A/N: The time gap between the chapters is pretty small. Thomas confronted him at some point near the beginning of the Kray case. Saying that, I don't actually know how canonically possible this section actually is, having only the vaguest memories of how this all went down, but it's the perfect opportunity for Thomas and/or Louis to cock up. Also this turned out a whole lot more angstier than I had planned. Let's just roll with it, 'kay? Also, one billion points to whoever recognises the OTP I snuck in from another fandom who should really not be there. Also thank you so much to fuckyeahwhitechapel-itv and fuckyeahwhitechapelfic for recc'ing this silly little fic. I love you so much :3
two; oh my god, please stop talking
Thomas wasn't surprised to find that Em had listed him as his emergency contact.
What he was surprised to discover was that Em – kind, funny Em – had been attacked. Not just a mugging, but a proper, full-blown hit by a criminal organisation. It kept repeating itself in a circle in his mind as he drove to the hospital, knuckles white as he gripped the steering wheel just a little too tightly. Louis threw him a glance, his thin face seeming even more drawn and pale without the eyeliner, or the piercings he hadn't had time to put in. He looked young, and scared, and when Thomas looked back at him, he turned away to gaze out of the window. Thomas turned back to the road and tried to focus on the car in front of them to keep himself together. He couldn't lose it, not now.
Louis' fingers worried the edges of the fraying holes in the knees of his jeans as they drew closer to the hospital, eyes cast down and not really focused on anything around him. He was half aware of the car stopping in a road near the hospital, and Thomas nudging his shoulder to get him to leave the car, but he didn't really register anything until Thomas pushed him towards the soap dispenser by the door to the ward and it hit him that he was in here because Em had been hurt. He'd never really considered that his flatmate did a dangerous job. He never stopped grumbling about the paperwork, and the long nights spent at the office, and it was all too easy to assume that he worked just a regular nine to five job. He hadn't really realised that actually, Em went out to deal with dangerous criminals on a regular basis. And now here they were, in a hospital, in the middle of a situation that none of them had ever thought to prepare themselves for.
They moved down the ward slowly, doing their best not to let their eyes linger too long on any of the other patients, until they found Em.
"Holy shit Em," breathed Thomas, his eyes wide as he looked down at his friends sleeping form. He was lying on his side, and hooked up to any number of tubes. Thomas did his best not to look at them as he sank into one of the seats at his bedside. Louis stood behind him, moving uncomfortably from foot to foot, not quite sure what to do. Thomas was about to speak again, when one of the doctors walked over to them, clipboard in hand.
Thomas looked up. "Yeah, that's me."
The Scottish man smiled lightly. "I'm Doctor Lyons. I've been treating DC Kent since he was brought in. Can I have a word?"
Thomas frowned. "What do you need to talk to me for?"
"You're listed as his emergency contact. I assume you live together?"
"Yeah, the three of us."
"Right. I just need to run over some basic things – wound aftercare, how to deal with potential problems, numbers to call if you need a hand...like I said, just basic things to try to make sure everything runs nice and smooth once he leaves."
Comprehension dawned, and Thomas nodded as he stood up. "Sure, just a second." He turned to Louis. "You'll be okay for a few minutes?" Louis nodded slowly, and Thomas squeezed his shoulder lightly before following the doctor.
"Fuck." Louis slumped down into one of the seats, and watched Em as he slept. He figured that he must be on a pretty potent drug cocktail to be able to sleep through the pain he must be in. He winced in sympathy as he looked at the bandages visible through the gaudy hospital robes. He rubbed a hand over his face, not really knowing what to say. It's wasn't like Em could hear him, but he felt like he should say something at least.
"I...fuck Em. How did this happen? Things like this don't happen in real life. You're supposed to win! You're the good guys!" He trailed off, unsure of where he was actually going with this. He sat in silence for what couldn't have been more than a minute, but felt like a lifetime. Suddenly, a soft accented voice broke into his thoughts.
"Excuse me, uh...Mr Merrick?"
Louis jolted from his thoughts, startled, and turned to see a nurse standing behind him with hands full of bandages. He shook his head. "No, I'm Louis. Malloy. Mr Merrick is Thomas. I'm just his friend." He remembered his manners. "Nice to meet you...?"
"Oh, I'm Staff Nurse Durrani."
He smiled weakly. "Bit of a mouthful."
She huffed a small laugh, walking around Em's bed and placing the bandages on the metal trolley. "I just need to change his dressings. It could be a bit upsetting for you, but some people like to learn to assist the patients at home." Something in her tone sounded almost like a challenge, and Louis contemplated leaving for all of three seconds, before shaking his head.
"I s'pose I've got to learn how to help at some point. Not like he's going to be able to change them himself, is he?"
She smiled at him, obviously pleased at his choice, and motioned him around to stand a little away from her to watch what she did. He bit his lip as she peeled away the first of the soiled bandages, revealing the beginning of the deep slashes across Em's back. He wrapped his arms around himself, trying to force himself to keep looking but something inside of him broke.
"I..I'm sorry I can't...I can't...shit, I'm sorry."
Louis twisted away sharply, and made his way back down the ward, half running. As he did so, Thomas turned away from where he was speaking to the doctor and apologised, not looking back to the doctor, but focused on catching up with Louis.
Louis pushed through the doors, Thomas just behind him and reaching out for his arm.
"Lou? Louis, come on..."
Louis pulled away from him. "Did you see him Thomas? Did you fucking see him? What those bastards did to him?"
Thomas' arm dropped to his side. "I...yeah, I saw."
A disbelieving laugh fell from Louis' mouth involuntarily as he ran his hands through his hair and began pacing from one wall to the other across the narrow corridor, barely noticing the people trying to move past him. "How did they let that happen? How could anyone let that happen? Are they all fucking imbeciles?"
"Lou, you're in a hospital."
"Oh please, I'm sure they've heard worse."
"Even so – "
"Fucking hell Thomas, my language is seriously not the problem right now! The problem is that Em is here, lying on a hospital bed, with his back slashed to buggery! And that somebody, somewhere, let him go off on his own to investigate what is clearly a fucking dangerous organisation!"
"Louis – "
"I mean, can't they see how fucking naive he is? Look at him! What about this supposedly amazing DI? Can't he see that he's just a little kid that worships the fucking ground he walks on? How can he not see it? And do you think he's even turned up yet? Why wasn't anyone here? What if they come back for him? Fucking hell, what if they come back? If he gets hurt again, I'll never forgive him. It'll be all his fault, stupid, stupid bastard."
Louis stopped pacing and turned to look at Thomas, then realised that a tall blonde man in a long coat was trying to move past him. "Oh. Sorry."
The blonde man looked at him warily, and almost guiltily, as he walked past him and towards the ward. "It's fine. You're obviously...very concerned about someone."
Louis nodded distractedly, sliding down onto the floor, his eyes fixed on Thomas who waited until the man had entered the ward before taking a step towards him.
"Lou. You need to calm down, right now. You aren't the only person that cares about Em, and you need to stop acting like it."
"I'm not – "
"Listen to me!" Louis stopped, and Thomas carried on. "You are not the only one who's worried right now. I'm going out of my mind, but we need to carry on. Because guess who's going to be even more terrified than the both of us put together? Think about it Lou. This actually happened to him. He had to live through it, and he's going to have to live with the consequences."
Louis' eyes dropped to the floor guiltily, and Thomas' expression softened.
"Hey...hey!" Louis looked up at him. "I'm not mad at you Lou."
"I'm scared, Thomas." Louis voice broke in the middle of his sentence, and swamped in an oversized hoodie and slumped on the floor, he looked small and utterly miserable. Thomas sighed and slid onto the floor next to him, wrapping an arm around him and letting him curl into his side.
"I know. I know."
Back in the ward, Detective Inspector Joseph Chandler watched Kent sleeping, and tried to ignore the sick feeling in his stomach as the nurse placed a pile of soiled bandages into an obnoxiously cheerful yellow waste disposal bag.
She paused, looking at the sombre man standing over her young charge. "You can't blame yourself for this you know." He glanced up, surprised to be addressed. "You couldn't have known it would happen. You weren't there."
"Yes, well. That's rather the problem, isn't it?"
"No, Mads is right." They both looked over to Doctor Lyons, standing at the end of the bed and holding a clipboard. He looked over to Mads. "Don't get used to it though."
She rolled her eyes, and carried on clearing up the detritus around Kent.
"Seriously though. Don't beat yourself up over it, yeah? There's no way you could have stopped it. You can't blame yourself for something you didn't have any power over."
"Other people can."
He didn't even have to ask who he was talking about. "Yeah, but they're just kids. Over emotional and desperate to place the blame on someone tangible."
Mads threw him a questioning look.
"Someone real. Not," he wiggled his fingers, "'phantom assassins'."
"Attackers. Not assassins. They didn't try to kill him." A pause. "Did they? Honestly, if you please."
"Nah. There's no way they meant to kill him. This was professional. Perfectly executed. If they wanted to kill him, he'd be dead."
"Lenny!" Mads hissed.
"Sorry." Lenny pulled an apologetic face, and then added quickly, "He's going to be fine though!"
Chandler visibly relaxed. "And you're sure about that?"
Lenny nodded. "Definitely. He'll be on crutches for a while, and there'll be some pretty heavy scarring, but nothing that should affect him in the long term. I started speaking to one of his flatmates about aftercare, but he ran after the other kid."
Chandler nodded vaguely in agreement. "Yes, I ran into them in the corridor."
Mads glanced over to the door with a sympathetic look in her eye, and then turned back to Lenny. "Shall I fetch them back in?"
"Yeah, that'd be great if you don't mind." They moved away from the bed together, and Chandler turned back to look at Kent. He tried to think of something to say, but found himself unable to come up with anything. He sighed, and started to move back towards the doors, meaning to make himself scarce before running into Kent's flatmates again.
He watched them walk in with the nurse, the smaller of the two twisting his fingers into the fabric of the other's sleeve and quite visibly terrified. But it was the look in the eyes of the taller boy that caught his attention. It was a look he knew all too well, one that showed a desperate attempt to be brave in the face of adversity. He wondered who the boy was being brave for. For Kent? For the boy at his side? Or for himself?
"Don't let them get to you." He turned to see the nurse at his side, her dark eyes watching the two boys speaking to the doctor. "They're young, and they're scared. They'll blame anyone they can. They're not prepared for something like this to happen."
That's precisely the problem, thought Chandler as he smiled at Nurse Durrani, and made his way out of the ward and back towards the station. Neither was I.
end chapter two.