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the island of conclusions

looking for vines and olive trees (The Hour fic)

the island of conclusions

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looking for vines and olive trees (The Hour fic)

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Freddy Lix
So, I owe at least three or four people fic, but I haven't written anything for weeks, and have been in a major state of I can't, I can't, I can't. And apparently the only way around that was to write fic about completely new characters in a fandom that barely exists. Apologies, and hoping this jumpstarts those other projects.

Also sorry about the cop-out ending here--I might come back to it at some point.

nb: I'll post something more review-y about the show itself tomorrow.

Title: looking for vines and olive trees
Rating: pg-13
Characters, pairings: established Bel/Hector, Freddie (pre-Hector/Bel/Freddie, if you’re in the right frame of mind).
Spoilers: none really, but it works best if you imagine it taking place around 1x05
Word count: ~2.8K
Disclaimer: not mine, no profit.

a/n: title adapted from the first two lines of Auden’s The Shield of Achilles, published the same year as the Suez Crisis. There’s an unmarked allusion to the poem at the end of the fic as well.
a/n: for the “cuddling” square on my hc_bingo card, though this is one of those h/c fills that looks like it wandered in from my kink_bingo card. There’s always one, eh?

Summary:

“Christ,” Freddie said, trying to calculate what immense quantity of drink it had taken to reduce a great slab of military-trained manhood like Hector Madden to such a sorry state.

“Quite,” said Bel.




Friday evening and he was the last one in the office, though not by much. Bel had only been gone about an hour, and Lix had just left, off on some mysterious work-related assignation—Freddie thought she’d probably be back soon. In the meantime, he was enjoying having the place to himself, delaying the moment he’d have to brave the lashing November rain outside.

Needless to say, the phone rang almost immediately.

“Freddie?” Bel said, before he could even get his name out. She sounded sharp, peremptory, almost shrill, the way she only got when something really rattled her.

“What is it? What’s happened?” Her mother, he thought, his father. His whole body jangled into awareness.

“It’s Hector,” she said, and everything went flat again. “I got home and there he was: slumped against my door, soaked to the skin, rambling about--“

“Really, darling,” Freddie steeled his voice and forced himself not to slam down the phone, “you can’t expect me to get involved in these lovers’ tiffs. Either let him in or send him packing.”

“I can’t.”

“Why not? Willpower, Moneypenny, willpower —“

“Because he’s drunk,” she cut in, “damn near pickled, more like, and between that and the cold he’s almost incoherent. He’s had some kind of row with Marnie and she threw him out, or her father threw him out, and he won’t come in and he won’t let me call him a cab, and he’s too bloody big for me to haul him into his car myself, and—“

He refused to be moved. “So call the ruddy Bill, Bel. Call an ambulance. What do you want me to do about it?”

“Freddie,” she wailed, all her composure going at once, and that was it, as if there had ever been any question.

“Alright, alright, I’m on my way. It’ll take a bit on the bus, though. Go back down and throw a tarp or something over him. No—you better stay down there—in case one of your neighbors decides to call the coppers themselves. And I’m doing this for the reputation of the programme, mind you, not for your wretched love life.

He rang off before she could thank him.

+++

It was truly a miserable night, and by the time Freddie arrived in Clapham, he regretted suggesting Bel stand outside in it protecting the dubious honor of Hector Madden.

But there she was, in her Wellingtons and Macintosh and headscarf, like the bravest of Yeoman Warders, holding an umbrella over a sodden, blanket-wrapped lump that might at one point have been their lead broadcaster.

“Christ,” Freddie said, trying to calculate what immense amount of drink it had taken to reduce a great slab of military-trained manhood like Hector Madden to such a state.

“Quite,” said Bel. She seemed to have regained most of her composure

“Mmff,” said Hector, squinting up at him. “Ffff—dy.”

Freddie ignored him. “What’s it to be, then?” he asked Bel. “Upstairs or the holding tank?”

“Upstairs, I’m afraid.” Bel grimaced at him apologetically. “Lend us a hand?”

“Forklift’d be a better bet, bleeding great lummox like him,” Freddie grumbled, but he crouched down and tried to get one of Hector’s arms over his shoulder.

Hector batted at him clumsily. “Mmm okay. Fine here. Toddle off soon,” he said. Or at least that’s what Freddie thought he said, the words were somewhat indistinct.

“No can do, mate. You’ll freeze to death, and what’ll we tell Clarence then, hmm? Up you get.”

Between them, he and Bel wrestled Hector through the doors, though blimey if the man weren’t even heavier than he looked. Once inside the relative warmth and dryness of the entryway, Hector revived enough to start working his limbs under his power. But alcohol and cold had made him clumsy, and it was hard going up the three flights of stairs to Bel’s flat. In the end, Freddie and Bel were almost as wet as he was.

“What now?” Freddie said, watching a puddle form around Hector on Bel’s linoleum floor.

“Get some coffee down him, I suppose.” Bel looked dismayed. “And get those clothes off him.”

“Isn’t that the kind of thing you two usually get up to when I’m not around?”

“Don’t be wet, Freddie,” she snapped. Then they simultaneously burst into hysterical giggles at the inaptness of the phrase.

“Right,” said Freddie, sobering. “You put the kettle on and I’ll take care of the royal toilette.”

“Urrr,” said Hector, who had reached the stage of drunkenness characterized by inarticulate grunts and groans. It was clear what he meant, though, since he was starting to shiver and sway like a poplar in a wind. Freddie grabbed an elbow and guided him into one of Bel’s kitchen chairs.

Hector stayed passive enough while Freddie removed his ruined shoes and socks—sad waste of good leather, his dad would have said—even when he used more force than was strictly necessary But when Freddie started working his arms out of the sleeves of his jacket he pulled his elbows in towards his body and stuck out his lower lip petulantly.

“Come on,” Freddie sat back on his haunches. “You’re soaked through. Don’t be a baby.”

Hector shook his head and hugged his arms tighter towards himself, shivering.

“Let me,” Bel came up behind Hector’s chair and tugged at the soaked tweed around his shoulders. “Now, now, this won’t do,” she said, in her best Head Girl voice. “You’ll catch your death.”

Hector twisted in his seat and looked up at her as if she were the Aurora Borealis and Guy Fawkes Night rolled into one. “Bel,” he said. “Bel, Bel, Bel, Bel, Bel.”

Freddie rolled his eyes and backed away. “I’ll just fetch some towels, then, shall I?”

Nobody answered.


He busied himself with the meager contents of Bel’s linen closet, and headed back with a reasonably good-sized towel and a few clean flannels. But he paused just outside the reach of the kitchen light.

Hector had his hands on Bel’s waist now and was trying to bury his great leonine head between her breasts. She pushed him off, murmuring half-amused chastisements, fingers busy on the buttons of his shirt. “Bella,” Hector slurred. “Bellisima, my belle.”

I’m going to be sick, thought Freddie, any more of this and I’ll be physically ill.

But he stayed, fascinated by the revelation of Hector’s body as Bel got his shirt off and rucked up his vest. Running to fat, but not there yet, just a luxury of flesh over long planes of muscle. Freddie fancied he could see everything that had gone into the making of that thick strength, every serving of fresh, un-powdered milk and eggs, every early morning ride or swim, every Sunday dinner that was more roast than potatoes. He should hate it; he wanted to hate it. But hate wasn’t what he felt at all.

Bel’s hair swung over her face as she dipped her head and kissed Hector. Hector pulled her in, hand on the lush curve of her hip, sliding lower. A wash of warmth spread over Freddy’s face; his heart sped up.

“Catch,” he said, shaking himself free of whatever it was and tossing Bel the towel.

She caught it, pushing her hair away from her face with her free hand. “Be a dear and draw a bath, will you? He really is chilled to the bone.”

The tub was halfway full by the time Bel herded a shivering Hector into the room. He was down to white cotton boxer briefs now, a towel around his shoulders.

“Close your eyes,” she told Freddie as she divested Hector of his last scrap of clothing.

“Not bloody likely,” Freddie said. He made an exaggerated show of assessing Hector’s admittedly impressive cock. “Glad to see everything’s up to code in that department.”

“Pervert,” mumbled Hector, lowering himself gingerly into the bath.

Bel surveyed him, hands on hips. “And what am I supposed to put him in when he gets out?” she asked the air, shaking her head. “Keep an eye on him. Make sure he doesn’t drown in a drunken stupor.”

She left, presumably to look for dry things, and Freddie sat on the closed toilet and cast a critical eye over Hector. He was sitting hunched over his knees, pale shoulders still goose-pimpled with cold. His hair curled, apparently, when let loose from its strict regime of brylcreem, and it stood up around his face, a little wild. A rover, Freddie thought, a pirate.

Hector looked back at him, something close to sobriety in his eyes. “She didn’t throw me out, you know,” he said dully. “I left. She was on one her rants about career women. I don’t know where she picked up those terms. That sweet, sweet voice, and those words. And suddenly, I—well, I just couldn’t take it anymore. So I left. And there was a bottle in the car. And then I was here. Sorry.” He seemed to have a momentary spasm of chagrin. “It’s worse this time, don’t know why.”

He looked at Freddie beseechingly, as if Freddie might know why. But all Freddie could think was “This time? This time?” And it was all he could do not to put his hands around Hector’s throat.

He ducked his eyes instead, and toed at the discarded briefs. “You have a name tag sewn into your underwear,” he said. “Who does that? What man over the age of twelve does that?”

In answer, Hector sank into the bath until he was almost submerged, out of range of Freddie’s ridicule.

When Bel came back, a bundle of clothing under her arm, Freddie retreated to the kitchen, frantic for a smoke and a stiff drink of his own.

Bel joined him moments later, flushed, damp strands of hair clinging to her forehead. He handed her a whiskey in a water glass and she lit a cigarette and leaned next to him on the counter.

“I’m a fool,” she said.

“You’re a gem.” He nudged her shoulder companionably. “You’re a gem, and he doesn’t deserve you.”

She smiled, as if he were the bigger fool for believing that to be true.

“Am I interrupting something?”

Hector had emerged, clad in a voluminous lilac silk kimono Bel had picked up years ago on some flea-market expeditions. The red-embroidered folds barely reached his calves, and the sash strained a little over his middle. The haze of drink was obviously fading and the hurt was setting in. His nose was red.

He should have looked ridiculous, like a pantomime fool. But he didn’t. He looked like something out of the Arabian Nights, full of somnolent power—Sinbad, home from the seas.

Not that Freddie would have said any of that aloud. What he said was, “Crikey, you look worse than your namesake did after Achilles dragged his corpse seven times around the citadel.”

Hector snorted. “How long have you been waiting to use that one, Lyon?”

“Not sure. Since I first met you, I think.”

“Well, glad to give you the opportunity.”

He smiled ruefully, and Freddie found himself smiling back, disarmed, as always, by Hector’s unexpected good nature.

“Tea,” said Bel. “I think we could all use some.”

They sat awkwardly around Bel’s tiny table, tapping their ashes into a shared saucer. Bel and Hector stared at each other and Freddie stared at his teacup. He felt outside of things again, outside of the current of the thing between them, the thing that crackled like a live wire. But he couldn’t bring himself to leave.

Hector sniffled. He rubbed at his nose with the ample sleeve of the kimono until Bel got up to fetch him a handkerchief.

“I’m sorry,” he said, as she sat down again. “I shouldn’t have come here. It was--” he searched for a word, “—uncalled for.”

“Yes.” Bel stubbed out her cigarette. “You can row with your wife all you like, Hector, but I won’t be your safe haven. I won’t. I should’ve called the police like Freddie wanted me to.”

They looked at him. Freddie raised his eyebrows and tried to look innocent.

“You’re right—“ Hector began again, but was interrupted by an enormous sneeze. And another. Then a third. He blew his nose on Bel’s linen hanky and shivered visibly under the lilac silk. “Can’t seem to get warm,” he muttered apologetically.

“Oh for goodness sake,” Bel abruptly discarded her affronted reserve and reached over the table to rub his hands. “You’ll be ill in the morning at this rate. Off to bed with you—we’ll sort the rest out later.”

She chivvied him towards the bedroom, and soon Freddie could hear their voices—Bel’s brisk directions, Hector’s half-serious entreaties. Then laughter. They didn’t re-emerge.

Now, Freddie thought, now he should go. But he didn’t. He gathered the cups into the sink. He put away the whiskey. He picked up Hector’s sodden clothes and hung them in the airing cupboard. Something shiny fell out when he shook out the trousers: car keys. Freddie pocketed them. He’d certainly missed the last bus by now—the loan of his automobile as the least Hector could do to make up for the trouble he had caused.

Back in the kitchen, he listened, but the bedroom had gone silent. He filled a glass of water and scribbled a note. Then he padded down the hall and peaked around the door.

They were both asleep. Bel had taken off her dress, and lay half-propped against the headboard in her black silk slip, feet tucked under her, bright hair in disarray. So beautiful, Freddie thought, like something out of Waterhouse. Except that those women had all been abandoned by their lovers. Not Bel. Hector curled around her, one arm flung haphazardly across her belly, his head finally where he’d been trying to get it all night—pillowed on her breasts.

Freddie moved cautiously, thinking to put the note under the glass on the nightstand. But as he approached, Hector unexpectedly opened his eyes. Startled, Freddie fell back a step and dangled the keys defensively in front of him.

“Off now,” he mouthed silently. “I’ll bring it back in the morning.”

To his surprise, Hector shook his head. He shifted a little, put a sliver of space between himself and Bel, and whispered, “Don’t. Come in with us.”

Freddie stared. And stared some more. “My dad always told me never to never get into bed with a public school boy,” he said finally, for want of anything better.

“Did he, now?” Hector propped himself up on one elbow and grinned.

“Well, no. But I’m sure he would, if you asked him.”

Hector swallowed a laugh. “Don’t worry. Your virtue’s safe with me. You’re too scrawny by half, and I’m knackered besides.”

He sounded it, his voice a thin, saw-edge of sound, about to disappear completely. Bel was right, he’d be useless in the morning.

But Freddie couldn’t let it go. “Why?” he asked. Hector always seemed so possessive of Bel, always on the verge of telling Freddie to shove off when he was with her, no matter how well they got on when Bel wasn’t around. Why invite him in now?

Hector sighed and rolled onto his back. “I don’t know. Because it’s cold out there? Because half the time it seems like you’re here with us anyway? Between us. The way she thinks about you. The way you’re always in her thoughts.”

He looked sad, forlorn in a way that Freddie had never expected to see, but there was something in his voice, a ring of honesty like a stone hitting the bottom of a well, that undid the last of his defenses, that made his ready to take the risk. He dragged his sweater over his head and gingerly—very, very gingerly—crawled into the tiny space between Hector and Bel.

To say it was a tight fit was an understatement. The bed wasn’t big enough for two people, not by a long shot, and neither Hector nor Bel were what you’d call compact. As for trying to fit three, well, it seemed damn near impossible. But they managed somehow, even if Freddie did end up wedged almost underneath Hector, struggling with a mouthful of Bel’s hair.

Amazingly, Bel didn’t wake. Or perhaps she half did; or perhaps she did and didn’t let on. At any rate she shifted with them, until Freddie found his nose pressed into the satiny nape of her neck, his arm, since there was nowhere else to put it, stretched along the warmth length of her flank.

It was almost too much, the heat of being pressed in between them like this, the scent of Bel’s perfume in his nostrils, the swell of Hector’s belly against his back. One of Bel’s feet slid between his ankles, Hector’s hip canted heavily into his leg, and Freddie started to lose his sense of where their individual bodies began and ended. They shifted and nudged and rocked until they no longer seemed to be on solid ground at all. A ship upon untamed seas, he thought, a great adventure if we can only stay the course.

“Don’t think too much, Freddie,” Hector rumbled against his neck, low and boozy. “Just let go.”

And he did.

  • Shit. One more reason for me to go watch The Hour. <3
    • Sorry! It's well worth watching, though, if you like that kind of thing (pretty people and spies and production design like you wouldn't believe) :)
  • i love everything this is. ugh, can this happen next season, please and thanks?
    • From your mouth to Abi Morgan's ears! I'm very curious to see what they do with this triangle in the next season :)

      But very very happy that you enjoyed the fic--thanks for letting me know!
      • jsyk, i've been thinking about this fic. it's been on my mind. and now i want to write fic of my own and make mixes because this OT3 is flawless and i just want them all to be happy (with marnie too, so OT4, perhaps? idek, i just love everyon.).
        • Oh you should! There should be all the fic and everything for this show! The characters are so human, flawed and yearning and wanting more, all of them, and I know what you mean about wanting them to be happy. And I want to know more about their past--how did they end up like this? I was really glad the show had Freddie and Hector starting to have a friendship on their own, and not just being rivals for Bel.

          And the supporting characters were awesome too--Lix and Isaac and even McCain.
  • I didn't know I wanted fic of The Hour until now, because this totally perfect. Every line of Freddie's was so completely believable. I just watched episode 3 and this felt exactly like the show. I love how Freddie's drawn to both of them, and while they're physically larger than him and together, there's still room for him to fit.

    Awesome!
    • I'm glad you enjoyed it! I didn't know I wanted fic of The Hour, either, until I started writing it, but the voices are really fun and I love this time period. I'm relieved that it seemed in character, tho'

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

      Edited at 2011-09-01 10:30 pm (UTC)
  • *flails* Oh. My. God.

    You don't know me, but I love you for this! So much! \o/
    • I love you, too--for being willing to read fic about my sudden obsession!

      I'm so glad you enjoyed it--thanks for letting me know!
  • Oh, thank you for this! It's been a rubbish wee that isn't even over yet, and this has absolutely delighted me!
    • You're very welcome! I'm sorry you're having a bad week, but very happy this made it a little bit better.

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting!
  • I enjoyed this lot - very good period sense, especially Freddie's envy of Hector being well-fed. And I liked the comment about Hector's good nature, as well.

    I didn't particularly see it as a slashable show to start with - thinking that there were enough decent female characters that you could get some interesting het from it. But Bel has been something of a disappointment.
    • I'm so glad you enjoyed it! I love this period, so I'm happy if I got some of the flavor of it. If he's 27 in 1956, poor Freddie must have spent almost his whole life with food rationing--so it seemed the kind of thing he'd think about.

      I agree about Bel--though she and Hector did make a pretty sexy pairing. And whether you slash them or not (and I'm not sure to what extent I do) I loved the scenes with just Freddie and Hector, whether they were fighting or having adventures together--glad the show made them more than rivals.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!
  • So I just gobbled up The Hour in the space of about a day, then ran to Delicious to try to find the fic, and found this right away. Wonderful. I particularly love this line of Hector's:

    Because half the time it seems like you’re here with us anyway? Between us. The way she thinks about you. The way you’re always in her thoughts.

    It really capitalizes on the show's portrayal of Bel and Freddie as two people who've been wrapped up in each other for so long that they no longer realize where the boundaries should be, Hector's position as the man on the outside, even when he's with Bel and Freddie's not. Then the very sensual and grounded description of the cuddling nails it home. Well done.
    • lol--I had just about the same experience with The Hour --watched it every night for a week-- and more than anything else I saw this summer it made me want to write fic --I wish the fic-writing fandom was so much bigger!

      I'm so glad you enjoyed this--and thought it captured something about the way the three of them relate. They are such a fascinating bunch!

      Thanks for reading and commenting!
  • Directed here by cold_feets because there is NOWHERE NEAR enough fic for this show, and. Just. OH MY GOD. The characterization is perfect, and your language and style is breathtaking. And the crack about Hector's namesake made me giggle way too hard. I love them and I love this. <3
    • I can't believe there hasn't been a fic explosion for this show--there's so much delicious material!! But glad you found this and that you enjoyed it! (I may have been waiting to make that crack about Hector's name for almost as long as Freddie, so I'm glad that went over okay)

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting!
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