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Keep Yourself Alive

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Jakes could feel the panic building in him as he stood there. It was like the last time; too much like the last time, in fact. Too much like that time, which had ended in bloodied cobblestones and anger and pain. Too much like that time, which almost left them short a good man. Too much like that time, that nearly robbed Jakes of something precious--something he barely understood. Too much, too much, too much. He wanted to scream, to shoot, to do something. But all he could do was wait, watch, and count the similarities.

Then, like now, there were men with guns, jumpy and demanding, holed up behind an impenetrable door. There were hostages, frightened and restless, of all ages. And of course, as always, there was Morse. Trapped in there with terrified civilians and uncouth criminals, Morse was just as likely to get shot mouthing off as he was trying to protect someone. Not to mention the fact that he had his damned warrant card on him. If they found that, they’d shoot him for sure. 

Jakes took a shuddering breath and forced himself to focus. He had to be ready. Every person in that building was relying on what happened out here, how Oxford’s men responded. If he lost himself in his memories, it would mean disaster--for each of the hostages and especially for Morse. Jakes shook his head and tried to fight off the images that crowded into his mind, playing on repeat just as they had in his dreams so many times before.

The way Morse staggered backward as the bullet punched into him. The way red bloomed on his shirt, far too fast and vicious. The surprised look on his face that changed to one of pain as his body slowly registered the damage done. The way he slowly slid to the floor, leaving behind bloodied brick. The way he lay gasping on the ground, trying to stop Thursday, trying to fight Jakes, trying to stay alive.

It wasn't just that day, though, and Jakes knew it. A few years had passed since that bank robbery and that hostage negotiation. But it hadn't been long--not long at all, not long enough--since...Jakes closed his eyes and shook his head. He couldn't think about that day, couldn't think about Morse's cries of agony, couldn't think about the blood and the dust and the smoke. It was too soon, much too soon after almost losing Morse. God, the man had only been back for a week.

Jakes could feel his fingernails digging into his palms, could feel his heart racing and his muscles slowly turning to stone. He couldn't lose it, not now, not here. He couldn't let himself be dragged back into that house, couldn't let himself relive those moments when he thought he'd lost Morse for good. If he let himself remember, he might just make his worst fears come true. And he couldn't lose Morse. God, he couldn't lose him now. 

The sound of gunshots startled Jakes from his memories. Screams sent a chill down his spine, but galvanized him into action. Jakes moved, instincts taking over. His nightmares shattered on the ground as he took control, directing the others-- doing his job and doing it well. Jakes’ mind became clogged with the echoes of running footsteps, screams, and more gunshots. He spun in circles, taking orders and giving them, responding to demands and demanding responses. There was nothing to be done except react to the ever-changing situation. He didn’t have the luxury of thought and couldn’t feel the poison of worry.

As suddenly as it had started, the chaos died down--the quick flash of gunpowder giving way to a smouldering pile of rubbish. Awareness started to filter into Jakes’ conscious mind in fragments that barely made sense: uniforms leading trembling women and children from the building, medical personnel breaking through the barricade, twisting and clawing men in handcuffs being dragged to cars.

Jakes’ eyes searched the crowd for the familiar figure he so desperately wanted to see, hoping and praying and begging to see that unruly head of auburn hair. 

It never appeared.

Snippets of phrases made it to Jakes’ ears as medics, coppers, and hostages shuffled by. The words chilled Jakes, freezing him to the spot.

Man down.

Man down. Man down. Man down.

It wasn’t a civilian. It was a copper. One of theirs. Shot. Badly wounded. 

The cobblestones shifted violently under Jakes’ feet. Not again. Please, not again.

Hadn’t they had enough? Hadn’t Morse had enough? Wasn’t he--Peter Jakes--to be allowed to just have...to just hold something for a short while?

He could see Morse lying there, dead. His unseeing eyes staring forever at the ceiling, fear and pain etched into his pale face. Blood on his shirt and at the corner of his mouth. Blood on his hands, from trying to stop his life force from draining away. The blood from the gunshot mingled with blood from knife wounds and fists and boots. His shirt was torn open to reveal broken ribs and too many bruises. Jakes knew, he knew that Morse died alone there, on that hard floor. He died without a single person next to him that gave a damn.

Jakes gulped in air, trying desperately to bring himself out of the whirlwind of panic.

It hadn’t happened, not yet. He didn’t know, not really. 

He needed to know.

He wanted to rush inside, push them all out of the way, find out who. He wanted to tear the medics off of the man, scoop him up in his arms, hold him, beg him not to do this, not again, not now. He wanted to find Morse whole and healthy, to hold him close, to leave reverent and grateful kisses wherever he could. He wanted to know, needed to know.

But someone was yelling at him, directing him towards the back of the building. Make sure the civilians are all out, get them up here. He couldn’t disobey, had to follow orders. He couldn’t get in the way--he knew that, even though he hated it. If...if it was Morse that the men with long faces and medical equipment were going for, he couldn’t stop them. He had to let them do their job. He had to do his job.

Jakes’ feet carried him to the back of the building, his hands automatically gesturing to the few frightened faces that passed him by. Five or six, not many. He barely registered them as they passed. He wasn’t even sure if he managed to say anything. He just kept seeing... that image...Morse, dead, alone. He couldn’t shake it. 

There was one more of them, one more damned hostage standing in the doorway. One more that got to walk out of there, got to walk away, got to go back to their life. He wanted to curse at the man, fling him out of the way, but he couldn’t. He couldn’t hate them, no matter how he wanted to. He just...he just wished he were one of them, one of the lucky ones who knew. They knew who was safe. They knew --and Goddammit, he wished he knew.

Jakes took a few more steps, calling out to the man in the doorway. His back was turned to Jakes; he was peering into the gloom of the building. At the hollow sound of Jakes’ voice, however, the man jumped and spun towards Jakes.

Red-gold hair flashed in the slanting sunlight. A pale, freckled face registered shock. Familiar lips mouthed Peter.

Relief slammed into Jakes so abruptly that it knocked the breath from his lungs. Relief so sharp and acute that it felt as if someone had shoved a blade in between his ribs. For a moment he stood paralyzed, his brain unable to reconcile the reality in front of him with the mirage from his nightmares. Then Morse spoke, and Jakes’ resolve broke.

“Peter.” Morse’s voice was soft, almost reverent. His lips twisted into a soft smile as his shoulders sagged in relief.

Jakes ran.

He didn’t care who might see, didn’t care what anyone might think. He had to touch Morse, to run his hands over his face and his hair and his arms. He had to make sure that he was alive, that he was whole, that they hadn’t hurt his Morse.

He reached Morse in only a few paces, but it felt entirely too long. It was as if he were trapped in molasses, that the longer he took the more likely it was that Morse would shatter in front of him. Jakes couldn’t quite believe that Morse was there, standing in front of him and not bleeding out on the ground.

Finally, finally, Jakes reached him. He barely registered the relieved expression on Morse’s face, barely noticed the way Morse’s arms reached out for him. He only knew that his fingers closed around solid arms, that Morse stayed whole, that he didn’t vanish into a cloud of smoke and fear and dust.

Jakes wrapped his arms around Morse, pulling him close to his heart. For a moment he held Morse as tightly as he could, his nose buried in Morse’s hair as he inhaled that wonderful scent that was Morse. He could feel Morse against him, his heartbeat and his breathing and the warmth that meant he was still alive. Jakes would hold him forever, right here, just like this, if he could. Just to feel his steady presence, just to know that he was alive.

All of a sudden, Jakes needed to touch Morse, to run his fingers over the man and make sure, make certain he was alright. He needed proof, something to replace the horrifying images that kept crowding into his mind. Jakes pulled back, pushing Morse away from him and raking his eyes down Morse’s thin--why was he still so thin--body.

Blood.

There was blood on Morse, on his shirt, on his jacket. Red, horrible blood. Blood that meant...that meant he'd been hit. Injured.

Jakes' eyes flashed up to Morse's face, seeking something--anything-- that would suggest he hadn't been hurt. Not again, please. But Morse’s face was pale, his hands were trembling, he looked ill.

Jakes heard someone moan, heard the low, keening cry of fear and distress. He barely recognized his own voice; it didn’t sound like him, but it was, he could feel it in his chest. Because Morse-- his Morse -- God, not again. Why...not...just... God.

Morse’s knees buckled and Jakes clutched at him desperately. Pain lanced through him, sharp and horrible and hot as a brand. He felt his own muscles give way as he chased Morse to the ground. 

He couldn’t think, couldn’t focus, could only repeat the same phrase over and over again.

No, please, no. Please, not again. Please, no.

He’d only just gotten Morse home, just watched him heal, just gotten him to promise…

Please. Not again.

Jakes pushed Morse back against the door frame. He ran his hands over Morse’s face, down his neck and shoulders. Shaking fingers pushed aside Morse’s rumpled jacket, desperately searching for wounds and bullets and pain.  

“Endeavour, my God , please--” Jakes didn’t care about the way his voice cracked, didn’t care about the way his hands shook, didn’t care about anything except finding the source of the blood and stopping it. “God, please, Dev...please be okay. Where...where did they hurt you? Are you...Dev are you alright? Please, please, be okay…please, don’t be...Endeavour, please --”

Long, pale fingers wrapped themselves around Jakes’ wrists, stilling his movements. Jakes glanced up to find Morse’s blue eyes staring back at him. His face was pale, too pale. He looked sick-- God, no. 

“I’m alright, Peter. I’m right here.” Morse looked at him with a quizzical expression in his eyes. “I’m okay.”

Jakes shook his head. He had to blink a few times in order to see Morse clearly. “No...I heard the shots. I heard…” his hands wrenched free from Morse’s hold, starting up their frantic searching again. “They said...a copper was shot. Said he wasn’t...he wasn’t going to make it. It was like...like the bank, Dev...I didn’t know...they wouldn’t say...God, where did they get you?

He couldn’t find the wound, couldn’t sort through the mess of Morse’s bloodied shirt. He couldn’t think, couldn’t focus. All he could see was red and all he knew was that Morse was--

“Peter.” Morse’s voice was firm, and strong. It threw Jakes, how calm he sounded, and there was an undercurrent of concern that didn’t belong. “Peter, look at me.”

Jakes’ dark eyes flashed up to meet Morse’s blue ones. He felt, rather than heard, the sob escape his lips. Morse’s eyes.  

“I’m right here, Peter.” Morse’s face was earnest. Morse rested a hand on the side of Jakes’ face, making sure he didn’t move. “I’m right here. I’m alright.” He swallowed, his eyes fluttering closed for one heart-stopping moment. Then he spoke again, his voice still strong. “This isn’t mine. The...the blood. It’s not mine. I tried…” he shook his head, horror crossing his face. “I tried to help. They shot a copper, someone else. Not me. I’m okay. See?”

Jakes couldn’t see, not really. Not when Morse held him like that, not when he wouldn’t let him look. But somehow, he believed Morse. The strength of his voice, the steadiness of his words, the firm grip he had on Jakes’ face and hands--all evidence that maybe, just maybe, Morse was okay. 

Still, he needed to know. Needed to see. He heard himself sob again, felt his hands pull free of Morse’s grip.

“I need...Endeavour, God, I have to know …” His fingers plucked frantically at Morse’s buttons. He shoved the shirt back, trying not to panic at the red that stained Morse’s vest. With another half-mad cry, he shoved Morse’s vest up.

Only freckles.

There was nothing new on Morse’s pale chest. Just the freckles he’d mapped out so many times, and the scars that spoke of all the times someone had tried to take Morse from him. Jakes ran his hands over Morse’s skin, wrapped them around his back, searching and finding nothing--just blessed, pale, unmarred skin.

His eyes sought Morse’s, relief and doubt and the remnants of fear mixing within him like a dizzying cocktail.

“You’re okay,” Jakes whispered softly.

Morse nodded. “I’m okay, Peter. I promise.” He inhaled shakily, and Jakes could feel his chest move beneath his hands. “I’m safe, Peter. I’m safe.”

There was something fragile in the way Morse said it, as if he could barely believe it himself. He’d been afraid, Jakes could see it in his eyes. He hadn’t known how this would end. He hadn’t known that he would walk out covered in blood that wasn’t his own. 

It broke Jakes, that vulnerability in Morse, the way he tried to be just fine. Jakes felt himself falling, cracking, crumbling into a million pieces. He fell forward, one hand coming up to caress the side of Morse’s face. Morse met him halfway, their lips crashing together in a desperate search for reassurance.

It wasn’t passionate or heated, but it was blessed. Morse was whole and alive and safe. They’d not done anything to him, not this time. They’d not hurt him or hit him or jeered at him. Jakes didn’t have to leave him alone in a sterile hospital ward, or sit a vigil at his bedside. He could take Morse home. He could hold Morse in his arms or hold his hand. He could touch him as often as he needed to remind himself that Morse was there. He could kiss Morse’s forehead and his cheekbones and his eyelids. He could run his lips over Morse’s jawline, each kiss an I love you and a thank you for coming back safe .

He could, and so he did.

Jakes’ hands held Morse in place as his lips explored and healed and remembered. Morse wrapped his arms around Jakes’ back, fingers clutching at Jakes’ jacket. It was a moment of weakness for each of them; a moment to recognize and admit the fear and horror that had played out in the last hour. Jakes had lived it from the outside, pins and needles and waiting and watching. Morse had lived it from the inside, bullets and steel and anger and fear. Jakes needed to remind himself that Morse was alive. Morse needed to know that he was safe.

Finally, exhausted and shaken and grateful, Jakes dropped his head to Morse’s shoulder. He pulled Morse closer to him and buried his nose in Morse’s neck.

“You’re alright,” he sighed. “You’re okay.”

Morse nodded against him. “I am.” His arms tightened around Jakes. “I don’t know how. But I am.”

Jakes felt his breath hitch. “Dev?”

Morse’s head rocked slightly. “They...they were going to start killing us. One by one.”

Jakes clutched Morse tighter to him, afraid of what was coming. 

“I had to, Peter. I couldn’t let them…” Morse’s voice shook. Jakes tried to ignore the whimper that escaped his own lips. “It was Harrington, Peter. He...he pushed me, jumped in front of it. He fell on me, that’s how…”

Morse’s voice trailed off. Jakes’ hand buried itself in Morse’s curls and he held Morse close to him. He closed his eyes against the vision of Morse staring down the barrel of yet another gun, put there by his own bloody need to save everyone. He’d been so close. So close to losing Morse. Again. Too close.

Deep in his heart, he was glad it was Harrington, glad that it wasn’t Morse, glad that someone else had pushed Morse out of the way for once. He would rather the day have ended with no blood spilled. But if it had to end this way...at least it wasn’t Morse.

Morse’s hands tightened in Jakes’ shirt. “He said…” Jakes could hear the tears in Morse’s voice. “Peter, he said...that it shouldn’t be me. I tried to stop the bleeding...he said…” Morse’s head twisted a bit, and Jakes felt Morse’s lips against his neck, tender and desperate. “He said I had someone...that I...that you…” Morse broke off with a sob.

Jakes froze. Not many of their colleagues knew...Thursday did now, and DeBryn probably suspected. Shirley knew, and Fancy of course. There were suspicions, rumors that circulated, less-than-kind barbs that got lobbed at them. Harrington had been among the PCs that occasionally smirked at Jakes knowingly, or knocked shoulders with Morse in the hallway. Jakes had never thought highly of the man, he was a bit boorish and more apt to use his body weight to intimidate people rather than his wits. But despite all that, despite his teasing and dirty looks, the man had chosen to shove Morse out of the way of a bullet that probably would have killed him.

Jakes kissed Morse’s neck and held him tight. He couldn’t say anything; what was there to say? Morse--the bloody idiot-- had tried to sacrifice himself. He’d only survived because there just happened to be someone there who actually gave a damn. It was luck, pure, blind, undeserved luck that somehow, some way, someone like Harrington had decided at the last minute that whatever Morse and Jakes had, it deserved to be protected. There was nothing to say to that. Nothing to do, except hold Morse.


Eventually they had to get up. They had to report in, help wrap up, get their reports turned in. They had to get up, but that didn’t mean Jakes had to let Morse out of his sight. 

Jakes clung to Morse’s hand as they struggled to their feet. He brushed a few wayward curls from Morse’s face and pressed a gentle kiss to his forehead. His fingers dug into Morse’s shoulders as he held onto him for a moment longer. 

“Don’t leave me, Dev. Please.” Jakes closed his eyes and rested his forehead against Morse’s. “Not ever. But...this was...too soon.”

Morse’s hand came up to rest overtop of Jakes’, fingers tightening in an almost desperate gesture. “I know,” he whispered. His head bobbed slightly. “I know, Peter.”

Jakes twisted his hand around until he could grasp Morse’s fingers in his. Gently, he pulled Morse’s hand to his lips and kissed it. He stared at Morse and took a long breath. “Stay with me, please. For the rest of today. I don’t care...I don’t care what excuses...just…”

Morse gave him a shaky smile, and it told Jakes everything he needed to know. 

Morse had been afraid too. He had stared down that gun, he’d been willing to take that bullet, and he had been terrified. Morse nodded slowly. “You too.”

They shared one last slow kiss before turning towards the front of the building. Jakes knew they had to look a sight, both pale and shaken with blood stains on their shirts and hands. Morse’s shirt was still open and his vest rumpled. Jakes knew that anyone would assume he’d merely checked his fellow officer over for injuries. They wouldn’t know the fear or the tenderness that had gone into that desperate search. They might feel relief at seeing Morse walking, but it could never--would never-- compare to the way Jakes’ knees still shook with gratitude.

They might poke and prod at Morse. The might ask him too many questions, try to get his perspective on what had happened. The others would help him sit down when he started shaking again, someone would fetch a glass of water. If Jakes was lucky, Thursday would show up and chase the rest of the men off of Morse.

And then it would be Jakes who got to take him home, Jakes who got to wash him clean of another officer’s blood, and Jakes who got to hold Morse in his arms until he fell off to sleep--safe and sound and alive.

 

Chapter Text

In the end, it was Thursday that sent them home. Jakes saw him coming--rather, he saw the milling sea of officers and medics part hurriedly and knew only one man could cause such a disturbance. Jakes had never been so glad to see the look of thunder on Thursday’s face. It had been a long month for all of them; too many nights spent in hospital, and too many days spent watching Morse heal. Thursday clearly wasn’t about to have Morse sitting out, being prodded at and questioned, for any longer than necessary. Jakes watched their governor look Morse over, keen eyes lingering a bit on Morse’s haggard face. 

A passing PC interrupted Jakes’ thoughts, and it was only when a heavy hand landed on his shoulder that he remembered Thursday. 

“Take him home, Sergeant.” Dark eyes stared into Jakes, and he could read between Thursday’s words. Get him out of here, get him warm. Feed him something. “And I don’t want to see either of you before 11 tomorrow morning. Understood?”

Jakes nodded. “Thank you, sir.”

Thursday stared at him for a moment more, his expression unreadable. Then a smile--a very small smile-- cracked the grim exterior. “Do well by him, Jakes.” 

Jakes watched Thursday leave. It was still strange, knowing that Thursday knew about them. He’d known for a while, but it some days it still amazed Jakes that out of all the possible reasons he could have to object to what Morse and he had together, it was fatherly protectiveness that he held over Jakes. No lectures on deviant behavior , no admonitions to keep it quiet, just do well by him.

Jakes scrubbed a hand over his face. As if he would do anything but. He shook his head, trying to clear the residual effects of panic. 

Home. They needed to go home.


 

It seemed to take forever until Jakes finally managed to steer Morse away from the milling PCs and medics and reporters. The drive back seemed longer still, what with Morse all but melted into the seats. Jakes wanted nothing more than to get that bloodstained shirt off of him; everytime he caught sight of Morse, he felt his breath hitch. Too close, too much, too soon.

Finally, finally, they made it back to their house. Jakes all but kicked the door in, his hands wrapping around Morse’s waist as soon as the lock clicked behind them. He pulled Morse to him and kissed him soundly.

“Don’t do that to me, Morse. Please,” he breathed. 

Morse’s arms wrapped around Jakes’ shoulders. “I didn’t mean to,” he murmured softly.

Jakes nodded against him. “I know, Dev. I just... God.” He leaned back and smiled at Morse. Gently, he traced Morse’s cheekbone. “It’s too soon.”

Morse nodded. “I’d rather...that hadn’t been my first week back.”

Jakes’ eyes roamed Morse’s body, finally settling on his rumpled clothes. “This needs to come off,” Jakes murmured, fingers plucking at the stained shirt. “I can’t...I know its not yours, but I can’t stand seeing you covered in blood.” 

“Oh, God.” Morse jerked back from Jakes, his face draining of color as he glanced down at his shirt. He frantically yanked both shirt and vest off, before holding them at arm’s length. Morse stared unseeingly at the bloodstains. Jakes could see panic bubbling up as Morse’s breathing picked up speed. “It’s...Harrington...Peter...he--”

Jakes grabbed the garments from Morse tossed them out of sight. His hands came up to Morse’s face, guiding Morse’s focus back to Jakes. 

“Hey, Dev.” Jakes ran his thumb over Morse’s jawline. “Dev, look at me.”

Morse swallowed harshly. “Peter…” His eyes were haunted, and Jakes knew he was remembering more than just the past few hours.

“Dev. It’s okay.” Jakes’ fingers moved soothingly over Morse’s face and into his hair. “It’s okay. You’re safe now. You’re okay.” Jakes rubbed circles into Morse’s scalp.  “Harrington...he’s in good hands. The doctors have him, and I have you. Just breathe, Dev. Breathe with me.” Jakes refused to let go of Morse until his chest had stopped heaving and his eyes settled. “Okay?”

Morse nodded, though it was a jerky movement lacking confidence. “I think…” He looked down at himself, blushing slightly as he realized he had no shirt on. “I need to wash. Need to get the feel…” He shuddered.

Jakes nodded. “It’s okay.” He dropped his hands to Morse’s shoulders. “It’s okay.” For a moment, it was as if Jakes could feel blood under his hands, making Morse’s skin slippery. His fingers found the healing skin that marked where Cole Matthews’ knife had torn through Morse. Jakes shivered, trying to free himself from the sudden image of Morse, bleeding and unconscious and nearly dead. He repeated his words again, softer this time. “You’re okay…”

He wasn’t reminding Morse. He was reminding himself. Morse was here, and he was fine. This time. This time, they hadn’t hurt him. This time, the blood had come from someone else, the bullets finding a different target. This time, there were no fists and no iron pokers. This time, there was no revenge. This time, Morse had walked away.

It didn’t help. Jakes couldn’t shake the nightmares that his mind insisted on replaying in too vivid detail. He closed his eyes, shaking his head to try and rid himself of memories he didn’t want. 

Morse’s hand closed over Jakes. “I’m right here, Peter.” Morse guided Jakes’ hand--and his mind-- away from the scar. “I’m still here.” He gently kissed Jakes’ hand. “I’m okay.”

Jakes’ eyes flickered opened, and he allowed himself a deep sigh. Morse was alright. He was warm, and alive, and upright--standing there, staring at Jakes with the concern.

Jakes’ lips quirked in a smile. “We’re both a bit of a mess, aren’t we?”

Morse snorted. “I suppose so.” He sighed, staring down at their joined hands. “God, I need a drink.”

“Chocolate.” Jakes squeezed Morse’s hand. “Maybe with a dash of brandy. You deserve it. Hell, I deserve it.”

Morse hummed in appreciation.

“You go wash, Morse.” Jakes pushed back a few stray curls from Morse’s forehead. “Get yourself clean and into something warm. I’ll fix us some chocolate.”

Morse’s fingers idly ran up and down Jakes’ jacket. “Take this off,” he murmured. “Looks too much like...out there.”

Jakes smiled at him. He leaned forward to steal a quick kiss from Morse’s lips. “Alright. We’ll both change. I think we deserve a rest, just for tonight.”

 Morse nodded, his fingers twining together with Jakes’. He smiled shyly at Jakes, and Jakes couldn’t resist pulling him close for one more embrace. 

“You came back to me, Dev,” he murmured. His eyes sought that scar out again, and he leaned forward. His lips traced the mark reverently. “That’s all that matters.”


 

It didn’t take long for Jakes to change out of his rumbled suit and retreat to the kitchen. He assembled the hot chocolate quickly, adding in more than a dash of brandy. He’d weaned Morse off of a steady diet of scotch and beer with his Italian delicacy, but after the day--no, the month --they had had, well, they both deserved something a little stronger.

Morse came padding out from the bathroom while Jakes was still stirring the concoction. He wrapped his arms around Jakes’ waist, pressing his body up against Jakes’ back. Jakes felt lips on his neck briefly before Morse settled his chin on Jakes’ shoulder.

“Smells good,” Morse mumbled into Jakes’ shirt.

Jakes clicked the heat off. “Should be.” He twisted in Morse’s grip enough to wrap one arm around Morse’s back. Jakes smiled down at Morse for a moment before leaning in to kiss him.

“Doing a lot of that,” Morse muttered against Jakes’ skin.

“Thought I wouldn’t get the chance.” Jakes tightened his grip on Morse, and spent a few moments making sure he couldn’t say anything else. Finally he sighed and leaned back. He ran one hand through Morse’s hair. “I don’t ever want to take you for granted, Endeavour Morse.”

Morse rolled his eyes, but leaned forward to rest his head on Jakes’ chest. “You’re daft, Peter Jakes.”

Jakes kissed the top of Morse’s head before extricating himself from Morse’s arms. “Maybe. But I do make a decent hot chocolate.”

Morse perked up, his eyes following Jakes’ hands as he poured them both a mug. Morse eagerly grabbed the mug that Jakes offered him. He clutched it to his chest and buried his nose in the steam that rose off of the dark liquid. Jakes had to laugh at the pure bliss that lit up Morse’s face; it wasn’t often he got to see Morse look so delighted, so relaxed.

“If I’m daft, you’re soft.” Jakes ruffled Morse’s hair before pushing past him into the sitting room.

Morse clambered onto the couch, tucking his legs underneath his body and continuing to clutch his mug tightly. Jakes snagged a blanket from the back of the couch and draped it over Morse before settling in next to him. He leaned in close to Morse, seeking not only his warmth but also the physical reminder of his presence. 

They sat in silence for a few moments, stealing strength and peace from one another. Jakes tried to fight off memories, pressing himself against Morse to prove that he was still there, unharmed. Morse was silent, but Jakes could feel the tension in his body.

Finally he started to speak in low, halting tones. Jakes could see the events unfold as Morse described them in stark, unemotional detail. He could see the anger and frustration as it grew in the robbers. He could feel the fear of the hostages. And he could see the moment Morse stood in front of the gun. Jakes flinched from the invisible shot, flinched from Harrington bodily shoving Morse out of the way. Jakes tried to convince his pounding heart that it hadn’t happened, that Morse was just telling a story.

Then Morse started to question Harrington’s decision, and in an instant, Jakes could see the bullet punching into Morse. He could see Morse’s blood spatter the walls, could see Morse fall to the floor, could see the stricken look on his face.

“But...Harrington…” Jakes dragged his eyes to Morse’s face. “He shouldn’t have...he shouldn’t have done that.” Morse looked lost, staring down at his chocolate as if it held the answers he couldn’t seem to find. “He shouldn’t have risked himself for me. He should have let me...let me save them.” His voice softened. “I’m not worth that, not worth another man’s life.”

Jakes felt  as if someone had punched a knife through his lungs. He sucked in a deep breath, trying to stay focused through the overwhelming hurricane of emotions that Morse’s words brought.

Not worth that. The words echoed in Jakes’ ears, crashing together and shattering against the walls of his mind. Not worth that. How could he think that, still, after all this time? After what had happened, after the way Jakes had refused to leave his side in the hospital, after ...after everything. How? How could he believe that, be willing to throw away his own life--and to destroy the greatest gift Jakes’ had ever received in the process? How could he be willing to give up, to rate another man’s life as more important than his, without a second thought?

“Peter?” Morse’s tentative voice broke through Jakes’ panic. Morse was staring at him, eyes wide with concern. “Peter, are you--”

“Don’t you dare.” Jakes cut Morse off. He banged his mug down on the coffee table and swiveled to face Morse. Leftover adrenaline surged through his veins, and Jakes could feel his body start to tremble. “Don’t you dare say that. Don’t you... God, Endeavour.

Jakes clenched his hands into fists. He couldn’t think, couldn’t focus, couldn’t breathe . Visions of Morse’s bloodied form whirled around in his mind, coupled with whispered I’m not worth that. Jakes felt like he was drowning, like the world was collapsing in on him. His chest shook with deep, shuddering breaths as he tried to regain control. He dropped his head to his hands, fingers mussing through his hair. 

God, he hadn’t felt like this in ages. Before, it had always been the raised cane and the leering faces behind it. Now all the could see was a rusted poker as it slammed down onto Morse’s body. Then, he could hear their laughter; now, he could only hear Morse’s screams. 

“Peter! Peter--Jakes! Look at me!”  

There were hands on his arms; warm, kind, alive hands. They tugged his hands away from his face. Jakes twisted in their grip, nearly crushing Morse’s fingers in his own. 

“Peter, it’s okay. It’s alright. You’re safe.” Jakes blinked his eyes open, barely able to see Morse through his tears. “You’re safe, Peter.”

Jakes shook his head. Morse didn’t understand. It wasn’t...it wasn’t like that. Not this time.

“No,” Jakes managed. “Not...it’s not me.” Morse tried to pull back, but Jakes clutched his hands even closer. “It’s you.”

“What?” 

“You. I keep seeing...you.” Jakes closed his eyes and tried to breathe, tried to focus through the fear. “I keep seeing...Cole. And you. And I can’t...oh, God.

“Peter…”

Jakes shook his head. “No. Morse, you don’t understand.” He forced his eyes open, forced himself to meet Morse’s worried blue eyes. “You...said...you said you weren’t... worth it .” Jakes dropped his eyes to their hands. “Dev, you’re...you’re the only...good thing that’s ever happened to me. You can’t...you can’t say that.” He could feel the tears falling now, and he didn’t care. Morse had seen him cry before, too many times to count.

Morse was silent, and Jakes finally forced himself to look up. Morse blinked and sucked in a deep breath. 

“Peter, I…”

Jakes released Morse’s hands, moving to cradle his face. “Don’t you dare think that you’re not worth anything.” His voice broke, and he didn’t bother to hold back the sob. “You’re worth so much-- so much to me. I don’t...I’d rather no one have been hurt. But, God , Dev. It doesn’t always have to be you.” Jakes stroked Morse’s face with his thumbs. “It doesn’t always have to be you. Please...don’t...don’t throw yourself away.” 

Jakes leaned forward, kissing Morse slowly and reverently. “I need you,” he murmured against Morse’s skin. “So much.”

Jakes felt Morse’s arms around his back, drawing him down to rest on Morse’s chest. He went willingly, melting against Morse’s body. Thin fingers stroked through his hair, and Jakes allowed himself to relax into Morse’s touch.

“I’m so sorry, Peter.” Jakes felt Morse’s lips on the crown of his head. “I didn’t...I’m not used to this. I should be, I suppose.” Another kiss. “But I’m not.”

Jakes shook his head against Morse’s chest. “I just...you’re not nothing, Dev.” His hand found Morse’s, and he wrapped their fingers together. “You’re...you’re my everything. I can’t do this without you, not anymore.” Jakes tugged Morse’s hand to his lips and kissed his knuckles. “You...Dev, you don’t know what you mean to me. Please...don’t throw yourself away.” He tucked Morse’s hand under his chin. “I need you, Morse.”