Behind the Veil

Note: Written for Alchemine in the Yuletide 2007 Challenge. Set during and at the end of episode 4x04, 'Word of God'. Title from the Persian poem quoted in the episode: "On this side of life, there is you and I, but behind the veil, there is no more you and I, only us."
Many thanks to Lydia Bell for the terrific beta!

As she watched her superior officer being led away, Barbara Havers felt the all-too-familiar mix of anger, frustration and sadness rise in her. In the past these feelings had almost always been associated with her own failings and misfortunes, but this time it was worse -- this time it felt as if her heart was breaking into tiny little pieces, like shards of glass that cut deep into her insides.

In the past weeks, she had felt... not happy, but content, truly content with her life. She was no longer fighting losing battles with herself and the world, but did her job, and did it well. And now here she was, trying to suppress the urge to run after the CIB officers and punch their lights out, consequences be damned. Damn Thomas Lynley, damn him for making her so vulnerable again!

Starting to thoughtlessly gather up the tools they had used to dig up the Golden Qur'an, Barbara knew she was also to blame. She should have known better, should never have let it get this far. But he had needed her, and she'd never been able to resist him, no matter what she'd told herself over and over ever since he had gotten married. Hell, she'd been trying to talk herself out of her feelings for her ponce of a boss pretty much since they met, for all the good it had done her. But seeing him in love and getting married had definitely helped her find her footing, even if it had taken a long time until being friends and colleagues had made up for the pain of abandonment and loneliness. Not that Barbara Havers wasn't used to pain.

She had suspected that Thomas Lynley was also capable of deep suffering, had even seen it on occasions when his inbred "stiff upper lip" posture slipped. Never had it been as open, as raw, though, as when he knocked on her door that night. She hadn't had the heart to send him away, despite the way he had been treating her and everyone around him lately, fluctuating between sadness, denial and anger. Not to mention the thing with Christine. Still, in the end he had come to her, not to the flirty lawyer, and she hadn't hesitated to let him in.

It had felt good to see him open up about the things he normally kept bottled up -- and looking back, Barbara knew that that was why she had let her guard down. Her invitation to let him spend the night on the sofa had been spontaneous but honest, with no hidden motivation, as far as Barbara was concerned. She had gone to bed with a smile and the comforting knowledge that he was in the living room, hopefully sleeping more peacefully than he had in the past weeks.

Picking up another one of the spades and dropping it with too much force into the wheelbarrow, Barbara shook her head at her own stupidity. When she had got up in the middle of the night to go to the loo, she had paused in the doorway and hadn't been able to suppress a smile at the sight of his lanky frame sprawled over her tiny couch, arms and legs dangling over the sides. She had moved further into the room without thinking, leaning down to pull up the covers that had slipped, revealing his bare chest, pale in the lamplight from outside. The sight had made her hesitate just one moment too long, and he had opened his eyes and found her staring.

"Barbara?" His voice had been soft, but it had been his smile that proved her undoing, gentle and open, as if he'd woken from a pleasant dream only to find exactly the person he had been dreaming about.

She wasn't quite sure who of them had kissed the other first, but the moment she had tasted his lips, there had been no room left for doubt. How long had she tried to forget this, had tried not to imagine his kisses, his touch? It didn't mean to him what it meant to her, yet she hadn't been able to bring herself to stop, because if this was all she got, she would bloody well take it all!

They fit together well, always had, his uncalloused, long-fingered hands mapping her body with confidence and tenderness, making her fall apart before burying himself inside her. Barbara pushed up against him, holding him to her with arms and legs, guiding them into a rhythm that had them breathless and going deep and deeper until they couldn't stand it anymore. He groaned her name as he came, but although his name was burning on her tongue, unfamiliar but full of desire, she only moaned wordlessly.

Looking around for something else to clean up, Barbara suppressed the wish that she had given in -- maybe that would have changed something. No, it had probably been the right choice to keep this little bit to herself. To stop herself from giving in, she had moved to get up soon after, but he had held onto her, smiling down at her with a tenderness that had made Barbara want to cry. If he had said anything, she would surely have fallen apart again, only this time not in a good way, so she had kissed him instead, gently this time.

"It's okay, there's no need. We just... held onto each other for a little while, and tomorrow we'll go back to the way we always are. It's okay -- sir." Her voice had quivered just a little bit at the last word, but the look of relief and gratitude on his face had made her realize that this was the right way, the only way to deal with this, with them. She had even managed to give him a smile full of warmth and reassurance before walking back to her room, and it had been mostly real. Deep down, in the part that was still warm from the way he had looked at her, touched her, she had known that in the morning, everything would indeed be alright.

Starting to push the wheelbarrow laden with dirty tools towards the police van, Barbara thought that it had been alright, mostly. He seemed much more relaxed and content, not so tortured anymore, and Barbara had used the knowledge that she'd been the cause of it, that she'd been able to help him like this, to soothe the quiet pain in her heart. Even when he had lost it, out on that balcony, she had been able to reach him. He was angry, yes, at most of the world, but not at her. The thought made Barbara smile, almost as much as the pride in his eyes when she had found the Qur'an.

Then of course, because the universe despised her, he had been arrested. She could still hear his apology, and she knew it wasn't just because he had messed up professionally. He had pulled out the rug from under her once again, and she hated, hated, hated it. Hated him. Angrily, Barbara dropped the wheelbarrow onto the ground halfway across the meadow.

Damn Thomas Lynley, damn him for making her love him. Barbara sighed and moved to follow him, as always.

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