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No Choice Of Words

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Beverley got the call from Nightingale at a little after five in the afternoon. She answered it a bit cautiously, as it still didn't feel natural having the Nightingale's number saved in her mobile--for all that her mum had been pleased over it.

"Hello?" she said, already wondering what Peter had done this time.

"Beverley, it's Thomas Nightingale. I'm sorry to disturb you, but I thought you should know something's happened to Peter."

It was incredible how everything inside of Beverley went so very still at those words. "Is he all right?"

"He'll be fine," Nightingale said immediately, his voice steady and reassuring. "He's in hospital with a rather nasty broken leg, and I wanted to make sure you got word. I know you had plans for the evening."

As Beverley processed that, she became aware of how loudly her heart was still pounding in her ears. "Just a broken leg?" she repeated, hating how her voice wobbled a little at the end.

"He'll be all right, I promise you," Nightingale said.

Once Beverley could think, once her heart wasn't trying to beat its way out of her chest from sheer panic at the words something’s happened to Peter, she demanded, "How the hell did he break his leg?"

There was a brief pause before Nightingale said, "He was in...pursuit of a suspect when it happened." Beverley could barely restrain herself from snorting at this, trust Peter to do something this idiotic when trying to handcuff someone, but she doubted Nightingale would want to hear her ranting. She'd have to save that for her sisters--whichever one of them was willing to listen, and whichever one Beverley could actually talk to about it.

But that was for later, and Beverley asked next, "So is he getting the cast on now, or something? Is that why you're the one calling?"

Another pause, longer this time. "No. He's in surgery, actually."

It took Beverley a second of her own before she replied. "Surgery," she repeated, blankly. "What--why the hell does he need surgery?"

"It was a very bad break, Beverley," Nightingale said, and now that she was listening, properly listening, she could hear the weariness in his voice, the after-effects of panic and worry. "They have to put a plate in, and I'm assured he'll be off his feet for quite some time."

"What hospital," Beverley asked, already grabbing her keys and her purse off the kitchen table.

"UCH," Nightingale said.

"Right, okay, I'm on my way."

"You don't have to rush, he really will be fine," Nightingale said, and Beverley bit back the rush of irritation, the fuck off lying in wait on the tip of her tongue. "I," she said with great emphasis on each word, "--will be on my way."

"I'll see you soon," Nightingale said next, and Beverley really didn't think she was imagining the abashed note in his voice.



When Beverley finally got to the proper waiting room, she found Nightingale there, staring fixedly down at the newspaper in his hands. The Telegraph, from the look of it.

He looked up as she approached, getting to his feet in one of those old-fashioned gestures that Beverley never really knew what to do with. “Beverley. Please, take a seat.”

Beverley sat down, feeling unsteady and unsure. “How is he?”

“Still in surgery, I’m afraid,” Nightingale said, looking so steady and relaxed that for a minute, Beverley wanted to shake him, never mind that he was the Nightingale, never mind that he was Peter’s boss. “But the surgeon’s one of the best in London, I’m assured, and Dr. Walid’s observing the procedure.”

Beverley didn’t wait to process that before demanding the only question that had been on her mind since she got that phone call. “What happened?”

Nightingale’s mouth tightened. “It was as I said. Peter was in pursuit of--of a suspect, and was injured while giving chase.”

“And?” Beverley pressed, impatient. “Come on, you can’t just leave it at that. I’ve seen Peter in action, there’s no way some ordinary suspect could’ve gotten away from him, not unless--”

Beverley stopped talking, and Nightingale just looked at her, seemingly impassive--unless you were close enough to look properly at his face, like Beverley was.

“Shit,” Beverley said, not caring if she gave offense. “It was Lesley, wasn’t it?”

Nightingale slowly nodded, and Beverley gave vent to her feelings by swearing loudly, not caring at the moment who was listening, not even Nightingale himself.

“Quite,” Nightingale said when she was finally done, his mouth tight and pinched at the corners.

“How--what happened?” Beverley asked, because that was a better question than asking how Lesley could do it, how she could lash out and hurt Peter like that.

Nightingale turned away from her, folding up his copy of the Telegraph with a deliberate care that Beverley could never hope to emulate. Not that you’d ever catch her reading that paper. “We...had a lead, on a construction site with rather odd occurrences happening. Once we were on the scene, and determined that it was Lesley’s signare, we decided to lay in wait until she reappeared.”

Beverley stays quiet, listening closely, as Peter’s distraction the past few days takes on a new significance in her mind.

“Finally Lesley came and we revealed ourselves, at which point she promptly ran off and Peter gave chase.”

“You didn’t go with him?” Beverley asks, and she tried, she really tried not to sound like she was blaming him for anything--Beverley knew exactly where the blame lay for this--but a doubtful note crept into her voice anyway.

Nightingale looked right at her and said, “Peter asked me not to. He thought--I think he believed that it’d be easier to convince Lesley to surrender, come in quietly, if it was just him at first.”

Oh, hell. Of course he did.

“So she ran, he gave chase,” Beverley said slowly, her heart beating faster in her ears as she pictures the scene, Lesley sprinting through some half-completed building, desperate to escape, and Peter right on her heels, calling out for her to stop-- “And then what did she do?”

“Lesley threw a cement brick at him,” Nightingale said. “It must’ve caught him directly on the leg, I was too far away to see but I heard--” Nightingale’s jaw worked for a moment before he continued, steadily, “I heard Peter scream, and by the time I reached him he was on the ground, and Lesley had gone.”

“God fucking dammit,” Beverley said, ignoring the shocked look from the middle-aged white lady two chairs over.

“Yes,” Nightingale said quietly, tapping his folded newspaper against his knee. Both of them were quiet for a moment, Nightingale thinking God only knew what, while Beverley sat there and silently seethed, her body rigid from the desire to lash out at something, at Lesley, at the fucking Faceless Man who’d caused all this mess, at Peter for his recklessness and his idealism, at Nightingale for letting him go in like that--

But Beverley was in a hospital, and a hospital that was on Fleet’s turf, so flooding the place was definitely not on the table. And going after Lesley--much as Beverley would’ve loved to do just that--wasn’t just off the table, it wasn’t even in the same house. Mum was very emphatic about keeping her daughters out of what she saw as an affair between the Isaacs. Even when--especially when--her daughter’s boyfriend was right in the middle of it.

“He got lucky,” Nightingale said, quietly enough that Beverley wasn’t sure at first he was speaking to her. "A few inches higher and he would’ve been hit in the femur, perhaps ruptured the major artery there." Beverley shudders at the thought of it, her mind conjuring up the image despite herself, Peter bleeding out on the dirty ground somewhere, his face going slack--

The image turned her hands cold, the rest of her body going hot from suppressed rage, but somehow--somehow Beverley gets out what she knows she should say, no matter how much the words stick in her throat. "Peter would say--he’ll say that's what Lesley meant. That she meant to limit the damage as best she could."

"I don't give a damn what she meant by it," Nightingale snapped out, an angry flush spreading across his pale cheeks.

"No," Beverley agreed, her own anger still hot and thick in her belly. "I don't really care either."

Nightingale gave her a long, considering look at this, and Beverley met his gaze squarely. After a long moment, he looked away first, checking his watch. “He should be out of surgery soon, we’ll be able to see him then.”

“Good, that’s good,” Beverley murmured, sitting back in her seat.

While they were waiting, Beverley’s phone rang. She glanced at the display--it was Effra--but didn’t pick up. Her sisters would get word eventually, and Beverley wasn’t in the mood to explain why she’d be missing dinner at her mum’s tonight. Not now.


Eventually Peter came out of surgery, and Nightingale and Beverley met with Dr. Walid and Dr. Huang, the surgeon who’d performed the procedure on Peter’s leg. Nightingale stayed impassive as Dr. Huang explained that even though the procedure had gone as well as it could, Peter was still facing months in a cast, more surgeries down the road, rehab on the injured leg--

“But he’ll be okay?” Beverley interjected, half to quiet her own mind as anything else, because Lesley May wasn’t here to take her rage out on, and both her mother and Nightingale would frown on Beverley flooding a major hospital.

Dr. Huang gave her a professionally reassuring smile. “Yes, he should make a full recovery.”

“Especially since he’s nowhere near as stubborn as this one here,” Dr. Walid said, nodding at Nightingale, “--and can be trusted to follow instructions as to his care.”

Nightingale gave a faint smile at this, but he still looked nearly as tense as Beverley felt.

“Can we see him now?” Beverley asked.

“Of course,” Dr. Huang said, but cautioned, “He’s on some fairly strong painkillers, though, so his conversation might not make much sense.”

Nightingale’s slow blink at this practically screamed does it ever? but amazingly he kept from saying it out loud. Beverley was rather impressed.

“And it’s important to keep him quiet and calm,” Dr. Walid said.

“We’ll do our best,” Nightingale said firmly.

Beverley wasn’t sure what she expected to see once they entered Peter’s room--a private room, which was surely Nightingale’s work--but even she was surprised at the rush of rage that hit her at the sight of Peter in that bed, his leg wrapped in a cast, smelling of opiates, his heartbeat sluggish in her ears.

“Jesus,” she muttered, and Peter started to stir at the sound of her voice, his long eyelashes fluttering as they approached the bed.

Peter’s eyes were glazed over as he peered at both of them, but he happily drawled out, “Hey, you’re here,” to Nightingale as he stood over Peter’s bed. He turned to look at Beverley and his eyes widened in shock. “When’d you get here?”

Beverley couldn’t help but smile as she pressed a hand to Peter’s cheek. “I’ve been here the whole time.” Peter turned his face into Beverley’s hand and hummed at this, and through the rage, through her heart being slowly squeezed in her chest, Beverley was still able to laugh a little and say, “You...are so high right now.”

Peter blinked up at her, and then said, “I have to tell you something. Tell…” Peter turned his head towards Nightingale and said, “I need to tell you.”

“Yes?” Nightingale said, sounding patient and fond.

Peter looked up at Nightingale and said, so earnestly that it hurt to hear, “She didn’t mean to do it.”

No one spoke for a moment. It wasn’t until Peter seemingly drifted away again, his gaze turning glassy and inward, that Nightingale finally said, sounding far more controlled than Beverley would’ve believed possible, than Beverley could’ve hoped to be in that moment, “What do you mean by that, Peter?”

“She meant to trip me,” Peter mumbled, so high that Beverley could smell the drugs on him, lying there in a hospital bed because Lesley May had decided to take a cement brick to his leg, because she’d decided to align herself with an evil fuck of a wizard, and still Peter was saying this. Still he defended her. “She meant--I know it’s bad. I know. But it wasn’t...’s not as bad as you think. She turned around when I screamed, she didn’t--”

“It’s all right,” Nightingale said, and it was incredible how soothing his voice sounded, incredible that he could sound so calm when his face looked like that. Beverley imagined that’s what Nightingale must have looked like at Ettersberg, that same savagery in his eyes, right before he blew up a tank and sent the enemy to hell.

And yet, with that look in his eyes, Nightingale still kept his voice low and soft as he reassured Peter, “It’s all right, Peter. It’s all going to be fine.”

Peter opened his eyes at that, looked up at Nightingale with his dark gaze and asked, simply, “Promise?”

“I give you my word,” Nightingale said, and Beverley believed him, she did, and she also was totally convinced that Lesley, wherever she was, was absolutely fucked.

But Peter was too high on painkillers to recognize the look on Nightingale’s face, so he just nodded, reassured, before he remembered that Beverley was here, or more accurately, remembered who Beverley was--and immediately whipped his head around, giving her a worried look.

Beverley made sure to keep her voice flat and dismissive as she asked, “What, you worried I’m going to try and drown her?”

Peter’s worried look didn’t go away. “I mean...yeah. Yes, actually.”

Beverly flicked her gaze up to Nightingale, who was also watching her impassively, and then she looked down at Peter and said, mimicking Nightingale’s calm tones as best as she was able, “Peter, don’t worry. It’s all going to be fine.”

There was something truly beautiful in the way Peter relaxed at her words, the way he melted back into his bed, so trusting, relief written all over his face. “Okay. Okay, good.”

Beverley smiled down at him as she stroked his face, both because it was good to see the proof that Peter trusted her, and also because Beverley was very clear on what she’d promised him, and what she hadn’t.

And from the way Nightingale was watching her right now, he understood it as well.

Peter fell back asleep not long after that, right in the middle of a truly bizarre mumbled rant about the current showrunner of Doctor Who, which Beverley only half-followed and that Nightingale followed not at all. Once he was safely conked out on the bed, Beverley asked Nightingale in a soft whisper, “Have you called his parents?”

Nightingale nodded. “They’re up in Liverpool for the weekend, his father has a performance scheduled up there. His mother assured me she’d be in early tomorrow morning, however.” He clearly hesitated over whatever he was about to say next, and Beverley raised an eyebrow at him.

“The DPS want to call me in,” Nightingale said at last. “To discuss the situation and these...latest developments.” He paused again, before asking, “Will you stay with him?”

“Of course,” Beverley said without thinking. “I want to stay here.” And she realized the words were true as she said them out loud.

Some of the tension left Nightingale’s face at this, and he said, sincerely, “Thank you.” He looked over at Peter and his face shifted again, jaw going tense before he said, abrupt, "If someone--if there's a second attack, you have my backing to handle the situation in whatever manner you see fit."

Beverley could feel her eyebrows rising up to her hairline, and didn't try to hold back her surprise. "You’re really worried about that?"

Nightingale pressed his lips together. "Under the circumstances, I can't rule it out." Not anymore, were the words both of them were thinking and didn't say out loud.

Beverley tilted up her chin. “He’ll be fine,” she told Nightingale. “I’ll make sure of it.”


From a purely practical level, it wasn’t difficult, keeping watch over Peter. Beverley had her phone and her charger with her, so she could play Candy Crush to her heart’s content while Peter dozed. But Beverley caught herself ignoring the phone in her lap to watch Peter’s sleeping face, something twisting in her chest as she did.

It wasn’t as if Beverley was being stupid about this, no matter what her sisters said--she’d known that pursuing anything with Peter, really pursuing it, would get messy and complicated fast. And it had, and it was--but Beverley couldn’t regret it, not when it meant she had Peter, who she wanted so much, who she--

But that was a truth Beverley was still tiptoeing around the edges of, and she wasn’t going to be the one to say it first, not this time. Childish, sure, but in her defense, Beverley had not only gone to Herefordshire for Peter, she then went and rescued Peter from the bloody Fairy Queen, so as far as she was concerned, Peter should absolutely be the first to say the word ‘love’ out loud.

After a moment, Beverley reached out to run her fingers along the back of Peter’s hand, tracing the veins there, sensing the rush of blood flowing through his body--and then Peter stirred at her touch, his eyes blinking, dazed, before they finally focused on her. “Hey,” he slurred, a goofy smile spreading across his face.

Beverley smiled back. “Hello there.”

Peter gazed at her for a long moment, and then pronounced, “I like your earrings.”

Beverley grinned at this. “Thank you.”

“They’re very shiny,” Peter declared, still watching them closely. Beverley grinned wider, because trust Peter to go into magpie mode when high as a fucking kite, and she decided to shake her head around so that they caught the light even more. That caused Peter to go, “Oooh,” out loud, utterly fascinated, and Beverley broke out into laughter. She leaned down to kiss Peter on the mouth, murmuring against his lips, “You’re utterly ridiculous, you know.”

“This is my brain on drugs, what did you expect,” Peter said, which was a fair point. He was blinking more slowly now, drowsy once more. “Hey--don’t go anywhere, okay?”

Beverley’s breath caught in her throat for a moment. Peter never would’ve made the request sober, no matter how much he might’ve wanted her there, he wouldn’t have admitted to it without the drugs--

But he’d still asked, and Beverley said, quietly, “I’m not going anywhere, Peter. You can get some rest, it’s okay.”

Peter nodded at this, and within a few minutes he was out like a light again. Beverley’s phone buzzed in her lap not five minutes later, and when she looked at the screen, she groaned a little at the name that popped up.

Beverley quickly fastened a smile on her face as she answered. “Hello, Ty.”

“How's your boyfriend?” Ty asked, without so much as a hello

Beverley looked at Peter, still sleeping in his bed, and said shortly, “He's fine, just resting.” She didn't bother to ask how Ty already knew about Peter; Ty had her sources, and always would.

“Quite a mess he's landed in this time,” Ty said, lightly.

It was a barb and Beverley knew it, but she still couldn't help but respond. “Not his mess.”

“He's the one in hospital with a shattered leg,” Ty said. “And the DPS’ll take a dim view of May flinging cement bricks about--it was a cement brick, yes?”

Beverley pursed her lips. “Is that actually a question, or do you just like hearing yourself talk?”

She didn't actually hear Ty sigh with exasperation, but they both knew that Ty wanted to. “My point, Beverley, is that this civil war between the Isaacs is getting uglier, and here you are, running right into the thick of it--”

“It's not a civil war,” Beverley retorted. “And don't pretend like there are two legitimate sides here. There's the Folly, which maintains the precious order you're so fond of, and then there's a power-hungry psychopath--”

“And Lesley May,” Ty said. “The woman who just tried to take Grant’s leg off.”

“Do you have anything new to say, Ty?” Beverley asked, in the bored drawl she knew her sister hated. “Because I know all this already, thanks. Got it straight from the source, even.”

There was a long pause at this and Beverley grinned to herself, knowing that Ty was having to count in her head to keep her cool. Beverley had learned by now that when it came to Ty, it was important that Beverley take her victories where she could get them.

But when Ty spoke again, she was calm once more, controlled. “What are you doing, Bev? What are you doing with Grant, really?”

“Don't say it like that,” Beverley said, quickly, too quickly. But she couldn't say anything else, couldn't help herself.

Peter was still sleeping through this, thankfully. Real sleep, nothing feigned, Beverley could tell from his heartbeat and his slow, steady breathing. She was glad for it, both because Peter hadn't been sleeping well recently, even before today's events, and because it meant he wouldn't hear whatever Ty was about to say, and what Beverley would say in response.

“How else am I supposed to put it?” Ty asked. “Look, I--” she sighed but continued, grudgingly, “I can see the appeal, I suppose--he's handsome enough, he's charming, he's a novelty--”

“Oh, give me some credit, please--”

“--but where do you think this will go? How do you think this will end? Even if he and Nightingale manage to survive this fight with the so-called Faceless Man--something that I certainly wouldn't count on--there's no future here. You can't have him, not the way you'll want him if this keeps going on.”

When Beverley spoke, she did it through the tightness in her throat, the angry throb of her heartbeat in her temples. “Don't tell me what I want, Ty. You haven't got the first clue.”

“Do you really think he'll walk with you into the river?” Ty asked, and the worst part was that she didn't even sound cruel, that she probably thought she was being kind, flinging this in Beverley’s face. “Even if he wanted to, Nightingale won't let him, ever. The oaths he took--”

“--are something I'd never ask him to break,” Beverley said, and as she said the words out loud, a calm settled over her. It had taken her too long, but she’d remembered at last what mattered, what counted. “Thanks for the warnings, but I do know what I'm doing here.”

“Really?” Ty demanded. “And just what is that, exactly?”

Beverley let her lips curve into a smile. “I'm doing exactly what I want.” Ty made a scoffing noise at this, and Beverley quickly moved to distract her. “And I wouldn't be so quick to count the Folly out either--not until you hear what Nightingale managed to pull off at Ettersburg.”

That got Ty’s attention, as Beverley knew it would. “And your boyfriend’s been telling you the details of that, has he?”

“We talk,” Beverley said. “We share things, that's what people do in relationships. Along with dealing with the annoying relatives.”

“Hah,” Ty said, withering.

“You could try it yourself sometime,” Beverley said, because even if this was a lost cause, she had to at least make the attempt. “Actually talk to Peter and Nightingale about what's going on, rather than just relying on secondhand information from your sources, whoever they are.” She had her suspicions, but that was for another time.

“Nightingale has never been interested in what I have to say.” Ty said, dismissively.

“So talk to Peter then,” Beverley told her. “Talk to him properly, instead of doing your usual ‘nonsense, and he might actually hear you out.”

“Is that so,” Ty said, and despite her skepticism, Beverley thought she might actually be listening this time.

“Yeah. Though you might want to give it a week, doctors are keeping him on the good drugs for the moment.”

“How bad is the break?” Ty asked, and her voice was gentler now, so Beverley gave her the answer. No point in hiding it, anyway.

“Bad. They've had to insert plates and things to keep the leg stable, and it'll be months until he's out of the cast. Maybe a year before he's healed all the way.” Ty let out a low whistle at this, and Beverley chuckled grimly. “Yeah, exactly.”

“And you'll be staying with him for the whole night, I assume?” Ty asked next.

Beverley refused to feel self-conscious about this. “Yeah. I am. No one’s going to kick me out, so--yeah. I'm staying.”

“Have you eaten yet?”

Beverley narrowed her eyes, but she'd heard the switch in Ty’s voice from posh politician to overbearing sister, which was why she admitted, “Not yet.”

Ty hmphed at this. “I'll get a meal delivered to you.”

“Don't you need to know what room I'm in?”

Ty scoffed. “Please.” Beverley had to grin, that was a pretty amateur question.

“Can I request Thai food, at least?” Beverley tried next.

“You'll take what you get and like it,” Ty said. “But sure, we’ll get you Thai.”

“We?” Beverley repeated.

“Mum asked me to call you,” Ty said. “And to pass on her regards to Peter.”

“Oh,” Beverley said. “Tell her thanks. And--thanks for the Thai food.” She wouldn't thank Ty for the advice, but the food was welcome.

“Just make sure you eat it,” Ty said, and hung up.


Beverley was several mouthfuls into her mango fried rice when her phone rang. Beverley quickly put down her chopsticks to glance at the screen--she didn’t recognize the number, and briefly hesitated before hitting the accept button. “Hello?”

For a long moment, there was only the sound of faint breathing--and then Lesley May’s voice was in her ear, asking, “How is he?”

Beverley stared, blindly, at the bed, at Peter’s still-sleeping face, and then she quickly got to her feet, slipping past the bed to the door, moving carefully to shut it behind her as quietly as possible. Once there was a door safely between her and Peter’s ears, Beverley hissed, “You’re going to call and ask me that after what you did?”

“I know he’s in hospital,” Lesley said, and the reception on the other end was fantastic, clear as a bell, so that wasn’t why her voice sounded so--distant. “UCH, I’m guessing? But I don’t know yet how bad the injury is, so--how bad?”

Her temples throbbing, Beverley snapped out, “You’re the one who threw the cement brick at him, Lesley. Why don’t you tell me how badly you meant to injure him, and maybe then I’ll tell you how successful you were.”

“I didn’t mean to do it,” Lesley said, very quietly, and perhaps it wasn’t just Beverley’s imagination that there was a faint catch in her voice, at the end. Beverley hoped there was--both for Peter’s sake, and because she was feeling savage enough to hope that Lesley felt awful, that she was being torn up inside too.

“Which part are you apologizing for, exactly?” Beverley asked. “Hitting Peter with the cement brick? Sending the Russian mafia after me months ago? Or maybe you’re finally realizing that running off with a posh murdering bastard wasn’t the smartest career choice?”

There was another long long pause, and Beverley thought of all the things she could do--hang up the phone, go and find Nightingale so he and the DPS could run a trace, or maybe just go looking for Lesley May herself.

She could do a lot of things, but Peter had asked her to stay. So Beverley paced outside his hospital room, and she waited for Lesley to respond.

“He’s a fast runner, you know,” Lesley said at last, very quietly. “Peter had some of the quickest times on the track when we were at Hendon. He was a sprinter in secondary school, you know? And I didn’t--I almost didn’t see him, not until he called out and I ran, but I knew he’d catch me in a second. And I saw the blocks, lying there, and I wanted to trip him. Just to slow him down, long enough so I could get to my car.”

Beverley said, “You managed to do more than that.”

“Yeah, I did,” Lesley agreed, without hesitating. “I know what I did, I’m not deluded, it’s just that the way he screamed when it hit him, he sounded so…” A sharp breath, and then Lesley asked, “Can’t you just tell me how he is?”

Beverley bit at her lip, hard. “He’ll make a full recovery, eventually,” she said at last. “That’s as much as you’ll get from me.”

“Thank you,” Lesley said, and the sincerity in her voice had Beverley wishing she could punch something.

“Peter told me about that club in Soho,” she said instead. “What your new boss was up to--what he’s probably still up to. Don’t kid yourself that you’re still one of the good guys, Lesley.”

Because that was the thing, wasn’t it. For all that Peter was an Isaac from the Folly, for all that history of what the Folly had meant and what the Isaacs used to be--Peter was a good man. Good enough to rely on, and Beverley did rely on him, enough to love him, to back him to her mother and to her sisters, to put her faith and her trust in him and his word.

And Lesley...for all that Beverley had liked her once, for all that she’d pitied her for being caught between two worlds...Lesley had chosen her side, and it had been the wrong one.

“Piece of advice, Lesley,” Beverley said next, keeping her voice hard, dismissive. “Next time you see me coming--run. It won’t help you, but you might as well give it a shot.”

The click on the line was the only answer she got. Beverley let out a long breath, slipped her phone into her pocket, and went back into Peter’s room.


At one point during the night, Peter woke up with a start. Beverley reached out for his hand--he must have woken up from a nightmare, Beverley knew the signs by now. “Hey, it’s all right. You’re at UCH, it’s just gone past eleven PM. You’re safe now, it’s okay.”

Peter stared about him for a moment, then he focused on her at last, blinking like he wasn’t sure she was a hallucination. “And you’re still here?”

“Nurses tried to chase me out at one point, but I set them straight,” Beverley said with a smile. She paused, and then reached out to touch Peter’s face, trying to ease the furrow between his eyebrows. “And besides, you asked me to stay.”

Her hand drifted down so that she could cup Peter’s cheek, and Peter let out a sigh, relaxing into the bed and into her touch. “Yeah, I did, didn’t I?” He caught her hand in his, and pressed a kiss to the inside of her palm. “Thanks.”

Beverley had to swallow first, but she managed to smile. “You’re welcome.”

When Nightingale and Dr. Walid stopped by the next morning, Beverley had an awful crick in her neck from sleeping in the chair all night, and her hand was still tangled with Peter’s on top of of the bed. “Oh, fuck me,” Beverley groaned, wiping at her face with her free hand when Nightingale gently shook her awake. “What--” And then she realized there was a third person in the room, a middle-aged black woman, with her hair wrapped in a scarf and Peter’s wide dark eyes, who was watching her now with raised eyebrows.

Beverley swallowed back the several obscenities she wanted to say, and wished briefly for a toothbrush and a clean set of clothes, before she set her shoulders back and gave Peter’s mother her most charming smile. Which, given that Beverley was a river goddess, was very charming indeed.

“Beverley,” Nightingale said at her shoulder, sounding both apologetic and highly amused, “This is Peter’s mother. Mrs. Grant, this is--”

Just then, Beverley felt a faint pressure on her fingers, and then Peter’s voice cut over Nightingale’s, sounding both tired and amused. “Mum, this is my girlfriend, Beverley Brook.”

Mrs. Grant’s eyebrows somehow went even higher, and she gave Beverley an openly appraising look. “I can see that.”

Beverley squeezed Peter’s hand back and said, as politely as her mum had ever taught her to be, “It’s very nice to meet you.” And somehow, despite the hospital bed, Peter’s busted leg, and her own lack of clean clothing or indeed, any preparation for this meeting--it really was.