Title: Absent Friends
Fandom: Midsomer Murders
Spoilers: for 'Green Man' and 'Bad Tidings'
Standard disclaimers apply.
He left. I'd expected him to, of course. He'd spoken to me about
plans. He needed my recommendation to apply for the Inspectors exam.
Of course I recommended him - he'd gone from being a naive,
prejudiced ... idiot to a brilliant detective in the time he'd spent
under my wing. Even if I do say it myself. Of course it was time for
him to fly.
When he'd first mentioned the exam I had idle fantasies of the two of
us still working together in Causton. Perhaps him leading his own
team, having his own sergeant. But still having him around, seeing
him day to day, sharing lunch at a local pub sometimes, having drinks
But one rare telephone call from my own boss informed me that several
CID units up north were in need of a good detective inspector. I had
to tell Troy, I couldn't keep that sort of news from him. In
particular, a DCI up in Newcastle was offering him a job even as a
sergeant, a direct transfer.
He didn't take it. He didn't go.
But there was another offer. A job in Middlesborough for a DI. I saw
his eyes light up when I told him of it and I felt my heart sink.
He passed the exams. I knew he would. He came back from FHQ that
morning shining more brightly than I could remember him doing. And I
knew as I looked at him that I'd lost him.
I didn't say anything to stop him, how could I? I accepted his
celebratory lunch at The Star. I celebrated with him, I was genuinely
happy for him. He deserved the promotion. He deserved to fly.
We said our goodbyes standing next to his new VW Golf outside his old
flat, looking at the back of the removal van. And I thought the pain
as I hugged him would ease in no time.
For a few days I was on my own and I relished it in a way. There's a
certain freedom to having to make your own coffee, having to answer
your own telephone!
I enjoyed it.
Troy even emailed me. He sounded happy, excited to be somewhere more
vibrant than Midsomer. I was happy too, for him. I couldn't have
bared it if he'd regretted his move. Who am I kidding? I'd have had
him back in a heartbeat.
But just to have a way of talking to him - in a manner of speaking -
cheered me up and I made sure to drop him a mail each day. Couldn't
have him getting homesick, now could I?
And then DS Scott was sent to us from the Met. I didn't feel one way
or another about it. A sergeant is a sergeant.
Or so I thought.
It could be that I simply wouldn't get on with Scott under any
circumstances. He's from a completely different background, after
I'd moulded Troy into being the sergeant I wanted. Although never
easy, the rewards were immeasurable. He's a wonderful person and a
Scott had already been moulded, by the Met, by the big city. Midsomer
was as much a shock to him as he was to me.
I spent much of the first week hating the mere fact he was sitting or
walking or standing beside me. I had to think every time I introduced
'I'm DCI Barnaby and this is Detective Sergeant... Scott.' Not Troy.
I couldn't turn around and see Troy's smiling face, his bright blue
His casual, easy outlook on life - that had at one time irritated me -
had slowly become a balm for the sadness that more and more often
I've been at this game long enough for my faith in human kind to have
become tainted, marred. Troy's faith remained in tact, bolstered -
ironically - by his innate cynicism. And I hadn't quite realised how
much I'd come to rely on it to make me smile under the greyest
Until it was gone.
Scott is a miserable, annoying man. He drools over women in a way I
began to realise I'd never known Troy to do. With him, it had often
been the other way around. Although a short skirt and long legs had
turned his head as it tended to with most men, he was completely
professional when it came to interviews.
But blaming him isn't going to help. It's not his fault. He doesn't
want to be here as fiercely as I don't want him here.
I must have sounded down in my last email to Troy - or Gavin as I've
taken to calling him, as that's how he signs off his mails - because
he responded with a couple of minutes, asking about his replacement,
asking if everything was all right with Joyce and Cully.
I reassured him of course. Everything was fine, I wrote. His
replacement was... very different to what I was used to. I added that
I hoped he was behaving himself, not giving his new guv'nor too much
grief, and that I missed him. I couldn't help myself, I just wanted
him to know that his absence was being felt.
After that I didn't hear from him for a couple of days, although
admittedly it was over a weekend. Maybe, I thought, he got weekends
off up in Middlesborough.
Scott and I were dealing with a double murder that became a triple one
over Saturday night into Sunday morning. Cully had warmed to Scott
and Joyce was insisting that I should try to get on with him. She was
almost angry with me for not making more of an effort and I couldn't
On Sunday night I asked her about it and she told me I'd become too
attached to Gavin. I told her I was missing him but she said I just
wasn't letting him go. I was astonished. And a little hurt.
For the first night since Cully was a baby, I slept in the spare room.
Speaking of Cully, she had a go too, the following morning. He was
being too hard on Scott, she said, expecting him to be what Gavin had
been. I pushed her to tell me exactly what it was Gavin had been.
Her response surprised me.
'Your shadow, Dad. The other half of you.'
Actors, always so bloody melodramatic.
When I finally got into work there was an email waiting for me. Gavin
was apparently missing me too, missing Midsomer. Already feeling
deeply confused over my feelings for him, I convinced myself he was
just a little homesick and wrote back that he'd soon forget all about
us as the city life took a hold of him.
We were busy for a day or two and so it was Wednesday before I
realised I hadn't had a reply.
I didn't think about it at the time, but when I hadn't heard back from
him I re-read that last mail and realised that it sounded as if I was
telling him not to be silly, that he'd settled in just fine and that
he was wrong to miss the life he'd known for six years.
I sent a second email, apologising. I was missing him, I wrote, and I
was selfish in being glad to hear he was missing me too. He was
always welcome, I assured him. Middlesborough wasn't that far away.
It was a small country.
When he replied, that same afternoon, what he wrote made me grab my
car keys and head north.
I found his flat, arriving late in the evening. He wasn't in and I
waited. There was something familiar in the small, quiet suburb he'd
chosen to live in. The closest he could get to the country, I
thought. A small town centre, local pubs and restaurants, playing
fields and his first floor flat above a bakery.
I thought about Scott's flat above the newsagents. In contrast, I was
to find out that Gavin's place was clean and tidy. He'd even painted
over the apparently horrific wallpaper with a beige overcoat.
It was just gone seven when his car pulled up behind mine. I got out
of the Rover and when he saw me the expression on his face was worth
He lit up, jumping out of the car and stopping just inches from
hugging me. But I wanted him too. I reached for him and he took the
remaining step, melting into me, his arms wrapping around my neck as I
hugged him around his waist.
We both knew why I was there. Whether he'd regretted his mail or not,
it was too late.
We went inside with our arms around one another's waist. It was an
incredible feeling of being home. He put the kettle on and made a pot
of tea which went cold.
We made love through the evening, filling the small flat with the
sounds of passion. When I entered him he spread his fingers for mine
to slide between, lacing our hands together. In the early hours of
the morning, when he returned the favour, I watched every nuance of
desire shape his face.
Just before we finally collapsed into sleep, I told him I loved him
and repeated the words back to me.
Saying goodbye in the morning was easier. We'd found one another,
albeit a little late. But it wasn't too far between Causton and
Middlesborough. We were both busy men but we knew now that our lives
were forever intertwined.
He was going to stay in Middlesborough for the time being but we both
knew he was eventually going to return to Midsomer. For now, what
we'd started was enough.
We stood next to his Golf as we had done that last morning in Causton.
But this time we shared a tight hug and a long kiss. I knew I'd
ache until I could hold him again but it would be a bearable pain made
easier by the certainty we now had of each other.
We'd have to be careful with what we said in emails, but we'd worked
together for long enough to be able to speak without words.
I drove home, getting there just before lunch. Joyce was out...
somewhere, and I changed and went to work.
It still needled me, seeing Scott sitting in Gavin's seat, at his
desk. I decided to stop him from following me around like a puppy.
I'd send him out on his own now and again, force him to either find
his feet in Midsomer or put in for another transfer.
There was an email waiting to welcome me home. He'd simply written,
'Amazing to see you again, we'll do it again sometime.'
I typed three mails, and deleted three, before managing not to sound
like a randy teenager. But I was completely distracted. All I could
feel was his fingers through mine, gripping tight. All I could taste
was his tongue in my mouth. All I could hear was the sound of his
voice, my name on his lips, the breathy moans he made as he came.
Scott apparently had to try three times to get my attention. I was
painfully hard just remembering.
A horse had disappeared from stables in Midsomer Deverell.
I wondered briefly what had come across Gavin's desk this morning and
quickly followed the thought with a blush.
'Get a grip,' I told myself. And knew that none of this was going to
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