They were returning to their office above Mrs. Pomligan's when Fleet made a passing statement of appreciation regarding a dark blue overcoat in a shop window. Instantly, a notebook appeared in Clara's hand, opened no doubt to 'Outerwear - likes, dislikes, associated opinions.' Fleet sighed.
"I thought you lost that."
“I did. I had to replace it.” She cast him a severe look. “You said you would get me a new one, and you didn't.”
“That was when I thought we were going to die.”
“Hmm.” That was obviously a poor excuse.
They pushed their way into the café, ignoring the outraged accusations of queue jumping, and made their way up the back stairs. “What do you need all that trivia for anyway?” He unlocked the office door. “Clara, did it ever occur to you already probably know me better than anyone?”
"What do you mean?”
“We’ve been stalked, menaced, threatened, shot at, knocked out, nearly died, actually died-"
“I haven't actually died.”
“I don't recommend it. But if that doesn't count as getting to know someone, I don't know what does.”
She sat at her desk, carefully setting down her notebook and eyeing him speculatively. He was just beginning to wonder how offended he should be by her scrutiny when she said, “You're clever. Which is why you realize the world is a very silly place. Sometimes that amuses you, but mostly it annoys you. It especially annoys you when other people don't realize that. You know how much you don't know, and you don't understand why people aren't willing to just be honest about how much none of it makes any sense. That's probably why you became a detective. You can't help but try to make it make sense anyway.”
He wasn't sure what he had been expecting from this conversation, and he certainly hadn't been expecting the little warm glow that set up in his chest, near his mechanical heart. She got it. Of course she got it.
He cleared his throat. “Isn't that better than knowing my preferences in porcelain or when my birthday is?”
“That's in September, right?”
“No. And stop it.”
“But what if I want to get you a birthday present?”
“Then you can just get me a present. Why does the day matter?”
Her jaw dropped, stunned at his gross heresy. “What a horrible thing to say!”
He couldn't help himself – he smiled. A little, and resignedly, but a smile nonetheless. He understood now. Her notes, her lists, her endless leading questions – it was how she showed she cared. Oh, she would mount aerial rescues, challenge the murderous, fling herself into harm’s way without a second thought…but picking the perfect Christmas card was how Clara Entwhistle felt she’d really made it as a friend. It was just who she was.
He dug up a piece of scrap paper, wrote a date on it, and handed it to her. She accepted it with a confused frown. “If – IF – you were going to get me a present, and it happened to coincide with that date…I wouldn't tell you no.”
Comprehension, and possibly happy tears, welled in her eyes. She clutched the paper to her heart as if it were a holy relic. “Fleet! You don't know what this means to me!”
“And I still have time, too! Oh, this will be fun!”
He sighed. If it made her happy… “I'm sure it will be.”