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Malcolm changed into a fresh suit in his office, with the door closed and Sam guarding it. New set of clothes right down to his boxers. Thank God Sam was all business about these things, but he hadn't been home in three days and the shower (gents only) couldn't do anything for his half-melted shirts. It had been a hellish streak. Stress, shouting, tense meetings, the PM fighting for his political life, the Party in a shambles, an utter blood-soaked shambles. It was so bad he'd had to put off Clara and the dinner date she desperately wanted for three nights running.

The photograph of Clara on his desk had glass on it. Malcolm maneuvered himself around so he could see his own reflection well enough to knot his tie. Clara's face smiled up at him behind his own grimace. It made him feel like a tit. He'd make it up to her somehow, though he was fucked if he knew how. He'd had Sam send her several greenhouses of flowers, complete with groveling notes, but he knew that wasn't enough. Wasn't the way he wanted it either. She deserved his time and attention and his presence at the quiet moments, doing things like eating breakfast together, going for walks, arguing about which one of them should acquire a cat. Not just tumbling into bed every time he managed to drag himself away, for a few hours of closeness.

Not that either one of them minded the tumbling. Tumbling was great. He'd been a bit desperate the last time, and Clara had been distracted successfully from his absences, and-- Fuck. Fuck. He'd just had a brainstorm, an unwelcome moment of self-insight. He stared at himself in the glass, at Clara's face behind. He wanted a bit more than that, did he?

Fuck. No time to think this through. Time to get on with his shit-covered morning. He lunged for the door.

"Sam! Sammy!"

He yanked the door open and stopped. Clara, sitting on the edge of Sam's desk, chatting away with Sam, nineteen to the dozen. They broke off and looked up at him. Sam stood up and automatically took his soiled jacket from him. Malcolm gawped. His mind leaped around from bad explanation to worse; Clara looked a little solemn. She never came to his office except in emergencies. It was not the done thing, trotting girlfriends around to soak their knickers with displays of one's power. At least not at 10 ack emma. So therefore it was an emergency. Shit. Fuck.

"What's wrong?" he said.

Clara slid down and came toward him, not looking at him. "Thanks, Sam. Owe you one."

Now his stomach was really dropping hard and fast. He stroked a hand over his face. "Sam, tell them all to fuck off until I open the door myself, right? Ta."

Door closed, and he had Clara in his arms pressed up against it, his mouth on hers, just to prove to himself that she wasn't dumping him like the absentee cock-up he was. Then she was pushing him away, gently enough, but with definite purpose.

"Sorry, darling, I am sorry. About last night. And the night before."

"Yeah, I know. Been reading the papers."

"Blood in the fucking water, sharks circling."

"I get it. Seriously, I do get it. But I can't let this wait any longer."

"What? Clara--"

"Just shut up, okay? I have to say this." She pulled her phone out of her pocket and jabbed a finger at it. "I wrote cue cards, and then I put notes in my phone and rehearsed it. Oh my god, I can't possibly read all this. What was I thinking?"

Her eyes went wide and she stared at the screen. Malcolm made a grab for the phone, to cut the middleman out, but she swatted his hand down and tucked it back into her jacket pocket.

"Right. Okay. The thing is, and it's really a thing, not just a hypothetical thing, though it's a terrifying thing that I haven't had the courage to tell you for a week now and--" She broke off.

"What, darling? Just say it. Please. You dumping me?"

Her eyes went wide, and she reached out to rest a hand on his chest. "No. No. It's nothing like that. More the opposite."

"Then what?"

"I'm pregnant."

Malcolm slammed his hand over his mouth.

The leap in his heart, fuck him, the leap in his heart was not to be denied. He kept his hand clamped down, to prevent himself from bleating out anything before he knew how she stood, what she wanted. He'd do fucking anything for her. She was waiting for him to react, watching him. He needed to say something. He pulled his hand away cautiously, wiped it on his trouser leg. He looked carefully at Clara, who was now staring at him. He couldn't read the expression on her face to save his life.

He said, "You sure?"

"Took two tests. And a blood test."

"How long?"

"Ten weeks, maybe eleven tops."

"Fuck, when we went to Spain."

"Yeah, that weekend in Spain. Wine, beach. Too much wine."

It had been a ridiculous evening and worth the headache the next morning. He turned away because he was smiling at the memory and he felt guilty. He'd done it to her that night, one of those times on the beach or in their house after that, or -- fuck, he'd got her pregnant one of those times. Too drunk to remember the condoms.

"Say something, Malcolm. Tell me how you feel about this. It's kind of a big thing."

He rubbed his hand over his face. What to say? Oh God yes yes my heart I am dizzy with lust right now. Did she want to hear that right now.

"Malcolm, I'm really scared right now."

Her voice was watery. Malcolm spun back around. Tears on her face. Shit! He lunged forward and got his arms around her.

"Okay," he said.


"Yeah. Okay. You're moving in with me, mind. I've got the room for it."


"You heard me, darling."

She shook her head. "What."

"Whatever you want."

"Even if it means becoming a father at the age of forty-five?"

"Even that. Whatever the fuck you want. I fucking mean it."

He rummaged around in his jacket pockets. Handkerchief, not his thing, but sometimes Sam stocked him up. She had. He dabbed Clara's face dry, careful to avoid the mascara. She took it from him and blew her nose.

It got to him then, the thought of it, of her with him for years and years, not just a fast affair until she got bored with him: kids, a house somewhere in Scotland, nights that were not in a dim musty building fucked full of upper-class twits. Fucking hell. Clara was pregnant. Pregnant. He'd done it. The thought of her up the duff from him, that night, that amazing wild endless warm night, fuck him, he was wild about it. Not right now, though. Maybe tonight. Maybe. If she was in the mood. Right now was she needed was a steady arm around her. He wasn't so stupid as to not know how this worked. She needed to know he was sticking around.

Malcolm went down on his knees and wrapped his arms around Clara's waist and tried not to let his own eyes sting. He turned his head and pressed an ear to her belly. "Can't hear anything."

She giggled and sniffled. "You idiot. That won't be for months yet."

"Any child of yours is bound to start making noise early."

"Oh yeah? Your kid, so it'll be shouting from the womb."

"At least she'll be gorgeous. Your nose, your dimples. My height."

Clara ran her fingers through his hair. "Could have my height and your nose."

"Don't curse it, darling."

She laughed. Okay. This was going to be okay.