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the last true mouthpiece

Chapter Text

“The M25 London Orbital, everybody,” Jack sighed in frustration, knowing that they would be sat on the road for at least a few hours. Whoever had had the idea for this particular road, he decided, was an absolute idiot.

He stared aggressively out of the passenger window at the Gridlock surrounding their tiny car, and glared at it as though he could move it by sheer force of will. “We so should have taken the train, Elsie,” he complained as he threw his cigarette butt out of the open window, eliciting a glare from the woman in the car next to theirs. He made a rude gesture at her, and then turned to Elsie.

“What would we have done with all of your crap if we’d taken the train, then?” Elsie asked, inching the car forwards microscopically. “Besides, trains and stations are all no-smoking. From Scotland to here? I don’t think either of us could make it that far without going absolutely spare,” she added with a laugh. Jack nodded and lit up another cigarette, as though to prove her point.

“All of my ‘crap’, Elsie, is paying our bills,” Jack pointed out, exhaling smoke out of the window and getting glared at by the woman next to him again. “We only have a car and the money to buy cigarettes because of my musical stuff, kiddo,” he said.

“If you insist, Pointy,” Elsie joked, lighting up a cigarette for herself, and staring out of the windshield with an expression of frustration. She was bored stiff as well, even though she was the one driving (and therefore with slightly more to do). However, in “England’s biggest free car park”, as the two of them had discovered, there was rarely much for anybody to do, short of being bored.

They continued on in silence, only the hum of the cars keeping them company, for about fifteen minutes. Jack was scribbling aggressively in his notebook as he tried to write out lyrics, periodically crossing out and moving phrases.

After a while, he looked up at Elsie, cigarette hanging lazily out of his mouth. “Does ‘peacock popinjay’ work as a phrase for you?” he asked.

Elsie nodded. “Sounds good to me, yeah,” she said. “So, is this that Merryman and his Maid one you’ve had in your head since we were kids, or is it something else?” she asked. That particular song had been a pet project of Jack’s since he was about eleven, and had been what had got her on board.

“That’s the chap, yeah,” Jack said fondly, smiling. “I’m nearly done. I just need to figure out a couple of lines in the chorus and then actually write out the chords properly in a pitch we can both manage.” He grinned.

“And it’s only taken you… what, nearly eight years?” Elsie laughed.

Jack was miles away now, though, his head resting against the side of the car as they drove, seeming to have given up both on song-writing and smoking. If she hadn’t known he was thinking about lunch, what with the time, Elsie would probably have thought he looked pensive.

“So, do you want to stop at Burger King or something when we actually get moving?” she suggested with a smile. “Or we could go and find a Drive-Through, if that works better for you.”

“Yeah, sure,” Jack said him agreement. Bored, he pulled his lighter out of his pocket, and began flicking it distractedly on and off. He carried on with this for a couple of minutes, until Elsie sighed and snatched it from him.

“If you want to do something, you could at least tell me if there’s any news,” she suggested, clearly utterly frustrated with him. “You’re gonna burn yourself if you carry on with that shit, besides it being annoying,” she sighed.

“Alright, Princess,” Jack grumbled, pulling his phone out of his pocket. “Ah, 4G Internet. The saviour of shitty long-distance car journeys with the most boring girlfriend known to man,” he chuckled. Elsie stuck her tongue out at him as he pulled up a news site.

He scrolled for a moment, rolling his eyes at the more stupid news stories, before something caught his eye. “Well, that’s fucking weird,” he muttered, staring as though in disbelief.

“Are you going to share this, or is it strictly between you and the BBC?” Elsie asked, smirking at him.

“‘British Colonel Imprisoned in Tower of London on Charges of Raising the Dead’,” he quoted, his expression half-way between amusement and disbelief. Elsie stared at him, clearly not quite believing what he was saying. “Great to know it’s still the Middle Ages, isn’t it?” he chuckled, although his eyebrows were severely raised in obvious disapproval. “The law is the true embodiment of everything that’s utterly fucked up,” he said.

“How did they even manage to justify that?” Elsie asked, clearly in complete disbelief.

“Says here he dabbles in witchcraft-y stuff, as well as, you know, being a Colonel. The article isn’t exactly clear on all of the details.”

“Incredible,” Elsie said. “So, what are they going to do with the poor guy?” she asked.

“Wow. ‘Colonel James Fairfax is due to be put to death by firing squad on the 19th of December, on the orders of the Tower’s newly-appointed Jailer Wilfred Shadbolt’,” Jack quoted.

Elsie looked over, to see if Jack was winding her up. When she saw that he wasn’t, she sighed wistfully, and more than a little angrily. “Wow. It’s fucking sick, this shit.” She glared at the ‘phone, and scrolled up to a photograph of him, presumably when he first enlisted in the army, side-by-side with a more recent image. “Wow. He isn’t exactly bad looking, either, is he?” she commented, wistfully stroking the picture of the Colonel. “He’s so young, poor thing. He must be so scared, locked up in there. They couldn’t even find a real prison.”

She wasn’t wrong about him being attractive, though. While being imprisoned had certainly had a detrimental effect upon his appearance, causing his hair to grey prematurely, only at the age of twenty-four. His temples, in the more recent picture, at least, were greyish white, and he was skinnier than he appeared to have been in the past, but he was still undeniably handsome, and even Jack had to admit that. Still, he was hardly best pleased with his fiancée, and gave her a severe look over his phone.

“Well, I’m just saying,” Elsie pointed out. “He isn’t exactly ugly, is he?”

“He’s twenty-four, Elsie!” Jack said, looking half-way between disgusted and shocked.

“A girl can dream,” she said. “Besides. You have a crush on Joanna Lumley.”

“She is a powerful woman,” Jack laughed, back to his usual self.

“So… celebrity ‘if-I-could’, if he even counts as a celebrity?” Elsie asked.

“Okay,” Jack conceded. “I get Joanna Lumley and you get Colonel Jimmy Witchcraft. Deal.” He was grinning at her now, as she lurched the car aggressively forwards. “Hey, there’s our exit!” He pointed ahead at the next slip road, which Elsie dutifully pointed the car in the general direction of. “Anyway: how does breakfast at McDonald’s sound? I’m paying,” he offered. “Plus, my legs hurt. I can’t cope with being cooped up in this shitty little car for much longer.”

“Ever the romantic fiancé,” Elsie chuckled, as they finally got onto the slip road. Still, she could see a McDonald’s in the distance, and nothing seemed more inviting at the moment than Hash Browns.

Chapter Text

“Leonard, Phoebe. I’m glad you’re both up – we need to have a talk.”

Leonard mentally began to scan everything he had said in the past two weeks that might have angered his father. This, unfortunately, ended up turning a blank. He had been doing everything asked of him, surely, and he had kept out of trouble’s way. There was that conversation he had had with the prisoner in the Tower, but nobody was perfect.

“I suppose you’re both aware of Colonel James Fairfax’s situation, correct?” their father said. Phoebe and Leonard exchanged a look. “Specifically, how he is due for execution today.”

“I don’t like where you’re going with this,” Leonard said.

“No, I don’t imagine you do,” Sergeant Meryll commented. “However, the fact that I’m alive and you two aren’t living in a Home is thanks to him, as I’ve told you before. Many times,” he commented, and not without truth. The man’s life had been saved by the Colonel, and Meryll considered himself indebted to him for this, something he had told his son and daughter when Fairfax had first been incarcerated.

“So… what do you want us to do?” Phoebe asked. “I know Leonard is suspicious of him – but I like him. He seems trustworthy.”

“We need to go over to where he’s being held now. With any luck, we’ll catch him before they move him.” He paused. “Leonard, bring a change of clothes. Preferably something with a hood.”

“Wait, why should I…?” Leonard paused. “Wait. No. No, no, no, no, no. I know what you’re playing. I will not.” He stared in disbelief. “Swap me with him?”

“No, not swap. Have him borrow your identity for a while,” the Sergeant stated. “I know it’s illegal, Leonard – but I can’t allow this man to die. He saved my life, and I owe the same to him.”

Leonard didn’t look convinced, but he nodded. “Phoebe, take everything out of my laptop bag,” he said. “I’ll go and get some clothes. I shouldn’t be more than a couple of minutes.” He paused. “Dad, do we still have my old glasses? Because if we do, I could pop the lenses out,” he said.

“On your bedside table, Leonard,” Phoebe said. “Next to that squirrel thing,” she said.

Leonard hot-footed up the stairs, first collecting his old glasses – he could take out the frames while he was packing the spare clothes – and then getting a shirt, a hoodie and a pair of jeans for the Colonel. He ran back down the stairs, and quickly folded the clothes and put them in his laptop bag, before popping the lenses out of his glasses. “Right. We should go now,” he said.

Phoebe hung back with Leonard, seeing that he was afraid for his own safety, and not just because he was going to swap places temporarily with a criminal. They had never been close siblings as children, and that hadn’t exactly improved that much, now that they were sixteen and twenty-one, but this sounded like it was as good a time as any to start being close.

“I’m not sure about this, Phoebe,” Leonard said, as they walked together. “I know it sounds vapid but I do want my good service medal. And, you know. Not to be put in prison,” he sighed. “I don’t even know Fairfax.”

“Well, think of it this way,” Phoebe said. “At least you aren’t having to romance Shadbolt.”

“Somehow, I don’t think I’m his type,” Leonard chuckled in response. “But, remember what I told you? If he corners you, go straight for the solar plexus,” he said, more seriously. “Just stay safe. If doing this could possibly hurt you, punch and run in the other direction.” He hugged her, before sneaking off to the area of the tower where the imprisoned man was being held. It was imposing, fittingly of a place where a man who was going to die was living out the rest of his life. When he looked over at the building where Fairfax was to be shot, his stomach churned.

He stayed away from where Phoebe, his father and Shadbolt were talking. Phoebe was playing the part of a lover, cozying up to Shadbolt and saying something that appeared to have him astounded, and Leonard supposed that, had he not have known how repulsive Phoebe found Shadbolt, he would really have believed that she liked him. However, he knew what she was playing, especially as he saw her pass something quickly to their father, who hurriedly ran over to Leonard.

“He isn’t dangerous,” the Sergeant informed him. “Especially not now. He hasn’t been able to stop shaking since he came here.”

Leonard nodded, and suddenly felt that he wanted to hug the man. From what he’d heard, he wasn’t as threatening as he had been made out to be: in fact, from what Phoebe had told him once, he was extremely sweet – not to mention attractive.

Speaking of Phoebe, she was running up the hill towards them, laughing. She barrelled into Leonard and the two of them spun around. “So… I might be a little bit engaged now,” she reported, and then collapsed into laughter, resting her head on her brother’s shoulder. “Separate rooms for the honeymoon, of course.”

“Gold-digger,” Leonard chuckled.

“Oh, you’re such a lovely brother, aren’t you?” Phoebe laughed. “Well. He is rich.” She was still laughing, her arm around her brother’s waist. “He’s so disgusting,” she growled. “I mean, I hardly want to marry a forty-year-old. Even twenty-four is almost too much of a stretch.”

“Oh, I think I know who you’re talking about,” Leonard chuckled, although he couldn’t argue, from what little he’d seen of Fairfax. “Anyway. I suppose… I suppose I should go and lend this prisoner my identity.”

The atmosphere in the building where Fairfax was being held was much more subdued than outside on the hillock. Leonard felt awful for having been laughing while a man had been in here. The only time he’d even encountered Fairfax was when he and Phoebe had been walking and he had suddenly come over very protective when he’d realised who Fairfax was, and he felt bad for that now.

Obviously, this was pretty good retribution.

Leonard could easily have missed Fairfax entirely in his cell if he hadn’t been looking: the only light was from a mall barred window, and the man himself wasn’t exactly tall (as with most people, being six foot three, Leonard had a fair amount of height on him), not to mention the fact that he was sat, hunched over, on the floor of the cell. Leonard didn’t want to talk, almost, despite the cloying atmosphere.

“Hi…?” Leonard attempted lamely, unsure of whether the man would even want to talk at the present moment.

“A bit early for this, isn’t it?” Fairfax asked. He looked over towards the shadow cast by the bars on the floor of his cell. “By my watch, I’ve got an hour.” He chuckled humourlessly, and Leonard realised that he meant the shadows on the floor, rather than an actual watch. He laughed softly as well, albeit in a rather confused way.

“I’m not here for that,” Leonard said, his voice low. He set about unlocking the door, and Fairfax shied away faster than Leonard had realised it was possible for a man to move. “Sorry,” he said softly, stopping making noise for a moment for Fairfax to settle down. Once he was sure that the older man was alright, he slipped into the cell, and passed the laptop bag to him. “There are clothes in there. Change into them.”

Fairfax frowned up at him. Leonard hadn’t realised quite how bright blue his eyes were.

“Trust me,” he said, slightly less business-like. He turned his back to give Fairfax some privacy.

“So… what’s this all in aid of?” Fairfax asked. His right wrist was shackled, on a long chain, Leonard noticed. “Also, any chance you can get this off me?” he asked.

Leonard nodded, and unlocked the shackle. He was concerned to notice that his wrist was rubbed completely raw, bleeding and blistered. “We’re lending you my identity,” he explained. “I’m Leonard Meryll, by the way. That might be useful information.”

“If I’m going to borrow your identity, yes,” he chuckled breathily. “Are you related to Sergeant Meryll, at all?” Fairfax asked.

“He’s my father.”

“You look like him,” Fairfax said. He seemed to be looking right through Leonard. “Sorry. I’m James, by the way.” He nodded at him. “We… should probably get going. It would look suspicious if there were two of me. Or you.”

“It would, yes.” Leonard pulled the spare glasses out of his pocket. “They haven’t got lenses in them,” he explained. “Put them on. I can’t wear contacts so it’ll probably make you look a little more realistic,” he said. Fairfax nodded, and put them on.

The two of them managed to sneak out un-noticed to where Phoebe and the Sergeant were, and in the sun, Leonard realised that his father had been right: he was shaking. Just a slight tremor in his right hand and shoulders.

Phoebe was out there to meet the two of them. She instantly threw her arms around Leonard’s neck, looking relieved. “I was worried. You were a while.”

“I’m slow,” Fairfax explained, smirking the slightest bit. He had a very charming smile, Leonard noticed, but he quickly pushed that thought away, putting his arm around Phoebe. “I… don’t think I caught your name,” Fairfax added.

“Phoebe,” she said, smiling. “I’m Leonard’s sister. And your borrowed sister, I suppose.”

Fairfax nodded, as the Sergeant arrived. “James,” the old man said, smiling in welcome. “You look tired. Why don’t we head back home?” he said. Fairfax looked relieved, and leaned into the old man’s shoulder as the two of them left.

“Poor thing,” Phoebe murmured, as soon as they were out of the Colonel’s earshot. “I didn’t… I didn’t realise he was that skinny.”

“You wouldn’t eat that much, if you were going to be shot.”

“I just want to give him a hug. He was shaking so much…” she sighed, leaning against Leonard, who shushed her gently, his arms around her protectively.

“Why don’t we go to town for a bit?” Leonard suggested. “I imagine dad will want to talk to Fairfax, and I don’t think Fairfax was that happy to be surrounded by people,” he said. “Plus, I guess we can talk about this engagement of yours,” he added, sounding a little unconvinced. He was not at all fond of Shadbolt, and the jailer becoming his brother-in-law didn’t please him.

“Okay,” Phoebe said, sounding unwilling. She leaned into his shoulder and sighed. “So, where do you want to go?” she asked. “I’ll pay.”

“You’re lovely,” Leonard chuckled, hugging her. “Starbucks or Costa both sound good. I really want coffee,” he suggested.

Chapter Text

Even for him, Fairfax was quiet by the time he and Sergeant Meryll got back to the modest house where the older officer lived. Even though Fairfax was of a higher rank than the Sergeant, the older man had taken him under his wing as a mentor of sorts, and apparently that hadn’t ended now, as Fairfax was curled up on Sergeant Meryll’s sofa under a blanket with a cup of tea, wearing Meryll’s son’s spare clothes.

He had been shaking violently since he got back, and an encounter with Shadbolt had done nothing to help his anxieties. He had never been a nervous man before. In fact, he had always been the one running off recklessly to do stupid things in service. Now, though, he felt utterly pathetic.

The children, if Fairfax could even call a sixteen-year-old and a twenty-one-year-old that, had decided to go out to get food and drinks, and to leave Fairfax and Sergeant Meryll alone to catch up somewhat. Now that Fairfax was here, though, he couldn’t bring himself to talk. He just needed to rest for a while, until he felt a little better.

“How long should Leonard and Phoebe be?” he asked, after a couple of minutes of silence.

“They shouldn’t be too long. I suppose they just wanted to talk about what happened with Phoebe and Shadbolt,” Sergeant Meryll explained.

“Shadbolt?” Fairfax looked intensely concerned. “What’s happened? What’s he done?” he asked.

“He’s going to marry Phoebe.”

Fairfax looked disgusted. “But… she hates him, doesn’t she?” he asked. “She hates him, Leonard hates him, I’m not sure about you but I don’t image you’re exactly his biggest fan.”

“I’m not. He’s a good jailer and probably a good man, but I really don’t like him,” the Sergeant said, frowning as he looked over at Fairfax, who sighed. “Well, I can’t control her. She’s sixteen now, and she’s allowed to.”

“But… Wilfred?” Fairfax said nothing more, both because he had no need to say anything else and because the door had opened, to reveal Lieutenant Richard Cholmondley, who looked more irritated than Fairfax had ever seen him.

“I have turned to alcohol,” Cholmondley declared, somewhat melodramatically, as he walked into Sergeant Meryll’s house. Fairfax, still lying on the sofa and disguised as Leonard, froze, but Cholmondley nodded at him. “Evening, Leonard.”

“Evening.”

“What’s happened?” Sergeant Meryll asked, sensing that something was very much amiss. Usually, the Lieutenant was nothing if not calm – him being in a flap tended to herald nothing but the worst.

“Fairfax has disappeared,” he announced.

Fairfax and the Sergeant exchanged a look, but the Sergeant quickly managed to snap himself out of it. “Say no more,” he said, getting to his feet and going into the kitchen. He returned a couple of minutes later with three bottles of beer.

“You are a lovely man,” Cholmondley said. The Sergeant chuckled softly of Cholmondley started to drink his beer, making eye contact with Fairfax for a moment. The two men had something of an affinity, with Fairfax and Cholmondley having been very close friends since Fairfax was around sixteen. In fact, Fairfax had lived with him for a while. “I’m sorry I seem to be making such a fuss, Leonard. It’s all rather concerning,” Cholmondley said, drinking again.

Fairfax did the same. “No, no. I understand,” the younger man said. He couldn’t stand how the issue was affecting Cholmondley, but he knew it would have to stand.

“It’s all a little troubling because… well, between you and us there’s a young lady currently in my flat in rather a state,” Cholmondley explained, drinking some more of his beer. “To avoid Clarence Polthwistle from inheriting Fairfax’s inheritance, we married him off to her around half an hour before he was due to be executed,” he explained.

Sergeant Meryll gave Fairfax a look that screamed “we need to talk”.

“Obviously, since he is now unaccounted for, rather than deceased, the girl is in something of a flap. She was engaged beforehand, and she’s only seventeen years old.” Cholmondley frowned, and drained the last dregs of his beer, glaring at the bottle as though personally offended by it. “I’m putting her up in my flat for the time being, but she and her fiancé will probably be staying in a hotel – at my expense, to boot – once things are… settled,” Cholmondley explained.

He looked up at the clock, his expression one of overwhelming frustration. “On that subject – I ought to make my merry way back to my flat,” he said, getting up. “Leonard – is there any chance you could co-ordinate some people into helping me look for him?” Cholmondley asked.

“Of course,” Fairfax said, nodding, as Cholmondley got up and went to the door. “And Alexander – I think I’ll have to cancel tonight, and everything this week, I’m afraid. I’d rather not, but… needs must,” he chuckled.

As soon as Cholmondley was out of the door, Sergeant Meryll looked at Fairfax with a look of pure confusion. “Okay, you’re going to have to explain.”

“You know the situation with Clarence,” Fairfax muttered, not making eye contact. “If I had been executed and I was unmarried, my inheritance would have gone to him and my aunt, and I had no desire for that,” Fairfax explained. “It was that or Clarence, and I’d rather it go to her.” Fairfax was laughing, albeit weakly. “I didn’t even see her face,” he muttered. “Richard thought it was for the best, and it probably was.”

As they talked, the door opened again, and Phoebe and Leonard came in. Leonard looked the picture of rage, and Phoebe was in tears, her arms around herself. Fairfax frowned. “Dad, am I controlling?” Leonard demanded.

Sergeant Meryll squinted. “No...” the Sergeant said, slightly concerned. “I hope you aren’t fighting with your sister,” he added, squinting as Leonard took his coat off and threw it over the back of the sofa.

“No! No, I’m not,” Leonard said, his tone slightly more reasonable as he passed Phoebe a packet of tissues. Fairfax moved up on the sofa, and Leonard sat down, Phoebe curling up next to him. “We ran into Wilfred,” he said, sneering. “He shouldn’t be allowed within 50 metres of Phoebe!” he snapped.

“Rather than shouting at me, Leonard, why don’t you explain what happened.”

“Right. Sorry,” Leonard said, taking a moment to collect himself. “I made it clear that I don’t think he should be near Phoebe, after she tried to make it clear that she wants nothing to do with him. And according to him, I’m controlling.”

“I can’t blame you for not liking him,” Fairfax said. Leonard nodded, much more reasonable now, although his shoulders were very tense. “Also – if he isn’t listening to Phoebe when she’s telling him to fuck off, you probably ought to stick up for her.”

“It’s not like he’ll listen to me,” Phoebe sniffed, wiping her eyes on her arm. Leonard passed the box of tissues over to her.

“He’s a piece of shit,” Fairfax chuckled, and Phoebe laughed, her voice and eyes watery. “You deserve a tonne better, honestly.”

Chapter Text

Fairfax wasn’t entirely sure of just how he’d managed to get himself and Leonard back home from the White Tower without getting his nose or some other body part broken, but he had somehow managed to do it. He had left Leonard on the living room sofa, trembling with rage and pale despite his dark skin, to calm down again, after Leonard had spent about five minutes angrily yelling just about every swear word he could think of at him.

Fairfax himself was in the kitchen, making tea, when Phoebe hopped in through one of the bay windows, without bothering to properly open the windows.

“Hi.” Fairfax supposed that he probably looked just as shaken up as he felt – but he was also fairly confident that Phoebe wasn’t going to say anything, having the decency not to bring it up. “Your brother’s kinda…” He made a face, unsure of how to explain Leonard breaking Jack Point’s nose and knocking out two of the man’s teeth, before shoving him up against the wall.

“Should I talk to him?” Phoebe asked.

“Your call,” Fairfax said, shrugging. “I think Point hit a raw nerve, though,” he pointed out.

Even though the two of them were keeping their voices low enough that they assumed that they wouldn’t be heard, it appeared that Leonard was listening, judging from the yell of, “Both of you, go fuck yourselves!” from the living room.

“I think I’ll pass,” Phoebe said, sighing. “Anyway,” she said. “I’m gonna head back out. Where’s dad?”

“The Sergeant? I think he’s dealing with Point,” Fairfax explained.

“Dealing with- what did you do?!” Phoebe went to see what was wrong, Fairfax following him.

Leonard was still pale – but he at least seemed to be a little calmer. He was still shaking a little, but he seemed to have calmed down at least a little bit. Fairfax sat down beside him, leaving a little space between the two of the, so that Leonard could move away if he wanted to.

“Leo? What’s wrong?” Phoebe asked. She sat down on the arm of the sofa, reaching over for her brother’s hand.

“Just… it’s been a shit day,” Leonard muttered. He seemed to have had all of the fight he had had earlier knocked out of him. Fairfax could see that something was wrong – and he had a considerable idea of what it was that was wrong.

“You… you have PTSD as well, right…?” he asked softly. Fairfax knew that he had to tread carefully – but he still suspected very strongly that his inkling was right.

“What does that have to do with anything?” Leonard muttered, somewhat angrily, his expression suspicious.

“Okay. If you don’t mind me asking, what was it that set you off?” he asked softly, resting a hand on Leonard’s arm. He could feel the younger man trembling.

Leonard glared off angrily into space for a few seconds, before replying. “The fucking… PoW jokes,” he growled.

Fairfax could tell the reason from Phoebe’s shocked, disgusted expression. “What a prick,” she said softly, sliding down off the arm of the sofa and wrapping her arms tightly around Leonard. He froze for a moment, but hugged her back.

“I don’t fucking… I don’t understand…” Leonard said into her shoulder. Fairfax’s stomach fell when he realised that Leonard was crying. “Fuck it,” the younger man growled, unwrapping his arms from around Phoebe. “I’m going to bed.”

“I’ve never seen him like that before,” Phoebe whispered, once she was confident that Leonard was out of earshot. “Not… not the angry part, he’s usually pretty pissed off, really.” She sighed. “Just… he never lets anybody see him die. Even after Mum and Sophie died…”

“He doesn’t want anybody to see him upset, I guess.”

“Well, it can’t be easy on him,” Phoebe said, sitting down next to him. “He’s from Turkmenistan, and whenever he tells people that, he gets shit for it because it ends with –istan, and that’s obviously awful,” she said, with obvious irony. “He’s also a gay Catholic. Altogether, he can’t be having a good time.”

“I bet.”

“I just… doesn’t Jack have any decency?”

“He was in deep shit with Lieutenant Cholmondeley when he got there,” Fairfax muttered.

“Good.”

“Yeah.” Fairfax smiled. “Sergeant Meryll was dealing with the missing teeth and broken nose when the Lieutenant turned up, and I think if Leonard hadn’t been the one doing the punching, then Lieutenant Cholmondeley would have been the one doing the punching.”

“Yeah. Cholmondeley’s an amazing man, but you shouldn’t get on the wrong side of his temper.” Phoebe smiled. “He’s been keeping Wilfred away from me,” she explained, smiling.

“Has he tried anything more on you, or did Leonard scare him off?” Fairfax asked. “If he does do anything, though, you should go straight to Lieutenant Cholmondeley. He’ll be able to do something.”

Phoebe smiled. “No, you’re alright,” she said. “You are so much like Leonard, you know?” she admitted. “I don’t just mean the appearance – you know, apart from the eyes. You’re both just so… bull-headed. Unyielding,” she explained. “I only noticed when you were trying to get Leonard to talk a minute ago. He’s more rash than you, bless him, but you’re just… so similar.”

Fairfax smiled. “I was going to say you weren’t making sense, but now that I think about it, I can actually see it,” he admitted.

“Anyway – what were you two even doing in the White Tower?” Phoebe asked. “I can’t imagine there’s actually much to do when it’s closed.”

Fairfax blushed slightly, looking down at his hands. “It’s a long story,” he explained. “I’ll protect your innocence and spare you the details but let’s just say that I know from experience that he’s definitely not straight.”

“Oh.” Phoebe giggled. “But… the White Tower? Really? Isn’t it cold? And, you know, full of ghosts and creepy statues?” she asked.

“Yes to all,” Fairfax explained. “It’s freezing in there, and I’m convinced there are ghosts, and even if there aren’t, those fucking... horse things are just creepy,” Fairfax said, blushing a little.

“Honestly, though – I haven’t seen you kiss before, let alone anything else,” Phoebe laughed.

“We hadn’t until today, actually. He kinda grabbed me and pushed me against the wall.”

Phoebe studied him for a moment, before saying, “Sorry, but I really don’t understand where Jack Point comes into all of this. Like… how did you find him?”

“We found him on the way back down,” Fairfax explained. “He started on some stupid comedy routine – I wasn’t really listening until Leonard punched him, and then I had to pull Leonard off of him and hide him in a turret when Cholmondeley arrived.”

“Wow.” Phoebe looked at him again. “You really don’t look strong enough to do that, no offence.”

“There’s a weak spot on the back of his neck. He froze when I grabbed him and I could pull him off like that.”

“Yikes.”

“Yeah. I basically had to resort to a Vulcan Death Grip,” Fairfax said. “Jeez. When you put it like that it sounds pretty harmless.”

“I have to ask – how did you figure that out in the first place?” Phoebe asked.

“He surprised me when he grabbed me and it was kind of instinct to go for the soft tissue between his neck and shoulder. I guess I missed.” He shrugged.

Leonard appeared to have given up on trying to sleep by this point, because he came back downstairs, looking like he’d been run over by a bus while he’d been upstairs. He went to sit with Fairfax, and Phoebe found it rather telling that Fairfax instantly reached for his hand, rather than moving away.

“Phoebs, could you…?” Leonard gestured vaguely with one hand. Phoebe nodded.

Once they were both sure that Phoebe was out of earshot (mostly since she had left the house entirely), Leonard turned to look at Fairfax. “Okay, I really need to know. Are we actually a thing, or…?”

“If you want, yeah,” Fairfax said.