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frank/helen/mug/tea, pe - mrs mortimer
I wrote Public Eye fic! (I know, I know, but I really didn't think I could manage something for it properly, but I quite like this. One day I will stop being obscure, honest, but for today, I finally achieved Frank Marker/Helen Mortimer fic, and that'll do me for now. ;-D Mind, I only just finished this; I shall probably find a lot of horrible mistakes in the morning...)

Title: Baby, Don’t Get Hooked On Me
Author: lost_spook
Rating: All ages/PG
Word Count: 2284
Characters/Pairings: Frank Marker/Helen Mortimer
Notes/Warnings: None. Set between S4 & 5. No real spoilers.
Summary: When the music stops, you change your partner, that’s how it goes.

Or: Frank Marker & Helen Mortimer - Fake relationship & Curtainfic (The curtainfic bit doesn’t count. All Public Eye is mundane and domestic. That’s the point of it. Tropes, however, need a good deal of hammering before they’ll fit. That was the challenge.)

***

“You don’t mind, do you?” Helen said, hesitating in the doorway of the office. “As I said, I’ll leave something in the fridge – and you won’t have to lock the house up. I’ll be back, I just don’t know what time. Janet’s a bit shaken up, though, so I said I’d go and stay with her for a while –”

Frank had his attention on the sheet of paper in front of him. “Of course not,” he said. “Mind, I’d worry, if I were you. None of the people you know seem to be able to stay upright.”

“Well, then, what is it?” she asked, eyeing him curiously. “There’s something, I can tell.”

He picked up his pencil and examined it carefully. “No, no, nothing. Well, nothing much, except, I had this client in earlier, you see. Well, I call her a client, but she probably won’t be. I mean, she could be –”

“Am I supposed to be following this?” Helen began to look amused.

Frank looked up and leant his chin on his hand. “Well, you see, she thinks her husband’s up to no good. Every Friday evening, apparently.”

“Oh, dear,” said Helen. And then, unable to help herself: “At least he’s regular about it, I suppose.”

He directed a glance at her. “No, look, she said she followed him herself one night. He goes out to this club –”

“Then how does she know he’s up to no good? Could be perfectly innocent. She should ask him herself!”

“Helen,” said Frank. “I’m trying to explain.”

“Not very well, though.”

“Give me a chance! Anyway, she followed him there, and then asked someone at the door, but she says they told her only married couples were allowed in.”

Helen raised her eyebrows.

“So, she wants me to follow him, and actually get in, find out what goes on in there, except –”

“Oh,” said Helen, and then gave him a wary look.

“I know, I should just tell her I can’t,” said Frank. “But on the other hand –”

“Clients haven’t exactly been lining up lately?”

Frank shrugged.

Helen considered it. “Oh, well, why not? As long as I don’t get a sudden rush later on this week. At the moment there’s only Mr Evans and the Peters booked in for Friday, and it won’t make any difference to them if I pop out after dinner. Doubt they’ll raid the fridge or run off with the china somehow. What time is it, this mystery event of yours?”

“Seven thirty at the Methodist hall,” said Frank, with a grin.

“Oh, Frank, you’re making it up!”

Frank gave her a mock-solemn look. “The world’s a funny place. You can’t rule out anything.”

*

Seven thirty on Friday found them both outside the Methodist’s, Helen in a dress she rarely had reason to wear these days, and Frank in his venerable best suit he usually reserved for pretending to be a salesman or an accountant. The woman at the door didn’t seem to require any assurances about their being married or otherwise, and only said they were lucky there were still spaces, and asked them for two shillings.

“And there he is,” Frank said, into Helen’s ear, giving a discreet nod towards his quarry – a tall man, with iron grey hair and a sorrowful set to his face. He was accompanied by a woman who was probably a little younger, but seemingly set on provided the world with a walking illustration of the words sensible and staid. Helen raised an eyebrow at Frank, amused again.

“Looks can be deceiving,” he said. “You’d be surprised.”

Helen laughed. “I believe you. The question is – what is it we’ve let ourselves in for?”

They both turned then as the man running the event called for everyone’s attention. He had a too-ready smile and was wearing an ancient tuxedo that was nevertheless overdressed compared to everyone else. “Now,” he said, “time to make a start. You’ve all been doing well, so let’s keep it up. And this time, when the music stops, let’s change partners. You’ll soon find there’s a lot we can learn from each other.”

Helen glanced at Frank, and saw, to her amusement, that enlightenment hadn’t yet dawned. She leaned in towards him, and touched his arm lightly. “It’s a dancing class. Honestly, married couples only – they must have just said couples!”

“Oh,” said Frank, amused realisation spreading over his face. “Oh, of course!”

She looked up at him. “Which is all very well, only – can you dance?”

“What makes you think I can’t? You ought to see me!”

“I will, shortly,” she said. “Won’t I?”

“You?”

She gave him a guilty look. “Well, it’s been a while, and it depends what they’ve got in mind – better hope it’s a beginners’ class, that’s all!”


It was, or at least, it was a small and informal group with mixed abilities and a very much non-professional teacher, and only a record-player for accompaniment. Helen found herself able to manage most of the dances, although she was soon out of breath. The idea of changing partners was a trial, though. She didn’t much care for any of the other men there – one of them had no regard for the music, or where she was in relation to him, another was sweating badly – romantic it certainly wasn’t. She made the mistake of expressing her relief at reclaiming Frank too openly, and saw his face close in immediately. Since she couldn’t cover over the slip without insulting everyone else, she merely pulled a wry face inwardly while she was treated to an especially stiff and silent fox trot.

Eventually, he said, “Got to talk to her a bit – the other woman, if you like. Our fellow’s only here taking lessons to surprise his wife, so she says.”

“A bit too much of surprise for both of them, then,” said Helen. “Honestly, people ought to think! Well, it did all sound unlikely, didn’t it?”

Frank leant against the wall after they finished. Neither of them were much used to dancing any more, even with a break between each effort. “People get all kinds of funny ideas in their heads – but then again, sometimes the strangest things happen. You never know.”

“True!”

Helen let him go and turned to the short man – shorter even than she was – who seemed to be finding the dancing such hard work he couldn’t breathe properly. She was distracted from the steps and the opening bars of the song by wondering whether or not she shouldn’t ask if he needed to stop and maybe go to the hospital. Then the words played out, too clear despite the crackle of the record player: “Far away places with strange sounding names, Far away over the sea.”

She couldn’t have heard it for nearly twenty years and the suddenness of it brought a memory back so vividly she was unaware of anything else – a moment of young misery and isolation, the irony of the song’s words playing over everything, and her trying so fiercely not to let anyone see, least of all Denis Mortimer.

“Mrs Marker?” her current partner said, nearly tripping over her. “Are you all right?”

She stared at him for a minute. “Mrs Mortimer!” she said, correcting him haughtily before she remembered why he’d made the assumption, and then her sense of humour and full awareness of her present whereabouts returned together. She never really had been all that good at lying. She wished they hadn’t played that song, though. Coming so close after Frank’s casual but hurtful distancing himself – which wasn’t the first such instance, either – it felt like a premonition, not merely an old memory she’d prefer to forget.

“I’m sorry,” she told her partner. “It’s nothing, but I think I’ll find myself a glass of water – I’m not used to this sort of thing these days.”

Funny, she thought, as she stepped back towards the doors, she could remember the dance hall, the song, what she was wearing, but she couldn’t remember what it was that Denis had said when she’d told him her news, only that fear – starting to understand that whether or not he stood by her, in some fundamental sense, she was alone. Well, and she’d been not quite eighteen then, and thought it was the end of the world; now it was only a memory, that was all.

She watched everyone else moving mostly ungracefully with a smile carefully placed on her face, though she did wish the song would end. Three minutes suddenly seemed far too long, and then no doubt they’d have to play the thing again for everyone to get the steps right.

“Helen?” said Frank, coming over.

She turned her head towards him, and gave him a rueful smile. “Oh, I’m fine, don’t worry. I’ve had a lovely time, but I’m far too out of practice.”

“Well,” he said, as they started the same tune up again, “I’ve got what I needed.”

She nodded. “Yes, let’s go. If you don’t mind?”

And behind them, as they slipped out of the hall door, into the lobby, she could still hear the song: The whistles of a train, I pray for the day I can get under way, And look for those castles in Spain


Outside, Frank walked alongside her, watching her. “Not ill, are you?”

“No, of course not,” she said, firmly. “If you want to know, I hadn’t heard that last song in years – brought back a bad memory for a minute, that’s all. And I really don’t think I could have faced another round with that selection of partners.” With which, she then entertained him with a catalogue of the other dancers’ many faults, until he laughed.

She smiled in satisfaction, but underneath the irrational sense of loss that came with the memory persisted, though she didn’t let herself dwell on it. Silly, she told herself, though it was ironic, wasn’t it? (I want to see for myself, Those far away places I've been reading about And then when Denis had finally been able to travel, he’d done it without her, flown away to all those places free of her. And good riddance! she reminded herself, with a shake. After all, she could have gone with him in the end – if she hadn’t gained some sense in the years between.)

Then, as she opened the door, Frank surprised her by saying quietly, “Bad memory?”

“Nothing important,” she said, pushing the door open and letting them both in. “Not any more. It was just a little – out of the blue.”

“Funny how things do that,” he said. “Something you see or hear –”

“Or smell,” she said. “Even now, every time I use cinnamon, I still think – oh, well, you don’t want to hear about that!”

“I might.”

She led him into the kitchen. “Well, never mind that – I had a very nice time, thank you. Although I must say, I am disappointed the Methodists weren’t doing anything terribly scandalous, after all!”

Frank shut the kitchen door behind him. “Couldn’t be all that scandalous,” he said. “It was supposed to be married couples only, remember!” Then he leant back against the door. “Besides, that’s life, isn’t it? Full of disappointments.”

At which, she shook her head at him, and offered him a cup of tea.

“I wouldn’t say no,” he said, brightening again, and then moved forward. “I’ll make it, shall I?”

She swung round. “Honestly, Frank! I’m fine. Now, pass me the milk, if you want to be useful.” She smiled to herself: no matter if it might be a premonition as well as memory – and she was perhaps a little too superstitious – she thought that at least with Frank if he offered to make her a cup of tea she didn’t need to wait warily for the rest of the evening to find out what he wanted out of her. And whatever might happen, it was nearly May, and he’d here been a year already, when Mr Hull had clearly been sure he wouldn’t even stay with her until December. And the main point was that he could stay, if he wanted, not whether or not he would.

When the tea had been disposed of, and she’d assured Frank that nothing else needed doing, he headed on up to bed, and she stayed, making some additions to her shopping list. She did think again of the song, and of twenty years ago, but there was no point in wasting pity on her younger self – and she couldn’t regret any of it. She had her son, after all, and she liked taking in boarders. Best to make your own happiness in this world, that was the thing.

Then she rinsed out the teacups and walked over to the door – and found Frank on the other side of it at the same moment as she switched off the light. She managed somehow not to yell and alarm the guests. “Oh, Frank, you startled me!”

“Sorry,” he said. “I came back down.”

“So I see.”

He leant against the doorway. “I meant to say – thanks, Helen.”

“No trouble at all,” she said. “I told you. I enjoyed it.”

He reached out and gave her what was somewhere between a pat on the shoulder and a friendly punch, and then, in a manner that was presumably meant to be easy and casual, but was equally awkward, gave her a peck on the cheek before beating a hasty retreat.

And if, afterwards, she smiled too much and hoped too hard, that was only the risk you took in being alive, and always so much better than any of the alternatives.

***


Crossposted from Dreamwidth -- Comments there: comment count unavailable

Comments

( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
liadtbunny
Feb. 17th, 2014 04:37 pm (UTC)
Keep being obscure:)

I was thinking about obscurity and popularity myself because I fancied doing an introspective piece and thought maybe I should concentrate on the Polly angst I scribbled ages ago because at least somebody would read it, cos it's Who and people watch it, instead of only me but I'd far rather do some 'Bulman' related stuff and my brain stepped in and I did some 'Bulman'. Dunno if I will type it up. I'll probably do the Polly thing so I can talk about which fic got the most hits on the end of year fic meme instead of "they all got 8 hits."(!) So I say go with your heart if it wants to be obscure. I may be biased;)
lost_spook
Feb. 17th, 2014 05:22 pm (UTC)
Aw. ♥

But I think I should direct my brain to something a little less obscure as soon as I can, because otherwise it gets rather lonely. I'm not sorry I wrote this, though. :-)

Polly's not a guarantee for readers, though, either. Ian and Barbara, yes, Ben and Polly, no. They've been too burninated. *sigh*
liadtbunny
Feb. 18th, 2014 08:25 pm (UTC)
Which is much better than being Lonely;) (This gag may have been used several thousand times before, soz).

I think I shall have to give up on popularity & trying to be. It doesn't like me(!).
lost_spook
Feb. 18th, 2014 09:18 pm (UTC)
:lol:

Popularity only comes when you're not looking for it. One day you'll dash off a random crossover and be baffled by everyone suddenly liking it. :-)
liadtbunny
Feb. 19th, 2014 03:34 pm (UTC)
I'm relying on the cakefic to bring me fame;)

Anyway, I read your fic!

She made the mistake of expressing her relief at reclaiming Frank too openly, and saw his face close in immediately. Aw! </3 <3 Love is not a dancing thing. I was glad of the hopeful-ish ending (tea=good, scotch=bad. This is the symbolism of old TV) and sounds true to PE as you describe it. Was the short bloke all right? I was worried. Sapphire's not going to turn up is she?
lost_spook
Feb. 19th, 2014 05:09 pm (UTC)
:loL: of course! If not fame, then eventually notoriety is sure to ensue! :-D

And, aw, thanks. ♥ I'm sure the short bloke was okay. Mrs Mortimer is probably just prejudiced because she's got her eye on a tall, wiry bloke instead.

(I don't know if scotch is evil in Public Eye. It seems to be okay. Beverages are good, generally? The only exceptions are some modern/experimental overly potent cocktail types. Otherwise tea, coffee, scotch, half a pint of bitter, wine, sherry, schnapps, water, milk... Frank even comes to like Nell's weird non-standard teas.)

(I like your icon there - very pretty!)

ETA: Oh, Coke is evil! Frank takes an American girl to a pub and she wants a coke and his response is a gloomy "They have anything in pubs these days!" :-D

Edited at 2014-02-19 06:01 pm (UTC)
liadtbunny
Feb. 20th, 2014 03:19 pm (UTC)
Ooh, I fancy being notorious!

Phew!

Blimey, PE sounds tres exotic with non-standard teas and coke. Coke! This was in the last series right?

Ta:) You can't beat Fred & Ginger. I can't take the credit for making though.
lost_spook
Feb. 20th, 2014 08:03 pm (UTC)
:-)

Blimey, PE sounds tres exotic with non-standard teas and coke. Coke! This was in the last series right?

No, the Coke was in 1971 (S5). But it was an American girl who wanted it to drink; Frank was disapproving. But they had it in the pub!
swordznsorcery
Feb. 17th, 2014 08:39 pm (UTC)
Stay obscure! For one thing, the internet has more than enough of the other stuff. For another, Frank Marker deserves his day in the sun. Even if it is a quiet and subdued day, seen only by a few. He'd probably prefer that anyway.

I didn't notice any horrible mistakes, by the way. :)
lost_spook
Feb. 18th, 2014 08:07 pm (UTC)
Well, I'm never exactly in the middle of a mega-fandom. But I think slightly less obscure every now and then is good, because that means Classic Who and Blake's 7 and Sapphire and Steel and things. Those are nice things! :-)

Frank Marker deserves his day in the sun. Even if it is a quiet and subdued day, seen only by a few. He'd probably prefer that anyway.

He can have a day in the sun, as long as it's on Brighton sea front, with Mrs Mortimer. That would be nice. For him, as well as for those who ship them, like me and Percy Firbank.

oonaseckar
Feb. 17th, 2014 11:52 pm (UTC)
“Besides, that’s life, isn’t it? Full of disappointments.”
Oh, Frank!

And if, afterwards, she smiled too much and hoped too hard, that was only the risk you took in being alive, and always so much better than any of the alternatives.
Until you get a reminder of how bad the let-down is, I suppose. Just touting for a little business for cynicism!

It's beautifully melancholy. And the contrast between hopeful married romance, and wary single woundedness, very sharp.
lost_spook
Feb. 18th, 2014 08:09 pm (UTC)
Aw, thanks for reading! ♥
dimity_blue
Feb. 21st, 2014 10:03 pm (UTC)
Awww, that was cute! I love that it turned out to be a dancing class and nothing scandalous at all. And that Frank came back down to give Helen a peck on the cheek was just adorable.

Now look - you've got me shipping them!
lost_spook
Feb. 22nd, 2014 09:13 am (UTC)
Aw, thanks for reading! :-)

Now look - you've got me shipping them!

This is just inevitable, sorry. Percy Firbank does it the first second he sees them together. And if hardened police officers ship them at first sight, what can any of the rest of us expect?

;-D
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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