Fandom : Inspector Rex
Spoilers : For Season 4's Moser's Tod/Death.
Summary : Ernst Stockinger, the things we do and the years that pass.
Author's Note : Thanks to my Beta, drink_tank. Implied Moser/Stocki slash.
* * *
Ernst's fingers fumbled with the zipper of his gym bag. He finally got the zip open, hearing Renz's impatient huffing behind him.
"Come on, come on," hissed Renz, and Ernst didn't have to look to know Renz's hands were flapping. The both of them were dressed in civilian clothes tonight, ready to celebrate. Ernst stuffed his precious dress uniform in the bag, wincing as the ironed fabric was crushed.
"My god, man, hurry up or the bus will leave without us," hollered Renz, bouncing on the balls of his feet.
Ernst snapped the zipper shut, catching the fleshy pad of his finger in the metal. A thin line of blood welled out of the cut and Ernst opened his mouth to swear and complain. Ignoring the stream of profanities, Renz grabbed his wrist and dragged him bodily from the locker room.
"Serves you right for treating your uniform so bad!" laughed Renz, pulling Ernst along at a run. "Especially today of all days."
He finally let go of the captive wrist, confident that Ernst would keep pace with him. Ernst could have pointed out that the gym bag was Renz's idea. He could have slowed down to a more dignified speed but it had been several weeks since Ernst had last had the opportunity to run. Fierce joy was thudding in Ernst's chest and running gave him the chance to stretch his legs and feel his muscles working. He overtook Renz in a full sprint, arm pumping because the world was theirs and they could do anything.
"Today," shouted Ernst, his voice echoing down the halls of the Austrian Police Academy. "Today, we graduate!"
* * *
Three years later, Ernst was on the street in his police uniform when a bag-snatcher literally ran into him. Both men went down, the thief's wrist snapping under its owner's weight. Ernst cracked his head on the cement, spots dancing across his eyes. He reached out a shaky hand and tried to snag the would-be thief's clothing. Grimacing in pain, the thief rolled out of reach and staggered off down the footpath. Ernst pushed himself to a sitting position, finding the stolen purse lying in front of him. He picked up the purse and forced himself to his feet, the world swaying in technicolour. There was a clatter of indignant high-heels and a woman flew around the corner.
"Officer, did you see..."
She paused at the sight of Ernst with the purse. It was a white purse, Ernst noticed, made of good leather.
"You got my purse back," she said, sounding awed.
Ernst looked at her - blonde with a pleasant face, blue eyes and a cautious smile.
"Least I could do," he said, no longer bothered by the pain in his head.
* * *
Ernst knew he was going to marry Karin years before he had the money. He wanted it done right, wanted it to be special. He knew that street-cops normally didn't marry dentists and he didn't want her to feel like she'd missed out on anything. Making detective gave him a better income for her but making the homicide department was simply for the pride it gave him.
His first case for the department was anti-climactic when he arrived late at the scene. Shots had been fired but all the action was dealt with by the time his second-hand, battered station wagon had arrived. The head of homicide scolded him for his tardiness and ordered him to drive an injured detective home. He eventually found his quarry grumpily fending off the attentions of paramedics. The detective had dark hair, a large nose and a fresh graze on the skin of his neck.
"It's fine," said the detective. "Just a scratch. A scratch. His aim wasn't even that good. Almost missed me completely."
"It still should be looked at, Detective Moser," said the paramedic, trying in vain to get closer.
"I'll keep an eye on him," offered Ernst. "It gets any worse, I'll drive him to hospital myself."
The paramedic looked dubious but Detective Moser seized on the offer like a lifeline.
"You see? I'll be fine," said Moser, grabbing his coat. "Thanks for your time."
With that, Moser hustled Ernst away from the scene and the paramedics. He didn't speak until they were safely out of earshot.
"Thank god," said Moser. "Thought I'd never get out. So, which is your car?"
"That one," said Ernst automatically, pulling out his keys.
Moser snatched the keys in a surprisingly graceful move.
"I should probably drive..." began Ernst.
"Like I said, I'm fine," interrupted Moser, sliding into the driver's seat of Ernst's car. "You coming or not?"
Ernst slid into the passenger seat, feeling useless.
"Let me know if I can actually do anything, won't you?" grumbled Ernst beneath his breath.
Moser grinned, teeth shining and hair falling across his face.
"You can tell me your name, colleague. That's what you can do."
* * *
Another five years passed in the homicide department before there was another chance for promotion. The current head of homicide was preparing to retire and his position needed to be filled. Some things had changed over the years. Ernst had learned to answer to the nickname of 'Stocki' and accepted the reality that he wouldn't get the new position. Moser wasn't a sure bet but he was the current head's favoured protégé. Ernst and Moser both wore wedding rings now but Moser still hadn't learnt to listen.
Ernst held his handkerchief to the bloody knife-wound on his own arm, while Moser crouched in front of him. Waiting for the paramedics, Moser's expression managed to combine pale, worried and angry. Ernst, for his part, just felt tired.
"That was dangerous," said Moser, pointing out the obvious. "You could have been killed."
Ernst sighed but the near panic in Moser's eyes kept him from pointing out that it was Moser's recklessness that had led them to this. Moser's hand clutched tightly at Ernst's thigh. As usual Ernst said nothing but wondered silently what it would feel like to lay his fingers over Moser's and to kiss that impossible mouth. Ernst's arm was so numb he couldn't feel his own wedding ring but he could feel Moser's pressed into his thigh. He restrained the impulse only because he was starting to feel faint and light-headed. He promised himself to remember this temporary vulnerability of Moser's, though. He'd file it away with all the other stolen moments that neither of them had ever acknowledged.
"I mean, my god, Stocki," said Moser, his desperate eyes conveying a different message to his words. "There are some things you just can't do."
* * *
Nowhere near enough years passed before Ernst found himself standing in Moser's funeral procession. Ernst's wife was there, their fingers intertwined as she stood beside him. Moser's ex-wife was amongst the crowd, along with the former head of homicide, Moser's last girlfriend and the detectives who were supposed to be watching Moser's back when it all went wrong.
Ernst hadn't been there. He'd transferred to another city two years before, finally choosing his long-suffering wife over the impulsive detective who refused to commit. Moser's dog, Rex, crawled forward to sniff at Ernst's boots. It was all the greeting Rex could muster and Ernst understood the feeling. Ernst had rehearsed a defence in his head, in case anybody dared to ask why he wasn't there watching Moser's back. He'd say he always knew it would end this way and that's why he left. The truth is that he knew he would have protected Richard better.
Rex looked up at him, the gaze accusing as much as an appeal for Ernst to fix things.
"I'm sorry, Rex," said Ernst.
He tightened his grip on his wife's hand.
"I really am," said Ernst. "But there's nothing left I can do."