Disclaimer: I own no rights to these characters, or to the TV show they derive from. I mean no offence by posting this, and make no money from it.
It's strange, Hathaway feels, that he dies in a hail of bullets. It's not an Inspector's job to run the risk of doing that.
Plus, this is a fraud case. Fraud is usually a less violent crime. Blood is spilt, but mostly behind closed doors and by means of suicide. The occasional wild flail of the murderer's old friend, the Blunt Instrument, is the second most common cause of death.
But police inspectors, now, they rarely end up dying in the rain on an Oxford pavement, drowning in a pool of their own blood while an ambulance wails its way up from wherever it is.
It's all very shocking.
He wasn't expecting to die that day. He hasn't paid his electricity bill.
He hasn't called his sister.
He has band practise on Thursday and it will be the fourth week in a row that he hasn't attended. He feels they may kick him out of the band if he keeps missing jam sessions but the surreal thought gets lost under a bubble of pain.
His Sergeant is too new to know what's to be done and one of the older uniforms is taking charge.
He can't see very well now, but he can hear the shouting. He can feel someone pressing down on the gunshot wound in his chest and it bloody well hurts. He'd tell him- her?- to stop but then he wants to live.
He isn't ready to die.
He isn't ready to face eternity.
Not with Will still on his conscience and an unsolved case back in his incident room.
He was meant to be back there. Warm and dry. Not clutching miserably to an unknown hand and praying- begging silently- to any God that will listen that he'll still be alive come tomorrow morning.
The cold of an English rain is not conducive to a cheerful prognosis.
Hathaway just lies there, and at least it will wash the blood down the drain. Good for the Council and roads crew, but not so good for him. The shiver is starting in his toes and curling up through his calves and his knees and all the way up until it's shrivelling his breath in his lungs.
He can't breathe very well any more.
"Carter," he whispers.
And someone squeezes his hand and doesn't tell him if they got the bastard, after all this mess. There's going to be hell to pay in the morning. And he's not going to be there to defend his troops, such as they are.
But he wants to be. They did everything right. They did what he told them. They followed him loyally into the jaws of death and he remembers his old inspector, standing there with a black eye and saying, "If he goes, I go."
Hathaway wants to be there in the morning. He wants to take the chewing out he is sure to get, standing there on the square patch of carpet three feet inside the Chief Super's door, silent and expressionless and letting it just wash over him.
'You always call me 'sir' when you've said something mean.'
He can almost hear Lewis's voice and the thought makes him want to laugh but he's choking. He's not sure if the wetness on his chin is the rain or the blood but it's blocking his airways and if the ambulance doesn't get there soon he'll be meeting Lewis in person.
Lewis, who died six years ago peacefully in bed, and wasn't found until his former Sergeant knocked on his door two days later.
Hathaway could smell the decay for weeks after that.
He can smell it now.
Lewis, who left him Morse's car and a box of old records. Hathaway could neither drive the car nor listen to the records but they're still there in his garage, carefully covered, and treasured for what they mean.
Hathaway has no one to give them to. He has not made a will.
He coughs and chokes a little more and the light is fading.
He knows he won't make it. Whoever had a hold of his hand has let go. Must have let go. He can't feel any pressure on his fingers. He tries to squeeze back, like he would if he were striking a C chord, but he can't tell any more if it's working or not.
He closes his eyes and tries to speak but even if he could think of what to say, there is nothing to say.
The newspapers report the next morning that Carter shot two police officers and then himself. One of the officers never made it.
There is a funeral. Hathaway's name is placed on a long list of other names, and when the time comes around each year he will be saluted for being a name on that list.
An older woman with short blond hair attends his funeral, and some of the older serving members of the force remember her vaguely as a pathologist.
The Chief Super reads a brief commendation from the force. There is one surviving parent, dry-eyed and brittle, sitting in the front.
There is a sad-eyed priest and a mismatched band of various instruments that play a strange combination of notes for ten minutes that nobody wants to listen to because the music makes the depressing day even more depressing. World music, one of them says afterwards, with elements of jazz and madrigals.
It's an unusual funeral. But then Hathaway was, as someone says quietly, an unusual policeman.
When Hathaway comes to in his afterlife, he is standing on Magdalen Bridge, staring at the water, and he breathes in unexpectedly deep, the sudden rush of air jerking him upright.
He looks around wildly, wondering where he is.
Well, he wonders, but he knows.
He is in Oxford. There is the Cherwell, beneath the bridge, and over there is the college, and if he listens, he can hear the bells chime four o'clock.
His heart is beating. He can feel it.
The sunshine is almost bright enough to blind and Hathaway is not sure that he trusts this. He expected fluffy white clouds, a big booming voice, a Presence. Or he expected heat. Flames. Darkness.
And if he is honest, for the past few years he's been expecting nothingness. Just peace.
There is no peace.
There are cars racing on the street behind him. There are people chattering. There are things happening.
The road is hard beneath his feet and when he looks down he catches sight of his hands, with the veins no longer so prominent. His hair is short. Cropped. There is no cold chill in his limbs, no choking obstruction of blood in his lungs and airways.
He breathes for a few minutes, just to remember what this felt like.
And then, "You got here alright."
The voice is just behind him and this, more than anything, makes Hathaway freeze. And then turn around. Careful in this strange new body.
Lewis is... Lewis. As they first met. Same height, same face, same gaze. Same tone of voice- light affection.
"Sir," Hathaway says automatically.
Lewis's mouth curves up into a smile. "How do you feel, lad?"
"Good. Welcome to heaven. Come on, we've just got a case."
Hathaway has to furrow his brow and dig in his heels. This doesn't sound right. It can't possibly be right.
"There are murders in... this is heaven?"
"So I'm told. But eternity in Oxford- take your pick."
"Oxford? I just died..." Hathaway wants to point behind him but there's only the river behind him. What's in front of him is Lewis. And Oxford.
"You died in one life. Now you're here. And we've got work to do so if you don't mind, Sergeant, I'd like to get on with it."
"I'm an Inspector now."
Lewis's eyes soften. "In another life you still are. This is just one place. And here you've got me."
"And murder. Are you coming?"
There is no hand held out, there is no come-on jerk of the head, but the invitation is clearly implied in those softened Northern vowels so Hathaway tilts his head to the sun and breathes out. His fingers slip into the pocket of his suit jacket and he finds a packet of cigarettes.
He's not sure where the hell- or heaven- he is or what's going on. But there's a murder.
And somewhere, he has to do this alone. At least here he's got company.
"Lead on, MacDuff."
"Let me guess- Shakespeare?"
"I hate bloody Shakespeare."
"We're in Oxford. You'll have to resign yourself to it. Sir."