Written for the trennels ficathon, and therefore only of interest to anyone who's read the Marlow books.
"Since most of us are here," said Giles over afternoon tea, "I assume it's all right if I bring Tarquin Hillyer home with me next leave."
"Of course, dear," said Mrs Marlow, down the other end of the table.
"The thing is though," Giles looked around at all of them, "Tark's rather more than a friend. Much more."
Gosh, thought Nicola admiringly in the shocked silence that followed, how enterprising to tell us just after most of us thought he'd been drowned.
"What?" Peter said, spilling his tea without realising.
"You mean... you mean?" Lawrie did a strange little move involving a limp wrist, a tucked-in chin, and a pursed mouth.
"Most people," Giles said scathingly, "do not behave like that. If you're going to be an actor, Lawrie, you'll have to learn some subtlety."
Lawrie, abashed and slightly pink, made rather a business of topping up her still two-thirds-full teacup, while Nicola looked around with interest. Mother, she noticed, hadn't said anything, and nor did she look particularly shocked.
But before she could think about that, Ann, looking very distressed, said, "But it's, well wrong! I mean..." she blushed.
"If you're going to bring up pillars of salt," said Rowan, surprisingly, "then you'd have to accept all the stuff about slavery and killing all your enemies as well. And besides," she added, rather toe-curling-embarrassingly. "I think you'll find that Jesus never once said anything on the subject."
Ann opened and closed her mouth and very obviously could not decide whether to get up and go and therefore leave the moral high ground to Rowan or stay and try not to mind. Nicola almost felt sorry for her.
"Blimey," said Peter, noticing that he was somewhat damp, and covering that as well as Giles's news. He mopped at himself, muttering something about the Navy no longer having the lash.
"Anyway," said Nicola, grinning rather fiercely at Giles, "I happen to think it's very sensible. None of that having to find a biddable little wife who knows the drill, now." She was in fact rather surprised by the depth of her own feeling; those remarks of Giles had annoyed her more than she had realised. Niggling feet of clay, if clay feet could niggle.
"Nicky!" said Mrs Marlow reprovingly.
"Didn't mean you. It was what he said once."
"What do you think about it all, mother?" asked Lawrie, with a not at all resentful interest that made Nicola wonder for the first time about her and Tim, and crushes in general.
Up till now, she hadn't really understood why they were considered so bad (and had been more puzzled than flattered by the embarrassed little IIIB who thrust a box of chocolates into her hand last term) but perhaps they got more, well, intense than she'd thought. Lawrie and Tim had after all been friends for rather a long time, and Nicola suddenly thought of something she'd read about one person being the lover and the other the loved, and knew which one Lawrie would be if that ever got to be the case. It also made her realise that there was nothing like that between her and Miranda, or even Patrick, and to her surprise, it didn't matter, because she'd never more than liked anyone.
"You don't look as if you even mind," Lawrie was saying.
"Why should I? The important thing is that Giles is happy, surely." Mrs Marlow smiled at Giles, who smiled back at her.
"Doesn't worry me either," said Nicola, reader of books banned by staff, and was suddenly hit by an enormous thunk. What did Mother do all day, with a husband hardly ever home and all the children away all term (except Kay in her own house and Rowan out saying "Arrr" to make the crops grow)? In her letters, she often mentioned news she'd heard from Mrs Brown at tea, or just going out to meet Miss Smith for a meeting about the village fete, not that Nicola ever noticed their names, skimming over those boring bits as she did, but perhaps some of those afternoon teas with one of those ladies... was, as Giles had said, something more.
She looked at her mother while everyone else was looking at Giles, and saw a secret little smile she'd never seen before.
"Well," said Nicola, taking the opportunity to snag another piece of tea cake, "I'd say in that case it's all worked out very well."
Prompts: Giles finally comes out when home on leave and admits he's gay, and what Mrs Marlow does all day.
I don't really see them this way, but it was fun to play with the characters. :-)