When the news flashed on the screen, Anthea let out a long, long sigh of relief. She'd already known the outcome intellectually, but the actual marker of necessary change – that meant something.
"Anth," her friend and colleague Eve Moneypenny said from behind her.
Anthea turned to see Eve silhouetted in the doorway. From outside there were muted whoops and laughter, for this election news would make all of their lives and work here at the River House just a little easier.
But it would mean more for Eve – the elevation of a Black and Asian woman to the United States vice-presidency, the underlining of all sorts of necessary change. Anthea rose from her office chair, went to her friend, and embraced her. (Their daily Covid-19 tests made this hug as safe as anything in this unsafe world.)
Eve held tight to her, her face on Anthea's shoulder, and Anthea felt the hot tears on her neck. But then Eve pulled it together as she always did, and she stepped back with a smile. "So, I have a word from M. He's already texted me to tell our units we should stand down. No overtime today. The regular watchers can handle the rest of the weekend."
Anthea began, "But—"
"No 'buts,'" Eve said, just as James and Tanner appeared over her shoulder. "We're ready to go. You go too."
The mobile in Anthea's pocket buzzed, and she smiled. "Right. Happy days to us all."
"Happy days," James said dryly, but the sparkle in his eyes gave him away.
After they left, Anthea checked her phone. As expected – My dear, I'm outside on the bridge. Shall we walk home?
Yes please. Five minutes, she texted back.
She logged off, locked up, loaded her briefcase with laptop and files. Then she sat down in her chair and switched her office heels for a pair of broken-in brogues. After donning coat and scarf, she went out into the twilight.
Her Mycroft stood under a streetlamp on Vauxhall Bridge, looking down into the swirling water. As she approached, she appreciated: the handsome beard he'd grown after his official resignation from the government, the Aran jumper and corduroys and boots, his mask in his hand, the beautiful old tweed jacket open to the wind.
Her precision-tuned, locked-down man had grown so much more open these past few years.
He turned his head at her approach. "Well, then," he said, "it seems that my sources were correct."
"When are your sources not correct, darling?" She reached him and reached up for a light kiss.
He deepened the kiss, tasting her, letting her taste him, steadying her so that they fit together. As they kissed, the wind off the Thames swirled around them in a joyous wave of air.
Then he let her down, while still keeping his arm around her. "There's a deal of work yet to be done over there, of course," he said. "But there is something to be said for the restoration of norms."
Smiling, loving him, she brushed back the remnant curl off his forehead. "So much tidier, wouldn't you say?"
He answered that with a nip to her ear and a chuckle she felt run down her spine. Then, "Shall we, Anthea?"
The question encompassed more than a simple walk home to the St. James flat, but that was the first step. She replied to all that he was saying, "Yes, please, darling."
But before they turned for home, they both looked out: nearby, the looming edifice of Vauxhall Cross, and the Tate Britain across the river; on the London horizon, the Houses of Parliament, the Eye, the skyscrapers beyond. The light seemed stronger now, even as night drew in.
And then, after putting on their masks, they linked hands and started again.