A/N: Because my specialty never has been and never will be humor, but I still wanted to give a happy ending for my favorite characters. So I created something that's probably super out-of-character due to significantly less swearing but also I don't really mind. I kind of like this whole lengthy, dramatic take on a comedy show. It's kind of an extended version of my last fic for them, but also not. So if you enjoy it, tell me! If you don't, sorry, maybe I will get better at comedy.
"who were so dark of heart they might not speak,
a little innocence will make them sing;
teach them to see who could not learn to look
—from the reality of all nothing"
("who were so dark of heart they might not speak"
by E. E. Cummings)
It's actually kind of beautiful, watching his life fall apart in front of his eyes. He never understood the phrase "it's like watching a car wreck" so well before this moment. He stares, rubbernecks even, jaw open, crooked teeth all showing, the big bad wolf sliced open and on display, and he's absolutely rapt at how horrible it all is. He watches in terrible fascination as they pull his insides out of him, organ by organ, and pass them around for posterity's sake.
They all look so small, petty really, and he wonders why he was ever so desperate to be a part of this world, why he screamed and railed and clawed his way to the top, never realized that he was only ever cutting himself to bits, pulling his own flesh out from the inside until something else took his place and breathed his air and looked through his eyes.
And they made him the way he is, didn't they? Every crisis that only he could handle, every lie he had to tell, all of it was for other people, taking bits from inside himself and stacking them up higher and higher until he was only a straw man, an effigy, towering and swaying and burning like the sun.
He wants to yell, scream from the mountain tops about how one day they'll all be like him, and every evil, rotten, horrible thing he did are things they'll be certain to repeat. He wants to remind them that he'll be back, maybe not him, but someone like him just the same, because has no one told them that when one head dies, three more take its place?
He wants to tell them exactly what he thinks of this whole charade, this fucking carnival of shit that they've pushed him through, tell them in no uncertain terms exactly how he wants them to go fuck themselves. He has all of the words ready, has stopped just short of practicing in front of a mirror. But in the end, he doesn't.
For some reason he just feels so dead tired, and he walks away because it really doesn't even matter anymore, the whole thing. It doesn't fucking mean anything.
The monster has a heart after all, they crow like children when they cut him to bits.
He misses Glasgow at odd moments, he's struck suddenly with the thought that he hasn't been home (his real home, not the flat the he rents and never sleeps in) in ages. He remembers watching his father working with his hands, his muscles straining with effort, and he used to think that's what he'd do when he grew up.
And then he was thirteen and wearing hand-me-down clothes and getting laughed at on the car park of a playground, and he learned a gorgeous word, tasted it on his tongue and pronounced it carefully through his teeth.
Ambition, said over and over again in essay after essay. "What do you want to be when you grow up, Malcolm?" his teachers would ask with gleaming eyes, and he'd reply confidently, "Successful."
Ambition, working, striving, using his mind the way his father used his hands, he would be better, than all of them, and he'd heard when his English professor had spoken about the Scottish play, but he'd never really listened when the girl sitting next to him had explained that Macbeth's "vaulting ambition" was his great mistake, his fatal flaw.
He thinks of Macbeth for the first time in years, and Ollie is looking at him with small, ravenous eyes, the little bastard is always consuming, isn't he? Always taking and taking and taking like something out of a Greek myth. Malcolm looks and thinks that he would buy front row seats for the day Ollie Reeder devours himself.
He got out of school and worked, strove, ran and screamed and shouted and bribed and blackmailed and did whatever he could to reach the top. People stopped asking after his education with skeptical eyes and instead starting asking him to help them, please Mr. Tucker, I'll do anything.
He would smile, lupine and horrible, finally at the top of the food chain, tell them, "for a price."
He didn't really see what was happening until it was too late to change anything. Like a patient who goes to the hospital for a routine checkup only to discover stage four pancreatic cancer, except that this he had done to himself.
Because one day he passed by a window on the way to work, adjusted his tie and looked up at his steel eyes, hard and unforgiving, and he couldn't see anyone looking back at him anymore. He looked like a corpse. He took a step back, ran his hands through his hair and it caught on the wedding ring that he hadn't stopped wearing even though the divorce was finalized months ago.
He wanted to scream, but instead he went to work and signed documents and yelled at the idiots at Number 10 like always, like nothing had changed even if now he could feel the poison, in his lungs, rattling through his ribs, shaking his spine.
He couldn't remember why he was so upset when he fell asleep that night, but his chest felt caved in and his head felt emptier, and instead of dreaming of the woman he loved, he dreamed of names and numbers that meant nothing two days later.
And now that he's opened up and gasping for air on the floor they'll pick him apart like vultures, and he can't really hear anything anyone is saying but he opens his mouth to reply anyway.
Later he'll go home after it's all over and look around at the emptiness, and for some reason it will seem particularly troubling. The walls are a horrible eggshell white, painted back when he could no longer look at the lavender colour Aileen had insisted on, back when he'd thought "till death do us part" was true.
She'd looked up one day at breakfast and stood carefully, terrible and beautiful as an animal, placed her ring on the kitchen table and walked out the door.
"Aileen?" Said quietly, not even really a question, but the door clicked shut and by the time he got home from work all over her things were gone, missing from their room like baby teeth, obvious and raw. He'd kept the flat because it's not like he was ever there anyway and kept going because that's what sharks do. They keep moving.
He thinks now perhaps she saw something he wouldn't, and he looks at the sea of people, he can't remember why any of it mattered, and he almost smiles. Like he imagines Ajax must have smiled when he finally fell on his sword, even as it ripped him in two. Because there is something wonderful, after all, about death, something gut-wrenchingly spectacular- the way everything builds and builds and builds and then just ends.
It's amazing, he decides, like how the light hitting the tops of the buildings in Glasgow looks a little like burnt coins.
So he resigns (this time with his own words, fuck you very much), and it's everything he thought it would be and nothing he thought it would be, his grand finale, the last actor on stage falling on his sword. Because for all of the fuss he's kicked up in years past about "going out in style," it's just as fucking horrible as he imagined. He's given them the exact ending they wanted, but it's never going to be as grand as the one he had planned for himself, and there will never be another moment where he connects more with everyone he's ever fired.
Later he watches Ollie Reeder on the telly, trying so hard to be him, looking so fucking pleased to have won. He'll wait for the day he has to solve a real crisis, and he hopes to God the bastard calls him in a panic about what to do, just so he can say "fuck off" in every language he knows.
He comforts himself because really, in two weeks he'll be nothing more than idle gossip, in a month he'll be a bad memory, and a few years down the line he'll be a children's story, a warning tale to everyone in government. Then, even beyond that, they'll look at him as a hero, a death-defying master of lies and deceit unlike any other, who was forced out, how horrible, with false accusations because of all the enemies he made. All in the line of duty. And he'll be the legend he always knew he'd become.
For all the shit people think about spiders, they really do spin the most magnificent webs.
Cleans out his office, which would be almost laughable if it weren't so sad. He piles all of his personal belongings into a little box, not that he has very many, but they still exist, and by the time he's finished it doesn't look much different. But he does. He looks like an advert about the horrors of unemployment in today's society.
It hits him them, standing there with his little cardboard box, that he's unemployed. The idea is hilarious in how surreal it is, and he thinks maybe he should get his head checked out because he's not reacting properly to anything anymore. A few years back and he'd be screaming to keep from crying, he'd be biting off the heads of the reporters shoving their microphones in his face, has done exactly that on multiple occasions. But now he goes quietly, and he wonders what changed.
The place is empty, he'd made sure to come at a time when no one could see. He's not afraid of ridicule, far from it, but right now he'd prefer not to be seen as the terrifying, man-eating lion at the zoo- they've tamed it, haven't you heard? He can't hunt anymore.
Goes home, settles himself on the couch and drinks a red bull, wondering all the while what it would take for someone to get him a fucking fanta. He feels caged, he wishes he had someone to scream at, not about anything important, but it's like the past two years all over again, and he's so fucking bored already.
He recalls idly what happens to a shark when it stops moving.
Really, he can't even begin to think about what the waiting is going to be like, the whole fucking investigation is going to take fucking months. It's a fucking omnishambles, and he's actually quite pleased that he's managed to work that word into his life once more, and maybe it won't be so bad, and maybe it will look better in the morning.
It won't, but he falls asleep on the couch anyway, and the TV blares in the background like white noise, and his own face is on the screen, the end of an era playing out for the world.
There are more news stories, interviews with people he's worked with, and he actually throws his empty bottle of fanta (which he ended up getting by himself) at the screen when Nicola gives her ridiculous little sound byte on his resignation to a fucking talking chunk of meat.
The days go on, and he's a little surprised that life goes on, too, even when he doesn't go out and live it every day. The news channels move on, there are more murders, more DoSAC fuck-ups, more corrupt politicians that push him out of the limelight. If a trial starts he'll make a home there again, but by the time it's over no one will care. Not that anyone ever did.
It's four days after his arrest, and he's flipping through the pages of a gossip magazine because all of it is almost funny in a very, very sad way, when someone knocks on his door. He actually startles a little, having forgotten that he still exists to other people, and he falls off of the couch when he sits up too quickly.
And then he opens the door, and it's really fucking undramatic, because Sam just walks in without a word and sets up shop on his coffee table, flinging her coat onto his armchair and sitting on the couch.
"I've given up on you ever calling me back," she explains, rifling through the contents of her purse, "so I figured I'd just see you in person." She looks up, a hard edge of steel visible in her eyes even from where he's standing, dumbstruck, by the door.
"My phone's been off," he offers lamely, making his way back to the couch. "I didn't realize."
She smiles, big and a little fake, but it's still welcome after the hell that's been the past week. "Not a problem. Have you eaten lunch yet, do you fancy take-out?" He hasn't even answered, and she's already dialing the number and standing, pacing the length of his front room as she orders Chinese.
It's a little like old times, and he feels the corners of his mouth twitching up in a semblance of a smile. "I think you're taking Stockholm Syndrome to a whole new level, Sam. You don't have to-"
She holds up one finger, effectively silencing him, ends the call, and turns. "You haven't eaten in two days, yeah? I know, you have that wild, hungry look about you. You always get it around the forty-nine hour mark. Do you remember what happens when you go fifty-two?"
He sighs. "I shout at the next person I see-"
"You shout at the next person you see. So just accept my bloody help and move on already. I'm only here for the free food because you are paying. And I need a letter of recommendation because I still have to get a day job. Not all of us can sell off government secrets to pay for our Armani suits, now can we?"
He chuckles, motioning for her to sit. "No, I don't suppose we can."
He watches her as they eat, she having abandoned all pretense of lady-like bites a few months after starting to work for him, when she realized that he had absolutely no intention of firing her. It feels a little like old times, even if this is the first time she's been in his flat, because here she is, forcing him to eat when he forgets and rifling through his papers to organize his thoughts in a way that is much more efficient than whatever it is he had before and finally falling asleep on the couch, having moved over to see the telly from a better angle.
He wonders idly if anyone will be concerned for her safety, if there's anyone waiting back at her flat for her to walk through the door. He hopes there is, just for her sake, and he drapes a blanket around her shoulders because she looks cold, and he doesn't want her to wake up without one.
He looks at himself in the mirror when he gets ready for bed, and he looks so old, honest to fucking Jesus, he looks so worn out. Sam is sleeping on his couch, fingers still wrapped around the strap of her purse, ready to leave at any moment, and he thinks of her, back when she was all shiny and new, nervous and slightly terrified about working for the notoriously horrid Malcolm Tucker. But she still smiled at Jamie when he'd almost put his fist through the wall in one of his rages, and he'd hired her on the spot, experience or no, because he needed someone with a spine of steel to stand next to him and make notes about how exactly he was going to destroy the next person to walk through the door.
He was only kind of joking about the Stockholm Syndrome too, he has absolutely no idea what she's doing here. They were friendly, they were almost even friends, but she knew that he was going down at the inquiry, he'd heard (or rather felt) her intake of breath behind him when he'd told the sanctimonious bastards that he couldn't remember what he did, and he'd wondered if it was out of relief or concern, but here she is. Still standing, and sleeping on the couch in his flat, and she mumbles a little in her sleep, words and names that he doesn't recognize, but the light filtering in through the windows is bright and pretty, it hits the side of her face like something from a painting. And he smiles because maybe this whole thing won't be so bad after all.
It won't be great, but. Maybe.
He has a nightmare, once (or maybe more than once), and in it he doesn't go to prison, doesn't get charged with the crime. He just- fades. Disappears, slowly at first, then gaining speed, he watches his fingers flicker and then turn invisible. He looks at himself in the mirror and nothing is left, just a suit where he used to be, an unnecessarily expensive watch on his wrist and a tie like a noose around his neck.
He wakes in the early hours of the morning in a cold sweat, and the light coming in through the window slips past the cracks in the curtain and turns the whole room grey as steel.
"There he goes," they'll say. "No friends- no real friends. No children, no glory, no memoirs."
Sam gets another job, some local business in need of a secretary, because she explains that she doesn't think she'll be able to handle another position anywhere near politics. It all makes her sort of sick, and he nods his agreement. The whole thing is sort of sickening.
And she warns him at the beginning, turns to him with that hardened glint in her eye, the look that's made lesser men freeze in place and stutter out an apology for disrespecting her. Says, determined and not-to-be-trifled-with, "I don't want to know what you did. I can't know what you did if you want me to help at all. But do not, I repeat, do not interfere with the investigation. You will only make things worse. And I'll be here whenever you need, but if you do something illegal, I can't help you. Are we clear?"
He nods, swallows down some of the lingering fear. "Crystal."
There's nothing really to do during the day when she's gone, when it's only him and nothing to do but wait, even if she's there most nights and the whole weekend. He idly contemplates asking about her flat, when she actually finds time to go there, but decides that'd be too much of an invasion of privacy.
He watches the telly, goes on walks out to the parks that he didn't know existed. He writes. Not in any professional capacity, but it's still good to get his words down. None of it on the computer, he learned long ago to make himself entirely untraceable, and his hands stain with the ink from his pens, and the scratch on his notebook paper is familiar, comforting. He thinks of school, thinks of Macbeth and Glasgow and Sam taking down notes in endless boring meetings, looking up briefly to grin at him, and he smiles a little.
It feels right to be doing something with his hands.
Sam started working for him when she was only a couple of years out of university, bright-eyed and eager, and if she were holding a position in his department he would've had her fired and in tears by day three, but she was his PA, and all she really wanted, from what he could tell, was a job. To be happy. Normal, real person, non-psychopath things, and it was so refreshing he found himself taking a shine to her almost immediately.
His parents had always taught him to be kind to people, and even if he hadn't taken that message completely to heart, there were those who deserved politeness. No one at Number 10 but he and Jamie, funny enough, seemed to understand that, and he'd caught multiple people being rude to Sam on more than one occasion, but he sorted them out soon enough. No one deserves to be looked down upon for no reason, least of all someone as smart as her, much, much more clever than the likes of Ollie or Nicola or, God forbid, Terri.
And she's just nice, Sam. A fickle creature, smiles at him when she should be frowning like everyone else, laughs at all the awful jokes he makes when he gets nervous, greets him with a genuine smile, and a, "hello, how are you?" even after he's ripped apart someone right in front of her.
She's his friend, his only real friend, and he wonders how he could have possibly forgotten that when she looks up from her position on the floor, surrounded by papers spread in a fan around her hands and her pale legs, tucked primly beneath her skirt.
"Sam?" He flinches when her smile falters at his almost somber expression, concern casting a shadow over her face. He continues, swallows past the lump that's inexplicably formed in his throat because he has to ask, if he doesn't ask he'll never know and he needs to know. "Why are you here?"
He doesn't elaborate. He doesn't need to, and she smiles once more, wide and brilliant, and his breath catches in his throat just a bit, like a fucking schoolboy. Just when did she get so goddamn pretty?
"Because, Malcolm F. Tucker, despite what you might believe, there are people who exist who still like you as a person. I'm one of them, and I'd rather you not go to prison. Now help me out?" She sweeps an arm out, and he sighs, reluctantly sinks to his knees to help her organize.
All he can think is, this better be fucking worth it, and she touches him briefly on the shoulder, fleeting and feather-light and completely fucking platonic, and he revises, yeah, maybe it will be.
His mother visits five months after his arrest, hauls herself to England all the way from home, and he'd be concerned for her health if he didn't also know that she was going to do this with or without his permission. He wasn't lying when he said it was her 80th birthday, and she thanks him for the flowers when she shoves her way into his flat.
She settles herself on the couch and they watch TV, carefully avoiding every news channel, sidestepping around certain conversation topics because she explained at the start that she's not here to judge what he may or may not have done.
She's tough as nails, his mother, back when he was still in school he'd learned all of his language from her. His coworkers are always more surprised than they should be to discover that he takes after her rather than his father, God rest his soul. He writes about her sometimes now, in between his half-crazed rants about everything he hates. His mother and (sometimes) Jamie and of course Sam. His favourites.
It's a Thursday afternoon, she'll only be here for the weekend, and it feels nice, having someone else around. Someone who knows him. The day is bleeding into night by the time she finally speaks again, and it's only to remind him that they haven't eaten dinner yet.
He starts and turns to the clock. Sam would normally be here by now. To make up for being caught off guard, he manages to scrounge up enough food to make an adequate dinner for two people, and his mother gives him a side-eye but says nothing. He wonders if she can tell that he normally has someone else here with him.
Halfway through their dinner of frozen pasta and orange juice (a surprisingly good combination), she finally says something. He's turned to look at the door once again, and compulsively checked the clock over the stove for the millionth time, and she bursts. "Who the fuck are you looking for, Malc? You've been hopping about like a rabbit on crack all night."
"Well, I see you've finally added some pop-culture to your insults, mum. It's fine, it's nothing." He spears a particularly difficult noodle and bites into it viciously. She's an hour and a half late, and he's not in the best mood.
"Oh, really? Because I haven't seen you this worked up over someone not showing since Becca Greer stood you up."
"That was decades ago, mum, how the fuck do you still remember her fucking name?"
She holds up a bony finger, wags it angrily at him, and he quiets. "Language, Malcolm, I'm your mother, for fuck's sake." She daintily dabs at the corner of her mouth and continues. "So, who exactly are you waiting on?"
He sighs, accepting defeat already. "Just a friend, normally she'd be here by now."
"Oh, a 'friend.'" She cocks an eyebrow, all motherly curiosity. "And does this friend have a name?"
He clenches his jaw, grits out through his teeth, "Sam."
His mother raises both eyebrows, they go up almost to her hairline. He comforts himself with the fact that even if he looks like a dinosaur, he's not as far gone as his mother. "Sam, as in your personal assistant Sam?"
"How do you know she was my personal assistant?"
She huffs. "You're not the only person who can perform a basic Google search, so fuck the fuck off, son." She stands, toddling over to the kitchen to empty her plate in the bin. "She's still hanging around then?"
"We're friends," he insists indignantly, taking her plate to wash it off in the sink. "She helps me. She's normally here around seven, and it's almost nine, and I'm just a little worried that she hasn't called, okay, mother?"
Most of his interactions with his mother are rife with mocking and exasperated sighs, but that doesn't mean he doesn't love her. They're just so alike. His father was calmer, quiet, simple. He worked hard, and then he would come home and eat dinner with his family. He was kind, and now he's somewhere in Glasgow, the name of the cemetery isn't coming to Malcolm's mind, but the place is lovely and green and it suits him well.
Sam still hasn't shown up, and once he shoos his mother out the door to go to her hotel (she insisted on staying at one) he calls her in a bit of a panic, leaves a message on her machine along the lines of, "Where the fuck are you, call me the fuck back."
He can't remember the last time he's actually been this concerned over someone else, over their safety. If he thinks about it a little more, the last time he was worried over another person's well-being was a few years ago. And, he's unsurprised to remember, that was when those arseholes were making her fucking cry.
He wonders idly, as he walks from his bedroom door to the kitchen to the front door and around again, when exactly she became the only person he gave a flying fuck about. He's beginning to think that maybe he would like her even if she were in politics, that it's not that she's normal as much as it is that she's Sam.
And his mobile rings, he scrambles for the answer button, practically drops it, and answers, maybe a little out of breath, but still. "Sam?"
"Malcolm!" She exhales on the other end, he can hear something in the background, it sounds like a man speaking. Is she with someone?
"What is that, am I interrupting something?" She laughs on the other end, a bit breathlessly. She must have just gotten in.
"No, no, just the telly." The sound ends abruptly, she must have turned it off. "Sorry I didn't call, I was staying late and my phone ran out, I forgot to charge it last night."
He heaves a sigh, blows air harshly through his teeth. "Call next time. Find a fucking phone booth if you have to. I was worried."
He can practically hear her smug smile on the other end of the line, and he cringes a bit. "Aw, Malc, you were worried about me. That's almost human of you."
He kicks his feet over a fold in the carpet, the panic already fading away from his system. "I'm a fucking human."
"I know you are," she tosses back, clicking her tongue between her teeth. "Don't worry so much next time, you know I can handle myself. I've got a bit of experience with punching the lights out of people much bigger than me."
"Wait, did that ever happen when you were working with me?" He's already getting angry on her behalf, already narrowing down the list of suspects in his mind, when she cuts him off with a chuckle.
"No. I've got older brothers, remember? They're very annoying." She pauses, he can hear her inhale, and he remembers suddenly how she was there at the inquiry, every day, and maybe after a while he just expected her there, looked for her in the seats and smiled. "I'll see you tomorrow, okay, Malcolm? I'll be on time, too."
She's always doing that too, always saying his name. He thinks perhaps it's a reply to the way he's always saying hers, always shouting or asking or muttering or just carefully calling after her. "Well, fine then. Have a good night, Sam. I'll see you tomorrow."
She hangs up first, she's never been one for unnecessary goodbyes, and he lets out the breath he didn't realize he was holding as he throws himself back onto the couch.
He laughs a little, out of relief more than anything else, and wonders when it was that he let someone become important to him. He thinks maybe everyone destroyed him the wrong way, because he's doing okay without his job, he hasn't blown his brains out, and he has a friend, a real-life, honest to God friend, and he actually feels alright, he feels fine.
For the first time in a long time, he feels human.
Sam and his mother get along better than he would like, if only because whenever he's in the room they ignore him almost completely. Considering that she's only in town for a few days, his mother doesn't really seem to mind the fact that she's spending more of her time with his former PA than with her own son.
He hears them once, when he's washing dishes after dinner, because his mum has difficulty being quiet, go figure, and they're talking about him. He inches his way over to the door, peers a little around the corner, and Sam is tilting her head closer to hear better, speaking in hushed tones.
"Well?" she insists, and she looks concerned, expectant. Like she's waiting, but he can't tell what for just yet. "What do you think?"
His mother scoffs, shakes her head a bit. "You're more likely to know than me if he's done anything." She pauses, furrows her brow. "Do you think he's done anything?"
Sam takes a sip of her wine, delicately, and he watches the way her lipstick stains the edge of the glass when she sets it down on the table. He wonders idly if he'll have to spend more time getting it out. "If it were someone else I wouldn't put it past him but- I don't know. It seems a little harsh, even for him. And just because he had the numbers doesn't mean he used them." She sighs, he can hear her breath shuddering through her teeth. "I don't know."
He turns away, more than a little confused. He thought Sam knew. He's walking back to the dishes when he hears his mum finally speak again, softer, but he can still hear her, her accent rough and heavier than his. It's so different from the way Sam sounds, looping her constants and drawing out her vowels. "Sam, dear. Does it really matter?"
He waits, holding his breath. Motionless, and it feels like the moment right before something crashes to the ground, a wineglass with red stained around the rim.
"No," she replies quietly, then more certain. "No, I don't suppose it does."
His mother chuckles, and he wonders if this means Sam passed some sort of test she was putting her through. "I'd say you're right about that."
He strains to hear more, but they've already moved on, both seeming to be satisfied with not knowing.
"Better them than me," he mutters to himself, idly washing the same dish for a second time.
After everything, after seven months of waiting with the arrest hanging over his head, and nothing ever happens. He supposes he should have expected it, the way it builds and is over in a second.
Because one day it's just gone, all very underwhelming, and there's a very undramatic email, and they tell him it's over, they didn't find enough evidence to charge him with anything, nothing more than hearsay, nothing more than one photograph that doesn't actually prove anything. They've decided not to proceed with their investigation, he's released from bail, you can go back to whatever it is you do.
He's almost disappointed, the fact that they gave up so easily. That he isn't worth the extra effort. But that feeling leaves pretty quickly, and he's happy, happy to be free, happy that it's over finally.
He's suddenly positive that they didn't destroy him properly, and maybe Glenn was right that one time that he was saying maybe resignation is the best thing to do. He feels fucking fantastic.
And Sam smiles, wide and happy, when he tells her the news, and she really is gorgeous, isn't she, she should wear her hair down more. He swallows past the lump that's formed in his throat and says, "Well, thank fuck that's finally fucking finished."
He goes back to his life, whatever that means. Truth be told, he doesn't really know what that means. His mother calls, tell him "congratu-fuckin'-lations," and even Jamie sends him a text telling him that he's happy that he avoided any criminal charges, even if he was looking forward to planning his escape from prison.
He's apparently fine, still working in politics, but on a more local scale. Living in Edinburgh, and just as angry as ever. The crossest man in Scotland, back in Scotland.
He's happy that Jamie's doing well, even if the man is a little like Norman Bates, because people think he'll be okay because he's got giant fucking eyes but instead he's a terrifying little monster with a severe Oedipus complex and a fuck-ton of time on his hands. Jamie never has any free time, but somehow he still manages to pull off that kind of psychopathy. He's obviously one of Malcolm's best friends.
For the first time, though, he's beginning to realize that now he genuinely has nothing to do, not even worrying. His days are composed of him waiting up for Sam to get home from work, and he really shouldn't say home, should he, it's not like they're living together or anything. Except that during the investigation she was there most days, and ended up staying most nights falling asleep on the couch, and the habit doesn't change now, after everything.
So he does what he can. He reads all of the books he never had time to before, watches all of the shows that fell by the wayside after Aileen left (Netflix is a wonderful fucking contraption), remembers that he still has all of his old CDs somewhere in storage.
He writes. It's easier, now that he has nothing to hide, and he uses the computer, keys clicking like hammers, like an old typewriter but smoother. It feels like work, even if sometimes he goes back to using a pen and paper. He fills up notebooks, word documents, uses up all of the ink in his pens and his printer and has to go out and buy more.
He still doesn't have a job, not technically. His days are filled with not doing work, but they still feel full, and he supposes dedicating his entire adult career to that job paid off a bit in the end, because he can afford to do this.
He does what he can, and his days are filled with- with expectation, for something, for anything. Malcolm will eat dinner with Sam most nights and she'll end up falling asleep on the couch, and he'll consider waking her up, but she looks so nice, so pretty, and he won't in the end.
One day, he goes to the library because he's never been inside it before, and the building is right near his house, so he figures, why the fuck not? Inside it's all quiet and soft, his footsteps make a tremendous sound when he walks across the hardwood floor, and he follows a man with glasses up the stairs to see where everything is.
He doesn't know what it is about libraries, or even just places with a lot of books, but they make everything seem better somehow. The light coming in through the windows is clean, not murky and grey, but bright and orange like citrus. There's a girl sitting by one of the windows, reading poetry and drinking tea (which he did not know was allowed in here, he has to see about that). It's a scene straight from a film.
He can hear someone whispering in the far corner of the room, his voice understated and lilting, nothing like his own. Malcolm paces up and down the aisles, sometimes pausing to inspect a title more carefully, and leaves. No one stops him, no one recognizes him. No one asks for him to speak. He smiles as he exits, and the sun is hidden by the clouds again, but he can still tell that it's there.
He had forgotten how good it is to be silent.
He gets approached a few times by publishers, upcoming authors in need of money, about writing his memoirs. Actually strike that, it's pretty much a constant annoyance since his resignation. The publishers want him to write his autobiography, a tell-all about the goings-on in opposition and in government, and the authors want to ghost write, want to tell the whole sordid tale of Malcolm Tucker and reap in some money while they have none.
He turns both down, every time. Because while he may decide later that, yeah, he's still not quite over the whole betrayal, setting him up to knock him down, he's actually fine in his lack of work. He hears one day from Sam, who, in between giggles, relates that Ollie is floundering in his position as Director of Communications, and it's all so fucking funny, and he laughs.
If he were a better person, if he hadn't lost almost all of his moral compass from years of working with psychopaths of the worst variety, he might feel slightly bad about watching Reeder's slow and careful breakdown on the telly, in the papers, every appearance of his face on the screen more haggard and worn. Nicola appears every once in a while, obviously trying to remain in the public eye, another blunder, another media disaster, and he's glad that was over before it even fucking started, because really, she is ridiculously incompetent.
He doesn't feel like much of a husk, not anymore. The process is gradual, so slow that he doesn't even realize it's happening until one day he can feel something stirring in the hollow behind his ribs. It's not better, exactly, but it feels a little like normality. Sam has her own space in the living room, a usual spot at his dinner table, and she's taken over the sofa on the nights when she's too tired to go home.
Neither of them talk about what this means.
She finds some of his old notebooks one day, and if she were someone else his writing would be impossible to decipher, but years as his PA taught her how to interpret the scrawls on the page, chicken scratch and etchings like those carved in stone.
He is washing dishes in the kitchen sink, the soapy water spirals down the drain, and he watches it with vague and idle disinterest, when Sam walks in, hoists herself up onto the counter beside him, and turns.
She never speaks first, always waits for him to take notice, and some days he tests that, doesn't acknowledge her presence, and tries to get her to talk. Today he doesn't feel like playing those games, sometime during dinner she had laughed at one of his jokes and brushed her fingers against his arm, over the folds of his shirt, and he hadn't been able to finish his food. He found that it had lost most of its taste. "What are you looking at, Sam?"
She smiles, smirks almost, and pulls from out of nowhere a black notebook, simple loose-leaf paper sticking out and worn around the edges from creasing too much. He would be angry if he didn't remember leaving it out in the open earlier, entirely on accident, when she had arrived at his flat earlier than expected. "I didn't know you were such a good writer, Malc, I always thought you'd swear more and wreck the prose."
"Give me that," he says gruffly, grabbing the book out of her hands with wet fingers, and she snatches it back like a child playing, mischievous glint clear in her eyes.
"Careful now," she admonishes, flicking the water from the pages. "Don't ruin it."
"That it private, you shouldn't be looking at that-"
"Malcolm, I think you beat privacy to death with a bat the first time you ran off my boyfriend."
"He was fucking around behind your back, if you remember."
"I could've figured that out! Anyway, this-" she waves the notebook next to his ear, "is really very good, and I think that this is what you could do."
He furrows his brow, confused. "What I could do?"
Sam sighs, slipping off of the counter to face him directly. He absentmindedly dries his hands on one of the towels and turns. "You've been looking for a job, right? Here is what you could do, since you've given up politics and you turned down that PR job."
"Darling, I really don't thinking anyone's going to publish anything of mine that's not a fact-fucking-based account of everything I've ever done, and I really don't feel like being charged with anything through written confession." He walks back out to the living room and collapses on the couch, tired after another long day of not-working, and of course she follows him and flops down beside him. She's much too close, her legs folded in front of her and touching his shoulder, and he watches the way her eyelashes just touch her cheek when she looks down.
"You don't have to publish it under your own name. My cousin works as an editor, you remember Mark, yeah? You almost scared him off, too, until you found out we're related."
"He has a stupid fat fucking face, and I stand by that."
"Be nice, he's gonna help you out. You can write things that aren't a fact-fucking-based account of everything you've ever done, you can write something fictional if you like. And then he can tack on a fake name, and no one will have to know it's you." She leans in, forcing him to look at her with how close she is, and he looks her eyes, pupils huge and dark, and tries not to stop breathing. "What do you say, Malc? Can you at least try it out? For me?"
In his head he vows to never let her guilt him into anything again, knows the whole time that this is a lie, and she sticks out her hand for him to shake. "Deal," he replies smoothly, running his finger along the skin of the inside of her wrist, counting out the beats of her pulse to steady his own.
The winter ends, eventually, and with it the last of the emptiness in his chest. The snow melts, the rain falls and hits the roof of his building, he and Sam listen to the thunder rolling toward the city. It's spring again, the flowers bloom on the branches of trees, and the wind rattles through the streets in waves.
He writes, the papers stack on the desk in his room, higher and higher, and one night Sam falls asleep in the chair, the pages of his notebook crumpling under her hands and her neck. He half-carries her to his bed to sleep, and she settles in as if she's always been there. Burying herself in his sheets.
That night he sleeps on the sofa but doesn't really, just stares, awake, at the ceiling and thinks. The rain taps against the windows like fingers, like Sam writing out notes in flawless handwriting much kinder than his in a thousand endless meetings, and then looking up at him to smile. His pillows smell like her perfume for days afterward, something light and citrus-sweet.
And he knows they're both decades too old to make-believe ignorance of what it all is, they can no longer be like children. She hasn't slept in her own flat for who knows how long and over time she very unceremoniously moves into his, one day all of her things have taken up all of the space in his room, things that used to crack and bleed from openness, books with her name inside the covers sitting on his shelves and woman's clothing in the drawers of his bedroom dresser. Nothing empty anymore.
They are too old, both of them much too old to pretend. One night she falls asleep at his desk and when he moves her to rest more comfortably in his bed she clings to the collar of his shirt, whispers soft and slow, comfortable, "Don't go, Malcolm. Stay."
His eyes roam her face for any sign of uncertainty, but she tugs him forward, pulling him to lie down next to her. Faces him and closes her eyes, rests her forehead against his collarbone and sighs sleepily. He should go, but instead of using his hands to push himself up, push her away, he places one tentatively on her waist and closes his eyes, too.
The rain starts up again in the early hours of the morning, and his fingers curl unconsciously around the folds of her dress.
He's past fifty and only getting older, his hair is silver and grey, and he looks like a dinosaur. He's got no job, no real job, even if Cousin Mark has helped him publish a few things in journals, in magazines. Short stories, one a biting social commentary starring a very angry spider, all under the pseudonym M. Cohen, because Leonard had some long fucking songs but they're still pretty good, and he didn't feel like making a new first name. It felt too dishonest.
He's been angry for ninety percent of his life, and only recently has anything changed. He was under investigation for misconduct in public office and suspicion of perjury for seven months and the only reason he wasn't charged with anything was through sheer dumb luck. He has two friends, one who lives in another country and the other who lives with him.
And Sam is, well. She's Sam. She's nice and capable and smart as a whip. She doesn't take shit from anyone, and she laughs at his jokes and then she quips right back. She about two decades younger than him and much too beautiful for England, for anywhere. For anyone. For him.
He writes, and she watches from the kitchen counter on the nights when she makes dinner and doesn't feel like speaking. They've managed to live in cautious avoidance, tip-toeing past in the halls, dancing around certain conversation topics, moving around each other when they get ready to sleep, she taking off the remnants of her mascara in the bathroom, he reading a book until she uncertainly clambers onto the bed, afraid every single time that this will be the night he tells her not to stay. Threading his fingers through her hair when she falls asleep in his bed (he won't call it theirs), and pretending every morning when they wake up at the same moment that it's normal for two friends who live together to be wrapped so tightly around each other when the light slips in through the open spaces in the curtains.
He makes breakfast and she leaves for work, and every time he has to remind himself not to kiss her goodbye, because they aren't married, aren't even in a relationship, are they. He takes walks out in the parks and around the city, and it all feels so much more surreal when he isn't attached to his mobile by the ear, shouting and roaring through everything in his path. Sometimes they eat lunch together during the day, and sometimes he goes to the library and writes things in his chicken scratch in the yellowing pages of his notebooks. Then she comes home and kicks off her high heels and they watch TV or read books or just talk, and when she smiles he forgets a little how to breathe.
They walk around the city at night when the spring slips into summer, the stars lined up on the sky like pins. The wind is warm on his skin, and the heels of her shoes click against the sidewalk. It feels familiar, nostalgic almost, and she turns to him at something he says and laughs.
Then suddenly he knows, there's a moment where everything shuts down and it clicks into place like an ink cartridge, oddly enough, and all he can think is, oh. That's what this is.
She smiles at him, and he smiles back, hopes she can't see the way it's written out on his face, the way it makes his shoulders lean toward her, the way it makes his hand reach, unbidden, for hers.
They fall asleep together, so close that he can feel her breath reaching uncertainly for his cheek, so close that he can trace the veins on her shut eyelids that look so much like constellations.
And it happens so slowly, so uncertainly, just as everything else about them, they stumble forward into foreign territory and blink up at the blinding sun, this new ground, this new everything. He thinks, and it's a little like dying, like being reborn, the way everything stays the same, remains, never changes, until suddenly it does.
They're awake and at the kitchen table, it's Saturday, and she's still in her pajamas. He's already dressed in his usual flannel and fleece, making her coffee and pouring some for himself in the process, then adding too much sugar because he's prone to excess and he likes his sweet.
He doesn't remember how it happens, not really, one minute she's standing up to take her cup from his hands by the sink, and the next he's close, much too close, and she blinks back at him, suddenly nervous.
"Malcolm," said cautiously, a lift at the end of her voice like a question, but it isn't one, not really. She knows as well as he does that they can't pretend forever.
He could, though, if he wanted to. For a moment, so brief it sticks in his throat on the way down, he considers leaving it, turning himself away so that he's not looking directly into her eyes, so that she can't see how aged, how worn out he is, so that he couldn't reach out and take her hand if he wanted to. And he wants to.
She says his name again, it shocks him into action, and instead of shifting his gaze to somewhere over his shoulder like he has every other time, he holds it, willing her to look back at him. Instead she closes her eyes, steadies her breath shakily, waits. For what, he can't tell, but he thinks maybe she's waiting for him to decide.
Something comes to him suddenly, a memory, maybe. Sam, the first year she worked for him, young and unaffected by the world, not quite idealistic, not quite cynical. Real. He thinks, tries to reconcile that version of her with this new one, who stays with him when no one else will, and who stands now, in front of him, waiting for him to make a fucking move already.
Her breathing is slower now, certain, and she really is gorgeous, sunlight in her hair grey and clear. He thinks he could memorize her if he tried.
She opens her eyes, tired of waiting, already turning away from him, and he takes her by her white wrists, pulls her to him, and finally does something. Finally kisses her, uncaring of the way they're both still drowsy and slightly stumbling, clutches at her waist with his fingers, and she gasps into his mouth when he moves her against the counter.
And really, he can't believe he ever forgot how fantastic this all is.
They have sex on the kitchen table like they're teenagers again, like people much younger and stupider than who they are, but he doesn't think either of them really care. It's slow, careful, almost delicate, nothing like anything he would have expected.
He whispers in the crook of her neck when it's over, professions of adoration, and it's all still nice and drowsy and uncertain and lovely, and she inhales sharp and quick when he presses a kiss to her jawline like pressing a flower in between the pages of a book.
They move together, not cautious or careful anymore, he pulls her with him onto the bed, and she laughs, the sound musical and wonderful. Her smile is wide and brilliant, and it makes him smile in return, and it's all just so fucking funny, really.
The bedsheets are piled high around them, they face each other underneath like children in a make-shift tent. He crosses his legs, the gesture is foreign and unfamiliar, and she pulls his hand to link with hers at the center. Threads their fingers together and places her thumb innocently over his, soft and sweet as a kiss.
The light coming in through the window turns their world as orange as a sunrise, as surreal as dust-motes jumping through the air. It all looks so spectacular, heartbreakingly real and detailed as a photograph, and he knows he couldn't capture it if he tried. He tightens his hold on her hands and tugs her forward by her fingers, leans in close.
He kisses her again, and for some strange and perfect reason, it feels like a promise.