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Mea Maxima Culpa

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After father Harman leaves, Angela sits alone for a long time, watching as behind the glass the golden glow of sunset gives way to violets and dark blues of twilight. A kaleidoscope of contrary colours, she thinks. In an odd way, it comforts her.

For Angela herself is now a kaleidoscope, but of emotions. She, the rational, cold-reasoned one, now is lost, alone, and the incoming night is too much for her to face.

She recalls father Harman's words – she always makes certain never to call him by his given name in her thoughts – and feels a wave of guilt. For the first, the absolutely first thing she felt when completing his health examination and reaching a diagnosis, was relief. The fear of losing a friend – however weird their friendship might be – the pain of imagining the world without him, the anger at him not following the prescribed treatment, yes, it all came, but later. First, there was an overwhelming wave of relief that she would no longer have to face it; she would just mourn him and then, as simple as that, it would be over. For in all those sleepless nights in the laboratory, remembering her lost husband and child, she feels the loneliness creeping too close, and cannot help thinking how she would love to rest her head on father Harman's shoulder and remember how it was when another's heartbeat lulled her to sleep.

She glances at the bottle of pills, still full; there is remorse now. For that single thought his death would bring relief, she wishes to take away his pain. Against his will, though, she can do nothing.

A faint reflection of the rising moon flashes in the turned-off monitor. The reflection reminds her of father Harman's eyes, two pale and constantly focused mirrors, and always, always creating that impression something is going behind them, much more than he would ever allow anyone to see. Father Harman's eyes are like one-side glass, and only he who in inside knows what else is hidden beneath the surface. Angela wonders briefly if she has ever been a guest in the thoughts behind his stare.

"Mea maxima culpa," she whispers silently into the empty room, her voice hued with irony. Despite everything, Angela is not sorry, and does not regret her fault, for it was never truly hers. It is just that except for her daughter, the priest is her closest friend, her confidant, almost a part of family. He has become a vital part of her and she could not help it. And because of that she allows him to submerge in work, even though it strains their friendship. She does not want him to know. His place is elsewhere, and she would never dare take him from there. The awareness he is beside her if she needs it is enough. That, and the way he still can muster the strength to smile at her, even when she sees in his eyes he does not feel like smiling.

...

Pearse looks into the mirror, then takes up the pills and swallows them quickly. His first impulse was to accept death, as long as he would be able to finish the case, but now he knows he cannot. He misses the pain; it did not cloud his judgement, it helped him forget. But he has to fight. So he dutifully takes his pills, recalling doctor March's prescription and her handwriting: sharp, keen. Nervous.

He cannot tell the exact moment he has noticed it, but he knows. The way she urged him to undergo treatment, there was more to it than just a doctor's anxiety about a patient. The look on her face when she first presented him the results of his examination.

Later, when he heard the captured Code V's offer, a part of him was tempted. He would be gone from her life, making it easier for both of them. But then he thought of doctor March's lost husband, and he knew he could not, would not accept the offer, even if declining would mean death. It had to be done the right way.

He senses it in her silent companionship, within the tone she uses when they conduct their professional talks in her laboratory. Glimpses it behind the calm facade of her face. It is in her crooked smile when she brings him a cup of tea, and he tries to focus intently on his writing, but freezes momentarily as his eyes follow the cup and the move of her hand.

Forgive me, Father, he thinks as for a moment he wishes death, and that it would all go away. Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned.

Underneath his robes and his priesthood, he cannot help still being a man. Sometimes, in the confessional, when the church is empty and there are no penitents requiring his attention, he wonders if Angela knows he feels the same. He wonders what is it he really feels, for he can only discern a kaleidoscope of emotions, their meaning not clear. Forgive me, Father, he thinks as he drowns into prayer.

He tries not to think of it, in case he discovered too much. It is best she does not now, it is best they draw the line at friendship, however strange and strained it might have become those last months. She does not ask more, and he knows she never will. Because of that, he has to go on. For if she can bear this, having lost her husband and child, and trying to make things right for her surviving daughter, if she can still bear this, so will he.


Author's note:

I know, I know... But it's just the way Philip Quast usually portrays his characters, like there's a lot going on beneath the surface. Besides, if you're looking closely, there is something between Angela and father Harman.