If the sky above you should turn dark and full of clouds,
and that old north wind should begin to blow,
keep your head together and call my name out loud now,
and soon I'll be knocking upon your door
You've Got A Friend, James Taylor
Summary: There are good times with his new partner, but there are also bad, and on those days all Murtagh can do is just be there for Riggs. Because that's what friends do. -Between LW1 and LW2-
Pairings; Canon (Roger/Trish, Riggs/Victoria)
Sunny Days and Rain
With Riggs, there are good days. So many good days that Murtagh doesn't count them; just takes them for granted. They are just there and that is all there is to it. Murtagh isn't one for deep thinking, never has been, is always grounded in reality, so if there is a good day, when nothing is wrong with the world apart from the usual scum and crime, he just gets on with living it instead of thinking about it too much. And those days make up most of the time he spends around his fellow LAPD officer. He's not found quite the right way to define or even describe his friend yet, and he doubts that it'll come to him at any point in the future. Murtagh has long realised that Riggs isn't, and has never been faking it to draw the psycho pension. He is mad, there is little doubt about it, but he's also an anomaly; bouncing off the walls crazy and dark eyed serious depending on the circumstances.
He doesn't quite get the balance right all the time, weighing up the two sides of his personality, and Roger has found that Riggs tends to lean towards the crazy act when threatened in some way. It gives him something to hide behind, a mask he's worked hard at creating, a mask he's lived behind ever since Vicky died. It keeps him safe and protected, keeps everything in, so that when there's a criminal pointing a gun to his head with every intention of making slushy of his brains with the bullet that's loaded in the cartridge with the safety off, Riggs cackles like the wicked witch from those stories Roger told Rianne when she was a little girl and still believed the world could be like a fairytale, makes bad jokes, thinks he's a comedian with his sharp one liners and blink-and-you'll-miss-it insults.
And with that mask triumphantly held in front of his face making up his whole persona, decorated in bright bold colours and blurry lines so one shade, one emotion graduating straight into another with no visible place marking a separation, Riggs is invincible inside his own head, taunting the man with death held in sweaty palms, playing with him, mocking him, and never flinching even when the cold metal barrel jabs flush against the centre of his forehead, the man venting out a stressed promise to end it all. Because then Riggs glances up, smirking with hair awry and blue eyes wide, and tells him to do it. Go on. Pull the trigger.
Maybe wants him to do it, because Riggs isn't scared of nothing, nobody, not even any more of dying.
And then, like the long-suffering friend he is, it's up to Murtagh to save his friend, again, even though he's definitely getting too old for this shit. Roger will be panting from the adrenaline, the situation is dealt with no thanks to the younger crazy cop getting up off his knees with no bullet in his brain, welcoming him with another one of those blistering, too-strong smiles, enquiring as to "what took you so long?" in the sort of joking teasing voice that gets Murtagh riled up, pissed that Riggs is so callous about the whole thing. But he's too busy being relived to be irritated for long, and he joins in Martin's smile, the younger cop laughing at an unspoken joke, appearing unruffled like he never doubted that Roger would swoop in and save him.
Riggs might not be frightened of death; doesn't think twice to leap into danger in the name of the job, doesn't even halt in his steps by the idea of being in pain. Murtagh's seen him dislocate his own shoulder to win a bet around the office, laughing maniacally to disguise the blinking tears of pain when he pops it back into its socket, shaking the sensation away and out of his mind like a dog shakes to get rid of water. It's just something that doesn't hold well with him; fear. That's what makes him so damn lethal. He's not frightened; not scared of retribution when he takes on some big drug dealer with every method at his disposal able to kill him in more than ten different and agonising ways, doesn't shy unconsciously way when a bullet torpedoes past him too close for comfort. None of those things.
But Roger is frightened of them. And in a way he wont admit to, not even to Trish, barely even to himself, he gets scared about how little Riggs values his own life. He doesn't even faction it into the equation most of the time. One day, Roger might be too late when things go wrong. One day, he's not going to be there to swoop in and save his wayward friend from collecting his one way ticket out of here by way of a bullet to the face. It's inevitable.
But he can't do anything about it, can't change Riggs' mind, make him care more. The younger cop just shrugs off the concern, says that everyone dies, so why be worried about it. So that just means that Murtagh has to do the worrying and surviving for the both of them when the shit hits the fan and everything starts going downhill around them. Someone has to.
Yet Riggs is his friend, and although he has his faults, Murtagh can never begrudge him them. Riggs makes him laugh, and as a partnership, they've somehow been able to make the odd couple act work. Murtagh might have to ground Riggs, tether him to reality and into actually caring about his own safety, but Riggs in turn helps teach him how to take risks, how sometimes you need to do something a little more in the line of duty.
Riggs is... well, just Riggs, unpredictable and constant all at the same time, and Murtagh wouldn't change that. As much as he complains and whines sometimes, he likes having the guy around with him. Someone he can talk to honestly. He's taken it upon himself to look after the guy since no-one else is in the position to do so; bringing him home with him, seating him down at the table with the rest of his family even if Trish's cooking isn't the best.
Sometimes after late night patrols when they've clocked off but don't want to retire home just yet, the two of them just order a subway from a drive-thru – and inevitably the order will be wrong, but Riggs always looks at it positively whenever Roger thinks about pivoting the car back and complaining, arguing that at least it gives them some variety, – and they'll just sit in the car with the heating turned up so the atmosphere is warm compared to the cold outside; eating and talking about nothing and everything between mouthfuls of bread and dubious filling. Riggs might put the radio on, or flick a mix tape into the cassette player and they'll bop along to the music – Riggs putting his all into the rhythm, clicking his fingers, bobbing his head, stamping his feet, and despite himself, the attitude is contagious and Roger will end up looking like he's lost his marbles as he joins in with Riggs' bizarre dance moves. Or else they'll just sit there, the car light fighting off the dark outside, creating their own little space in the halo of yellow-white, and talk about work, or family. Riggs is forever interested in what's happening with Trish and the kids.
And most nights, the younger cop takes the spare room after Murtagh's invited him back to the house; and Trish doesn't even ask now when she finds the bed slept in and the sheets rumpled and squashed, knowing that her husband's partner has stopped the night. She likes having Riggs about as much as Murtagh – argues he doesn't get looked after enough living on his own – and takes it upon herself to wash and iron his clothes and make sure he has a clean shirt that hasn't been on his back for more than three days, makes him breakfast along with her husbands, and tells him in a no-nonsense voice to use a knife and fork when he eats at her table, as though he's one of her children, and not Murtagh's colleague. Riggs always smiles through a mouthful of food, but he will always dutifully follow orders, and the fact that Trish can make Martin Riggs into something resembling respectable while he's in the Murtagh residence makes Roger love and respect his wife even more.
But not every day is a good day. Not every day is made up of Riggs playing jokes on him in the office, getting the other guys involved in the prank, or eating a glorified sandwich at odd hours of the night. Life can't be that perfectly streamlined. It's never been that simple, never that easy.
There are bad days, few and far between but they are there, days when no matter how bright the sunshine, how great a case is going, the world still appears like it's all going to shit. Murtagh has enough experience now to be able to read the signs before they show up, subtle as they are in the grand scheme of things. Good days are when Riggs is fine, crazy but fine, but bad days are when the whole chore of living and stumbling on regardless feels too heavy for him again, the cop regressing back slightly into his old ways.
Riggs will retreat into himself, go quiet in those times when there is a lull in conversation instead of creating his own manufactured noises that irritate Murtagh so much – clicking his fingers, whistling, singing off-key and loudly to the soundtrack in his head – and when he smiles in response to Murtagh's unspoken look, asking if he's ok, there is a split-second pause beforehand. Like he's hesitating, thinking about how to go through the motions of an action that was always automatic, until finally he goes along with it, pulling the corners of his mouth upwards into a laudable caricature where his eyes don't match with the image his mouth is trying for, as though the whole charade is for other people's benefit and not his own. He casts his eyes quickly downwards when he sees couple's walking by the patrol car, holding hands and acting like it's just the two of them that have ever been in love, swallowing, unable to look up until they've passed them. His silences are then enforced with other actions that Roger has been able to read over the course of time; staring out of the window of the car or down at his feet, Riggs seeing things that Roger will never be privy to, lost in memories that damage him as much as they help.
Sometimes Murtagh can help to bring him up out of his slump. Cheers him up with offers of dinner, takes him home like usual, gives him the company he needs to get through the rough patches. Sometimes friendship is enough. But often it isn't and he can't help, it's not in his power to do so, and those times Riggs will decline any offer to stop over at the Murtagh household, will smile goodnight with his lips forced upwards in a way barely resembling the Riggs he knows, will return home to his camper van by the sea with only Sam there to see him break inside.
It is those times, when Riggs is so slipping in self-control, mired in his own anguish, when Roger worries the most about his fellow detective. The way Riggs tosses himself in front of danger like it's personal not just for the job, as though every criminal he takes down with a little extra vengeance in his eyes is the one who killed his wife, the way he shambles back home with leaden steps, stopping by an off-license to help numb his hurt with alcohol drank straight from the bottle.
And Murtagh won't be able to relax then, knowing Riggs is home alone, aware of how bad it was before, perhaps half-guessing how it used to be with pieces he placed together. Not even truly knowing the extent of his grief, how Riggs used to cry every night over the photograph of the woman he loved and in a bizarre grief-stricken masochistic ritual, place a gun to his head with the safety off and dare himself to do it. To end it all. And every night throw the weapon down exasperated because he couldn't bring himself, because he was too much of a coward.
As much as Riggs pretends not to care about dying, when facing up to his own mortality in the dark of night with tears streaming down his face and the name of his wife softly spoken in a keening wail on his lips, he's downright terrified of it. Of there being nothing waiting for him at the other side, just more pain and darkness.
Roger doesn't know that's what happened. But he can mostly guess.
There are things Murtagh can't fix and this is one of them. He doesn't know how to heal a broken heart, doesn't know how he could possible make this any better. Riggs needs to do this on his own, can't get through it any other way. Murtagh attempts to think of how he would feel if Trish were to die like Vicky did, if he came home and took that telephone call, and finds himself shuddering at the very idea of it, blinking thoughts and the beginnings of tears from his eyes.
He'd go mad.
But even though he can't fix Riggs, he tries to help in any way he can. Although the younger cop wont always take any offers of help, he always enquires quietly as they're readying to clock off whether Riggs wants company that night. If he wont come back to Murtagh's, there is always a cramped sofa in the camper van. Riggs shakes his head some of the times when he asks, wanting to be alone that night with a bottle of whiskey, his photograph album and his grief, but thankfully often he doesn't want that; doesn't want to have a sleepless night despite the alcohol, doesn't want to plagued by his own demons. And so gives a silent nod in response to Murtagh's question; realising why the older man asked, grateful because of it.
"Yeah sure, Rog," he smiles faintly "Why not?"
So on those nights Murtagh finds himself with a faded patched-up blanket serving as a duvet, trying to get comfortable on the sofa, long having stopped noticing the smell of dog that pervades it. He's already called Trish, and she understands the underling message when she asks why he's staying away that night; he merely replies "Riggs", and she understands what he means.
Riggs will be in his own bed, Sam curled up and snoring at the bottom of the duvet, and although frequently Roger can hear him thrashing about as he dreams before starting awake with 'Vicky' half shouted to the dark, most of the time when Murtagh stays over, the nightmares are less, abating in severity. Maybe it's the fact that someone else is there, a presence able to comfort Riggs if he needs it (and Roger might not have ever been very good at that, but Riggs usually is able to decipher that his gruff motions are an awkward form of sympathy).
Riggs is not fixed. Not completely. The pain is still raw and buried, and Murtagh doubts that half of what he glimpses in Riggs' eyes when he thinks his emotions are hidden is the complete extent of his heartache. But there are signs of hope, small but there, growing steadily stronger since Roger Murtagh first got partnered with the mad Martin Riggs. The detective's not as thin as he used to be, still skinny and lanky as ever, but late-night takeaways and Trish's cooking have done their job well in keeping him at a mostly healthy weight, and as an added extra, the dark bags around his eyes from sleepless nights have reduced since he started sleeping in the Murtagh's spare room.
Even on a dressing table in Riggs' van, next to an ashtray and the silver framed photograph of Mrs Riggs that Roger knows Riggs talks to sometimes and kisses goodnight when he thinks Murtagh isn't watching, there is a mark of progression, of slow but definite change in an additional frame standing next to the picture of his wife; a snapshot of the Murtagh family. Trish, Rianne, Nick and Carrie with Roger half seen out of shot, all five of them there smiling up, a picture Murtagh remembers Riggs taking vaguely when they all went out for ice-cream some time in the summer; Roger only hiding from the photo because of the ice cream on his nose when Riggs mischievously pushed the cone into his face as a joke.
The frame, like the patterned frame of his wife's photo is one of the few things in this place that it looks like it sees regular cleaning. And it warms Murtagh to know that Riggs possibly considers his partner's family as a surrogate one for the family he could have had with his wife given the time; and this theory goes some way to explain why Riggs spends so much time around his house, why he always remembers the kid's birthday and never fails to deliver presents, why he politely compliments Trish's cooking even though it really is as bad as he always jokes.
Roger is just glad he was able to make Riggs an honorary member of the Murtagh house. He's practically family now.
And of course, the most obvious ray of hope for the future, proving that one day, everything will be fixed, not perfectly, but most of the holes sewn up as best as possible; the Christmas gift Riggs gave him that first time he had Christmas dinner with the family, the unfired hollow point bullet that only Riggs and Murtagh understand the significance of. And Murtagh hopes that Riggs will never want it back, will never again consider using it.
It reaches morning, and Roger's back is always sore and stiff from sleeping on the sofa, wanting to go back home because Riggs never has anything for breakfast in his fridge, and he doubts the gas cooker even works. But it's all been worth as Riggs wakes up with all the sadness in his eyes gone. And Riggs wont ever make a big deal of it, but he always shuffles into the living space, and between greeting Roger good morning and scrambling round for car keys so they can drive over to Murtagh's for breakfast and clean clothes, he always says 'thanks' in a quiet self conscious voice, not needing to elaborate on what he is grateful for.
Roger just smiles at him then. Because today is shaping up to look like it's going to be a good one.