- Discussion-Sexual Abuse
- Hate Crimes
- Rape-Off Screen
- Crime Drama
- Episode Related
SECOND STAR TO THE RIGHT
“To live will be an awfully big adventure.” – J.M. Barrie
They went to the press.
They had to, or so Bright had said when he’d joined Morse and Peter at the hospital just as the injured man was being admitted for the night, or Deare’s “friends in high places” would be quick bury the truth in order to keep the mud from staining them when it started flying.
So Morse called in a favour.
“You understand that this could have unpleasant repercussions,” Morse warned the woman who had accompanied him into Peters hospital room the following morning. Her response was to roll her eyes, settle herself into the uncomfortable seat beside Peters bed and take out her notebook and pencil. “Thank you. Peter, may I introduce Miss Frazil, editor of the Oxford Mail. Miss Frazil, this is Detective Sergeant Jakes, your main source for the article.”
Peter recognised her from several crime scenes over the years but had never personally spoken to her, leaving that to his superiors or the constables depending on the situation.
He nodded, his own murmur of greeting seizing in his throat.
Could he do this?
Could he lay it bar for the whole word to know?
For Big Pete.
“Whenever you’re ready, Sergeant.”
“Peter,” he muttered hoarsely. “If…if we’re doing this you should call me Peter…”
Miss Frazil offered him a gentle smile, nodding as she amended her earlier statement,
“Then, whenever you’re ready, Peter.”
A rush of air escaped him.
“I don’t…I don’t know where to start…”
“I always find that the beginning, wherever you think that may be, if a good place to start.”
So that meant,
“I was twelve-years-old when I came into my mutation. I had a few…issues with control…”
“Not uncommon when someone presents so young,” Miss Frazil murmured. “Go on.”
“I ended up setting my step-dads car on fire…with him in it…”
And from there the whole sordid tale of his time at Blenheim Vale poured out of him.
Morse, who had known some but not all of it, looked pained.
Miss Frazil, despite taking notes the entire time, looked as though she was going to be sick by the time he reached the day that he had betrayed Big Pete and his subsequent transfer.
“…I can see why you want to get this out in the open, Morse,” she murmured, her pencil flying across the sixth page of her notebook she had filled since Peter began talking. “I can’t believe I didn’t…I knew Wintergreen. I’ve interviewed him. I liked him. And all the time…”
“We can’t let this be buried again,” Morse announced firmly. “Not by Deare’s friends. Not by Wintergreen’s. Not by Doctor Fairbridge’s. And especially not by Landesman; he’s the only one left that we can bring to justice even if it’s only through the ruination of his name.”
“Then I think it’s time we talk about your most recent case.”
“I suppose it really began with the disappearance of Tommy Cork…”
Explaining the twists and turns of the case took the combined effort of Peter and Morse, neither of them wanting anything to be left out. Normally when releasing a statement they’d leave details out on purpose; this time they wanted every little thing to be known.
“That poor girl…”
Peter was relieved that, having heard it all, Miss Frazil seemed to sympathise with Angela.
“Do you think any of the others would be willing to talk to me? Nicholas? Henry? Or Be…”
“Not Benny,” Morse interrupted her quickly. “He’s…he’s not strong enough…”
This announcement filled Peter with an all I compassion feeling of sadness and regret.
It hadn’t surprised him to learn that Benny had become a ventriloquist, using his gift to animate the dummy in a way that no one else could, and sadly it hadn’t surprised him to learn that the only way he could speak even vaguely of his past was through the dummy.
No, Benny wasn’t strong enough to become one of Miss Frazil’s sources.
“I understand,” she murmured, jotting a couple of last minute notes down before beginning to pack her things away. She’d gotten through almost her entire notebook, Peter noticed. “Right. If I’ve got any chance of getting this out today I need to make a move; interviews to do, leads to chase down and a complicated article to create. Morse, thank you for trusting me with this. It means a lot. And Sergeant Jakes? I will keep your name out of the article for as long as possible but eventually I will be required to site my sources. I assure you that I’ll let you know in advance of your name being published so that you can be best prepared.”
The first article was published the following morning.
It featured his statements but not his name.
An undisclosed source close to the heart of the investigation was cited instead.
Morse’s statements were not anonymous, however, as the younger man had agreed to be the police representative with DI Thursday still unconscious following his life-saving surgery.
A third statement from another anonymous source backed up Peters and he couldn’t help but wonder if it was from Nicholas or Henry, wondered which had had the courage to speak.
Interspersed throughout the article were details and facts that Miss Frazil had turned up, all of them terribly incriminating and easily verified. The article finally closed with a startling revelation; a statement from the journalist herself clearly stating that “she wouldn’t be bullied, threatened or bribed into keeping such an important subject quiet and that should anyone else come to her place of work to threaten her a second time she had already sent a copy of her further articles to the national newspapers ready to be published in due course.”
“They threatened her,” Peter murmured once he and Morse, who had come to escort him home from the hospital, had both finished reading the article. “And she still went ahead?”
“Miss Frazil isn’t a woman that is easily deterred.”
Morse was right, of course.
In the days that followed more and more articles appeared, both locally and nationally, and then on the day he returned to work a telephone call from the journalist warning him that she would be publishing the names of her sources in her next article and to be prepared.
He felt sick all day as a result.
Thursday was out of danger, thankfully, although he still had a bullet lodged in his chest as the doctors had been worried that it was too close to his heart to try and remove it. Due to this it would be another month at least before he could possibly return to work and so in the meantime Peter, his own arm in a sling for another week, would be taking up the slack.
The opportunity to prove himself would have once filled him with pride.
Now he just worried.
What was everyone going to say when they learned the truth about Blenheim Vale?
He’d already heard someone muttering that Morse shouldn’t be walking around as free as a bird when he was suspected of murder even though the investigation had corroborated the fact that he had been framed. This information wasn’t common knowledge yet, however.
Would he lose their respect?
Would he be forced to leave?
And then came the day that his name appeared in black and white ink alongside one of his many statements about Blenheim Vale and then again, later on in the article, when he was quoted regarding Deare’s involvement in the abuse and subsequent death. There was even a photograph, one of all of the boys who had been at Blenheim with him, their gaunt faces staring hopelessly up at him. He really had been small for his age, he thought to himself as he traced his finger over the picture, seeking out George, Benny, Nicholas, Henry, Eddie…
And Big Pete.
“You ok?” Morse enquired softly. Everyone was staring at him, Peter realised, as he sat at his pristine desk reading the article they’d all already read. “Peter? You look a bit peaky…”
“I’m fine,” he murmured, trying to offer the winged detective a reassuring smile before he rose from his seat and turned to face the majority of the people staring at him. “Every word in this article and the previous articles are true. Deare abused me and many others when I was a child. He and several others, including DI Chard who as I’m sure you’re aware is under arrest, were involved in the murders of Eric Patterson and George Aldridge. I then failed to stop a young woman who he’d also abused from killing him and two of our other abusers.”
You could have heard a pin drop in the silence that followed his clipped statement.
“If any of you have a problem with me you can take it to Superintendent Bright.”
Again, silence, broken eventually by Constable Strange,
“…never did like Deare. He always felt a bit too…slimy…for me…”
A couple of other uniformed officers murmured in agreement.
“And Chard, well, if he’s as dirty as you say then he deserves everything they do to him. We’re meant to be here to help people, to protect them. Not to betray them like that.”
Another murmur of agreement, louder this time.
“So don’t you go worrying about any of us having a problem with you, Sarge,” the gentle giant concluded, offering Peter a genuine smile. “Right, I’ve got to go so if you’ll excuse me.”
And just like that the spell that had been over the room was broken and everyone returned to their normal duties, others following Strange out to start their beats whilst most began sorting out their paperwork or discussing the new cases that they were attempting to solve.
And that was that.
More articles followed, as did several court cases as people were charged.
A couple of his close colleagues who had been in league with him and Deare.
And then, finally, Angela.
As expected Peter was called to testify in each case alongside Morse, Thursday and Bright.
Each day in court was harder than the one before, more and more press arriving to watch.
At Landesmans trial he was unprepared for the other witnesses who were called alongside him even though he’d known, logically, that they’d be there; Nicholas, Henry and Benny.
They seemed equally as stunned to see him.
Peter was somewhat relieved that they didn’t get the opportunity to talk at the trial.
He wasn’t ready to face them.
“Why?” Morse enquired with a frown as the two of them celebrated the guilty verdict at the end of the three day trial with a pint at their local, the alcohol just enough to get Peter to admit that he’d avoided bumping into the others on his way out. “They want to see you.”
“They won’t after they find out that I was the one to betray Big Pete…”
He was stunned when Morse reached across the small round table to take hold of his hand.
“You were a child,” he intoned firmly, his fingers tightening around Peters own. “A child that was literally tortured for information and of all people they are the only ones who can truly understand what you went through. They’ll forgive you, I know they will and so do you…”
“I’ve missed my chance though, haven’t I?” Peter said at length, grateful that Morse didn’t remove his hand. The warmth of the other man’s skin was both pleasant and grounding. “I doubt I’ll ever see them again, not unless they’re called to testify at Angela’s trial as well.”
And that, of course, was precisely what happened.
Angela, after they’d all given their evidence with Peter being saved until last as he had the most evidence to give regarding the murder changers against her, was found guilty of three counts of murder but was, mercifully, found to be non compos mentis or not of sound mind.
This meant that whilst she would still spend the rest of her life behind bars it would be in a psychiatric hospital where she would receive the help and care that she needed to recover.
She wept as she was led away, tears of fear and of gratitude but never of regret, her gaze finding Peters and holding it until she was gone from view. Only then did Peter realise that he too was crying, silent tears falling down his ashen cheeks, and quickly wiped them away.
The voice came from behind him, unfamiliar and familiar all at once.
“Benny,” turning he found them all approaching him slowly, as though they were afraid they would startle him. A fair assessment, if he was honest. “Nicholas. Henry. You look…well…”
They did, even Benny.
In fact they look as though a weight has been lifted from their shoulders.
“We found Big Pete.”
Those four simple words were like a physical punch to Peters gut.
He choked loudly, his legs buckling beneath him and it was only Morse’s timely intervention that saved him from crumpling to the ground, his surprisingly strong arms wrapping around Peters waist and pulling him back to rest against his chest. A chair appeared, from where he didn’t know, and more than one set of gentle hands guided him to sit with his head between his knees, a single hand rubbing his back as a voice ordered him to take slow, deep breaths.
“Good,” the whole unfamiliar female voice murmured. “That’s good, Peter.”
“I’m sorry,” Henry apologised. “I didn’t mean to blurt it out like that.”
“Then why did you?”
“I don’t know,” He Ray answered honestly. “It just…came out…”
“I’ll give you just came out, Henry Portmore, shocking this poor young man like that,” she scolded him even as her gentle hands encouraged Peter to sit upright. “That’s better, now.”
“Don’t you go apologising,” she told him. “It was my fool of a husbands fault for springing it on you like that. We’ve been holding an archaeological dig for the past few months, officially looking for evidence of an ancient roman settlement but unofficially looking for Big Pete.”
“…you’re Eddies sister…”
“Hilary,” she supplied, offering him her hand to shake. “Pleased to meet you, Pete.”
“Peter,” he corrected her softly. “I go by Peter now.”
“Or Sergeant, apparently,” Nicholas murmured. “Congratulations.”
“And this is Edward,” Hilary announced brightly, turning to the pram that Peter hadn’t noticed before and retrieving a baby dressed in a blue romper suit. “Here. He won’t bit.”
And, suddenly, Peter found himself with an armful of baby.
What if he burned him?
Peter felt himself beginning to panic, gazing down at the child’s surprisingly calm face.
What would she do that?
Why would she trust him with her son without even knowing him?
“He’s not a bomb, you know?” she chuckled. “You don’t have to look so frightened.”
“It’s not that,” Peter gasped sharply. “It’s…I have…trouble…”
A hand settled on his shoulder, warm and comforting.
“Peter still struggles with controlling his powers after the treatment you all suffered at Blenheim Vale,” he explained simply, squeezing Peters shoulder gently. His next words might have been addressed to everyone but they were definitely meant for Peter. “He’s been improving, however, in the weeks since this all finally came out into the open so I don’t think there’s anything to worry about. Well, nothing more the normal amount of worry you’d feel having a complete novice when it comes to babies holding your child.”
His words caused all of them to chuckled, even Peter.
“Here, let me help,” Hilary murmured, reaching out move her son around until the happy little boy was sat with his back resting against Peters chest. “That’s his favourite position.”
“We’re hoping to bury him and George together,” Nicholas explained softly, returning to their earlier subject of conversation. “Once your fellow police officers release the bodies.”
“Will you come?” Benny asked suddenly, frowning slightly. “To the funeral?”
A look around at their hopeful expressions, each one completely earnest and open, and the feel of the gentle hand still resting reassuringly on his shoulder had him nodding his head.
“Yes. I’ll be there.”
It was Morse that suggested they contact the station with the details of the funeral, an arrangement that allowed Peter to keep his home address private for a little bit longer.
Perhaps, in time, he’d share it with them but for now he needed his safe space.
The fact that Morse recognised this filled him with a pleasant warmth.
Passing the baby up to his mother when she reached out for him was an odd feeling that Peter didn’t think he’d ever become used to, the innocent child feeling so fragile to him.
Hilary and Henry, passing the child between them, didn’t seem to share his feelings.
Then again they handled their son every day so we’re probably used to it.
It wasn’t until after they’d parted ways, Morse helping Peter to stand and leading him out past the gathered reporters to where he’d parked the car, that Peter realised that he hadn’t told them about the part he had played in Big Pete’s disappearance and subsequent death.
And he had to tell them.
He needed them to forgive him like Morse said they would…
He needed them to forgive him because Big Pete no longer could…
“Fancy a pint?”
“Not really,” Peter answered honestly. “Think I should just head home.”
Morse nodded, understanding, and set about driving them back to Peters flat.
“You know I’m here for you, Peter,” the winged detective announced suddenly as he guided the car around a particularly sharp turn not too far from Peters home. “If you need me…”
The car came to a halt in front of the building which contained Peters flat.
“…would you like to come up? I’ve got beer in if you still want that drink?”
Morse paused for a moment, his sincere gaze meeting Peter’s in the dwindling light of day, before finally nodding and following Peter inside the building and up to his small apartment.
“Make yourself comfortable,” Peter murmured, making his way into the kitchen to collect two bottles of beer. Returning to the front room he paused, his stomach giving an unusual lurch as he took in the sight of Morse reclining in his favourite chair, his angel wings partially extended so that they could drape over the chairs arms. “Here; it’s all I’ve got I’m afraid.”
He extended the drink for Morse to take.
“It’s fine,” Morse responded with a grateful smile. “Thank you.”
For a long moment they just sat together, Peter taking a seat in his second best chair, and merely enjoyed the silence after spending the last few weeks going from work to the court house and back again, keeping up with the current investigations which were mercifully a few petty thefts that hadn’t taken much to solve and one assault and battery. Thankfully that had simply been a case of finding the guilty party rather than trying to identify them.
“…will you come with me?” Peter suddenly found himself asking. “To the…to the funeral?”
“Of course,” Morse responded without hesitation. “Anything you need.”
Morse looked understandably perplexed by his startled exclamation.
Why had he said that out loud?
Morse sounded completely sincere.
So, what was it that had prompted him to clarify what was on offer from his friend?
What did he want?
It hit him suddenly, unexpectedly.
“I…” he hesitated, his eyes stinging. “I need…”
If Morse was startled by his mumbled request he didn’t show it, merely placed his drink aside and rose to his feet. There he paused, arching a single eyebrow towards Peter, and spread his arms wide, his invitation clear. Peter’s body moved before he even gave in the conscious thought, all but throwing his own nearly empty bottle aside in his haste to tuck himself against the younger man’s chest, a sound akin to a whine breaking free of his own.
Gentle arms tightened around his body, just enough to be comforting but not tight enough to be in any way restricting. His face ended up pressed into the side of Morse’s neck, the light stubble covering the detectives skin scratching against his own equally stubbled skin.
And then, in a moment of perfection that he could never have asked for as he didn’t know he needed it, Morse ever so carefully wrapped his beautiful white wings around them both.
The tears came unbidden, unwanted, but sadly almost certainly necessary.
Peter had never been comforted.
He’d never been hugged like this, not even as a young child; his mother was always too busy caring for his siblings or looking after the house and his step-father, well, he’d hated Peter.
No one had held him after the horrors of Blenheim Vale.
“I’m sorry…” he found himself apologising. “I didn’t mean to…I didn’t intend…”
Morse shushed him, one his hands moving to cradle the back of Peter’s head.
“I said anything, Peter, and I meant it.”
How long Morse held him for he wasn’t sure.
He said nothing more, just held him and occasionally rocked him from side to side.
Peter wept almost constantly.
Sometimes so badly that he couldn’t breathe…
And then, at long last, his tears ended and he pulled away from his friend.
It was dark outside.
“It doesn’t matter,” Morse brushed his query aside. “Something tells me you needed that.”
Peter nodded, wiping at his cheeks with his fingers until suddenly a cool cloth appeared to gently wipe away the tracks of his tears, careful not to aggravate the red raw skin beneath.
“No problem,” Morse murmured. “Now, how about I pop down the fish and chip shop? I don’t know about you but I’m absolutely starving and a fish supper sounds brilliant to me.”
Peter nodded, taking the cloth off of Morse and continuing to dab at his sore eyes.
It turned out to be the first of many fish suppers for the two of them.
Life didn’t become easy overnight.
The funeral of Big Pete and George was one of the hardest things Peter had ever done, his confession to his childhood friends a required evil. Morse had been right, though; they’d forgiven him even before he’d finished tearful apologising for betraying Big Pete to Deare.
Following the funeral the old friends became new friends, reintegrating themselves into each other’s lives. It didn’t seem like much to them but from an outsiders point of view, namely Morse, the change that it brought about was immense, each of them benefiting in some ways. Even Hilary who was finally able to say goodbye to her brother thanks to them.
Thursday returned to work, the bullet wound giving him some trouble, but it was good to have their superior back with them. It meant that everything was getting back to normal.
Morse and Peter continued to become closer, their friendship becoming the kind that other police officer spoke of enviously. He never intended for it to become anything more, never expected it to, and yet after a particularly cruel case when he asked for comfort, as had become their habit when things became too much for him, Peter had found himself being kissed. It had been as though the world was remade new in that instant as he allowed his friend to cradle him in the safety of his arms and wings and kiss all of the bad things away.
It was still illegal, of course, for two men to love one another as they came to.
This made things somewhat challenging but neither of them were quitters.
And they triumphed.
~ THE END ~