Fandom: Murder Call
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters. They belong to Jennifer Rowe and Hal McElroy.
Summary: "Do you believe in God?" Steve ponders his life.
Written by neela
The rape and murder cases were always the worst. Young females with their whole lives ahead of themselves, some not even out of college yet. Alternatively, the older female, in her prime, settled down and with a good life. Sometimes it was hard to set a difference between the cases. It was easy to put it all in a box, labelling it "sick", instead of looking at each case as a stand-alone event. With the cases piling up, having each and every one of them weighing down his conscience would make it impossible to get up in the mornings and look himself in the mirror. It was easier to categorise, generalise, put some distance between them and him. For his own survival.
That was probably the core of his guilty conscience. He was a hypocrite. On one hand, he worked his best to give the victims and their families closure by finding and locking away the killer. On the other hand, he pushed away names, pictures and emotions in genric boxes deep in his mind. Forgetting their names and stories to survive another day.
He was getting sick and tired of this. Day after day, waking up to a dark, cold apartment—a testament to his devotion and hypocricy—putting on the stifling suit and facing the world as he had come to know it: dark but full of grey sones. Faith was the only constant in his life, even if it was more of a shield than a strong belief in something beyond this life. He simply had to believe in something. Though he doubted God's existence in those many moments innocent wax-like faces laid underneath his gaze, he had to believe there was some sort of better life for them on the other side. A place better than this world.
Sometimes he even wondered if he was going to end up there along with the rest. He had had some narrow escapes in his career. Times when his life had dangled in a thin thread, balancing precariously on the edge between mortality and eternity. One time he had even seen some white light in the darkness, but it had been faint, and when he woke later, he had half wished it had been stronger. He asked himself why God let him live when so many others deserved it more than him. Who was he to escape Death's door when an eight-year-old laid with his life seeping out in the gutter? Was there supposed to be some purpose to his life? Was he destined to do great deeds? In his line of profession, he could not find the answer to that question.
The nuns had said each life was equally valued in the eyes of God. Steve had thought so too for a while. Now he doubted. His life was full of doubt now. He was a walking epiphany of doubt. Moreover, it showed. He lacked spirit, confidence, and his faith was wavering. All he had left was his mask of indifference and the belief something better was to be found for the victims of crime in the afterlife.
Steve gulped down the rest of his beer. A hand reached out to touch his lightly.
"What's eating you?"
He tilted his head towards the source. Beautiful blue eyes, worried, framed by a mass of blonde curls. Steve looked down at the empty beer bottle he was twirling in his hands. The guilty conscience leapt up again, roaring. It was quelched down as he ordered another beer.
She kept looking at him as the silence stretched out; he could feel the heat on his face. The beer came and he drank half of it. No more questions asked, but the hand was still there, just inches away from his. This was how he lived. This was how he devoted himself to the victims and their families. Therefore, his apartment would forever be dark and cold.
Yet it did not mean the life outside was free of grey sones. In fact, he encountered them every day. Smiles and laughs in the midst of death. The rare touch of affection. Talks of life and death, moral and ethics. Favourite colours, music, food and books. Inside his mask, his wavering faith, doubt and guilty conscience were his constants. Outside, his friends and colleagues.
Sad to think how he only managed to be a little happy when his mask was on.
The rest of the beer went more slowly and his senses heightened. The jukebox had tuned down to a soft trail of wordless ballads. Around the bar, people were slowly thinning out, turning his focus to how late it was. Past midnight. He was usually in bed by now, trying to get his eight hours of sleep before another day. However, here he was, without his mask and with the promise of brief warmth just inches away.
She was truly beautiful. Steve remembers vaguely telling her she has beautiful eyes once. Coincidentaly enough, he had been visiting Death's door at the time. Or so he thought. Later he had woken up in a hospital bed and cursed God. There in the darkness, he had truly cursed God. Not many did. On the other hand, maybe they did. Life was so full of letdowns and bad people—he could not be the only one who cursed the master of eternity.
Did she curse God? Did she even believe in God? It struck Steve that he did not know. Four years and he had missed what might be a vital part of her life. Religion always seemed to be a vital part, at least. Maybe she was an agnostic or atheist.
He finally looked up, finding her eyes already on him. "Do you believe in God?" he asked.
It seemed to catch her off guard. Perhaps she had expected something else. Something less big. It had been an awful case, after all. They always talked about things related to work. Safer topic. Though, this was related. Steve grew up with his faith and maintained it because of his job after all.
She hesitated, "I don't know."
Somehow, it slightly disappointed him. Steve sank back to his beer. She startled him by continuing:
"I mean, my family was never really religious. We're Catholics and went to church in the holidays, but never talked about it at home." She paused. Steve looked up at her, senses heightened again and tuned to her soft voice. "But Dad...I think he believed. Before he died, he talked to me about it. Or tried to. I was young; I had other things to think about. I wasn't very interested." She gave him a smile that did not reach her beautiful eyes and his hand nearly moved of its own.
She sighed. "When Dad was found dead...Mum lost what was left of her faith. I guess that still affects me. Then again, I remember the time he tried to talk about his belief and how it related to his work...I guess what I'm trying to say is, I really don't know if there's something great and big out there watching over us. I'd like to believe it, but I just don't know."
Atheist, then. Well, he had learned something new about his partner. It was not surprising. She always had her head in the clouds, but she was actually down to earth and realistic when it came to this level. The notion of an almighty God might not fit into her world.
"How about you?" she asked him quietly, not looking at him. Was she afraid of something? "Do you believe in God?"
"Yeah," he replied simply, gazing down at the last of his beer and wondering if he really wanted it. His hand lay motionless on the bar counter. "I've..." Steve paused, hesitating, feeling vulnerable. This situation was slightly out of his control. It would be safer to shut up. Nevertheless, he was the one that had brought it up...and she had answered honestly; he could tell by the sound of her voice.
"I've got to believe," he sighed finally, chin tilting down. The heat returned on his skin and his senses told him the warmth was still inches away. Like the boxes he created for his own survival. Within reach but distanced. "If I stop believing, I don't know if I can do this job anymore." There, he had confessed. Partially, at least. There were still many things, many regrets, he wanted to confess, but now was not the time.
She did not reply at first and Steve returned to his beer, twirling the bottle between his palms. The warmth disappeared. He missed it already, but the guilty conscience told him it was his own mistake. People made a lot mistakes in the lives, adding up to a lot regrets.
In the end, she spoke up. "Do you...want to quit?" The tenderness in her tone startled him and he raised his head slowly, not able to look at her. Was she scared he might quit? Why?
Don't go there.
"Sometimes," he admitted slowly, quickly tipping his head backwards and gulping the rest of his beer. This had suddenly taken a different turn. As the bottle hit the bar counter, his back straightened and he looked at her with a smile. "Not now, though." He felt the warmth again as his palm laid motionless on the counter. Just an inch and the apartment might not be dark and cold anymore. Just an inch.
Tessa smiled. It almost reached her eyes. "Good," she said simply and turned to the bartender, asking for the bill, leaving Steve to slide off the stool and put his jacket on.
The air held a definite conclusion to it. They would probably not speak of this again.
Steve, as the gentleman he was, held her jacket up for her and she rolled her eyes, but allowed him the gesture. They nodded to familiar faces as they left the pub.
"Do you need a ride?" she asked him. It was not necessary—this was their routine—but Steve smiled again at the familiarity.
They got into the car and Tessa fired up the engine, pulling out of the parking spot with a look over her shoulder for other traffic. Steve sank back in the front passenger seat, eyes closing shortly. The radio was turned on. Classical music. Her favourite. She had played the piano once, he remembered. Another trivial fact added to the ever-growing list. He was not really into classical music himself, but with her, he did not care. Right now it was soothing, comforting.
Outside the mask, she was his constant. He could not leave her. He had to survive for another day after all. Purpose or not, he still had to find the weirdos and sickos operating on the wrong side of the law. It's what he joined up for. It's why he believes.
It's why his apartment will never feel warm.