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Chapter Text

Morse checked the clock behind the bar: half-past two. He could take ten minutes to finish his pint before he headed back to the station. He flipped through his notes from his meeting with Miss Frazil. Someone had called in a tip to the newspaper, saying the recent jailbreak had been an inside job. CS Bright had tasked Morse with collecting any relevant information regarding the call.

Taking one last drink from his glass, Morse stood up and stretched. He checked to make sure his tie and jacket were straight, laughing to himself as he did so. He was turning into Jakes. Not that he minded that, particularly. The sage green tie that Jakes had given him the other day did look rather nice with his dark blue shirt and jacket. He wasn’t planning on admitting that to Jakes just yet, though. Morse turned to leave, and nearly ran into a tall, broad shouldered man.

Morse stepped back a bit, murmuring his apologies as he tried to get around the man. He found himself stopped short, however, when a heavy hand landed on his arm.

“DS E. Morse?” the man whispered.

Morse stiffened, glancing up at the man looming over him. Shaggy blonde curls nearly obscured his eyes, and he smelled like he’d been in the pub since that morning. Morse straightened up, his inquiring gaze sharpening into a glare. “Yes. And you are?”

“Friend of a friend,” the man answered, leaning in closer. Morse resisted the urge to back away. “I got sommun outside, wants to have a chat. Got sommat worth knowing, ‘bout them boys broke out of their cells a few weeks back.”

At that, Morse did step back, adrenaline starting to seep into his blood. The only recent prison break--and the very one he had just finished a meeting about-- had been Cole and Peter Matthews. Both had sworn revenge on the officers at Cowley CID who’d put them away. Bright had put Thursday, Morse, and Jakes on alert the day of the breakout, and they’d been dragging the streets for information ever since. The little they’d heard suggested Peter Matthews was planning something soon, possibly a kidnapping.

Morse’s head snapped up as he remembered that; a kidnapping. And here he was, alone in a mostly empty pub on a lazy Wednesday afternoon. Alone, and unarmed.

“Right.” Morse nodded at the man. “Let me go and ring in to the station. If your friend has information, my superiors ought to hear it.” It was a lie, and a poor one at that. But Jakes had been insistent recently that Morse not throw himself headfirst into danger without at least telling someone first. Morse was trying, he really was.

The man shook his head, and Morse felt his pulse quicken. Something wasn’t right. He tried to step back, but the man’s grip on his wrist tightened painfully.

“He said it can’t wait.” The man growled. He spun Morse around quickly, and Morse felt something sharp poke him in the shoulder. “Now, you come real quiet like, and maybe you’ll make it out alive. You do anything stupid--” Morse felt the point of the knife slice its way through his coat and bury itself just under his skin. “—and I’ll kill you first, and then that pretty little barmaid over there.”

Morse gasped at the prick of cold pain in his back, prompting the barmaid in question to shoot him a concerned glance. He attempted a reassuring smile, and prayed that it worked. When she didn’t look away, he raised his free hand in a dismissive wave. The pressure of the knife increased when he moved, and he almost stumbled. The girl frowned, but turned suddenly to answer call from a patron at the other end of the bar. Morse sagged a bit in relief.

“That’s more like it,” came the threatening whisper at his ear. The man tugged at Morse’s trapped wrist. “Out the back, nice and friendly like. Just goin’ for a little chat.”

“What do you want?” Morse hissed. He struggled to keep pace with the man, as the knife kept jabbing into his shoulder with every misstep. He could feel a warm trickle of blood beginning to snake down his back, and he tried to suppress a shudder.

“Told you, sommat worth knowing about them Matthews’ boys. Thought you’d be interested, me friend did.”

Morse gagged at the sour smell of alcohol on the man’s breath. He hoped the man was simply drunk and rambling about something he’d read in the papers. Some local thug trying to make a name for himself. Jakes was always telling Morse that he thought too much, should stop tying together threads that belonged to different cases. Truly, what were the odds that one of the Matthews’ brothers managed to be at the same pub that he and Dorothy Frazil had chosen at random not two hours ago.

“Well, how nice to see you again, Detective Sergeant E. Morse,” a voice slurred as the pub door closed behind Morse.

Apparently, the odds were not in Morse’s favor. Morse stopped short, forgetting about the man behind him. The larger man stumbled, and Morse felt the knife bury itself into his shoulder. He cried out at the sudden pain, and then felt himself shoved forward. Unable to catch his balance, he fell forward onto the cobblestones.

“Now, Jason, what did you go and do that for?” Cole Matthews drawled, taking a swig from a bottle of beer. “Spoil a lot of fun if you kill him this early.”

Morse twisted himself around, trying to ignore the throb in his back. He lashed out, his foot colliding with Cole’s shin. Cole cursed and fell backwards against the wall. Morse scrabbled backwards, trying to get to his feet. He’d just managed to grab hold of a rubbish bin when pain exploded through his side. He crashed backwards into the bins, curling in to protect himself. The second kick collided with the side of his face. Morse’s vision went black.

When Morse blinked back to consciousness, he found himself up against the wall of the pub, the blonde man’s hands about his throat. Cole was leering over his shoulder.

“Detective Sergeant E. Morse, meet Jason McGregor,” Cole announced. “Was his idea, to bring you out here. Peter’d been thinkin’ of bringin’ good ol’ Freddy in for a chat, but Jason and I seen you wander in here. Can’t pass up a chance like that, now can you?”

Morse just glared at him. They were drunk, the both of them, and Cole wasn’t exactly stable even when he was sober. There was no telling what they might do if he provoked them. Besides, Morse’s head hurt too much at the moment to come up with anything coherent.

Apparently, silence wasn’t the best option. McGregor grabbed Morse by the shoulders and slammed him up against the wall. “Cole’s talkin’ to you, you little pig.”

Morse gasped as the gash in his shoulder scraped against the wall. His skull bounced off of the stone, and his vision went blurry for a few moments.

“Ease up, Jason, ease up,” Cole laid his hand on the larger man’s shoulder. “We want ol’ Fred to think he’s at least got a chance to save his boy, now don’t we?”

McGregor looked doubtful, but he took a step back. Morse sagged against the wall, trying to steady his breathing. He was grudgingly thankful for Cole’s intervention, but something in the man’s eyes made him afraid of what the next several hours might hold. Think, dammit! If he was going to get out of this, now was his best chance. Steeling himself against the pain he knew was coming, he braced his back against the wall and brought his knee up. It connected with McGregor’s groin and the man flew back with a howl. Cole staggered backwards with a startled shout. Morse launched himself between them. He’d nearly made it to the door when he heard footsteps behind him.

Morse felt the glass of Cole’s beer bottle imbed itself in his skull, and then he felt no more.

Chapter Text

The first clue anyone at Castle Gate received about Morse’s fate came when an ill-wrapped package arrived late that afternoon. Sloppy handwriting announced that the package was to be delivered to one D. I. Thursday, post haste. A rookie PC carried the package up the stairs lazily. His day was almost over, and he was counting down the minutes until he could get out of his stifling uniform and lose himself in a cold pint. He poked a bit at the package as he walked, noting that it seemed to contain a piece of fabric. Possibly a tie, although it was bunched rather haphazardly. The boy shrugged. He was just a gopher, he didn’t get paid to do the thinking. Let the bigwigs upstairs figure it out.

“What’s this, then?” Detective Inspector Fred Thursday demanded, when the PC finally marched into the DI’s office.

PC Henry shrugged. “Just came in downstairs, sir. They said to bring it straight up.”

Thursday turned the package over in his hands, a small sliver of anxiety sliding through his heart. Last minute, messy-looking parcels usually brought bad news. “How was it delivered?”

“A boy brought it, sir. Said some man paid him a few quid to drop it off.” Henry chewed on his bottom lip. “Sergeant Hopkins asked him to wait a bit.”

Not good. Thursday nodded. “Right, then.” He glanced up at the young man. “See if the boy can describe who gave it to him, or where.”

“Sir?” Henry cocked his head, just green enough to question orders.

“Parcels like these bode ill for someone, most times,” Thursday instructed. The lad had to learn sometime.

Henry gave a sharp nod, before turning and hurrying back the way he came.

Thursday glanced over at Morse’s empty desk and then out at Jakes’ in the office beyond. Morse had been late coming back from a meeting with Miss Frazil, so Jakes had finally gone out to complete their afternoon interviews on his own. With a huff of frustration, Thursday pulled a letter opener out of his desk. He wished he had at least one of his two best men on scene to help him deal with whatever this envelope had in store for him.. Best get this over with, Thursday thought.

Carefully, he slid the letter opener into one of the many seams on the parcel. It ripped free with ease, and the contents tumbled out. The first thing that caught Thursday’s eye was a small card with more sloppy writing on it: “Round Two. Instructions to follow.” The signature beneath made Thursday’s blood run cold. Peter Matthews.

Images, sounds, and emotions flashed through Thursdays’ mind, rapid fire. The bank. A bullet in his lung. Joanie held hostage. Nothing to lose, yet everything to lose. Morse. Gunshots. Fear. Matthews’ gun at Joanie’s head. Matthews’ bullet in Morse’s gut. Blood, far too much blood. Thursday closed his eyes against the onslaught. He tried to steady his breathing, calm his pounding heart. He needed to know what else was in the package. What game Cole was playing this time. It might not be as bad, he tried to reason. Can’t be as bad as a bank full of hostages. Joanie was in London, Sam in the army, and he’d spoken to Win not 5 minutes ago. It can’t be that bad, he repeated one last time before opening his eyes.

He picked up the other item, turning it over. It was a tie. A sage green tie. A sage green tie that he had seen, quite clearly, around the neck of Endeavour Morse that very morning. A sage green tie that was now stained with blood.

Thursday collapsed into his chair, staring at the tie in his hands. Images of Morse’s bloody form on a stretcher being rushed through a dirty alley washed over him like a tidal wave. He wondered if he would drown this time.

Thursday allowed himself to feel fear. Just for a moment, he held onto the tie and he let the terror wash over him. Five years, Morse had been his bagman. Five years he’d worked with the man, mentored him. They’d come through hell together, pulled each other out of death’s reach, and kept each other on the straight and narrow. He’d not always done right by the boy, but he tried. Thursday wondered if he’d ever told Morse how much the man meant to Thursday and his family. For just a moment, he wondered if he would ever get the chance. Then he promised himself he would tell Morse. Just as soon as they found him.

Thursday allowed himself to feel fear, and then he set a match to the rage that lay simmering just beneath. It surged up with in him, burning his paralyzed muscles and propelling him towards the door. He slammed it open, rattling the glass and startling the occupants of the outer office.

“Get Bright down here, now!” he barked at DC George Fancy. Fancy scuttled away like a cowed dog, paling as he caught a glimpse of the crumpled tie in Thursday’s hand. “Strange, get downstairs and see if they got anything out of the boy.”

Strange stood slowly, confusion creasing his forehead as he crossed the room. “What boy, sir?” he asked cautiously.

“A boy delivered a package, marked for me,” Thursday ground out, trying not to count the seconds that were ticking by. “Peter and Cole Matthews. There’s a hostage.”

Strange’s eyes widened. He’d been at the bank that day. He’d held a coat to Morse’s abdomen, trying to keep Morse’s blood where it belonged. Trying, and failing. “A hostage, sir?”

“Morse.” Thursday spat.

Strange turned as white as his shirt, mouth opening and closing without a word. He gave a curt nod before turning on his heel and heading to the elevator.

Thursday stood in the doorway, rage boiling invisibly beneath his skin. The room had gone quiet. Each of the detectives sharing the space had worked under Thursday long enough to know when to stay out of his way. None had heard much of the exchange between Strange and Thursday, but they’d all seen enough crumpled packages work their way to a superior’s office. They were in for a long night.

Eyes surveying the office, Thursday was relieved to see the current crew consisted of several dedicated officers. And of course, Jakes would be back—

Thursday froze at the thought of Jakes. Oh, God, Jakes. Morse’s partner. Jakes had been at the bank that day. He’d been the first to drop one of the Matthews’ gang. He’d been the one to reach Morse first, the one to notice that Morse had collapsed from a bullet rather than stress. And it was nearly a year and a half ago that Thursday had learned the two of them were…involved. Thursday shuddered, remembering Jakes’ grief when the medics had pulled Morse’s lifeless body from him. God, what was this going to do to Jakes?

Fancy reappeared then, informing Thursday that Bright was on his way. He nodded at the tie wrapped around Thursday’s hand. “That Morse’s, sir?”

Blast it, but the boy was observant. Thursday gave him a curt nod. “Not to be spread about. Not yet.” He waited until Fancy agreed before continuing. “I want you to find Sergeant Jakes, when he returns. Send him to me. Not a word of this, and don’t let him talk to any of the others.” The CID’s best kept secret, those two, under Bright’s unspoken orders. There were a few, though, who’d love nothing more than to watch Jakes crumble in front of them.

“I’ll bring him up right away, sir.” Fancy gave a stiff nod, and marched towards the doors. Good lad, if a bit overeager. He’d see Jakes safely through to Thursday, and then Thursday would find a way to tell him that Cole Matthews had Morse.

God help them.

By the time that Jakes returned to the CID, Matthews’ “instructions” had arrived. Thursday and Bright were huddled with Strange in Thursday's office, reading over the hideous scrawl and pointedly ignoring the accompanying picture.

The instructions were simple. And impossible to comply with. A solitary, unarmed officer—it was strongly hinted that it should be D. I. Thursday—was to report alone to the Radcliffe Square at 8am the following morning. The officer was to bring with them the CID’s entire case file and evidence on the Thomas McGregor case. They’d be taken to Morse. Once the information was handed over (effectively destroying the CID’s conclusive case against McGregor) , Cole would release Morse to the officer’s care—the word was underlined, assumption being that he would need care. Morse and the officer would be free to go.

Not that Thursday believed either he—for he knew he must be the one to go—nor Morse would be quite capable of leaving the Matthews’ hideout. Peter Matthews was a cruel man, just as happy to put a man down as to release him. And Cole was sadistic, willing to toy with his prey just for the fun of it. Given Matthews’ history with them, Thursday was certain that if Morse was released, they’d best have an ambulance on sight. And truthfully, he’d rather not wait until then, not with the picture they’d been given.

Morse was standing in his shirtsleeves, eyes wide with fear. His face was contorted in an expression of pain. Dried blood trailed down from his temple to his collar, likely the same blood that had stained his tie. His lip was split and bleeding, and a livid bruise was forming on his jaw. Cole Matthews stood behind him, right arm pressed against Morse’s chest. He held a knife firmly in his right hand, the point digging into Morse’s chest. A red stain was blossoming on Morse’s shirt, beneath the knife. Morse’s left arm was wrenched behind him, most likely held in place by Cole’s other hand. Cole was leering over Morse’s shoulder, his eyes both taunting and predatory.

A tentative knock on the door startled all three men, and Fancy poked his head in. “Sergeant Jakes is with me, sir.”

Bright took a deep breath, glancing at Strange and Thursday. “Right. Strange, you’re with me. Constable, you come too. We’ll brief the men. Thursday.” Bright nodded at Thursday, briefly clasping a hand on his shoulder. He lowered his voice so Jakes couldn’t hear. “We’ll get him back. Take care of Jakes.”

The three of them retreated as Jakes stepped in. Thursday didn’t miss the glance Jakes sent to Morse’s desk, nor the frown of concern when he noted the man’s continued absence.

“Sir?” Jakes asked, eyes wandering casually about the room as he lit a cigarette. “Fancy said you needed to…” Jakes’ body stiffened. Thursday followed his wide-eyed gaze and—shit—he hadn’t hid the damn tie. Of course Jakes would recognize it, Thursday was fairly certain he had bought it for Morse. “Sir?” Jakes repeated woodenly. He took a step closer to the desk, his cigarette falling from stiff fingers as he moved. Jakes fumbled for a moment, trying to catch the cigarette.

Thursday realized that he’d also forgotten to hide the picture at the exact same moment Jakes spotted it. A look of horror crossed Jakes face as he snatched it up. The cigarette lay forgotten on the desk, and Thursday reached to snuff it out. Jakes stared at the image, standing completely still except for the muscles clenching in his jaw. Thursday winced when Jakes looked up at him. The anger and pain in those dark eyes threatened to scorch him.

“Is this what I think it is, sir?” Jakes hissed, shoving the picture at Thursday. “Is that Cole Matthews? With…Morse?” Jakes’ breath hitched slightly at Morse’s name.


“Don’t.” Jakes spat. “Don’t even think about telling me to calm down. Answer my question.”

Thursday stood cautiously. This was one of those times he hated, as a copper. When he had to lead his men, help them choose the better, wiser path, despite his instincts screaming at him to do otherwise. He wanted nothing more than to tear into the bastards that had done this to Morse. And yet he had to stand here and tell Jakes that was precisely what they could not do. God, sometimes he hated being in charge.

“Yes. It’s Cole Matthews.”


“We don’t know. Sometime after his interview with Miss Frazil. I’ve got someone narrowing down when he left there.”

“Why.” Jakes spoke in a monotone, but Thursday wasn’t fooled. The younger man’s body was tense, like he was ready to snap at a moment’s notice. His eyes were blazing, reminding Thursday of a sparking fuse on a stick of dynamite.

Thursday told him.

Jakes nodded curtly. “I’m going.”

“Sergeant, sit down. No one is going anywhere, not yet. We’ve got to---“

“Excuse me, sir.” The fuse was burning close to the end now. “What we’ve got to do is go get Morse back from those bastards before they kill him.”

“Peter, sit down. Superintendent Bright—“

The dynamite ignited. “I will not sit down!” Jakes shouted. His hands slammed down onto the desk, drawing shocked stares from those in the outer room. “They have Morse! Our Morse, my Morse! And what are we doing? Sitting around like school boys. God dammit, sir, we’ve got to get moving. Get that damned evidence. I’ll go. I don’t care. God , we’re wasting time!”

“Sergeant! Calm down.” Thursday hated this. Hated pretending that there was anything calm or routine about this. Hated having to reign in the man’s anger. Hated having to wait, to follow proper procedure. Jakes was right, it was their Morse, and Thursday would hand over that evidence in a heartbeat if he could. Because not only was Morse Thursday’s bagman, he was Thursday’s second bagman to be taken out from under him. His second bagman to be accosted by someone who caused pain for sport. His second bagman to be…beaten. Thursday closed his eyes as a wave of nausea washed over him. Mickey Carter’s image was burned into his eyelids.

Jakes misread Thursday’s horror as irritation, and he surged forward. “I’m not fucking sitting here, twiddling my damn thumbs, while Morse is out there with that bastard! Dammit, Thursday!" Jakes’s fists hit the desk with a loud thump. "He nearly killed Morse once before, just for spite. You think he won’t try again?” Jakes backed away. He jerked a hand through his hair angrily. “I’m not letting him do that. I’ll follow him straight to hell if I have to.” Jakes jabbed a finger at Thursday. “He’s not taking my Morse away from me, not again.” Jakes spun on his heel, charging towards the door.

Fancy was staring transfixed at them, and several other officers were standing, watching. Doubtless listening too, at the level Jakes was yelling. Thursday darted around the desk, his own frustration boiling over. He grabbed Jakes’ arm and yanked him back to the center of the office.

“Don’t you think for one second, Sergeant, that I don’t care.” Thursday hissed, stepping close to Jakes. “I’ve already lost one bagman, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to lose another. You’d best believe I’ll chase you straight to hell if you run in there, halfcocked, and get Morse killed. You’re not the only one who cares about him, and best you remember that.”

Jakes froze. The two of them stood there inches apart, glaring at one another. Both men were oblivious to the stares they had attracted--and to Bright’s failing attempts to draw attention away from them. Then Thursday felt Jakes’ body go limp, Jakes’ arm twisted in Thursday’s grasp. He realized Jakes was clinging to him, trying to keep himself upright. There were tears in Jakes’ eyes, extinguishing the earlier explosion.

“Sir, they…God, they’ve got Dev.” He looked as broken as Thursday felt, deep inside.

“We’ll get him back, Peter.” Thursday murmured, reaching out to hold Jakes up. “We have to.”

Chapter Text

They had until 8am the next morning to decide on a course of action. If no one showed up at that time, they were to expect Morse’s body to be dumped somewhere in Oxford by noon. What precisely would happen to Morse in the intervening four hours was left to their imagination. Thursday’s imagination kept offering images of Mickey Carter’s body, but with Morse’s face. Jakes refused to contemplate the possibilities.

Bright had cleared extra hours for all the men currently on staff, and several extra shifts were scheduled to come in overnight. Two men had been dispatched to the pub at which Morse had met Miss Frazil. The barmaid on duty remembered Morse, as well as the unsavory character with whom he had left. The poor woman had broken down in tears when she found out what had happened. She had sensed something was off, but had been distracted by a rather insistent patron. Her description matched that of Jason McGregor, the son of legendary Oxford gangster Thomas McGregor. When presented with pictures of Peter and Cole Matthews, she confirmed that Jason had been drinking with Cole earlier in the day. Jakes barely suppressed a shudder at the thought of what a drunken Cole and Jason McGregor could be doing with his Morse. The elder McGregor had a reputation of a short temper and vicious habits. His son, for all accounts, seemed to be following in his footsteps.

Both Thursday and Jakes were willing to be couriers for the files on the elder McGregor. Together, they had come up with a decent plan for Morse’s rescue. Unfortunately, word came down from Division that under no circumstances was the evidence to be exchanged for Morse. While extra man-hours were approved, Division refused to negotiate with the Matthews’ brothers. Bright came down to break the news to Thursday’s men late in the evening. In retrospect, he rather wished he had gone about it more privately.

“The court’s case against Thomas McGregor cannot be compromised.” Bright reported, repeating Division’s words nearly verbatim. “The heinous nature of McGregor’s crimes against the people of Oxford lead us to, regretfully, forbid any concessions to the demands of Cole and Peter Matthews. You may use any and all other methods to locate and retrieve Detective Sergeant E. Morse.”

A long silence greeted Bright’s words. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Jakes broke the silence—rather explosively.

“Respectfully sir, that’s a load of fucking bullshit!” He slammed the papers he was holding onto a nearby desk. “You don’t believe a word of what you just said, and neither do I.” Thursday moved forward to restrain him but Jakes jerked out of his grasp. “You’re all too tied down by your rules and regulations, too worried about your own damn salaries to step even a toe over the God-damned line. Morse is one of our own, dammit.”

“Jakes, matey, take it easy,” Strange laid a hand on Jakes’ shoulder.

“Easy? Dammit, Strange, do you hear yourself?” Jakes shook Strange’s hand loose. He whirled around to face the rest of the men. “You lot can do whatever the hell you want. Keep your jobs if they mean that much to you. I’m not going to just stand here and let one of our own—one of our best men--” here Jakes stumbled, voice breaking on his words, “die because some old brass, sitting pretty in a safe little office, keeping his thruppence in line said so. Help me, or get the fuck out of my way.”

The stairwell door had banged behind him before anyone thought to move.

Bright’s shoulders sagged. “He’s right, you know. Too right,” he murmured, so softly that only Thursday heard.

“Someone’s missing his little pet,” a DC in the corner whispered maliciously.

Bright’s head snapped up. With blazing eyes he approached the man. His words were calm, but sharp as a butcher’s knife. “DS Jakes and DS Morse are two of the best men in this station. What they may or may not get up to in their off-duty hours is no concern of yours, Detective Constable Dixon.” Bright spun to face the rest of his men. “And if any man here happens to agree with DC Dixon’s apparent disregard for the safety of one of our own, I’d be glad to set him free of any such responsibilities. Permanently .” No one moved. “Be about your business, then. We’ve got nine hours to find our man, and we’ve got the best in the city to work with.” He turned smartly and marched back to his office like a man who was confident in the orders he had given. Fancy saw him leave, though, and the look on his face chilled him.

“He looks like he’s already buried Morse,” Fancy whispered to Strange.

“If we play by what Division says, we probably have,” Strange muttered back. His eyes were on the door through which Jakes had disappeared.

Fancy followed his gaze. “I’m not much for getting out of the way. What about you?” He glanced up at Strange, gauging the man’s reaction. Strange looked thoughtful for a moment. Then his face hardened. “I let Morse down once before. Jakes and I both, didn’t do right by him that night. Wouldn’t be much of a man if I let him down again.”

Fancy grinned. If anyone would start a mutiny, Strange thought, it would be DC George Fancy.

“Right, then,” Fancy whispered. “Let’s go get our Morse.”

They found Jakes in the basement, in Morse’s old bunker. He was sitting on the empty desk, head in his hands. He glanced up at them as they entered. His posture stiffened defensively.

“If you’ve come to talk me down, it won’t work,” he growled. “I’ll be in that square at 8am, evidence or no. I don’t give a damn what they do to me,” Jakes shoved off of the desk and started pacing. “I’m not leaving Dev stranded with them. I have to try.”

“Easy, matey. We’re here as friends,” Strange said.

Jakes paused, glancing between them suspiciously.

Fancy sauntered over to him. “Morse is a prickly fellow, but I rather like him. Besides, he’s our prickly fellow.” He grinned again, like a child caught unrepentant with his hands in the cookie jar. “You wanna get him back? I’m in.”

Jakes dark eyes narrowed, a glimmer of hope reflecting in the light. He glanced at Strange. “You?”

Strange took a deep breath and nodded. “I failed him at Blenheim Vale. Didn’t back down for Jago, though, and I’m not about to leave him with those Matthews’ boys.”

Jakes allowed himself a small smile. “Thank you.”

“For Morse,” Strange said solemnly. Fancy echoed, with a slightly more mischievous air.

Jakes nodded. “For Dev.”

They took a few moments to discuss their options before narrowing down a plan. It wasn’t the best plan, what with only the three of them working together. It was better than sitting by and doing next to nothing, though. Jakes volunteered to sneak down to evidence and retrieve the files. Fancy was tasked with talking the ears off of anyone who happened to wander by. Files in hand, Jakes would show up at the square a little before the appointed time. Strange and Fancy would wait at opposite locations, equidistant from the meeting point. Strange would drive his personal car, and Fancy would pinch the keys to one of the undercover cars in the lot. They’d alternate following Jakes as best they could. Once they’d located Morse, both men would return to the CID to gather whatever forces they could. Hopefully, with Morse located, they could sway at least Thursday into a rescue, if not Bright.

Heavy footsteps startled the three of them out of their hushed conversation.

“You boys really think I don’t know when my officers are planning a rebellion?” Thursday’s low voice rumbled out of the darkness.

Jakes spun around to glare daggers at Thursday. When he spoke, his voice was cold as ice and brittle as glass.

“I won’t sit by and let Division sacrifice Morse for some invisible bottom line, sir. You’ll have to lock me up if you intend to stop me.” His hands were clenched into fists at his sides. He didn’t intend to make it easy for Thursday to stop him.

“What about you two?” Thursday asked, stepping into the small circle to face Strange and Fancy.

Fancy canted his head, youthful rebellion dancing in his eyes. “What good are we as coppers, sir, if we can’t protect one of our own?”

Thursday raised an eyebrow at him. “Didn’t think Morse’d make it on your good side.”

Fancy shrugged. “He’s a bit like a cactus, sir. A little sharp around the edges, but he knows what he’s about.”

Thursday nodded, turning to Strange. He didn't have to ask.

“You know those Matthews’ boys, sir,” Strange said. “They’ll toy with Morse before they decide their done with him.”

Jakes winced at Strange’s bluntness. “We’re all agreed.” He glanced between Strange and Fancy. His voice was rough with emotion when he continued. “I told you once, sir, Dev is my everything. I won’t go on without him. I can’t, sir.” He closed his eyes and his face crumpled in pain.

Thursday reached out and laid a hand on Jakes’ shoulder. “And I told you I’d not lose another bagman.” Jakes’ head snapped up, and he stared questioningly at Thursday. “I was just thinking, Peter’ll be expecting me to show up. Probably what he wants.”

“You’re in, sir?” Strange asked.

Thursday nodded. “I’ve lost one bagman before, couldn’t do anything then. I’ll not stand by this time when I have a chance.”

Jakes stared at Thursday. Something passed between the two men, and Jakes nodded curtly. “Thank you.”

“I’m not doing it for you, sergeant.” Thursday growled. “Not entirely.”

Jakes’ lips twitched into a half smile. “Right.” He paused for a moment. “Sir, I’d like to be the one to handle the meet. You’ve got a family, if something should go wrong. You’ve got people to come back to, people waiting on you.”

Thursdays’ eyebrows shot up. “And you don’t, sergeant?

“You know I do, sir. You know the only thing I have to come back to, the only person that’s waiting for me, the best thing in my life…sir, he’s out there with those murderers.” Jakes swallowed heavily. “If something goes wrong…I don’t want to walk away.”

Fancy’s sharp inhale was the only sound for several seconds. Thursday and Jakes seemed to be locked in a silent conversation. Finally, Strange ventured into the standoff.

“Sir, if I may? When we do find them, we’ll have to move quickly. It might be best if you stay behind, to be ready for us?”

Thursday narrowed his eyes, considering.

“If what I’ve heard about those Matthews boys is true,” Fancy piped up. “I’d think they’d be just as likely to put a bullet in you, sir, as to let you make it back to Morse. Sergeant Jakes might have a better chance.”

Jakes snorted. Trust the kid to say what no one else would dare even think. The honesty must have suited Thursday, though, because he nodded.

“Alright.” He took a deep breath. “Best act like we’re following orders for a bit then. Try to get a few hours kip in as well.”

Jakes shook his head. “If Morse doesn’t get to rest, then neither do I.”

“You’ll do him no good dead on your feet, sergeant. Find something to keep yourself busy with, then get your head down for a bit. That’s an order.” Thursday glanced at Fancy and Strange. “Right, then. Mind how you go.”

They met up again at seven. No significant progress had been made in locating the Matthews’ hideout, and morale was flagging. Bright had retreated to his office, so the four conspirators met up in Thursday’s office. Jakes had the files in a satchel. They briefly reviewed the plan, then Strange and Fancy left to retrieve their cars. Thursday had decided that if both their cars arrived well ahead of the meeting time—and at different times—they would appear less suspicious to anyone watching.

“Godspeed, sergeant.” Thursday nodded at Jakes. “We’ll be ready for you. You keep your head down, keep yourself safe. You’ll do Morse no good if you get hurt.”

Jakes stared at his hands for a long moment, before looking up to meet Thursday’s gaze. “Sir, I…if we don’t get him out…”

“The if game’s no good to us now, Jakes. We take the next chance that’s given us, and we keep fighting. It’s all any of us can do. You and Morse both have good heads on your shoulders. You’ll get him out.”

“I don’t want to find out what happens if we don’t,” Jakes muttered softly.

“You won’t have to.” Thursday spoke with a confidence he didn’t feel. “Now go on. I’ll have the cavalry ready. Go and get our Morse back.”

Jakes nodded sharply before turning. He left the office without a backwards glance. Thursday bowed his head and offered up a prayer to anyone who might be listening.

As Jakes neared the main sidewalk, he paused for a moment to look back at the nick. If today didn’t end the way he hoped—and prayed—that it would, he honestly didn’t think he could come back here. There was a time he would have been able to face the job without Morse at his side, but that time had long since gone. What would the place be like, without Morse’s dry sense of humor and his complete lack of regard for authority? What would Jakes’ life be without Morse’s steady presence at his side? Who would Jakes be, without Morse to look after? His life had come to revolve around the haughty, fascinating man he called his lover.

Movement in one of the upper office windows broke Jakes’ reverie. He glanced up to see Superintendent Reginald Bright staring down at him. Jakes panicked, afraid Bright would guess his motive and send someone after him. It could have been a trick of the light, but he could have sworn he saw Bright smile. A moment later, Bright shifted, and to Jakes amazement, Bright’s hand came up in a salute. Then he was gone, and Jakes was left wondering if somehow, Bright knew what he was about to do.

Chapter Text

When Morse finally climbed back to consciousness, the first thing he registered was pain. The aches set upon him from every part of his body. It overwhelmed him, and he almost went under again. After a few deep breaths, however, he was able to isolate and categorize his injuries. Somehow, it made the pain more manageable, knowing exactly what was hurting and why. Ribs: sore, but none felt broken. Shoulder: no longer damp, so it must have stopped bleeding. Definitely felt like he’d been stabbed, though. Jaw—he wiggled it slightly—there was no sharp pain, so it must be bruised only. Head—he groaned—the head was the worst. It felt like he’d been hit with, well, a shoe and a beer bottle. Morse was fairly certain the tackiness he could feel on the side of his face was probably blood.

Injuries accounted for, Morse moved on to the rest of his body. His heart rate felt steady, so he likely hadn’t lost too much blood. It didn’t hurt to breathe—well, not too much. His hands…unbound? Interesting. Feet too, it seemed. Morse wasn’t sure if that was a good or bad sign. Well, he wasn’t going to find anything else out unless he opened his eyes.

The room about him was dark and blurry. Concussion likely, then. He blinked a few times, trying to clear the fuzziness. Eventually, the room stopped moving just enough for him to recognize that he was in a house. Probably an abandoned one, given the peeling and discolored wallpaper. The floor was dusty, footsteps leading to and from the door. A few shafts of fading sunlight filtered through a boarded-up window off to Morse’s right.

Morse attempted to heave himself upright, teeth clenched against his protesting ribs. The room swung about him dangerously. He managed to get himself into a seated position, but collapsed backwards against the wall behind him. The unexpected roughness of a stone fireplace scraped against his shoulder, and he yelped. Pain flared through the wound on his scalp and the room faded from view.

Shouting from outside the room brought him back the second time. Fragments of an argument filtered through the door, and Morse tried to piece them together. The loudest voice—Morse suspected it was Peter Matthews—seemed to be berating another—Cole?—for a “change in plans”. As near as Morse could figure, they meant him . Cole’s voice shouted back, and Morse thought he recognized McGregor’s slurred tones supporting Cole’s argument. It sounded as if they were hoping to lure Thursday, using Morse as bait. There was something about some evidence as well, but Morse couldn’t catch all of their words. Regardless, the end result of this whole mess appeared to be the demise of both Thursday and Morse.

Panic surged through Morse’s veins. He had to get out of here. Bright would probably try to keep Thursday from doing anything stupid, but Morse wasn’t certain Thursday would listen. Morse sucked in a sharp breath as another thought struck him. Jakes. Oh God, Peter. If Peter came after him, and the Matthews’ brothers got him…Morse glanced around the room, desperately searching for something he could use to defend himself. He spotted a rusty fire poker leaning up against the stone. With a grunt, he hauled himself over to it. The effort exhausted him, and he wondered exactly how much blood he had lost. Grabbing hold of the poker, Morse levered himself to his feet. He swayed unsteadily for a moment, trying to keep his balance amidst the spinning room. Glancing between the door and the window, Morse considered which option would be the safest. A sudden commotion outside the room interrupted his thoughts. The door flew open and four men entered the room.

Peter Matthews lead the group. Prison had not been kind to him. He was thinner than the last time Morse had seen him, and a long scar marred the side of his face. Jason McGregor and Cole Matthews staggered in behind Peter, clearly still drunk. A fourth man followed, a mousy man with scraggly hair. He was smaller than the rest, but hatred smoldered in his eyes. He reminded Morse of a cat that enjoyed toying with it’s prey until they expired from fear. Morse shrank back against the fireplace, but held the poker aloft in front of him in what he sorely hoped was a threatening gesture.

Both Cole and Jason laughed raucously, moving drunkenly to either side of him. Peter glared at them, moving to the center of the room and crossing his arms.

“Well, Detective Morse. Nice to see you again.” Peter smiled slyly. “Shame, though. Thought I had better aim than that.” He held up his fingers in a mock gun, pointing them at Morse.

Morse found, in that moment, that he had absolutely nothing to say. No sharp comebacks, no pithy quotes. Memories long buried—of trying to protect the other hostages and Joanie, of trying to hide his own identity, of stepping out from the safety of a rubbish bin, of the searing pain as a bullet lodged in his stomach—flared up and threatened to send him toppling to the ground. He fought against the rising panic, and hoped it didn't show on his face.

“Not so talkative today, eh, Detective?” Peter taunted, taking a step closer.

Morse moved the poker to point at him. “Stay back,” he barked. It sounded pathetic, even to his own ears.

“Four against one? Not great odds,” McGregor slurred. He lunged at Morse, yanking the poker out of his hands.

Startled by McGregor’s momentum, Morse stumbled forward. Cole shot out a foot, which caught Morse sharply on the shins. Morse fell heavily to the floor, unable to stop himself from crying out as the impact jarred his ribs.

A sharp bark of laughter sounded from the doorway. The mousy young man stepped forward, prodding at Morse with his foot. “You call this a copper?” He snorted, aiming a sharp kick at Morse’s side. When Morse let out a pained gasp, the man standing over him sneered. “God, what a pathetic excuse for a lawman. What goods’ this one, again?”

Peter Matthews raised his eyebrows at the man. “Oh, he’s a pathetic copper, alright, but the big bosses up at the nick rather favor him.” He squatted down next to Morse. “I hear ol’ Fred Thursday’s still limpin’ around, eh?” He glanced back up at the mousy one. “Believe me, Danny-boy, this one here’s our ticket out. Well, once we settle up some old scores, right Morse?”

“You leave Thursday alone,” Morse snarled, struggling to push himself upright.

“Sorry, Morse, but I don’t think you get to give orders here,” Cole’s voice slurred. A heavy hand landed on Morse’s neck, wrapping Morse’s collar tightly around his neck. Morse gagged as he was hauled to his feet. “Got the camera, Peck?”

The mousy man—apparently called Danny Peck— came around to the front, carrying a cheap camera. “Smile, why don’t you?”

“Hold on a minute,” Cole’s breath stung Morse’s nose, the smell of alcohol overwhelming Morse’s pain-saturated senses. He wrapped his arm around Morse’s chest, and Morse flinched as the steel blade of a knife flashed in the weak light. He sucked in a sharp breath when Cole buried the point of the knife in his chest.

“Pathetic bastard,” Peck hissed.

Morse glared at him, sticking his chin out with as much defiance as he could muster.

Cole laughed in his ear. Morse felt Cole’s other hand wrap around his wrist. “Take the picture on four.” He began counting down, and Morse tensed. Right before he counted four, he yanked Morse’s arm up behind his back. Morse cried out at the unexpected pain as the camera went off.

“Send that off to Fred Thursday, see how he likes it,” Peter Matthews growled. He turned towards Morse, eyes roving Morse’s body curiously. “You might have a decent point, Cole. See if we can get the old man down here, rough up his boy a bit.” Peter strode forward and grabbed Morse’s chin in a bruising grip. Morse glared at him. “Rumor has it his old bagman got caught between a few fists before he went down. Might be a fair bit of revenge, two for one.” He grinned nastily at Morse.

Morse yelped as Cole twisted the knife, pressing it a bit deeper into his skin. Peter let go of his chin and smacked his brother hard across the side of his face. Cole staggered backwards, the knife dragging painfully across Morse’s chest. Peter yanked Morse out of his way, sending him crashing into McGregor. The elder Matthews towered over his brother.

“Dammit, Cole. Keep yourself together. He’s not much good to us dead, not yet.” He whirled about to glare at McGregor and Peck. “That goes for you two as well. Keep your bloody hands off him until we’ve got someone to put a show on for. Now tie him up, properly, and let’s get this lovely portrait on its way to good ol’ Fred.” Cole glared at his brother’s retreating back. “Bastard,” he muttered under his breath. “You two tie him up. And get the damn poker out of his reach.” He stormed off, slamming the door behind him.

McGregor spun Morse around, pinning him face-first against the wall. “Don’t move, copper.” He growled.

Morse felt the rough scrape of rope on his wrists. He bit back a whimper as the rope dug into his wrists. McGregor tightened his grip at the back of Morse’s neck, keeping him from falling when the rope tightened around his feet.

“That should keep you, weak little pig,” Peck hissed into his ear.

Then the pressure that kept him pinned was gone, and Morse was falling. Unable to brace himself against the fall, he let out a gasp of pain as he slammed into the floor. McGregor and Peck laughed uproariously as they staggered out of the room. The door slammed behind them, and their laughter faded with their footsteps. Morse was left alone in the stillness of the room. He closed his eyes, trying to block out the new pain, trying to form a plan. But the only sound he could hear was the uneven drip-drip-drip of the blood from his most recent wound. It made him sick.

Sometime later, whether it was hours or minutes, Morse couldn’t tell, the door banged open again. Cole and Peck stumbled in, each clutching a half-full bottle of beer.

Cole wandered over to Morse, crouching down in front of him. Peck lifted a foot and rolled Morse over, prodding the slash on his chest viciously as he did so.

Cole grinned drunkenly at him. “Delivered your ransom note, Morsey. So whaddaya think, will your pals come out and play? Hmmm?”

Peck sat down with a thump. “Dunno, some of them have a little more fight in ‘em. Saw one down at the pub, talkin’ to that bitch at the bar. Right pompous ass, that one. All dressed up in a fancy suit with too much damn gel in his hair. Looked fit to kill too. Friend of yours, eh?”

Morse stiffened, eyes going wide. Jakes.

Peck grinned slyly as he caught sight of Morse’s reaction. Matthews had said they couldn’t touch the little bastard, but then, Peck had never been good with his fists. Words, however, those he was adept at using. And apparently this pathetic twig in front of him not only knew the fancy copper, but knew him well.

“Didn’t much like the looks of him, did we, Cole?” he glanced sideways at the younger Matthews, hoping he’d catch the idea.

“What, old Jakes? Fucking prick,” Cole spat.

Peck noted with glee that Morse had gone a shade paler at the mention of his collegue. “Thought we ought to take him down a notch, eh? Just to get our message across?”

Cole glanced at Peck, confused. When Danny canted his head at Morse, Cole caught sight of the sudden flash of fear that crossed Morse’s eyes. That’s right, Sergeant Jakes had been there at the bank that day. He’d seemed pretty broken up when Peter had shot Morse. Maybe the two of them had become friends. Cole returned Peck’s grin. Maybe they could still have some fun, despite Peter’s ultimatum.

“Yeah, had to pay him back for shootin’ me, didn’t I?”

Peck laughed. “Yep, thought we’d teach him a lesson, then drop him back at the nick with our little note.”

Morse struggled to sit up. His heart had started racing at the mention of Jakes, but suddenly it felt as if it had stopped completely.

Cole leaned forward with a good-natured grin. “Lemme help you there.” He yanked Morse up roughly by the collar and set him up against the wall. “He’s not a half bad copper, that one. Didn’t make near as much noise as you have so far.”

Morse’s breath hitched. “What did you do to him?” he hissed. He cursed to himself at the fear in his voice.

“Oh, just mussed his pretty hair up a bit. And might have cut up his suit a little. I think he was still in it when you ran that knife through it, though, wasn’t he, Cole?”

“Yeah, pity, that, to get so much blood on such a nice suit.”

“You bastards!” Morse shouted, yanking on his bonds and struggling to lunge at the two of them.

“Hey, hey, calm down!” Peck held his hands up in mock-apology. “He was still alive when we dropped him off. Might have had a split lip, though. Oh, and I may have accidentally stepped on his hand a little harder than I intended. He wasn’t right handed, was he?”

Morse went completely white, his breathing fast and shallow. “No…you…you didn’t…”

Cole laughed drunkenly. “Well, now, he might be telling it a little better than it was. He did kinda trip there at one point. Mighta stabbed him a bit deeper than I intended.”

“You fucking…bastards!” Morse shrieked. He lunged forward, fighting against the restraints on his wrists. Cole laughed when he simply fell back to the floor. Peck stood up. “He’ll probably be fine. Maybe. Dunno, really. But, hey, at least he didn’t scream as much as you did. Really only cried out that once.”

Cole stood as well. “Be interesting to see what you do, if we give you the same treatment. Might have to talk to Peter about that.”

Peck grinned. “Might have to, at that. Well, we’d best be off. Dinner time. You’ll forgive us for not offering you any, but you look a mite peaky!”

The two staggered from the room, congratulating themselves on a con well-played. When the door banged behind them, Morse slumped down with a moan. God, Peter. It was Morse’s last conscious thought before the horrifying images Cole and Danny had painted dragged Morse into a blessed darkness.

The room was completely dark when Morse came back to consciousness with a start. For one blessed moment, Morse thought he was in his flat. The pain and the taunting, those were all part of a nightmare. He jerked his arm, hoping to reach out and find Peter’s solid warmth next to him. Reality sliced through his heart as the rope sliced into his skin.

It was all real.

Fear coursed through Morse’s veins. Pain erupted across his body as he remembered each hit and slice he’d taken. Then came memories of Cole and Danny’s horrible story about his Peter. In the darkness, with nothing to distract him, Morse’s mind supplied visual descriptions of the story that the two thugs had concocted. He saw them yanking Peter about by the hair, saw Cole swipe his knife across Peter’s thin chest. Morse cried out as Peck belted Peter across the mouth. He curled in on himself as Cole sunk his knife deep into Peter’s gut. He clenched his fingers as Peck stomped on Peter’s hands.

Fatigue and blood loss began to take their toll on Morse’s mind. Again and again, he saw Cole and Peck advancing on the man he loved. Each time, the bruises on Jakes’ face grew more livid and the cuts to his body drew more blood. Morse wished he could stop seeing Jakes’ face--his beautiful face--twisted in fear and pain. He wanted to cover his ears to drown out Jakes’ tortured cries. With each repetition, Morse struggled against the ropes that held him. If only he could get lose, maybe he could stop them before they attacked Jakes again. The pale skin on his thin wrists began to bruise as the rough rope resisted his efforts. His pain mingled with Jakes’ pain until he could hardly tell where one began and the other ended.

The long hours of the night slogged onward, and Morse had only his nightmares to keep him company. His horror fermented to panic in the dark loneliness of the room. Was Peter alive? Had they killed him? Had Thursday found him in time? How badly was he hurt? Morse began to fight with his ropes, fear for Jakes making him careless for his own injuries. He needed to get to Jakes. He had to touch him, before it was too late. He couldn’t even remember the last time he had kissed Jakes…God, what if he never got to kiss him again?

Tears began to fall as he saw Peter’s still form under a blanket in the hospital, dying. He’d never get to see his Peter again. Morse collapsed against the floor, tears staining his face. The ropes were red with his blood, and his fingers were raw from scrabbling at the edges of the rope. An anguished sob escaped Morse’s lips as the doctor pulled a sheet over Jakes’ face. They’d killed him.

No! No, he can’t be dead. He’s mine!

Morse sobbed until he was weak, until he had no grief left. And in the emptiness, he found anger.

They’d killed his Jakes. For sport. For spite. Because they thought it was funny. Morse tugged angrily at the ropes binding his wrists. His reward was more pain, but it fueled his anger. He’d get even with the bastards. He’d kill them. He’d fight them tooth and nail if he had too. Peter was dead. There was nothing left for him out there anymore. He’d get revenge on those fucking bastards. He knew he wouldn’t make it out, but that didn’t matter. He’d make them regret they’d ever taken him.

If it was the last thing he did.

Morse was waiting for them when they came back. He heard them at the door, so he tucked his bloody wrists behind his back once again, and slumped against the wall as if he were sleeping. He’d spent all night rubbing the rope against the rough surface of the fireplace. If they looked too closely, they might see the flecks of his blood that had stained the stone. He doubted they’d be sober enough.

“Ehh, Morsey! Time to rise and shine!” Cole’s voice taunted. “Danny an’ Jason should be back any minute with either a white knight, or your death warrant.” When Morse refused to respond, Cole shuffled closer. Morse felt himself prodded with the poker. Good, a weapon. “Morse? C’mon, you can’t be dead yet! The fun was just starting!”

Morse waited until he sensed Cole bending over him. With a strength and speed fueled by grief and rage, he lashed out with his fist. Caught off guard, Cole flew backwards. Morse struggled to his feet. He kicked out at Cole as he staggered forward. Injured and drunkard tumbled together on the floor. It was an evenly matched struggle at first, the alcohol slowing Cole’s motions to match Morse’s exhausted flailing. But Cole controlled the poker.

One well-aimed blow across Morse’s back was all it took. Cole staggered to his feet, swinging the poker wildly at Morse twice more. Morse yelped, scrabbling backwards and trying to get out of Cole’s range. With a shout of anger, Cole flung the poker to the side and grabbed Morse’s shirt. He yanked him to his feet.

“Bastard,” Cole hissed. He wrapped one hand around Morse’s neck and slammed him into the wall. “How the fuck did you even get loose?” His grip tightened on Morse’s neck. Morse struggled to get a breath, but found no air. His fingers scratched ineffectively against Cole’s hand. Cole laughed gleefully as he saw the dried blood on Morse’s wrists. “Get a little scratched up, did we?” With his free hand, he grabbed one of Morse’s wrists roughly. Morse’s mouth opened in a breathless cry of pain.

A commotion at the door distracted both of them. Cole turned, giving Morse a clear view to the door. His grip remained crushingly firm.

Morse’s vision began to go blurry. He had tried. He only wished he could have seen Peter’s face one more time--whole and healthy. As if his thoughts could summon ghosts, Morse saw Peter appear through a haze. Morse was a bit surprised, he never really believed in an afterlife. But as he felt the pain slowly ebb from his limbs, he was grateful that Peter had come to meet him. Peter had come to take him home.

His last thought, before darkness took him, was how glad he was that death had healed Peter’s injuries. A small smile graced his lips as his eyes closed and he went limp in Cole’s grip. He’d be with Peter again soon.

Chapter Text

“Bet ol’ Morsey will be glad to see you, DS Jakes.” The slurred voice startled Jakes.

He whirled about, coming face to face with a tall, broad man who’s dirty blond hair had fallen into his eyes. Jason McGregor Jakes mind supplied, rather unhelpfully. The man who had lured Morse out of that pub. Hatred pulsed through Jakes--hatred for the man who had stolen his Morse away from him. Jakes tensed, clutching the satchel he held close to his side.

“Where’s Morse?” he snapped. Calm, he had to be calm.

The man smiled at him, if something so vicious could be called a smile. “Oh, he’s quite safe. Mourning your death, I’d bet.”

Jakes stopped himself from glancing to the car where Fancy sat. Surely they didn't intend to kill him here? “Bit hard to kill me in a public square, isn’t it?” He squared his chin, glaring at the man.

McGregor laughed. The sound of it sent Jakes’ heart pounding. “Oh, I don’t intend to kill you. Peck over there,” McGregor’s thumb jerked towards a car parked a few feet away. An even more unsavory character sat inside, observing them. “He and Cole had a bit of fun with your friend last night.”

Jakes heart stuttered. Morse, what did they do to Morse. Jakes stepped closer to the man, fists clenching at his side. Keep your head down , Thursday had said. Easy enough, back at the nick. This...this was a little harder.

“What did you do to him?” Jakes ground out. He hoped the fear didn't show through his bravado.

“Oh, nothing much. Just gave him a bit of a tale about how we found you and gave you a right proper beating. Cut you up a bit, broke your fingers, stuff like that. He didn’t seem too keen on the idea.” McGregor laughed again. “He looked a bit like he was gonna croak, right there.”

A wave of nausea threatened to knock Jakes down. They told Morse that? Every part of Jakes wanted to rush the man, knock him down for telling Morse a story like that. His Morse—who was self-sacrificial at the best of times and downright idiotic when he was certain he had nothing left to lose—was trapped, probably convinced no one was coming to get him, and certain that Jakes was badly injured. Add to that whatever damage they had done beforehand...Jakes forced himself to stay still. If he moved, he would likely only get himself killed.

He needed to do something, though. His Morse was sitting somewhere, alone, frightened, and injured. And by now, he had probably convinced himself that his partner was dead. Jakes needed to get to him. He needed to reassure himself that Morse was alright, and God he needed to reassure Morse that he was alright. What Morse might try, if he thought Jakes was didn’t bear contemplating. Jakes shivered.

“Let’s go." He turned and strode towards the waiting car.

Jakes tried his best to walk calmly between McGregor and Peck as they led him through the damp house. He prayed that Fancy and Strange had been able to keep tail. The cavalry is coming , he repeated to himself. He just needed to lay eyes on Morse. Make sure he was fine. Make sure they hadn't hurt him, well, not more than they already had. Then they just had to wait. Him and Morse, they could wait this out together. They'd be okay.God would these two speed up?

Peck, in the lead, finally stumbled through a doorway at the back of the house. He gestured grandly, as if allowing Jakes entrance into an exclusive event. Jakes slipped through, scanning the room desperately for signs of Morse. His eyes caught glimpses of dust, disrepair, and....bloodstained ropes! Morse! Where's Morse! When he finally locked eyes with Morse, his heart froze.

His Morse-- his precious Morse was pinned up against a wall, one of Cole Matthew’s hands wrapped around his neck. Morse had one hand up, vainly trying to rid himself of Cole’s hand. Blood had congealed on Morse’s wrist. Morse caught sight of him, and Jakes saw a flash of recognition in his blue eyes. Morse's lips twitched into a small smile. Then he went limp

Anger erupted, white hot, through Jakes’ veins.

“You bastard!” Jakes shouted. He launched himself across the room at Cole. “Get off him, you fucking bastard! Get off!”

Jakes grabbed Cole roughly by the shoulder. He flung the man away from Morse. Morse tumbled ungracefully to the ground, and Jakes chased him, landing heavily on his knees. He knew Cole was coming for him, but he didn't care. Morse needed him. The rest of them could go to hell.

“Dev! Dev, come back!” His hands frantically searched Morse’s neck for a pulse. The sight of the bruises forming on Morse's milk-white throat made Jakes want to hit something. “Wake up, Dev, please!” Not dead, he can’t be dead, please, God, not now!

Rough hands grabbed at him from behind, and Jakes lashed out blindly. His fist connected with something solid. He heard a yelp. But then there were more hands, too many of them. Angry hands closed about his arms, and pulled him away from Morse.

“Get off, get the fuck off me!” Jakes lashed out with whatever he could: fists, feet—he even tried to bite at the hand nearest him. “Let me go!” The hands dragged him mercilessly away from Morse. Jakes didn’t stop fighting for one second. Morse!

The sound of a gunshot startled all of them.

“I leave, for five God-damn minutes, and everything goes to hell.” Peter Matthews stepped into the room, gun held loosely in his hands. He surveyed the scene, eyes lingering on Morse’s still body. “I hope, brother, that my eyes deceive me?”

Cole’s hands slid off of Jakes. “He fucking attacked me!”

“And did that give you leave to kill him?” The elder brother’s voice was ice cold.

Jakes stared at Morse, desperate. Breathe, Morse, please!

“I just choked him out. He’s not dead,” Cole snapped.

Jakes jerked against the hands that held him. He needed to know. “God-dammit! Let me go!”

Peter Matthews turned to Jakes. “Ah, Peter Jakes.” He glanced questioningly at the two men who held Jakes. “Where’s Thursday?”

“He didn’t fucking come, you idiot,” Jakes spat. “I came. I’ve got what you asked for.” He twisted violently in his captors’ grasp. “Now let me go!”

The elder Matthews waved his gun. “Oh, let him go. What the hell is he going to do? Mind, now,” Matthews carelessly pointed the gun towards Morse’s body. “You even look at the door, and the first bullet goes in his gut.” An evil grin wormed its way across his face. “Just like the last time.”

Jakes didn’t wait for the men to release him. He flung himself across the floor, nearly dragging Peck with him. Morse, he had to get to Morse. He heard arguing behind him, but he didn’t care. Morse wasn’t moving, he still wasn’t moving. Why wasn’t he moving , damn it!

Jakes’ fingers fumbled with Morse’s collar. His eyes raked Morse’s body, searching for signs of breathing. “Dev, breath! God, please, Dev!” Jakes let out a relieved gasp as his fingers finally found a pulse. Alive! A slight rise and fall in Morse’s-- bloody! --chest. Jakes gulped in air and collapsed next to Morse. He rested a hand on Morse's face, before gently brushing back Morse’s wayward curls from his forehead. Leaning in close, he whispered, “Dev, I’m here. I came for you." Jakes fingers ghosted over crusted blood on the right side of Morse’s face. Jakes' heart contracted. He hadn't been there when Morse needed him. “Oh, Dev. What did they do to you?”

Jakes glanced over his shoulder at the Matthews’ and their cohorts. They appeared to be arguing, and paying little attention to anything else. Jakes turned back to Morse. He gently lifted the younger man’s head and shoulders so that they were resting in his lap. The movement roused Morse. His eyes snapped open, pupils blown wide in terror.

“It’s me, Dev. It’s Peter.” Jakes rested a hand on Morse’s shoulder. He leaned in close to Morse's face. “I’ve got you. I’m here, and I’ve got you, okay?”

Morse stared at Jakes in confusion. “Peter?” The harsh whisper made Jakes wince. God, what he wanted to do to Cole Matthews. “Peter? You’’re okay?”

Damn it! He’d forgotten about the macabre tale Cole and Peck had told Morse.

“They lied to you, Dev. I’m fine.” Jakes ran a hand over the uninjured side of Morse’s face. “See? I’m just fine.”

“You’re okay? They didn’t….hurt you?” Morse struggled to sit up, but Jakes gently pushed him back.

“They never even tried, Dev. I promise.”

One of Morse’s hands snagged Jakes’ right hand. Morse tugged it in front of his eyes, as if he were inspecting it. A weak smile spread across his face, and he gently kissed Jakes’ palm. Broken fingers, they'd told him. Jakes' heart melted at the look on Morse's face. Morse was the one nearly dying, and here he was, just glad to see Jakes' fingers whole and uninjured.

“All’re just fine.” Morse murmured. He looked back up at Jakes, his smile growing a little wider. “I tried….to get to you. To get out. But you found me.”

Jakes blinked back tears. Morse looked so fragile, lying there in his lap. Blood stained the front of his shirt, stemming from a nasty tear in his chest. His face was covered in bruises and blood. God only knew what else lay under his wrinkled shirt. And yet, there he was, smiling up at Jakes as if they were lying about in a park on Sunday afternoon. Jakes let his hand rest on Morse's face again, thumb stroking his cheek.

“It’s alright, Dev. I’m here. We’re going to get you out, I promise.”

An abrupt tug at the satchel strung over Jakes’ shoulder startled him. Morse glanced behind Jakes, and his hand tightened around Jakes’. Peter Matthews was standing behind them.

“About time you give us what we asked for, isn’t it?” the man snarled.

Jakes wrapped one hand around the handle. His other hand tightened on Morse's. “You let me leave with Morse, first.”

Peter smiled maliciously. “I don’t think you get to tell me what to do.”

“That was the deal. Evidence for Morse. You let me walk out of here with Morse, and the evidence is yours.”

The sharp click of a cocking gun made Jakes jump. Cole had come around the far side of his brother, with a gun aimed at Morse. “Evidence, Sergeant Jakes. Then you can have your precious Morse.”

Morse’s grip on Jakes had become almost painful when Cole appeared. Jakes shifted his hand a bit so that he could rub his thumb over Morse’s knuckles. I won’t let him get to you.

“Fine,” Jakes snapped. He shrugged off the bag and tossed it at the elder Matthews. “Take it.”

“Thank you,” Peter Matthews responded. His tone was saccharine and his smile venomous. “I’ll go take care of this. Cole will make sure you get Morse back.” He took the gun back from his brother and turned to leave. “Do tell dear old Fred, when you get back, that I’m sorry for his loss.” The door slammed behind him.

Fear bit into Jakes’ heart at the words. What loss? He glanced at Peck and McGregor, who had come to stand on either side of him. They were grinning, a sadistic sort of smile. Cole dropped down to kneel at Morse’s side. Morse shied away from him, leaning into Jakes.

Jakes moved to put an arm around Morse. Cole could have him, over Jakes' dead body. “The deal’s done. You let me take Morse out of here now.” Jakes commanded stiffly.

“All in good time, Sarge,” Cole slurred. “See, you and Morse and Fred, we owe you all for the lovely accommodations we’ve had for the last few years. Feels only right to pay up.”

One of Cole’s hands closed around Morse’s wrist. Morse flinched, whimpering as he tried to curl closer to Jakes.

“Let him go, Cole,” Jakes growled. Panic was slowly seeping into his blood. Cole was trying to take Morse from him. “You’ve had your fun, made your point.”

Cole stared at Jakes, his eyes suddenly cold as gun metal. “That’s where you’re wrong.”

Strong hands suddenly clutched at Jakes’ shoulders. They were trying to pull him away from Morse! Jakes tightened his grip on Morse. He wasn't letting go. They'd have to kill him before he let Cole at Morse again.

“Get the fuck off me,” he spat. He twisted in their grip, but to no avail. Both sets of hands tugged suddenly, and Jakes flew backwards. Morse’s head hit the floor with a loud thump.

“Peter!” Morse’s cry was full of pain and terror.

“Fucking bastards!” Jakes was trapped, his arms caught between Peck and McGregor and his hands desperately trying to hold on to his Morse. “Let me go!”

Morse yelped suddenly. His grip on Jakes’ hand loosened, and Jakes fell backwards as McGregor tugged roughly. Cole had belted Morse across the face. Jakes swore as Peck and McGregor dragged him away from Morse.

“Let me the fuck loose. I'll fucking kill you! Give him back to me, dammit! Dev!” Jakes kicked out at Peck. He felt a vindictive satisfaction at Peck’s curse of pain.

A dull thump and a cry from Morse shattered Jakes’ satisfaction. Cole was now standing over Morse, a rusted poker in his hands. Morse was curled onto his side, arms wrapped around his ribs.

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you, sergeant,” Cole said, emotionless.

Jakes froze, staring at Morse. Dread began to settle in, sinking to the pit of his stomach and turning his blood to cement. “You said you’d let him go.”

“Oh, I intend to.” Cole poked Morse with the poker. Morse whimpered when the poker prodded at a red-brown stain on his back. “I didn’t necessarily say I’d give him back in one piece.” He shrugged. “Or alive.”

Jakes breath caught. No. He forced himself to look Cole in the eyes. “Cole, don’t. Please.” God, where were Fancy and Strange?

Cole stared directly into Jakes’ eyes as he raised the poker and brought it down hard on Morse’s back. Morse arched upwards, his pained shout filling the room. Jakes felt as if someone had buried a knife in his heart.

“No!” Jakes shouted, lunging forward. McGregor tugged him back roughly. “Stop! Whatever you want. I’ll get it. Just, stop, please.”

Cole answered with a sharp kick to Morse’s injured shoulder. Jakes shouted obscenities at Cole as he watched Morse tumble across the floor. Morse lay panting on the floor for a moment. Jakes twisted in the iron hands that held him, desperate to protect Morse. Cole grinned drunkenly and staggered towards Morse.

His footsteps roused the injured man. He pushed himself upright and struggled away from Cole.

“Stop! Please, stop!” Morse’s voice was hoarse and full of pain. Jakes ached to hear it.

Cole paused, surprised at the sudden outburst. “Oh, something to say, dear old Morse?”

Morse’s eyes flashed to Jakes. “Please, let....let him go....Let Jakes go. Don’t...if you...if you’re…if you’re going to kill me.” Jakes’ heart stopped beating. “Please, for God’s sake, don’t make him watch. Please!” Morse’s voice dissolved into a sob.

Jakes glanced up at Cole. He had a delighted look on his face and an evil glimmer in his eyes. And that’s when Jakes realized: he intended to beat Morse. To death. And he wanted Jakes to watch . He wanted Jakes to watch Morse die. He wanted Jakes to tell Fred Thursday that he’d watched Cole Matthews slowly steal Morse’s life. The same way Mickey Carter had died.

That was Cole’s revenge.

Emotions crashed into Jakes like hailstones. Horror. Revulsion. Anguish. Terror. Helplessness.


Chapter Text

Jakes felt time freeze around him as he stared at Cole Matthews. His lungs turned to stone, his blood flowed as treacle. In the years that Jakes had been a copper, he had seen evil of every kind. He had faced down murderers, thieves, and psychopaths. All three at once, on a few occasions. He had taken down corrupt coppers, desperate lovers, and even faced down his own past. But he had never felt fear like this before.

This fear was all-consuming. It washed over him in rough waves, battering both his skin and his soul. It slashed at him with sharp edges, flaying long strips from his bones. It whispered mercilessly in his ears until he swore he could feel blood dripping from them. It immobilized him, turning his muscles to rusted iron. It threatened to shatter his glass heart into irreparable pieces.

To have Morse taken from him was his greatest fear. The possibility of having to watch Morse die had often plagued his nightmares, more so since it had almost come true. He had prayed--though he never really thought anyone was listening--that he would be able to hold Morse in the end. To comfort him as life slowly ebbed away. If he had to watch his Morse slip from this world, he wanted at least to be able to touch him one last time. But to watch Morse die this way--to watch Morse slowly grow weaker, to listen to his cries and be utterly powerless to reach him as every impaact stole bits and pieces of his Morse away from him--it was a horror too great for him to even consider.

And he knew there was absolutely nothing he could do. He had nothing with which to barter, no leverage with which to lift this monstrosity off of Morse. These men wanted nothing except to cause pain. He could fight, but the hands that held him fast promised swift retribution should he succeed. The fact that those hands might turn against Morse stilled him more than any fear for his own life. The only thing he could do was stall. Jakes closed his eyes against the mounting horror. The cavalry is coming, he repeated to himself. They had to be.

He had never felt this helpless.

A frightened gasp jolted Jakes back into the stream of time. Jakes’ eyes flew open. Cole was grinning at Morse, his face full of vengeful glee. He was approaching Morse once again, the poker whirling menacingly in his hands. Jakes lunged forwards.

“Leave him be! Damn you!” Jakes lashed out with his foot, managing to connect with Peck’s shin.

“Bastard,” Peck hissed, jerking roughly on Jakes’ arm. “Try that again, you’ll get the same treatment as your pal,” Peck hissed into Jakes’ ear. His fingernails dug through Jakes’ shirt and into his skin, but he didn’t care. If their attention was on him, Morse was safe. He just had to buy time. The cavalry is coming.

“No!” Jakes turned towards Morse’s breathless shout. His face was white, eyes wide and frightened. His mouth was set in a hard line, and the determination there terrified Jakes.

“Leave him alone,” Morse ordered, voice grating harshly over the words. “Let him go.”

Cole crouched down next to Morse. “Oh, don’t worry. We won’t hurt him, not really.”

Morse’s chest was heaving. “I don’t care what you do to me. Just let Jakes go. Don’t hurt him.”

Jakes twitched again, knowing it was in vain. “I’m not fucking leaving you here.”

Morse stared at Jakes, then glanced back at Cole. “Please don’t make Please.”

Jakes closed his eyes against the pleading tone in Morse’s voice. Morse knew Jakes’ worst fears, he knew how much Jakes was afraid of losing him. God dammit, the man was facing down death and was bothering to worry about someone else.

“And what exactly don’t you want him to see?” Cole asked, tone too sweet, too caring.

“Don’t...don’t make him watch you...kill me.” Morse was close to panicking, and Jakes ached to reach out. The man was a brilliant detective. He was willing to rush headlong into danger if he thought it would save someone else. But he hated violence. It tore at Morse’s sensitive soul, it overwhelmed his keen mind, and it terrified him deeply. He hid it well, most days, and only Jakes and Thursday knew well the toll it took on him. This was too much, and Jakes had never hated someone as much as he hated Cole Matthews right now.

Cole stood suddenly. Then, in one lightning fast movement, Cole jerked Morse up by his arm. He twisted Morse’s arm behind his back, shoving Morse so that he was facing Jakes. The blood drained from Morse’s face and he went perfectly still. He stared at Jakes for one long moment before glancing to the ground. His face lost all emotion as he tensed against the pain.

"Sorry, Morse.” Cole whispered in his ear. “Jakes can’t leave without you, and you can’t leave until we’ve had our fun.” Cole grinned up at Jakes. “You know what’s coming. Any last words?” He twisted Morse’s arm harder.

Jakes snarled at the man, an incoherent sound full of rage, fear, and hatred.

“Peter.” Morse’s deadly quiet voice made Jakes stop. Morse was staring at him. “I’ll be okay, alright? I’ll be fine. We’ll be okay. Just, Peter…” Morse swallowed hard. “Don’t...don’t let Thursday know.” He paused, glancing at the men over Jakes’ shoulders. “I love you.” He whispered.

“Dev!” Jakes heart was shattering. “Dev, hang on, okay? Please.” He glanced at Cole over Morse’s shoulders. “Cole, please, don’t. Just, don’t.”

Cole laughed, an evil sound full of ugliness and poison. He stepped back suddenly, still holding onto Morse’s wrist. Before Jakes could register what was happening, Cole had brought the fire poker down on Morse’s forearm.

Morse screamed.

It was the sound of the bone shattering that brought Jakes to his knees. Skin bruised with little provocation, and blood was easily drawn. But the amount of force needed to break a bone, the amount of deliberate intent needed--it cut Jakes to the core. How many times had he wrapped his own fingers about that arm, in love or concern or to pull Morse out of the way of danger. And now Cole Matthews had broken it, simply because he could.

Jakes screamed as Morse’s anguish wound around his soul like a noose.

Jakes knew his arms would be bruised, he knew his voice would be gone, but he didn’t care. He only knew that he had to try. He couldn’t stand by and watch without putting up a fight. He fought against the men who held him, writhing and kicking, screaming obscenities and screaming Morse’s name. He felt the wetness of tears on his face, knew his carefully crafted image was crumbling. He’d do anything--say anything, promise anything, lose anything--just to protect Morse. It was no use. Cole ignored him.

Jakes felt every single kick, as if it were his own ribs that were breaking. He flinched from every hit, even when Morse had not the strength to do so himself. He wanted only to fling himself on top of Morse, to protect him from the kicks that Cole leveled at him. He ached to wipe the blood and the dirt from Morse’s face. Jakes didn’t care anymore about getting even. He only wanted to get to Morse.

At first, Morse tried to be silent. After the agony of his broken arm, he had shut his mouth firmly. He took Cole’s hits and kicks silently, only his face betraying his pain. Jakes knew what he was doing. To the end, Morse would try to protect the man he loved. He knew how much his pain affected Jakes, and he was trying to keep Jakes from comprehending the torture he was feeling. But eventually he couldn’t withstand the blows that rained down on him. The first cry that escaped his lips drew a fresh litany of curses from Jakes’ mouth.

Jakes cursed Cole for the agony he inflicted on Morse. Cole taunted Morse, circling around him before each hit. He poked at Morse’s stab wounds. He laughed at Morse’s cries. He called him weak, stupid, useless. He said no one would come for him. He said no one would miss him, not even Jakes.

Jakes cursed McGregor for the way he encouraged Cole. McGregor reminded Cole of what he owed the coppers. He told Cole that Fred Thursday would drop dead when he finally saw Morse. He said Morse deserved it. He said Jakes deserved to watch. He called them both names.

Jakes cursed Peck for the haunting narration that he whispered in Jakes’ ears. Peck derided Morse. He said he was pathetic. He said he was no proper copper. He said he wasn’t worth Jakes’ time. He said he’d seen more stoicism in children. He said Morse was as good as dead.

And Jakes cursed the Castle Gate police. Castle Gate was the cavalry, they were supposed to be here. They were supposed to save Morse. They were supposed to stop Cole from hurting Morse any more. They were supposed to arrest this gang. They were supposed to protect their own.

When Morse stopped crying out, Jakes knew it was over. The cavalry was too late. Cole’s foot slammed into Morse’s ribs, and Morse went limp. He didn’t respond to the following hits, his body rolling limply with each impact. Jakes sagged in the arms of his captors, legs no longer able to hold him up. Morse was dying, might already be dead. Let me hold him, please!

Cole stepped back from Morse, studying the results of his heinous handywork. His lips curled in a sneer. “So much for the illustrious Detective Sergeant E. Morse.”

Jakes moaned, eyes fixed on his Morse. Give him back to me.

Peck’s derisive snort sounded too loud in Jakes’ ears. “Fucking prick.” Peck let go of Jakes, and he found himself dangling from McGregor’s painful grip. “Couldn’t even withstand fifteen minutes.”

Fifteen minutes? That’s all it had been? Fifteen minutes, that was all the time they needed to take his Morse away from him. Jakes’ eyes searched Morse, trying to find a single sign of life on the desolate wasteland that was his body. He found none.

Peck walked over to Morse and prodded him roughly with his toe.

“Leave him alone!” Jakes sobbed, struggling weakly. “You’ve done enough. God, you’ve done enough.”

Peck looked up at Jakes, disdain visible in his eyes. “Look at you both, pair of bloody queers you are.” He bent over Morse and yanked him up by his shirt collar. Jakes whimpered as Morse’s head fell back limply, his beautiful curls dulled by dust and blood.

Peck wrapped his hand around Morse’s neck. Jakes cried out, thrashing with what little strength he had left. God, just let him be! Peck let loose a sharp bark of laughter.

“Dead! God, he was pathetic.”

Dead. The word drove into Jakes, shredding his skin and splintering his bones. His Morse. Gone. The room filled with a plaintive wail, and it took Jakes a while to realize it was his own. Cole stared at Jakes with disgust.

“If you want him that badly, you can have him, then.” Cole jerked his head, and Jakes felt McGregor’s hands leave him.

“Here, pig,” Peck stood, dragging Morse with him. With a grunt, he tossed Morse at Jakes.

The rest of the room faded from Jakes’ mind. His focus was on the limp body falling towards him, his world narrowed to this one moment, this one instant. The last time he will hold his Morse. He didn't know when, or why, the men leave him. He only knew that the door closed and he was left alone to say his goodbyes.

Jakes caught Morse in his arms. He wrapped them gingerly around the broken body that used to hold his love. He felt himself falling to the floor, weak legs unable to hold their combined weight. He cradled Morse in his arms, tears dropping down to wash away the blood and dirt. Jakes heard screaming and begging, and realized it was his own. As his hand stroked Morse’s lovely face--now covered with bruises--Jakes pleaded with Morse.

Come back to me. Please! I can’t do this without you. I won’t do this without you. I need you. Come back, breathe, Dev, breathe!

The body his arms remained motionless, the face in front of him was still bloodless, and the heart he loves was lifeless. Jakes’ screams turned to whispers, his pleas to apologies.

I’m sorry. I didn’t protect you. I couldn’t save you. God, Dev, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.

He had been given the greatest gift, a few years ago: he had been given Morse’s love. He had been entrusted with the care of the most beautiful, fragile, proud creature he had ever known. He had watched as Morse blossomed under the love and care he didn’t believe he deserved. He had watched himself change for the better, having someone to care for and someone to care for him. He had promised himself that he would protect Morse--from his own stubbornness and from the hatred of those around him. He had shielded Morse from the jabs of their coworkers, he had soothed his aches after altercations with the criminal class, he had tempted him away from an early death at the bottom of a whiskey bottle.

But this time-- this one time--the only time that mattered damn it--this time he had failed.

And he would never get a second chance.

Jakes closed his eyes, resting his forehead on Morse’s. He let the tears flow freely down his face, his shoulders shaking with sobs. And then for the last time, he pressed his lips to Morse’s.

Goodbye, my love.

Chapter Text

Peter Jakes would forever afterwards be grateful for whatever sentimentality caused him to bend down to kiss his Morse one more time. It was a foolish and sentimental thing to do, and he knew it. What he should have done--what a younger, harder version of him would have done--was try to find a way out. Emotions clouded judgement, got people killed--that’s what he would have said five years ago. Before Morse. He’d failed to save his fellow officer; now his job was to save himself. There was a window, boards he could pry off. The body could be collected later for the family. He should save his own skin.

But how could he leave his whole world lying broken on that dirty floor? What kind of man would he be to rush away from the only good thing he had ever held? What good would any of the past years be to him, if he were able to simply put them just walk away from Morse as if he were just another casualty? And what did he have to run towards? An empty flat and a cold bed? Sad whispers behind his back? Fucking memories that would slowly pull him deep inside the very same bottle he had tried to save Morse from? God, sorting through Morse’s possessions? His records? No. He had not one reason to save himself, and a million reasons to stay.

Or, as it turned out, one very important reason to stay.

Because as Jakes’s lips met Morse’s, he felt a ghostly touch of warm air on his cheek.

Jakes’ eyes flew open and he jerked back. He stared at Morse in shock. It can’t be. Jakes’ heart started pounding, his chest heaving with the effort it suddenly took to breathe.

He didn’t want to hope--it would crush him to find out he was wrong. Surely he had just imagined it. Just his distraught mind trying to find a reason to keep going. There was no way Morse was alive. Jakes had seen every blow. God, he could never unsee them--knew his mind would replay each and every one over and over again. He had watched every bruise form. He had watched Morse slowly succumb to the torture that Cole Matthews doled out. Beyond that, Morse had been held captive for over 12 hours. God only knew when the last time was that he had had anything to eat. From what Jakes had been able to see, the man had been stabbed at least twice. There was no way in hell Morse was alive.

And yet.

Jakes didn’t want to hope, but hope was all he had left. He closed his eyes against the pain he knew was coming. Gently, he laid Morse down. Then he bent over him, pressing his ear to Morse’s chest. He willed his own heart to steady. He steeled himself for the final proof that he was left alone in this world.


Jakes let out a strangled sob, jerking upright once again. His hands found Morse’s neck, searching frantically for the pulse that his ears had found. It was there. It was weak and unsteady but it was there. Morse was alive. Peck had been wrong, Peck had been wrong. Praise whatever gods existed---Morse was alive. Jakes gathered Morse up in his arms once again, holding the man close to him. He pressed a kiss to Morse’s forehead, oblivious to the dirt and blood. He felt his own tears splashing down on Morse’s face again, but this time they were tears of joy. His Morse was still here. Cole hadn’t taken his Morse away.

Jakes jerked back suddenly, staring down at Morse with wide eyes. How was he still alive? Peck may have laughed at Morse, calling him weak and pathetic, but Jakes had known stronger men succumb to less. There was no way his Morse--who fainted at the merest sight of blood--should be alive. But he was.

A shiver of fear snuck its way up his spine. For how long? There was no ignoring the images that kept flashing across Jakes’ memory. Morse had taken a beating that should have killed him. And Jakes realized that unless they got help soon, Morse might still die. God, no. Jakes took a deep breath. Focus. He had to focus. Despite all odds, Morse was still alive. It was up to Jakes to make sure he stayed that way. He was not going to fail.

Carefully, Jakes laid Morse back down. He jerked off his own jacket, bunching it up to form a pillow for Morse’s head. Out of the corner of his eye, he caught sight of the cursed poker. He shuddered, wanting to cast the thing into the fires of hell. Then he paused, eyes flicking to the door. If they came back….If they came back, he was going to kill them. It took him only a moment to grab the poker and lay it within easy reach. Just let them try and touch his Morse again.

Jakes’ eyes roved over Morse’s body, cataloguing injuries. The sight of Morse’s body made him nauseous; it was a strange and unwelcome feeling. Jakes prided himself on being one of the hardiest coppers at a scene. He could handle almost any corpse the criminal class saw fit to leave them. But the sight of the blood and bruises on his man-- the man he had been given to love and protect-- it made him faint. The dark bruises on pale skin--skin that was meant to be cherished and kissed-- it made him sick. Jakes closed his eyes against the wave of dread that washed over him. He had to know. He had to know, to keep Morse alive. He opened his eyes again, forcing himself to tally the damages.

Bruises covered most of Morse’s face, blood covered the rest of it. Jakes gently pushed aside the dusty russet curls to get a closer look at the source of the blood. He almost threw up. The gashes were jagged and rough, and he was fairly certain he could see flecks of glass imbedded in the angry red skin. It looked infected. God, he wanted to kill Cole Matthews. Jakes swallowed hard and forced himself to keep going.

The state of Morse’s slender neck enraged him. Hand-shaped bruises littered the pale skin. Not one hand print, no, at least two. Two hands had wrapped themselves around Morse’s neck. Two hands had bruised that lovely throat. Two hands had threatened Morse’s beautiful voice. Two hands had dared defile the skin that Jakes so loved to caress. Damn them.

Jakes brought his own hand up to run tenderly over the bruises. “My Morse, my beautiful Morse,” he whispered. “What did they do to you?” He bent down and placed a tender kiss on the worst of the bruises. “I’m so sorry, Dev. I’m so, so sorry.”

Morse’s eyes fluttered open at his touch. They fixed themselves unseeingly on Jakes face. The sight of those eyes--eyes Jakes had never expected to see again--nearly made Jakes collapse. The pure terror that filled those blue depths, however, made him ache.

Morse whimpered pitifully, struggling weakly to get away from Jakes’ hands.

“Dev!” Jakes voice was too loud. Morse squeezed his eyes shut, flinching away from Jakes. “Dev--Dev, love, it’s me, it’s Peter. I’ve got you.” Jakes lowered his voice, tenderly laying his hand on Morse’s forehead.

Morse’s eyes opened tentatively. He turned to peer at Jakes. “Peter?” his lips moved, but barely any sound escaped. The pain, fear, and hope that coated the word tore at Jakes’ still-bleeding soul. Morse’s gaze seemed to focus, and recognition flooded his face. He curled in towards Jakes’ with a heart rending wail. “Oh god, Peter!”

As Morse turned, his broken arm got caught beneath him. He cried out, the agony in the sound slicing through Jakes’ heart.

Jakes hand flew to Morse’s shoulder, gently pressing him back to the floor. “Shh, Dev, lay still, okay?”

Morse whimpered in response, eyes squeezed shut. God, he was hurt.

“Dev, I need to look you over, okay? Can I do that?” Jakes hands hovered over Morse’s chest.

Morse sucked in a deep breath. His eyes suddenly flew open, fixing themselves intently on Jakes’ face. “Peter….you….are you...alright?” he rasped. Without waiting for an answer, he tried to elbow himself upright. His face suddenly went tight with pain and he gasped.

Jakes hands flew out to catch him. As he wrapped one hand around Morse’s shoulder, he heard Morse hiss again. Fear wedged itself deep in his gut.

“Dev?” Jakes’ voice wavered.

“Back,” Morse gasped. “McGregor….knife.”

“Dev, you need to lie still.” Jakes slowly lowered Morse back down. “I don’t know…” Jakes swallowed heavily. “God, Dev, I don’t know how badly you’re hurt.”

Morse’s lips twitched. “Had the...shit beaten….out of me...Peter.” He drew in a shaky breath. “Pretty badly.”

In spite of himself, Jakes huffed out a small laugh. He ran his thumb along Morse’s cheek. “Didn’t damage your big brain.” Jakes’ sucked in a breath that felt more like a sob. “Thank God.”

“You don’t….believe in...God, Peter.” Morse gave him a lopsided grin, and tried to laugh. He grimaced as it caught in his throat. Then he was convulsing--coughing--and Jakes froze as dark red blood stained Morse’s lips. No.

“Dev--God, Dev, breathe!” Jakes frantically grabbed his pocket square, dabbing at Morse’s mouth. His free hand settled on Morse’s chest, trying desperately to calm him.

Morse’s chest heaved as he tried to steady his breathing. “I’m...trying…’s a little...hard.” He gasped. Jakes had to wonder how he had any energy left to sound as irritated as he did. At the same time, he rejoiced to hear it. Morse was fighting.

Once Morse’s breathing had slowed--and the blood stopped dribbling past his lips--Jakes rested both hands on Morse’s shoulders.

“Dev.” He stared into Morse’s eyes, desperately trying to give Morse some of his own strength. “Dev, I need to see what your other injuries are, okay?” Morse nodded slightly. “Dev...please...just, God, Dev, hang on for me, okay?” He blinked back the tears that were forming. “I’m going to get you out of here. Just...keep fighting.”

Morse swallowed, his own eyes suspiciously bright. He smiled slightly. “Why...why do you….think I’m still here….Peter Jakes?” His good hand slowly moved up to touch Jakes’ chest. His fingers ghosted over the outline of the ring suspended on a chain. Their rings. The rings Jakes had bought them both when they’d agreed to be partners--in all the senses of the word. “Till us part.” Morse suppressed a cough. “I’m not ready…to part with you.”

Jakes wrapped his hand around Morse’s. He squeezed it gently before bringing it to his lips. “Neither am I, Dev. Hang on, okay?”

Morse gave him a pained smile and a slight nod. “I arm’s the way.”

Jakes snorted. “I noticed. Now don’t move .” Jakes gave Morse’s knuckles one last kiss. Then he steeled himself to resume his triaging of Morse’s wounds. He forced himself to look upon Morse as any other victim. It was the only way he could proceed.

The nasty tear in Morse’s shoulder hid an inflamed slash. It had long since stopped bleeding, but Jakes was almost certain it had become infected. Gently, Jakes unbuttoned Morse’s tattered shirt. He closed his eyes briefly before slowly pulling up Morse’s vest. The sight that greeted him overwhelmed his professional barriers. Morse’s chest was covered in blue-black bruises, cuts, and oozing blood. The sight of an open gash on Morse’s side caused the room to begin spinning. The wound was uneven and oozing dark blood. And just under the broken skin, Jakes could see…

Jakes lurched away from Morse, hand over his mouth. He staggered to the far corner of the room before sagging to his knees. He retched until there was nothing left. Ribs. Cole had broken Morse’s ribs, and they had... God.

“Peter?” Morse’s harsh whisper echoed in the silence of the room.

Alive. Morse was alive. Cole had tried, had nearly succeeded, but Morse was alive. That was what mattered.

Jakes wiped his mouth on his sleeve and heaved himself to his feet. He brought himself gently down by Morse’s side, and drew the man’s shirt back down over his abdomen. Then he threaded his fingers through Morse’s, bringing Morse’s hand to his chest. Morse watched his every move with wide eyes.

“You’re alive, Dev. God, I thought he had killed you.”

Morse opened his mouth to reply, but whatever he had to say was lost. A loud bang startled both of them. The door had swung open.

“Rather thought I’d done that myself.”

Cole Matthews’ voice sent chills of fear down Jakes’ spine. A volcano of anger, hot and thick, quickly chased the fear. Morse had tensed beneath Jakes, hand clenching Jakes’ fingers like a vise.

Jakes stared at Morse. “I’m not letting him get to you again.” Jakes reached down for the poker lying next to him, out of Cole’s sight. “Gun?” Jakes murmured. Morse’s eyes flickered to Cole. His head twitched slightly. No. Jakes smiled mirthlessly as his hand closed over the poker. “Good.”

In one fluid motion, Peter Jakes whirled from his sitting position and lunged towards Cole. He had taken a calculated guess on how far away Cole was standing. He was right.

The dull thud of metal hitting flesh sounded in the room once again. But this time, it was Cole Matthews’ who yelped in pain.

Peter Jakes wasn’t going to fail Morse again.

Chapter Text

Doctor Max DeBryn had just turned his light out, preparatory to leaving his office for the evening, when the jangling of his phone startled him. He stared at the offending item for a few rings. Really, it had been quite a long day. Not to mention, he was looking forward to a few pints down at the pub. Morse had promised to buy tonight, and Jakes had promised to make sure Morse wasn’t sulking. Could he pretend he’d slipped out, hadn’t heard the damn thing? Best not, it could be important. Heaving a weary sigh, DeBryn set his bag down and retrieved the phone.

“DeBryn.” He answered shortly. He may have to answer the phone, but he didn’t have to be pleasant.

“Doctor.” DI Thursday? And why did he sound as if someone had stolen his pipe? Briefly DeBryn rubbed his finger and thumb under his glasses. Thursday’s tone didn’t bode well for his evening plans.

“Inspector,” DeBryn replied, allowing a bit of warmth to creep back into his voice. “To what do I owe this pleasure?”

“It’s Morse.” Thursday’s voice was hollow, stilted.

DeBryn froze. Morse, why was it always Morse? That man seemed to attract trouble faster than a corpse attracted flies. DeBryn shuddered at his own maudlin metaphor. Think happier, Max. Another stitch job, surely. He was becoming Morse’s personal Casualty. Though, if it meant the difference between Morse getting treatment or succumbing to an infection, DeBryn would keep stitching the man up until the end of time. Right, best find out how bad it is, then.

“And what precisely did he gash himself upon this time?” DeBryn let a little humor counter the irritation in his words. The silence with which he was met sent a prick of concern through his gut. “Inspector?”

“A knife.” Thursday replied, his voice an emotionless monotone. “Cole Matthews’ knife. Look, can you come down to the nick? I’d rather talk--”

“Hang on a moment, Thursday. Did you say Cole Matthews? How badly is Morse hurt?” DeBryn had his suspicions about a headache brewing a while earlier. He could confirm that diagnosis now. He’d heard of the Matthews’ escape from prison, as well as their vendetta against the boys who had put them away. Morse had confided his concerns about Thursday, and Jakes had talked for well over an hour about his fears for Morse. Sometimes DeBryn regretted managing to befriend both sides of that rather trouble-soaked pairing.

Thursday sighed. “I don’t know, Doctor.” Don’t know what, man? Be precise! DeBryn thought in frustration. “The Matthews’ sent in a ransom demand, along with a photograph. It’s all we’ve got to go on.”

DeBryn could hear the weariness in Thursday’s voice. He could also hear the abject desperation that Thursday was trying to hide. Thursday thought of Morse as more than a bagman; DeBryn had known that for years. He wasn’t sure if either Thursday or Morse had ever admitted that to one another, but it was plain enough to see. Thursday was the father Morse had never been blessed with. Morse was the sharper, more rebellious son Thursday never knew he needed.

Another thought struck DeBryn then, cutting through his own concern for Morse’s wellbeing. Jakes.

“Inspector? How is Sergeant Jakes holding up?” DeBryn was pretty certain that he and Thursday were the only two who knew explicitly about the relationship between Jakes and Morse. Rumors certainly had circulated about the CID for quite some time, and Bright seemed pointedly oblivious to them.

“Not well.” Thursday sighed. “He’s stalking about, tearing into witnesses and DCs alike. I think he’s terrorized at least a half dozen uniforms as well. He hasn’t stopped moving since he nearly collapsed in my office.”

Or smoking. DeBryn added. “I’ll be right over, Inspector. I’m not sure how much help I can be…” DeBryn’s voice trailed off. What was he even offering? An extra body in the way of an official investigation? Triage in the wake of Jakes’ violent wrath and Thursday’s simmering silences?

“Thank you,” Thursday replied. “I know you and Jakes and Morse have spent some time at the pub together. If you to him maybe?” Thursday seemed as lost as DeBryn was.

“Consoling the living is a part of my purpose, you know.” He winced as he realized the implications of that statement. “I’ll do my best, Inspector,” he added lamely.

Thursday thanked him again, and DeBryn hung up the phone. He stared at it solemnly for a moment, remembering. He had been on hand, that day at the bank. He had been willing to rush in when the first gunshot sounded, but Strange had held him back. No one had bothered to stop him when he followed the next sounds of gunshots; the young man in the bank was past saving. DeBryn wasn’t sure he’d ever forget the sight of Morse lying on the ground, covered in his own blood. Nor Jakes’ panic-filled face. Nor the cruel laughter of whichever Matthews had shot Morse. He knew for certain he’d never forget his own terror as he stared down the kind of wound he’d seen hundreds of times before...on corpses laid out on a marble slab.

DeBryn shook his head violently. He was not a suspicious man, nor one particularly haunted by memories. He had a crisis to tend to.

If only he knew how.

The second call came at nearly midnight. DeBryn had stayed at the CID long enough to understand the desperation of the situation. The demand from the Matthews’ brothers was heavy, and the evidence to pursue were light. Every available officer was working as hard as they could, but there wasn’t nearly enough information to go on.

Jakes’ restless pacing had worn holes in DeBryn’s patience. The man refused to sit down or even eat. No matter that DeBryn reminded Jakes that he was exhibiting behaviors they had both chastised Morse for. Jakes just looked stricken and reached for another cigarette.

Helpless, DeBryn had finally left. Thursday promised to ring him if there was any news, good or bad.

So it was that he found himself fumbling about for his telephone. He had fallen asleep in his sitting room, somehow losing his glasses in the process. There was no hesitation in reaching for the receiver this time, though he felt an emotion akin to fear skittering under his skin.


“Doctor.” It felt like a reprise of their earlier conversation, only Thursday’s voice was darker.

“What’s happened?” Damn these detectives and their melodramatic ways of communicating.

“Division refuses to negotiate.” Thursday’s voice was weary and disillusioned.

DeBryn made a sympathetic noise in the back of his throat. For what, really, was he to say to that? They’d all known that was how this would go. But hope springs eternal in the hearts of men.

“Doctor, I have a favor to ask.” An unidentifiable emotion peppered Thursday’s words. It sounded almost like rebellion.

“Yes, Inspector?” Get to the point man.

Thursday sucked in a deep breath. “Jakes, he’s hatched a plan. It’s the best thing we’ve got to go on.” Thursday explained the maneuver, and DeBryn refrained from commenting. It sounded like the perfect way to get someone killed, but he agreed that the alternative wasn’t worth contemplating. To sit around waiting to be called to the murder of one of their, he couldn’t fault them for taking leave of their senses.

“I see. Precisely what favor can I do for you?” DeBryn wasn’t sure where he fit into this plan. Subterfuge and espionage were not in his repertoire.

“I don’t know what we’re going to find, Doctor. When we get there.” Thursday cleared his throat, stalling. “If Morse, if he needs help. Well, he trusts you, doesn’t he? And if...if not, well, you’re the only one I’d trust with him, Doctor.” The words came out in a rush, uncharacteristically emotional for Thursday.

For a moment DeBryn didn’t trust himself to answer. To help Morse, certainly, he’d go. But if Morse was beyond help, if Morse required the specialized skills that DeBryn was qualified for...could he do that? Could he see to Morse’s… DeBryn cursed himself for the involuntary shudder that went through him. Because could he actually stand by and trust another pathologist to cart Morse away to his own impersonal slab? No. He had little to offer, but what he had, he offered willingly.

“When and where, Inspector?”

DeBryn arrived at the CID the next morning. To his chagrin, the rescue team had already departed. He had hoped to give Jakes a refresher on first aid, though he prayed the man wouldn’t need it. Thursday was pacing restlessly around his office, while the rest of the men feigned purposeful meandering about the floor.

Superintendent Bright--who was supposedly oblivious to the rescue--had stopped down three times already. Precisely why he had come by, no one seemed to be able to determine. The fourth time he strode by, looking far more worried than he should have, Thursday called him into his office. Bright did his best to look surprised by the mutinous rescue. His prompt disappearance to rally a rescue force somewhat belied his professional displeasure.

As the minutes ticked by, Thursday resumed his pacing and the outer office abandoned its appearance of direction in favor of concerned whispers. DeBryn, who abhorred purposeless movement, spent his time carefully cataloging the items in his medical kit. Twice.

They all had a reason to be concerned. Fancy and Strange were to locate the Matthews’ hideout. Fancy would then radio in the location. A cryptic message had come through at barely ten past eight, however. The bank has a counterfeit copy. Unsafe to contact. Will return to base to update once we have ascertained location of vault. Stand by. No one was quite certain what it meant, and no one had been able to reach Fancy since. Thursday guessed that the “bank” referred to the Matthews’ gang. The “vault” was likely Morse’s location. “Counterfeit copy” was anyone’s guess. And unsafe to proceed? The whole CID was walking on eggshells, waiting for the worst.

Twenty minutes later, Fancy radioed in again: Vault identified. En route, 20 minutes. Prepare for dispersal. Bright ordered the men to their cars, and Thursday muttered something about Fancy’s dramatics. DeBryn began reorganizing his kit a third time. Best put the antiseptic on top.

When Fancy and Strange tore into the car lot, Thursday and Bright were upon them nearly before they had stopped.

“They have one of our cars, sir!” Fancy shouted as he waved them over. “That’s why we couldn’t radio in. They’d have heard.”

Strange trotted over, giving Bright the address. “There were two in the car that picked Jakes up. No telling how many in the house. Not well guarded, though, from the looks of it.”

Fancy was fidgeting. “We’ve wasted too much time. We ought to have gone in after them.”

Bright turned to give him a sharp stare. “You ought to have done precisely as you did. You are not in command, despite your role in this mutiny.” He glanced at the paper Strange had handed him. “Well then. You four, get moving.” He indicated Thursday, Fancy, Strange and DeBryn. “I’ll dispatch the rest of the men. Oh, Thursday…” Bright paused, his sharp face becoming somber. “We are not losing any officers today. No matter what. Take appropriate measures. And Godspeed.”

The door had barely closed behind DeBryn before Fancy was running through the gears, tires spinning madly.

DeBryn couldn’t stand the silence any longer. He was a man of action, his mind constantly synthesizing information and solving the little puzzles his job presented him. Sitting, waiting, and worrying grated on his nerves. Moping about did no one any favors on a good day, and it certainly wouldn’t help Morse or Jakes today. He supposed no one would want to answer his questions, but if he was to be of any use, he needed to know what to expect.

“Inspector, I hate to ask this of you, but I need to know.” He saw Thursday tense, and he forged ahead as delicately as possible. “You said the Matthews had sent a picture, but I was unable to get a look at it last night. What precisely should I be expecting?”

DeBryn caught the quick glance that Thursday shot towards Fancy. He also caught the white in Fancy’s knuckles and the stiff way the boy held his shoulders. Ah, this was probably the first case to hit so close to home for the lad. Unlikely to be the last, either. DeBryn knitted his eyebrows together in sympathy as he stared at Fancy. Morse had often complained of the way the young constable followed him about. “He’s like a lost puppy,” to quote Morse directly. Jakes had laughed good naturedly at that, and DeBryn had to agree with his amusement. It seemed as if Fancy had taken, well, a fancy to DS E. Morse. In spite of, or perhaps because of, Morse’s best efforts to keep the lad at arm’s length. That explained the boy’s part in Jakes’ crazy plan at any rate.

Before Thursday could answer, Fancy spoke up. “His tie, I saw it. It was blood, I think. Wasn’t it sir?” The statement came out as an accusation; Fancy knew he was being handled with kid gloves. DeBryn couldn’t hide a slight smile. The boy had spunk.

Thursday nodded curtly. “It looked as if someone had hit him in the head. Likely where the blood on the tie came from.”

“You said something about a knife, correct?” DeBryn prompted. For all their reticence about bodily harm, DeBryn often wondered how the men at the CID actually managed to solve homicides. He never could understand the layperson’s difficulty in discussing the human body. Injuries needed to be catalogued just like evidence, though with perhaps even more efficiency. Stop stalling, Thursday.

“Cole had a knife to his chest.” Strange piped up. “It was hard to see clearly, but it looked as Morse had been stabbed. He was bleeding from under the knife.” Thank God for the unflappable Sergeant Strange. The man would probably have announced the assassination of the Queen with the same amount of excitement as if he were reading the advertisements in the papers.

“How deep was the incision?” DeBryn asked, clinical curiosity taking over.

“A bit hard to tell from the photograph, Doctor.” Thursday growled. DeBryn chose to ignore the acid in his tone.

“Anything else?”

“Isn’t that enough?” Thursday barked, twisting in his seat to face the doctor. His face was like thunder.

DeBryn blinked owlishly at Thursday. How was he supposed to help, exactly, if he didn’t know what to prepare for? “I’m only trying to help, Inspector,” he replied, frost edging his words. “It is generally advisable for the attending physician to have an idea of what needs treated, and in what order.”

“There was blood, in the alley at the pub, wasn’t there?” Fancy piped up. His face was pale, but his eyes shone brightly.

Thursday glared at him. “On the wall, yes. Appeared fresh, but we’ve no way of telling if it was Morse’s.”

DeBryn nodded. “Blood loss, head and knife trauma. It’s a good enough start.” He paused. Thursday looked ready to break, and he wasn’t sure if he could push for more information. “Is there anything...we should expect, from these men? Any particular...signatures they’re known for?”

“Cruelty,” Thursday snapped. “They’re known for their cruelty.”

That thought quenched even DeBryn’s curiosity and he glanced out the window in an effort to distract himself from the images his mind supplied. He noted a small spider in the corner of the car’s window, and a poem Morse had once recited off hand came to mind. DeBryn found himself also Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect his thoughts till the bridge he will need be form’d, till the ductile anchor hold, till he could put his hands to some useful purpose and stop pondering the worst.

Chapter Text

Detective Constable George Fancy. Rash, impulsive, overly friendly, too curious.

Fancy knew that’s what Sergeant Morse thought of him. Hell, half of the station probably agreed. But there was something about Morse that Fancy loved, something that made him follow the man around despite Morse’s obvious frustration with him.

They were similar, Fancy thought. Sure, Morse was a prickly bastard, full of sharp retorts and stoic silences where Fancy was always ready with a quip or a laugh. But neither one really cared what the rest of the world thought of them. Morse flouted authority as if it was part of his job description (and sometimes Fancy thought it just might be). Fancy, he flouted authority for the sheer hell of it. What was life for if not to have a little bit of fun? So he enjoyed the adrenaline rush of police work--what harm was there in that? Someone had to do the job, and one might as well enjoy the highs while they existed.

It wasn’t just the unlikely parallels in their personalities, though. Fancy looked up to Morse. The man was brilliant, even if half of the CID hated him. The way he could pick apart a case-- categorizing thoughts and theories as if they were concrete evidence, sorting and matching and drawing conclusions--Fancy envied him and wanted to learn how in the hell he did it. Morse cared, too, in a way that not all coppers did. He cared about justice--for the victims and their families--not just revenge. The way he sought that justice was a way that he could be proud of, too: above board, by the rules. DS E. Morse didn’t get his confessions through his fists or dirty money; he won them, fair and square.

While it seemed to come as a shock to Strange, Fancy wasn’t about to let some shitty bank robbers get away with taking Morse. He’d heard Jakes, and he agreed with him: Morse was thiers and damn it, he was going to do something about it.

And if he enjoyed being the co-leader of a rebellion? Well, he couldn’t get very many kicks off a constable’s salary.

When he spotted the police issued car parked by the kerb, Fancy panicked. There were other coppers here, and the last thing they needed was interference. When he caught sight of the occupants, however, his panic changed to anger. Those weren’t coppers. Those were criminals, in a stolen police car. As Sergeant Jakes strode angrily towards the car, Fancy’s panic returned. Those criminals had Morse, a copper’s car, and a copper’s radio. They would be listening.

He’d done the best he could to make up a code on the fly. The bank (robbers) have a counterfeit (radio). Unsafe to contact (don’t fucking talk to me!). Will return to (the nick) to update once we have ascertained location of (Morse). Stand by (get ready, damn it!). Espionage might not be his strongest suit, but he thought he did pretty well, considering.

Given the fact that Bright had the men assembled when he and Strange plowed back into the lot, he guessed he’d done decently well. Maybe now they’d start taking him seriously. He was impatient though; they’d wasted far too much time being unable to radio their location directly. Morse was in there with those bastards, and now Jakes was too.

Jakes had never been a big favorite of Fancy’s. The man was too smooth, too stylish, too snake-like and he smoked too much. But it hadn’t taken a genius to pick up on how gone Jakes was on Morse. And to be honest, Morse was pretty gone on Jakes as well. If Morse liked the man, well, he was okay in Fancy’s eyes. At least so long as he treated Morse right.

When Inspector Thursday, Sergeant Strange, and Doctor DeBryn had finally piled in the car, Fancy jammed it into gear and took off. The clock was ticking way too fast, and sitting around waiting for red tape wasn’t something Fancy did well.

He knew Thursday was worried about him. He could see it in the concerned glances the Inspector kept shooting at him. Damn it, he wasn’t anybody’s kid brother. He’d worked for--and earned--his spot in the CID. He could hold his own. Was he scared? Sure. But weren’t they all? That doctor, he usually looked far more put together than he did this morning. His bowtie was crooked and didn’t quite go with his vest. Strange was fidgeting with his tie, and Thursday looked two shades paler than normal. Yet he could tell each of them was staring at him.

He wasn’t fragile. He wasn’t going to break. He was going to save Morse, damn it.

“His tie, I saw it. It was blood, I think. Wasn’t it sir?” If nobody else was going to answer the doctor’s question, he would. He wasn’t afraid.

The look Thursday shot him was murderous, and Fancy felt victorious. Not that he showed it, of course. The other three bickered for a few more moments, and Fancy could see the doctor losing patience. A man of action, he seemed to be. Fancy hadn’t worked with Doctor DeBryn much, and when he did, Morse usually took over. The two of them could trade obscure references like most men discussed their girls. It made Fancy’s head spin. But he rather liked the owlish doctor, even if it was just because Morse clearly enjoyed the man’s company. Anybody Morse liked, Fancy liked too. Or at least, he would put up with them.

When Thursday seemed about to bite the doctor’s head off, Fancy decided to step up again. They were acting as if he were a child, someone to be protected from evil. He was a copper, damn it. He’d seen evil. Time and again. He’d almost gone down with the evil, were it not for Morse. He didn’t need to be protected. Not from something he walked hand-in-hand with every day.

“There was blood, in the alley at the pub, wasn’t there?” He’d heard the report. Blood on the wall, and on a broken beer bottle they’d found.

Thursday glared at him again, and Fancy tried his best not to grin. Just let them try to stick him in some safe little box. He’d fight his way out. Just like Morse had, if the stories around the station were true. He’d be just like Morse-- after he rescued the man, that is.

After the doctor had finished his string of questions, the car fell into a melancholy silence. Thursday sat staring blankly at his hands, rubbing the fingers of one hand over the palm of the other. Strange, sitting behind Thursday, was watching his superior with a look of mild concern on his face. That was as close to outright fear as DS Strange ever came, Fancy thought. Doctor DeBryn appeared to be rifling through his medical kit, for about the third time since he had entered the car. His face was set in a look of resigned detachment. It felt, to Fancy, as if the others had already begun mourning the man they were meant to save. Well, he wasn’t about to give up that easily. Not on Sergeant Morse.

“Excuse me, sirs,” he piped up, unable to stay quiet. “Aren’t we on a rescue mission?”

Thursday raised his eyebrows, glancing over at him. “What do you mean, constable?”

Fancy shrugged, undaunted by Thursday’s tone. “We’re going to get Morse back. We’ve got half the station and Mr. Bright behind us. Why does it feel like we’re going to a funeral?”

Thursday sucked in a sharp breath. “Look, lad, I know you mean well. But sometimes--” Thursday paused, his voice becoming choked with emotion.

“Sometimes the good guys lose, matey,” Strange finished calmly. Fancy glanced in the rear mirror. Strange had the emotional range of a rock, and sometimes it got on Fancy’s nerves. “It’s best to be prepared for the worst. Something you learn over the years.”

Something in Fancy snapped, then. It had been all kid-gloves, protect poor Fancy, keep him safe, don’t let him know what’s really going on and now, now they wanted to teach him a lesson on the real world? He wasn’t having it.

“Beg your pardon, sir, but I disagree.” Fancy huffed. His fingers gripped the wheel too hard. “You’ve all given up on him, haven’t you? You’ve just decided he’ll probably be dead?” At Thursday’s horrified stare, Fancy turned to him. “You’ve all just about said as much, not in so many words, but it’s what you mean. That’s what’s behind all those looks you don’t want me to see. I’m not an idiot, sir.”

“Fancy--” Thursday started.

Fancy ignored him. “I’m not green anymore, sir. I know damn well what we are walking into. I know the likelihood of all of us walking out of there in one piece. I’ve walked into this before, once or twice, haven’t I?” Fancy shook his head, frustrated. “But would Sergeant Morse give up on us? Would he just roll over and surrender? Surely he’s faced down worse trouble than a few failed bank robbers? Don’t we owe it to him to not lose hope, not just yet?"

A soft voice from the back seat caught everyone’s attention. “Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray. Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light. ” The doctor was quoting poetry, of course he was. Fancy glanced back at him in time to see a small smile tug at his lips. “He’s right, Inspector. We’ve seen too much darkness in our days. But isn’t it your job to rage against that darkness?”

Thursday was silent for a long moment. Then--to Fancy’s utter surprise-- he laughed. Fancy turned wide eyes to his governor. A reprimand, he had expected. Laughter? Genuine laughter?

Thursday laid a hand on Fancy’s shoulder. “I was just thinking about the time Morse stepped between a young lady and a tiger.”

Fancy almost wrecked the car. “A what, sir?”

“A bengal tiger. In Oxford.” Doctor DeBryn’s voice filled in. “It nearly killed Morse, if I recall.”

Thursday nodded. “That it did. And he thought it would kill him, when he stepped in front of it.” Thursday turned to Fancy. “I suppose you’re right, constable. Morse doesn’t give up.”

Fancy grinned. “Then neither will we.”

Their plan was a simple one. Fancy, Strange, and Thursday were to determine the safest way into the house, and any alternate exits. Bright’s group would stop a few blocks back, and wait until Thursday signaled. The Superintendent would then dispatch a group of officers to break into the house, find Morse and Jakes, and extract them. The rest of the officers would set up a perimeter around the outside, ready to catch whoever tried to escape. Even the best laid plans, unfortunately, can go astray; theirs derailed within seconds.

Fancy had only just put the car into park when a gunshot shattered the silence. All four men jumped.

“Out!” Thursday bellowed, drawing his service revolver. “Get behind the car, now!”

Strange fired a few shots at the house, giving Fancy and the doctor a chance to duck behind the car. Thursday followed after sending out a distress call to the rest of the team. The sirens of nearly a dozen police cars suddenly sounded, a few blocks away. A few more shots answered Strange’s, but none struck the car.

Fancy peered around the edge of the car, trying to locate the shooter. His eye caught sight of movement in the house. “Upstairs,” he hissed at Strange. “On the left.”

Strange nodded. “I see him. You, sir?”

“It’s McGregor,” Thursday replied quietly. “The younger one, that is.” He raised his gun, and his voice. “Jason McGregor, we’re here for our men. There’s more coming behind us. You let them walk out right now, and we’ll go easy on you.”

An eerie, drunken laugh echoed through the deserted street. The way it bounced off of the empty houses and dead tree made Fancy shiver. It seemed as if the whole street was laughing at them, taunting them with how close they were to Morse. How close, and yet how impossibly far away.

“Come to get your boys, ey?” The man’s voice was vicious and self-assured. “I’m not too sure about them walking out, now. The dark haired one might do okay, but I think it’ll be a little hard for that pipsqueak redhead.”

“What did you do to him?” Fancy shouted, half standing and pulling his own service weapon out. Thursday yanked him down, hissing at him to keep quiet. Fancy shook his hand off angrily, but stayed down. He wanted to rush the house, break down the door. How dare that man insult Sergeant Morse.

“Me?” McGregor’s voice was full of feigned surprise. “Oh, I didn't do much. Cole, now, he did plenty.”

“McGregor, listen, just let our men out, you hear?” Strange bellowed.

“Tell you what, you can come in and get ‘em.,” McGregor stepped back into the room, fiddling with something. “Have to say, though, you really should thank us. That pasty one, he wasn’t much of a copper.”

Fancy caught the use of the past tense immediately. His stomach clenched and it seemed as if suddenly there wasn’t enough air. He coughed--a choking, anguished sound--and reached up to loosen his tie. From behind him he heard Doctor DeBryn groan. Fancy glanced over to Thursday. He was frozen, perfectly still. Suddenly he jerked his gun up and fired into the room that McGregor had been in.

“That’s your last warning, McGregor.” Thursday’s voice was cold, brittle, and hard. “Let my officers go, or so help me--” He fired another shot.

Fancy felt his skin crawl at Thursday’s voice. He’d heard the rumors about Thursday’s past, sure, but he’d never really listened. The man struck him as something of a father-figure at the station. He kept an eye on his boys--Morse, Strange, Jakes, even Fancy now--and showed them how to be good coppers. But station gossip had it that Thursday came from an older breed of coppers--those who weren’t afraid to use their fists if it meant getting answers. Looking at Thursday now, Fancy believed it. If Morse...if these men had hurt Thursday’s bagman…God help them.

“You can have Jakes back, certainly.” McGregor’s voice echoed from within the room. “He’s alright, a little distraught though.” The man’s face appeared again, an evil grin splitting his face. Fancy suddenly felt cold. “Your Morse? You’d best bring in a coffin for him. He won’t be needing much else. Cole made it so he won’t wake up again.”

Fancy was never sure exactly what happened next. The world around him seemed to dissolve into disjointed pieces, a puzzle that he would never be able to put together. Loud wails filled the air as the rest of the station arrived, their shrieks echoing the cries of Fancy’s own soul. Sergeant Morse! They’d killed Sergeant Morse. The rescue was too late, they’d arrived too late. Fancy whimpered, hunching down over his knees. They shouldn’t have left, he and Strange. They should have stormed the house when they’d found it. They might have been in time. They might have saved Morse.

People were running around him, then. Shouts filled the air as Bright directed men to take up position around the house. Then suddenly there was a loud bang, and Fancy caught sight of flames in the corner of his vision. He stood abruptly, staring in horror at the house. McGregor had managed to set nearly the entire front of the upper floor on fire. Sergeant Jakes was trapped in there!

Fancy dropped his weapon and took off running. He ignored the shouts of the men around him. He was too late to save Morse, but he might be able to save the one person Morse cared most about.

Chapter Text

Peter Jakes may not have been as good of a brawler as Cole Matthews, but he was faster. And he had a reason to fight, a reason that lay gasping on the ground a few feet away. Cole was a drunken madman out for revenge; Peter Jakes was protecting his own. He had no intention of letting Cole near Morse ever again. If the only way out of this hell hole was through Cole, Jakes was prepared to rip the man to shreds with his bare hands. Having a poker was a bonus, as well as poetic justice. Cole had tried to take Jakes’ Morse away with that poker, and if Jakes got his wish, he would remove Cole from the world with the very same weapon.

Jakes lashed out several times, striking Cole as hard as he could. Each time, he would dance backwards, keeping close to Morse’s vulnerable figure. He wasn’t about to get drawn far from Morse. Cole roared with anger, but his movements were sluggish and ill-balanced.

It was pure luck that Cole managed to trip Jakes, nothing more. Cole shot his leg out in an effort to stay upright at the same time that Jakes lunged. Jakes foot struck the side of Cole’s leg and he tumbled to the ground. The landing knocked the wind out of him and he lay struggling for air. He didn’t get the chance to take a full breath before Cole lashed out with his foot, catching Jakes in the ribs. Jakes cried out, curling inward to protect himself. He never saw the second kick coming.

“No! Stop--Cole!” Cole spun on his heel at Morse’s pained shout.

Jakes winced, clutching his arms to his ribs and trying to breathe. Panic surged through him at the wet, raspy sound of Morse’s voice and the unsteady thunk of Cole’s footsteps. Morse! Cole was walking towards Morse. No, no, no!

“Cole! Leave him alone!” Jakes gasped, desperate. Hazily, he saw Cole take two more steps towards Morse.

Cole turned to face Jakes, and the smile he wore curdled Jakes’ blood. “I might have done,” Cole snarled. “If you’d not tried to take me down, copper.” In one swift move, Cole stepped over Morse and crouched down beside him.

Jakes felt like he was living a nightmare. He had just gotten Morse back, he had promised Morse that he wouldn’t let Cole near him again. Now he was lying here, useless, watching Morse flinch away from his attacker. Jakes clenched his fists, the fear in Morse’s eyes causing the breath to freeze in Jakes’ lungs. And blood, there was blood on Morse’s chin. Jakes heaved himself to a sitting position.

“Cole! You’ve hurt him enough, damn it. Come after me, you bastard!” Jakes shouted.

Cole grinned again, and evil, twisted sort of smile. Jakes watched in horror as Cole buried his fingers in Morse’s hair. Morse stiffened and Jakes could see his chest rising and falling---too fast and too shallow. Jakes snarled. Morse’s face tensed in pain as his torturer yanked hard on his hair. Morse’s head jerked to the side at a cruel angle, exposing his bruised throat. Jakes scrabbled at the floor, trying to get his body to cooperate, trying desperately to get to Morse. He had to get Cole away from Morse.

An evil laugh bubbled up from Cole as he wrapped one of his hands around Morse’s throat. He glanced over at Jakes. “Apparently I didn’t do a good enough job last time.” His fingers tightened around Morse’s neck.

“No!” Jakes screamed. “Cole, no, please!” Off, he had to get Cole off of Morse!

Morse’s eyes were impossibly wide, his chest heaving with the effort to find air. One hand came up in a feeble attempt to pull Cole’s fingers away. He was fading fast, and Jakes didn’t know if he could make it there in time. His own body protested with pain as he tried to haul himself to his feet.

“Let him go, Cole,” a cold voice broke into Jakes’ panicked spiral. Peter Matthews. Cole glanced up, but his fingers didn’t leave Morse’s throat. “I said, let him go. The cops are here. We’ve got to go.”

“Let me finish him, then,” Cole snarled.

The sharp click of a gun cocking sent fear running icy-cold down Jakes’ spine. No. Peter Matthews had leveled a gun at Morse’s head.

“You’ve had your fun, brother,” the elder Matthew’s barked. “It’s time to end this.” He glanced over his shoulder, and it was then that Jakes smelled it. Smoke! “That idiot friend of yours set fire to the house. Leave these two here, Thursday can kill himself trying to get to them.”

Cole growled, but relinquished his hold on Morse. Morse curled onto his side with the effort it took to gulp in air. It flooded his lungs too quickly. Jakes’ felt his heart leap to his throat as Morse began coughing violently. More blood.

“Do it, then.” Cole’s words brought Jakes’ attention back to the gun in Peter’s hand. He watched as Peter’s finger moved to the trigger.

The man was going to shoot Morse. In front of him. His Morse. He was going to have to watch as they took Morse away from him. Again.


Jakes surged forwards. He pulled all of his remaining strength, all of his fear, all of his love, all that he had and he prayed that it would be enough.

The gun went off.

Jakes landed a few feet from Morse, pain exploding along his side as he fell. He rolled over, crawling to Morse without even a backward glance at the brothers.


“Fuck!” Cole was shouting, Peter was shouting, why were they shouting? Why couldn’t Jakes move faster?


They were leaving. As good as dead, they said. Morse, had they hit Morse?


“Dev! Dev, please, Dev, tell me you’re okay!” Jakes reached Morse. The younger man was curled on his side, shuddering. Blood stained both his lips and the floor near him. Jakes reached out his left hand; it was shaking. “Dev?”

Morse’s eyes opened. “Peter?” Pain, Morse was in pain. In pain and afraid. They’d hit him.

“Dev, it’s okay, I’m here.” Jakes’ hand ran over Morse’s torso, trying to find the wound. “I’m here, Dev, it’s going to be okay.” God, why? Jakes let out a shuddering sob, trying desperately to find where they’d hit Morse. He wasn’t sure Morse’s body could handle the wound. He wasn’t sure Morse had any blood left to lose.

Morse shook his head, struggling to sit up. “’re shoulder…. Peter, my god….Peter are you okay?” Morse’s eyes were wild, panic written over every inch of his face. His raspy voice scraped roughly over the words, concern and fatigue making him nearly nonsensical.

Jakes glanced down at himself, confused. His shoulder?

His shoulder, indeed. A red stain was slowly spreading across his shirt, beneath his right collarbone.

The pain hit then, and Jakes doubled over with a gasp. But with the pain came an overwhelming relief. They hadn’t hit Morse.

“Peter?” Morse’s voice was full of terror; he was close to breaking. “Peter, god...Peter, ple--” Morse’s words cut off abruptly with a sharp hiss.

Jakes’ eyes flew open. Morse had one arm clutching at his ribs; his face was scrunched in pain. The other arm lay useless on the ground. Morse was gasping desperately, trying to get air into his lungs. Jakes felt icy vines wrap themselves around his heart.

“Dev? I’m okay. I’ll be okay, I promise.” Jakes tried to soothe Morse. “They just winged me, alright?” Gently, he laid his hand on Morse’s shoulder. “Dev?”

Morse groaned. His arm uncurled from his middle, long, cold fingers finding Jakes’ wrist. Terrified blue eyes met Jakes’ “Peter,” Morse rasped. “Go...get help. Get...Thursday.”

The vines tightened their hold on Jakes’ heart. Morse’s lips were blue, his face pale as death.

Morse was dying. The thought sliced through Jakes with the surety of a butcher’s knife. Morse couldn’t hang on much longer, not looking like that. He had to get the man out of here. Outside. Peter Matthews had said Thursday was outside.

“Dev, I’m not leaving you. We’re going to get out of here, okay?” Jakes twisted his hand to grip Morse’s. “I’m going to help you stand, alright?” Morse groaned, but nodded--just barely. Jakes pulled on Morse’s arm, trying to lever the injured man into a sitting position. As soon as Morse’s shoulders left the floor, he let out an agonized scream. The sound enveloped Jakes, threatening to crush him under the certainty of approaching death.

“Peter! Stop---” Morse gasped. “I can’t--I’m sorry…”

“Shhh, Dev, God, I’m so sorry,” Jakes gently lowered Morse back down. His good hand gently stroked the side of Morse’s face, soothing Morse’s pained panting. He bent over Morse, murmuring a litany of apologies until Morse had calmed.

“Peter....” Morse’s voice was barely a whisper. “’re hurt. can’t support me.” A wet cough stole Morse’s breath again. “I can’t...Peter, I’m sorry….I can’t….get up. It hurts.” Morse looked up to Jakes, pleading. “He said...they’re outside...go...please, Peter.”

Jakes wrapped his fingers around Morse’s hand. “Dev…”

“Please, Peter…” Morse swallowed, and Jakes tried not to stare at the blood on his lips. “We’ll both...die if you...don’t go…the fire....”

Jakes stiffened. He had been so focused on Morse that he had forgotten. Your idiot friend set the house on fire. Suddenly, Jakes could hear the crackling of flames, could smell the charred wood. The room was warm, warmer than it should have been.

“Dev, I’m not leaving you here, in a burning house!” Jakes closed his eyes against the terrifying images his overwrought mind supplied.

“Peter.” Morse’s voice was suddenly strong, stronger than it should have been. “Go. You can’t...carry me. Get help. I’ fine. I’ll...hang on.” Morse’s hand reached up to touch Jakes’ ring. “I’ll wait...for you...Please, go.”

Jakes clutched Morse’s hand to his chest, trying to blink back the tears that were obscuring his vision. Abandon a dying Morse in a burning building? He shuddered. But the alternative-- to try to force Morse to move, to bodily drag him out, possibly hurting him further? Memories of Morse’s excruciating scream mingled with visions of the house in flames. Jakes would have given anything to not have to make that decision.

It was a sharp, flaming hot pain in Jakes’ own shoulder that made up his mind. He gasped as the ache threatened to overwhelm him. No matter how much he tried, there was no way he could carry Morse out of here. And it would be the very definition of cruelty to ask Morse to support any of his own weight. The only salvation for his Morse would be to try and find help. There was no other way.

“Dev.” Jakes let out a small sob. “Dev, I’m so sorry. I’ll be back, I promise.”

Morse gave him a weak smile. “Go, Peter...I’ll be here.” Jakes tried not to notice the dulled look in Morse’s eyes. He had to hurry.

Jakes bent over Morse gingerly, placing a tender kiss to his lips. His good hand ghosted over the side of Morse’s face. “Hang on, Dev. Please.”

“ careful…” Morse’s face contorted with pain, his eyes closing against it. For a heartbreaking moment, Jakes thought he’d lost him. Then his eyes fluttered open. “I love you...Peter Jakes.”

“I love you, Endeavour Morse,” Jakes whispered back. He smiled slightly. “And if you aren’t here when I get back, I’ll see you’re put back on general duties for a month.”

That got a genuine smile out of Morse; weak, pained, but genuine. Jakes staggered to his feet, allowing that one final smile to give him strength. He would not fail his Morse.

Morse watched as Jakes staggered to the doorway. An overwhelming wave of pain crashed into him, and he bit back yet another groan. Jakes could still hear him. Morse had lost count of the number of times he’d held the crushing misery back. He couldn’t do that to Jakes, couldn’t let him see how much damage Cole had really done. It would only hurt Jakes in the end, make him blind to what he needed to do. He needed to get out.

Morse stifled a cough, trying to hold back the blood lurking in his lungs. He knew he wasn’t going to make it. He had known since the moment Jakes had recoiled from the wounds on his torso. Maybe he’d known earlier, but he was too stubborn to admit it. But just because he wasn’t going to make it out of this house didn’t mean Jakes had to die. He just needed to get Jakes away from the flames. Peter had said Thursday was out there, somewhere. Thursday would see Jakes made it to the hospital.

Jakes paused in the door, and for a moment Morse was afraid he had changed his mind. Jakes turned, giving a shaky grin to Morse. His left hand came up in a cocky salute, and then he was gone.

Morse closed his eyes, letting the image of Jakes burn itself into his memory. All things considered, if he had to die to keep Jakes safe, it wasn’t a bad thing to die for.

Jakes staggered down the hallway, desperately ignoring his throbbing shoulder. He had to get to the outside, to Thursday. God, he hoped they had the sense to bring an ambulance. Morse needed medical assistance, and he needed it twenty minutes ago. Every second wasted was one second given to the reaper.

The smoke was thick here, in the front of the house. Jakes could feel the heat of the flames closing in on him. He wondered foggily if he should have tried to find another way out. Matthews had said someone had set fire to the front of the house, right? Maybe he should turn back. Maybe he should have tried to carry Morse out. He shouldn’t have left Morse.

God, he had left Morse!

Jakes lost his footing then, falling with a heavy thud. He was inches from the door, and miles from Morse. Air, why couldn’t he get any air? He tried to breathe, but only smoke filled his lungs. Coughing, he was coughing. He was wasting time. He had to get...had to get to Morse? Where was Morse?

Jakes pushed himself to his feet, turning back the way he had come. He’d forgotten where he was heading. He only knew that he needed Morse. Morse wasn’t with him. He had to find Morse.

He could see flames on the stairs now; huge, bright tongues of fire, threatening to devour him, threatening to devour Morse. How had he gotten past them the first time? Had they already consumed Morse?

A keening wail filled the room, and Jakes didn’t know if it was his own or the ghosts that seemed to dance about him in the smoke. Jakes took a step forward, but his body refused to support him. He fell again, crying out as his injured shoulder hit the ground.

A shuddering groan shook the dusty floorboards. Jakes watched in horror as the stairs suddenly collapsed. The Devil’s tongues multiplied, lapping up the sides of the hallway, sealing Morse’s fate. Smoke ghosts mocked Jakes as he lay gasping for air. Light seemed to filter around him from behind him, and he wondered dimly if there really were angels. His fingers scrabbled on the floorboards, he had to get to Morse.


He tried to lunge forward, hoping to breach the flames. Hoping, desperately hoping to get to Morse. To save Morse. His Morse, God, his Morse. The ghosts had stolen all of the air, consumed all of his energy, left him with only pain, horror, and all-consuming grief. He could feel them wrapping their pale fingers about his shoulders, holding him back.

Jakes last conscious thought as the smoke ghosts stripped the life from his veins was that he had failed Morse.

Chapter Text

Detective Constable George Fancy dropped his weapon; it would only slow him down. He ignored Strange’s shout, eyes fixed on the house. Those bastards had killed Sergeant Morse. Now they were trying to kill Sergeant Jakes. There was no way in hell that Fancy was going to let that happen.

Fancy darted around the car, intent on reaching the front door of the house. If he could get there before the flames got any worse, he might be able to reach Sergeant Jakes. A sudden, sharp tug on his coat jerked him backwards. He staggered, landing with a loud thump against the side of the Jag. With a growl he scrabbled in the dirt; he had to get moving. A heavy hand to his shoulder stopped him cold. He glared up at whoever had stopped him. He froze when he came face to face with DI Fred Thursday.

It was the look in Thursday’s eyes that stopped him, really. Thursday’s face was a mask of anger, directed currently at Fancy. But his eyes...Fancy had heard tales of men who came back from war, shellshocked and only shadows of their former selves. He had been told of the vacant expression in their eyes, lifeless and empty. He had never realized how horrifying that look could be until he saw it reflected in the eyes of the man he considered one of his mentors.

Thursday was a constant at the station, an ever-present pillar of strength, courage, and common sense. He told you when to rest, when to forget, when to drink. He barked at you when you needed to work harder. He sent you home early when the day had been too much. He stood next to you when you needed stability. He would push you out on your own when you were ready.

But now. Now Thursday looked as if someone had ripped his soul out. As if he had finally been dealt a mortal blow, as if he had lost the very thing that kept him returning to the horrors of police work day after day.

Fancy stilled under those eyes. Another memory struck him, one of a rumor he had heard passed around the nick a few time. A whispered name, Mickey Carter , connected with a gruesome end. Carter had been Thursday’s bagman. He was a bit like Morse, the rumor had gone, that’s why Thursday took to Morse so quickly. Trying to make up for the past. They said Thursday had barely survived that loss. And now, Fancy realized, he had lost another bagman.

“Sir,” Fancy started cautiously.

A muscle in Thursday’s jaw twitched. “I’ve lost one man already today, George. I won’t lose you too.” Thursday’s voice was hollow.

“Sergeant Jakes is in there, sir,” Fancy replied, his tone measured and respectful. “We can’t just leave him in there.”

The hand tightened on his shoulder, and Fancy thought he saw a spark of life ignite in Thursday’s eyes. “And running, unarmed, at a burning building will help him, will it?” The words were coated with a thin veneer of sarcasm, but it was enough to make Fancy grin. Thursday was still in there, somewhere.

“We can’t just give up, sir.” Fancy swallowed the stubborn lump in his throat. “I failed Sergeant Morse. I’ve got to get Sergeant Jakes out.”

Thursday sighed, a sad look melting the anger from his face. “You’re not responsible for this, son. We all played a part, and Fate’s the most to blame. It’s not on your shoulders to fix.”

Fancy huffed, frustrated. Why wouldn’t anyone let him do anything? He had a warrant card, and a weapon. He could do more than take notes. Before he had a chance to give voice to his frustrations, the air around them suddenly quieted. For a few seconds, all that could be heard was the crackling of flames. We’re wasting time!

Then a voice shouted into the distance. “Fred Thursday!”

Thursday stiffened, hand closing around his gun. He turned to face the house; Fancy mimicked his actions. He could just barely make out a figure on the bottom floor, standing just inside a window.

“Peter Matthews,” Thursday’s voice rumbled across the no-man’s land between them and the house.

“Good to see you again, Fred.” Peter’s voice mocked Thursday, mocked them all. Too late, it seemed to crow. When Thursday didn’t respond, Peter laughed. “Already grieving are you? Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you, but Jason made a premature announcement.”

An electric current seemed to run through the waiting coppers. Premature announcement?

“See, your little protege is a stubborn bastard.” Fancy felt hope kindle again in his gut at the man’s sarcastic tone. “Should have died, thought he did. Still kicking, unfortunately for him. Looks like he’s in quite a bit of pain. Might not make it much longer.”

No one standing behind the protective line of cars dared breathe. Or hope, for that matter. The man might be toying with them, lying just to keep them listening.

“The other one fared a little better, but he decided to get in the way of a bullet meant for old Morse. He’ll probably make it longer, unless the smoke gets to him first.”

“What do you want, Matthews?” Bright’s voice, as prim and proper as always, but with a diamond-hard edge to it that Fancy had never heard before.

“Want? Revenge. I’ve nearly gotten that though. These two, as good as dead they are. Especially Morse. Should have seen him, Fred. Cried far too much.”

It was only the sight of Thursday’s clenched fist, fingernails digging into the soft flesh of his palm, that made Fancy realize his own palms were bleeding. He deliberately relaxed his hands, wiping the blood on his trousers.

“Tell you what, Fred. I’ll give you a chance, because I’m just that nice.” Fancy doubted Peter Matthews had ever done a nice thing in his life. “I’ll give you a choice. Come after me, take me in, and lose your boys. Or let us be, and try to save them. Either way, you’ll have to live with the consequences. And honestly, I’m betting you’ll be burying another bagman before the day is over.”

Thursday roared.

Fancy hoped never to hear that sound again. It was an animal noise, one of rage and pain. It sounded of blood and hatred and fear. It made Fancy’s blood curdle and he winced from the violence of it.

A gunshot sounded next--Thursday’s gun-- and then chaos reigned again.

Somewhere in the midst of the chaos, Thursday found Fancy. He pressed Fancy’s gun back into his hands.

“Keep this on you, lad.” Thursday’s eyes bored into Fancy. Determination blazed in them, and Fancy nodded to the unspoken question.

“I’ll find them, sir.”

“Be careful, lad. Strange and I, we’ll be right behind you.” Thursday paused. “I want you walking out of there alive, and that’s an order. Mind how you go.”

Fancy nodded and turned towards the house. He took a deep breath, steadying his pounding heart. Focus, George. Sometimes when he was alone, he could admit to himself that he was rather impulsive. He rushed into things, the thrill of the chase overpowering his common sense. Maybe that’s why they all tried to hold him back. But Thursday trusted him. And today of all days, he wasn’t going to let his superior officers down. He had to find Morse and Jakes. He had to do it right. He had to earn his stripes today.

As Fancy crept along the line of cars, looking for a good angle to the house, he heard DeBryn radioing for an ambulance. The cavalry has arrived, boys, Fancy thought with a grin.

He charged the house.

Fancy crashed through the door of the house just in time to see the staircase collapse. Flames, smoke, and ash filled the air and he had to take a step back from the heat. Not getting through there. He was about to turn around when he heard a desolate cry from somewhere in front of him. The sound of it made Fancy shudder. He’d never heard something so full of grief and anguish before, and hoped never to hear it again. It sounded almost like Jakes, and the word formed could have been Morse’s name.

Fancy forced himself to take a step into the room, ignoring his body’s insistence that he run from the intense heat. Peering through the smoke, he was just able to make out a prone form on the ground. The daylight filtering in behind him illuminated the shadowy shape, just enough to allow Fancy to identify the man. Jakes! He was desperately trying to crawl towards the flames, continuing to call out for Morse. Fancy dashed forward, wrapping his fingers around Jakes’ shoulders, tugging him backwards and away from the deadly flames. Jakes cried out in horror, wide eyes fastened on the flames and arms reaching out towards some invisible goal.

Then he went limp in Fancy’s grasp.

No time for fear, George. Fancy slipped his hands under Jakes’ arms to gain leverage. He hauled the man backwards, out of the conflagration and into the sun. Blood drenched Jakes’ shoulder, nearly causing Fancy to lose his grip on the damp fabric. He clenched his teeth together in determination. He was not going to fail.

Fancy staggered out of the house, nearly collapsing on the rickety porch. Suddenly he felt his burden lighten, strong hands pulling Jakes away from him and strong arms supporting his own shaking frame.

“I’ve got him, it’s alright,” Strange’s voice, Strange’s hands.

Fancy blinked the smoke out of his eyes, watching gratefully as Strange hoisted Jakes’ body over his shoulder. He craned his neck to see who was behind him. Thursday.

“Sir--” Fancy broke off as his lungs attempted to expel the noxious smoke he had inhaled. He let Thursday steer him away from the flames and back to the line of cars. “Sir….Jakes, he was trying….trying to get to the back...he was calling for Morse…Must have tried to...get help…. Morse is in the back...he’s trapped sir!”

Thursday’s face hardened. “You did good, lad. Get some air into those lungs.” Thursday steered him towards DeBryn, who was already hovering over Jakes. “Stay here.” Then Thursday turned, and was gone.

Thursday crashes through the back door, gun at the ready. God help anyone who stood in his way. He would cut them down in a moment. He could feel the rage, black and twisted, boiling just beneath the surface of his skin. He had kept it at bay so, so many times. Each time he stuffed it back down--covered it up, pretended it wasn’t there, hid it from his Win--he could feel it ferment. It turned to tar, thick and ugly. It settled in his joints, in all the cracks and crevices of his soul that he never lets see the light of day. Most days, it stays there. But today-- today it has broken free.

This world had stolen so many things from him. It took his Joanie; changed her from his carefree, laughing daughter to a harder, world-wise woman. It took his Sam; forcing him to grow into the soldier that Thursday never wanted him to become. It nearly destroyed his marriage, ripping apart the bonds formed from love and fear and tragedy. It cut down better men than he, both in the war and in the force. It took his bagman once before, nearly destroying him in the process. And it has tried, time and again, to take Morse away from him.

Thursday knew this time is the worst, in a way. The cumulative effects of every soul-bruise he has taken. It’s more than that, though, and he was desperate enough to admit that. Something about Morse captured his heart from the moment he laid eyes on the lad. Arrogant, intelligent, and cocksure were adjectives that jumped to his mind. But underneath it all, lurking in eyes that seemed at once too old and to young, Thursday could see fragility and insecurity.

Somewhere along the way, Thursday had adopted Morse. He had never intended to, never meant to get so attached to another officer, never wanted an extra child to worry about. But it had happened nonetheless. He had fought against it, time after time. They’d fallen apart as Thursday had pushed the lad away. Somehow he could never quite rid himself of Morse, nor the need to look after him.

And now, for the second time, the Matthews brothers threatened to take his children away from him. It had been both Morse and Joanie before. Joanie had changed and Morse had nearly died.Now....Thursday shook his head and pushed his way further into the house. Now, he had to find Morse.

Smoke had begun to clog the hallway, and Thursday could feel the heat building up around him. There wasn’t much time, not if he wanted to make it out of the house himself. That thought gave him pause. If he wanted to make it out. Did he, if it meant giving up on finding Morse? Did he really want to keep going, if it meant living with the knowledge that he had failed yet another bagman? Failed Morse again?

He wasn’t sure that he did.

Thursday turned into the first room that he found, intending to give it a quick glance before moving on to the next. He couldn’t give up, not yet. As his eyes roamed the room, time seemed to grind to a halt.


Blood spattered the stone fireplace. Blood stained the floor in various places, some of it brilliant crimson and some of it rusty brown. And blood had crusted on the battered face of Endeavour Morse.

Thursday’s gun clattered to the floor, slipping from fingers gone numb. The room seemed fade from his mind until all that he could see was Morse’s body on the floor. Thursday’s mind refused to comprehend the violence that had been done to his lad. It pieced together pixelated images of dried blood on a dirty shirt, purple bruises on dead white skin, crimson staining blue lips, unmoving limbs.

Thursday didn’t know how he came to be at Morse’s side, or when he had gathered the lad’s broken body into his arms. He only knew that this was the second time he’d arrived too late. The second time he would hold his bagman’s corpse. The second time that his tears would mingle with the blood of the young man he was meant to protect.

The last time.

Thursday bowed his head, holding Morse’s lifeless body tightly. He could feel the heat of the fire burning closer, the smoke clogging his lungs.

He didn’t care.

He couldn’t do this again.

He couldn’t walk away from this, couldn’t be the one who survived again, couldn’t live with the guilt.

Not again.

Thursday opened his eyes, staring down at the lifeless face of Endeavour Morse. The man who had been failed over and over again by the world.

And then his heart froze.

Morse’s eyes were open.


Maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t time to give up.

Chapter Text


It was a gasp more than an actual word, but to Thursday it was everything.

“I’ve got you, son,” Thursday breathed. “I’ve got you. You’re alright.” God, he hoped that was true.

Morse swallowed hard, and Thursday tried to ignore the blood glistening on his lips.

“Jakes?” Morse croaked. His right hand, bloody and bruised, sought out Thursday's. Thursday took it gingerly.

“Fancy got him out. He’s with DeBryn. He’ll be fine, lad.” He wasn’t actually sure of Jakes’ condition, but his white lie was rewarded with a faint smile from Morse.

“Safe.” Morse murmured, his eyes fluttering.

“Morse?” Fear stabbed into Thursday’s heart again. Morse was far from alright. “Stay with me, lad. Can you stay awake?” Morse’s eyes found Thursday's. They were glassy and dulled with pain--nearly vacant. The lad needed a doctor. “I’m getting you out of here, alright.”

“Can’t...can’t walk...sir.” Morse choked out. He was barely breathing. “I’m sorry.”

Trust the lad to apologize when he’d nearly been beaten to death. Thursday shook his head.

“You’re not walking anywhere. I’ve got you. Just relax.” Thursday shifted Morse a bit, freeing one of his arms to slide under Morse’s legs. Morse gasped in pain, and Thursday gritted his teeth against the wave of protectiveness that washed over him. He had to do this, it was the only way out. “Hang on, Morse.”

Had someone asked him if he could carry the lad, he would have doubted it. But here, as smoke swirled around this godforsaken room, stained with the blood of his bagman, Thursday felt adrenaline course through his veins. It gave him strength he hadn’t known he possessed. Morse was depending on him. He was the only thing standing between Morse and certain death. And he would go toe to toe with the Devil himself if he had to.

Thursday curled Morse up to his chest and heaved himself to his feet. Morse moaned, turning his head to bury it in Thursday’s jacket.

“It hurts...sir,” Morse gasped, his hoarse voice barely audible.

“I know, son, I know,” Thursday soothed. God help those Matthews brothers if he ever saw them again. They’d best pray that someone else got to them first.

There were many things Max DeBryn hoped never to see in his lifetime. Many horrors that he hoped remained in his dreams, where they belonged. Chief amongst them was finding any of his colleagues lying on his table in the morgue, waiting for him to determine their cause of death. To date, he had escaped that particular abomination, though he had sewed Morse together a few more times than he preferred. As Fancy had steered them pell-mell across Oxford, heading into heavens only knew what, DeBryn had struggled to contain the myriad of gruesome possibilities that might greet him upon arrival. He’d hung on to his sense of professional detachment like a drowning man clutches a piece of flotsam.

His training served him well when Strange had staggered over, an unconscious Peter Jakes slung over his shoulder. DeBryn had known, somehow, that the man was still breathing. Still, he had breathed a sigh of relief after discovering the man’s pulse thrumming under his thumb. It was rapid, but strong. Not lost too much blood then, he thought.

“Smoke inhalation, bruising of the ribs, and a fairly clean gunshot,” DeBryn had rattled off calmly. He made a show of pointing each item out, convincing Superintendent Bright that the situation was well under control. Jakes was in no danger of dying. He refused to admit, even to himself, that the charade was meant to convince him just as much as the others.

Fancy had received a cursory look over. He hadn’t been inside very long, and his lungs sounded clear--once he had stopped hacking, of course. DeBryn dusted some ash off of the lads lapels and turned him back out into the chaos around him.

He dressed Jakes’ wound as best he could given the environment, then covered him with a blanket and rocked back on his heels. Minute by minute ticked by, and there was no sign of Thursday. Gunshots startled him, and more officers chased down the sounds. When he glanced back at the house, DeBryn felt icy fingers of fear wrap themselves about his neck. He reached up, struggling with his bow tie, gasping for air.

The colors before him bled together, distorting the images around him and painting a caricature of the scene that mocked him in its absurdity. DeBryn heard the laughter of the demons he fought to keep at bay, every waking moment; the monsters that lived in the dark corners of his mind, always ready to spring forward and drag him under. They clawed at him, tearing long gashes down his spine. DeBryn stared, unable to move, as the living embodiment of his nightmares staggered from the house.

Detective Inspector Thursday, carrying an unmoving Morse.

DeBryn found himself unable to move as he watched Thursday's sluggish progress towards him. Later, he would curse the way his senses fled. He was a medical professional, he should be able to take whatever he was handed. But as his eyes roamed Morse’s body, cataloging injuries subconsciously, the only things that filtered through his mind were memories.

Memories of an awkward lad avoiding the corpse laid out by the river side. Memories of that same awkward lad collapsing bonelessly onto his morgue floor. Memories of watching that awkwardness slowly melt into something sharper and more in keeping with the proud tilt of Morse’s head. Memories of barbs traded, seed cake shared, and friendships formed.

Memories of too many minutes spent stitching up Morse’s perpetual injuries.

DeBryn gulped down air as Thursday approached. He had to face this, whatever this was.

“Inspector,” DeBryn greeted. He winced at the weak sound of his own voice. Pull it together, Max.

He nearly fainted--for the first time in his life-- when Morse’s head turned slightly.

“Max.” Morse’s voice was barely a whisper, but DeBryn felt his heart begin beating again.

Morse was alive. Though as DeBryn’s eyes roamed his body, he wasn’t quite sure how. Morse looked as if he had been run over by a car at least twice. “I think...I think I’m in need...” Morse gasped. “Of your...finest….broderie anglaise...Doctor.” A faint smile seemed to playing on his --god, his bloodstained lips.

DeBryn’s instincts screamed at him that Morse had internal injuries that needed seen to now, but he pushed that thought to the side for a moment. Gently, he rested a hand on Morse’s shoulder.

“I do believe you may need a bit more than that, Morse.” DeBryn glanced up at Thursday. The Inspector’s face was grim. DeBryn nodded sharply. Morse needed attention. Now.

“Morse, I’m going to have the Inspector lay you down here, alright?”

Morse tensed suddenly, his eyes widening. “Peter….how’s....Peter?”

DeBryn did not like the sound of Morse’s voice: breathless, raspy, and wet all at the same time. Not good. Where in the everlasting fuck was that bloody ambulance?

“Jakes is fine, Morse,” DeBryn soothed, motioning Thursday to one of the blankets laid out on the ground. “He’ll be just fine.”

Morse turned in Thursday’s arm, neck craning as his eyes desperately sought Jakes. Suddenly he stiffened, back arching as his face contorted in pain. His mouth opened in a noiseless scream.

DeBryn felt his doctor’s armor slam back around his heart. His mind sharpened, focusing on the patient and ignoring Morse.

“Down, Thursday, put him down. Now!” DeBryn barked.

Thursday’s face paled, but DeBryn had no time for the Inspector's horror. He crashed down beside Morse, ignoring his protesting knees. Impatiently, he pushed Thursday’s hands out of the way. Practiced fingers found Morse’s artery; his pulse was crashing.

“Morse! Morse, stay with me,” DeBryn ordered. He motioned frantically with one hand towards his medical kit.

Morse’s eyes flew open, darting to Jakes’ unconscious form. DeBryn found his hand caught up in Morse’s. He winced at the amount of blood coating the younger man’s wrist.

“Max,” Morse choked out. His eyes had a desperate, wild look to them. The look of a man who knew he was doomed. “Tell...Peter....tell him...I’m sorry….I hold on.” Morse drew in a shuddering breath of air. “Tell him...tell him...I love...him...always.”

“Morse, Morse, don’t give up.” Max chided, hurriedly grabbing the items Thursday handed him.

Morse’s gaze shifted to Thursday. “Sir...thank you.” Morse coughed roughly. DeBryn cursed. “Thank you...for always…”

And then he was gone.

Reginald Bright did not consider himself a man who would turn easily to violence. He prided himself in being a level-headed leader, one who steered his men with kindness and authority. But as he watched Detective Inspector Thursday stumble out of that horrid house, an unmoving Morse in his arms, Bright felt anger ignite within him.

How many times had he watched that boy--for in his eyes, Morse was no more than a boy--stumble under the weight that the world thrust upon him? How many times had he watched the light in Morse’s eyes dim? How many times had he seen the lad recoil from the callousness of his colleagues? How many times had he himself played a part in the sadness that lurked in the boy’s eyes? Whether by cowardice, inaction, or misguided attempts at steering the boy towards good police work, Bright knew he was to blame for a fair share of the lad’s struggles. He had done his best to make up for those mistakes, certainly. But some part of him would always feel remorse at the damage done.

What had happened in that house, however, was pure cruelty; something Bright never could reconcile himself to. The violence that one man could do to another for nothing more than spite-- it made his stomach turn. While he stood too far away from Thursday to take in many specifics of Morse’s injuries, Bright could clearly see the bloodstains that covered Morse’s torso. And the unnatural angle of his arm. From this distance, he couldn’t even tell if the lad was alive or dead. Bright swallowed back a lump at the thought. Superior officers did not get emotional over the loss of one of their…

Bright shook his head angrily, banishing that mocking voice from his past. His superior officers may not have given a damn about the men under him, but he was different. They may have tried to harden him into one of them, into an iron fist with soulless discipline, but they had failed. For better or worse, he was Reginald Bright and he cared about his men. So help him, he cared.

Movement in the corner of his vision distracted him. Someone was in the bushes bordering the house.

Bright motioned to two PCs standing near him. The followed him as he crept silently towards the disturbance. When he had a clear view of the man trying to sneak away from the commotion, he raised his weapon and his voice.

“Stop, police!”

Peter Matthews whirled around, hatred blazing in his eyes. He glared at Bright’s raised pistol with a curled lip.

“You don’t have the guts, old man,” he sneered. He took a step forward, eyes raking over Bright and the PCs behind him. “And those lads you’ve got for support look about as green as spring grass.”

Bright swallowed. How many times had he heard those very words echo around his own nick? Old. Washed out. Soft. Ineffective. Cowardly.

“Not like I should expect much else, if your station turns out detectives the likes of Morse.” Matthews laughed, a cruel, ugly sound. “Pathetic bastard. Didn’t last 20 minutes with Cole.”

Bright’s stomach churned at that, as the flame of anger within him began to burn brighter. His hand tightened on his weapon a fraction. Morse had his faults, but he was one of the best detectives Bright had worked with. (Not that he would admit that to Morse.) Arrogant and condescending he might be, but he didn’t deserve to have born the brunt of Cole Matthews’ anger.

Matthews laughed again, taking a step closer. “And that other one? Utter prick he was. Cried the whole time. Couldn’t stand to watch his miserable excuse for a partner take his medicine.”

The fire flared in Bright’s bones. They’d made Jakes watch? Bright’s blood ran cold for a moment, as he imagined the terror of those moments, for both Jakes and Morse. Sure, he pretended not to know what was really between those two; but he knew. And he knew the horror that would have crippled Jakes as he watched Morse slowly dying at the hand of one as cruel as Cole Matthews.

Hot anger and cold disgust mixed together in Reginald Bright’s blood, like an unstable cocktail. Patronizing voices from his past mingled with the trust and admiration he’d gained at Thames Valley. Memories of tigers and bank robbers, framings and freedom, limestone and traffic tumbled over and over in his mind like so many rocks falling down a hillside.

Like so many times before, he had a decision. A moment’s courage, or a lifetime of regret.

The mixture within him turned to flint at the exact second that Peter Matthews moved.

Every head turned at the sound of the single gunshot.

And Peter Matthews fell, eyes wide in shock. His gun had never cleared his coat pocket.

George Fancy was not a man to sit still. Not while the men who had assaulted his sergeants were still free. He stayed in one place long enough for Doctor DeBryn to check his lungs and dust some ashes off of his jacket. His fingers tapped impatiently on his trousers as he waited to hear Sergeant Jakes’ prognosis. Non-fatal gunshot wound was all he needed to hear before he took off again.

He didn’t plan to end up at the back of the house. He hadn’t even really made a plan when he started running. He just knew he couldn’t stand still, waiting for Thursday to emerge from the house. Had he put any thought into it, he probably would have followed Thursday into the house. As it was, he nearly ran into the fleeing figure of Daniel Peck.

Fancy staggered backwards, hand flying to the pocket of his coat. Thank Thursday, he still had his gun.

Peck’s eyes widened in shock for only a moment before narrowing to survey Fancy skeptically.

“You’re even scrawnier than the last one,” he guffawed. “Where the devil do they get you boys?” Peck crossed his arms, a cocky expression on his face.

What exactly does one say to that? Fancy thought.

“Well, you’re certainly quieter than that red headed bastard. Wouldn’t stop moaning, every time Cole hit him.” Peck grinned at Fancy, an expectant look in his eyes.

The barb was meant to rile him, Fancy knew, and rile him it did. “I’d like to see the noised you’d make if the tables were turned,” Fancy spat. He drew himself up to his full height, fixing his face in the sternest expression he knew. (At least, he hoped he looked something like Sergeant Jakes did when he was angry.)

Derisive astonishment spread over Peck’s face. “Oh, really now? Would take a bit of doing, I’d say. Could you break my arm, do you think? Smash a beer bottle into my skull?” Peck took a threatening step closer to Fancy. “Do you really think you could beat me until I screamed for mercy? It didn’t take much for your friend.”

Fancy clenched his teeth. Peck was trying to scare him, he knew. But he felt no fear; only anger and revulsion. Peck, he thought he was a man because he could cause pain. He thought he was tough because he could stand to watch while another man suffered. He thought he was better than Fancy because his fists were larger and his heart was smaller. George Fancy knew better. George Fancy knew what a real man looked like.

A real man could piece together stray bits of evidence into one completed tapestry. A real man could be tough when facing a criminal and caring when questioning the victims. A real man would throw himself into harm’s way to save his friends. A real man would protect the men under him with his own life. George Fancy had worked with real men: Morse, Jakes, Thursday, and Bright. Strange too, really. This dirty, smelly, cocky good-for-nothing couldn’t hold a candle to the men Fancy knew. And he, George Fancy, wasn’t about to be frightened by some idiot with bad teeth and worse grammar.

“Back down, sir.” Fancy demanded. “I’m placing you under arrest for the kidnapping and attempted murder of Detective Sergeant E. Morse.”

Peck laughed. “Under arrest? Well, you’ll have to take me in, then, copper. Think you can? Think you can best me, you scrawny bastard? Think your fists can match mine, little boy?”

Fancy’s left hand clenched into a fist. His right hand curled around the gun in his pocket. Really? God damn it, he was 25, engaged to be married, held down his own flat, and was a Detective Constable for fuck’s sake. When would these people just let him be?

“That’s what I thought.” Peck snarled. He lunged forwards, fists raised.

He never made it.

George Fancy stared down in shock at the smoking hole in his own coat pocket. He’d shot a hole in the pocket of his best coat. Next time, take the damn gun out of your pocket, George.

Behind the line of police cars, surrounded by milling PCs, two men counted the seconds that had passed since the last heart beat of Endeavour Morse. Neither man knew of the triumphs of Chief Superintendent Bright and Detective Constable Fancy. Both were oblivious to the demise of Peter Matthews and Daniel Peck.

Max DeBryn worked frantically over the lifeless body of his friend, praying to a God he hadn’t ever believed in and cursing the ambulance that hadn't come yet. Fred Thursday stood off to the side, staring blankly at his own bloodstained hands, only one thought in his mind: Please, not again.

Chapter Text

Police officers down, the call had said. Two of them, no less. One with a suspected gunshot wound, and one with a severe beating. Maybe. The officer that placed the call had been rattled, and they hadn’t been able to get much information out of the man.

Chas Fletcher shook his head. Officer down calls were hard enough to take. The injuries they received in the line of duty and the pressure to win against the darkness could crack even the hardiest medic. Not knowing what they were walking into? Well, Chas was grateful he had an experienced crew on board, and a second ambulance right behind them. Oh, and...

“Didn’t they say something about a doctor on scene?” Chas glanced over to his partner. “Where’d they dig a doc up?”

“Yeah. Hang on,” Saul consulted his notes. “Uh, DeBryn, it says.”

Chas did a double take. “The one from pathology?”

Saul shrugged. “Dunno.”

“DeBryn works in pathology. What the devil is he doing in the middle of a police standoff?”

Saul shrugged again.

Chas rolled his eyes; Saul was definitely one of the most reticent men he’d ridden with. Not that Chas minded. Good in a crisis, Saul was. Observant too, with a mind like a medical encyclopedia. He could assess a patient’s injuries within seconds, prioritize the most important, and direct the other medics...all while assembling the equipment needed. Honestly, the man should have been a doctor. But then Chas would have had to ride into situations like this with some young upstart. If he had to pick anyone to head into this massive unknown with him, it would be Saul Woodward.

“Good God, even the roadblock coppers look scared.” A voice over Chas’s shoulder interrupted his reverie. Zack Johnson, another good man. The exact opposite of Saul, as far as verbosity and experience were concerned. Still, the lad could keep a steady head in a crisis. “That can’t be good.”

“Two coppers down, mate. I don’t blame them.” Chas glanced in the mirror. “Best get ready then.”

Sirens blaring, Chas steered the vehicle through the opening the PCs made for him. His trained eyes quickly located the medical blanket behind the line of police cars that held two unmoving. Officers down . As Chas navigated through the chaos on autopilot, he kept one eye on the group huddled on the blanket. He needed as much information as possible before he jumped out of the ambulance.

A tall, broad man in his shirtsleeves stood closest to the edge. He waved frantically at the ambulance. Likely a commanding officer, then. At his feet, two men lay unmoving. A grey blanket had been draped over the darker of the two, and Chas thought he could see red on the man’s shoulder. Gunshot, possibly. The man been left by himself, and Chas hoped he had been deemed stable enough to survive until help arrived. A bespectacled man in a bowtie hovered over the other man. DeBryn, Chas assumed. The doctor’s arms and shirt were splattered with blood, and Chas noted a similar pattern on the motionless young man lying beneath the doctor. DeBryn’s hands were moving frantically over the younger man’s torso, but it was the expression on the doctor’s face that made Chas take a deep breath. Not good.

In Chas’s experience, doctors could have made millions in a game of poker. They earned their living by taking trauma in stride and delivering bad news without batting an eyelash. No matter how bad the situation, as long as the doctor was still discussing his latest hunting trip, no one worried. But you knew it was well beyond the time to panic if fear flashed across a doctor’s face. Doctor DeBryn’s expression reflected a terror Chas had yet to see on a physician.

“Possible severe hemorrhage,” Saul barked. “Prep for resuscitation.”

Chas shut the sirens off and leapt out of the van. Saul raced to the back, helping Zack pull out the stretcher. Chas hurried to the doctor’s side and knelt down beside him.

“We’ve another right behind us--” Chas began.

“Then get him in, now, ” DeBryn barked. He began rattling off injuries as if he were reading a report. “Mid-depth sharp force injuries to right shoulder, front and back. Heavy blunt force trauma to the head, likely concussion. Severe beating with a broken right arm, multiple broken ribs, probable internal hemorrhage and pulmonary contusion. Recent cardiac arrest. I’ve only just brought him back. He’s not stable and he needs blood.”

“And the other one?” Chas pressed, moving to help Saul with the stretcher.

“Will be fine,” the doctor snapped. “Morse is far closer to my morgue.”

Patient: Morse. Doctor: Pathologist. Chas filed the information.

"He's crashing!" DeBryn shouted.

Saul stepped between them, calmly handing a bag of blood to Chas. “Start resuscitation,” he commanded softly.

The next few moments blurred together for Chas, as they always did. His mind compartmentalized the important information and filtered out anything not relevant to the patient’s wellbeing. Sirens and shouting faded to the background, the doctor and other coppers vanished, and Chas’s world was reduced to the pale young man in front of him. Dark contusions, fractured fingers, and bloody lacerations were noted, filed, and ignored. Resuscitation became their singular goal. Saul worked silently against the relentless pull of death. Chas slipped a needle into the young man’s arm, allowing life-giving blood to slowly dripp into the pale body. Zack searched the young man’s body for the deadliest wounds.

Words and phrases passed between their lips, weaving in and out of their ears before slicing like knives into the hearts of men listening in. No pulse. Respiration zero. Severe hemorrhage. Fractured cranium. Sepsis concern. Possible fractured hyoid bone. Possible pulmonary edema. Immediate surgery necessary. Survival questionable.

Then Chas found a pulse and all three men moved as one. They had him back, but barely. Mixing speed and caution as only men well used to trauma can do, they strapped the beaten young man to the stretcher and heaved him towards the ambulance. Chas sprinted towards the driver’s seat as Saul fought to keep the young man alive. Screaming and shouting filled the air, and Zack had to force back the older copper.

“Sir, I’m sorry. You can’t ride with us. He’s not stable, might not make it. We need room to work. You’ll have to come separately.”

The door slammed and Chas tore out of the lot. Glancing behind him, he caught a brief glimpse of the three men they’d left behind.

The older copper stared after after them, looking more like a ghost than a man. The doctor stared at his bloodied hands, face blank. The sight that would stay with Chas for a long, long time, though, was that of the other injured officer.

He was on his knees, fighting savagely against the men that held him back. Chas could see tears glistening on his anguished face. Chas shook the image from his mind. Sentimentality could get them killed. He had to focus. The only chance the young man in the back had was at the Radcliffe. It was up to Chas to make sure he got that chance.

No pulse. Failure.

The words echoed in Max DeBryn’s mind, relentlessly battering his professional barriers. The medic’s words drowned out the screaming of sirens, the shouting of men, and a horrible keening shriek that sounded like Peter Jakes.

DeBryn felt his walls begin to crumble. His soul slowly shattered into jagged pieces.

No pulse.

Just words. Words that DeBryn should have been quite used to. None of his patients ever had a pulse. Death was rather a prerequisite for ending up in the morgue. He had seen it all, down there in his bunker. Assault, blunt force trauma, beatings, stab wounds, strangulation, dismemberment, burning, broken bones. Never ending combinations of those, as if the criminal class of Oxford sought to create ever more gruesome puzzles for DeBryn to solve.

This time, though. This time, it was different.. This time, it was terrifying. This time, it was Morse. This time, solving the puzzle wasn’t nearly enough.

This time, fate had handed DeBryn a patient whose heart was still beating. He had been tasked with ensuring that heart kept beating. There was no puzzle to solve, no justice to be sought in this moment. He wasn’t trying to unravel what had been done. He knew quite well the violence wrought upon this man he called his friend. His sole task was to keep this man from ending up in his morgue, under his knife. And yet, he couldn’t stop the pathologist within him, even as he reached deep down in search of the doctor he needed. Against his will and with no conscious effort, his mind pieced together the damage done by the last 12 hours.

Some sort of glass bottle was responsible for the jagged, uneven gash on Morse’s skull. Long, slender fingers had broken in self defense. Deep, dark bruises marked the places where rough hands had attempted to choke the life out of Morse. The layering of the bruises and unevenness of the edges spoke to multiple assaults. A knife had been drawn across the lad’s shoulder with irregular pressure. Morse’s right forearm had been snapped cleanly, likely by a long straight object. Lumber, possibly.

No pulse.

The absence of that pulse had horrified DeBryn, shocked him out of his premature autopsy. Never before had he bent over a living patient, watching helplessly as life faded away. Never before had he been responsible for trying to reverse the one unchangeable part of man’s existence. DeBryn had always considered himself to be a compatriot of death; they worked together. Death eased the sufferings of the human body; DeBryn sought justice for those upon whom suffering had descended unnecessarily. He had never worked at odds with death. Never sought to yank a young man out of the claws of death.

No pulse.

He had failed. He had failed Morse. Life had handed him an impossible task, one he must not fail. And he had failed.

DeBryn pushed his glasses further up his nose, shocked when a bright red streak appeared on the lens. He pulled his glasses off hurriedly, staring first at the lens, then down at the blood on his hands, his arms, his shirt. Morse’s blood. Blood that should have been inside Morse’s body. Blood that should be flowing through Morse’s heart. Blood that Morse needed to stay alive. Why was this blood on his hands? DeBryn didn’t need it. He had enough blood. Inside, where it belonged.

A heavy hand on his shoulder startled him. He turned to find the blurry face of Inspector Thursday staring at him. Concern filled the inspector’s face, but his eyes were desolate.


DeBryn stared at him blankly for a moment. Then his eyes sought out his hands once again. “It wasn’t enough. I wasn’t enough.” His eyes sought Thursdays’. “What have I done?”

It was the sirens that brought him back to consciousness. The loud, screaming wail that chilled his bones. And then the horrible silence that followed.

Peter Jakes blinked up at the sky above him, trying to recall something, anything that would explain the disjointed sounds and sensations that tangled together inside his brain.

Pain in his shoulder. Shouting men. Burning in his lungs. Crackling of flames. Heavy weight on his body. Banging doors. Angry shouts. Whispered voices. Overwhelming dread.

A deluge of memories suddenly poured over him.

Oh God.


Please, God, no.

Let it be a dream.

Let all of it be a dream.

Jakes turned his head towards the commotion.

It wasn’t a dream.



Words crashed into him, piercing his skin like bullets.

No pulse. Hemorrhage. Fracture. Sepsis. Surgery. Survival questionable.

No pulse.

Not again. He’d gotten him back. He swore it. He’d seen Morse alive. He was alive!

He had touched him. Jakes had touched his face. He’d talked to him. He’d held Morse’s hand.

He was alive.

Those men were picking Morse up. They were going to put him on the ambulance. They were going to take him away.


Leave him alone.

Jakes rolled to his side, heaving himself to his feet. He staggered towards the men, shouting at them to leave Morse alone.

He’s mine.

You can’t take him.

Hands clutched at him and Jakes howled. Horrifying images flashed across his mind, of hateful hands preventing him from reaching Morse. Again. He struggled against the hands, barely registering the soothing words.

“It’s alright, matey. They’ve got him. They’ll help him.” Strange?

Let me go! Let me go with him!


God, let me hold him.

“Sergeant, it’s okay. It’ll be okay.” Fancy?

No pulse.

Not okay.

Never okay. Never again.

Morse was dead.

Dead. Gone.

Alone, Jakes was alone.

Morse disappeared into the ambulance and Jakes cried out. Grief and horror and pain mingled into the sound. He fell to his knees, the hands on his arms barely slowing his descent.

Let me hold him. One more time. Please.

Let me hold him.

Jakes felt the sharp sting of a needle in his arm. He felt the drug work its way through his system. He let the darkness take him, eyes fixed firmly on the ambulance.

Dev. My Dev. Goodbye.

He might not make it.

It wasn’t the first time he had heard those words. They had been thrown at him before. In the war, as he watched men die under his command. In dark alleys when they had arrived too late to catch a murderer. And in a sterile hospital, at Mickey Carter’s bedside.

A shudder passed through Thursday. He let it wrack his frame, made no move to pretend he was unaffected by his bagman’s broken body. By the tense words of the men meant to save Morse. By the blood and the smoke and the pain. By the heartbreaking screams of Morse’s partner. By his own memories.

Vaguely, Thursday wondered if it was possible to hurt more than he did now. Would the pain be the same or different were that one of his children being taken away from him? Or his Win? It should be different, by rights. They were his flesh and blood. A different kind of pain, perhaps. But no less sharp, no less deadly. He may not have given life to this young man, but he had given him this job. He had set Morse on this path, guided him and shaped him into the copper he had become. He was responsible for what had happened here today, in a way no one else could comprehend.

This was his fault.

Thursday closed his eyes against the wave of shame and desperation that flooded him; like an angry tsunami it flooded every crevice of his soul. He let the stinging salt of old wounds wash over him, burning him from the inside out. He let the words rattle around in his mind until they became blunted from colliding with his nerves. Thursday let the world whirl around him, with its chaos and its pain and all of its evil.

And then he opened his eyes.

Because when all of this was over, he still had Win. And Joan. And Sam. He would not return to the job, not when Morse was gone, but he would return to them, to his family. He might return to them far less of a man than he was when he left this morning--far more battered and bruised--but he would return to them.

And though it might kill him to do so, someone had to see about Morse.

The lad deserved a proper service. He had served the city of Oxford with honor. He had given the people of this city the best years of his life, and all he had ever received in return was scorn. It was small comfort for Thursday, but he would ensure the lad had a proper send off. Joyce, he had to call Joyce. He wondered if the old number he had was still hers. He hadn’t had to call her in quite a while. God, how he did not want to call her now. But if not he, then who?

Thursday glanced towards Jakes, then wished he hadn’t. Strange and Fancy held the man fast, while a fresh set of paramedics swarmed about him. The man looked broken in heart and soul. There was no way he could ask Jakes to make those calls, organize a funeral. He had suffered enough. Besides, it wasn’t likely that Joyce knew about her brother’s lover. And Jakes had no real rights to arrange Morse’s burial.

Rights. Thursday’s eyes narrowed. Morse’s spouse would have gotten a widow’s salary. Thursday would make sure Jakes got it, even if it came out of his own pocket.

He might not make it.

The words crashed back into Thursday, with new ferocity as he considered Jakes to be Morse’s surviving partner. Mickey Carter’s widow floated through Thursday’s mind...her tears, her coldness, her near madness.

Weariness invaded Thursday’s bones. He was too old for this. To old to lose another man. To old to shepherd a grieving loved one through the valley of the shadow of death. To old to recover. He sagged against the car, hands coming to support his head.

“Sir?” Fancy’s voice, cautious and quiet, at his elbow.

Thursday sighed, praying for the strength to face the lad. “Yes?”

“Mr. Bright said to take you to the hospital, if you’d like. They’ve got Jakes on his way.” Fancy glanced back at Bright, then up at Thursday.

He might not make it.

Here, standing in this damned street, with soot and ash raining down around him, he could pretend not to know. He could make the best, pretend Morse would be fine. He wouldn’t have to know.

Thursday huffed, dark amusement tinging the sound. Who was he kidding?

For better or worse, he had to know.

Fancy had kept it together fairly well, he thought. He had gone undercover, against direct orders, and located a missing officer. He had saved Peter Jakes from a burning building (rather heroically, he thought) and managed to shoot one of the fiends who had hurt both Sergeant Morse and Sergeant Jakes. He had impressed Inspector Thursday with his driving skills, getting them to the hospital safely and in record time. He had even managed to keep busy at the hospital, running tea back and forth to Inspector Thursday, Sergeant Strange and Superintendent Bright.

He was fine. He was a police officer. He had shot and killed a man. He had defended his fellow officers. He had done a good job. Superintendent Bright had said so. He was perfectly fine.

Until Shirley Trewlove rushed in.

Bright and Thursday had gone to talk to the doctors who had removed the bullet from Jakes, and Strange was reading a newspaper in the corner. So when Shirley came bustling into the waiting room, her cheeks flushed from running and her eyes bright with worry, Fancy was free to meet her halfway across the room.

She melted into his arms, oblivious to the cloud of ash that rose from his coat. He held her close, suddenly grateful to have something warm and lovely to hold. She smelled faintly of rosewater and jasmine; it erased the smell of blood and burning wood that coated Fancy’s airway. The fabric of her off-duty shirt felt soft and cool on his calloused hands. The stark contrast of her beauty against the horror and fear that had been his day overwhelmed Fancy.

“My God, George, are you okay?” Shirley pulled back just far enough to be able to look into his eyes. One hand came up to caress his cheek.

Fancy swallowed hard. He was fine. He nodded.

Shirley’s eyebrows creased in concern. “How’s Morse?”

Fancy suddenly found that he was very much not fine. He’d seen Morse, right before the ambulance took him away. He didn’t want to remember what Morse looked like. He didn’t want to remember the bruises on his throat. He didn’t want to remember how still he had been. He didn’t want to hear Jakes’ screams. He didn’t want to remember the smell of gunpowder or the way that man had collapsed to the ground. He didn’t want to remember any of it. Too much, it was too much.

“George? George, it’s okay. God, George, it’s alright.” Shirley’s arms wrapped around him. Her hands found their way to his hair, guiding his head to her shoulder.

He realized he was shaking then, and that he couldn’t stop the tears. God, he was crying.

“Shhhh, George. It’s alright, I’m here,” Shirley soothed, her hands gently stroking his back.

“They...they tried to kill him,” he choked out. “I...I don’t know...they might have. We haven’t heard...there much blood, Shirley. So much.”

He felt Shirley guide him to a chair, and he sank gratefully into it. He had been fine.

“It’s okay, matey.”

Oh, God. Strange. He was crying in front of Strange. He’d never live this down.

But when he looked up, Strange’s face held no judgement. Only understanding and concern.

“This one hit real close to home,” Strange murmured, his voice low. “Your first shooting too, huh?”

Fancy nodded, trying to keep back the sobs. He clutched Shirley’s hand, as if it was his only lifeline out of this nightmarish hospital waiting room.

“Wouldn’t be right if you didn’t feel like this.” Strange glanced down at his hands. He didn’t look up when he spoke again. “What you’re feeling now, matey, that’s what separates us from them. It’s what keeps us on this side of the law.” Strange paused, and Fancy noticed a muscle in his jaw working. “It’s not right, seeing Morse and Jakes like that. It hurts. And it should.” He looked up at Fancy, his eyes suspiciously bright but his gaze startlingly intense. “When it stops hurting, that’s when you quit. That’s when you know you’re too close to the other side.”

Strange clapped one hand on Fancy’s shoulder, then shuffled to his feet and strode out of the room.

Fancy closed his eyes and leaned into Shirley’s warmth. Strange’s words wound around him, mixing with Shirley’s perfume. He let her soft hands smooth over his back. He felt his shoulders relax at her touch. He sighed into her hair, his tears falling softly but sobs no longer wracking his body. She was beautiful, and something had to be beautiful on a day like today.

Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.

The soft noise of Morse’s heartbeat filled the small room. It was both a comfort and a terror to Thursday. Morse lived, and in that, Thursday took comfort. But how long that beat would stay steady and strong was anyone’s guess.

Thursday stood at the foot of the bed, still covered in dirt and grime from the day. Max DeBryn hovered nearby, looking somewhat more put together. He’d washed and borrowed a shirt from a colleague at the hospital.

“We’ve got him back, Inspector,” DeBryn murmured. “No one can hurt him, not any more. Not here.”

Thursday grunted in assent. No one could get to Morse, he would make sure of that. Peck and Peter Matthews had been downed on sight, both dropped by Castlegate men. McGregor had been picked up soon after. Cole was still on the run, but an APW had been put out on him, and several men had been placed throughout the hospital. Two men stood guard outside Morse’s room and two more at Jakes’ door.

DeBryn came to stand next to Thursday. “He’s strong, Fred. He’s already fought so much.”

“That’s what worries me, Max,” Thursday replied, voice low with emotion. “I’m not sure how much fight he has left.”

Doctor and detective stared down at the young man before them. Injured and comatose, he looked far younger than his years. Far younger and far more innocent. He looked a bit like a poet who’d been accidentally thrust into a world of danger and violence. Not for the first time, Thursday wondered how such a gentle, intelligent, sensitive soul came to be one of Oxford’s finest detectives.

And not for the first time, both men offered up a prayer to Gods they barely believed in that Morse might live to see another sunrise.

Chapter Text

Shirley Trewlove hated having to leave George alone at the hospital. But he had insisted she go out with her friends. She had yet to miss one of their monthly nights “on the town”, and George insisted he wanted to stay with Morse. Shirley could have stayed, but there wasn’t much good she could do. Before leaving, she volunteered for a shift guarding Morse’s room the next day. That was really the best she could hope to do.

Well, short of giving Cole Matthews a taste of his own medicine. But that was too much to ask for, she knew. They didn’t even know where he was, and she wasn’t the type to arrange an “accident” for a man in handcuffs.

The night was a success, the bar full and lively, and she even got a chance to try a few new cocktails she’d been dying to try. While Shirley loved both her job and George, it was nice sometimes to let her hair down in a part of Oxford that wouldn’t recognize her. She enjoyed having some time to just be Shirley and not WPC Trewlove. That being said, there was a part of her that would always be a copper. She couldn’t just turn off her instincts or her overactive senses. So it didn’t come as a surprise to her friends when she stiffened as they walked down the street.

“What’s wrong, Shirl?” Julie asked, her stylish stilettos beating out a steady rhythm on the pavement.

“There’s a man lurking, up in that alley,” Shirley whispered. She reached into her purse, wrapping her hand around the heavy cosh she always kept there. Maria and Julie liked to tease her for the size of her purse, but it paid to be prepared. Always.

Maria hissed and slid closer to the center of the group. “Maybe we should go back the other way.”

Had she been in uniform, Shirley might have disagreed. But with the day she’d had--with the day George had had--there was no sense in taking chances. She was about to nod her assent when the man moved. It wasn’t much, but it was just enough for the closest street light to illuminate his face.

Cole Matthews.

Bits and pieces of memories filtered through her mind. Ransom demand. Kidnapped. Doctor DeBryn. Officer Down. George crying. Critical Care. Morse.

Shirley was halfway down the street before she even knew what she was doing. She could Becka calling her back, but it was too late now. Cole had spotted her.

“Stop! Police!” She shouted, cosh already in her hand.

Cole leaned back against the wall, laughing at her. Laughing.

“You? Police? Don’ think so, lil’ girl,” he slurred. The bastard was drunk.

“She most certainly is,” Julie growled indignantly. Good old Julie. She had Shirley’s back every time, even if she had no clue what was going on.

“WPC Trewlove.” Shirley barked, pulling herself up to her full height. She ignored the way Cole’s eyes roamed her body; she was too incensed to care. This bastard, this utterly despicable excuse of a man had beaten one of the most kind men she’d ever known (excepting George, of course) nearly to death. And damn it, he’d made her George cry. “You’re under arrest for the attempted murder of Detective Constable Morse.”

Something ugly came over Cole’s face then. He surged forward, fingers closing around her arm painfully.

Attempted murder? How the fuck did that bastard survive?”

“Watch your language!” Maria shrieked. She’d come to stand on the other side of Shirley, handbag held high as if to strike.

“Wait a minute.” Becka’s calm voice came from over Shirley’s left shoulder. Somehow, they had Cole surrounded. “This is the bastard that hurt George’s Morse?”

Cole snarled, jerking towards Becka. He dragged Shirley along with him. “I dunno who the fuck George is, but I beat that son of a bitch Morse into the ground.”

“Let go of me.” Shirley commanded, trying to wrench her arm free. “I said you’re under arrest!”

Cole laughed, an uneven, drunken sound. “Yeah? You and what police force?”

There was a dull thud then as Maria’s purse bounced off of Cole’s shoulder. Shirley rolled her eyes. Timing, Maria.

“Us, you blind fool.” Maria shouted.

The street erupted in shouts and thuds. Cole roared and reared backwards, dragging Shirley with him. Becka’s purse bounced off the side of his head with a resounding thunk that made Shirley grateful the woman had brought her entire makeup collection with her. That bag had to weigh 5 pounds. Maria screamed as loudly as she could, punctuating every fifth second with another strike of her bag. Shirley aimed several solid kicks to Cole’s shins as she struggled to free her arm.

Cole’s movements were clumsy and slow with drink, but he still outweighed each of the girls quite heavily. Shirley winced as one of Cole’s flailing fists connected with Maria’s shoulder, sending the girl flying backwards. She shrieked as she landed and Cole laughed. The alcohol on his breath made Shirley nauseous.

“You bitches will never take me in. I’ll do you as good as I did that bastard Morse.” He tugged on Shirley’s arm.

Anger flared in Shirley’s chest. Not fear, not terror, just pure anger. Anger that this arse had nearly killed Morse. Anger that he had made George cry. Anger that he had knocked Maria to the ground. And an all-consuming anger at a world which saw Shirley’s long hair and curves instead of her copper’s mind.

She was not going down.

Shirley reared back, intending to strike Cole as hard as she could. Maybe she could get him in the neck. She felt thin fingers close around her wrist.

“Here,” Julia whispered. “I knew I wore these for a reason.”

Shirley glanced over her shoulder, finding one of Julia’s shoes in her hand. One of Julia’s new shoes, with a wickedly sharp stiletto heel. Shirley grinned. He had threatened a police officer, after all.

When the police finally arrived to the scene, Cole Matthews lay unconscious and bleeding heavily on the ground. He sported Shirley's handcuffs, at least three suspiciously round stab wounds, and quite a few uneven bruises on his face. Shirley and her friends were grouped around him, all disheveled but grinning widely. Shirley held the bloody stiletto in her hand, handing it calmly to the first officer to arrive on scene.

“He assaulted an officer of the law, and he threatened me and my friends,” she explained. “And he made my boyfriend cry.”

Chapter Text

When Peter Jakes awoke to the steady beeping of his own heart monitor, he knew it was over. None of it had been a dream. The pain in his shoulder was a vivid reminder of exactly what he had nearly died trying to protect. And of what he had lost. He lay there in the near silence, trying to make sense of the last 24 hours. Of how his life had irrevocably changed.

Morse was gone.

He nearly lost the tenuous grasp he had on his sanity at that single thought. He sucked in a sharp breath, trying to recollect the oxygen that had been stolen from him at the remembrance. His eyes remained stubbornly shut. Why open them? Morse was gone.

“Matey?” Strange’s voice.

Jakes cursed silently. He should have been grateful they’d bothered to leave someone to look after him. But the last thing he needed or wanted was the looks they would give him. The pity, the semi-understanding. They would all mourn, all lay flowers on Morse’s grave. But they would never understand how deep this loss ran for Jakes. How much it had shattered him, and how many pieces of him still remained scattered around that cursed house.

Jakes cracked open his eyes to find Strange standing silently next to him. Strange gave him a sad smile.

“How you feeling?”

Jakes swallowed, hard. What kind of a question was that? He felt shot, shattered, broken, gutted. Alone.

“How do you think?” It was all he could manage, in a raspy, dry voice. If Strange wanted platitudes, he had come to the wrong place.

Strange nodded, flashing a small apologetic smile. “I’m sorry we didn’t get there in time.” His eyes dropped to his hands. “We tried to.”

Jakes made a noncommittal noise. He didn’t blame Strange or Fancy, not really. But he had no strength to wash the guilt from the men’s conscious. They would have to find absolution elsewhere; it did not rest with him.

Strange reached over to awkwardly pat Jakes’ shoulder. “I’ll let you rest. Thursday will be in later, he’s wrapping up with Bright at the station.” He turned to leave, but paused at the door. “They’re all dead, by the way. Even Cole.” An odd look flitted across his face. “I’m sure someone will tell you later. But thought you should know.” He stared at Jakes a moment longer before retreating through the door.

Dead. As if it was some consolation that Morse’s torturers had died. Several hours too late.

Jakes let his eyes drift closed again. The sterile hospital room was too much for him, with its gleaming white walls and medical equipment which was useless to him. Certainly, the dressings kept his wound clean, the IV gave him fluids and pain medication, and the monitor assured him that his heart was still beating. But those dressings couldn’t cleanse the images and sounds that haunted his memories--the sight of Morse bleeding at the hands of Cole and the sounds of his screams. The IV held no medicine that could cure the pain that had lodged deep in his gut, the pain of losing his love. That cursed monitor only served to remind him that the heart that used to love him would never beat again.

A sob escaped his lips, and he clenched his fist at his side. How was he supposed to move on from this? How was he supposed to keep going, when the only good thing he’d ever really had was taken away from him? How was he supposed to heal from this unspeakable pain?

Because this pain, it was unfamiliar to him. Jakes had lost lovers before, watched them turn their back on him and go off with someone better. It stung, and sometimes it knocked him flat for weeks, but he always kept going. Perhaps he had never truly fallen in love with any of them, and that made it easier to bear. Certainly none of them had loved him the way Morse did. None of them cared enough to stay by him at night when his past came to haunt him. None of them soothed his nightmares with skilled hands and soft words.

But there was more to it than that, and he knew it. He had been given a great gift in Endeavour Morse. He had been given Morse’s trust, his mind, and his heart. Jakes had taken Morse in to his arms, vowed to protect the man and show him that he was loved. And then he had watched as his lover was taken away from him.

That pain branded his soul with a ferocity Jakes didn’t think possible. He had stood there and watched as his beloved died in front of him. He had stood there, unable to do anything to protect the man who held his heart as life had slowly drained from his body. And then he had left him there, on a hard, unforgiving floor, in a mad attempt to find help. He could have stayed. Should have stayed. Then maybe Morse would be alive.

Or at the very least, Jakes wouldn’t be left here alone.

With another shaking breath, Jakes’ hand snaked up to wrap around the thin band of metal that hung from a chain around his neck. He grasped at it desperately, the last reminder that he had of Morse. The only thing that they could never take away from him. Jakes squeezed his eyes tighter, trying to replace the haunting images with memories of the night he had given Morse an identical ring.

Memories were all he had left now, and he clung to them as a drowning man clings to his rescuer. The memories might drag him under, but at least he wouldn’t go down alone.

Fragments slipped into his mind, slowly easing away the tortured screams that raged against his frayed nerves. The soft feel of Morse’s curls under his fingers. The way Morse moved in time to the music as they danced. The way their bodies fit together perfectly as they moved. The undefinable scent that was all Morse , and the way Jakes could lose himself in that smell. The way Morse leaned into the feel of Jakes’ hands on his face. The look on Morse’s face when Jakes had asked, and the breathless way he’d whispered yes . The feel of Morse’s lips on his. The reverent way Morse had kissed him, as if afraid to shatter the moment.

To Jakes, that night had been a way to put a neater bow on the chaotic way he had first asked Morse to stay with him forever. To Morse--as Jakes saw reflected in his eyes--it had been a gift he had never expected to receive: the pledge of forever.

Jakes winced as the reality of how short forever had actually been.

God, Morse.

Jakes woke again to the soft creaking of the door to his room. This time he opened his eyes willingly, desperate to escape the leering face of Cole Matthews that plagued his dreams. He regretted that decision as his eyes found the haunted eyes of Inspector Thursday.

Jakes found himself assaulted again by shards of memories: Morse’s bruised body, his broken plea to keep Thursday from the truth, the look on Thursday’s face as the paramedics took Morse’s lifeless body away from them. Failed. Jakes had failed.

He had failed to rescue Morse. He had failed to protect Morse. And he had failed to protect Thursday from the knowledge of how Morse had died.

“Sir,” Jakes whispered.

A faint smile played on Thursday’s tired face as he walked closer. “Good to see you awake, Sergeant.” He came to stand at Jakes’ bedside, hands idly spinning his pipe in his hands.

“Sir...I’m sorry.” Jakes took a shaky breath, his eyes filling with tears. “I tried, sir. I tried to stop them. I tried to save him. God, I’m so sorry.” He closed his eyes, a few tears slipping down his cheeks. He probably wasn’t supposed to cry in front of his superior officer, but Jakes couldn’t bring himself to care.

A steady hand on his shoulder forced Jakes to open his eyes again. Thursday stared down at him, sorrow and sympathy in his eyes.

“It’s alright, Sergeant. You did your best.” Thursday’s voice was gravelly, as if he were holding back tears of his own. “You were there with him, Peter. You kept him going. You kept him alive, you know.”

Jakes shook his head. He had failed. “I couldn’t save him, sir. I couldn’t get him out. God, I tried.” Jakes paused for a long moment, struggling to control his breathing. Finally he looked up at Thursday, his grief overwhelming him. “Sir...what do I do now? Without him?”

A confused look crossed Thursday’s face. “Jakes?”

“I didn’t...I didn’t want to walk away. With out Dev.” Jakes murmured, half to himself.”

“Peter?” Thursday repeated, tapping him lightly on the shoulder to get his attention. “Did no one tell you?”

Jakes blinked up at him, too drained to bother trying to understand. “Tell me what?”

Several emotions crossed Thursday’s face: anger, frustration, sadness, and finally pain. “Morse is in a coma, son. But he’s alive.”

Jakes froze, his exhausted mind unable to comprehend what Thursday was saying to him. “What?” He finally managed.

Thursday took a deep breath, turning for a moment to pull a chair up next to the bed. He sat down slowly, wearily.

“I got him out, to DeBryn, in time. He…” Thursday paused, staring down at his hands for a moment. “We lost him, for a few moments. But DeBryn got him back.” He looked back up at Jakes, sincerity in his eyes. “He’s alive, Jakes. He’s not well, but he’s alive and safe.”

“Dev...he’s alive?” Jakes whispered. Thursday nodded solemnly. Jakes gasped and struggled to sit upright, one single thought piercing his mind and flooding through his veins. He had to get to Morse.

Thursday shot out of his chair, hand moving to steady Jakes. “Calm down, Sergeant. You’re not well enough to be going anywhere just yet.”

Jakes struggled against his hands. “I need to see Dev. I’ve got to get to him.” He roughly shook Thursday’s hands off. “Let me see Dev!”

“Sergeant!” Thursday’s booming voice stilled Jakes. Thursday looked at Jakes, a deep sadness in his eyes. “Morse is in no condition for visitors.” He swallowed heavily. “He’s...he’s in a bad way, Peter. You’d best stay here until he heals a bit.”

Jakes stared at Thursday for a moment, comprehension dawning. He didn’t know. Thursday didn’t know that Jakes...that Jakes had been there. He was trying to protect Jakes from...from what Jakes already knew.

“I know.” Jakes said, his voice barely above a whisper. “I was there, sir. They...they made me watch.” A tremor tore at Jakes as the memories assaulted him again. He closed his eyes, wincing against the onslaught. “I saw it all, sir.”

The silence that greeted him was deafening. When he finally opened his eyes, Thursday was staring at him. His face was horror stricken. He sat heavily into the chair.

“The bastards,” he whispered.

Jakes reached his hand up to hold the ring again. “I need to see him, sir. I know...God, I know. I saw everything. I can’t unsee it.” He paused, closing his eyes against the tears that threatened to drown him again. He needed Mores. He needed to hold him, to touch him, to keep him close. “I couldn’t save him, sir. I need...I need to know...that he’s alive.”

Thursday drew a deep breath. He reached behind Jakes to rearrange the pillows, allowing Jakes the chance to sit upright. “Sit back and rest a moment, sergeant, and that’s an order.”

As much as Jakes wanted to shove Thursday aside, to stride into the hallway and demand to be taken to Morse’s room, he realized that he wouldn’t make it far. His mind was moving too slowly, and his good arm was already shaking with the effort to hold him up. He wasn’t sure he could trust his legs to support him any better. Jakes collapsed back onto the mound of pillows with a frustrated sigh and an unspoken curse at his injured body.

Once certain that Jakes wasn’t going to do a runner, Thursday sat back down as well. He stared at his hands for a long moment. Finally he spoke, though he still addressed his hands.

“He’s not really allowed visitors, sergeant. They’ve only just gotten him stable.” Thursday took a deep breath. “They’re...they’re not sure when he will wake up.” Jakes winced at Thursday’s deliberate stress on the word when. He suspected the nurses spoke of if. Thursday held his silence for a few heartbeats, before looking back up at Jakes.

Jakes felt suddenly as if he were staring into a mirror. The pain and sorrow that filled Thursdays’ eyes rivaled the turmoil he felt within his own soul. The two men stared at each other, finding solace in their shared grief, a grief that no one else could fathom. For both feared the loss of a relationship that existed outside the bounds of society’s expectations. Thursday ached for a man who was not, and never could be, his own son; yet he felt the responsibility and concern of a father as he waited impatiently for news. Jakes longed to be able to hold a man who was not, and never could be, his own spouse; yet they had promised themselves to each other, and Jakes was determined to keep that promise.

That shared moment of silence and pain did more to calm Jakes’ soul than any concrete gesture of comfort ever could. He found himself understood and known, in that moment. Thursday knew, of course. He had found out that horrible Christmas eve. He had kept their secret, as much as he could. And he knew how deep Jakes’ commitment ran.

Well, almost.

“Sir?” Jakes finally ventured.

Thursday blinked, coming out of his reverie. “Yes?”

Jakes’ hand fumbled with the chain at his neck. Finally, he got it out from under his gown. The ring spun lazily in place, glinting a bit in the artificial light. Jakes stared at it, trying to find the words.

“Morse...Morse had a ring like that on him.” Thursday murmured, questions in his eyes.

Jakes nodded. “I gave it to him.” He coughed, trying to ignore the burning in his throat. “After...after Bertelli...Morse was, he was struggling, sir. He tried to push me away.” Jakes allowed himself a small smile as he recalled that argument, and how it had ended in a haphazard type of proposal. “I...we can’t...we can’t really, well, legally, form any kind of commitment. But I wanted him to know.” And he had wanted to do it right, not in anger or with tears. “So I bought these, for us. To remember that we’ll always...have each other.”

Jakes voice was little more than a whisper by that point. That night, that commitment, that exchange had been such a sacred moment to him. Sharing it out loud, in a world that was just as likely to jail him for it as to pity terrified him.

He had never expected to find someone that he wanted to spend his life with, let alone someone eager to spend it with him. He had been content, for the longest time, to wander in and out of short-lived relationships. But Morse had just fit. His sharp edges fit into Jakes’ languid curves, his soft understanding had blunted Jakes’ sharp past, his biting intellect had spurred Jakes’ own mind. And Jakes had found that he relished being able to take care of Morse. Being allowed to watch as Morse flourished under a love that he’d never was the most beautiful thing that Jakes had ever seen.

Jakes’ eyes flicked up to meet Thursday’s, gauging his reaction. Thursday simply nodded at him to continue, but Jakes was almost certain he’d seen a suspicious mistiness in the older man’s eyes.

“When...when they let me go to him--God, sir, I thought, no, I knew he was dead.” Jakes gave up trying to hide the way his voice broke. Thursday knew everything already, Jakes had no image left to protect and no pride to save. Getting to Morse was all that mattered right now. “He opened his eyes, I thought I was dreaming. But he said...he pointed to my ring and he said...that was why he had hung on.” Jakes stopped, his jaw clenching as he held back the wall of emotion threatening to crumble down around them. “Through all that, he’d kept going, he hadn’t given up. For us. For me.” Jakes closed his eyes, letting the tears fall freely. He couldn’t hold them back anymore. His hand clenched around the ring and he brought it to his lips.

Neither one of them spoke for several minutes. Finally Jakes took a shuddering breath and looked up at Thursday. “Sir, I need to see him. He...he needs to know I’m there. It might help him fight, sir. It might help him hang on. And, God--sir, I just need to touch him. Please.”

Thursday stared at him, an inscrutable look in his eyes. Just when Jakes was ready to try his hand at racing into the hallway, Thursday nodded.

“I’ll see what I can do, lad.” Thursday heaved himself to his feet. “I can’t promise anything, but I’ll try. Rest, Jakes. You’ve taken a few blows yourself. I’ll be back in a bit. I promise.”

Jakes shook his head. “I can’t sleep, sir. Not until...not until I can see for myself. That he’s okay. That these nightmares aren’t real.” He ducked his head. “I’ll get down there myself, if I have to, sir.”

Thursday pressed his lips together into a thin line. “You’ll do no such thing, sergeant.” The stern tone faded a bit as Thursday gave Jakes a slight smile. “Rest, now.” And then he was gone, leaving Jakes alone with the beeping of his monitor.

Jakes closed his eyes, allowing the steady rhythm of the monitor to wash over him. Because this time, the monitor reminded him that somewhere in this hospital, the heart that loved him was still beating.

Chapter Text

Once he was certain that Jakes would stay in place for at least the next ten minutes, Thursday slipped from the room. He had to remind himself not to slam the door, despite the way his blood was boiling. He needed someone to blame, and anyone would do.

How, precisely, had Jakes been left to believe that Morse was dead? Who had forgotten to mention to him that Morse still lived? Thursday had been gone for only a few hours, couldn’t someone have thought to say something? A nurse? Another officer? Someone?

Thursday stormed down the hall, trying to breathe deeply. He couldn’t light into the nurses the same way he would his own men. He had little authority here, and trying to throw his weight around wouldn’t get him very far. Besides, he knew himself well enough to know that much of his anger stemmed from another source entirely.

Fred Thursday was a man of action. Waiting, hoping, and praying weren’t things that he did well. He’d rather be out pounding pavement, seeking revenge, finding answers. But there was nothing he could do for Morse now. He had no specialized knowledge that would work within these walls. He knew nothing of how to knit skin back together, speed up the production of blood, or fend off infection. He had no way to determine whether or not brain damage had resulted from lack of oxygen.

Thursday was no fool. He had sat enough of these vigils to know how treacherous the road was that Morse still had to travel. It had been some time since he had seen one of his own officers beaten this badly. Truly, he had hoped to never see it again.

So it was that Thursday’s frustration boiled over and sought out the closest outlet. Jakes’ pain, that was something he could at least try to alleviate. He could chase down whoever had neglected to tell Jakes the truth. He could seek to get Jakes into Morse’s room. If he played his cards right, he could possibly get Jakes transferred to Morse’s room.

Because he knew Jakes had a stubborn streak that could rival Morse’s. He wouldn’t rest until he had seen Morse. And though Thursday wouldn’t admit it out loud, the look in Jakes’ eyes had frightened him. He hadn’t understood quite why Jakes looked that haunted. Until Jakes had said those words, I was there. Those words, and the pain the contained, had been like shrapnel slicing into his skin.

Perhaps that was another layer added to his anger. That the Matthews gang had been so cruel to not only beat Morse nearly-- no, they had beat him to death. But that they had also forced Jakes to watch. What possible gain could they get from that? Other than pure, vicious barbarity.

Thursday may not have known the intricacies of medical care well, but he knew his men. And the knew the only thing that would erase that terrible expression in Jakes’ eyes was to see Morse alive and well. They could manage alive. Time would tell if they would ever get Morse well again.

Thursday took one final deep breath as he approached the nurses’ station. He was not going to take no for an answer. Not this time.

Jakes steeled himself as they approached Morse’s room. He clutched the edges of his wheelchair until his knuckles were white. Jakes hated being reduced to this, being pushed around the hospital by his governor. His legs had refused to remain under him for very long, and the nurses insisted. None of them looked very happy at his pilgrimage to Morse’s room, but Thursday’s murderous look cowed them all.

Jakes ignored nurses and inspector both. All he wanted was to be able to get to his Morse, to take the man in his arms, and never let him go. He didn’t know what to expect, really, and he almost didn’t care. He just needed to lay eyes on Morse, to see him safe and purged from the dust and blood of that hateful room. Nothing could be worse than holding Morse’s lifeless body in his arms. Nothing.

But as Thursday pushed quietly through the doors into Morse’s room, Jakes became acutely grateful for the support of the chair. He would have collapsed otherwise. Seeing Morse’s pale, motionless form against the stark white of the hospital room was far worse than Jakes could have imagined. The sight tore at his already battered heart and brought stinging tears to his eyes.

Morse was dead white, making the livid black and purple bruises on his face and neck stand out. They marred his skin like cruel testaments to the hatred that had been unleashed upon him. Jakes’ fingers itched to trace the few scattered constellations of freckles that could be seen, a reminder of the perfect canvas that Morse’s face should be. Horrible white bandages swathed Morse’s head, obscuring most of the russet curls that Jakes loved. Fractured skull, Thursday had said. More bandages wrapped around Morse’s wrists, stained with spots of rusty red blood. A plaster cast immobilized Morse’s shattered left arm, and smaller splints protecting long, slender fingers. Jakes whimpered as he noticed identical splints on Morse’s right hand.

Had those monsters left any part of his Morse untouched?

A stiff white blanket had been pulled up around Morse’s waist, leaving his bandaged chest and pale arms visible. Stripes of deep red bruises marred Morse’s long arms. Strips of white wrapped themselves around Morse’s chest and over his left shoulder innumerable times. Red blood had seeped through in a few places, and Jakes wondered how Morse could afford to lose any more blood.

Thursday pushed Jakes forward, until he was close enough to reach out and touch Morse. But Jakes held back. All he had wanted, since Thursday assured him that Morse was alive, was to hold Morse in his arms. But now, staring at Morse’s unmoving, fragile body, Jakes couldn’t bring himself to take Morse’s hand. What if his fingers caused Morse more pain, above and beyond what he’d already experienced? What if his touch snapped the silken thread that seemed to dangle Morse just above the vast chasm that was death? What if the nurses saw him, reached the proper conclusion, and chose to ignore Morse’s needs?

Jakes swallowed heavily, choking back his tears. Thursday’s heavy hand on his shoulder grounded him, brought him out of the panic swirling in his mind.

“It’s alright, lad. He won’t break.”

Jakes glanced up at Thursday, unable to speak.

Thursday gave him a broken smile. “I’ll leave you two alone for a while, sergeant. I’ve got a few things to discuss with the nurses.” He paused as he turned to leave. “I know he would want to hear your voice.”

And then Jakes was alone with Morse.

He sat in silence for several minutes, eyes roaming Morse’s body. He wasn’t sure what he was looking for, really. Movement...he found movement in the steady but shallow rise and fall of Morse’s chest. Breathing. He caught glimpses of the Morse he knew in the scattered freckles on his shoulder, the few wisps of soft curls escaping the bandages.

His eyes finally came to rest on Morse’s right hand. Bandages wound around it, ending a few inches above and below his slender wrist. Jakes slowly extended his left hand, gently covering Morse’s hand with his own. Carefully avoiding the splinted fingers, Jakes wrapped his own fingers around Morse’s hand. He gripped it as tightly as he dared, as a soft sob slipped out.

“Oh, Dev,” he whispered. His thumb traced slow patterns on Morse’s skin. “I’m so sorry, Endeavour. Please come back to me. Please, Dev.”

When Thursday reentered the room a half hour later, he found Jakes slumped over Morse’s bed. One of his hands hand clasped Morse’s, and Jakes’ head had found purchase on the space on the bed next to Morse. Thursday smiled wanly at the sight. Maybe Jakes would get some rest now. And maybe, if they were lucky, Morse would come back to them.

Thursday came to stand at the end of Morse’s bed, watching the reassuring rhythm of his bagman’s chest. He bowed his head to his chest, his eyes falling closed in a silent prayer that this vigil would not end the way his last had.

Jakes refused to move from Morse’s side, when he woke again. Even after being assured that his bed would be moved into the room, he would glare daggers at anyone who entered. He remained stubbornly planted in the chair they had pulled up to Morse’s bed, his fingers wrapping possessively around Morse’s wrist when the nurses got too close. Thursday was fairly certain Jakes had actually growled when DeBryn had checked in on Morse.

Jakes never lost constant contact with Morse, his fingers tracing soothing patterns on Morse’s arms or tenderly brushing at a few unruly curls. Thursday had slipped in at one point to find Jakes’ thumb gently tracing the outline of Morse’s lips. He pretended that he hadn’t noticed, of course. He wasn’t quite sure what kind of response that would elicit from Morse’s self-appointed guard dog.

Still, the protectiveness that Jakes exhibited eased some of the strain on Thursday. Despite Thursday’s desire to sit himself down in Morse’s room and not leave until the lad had opened his eyes, he still had a job to do. No on knew how long Morse would remain in a coma, and Thursday knew he would be needed at the station. The hawklike way that Jakes tracked any and all movement in the room gave Thursday at least a little peace of mind. Jakes would keep their Morse safe until Morse could speak for himself.

Thursday ignored the voice at the back of his mind that whispered if he can still speak. He refused to think that the lad’s brain had been damaged beyond repair.

Later that evening, DeBryn wandered into the room for a second time. Honestly, Jakes was rather surprised that he came up again. A little embarrassed, too. From what Thursday had said, DeBryn was the only reason Morse had been alive when the ambulance had come. But Jakes had nearly chased him out of the room when last he had come.

To be fair, the doctor that left just before DeBryn entered, had not had the best bedside manner. He’d made several crass remarks about how close Morse was to being sent “downstairs”. When DeBryn had appeared, as if on queue, Jakes hadn’t been able to resist the slight snarl that escaped.

Jakes flashed the doctor what he hoped was an apologetic smile, trying to pretend his left hand didn’t tighten a bit around Morse’s arm.

“About earlier…”

DeBryn waved his hand dismissively. “Fleckinger--” DeBryn spat the name. “--has a horrible sense of what is and isn’t appropriate at a patient's beside. He only remains here because his skill with his patients means that his off-color jokes rarely come to fruition.” DeBryn moved to Morse’s bedside. His voice held less acerbity as he continued. “I can only hope he earns his keep this time.” The doctor’s eyes were dark with concern.

The two men shared a not-quite-comfortable silence, both eyes fixed on the unresponsive body between them. After a few moments, DeBryn cleared his throat.


Jakes looked up at him, head canted to the side in question.

“I wanted to tell you…” DeBryn paused, eyes fixed on Morse. “When he...when Thursday brought him to me, he asked about you.” DeBryn’s eyes flicked to Jakes, then back to Morse. “He wanted to know that you were alright. It’s good that you are here. He needs to know…” His voice trailed off, head dipping a bit, asking Jakes to fill in the rest.

Jakes nodded. “Thursday arranged it.” Though Jakes wouldn’t have left the room under his own free will, and he certain Thursday suspected as much.

DeBryn nodded.

“Doctor,” Jakes ventured after a few more minutes had passed. “What...what can you tell me? They won’t tell me anything.” When DeBryn shuffled uncomfortably, Jakes continued. “Please, I need to know. I need to know...what to expect.”

DeBryn pursed his lips, sighing deeply. “Truthfully, we can’t know much until he wakes up.”

Jakes clenched his jaw. “Then tell me what you know. I was there, DeBryn. I saw...everything. Nothing you can tell’s can’t be worse than what I’ve already imagined.”

DeBryn stared at him for several long seconds. When he began again, his voice had changed in pitch. He was a pathologist, relaying information about a patient, not a friend talking about his injured colleague.

“The amount of blood he lost was nearly critical, due to an internal hemorrhage. They’ve got him on a heavy dose of antibiotics given the infected wounds to his head and shoulder. Sepsis is a possibility, but hopefully a slim one.” DeBryn’s eyes flicked to Morse’s ravaged neck. “He’s under close watch due the the possibilities of complications from strangulation. His hyoid bone appears to be intact, though they aren’t sure about the state of his larynx. The contusions on his face are mostly superficial.” DeBryn’s voice dropped for a moment. “Unlike many of the other injuries.” He cleared his throat. “His skull was fractured in two places, but there appears to be no bleeding on his brain. The worst damage was to his abdomen.” DeBryn glanced at Jakes.

Jakes stared back, stoic. He hadn’t lied when he said he could handle the truth. His mind had conjured up endless possibilities for Morse’s injuries, and had replayed the assault countless times. He had heard the snapping of bone, the horrible thud of flesh on flesh, and Cole’s taunting litany. He could still hear Morse’s screams.

DeBryn cleared his throat and continued. All of his ribs have been bruised and most of them are broken. One…” Here his professional veneer wavered. “One broke the skin and had to be surgically reset. He has severe bruising along his spine but there appear to be no fractures. Miraculously, his ribs, spine, and arms took the brunt of the force. His internal organ injuries were repairable, though critical. Both lungs were bruised quite severely. They’re watching for edema--er, possible fluid build up.” DeBryn paused, eyes running the length of Morse’s form. “He’s suffered severe bruising nearly everywhere, plus serious damage to his wrists. His radius and ulna were both fractured, as well as several fingers from both hands.”

“And his brain?” Jakes prodded. He wasn’t an idiot. He knew they had lost Morse’s pulse, he had heard. And he knew damn well what oxygen deprivation could do.

DeBryn avoided his eyes. “We lost him three times, Peter.” He swallowed heavily. “There’s no reason that he’s still with us.” His eyes met Jakes’ again. “There’s no telling the damage done until he wakes up.”

Jakes drew in a shaky breath. He’d known, really. But hearing it sent a fresh wave of fear through him. What would Morse be, when he woke up? Would his beautiful mind still be intact? Would he remember the assault? Would he remember Jakes?

“They...they’ve given him something...for the pain, right?” Jakes finally managed. He wasn’t prepared for the grimace the doctor gave him.

“They can’t.”

Jakes nearly shot out of his chair. “You mean he’s laying here, suffering!

DeBryn raised his hands, cutting Jakes off. “Anything we give him could interfere with his healing, and until we know how badly his brain has been damaged, we can’t risk that. It could kill him, Jakes.”

Jakes stilled, but did not relax.

“We aren’t sure that patients in a coma can feel pain, Peter. It’s for the best, I promise.”

Jakes shook his head, tears forming again. “I can’t...God, he’s been hurt enough.” Jakes dropped his head to his chest, giving in to silent sobs.

A warm hand on his back startled him, but he refused to look up. The thought of what had been done to Morse, and the thought that he might be able to feel the results of Cole’s cruelty broke Jakes’ resolve. He bent over Morse’s arms, giving in to the fear, grief, and desperation of the last 24 hours. He didn’t care who saw him. He simply wept.

Chapter Text

Time ticked on, and it brought no relief to the waiting men.

Hour after hour passed, nurses rotated in and out of the room, checked Morse’s vitals every so often. Their faces were grim and their words curt. Evening turned into night, and night slowly passed into morning. Jakes slept fitfully, his rest broken by ghosts from the recent past and specters of horrors yet to come. He refused to retreat to his bed, remaining next to Morse and waking every time a nurse slipped into the room. He kept up his suspicious examination of every movement they made, eyes flickering between the nurses’ and Morse’s face. He watched for any sign that Morse was aware of what was occurring around him.

Jakes prayed for any sign that Morse would wake up. None came.

Visitors drifted in and out, allowed only to stay for a few moments. Fancy slunk in, shuffled around awkwardly for a bit, and then disappeared as quietly as he had come. Strange attempted to talk to Jakes, but he had no energy to respond. Win Thursday came with food, naturally. Said Jakes needed to eat something other than that horrid hospital food. Jakes didn’t have the heart to tell her he hadn’t eaten any of that either. How could they expect him to eat, when Morse still wouldn’t respond to his voice?

Win stayed a while, silently hemming a few napkins. Jakes thought he would resent her presence, but instead, he found himself comforted by the way peace seemed to fill the room. There was something steadying in her composure. Jakes wondered how many similar vigils she had sat at her husband’s or children’s sides. The way her needle dipped in and out of the cloth, unshaking, seemed to give strength to Jakes’ shattered nerves. It felt almost as if the threat of death fled from Win’s confident spirit. Jakes had no doubt that she would take the devil to task if he threatened someone in Win’s care.

Everyone left, eventually. Chased out by nurses or drawn back to the world outside. Jakes would slump back into his chair then, when no one remained to threaten his Morse. He dozed occasionally, his hand perpetually wrapped around Morse’s. Sometimes he just watched Morse, reminding himself that as long as there was life, there was hope.

He clung to an unheard “I love you” that Morse had whispered. DeBryn told Jakes, said that Morse insisted Jakes know. Jakes refused to believe those had been his last words, but he rolled them around in his mind. He replaced the horrific screams with the countless whispered I love you’s they had shared. As the hours blurred together, Jakes tried to fight off the overwhelming feeling of despair. How long would they let Morse remain unresponsive, before they declared him beyond help? How many times would the nurses keep checking his breathing, before they sought for a way to stop it? How long would they let Jake sit here, gently stroking his lover’s hand, before they dragged him from the room? How many seconds would tick by until they told him there was no hope?

He didn’t know. He had little experience with hospitals, preferring to hear from others what had transpired. They smelled of antiseptic and death, and reminded Jakes far too much of the forced sterility of his early childhood. He had no experience with the medical intricacies of comas. He had heard stories, of patients whom the doctors declared beyond help.

His restless dreams began to feature emotionless doctors roughly tugging hospital sheets up over Morse’s face as nurses held him back. When he turned, trying to shake off the petite hands, he found himself staring into the leering faces of Peck and McGregor. Invariably, the doctor would turn into Cole Matthews.

By the end of the second day, Jakes was overwrought. It had been four days since he had last held Morse, not counting those terrible moments when he thought Morse dead. Jakes was exhausted and terrified, and quite tired of being afraid. The nurses’ faces only grew grimmer with each visit, and the doctor no longer tried to crack dark jokes. Each time the nurses slunk from the room, Jakes felt as if someone had landed a heavy punch to his gut. Jakes couldn’t remember the last time he had eaten or really slept. As a haze of exhaustion settled over him, clouding his thinking, Jakes felt himself giving up hope. All he wanted to do was gather Morse in his arms and hold him, either until Morse woke up or stopped breathing. Maybe then Jakes could find some peace, an escape from this endless game of waiting.

As the last shift quietly checked Morse’s vitals, Jakes made up his mind. Hospital rules be damned. That was his Morse in that bed. He didn’t deserve to be left stranded there, untouched and unloved. And Jakes was tired of waiting for someone to let him closer to Morse.

So when the ward had finally settled for the night, Jakes stood shakily from his chair. He walked unsteadily to his own bed, which he had mostly ignored for the past two days, and tugged the scratchy hospital blanket from it. He returned to Morse’s side, and gently sat down on the bed. He stared at Morse’s face for a moment, reaching out his good hand to gently stroke the side of his face. The bruises had begun to heal, although the horrific shade of purple and yellow that they had turned was not very comforting.

“Dev, my Dev,” Jakes whispered. He bent to gently place a kiss on Morse’s forehead. Shaking fingers brushed back those few stray curls. Jakes smiled down at his Morse as he straightened. For better, for worse, they had said. This certainly was worse.

Cautiously, Jakes maneuvered himself alongside Morse, tugging the extra blanket around them. He wrapped his left arm around Morse’s right, careful not to disturb the slender, splinted fingers. Gingerly, he freed his own arm from its sling, wincing a bit as the movement pulled at his stitches. He lowered himself down, tucking his long limbs in and around Morse. Choking back a sob, he tucked his head into the crook of Morse’s neck.


He lay there for a while, just breathing in Morse’s scent. It was overlaid with antiseptic and hospital soap, but there all the same. His fingers came to rest over Morse’s heart. Jakes felt himself relax for the first time in days as he felt that steady beat once again under his hand. This was how they often fell asleep at home, Morse’s heartbeat under Jakes’ hand. It comforted Jakes to know that Morse was out of harm’s way, and though he would never admit it, Morse needed to know he was wanted.

Jakes found that as he lay there, with Morse solidly and safely underneath his protective embrace, the horrors that had plagued his memory for the last two days seemed to fade. It was as if simply touching Morse was enough to chase away the haunting specters of their shared torment. Morse was his, Morse was here, and Morse was safe. Bits and pieces of their shared lives began to flit through his mind, and he found himself smiling into Morse’s neck. Good memories replaced the bad ones, and Jakes sighed deeply as he tucked his head closer to Morse. He wondered if he had ever managed to tell Morse exactly what the man meant to him. He had tried, certainly. But something told him he usually botched it. Or Morse’s own natural prickliness got in the way.

He found himself suddenly overwhelmed with the need to explain it to Morse, then and there. In case he never got the chance again. Morse needed to know. Jakes needed Morse to know...he had to know why Jakes couldn’t live without him. Because wasn’t that really what Morse was always on about? How everyone would be better off without him? Even wearing Jakes’ ring, sometimes the man slipped back into that old pattern. Jakes couldn’t take the risk that somewhere in that too-still mind of his, Morse was giving up.

Jakes’ fingers traced delicate patterns on Morse’s chest, his voice low and soft, the words murmured against Morse’s neck and shoulder.

“I’m not sure if I’ve ever told you, Endeavour Morse, but you saved me. You saved me from myself, from my nightmares. If you were awake right now, you’d probably laugh in my face and call me daft. But I’m not. It’s the truth. You’re always worrying about how much better off you think the world would be without you, but it wouldn’t be, Dev. I wouldn’t be. I need you so much, Dev.”

He shifted, pulling back so that he could examine the side of Morse’s face. His fingers came up to gently stroke Morse’s cheek.

“That night, at the pub. You were the first person who ever knew who didn’t look down on me. You didn’t pity me. And you didn’t think less of me for being less of a man than you were. I’d never had anyone look at me like that, like I wasn’t...damaged somehow. And after...when we finally got you back, you weren’t angry with me. I still don’t understand why. If I’d gone with you, then maybe...but I promised I wouldn’t go there anymore.”

Jakes laughed a bit, placing a feather-light kiss on Morse’s cheek.

“See? You’ve got me listening to you and you’re not even talking back to me. God, I miss the sound of your voice, Dev. You’d probably laugh at that too, but I do. I love to listen to you talk, Dev. Especially when you’re taking down some old bugger who thinks he’s God’s gift. Or expounding on one of your crazy theories.”

Jakes paused, his fingers roaming Morse’s chest.

“I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to do, if you don’t wake up, Dev. I can’t....I just...I don’t know.” Jakes huffed, propping himself up a bit so that he could stare down at Morse’s face. “You’ve become a part of me, Dev, and I feel like I’m losing part of myself. I don’t want to lose you, Dev. You bring out the best in me, not that I’d ever say that to anyone else. You challenge me to use my own wits and not just my wiles. God, Dev, you know I didn’t realize I was even a worthwhile detective until you pushed me? And you think you’re the utter disaster. I just have a better taste in clothes.”

Jakes wanted to laugh at the image that suddenly sprung to his mind, but the sound that escaped was closer to a sob.

“I can see the way you would wrinkle your nose at that, Dev. Glaring at me as if you had no clue what I was talking about. All the while laughing at me. Do you remember when we first met, how you would get so upset if I said something like that? Did I ever apologise for being such an ass to you then? I don’t remember, but I am sorry. I think I loved you then, but I didn’t know it. Got too caught up in being jealous of you.”

Jakes stopped for a while then, staring down at Morse, willing him to wake. He’d hoped that his touch, his voice, these memories, might spark something in Morse. But Morse remained motionless.

“Did I ever tell you the first time I realized I was falling for you? That awful night you got yourself stabbed under the Bodleian. You took my shirt and went right back to work. I didn’t realize how stubborn you were until then. How much you actually cared. I did feel bad, then, for that quip earlier. Still do, honestly. You’re nothing like that man was.”

Jakes didn’t realize he was crying again until his tears splashed onto Morse’s face. Gently he wiped them away.

“God, Dev, I want you back. I need you back. Please, Dev. Come back to me. I can’t...I can’t do this without you. I can’t do this on my own. Please, Endeavour. Come back to me.”

Chapter Text

Each time Morse felt himself crawling towards consciousness, the burning pain made him flinch back. It consumed him, running along every nerve in his body. His fingers throbbed and his lungs refused to obey him. He wanted air, needed air, but no matter how hard he tried, his lungs kept pumping in the same meager supply. He couldn’t force his eyes to open either. It was as if he was trapped in a body that no longer wanted to listen to his commands. It terrified him, and he let the pain chase him back into unconsciousness.

Sometimes it was an unnameable fear that kept him from fighting towards the real world. He couldn’t remember exactly why he was...wherever he was, but he knew that the reason wasn’t good. His memory was fuzzy, but he could remember screaming. And being afraid. And pain, always the pain. He was afraid of the pain, and he was afraid of whatever had caused the pain. It had come from out there, in that strange place filled with monotonous beeping and low voices. He didn’t even know where there was, only that he was deathly afraid of whatever might find him there. So he ran back towards the darkness.

When consciousness came calling again, it was a deep weariness that tempted Morse back towards the darkness. He didn’t remember why, but he felt like he was always fighting something, out there. And that no matter how hard he fought, he could never win. So why did he keep fighting? What good did it do him? What good did it do anyone else? His memory was fuzzy, but he was pretty sure that whoever he had known out there hadn’t really cared for him all that much. A few phrases and disembodied faces chased him: I never liked the police; to be clever is to be alone; you’re not even my son, Endeavour; Such a weak little bastard, poor excuse for a copper He flinched from those specters, and the never ending pain that seemed to lance through him with each breath.

Why did he keep fighting, he wondered again. Maybe it was time to stop fighting. Each time he climbed this far, something struck out at him, knocking him back down. Maybe he could just give up. It wasn’t as if anyone would really miss him, out there.

And then a strangely familiar voice broke through the fog of pain, fear, and weariness.

...Endeavour Morse, you saved me.

Morse felt his tenuous grip on reality tighten. Peter?

You saved me from myself, from my nightmares...It’s the truth. You’re always worrying about how much better off you think the world would be without you, but it wouldn’t be, Dev. I wouldn’t be. I need you so much, Dev.

Peter was here. Peter needed him.

Like a moth drawn towards a beautiful light, Endeavour Morse climbed slowly towards the voice of Peter Jakes. The warmth and love that wrapped around him with every word that Jakes spoke dulled the pain in his bones. The soft brush of air on the side of his face seemed to chase away the fear that kept him from awakening. The tender caresses of warm fingers on his skin muted the unfamiliar sounds of the room he was trapped in. The warmth of a familiar body next to him lent its strength to his weary body. The gentle arm around his shoulders seemed to protect him from whatever else was out there .

There was a pause, and then that soft voice came again, an agonizing whisper that gave Morse the strength he needed to pull himself out of the grip that death had upon him.

Please, Endeavour. Come back to me.

It had been a long time since Endeavour Morse had been able to refuse anything that Peter Jakes asked of him. So despite the pain, Morse tried again to breathe deeply of the air around him. To his surprise, his lungs obeyed. Relief trickled through him, and he moaned slightly. He summoned as much of his strength as he could, desperate to turn towards the sound of Jakes’ voice. With another breath, he felt his eyes slowly flutter open. He let himself smile faintly as he finally caught sight of the man lying next to him. Morse was exhausted and in pain. But Jakes needed him. So he did the only thing that he could think of.

Jakes’ eyes were closed, tears marking damp trails down his cheeks. He had no energy left, nothing left to give to Morse, no where else to turn. The sound of a soft inhale--a break in the shallow pattern that had been Morse’s breathing--froze him where he lay. He held his breath, unwilling to open his eyes and find that his mind had played a trick on him.

And then he heard a halting whisper. It was ragged and low, but recognizable all the same.

“Do not...stand at my grave...and weep...I am...not there...I do not...sleep.”

Jakes opened his eyes slowly, wondrously. A pair of stunning blue eyes stared back at him, filled with pain but very much alive and alert.

“Peter,” Morse’s voice.

“Dev?” Jakes whispered tentatively.

Morse’s answering smile was the most precious gift that Jakes could have asked for.