A Million Holes Poked In The Soul
A/N: This story was inspired by a picture that Alec Hardy is carrying in his wallet in my other story "A Better Way To Fall". The amazing Lauren was lining up to write a fanfic for the fanfic, but alas – I beat her to it :-) Turns out there was a much bigger story hiding behind that picture and this is it. It's been a wild ride writing it and it totally took a life of its own, steadily growing and evolving (and still is). I hope you'll enjoy Alec's journey with me. It's not always a happy one, but we already know that anyways.
The story begins a few weeks before Pippa Gillespie and Lisa Newberry go missing.
The story is dedicated to…
The amazing Lauren – without her this would have never happened. A million thanks to her for all her support, comments and general awesomeness! This is for you, girl!
The inspiring Hazel – whose caps-lock comments have made my days ever since I started writing this story and who suffered through every cliff hanger I threw at her. My apologies. I hope it was worth it.
My husband – who thinks I use too many modifiers (he's probably right) and who's trying not to get too jealous of Alec Hardy. I love you.
For all of the loved ones gone
Forever's not so long
And in your soul
They poked a million holes
But you never let them show
Come on its time to go
And you already know
Yet you already know
How this will end
Now you've seen his face
And you know that there's a place in the sun
For all that you've done
For you and your children
No longer shall you need
You always wanted to believe
Just ask and you'll receive
Beyond your wildest dreams
And you already know
Yet you already know
How this will end
Devotchka – "How It Ends"
Alec Hardy's day wasn't going very well. He had overslept because he had been too tired the day before to remember to set his alarm. He had stayed late at the police department to finish the arrest paperwork on what had started as a domestic violence case and had ended with the cold blooded murder of the wife and teenaged son by the husband. The brutality of the crime had left him with an extremely unsettled feeling more so than usual and his nights were plagued with nightmares.
He woke up so late that he didn't have time for his usual morning routine of having tea with Daisy and that put him in a truly foul mood. His temper was already flaring when he walked into the station. He took the stairs, too impatient to wait for the elevator. When he reached the third floor he was out of breath and his heart beat felt oddly off. Bloody hell, he was out of shape. He could still hear Daisy teasing him about this, just this past weekend. They had been down by the river for a hike when a sudden downpour hit them on their way back. They ran to the car and by the time they reached it, she was 10 yards ahead of him and he was too winded to even retort at her squibbing remark.
Despite really wanting that cup of tea, he dodged the office kitchen not feeling like exercising his questionable conversational skills at the usual morning small talk. His DS Dave Thompson probably had made a joke, as the others were laughing loudly. Dave was good at that, at least according to Tess. At this thought he could feel his ears turning red with frustration and he got even more annoyed.
Tess never missed an opportunity to point out that he had the social skills of a hermit crab. It used to be a loving joke, when pointing out his latest mishaps in the minefield of what others called human interaction. When they first met she used to find his bluntness and awkwardness endearing, but lately he wasn't so sure about that anymore. Her remarks were outright mean at times and it had happened just too often for him not to feel utterly defiant about it by now.
"DI Hardy!" PC Jensen called after him while he was storming through the busy CID main office. "Good morning, sir. The super wants to see you right away." He gave the man a glare. For God's sake, he hadn't even reached his office yet. And still no tea insight.
He let out an exasperated huff and mumbled, "Be right there." rolling the 'Rs' more than usual. He dropped off his woolen coat at his desk. Then he took a moment to tighten his tie, to straighten his collar and to tuck at his shirt and suit sleeves. He ran his hand through his auburn hair. At least he had had enough time to properly shave this morning. He hated not having the time to do so. He might have the reputation to be a gruff arsehole but that didn't mean one's exterior needed to be gruff as well. At least not in his wife's opinion and in the end to him that was all that mattered. Her's and Daisy's.
Thinking off Tess - he'd better come up with a good excuse why he dinged the brand new car this morning. In his rush to get to the station he had bumped the trash cans while backing out of the driveway. He sighed and braced himself for the bollocking that was to come. Yet another reason why this day was one that couldn't be over soon enough.
He knocked at his superior's door and entered without waiting for an answer. His CS, Edward Baxter, had his back turned to the door, working on his computer.
Without even looking away from the screen Baxter greeted him, "Ah, that can only be you Alec. You're the only one who would just barge into my office without being asked to come in." When Baxter looked at him, he raised one eyebrow. "What's that face for?"
"Don't call me Alec. You know bloody well I hate it" Hardy snapped at him, dropped the file on his superior's table and put his hands on his hips.
"Really? Who pissed you off this morning? Something in particular or just the world in general?" Baxter didn't budge under Hardy's piercing stare.
With a low voice, Hardy begrudgingly admitted, "Didn't get to have tea with Daisy this morning." He shoved his hands in his pocket and bit his lower lip.
Baxter chuckled. "I see, maybe I should talk to that girl so that it doesn't happen again."
Hardy was quick to reply, "Oi, it wasn't her fault. I overslept." And with only ever so little tiredness in his voice he added, "It got late last night." He sighed and plopped on to a chair.
His boss and friend gave him a long look before he eventually spoke. "This case…" He pointed at the file folder. "You seem… more involved than usual. You alright? Wanna talk about it?" Baxter didn't let him look away, holding his gaze.
Hardy shifted uneasily in his chair and growled, " 'M fine." Even to him this didn't sound convincing.
"Bollocks, Alec. I've known you for how long now? More than a decade? Don't give me the 'M fine' treatment, because I know that's your default answer when things are not fine." Baxter was frowning and clearly unhappy with his friend.
Hardy rubbed the back of his head with his hand. He looked away out of the window. " 'S not only the case. Tess and I… we've been arguing." He could hear Baxter take in a quick breath in surprise.
"How come? You never argue. It's not needed. She usually has won the argument before it even started." Baxter scoffed. Although being his long term friend, he had never been entirely fond of Tess, but out of respect for Hardy rarely let on about his feelings for her.
Hardy all of a sudden felt exhausted. With a certain air of defeat he said, "Well, if you want to put it that way." And after a pause he decided to share. "She is refusing to go to Duncan's wedding. She doesn't want to budge, no matter how important it is to me." He could hear the hurt in his own voice.
Baxter was quiet and with a small nod encouraged him to go on.
"What am I supposed to do? He's my oldest and best friend… I'm his best man, for God's sake. And just because she doesn't like him she doesn't want to go and more so, she doesn't want to let Daisy go as well." He wiped his face down with his hands.
"Daisy is so excited about it. She has been talking about it for weeks now. In fact, I'm supposed to take her shopping this afternoon for a dress. The wedding is in a few weeks and all of a sudden Tess decides to be difficult about it." He huffed in exasperation. "Beats me."
Baxter tried to be pragmatic. "Then just go without her. Take Daisy as your date and have fun together." And with a little malice in his voice, he added, "Take lots of pictures and make Tess regret that she didn't come with you guys."
Hardy didn't say anything. He chewed on his lower lip and crossed his arms over his chest. Baxter was right. He shouldn't let this get to him so much. But he couldn't fight off the hurt feeling and bitterness that came with the awareness that Tess couldn't look past her own dislike of his best friend, blatantly ignoring how important it was for him to go to this wedding together as a family.
Tired of his own repetitive thoughts, he got up. "All the paperwork is in the file. Can I… would it be okay, if I left early today? Tess is at home today and I want to…" He trailed off, not entirely sure what he really wanted.
Baxter just nodded. And when Hardy was about to step outside, he said, "You know that you can always come to me, if you need help. No questions asked." Hardy was touched by the sincerity of his friend's words. Not trusting his face to not give away his emotions, he didn't look at him when he breathed a "Thank you." before leaving the office.
His long strides took him quickly across the CID room to his office. He grabbed his coat and with a swift motion swung it on his lanky body. He all but ran out of the station. All he could think was to get to his car and leave work behind. Tess' angry accusation of him being married to his job echoed through his mind and he felt a pang of guilt. He had been more at the police station than home lately. He barely was spending any time with Daisy besides their morning ritual when she made him tea – according to her he was a sad example of a human being before his first cuppa. He smiled. It wasn't only Daisy who was looking forward to going to the wedding together.
He reached his car, climbed in, buckled up and started the engine. But he didn't drive off. As fast as his burning desire to go home and make up with Tess had come, it dissipated equally as fast into thin air. It was replaced with anger fueled by the feeling of being let down by his wife - the wife he would do anything for. His long fingers were gripping the wheel tightly, his knuckles turning white. He was taking in deep breaths between his clenched teeth, trying to wrestle down his feelings of frustration and disappointment.
It was hard for him to come to terms with the fact that Tess was so stubborn about the wedding. When they had received the invitation, she had snatched it out of his hand, and made a derogatory comment about the bride. She didn't dare to say anything about Duncan though. He was Hardy's oldest friend, going all the way back to prep school and Tess knew very well that he wouldn't allow any bad words about him. Tess never really liked him since he had called her out over flirting with him many years ago at a Christmas party. Hardy had brushed off his friend's concerns at the time, but the strained relationship between the two of them had made it hard to stay in touch with Duncan as much as he would have liked to. The more pleasantly surprised he was when he had asked him to be his best man.
He jumped when someone knocked at his car window. His heart gave a sudden jolt in his chest and sped up noticeably. Panting slightly, Hardy turned to the window. He opened it when he saw PC Jensen questioning frown.
"Sir, everything alright?" PC Jensen looked concerned enough to mask his curiosity.
" 'M fine." He growled and closed the window again.
He scrubbed down his face with his hands. He could only image the juicy story Jensen would share with anybody who was willing to listen over a cup of tea in the office kitchen. Now the whole station would gossip about him storming out of the office, only to be found sitting in his running car in the parking garage. His day was only getting better.
He finally left the garage. His enthusiasm about going home was nonexistent by now. He checked the time – not even elven o'clock, ample time before his shopping date with his daughter. Also, not the worst time of day for traffic. He chewed on his lip, still tightly gripping the wheel. He decided to go for a drive. He had always enjoyed driving, especially if he didn't need to be anywhere. The fast but steady movement of the car paired with the habits of years of being behind the wheel taking over allowed his mind to wonder and relax.
After getting on the motorway, the tension finally left him. And after another twenty minutes or so of idle driving around, he pulled over and grabbed his phone. He had reached a decision. He called Tess' number. She picked up after the 5th or 6th ring – a clear sign that she didn't really want to talk to him.
"What do you want, Alec?" Tess' voice sounded tired and – he couldn't quite name it – sad, possibly? Not what Hardy would have expected, and the thought of her being sad made all his determination to be firm with her melt away.
He sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. "Listen, love..." He didn't get far.
"No. You listen to me. I am sorry that we argued about the wedding. I shouldn't have been so…"
She didn't continue and he filled in, "… unreasonable?"
There was a slight hesitation on her end, but then she conceded, "Aye, unreasonable. I'm really sorry if I hurt your feelings."
Hardy let out a breath he didn't know he had been holding. " 'S alright. I could have been less of stubborn arse about it too."
She chuckled. "Oh shut up Alec. Quit taking the blame for shite you didn't do. We've talked about that before. I had no business to make such a fuss over the wedding. You should just go…"
He interrupted her, "I want you to come, Tess. Please. I'd miss you being there with me. I need you. You know I'm rubbish with…" He was searching for the right word and when he finally found it, it he made sound like the most horrendous thing ever, "… with socializing."
The phone rang with her clear laughter. "Alec Hardy, you're a bloody idiot, but I still love you."
"So you're coming then?" He hoped, he didn't sound too needy.
She hesitated again. "No. I'm not. I don't share your fondness for Duncan and I have no interest in spending any time around him. I'm sorry, Alec, but I just don't want to go." Her tone didn't leave room for discussion.
Baxter was right, there was no need for an argument. She had already won before they started. He had basically begged her to come with him but to no avail.
He tried to hide the defeat in his voice, trying to save some dignity, and all he could get out was, "I see." He rested his head against the window of the car, his eyes closed, stinging with tears.
She was silent at the other end. He took in a deep breath and mustered all the determination he had left in him.
"If you like it or not, Daisy will be coming with me. She is looking forward to it so much, and there is no reason to drag her into this. I'm taking her shopping for a dress this afternoon."
"Fine." Her tone was sharp and it didn't take him much imagination to picture her beautiful pouting face. "I'll see you tonight then." And with that she hung up the phone.
His eyes were still closed. When he rubbed his hands over his face, he wiped away tears he wasn't even aware of shedding. And he couldn't shake the eerie feeling of missing something without even knowing what it was that he had lost.