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The Call

Chapter Text

He could feel the glare she sent his way when his phone rang once more. It was early in the day, barely nine o’clock, and yet his phone had already rung three times. He was a professional though, he only ever answered work related calls; this however, was anything but. David was following Julia as she swept through the foyer of the Home Office when the latest call came through. He was about to reach into his pocket to turn it off when, without turning, Julia said archly, “that’s the third time this morning Sergeant Budd, is there somewhere you’d rather be?” She’d been counting. And of course, there were places he would rather be, but he could hardly say that to her. Before he could stutter out an appropriate response she continued, “you’d best answer that before it drives us all up the wall.”

Bringing the phone to his ear, he hardly had time to breathe before Vicky’s voice came through in a panic. He stopped right there in the walkway, and absentmindedly noticed that Julia stopped too. Vicky was talking too fast for him to understand anything she was saying. Something about work? The kids?

“Slow down love. What’s happening?” he spoke in a hushed voice.

“Dave I’ve been called in at the hospital. It’s an overnight. Mum can’t take the kids for the night. Can you take them please? No one else can do it.”

“Vick I can’t, you know that. I’m working.” Out of the corner of his eye he saw Julia strike the classic impatient pose, pursed lips, crossed arms and all. “I can’t just take the kids; I can’t just drop everything. Even if I could take them tonight, I won’t finish till late.”

“Dave you have to! They’ll be expecting you at the school gates to pick them up. I’ll come and get them in the morning.” Vicky didn’t leave any room for argument as she hung up as soon as she was finished.

David stood dumbfounded for a second before turning to look at Julia. She did nothing, expect raise an eyebrow, which said everything really, before spinning on her heel and walking in the direction of the elevator. David followed meekly, unsure what to do in these circumstances. Upon entering the elevator, Julia, ever forthright, let her curiosity get the better of her. Standing still and facing ahead she murmured, “so your wife needs someone to look after your kids?”

David was momentarily startled but replied with an equally quiet, “yes ma’am.”

“No babysitter?”

David swallowed before answering, “things are a bit tight ma’am.”

She hummed in understanding; well as much understanding as someone of her background could. Just before they reached their floor she turned her head to look at him and said, as if it was the most obvious conclusion, “well I can’t do without a PPO, and your children can’t be left alone, so I suppose you’ll just have to bring them here.”

Chapter Text

The elevator doors had opened and the Home Secretary was striding through the office, before David could reply that bringing the kids to the office was unnescessary. What was with the women in his life leaving no room for argument? Besides, how does one simply bring their kids to the Home Office and keep them entertained while still protecting the most visible woman in the country? David wasn’t quite sure, but he was going to have to find out quickly. She had proposed the whole scheme so nonchalantly that David had to wonder (and not for the first time) just how much experience this woman had with children. Clearly not much, not if she thinks two children will sit for hours on end waiting while she works. The most annoying part of it though was that she was right. She needed her PPO present, and Charlie and Ella couldn’t be left alone, and with no other options, bringing them here would have to do. With more than a touch of frustration over the situation, David took up his place outside her office, and started thinking through what he was going to say to the kids.

Julia, meanwhile, was giving herself a proper talking to. Suggesting that her PPO should bring his children to work was so far beyond the lines of professionalism, how would that look? She didn’t know why she suggested it. Actually that was a lie, she knew exactly why she did. The stoic Scotsman intrigued her. Everything she knew about him was more or less gained through his personal profile Craddock has given her. Married, though now separated. Two children, a boy and a girl. Next of kin is his mother. That’s all the profile had said. So in reality Julia didn’t really know who David Budd was. He was careful not to reveal too much, very much the type to show up, do his job and then leave without exchanging pleasantries. It drove her insane. She had this urge to find out what made him tick. She wanted to know him-properly know him and have him know her in return. And that scared her. She had spent a lifetime keeping people at arms length, being just vulnerable enough so they’d trust her, but not so much so that they’d destroy her. But she wanted to be vulnerable and transparent with David, no matter how unexplainable that was. She wanted to see his children, wanted to see him interact with them. Wanted to interact with them herself. She craved a sense of normalcy. For just a moment she wanted to suspend her disbelief and be a normal woman, doing normal things.

Julia shook herself out of that line of thought. These weren’t thoughts she liked to confront even in the privacy of her own home, let alone at work. Maybe she was getting soft. Maybe she was losing her edge. Maybe everything that Roger had ever said about her was true. Maybe she was so unapproachable, so cold and heartless that she had to resort to fantasising about her PPO. How pathetic.

Chapter Text

David estimated that with the typical London traffic and the added school pick up traffic, he would need to leave the Home Office around two o’clock. When it was almost time for him to leave he glanced into the Home Secretary’s office. She was sitting in there, reading over a report or something like that. What made her invite the kids? Most other principles would have demanded he find another solution; scrape together the money for a babysitter or invest in some kind of after school care programme. But not her. He had been wondering over the decision all day, the question ricocheting around in his mind. It didn’t add up. This one display of kindness didn’t fit into his idea of who Julia Montague was at all. Why should someone so aloof care about his children? It unsettled him. She unsettled him.

His phone vibrated in his pocket. Don’t forget to pick up the kids. It was from Vicky. She clearly didn’t trust him, probably hadn’t since he got home from deployment. Not that he could blame her. He didn’t even trust himself most days. It was time for him to leave. He made his way over to the glass door and knocked quickly before entering, not waiting for permission. She looked up at him from her desk, a question already forming on her lips. He cleared his throat slightly, “Ma’am I have to pick up my kids. PC Knowles will be up shortly to take over me.” She nodded and muttered something that sounded like “very well”, but he wasn’t sure. He left the room as soon as he was finished, mentally rehearsing his speech about using your manners and being on your best behaviour as he made his way down stairs. God he hoped the kids behaved themselves.

The traffic had been abysmal on the return trip, but they had finally made it back to the office. Ushering Ella and Charlie into the elevator he was about to remind them for the umpteenth time to behave when Ella looked at him and sighed. “Dad we get it. You work here, important people work here. We’ll behave.” David blinked. When had Ella become so mature? He hadn’t missed that much surely. Maybe he had. The elevator pinged, signalling their arrival. Taking a deep breath, he shuffled everyone out. Since Chanel had been fired there was an empty desk not too far from his usual guard post. That’ll do. The kids can do their homework there. Preoccupied with finding a good spot for his kids, David didn’t really notice what was going on in the Principle’s office.

Julia knew the moment the Budd children had entered. It was hard not to really. She let her gaze follow them as they stumbled out the elevator. The boy, Charlie, had stopped in the walkway to tie his shoe lace, causing Ella to trip. The two giggled to themselves, the sound only just making it through the glass wall of her office. She watched at David introduced them to PC Knowles, the two reaching up to shake her hand and smiling gap toothed smiles. They were charming...Less so, was the man in front of her. Roger had been snarking at her for the better part of half an hour. In the name of all that is good and pure, why did you marry this man Julia? She asked herself that question constantly. She had had enough of listening to him. She had better things to do. “You seem to think I care. You should leave and vent your frustrations out to whatever 19-year-old has the misfortune of sleeping with you.” She swept passed him to open the door. He left the room without a fight. A new move for him. It became apparent though that kicking him out at that precise moment had been unwise on Julia’s part. She watched as Roger’s eyes landed on the Budd siblings, and a wry smile stretch over his face. Turning back to her he asked snidely, “running a daycare are you?”

Julia smiled before replying with false sweetness, “the only child I see here is you Roger.” She didn’t need to look at her protection officers to know smirks adorned their faces. Dropping all pretences of civility, she ordered him out. “Go Roger, come back when you’ve got something interesting to say.”

Silence followed Roger as he made his way to the elevator. Nobody wanted to give him the privilege of hearing whatever was going to be said next. Once he was stowed away in the left, David cleared his throat softly. All eyes now on him, he gestured to his children. As if Julia hadn't already noticed their presence. "Ma'am, these are my kids, Ella and Charlie. Kids, this is the Home Secretary, Julia Montague."

Julia tried to smile as warmly as possible, though she's sure it probably looks more like a grimace, smiling isn't something she's been doing much recently. "Hello, it's a pleasure to meet you both." Nothing. Two pairs of wide eyes stared up at her. Shit, she'd already screwed up, and all she'd done was say hello. PS Budd shuffled uneasily, beside her. "Well go on then, what do you say?" he prompted. Julia noticed the pleading look he was giving them. How strange. She rolled her eyes to herself, it probably didn't mean anything, anyone would want their children to behave in front of their boss. "It's alright," she murmured to him as much as the children, "we all get nervous sometimes."

David smiled tightly before saying to the kids, "right, well, we'd better let the Home Secretary get back to work." Turning his attention back to her he said, "Ma'am I'll get them sorted and take up my usual post in a moment." As they parted ways, Julia toward her office once more, and the Budd clan toward Chanel's old desk, Charlie turned abruptly. "I saw you on the telly once. On the news. Did you get nervous then?"

Julia stopped and turned too. Her first thought was, no, not really. But then she thought about it a bit more. How much pressure she put on herself and her team to get everything perfect; how she had tailored everything about herself to look presentable for the media; all the hours spent preparing speeches and campaigns. She was startled to find that, yes, Julia Montague did get nervous. "Yes Charlie, I almost always do."

That was news to David.

The hours ticked by slowly. The kids had long since finished their homework, and had fallen asleep at the desk. David felt sorry for them, but there was nothing he could do about it. He could hardly tell his principle to hurry up. So he settled for trying to drape his coat over them. The coat wasn't quite big enough and sat awkwardly over the two of them but it would have to do. A few moments later the Home Secretary exited her office towards the bathroom. On her return trip back to the office she barely spared a glance at the kids. Typical. It's about half past nine on a school night, and she doesn't even stop to think that maybe it's time to go home. No sooner had he thought that did the same woman walk back out of her office. Blue coat in hand, she carefully rearranged his coat over Charlie, and then draped hers over Ella. "I won't be much longer, I'm sorry." David had to crush the guilty feeling that had started to rise so he could reply. "Not at all ma'am. Take your time."

True to her word, Julia had done as much work as she could within the half hour. She caught PS Budd's eye through the glass wall and nodded. It was time to go. Walking out with her briefcase she noticed that he was mid way through picking up Ella, who was still fast asleep. Charlie was still slumped over the desk. Preferring not to think about it too much, she set her briefcase down on the desk, and stooped to pick him up. By this time, Budd had realised what she was doing. "Ma'am," he whispered, "you really don't need to do that." She waved him away. Sighing, he nodded in acceptance, it was next to impossible to dissuade the Home Secretary. Instead he leaned over the desk and picked up her briefcase once more.

While they waited for the lift, Charlie began to squirm. Turns out he's a restless sleeper. On instinct Julia brought up a hand and started lightly drawing patterns across his back. It seemed to calm him, so she kept doing it. It was also at this moment that Julia realised that PS Budd had his arms full between his daughter and her briefcase. A muscle in his jaw was tensing and releasing. He was stressed. No doubt because this was all a massive safety risk.

'I think it's best we exit through the basement tonight. Don't you PS Budd?"

Chapter Text

Julia was sitting in the back of the car as always. And, as always, the drive home was taking much longer than it should. The only glaring difference in her commute was the presence of two sleeping children. Sitting in the middle, Julia has Ella’s head in her lap and Charlie’s school bag at her feet. It was more cramped than normal, but not unwelcome. PS Budd kept sparing her apologetic glances in the rear view mirror. On the last glance, Julia met his gaze and shrugged a little. Seeing this, he nodded and returned his eyes to the road. Neither said anything; whether or not it was from not knowing what to say or from not wanting to wake the kids, Julia wasn’t sure.

After briefly stopping to get some food, a few minutes later they were out the front of her flat. David turned back with a look of apprehension on his face. He couldn’t really take the kids inside with him as he did his security check, but it also wasn’t Terry’s job to keep an eye on them either.

“We’ll bring them up.” Her voice sounded from the backseat, surprising him once more. There had been a lot of surprises for David today, Julia Montague responsible for all of them. Stunned, his eyes met hers. “It’s okay, we’ll take them up, they can wait in the hallway with me. We might even be able to get Kim to do the security sweep. They’ll be fine.”

It seemed the decision had been made for him. Nodding, he spoke quickly through his radio. Only then he undid his seatbelt before getting out of the car and opening a back door. Charlie was closest to him so he picked him up, along with his school bag. Casting his gaze over to the principal, he watched as she set about picking up Ella. Somewhere between the car stopping, the doors closing and Charlie being lifted out, Ella had woken up.
David watched a little while longer, and listened as his principal soothed his eldest. It’s okay, I’ve got you. That’s what she said; and he knew it was to Ella, but he couldn’t help but feel comforted by it too. What was happening to him?

They followed Kim up to the principal’s flat and both waited in the hallway whilst Kim did the security sweep. It was tense- awkward even. It felt much too domestic for David. This was wrong, he shouldn’t be standing in his principal’s hallway while they both held his sleeping children. Or maybe it felt wrong because she was with him. It wouldn’t feel this way with Vicky surely- or maybe it would, they haven’t been the same since he got back from Afghanistan. Regardless, the Home Secretary had turned all his preconceptions about her on their heads today, so much so he no longer knew which way was up.

They were waiting... waiting... waiting. God is this how she felt every night when he did the security sweep? Eventually, finally, Kim was done checking for lapses in security and was giving them the all clear. He nodded to her, silently asking her to give him a few minutes. David turned his gaze back to where the Home Secretary was standing, but instead found that she was walking down the hallway. “Ma’am you really don’t need to do this, it’s completely unnecessary,” he whispered as he followed her. He thought she’d stop in the living room, but no she kept going. The kitchen maybe? No, not there either. He followed her as she walked deeper into her flat. She stopped at a door, and turned the handle before strolling in. David stopped too, though not for the same reasons. It was shock, and a fair degree of discomfort that stopped him.

His principal, the Home Secretary no less, had just walked into her bedroom. He stared as she lay Ella down on the duvet, straightened, and looked at him with a raised brow; clearly meaning for him to do the same. He didn’t. Instead he kept a hold of Charlie and looked quizzically at her. “Ma’am, I don’t understand. I can’t take too much longer the support car is waiting for me.”

She stood, then, with one hand on her hip and the other running through her curls. “Look PS Budd- I’m tired, you’re tired, the other officers are tired, you’re children are clearly exhausted. Are you really going to wake Ella and Charlie up now; only to take them across the city, when they’ll only fall asleep in the car, just to get them home? Especially when there’s a perfectly good bed here? I know this is unusual, but even that seems a bit cruel to me.” She paused then, as if considering her next words carefully. “If it were me, I’d tell the support car to leave, and let the kids sleep. Though you may want to get them out of their uniforms first. I have a few shirts they can borrow.” David was agog. He stood in the doorway motionless, while she tiptoed over to the cupboard to get said shirts. It was like he’d woken up in a parallel universe where the Home Secretary was nice. “Please Ma’am, that’s very kind of you, but I really can’t let this happen. It’s too much.”

“Of course, if you’d rather go home you can. I’m not forcing you to do anything David. It’s just a suggestion.”

A pause. I’m not forcing you to do anything David. It was, on balance, a good suggestion. His own discomfort was what was stopping him from accepting her offer outright. Besides her being his boss, why should he be uncomfortable? He was tired, so was his team and kids. And she was offering. No one would have to know necessarily. He could just say that he wouldn’t keep his team back, and tell Vicky that he’d drop the kids to school. Somehow everyone not knowing made it feel better. “Okay.”

“Okay,” she breathed in return. He too tiptoed across the room and lay Charlie on the bed. He spoke once more into his radio, letting them know that he could sort himself and the kids out from now on, and not to worry.

Silence. Both of them standing back just watching the kids sleep for a few seconds. “I’ll leave these shirts with you, once they’re changed just leave them by the door and I’ll sort them out. They can bathe in the morning.” She spoke quickly, as if to shake off an uncomfortable thought. After she left, David set about waking the kids up gently so they could change and get back to bed quickly. Doing as she suggested, David left their uniforms by the door and walked out to the living room to find her picking at some of the food. He noticed that she never seemed to eat much. To be sure she was never unhealthy about it, she just was always in a hurry- food seemed like an afterthought to her.

“They’re all settled then?” Her voice interrupted his thought.

“Erm yes,” he coughed. What now? They were by themselves... kind of... and in her house too.

She stood once more and made her way back to the bedroom door. He watched confused as she stooped to pick up the uniforms. What was she doing? He followed her as she walked down the hallway and into a small room. He was shocked to find her loading the kids uniforms into a small washing machine. “Ma’am please you don’t have to do that, it’s really too much. You’ve done enough for us already.”

Without turning to face him, she said “I’m Julia when I’m at home,” all the while continuing to add laundry detergent. “I still have some work to do, so I’ll be up anyway. May as well do their uniforms in the mean time, and send them to school clean. You’re welcome to sleep in the bedroom with them if you want, otherwise it’s the couch.”

David wasn’t sure how he felt about sleeping in her bed just yet. The couch it was then. He laughed, “I don’t think I’d fit in the bed. When I left them, Charlie and Ella were both spread-eagled.”

She smirked at him over her shoulder before facing him and nodding to a nearby closet. “There’s spare blankets and pillows in there. Take what you need. Choose a couch, I’ll take the other.”

“Right. Thank you... Julia.”

A couple of hours later, uniforms still warm from the drier and folded on the kitchen table next to various government reports, David and Julia were settled on their couches. Well Julia was. David was on his side watching her. He felt a bit like a stalker to be honest but he couldn’t help it. The whole day has been baffling. She had been baffling. When he became her PPO he thought she was this dragon lady who didn’t know how to relax and wasn’t in touch with the rest of the population. But he’d watched her today be gentle with his kids and answer their questions. He’d watched as she put them to bed and laundered their clothes. He’d watched as she took off her heels and jacket and got into something resembling a tracksuit. Just as he now watched her cuddle her pillow. He realised that it was all a performance; that the public didn’t, he didn’t know who Julia Montague actually was.

Chapter Text

A flicker of light streaming through the window woke David up. With blurry eyes he looked down at himself, wrapped in a navy-blue blanket on a grey couch. Disorientated, his eyes searched about the room before landing on the other couch. Shit, that’s right. He had slept the night away in his principal’s flat, and so had his kids. The principal in question was in the middle of stretching, presumably having woken up by the light entering the room too. “Morning.”

“Morning,” she murmured back with a scratchy voice still thick with sleep, “sleep well?”

“Yes ma’am, you?”

“Yes. Thank you.” They both settled back under the covers, the chilly early morning air too much to confront just yet.

After a little while of comfortable silence, he sighed, rolled over and said, “I’ll get the kids up and file them through the shower if that’s okay.”

She hummed in response. “That’s fine, towels are in the hallway cupboard next to where you got the blankets. Do you want a cuppa?”

“I’d love one.” Seeing her about to get up he hastened to add, “stay there for a sec, I’ll pop the kettle on.” He shivered as he walked into the kitchen, he had been cozy on the couch under his blanket. Stepping back into the living room after a while he caught her quizzical look. “I could have done it,” she admonished, though gently.

His lips quirked, “kettles ma’am, they can be quite the danger in untrained hands.” Strolling past the table he scooped up the kids’ uniforms and continued on into the bedroom.

The kids were exactly as he left them. Spread-eagled they were both completely out to it, undisturbed by him entering the room. Smiling, he stepped into the en suite and put the uniforms on the counter top. He let his eyes wander, moving from the white towel on the towel rack to the dressing gown left on the hook on the back of the door. He took in the bottles lining the counter, he wasn’t familiar with the brands, and couldn’t read what was on the bottles, being labelled in French and all. It was strange, standing in her bathroom, at once it felt too intimate and close but also not close enough. He sighed, not at all sure what to make of what he was feeling and went to wake the kids up.

Julia, meanwhile, had gotten up and tidied the room while the kettle boiled. As she moved from the living room to the kitchen, she heard water start running before rustling and voices started coming from the bedroom. Grabbing two mugs from a cupboard she set about making a tea for herself before she realised that she didn’t actually know what David drank in the morning. Tea or coffee? With or without sugar and milk? She had no idea. She found herself floundering for a moment before footsteps sounded behind her. Turning she found Ella, dressed and yawning, standing at the kitchen table. “Good morning, that was a quick shower.” Julia leant against the counter and watched as the little girl yawned again and nodded.

“Morning. Dad said something about being quick and not adding to your water bill- I dunno.” Ella shrugged then and started taking her fingers through her hair, clearly trying to bring some order to the birds’ nest sitting on top her head.

It amused Julia greatly that David has told his kids to be quick all for the sake of her water bill. She noticed Ella wincing as she hit a nasty knot. She strode over to her handbag and rustled around a little before extracting a small brush she always kept in there. She gestured then to a chair, “take a seat Ella, I think you’ll need some help there.”

Stepping over to the chair in sock clad feet, Ella sighed happily and said, “thank you. Daddy tries, but he really has no idea what he’s doing when it comes to my hair.”

Julia truly laughed then. “It’s alright, neither did my dad. Luckily for you, I’ve been known to do a braid or two.”

“Okay thank you. You know, Tilly at school always has her hair braided. She says she can do it herself, but I think her mum does it for her.”

“Oh God. Well we’ll see if I can rival Tilly’s mum... Actually, before we start Ella, do you know what your Dad drinks in the morning?”

David had just finished his shower when he walked into the kitchen. He didn’t know what he expected, but it wasn’t Charlie and Ella sitting up at the table munching on toast and a cup of coffee waiting for him. “You’ve been paying attention,” he said with a raised eyebrow and gesturing towards the mug.

He missed Julia’s eyes flicking over to Ella when she replied “yeah, something like that.” She put her cup down, already on her second tea for the day, before heading to the shower herself.

David had decided to stop questioning her motives for the moment. He was enjoying this version of Julia; whoever the woman of the last 24 hours was- that’s who he wanted to get to know.

He sipped his coffee and gazed at his kids, still happily eating their toast. His gaze was caught though by Ella- more specifically Ella’s hair. He hadn’t done that; he’d never seen her wear her hair like that before either. “When did you learn to do your hair like that love?”

“I haven’t, but Julia said she’d teach me.”

A small while later they were all just about ready to leave the flat. Standing in the hallway, all of them either tying shoe laces or slipping on heels, David and Julia discussed their plan for the morning. He’d leave now and take the kids to school while she waited here for the security team, and then they’d meet at the Home Office. David and the kids left the flat happily, even if they had to go out through the back door. Despite his misgivings from earlier the previous evening, this morning David was almost... happy. He rarely got the chance to actually feel like a parent these days, not since the separation; and so, this morning with his kids sitting at the kitchen table and him with a cup of coffee in hand waiting to take them to school, it all felt right. It had been so long since he had felt happily domestic that he just wanted to be surrounded by it, surrounded by them, surrounded by- her.

That last part was the part that scared him. He couldn’t explain how he went from hating the woman’s guts yesterday morning to craving a sense of proximity to her today. It made no sense. David was torn. How could something that was so wrong feel so right? They were on two opposing ends of the ideological scale, came from completely different backgrounds, they should barely be able to look at each other much less sleep under the same roof. And yet that’s what happened. She had welcomed him and his family into her home and treated them all with respect, actually more than respect, she treated the kids almost lovingly. Maybe that explained his change of heart. Within moments of meeting them, she seemed to truly like his kids, instead of looking down her nose at them like he expected her to. Whatever was happening and whether it was right or wrong, he wasn’t sure, but he also wasn’t sure he cared. The Julia he had met last night, and this morning was someone worth pursuing.

 

Julia was receiving an update from Stephen Hunter-Dunn when David exited the elevator. From inside her office, she let her eyes follow him as he made his way to his usual post. Hunter-Dunn had continued talking all the while. The police and the security service still didn’t know much about the possible terror threat on the school, but he assured her that they had forces on the ground close by the school monitoring the situation. Hunter-Dunn left not long after. Julia felt sick. Did she tell David? He would go collect the kids surely. But if the terrorists were targeting him, and it seemed they were, wouldn’t his presence near the school set everything in motion, or upon learning that the Budd children hadn’t been harmed, would they try something else? Show up at his house or workplace or go after Vicky? But if she didn’t tell David, and Charlie and Ella were caught in the crossfire quite literally, she would never forgive herself. Shit. Fuck. Hunter- Dunn had said not to tell David, he seemed to think that would make the threat worse. Julia took a few deep breaths, and then a few more. Did she listen to Hunter-Dunn? He was the head of the security service after all and seemed to give educated advice. But even that didn’t sit well with her, she didn’t entirely trust Hunter-Dunn. Reaching into her pocket and grabbing her mobile, she quickly dialled a number, half hoping the person on the other end would contradict everything Hunter-Dunn had told her. The phone was ringing, so she’d have her answer soon enough.

I hope nothing happens to the kids.

I hope nothing happens to the kids.

I hope nothing happens to the kids.

“Hello? Ma’am?” a voice sounded through the mobile.

“Yes hello, I have a question.”

Chapter Text

David had been thinking about the previous night and how he was going to proceed getting to know Julia better when the Home Office erupted with activity. Usually a quiet if somewhat tense place to work, David had never seen anything like this. Mike Travis, Rob McDonald and a whole host of other people converged on the meeting room. And then there was Julia. David wouldn’t describe her as being calm in that moment, but she was keeping it together better than just about everyone else. He couldn’t tell that underneath that tightly controlled façade Julia was panicking. Julia was panicking big time.

The whispers started not long after the door to the meeting room slammed shut. An attack on a school, no details yet.

And then a little while later- apparently, they used a bomb.

Unclear about whether or not there are any casualties.

David’s eyes kept flicking over to the closed meeting room door. It felt like an age since the initial news of the attack broke, when in fact it had only been just over an hour. An attack on a school, a bomb, possible casualties but not yet certain. Shit. The masses that descended on the meeting room were now leaving one by one. He didn’t notice the surreptitious glances they were throwing him. His phone rang then, he was unfamiliar with the number, but he answered it anyway.

Julia stayed in the meeting room after everyone else had left, taking a moment to gather herself and try to swallow the bile rising in her throat. The meeting had been called to plan the Home Office’s response to the attack and to receive the first responder’s initial reports. Unlike most meetings that took place, it had been an appropriately subdued affair. She was used to people talking over each other to try and get to her first, used to the subtle jabs thrown across the table; but there was none of that this time. She almost would have preferred there was, it would have been business as usual then, and she could maybe have forgotten the fact that in one way or another Charlie and Ella had been involved. Word had eventually made its way back to the Home Office that it was their school that had been attacked. There had been no word on them, at once disproving the adage that no news is good news. For all that the meeting had been respectfully subdued, it had also been remarkably dispassionate. Julia felt like screaming the entire time, find Ella and Charlie Budd now and tell me they’re okay is what she wanted to tell them… but she couldn’t- wouldn’t because it would ruin everything.

Finally exiting the room her eyes flicked up to David’s. She took in the sight of him, eyebrows drawn, blue eyes wide, mouth agape and phone held up to his ear. He had received news of the attack. Received news of Charlie and Ella. She didn’t know what to make of his shocked expression. Was it just that, shock? Or was it something else? Had one of the kids been injured or… worse? Christ, how could he find out before even the Home Office did? Julia strode over to him, met his gaze and flicked a look over to her office. David did nothing but follow her inside.

“There’s been an attack on my kids’ school,” he rasped.

“Yes.” She saw no point in beating around the bush at this point.

“And Charlie and Ella are…” his voice drifted off and silence pervaded the room.

What? Charlie and Ella are what David?

“… are fine, but I need to pick them up. They’re safe,” he sighed eventually, some of the tension leaving his shoulders.

Julia felt a sense of instant relief. “Thank God. And your wife, does she know?”

A pained look flashed over his face at her question. “No, she doesn’t. She’s at work on another overnight and wouldn’t have her phone on her. I’ve called to let her know and will again when I’ve picked the kids up, but I don’t know how long it will be before she has time to check her phone.” He paused then, running a hand over his face before he continued, “she’ll be a mess when she finds out.”

Julia noticed the withdrawn, introspective look in his eyes but said nothing, not wanting to push him. After a short while of sitting and staring into space he opened and closed his mouth and took a few short, sharp breaths as if he was about to say something but couldn’t find the words. “Talk to me, David.”

He took a deep breath. “I feel like I’ve fucked up. My kids have just been involved in a terrorist attack, and all I have to take them home to is a cold nearly empty flat. I can barely provide for them let alone protect them.” He caught himself then, realising what he had said and what it betrayed. “That’s the least of your worries,” he spoke in a rush, “I’ll go now ma’am if you don’t mind. Ella and Charlie will be scared out of their wits and I need to see them to make sure they’re truly okay.”

He was almost at the door when Julia spoke next. He was broken, even if only for a moment, and she could actually help. “Take them to mine again. You would have been issued with a spare key when you took your position so you can get in easily.” He looked ready to argue, but she spoke over him, “David, my flat is under constant guard, it’s probably one of the safest places in the country. Ella and Charlie have already been there, so they aren’t unfamiliar with the place. Take the rest of the day off, go get your kids and take them to my place. Call Vicky when you’ve all settled down, she doesn’t need to hear the kids be frightened, especially if she can’t see them immediately. Kim can take over my security detail for the rest of the day. It’ll be fine.”

Julia watched his resolve crumble before her eyes. He tipped his head back, blinked his eyes a few times before replying shakily, “thank you ma’am, if you’re sure its okay.”

“I’m absolutely sure.”

Once David left the room, Julia sat down heavily in her desk chair. She took the liberty of ignoring the calls and texts that came through to her, letting them go to voicemail for a moment while she recalled the events of the day. Her recollection was foggy at best, and in a startling moment of clarity she realised it was due to worry. She had spent the entire time worrying about the Budd children that she had simply been going through the motions. She knew she should be ashamed of that, of not giving 100 per cent in that moment, but she wasn’t, not really. Through the haze of events, two words stuck out to her, and she repeated them to herself like a litany while her phone rang in the background.

They’re safe.

They’re safe.

They’re safe.

Julia made a point of going home early that evening. Well early for her. In all honesty there was too much work to be done for her to be doing so, but she did it anyway- she was used to working from home. She had debated the whole way home the best way to explain David and the kids’ presence to Kim. By the time the car stopped at her flat she had decided to be upfront and honest with her. Kim could be trusted to be discreet. Julia stopped her on the footpath leading to the front door. “Kim, I don’t think you’ll have to do a security sweep tonight.”

To say that Kim was taken aback would be an understatement. “Ma’am, I know you find them invasive, but given that there has been a serious threat to security, not doing one would be unwise.” Kim was nothing if not direct, it was something that Julia respected and admired about her and felt that she deserved the same in return.

“Yes, I understand that, but see…” she lowered her voice then, conscious of the fact that the rest of the security team were within ear shot, “Sergeant Budd and his children are inside. I dare say he’s already done a sweep for you.”

Shock registered on Kim’s face. “Ma’am this is highly unusual. To have your PPO in your flat off duty and with his children? Do our superiors know?”

“No, and they won’t. You didn’t see his face Kim.” Julia left it there, not leaving any room for argument, before walking resolutely towards the front door and nodding a greeting to the policeman standing guard. Once outside the door to her flat, Kim spoke once more. “You can rely on me to be discreet ma’am, but only if you’re sure about this.”

"I am.” Unlocking the door and stepping inside Julia turned and faced her. “Thank you, Kim. I appreciate it and I’m sure Sergeant Budd will too. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Stepping into the living room Julia took in the sight before her. Ella and Charlie were laying on the couches, wrapped in the blankets she and David had used the night before, watching something on the tv. Only Ella raised her head at Julia entering the room but said nothing before returning her gaze to the tv. It was eerie, they were completely different to the giggling, smiling kids she saw yesterday and this morning. David appeared in her periphery, she turned to greet him when he gestured towards the kitchen, clearly wanting to talk to her in the semi privacy it afforded.
“You’ve changed.” It was not exactly how she’d planned on opening the conversation, but it would have to do.

“Erm yeah I did. I keep a spare change of clothes at the office just in case.... I um, I changed the kids back into those shirts you lent them last night I hope that’s okay.”

“Of course. Have you called Vicky?”

“Yes. She spoke with the kids for her whole break. The hospital is massively understaffed, so she can’t be spared,” he scoffed that last sentence, and to Julia it seemed justified- in what world couldn’t a mother go to her kids after they’d experienced a traumatic event? “Anyway,” he continued, “she knows they’re safe and she’s asked for updates through the night. She’ll see them first thing tomorrow morning.”

“Okay. How are they?”

“Scared. Shaken. Charlie has only just stopped crying. Ella hasn’t said anything. I got some takeaway but neither of them were hungry, so there’s leftovers if you want some. I’m going to try and put them to bed soon.”

“Right okay, well just let me shower and get changed and then you can put them in my bed again.”

Julia made quick work of her nightly routine. Usually she liked to take her time, give herself some space to unwind from the day, but this evening wasn’t like any other evening. She walked out of the en-suite as David was ushering Ella and Charlie in. He held a small toiletry bag and jumped to explain, “I asked one of the guards to run to the Tesco down the street and get us a few things. Vicky would have my head if she found out the kids hadn’t brushed their teeth.” It was a lame attempt at a joke, he was desperate for something to lighten the mood.

He got them ready eventually. Julia didn’t hang around; she didn’t want to encroach. She was halfway through a report when David stepped out. In a defeated and slightly embarrassed voice he said, “they won’t settle. They’re asking if you can come in with us.”

“I’m sorry?”

“I’ve been lying with them, hoping that they’ll settle. They want you to do the same.” He elaborated, his eyes looking anywhere but at her.

“Why?”

“I don’t know.”

Standing at the threshold of her bedroom she could see why. Two pairs of frightened eyes stared up at her. The kids both clutched the duvet up to their chins, desperate for something to cuddle. They craved security.

David was standing at her shoulder. “I think they just want to be held,” she whispered to him. She and David climbed into bed then, and immediately they each had a child curled up next to them, being hugged with skinny arms wrapped around their middles. Ella and Charlie drifted off eventually, after many soothing touches and reassurances that they were safe, that no, nothing was going to happen to them, and that yes, they’d see Mummy in the morning.

David and Julia were left then in the relative quiet of the room, the only sound being the soft inhale and exhale of the two sleeping children between them. Their eyes met across the pillows, and David, finally letting a few of his own tears fall whispered, “thank you.”

--

It was late afternoon the next day and David was at work, albeit reluctantly. Vicky had the day off and had taken the kids home, so he had nothing else to do but work. Yesterday had been a rollercoaster of emotions, but he was glad it ended the way it did, he was glad that Julia had been there to help comfort the kids and had so readily opened her home to them. It made the whole situation easier to bear.

He had been standing just outside her office when Stephen Hunter-Dunn exited the room with Mike Travis. He didn’t hear much of the conversation, but he did catch the tail end of it, and it brought him up short.

“I told the Home Secretary not to tell him about the attack. We didn’t know if they were targeting that specific school. We didn’t need him rushing in there trying to save the day, even if his kids go there.”

Him. They were talking about him.

Chapter Text

David couldn’t remember a time he had been so angry. Angry was the wrong word actually. Irate, incensed, and furious- they were all far more accurate terms to describe what he was feeling, and yet even they somehow fell short. There was something else in mixed in there too… He supposed that it was a deep sense of grief and betrayal that only dampened the edges of the inferno that was his anger. Grief for what could have been and betrayal for what had already been and gone. He didn’t know whether to scream or cry.

Yet David, standing in the Home Office, protecting the very person who inflicted his pain, didn’t want to ruminate on that sense of loss though. Not in that moment. All he could think about was what people meant when they say they saw red and how it was only now that he truly understood the feeling.

It was late afternoon, the end of the day by anyone else’s standards but not Julia Montague’s, they would be here, stuck in each other’s company for many more hours yet. And so, David stood watching and waiting, his jaw clenching and unclenching, his hands balling up into fists and then relaxing again. All the while he let his emotions simmer and fester underneath.

He avoided saying anything to her, not in the elevator, nor in the car on the way back to her flat. On their journeys back to her flat, they had both fallen into the habit of communicating through glances in the rear-view mirror, but tonight he avoided her questioning gaze. He asked Terry to take them the most direct route back, it was a calculated risk, but he was desperate to get out of her presence. She had done enough.

He had done the usual sweep of her flat, completing it quicker than he had ever done before. After the first night she had learned to stay in the hallway like he asked her to, so he didn’t fell forced to interact with her.

He rounded the corner to give her the all clear, intending those two words to be all he would say, when he saw her standing in front of the door with an eyebrow raised and arms crossed. They stood at an impasse, waiting for the other to break the silence. She crumbled first. “What’s wrong?” It was closer to a demand than a gentle enquiry.

David couldn’t believe it. Did she really think that he wouldn’t have found out at some point? Did she think that little of him? One question was all it took for the floodgates to open, for all the fury and pain to come hurtling out. “What’s wrong? What’s wrong? I don’t know Julia, when were you going to tell me that you knew about the attack on the school before it happened?” He paused then, genuinely wanting to give her time to answer, hoping that he was wrong and that it was all a mistake, that she had a good reason for not telling him. He watched as her eyes flittered about the room and her mouth worked to formulate an answer. He was just giving her time to think up a lie. He had been wrong about her, had misjudged her so completely he saw that now. “David I can explain,” came the weak reply.

“You can explain? Aye well that’s good. So, you can explain how you knew about an attack, knew they were targeting schools in that area, knew my kids went to school in that area and did nothing? Even after you had met them, after you let them stay the night.” He was worked up, too worked up but he couldn’t stop himself. “And then you let them stay again last night! Is this all some sick joke to you? Do you think we’re just here to entertain you, so you can live out some twisted fantasy, so you can play at happy families? Just when I was starting to think that what the papers say about you isn’t true you go and do this. Maybe you are a heartless cow… Actually no, I know you are now.” He had started pacing at some point and was starting to feel hot, but she just stood there. She just stood there, why wouldn’t she say something?

“You might not be directly affected by any of this Julia, but this is my kids’ lives you’re fucking around with, this is my life. What would you have done if they had been injured or killed? Did you think? Did you care?” He paused again, breathing heavily. “You’re a typical politician you know that don’t you? You didn’t tell me, and it could have ruined my family, and you don’t seem to care. I thought we meant more to you than that.” His voice had gone cold and quiet, his gaze direct.

Julia found her voice, though it was feeble. “Being a politician does not inherently make me a monster David.”

He scoffed; she had missed the point. “No. But lying, and putting innocent kids in danger when you have the power to stop it? Maybe that does.” He pushed past her then having said his piece and wanting nothing more to do with her. He would ask to be reassigned in the morning.

He made his way outside into the brisk night air, feeling it cool his overheated body and with it temper his emotions. He felt calmer now, less like a coiled spring. He made a quick stop by the support car to tell them that he would walk and catch a train home. The walk would do him good, give him time to expel the last of his heightened energy, but more than anything he wanted to be alone, free of any outside influences. He wanted to call the kids, talk to Vicky and get back to normal.

Julia hadn’t moved a step. She stood in the hallway with her coat still on and bags in hand staring at the front door. Her eyes were glassy but were rapidly filling with tears. Tears were falling down her cheeks before too long. She was sobbing before she knew it. Everything he had said hit too close to home. She prided herself on always trying to do the right thing, even if it meant making tough decisions. Look where that got her. Standing alone in a cold flat with the one person she felt she could trust revolted by her. She could deal with the tabloids and the normal political jabs, but it felt different this time. She had lost a part of David tonight, of that much she was sure.

Chapter Text

It was a long time before Julia moved from her spot in front of the door. She had given up hope of him ever returning. As she moved through her flat, gradually divesting herself of her bags, heels and coat, she kept replaying their argument in her head.

This is my kids’ lives you’re fucking around with. This is my life.

Did you care?

I thought we meant more to you than that.

I thought we meant more to you than that.

She should have stopped him there. She should have assured him that even in the short time she had known him, had known his children, they had very quickly come to mean more to her than someone like Roger ever could. But she didn’t and she knew that she would regret that always.

Julia had made it to the bathroom and was in the process of undressing when she noticed something on the counter. It was a navy-blue ribbon, Julia remembered tying off Ella’s braids that first morning with one similar. Just when the tears had dried, they welled up again. Funny how something so small could bring the enormity of what she’d done crashing down on her. At the time and bolstered by reassurances from both Hunter-Dunn and Sampson, she felt she had done the right thing in not telling David about the attack. She should have listened to her gut instinct, should never have asked Hunter-Dunn or Sampson for their opinions. Doing so had cost too much.

She let herself shed the last of her tears in the shower, a headache already beginning to form. By the time Julia was done in the bathroom she had resolved to make things right between her and David. They would sit down tomorrow at some point and discuss it all calmly and rationally. David had the capacity to be stern, she knew that much, but she also knew that underneath it all he was a kind and thoughtful man; hopefully once she had the chance to explain everything, he would realise she wasn’t just some Tory monster. Once they sat and talked everything would be okay again, she was sure of it.

Feeling better about the whole situation she walked into the kitchen, feeling like a glass of wine more than anything. The headache from her evening of crying suggested though that was the last thing she needed. Tea and a chocolate digestive would see her through the night. Ordinarily she would spend her evenings reading through various reports, but tonight she sat in bed, a book lay open but unread beside her, and thought about exactly what she would say to David and how she would say it. Julia Montague was not usually one to apologise for much of anything, but she’d be damned if she got in wrong this time.

She woke the next morning feeling optimistic if not refreshed. She wanted, needed, this meeting with David to go right. She just needed to choose the right time. She actually would have preferred to talk with him before work for the day properly started, but it was a busy time of year and she was needed at the office. Besides, this was not the type of talk she wanted to rush. She would have to wait until the evening most likely, when he did the check over the flat, they would have time to spare then.

David had only just walked out the door of his flat when Craddock called to arrange a meeting for later that morning. It was already 7 o’clock and she wanted him standing in front of her desk at 9. As far as David was concerned this was a good thing. He wouldn’t be required to go to the Home Office first, have the tense conversation with the principal and then meet with Craddock; he could just bypass the Home Office entirely, listen to whatever Craddock wanted to say and then put in his request for reassignment. As easy as pie.

He took his time making his way to the meeting. He didn’t see the need to rush, between the principal and Craddock he was tired of people pulling him this way and that with their demands on his time. The principal. Since he’d walked out of her flat, he’d been calling her that. Not Julia. Not ma’am. Just ‘the principal’. Why overcomplicate things? It was almost 9 o’clock, she’s be expecting him to meet her at the Home Office. Maybe she’d stall for a second when stepping out of the lift, waiting for him to come around the corner. She’d have to learn to wait for someone else soon. Smugness mixed with guilt in his belly. Along with the last of his frustration he’d been feeling that as well. He felt better now that he told her what he felt but couldn’t quite shift the feeling that maybe he had misread the situation. She didn’t get defensive last night whilst he was calling her all the names under the sun, and at the time he thought that was an admission of guilt. Mid tangent he hadn’t spared the time to think about the look on her face, but as he sipped on his coffee and made his way down the hallway towards Craddock’s office, he couldn’t help but remember that she had looked distressed. Not the kind of distressed at being found out either, but a kind of saddened distress. A worried distress even. He forced himself to harden his mind and heart once more. He would walk into Craddock’s office and ask to be reassigned. No matter what the principal had felt last night, he still couldn’t trust her. Not when she had lied to him.

 

“No”

“Excuse me?”

“No David, you will not be reassigned,” came the terse reply.

“Why the fuck not?”

“Watch it David. Anne Sampson has ordered that you must remain with the Home Secretary. She wants to speak with you later, I’m sure she will contact you soon.” Seeing his downcast look, she continued, “you’re the best person for the job. You wouldn’t have been given the position if we didn’t think so. The Home Secretary’s safety is paramount. I’m sorry David, but I can’t do this for you.”

“Right. Well then. I suppose I’d better be off to the Home Office… Ma’am.” He spat the honorific.

“Yes, you should. And David?” she called as he made his way to the door, “watch your tone, will you?” She said nothing else and looked down at whatever pile of paperwork was in front of her. That in itself serving as his dismissal he strode through the door, made his way back down the hallway and out of the building. He was stuck.

Julia had been working nonstop since she arrived at the Home Office. She had been disappointed to find that David wasn’t there already when she walked in but was comforted when she heard that he was only having a meeting with Lorraine Craddock. His meeting with her wasn’t unusual after all. She didn’t have too much time to think about it though as the days’ work began. She had just left a meeting when Roger walked in. Great, just when she thought the last 48 hours couldn’t get any worse. He swaggered over to her, a self-assured smile on his lips. “Should we be worried Julia?”

‘I’m sorry?” she spluttered. What was he on about?

“Should we be worried? First the October 1st attack, now the attack on the school. I heard your PPO’s children go there,” he scoffed, “God if you can’t protect them, who can you protect?”

Roger Penhaligon was without a doubt the vilest man she had ever met. She took a moment to tamp down her anger and formulate a response so not to cause a scene, but he jumped in quickly, “maybe it’s time to throw in the towel hmm old girl? You had a good run.” He pinched her cheek, smoothed down her hair and then walked back towards the elevator without another word. As the doors slid open, David walked out and met him. It was like Julia’s worst nightmare, well second worst nightmare.

“So sorry to hear about your children getting caught up in the attack Sergeant Budd. Nasty business all this.” Rogers’ eyes slid back over to where Julia was standing before he continued, “maybe if the Home Office worked a bit harder, they’d have been able to stop it.”

She could just make out David’s strained reply. “Yes sir, it is nasty. My children are well. Thank you for asking.” David’s slight dig at Roger’s lack of social etiquette went over the top of Roger’s head. The two men left it there and parted ways. Julia watched as David didn’t acknowledge her presence and went straight to Kim. They had a hushed discussion, and then David left again without giving an explanation. Kim looked confused but not unhappy. Julia went to Kim on her way to her office, an eyebrow raised in question.

“He said he wanted to go over the security detail for your upcoming events ma’am. He left me in charge of your personal protection for the day. Skip said he’d be back later to check in and take you home ma’am.”

It seemed reasonable to Julia that David would do this. She had a busy week ahead after all, so she didn’t question it, but something about David’s demeanour this morning made an uneasy feeling settle in her belly. She didn’t know what he was thinking. She thanked Kim and headed in to her office.

She saw him briefly later that afternoon, but other than that saw neither hide nor hair of him for the rest of the day. Kim explained as they were making their way home that he had been called in to speak with a superior, she wasn’t sure about what. He had a meeting with Craddock this morning, so that left Anne Sampson. Julia didn’t know how to feel about David meeting with Anne Sampson. She supposed that the woman was his superior and so it was completely within reason that at some point they would meet; yet at the same time Julia didn’t entirely trust Anne. She didn’t have full confidence that Anne would have glowing things to say about her either to be fair. If they were discussing the attack then Julia wanted to be the first person to talk about it with David, she wanted to tell her side of the story without anyone else manipulating it. All Julia could do was hope they were talking about the banalities of the job.

Underneath the conflicted feeling over David’s meeting was a profound sense of disappointment. She had left her flat this morning with every intention of having that discussion, and she returned to her flat having not spoken a word to him. She had failed- again. Julia knew that he had perfectly good reasons for not being present all day, but it felt like he was avoiding her. That discussion was supposed to save whatever their relationship had become and after what happened last night, on top of everything today left her with questioning whether they even had a relationship professional or otherwise.

Do you think we’re just here to entertain you, so you can live out some twisted fantasy, so you can play at happy families?

Maybe she had been living out a fantasy. Maybe she had dragged him and his kids into her life and forced them to play along. She wasn’t sure anymore. Looking back over the last two nights with them even after the attack, was like remembering a dream, the type of dream that you never want to wake up from, it was weird and wonderful all at once. But David’s anger, the argument, and his subsequent absence made the jolt back to reality that much harsher.

Julia didn’t remember feeling this sad after her divorce with Roger. She and David weren’t even in an established relationship, yet it was still like going through a breakup. So, she did what any woman does after having her heart broken. She drew herself a bath and selected a sappy movie before she opened a bottle of wine and got out her comfiest, fuzziest pyjamas. She needed all the soothing she could get tonight.

David had become accustomed to the near constant sense of annoyance that had been present over the past 24 hours. He wanted more than anything to be plonked in front of the tv with a beer in hand, but instead he was making his way to yet another meeting with a superior.

His phone vibrated in his pocket. It was Vicky. “Hi Love.” His voice was drained.

“Hiya Dave. Erm I was just going through Charlie’s reading homework and I saw a weird signature. I think it says JM. Who’s that? It’s dated for when you had the kids.”

David’s breath caught in his throat. Julia knew Charlie struggled reading. It was something they had talked about on the first night at her flat. He had thought she was half asleep when he told her that, but she must have been listening. She must have helped Charlie. David couldn’t think when, unless it was that first morning while he in the shower. His heart started pounding and he could hear the blood rushing in his ears. Vicky was waiting on the other end. “Ahh I think it’s someone from the office, they must have had a few minutes to spare while I was working. How nice of them.” There, not entirely a lie.

“Yeah. Make sure to thank them, won’t you? Hey, it’s late and I have work tomorrow. I’ll talk to you later alright. Bye”

“Yeah alright Love. Tell Ella and Charlie I love them.”

He hung up and checked the time. It was time for his meeting.

 

“The Home Secretary called me you know David.”

“I’m sorry?”

“She called me. Before the attack happened, wanted to gain a second opinion on whether or not to tell you. She sounded flustered… worried even. I never thought I’d hear Julia Montague sound like that, but there you go.”

“I didn’t know.”

“No, I didn’t think so.” Anne paused for a second, considering her words carefully. “David, I need you to stay on her team. Things aren’t looking good, not with the recent attacks. She needs you now more than ever.”

A short while later David left the building almost at a run. Shit. Fuck. Oh God. He had screwed up. He had screwed up big time.

Chapter Text

It was unsociably early when David turned the corner to walk down Julia’s street. It happened to be David’s favourite time of day, just before the sun fully rose when the air was crisp and what little light there was cast everything in blue. It was a chilly morning, so he bundled himself closer into his jacket until only the tip of his nose felt the cold.

He had been rehearsing what he was going to say. Had thought constantly about how he was going to approach her after the way he acted. How he was going to apologise. He didn’t think she would appreciate him waxing lyrical about how sorry he was, so he had decided that it was best just to come straight out at say it. I’m sorry.

He had made it to her flat and was standing on the footpath just looking at the front door trying to clear his head. The guard was eyeing him suspiciously. David tried not to let it get to him, they had only recently had new guards put on rotation, this guy didn’t know him yet. Walking up to the front door, David flashed his police badge and explained he was the Home Secretary’s PPO. The new guard took his sweet time inspecting his badge, so much so that David couldn’t help but think that this was a bad omen for what was to come- if he ever got inside. Finally, the guard, Jack his name was, grunted his approval and let him through the front door.

David sighed in relief at being let into the warm entranceway before the all too familiar sinking feeling settled in his stomach. Getting past the guard hadn’t been on his list of worries when he set out this morning and yet it had been harder than he would have thought. If that was how the rest of the day was going to go, he may as well turn around now and forget about it all. But no, apologising to Julia was the right thing to do, even if he thought he would come out worse for it. She would be angry at him for treating her like that no doubt, and he couldn’t really blame her, he was angry at himself too.

Like a man condemned he slowly made his way up the stairs, once more running over his apology. All too soon he was at her door with his hand poised to knock. He swallowed and then took a deep breath. Knocking once, then twice, he waited for any sign that she was going to answer. He waited. Then waited some more. He had just finished chastising himself for coming so early and was about to go when the door opened.

Oh.

They had quickly gotten to know each other in the few hours they had spent together outside the office, but never had David seen her like this. Her eyes were red and puffy. Her hair was dishevelled, but not in a bed head kind of way, more like she had been raking her hand through it all night. She was dressed in her white robe, the same one he saw hung in her bathroom that first morning, and long fuzzy pyjama pants. She didn’t look like she had slept much, if at all. She didn’t look like Julia Montague.

His heart broke for her. He had been harsh on her, to the point of being cruel. But in the few hours since he had stormed out of this exact door until this moment, he had come to realise something monumental. He felt something for Julia. He had felt hurt and betrayed yes, but he had quickly come to love the woman who opened her home to his kids, who braided Ella’s hair, who helped Charlie with his reading homework, he loved how he could talk to her, really talk to her. He loved her for a whole host of reasons, from the quirk of her lips as she tried not to laugh to her complete strength of character. He loved all of that and more, and in the end, he had decided that all of that and the possibility of learning more about her trumped any feelings of hurt he had felt. For better or worse she was like a siren, and he, ever the hapless sailor, was destined to go where he was called. So, there he stood, at her door, hoping against hope that he wasn’t too late in doing something to remedy their fledging relationship. But first he’d apologise and set things right between them.

She hadn’t said anything when she opened the door. Just looked at him with those sad eyes. This was not how he had envisaged things going. Her eyes were swimming with tears again, no doubt she was thinking he had come back for round two. He reached for her then, and with a quick, “come here love,” he bundled her into his chest. He let her cry as he moved them from the doorway to the living room.

They stood there in her living room, neither of them said anything for long moments. Julia’s crying had been reduced to the occasional sniffle with David running his hand down her back. He had seen her do the same to Charlie that first evening and hoped that it would work in calming her down too. “I’m sorry,” he murmured against her hair.

She broke away from him then, suddenly feeling skittish. “It’s alright, I think I deserved it,” she choked through the last of her tears.

David was momentarily taken aback by that little revelation. It revealed much more about Julia than she realised. He had been present when she and Roger had fought and could vouch of their arguments’ volatility. It made him wonder just how bad their marital arguments had been, and how often Julia had taken the brunt of the blame. It was a disturbing thought, even more so now that she was falling into the old habit with him.

“No, you didn’t, you and I both know that. I was so furious before I couldn’t bear to listen to you. But I’m ready to listen, if you’re ready to talk. I don’t want to be angry with you Julia.”

She stood unsure for a second, debating what to do. Just about every fibre of her being was telling her to make it right, to tell him everything. But part of her, the insecure part that Roger preyed on during their marriage was telling her to hold back, in case he turned around and said everything truly was her fault.

David watched her as this internal battle waged on inside her head. She reminded him of his kids when they were deciding whether or not to tell him of a wrongdoing. Struck by a sudden bolt of inspiration he held out his hand again and waited for her to take it. It seemed an age before she finally did. They had always been able to have open and safe discussions in one room in her flat, so if that’s where this talk needed to happen, so be it.

Her bedroom was quiet and dark when they walked in. He let go of her hand briefly to flick on a bedside lamp. It emitted a comforting warm light. He folded down a corner of the duvet before turning to her once more. “In you hop,” the deep rumble of his voice breaking the silence.

She didn’t question him, but instead of getting in the side he turned down, she skirted around the bed, completely avoiding him, and got in the other side. Alright. He stood at the side of the bed and watched as she lay there stiffly. “I’m going to get in too.” She nodded but said nothing. Once he was laying down, he gently took the covers out from her clenched hands before drawing them up and over their heads, tucking the sheets between the headboard and the wall. “What are you doing?” she asked, her voice hardly more than a whisper.

“Building a blanket fort.” He paused for a second. He could just leave it there and offer no more explanation, but his goal was to be honest with her. “I figured we might be able to block everything out for a bit, no distractions. We can talk openly and honestly about everything. In here we’re just David and Julia, not Home Secretary and PPO. Does that sound okay with you?”

Julia’s only response was a slight nod. He didn’t know what made him do it, but he grasped both her hands in his and brought them level to his chest. “I had a meeting with Anne Sampson tonight. She mentioned that you called her before the attack, something about wanting a second opinion. So, I gather the decision not to tell me wasn’t entirely yours.”

He knew. Thank God he knew. Julia felt like she could breathe again and could finally stop crying. She explained everything then- from the moment she had received intelligence of the attack until their argument. David let her talk uninterrupted for the most part, only asking the occasional question. Julia went into great detail, explaining how and why and who was involved in the decision-making process. It took a while, but everything was finally out in the open.

“You asked me whether or not I care David, about you and the kids. I want you to know that I do, rather more than I probably should actually,” Julia finished.

“Yes. I know that now.” They both let out sighs of relief, feeling like the weight of the world had been lifted off their shoulders. “Have you slept at all?” David would never be caught saying it, but she truly did look awful.

“In fits and starts,” she replied.

“More than me. It’s Saturday so you don’t have to be anywhere, which means I don’t have to be anywhere. Why don’t we get a few hours sleep?”

“You want to sleep in here?”

“Yes, I could do with a nap. Is that okay? I can always go out on the couch if you prefer.”

“No! No! It’s fine. Please don’t go.”

 

With the blanket untucked from the headboard, they both settled down into bed. Fitting together like spoons in a drawer, it was the first time either had felt completely at peace and safe for days. Just as he was about to drift off, David whispered into Julia’s hair, “I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to forget what’s happened, but I do know that I can forgive you. I want to try and make whatever is going on between us work.”

His whispered confession was met with silence. David assumed she was asleep when Julia murmured back, “we’ll go slowly.”