“Do you think there’s any chance your ma would sit next to Jago for breakfast?”

Gideon wiped his hands on a teatowel and came to have a look at Lee’s strategy board. Apricot light was filling the living room. The day’s storms had rolled off over the Channel, leaving behind them a serene June evening, the sun still high and gold above Minions Hill. Lee seemed to have let his afternoon’s trial’s go south with the clouds. He’d eaten a good dinner and returned his attention to his foolproof seating plan, the one that would keep all their wedding guests happy and socially integrated.

 

His latest inspiration had been to set out chess pieces on the coffee table to represent the guests. Taking a seat beside him on the sofa, Gideon surveyed the battle lines. Old Mrs Frayne was regally represented by the white marble queen. Beside her was Jago, a barely tamed knight errant. “Not so sure about that,” Gideon mused. “Two wrongs might not make a right.” He picked up a stately bishop. “Is this one meant to be Ezekiel?”

 

“Yes. Have I got him in the wrong place?”

 

“No, but don’t you think...” He reached into the box. The chess set was an imaginative interpretation by a local sculptor, and he’d taken the concept of the rooks quite literally. Gideon lowered one hunch-shouldered carrion bird into the place of the bishop. “There. Much better.”

 

Lee snorted. “Don’t you be mean about Zeke. He ran about shouting bomb like a good ’un this afternoon, once he’d got the idea.”

 

“So I gather. I had to persuade Inspector Cole to drop charges against the two of you for falsely reporting an explosive device.”

 

“Shit. Really?”

 

“Yeah. He cooled off when he realised why you’d done it.” Gideon sat opposite Lee at the table. “How many lives you’d saved.”

 

Lee looked down. He began to shuffle their sample set of invitations like a pack of cards. “Makes a change from having him assume I was responsible. There isn’t really an alibi big enough for that, is there? No, officer – I was off the planet when the irreversible climate change occurred, honest.”

 

“Well, it might’ve been you up there loosening the topsoil. I tell you what – I’m sure I’ve got a set of toy soldiers packed up in the spare room somewhere. Would you rather have those?”

Just for a second Lee took him seriously. His eyes widened. “We’re not having that many guests, are we? I’ve still got loads of chesspieces left. I haven’t even started on the pawns.”

 

“I thought the soldiers might be more appropriate. Why is it becoming a warzone, love?”

 

Lee gave a reluctant laugh. “I’m making a fuss, aren’t I? I just want everything to be right.”

 

“It will be.” Gideon put out an arm. His heart lurched painfully as Lee pushed his chesspieces aside and curled up on the sofa beside him, hiding his face against his shoulder. This was where hostilities had broken out a few weeks ago, in front of the TV after a Horizon show on marriage equality. Newlywed same-sex couples stumbling out of registry offices and churches, sobbing with joy, tears and confetti flying everywhere... Absurd and divine, and Gideon couldn’t even remember which of them had spoken first. I’d like to marry you.

Well, I’d like to be married.

As simple as that. Gideon wasn’t sure why Lee had grabbed the idea and run with it so far, why the registry office had become the Falmouth town hall and then the Victorian gardens at Trebah. Gideon didn’t mind. He was charmed by all the plots and plans, the little things to go on tables, and he’d done as good a job as a big Cornish copper could of helping hatch and select them. He’d never have figured Lee for the Bridezilla type, but people were full of surprises, and no matter how the gig went down, at some point Gideon would get to sign his name in a registry book next to that of Locryn Tyack. “Why do I get the feeling,” he said, stroking Lee’s hair, “that there’s a huge amount of displacement activity going on here?”

 

“What?”

 

It was barely a grunt from his shoulder. Gideon smiled. “You know. Like when the dog scratches her ears because she’s got a tick on her arse.”

“Oh, charming.” Lee shifted, planted a distracting kiss under Gideon’s ear. “I don’t have a tick. Would you like to check?”

 

“In a minute. Once you’ve told me what happened this afternoon. Because you see a hell of a lot of things, sweetheart, but so far you haven’t seen the future.”

 

Lee lay very still. His breath stirred warmly against Gideon’s neck, the rhythm of it taut and too quick. “That’s what your brother said.”

 

“Zeke? What was his brilliant take on the situation?”

 

“He said, you predicted this. You saw the future.”

“Then he chucked holy water on you? Snapped out his handy portable stake?”

 

“No. He seemed... a bit thrown, actually.”

 

“And so are you.”

 

“Well, I...” Lee put out a hand and felt along the edge of the sofa. “Where is she, by the way? That dog I used to have?”

 

“With Laura again. Sarah says she and the kid are inseparable. Do you miss her?”

 

“Yeah, but a kid should have a dog. And once we’re married we can get another one. And a cat, and a goldfish, and a baby I haven’t had to steal out of a high chair in a café.”

 

“Yes. All right, the whole menagerie. Now talk.”

 

Lee looked up. He gently cupped Gideon’s jaw in one hand, his expression peculiar. “You know, any normal guy would be running screaming for the hills right now.”

 

“I’ve got my taxi booked.”

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