|Heroes and Demons
Author: Javanyet PM
Sequel to Past Imperfect. Mortal introspection provides new turns in established relationships for both Maura and Natalie. Visit my profile to see the ring that Nick gives Maura in the last scene.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Supernatural - Chapters: 10 - Words: 24,759 - Updated: 12-01-07 - Published: 08-04-07 - Status: Complete - id: 3701960
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Sure there were shootouts and car chases and the odd hostage negotiation, all of it scattered between bodies and near-bodies. But some nights detective work was just… plain… drudgery.
This Monday night was one of those. Schanke and Nick were planted at their desks, shackled to their computers, compiling and sorting and spread-sheeting data that would be forwarded to the provincial capital to be forwarded to the Crown office of crime statistics. Citizens of Toronto were being uncommonly kind to one another this particular week, as if in consideration of the annual record-keeping effort.
"Everyone's gotta do their bit to help Toronto's finest give the armchair crime fighters in Ottawa something to pontificate about over their cognac," Schanke grumbled as he hit the backspace key about a dozen times, for about the dozenth time in the past three minutes.
"C'mon, Schank, you know these numbers help justify those other numbers we keep begging for," Nick placated. No dice.
"Right, we gotta beg for the funds to protect and serve. Nice."
No use bitching about it. But everyone did, Nick included, though he didn't usually start rolling until the end of the week's effort. The truth was he was so relieved to have his home life returning to a semblance of normal (relatively speaking, of course) that not much would ruin his mood for some time to come. Of course his partner recognized this.
"Nick, Nick, Nick, you have the light of your life alive and in one piece, what more could you want?" and with a wink he added, "And Maura's on the mend too."
Nick tried to smirk but the smile won out. "Yeah, we found a therapist she'll tolerate and she's even on the verge of admitting it's helping her sort things out." Aristotle had tracked down the elusive Otto Brinkmeyer, who Maura found just acerbic and practical enough to explore her "inner landscape" with. It was hard, but it was happening. As for his own potholed inner landscape, he'd navigate that later.
"Well speaking as your nearly-late partner I say that can't come soon enough." If wishes were horses, Don Schanke would be able to outrace the dreams that had plagued him lately, dreams that woke him in a sweat but evaporated before he could grasp them. Never had there been a worse time for mindless drudgery. Schanke craved a demanding case that would occupy his mind and exhaust him for sleep.
They were about to return to their keyboards, grudgingly, when Nick's desk phone rang.
"Knight. Sure, be right there." He hung up and rose from his chair. "Be right back. The captain wants to see me." As he headed toward the office he missed the knowing smile that followed him.
"Detective, I'm sure you know the Toronto Police Civilian Bravery Awards are coming up in a few weeks."
"Sure, captain. Are you looking for presenters?" It was sometimes a chore to find anyone, uniform or detective, willing to stand up in front of the "city fathers" and other bureaucratic movers and shakers even if it was to bestow honors upon civilian heroes. Between thirty and forty civilians were so honored each year for courageous acts in support of the police and their fellow citizens.
Cohen shook her head with a smile. "I think we have that covered in this case. I just thought you'd like to know that Maura Logue is this year's recipient in our precinct. I don't think you need to ask why, or who her presenter will be."
Nick sat back and grinned broadly. "I just left him cursing his computer. So did you want me to give Maura the happy news?"
"No need, the award letters were mailed out on Friday. It should be in your mailbox today. I just thought it might be wise to let you know before your partner had a stroke from the effort of keeping the secret."
"I appreciate it, thanks. He did look a little bulging around the eyes for the past few days." Nick paused then, his smile tempered by other knowledge as the captain continued.
"Well he was the first to offer her name in nomination, not that anyone is surprised. In the detective division the votes were unanimous. I have to admit I exerted what personal influence on my colleagues, though they didn't need much convincing to thank the woman who saved the life of someone in our own precinct. Official invitations will be sent to the honorees of course. I do hope Maura will be able to convince Ms. DuCharme to do without her for one Saturday night."
"I'm sure Janette would be glad to give her the night off." What Nick didn't say was that he wasn't so sure that Maura would be as eager to accept the award as his commander and partner were to give it.
"Blood doesn't lie," he'd told her before he drank, "and gives me a unique advantage over my mortal colleagues. It leaves no room for concealment."
Maura understood that while taking her blood didn't allow Brinkmeyer to read her mind, it did give him a full picture of her experience and its effect on her. The purpose of their sessions was to enable her to understand those effects and accept even the most dark experiences as something that need not overcome her. Not so different from a mortal shrink, she figured, though he seemed very much more grounded in logic than the usual run of the mill therapist. She had, of course, inquired after his methodology (apart from the obvious).
"Freudian won't do a thing for me," she declared as the grey-haired gentleman in the opposite offered a patient smile.
"I assure you, my 'methodology' encompasses any and all approaches that might apply, in a variety of combinations."
"Sounds like you make it up as you go along."
He shrugged mildly. "You never know what will work until you try it. Now why don't you tell me what demons this unfortunate experience has brought forth to disrupt the life you wish to have, and we will find a way to wrestle them into submission."
"You're not going to encourage me to 'embrace' them, or 'cohabit peacefully' with them?"
"Oh my, no. Demons are for casting out, my dear. They have no acceptable place in your life."
Maura laughed, the first honest laughter that had escaped her in some time. "I bet you expect me to find that ironic."
"Anyone who found that ironic would never have chosen to live among us. Now don't you think it's time to stop hiding behind banter and make use of our time together?" He didn't have to glance at the empty blood sample flask to emphasize the point.
"Right. That's why I'm here, I guess."
They went on from there. This week, even as Captain Cohen was informing Nick of her upcoming award, Maura was struggling to explain to Brinkmeyer why she simply couldn't even think of accepting it. She didn't even want to acknowledge the announcement she'd received in that morning's mail. Around and around they went, Brinkmeyer leading with logic and Maura debating with doubt.
"I think it didn't matter if I knew his gun was loaded or not. I'd have pulled the trigger either way. And the only way I could deserve this kind of attention is if I did it for Schanke, and not for what Jerry did to me."
Brinkmeyer smiled, barely, as if she'd spoken words he'd been waiting to hear. "Perhaps that knowledge isn't the most important. It could be that what is most important is that you know that even a selfish act can achieve an unselfish end."
"You mean like my shooting Jerry in a blind rage saved Schanke's life."
"As you say he saved yours, the night he and Nicholas found you in that motel."
"It's not the same."
Shaking his head, he inquired, "And what makes the two different?" Before she could answer he told her, "Motivation, you will say. Yes, whatever motivated Detective Schanke to do what he could to keep you alive was undoubtedly different than what motivated you to shoot his – and your – would-be killer. The end result was the same… a life saved. In one case at the expense of another who had become motivated entirely by greed."
"So you're saying the difference doesn't matter. I killed someone because I was flipped out and Schanke was just saved by coincidence, but that's not supposed to be any different from him flipping out to keep me alive."
"What I'm saying is that in terms of mortal behavior, motivation loses significance after the fact. It is like an adverb without an action, meaningless. Yet you give it an unworthy power over you, and allow it to overwhelm the significance of the 'coincidental' act whose absence would have done profound damage to others."
She was running out of corners to hide in. It made sense in her brain but she continued to keep the understanding at arm's length, to Brinkmeyer's obvious frustration.
"You are missing the point at nearly every turn. This is no longer about you. It is now about those whose lives you kept intact by your act that some call bravery. Some think of it as reflex. You think of it as revenge." Brinkmeyer regarded Maura for a moment. "You are aware of the Chinese belief that once you have saved a man's life you are responsible for him forever?"
She eyed him suspiciously. This guy was a master of the loaded question and the unassailable answer. "What's that supposed to mean? I have to carry Schanke now for the rest of his life?"
Suddenly the vampire therapist's philosophical demeanor evaporated and a sterner persona emerged. "It means that dozens of people have been catering to your every need before and since your return from near-death. It's time you did the same for them." He was a compassionate man as a mortal and as ethical a vampire as was possible, but dealing with the woefully limited perspective of mortality had never been his strong suit. He did, however, see light beginning to dawn in this one, however grudgingly. Were she not attached to Nicholas Knight, and by proxy Aristotle, he would have abandoned this venture after the first session. This woman clung to her narrow notions as if they were life itself.
"Good. Is it becoming clear now? Those around you are also recovering from a trauma that has affected them in their way as much as it did you. Part of that recovery, and return to 'normalcy' is the opportunity to acknowledge anything positive that can balance the near-loss of a father, friend, and colleague. It will also help you balance the memory of both these traumatic experiences that have been disrupting your life and relationships."
Maura merely sighed, and at last Brinkmeyer exploded.
"For pity's sake woman, stop being so bloody self-centered! You mortals have such a minute time on earth, and you waste it on endless ruminations about things that frankly do not matter."
"Well it matters to me, okay? Never mind my minute time on earth, right now I'm gonna have to stand up in front of a bunch of people, including plenty of strangers who'll be there just for the photo op, who'll be waving around one of the most abused words in the English language. They just don't understand what happened to me or Schanke and they're pasting all sorts stock adjectives on it that they only think they understand. I don't feel like a hero, not their definition anyway. And I don't think he does either. What we went through in that motel room and in that garage, aside from all the leftover angst, it's more than that. Nothing we did was 'above and beyond' anything. Our brains went dead and something else took over."
"And what do you think that might be?"
She thought for a minute. "Friendship? Love, maybe, or the strength of our connection to the same person?" Suddenly she laughed, remembering what Schanke said in the hospital. "Donnie said Nick needs a tag team to keep him in line and we both need to stay on the job "
"Well, then. You'll have the full attention of a captive audience. Why don't you explain that to them? After all, they're only trying to say 'thank you'." He said these things as if explaining to a child.
"Oh. I never really thought of it that way." Maura shifted sheepishly. "I guess I make things too hard sometimes, huh?"
Brinkmeyer raised his hands in the air as if praising… well, whoever he might praise for such a breakthrough.
"Congratulations, Ms. Logue, you have just cast out your first demon."