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From: Kimberley Reynolds 

To: Peter Grant 

Subject: You’ve got a doppelganger (the metaphorical sort)

Hi Peter,

How’s it going in London? I hope it’s cooler than it is here – it hasn’t dropped below ninety all week. I thought you might be amused to know someone made a mistake in your file. (Don’t worry – the file itself is still suitably small.) They’ve got you down as married to a Thomas Nightingale. Automatic addition, I think – some other couple with those names must have gotten married in London. I wouldn’t have thought your boss’s name was that common, but there you go!

Regards,

Kimberley


Re: You’ve got a doppelganger (the metaphorical sort)

Hi Kimberley,

A bit cooler? You jest, surely – this is an English summer, of course it’s cooler than that. We haven’t hit twenty since the beginning of June. (That’s about seventy, in Fahrenheit.)

It’s not a mistake. And can I just say it’s pretty creepy that your lot are keeping tabs on me like that?

Regards,

Peter


Re: Re: You’ve got a doppelganger (the metaphorical sort)

Hi Peter,

I can work in Celsius if I have to. Also, marriage records are public information – it’s probably just some automatic program, nothing to worry about. And what do you mean, it’s not a mistake?


Re:Re:Re: You’ve got a doppelganger (the metaphorical sort)

I mean it’s not a mistake. We got married. Long story. Still creepy even if it’s automatic, by the way.


Re:Re:Re:Re: You’ve got a doppelganger (the metaphorical sort)

You got married? To DCI Nightingale? You’re serious? And what sort of long story could it be?


Re:Re:Re:Re:Re: You’ve got a doppelganger (the metaphorical sort)

Yes, I’m perfectly serious. We got married. And I can’t tell you what kind of long story because it’s work-related. Let’s just leave it at that.

*

About five minutes after I sent that email, my mobile phone started to ring – I was in the tech cave, of course, so it was on for once. When I checked it, it was a number I didn’t recognise – but I did recognise the area code, +1 for North America. Agent Reynolds really wanted to know what was going on, it seemed. Well, this was a conversation I’d had plenty of practice having over the last few months. And given that nothing could possibly be more awkward than the time my mother had demanded to know how we were planning on addressing the grandchild question (not in front of Nightingale, thank god for very small mercies) I was prepared to deal with such small fry as Agent Reynolds. All she could do was be bemused from across the Atlantic. And possibly disapproving – the whole thing might be against her religious convictions. The subject had never really come up during her time here.

“Peter Grant,” I answered, with only the smallest of sighs.

“Work-related?” Agent Reynolds said. “Are you serious?”

“Yes and yes,” I said. “Very work-related, and I'm very serious." 

I braced for the usual round of questions - I'd heard every possible permutation between April and now, and by this point I had a set of answers I could trot out in my sleep. It couldn't be worse than Guleed. Or my mother. Or the Commissioner - let's not talk about the Commissioner. 

 “But you’re not even gay!” she said.

Weirdly, that one actually was new – don’t ask me why. I think everyone else had just been too tactful to come out with it. Or already convinced that one or the other of us had been pining madly for the other anyway, or perhaps both of us. That last had been Dr Walid, who had mercilessly iterated our behaviour on every occasion one of us had ended up in UCH. I didn’t personally think a bit of very brief hand-holding or sarcastic upbraiding or waiting for the other one to wake up was indicative of much, but the good doctor was convinced. It’s a really sad thing when otherwise rational empiricists make the mistake of falling in love with their theories. They’ll seize upon absolutely anything to back them up, no matter how unrelated it is.

“That…wasn’t really relevant, under the circumstances,” I told her, in lieu of opening a discussion of my precise sexual orientation. And it hadn’t been relevant. Under the circumstances.   

“Wait – Nightingale’s not, is he?” Reynolds said, doubt creeping into her tone.

“I, uh, haven’t ever asked,” I said, which was perfectly true. I hadn’t asked. Before, it hadn’t seemed appropriate. And afterwards, it hadn’t seemed necessary.

“Well, at least that’s a bit less awkward,” she said thoughtfully. “Between the two of you, I mean.”

My fingers drifted almost inadvertently to my collarbone, which – beneath my shirt – was currently sporting a rather specifically-sized bruise. Not the bad kind of bruise, you understand. Quite the opposite.

“Yes, well,” I coughed. “Yes. It hasn’t been awkward at all, honestly. You'd be surprised.”

That was…true and not true. There’d been a lot of how do we do this, even after the wedding night had gone off pretty well. It’s one thing to have great sex with someone, and quite another to negotiate the logistics of a relationship when you already have a totally different sort of established relationship. I mean, we’d hashed out the “was this strictly ceremonial or are we going to keep doing this” question pretty early on – the same night, really – but it had quickly become apparent that neither of us really had any idea of what we were doing, otherwise. But that was all right. We both had a lot of experience at not having any idea what we were doing. Nightingale was just better at pretending he did, and in this case he couldn't – so we muddled on regardless.

“Well, that’s good,” Agent Reynolds said sympathetically, and I realised I’d just let her blithely assume that it was strictly ceremonial – oh, fuck it. Not like it was any of her business. “How long do you have to keep it up for?”

“Excuse me?”

“You said it’s work-related,” she said. “I assume it’s for a case, or something? Takes the concept of going undercover a little far if you ask me, but they can’t have asked you to do it permanently. How long is it going to be?”

“I…it’s not for a case, precisely,” I said. “You remember some of the, uh, community policing responsibilities we have? It’s part of…negotiating with some specific parts of that community.”

Or, more precisely, ensuring that should certain parts of our very specific community decide to negotiate with us, à la the Herefordshire debacle, Nightingale was off the negotiation table. Tyburn had bothered to mention after the legal paperwork had gone through that really any sort of binding obligation to someone else would have done, marriage was just the easiest. I’d let it go because if there had been other workable options Nightingale would have mentioned them. She was just saying it to get a rise out of me, anyhow. Or possibly both of us. Hard to tell. 

“So it’s…permanent?” Reynolds said, sounding scandalised.

“Um, for the foreseeable future,” I said. To be honest, I didn’t know. I supposed it was theoretically possible we could work out some other arrangement if, I don’t know, at some future point Nightingale and I decided we really couldn’t stand each other. Or one of us fell in love with someone else. Or something. I just didn’t find any of those scenarios particularly likely – or appealing. And the fact that I didn’t find them appealing, given the sheer amount of shit our marriage had caused to hit various fans, was the most worrying thing of all.

“Wow,” she said. “You guys are really committed to your jobs, aren’t you?”

“Someone has to be,” I said. “Anyway – your surveillance is still incredibly creepy, but it’s not inaccurate – not in this instance.”

“All right,” said Reynolds. “I hope it keeps not being awkward, then. You weren’t seeing anyone else, were you?”

“No, no,” I said. “I wasn’t. Wouldn’t have volunteered if I was.”

Volunteered?” she squawked. “You couldn’t have found someone else? He’s a good-looking guy, I’m sure there would have been takers – even for a, er, work-related wedding.”

And maybe there would have been – but it needed to be someone he trusted, someone who meant what they were saying; and the thing was, as little as I’d wanted to be married off to Nightingale for the Job, and as little as I’m sure he’d wanted the same, there hadn’t been anyone else I trusted with him. I hadn’t even thought about it that way until afterwards. I don’t know who else there would have been who Nightingale trusted that way, either – maybe Walid? But at minimum the ceremony would definitely have been incompatible with his religion. And I couldn’t see him volunteering, anyway.  

“If there were, they didn’t speak up,” I said aloud. I left the good-looking guy part alone in the interests of not diverting the conversation. “And it’s not something you could order anyone to do.”

“Huh,” said Reynolds. “Well – I won’t say congratulations, under the circumstances. But good luck.”

“We could use some of that,” I told her truthfully. Besides, we’d had congratulations from all and sundry – Lesley had even sent a card. The level of sarcasm intended from the scrawled message inside, I hope you know what you’re doing, had been impossible to discern. “So – I’ll take it.”

*

I didn’t think very much about the conversation with Reynolds once it was over, although I did mention it to Nightingale over dinner – I was sure he’d want to know about the eye, however automatic and allegedly benign, the FBI was apparently keeping on me now they had a file with my name on it.

“I won’t say that’s not a little concerning,” Nightingale said. “But not in any immediate way, I hope. I take it Agent Reynolds was sufficiently amused.”

“Try bemused,” I said. “We’re really not helping her impressions of how strangely we do things this side of the pond.”

“I think her first introduction to policing here was largely responsible for that,” said Nightingale. “I trust you were sufficiently vague about the details.”

“Even vaguer than you are when you talk to members of the public,” I said, and got a very dry look for my trouble, but it was true; Nightingale could out-vague anyone I knew. It was all those decades of keeping things quiet. Of course, he had the whole public-school-accent charm offensive on his side. I had to make do with talking faster than they could keep up.

I certainly didn’t bring up Reynolds’ highly erroneous assumptions about the nature of our marital relationship. Like I said – it really was the first time anyone who’d heard about it had thought it was strictly a matter of paperwork. I think that’s mostly because I know so many police officers and they’re suspicious bastards by nature. And, as I said, it was something Nightingale and I hadn’t really talked about. There were, in fact, a lot of things we hadn’t talked about, because neither of us is that good at it and it’s really surprising how much you can avoid talking about when you add shagging to the list of things you could be doing instead.

That, and over the last few months we’d both had so many people asking us about our feelings that it was a total relief to be able to come home and not talk about the bloody things. Or maybe that was just me; I couldn’t imagine many people asking Nightingale how he felt about the whole thing. But who knew.  

So the sum total of what I knew about Nightingale’s sexuality, to date, was that he’d never thought about getting married, unquote, and that our unexpected but now extant sex life operated on principles of mutual enthusiasm. He’d known what he was doing, that first night, so his attraction to guys undoubtedly pre-dated me. How he characterised it to himself, I didn’t know. And on my own part – it wasn’t that I’d never thought about guys; it was just that I’d never had particular trouble meeting women, just in keeping relationships going, and in general my life had been complicated enough. It wasn’t even that I’d never thought about Nightingale that way, if I was going to be totally truthful; it was that it had seemed like a terrible, terrible idea to let my thoughts go down that road, so I had done my best to not let them.

And then, suddenly, it was all turned around; I wasn’t going to be sleeping with anyone but Nightingale, so all those thoughts I’d been trying not to have were let free. But that was monogamy, not sexuality. The kind of people I wanted hadn’t changed. Mostly women, occasionally guys, all hypothetical now – more hypothetical - because, well, married. Thinking about it, it was weirder that I hadn’t got any terminally stupid “does that mean you’re gay now?” comments. Agent Reynolds’ assumption of our heterosexuality even under these circumstances was just the other side of that coin.

*

It really didn’t cross my mind again, though, until a moment about a week later when I really shouldn’t have been thinking about anything except what I was doing right then. We were in the shower in Nightingale’s bathroom – yeah, he’d had an actual shower all this time, and don’t think I wasn’t taking full advantage of the whole married thing to use it as often as possible – and I suppose technically we were having a shower, seeing as the water was on and everything. We’d both arrived home thoroughly sodden thanks to an unexpected thunderstorm and a couple of other case-related mishaps in Regent’s Park – don’t ask – and sharing had just seemed like a reasonable compromise. Saving water, and everything.

The other advantage of the whole shower thing, in my opinion anyway, was happening right now. I had Nightingale pinned up against the shower wall and I was probably giving him a bruise on his neck, but you can get away with that sort of thing when your partner – husband - never ventures outdoors in less than two layers. He had his head tilted back, and was smoothing his hands over my hips, adjusting the angle as we rocked against each other, enjoying the simple pleasure of friction. He had one leg slung around me and we were probably daring gravity to do something about it, but so far gravity was cooperating. The space was a bit limited for getting up to anything more athletic than this, but that was just fine; everything was wet and slippery and pretty close to perfect.  I could hear Nightingale’s breath getting shorter, feel the arc of his hips getting tighter, and then he was tensing and shuddering against me, and I was learning to like that a lot, seeing him let go, trusting me to hold him up. I tumbled over a second later, gasping through it, and there was a moment when I was worried we wouldn’t stay upright until my knees firmed up again. I let the rest of me flop bonelessly forward, and rested my chin on his shoulder, just enjoying the afterglow.

And then, because this is me and realistically if you get ninety, ninety-five percent of my attention in any given situation you’re doing well, when my brain came back online, I had several random thoughts all at once. Like, it’s a good thing we’re so close in height or this would be a lot more awkward. And hah, awkward. Agent Reynolds has no idea. And I wonder how long she's going to go on thinking that?

Fortunately Nightingale is used to the strange places my brain takes me, because he didn’t ask what was funny, even though I knew I’d let out a muffled snort, just waited for me to straighten up again. Another benefit of shower sex – we could rinse off then and there.

The clothes we’d had on before the shower were total write-offs, at least until Molly worked her magic on them – possibly literally, I still didn’t know – but I’d started stashing a few pieces of clothing in Nightingale’s room against this sort of eventuality. I mean, in theory there was nothing to stop me walking all the way to my room clad only in a towel – it wasn’t like there was anyone else to see me right now – but the Folly doesn’t have central heating, and also it’d just feel weird. Anyway, Nightingale had obligingly cleared a drawer for me (and some wardrobe space, because he doesn’t believe in putting anything in a drawer that other people actually see you wearing) so it would have been rude not to, really. I hadn’t asked and he hadn’t said anything; it’d just happened. I told you we were good at not talking about things.

So I got dressed, because it was still mid-afternoon and we had stuff to do, or at least paperwork, because there was always paperwork. I’m not saying it was insurmountable but I am saying that if I’d joined the Case Progression Unit there would have been more people to share the load with (although also less classical language study, to be fair.) We had two sets of reports for everything, and one of us was still dubious about the whole concept of the personal computer. I was pretty sure the only reason Nightingale had learned to use one at all was because he got sick of me using podcasts of his favourite radio shows as currency for getting answers to questions. I stuck around while Nightingale finished dressing, because it’s kind of fascinating, watching him put himself together; knowing that I get to see, now, what it looks like when he’s not put together.

“What was it that was amusing you, in the shower?” he asked, as he was putting in his cufflinks. Neither of us had the slightest expectation of leaving the Folly for the rest of the day, unless we were called out, and he was wearing a shirt that required cufflinks. Because of course he was.

“I remembered something,” I said, because I was pretty sure “Agent Reynolds” was not the correct answer in this situation. “It was just a bit ironic. Not even for Alanis Morissette values of irony.”

Nightingale is smart enough to ignore references he doesn’t get if they’re not germane to the conversation. I like to think this is a useful life skill five years of exposure to me has taught him, but realistically it must go back longer. “Do I want to know what it was?”

“When I was talking to Reynolds last week,” I said. “She told me that at least the whole emergency marriage thing must not be so awkward, seeing as neither of us was into guys.”

“A misunderstanding I’m sure you didn’t correct,” Nightingale said dryly.

I snorted. “Because that’s what I need in my life right now: more awkward conversations. No, I thought about it, but she might not have taken it well and…discretion is the greater part of valour, right?”

“I didn’t think you were,” Nightingale added, unexpectedly. “That was…a bit of a surprise, actually.”

“What?” I said. “Interested in guys as well? You didn’t have any reason to know, you’d only seen me date women. Everyone always assumes it’s one or the other.” If you date women you’re straight; if you date men you’re gay. Give this whole marriage thing a few years, and I'd lay bets at least some people would forget I'd ever dated women at all. And so it goes. “You didn’t act like it was a surprise, as I recall.”

He’d been hesitant, that first time, but less and less so as we’d gone on. Then again, so had I; I’d put it down to all the other various awkwardnesses of the situation.

“A pleasant surprise,” he amended, a smile flickering across his face. “But surprising, nonetheless.”

“I wasn’t sure if you – well, I’m still not sure,” I said, in the interests of truthfulness. Since we were having this conversation, apparently.

Really?” said Nightingale, turning to face me as he shrugged on his jacket. Like I said. No plans to leave the Folly. You can’t say he doesn’t have standards.

“I know – this,” I said, gesturing between us. “And I figured – but like I said; people assume stuff about me, and they’re wrong. I try not to return the favour.”

“Well,” he said. “Since we’re having this conversation, apparently – no, I’ve never had any interest in women. Although I had thought I’d mentioned that.”

“What a relief,” I said. “And here I was worrying you were going to run away with Molly.”

“You had that rumour from Hugh Oswald, didn’t you?” He seemed to be done, so I opened the door.

“It sounded like it’s been around a while.”

“As you say, people will assume,” Nightingale said, smiling wryly. “Especially then – the general thinking was that there couldn’t be any other reason I’d want to spend time with her.”

Nightingale might be nostalgic for the pre-war Folly, I thought, but over the years I’d just gotten less and less impressed by it. Not that there was any need to tell him that. “Something else that’s changed a bit since the nineteen-thirties.”

“But it hasn’t, has it?” said Nightingale. “What people do is much the same, I find. It’s the words that change.”

“For the better?” I couldn’t help asking, as we headed off for the not-so-siren call of paperwork. Because I was curious, a bit; Nightingale didn’t seem like someone who’d internalised a lot of what he must have heard, growing up, about people who – had no interest in women – but he must have taken in some of it. Look at me – I’d been sanguine enough about marrying a guy when it came to the crunch, but I hadn’t exactly been jumping up and down to claim any labels before that. For a lot of reasons.

“In general, yes. Wouldn’t you say?” he said, glancing down at his own hand like he was still surprised to see the ring there. I knew that look; I wore it about twice a day, on average. And it wasn’t an uncertain look, or an unhappy one. Just – surprised.

“Good thing, really,” I said. “Don’t think Lesley would have been interested in volunteering for this particular job, even if she was still around.”

I’m not saying it doesn’t still cause a bit of a twinge, talking about when Lesley was in the Folly; but it’s not what it was. And Nightingale actually looked a little scandalised, which was amusement enough for me.

“No,” he said after a moment. “No, I don’t think she would have, somehow. Are you going to work on the report?”

“Might as well, while it’s fresh.”

I wondered, a bit idly: would I have volunteered, if I’d been as straight as Reynolds assumed, if part of me hadn’t wanted Nightingale, hadn’t wanted the excuse? Because I had, I knew that, I’d known that when we’d gotten home that evening and I’d found kissing him easier than talking, when I’d followed him down onto his bed and had been more worried about making it work, making it good, than I had been about the fact that I hadn’t been naked with another guy before. I’d wanted. I’d just been very good about ignoring it. 

The thing was, I didn’t know; it was impossible to tell. Rightly or wrongly the thought of Nightingale that way, as someone who might be interested in me, was literally the first one I’d ever had about him, and first impressions are hard to shake. This one had lodged in my hindbrain just waiting for an excuse. Like Nightingale being in sudden and dire need of someone to marry him. I should probably confess that, some day. When this was a little less fresh, when all these awkward conversations had dried up. The leading contender was still my interview with the Commissioner, whom Tyburn had only managed to mostly deal with. The fact that I’d shown up ready to defend my chosen course of action and he’d mostly been interested in ensuring I wasn’t being taken advantage of had only compounded the whole thing.

Yeah – after that, and all the rest, by the way, I fancied you a bit the first time I laid eyes on you wasn’t something I was coming out with any time soon. And in any case, today was probably our fill of relationship-related talk for, oh, a month. Or two. Maybe three.

But it was probably worth mentioning. Someday. When this had stopped being yet another weirdness, another adjustment; when we’d smoothed it down into normality, the way we had so many other things, over the time we’d known each other.

And – if I could work up to mentioning that; there was something else I thought I might be brave enough to do, too.

*

From: Peter Grant 

To: Kimberley Reynolds 

Subject: Error in my file

Hi Kimberley,

I let you assume the other day that me and Nightingale getting married was a totally pro forma thing, and it was work-related – that’s why it happened. But I wouldn’t have volunteered to marry someone I couldn’t want to be married to. Wouldn’t want you getting the wrong impression, is all.

Regards,

Peter.


Re: Error in my file

Peter,

In that case – congratulations, after all.

Kimberley.