As Robbie put down the phone his mind was flooded by memories of those first Christmas' without Val. Waking up without Val in his bed, cold and alone. Cooking and eating dinner without Val, other people there, but without Val. Opening presents without Val's eagerness to know if she'd done well and people liked what she'd bought them. Heading out for an afternoon stroll, all together, but without Val. Christmas had given a sharp focus to the void in his life without Val.
Time had passed and made things easier, it dulled the edges of the pain that came from Val no longer being there fulfilling her role in his life. Christmas' had become Lyn or work and had again had fun memories though now they no longer required Val to hold them together and the pain of those first Christmas' without Val, although Robbie remembered it, had become only a memory. That was until five minutes ago when he picked up the phone.
Robbie was looking forward to Christmas this year with the excitement of a child, he was going to spend Christmas with James, doing their own things creating their own memories and it felt so good. The phone rang and answering it Robbie heard Lyn's voice happy and excited. 'Just checking you're coming here for Christmas dad, it's Lily's first Christmas and I want her to share it with her family just like we used to' ' I can't believe how much I'm looking forward to a family Christmas again' 'So you're coming then Christmas eve to boxing day? Got lots planned, Lily is really looking forward to it, well as much as a baby can' 'That a yes then?'
'Of course I'll be there' said Robbie hoping beyond hope that she couldn't hear the sadness and pain he was feeling at that moment. 'Wouldn't miss Lily's first Christmas for the world. Hope you get things organised OK, see you then' 'bye love'. Robbie was aware that he was hurrying Lyn from the phone but he really needed to not be talking right now.
It had been weeks since Robbie and James had slept apart and months since they decided they wanted to be together but they hadn't told anyone, they'd kept their secrets to themselves for all the best reasons as far as they could tell but they really should have thought that this would cause a problem or two. Robbie hadn't told Lyn anything, he had visited her a couple of times for a couple of nights on his own and still not found a way.
'It really was stupid to think we'd get Christmas together when we're behaving like this' Exclaimed Robbie out loud but only to himself. 'How am I going to explain this to James'. Christmas without James was too hard to think about.
When he arrived back at the flat James could sense something wrong with Robbie, he just didn't seem his normal self. He was sat on the sofa watching some old black and white film and seemed to be deep in thought 'What've you been up to, anything interesting?' James enquired as he sat down next to Robbie and gave him a hug. 'Lyn rang, she wanted to talk about Christmas' Robbie sounded about as happy as he felt about the subject and James knew what was coming wasn't good. 'She's all excited about Lily's first Christmas, looking forward to a big family Christmas, loads planned from Christmas eve right through to Boxing day, she's expecting me there'
The mix of excitement at seeing Lily and Lyn enjoy their first Christmas together and sadness at what that meant for his plans with James was clear to see on Robbie's face.
James wrapped his arms tight around Robbie 'I guess keeping secrets has it's price we should have thought about it' 'I'm sure that I can cope with old films and time to myself, we can do something for new year instead' James tried his best to smile as he spoke in the hope of reassuring Robbie that he would be OK and that Robbie should be excited by having the chance to share Lily's first Christmas.
It was three weeks till Christmas, which gave Robbie plenty of opportunity to worry about it but the idea of Christmas without James made him feel so sad.
Getting out of bed, after lots of thinking and not much sleep Robbie decided he somehow needed to tell Lyn about James. It was a risk, he knew that, Lyn might not like the idea of him with someone new let alone him with his beautiful, young, male sergeant. He might not get to see Lily for Christmas, Lyn might not want him to come after all but leaving James at home was much more painful a thought than that.
James was still sleeping soundly so Robbie decided to take the opportunity and picked up the phone dialling Lyn's number. 'Hi love, how are things going? You getting everything sorted?' Robbie was doing his best to stay calm and not let his nerves stop him. 'Nice to hear from you dad, thanks for asking, we're nearly sorted with everything' came Lyn's very relaxed reply. Taking a long deep breath Robbie made his attempt to broach the subject of James. 'I'm thinking of buying some theatre tickets and I was after some advice, do you think you can help love?' 'I'm looking for something different not something I'd normally do, you any ideas?' That's it, doing things differently where am I going with this though? Oh my word what's she going to suggest. Robbie's head was spinning a little now and he didn't really catch the start of Lyn's reply. 'Sorry love can you say that again'
'I was just suggesting a classical music concert rather than the theatre dad, a bit more sophisticated, You thought of asking Hathaway's advice? He knows his stuff doesn't he?' This is it the perfect time to tell her the tickets are for him, she'll work it out from there or at least it'll start the conversation. 'Sorry dad I'm going to have to go Lily's awake speak soon can't wait to see you.'
The disappointment Robbie felt at his failure to tell Lyn the truth was only increased when he walked back to the bedroom and looked at James sleeping peacefully. He is so beautiful when he's sleeping, not much different when he's awake either, I'm so lucky to have him. I know he says he's OK about me going but this should have been the year he didn't eat a microwave dinner in front of the telly. I'm supposed to be his forever in everything not without him at Christmas.
James moved slightly and opened his eyes, 'You watching me sleep again? Do you not know that actually sleeping is better for you than sitting there watching me' James smiled as he spoke and reached out his arm to invite Robbie for a cuddle. Robbie couldn't resist the urge for comfort right now and quickly moved to James' side. Settling into James' arms Robbie began nervously 'I just rang Lyn, I was going to tell her about us but she was called away by Lily' 'What was your opening line' asked James with a very audible smirk in his voice. Nudging his elbow back into James' ribs Robbie continued 'I asked her advice about theatre tickets, told her I wanted something different but wasn't sure what'
'Something different, that's a good one Robbie' The smirk had now become almost full laughter, 'What did she have to say'
'She told me to ask you, said you knew your stuff' Robbie couldn't help a little laugh in his voice either and rolled over to silence James' mouth before he could say any more.
Days passed and Robbie still couldn't work out how to tell Lyn, Christmas was only a week away the flat was decorated up, because James insisted on it, and all the presents were wrapped. 'I think I'm going to ask Lyn if you can come for Christmas what do you think?'
'Your going to ask your daughter if your sad, lonely sergeant can invade her first family Christmas because he's got no one to see and nothing to do? So we can pretend we're sergeant and inspector.' 'You're really going to ask her to pity me?' The fact that James was not impressed was very clear from his voice.
Having thought a little harder about it Robbie knew James was right. 'I can't pretend with you there next to me but I haven't managed to tell her so what are we going to do?'
'You, my wonderful man, are going to enjoy being a granddad and see that beautiful girl on her first Christmas, you're going to give Lyn what she wants for once and then you are going to come back to me for the start of a new year and if we ever pull ourselves together a new life' James was not taking no for an answer and Robbie knew that was what was happening there was no way out of it.
The day before Christmas eve came and Robbie finally had to pack up his things for his trip, as he was busy sorting clothes in the bedroom there was a knock on the door. Robbie open the door and was more than a little surprised to come face to face with Lyn with Lily in her arms. 'Hi dad we had to come down to pick up a present we couldn't get delivered in time and thought we'd surprise you' Without another word Lyn walked straight past Robbie into the living room, over to the sofa where James was curled up in his pyjamas reading a book, and handed Lily into his arms. 'Sorry I've just got to get her stuff from the car will be back in a minute'.
Robbie and James exchanged looks that were a mixture of confusion, shock, and fear but neither uttered a word until Lyn had returned with her bags. James looked down at the beautiful baby girl in his arms and couldn't help saying ' She's got your eyes Sir'.
'Unless that's some kind of pet name you can stop with the 'Sir' for my benefit' Lyn said without even looking up from her bag 'That is, I suppose, unless you've taken to discussing your cases while curled up on the sofa dressed in each other pyjamas'
The shocked look on Robbie's face was only matched by that on James' and neither could find a way to form words and respond to Lyn.
'You are coming tomorrow aren't you James? Lily needs all her family around her on her first Christmas.'
Having found all she needed from the bag Lyn turned round and took in the looks on James and Robbie's faces and just for a moment she wondered if she'd been mistaken in her thinking.
'Well James you're either Lily's third granddad or your simply a very dear man who's done my dad the world of good. Either way every little girl should have a beautiful, intelligent and kind man she can rely on to guide her and make her laugh and Lily is lucky to have you.'
James was gazing at the baby in his arms 'I think I'm a bit young to be a granddad don't you Robbie, what's she gona call me as she gets bigger?'
Robbie was still stood in the doorway where he'd been when Lyn started talking and his face revealed the confusion in his brain, he hadn't yet caught up with what was going on and felt a little weird watching what was happening.
James looked up smiling in Robbie's direction 'You OK love?'
'Erm yes I think so' Robbie managed to find some words out of his head somewhere 'not sure what the answer to the other question is though but it's got to be something special.' Robbie smiled at James and then at Lyn. 'How er.. how did er..' Robbie couldn't quite find the words he was looking for and didn't really know what he was wanting to ask anyway.
'You want to know how I worked it out, is that it dad?' 'James was always so good for you and you were off here and there together in work and outside of work and I knew all about it then suddenly you were happier than I've seen you in years but you wouldn't tell me anything and you never mentioned James'
'I guess you're not the only detective in the family Robbie. She's good' James couldn't hide his happiness that Lyn was so happy for her dad. They'd both been so worried about how she would react and here she was doing more than they could ever have hoped.
'I thought you'd ask to bring James for Christmas, then I could just set your room up and leave it at that, or that you would take the opportunity to tell me but when you didn't I felt I had to do something couldn't cope with the idea that you'd come without James'
Robbie walked across the room and wrapped both arms around Lyn and hugged her tighter than he ever had and whispered 'Thank you' in her ear. 'No problem dad' Lyn replied with a smile.
'Any chance of some lunch dad' 'think me and James need a chat' The look on Lyn's face was one of mischief about to be made and Robbie as always was uncomfortable at the idea of people talking about him but he knew that the two of them needed to get to know each other better so off he went to the kitchen.
'Sorry if that was awkward James, I just couldn't face the idea of dad without you at Christmas.' 'Those first Christmas' without Mum were awful, he looked so sad and lost all the time I couldn't face him being that upset while you sat here on your own as well.'
'Thanks for being so nice about it' James said kind of apologetically 'I know it can't be easy for you, your dad with someone let alone with me.'
'I love my dad James and all I want is for him to be happy, he loves you and you make him very happy I love you for that' Lyn had tears in her eyes and seeing James there holding her daughter she couldn't resist the urge to give him a hug. 'Thank you so much James'
James smiled at her 'It's my pleasure Lyn I love him'
James passed Lily back to Lyn ready for her lunch, 'I'll go get dressed'
'Not on my account you won't, this is your house and I'm loving seeing you both so relaxed' 'sit down and talk to me instead' Lyn really couldn't hide her happiness at having been right or her joy at seeing her dad so happy for the first time in years.
'Your phone bill must have been huge last time dad visited us he never put the thing down!' 'it usually stays in his room ''I’m not at work no one important will ring'' but not last time he never let go of it'
'Sorry for taking up his time with you' James said again sounding very apologetic
'will you stop that James, I'd taken him from you I should be sorry not you'
'I don't think you can be blamed for us deciding to keep a massive secret from everyone' James was very serious 'Although you do seem to make a rather good mind reader really' his face breaking into a smile.
'What's the point of the secret James? Does it make your lives easier?' Lyn couldn't quite understand why they were being so secretive about it.
'Sergeant starts living with', James used living with instead of sleeping with as he wasn't absolutely sure Lyn really was comfortable with everything, 'living with his Inspector, accusations of sleeping the way to the top aren't going to be far behind add to that we're both blokes and policemen are a bloody weird bunch and the job we're both very good at might become impossible or at least harder than we needed while we worked things out'
'I guess that kind of makes sense though not a great way to have to live' Lyn looked a little sad and a little worried
'All this that has happened with you and Christmas has made us realise that we're asking for trouble so you never know we might be shouting from the roof tops in the new year' The laugh in James voice at that idea didn't detract from the truth of the words.
Robbie arrived with lunch 'You two finished talking about me? Or should I go again?'
James stood up smiling, walked over to Robbie wrapping his arms around him 'We've decided that one room with a double bed will be fine for our stay but we still haven't worked out what Lily is going to call me, we thought we'd leave that up to you so get thinking'
Robbie hugged James back, planted a kiss on his forehead and whispered in his ear 'I'm so looking forward to Christmas WITH you.'