After carefully navigating the descending steps to his flat, Endeavour had to fumble for his keys, the small piece of metal sliding through his fingers, missing the keyhole repeatedly. He and the Inspector had certainly consumed more whiskey than would be deemed wise. Morse did not particularly care; for himself, that was. The manner in which his superior, his colleague, his friend, had put away those drinks concerned him. There had been no joy or comfort in it, nor did it seem that Thursday was seeking either of these. Rather, the drink appeared to have the effect of making him grimmer, and more focused on that which was making him so grim in the first place, almost as if the drink was feeding and nurturing these ill thoughts.
Morse refused to allow such concerns and thoughts to prey on him tonight. Tomorrow. Tomorrow, when other things were a bit further away, not so accessible, still viscerally experienced.
As he struggled to force the recalcitrant key home he heard a soft pathetic mewling. He squinted into the darkness and upon seeing the small fluffy stray kitten he found himself laughing, unable to stop.
The door banged open and he felt his way into the kitchen, clattering bottles and saucers before precariously finding the path back to the door. Leaning for support on the frame, he placed a saucer of milk out for the stray, sloshing half of the contents on the ground.
"It's on me."
He shut the door on the outside world, yanking off his suit jacket and tie as he went. He arrived at the mantelpiece, gripping onto it with his fingertips. Inching his fingers along he found his bottle of whiskey, two-thirds full, and a clean enough tumbler. He spilled some into the receptacle and knocked it back in one go before pouring another over-generous measure. He surveyed his reflection in the mirror; all he saw was white skin, lines and sharp edges, unkempt hair, tiredness. He turned away, unable to stomach what was presented to him. After having found a comfortable space on the carpeted floor he pulled his records to him, manoeuvring the cumbersome items slowly, going through them, stacking them untidily. Where was the bloody Brahms? He wanted Brahms, the Requiem, it was the only thing that would do. Oh Christ, the neighbours. He grimaced at the mere notion of having to listen to that monumental piece quietly or at half-volume. It would be an insult. He swallowed half the contents of his glass. What then? Selecting Chopin's Nocturnes he rose to his feet and set the record to play, grasping a hold of the whiskey bottle and bringing it onto the floor with him. Legs splayed out straight in front of him, he lay back, supporting himself with the armchair behind him. He allowed his eyes to wander, grow unfocused as the first notes sang out from the record player. Chopin. Too sentimental by far. He would hardly admit to liking him some days. Sometimes though, he desired the waves of emotion the composer's melodies provided. It wrapped around him gently, cocooning him.
As the tiger had readied itself to launch forward and attack, gathering strength in its haunches, preparing to leap and strike, Morse had believed his life was over. His past had not flashed before his eyes, but he had experienced a fierce need to survive, he didn't want to die just yet, and Peter's face had appeared for a split second before his entire vision had been swallowed up by orange and black and glistening jaws, hot, dark breath-
He drank another glass. No. His breathing was uneven, difficult to bring under control and his limbs trembled, even slumped on the ground. The confrontation with unbridled animality was impossible for him to come to terms with. Murder, revenge, hate- he could understand these things if he worked on them and reflected on them. But instant, dumb blood lust, brute power- his mind could not cope with it at all.
Why could the whiskey not grant him the blankness he sought? Why could his body not just take over from his mind this one time?
He tried to picture Peter in the maze today, or his reaction on being told the story by Endeavour- a quirked eyebrow, huffing out a mouthful of cigarette smoke as he scoffed. "A tiger in Oxford? Could only happen to you, Morse." Peter would have been more like Bright than Thursday, Endeavour felt; there was a quality of stillness, hawk-like, to Peter and Bright, unruffled but capable. The scene became confused in his mind, and now Peter was the one behind the gun, his hands steady, his vision sure while Morse shook in the face of this magnificent creature.
The setting changed: the maze disappearing, but Morse was in the same position, shaking in front of a magnificent creature; however this had taken place outside Morse's old flat under the cover of dark. Peter had held Morse's gaze and he had been unable to meet those green eyes, his breath jagged and his legs weak and so Peter had kissed him, softly, liquidly, one hand curving across his hip, the other playing along his jaw, moving across his face, his hair, and neck.
Endeavour wished he could claw his way out of that memory. He had failed Peter. The knowledge sat so heavily on him he believed the weight would forever hold him in the past even as he moved through some vague future. He had failed him. He had wanted more, again, kisses and touches and anything he could get. Peter had been unpredictable, passionate and affectionate, then distant. Morse had been too proud, and too wary, to approach him about this. Even after the revelations of Blenheim Vale, they had been unable to recapture that moment which had opened itself to them. Their friendship conversely had become closer, and Morse had ached night after night in jail, unable to get his apology to Peter, his desperate grasp at regaining that which had barely been theirs.
The empty whiskey glass rolled from his hand, and he record had long finished. The bottle had been drained entirely of its contents. He roused himself to remove the needle and sank back against the couch, his face pressed into the rough material, the silence welcome.
He didn't begrudge Peter his happiness. What else was there to do? Of course he had found someone while he was in prison, someone who acted as a tree, her branches bending but not breaking against any darkness in Peter, giving him a strength he had never been able to. Endeavour had tried that fateful night in Blenheim Vale, wished to desperately be able to gift Peter that agency but his attempt had been so worthless. And he had left him there in the pub, trapped in the corridor of his past. He had no other choice, duty had had to win over his heart.
It was better for Peter this way. Hope would be good for him. A tear betrayed him, slipping down his nose, marking a track for others to follow.
However, there was one thing he would resent her for, and would covert; she would get to see how Peter's face and body changed over his lifetime. Endeavour would be limited to his memories of the few years in his youth. He wanted to see what lines would develop on Peter's face, where they would start, how his body would take on strength, how his face would take on definition, how he would brown under the American sky, the small scars and marks which would accumulate over time from work. She would have that intimacy and privilege. He could only cling to the images he had of Peter in Oxford, and his imagination would torture him with the possibilities of how he was now, how he had changed. The image of Peter in his mind would be limited to this, fixed, stopped in time, and it was as if time has ceased moving forward in Oxford for Endeavour also.