Morse had hidden himself away after Susan had broken off their engagement. She was the reason he'd dropped out of Lonsdale; the grief ate at him, he didn't know what he'd done, didn't understand, and a degree meant nothing in those dark days. How he'd gained entry to the police, he'd never know, preferred not to ask.
He did not understand until that night he’d been running a case with Thursday and they had seen Susan's mother at the hospital.
“I don't have much time for failures.” she sneered. Morse marshalled every inch of his courage and demeanour, had swallowed anger and grief, dark and bitter, had simply said, “give her my regards,” and walked away, pushing the criticism down, locking it away.
Anger and pain and loneliness had driven him until he was here, thirty years on, no one to call his own, curled up tight on the sofa, Puccini low on the stereo, and crying for everything he'd had and lost, the intervening years of desolation giving him more of a bite than he ever should've had.
No friends. No family. He worked alone. Hid behind a wall of surliness and alcohol because he was frightened, so very frightened of what everyone thought of him. Even Strange, the one man who had been there from the beginning and seen it all.
Reaching out to the wrong people, pain rending his heart apart, please just be my friend, please just love me, please, fear and loathing of himself stitches it back together, still bleeding from the viciousness. Desperation announces itself.
Every kiss tainted with the sour knowledge that it was just a game, and he'd fallen for it. Every hold - though few and far between they were - tainted with pretence. Every conversation not to do with murder just because I'll be nice this time, he needs a friend oh I've done good.
Morse shivers, the voices, the knowledge of the past, looking at it anew, it all taunts him, reminds him how pathetic he was back then. Still is now.
Drowning it with whiskey, he curls deeper into the blankets, crying out in desperation and tiredness and need for the one person he knows will never need him.
No one hears him, no one is there, and he cries anew, comforting the little boy inside that never understood - because he does now. It's just made him selfish and hard and angry.
He wraps the blankets tighter, wishing they were a pair of strong, comforting arms.
He thinks again of the blade, fingers tracing old scars. It would only hurt for a moment.
Only a moment.
Can't be arsed to get up, though. Maybe he'll just drink himself to death, like the pathetic slob he is.
His methods never worked. He always tried too hard and people could see it, feel it, and they slid away. He never realises when he's being overfamiliar, patronising, or both simultaneously. No one to teach him, although Lewis has tried, and Morse can't help getting upset behind closed doors sometimes when he knows that it's useless and he’ll never understand.
Morse whimpers, choking on his tears, pressing his face into soft cushions, wishing they were a gentle pair of hands stroking his hair.
He misses Lewis so much, even when he's with him, but he can never tell him. He would transfer back home to Newcastle to get away, he would hate him the rest of his days and Morse would just be alone again.
They all hated the posh, weird kid. Too intelligent for them by half, so they mentally tortured him instead, pretending to be his friend. He fell for it every time, because that was all he wanted, and because that was all he wanted, it struck harder and harder every time.
But only his mother had taught him kindness and how to use it. When she passed, those lessons passed with her, and Morse became hard and brittle. As he lashed out, he built walls from his pain and hid from the terror, the pain of being different, hid from himself, his own anger and found his friends in books. They didn't hold him when he cried himself to sleep.
Why can't you understand? Why must you need an explanation to understand? Why can't you just… be like the other boys? Why aren't you normal? What's wrong with you?
His lonely heart had shattered by the time he'd reached Oxford, and when Susan left without bothering to help him pick up the pieces, he swore himself a promise.
Quoth the raven, nevermore.
As Morse grew, little Endeavour remained on the sidelines where he didn't realise he belonged, the outsider, the freak, crying out for a friend that would never come. Cold and alone, lonely and scared, he huddled under Morse's heart at night, and his echoing cries became Morse's as month became month, year became year.
Thirty years on, Endeavour was still cold and alone, still huddled under the rock of Morse's heart.
Morse still wept in the silence of the night.
“All I want is a friend.” Morse sobs brokenly to himself. “What's wrong with me? Why can I never hold onto anyone?”
Why is my only friend a whiskey bottle? As pathetic as you always were, never could hold on to an actual human friend, could you?
I cannot tell him I love him. I cannot tell him he is my only friend and if I could pass safe and loved in his arms, I would be happy.
Swallowing the last of the whiskey, twisting his wrist and thumping the bottle hard against the coffee table, it slices into pieces. He picks up a large one, looks at the prism of light through it, runs it gently on an old scar.
“Valerie, ma hinny?” Robbie calls through to the living room. The kids have long gone to bed, and Robbie starts late tomorrow morning; he can afford an almost-late night.
“Yeah, darling? What is it?” Her voice lilts like the sound of the Tyne on a hot summer night, Robbie thinks fondly.
“Love, ah’ve been thinkin’ about this case Morse an’ me are workin’…”
Valerie quirks her mouth knowingly. “And you want to go and talk it over with him even though it's very late.”
“Aye, though ah divvin know if he'll be upright, like!” Robbie deadpans, fighting a laugh. His eyes sparkle at her, but inside he is cold.
“Go on, sweetheart. If he isn't, come back. I'll leave the key on the bench.” Valerie well knows her lot by now and is used to him running off at odd hours of the night like this.
Normally, Morse is the one to call. Robbie does not run first. Perhaps, she thinks, Morse has done something stupid - she wouldn't doubt it, the way Robbie speaks of Morse's drinking - but she knows if that is true that it might kill him.
She sees him out into the main road, wondering what, yet again, to tell the children in the morning if their father isn't there.
Silence. Unnerving, deep silence competing with the silence in the deep of the night that makes Robbie’s skin prickle with warning.
“Sir?” he calls. Nothing. Finding a front room window open, he climbs in, flicking on a light. Morse startles, yelping as the large shard of glass digs into his skin, and he sighs with relief, tears slipping down his cheeks.
“Robbie. You're here.” Morse sighs, his fingers tracing the blood welling from the skin. “Why?”
Picking up the landline, Robbie keys 999. “Here because I need to be, gan get an ambulance for you now, yeah?”
‘We’re getting you one, now, Lewis. Blues and twos, quickest we can do.’ Katie’s voice comes clear through the line, and he relaxes knowing they're seen to.
Robbie doesn't think Morse has heard a word and for that he's thankful.
Morse determinedly presses the bloody shard deeper, sighing softly. “Robbie…”
“Sir, no!” Robbie chastises, but Morse is too far gone to hear; Robbie grabs whatever he can find, pressing it hard on the wound to try and staunch the flow of blood. It's not working, the shard must have gone too deep.
“Why, sir?” Robbie looks at Morse, wondering how much he can get out of him before he passes out.
Morse gives him a wan smile. “Because I can’t any more, Robbie. I can’t take the hurt. T-too sens…itive. A-all my fault, al-ways.” His eyes flutter closed, blood soaking into the carpet. “But you're here now…”
Robbie bites back a whimper, cradling his superior in his arms. Morse groans softly, almost like he’s been waiting for this, and Robbie leans down to hear the words.
“I've loved,” Morse gasps, “you for s…so long.” It's the work of a moment for Morse to bring a bloodstained hand to Robbie’s cheek, and Robbie whispers, “I love you,” pulling him down a little to press a gentle kiss to the younger man’s lips, giving him his last breath.
Little Endeavour uncurls himself, whimpering with fright. This is not a sensation he is used to.
The voice comes from behind him.
“It’s alright, little one. No more hurt. He knows. We are loved.”
Robbie holds Morse tight, lips not leaving the other detective’s as he wipes away the final tears. They find him hours later when neither turn in to work, Robbie cradling Morse on his blood soaked lap, his head turned into Robbie’s chest.
Listening for the love he thought he never had.