Characters/Pairing:James Hathaway, Robbie Lewis, Robbie/Laura, James/OFC
Warnings:Offscreen major character death
I loved him you know.
Oh, not like that! I mean, perhaps I could have, but he never... never gave me that vibe. The crush on him I had was a mile wide, but it never really turned carnal. I wouldn't have minded a cuddle - I was seriously touch-starved in those days - but when I met him, he was still in love with his wife, still grieving, and we slipped into a relationship a bit like - well, not father/son. I had a father still, and our relationship was fractious enough not to wish for another. He had a son, and whatever had happened between them did not leave him seeking a new one, either. Perhaps we were more like a favourite uncle and nephew.
I lied to him sometimes. I regret that, but people do lie when they fear sacrificing the respect of those they ... most value. The ironic part of that is that I don't think I ever came out of one of those lies feeling better - or looking better in his eyes. It took me a while, but eventually I stopped lying. He gave me something - well, he gave me a lot, actually - but perhaps the most important, to me at least, was the confidence that he valued me even when I was least valuable.
But then, Robbie Lewis had a gift with people. I have tried to find and nurture in myself something approaching his insight, his boundless compassion and thirst for justice, but it is a struggle. I'm a colder man, although I don't want to be. I had the privilege of working with him for nine years and at the end I was still his apprentice.
I loved him, as I've said, and we were both alone, set adrift after a cataclysm overturned our placid lives and left us to make them anew. He tried the tropical life. I became a copper. And I think when we met, we were both at a very low point. And yet, somehow, we clicked. Our strengths were complementary and our needs, too, perhaps. We each needed someone to rely on, to talk to - but also someone who would respect privacy, keep a little distance. God knows I've never been good at keeping a friend before. Who would have thought that what I needed was a straight aetheist widower 20 years older than me? But the other thing is - who would've thought that he needed a god-bothering grey-identifying failed priest with daddy issues? But he did. So together we had a few 'boys own adventures' and gave Justice a helping hand where we could. And he grew older and I grew up.
And then there was Laura.
Yes I was jealous of her. It's taken me years to get past that - but at the same time, she's a really easy person to love. Have you ever felt that way? So torn up, conflicted with love and fear and hate all squeezed into such a tight space in your chest that you feel as if you might explode at any second? Can you understand that I was happy for him, and for her - and at the same time I wanted to scream and rend my garments and stab her to the heart, as she had me. I think I knew where they were going before they did, and I am ...proud... that I was able to show them the good feelings I had and keep the darker ones to myself.
I don't know if they knew how possessive I felt. Some days I think they must've - two such perceptive people - how could they not? But then, other days I think, "Of course they didn't! " Why on earth would they suspect such a thing? Sometimes Laura would say something sharp or fond, though... I do think she knew. I even think she might have understood how hard I fought it, too. I think she trusted me with him. She's a very intelligent woman.
And so I took them to the Airport and watched their plane as long as I could bear to. And I turned around and England looked a great deal less bright with them gone.
Well. What can you do?
But then I met Anne, and the world brightened a bit. And we fit together too; not like Robbie-and-James, but like James-and-Anne. She's as kind as Robbie, but her eyes don't bear the weight of all the deaths he has seen. Her eyes are grey and yet they shine with joy. I don't think my eyes have ever done that, and Robbie's eyes have always held the memory of grief.
God, what's in this glass? I'm waxing poetic again! But it's true. Or perhaps I just remembered the grief, from seeing them so often that way. I suppose it doesn't matter. Anne's a historian and her greatest grief is the Norman Conquest. No, honestly! Don't ever raise the subject of the year 1066 - especially after she's had a glass of red. Just... don't. I hate seeing my wife cry. Especially about a battle - well, a couple of battles really - that took place over 900 years ago.
I consider myself a fortunate man. I met Robbie when I needed to know that there was still Goodness in the world and I ... desperately ... needed a true friend. He taught me his trade, shared his life with me, pushed me to be a better man and backed off when I was too stubborn or scared to listen. He gave me the acceptance I needed to face my Dad and Nell. I'm so grateful to him for making Dad's last days something I can bear to remember. Without his support I wonder what I would have done when Dad and Nell needed me. I don't know. I really don't.
But soon after that Robbie and Laura left for New Zealand - and they never came back. Not to me anyway. Not really. They were building a life together and it was the right thing to do. They'd reconnected with Mark while they were down there, and there were grandchildren in a place called Bendigo. Between them and Laura's family, well ...he was always up for a pint if he was in town, or a curry, but ... No, he'd moved on. He deserved a good retirement, and I think he had one.
And he loved Anne. The smile on his face when he met her for the first time! "You hang on to her. She's a good one!" he said. She is. We only planned for one child but we got twins - twin girls. Caroline Robyn is partly named after him.
It's ridiculous to grieve for him, really. He hated when I got this drunk and he had a good long life. If God exists I can't imagine him holding Robbie's scepticism against him. I've never met a better man and I never expect to.
I think I'd better go home now though, don't you? Robbie's dead and buried in a far off land, and I need to go home to my wife. And to what I expect to be a truly stupendous hangover tomorrow.