“Come in for a cuppa -- Win won’t mind,” Thursday wheedles.
He expects the awkward, close-lipped smile he receives.
“No, I should,” Morse jerks his head at the car, “But thank you,”
Sighing, Thursday watches him hunch inward, favoring his left leg. Since winter descended he’s shrunk like a withering flower. His eyes are so wide he looks closer to fifteen than thirty two.
Thursday glares at him, “When’s the last time you had something to eat?”
Morse’s eyes are watering from the cold. He scuffs his shoe against the ground, “Lunch,”
He scoffs, “At least you had the sense to tell that lie to the pavement,”
Shrugging off the accusation Morse says, “Strange shared some chips during surveillance,”
“That’s twice now you’ve lied to your superior. Come on,” He starts for the door, “No more arguments on the garden path,”
He doesn’t check to see if Morse follows; they’re both too exhausted for another round of half-polite, weakly constructed lies. Despite crossing the threshold nearly every day for years, Morse still shrinks in the doorway.
While Thursday hangs his coat, Win’s sweet voice calls from the top of the stairs, “Dad? That you?”
She squints at the hallway light.
“Oh, sorry, Love. We wake you?”
She doesn’t answer, too busy staring at Morse’s nervous fidgeting, “Alright, Morse?”
He nods politely, “‘Evening, Mrs. Thursday,”
“You’re back late, Fred. Something wrong?”
Thursday hangs his hat, “No, we’re alright,”
“Tough night?” She descends the staircase clutching her dressing gown ato combat the chill.
“Nah,” He lies, leaning down to peck her lips. He doesn’t miss the way Morse turns away, embarrassed by even the most chaste affection.
“Did you get him then?”
“Morse did,” Thursday nods to his bagman, “Chased him down and all,”
“Is that right?” Win smiles at him, a hint of maternal pride in her eyes.
“It was a group effort,” He lies, literally through his teeth.
“Alright, off with you,” He orders, “Wait on the couch, I’ll get you something warm,”
Morse does as he’s told, scowling all the way. Thursday watches him limp into the sitting room. Through the cut out in the wall, he can see Morse grip his thigh as he sits.
“Dad?” Win touches his cheek, “What’s wrong?”
“Not here,” He whispers, leading her to the kitchen, “Got anything left from tea?”
“Some stew I could warm through,”
“The lad might need it,” He says, once away from Morse’s keen ears, “Get his strength back up,”
“What’s wrong with him, Fred?”
“Barely past thirty and he already has a limp,” Thursday growls, “The cold had him done in but with that foot chase earlier I’m surprised he made it to the car,”
Win’s tender heart breaks with the news, “Will he be alright?”
“No, it’ll only get worse. Fool ran around with a bullet in his hip for a day. He’ll be feeling it for the rest of his life,”
“Barely eats either,” He continues, frustration bottled up too long, “And you wouldn’t believe how prickly he gets,”
“Oh, I’ve seen it. But he’s a grown man, Fred,” She reminds him from the stove.
“I know that,” His hand pauses on the kettle, “But he’s no family. Just scotch and his ‘sorrows’ as Joan would say,”
He can’t help but think that Morse’s rapid spiral downward had begun with Joan’s departure. Even now that she’s back, he’s still quiet and moody.
“And those bloody records of his -- enough to drive anyone to drink. Somebody doesn’t do something and he’ll be finished before he’s forty. Too stubborn for his own good,”
She nods, a thoughtful wrinkle in her brow, “I’ll start packing an extra sandwich for him,”
Tempted as he is to point out that one sandwich a day will hardly keep Morse’s budding alcoholism at bay, he nods. Win must miss having more than just him at home, and Morse presents an interesting challenge.
When they come through to find him asleep on the couch, neither is surprised. Thursday pries his notebook and pen out of his hands. As Morse blinks awake, he examines the contents.
“So this is what you’d’ve done at home, is it?”
Barely awake, Morse glares up at him, “It’s only work,”
“Right,” He tosses both back onto his chest, “For a case we’ve solved. Summarizing the killer’s statement can be done in the morning -- should be,”
“I’m not sure he was the killer,” Morse says, glaring into the middle distance.
“Oh, Morse. Not this again,”
“So that note really convinced you? You’re content to just leave it when it doesn’t make sense?”
“He confessed! What more could --”
“That’s enough out of both of you,” Win commands. Morse flinches, “You’ll have your tea and not another word about it ‘till morning,”
“Sorry, Mrs. Thursday,”
He looks so abashed Thursday nearly laughs, “Sorry, Love. Thanks for the tea,”
“Yes, thank you, Mrs. Thursday,”
“Oh, it’s no worry, Dear. Fred made the cuppa,”
“Oh, well in that case,” Morse teases, wincing at the kettle.
“You’ll remember who you’re talking to,” Thursday cautions him, pleased to see his smile has returned, if only for a moment.
“We’ve kept you up too long,” He says, turning to Win, “Go on up to bed,”
“Are you sure?”
“‘Course. Morse’ll help me with the washing up,”
She kisses his cheek, “Thanks, Dad. Morse,”
They nod to each other as she leaves, “Goodnight, Mrs. Thursday,”
“You could call her Win,” Thursday suggests, handing him a bowl of stew and teacup.
“I’m not hungry,” Morse says, accepting both.
Looking every bit like a petulant child, Morse stirs his stew. Thursday glares until he’s eaten every bite, despite taking twice as long to eat it as Thursday himself. Morse hardly touches his tea.
“I should go home. Strange’ll be wonder where I am,”
“Nah,” He settles into his armchair, “Just kip here on the couch. You can wear something of Sam’s,”
Morse looks almost insulted, “No,”
“And why not?” He returns calmly.
“Why should I sleep on your couch instead of my own bed?”
“Because you weren’t planning on going to bed -- you’ve got evidence to ponder at the station,”
“And if I have?”
“The night shift boys say you’re there when they come and there when they go,”
“I lose track of time,”
Thursday glowers at him, “And my name is Petunia,”
Morse scoffs, “What does it matter if I work late?”
“It matters because I say it does. Can’t have you running yourself into the ground again, Sergeant,”
“You’re not. I’m not having you falling asleep at the wheel for a second time. This is for your own good,” He remains unmoved in the face of his disgust, “Or do I need to tell Mr. Bright exactly how many times Trewlove has found you asleep at your desk?”
Morse glares back at him so darkly he wonders if this is when the dam will break.
“I can’t trust you if you can’t take care of yourself,”
Thursday leaves him to stew, and collects Sam’s old night things. They’re a but dusty so he shakes out the top, knowing none of it will bother Morse.
“There,” Mildly surprised he didn’t slip away in his absence, he drops the clothes in his lap, “Might be a bit big, but it’s only for tonight,”
The truth is, Morse’ll be swimming in Sam’s things, despite being a decade older than Thursday’s son. But Morse doesn’t argue, apparently having decided to sulk.
“Right,” He sighs, “Well, I’ll leave you to get changed. In the morning then, Morse,”
“What about the dishes?”
“Oh,” Sighing again he says, “Leave it. They’ll keep ‘till morning,”
The mantle clock reads two a.m. -- he hasn’t been so tired in months. Without saying goodnight he thumps upstairs.
In the morning, Morse is still there. There’s no sign that he ever changed out of his work clothes, but he looks less worn. He’s perched on the edge of the couch, having been told by Win that he isn’t allowed to help make breakfast. Judging by how thin the man is, Thursday wonders if he even knows how.
“Morse,” He nods, still in his dressing gown.
He nods, “Sir, and you?”
Thursday snorts, eyeing the notebook Morse is grasping. He must’ve filled five new pages since last night. Baby steps, he tells himself. When he turns to leave the sitting room, he sees the clean coffee table.
“‘Morning, Win,” He kisses his wife’s cheek, careful not to disturb the bacon she’s frying, “Sorry about the washing,”
“How’d you mean?” She doesn’t look away from the stove.
“The dishes from last night,”
“I didn’t do them. They were on the rack this morning,”
“Morse must’ve seen to them,” He doesn’t know whether to be touched or annoyed.
“He stayed all night, did he?” She sounds pleased and confused. Morse tends to have that effect.
Thursday shrugs, “Only way to keep him from the station. He wasn’t too happy about it,”
“No, I’d think not,” She chuckles, “Independent that one. I wonder how his mother kept up with him,”
Because he doesn’t know how to say Morse hasn’t had any semblance of a mother in decades, he just nods and goes to set the table for breakfast.
Meals with Morse are largely silent, unless discussing work. Since both Win and Thursday strictly enforce the hat stand rule, he only speaks when spoken to.
“Haven’t heard from Strange so I’d say no, Sir,” He informs his toast.
“Well, if you need you can wear something of Sam’s into work -- he’ll have a couple church suits in the closet,”
“I’m fine, Sir, thank you,” Morse stares at his tomatoes, “Not the first time I’ve worn a suit twice,”
“You’ve worn that one all week,” Win says before sipping her coffee.
Thursday smirks at the child-like shock on Morse’s face.
When he keeps staring she continues defensively, “I noticed when you came to pick up Dad,”
“Oh,” He looks mildly offended again, as if he dislikes people noticing him, “I haven’t the time to take the others out for cleaning. I was planning to do it on the weekend,”
“The weekend?” She sounds appalled, “But you’ve blood on the cuffs of this one!”
Ever rumpled, Morse glances down at his sleeves. Thursday steps in before he gets overwhelmed.
“Alright Win, let the man eat,” He says gently, smiling at his wife’s furrowed brow, “But Mum’s right, Lad -- you can’t come into the nick with blood on your cuffs and mud on your collar. We’ve the case to present to Mr. Bright first thing,”
If Win weren’t there, he knows Morse would argue. As is, he mutters his agreement and finishes his meal.
“Go ahead and wash up,” Win nods to Morse’s greasy hair while gathering his plate, “Always takes Dad an age to finish up in the morning so you best go first,”
“Well do you need help with--”
“No, Love, but you best hurry. Won’t do to have you both late,”
“I’ll just run an iron over my shirt and--”
“That’s enough protest out of you,” Thursday says, “You’ll wear Sam’s suit and take your own to the cleaner’s first thing tomorrow,”
“Back of his closet, Morse,” Win says, already walking down the hall, “Try the brown one -- it’s older, might fit you better,”
Once they’re finally out the door, Morse tugging constantly at his waistband, he launches into his newest theory.
“Why would he confess to all three murders in a note and then run?”
Morse limps to the driver-side door, “What -- he’s not afraid of being caught two hours before?”
“It’s a lot different in theory than practice. Besides -- Morse, we’ve his prints all over Justin Greene’s body. If not him, who else?”
“Right, Greene’s body. But what about Westley’s? Or Wilsons?”
“Morse, talk sense,”
“Here’s what happened…”
By the time they’ve arrived in Bright’s office, Thursday’s detailing every reason why the man in their custody only committed one murder, not all three.
“Excellent work, Thursday,” He breathes, mouth slightly agape.
“It was Morse, Sir,”
“Right, well, yes,” Bright nods, “Exemplary work, as always, Morse,”
“Thank you, Sir,”
“Well, then. If that’s all…?”
“Actually, Sir, I had some other business. The Matthew’s case, if that’s alright,”
“Of course, Thursday, have a seat,” He nods the sergeant’s dismissal. When he reaches the door, Bright calls, “Morse,”
“New suit?” He gestures to Morse’s unkempt appearance. If he looks like a walking wrinkle on a good day, in Sam’s suit, he looks rather like a child who’s stolen his older brother’s clothes.
“No, Sir,” Thursday cuts in before Morse can give a surly reply, “Had him borrow one of Sam’s since he hasn’t had time for the cleaner’s,”
“I see,” Bright muses, still gazing at Morse with a puzzled expression.
“If that’s all,” He says, tugging open the door before he’s been dismissed again.
After a moment, Bright hums, “About Morse, Thursday,”
“How’s his leg? If I remember correctly he’s still a bullet lodged in there somewhere,”
The Chief Superintendent is far more observant than the men gave him credit,
“A bother, Sir, but he doesn’t complain,”
“No, of course,” His voice light and airy, “Well, Morse never was one to air his grievances,”
“Well, it wouldn’t do, Sir,”
“Still...I don’t suppose many could claim more right to do so,”
“No, Sir,” Thursday agrees, dipping his chin.
Inhaling sharply, Bright seemed to wake from a daze, “You’ll look out for him Thursday? He’s a capable detective by all accounts, but….”
“In need of looking after,” Thursday finishes, “No need to worry, Sir. Win and I’ve got more than enough time what with the kiddies being gone,”
“How’s the robbery coming?” Morse asks, fiddling with his pint.
“Oh, no one’s talking. Not that you’d expect them to,”
Morse nods, frowning at the table. Even during lunch, he can’t seem to take a break. If it weren’t for sleeping, Morse would never stop working, which might be why he often refuses to sleep. Thursday sighs, shaking his head. When he pulls out his own sandwich, he casually places the extra between them. Morse is too deep in thought to notice.
“What have we today?” Thursday jokes.
“Ham and tomato,” Morse answers mechanically without looking. After a beat, he sees the second sandwich, “What’s this?”
“Aren’t you the one who’s supposed to know? It’s ham and tomato,”
“Since this morning,”
“Don’t you want it?”
“Why’s Mrs. Thursday made me a sandwich?”
“So you’ll eat it,”
“I don’t need...mothering,” Morse says with distaste.
Thursday scoffs, “How would you know?”
Despite his pursed lips, he can see Morse’s pleased. His stubborn, independent streak is only rivaled by his silent desire for affection. As he unwraps the gift, a reluctant, tiny smile tugs at his mouth. Thursday tells himself to never doubt Win’s judgment again.
“I’m not staying on your couch another night,”
“Shut up and eat your sandwich,”