching the spot feeling overwhelmed and amazed because… “Huh.”

 

* * * * *

 

Thomas took care of her feet very diligently, every evening after dinner – or whenever he made it home after calling ahead – he would have her sit down in his armchair, balance precariously on the stool and rub the ointment onto the spots then redress her feet carefully. Within a week, her feet were looking much better and she could see the satisfaction on his face every time when he de-mummified her feet to see the progress of healing.

He was checking on the spot where the glass had been embedded into her heel when she jerked her foot out of his grasp suddenly, making a small sound.

Does it hurt?” he asked immediately, reaching for her foot again but she pulled her knees to herself.

No, it doesn’t hurt,” she told him but still wouldn’t give back her feet for his inspection.

Then what is it?” he inquired to know, brows furrowing slightly.

Promise you won’t do it again if I tell you.”

Promise not to do what again?” He gave her a dubious look.

She pursed her lips for a moment but then answered: “Tickle me.”

He stared at her for another moment but then a glint formed in his eyes and she tried to make an escape out of the armchair, she really did, but his reflexes were much faster, or better honed, and so she found herself trapped in the chair with him getting hold of a foot eventually.

Thomas!” she squealed, trying to get free whilst he was running his fingers over the sole of her foot just so and she was madly giggling because of it. “Let me go! I’ll pee myself!”

Finally he let up, both of them out of breath and tousled.

We wouldn’t want that,” he laughed quietly, unhanding her. “Oi!” She had given him a soft kick against the shin. “I should arrest you!” he threatened but he was still laughing so there was no weight to his words. His blue eyes were shining and it made her heart soar.

What for?!” She scoffed at him, still breathing heavily.

Attacking a police inspector,” he stated and attempted a serious look but it was really not working.

Come here, you, I’ll kick your other shin too!” she huffed, swinging her foot at him again which was a mistake because he easily caught it and the whole thing started all over again.

He let up after a few moments though and suddenly both of them became quite aware just how close they had gotten. In order to trap her in the armchair he had used his entire body to keep her from wiggling free and aside from the forehead kisses, it was the most physical contact they had had in years. Their gazes met and for a moment it seemed like… She leaned forward, eyes flitting to his lips, breath becoming shallow-

But then he jerked back. Unmistakably he jerked away from her, even nearly losing his balance as he was doing it.

I’m not interested in you , his voice repeated in her head. I don’t want to touch you.

I’m sorry”, she mumbled and wormed her way around him somehow, fleeing through the kitchen into the backyard.

 

* * * * *

 

Thomas loved cars. She had found that out very quickly upon meeting him and it was so evident in his face as they walked around to have a look at the racing cars that she couldn’t help but smile herself. Having a race take place nearby had drawn a crowd of men that wore the same expression and women as well as children accompanying them.

He was hurrying over to see some of the cars start their rounds when they came across Lady Felicia who was hosting the event as well as Father Brown, Mrs. McCarthy and Sidney.

That would account for the champagne,” Mrs. McCarthy was just saying as they got within hearing distance, both Lucy and Thomas carrying a champagne glass as had been distributed among the spectators.

Well, as long as none of the drivers are partaking. I don’t want to make any arrests on my day off,” he commented, looking after a car that was driving off and raising his champagne glass meaningfully.

Inspector, you have my word,” Lady Felicia promised with a smile. “Lucy, how lovely to see you.”

And you, Lady Felicia,” Lucy replied with a smile, watching with everyone else as a blue car with the number 1 stopping just a few feet from them. A driver got out and with the removal of the helmet revealed herself to be a woman which instantly drew Sidney’s attention as he offered his hand to help her climb out of the racing car. Thomas, on the other hand, was still entirely focused appreciating the car, rather than the driver.

Lady Felicia greeted the woman, Audrey MacMurray, who owned not only a number of properties but also the racing track. She was introducing everyone else when a woman dressed entirely in black came up to Audrey MacMurray and- slapped her.

You killed my husband,” she accused her. “You’ll pay for it.” Audrey MacMurray was clutching her cheek as the woman walked away, eyed critically by everyone but especially Thomas. Before anyone had their wits together, she had already disappeared into the crowd.

Wait here,” Thomas told his wife and went to look for her but without success.

 

As the first driver prepared to go off for the hill climb race everyone was much amused by Lady Felicia’s announcements. Thomas and Sidney bickered about the car like they had before and Father Brown seemed just as enamored with the vehicle as well. It made Lucy happy to see them all in such good spirits and she was glad she had agreed to come out with her husband for the day.

The amusement quickly faded just after Audrey MacMurray had disappeared out of sight after the first few bends and first screeching tires could be heard and then there was a big explosion that had everyone screaming and ducking.

Of course Thomas was one of the first to rush there, together with Mr. MacMurray and the Father. Lucy quickly followed with Mrs. McCarthy and Lady Felicia only to arrive when Thomas had just determined that any help was unnecessary, Audrey MacMurray was dead.

Lucy turned away, squeezing her eyes shut, she had seen dead people during the war, nearly everyone had, but she had never seen a scene like this and never one of Thomas’ victims. Lady Felicia ushered her away to the starters’ office together with Mr. MacMurray for a cup of tea that was desperately needed.

The incident brought an abrupt end to what they had planned to be a nice day off at the racing track. Thomas was in full-on inspector mode and sent her home with barely a word so she left, Lady Felicia kind enough to drop her off.

 

The case seemed easily solved as Thomas told her later, they had tracked down the woman who had slapped Audrey MacMurray earlier and had found her with a pair of cable cutters. As the brake lines had been cut which had led to the car going off track and Audrey MacMurray breaking her neck, she was charged with the murder and that was that.

Only some days later, at the funeral, the mechanic made a confession, surprising everyone with that and the admission that he and the deceased had been lovers. Thomas only shook his head at the kerfuffle as he told her about it at dinner. A lot seemed to have happened that day because it was not the only major happening. He also told her about being called to Mr. MacMurray’s estate and arresting Father Brown for breach of the peace. Only to be called back to the estate some time later to arrest Mr. MacMurray and the secretary as they had orchestrated the murder after all.

As it turns out, Miss Stanwyck and Mr. MacMurray had been having an affair for quite a while and Miss Stanwyck was tired of having to work around Mrs. MacMurray. So they made a plot to kill her and make it look like an accident.”

Lucy sat with her mouth open and forgetting all about eating dinner as he told her the tale. For one because that really was quite something, but even more so because he was telling her so much about his recent case which he had never done before.

So neither the widow nor the mechanic were actually responsible for any of it?” It had been a huge surprise when the mechanic had confessed to cutting the brake lines but now it had been someone else entirely, again? She shook her head, trying to keep up.

Mr. Bakewell, the mechanic, has confessed to cutting the brake lines so he will likely be tried for making the attempt,” Thomas told her and she pressed her lips together to keep quiet. “You don’t agree,” he noted and she shook her head reluctantly.

When he cut the lines, was she already dead?”

Thomas’ eyebrows drew together slightly which was answer enough but he also gave a verbal one. “Likely, yes.”

Then he had no part in her death whatsoever.”

His actions still could have seriously injured or killed Miss Stanwyck as she posed as Mrs. MacMurray.”

That’s true,” she agreed quietly and said no more. She still thought it unfair to charge the mechanic with anything but it was true that cutting the brake lines could have seriously injured anyone else who drove the car. It wasn’t his fault that Miss Stanwyck and Mr. MacMurray had had another plot entirely.

He won’t hang for an attempt though,” Thomas pointed out, trying to… appease her? The entire conversation was so unexpected and unusual that Lucy really couldn’t tell what was going on at all.

She nodded slowly. “Whereas Miss Stanwyck and Mr. MacMurray will.”

I believe it’s quite likely Miss Stanwyck will hang, yes. Mr. MacMurray seemed to display genuine regret so he might get off lucky. Miss Stanwyck certainly had him under her thumb and was not above applying… any means at her disposal to seek her advantage even when she was caught out.” There was an odd expression that went over his face at that but Lucy couldn’t really place it.

And the Father and Mr. Carter?” she dared to ask.

They’ll likely get off with a slap on the wrist. Again,” Thomas grumbled. “Which should be much more agreeable to you.” He gave her a look at that.

I don’t agree that theft or fraud should not have consequences,” she replied very carefully. She knew that those things Sidney was unfortunately guilty of. “But I also think that both the law and life itself are not always fair.” She also found that Father Brown had been particularly helpful in most cases, according to what Annie had told her from what she had heard from Daniel, and that sometimes her husband was a bit hasty drawing his conclusions. But he was the inspector and she was just his wife, her opinion didn’t matter.

You’re right about that,” he agreed quietly, continuing to eat then, casting no more look at his very surprised wife until he was finished.

He had… agreed with her? That the law and life itself weren’t always fair? He thought she was right about something? That had never happened before, at least not this explicitly, at least not that she could remember as vividly.

 

I’ll have to wear another suit tomorrow,” he called out from the bathroom while he did his business there and she did hers in the bedroom.

Why? What’s wrong with it?” She frowned and stopped brushing her hair. The suit had come freshly laundered and pressed from the wardrobe just this morning and it hadn’t sounded like he had gotten dirty or very sweaty during the day.

I got a stain on it by the collar, don’t know how that happened,” he explained, coming back into the bedroom.

Let me see.” She walked up to him and-

It’s right there. I didn’t even notice it until I looked into the mirror just now, it’s even on the jacket,” he rambled on but it all went right over her head as she stared at the smudge on his shirt collar. It wasn’t dark or anything like that, in fact it was rather light colored. An orange-y and skin colored smudge.

Is it that bad? You’re not saying anything, do you think you can’t get it out?”

Her eyes went from the jacket he was all but thrusting into her hands up to his collar again. It was definitely a lipstick stain, not a color lipstick she owned she was sure, more of an apricot that she hadn’t worn since first trying lipstick and finding that such a color didn’t suit her, with a hint of makeup, lighter than the one she wore, if she wore any. And besides all of that, she had by far not been near enough her husband to get makeup on him. Never mind that she would carefully avoid staining his precious suit.

Lucy?”

I can get it out,” she answered quietly, holding is jacket to herself, feeling cold and sick to her stomach. “You don’t know how it got there?” How could he not know?! How could he not know how a lipstick and makeup stain had gotten on his collar?! His collar! By his neck, by his head! How could he not know, or remember, or think of, when a woman had been close enough to him to leave a lipstick stain on his collar and lapel?

No idea,” he said again and she swallowed thickly. “You really can get it out?” He handed her the shirt as well, the fact that he was standing in front of her in his vest and underpants (and socks) now bypassing her attention entirely.

She nodded mechanically, holding the shirt in her hands, the jacket tucked into her elbow, staring at them like she had never seen either item before.

Thank you.” He even gave her a smile of sorts.

She nodded again and took both items with her into the bathroom which was ridiculous because the laundry basket was in the bedroom but she just… She needed a moment to herself. A moment to have a closer look at the stains, without him around to watch her, to destroy even the last iota of doubt she had clung to for a few seconds. It was definitely lipstick and makeup. As she smelled the fabric, there was even a hint of a flowery perfume she noticed. Pressing the clothes to her chest she squeezed her eyes shut, trying to remember how to breathe.

I’m just not interested in you, he shouted in her head again.

I don’t want to touch you.

I am interested in women, he had also said. I’m just not interested in you.

 

* * * * *

 

Chapter Text

* * * * *

 

“You look terrible again, Lucy,” was the first thing Annie Goodfellow said when Lucy opened the door to her.

“Lucy!” Teddy cried happily, holding up his little arms until she scooped him up into hers. She pressed her face into his little shoulder for a moment too long, he squirmed until she let him down again.

Annie eyed the other woman worriedly and followed her into the kitchen where Lucy gave the little boy a biscuit and half a glass of milk that he happily devoured on what had become the children’s picnic blanket. It did keep him occupied and fairly quiet for a short while though which was the entire point.

“Tell me what you see.” Lucy retrieved the folded up shirt and jacket she had not yet washed because she couldn’t bring herself to. Then she had thought of Annie, had hoped that maybe a second opinion would help. However that help might look. At the very least Lucy wasn’t alone with it anymore, after a terrible night where she had silently wept with Thomas sleeping soundly just on the other side of the bed.

He may have noticed that something was different this morning as he went to leave. She had turned her head away when he’d made to kiss her forehead like he had been doing most of the time lately. He had looked at her questioningly but left without asking any questions.

“...Lucy…” Just the sound of Annie’s voice was enough to confirm it for Lucy who turned away, covering her face with her hands as she tried not to cry again.

“It’s lipstick and makeup,” she whispered brokenly. “You see it too.”

“It is,” Annie confirmed quietly. “Are you sur-”

“I do not own any apricot colored lipstick, you can go and check if you’d like,” Lucy cut her off gruffly, turning back to her friend. “And I didn’t wear any of either lipstick nor makeup yesterday. The suit was fresh yesterday morning, he even said so himself.”

“Did you ask him about it?” Annie asked cautiously.

“He brought the stains to my attention himself,” Lucy told her bitterly. “Said he didn’t know how they got there. Was more concerned with whether I could get them out than with the fact he was pushing it in my face that he-” She broke off, shaking her head.

Annie frowned at that. “He brought it to your attention himself? That’s… odd.”

“The entirety of him is odd!” Lucy huffed. Then she stopped pacing for a moment and Annie could see the exact moment that her friend crumbled. “And I thought we were doing better, Annie,” she whispered, her shoulders drooping and her body seeming smaller and frailer suddenly as she hugged herself around the middle. “He was so sweet with my feet, every day he’d wash and redress them so carefully. He even carried me around the first day! He brought me flowers because he wanted to bring me flowers.” Her voice became even smaller. “He’d even kiss my forehead hello and goodbye.” Oh, how much she had reveled in each and every kiss and touch.

“I’m so sorry, Lucy,” Annie said softly and Lucy nodded. “I do think it’s rather odd he’d point the stains out to you but they are another woman’s lipstick and makeup.”

“I could even smell her perfume yesterday…” Lucy looked out through the open backdoor, seeing Teddy rip out a few ‘weeds’ that were actually seedlings but that not registering to her at all.

“What are you going to do now? Are you going to ask him about it?”

Was she going to ask her husband about the lipstick and makeup stains on his suit? Was she brave enough to ask him head-on if he was cheating on her? Right now she didn’t even feel strong enough to face him when he came home in the evening.

Teddy was the saving grace then, in more ways than one. He came running into the kitchen with a handful of soil and weeds, beaming and vying for Lucy’s attention that she gladly gave. He forgave that she was distracted, chattering at her as he went through her flowerbeds. The carefully and lovingly nurtured plants and flowers in them were but an afterthought to her.

 

Annie couldn’t stay the whole day, of course, although Lucy got the impression that her friend would have gladly stayed until Thomas came home to confront him herself. But Charlotte and Grace were coming from school before then and Teddy needed his nap, and Lucy needed some time to think.

He came home almost on time that evening, seemed to be in a good mood while her world had just fallen apart. He told her about work again but she struggled to listen because a new thought had occurred to her just then.

How much of work, of being late to dinner, of his overtime, of his tricky cases, how much of that was the truth? And how much was a way to cover up his… Even as he told her about the day’s work now she couldn’t help but wonder if he had slipped out during lunch break for her as he had for his wife to take her to the doctor’s. Maybe this thinking ahead, maybe this caring, wasn’t so foreign to him at all, maybe it had just never been aimed at her.

She didn’t say anything during dinner and wouldn’t look at him either. He sat through the entire awkward affair until he said something about it.

“Are you alright?” he asked quietly as she stood up to clear the able.

She gave a shrug.

“...are you sad again?”

She swallowed thickly and then nodded slowly because it was true, wasn’t it? She was sad.

“We can sit by the radio and find something to listen to you like,” he suggested but she never gave a response to it as she started to fill the sink to do the dishes. “I’ll be in the living room,” he said before he left the room but still no reaction from her.

She couldn’t bear to be in the same room as him any longer so she went upstairs into the study, sitting in front of blank paper and twirling her pencil again. He listened to the radio for some time and then a while later he came up.

“I’m going to bed now,” he told her after knocking lightly and opening the door.

She nodded.

“Good night.” He came in and up to where she was sitting, bending down to give her his kiss and this time she couldn’t turn her head away without being too obvious. Without jerking away from him like he had from her, multiple times. The touch of his lips on her temple burned long after he had closed the door after himself again.

 

* * * * *

 

It took her a few days to make up her mind. They were quiet days where she barely said anything to anyone and he seemed to try to be nice in his own way but it just made her feel more hollow. He was late for dinner two times, calling ahead himself both times, but all she could see was him with a nameless, faceless woman who wore apricot lipstick and-

She had done everything in her might, more than she ever could have imagined to find herself willing to do for a husband, to be a good wife, to be his faithful servant, for better, for worse, to love and honor him. But she couldn’t… she would not be made a fool of like this. Her parents be damned, her reputation be damned, her non-existent prospects for the future be damned. She would not stay with a man who treated her like this and had a woman on the side. She had vowed to forsake all others, just like he had, so for all she was concerned their vows were null and void now.

“I’m going to London tomorrow,” she told him at the end of dinner when he was finished with his meatloaf. She had forced down a small portion that now felt like a brick in her stomach.

He gaped at her. “What?”

“I’m going to London tomorrow,” she repeated, emotionlessly, searching his face for any kind of reaction other than the surprise and shock as well as incomprehension that were the most obvious.

“… but why?” He sounded like he didn’t understand one bit. “I thought… I thought we were doing better. We were having dinner together and talking, and listening to the radio together, and you liked the flowers I brought you, and you were smiling at me again.” He looked absolutely lost and uncomprehending, giving her a prompting look to explain herself.

“You’re honestly asking me why?” she pushed out, standing. Her hands were clenched by her sides to resist the urge to throw her plate somewhere. It was like a dam was broken now, it all poured out of her. “Do you really think me that foolish, that stupid, that I wouldn’t notice? You’ve told and shown me time and time again that you aren’t interested in me, that you don’t care for me at all, that you’d rather hack off your arm than touch me or kiss me properly. But now I know why.” She glared at him and wanted to wipe the dumbfounded expression from his face.

“Care to enlighten me then?” he asked dryly, his expression changing from shock to irritation. It was an expression she was very familiar with.

“You even pushed me to see them, Thomas,” she snapped at him, wondering how he could be so cruel. It had been cruel to rub the evidence right under her nose like that and then pretend that nothing had happened. “You rubbed them right under my nose!”

“I rubbed what right under your nose?!” He stood too now, his irritation turning into anger. “I have no idea what you are talking about, Lucy!”

“The stains!”

“What stains?” He gave her a look like she had lost her mind. “There are no stains!” He looked down himself and around his vicinity. “What are you talking about?”

“I am talking about the lipstick and makeup on your suit last week,” she said with deadly calmness. He noticed too, his look immediately turned guarded.

“Lipstick and makeup on my suit?” he questioned slowly anyway. “When did I get lipstick and makeup on my suit?”

“You pointed them out to me yourself, Thomas,” she told him icily. “You brought me your jacket and your suit with lipstick and makeup on the collar and lapel, asking me if I could get them out like you hadn’t just rubbed it right under my nose that there is another woman.”

“What other woman? I don’t understand what you’re talking about. I know there was something on my suit, I remember asking you if you could get whatever it was out, I don’t remem-” He stopped abruptly and his face told her that he had finally caught on.

“Well, there you have it,” she scoffed, shaking her head. “Finally remember it yourself. I’ve done everything I could to be a good wife to you, I’ve put up with far more things than were decent but I will not accept this. I will not suffer in solitude and silence here while you go gallivanting off with someone else, I will not be made a fool of like this. I am going to London tomorrow and that is final.” She pried her wedding ring off her finger and put it onto the table before leaving the room and going up into the study again. Just one more night she had to put up with this then she was free.

 

Downstairs she could hear him talking loudly, probably complaining to himself about being found out while she sat upstairs staring out of the window into the quickly fading daylight. He hadn’t tried to argue her point, hadn’t even said a single word to dissuade her, to convince her that she had it wrong, that he wasn’t- She didn’t know if she would have believed him either way but for him to not even try…

“Lucy?” Suddenly he stood in the door, his expression awkward and almost grave. He stared at her for several moments. “I’ll get you some tissues.” He turned to leave and it was only just then that she became aware that her cheeks were wet.

“Don’t bother,” she said bitterly, wiping her cheeks with her hands. “What do you want?”

“Would you come downstairs for a moment?”

“I am not changing my mind,” she told him but stood up to follow him downstairs. She didn’t know why but she didn’t feel like arguing either.

Only downstairs she got a surprise, again, when the living room was not empty. Instantly feeling embarrassed she quickly wiped her face again, trying to make herself more presentable as they were having an unexpected guest.

“Sergeant Goodfellow,” she said weakly, trying for any kind of a friendly, or at least polite, smile but failing from the look on the sergeant’s face. “I didn’t know you were coming, Thomas didn’t- Can I get you anything? I-”

“Tell her,” Thomas instructed his sergeant, standing where he could look at both of them. “Tell her what happened when we got to the MacMurray estate the second time.”

Sergeant Goodfellow swallowed visibly, wringing his hands, but nodded.

“What does the MacMurray estate have to do with anything?” Lucy asked flatly. She had no idea why her husband had dragged over his sergeant so late but it was beyond what could be called decent. She would surely give him a piece of her mind when Sergeant Goodfellow had gone home. “I don’t-”

Thomas’ very sharp and very dark look shut her right up. Now she swallowed thickly as well.

“Well, we were called by Mr. Carter that there had been an incident at the MacMurray estate and that he and the Father had found out who had really killed Mrs. MacMurray.”

“Go on,” Thomas urged him.

“When we got there…” The sergeant looked a little uncomfortable, giving Lucy an apologetic look.

“What happened when we got there, Sergeant Goodfellow?” Thomas ground out.

“Miss Stanwyck, well, I’m sorry Mrs. Sullivan but she threw herself at the inspector,” Sergeant Goodfellow explained awkwardly. “Something about Mr. MacMurray going to kill her.”

At first Lucy hadn’t wanted to look at either man but as the sergeant went on, she had found herself staring at him as he spoke. She could feel her husband’s gaze bore into the side of her face as feelings she couldn’t put into words passed through her.

“Sergeant, would you please direct a demonstration if my wife would consent to assisting?” Thomas’ voice was sharp and precise, it was his inspector voice that she had only rarely gotten to hear.

“Uhm…” Sergeant Goodfellow looked even more uncomfortable.

“Mrs. Sullivan, if you would,” Thomas addressed her very coolly and she gave a small nod. Without the sergeant having to instruct her, she went to her husband’s side, so closely she could feel his body heat. Throwing herself at him required even more closeness though. She looked to the sergeant for a cue.

“Uhm, kind of with her arm around his shoulder and the other at the, at the lapel, I would say,” he instructed her hesitantly so she slung her left arm around her husband’s shoulder and neck and put the other on his lapel and- She stared at the spot, the same spot she had stared at days before, it was right on front of her, if she pressed herself closer she would- She gave the smallest nod.

“That will be all, sergeant, thank you,” Thomas dismissed the sergeant.

“Glad I could help clear this up,” Sergeant Goodfellow said quietly. “Inspector. Mrs. Sullivan.” He nodded at both of them and left.

 

As soon as the door had closed behind the sergeant, Thomas softly disentangled his wife from himself. Her eyes were downcast and there was nothing left of the fight that had made her glare at him and raise her chin defiantly earlier.

“You see, there is no other woman,” he told her quietly. “At least none that I want to throw herself at me.”

Lucy let out a small snort at that. “You don’t even want me to throw myself at you,” she pointed out truthfully.

He didn’t know what to say to that. “I didn’t realize what you might think when you saw the stains, otherwise I would have explained.” It was as much of an apology as she was going to get, she knew that. “Don’t go to London. Please.”

She sucked in a sharp breath and then she just couldn’t anymore. A moment later she found herself wrapped in her husband’s arms, crying into his shoulder, probably leaving stains of another kind.

“I know it’s not easy and that you’re not happy. I shouldn’t have said those things to you, they’re awful. Please don’t go,” he pleaded with her, tucking her under his chin and holding her so tightly it felt like he feared she may go the very next second. “I want you here.”

 

 

* * * * *