A/N: This came to me a few days ago when I read a quote from Brendan Coyle. Don't read any further if you want to avoid any series three speculation/spoilers. Obviously I doubt that this is going to be anywhere near what happens in the show, but I wanted to get it out there regardless.
The quote that made me write this in the first place went like this: "All I can tell you is Bates is in prison. Possibly he could be killed in prison, possibly he could take his own life."
Do I think that the above will happen? No. But that's not to say Bates won't attempt to do just that...
The title comes from the Goo Goo Dolls' Iris, because I couldn't think of anything better.
Disclaimer: Anna and Bates would be busy practicing the art of baby-making if Downton Abbey was mine...
Made to be Broken
1. The End is Night
An increase in light gives an increase in darkness – Sam Francis.
It is cold in his cell. John shivers. The thinning sheets on the bed do nothing to protect him against the biting dampness. His knee throbs. He will barely be able to walk in the morning.
Somewhere, someone is causing a ruckus. They happen every now and then. Someone will start screaming to high hell, begging to be let out, slamming themselves against the iron bars that keep them prisoner. It is awful to listen to. John wants to be sick. The urge usually overcomes him at night. The prison food does not agree with him. It's awful. He has lost weight – a lot of it. But he controls the urge, working his throat against the bile that wants to rise up. He sits up on his narrow bed, wincing. He refuses to look in the direction of those bars on the door. The thought of one of the other prisoners watching his every move from across the corridor makes his skin crawl. He has always been a private man. There is no hope of privacy here. The openness frightens him, makes him feel exposed. He is ashamed of that fact; he is a grown man, not a boy. In the darkness of the night, however, there is no point in denying it.
The darkness knows everything.
The first of the panic hits him then, and he doubles over in distress. Squeezing his eyes closed and bending his head so that if he opened his eyes he will be looking directly at the floor, he tries to regulate his breathing,
(in, out. In, out)
just like he had on those awful days in Africa. Sweat pools at his temples and trickles down the side of his face. It drenches his back. For a moment, he is sure that if he opens his eyes he will see the dead and the dying in the harsh sunlight of Africa. He fancies that he can already smell the sickly-sweet stench of baking flesh in the searing heat.
He whimpers, his eyes flying open. He is met only by the pressing darkness. Somehow, this is worse. He can't see what is lurking in the shadows.
Think of something else, he tells himself, knowing that it will only be a few seconds until he starts panicking uncontrollably – perhaps to the extent that he'll be the next one to cause a spectacle. He can already feel the scream bubbling in his throat, wanting to burst free of its confines. Anything else. It doesn't matter.
Desperately, he starts searching his mind for something else. There is, inevitably, only one topic that will keep his panic at bay.
Anna, smiling and happy. Anna, her laughter sweeter than any song. Anna, flushed with the exertions of their lovemaking, peaceful and content.
He frowns. The image will not hold. Because how often has he truly seen Anna happy during their courtship? For the most part, the smiles have been strained, the happiness tentative at best. The laughter has been forced. The peace given to them by their wedding night had lasted just that – one short night.
Instead, it is far too easy to remember her as she is now. Tired and strained. Pale and drawn. Obviously unhappy. How is he supposed to take comfort from the thought of his wife when she is so dreadfully dejected? She understandably does not gain any comfort from the thought of him being locked up and secreted away, living in cramped conditions and utter filth. So why should he be allowed the luxury of recalling his wife so joyful and carefree? He has no right whatsoever.
His mind, inevitably, drifts to her visit just earlier that day. The hollowness of the words that had passed between them
(I won't give up hope I'll get you out somehow one day something will occur to us and we'll follow it up and the case against you will crumble)
had made his heart ache in his chest. He always tries to steer conversation away from his imprisonment, hating to see the way that Anna's face is beginning to look haggard, the way that she is obviously losing weight through worry, the way that the dark circles under her eyes tell him that she is not sleeping. All of this points towards the fact that he is
(a complete waste of space; she'd be better off without me)
the worst sort of husband.
Even his attempts at drawing Anna's attention away from his predicament do little to help either of them. She doesn't seem to like talking about life at Downton Abbey – it only emphasises his absence, and she is already horribly aware of that. He bears those conversations in the vain optimism that it will make her feel better, but he himself hates to hear them because
(only Anna is really missing me)
they only make him lose faith with every day that passes. The days have slid by into months. The months are tilting dangerously towards a full year. And then there are years ahead of him in this place, yawning menacingly, his cell some heinous monster's belly. With every day that passes, another piece of his soul dies. There is no hope in the world anymore. He is stuck here. For him, time has stopped short. The rest of the world still lives, breathes. He is like a ghost trapped upon the earth, doomed to observe but never to be touched again. Anna always refrains from mentioning Thomas when the talk turns to Downton, but she doesn't have to mention his name for him to know that Lord Grantham is pleased with the former footman's work.
He doesn't even have a purpose outside of these prison walls anymore. He isn't useful to Lord Grantham, who has found someone equally capable of filling his role; he isn't even useful to Anna. Not in the state he is now.
Grief suddenly overcomes him, overpowering him like a strong punch to the gut. He doubles over again, clenching his teeth against the agonised sob that wants to wrench itself free of his throat. He won't cry. He is weak and powerless enough as it is.
Still, he can't stop his darkening thoughts: he had become superfluous a long time ago. Lord Grantham is not floundering without him. Anna doesn't need him clinging onto her like invisible chains around her wrists. She could have a full life, a happy life, somewhere else, with someone else. Instead he is dragging her down, smothering her. How can she possibly love someone who has taken so much of her light away from her?
If you weren't here, the small, sly voice in his head tells him. Just imagine that.
How easy it is to imagine it. Anna with a genuine smile, on the arm of someone worthy. Anna being given the family life that she so richly deserves: a couple of beautiful, perfect children, a cosy family home, a fulfilling relationship. Anna being kissed, adored, cherished the way she ought to be.
It makes his heart ache.
Slowly, he snakes a hand underneath the hard mattress. For a few heart-stopping seconds, he thinks his prize has vanished, but then his fingers close around the cool, impossibly thin, deceptively lethal treasure. He withdraws it with shaking fingers.
The piece of glass glitters innocently in the squalid moonlight. Its edge is jagged and sharp. He doesn't need to run his thumb over it to know that it would break his skin at the slightest touch.
He'd picked it up on a whim the other week at dinner, when his glass had slipped off the table and shattered on the floor. It is as though he'd been in a trance when he'd bent down and scooped it up, as though the piece of glass was hypnotising him, urging him to take it away. It has been hiding underneath his mattress since then, taken out only when his mind had turned towards
(sweet sweet oblivion)
those darker thoughts. He'd told himself that he is simply keeping it as an act of defiance; it is a miracle that some portentous guard hasn't taken his picture of Anna away from him yet, because the guards do not like the thought of their worthless prisoners having such comforting items when they should be made to suffer for the crimes that they have committed. Especially the murderers.
(Pathetic, disgusting vermin. Forget life imprisonment; the whole lot should be hanged)
It feels like a betrayal to admit that, in recent nights, the tiny piece of glass has been more of a comfort to him than the picture of his wife has. It has fascinated him with the power of destruction that it potentially possesses. The only thing that has stopped him from testing it for himself over the last few weeks is the thought of Anna. Anna's grief. Anna's heartbreak.
But now his thoughts have changed, warped. It would be better for Anna in the long run if he wasn't around. It is no good that he is in prison for murder. If she meets someone else while he is incarcerated…well, there is nothing she can do. He couldn't finance a divorce, not now. She wouldn't be able to either. She could perhaps do what she had always told him she was willing to do – run away, live in sin with a man. Worse, she might believe that she has a duty as his wife to stand by him, despite the calling of her heart. That isn't fair to her. She should be free to marry a man who can give her the world if she asked for it.
In the long run, it would be better for her if he is dead. She'd be able to mourn for the respectable amount of time and then bury him forever in the recesses of her memories, never to be dwelled on again. It is the perfect solution.
It would also be better for him, too. Never again would he have to sit in the darkness, panic just on the edge of his mind, fearful of opening his mouth or looking at someone in the wrong way in case it incurred anyone's wrath. He wouldn't have to gaze upon Anna's pale, defeated face and feel the utter shame and overwhelming self-loathing that it is down to him that she looks so broken. In fact, if it hadn't been for her
(earnest face, so earnest, so full of love that it almost breaks his heart, her eyes boring into his, her voice softer than velvet as she asks, "you won't give up, will you?"
"I won't give up."
That plaintive love on her face, in her voice, surrounding him, healing him, breaking him. "You promise?"
desire for him to give her his word, he would have finished matters as soon as he'd found that little piece of glass.
He had promised her
(ardently enough to satisfy her, at least for the moment; her face had lit up with the ghost of a smile that he had not seen in a long time)
but his heart hadn't really been in it.
The glass glitters in his hand. It is calling for him, telling him to end things while he still can. There is no point in drawing out the suffering – for everyone involved. If he does this, everyone will be happier.
Slowly, like a man possessed, he presses the edge of the glass against the inside of his wrist. It is cool to his burning skin, a blessed relief.
In that split-second, with the glass pressed against him like the forgotten touch of a lover, he makes his decision.
He closes his eyes tightly, conjures up the image of his wife for the final time. He chooses the happiest memory that he can: the simple, pure joy on her face as he'd confessed his love for her for the very first time.
And then, offering up whatever prayer he can to a god that he doesn't even believe in to give Anna strength, he presses down.
A/N: I don't believe I have the finesse to describe the rest, but hopefully this was handled sensitively and delicately enough.
I'll be taking a break from this just for a couple of days while I tweak the final chapter of Five Years. After that, I'll be coming back to this as I want to hopefully get it finished before any serious spoilers for series three start filtering out. I don't see it being very long; maybe four or five chapters at the most.