Title – Light In Shadow
Rating – PG-13
Summary – After the murder of his girlfriend, Mark discovers something unexpected about one of his work colleagues.
A/N – Set during/after the S1 Episode "Due Process of Law"; with effective spoilers for "Tom Dayton is Loose Among Us". And kind of a mirror image to "A Shoulder To Cry On".
Light In Shadow
It was a mess.
It was worse than a mess, it was his own mess for leaving her at that party.
That man, he wasn't even going to dignify him with a name, killed his girl and there was nothing he could do about it; there was nothing anyone seemed to want to do about it either, not Ironside or his pain in the ass sergeant! Mark couldn't help lashing out at the man, sitting there so smug and safe behind his lawyer.
He had it coming!
He had a whole lot more coming too!
Mark hit him as hard as he could, drawing blood, wanting to make the man hurt. In the distance he heard his boss speaking, no he was shouting something.
'Get him out of here, Ed!' ordered Chief Ironside.
Brown dragged Mark off the man, eventually, as Mark didn't make it ease for him.
'Come on!' muttered Ed, heaving him round to face the door.
Mark still struggled, but Brown had the advantage of height, and he knew what he was doing. This wasn't the first time the sergeant had manhandled Mark out of somewhere, and the memory nagged at him, the insult of being pushed around by the fuzz. But they made it out of the door with Chief Ironside, the suspect and the lawyer left inside.
Brown kept a tight hold of his arm, pushing him away from the door to the interview room.
'Cool it,' he told Mark, 'Just cool it!'
'I don't want to cool it, man!' Mark hissed back at him. 'How can you tell me to be cool! He killed her!'
'You don't know that,' Brown reminded him, not sounding as calm as he had a few moments before. 'We've gotta prove it. And assaulting a suspect is not gonna help!'
'Proof?' said Mark. 'That's a switch, coming from the fuzz. Police brutality!'
The sergeant glared at him, his eyes narrowed.
'Yeah, real funny!' snapped Brown.
'And why am I wasting my time talking to you, anyway, Brown?' asked Mark, finally managing to push the other man's hand away. 'What would you know? One moment she was there, and the next she was dead. What…?'
He didn't get any further in his tirade. The sergeant grabbed his the lapels of his jacket and slammed Mark hard against the station wall, knocking the breath out of him.
There was such bitter fury on the other man's face that for a moment Mark forgot why they were there. He was sure Brown was gonna hit him.
But he froze, his fists bunched white on Mark's jacket.
Maybe, just maybe, Mark might have said something. But instead, Brown pushed him away to one side and stormed off, round the corner and out of the room, slamming the door behind him.
Mark stared after him, wondering why Brown had chosen that moment to be such a jerk.
'The verdict's back,' said Ironside, putting the phone down. 'He's gone down for twenty-five to life.'
Drawing a long breath in, Mark nodded. It seemed like such a short about of time, for a young girl's life. Twenty-five years, but his girl was never coming back.
The office was quiet, Eve was out, and Brown was skulking at the back of the room, and didn't seem to be interested in the verdict.
'It was a mess,' said Mark at last.
'Murder always is,' Ironside told him, hunching his shoulders and sinking down into the wheelchair.
'I guess I went a little crazy,' said Mark. 'I don't think I ever apologised for how I acted, you know. Not to you, anyway.'
'Death's tough on those we leave behind, no matter how we go.'
Mark nodded again. The Chief had lost a wife, a long time ago. He could understand death. There was something odd about the whole conversation. Ironside himself seemed uncomfortable about the subject matter. But it was odd, since he wanted to listen as well, and he made no attempt to change the subject.
'I keep thinking about it,' Mark said. 'That night, what I could have done differently.'
'Ifs and maybes, Mark. Life's full of them.'
'It seems like it happened only a few days ago. The trial just made it seem all the more clear again. I can still see her lying there…' his voice caught at the image, his girl lying there on the floor of the bathroom, half-covered by a coat, the syringe within a few inches of her hand. If only he hadn't left her at that stupid party, it would all have been different.
It was going to haunt him for he rest of his life.
'It will always be there, Mark. There's no point in lying. There's nothing you can do that will take it away. You've got to learn to live with it.'
For a second, no much less than a second, Ironside's gaze flicked over to where Brown was sitting at the other side of the room. It seemed to Mark that Ironside knew what was about to happen, as a few seconds later, Brown suddenly stood up and pulled on his jacket.
'I'll run this down to the lab, chief,' he said.
He looked at the Chief, who gave a short nod. Then the sergeant looked at Mark, his face almost nonchalant in its lack of emotion.
'I'm glad he went down,' Brown said. Nothing more to be said, he turned and hurried up the ramp and out of the office, Mark staring after him.
Scowling at the closed door, Mark shook his head.
'What's his problem, man?' he said sourly.
'What makes you think Sergeant Brown has a problem?' asked Ironside.
Mark looked at his boss in surprise.
'Doesn't that look like a man with a problem to you?'
Ironside looked up at him, an annoyingly familiar knowing look on his face.
'You know, you two have more in common than you think,' Ironside said in a reasonable voice.
'No way, man! No way! Me and the fuzz? No way!' Ironside looked at him, his eyebrows raised, waiting. 'What are you talking about?'
Ironside still didn't answer. He kept on looking at Mark with the same expression.
Mark frowned. He couldn't mean? Could he? Ed Brown? The Force's number one ladies man? It had never occurred to him before that Ed Brown might have had a life beyond police work and taking beautiful women out on the town.
'What are you telling me?' Mark asked.
'I'm not telling you anything,' said Ironside, leaning forward in his chair. 'But you don't have a monopoly on loss. No one does.'
'I get that, man,' said Mark. He turned to look back at the door, suddenly curious. He remembered that incident in the cells when he'd had a go at the man, and Brown had pulled him off. Thinking about that look of reckless fury on Ed's face sent a shiver down Mark's spine
Ironside shrugged, an innocent expression now on his face. He looked down to the papers at the desk and began to read.
'Come on, man, don't go playing games with me, you've said…'
'I've said nothing.' Ironside insisted. 'I was just suggesting that if you ever wanted to talk to someone who understands what it's like to lose someone so suddenly, then you shouldn't be taking to me.'
He wasn't sure what he was going to say to Brown when he found him, but Mark figured that was going to be the least of his problems. If the man didn't want to be found, he wasn't going to be. However, Mark didn't like to leave the situation as it was, and he felt obliged to try and find him, as now he knew, he felt he had to do something about it.
With low hopes, he walked into Ernie's across the street from the police building. Much to his surprise, Ed Brown was sitting at one of the tables, a bottle of beer in one hand and an unlit cigarette in the other, with another three bottles on the table already waiting their turn. He looked up as Mark walked in, and stared straight at him as if challenging him to come over.
There was a moment when Mark could have turned round and walked back out, but this had to be done. He walked over, threading his way through the tables, chairs and people.
'Hey, Ed,' said Mark casually as he approached.
Brown stared for a moment longer, as if trying to decide what to say, then he looked to the table.
'He told you, didn't he?' Brown asked.
Mark hadn't expected Ed to guess so quickly, but then he decided that he shouldn't have been surprised, as Brown knew Ironside a lot better than he did.
'He didn't tell me.'
'He didn't tell you, but…?'
'He just dropped a couple of hints.'
Ed looked back up, that same, blank look on his face. Mark pulled out one of the seats. The expression didn't change and Mark took that as in invitation to sit down.
'So you went to Records and had a search around. And you found out about Tom Dayton. And now you're here.'
Mark sank down into the chair, Ed's eyes never leaving him.
'Yeah,' Mark said. 'And now I'm here.'
Mark was expecting to have to say more, he was expecting to have to say how sorry he was or something. Instead, Ed pushed one of the untouched bottles of beer in Mark's direction.
'You want a beer?' he asked.
Mark laughed for the first time in what seemed like years, a tiny part of the pain and responsibility receding.
'Yeah, man. A beer would be great.'
He picked up the beer, swinging it gently as he did. Then he raised the bottle, and paused.
'What's the toast?' he asked.
'Absent friends?' suggested Ed, lifting his own drink.
'How about justice?' replied Mark.
Ed nodded slowly.
'That's good enough for me.'
They clinked bottles.