FIC: The Arrangement 8/?Posted on 2014.08.26 at 20:30
Current Mood: pleased
Current Music: the kooks -- around town
Title: The Arrangement 8/?
Fandom: State of Play (2003).
Pairing: Della Smith/DCI Bell
Fic Summary: Della and Bell continue their information sharing arrangement after the Collins scandal wraps up. As they work together, their emerging friendship is threatened by mutual attraction and misunderstandings.
Word Count: This chapter around 2,300.
Disclaimer: I do not own State of Play or any of the characters. I do own my fun little theories, my wild assumptions, and lots of delicious chunks of head canon. Obviously.
Spoilers: Yep, for all of State of Play, although they are not necessarily focal to this story.
Notes: Sorry for the long wait! This chapter has been in limbo for a shamefully long time, but I've never given up on this story. More to follow, hopefully sooner than later!
Come on, Del. We had two years together.
Actually it was three, you tosser. Or at least it would have been if you hadn't left me a week before our anniversary.
There's so much between us, we shouldn't throw that all away.
So much between us? Perhaps you should have thought of that before throwing it all away on a leggy Brazilian.
It was a mistake. I don't love her.
This is clearly idiot-speak for 'she dumped me.'
Della eyed the empty bottle of Champagne warily, suspicious of its disappearing contents as it simply wasn't possible that she had imbibed the entirety of the liquid herself. What was it they said, though? Those science-y types? That the least improbable possibility must be the truth? Well, she'd booted Craig to the curb with violent alacrity and William certainly hadn't stuck around to help her celebrate this triumph over two-timing bastards everywhere. Maybe because he also was one? So, it appeared that Della was indeed the rather intoxicated culprit.
Oh well. Would've been a shame to waste it after he'd gone to all that trouble…
She sighed. 'Trouble' didn't even begin to describe this bloody awful turn of events. She had gotten carried away, wrapped up in what she had been naive enough to think of as a budding romance between herself and William Bell. As an investigative journalist she should have known better than to make assumptions about where things were headed— how many times had she told herself not to get involved with him? She'd been reminding herself he was off limits almost since the day they'd met.
Thinking about Bell left her wobbling at the intersection of anger and longing; the things he'd said to her in the stairwell were more than uncalled for, but she'd been no better had she? Della shifted where she was perched on the sofa, remembering the heady sensation of waking in the night to find his long limbs wrapping her into a solid embrace as his even breathing tickled her neck. Her stomach was in knots, just thinking about how much she wanted that from him.
Beyond the sex, which had been amazing enough on its own, those quiet moments of intimacy had left her head spinning with wild speculations. She had always known there was more to him than that gruff and serious exterior revealed, but she had been unprepared for the passionate and laser-focused tenderness he had offered. They said the quiet ones were always the worst, and Bell had proved that stereotype with a smoldering sensuality that caught Della completely off her guard. Would it have been easier, maybe, if he turned out to be a shag 'em and leave 'em type rather than— Della pinched the bridge of her nose— a secret cuddler?
Slugging back the last of the bubbly liquid in her glass, Della wondered if she shouldn't almost be grateful to Craig for throwing a wrench into things before they got too serious. Because, Christ, after the first time she had wanted so much more. She thought about the abandoned food cartons still waiting in the kitchen and felt a lump in her throat, knowing she wouldn't be able to bring herself to eat whatever was in them. Taking that thought a step further, she remembered the wine she had brought home to accompany their ruined dinner. Now that, that she could do.
What a difference a day makes, he thought to himself sarcastically as he surfaced from a fitful unconscious daze that could hardly be called 'sleep.'
Bell groaned, well disgusted with himself as he became full of the awareness that he had crashed out atop the duvet in his trousers and un-tucked shirt, a half-empty bottle of blended Scotch within depressing reach on the bedside table.
When he had left Della's place he had only just managed to resist the deep-seated urge to go out on the town and do irresponsible things. His police training and sense of responsibility to his position were just enough to keep those impulses in check. He had made a stop at a brightly-lit liquor emporium which was far too classy to correspond with the sick, dirty feeling in the pit of his stomach.
Seemingly determined to punish himself Bell had bypassed the artfully packaged single malts and gone straight to the second shelf from the bottom, where they kept the whisky that was cheap and harsh but not quite bad enough to strip paint off the walls. Shockingly he still had just enough self-respect at least for that… of course, that could easily change once he got the better part of a bottle down his neck.
He wasn't sure if it was better or worse; going home to an empty house full of ghostly memories of his old life, only to drown himself in sorrows from the new. He'd kept drinking until he was finally able to block out the excruciating mental playback reel of the things he had said to Della— Lord he'd been a wanker. There was really no excuse for those poisonous words, so he drank until the hurt in her tear-clouded eyes had faded from his increasingly fuzzy vision.
There was no particularly clear recollection of how he'd made it to the bedroom, but it seemed he'd been both sober enough to remove his shoes and drunk enough not to bother undressing or properly getting into the bed. His head felt like it was full of cotton wool; according to the clock on the bedside table it was after 3 o'clock in the morning, so if he intended to make it into work approximately four hours from now he would need a large glass of water and a solid block of real sleep.
Cringing, Bell levered himself up from the bed, brain pounding against his skull in a way that only the specter of cheap Scotch could manage. He padded to the kitchen for some water and stopped in the bathroom for a few paracetamol tablets on his return journey. After gulping them down he stripped off his trousers and white shirt, climbing into bed and staring at the ceiling with the duvet pulled up to his chest and his arms resting listlessly on top of it.
All he could see in his mind's eye was Della's face two nights ago in the rain; vulnerability, confusion, a longing that reflected what was in his own heart. Now he wondered whether he had simply been projecting, willfully misinterpreting her demeanor and actions to suit his own desires. Clearly it had all been a mistake, but the thing that had driven him to drink was that it sure as hell hadn't felt like one.
He squeezed his eyes shut and tried not to think about it, mentally reciting the alphabet forward and backward until his racing thoughts had slowed and he drifted into a fitful sleep.
Everything was white. He couldn't differentiate floor from ceiling, ground from sky, or anything in between. Far afield toward what must be the horizon, there was a shape. He drifted along, weightless as one tends to be in dreams, fixed on that one spot of color in the vast nothing that surrounded him.
It was a human shape, a woman, and as he approached he noted golden hair and a diaphanous light blue dress. He didn't need to see her face to know who she was, and even in this ethereal dreamscape the sight of her brought him up short.
"Hello, my love." She turned to face him, his departed wife, as radiant as she had been on the day they were married.
He had no idea what to do or say, and was suddenly afraid this was going to turn into one of those dreams where you can't find your car keys and end up walking down the median of the motorway with no trousers on. His mouth opened and closed as she reached out to take his hand.
Running her fingers over the platinum band on his ring finger, she frowned slightly. "This was never meant to cause you pain, William."
"What do you mean?"
"It'll always be a symbol of our love, but you can't let it control your life now that I'm gone."
The edges of his mouth turned downward into a thoughtful pout. "Is this about Della? Because I didn't… I mean, I don't…"
Familiar green eyes smiled at him, teasing. "You don't have to say anything about that. Just… promise me you won't use this—" She gestured to the wedding ring. "—as a shield."
"I don't think I understand."
She kissed him softly and drifted away, fading as the scene before him brightened and changed to one that was far less vast but similarly dumbfounding.
Golden summer light danced through the corridors of a house with floaty curtains, which he suddenly and inexplicably realized was his own in spite of the unfamiliar quirky accents that adorned the walls and peppered the normally sterile rooms. He followed the sound of laughter to the bedroom, the stark masculinity of which was apparently now balanced out by an unobtrusively pastel abstract painting, a fluffy light green duvet, and some other touches indicative of a feminine presence.
The laughter seemed to be originating from the bed, where two figures were entwined and locked in a slow but constant motion. Reaching the pinnacle of what could be considered an 'out of body experience,' he realized that the individuals in the bed were none other than himself and Della Smith, and the only sort of information they were exchanging consisted mainly of instructions like 'Harder,' and breathless affirmations such as 'Oh yes.'
Her hair was a little bit shorter, his somewhat longer than he normally kept it, but it was indisputably them and they were unmistakably very busy indeed.
He found that it didn't feel at all voyeuristic or obscene, watching the tender actions playing out before him. The bodies— his body being one of them, and what a strange thing to see— wrestled playfully, rolling and becoming ever more twisted in the sheets as they vied for sensual dominance and ground against each other. The pace picked up and Della made a series of inarticulate noises as she reached an obvious climax.
That was when he saw it. Della's slender left arm slid around, gliding up his back until her hand gripped at the junction of his neck and shoulder, wedding ring glinting off her ring finger like a bright coin at the bottom of a fountain on the sunniest of days. Bell watched his dream-self thrust a few more times and join his partner in release, pulling her tighter against him and revealing a matching band on his own hand— not the platinum he was accustomed to, but a burnished light gold.
The figures in the bed lay comfortably, whispering to each other and smiling with the absent abandon of a couple most obviously in love. He knew it wasn't truly possible to feel his heart beating a thousand miles an hour within a dream, but that was the only analog for the panicked sensation that was overtaking him. What was he seeing? The future? Some wild imaginings of his alcohol-addled brain?
Back in the real world, William Bell woke to the harsh electronic beeping of his alarm clock, remembering nothing but vague impressions of what he had seen while drifting through the landscape of his dreams.
Coffee. Only coffee would save her now.
It had been a long and miserable night, and Della had awakened to what could only be expected to follow as an even lengthier and more dismal day. She had managed at least enough foresight to drink a glass of water before putting herself to bed around midnight, after a bottle and a half of wine and a river of tears.
Anger warred with disappointment and loneliness even in the light of day, but at least she still knew where she stood with caffeine. Once she had sucked down two cups of dark roast and cleaned up the kitchen a bit, she gathered her things and got ready to head into the office. No point in delaying the inevitable, and at least work would give her something to keep her mind off of what had happened— Bell, Craig, the whole convoluted mess.
As Della exited her flat she found a folded sheet of paper on the floor just outside the door. Her heart lifted for a moment, wondering if perhaps William had returned and left a note. Maybe they could meet and talk things out? She frowned upon seeing that the writing on the paper consisted of spidery block capitals, unmistakably Craig's hand. The seemingly innocuous message gave her a pulsating, nauseous feeling in the pit of her stomach:
I WON'T GIVE UP. WE WERE MEANT TO BE TOGETHER. SEE YOU SOON... XOXO
Dun dun dunnnnnnnn! Neither Della nor Bell had the best night, eh? And just what exactly is Craig up to? More about him in the next chapter, and most likely a reunion for Della and Bell, although the circumstances may not be the most pleasant… let me know what you think! Comments and theories are most welcome, and are always rewarded with a little something from the wine stash! ;D