Fleet had never been a vain man, he never looked too long in the mirror, never spent much time finessing his appearance. He spent just enough time to assure his appearance matched his expression and his stature, that was it.
Then he was pulled off a bloody roof.
Fleet was dead -
And then he wasn’t.
He had been dead for 3 days, they told him. He was lucky to be alive, they told him. Fleets brain stalled as the Queens doctors explained the number of organs and bones they had replaced. The doctors also told him he had a debt to repay, Fleet felt ice in his veins.
He had been awake less than six hours and he was already on the job. He’s dressed without taking the time to look at himself and headed out into the city.
Clara was at his coffee shop, and though they joked about her missing a day, Fleet could see the relief in her eye. His heart did something funny when she invited herself along on his case, he chalked it up to the fact that it was a different heart than the one he had had when he went off the roof.
Tracking down the doctor hadn’t been as bad as they thought. Tracking down the magicians assistants was harder. Leads dragged them back and too across Greater London. It was closed to midnight and Clara and himself were on the other side of the city from their homes.
“This is a wild bloody goose chase!” Fleet was tired to say the least, he’d been dead for Christs sake and now he was running around alleyways in the middle of the night.
“I thing it might be time to call it a night Fleet,” Clara posed the suggestion carefully, they were both tired and Fleet was fed up of having to fight tooth and nail for every scrap of information they had.
“Where!-” Fleet cut himself off taking a second to even out his tone. “You want to try get across the city at this time of night?” Clara slowly pointed above her head at the faded sign with the word ‘Inn’ painted on it. “…Oh.”
The receptionist was not happy with being woken up, but relented and provided them with the room they needed. Clara, still carrying her travel bag around with her, threw the offending article down onto one of the beds with an indignant huff.
“Well, I’ll going to see if they left anything out in the kitchen. Want anything?” Fleet gave a non-committal shrug and Clara left in search of food he planned to be asleep by the time she got back.
He hadn’t exactly brought night clothes with him, so it was a matter of stripping out of his shoes, suit and shirt, leaving him standing in the middle of the room in his pants. He made the mistake of looking in the mirror.
Fleet knew there would be scars, he’d fallen of a roof and had most of his bloody organs replaced, of course there would be scars. He just hadn’t had the chance to look yet.
Fleet had seen, dead body’s before, he’d had to go to the morgue for the results of the autopsy, he was familiar with the large y-shaped cut they would use. At the moment, Fleet didn’t look so different from a corpse. The cut extended from over his collarbone down to his navel, still puckered and healing. He could see scars extending up both of his thighs and, lifting up his hair, he found a line of stitching through his hair. His hands dropped to his sides and he looked at himself in the mirror, there were other scars too, from the fall not the surgery, only further adding to the collection he’d been gaining since the start of his career as an investigator.
It hit him rather quickly then, what had happened to him, he’d been avoiding it rather well since he woke up, but he was tired now and the evidence of his death was staring him right in the face.
He missed the door opening and closing, the soft gasp, the sound of a tray being set down, the careful footsteps approaching him from across the room.
“Oh…Archie,” Her hand was light against his shoulder, gently turning him away from the mirror. Her hands came up to hold his face slowly swiping her thumbs under his eyes, they came away wet, he hadn’t even realized. He attempted to stutter out for an excuse, reach for his shirt, something.
Clara wrapped her arms around him slowly, uncaring of his state of dress, and cradled his head into her shoulder. It was quiet as he broke, silent tears that s soaked into the collar of her dress.
Clara held him gently, taking the brunt of his weight as he all but collapsed against her. She guided him softly towards one of the beds and sat him on the covers. Fleet was bone tired, his eyes stung from tears, but his fingers twitched for the missing warmth from Clara’s body. After a minuet or two her hands return, in her underskirt and shirt now, gently guiding him to the top of the bed. She pulls back the covers and tucks them underneath.
He drifts quickly, Clara running her hand through his hair, and for the first time since he woke up he feel solid.
He wakes with the sensation of falling, he sits up quickly, cry caught in his throat. His hands come up in front of him, protection from the phantom pain of hitting the ground. His breath is stuck, his false heart hammers.
“wha- Fleet? Archie?” Clara sits up next to him and he takes in her presence all at once. She lays her hand gently on his shoulder, bringing the other to his side after pushing the hair from her eyes. “Breath Fleet,” she grounds him in the present and he finally let out a stuttering breath. She tucked him back into her side.
Somewhere in the back of his mind Fleet felt embarrassment, being seen like this, venerable, panicked. She lets him go after a moment, leaning back to check on him, he takes a moment to take in her appearance, she’s beautiful, and they’re both severely under-dressed.
“I’m sorry. I….” He shuffles back across the bed, intending to give her space, save his dignity.
“Archie, don’t apologies ,”
“You don’t want to have do deal with all of this,’ Fleet sad gesturing to himself.
“I want to Fleet, I do, because it means your here, it means your alive,” She takes his hand and guides it till their clasped hands lay evenly between them.
“Why though Clara? After I was gone, you could have been paired with any inspector in the city. Yet you were sitting in my cafe and jumping at the opportunity to come on this wild goose chase. Why?” Fleet looked over at as she tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and shuffled forwards to wards him “Clara?” Clara puts a hand on his cheek and held his hand tighter, moving himself forward until she could press her lips lightly to his. “Oh”
She laughed lightly and mimicked his surprise tone. She pulled him towards her tucking their bodies together again.
“Now its still the middle of the night so can we go back to sleep now?”
“I’d like that,”