If Billy Costigan said that he had never slipped a few oxys from his mom’s prescription stash before becoming an undercover cop for Queenan’s unit, he would’ve been lying. He had been a perfect student, perfect model cadet, worked hard, took care of his ailing mom, and left the Southie projects and its memories far behind him. But he was still human, and would always be nothing more than human. He wouldn’t lie about liking the way the oxycodone made him feel: numb. Numb to the world around him, numb to his nagging, bitching, wonderfully loving, expiring mother whose sole purpose in life now was to fight a quickly losing battle with excruciating pain and inevitable death.
He was numb to the multitude of odd-end jobs he had to work in order to scrape by with his mom’s increasing medical bills, numb to all the other bills still laying unpaid on the kitchen counter, and numb to the endless array of books, training, and tests, ceaselessly taunting him with a goal that seemed so far out of reach: to become a state trooper. But he wouldn’t give up. Oh no, he would never give up. But he would give in, from time to time, by slipping one of those wonderful white pills into his mouth, occasionally downing it thankfully with the bite of hard liquor when he was feeling particularly down and out. To put it straight, Costigan was quite familiar with oxycodone before becoming a cop, especially an undercover cop.
And then it happens. Suddenly there is no more need for textbooks, drills, exams, late nights, even longer days, sweat, swearing, and, on a rare occasion, tears. He feels like a new man in his crisp, blue uniform on the day of graduation: it is the uniform of a state cop, the uniform of a man no other Costigan before him had ever rightfully been, it is the uniform symbolizing the respect no other Costigan before him had worked so damn hard to earn…
This is a recurring dream that haunts Billy often. Then he comes back to reality and realizes it’s been almost a year since he became part of Costello’s crew. And what a terrifyingly long fucking year it had been. Those dreams, those long-lost, idealistic dreams were becoming the ‘what if’ story of his life. What if he had refused Queenan and Dignam? What if he had fulfilled his ambition of becoming a reputable cop and thus finally severing his last ties to the backward crime life of South Boston? What if he had done these things? He would’ve made his mother proud, made his father proud, defied all odds crushing down on him…
Maybe he would’ve even been able to live a normal life: small house, white picket fence, gorgeous wife, 2.5 kids, and a dog. However, even when he was thinking these things, he knew deep down none of that was what he wanted. He still couldn’t quite answer why he had agreed to the hellish undercover job that would strip him of the very identity he had worked his whole goddamn life for. Was it for the money? Maybe, but probably not, he didn’t need it really, not after his mom passed, and he wouldn’t have any time to spend it anyway being a fucking dog in Costello’s gang. Was it the honor of doing right by his country, upholding the law, and carrying out justice as defined by his loyal sense of civic duty? He liked to think so—or rather, he needed to think so. He needed so desperately to cling on to some shred of noble cause, some infallible principle, just so he wouldn’t go fucking crazy, even if those causes and principles weren’t true.
These were the sorts of thoughts that barraged Billy’s mind in the early hours of nearly every morning, especially recently as his exploits with Costello and his crime ring were becoming increasingly dangerous, precarious; his life has become consumed by worry, stress, anger, never a moment to relax, to wonder if he’ll make it out of this thing alive. He feels like he’s racing against a clock, racing against time that is ticking down to his demise. It was at these times that he would slip out of bed, walk to the bathroom, and stare darkly through the quiet twilight of dawn at his troubled reflection in the mirror. He saw a man there who was suffering: he had tension in his shoulders that told the silent story of a world of weight bearing down on him, breaking him.
His eyes were shadowed, lined with the dark bags of many sleepless nights and equally endless anxiety. Who is this man, Billy thinks. And he always knows the answer, he’s no one.
And it was no one who opened the cabinet, and no one who took out the translucent, bright orange bottle tinkling with those blessed pills of release, and it was no one who uncapped the lid and shoved three of these little white tablets into his mouth. No one stares at the bottle, and thinks, with shame and self-loathing, that this was the last thing his mother had ever given him, and she had no idea she had done it. In the end, it was no one who slipped away into a tantalizingly anesthetized state with only the sound of a beating heart and the slow churning of breath to remind him that he’s still alive. It is only then that the pain of memories, lost dreams, and ruthless thoughts fades away, and he sleeps.
There were two things Costigan was especially good at: Lying and taking oxycodone. He was particularly good at lying about taking oxycodone. Being a good liar made him a good undercover cop; being a good liar made it easy for him to infiltrate Costello’s crime organization. But being a good liar was not good enough when faced with Staff Sergeant Sean fucking Dignam. It hadn’t taken long for Dignam to sift through Costigan’s fabrications and find that he had ordered a re-fill for his mom’s prescription OxyContin. The problem was, his mother had been dead when he ordered it, and only dead for a few days at that! Now, why would anyone do something that stupid? Dignam could think of a whole litany of sarcastic, smart-ass answers to that question, and he wasn’t about to let Billy Costigan live without suffering through at least a good handful of them, and, more than anything, Dignam wanted answers.
Dignam almost regretted setting up the meeting at such a seedy motel joint; it sat neglected in gaudy, peeling shades of pink and had rusty, iron railings sprayed over too many times with cheap, white spray paint. Tangles of weeds were vying for room in the haphazard cracks of the washed-out paved lot whose parking spots were all but random segments of fading lines, unidentifiable. At the very least, it was quickly getting dark. Soon enough he wouldn’t have to look at how ugly it was. The office was a small, rickety room that seemed to have been hurriedly attached to the front end of the bland, rectangular building. It, too, was painted an ungodly shade of pink, probably like the discolored feathers of a dead flamingo, Dignam thought bitterly. Oh, well. While the place was most certainly festering will all sorts of vile illegal activity, the worst of it was probably only a couple of low-life scum and some underage whores trying to tape a piece of half-assed, cheap porn with a shitty camcorder. Dignam knew Costello’s syndicate wouldn’t come out this far; this little shit hole was outside their territory, far enough to evade any lingering suspicion.
Dignam strode into the office as if he’d been there a million times, or, as Costigan would put it, as if he had an air of self-entitlement shoved far up his ass; the woman behind the counter looked startled out of her lethargic boredom and immediately intrigued. It didn’t take her ten seconds to start leering over the counter, her breasts pressed over her crossed arms, overly exposed, inviting. She wasn’t hard on the eyes, but Dignam knew in less than the amount of time it took for her to get interested that she was a fucking junkie.
“Why, can I help you, sir?” She drawled, and her cherry pink lips parted to reveal the start of a bubble of chewing gum. She blew the bubble until it popped, her dark eyes never leaving his. “I can help you with anything, really.” She purred, shameless.
“I need a room,” Dignam was curt, short, and suddenly anxious. Would this bitch remember him if she was forced to? Damn, he should have at least worn a fucking disguise. No, no, she wouldn’t remember; she probably hits on every goddamn thing that walks through that door. She seemed only slightly put off by his brusque and made a grand and mighty slow show of retrieving a set of keys from the cupboard behind her.
It was during this time that Dignam caught the movement of a shadowy figure beyond the office windows. It was a shifty figure, never standing in one place for too long; the person looked as if he was debating whether or not to come in, clearly impatient. Dignam’s eyes narrowed down to slits the moment he realized who it was. Of course it was Costigan. By this time, it was almost completely dark out, but the shadowy figure moved into the harsh yellow light of an overhead lamp and Dignam could distinctly detect the familiar scowl on Costigan’s face.
In a moment, Costigan decided to start walking decisively towards the office and Dignam felt a tightening in the pit of his stomach: better wrap this shit up. He snatched the keys off the counter and threw some money down right as the tinkle of the door rang behind him. The woman glanced over Dignam’s shoulder and he could swear she nearly started salivating. Dignam rolled his eyes and turned his back on her, standing in her line of vision.
“What the fuck’s taking so long?” Costigan growled. He was restless, hands stuffed far down in his pockets, his stance rigid as if he were coiled to spring.
“Don’t get your panties in a knot, sweetheart.” Dignam snapped back caustically and threw the keys to Costigan, perhaps a bit too roughly. Costigan glowered darkly at him for a brief moment before stalking out of the office, shoulders hunched like an angry dog. Dignam turned back to the woman at the counter for his change and found her gaping at him in unconcealed surprise.
“What?” Dignam demanded, honestly puzzled by her sudden look of incredulous realization. She stared at him with a wicked little jealous smirk that made his skin crawl. He quickly picked up his change and shoved it in his pocket, eyeing her all the while with a suspicious glare.
“You boys have a very pleasant evening.” She said silkily, her expression melting from sudden shock into brazen suggestiveness, as if she were sharing a secret joke with Dignam. A joke Dignam didn’t get.
He turned away from her and was tempted to cross himself: people in this neighborhood were fucking weird. He left the office, opening the door a bit too hard and sending those stupid little bells at the top into a jingling fury. He walked out into the darkness of the parking lot and swore: Where the hell was Costigan? What had the number been on those damn keys? Just as he was about to think that jumping into his car and taking off instead was the best plan he’d come up with all evening, Costigan appeared at the railing of an upper balcony, whistling quietly to get his attention.
With a poisonous glare, he made hastily for the stairs and all but shoved Costigan back into their hotel room. The door closed with a quiet click and suddenly the two of them became aware that the world had been shut out and they were the only two around. And then muffled, throaty moans and the rhythmic thump thump of a headboard hitting the opposite side of the wall had them grounded back in reality.
Costigan looked extremely uncomfortable and that signature scowl returned to his face. “What do you want, Dignam?” Costigan began, “I told you on the fucking phone, I have nothing new on Costello.” Dignam nodded impatiently as he paced the hotel room, opening random drawers, and hoping to God there was alcohol in the mini fridge. He opened it. No, of course, there wouldn’t be any. Costigan watched him with growing aggravation and confusion,
“Does Queenan know we’re here—” Costigan demanded, but before he could continue, Dignam turned on him sharply, his eyes piercing,
“No. Queenan doesn’t fucking know we’re here. And he doesn't have to, got it? Now shut the fuck up with the questions.” Dignam could see the anger rising in every line of Costigan’s body; with some more ribbing, it was only a matter of time before he let it loose. Dignam wanted that to happen, but he wanted it controlled. He knew how to press Costigan’s buttons, but the question was how to rein the son-of-a-bitch in again…
Costigan couldn’t help the irritation welling in him, so he let his mouth slip, “Why don’t you stay the fuck off my back, alright, you asshole?” The words are less assertive than he'd like, but suddenly giving voice to the angry words that had been boiling in his mind since the moment he met Dignam felt pretty damn good. In the darkly lit room, Dignam and Costigan stared each other down, facing each other with no more than an arm’s length between them. As Costigan had said his piece, Dignam's stern features turned into an angry grimace.
“Is that how you talk to your superiors, you little shit?” He snapped, “No wonder you never graduated from the academy; you’re too much of a smartass, huh, you motherfucker.” Dignam spat, closing the space between the two of them. Still, Costigan held himself back, although his frame was nearly shaking with rage. Dignam had to give him some credit; the kid had control. But control was not what Dignam needed in order to find what he was looking for; he scanned Costigan over, noting the oversized, black jacket, the navy blue T-shirt underneath, and the dark khaki pants. The jacket would have the most pockets; it would be the likeliest place Costigan would feel most natural reaching into in order to find something he desperately needed.
Dignam jerked his chin at Costigan and smirked, “You’re such a stupid fuck I bet the academy isn’t the only thing you couldn’t finish—because you know if we hadn’t pulled you out and recruited your dumb ass, you wouldn’t have jack shit—but I bet you couldn’t even finish fucking that stupid broad downstairs; you probably can’t even get it up, huh, pretty boy—”
“Shut the hell up, Dignam, you fucking queer! What the fuck is wrong with you?” Costigan is completely bewildered and, more importantly, incredibly furious. He doesn’t know how much longer he can keep calm. But Dignam just continues, even when he notices Costigan advancing warningly on him,
“—And what about your mother, huh?” Dignam taunts and lets out a mocking laugh, “Don’t get me fucking started! You probably practice—ooofff!” There was no room for Dignam to finish because Costigan had barreled into him, nearly knocking the wind out of him in one fell blow. But Dignam had been prepared; he knew if you insulted a guy’s manhood and his mother, you’d be guaranteed a fistfight for sure. This is what he had been waiting for.
Dignam could feel the angry heat rolling off Costigan’s tense body like a wave, and while they both struggled against each other with impressive might, Dignam let Costigan shove him around a bit more than he’d normally allow. He wanted the kid to think he had the upper hand, lull him into a false sense of surety, but what he was not expecting was Costigan’s clenched fist colliding with his jaw in the flash of an instant and with some damn strong unexpected force.
Dignam staggered backwards, his eyes wide not with shock—although he was amazed for a split moment that Costigan would even dare—but with intense fury. This little shit-eating fucker’s really gonna get it now! He seethed and swiped the corner of his lip where his teeth had caught the flesh. He was too fucking mad to wonder if it was bleeding, but the shimmer on his knuckles when he took his hand away spoke for itself. Costigan had stepped back a bit, appraising his work, no doubt, but his eyes also glared warily, cautiously, at the tense, dark form of Dignam who was probably about to lose it.
Dignam had hardly noticed that when he'd been hit he had stepped back into a small table, smashing it against the wall and upending the table lamp that sat on it with a crash. Well, at least the fuckers on the other side of the wall were quiet now; perhaps they were sadly thinking some other couple was having more fun than they were. Unfortunately, both Dignam and Costigan were sure they would rather be anywhere else—with anyone else—than where they were right now.
The sudden silence was maddening as the two stared each other down. Finally, as if on cue, the poor man on the other side of the wall who thought it would be a perfect, lucky night hammered on the paper-thin barrier between them tentatively, and he yelled at them to ask “What the hell kind of kinky shit are you up to in there?” and for them to “Shut the fuck up!” However, his voice sounded only half as mean as he wanted while the other half sounded unsure if maybe he should just call the fucking cops. If only he knew.
At this sudden interval of neighborly investigation, Dignam became aware that he had lost sight of his sole objective by wanting to pull out his gun and shoot Costigan in the face. However, now that his main objective was recalled and the urge to kill the other man lessened, Dignam took this opportunity to jump his opponent, who was thoroughly distracted by the implications of their neighbor’s words.
Costigan had the wind knocked out of him as Dignam came in low and shouldered him in the gut, but he was quick to wrestle the other man into a head-lock. Their brawl had become much more ruthless, and, because Costigan had leveled the playing field with his mean right hook, everything was fair game. Dignman deflected a well-placed blow, and Costigan dodged out of the way of a fierce swing; because remaining out of reach of each other was of utmost importance to the two of them, the shitty hotel room and all its furniture had now become the ultimate victims of their wrath and they made sure the inanimate objects were not spared the brunt of it.
The men were now scrabbling around on the floor: they rolled into the side of the bed frame, but finding no leverage there, they reeled back into the nightstand behind them, sending another lamp and the blinking digital clock crashing to the floor. All the while, they cursed each other with the vehemence of two life-long enemies finally settling a life-long feud.
“Fuck you to hell, you damn psychotic—“ Costigan growled through his teeth, took a moment to elbow Dignam in the side and swing a leg over his torso, “—fucking maniac!” Dignam had Costigan in a chokehold and his voice came out in a reedy hiss, but his anger wasn’t lost on Dignam, who quickly took the opportunity to shove his free hand around Costigan’s jacket and into his pockets.
“Shut the hell up and hold still, you shit!” Dignam barked, thrusting his hand into the breast pocket of Costigan’s jacket, but finding nothing, began searching the inner pockets in the lining of the jacket. He tried not to notice how he could feel Costigan’s heaving chest, hard and hot as his hand brushed against it, even through the T-shirt he was wearing. Costigan noticed what seemed to be a very strange violation and, in alarm, gave one final effort to free himself from Dignam’s grip by arching his back and wrenching forward to hopefully loosen Dignam’s hold. Dignam tightened his grasp and made sure it hurt. Their bodies curled and flexed against each other as Dignam attempted to adapt to Costigan’s frantic efforts to free himself; if anyone were to walk into the room at that moment, it would probably look like two grown men were spooning along with some other evocative gyrations. Costigan shouted in his anger and, finally, desperation,
“Damn you motherfucker! You trying to fucking molest me or something?—“ His voice was high in a way Dignam had never heard it before; Dignam reasoned maybe Costigan was scared because it had become clear Dignam could hold his own and subdue the ferociously angry and bitter undercover cop who was supposed to be invincible.
“Not such a fucking tough guy anymore, huh, Costigan?” Dignam goaded; he couldn’t help himself and reveled in the unfamiliar feeling this sort of strange control gave him. Nonetheless, as he smirked he felt the split in his lip crack open with a bolt of sharp pain and was almost pleasantly reminded that Costigan was more than his match; deep in his gut, Dignam didn’t doubt Costigan could take him down if he really wanted.
Finally, after what felt like a hundred years stuck in hell, Dignam’s fingers brushed against the one thing he had come here to find. Deep in an inner pocket, the tiny little bottle felt cool against his fingers; its smooth, round shape found itself firmly grasped in Dignam’s triumphant fist as he extracted the prize for his hard work. Costigan’s body had stiffened, and he fell motionless and silent. He didn’t know what Dignam was doing, but he felt something in their frustrating game had changed; the tables had been turned (again), although they hadn’t seemed to be in his favor in the first place anyway.
In one quick motion, Dignam released Costigan and got to his feet, waiting. Costigan was not as quick to compose himself: he was calculating, trying to figure out what Dignam had just done. Certainly, he had been worried when Dignam had started feeling him up, as he thought it had most likely been, but why the sudden change in motive? As Costigan brought himself up to a kneeling position, his eye caught an oddly familiar orange glint in Dignam’s hand as the sickly yellow light of the street lamps outside tried to shine in through the gauzy curtains.
Suddenly realization, fury, and, above all else, shame, hit him harder than any of Dignam’s blows had. His eyes traveled from the bottle to Dignam’s face, prepared for the worst of Dignam’s harassment in his look alone. But Dignam was surprisingly silent. His lips were a tight line and his eyes unreadable.
As for Dignam, seeing Costigan on the floor still, dumbstruck and so damn vulnerable, completely wiped away previous notions of hassling the younger man. Dignam simply lifted the orange bottle between them, not in order to give it back, but to hold it out, tinkling and glinting, like a haphazard trophy he needed to see in order to make sense of its purpose once again.
But Dignam couldn’t remove his eyes off Costigan as the other man began to tremble slightly, his angry, averted eyes welling with what Dignam would swear were unshed tears of frustration? Sorrow? Defeat?
Sean Dignam had conquered Billy Costigan.
And, for a man normally hell bent on playing endless power games, Dignam was now left with the unnerving question of what to do next now that he had finally won.
Thanks for the kudos!
As Costigan sat there, his posture tense but vulnerable and defeated, Dignam could see a subtle change happen: For that split second when Dignam had rattled that bottle so triumphantly before the both of them, he could sense, with a thrill of excitement, that Costigan had remarkably let down his guard; the look on the younger man’s face had been nothing short of naked desperation and perhaps a flash of unspoken pleading.
But in those same moments, Costigan’s look began to morph. Once more, his eyes became dark and unreadable; his lips, which before had been lax in disbelief, were now pressed in a hard, unforgiving line. This was different from Costigan’s normal hard-ass façade, one he had built for use in the streets with his no-good, dumb-shit cousin, to save his skin with Delahunt and French, to keep his composure when he was in the office with Queenan and above all else fucking Dignam, this time it was a different look entirely. This side of Costigan Digman doubted many other people had seen; it was a worn, fragile guard Costigan had put up, one in which Costigan was hurt more than anything else, perhaps not by Dignam, but hurt by a bone-crushingly cruel world that had tightened its chokehold at the bidding of an unknowing sergeant who was acting like a lying, stealing, smug child. The dark room seemed to grow darker as the two waited in silence, and waiting for what, they did not know.
The orange glow of the streetlights outside played over Costigan’s resentful face and his eyes never left Dignam’s, as if accusing the other man of things he couldn’t possibly know. At this, Dignam felt something twist in his chest, a feeling he hadn’t felt in years. The bottle almost became obsolete. No words were spoken, but Dignam felt it was as if Costigan were telling him: You wouldn’t understand. But tell me anyway! Dignam wanted to shout. I want to know what the fuck is going through your brain! Dignam had never felt he needed to decipher Costigan up to this point, but suddenly the man was a puzzling enigma that absolutely needed decoding; but even more than just that, Dignam felt the sudden inclination to care. This scared him the most; he hadn’t truly cared about anyone since…
“What the fuck are you going to do with it?” Costigan’s impersonal, cold voice sliced through the air, and the tone was just as sharp, cutting Dignam as if Costigan had known about the compassionate seeds sprouting in his brain and had rejected them. Dignam’s expression darkened, naturally, but he could find no words to reply with. What was he going to do with it? He hadn’t thought that far. He had vaguely thought about ratting Costigan’s little vice out, but that would jeopardize their entire operation, which was entirely out of the question. Suddenly, Dignam realized Costigan must already know this. Their eyes met one more time, and this time Costigan’s glare was challenging. But then Dignam did something even he didn’t expect,
“What do you want me to do with it?” He replied, cool and collected, and, strangely enough, dead serious. Besides the fact that Costigan considered this a remarkably stupid question, his curiosity was nonetheless thoroughly piqued. It took him a moment before he could answer,
“What the fuck do you mean, asshole? I want you to give it back!” He spat, incredulous. Dignam intentionally tilted the bottle so the pills tinkled enticingly; his look was unpredictable and Costigan didn’t like it,
“Ok. Fine.” He said easily, and this made the other man ready to crawl out of his skin, “On one condition,” Dignam continued, and of course there was a catch, “Tell me why you’re doing it.” This was nothing short of a blatant command, and Costigan knew better than to wonder if there would be any way around it. Dignam’s expression was now set in a subtley smug sort of look, something similar to what Costigan was accustomed to seeing on the other man’s face, and yet there was still something equally unreadable in it. Costigan shifted his weight on the bed, testing the springs much like he was testing the bleak looking options he had in his head.
Dignam grabbed a chair that had been sitting against the wall, unscathed by their earlier tussle, and moved it around so the back of the chair faced Costigan’s seated figure; at the last moment, Dignam realized it was one of those obscenely wide-seated chairs with the hideous pastel patterns that looked like they were time-warped from the 90’s, and as he straddled the chair, attempting to look in control and badass, he noted he must look only ridiculous instead. Pride is an obstinate thing though and prevents those who nurture it from realizing they’re making an ass of themselves until it’s too late. Dignam had never felt like he was putting on a show by being such a hard-ass with Costigan before; being a prick had always just been Dignam’s way. But as he sat in front of Costigan, seeing the man fidget—wanting to escape but knowing there was no way out, looking so forlorn and dejected, looking so damn scared—just made Dignam feel like a bit of a sleazy showman, a jerk.
Who was he to take away the one and only bit of solace the kid had left in the lethal lifestyle that had been pushed onto him by none other than himself and Queenan? Dignam almost wanted to hand the little bottle back, pretend like nothing happened. They were sitting close now, knees almost colliding at times. Dignam rested his elbows on the back of the chair so his hands were dangling between them, the pill bottle was still in one hand; almost as an afterthought, Dignam realized Costigan could probably snatch it right out of his unsuspecting grasp like this, if he wanted to. But Costigan didn’t. His gazed rested heavily somewhere over Dignam’s shoulder, his eyes distant and his lips set in a bitter frown; his jaw was tight from being clenched, and even Dignam could tell the fists at the other man’s sides couldn’t have been curled any tighter, the knuckles were white. Suddenly the silence was broken by the small muffled sounds of love making in some other room; not their neighbors, Dignam surmised.
This unwelcome disturbance seemed to break some of Costigan’s tension, because his shoulders slumped and he leaned back with his chin tilted up; he let a distressed breath of air rush through his clenched teeth, a groan of frustration. Dignam sensed that if he didn’t jump in right now, he might lose Costigan for the rest of the night. He wanted to take hold of the other man’s shoulders and shake him to attention, rip the reasons out of his brain, beat the shit out of him until he got some straight answers, but, instead, what came out of Dignam’s mouth was totally different,
“Hey.” He whispered, and his voice came out soft, not his normal tough as nails around the edges and I’ll-fuck-you-up-bad tone of voice; no, it was quiet, confidential. The effect was not immediate; Dignam could see the slight change in Costigan’s posture, the slight shift in tension—suspicious but suddenly more lax; Costigan wouldn’t meet Dignam’s eyes.
Dignam ducked his head into the other man's view, determined. “Hey, look at me.” He said again. It was a demand, yes, but it was also yielding and intimate—like a worried parent or a concerned lover. This time, Costigan’s gaze came up and locked onto Dignam’s like a vice. In the flash of a moment, Dignam could see mixed emotions play across Costigan’s face: blazing indignation, unmasked curiosity, and, above all else, a keen look of transparent yearning. When was the last time anyone had spoken like this to Costigan? When was the last time anyone expressed any real care or concern for him? Even more than that, the true extent of Costigan’s high-stakes undercover job could only be fully understood by a select few, Dignam included. Who could he open up to with this? No one. Those who did know how dangerous and demanding a life he led had done nothing more than buffer his growing anxiety with short explanations and even longer silences, so Costigan had been forced to live in excruciating secrecy and guaranteed danger with no human interaction or outlet to maintain his sanity. It was no wonder then that Costigan yearned for a quiet voice to tell him softly, consolingly that he was doing the right thing, a good job, and that he was going to make it out of Costello’s tightening chokehold alive. At this sudden insight, Dignam could hardly keep his expression straight. A wave of unfamiliar self-loathing juxtaposed with equally unfamiliar empathy overwhelmed him, and, without thinking twice, he uncapped the bottle, shook out one of the pills, and held it out to Costigan with a steady hand. Costigan looked at Dignam’s outstretched fist with first surprise then resentment,
“I don’t want your fucking pity,” He whispered, his voice hoarse. Dignam could tell part of the kid didn’t want to say those words, didn’t want to turn Dignam away. Dignam waited patiently, his hand out in front of him.
“It’s not pity—” Dignam wanted to explain, his voice low, strangely comforting, but Costigan cut him off, distrustful,
“Then what the hell is—” But he didn’t get very far. Dignam threw the pill into Costigan’s lap with a sudden, violent jerk of his hand, and he pulled back from the chair as if burned,
“Just fucking take it!” Dignam hissed, his frustration ignited. While his tone was harsh, there had been something else to it as well. Costigan flinched as he realized what it was: Dignam wanted him to have it because he felt some sort of empathy; there had been genuine concern in Dignam’s tense posture, his strained expressions, and uncertain tone. The two stared each other down, not in enmity as much as it was newborn curiosity. Costigan finally broke the gaze to stare down at the starkly white object in his lap,
“Why would you let me take it?” He finally whispered. He picked it up and held it between his fingers as if he’d never held one before. Dignam cleared his throat, shifted uncomfortably in his uncomfortable chair; he was never good at explanations.
“Why the fuck does it matter?” He quipped, his patience and frustration still smarting. But as Costigan began to close up again, his look growing dark, Dignam felt, once again, that strange sense of regret. He didn’t want Costigan to pull back from him, he wanted him to open up; he wanted to understand the inner workings of this guy, and it unnerved him that he wanted that so badly by being nice. He wanted to reach out to Costigan in a way he had hardly done to most people in his entire life; that one look on Costigan’s face when Dignam had let those words slip off his lips in a caressing whisper had made Dignam feel amazing and powerful in a way he hadn’t felt in a terribly long time. He sighed heavily; what the hell was happening to him?
“I’m not gonna lie,” He said, and his voice sounded tired, stripped bare, “you have a fucking hard job, every fucking day, every day of the week.” He lifted his eyes again and found Costigan studying him carefully, so he straightened his shoulders, met the gaze with a steady look, not challenging, but entreating, “I wouldn’t be surprised if you were hooked on fucking antipsychotic drugs after even a month of running in an outfit like Costello’s.” He shook the bottled gently, watching the light play through the orange plastic, casting twinkling shards of color onto the ugly carpet at their feet,
“…This,” He curled his fingers around the bottle and nodded his chin towards it, “This is a small price to pay for the nasty shit you’re doing for us, Billy, a really small fucking price.” And with that, he got up, went to the bathroom where he filled two of those flimsy plastic cups with cold water, returned to stand in front of Costigan, and offered him one. Costigan took the cup, their fingers brushing lightly.
“A toast,” Dignam explained, “for small prices and big payouts” and at this, Costigan’s tired expression turned into a crooked grin, and he tilted his cup in Dignam’s honor.
At the end of the night, it was no surprise to Costigan that Dignam insisted on keeping the oxycodone. Costigan felt bare without it, naked and anxious, but the solace Dignam was offering him was maddeningly alluring.
“Whenever you feel like you can’t take it anymore, call me, and we’ll meet up.” Dignam’s voice had been devoid of all malice or mockery, and it fell softly over Costigan’s numbed figure. Costigan had even coaxed a second pill out of Dignam, and by this time, the oxys had kicked in. The fact that Dignam was so uncharacteristically soft and caring was less of a shock now as it was an attractive oasis in a blazingly hot and endless desert. Costigan wanted to cling onto that in any way he could, and Dignam knew it. Costigan had just nodded tiredly and laid back on the bedspread, shoes and everything.
All he wanted to do now was sleep; sleep sounded so good and so damn achievable, something Costigan had been fighting with for so long. It had been ages since he felt this peaceful; it was as if an extraordinarily heavy burden had been lifted off his shoulders because of Dignam (the last person on the face of the planet Costigan had expected anything at all from), but, at the same time, it felt so natural that it would be this stubborn, infuriating hard-ass to help him up and hold him steady, even if it was in a weird, not-so-legal, unfamiliar way. The last thing Costigan remembered seeing before he fell into a deep slumber was Dignam pulling off his shoes and dropping them at the foot of the bed before leaving the hotel room with a silent click of the door.
When Costigan woke, it was well past noon. He still felt bleary-eyed and groggy, but his body felt strangely rejuvenated and fresh. He stretched, rolling over on the top of the bedspread and realized he was still in his clothes, which were nicely wrinkled now. He rolled onto his side and lay still, remembering the events of the previous night. As he ran through the whole episode, his eyes landed on the nightstand where a piece of curled paper sat. He reached out and grabbed the paper up, his breath stuck in his throat. He silently chided himself for his childish reactions with a growing apprehension and regret. He uncurled the little rip of paper and saw scrawled hurriedly on there only a phone number. He groaned and tossed the paper over the edge of the bed, rolled onto his back again, and jammed the palms of his hands into his eyes, rubbing furiously.
He felt as if he should be having a hangover and reminiscing about a terrible one-night-stand. But, instead, he felt an annoyingly sharp sense of excitement, of relief; however, smothering that was an even sharper sting of pride: he didn’t need Dignam! Who the hell was he to let Dignam have him by the balls like that?! And where the fuck was his oxycodone?! Putting all the pieces together, Costigan felt a rush of fear grip him; he shot straight up into a sitting position and realized he would normally take two or three of those fucking pills right now, and, God, how he needed it now more than ever! As the panic began to seem too much to bear, he leaned over the side of the bed and snatched up the piece of paper again. I can’t call him, I can’t call him—I’d be such a fucking pussy to call that shit back! I need to take those oxys though. I need it! And he wanted to tear the paper in two, hurl furniture across the room, punch through the wall. A cold sweat had started on his forehead and his breathing was labored; how could he have let Dignam have that kind of control over him? How the fuck could that happen?! He was sure he was about to have a heart attack when he inadvertently flipped the little scrap of paper over and his eyes steadied on one scribbled line:
You’ll be ok. Trust me.
In that instant, Costigan felt all the wound up tension in his body slowly dissipate; his breathing became more even and he felt deliciously numb. No thoughts raced through his head as he stared at those words; the world was suddenly and blissfully quiet for Billy Costigan. What did Dignam want him to do? He wanted him to give up control and hand it over. And, for the first time in Costigan’s life, he wanted nothing more than to do just that. Hours later, as an afterthought, he mused: what could possibly go wrong?
Dignam sat quietly by himself in a dim, smoky bar, whittling away the hours of another lonely evening. He tilted his pint glass forward until the lights from the yellow neon Guinness sign from the black window in front of him turned his beer into dark liquid gold. As the barkeep swiped down the countertop in front of a man who’d just left Dignam’s right, he tilted the beer back and lifted it idly to his lips and savored it. This was how he spent plenty of his nights: quietly drinking both alcohol and his own damn bitterness; together, the two left an acrid taste on his tongue and did nothing for an unquenchable thirst.
This night was particularly lonesome though, in a strange and foreign way, as if he had some place to be but didn’t know where or, more importantly, why. He was even more dumbfounded by the recurring thought of Billy Costigan, who kept circling around in his mind like a deadly shark waiting to take a lethal bite. Against his will and better judgment, he wondered where Costigan was at that moment, what he was doing, who he was talking to, what he was thinking. He was also running himself into the ground wondering why Costigan hadn’t called him yet. It had been a week and a half since they last saw each other in that Godforsaken motel; quite impressive for a fucking addict, Dignam brooded and, in an obligatory way, was glad for Costigan for making it that long because maybe the kid would get off that shit for good. Even as he forcibly reminded himself that it was for the best Costigan wasn’t calling him, something inside him found the days that passed without any form of contact maddeningly frustrating, but Dignam would be damned if he admitted to himself he wanted Costigan to call.
Dignam took a deep breath, reminding himself he needed to breathe, and finished off the last of his draft in one go. He let his eyes drift over the bartender—young and fresh—as he served up a new customer; he let his eyes wander over the new customer—a man in his late fifties, gray and nondescript—and he let his eyes wander over the little bar in all its dark, dingy glory. He’d seen it all a million times in a million different bars, and suddenly he was bothered by it all. This mundane routine that had become his life had suddenly crawled under his skin and started to eat at his brain at the mere thought of Billy Costigan. Who was Dignam to be sitting around drinking beer and idling away empty nights when Costigan was out there somewhere taking shit from Frank fucking Costello—Costigan, who could die at any moment for any number of reasons; Costigan, who was a fucking mess; Costigan, who had wanted nothing more in his entire life than to become an honorable, reputable cop!
Dignam was gripping his glass with white knuckles when the bartender came along, always perceptive and tactful as his profession demanded, and picked up his glass, replacing it smoothly with another. Dignam gave the man a weary but grateful look but made no move to drink. He stared at the bubbling liquid and his mouth suddenly felt dry; he wanted to down the entire thing in one painful, searing mouthful, but instead he let his hand slip from the cool glass and forced himself to look away. He had only ever allowed himself one beer each night he went out and had been faithful to this regimen for nearly ten years; he had been faithful at least to this, even when he hadn’t been faithful to anything else.
He stared, with immense grief and sudden sorrow, at the fingers of his left hand poised carefully on the counter before him. The weight of a ring had been gone for nearly six years, but at certain times he imagined he still felt it. It wasn’t regret, per se, that he felt when it came down to this; it wasn’t a yearning for things that once were, but it was an acute sense of deep-seated self-loathing for the man he had pretended to be and the man now he had made nothing good of. Ten years ago he had been an insatiable drunk, and six years ago he had been an insatiable husband; Dignam was a man of insatiable hungers and had been so for his entire life—nothing was ever good enough to settle him down, nothing was ever strong enough to quell the incessant temper that always seemed to get the better of him. He was an urban wanderer, a nomad in a concrete Amazon, unfulfilled and unwilling to stop in one place for too long. He was afraid to stop for fear of being stripped bare and rejected, of being stepped on and used—he was afraid to let anyone touch the inner workings of his being and find their way into the most intimate of places he himself did not go. Love was a thing Dignam had never been good at, and why love when you can drown yourself in alcohol and wander from bed to bed without worrying about lingering long enough to get scalded by true affection? This was why he was such a dick to everyone; this was why he kept his distance with acidic, snide facades and indifferent callousness.
Dignam would be damned if he ever admitted this fear to himself (there were a lot of things he would never admit to himself), but despite his consistent penchant for denial, he knew somewhere in the back of his mind it was happening. And he knew that this sharp pain he felt for many long years lost and relationships squandered had something to do with Billy Costigan. The guy had struck a chord in him he didn’t even know existed. He felt angered that he was being reduced to this, that his feelings were somehow out of his control—he had been able to kick the habit of his alcoholism on his own and weather a marriage he had made destined to fail, so why the fuck couldn’t free himself from Costigan?
You shit! He seethed, You damn, self-righteous, martyr! You cunt! You think you’re so damn high-and-mighty—a real fucking hotshot. Nobody wants you to play hero, you dumb fuck! Who gives a shit about a fucking mole like you; nobody will care if you die and rot! Let Costello have your ass, because nobody fucking cares! But even as he was telling himself these things in an attempt to try in futile anger to make himself feel better, he knew it was all untrue: Costigan wasn’t being a martyr; he didn’t think of himself as a hero; he had practically been coerced into signing his life away for a job that would most likely kill him. There was no glory in being a mole; it was true that there would never be any true appreciation for his work—no parties, no free drinks at bars, no claps on the shoulder, no celebratory sex—but it wasn’t because he didn’t deserve it, but because no one could know he had done it at all.
Dignam almost felt bad he had wished such horrible things for the other man, and as he remembered the look of plain need and desperation on Costigan’s face that night in the motel room…he felt the last of his resolve and anger fall away. He did want Costigan to call. He wanted to see that face again, feel that keen sense of responsibility for being Costigan’s outlet—oh God, it was a feeling he had never had before but it made him feel right, made him forget about his own shit and made him feel in control! This control was characterized by a hushed kindness and maybe even sympathy, and it made him blazingly angry and amazingly hungry for it at the same time. He let his left hand fall from the countertop and slide into his jacket pocket where he kept Costigan’s little bottle with him at all times; the cool plastic was invigorating, a tangible reminder of the precarious link shared between him and the other man. Next to the bottle he could feel his cell-phone, and just as he was about to remove his hand from his pocket, it began to vibrate with an incoming call. He could’ve sworn his heart jumped into his fucking throat, and he felt buzzed on sudden adrenaline.
He wished he could’ve called it coincidence when he didn’t recognize the number and knew even before he answered who it would be. He flipped the phone open and kept silent, not trusting himself with words, which was a remarkable feat in itself.
“We need to meet up. Now.” Was all he heard, and the voice was like smooth liquor sliding down Dignam’s throat: it burned as it went down, warm as it settled in his stomach. But, unlike real liquor, it made him feel drunker than any quantity of alcohol he had ever consumed before.
“Ok.” He whispered, “Just tell me when and where.”
He felt like dirt after he hung up, so angry with himself he could hurl his full pint of beer at the wall, watch it shatter into a million sharp pieces like his self-control. Costigan says ‘Jump’ and you ask ‘How high?’ you miserable fuck! He raged, even as he was on his way out the door without a moment of hesitation.
The first night Costigan needs the oxys, they sit in relative silence, tense and edgy, and Dignam can feel the strain and pressure in the air like a dense fog, can taste the way Costigan’s muscles are strung so tight like the coppery taste of blood on the back of his own tongue, just like he can imagine it might taste when Costigan’s skin breaks under the clench of his teeth as it bruises beneath his lip. As the time passes, Dignam watches silently as that tension slowly slides away as the oxys dissolve into Costigan’s system…sees the way that jaw, set so firm it might fucking crack, loosens up, the way those teeth release those lips; Dignam watches the way the pink of Costigan’s tongue absently slicks over the crimson shine blooming on them, and he knows in an instant he’s fucked.
That first night passes in a wordless blur, but the heavy silence is more than enough; it has to be. They share furtive, angry, pleading, accusatory, confused and even, God-forbid, grateful glances from time to time (although they’d never admit it), and they dance around each other, careful of an invisible line neither fully realizes exists, until, finally, Costigan passes out on the bedspread, and Dignam has to run from the motel for his life and reluctantly drag himself away at the same time…
This goes on for weeks…and weeks turn into months…
And then Costigan starts talking. It’s hardly anything at first, and Dignam’s hard-pressed not to test his luck, and he smartly decides to keep his mouth firmly shut. He doesn’t have the faintest clue if what Costigan wants is for him to say something… to tell him it’ll be ok, to tell him to throw in the towel, or even to tell him to suck it up and quit being a pussy. For once in Dignam’s life, he doesn’t know what the fuck to do.
By the time the oxys kick in, they find themselves in the same way they always find themselves, the scene is always the same: Dignam’s got a chair pulled up to the bed, but it’s always just far enough away to make him feel like he might still have some fucking control over the situation, but he realizes it’s kind of like knowing not to stick your fingers in a toaster but deciding it’s ok to stick a fork in it instead. You’re still going to get royally fucked up. And that’s exactly how he feels around Costigan, like he might fucking explode, like he’s going to get brutally electrocuted by whatever fucked up energy Costigan’s got pent up under his skin… But the scariest part is that Dignam doesn’t try to get any closer because he also knows, deep down inside, he wants to.
Costigan sits on the bed, elbows on his knees and his hands clasped together so tight his fingers turn white; he’s facing Dignam the best way he knows how, which is to say that he’s not really facing Dignam at all, but kind of. Most of the time, he’d like to just lay back on the bed and let his eyes slip shut, but this isn’t a fucking session with a psychotherapist and there’s no way in hell he’s gonna just throw all to the wind and let Dignam have the satisfaction of getting him on his back, like he’s just laying down to have the man run him right the fuck over.
Which he’s still expecting… He can never quite let his guard down around Dignam; it’s like he’s waiting for the man to turn on him and tell him it’s all a fucking joke and to get back to fucking work. But Dignam and the oxys keep on showing up, to Costigan’s continued amazement. He’ll take what he can get though, he keeps telling himself, but, secretly, he knows the oxys have very little to do with it anymore… the thought of Dignam’s absence, even worse, his rejection, and the fact that that might happen at any time, leaves Costigan with a jarring fear in the pit of his stomach that makes him just want to fucking punch him in the face, just get it the fuck over with! At the same time, he knows if he ever laid a hand on the guy he might not let go again…
This might be the reason he feels compelled to start talking in the first place; some innate, deep-dark-secret place in Costigan’s being is telling him he has to give Dignam a fucking reason to be here; and, more than that, he knows these unspoken words are as tangible as the tension that’s seemed to settle for good in his shoulders, as real as the dark crease on his forehead from that constant scowl, and as dangerous as the way his body always seems stuck in fight or flight mode… He needs to hear the words tumble off his tongue, let the sickening weight of them fall out of his brain, and who the fuck cares who’s listening, right? Wrong. He’s infuriated and so desperately wants to have it any other way, but he knows it matters a whole fucking lot that it’s Dignam here and no one else…
By now Dignam knows how Costigan functions, like clockwork; it’s become easy and predictable. He’s extra clammy before he gets the oxys in him, never mutters a word, won’t meet Dignam’s eye, like he’ll fucking go up in flames if he even so much as glances at his face. But when the rigid line of Costigan’s shoulders start to go slack and he rolls them back as if he were shaking off all of Costello’s shit in one single, lithe movement, Dignam knows he’s ready; he also knows about how Costigan has this tendency to run his tongue in a little flicker over his bottom lip when he starts to loosen up, how the vice of a grip he has his hands in will start to relax, those long fingers slowly untwining… It’s not long before he starts talking, talking to the walls, to the window, to the tasteless, crummy décor littered around the dim room; he swears he’s talking to anything but Dignam, and Dignam sits quietly, like a shadow against the wall, and lets him.
The weeks pass and the talk slowly progresses deeper into the clandestine recesses of Costigan’s psyche, whether he fully realizes it or not… It starts with “Costello this…” “Costello that…”, but, sooner or later, mostly later, it comes down to the whispered pieces of a dark, secret puzzle that is all Costigan; it becomes “I did this…” “I didn’t do that…” “I should”…”I shouldn’t”… “I could’ve and would’ve”… and a whole lot of “I can’t...”; this is the one Dignam knows sticks Costigan so deep it’s probably irreparable; the kid, because that’s all Costigan really is, still a kid too young, plays an endless war with his own damn demon, a demon that’s got him in a grip a hell of a lot tighter than Costello ever could…
Tonight, Costigan’s run through it all again; but this time, he runs himself into his own fucking grave because there is one thing he says that he’s damn sure of: “I know I’m going to die before this is all done and over with.” It’s said with a small, fleeting chuckle, as if its remotely funny, but the underlying tone says it all: Costigan is fucking serious. And the statement shakes Dignam to his core, and he wants so desperately to get the fuck out of his chair and shake Costigan, to feel that he’s still alive, to desperately feel his flesh still warm with blood, to convince Costigan with words, with whatever it would take, that he wasn’t going to fucking kick the bucket, not on Dignam’s watch! But he stays still; it’s all he can do just to keep forcing air in and out of his lungs.
The room is dark by now; the gray of an ugly, wet afternoon had quickly given in to the black of night and the only light now emanated from the bathroom, where the creaky door stood half open. The harsh yellow glow lit Costigan’s face in a way that made Dignam uneasy; he hated the way the shadows played over the contours of Costigan’s face, obscuring his expression, hiding the stormy eyes he knew were staring back at him. And, as if Costigan knew what he was thinking, he turned his head ever so slightly and the light slid over the arch of Costigan’s cheekbones, lit the bridge of his nose, danced over the curve of those lips, not a hard line now, but relaxed, almost soft…
Dignam could even see the light catch Costigan’s eyelashes as he trained his gaze on the indistinct design of the carpet at their feet. Dignam could tell the wheels were turning in that head, almost hear the whirr of gadgets clicking into place, opaque and mysterious though they were. When Costigan finally opened his mouth to speak, Dignam wasn’t quite sure he heard correctly,
“I’m no one…” The words slip out barely a whisper, murmured under a quick breath and gone in almost the same instant.
“I’m nobody.” Costigan says again, and this time it’s much more forceful, and his eyes come up to meet Dignam’s challengingly, as if daring him to say otherwise. But in those eyes, now tinted with gold and refracting the bathroom light like shards of razor-sharp glass, there is something desperate in them, something frantic and imploring, and utterly bare, as if Dignam were staring into the fucking endless depths of Costigan’s bruised and beaten soul. And it’s no wonder Dignam finally finds himself ready to pass out, it’s because he’s been holding his breath this entire time, waiting for Costigan to say more. And, before he can tell if he’s taken another breath or not, Costigan does…
As if his secret confession was the gate to hell, Costigan finally blows up into a fucking storm and it’s what Dignam knows has been brewing endlessly for the past year. Costigan is raging against everything, against himself mostly, Dignam knows that for sure, but against his surroundings too (there goes the fucking room deposit); he’s cursing the world, spitting out every piece of pent up rage he’s ever fucking felt, peeling back every fucking emotion he’s ever experienced as if he were searing each nerve ending in the hopes of irreversibly numbing himself to the world, which Dignam knows now is what he wants more than anything, to be numb to the cruel demands of an unforgiving existence...
The lamp on the nightstand shatters into a million pieces against the wall, the alarm clock is busted into a trillion bits of wire, coiled springs, and plastic, chairs are upturned, the dresser’s guts are ripped out as each drawer is wrenched free, and Dignam is somehow spared from the angry whirlwind taking place around him, and he stays still, knowing for once that anything he could possibly say, nice or not, wouldn’t make any fucking difference. Besides, Costigan is saying enough for the both of them… He’s a no one stuck in a world where he’s needed to be someone, something, superhuman; he’s stuck in a world where he’s torn between identities that can’t actually exist, pulled apart by people who don’t care, who can’t care, but worst of all, he’s a no one to himself…failed in all regards and hopelessly lost…How do you get back what you feel you’ve never had in the first place? There’s not much of him left, if there was anything at all to begin with, and he feels he’s being spread too thin too fast and he’s going to snap in the worst way possible… but when you already know you’re going to bite the dust, what do you have left to hang on to? What does he have to live for if not even for himself… this disillusioned idea of civil servitude and righteous martyrdom? It’s bullshit, he knows it, and it’s killing him fast…
His words are filled with hatred, bitterness, and a deep-seated sorrow so absolute it takes up all the air in the room, makes Dignam feel like he’s suffocating. Dignam doesn’t even feel the slightest bit of ridicule when he suddenly notices that Costigan’s not stumbling over his furious litany because of the pent up anger alone, but because of tears left unshed for too many years. When Costigan’s face turns into the light, Dignam can see those lashes dark with moisture and those tears, as much as Costigan tries to hold them back, cling to the skin of his cheeks, which are red with rage, shame, maybe even regret. Costigan realizes his actions are irreversible, so he makes the most of them, and at this point, he hopes it’s enough to make Dignam keel over for good because he doesn’t know if he can face him by the time this has all blown over. But Dignam doesn’t, and he doesn’t so much as waver as Costigan’s despair rushes over him.
By the time Costigan finally loses the wind in his sails, he’s pacing futilely, his clenched fists running through his hair, trying to pull handfuls by the roots, and his words have become unintelligible slurs, but their effect is still the same, just as invoking as anything formed with real letters…
Costigan’s choking hopelessly on his own sobs now, even as he desperately tries to suppress them, and all he’ll let Dignam see is the livid, unyielding hunch of his shoulders, his back turned like a wall coming up between them for good…
And, in an instant, Dignam knows he can’t let that happen, that if there was a time for him to do anything it was now! But before he can even formulate a logical thought, he finds himself pressed up against the other man’s back, which feels as hard as fucking granite, he’s so tense; at first, Costigan tries to flinch away from the immediate contact, a string of strangled curses escaping his lips, but Dignam snakes his arms around him in a bone-crushing grasp, holding him steady; he doesn’t know what he’s doing, besides the fact that he’s acting without letting his brain catch up first, and, to his relief, Costigan lets him hold him there, although it feels like he’s trying to reign in a fucking hurricane. Costigan writhes in his arms, but not in order to get away, but because standing still would mean too much, would make this too real…
“Fuck, fuck, fuck…” The words slip, broken and wet, from Costigan like a mantra, like it’s the only thing he’s hanging on to. And as much as Dignam has to agree that, yes, "fuck" is an excellent word for this blown-up, raw, weird situation they’ve found themselves in, he can’t stand to listen to it anymore, knowing it’s only keeping Costigan in that dark, twisted place in his brain, that place he’s buried himself so deeply. So he dares to open his mouth, although a distant, sane part of him wonders if maybe it’ll shatter everything, like something out of a Disney princess movie, like the way Cinderella’s coach explodes into a damn pumpkin again at the stroke of midnight; he's afraid Costigan will shut him out for good and he’ll lose that one window of opportunity to reach out to the man. Dignam has never been so worried he’ll say something wrong in his entire life, not even when he was trying so fruitlessly to keep Mary with him all those years ago, and he realizes with a start that that's because this is the first time he's so desperately wanted to do something right; he wants so badly to make things right with Costigan, this man so fucked up and ruined, in a disgusting, cheap motel room... It's the most ridiculous thing Dignam has ever wanted, but he can't help himself, he needs to do this so bad. But when he finally opens his mouth to whisper against Costigan’s cheek, he’s sure he’s just signed his own death warrant because what comes out is hardly what he thinks he should’ve said,
“Shut the fuck up, Billy.”
It ghosts, almost too quiet, over Costigan’s ear. It’s exactly something Dignam would say, but, unlike his usual bitter, angry tone, this comes out soft and broken; it’s blatantly desperate, unrefined, as laid bare as Costigan has made himself, as imploring as a prayer, and teeming with a strange and deep empathy Dignam didn’t know he could even feel. And, to Dignam’s amazement, Costigan falls completely still in his grasp, and he’s not sure it’s a good thing, but then Costigan lets out a choked laugh, strained but genuine, and the laugh turns into a cry, the tears coming back, unrestrained, unbound, and the way they’re standing is still too fucking bizarre, too fucking personal (if that’s possible anymore), but Costigan reaches up to grip Dignam’s hands where he has them fisted into the soft cotton of Costigan’s shirt and he seizes them hard, digging his nails into Dignam’s skin until it breaks, it’s awkward on their bodies and foreign on so many levels, but this is the closest they can bring themselves to embracing… and it’s enough. It has to be.
Some meetings are good, some aren’t as good; they still dance around each other like wolves, ready to lash out at any moment, just as they sometimes meet up and sit in comfortable silence as Dignam watches over a blissfully medicated Costigan, their gazes companionable and satisfying. But despite reaching a strange and tentative understanding, Dignam should’ve known it couldn’t last forever. Something happens along the way. Costigan is strung too tight one evening and Dignam isn’t a saint, can’t keep the caustic remark that slips from his lips. It’s a meaningless quip, really, but this precarious equilibrium they have going on intensifies the simple barb, makes it inexcusable. Their uncertain truce has been broken, snapped like a thin twig. The betrayed look Costigan gives him is enough punishment in and of itself, but it still doesn’t stop the fist Costigan sends swinging towards the other man’s face.
“Fuck you!” Costigan spits, toxic. The last thing I need is this coming from you. Costigan doesn’t need to say any more; Dignam can read between the lines. He rubs at the sore spot on his jaw, his eyes smoldering, ready to spark to life; as much as he’s come to find that he cares for Costigan in a weird, fucked up way, he’s still his own man; still the fiery, no-bullshit Sergeant who can throw his own damn punches on the drop of a dime too. Costigan is standing there, heaving, fists clenched, lost for words or actions; he’s watching the way Dignam’s jaw sets tight, clicks into place, firm and unforgiving.
“No. You know what, fuck this.” Dignam snaps, cold and calculating, “I’ll give you all the shit I want, asshole. Got it?” Costigan’s eyes are intense, almost daring Dignam to go on, and so he does, “You don’t call the shots. Remember that, you fucking prick.” He wants to add, you never did, but he can’t bring himself to say it because it isn’t true; Costigan has Dignam dancing on strings.
“Jesus Christ! You can’t make a decision worth shit, you son-of-a-bitch!” Costigan hisses back, infuriated, “If you were any good at your fucking job, you’d have Costello’s ass by now, and we wouldn’t be in this fucking mess!” His voice rises at the end, threatening to break. Dignam bristles,
“That goes both ways, sweetheart. You do your job, I do mine.” He doesn’t even blink as the next words tumble mercilessly off his tongue, “Maybe if I wasn’t in here babysitting your sorry ass—feeding your goddamn worthless junkie habit—I’d get some real shit done!” The insult runs deep, blatant as it hangs in the air between them. Costigan doesn’t even try to hide the intense hurt that settles on his face, and despite the terrible twinge deep in Dignam’s gut, he’s too far gone to stop now,
“That’s rich, coming from you.” Costigan’s words are quiet, as if he doesn’t trust his own voice, “I’d bet my fucking life it’d be easy to dig up some shit on you, Mother Teresa, but at least I’m doing a motherfuckin’ public service!” Costigan’s voice rises into an unsteady shout as he paces the room angrily; after a second of tense silence, he lashes out to swipe the lamp from the top of a dresser, faster than Dignam can blink. Costigan’s words hit closer to home than Dignam would like, and it roils in his gut like a sickness; it’s made all the worse because Costigan is right without even knowing it. Now all he wants to do is hurt Costigan in the worst possible way. Compassion be damned; Dignam never got anywhere with compassion.
“Ha ha!” Dignam’s chuckle is mirthless, and his eyes pierce Costigan’s, clearly threatening, “Don’t flatter yourself, you useless piece of shit.” He seethes, advancing on Costigan slowly. Costigan meets him with a fighting stance, head on, ready to spring into action, but Dignam reaches out in a flash and yanks Costigan towards him by the front of his jacket, so close their noses almost touch,
“You wanna know the truth?” Dignam whispers, harsh and dangerous; Costigan glares him down, “You’ve already been to prison once, you shit, and nobody will think twice about it if you end up there again. Whether you get fucked over by Costello or not, you Irish cunt, I’ll make sure the only record you have by the time this is all over is the one that got you sent down! You’re just another fuckin’ criminal! And I can make sure you end up treated like one… It’ll be like you never even existed!”
He gave Costigan a jerk, and yelled in his face “You want that? You want me to throw you to the fucking dogs, Costigan, because I will! You fucking know I wouldn’t even hesitate!” And the moment that last word escapes, Dignam knows it’s a lie; he’d more than fucking hesitate, he’d be torn, maybe even unable to do it at all. That’s how fucking far Costigan had gotten under his skin, and it burns him from the inside out.
Something in Costigan’s face, as it peers at him so closely, like he can see right through him, lets Dignam know Costigan realizes it too. Costigan is calling his bluff without saying a damn word. Shit, shit, shit. Dignam’s anger suddenly dissipates, only to be replaced by stabbing humility. As the reality of his bitterness begins to lay heavy on his heart, his fingers slowly lose their grip on Costigan, and all Costigan has to do is pierce him with that steady gaze, that knowing, wounded glare, to make him back away. No words are spoken as Dignam grabs his jacket and leaves, slamming the door open and leaving it swinging in his wake. Costigan stands stalk still in the middle of the room, staring down the other man’s retreating form until there is no more to see. He then turns to pace, his hand coming up to run through his hair, and his expression is dark, full of something like regret.
When they see each other next, it’s under a bridge on another gray, wet day. Queenan is also accounted for, his presence a small balm to soothe the burning hatred Costigan feels the moment his eyes land on the brooding sergeant. Costigan knows his actions warrant a visit, but a childish part of him stubbornly wants to deny Dignam the satisfaction of basking in his mistake no matter what. So he makes sure there is little betrayed in his look and acts as if it’s just another routine check-in, besides the fact that Costello has him itching right out of his skin: too little sleep, too much paranoia, the constant fear of being found out, of becoming useless, disposable…
Queenan rounds the back of the car and motions to Costigan, his expression set in this characteristically gentle look, which fails to make Costigan feel any better.
“Ok, kid, let’s do this.” He says ruefully, his arm out-stretched to touch the other man’s shoulder in a strange semblance of comfort. Costigan feels the humiliation rise in his gut, feeling like any other average thug when Queenan leads him over to the railing.
“Come on. Spread ‘em.” Queenan says, and then proceeds to pat him down, feeling for weapons they both know he doesn’t have on him. Costigan follows orders without protest, but the amount of effort it takes to stifle the feeling of triviality and resentment welling up is enormous. With his back turned, he doesn’t see Dignam walk casually towards them, but Costigan can hear the man’s indifferent voice when he finally opens his mouth to speak; Costigan thinks its fitting that Dignam would choose to take his first shot as his back is turned, the coward.
“Hey,” Dignam’s voice is deceptively nonchalant but still laced with that stupid fucking harsh edge and mocking cadence, “what do you think you can do, pop somebody and there’s a special card to play? That guy Jimmy Baggs, whose jaw you broke, happens to work undercover for the Boston Police Department.” He at least has the decency to stand apart from Costigan, well out of reach. Costigan glares at him as Queenan steps in between them inconspicuously, seeming to always be aware of the tension sizzling between the two men. Costigan tries to reign in his building fury and tamp the pain he feels when Dignam stabs him with an accusing glare,
“I went fuckin’ nuts, man!” Costigan replies, remembering keenly the way he’d snapped and nearly crushed this Jimmy Baggs’ face in; how was he supposed to know this guy was an undercover cop too when no one tells him shit on either side? “I can’t be someone else every fuckin’ day!” He seethes, and it’s true; he can hardly be himself, whoever that is, and the other Costigans—the cop, the criminal, the addict—they were only getting better at tearing him to pieces each day that passes by.
“Most people do this shit everyday. What’s the big deal?” Dignam jabs, and scrunches up his face as he looks out over the sluggish river beyond them, needless irritation prickling his skin. You would know first hand, wouldn’t you. Costigan thinks bitterly to himself. You’re a fuckin’ two-faced champ.
“Well I’m not them.” Costigan spats, “I’m not fuckin’ them!” I’m not you! And it’s as if Dignam can hear his thoughts, because the look he suddenly pierces Costigan with is fierce,
“Exactly.” Dignam replies darkly. And Costigan can tell by the sudden deep pitch of Dignam’s voice that he’s about to hit low,
The words are loaded with menacing implication, like a cruel mockery of the same words Costigan had said about himself not so long ago—and how fucking hard saying those words out loud had been for him! He had opened himself up to Dignam, ripped his festering wounds open in the hopes someone else could heal them—because he himself sure as hell couldn’t! He should’ve damn well known better than to let Dignam in, the ruthless fucking bastard, the coward! Costigan feels like the breath has been punched from his lungs. It’s the last thing he expects Dignam to throw in his face; how could Dignam bring up that secret bit of Costigan, that painful confession he had jammed in his soul like a thorn before allowing Dignam to work it out, to put him back together? How could he throw it out into the open air, in front of Queenan, and violate the last bit of trust between them? Costigan felt as if the ground was spiraling out from under his feet.
“You signed the papers. Now we’re the only two people that even know you’re a cop.” Dignam continues, callous. Costigan is so close to seeing red, and he hopes the fury will mask the powerful hurt and acidic betrayal coiling in his body, low in his gut and in the back of his throat. Dignam turns to look at Queenan for a moment, then back to Costigan, his expression spiteful,
“How about we just erase your file? Huh? How about that? How about we erase your file, and then, bang, you’re just another soldier for Costello, open to arrest for I don’t know how many felonies, huh? What do you say we do that—” Dignam’s sadistic reiteration of the previous night in the motel is enough to send Costigan over the edge.
He’s on Dignam in a moment, his fists swinging hard,
“How about I fuckin’ kill you, huh?” Costigan screams, and the two of them are suddenly grappling for control and trying to throw punches, “I’m gonna fuckin’ kill you!” Costigan snarls as he rams Dignam into the side of the car. While they brawl, Queenan is trying his best to break up the fight, and, after avoiding a couple misplaced blows, he finally gets between them again; he pushes the two away from each other like fighters in the ring,
“That was a joke! Come on…” Queenan tells Costigan as he pulls the younger man away; the words are hardly as comforting as they’re meant to be.
Dignam ignores Queenan’s attempts to calm the situation, his body tense with the fight still in him,
“That wasn’t a joke.” He snaps, shaking his head in disagreement, and he comes forward again, getting in Costigan’s face, challenging him, “Just because you play a tough guy doesn’t mean you are one, you lace-curtain Irish fuckin’ pussy—”
This time Costigan lands a solid punch to Dignam’s face, his knuckles connecting with the curve of Dignam’s cheekbone and sliding to the soft cartilage of his nose. Dignam reels back and Queenan is there immediately, his efforts to break them up now frenzied and forceful,
“Hey! Hey! Stop it! Break it up!” Queenan yells, but Costigan can’t hear anything above his own voice,
“Fuck you, motherfucker!” He shouts. As much as his words are threatening and vicious, his voice is also taut, almost reedy and wavering under the stress of his biting emotions, and Dignam doesn’t fail to realize that he knows it sounds that way because Costigan is trying so damn hard to hold back a flood of pain, that behind his eyes is a dam holding back all those frustrated tears. The fact that he knows this, that Costigan has become so familiar to him, makes him furious, just as it also drains the fight right out of him. Again, for perhaps the millionth time, Dignam tastes that signature brand of self-hatred like bile on his tongue.
Queenan manages to separate them once again, and his look is distraught as he paces restlessly in front of them,
“Goddammit!” He snaps, “Stop it! Now that’s an order!” He glares at the two, a warning in his eyes. Dignam and Costigan stand on either side of him, tense and out of breath, but thankfully quiet.
“For Christ’s sake!” Queenan is still pacing, looking around their gloomy surroundings half expecting the whole world to have seen what transpired, “If anybody’s watching us now, how are we not supposed to arrest you?” He turns to level his solemn gaze on Costigan, “Come on,” He ushers Costigan to follow his directions, “get in the car.” Neither Dignam or Costigan move at first, but then Queenan’s voice rises from consoling to commanding in less than an instant,
“Both of you!” He barks, “Get in the car!” And they follow his orders.
There is a short period of heavy silence, giving the hostility between them the chance it needs to properly simmer down. Dignam is sitting in the driver’s seat, his profile barely visible to Costigan from where he sits in the back seat, Queenan next to him. The quiet is a kind of blessing as Costigan realizes he won’t get anywhere with Dignam like this, and that, as much as he wants a show down, antagonizing Dignam will only be like shooting himself in his own goddamn foot.
Costigan eventually turns to Queenan, his jaw tight,“When are you going to take Costello, huh?” He demands, gritting his teeth. Queenan looks at him softly, his eyes apologetic as Costigan continues to rant on, “I mean, what’s wrong with taking him on any one of the million fuckin’ felonies that you’ve seen him do or I’ve seen him do? I mean—” He runs his hands through his hair, his expression irate and incredulous over the PD’s inaction, “I mean, he murdered somebody right? The guy fuckin’ murders somebody” He slaps his hand into his other one for emphasis, the sound ringing in the car’s silence with a sudden crack, “and you don’t fuckin’ take him! What are you waiting for, honestly—I mean, do you want him to chop me up and feed me to the poor? Is that what you guys want?” He demands, his voice pitched higher, almost hysterical. Dignam looks back over his shoulder at Costigan from where he’s been wiping his bloodied nose with some tissue,
“Yeah. That might stick.” He grumbles, but there is very little heat behind his words, and the way he looks at Costigan is strangely yielding. Costigan hardly bristles at the weak jab, and Queenan is fast to turn on Dignam,
“Will you shut up?” He quips from behind Dignam’s seat and Dignam turns away again, rigid. There is another moment of silence, and then Queenan breaks it, his voice tired and sounding older than it should,
“We are building a case, and it takes time. You know that.” He says, his voice reassuring and quiet. Costigan sighs heavily, upset and yet still placated by Queenan’s efforts. He turns to stare out the window at the river, its muddy water churning past them indifferently.
“Mmhmm…” He eventually nods his reluctant agreement; he knew that would be Queenan’s answer: a case takes time to build. He’s known that for way too fucking long. There’s still something he can’t get over though, a feeling he can’t shake.
“Something’s wrong.” He finally says, his tone strange and undecipherable. He turns to look back at Queenan again, his expression severe, “I’m telling you, something’s wrong.” He says again, and Queenan takes a deep breath, giving an assenting dip of his chin,
“Yeah. Maybe.” He finally replies, his voice laden with the definite likelihood that Costigan is right.
Dignam turns to Costigan again, his look softer,
“Look, we need you to keep your ears open, alright? No bullshit.” His voice is quiet and nonthreatening for once, “We think Costello’s got a spy inside the special investigation unit.” He adds, the revelation slipping from his tongue as if it physically hurts him. Costigan stares at him for a long moment, digesting this new bit of information. He then turns to look at Queenan for confirmation,
“Y-You’re serious…?” He stammers, unbelieving. Queenan looks regretful as he nods,
“I’m afraid so.” He lets out a long sigh. Costigan turns to glare out the window, and then turns back to them, his head shaking slightly in disbelief. Costigan draws one hand through his hair again and scoffs; in a way, he’s really not surprised Costello would have a rat that far up the PD’s ass, right under their spineless fuckin’ noses.
Queenan watches Costigan closely, and eventually asks him if he’s heard anything like that from Costello or around the crew. Costigan jams his elbow into the space between the door and the rolled up window, his fist coming to rest against his tight lips for a moment before he pulls it away,
“Ah, Jesus Christ…” He curses and shakes his head; he hasn’t heard a damn thing about this, and it would totally be Costello’s move to keep something of this magnitude under wraps, even from him. That Costigan had been completely in the dark about it this whole time was the most frightening part. Did Costello suspect him? Was he just waiting for dirt on the newbie to filter down from his mole? It was only a matter of time before Costello would find out he’s working for the cops, and then…
It suddenly feels like Costigan can’t breathe, the anxiety creeps up his spine and prickles his skin like needles. Again, he feels like he could puke his guts up, and, while it takes all his willpower to maintain his poise, his eyes rise to where Dignam is watching him. Dignam can see the need in his eyes. If any moment in the history of moments warranted some oxys now would be it; If any moment warranted Dignam’s consolation, his empathy, his nagging, biting desire to hold on to Costigan with all he has…it would be now. But he won’t. Not after his angry, betraying words. Not with Queenan right there. As much as he wants to, he can’t.
Queenan pats Costigan comfortingly on the shoulder and leans close, his expression promising,
“Hang tight for me, kid.” He says, “Just a little while longer. We are this close.” He’s holding up his pointer finger and thumb close together as if he could capture Costello between them right there and then. Costigan moves his gaze from Dignam’s stare and looks at Queenan with resignation,
“Alright.” He whispers finally, and Dignam doesn’t like the way he says it, like he’s prepared to accept some grave fate.
As Dignam drives around a couple blocks, Costigan sits quietly in the back seat, his gaze never straying from where it’s trained out the window. They eventually drop Costigan off on some dead-end, empty street without another word, and when he gets out of the car and walks off down the sidewalk, he doesn’t look back. Dignam is only aware he’s been sitting motionless in the driver’s seat long after Costigan disappears out of sight only because Queenan gets out of the car and climbs into the passenger seat, saying gruffly,
“Hey. What are you waiting for? Let’s go.”
And, without a word, all Dignam can do is drive away with Costigan nowhere to be seen in his rearview mirror.
Nearly a month later, they’re in some godforsaken motel again, just another blurry backdrop that neither of them will remember by tomorrow. Nothing is said about their last couple of venomous encounters because nothing needs to be said: it's as if some silent agreement has been made about leaving it untouched and in the past. The ferocious resentment and sharp anger they evoke in each other is just as much a part of them as is the strange and precarious attraction that keeps bringing them back together afterwards.
Costigan lets Dignam into the room and turns away from him in order to resume his incessant pacing. After standing in front of the closed doorway for some time with a tinge of awkwardness singing in his chest, Dignam moves into the room and removes his jacket in a manner that is almost clinical; he finds the back of a chair to drape it over, as he always does. He watches Costigan, the way his shoulders are perpetually tense now, hunched painfully beneath a rigid neck that holds a head that hangs low these days; Costigan has become unnaturally pale, the skin beneath his eyes dark with sleepless circles, and there are unmistakable lines etched into his face, creases where anxiety has taken up permanent residence, marring that skin. As Dignam catches the other man’s gaze head-on, he notices Costigan’s eyes are dull, as if they are almost empty of that blistering fire that first caught his attention. Dignam thinks back to their last meeting; he thinks back to the strange way Costigan had simply accepted Queenan’s plea for more time, for more patience, with a certain resignation that could only mean one thing.
In a rush of painful remorse, Dignam suddenly can’t break the feeling of disgust and guilt that hits him like a monstrous tsunami wave. I’ve done this to you! God, I’m so fuckin’ sorry it’s you who has to do this shit; I’d give anything for it to be anyone else…to be able to take you out of this hell we’ve created…to be able to really give you something good to live for… These thoughts are unexpected and so incredibly genuine as they hit him, and he sucks in a deep breath as if his body doesn’t have enough oxygen. These thoughts, as true as they may be, still sting, as if he’s been physically slapped. Costigan’s shadowed face registers the strange wince on Dignam's features, and he sees the naked confession clear in every line of the other man’s body. In a moment of sudden clarity, Dignam realizes that over the many months, Costigan has been stripping away Dignam’s façade, little by little, or maybe he’s been doing it to himself; but, either way, it’s evident that every intimate emotion he feels has become easier and easier to read across his face, and Costigan has him pinned, has him so completely exposed.
In that same moment, Costigan thinks he understands the scope of the situation between them. Wow. So you’re fucking human, huh? Somewhere under all that bullshit you keep piled up inside, you’re still fuckin’ human. Costigan marvels at the sudden idea that maybe Dignam isn’t just here to make sure a business investment doesn’t go sour after all.
And Dignam sees it in Costigan’s eyes. He recognizes, without a doubt, that Costigan knows exactly what he’s been thinking; that he had gleaned something from the hidden depths of Dignam’s being was a small revelation compared to the fact that, miraculously, Dignam felt no resentment over it. Instead, he held on to a sliver of newfangled hope; hope that, in their separate wars, a mutual alliance could be made, that a sort of wordless agreement could be achieved, fulfilled. It was the kind of solace he was sure only Costigan could give him and only he could give Costigan.
A stare that seems to last ages, but, in reality, only lasts the span of a breath, is broken. Costigan, and whatever epiphany he lets Dignam see in his eyes, moves on, leaving himself once again masked from Dignam. A glimmer of frustration shoots through Dignam; he's not used to being in the dark, to feeling exposed and defenseless, and then left in the dust. He wants to throttle Costigan as he watches him retreat to the balcony to smoke a cigarette; he wants to demand answers, to find out what exactly Costigan is thinking, wants to lay the man as bare as he himself is. Is it also disappointment Dignam feels amid the simmering irritation? Disappointment that there hadn’t been some explosive, life-changing event following their shared realization, or even one damn word of acknowledgment about it?
He can't’t follow Costigan out to the balcony. It's as if it is physically impossible to be anywhere near the other man; he doesn't’t know what he might do. He draws in a deep, shaky breath, shocked at the ferocity of his own distress, amazed that he could be so unsettled. What had happened to him? What had gone so wrong along the way? Or what had gone so right? Who was this Dignam, so different from the sergeant that had been so carefully manufactured and perfected over the years, the sergeant who had become his one and only self-destructive guise? Who is this other man and what does he want so desperately?
Costigan stands in the dying rays of the sun, bathed in a golden wash of light. The butt of his cigarette sticks to the skin of his lips, barely defying the pull of gravity. He thinks on the things he saw in Dignam, wonders if maybe their roles have been temporarily reversed, because it had been all too clear that there was nothing Dignam could give Costigan that Dignam himself did not need in return. Something becomes set in Costigan’s eyes, wide and unblinking; something has dawned on him, something besides the fact that perhaps Dignam was here because he wants this as much as Costigan does. The full force of this obscure thought is unmistakable, its magnitude written as clearly across the planes of his features as the sentences in a book. Costigan reaches up absently and flicks the cigarette over the side of the balcony. He turns to go back inside, and there is resolution in the way he catches sight of Dignam, who is standing in the gloom with his back turned to Costigan.
“Sean.” Dignam spins around, surprised to hear his name and see the other man standing just inside the doorway, shadowed by the heavy curtains behind him. “Sean.” The way his name slips from Costigan’s lips, so quiet and sure, makes something fucking snap inside Dignam. He only hesitates a moment before closing the short distance between them, and what comes next, he would never know. All he does know for sure is that his name on Costigan’s tongue is all the acknowledgment he needs; it’s like absolution, like permission, it’s what he's been waiting for long before he even knew he was waiting for it.
Suddenly it’s as if there is nothing in the world except the need to feel, to touch, to make sure they are both really there, really alive. Grounded in each other’s presence, they grapple for skin, not uttering a word, not letting a single thought pass into existence. And for the first time in a long time, the raging storm inside Costigan feels pacified, his mind wonderfully free of angry thoughts twisted so tight, and, instead of the usual numb stupor from pills and alcohol, he feels so deliciously alive it almost hurts, as if he were feeling for the first time in his whole fucking life. Dignam is only vaguely aware that clothes are being discarded, forgotten, that on the planet they usually inhabit the things they are doing are unfathomable, unthinkable—but this isn’t just anything, this isn’t just arousal building in his gut like fire; this is him and this is Costigan and whatever is happening between them defies any brand, any logic, any regular, run-of-the-mill desire. This is different.
It’s still violent, and it’s brilliantly fulfilling in a way that is both frightening and liberating; there are scratches and bruises, but the guttural moan that escapes Costigan’s lips as Dignam bites down on the taut flesh of his shoulder is worth every shiver of pain. Dignam relishes the feel of the other man’s skin against his, the feel of his rapidly beating heart against his own; he loves the look of the marks his fingers and teeth leave on Costigan, like a claim. He lets his lips skim over the juncture of Costigan’s throat, a half kiss, a silent apology for all those things he would never have the nerve to say out loud.
Costigan can’t bring himself to remove his jeans, and Dignam is afforded the same discretion; both men are masters at drawing invisible lines, and it's as if removing all their clothing would defy some unspoken reality they didn’t dare breach. But as Costigan reaches beneath the waistband of Dignam’s boxer-briefs, he is both thrilled and disgusted by the sudden gasp he’s able to elicit from the other man’s lips.
“Oh, fuck!” Dignam groans and nearly tears the button off on Costigan’s pants in his hurry to get them open; there is reciprocity at the tip of his fingers, a wonderful, stinging burn that still has all the danger of fire. He knows he should stop—wants to stop—but can’t; in truth, he's beginning to accept the fact that he savors the strange, bizarre reality that Costigan yearns for this too, that this is what they both want.
It’s like electricity is tripping through Dignam’s body and stopping his heart in his throat as Costigan’s fingers curl around his member in an unforgivably tight, delicious upstroke; it isn’t long before his own fingers make purchase on velvety slick flesh, hot and angry, and a surprised cry rolls off Costigan’s tongue as his body pitches forward, his shoulder colliding with Dignam’s Cheshire grin.
The two torment each other in a blissful tango of denial, their eyes never meeting in the dark, their skin seared with touches that are both caressing and vicious. In a silent and futile struggle for control, the two brawl and grapple their way through equal amounts of pent up animosity and hunger, crashing towards an inevitable release. In the last throes of resistance, Costigan upends Dignam’s hold and rolls the two of them over, the zippers on their pants a tantalizing bite as he continues to rut against the other man.
They are so close, so close, but even through the haze of arousal Dignam registers the singular sensation of a teardrop on his cheek. It’s not his own, he realizes, but Costigan’s; he can barely make out the next glistening drop before it falls from stormy eyes above him. In that moment, any anger Dignam feels—any regret, any doubt—disappears like smoke, dissolving away like ice under the clear sun. Once again he is assaulted by that keen and precious feeling of being answerable to this creature, this torn and broken man, accountable for his welfare, his shattered sanity, his comfort. He feels that whatever little bit of himself he can give, he needs to. He needs to do it for Costigan as much as he needs to do it in order to salvage the last vestiges of his own sad humanity.
Tentatively, through the darkness, Dignam reaches up and pulls Costigan towards him; at first it’s like trying to push the same sides of a magnet together, but Dignam reaches out with the other hand, brushes it smoothly over the teeth marks he left earlier, and lets it settle on the back of Costigan’s neck, lightly kneading the tense muscles there. He doesn’t pull, doesn’t try to coerce the man, but Costigan only hesitates a moment before a defeated sob escapes between his clenched teeth and he collapses on top of Dignam, their sweaty bodies sliding, sticking. Dignam isn’t aware of it, but he’s whispering barely audible nothings into Costigan’s hair, his fingers ghosting down the man’s spine.
Dignam can feel the wetness of the tears, but Costigan’s pain is largely silent, save for the intermittent anguished growl or desperate moan; the spike of pleasure shared between their still-heated bodies hangs precariously over their heads, but as Dignam gives an experimental roll of his hips, small and unassuming, Costigan’s breath hitches, and he turns his head, his lips coming to rest at the shell of Dignam’s burning ear, and he utters only two broken words,
And if that isn’t the most fucking beautiful, agonizing plea, Dignam doesn’t know what is. It thrills him down to his bones. In a shock of extreme clarity, he understands it probably took a lot for Costigan to relinquish those words; he recognizes the sacrifice in pride and the trust that is required in its stead. Perhaps for the first time, Dignam fully understands what something like this is meant to be.
Dignam wraps his arms around Costigan, almost willing their bodies to coalesce somehow, as if he could absorb some of the other man’s sorrow that way, as if, through the pleasure, he could somehow displace some of that poisonous grief. Dignam grinds his hips up as Costigan meets him halfway with his own smooth gyrations. The feel of Costigan against him drives him crazy, makes him feel like he’s going to explode; it turns him on in a way he’s never felt with anyone else, not even Mary. Dignam wraps Costigan in his embrace as the friction between their bodies mounts, promising to soon reach a frightening and wonderful crescendo. And, as if it couldn’t get any better, Costigan lets out a long, deep moan as Dignam reaches down between them with one hand, a litany of nonsensical words running off his tongue as strong fingers curl around white-hot heat.
Just like that, they’re sent cascading over the edge of an unknown abyss; Dignam grips Costigan to him so tight, their bodies writhing with the climax, choked curses stifled behind slick skin. Costigan lets Dignam hold him, carry him through it, bring him down from the exhilarating high of it. In the sudden stillness that ensues, in the dark silence, Costigan and Dignam lay in each others’ arms, unwilling to let go, unwilling to shatter this illusion just yet, unwilling to name the thing between them, even as their come begins to cool on their skin. In the growing darkness, Dignam presses his fingers into the hot skin of Costigan’s shoulder, as if gripping him close would keep him from disappearing into thin air. Words are crowding at the back of Dignam’s throat, but he doesn’t know what they are, can’t fathom what he could possibly say to atone for even half the shit he’s done to this man. All he knows is that he wants to try. And for the first time in his life, the thought crosses his mind that maybe he shouldn’t think about it too hard or look too closely at these frightening, new feelings that always make him want to run away and puke. Maybe he should just let it be what it is, let whatever comes naturally happen the way it wants to…
His mouth opens in the darkness, his parted lips tickled by Costigan’s short hair, like a whisper, so tangible. Costigan shifts against him, and Dignam realizes the other man is waiting, listening. So he speaks, his voice soft and steady,
“You were never a nobody. And you’ll never be a nobody.” He whispers, “You’re more of a man than me, Costigan, always were…and you’re better than every single fucking cop I know.” Dignam’s fingers ghost over Costigan in the dark, and Costigan can hear Dignam swallow back his fear, “You’re the most important person I’ve got, Billy. More fucking important than you know.”
They fall into silence again, and it’s good. It’s the kind of silence that articulates more than either dare to say, more than they know how to say. And at the foot of the bed, somewhere on the carpet, Dignam’s shirt and jacket are left crumpled and abandoned, and a sliver of bright orange plastic is barely visible between the layers, thoroughly forgotten by those it matters most to.
Dignam doesn’t have it in him to shed a tear when he gets the news; all he feels is a strange emptiness, a void so deep he thinks it might never close up again.
Just like that. Costigan’s life had been snuffed out. And Dignam would never forgive himself for that. Never.
At the funeral, Dignam stands in the back, talks to no one; being close to the grave will make this too painfully real, make it unbearable. All the while, his hard stare bores into the back of Sullivan’s unsuspecting head. At least the son-of-a-bitch got one thing right, the fucking cunt… Dignam thinks, and he’s reluctantly grateful Sullivan had it in him to at least grant Costigan the Medal of Merit and restore his good name, acknowledging all the hard work, sweat, and blood Costigan had poured into the operation Sullivan so easily fucked up, like a kid knocking over a tower of blocks…
Dignam knows what he has to do even before he completely makes the conscious decision to do it. Sullivan’s days are numbered.
Madolyn is beautiful even in her mourning, her skin pale against her dark dress, her wind-swept hair golden and soft as she absently tucks a strand behind her ear. Her eyes are wet with tears and her lips are set in a grim line. She too graces Sullivan with a hateful glare, never bothering to even give him the time of day, even when he tries to talk to her. Dignam thinks, Good for her…
He’s not jealous of Madolyn. How could he be? What he and Costigan had was so different from what he imagines Madolyn shared with him; they may have known the same man, but they weren’t sleeping with the same lover. Costigan had entrusted a piece of himself to Dignam that Madolyn would never have access too, and vice-versa, Dignam reasons; he imagines Costigan being a tender and considerate lover to Madolyn, something he can’t say they had exactly.
The end may have been the same, but their means were far different: where Costigan was a chivalric, albeit undeniably damaged, breath of fresh air for Madolyn, he was an aggressive and demanding partner in the most thrilling way, eager to fight Dignam for control almost as eagerly as he was for Dignam to take the reigns.
He won’t ever deny what Madolyn had with Costigan; in fact, Dignam suspects the child Madolyn carries in her womb is the fruit of their passions. To that extent, Dignam welcomes the bizarre love triangle, embraces it:
Madolyn will bring Costigan’s child into this world, and Dignam will remove Costigan’s killer from it. The checks and balances even out just exactly as Dignam wants them to, just as Costigan would have wanted them to.
Taking Sullivan out is easier and quicker than Dignam would have liked, but as the body hits the ground, he feels the tension leave his shoulders and relief washes through him like a tidal wave, strong and swift. It doesn’t help fill the void gouged in Dignam’s soul, but it does alleviate some of the pain it causes. Sullivan is dead. It’s about damn time.
FIVE YEARS LATER
The child’s footsteps are fast as they pound up the driveway and towards the front door,
“Uncle Sean!” The shrill voice reaches Dignam before he even sees the little boy swing the screen door open and run inside. A broad smile lights up his face as he turns in his seat at the kitchen table and swoops the child up into his arms,
“Look at you, kid!” He laughs, “What’re you so worked up about, huh?” The little boy has bright blond hair and deep blue eyes, just like his father’s. The child’s name is also William, but he goes by Will for short; Dignam thinks the resemblance between him and his belated father will be uncanny someday. Will wiggles restlessly on Dignam’s lap, nearly bursting with excitement,
“It’s my birthday today!” He exclaims, as if it should be obvious. Dignam pretends to look puzzled by this; he glances over at the calendar hanging on the wall across from him,
“Are you sure about that, buddy?” He says, pretending to be dead serious. The boy’s eyes go wide for a moment, but he doesn’t even second-guess himself,
“Yes!” Will yells, “It’s my birthday today! Right now!” He grips the front of Dignam’s shirt in his tiny fists and pulls on the fabric, as if it’ll help Dignam understand. Dignam grins, Stubborn just like his father…
“Hm…” Dignam has to fight back a laugh, “Well, how old are you turning? 20?” He demands, and the boy’s nose srunches up,
“No!” He shouts,
“Are you turning…2?” Dignam guesses again,
“No!” The boy gasps, “I’m not a baby anymore!” He asserts and sits up straighter,
“I’m turning 5!” Will finally says, triumphant and proud in that way only small children can be. Dignam pretends to look shocked,
“5?!” He exclaims, “No way!” And he lunges forward, his hands coming up fast to start tickling the boy who bursts into a flurry of giggles.
Dignam sees Madolyn step into the kitchen, her smile soft and well worn. She still looks as beautiful as ever, always composed and put-together, but Dignam doesn’t miss the way she sometimes looks wistful as she gazes at her son.
“Alright, birthday boy!” Dignam lets Will recover from the tickling before setting him back down on his feet, “We gotta get ready to go! It’s your big day!” He gets up from his chair and heads to one of the back rooms; Will starts to follow him, but Dignam turns around and smirks,
“No way, little man.” He drawls, “You get to stay here while I go get your birthday present. And you can open it later. No peeking.” Will pouts a little bit, but it takes a lot to really dampen the boy’s spirits; he bounces off to a different part of the house, fully recovered, and is content to stare out of the glass sliding door and into the backyard where Dignam’s dog Jenks is running around out in the grass.
Dignam wanders into his bedroom and goes into the adjoining bathroom to freshen up a bit before heading out; he’s applying deodorant when his eyes catch the dusty orange gleam up on the very top of the medicine cabinet. He sets the deodorant down and reaches up to pull it down, rubbing his thumbs over the smooth plastic to get rid of the dust. The pills tinkle slightly as they’re jostled around, and the sound sends Dignam back to sleazy motels and heated nights full of anger and silently requited lust.
He kept the bottle long after Costigan’s death, as a reminder of the things they once shared. It’s the only thing of Costigan’s Dignam has, besides memories.
A small smile creeps onto his lips as he stares down at the bottle, so tangible and yet so inconsequential now, despite its sentimental value. I wish you could be here to see your son turn five… Dignam thinks, and he puts the little bottle back where it always sits, memorializing all that Costigan was, in all his broken imperfection and damaged glory.
Dignam leans into the closet in order to get Will’s present out; it’s a collection of Hot-Wheels and a coloring book with a set of markers, all carefully wrapped in bright colorful dinosaur paper.
When he goes back out to the kitchen, Madolyn smiles at him,
“Look at that,” She teases, “Did you actually wrap it yourself?” Dignam gives her a smirk,
“I did, actually.” He hefts the present, like a trophy, “I’m a very good present-wrapper, Maddy. You underestimate me.” She laughs, her voice clear and light,
“I didn’t know it was in the job description, Staff Sargeant.” She replies. Dignam arches an eyebrow,
“Yeah, there’s a special training course and everything… BPD’s Gift-Wrapping 101.” She chuckles and gives him an unimpressed look as she herds Will back towards the front door, Dignam right on her heels.
The park is full of children, parents, and family-friends. There are bright birthday balloons tethered to picnic tables, and Will’s ninja turtle themed birthday cake is already half gone. The presents have been opened and the kids are swarming over the playground, lost in their little world, innocent and unsuspecting. Will is in the lead, as usual; the boy is unnervingly charismatic, which, again, Dignam attributes to his father.
He and Madolyn are lounging in some folding chairs, watching the kids play. He has a glass of lemonade in his hand, while Madolyn sips on some wine. The silence is peaceful until Madolyn suddenly rouses herself, saying,
“You know,” Her voice is soft and low, “I wonder what it would be like, if he were still here today.” Dignam looks over at her; he’s wondered the same thing countless times.
“He’d probably be out their swinging from the monkey bars right alongside Will.” Dignam offers quietly, and Madolyn smiles,
“Probably.” She whispers. She turns to look at him for a long careful moment, and Dignam can’t quite tell what she's looking for; the expression on her face is hard to make out,
“Thanks, Sean. For always being there for the both of us.” She finally says. Dignam looks away for a second, but then meets her gaze once again, resolute,
“Of course.” He replies, “It’s the least I can do.” And it really is, considering everything. But he loves Will as if he were his own son and can’t imagine not seeing the boy grow up.
Sometimes he wonders whether Madolyn knows about what went on between him and Costigan. Sometimes her looks linger, or the way she says something seems slightly off. Not in a derisive or jealous way, it’s just a pensive, opaque wonderment he sometimes sees captured in her eye. He supposes they’ve come to a silent agreement of sorts: Costigan holds a place in each of their hearts; places that are untouchable by one another, closed off and unknown. And they agree to leave it that way, to let it be whatever it is. Dignam is grateful for that.
It’s taken him years after Costigan’s death to acknowledge the void in his heart to be the deep, unquenchable ache of love; he doesn’t know if it will ever go away, and part of him doesn’t want it to. But, in the meantime, he has Will to watch grow, to help raise and guide. There is only one thing Dignam wants most in the whole world now that Costigan has slipped through his fingers, and that is to make sure Will grows up to know who his father was, to know what kind of extraordinary man his father never ceased to be, even in death.
To Will, Costigan will always be a somebody, always loved, and always remembered. Dignam will make sure of it.