Title: Hurt Together, Hurt Alone
Series: Inspector Morse
Pairing: M/o; M/L
Archive: Britslash (if you want is...)
Summary: After a harrowing case the last person Morse wants to see is a
former lover, who brings with him memories of a relationship that ended
badly for them both.
Spoilers: Happy Families
Hurt Together, Hurt Alone
Morse wiped his hands on a tea-towel and draped
it over the back of a chair to dry. The accumulation of dirty dishes was
always a sign that he was involved in a difficult case and therefore too
busy to bother with household chores, and this most recent of cases had
taken more than its usual toll of both his mental energies and his
emotions. From the first death - the murder of Sir John Balcome - to the
horrific scene at the picnic, the bodies had piled up at an alarming rate.
And the motives had been as numerous, from greed to jealousy, to
unrequited love, and the whole drama played out in the glare of unwanted
publicity. Not that it was unexpected. The massacre of one of the
country’s foremost families was bound to attract the attention of the
press, both for the case and for all those involved in it, victim, suspect
and police alike.
That had been the hardest to accept. For someone as protective of his
privacy as Morse had always been, to suddenly find his every move
emblazoned across the tabloids in banner headlines had been almost too
much to endure. The criticised his methods, poured ridicule on his
opinions, invaded his home, and the closer they got the more his fear
increased, forcing him to withdraw into himself, cutting him off even from
the people who cared most about him. The delicate fabric of his past, his
deepest secrets, were suddenly under threat and he had no way of dealing
with it other than self-imposed isolation.
Collecting a bottle of Samuel Smiths from the cupboard under the sink, he
made his way into the other room. It was a legacy of the unwanted
publicity that made him cross immediately to the window and close the
curtains, mindful of the telephoto lenses that might still be hiding in
the darkness, waiting to capture his most personal moments. That done, he
dropped a cassette into the player, closing his eyes as the first poignant
notes of Lucia di Lammermoor drifted from the speakers, letting the music
ease away the last dregs of tension.
The case had been difficult, but it was over now. Margaret Cliff had been
arrested and charged that morning with the deaths of Sir John and his
sons. He hoped that the courts would look on her sympathetically, would
view the whole case and not just the recent events. True, she had been the
instrument of their deaths, but whose was the greater crime? They had,
after all, killed her brother all those years before, for no other reason
than that he was the wrong class of person and had dared to win their
mother’s love. On the other hand, she had used young Jessica to win lady
Emily’s trust, had taken a vulnerable and emotionally damaged girl and
convinced her - regardless of her fragile mental state - that Emily was
the mother who had abandoned her as a child. In the child’s deranged mind
there had been only one way of dealing with the revelation, and Emily had
died, brutally and tragically, in a woodland glade. For Margaret, an old
wrong had been put right, but in doing so an entire family had been wiped
He uttered a loud profanity as the ringing doorbell became too intrusive
to ignore, all but obliterating the delicate voice from the stereo. Book
in hand, finger marking the page, the trudged into the hall, determined to
get rid of the unwanted disturbance without preamble.
"Yes? What do you —" But the words died on his lips as his gaze swept the
bedraggled figure standing on the threshold, hands thrust into the pockets
of a rain-darkened Barbour. For a moment Morse felt a sinking, churning
feeling in the pit of his stomach, but that faded quickly when he reminded
himself that the case was over, his success documented. As far as the
press was concerned, he was fireproof, albeit temporarily. Still, the fear
was too recent, the wound too raw for him to completely relax his guard.
"What do you want?" he demanded acidly.
"To talk. To explain."
"Isn’t it a little late for that?"
The slender figure shuddered - whether with cold or the harshness of his
rejection, Morse was not sure - and burrowed deeper into the waxed folds.
Use of the long-unused endearment evoked memories so sweet that they
tempered the resentment and anger burning inside him. Morse stepped aside,
gesturing his visitor into the hall and closing the door as much against
an uncaring world as the inclement weather.
"You can hang your coat there. I’d prefer you not to drip all over the
carpet. I suppose you want a drink?" A wary nod greeted the ambiguous
offer. "Scotch? Or have you developed a taste for those sickening
concoctions they serve in Fleet Street?"
"Scotch is fine, thanks. And it’s Wapping, not Fleet Street, these days."
Morse’s hand hovered over the bottle of Bells, before moving on to his own
favourite malt and pouring two liberal doubles. "You look as if you need
it," he said by way of explanation for his generosity. "How long have you
been out there anyway?"
"Couple of hours. I was - working up the courage to ring the bell."
"You didn’t seem to have much difficulty a few days ago. Sit down, man, I
don’t bite!" He indicated a chair, resuming his own former position on the
sofa. The journalist perched on the edge of the seat, the glass cradled
between his pale hands.
"It was different then, I was just doing my job. This is - personal."
"It was all personal to me. Damn you! You invade my home, question my
integrity and my ability as a policemen. You too privileged information
about my private life and held it up to public scrutiny, and now you tell
me you were ‘just doing your job’?" Fire slid through his senses as he
swallowed the last of his drink and reached for a refill. "Why, Will? At
least tell me that."
"You wouldn’t understand."
"Have the courtesy to allow me to be the judge of that."
"That’s exactly what I mean." Challenge flared in the dark eyes. "The way
you talk - ‘Have the courtesy to allow me’ - the way you act. You’re so
full of intellectual shit, with your books and your music... You think
you’re so much better than the rest of us."
Morse recoiled from the words, the anger and disgust that filled them
tearing into him like so many knives. "Is that why you tried to humiliate
me? Because you think I’m a snob?"
"Are you telling me you’re not?" He raised the glass, swirling the amber
liquid within it.
"Twelve year old malt... Anyone else would have given me the Bells."
"Anyone else would have slammed the door in your face after what you did.
You don't know a thing about me."
"No? Well, when it comes to that, how much do you know about me?"
Sad blue eyes remembered a winter of long evenings spent curled in front
of the fire, in this very room; evenings of mulled wine and lowered voices
exchanging confidences, of spiced kisses and other intimacies. And in the
sweetness of the memories he found a loss that had long been denied and
the source of his present loneliness.
"I know I cared for you once, a long time ago."
"Crap! You never cared about me, you bastard, otherwise you wouldn’t have
ended it the way you did."
Morse bristled. "I ended it? As I recall, I came home and found you’d
packed your bags and gone, without - may I add - so much as a forwarding
"You were the one who made it clear I was in the way. You wanted it to be
"But did it have to end in anger?"
The younger man spread his hands. "How else did you expect me to react? I
was in love with you! I didn’t want to know about responsibilities or
career prospects. I wanted you to say you felt the same way." The dark
eyes were suddenly a little too bright and the hand that held the glass
trembled with emotions barely held in check. "I wanted you to tell me that
the problems didn’t matter, that whatever happened we’d face it together.
But you just went on and on about being careful, and how hard it was for a
queer copper to get promoted, and how you couldn't allow yourself to
become a target for blackmail."
"Those things were important to me then," Morse confessed softly,
recalling with shame the misplaced ideals of an arrogant, newly-promoted
Chief Inspector with precious little time for a personal life - or a lover
young enough to be his son.
"And I wasn’t." The reported sketched a bitter, self-depreciating laugh.
"That’s been the story of my life. First my father, then you, then the
college. I failed, did you know? I was never much good at the academic
stuff but you helped me, gave me something to aim for. I wanted to make
you proud of me. When you turned away I - lost the incentive."
Morse stuffed his hands into his trousers’ pockets to hide their shaking.
He wanted to deny the words, but he could not, knowing the exaggeration
that stemmed from resentment held more than a little truth. "Will --," he
"It’s Billy now. Billy Turner. Sounds more in keeping with the gutter
press, which is about all I’m good for these days."
"As much as I disliked the things you said about me, and the methods you
used, you couldn’t disguise your talent. You’re wasted on that tabloid
"My editor doesn’t think so."
"From what I hear, your editor wouldn't know the difference between a
writer and the hind end of a kangaroo," Morse sneered, then turned it into
a smile. "I could help - if you’d let me. I know some people..."
"No thanks. You left me to stand on my own two feet and I’m doing just
fine. I don't need handouts form anyone - especially you."
The tape clicked off, plunging them into an awkward silence broken only by
the ticking of the clock and the drumming of the rain against the windows.
Morse scraped a hand through his white hair in frustration. They were
going nowhere. Plenty of accusations, recriminations on both sides, but no
real progress. They were strangers again, each with a distant memory of
their love, like a faded photograph, the good times all but wiped away by
the years of pain and guilt. Better to end it now, he thought, that to put
each other through the mill one more time. But, before he could speak,
Turner pushed himself to his feet.
"I think coming here was a mistake. Maybe I should go..."
"Must you?" Morse heard himself ask, startled by his own reaction to the
suggestion. "I thought you wanted to talk."
"What’s the point? We couldn’t say it nine years ago, why hurt each other
all over again? You’ve got your life, I’ve got mine - let’s leave it at
that." he stepped past Morse, heading for the door. "Mind if I use the
toilet before I go? It’s a long way back to London."
"Be my guest," Morse replied flatly. "It’s at the top--"
" -- I remember."
Left alone, Morse selected another tape at random, needing something to
help him gather his scattered thoughts. Had it really been nine years?
Time had softened the memory, but when he thought of Will it all seemed so
much more recent. Nine years...
William Turner-Stafford had been a second year classics student at
Lonsdale, Morse’s old college, when the chief inspector had, quite
literally, stumbled across him in the Bodleian on wet Saturday afternoon.
His resulting twisted ankle provided a convenient conversation-opener a
week later, when they met - again by chance - in the doorway of Blackwells.
Morse was then in his early forties, William a mere nineteen, but the
friendship that quickly established itself between them, and the love
affair that followed, held no regard for any difference in age or social
standing. Turner was also two years below the age at which a man could, at
that time, legally take another man as lover but, for the first few
months, Morse was too preoccupied with the magic of the whole thing, with
having someone to care for in his life again, to worry about such
trivialities. Not until the first tide of enthusiasm began to abate did he
pause to take stock of the situation, allowing cold reality to encroach
upon his fantasy. Summer was fast approaching and suddenly there were
other demands on William’s time, keeping him on the playing field until
late into the evening, where previously he had hurried home to Morse’s
arms, engaging him in weekend parties from which Morse was excluded by
merit of his age, sex and profession.
Morse, too, found his working day lengthened by the seasonal influx of
tourists and the corresponding increase in the crime rate. A chief
inspector for less than a year, it had been made very clear that further
progress up the promotions ladder depended upon him working had and
keeping his nose clean, and suddenly his nineteen year old male lover
could be looked upon as a liability. The result was inevitable: it was the
solution that hurt.
"Mahler’s Fifth." The soft voice filtered through his thoughts. "That was
playing the first time we made love."
Still struggling with the past Morse turned, expecting renewed anger. He
found instead the dark eyes filled with remorse, the stance and attitude
far removed from his earlier aggression. He looked more like the William
that Morse remembered than at any time during the case, as if by
suspending the confrontation for just a few minutes, they had somehow
turned back the clock. Morse took a pace towards him, hands spread in a
gesture of reconciliation. "Will, I --"
"Don’t, Em. I’m the one who should be apologising, not you. I saw a chance
to get my own back for something that happened a long time ago, and I
grabbed it with both hands, regardless of the consequences."
"You had a right to be angry with me, the way I treated you. I should
never have allowed it to happen in the first place."
"Could you have stopped it?" Turner asked. "Because I know I couldn’t -
and it was me who made the first move," he added shyly.
A vivid image flashed through Morse’s mind: standing by the stereo,
debating which piece to play next, the merits of Mozart over Mahler. Brown
eyes inches from his own, shoulder brushing shoulder, hand touching hand,
the gentle voice deferring to his greater knowledge. A movement, and their
fingers entwined, a token protest against open lips and the insanity of
passion laid waste to common sense.
"It would never have happened if I hadn’t wanted it to," Morse whispered.
"But it was the wrong time and the wrong place. I hated you for what I
thought you’d done, but it was as much my fault. I was too young, then, to
understand how much you were putting at risk."
Morse, in an uncharacteristic display of tenderness, raised a hand to the
dark head in a hesitant caress. "And I was too old to remember how easily
young love can be hurt. I’m sorry Wi -- Billy."
"I like ‘Will’ better," he grinned. "Want to know something crazy? Going
after you, instead of the murder story, seemed like a good way to pay you
back at first, but halfway through the case I realised I was hurting
myself, too. What was it Francis Bacon said about revenge?"
"’A man that studieth revenge keeps his own wounds green,’" Morse quoted.
Will nodded. "Exactly. I’m sorry, Em. I wish there was some way I could
make it up to you."
Blue eyes slid away from chestnut, looked up at an angle from beneath
silvered brows, a teasing smile tweaking the older man’s lips. "You could
try reading ‘Hamlet’ occasionally."
"’This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the
night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.’" He gave Turner’s
arm a gentle squeeze. "You don't need to write that rubbish, Will, you’re
better than that. You don't need to - attack people to make a name for
"That’s easy for you to say, you’re not out there."
"I don't need to be, to see the power of the press, the way they can build
people up one day and break them down the next. There’s too much pain in
the world already - don't add to it. You have a talent, Will, why not use
it to help people instead of hurting them?"
William shrugged and moved away. "What’s the point of changing now?
No-one’s going to care."
"I would. You said earlier that when we were lovers you wanted to make me
proud of you. Do you still feel that way, even after all that’s happened?"
"As stupid as it sounds, yes, I do."
"Then do it for me, Will, if you can’t do it for yourself."
"But what’s the use?" he asked again, frustration creeping into his voice.
"The moment I walk through that door you’ll forget all about me."
Morse shook his head in denial as he took the narrow shoulders between his
hands, forcing Turner to look at him. "Good God! Do you really think I
could forget you now?" he laughed. "Every snotty-nosed constable in Thames
Valley probably has at least one of your articles framed and hanging on
his wall." But then his laughter softened once more and the grip became a
caress. "I didn’t forget you in nine years, Will, and I don't intend to
start now. We have our own lives to lead but I’d like us to try to be
Turner’s eyes gazed deeply into his own and Morse felt as if his one-time
lover was attempting to strip away all the complex layers of his
personality and see right through to his soul. It was an unnerving
sensation but he tolerated it for the sake of all that had gone before. At
last William eased away, nodding.
"I’ll try. I’m not making any promises but I will think about it - if
that’s what you really want." Car headlights swept a bright arc across the
curtains and the scrunch of gravel was heard from outside. "You have a
visitor," he observed.
"That will be Lewis."
An eyebrow arched above a curious eye. "Your sergeant? Does he always come
to see you at this time of night?"
Heat invaded the older man’s face, betraying a hidden truth which, Morse
knew, Turner read and interpreted in a matter of seconds. "Sometimes. When
he has information on a case."
"And -sometimes when he doesn’t? I wondered why he defended your
reputation the way he did. Have you been together long?"
"If by ‘together’ you mean in the biblical sense - about a year."
"Very. He doesn’t know a thing about music or fine wines and his taste in
literature revolves around popular fiction, but he reminds me that I’m not
as old as I sometimes feel - and I haven’t been able to say that about
anyone in - nine years."
Trying to hide his own embarrassment, Turner glanced at his watch. "Time I
was going. It’s a long way back t London." He scribbled something on the
reverse of a business card and handed it to Morse. "I would like to stay
in touch, if you’ve no objection."
"I’d like that."
"Then - I am forgiven for the story?"
"Now that I understand why you wrote what you did - yes." he held out his
hands, holding William’s firmly between them. But William had other ideas
and, leaning closer, kissed Morse softly on the mouth.
"Stay happy, Em."
Morse glanced towards the sound of footsteps on the porch, his mind
already turning to the prospect of an evening in his sergeant’s company.
"I intend to."
A moment later, Turner was gone, favouring Lewis with a knowing smile as
they passed each other on the steps.
"What was he doing here?" Lewis demanded, his tone an eloquent expression
of his obvious distaste. Morse, grinning, kissed him lightly on the lips
before guiding him towards the couch.
"He came to tell me what a fool he’d been." Sitting beside his lover,
Morse slid into the encircling arms with a satisfied sigh.
"Shouldn’t think you needed telling."
"As it happens, we came to the conclusion that we were both at fault - he
for allowing his desire for revenge to consume him, I for forgetting that
young love can be as deep and enduring as any other and infinitely more
painful when it’s over."
Frowning, Lewis held him off at arms length. "What are you on about?" he
Morse smiled. "Nothing, love. It’s too long a story for a time like this.
Ask me again when we have a week or two to spare." His hand behind Lewis’
head drew the sweet mouth down to his own in what would be the first of
many kisses that night. He would explain William Turner-Stafford to Lewis
one day - but for tonight he had other plans.
William belonged to his past, Lewis to his present. Whatever came of it,
the rest was of no importance right now. The future could take care of
itself, so long as it would never again force him into the life of
loneliness that he knew so well, or require him to place professional duty
and the whims of others above his responsibility towards those he loved.
Too many people had hurt him, or been hurt by him, in the past and it was
time that it stopped - before he lost this, his last chance.
Looking deep into Lewis’ eyes, he made a silent vow. Maybe one day, if the
gods were willing, it would be much, much more. For Lewis’ sake, as well
as his own, he hoped so.
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