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Endeavour: Reaper (5/?)

Title: Reaper (5/?)
Series: Endeavour/Bleach (Endeavour-centric)
Rating: PG
Pairing: None

Summary: It was Morse. Detective Constable Morse, here at the crime scene at nine o’clock at night wearing a goddamn sword. Morse, who even in the bright splash of sunlight, had no shadow.


Mrs Thursday returned shortly with a damp flannel and a mustard-coloured turtleneck for Morse. “It’s Sam’s. He won’t miss it.”

Privately Jakes considered that indifference a sign of good taste; the colour was hideous, and didn’t do much for Morse’s red hair and pale skin. But after mopping off his shoulder and hands, the DC pulled it on all the same, rolling the neck down and tucking the hem into his trousers. It was a tight fit, emphasizing his toast-rack chest.

She also handed something to Thursday; “I thought you might be needing this,” she said, and slipped out of the room.

It turned out to be a black leather glove, the back emblazoned with a stylized flame. Thursday, shockingly, pulled it on. Morse sighed quietly and stood, placing his cup carefully on his saucer.

“Up you get as well,” said Thursday to Jakes, still perched on the sitting chair’s thickly-padded armrest. He got warily to his feet, putting down his own cup of tea on its saucer on the tray. “You’ll want to catch him,” added Thursday.

“Catch – who?”

A moment later the DI had swung his open palm right at Morse’s forehead. As Jakes stared, his hand passed directly through Morse’s head, catching hold of and pushing a carbon-copy of Morse through his own body like some kind of bizarre optical illusion.

The original, mustard-shirted Morse collapsed to the ground while behind him stood frock-coated Morse, complete with sword. “Catch him,” snapped Thursday; Jakes lunged forward and grabbed Morse – the unconscious, crumpling version of him. “You can put him on the sofa.”

Back protesting, Jakes hauled the DC up and dropped him onto the sofa, where he listed to the side like a ship at anchor. The second Morse – the conscious, black-garbed one, watched with dissatisfaction, his arms crossed.

“What the hell just happened?” asked Jakes, looking between the two copies of Morse.

“Reapers are souls without human bodies. For us to take on their work, we leave our bodies behind,” answered Thursday. “Spiritual power is difficult to manifest otherwise.”

Jakes took a moment to study Morse – the standing, frowning one. He was dressed in black trousers and a frock coat, with a tight-fitting sable waistcoat buttoned underneath. He wore no tie, his stiff white collar open at the throat. From his side hung the sword, a long narrow sabre with a straight blade, its brass pommel shining gently.

Even in the soft, ample light of Thursday’s den, he cast no shadow.

This was the Morse he had seen at the arson site, the one who had laid the ghost there to rest. The one who wasn’t quite of this world.

“Well?” said Morse, and like that the ethereal spell was broken. Regardless of his shadow or his outlandish dress this was still Morse, still Jakes’ chippy subordinate.

“Let’s go, then,” said Jakes, and swept out.

***

They left Morse’s earthly body behind on the sofa for Mrs Thursday to mind and piled into the Jag. The ghostly Morse, no longer visible to the vast majority of citizens, was incapable of driving and instead sat in the back while Jakes took the wheel.

Thursday pulled a small, battered compass from his pocket; it looked like it was made of tin, and didn’t even have a layer of glass covering the needle. The red-painted portion of the needle was fluttering gently as it pointed North. Thursday nodded and slipped it back in his pocket.

“And what’s to stop Morse – or someone like him, plain invisible to most – committing murders and get away with it?” asked Jakes, glancing in the mirror and seeing Morse staring idly out the window. He blinked and turned to face forward at the question.

“Reapers – and me,” replied Thursday heavily. “They take their duties seriously, as do I. Those on one side of the grave shouldn’t be reaching out to the other. Seeing to it that they don’t is my job – and now Morse’s. If Morse hadn’t jumped the gun by going over to Mrs Bouchard’s on his own, I would have sent him – properly equipped, of course.”

“I thought it was anchored to Mrs Bouchard,” said Morse, pulling a hand through his messy ginger hair. “I wasn’t expecting it to be there.”

Thursday half-turned to answer him. “Coppering – and reaping – is about expecting the unexpected. You can’t afford to be caught off guard.”

Morse looked out the window, his lips drawn in a tight, narrow line.

“It’s a hard line to walk, looking after others as well as yourself. Especially when Hollows are involved. But remember: if something happens to you, there’ll be no one to take care of them,” said Thursday gravelly.

Morse turned back around, eyes flashing. He opened his mouth, then shut it again without speaking.

“You just think on it,” finished Thursday more softly, as they crossed Folly bridge into Oxford proper.

***

“What’s going to happen when we get to the house?” asked Jakes. “Morse is going to waltz in there and do his exorcism routine, is that it?”

“Morse and I will go in together. This is only his second Hollow – can’t leave things to chance.”

“I’m not going to hang about in the car while you risk your life, sir,” replied Jakes, stung.

“Not much you can do, sergeant.”

“I’ll come all the same.”

“Mind you stay well out of the way, then,” said Thursday as they pulled into the Bouchards’ street. Jakes parked the car and killed the engine. For a moment the three of them sat, looking out at the empty house.

Thursday made the first move, Morse following. Jakes brought up the rear, wondering slightly whether bravado and the chance to impress his superior was worth facing the monster again.

But after all, Morse was the one with the sword. The Hollow was Goliath and Morse was to play the part of David, not Jakes.

The DC led the way, stepping cautiously up the path to the front door and pushing it open – it was still ajar from their earlier escape. It was lucky, thought Jakes, that no good Samaritan had noticed and ventured up to close it. Morse used his left hand to nudge the door open, his right hovering just above the grip of his sword.

Inside, all was dark. Morse flipped on the light and stood still in the doorway, a dark silhouette against a buttery glow. “I don’t see anything,” he said, still looking into the house.

Thursday produced the compass from his pocket again; the needle was pointing directly at the house. It wasn’t fluctuating anymore. “It’s here,” he said grimly. “Go slow.”

Morse drew his sword without any flourish; contrary to Jakes’ expectations it slid from its sheath in near silence, the polished metal gleaming. Gripping it with two hands, the DC ventured inside. Thursday followed him, and Jakes followed Thursday.

Inside all was silence, each of the three men tip-toeing. Morse slowly circled through the bottom floor of the house while Thursday and Jakes waited in the foyer. He returned with nothing to show for it, and nodded towards the stairs. Thursday nodded back.

Morse took the stairs slowly; they were old wood, the steps uneven and steep. He advanced in silence until, halfway up, a step creaked under his foot.

A roar issued from the second storey; Morse, to Jakes’ surprise, ran up the stairs towards it, rounding the corner at the top.

“Morse!” snapped Thursday, but the DC had already disappeared into the darkness above. There was another roar, and then a pained snarl and the thumping of heavy feet on the wooden floorboards. Something made of glass smashed, and there was a heavy thud.

Thursday was heading for the stairs when Morse’s lithe form suddenly appeared at the head of the staircase, his back to them. Jakes could see the glint of the sword raised in front of him.

All of a sudden an immense white limb came jabbing towards him; he struck out and drew blood and a roaring cry from the Hollow. And then it was whipping around even while Morse was catching his balance from his strike, and lashed out with another limb – a long, powerful tail.

It caught Morse in the stomach and sent him flying backwards. He overshot the top of the stairs and fell, landing awkwardly on his side and doing a full revolution as he tumbled down the stairs. Thursday dodged hurriedly out of the way and he came rolling down the bottom like a bowling ball to crash into the hall table.

He lay where he had fallen, still. His sword was halfway up the stairs.

At the top, the hollow looked down. Its immense face loomed out of the darkness, its huge, square-tooth-filled mouth opening into a smile. “Some reaper,” it said, chortling. “Some reaper.” It took a step forward, one of its monstrous forearms gripping the second step down and the other holding onto the railing. The wood cracked beneath its grip.

Jakes took a step back. Suddenly coming along on this hunt seemed like a completely brainless thing to do, utterly barking. Hollows ate people like him, Morse had said. And now what was to stop it?

Thursday stepped forward, his left hand gripping the first two fingers of his right. “Eastern wind, western sun. Four rivers forded, ten hawks circling. Step widdershins until the crow calls, darkness kills the light. Demon arts 24: Black lightning.”

Lightning shot from his hands as though descending from the sky. It tore up the wall towards the Hollow, leaving a crooked line of burnt plaster behind, and impacting on the Hollow’s face with an explosion like a mortar. The creature stumbled backwards, roaring like an injured beast, and disappeared. The lights went out. Jakes fumbled hurriedly in his pocket and produced his lighter, flicking it open. From the other side of the house there was a crashing of broken glass, and then silence.

In the quiet, there was only the sound of Thursday panting. Jakes looked to him and saw that his hair was in disarray, no longer slicked back but hanging grey and lank in his face. His skin was pale and covered by a sheen of sweat; his hands were trembling. He looked down at Morse.

The DC was coming to, arms and legs beginning to scrabble against the floor. He gave a low sound of pain and drew his right arm in towards his chest. In the poor light Jakes could just barely see that it was bent at an unnatural angle, and he winced.

“Fetch his sword down,” said Thursday, consulting his compass again. He bent down beside Morse and laid his hand on the DC’s shoulder. He said something in a low voice which Jakes didn’t catch.

The sword was heavier than he had imagined from seeing Morse wield it; it was an awkward weight as he picked it up in his left hand, his right still holding the lighter with its flickering flame.

“I wounded it,” said Morse, his voice very rough. He was crumpled on the floor beside the overturned table, legs drawn up to his chest and arm held tight across it. “Several times. But I didn’t know it had a tail.”

“It’s nothing but a hurt animal now, and hurt animals lash out. We have to put a stop to it,” said Thursday.

“You’re mad, the both of you,” said Jakes, feeling suddenly like the only sane man in a ship of fools. “Morse’s arm’s broken, and whatever that… that spell you did was, it hit you for six.”

He had envisioned this calling of theirs as something backed up by organization and resourcing, the same as the Force. What he realised now was it was two lone men – one over the hill and the other still green –operating with solely the strength of their arms.

Thursday looked up at him. His dark eyes were steady despite the sweat trickling down from his hairline. “If we don’t stop it, it will kill again. Guaranteed.”

“And the two of you are going to stop it?” returned Jakes.

“You could,” said Morse suddenly. His face was very pale in the lighter’s tiny glow, his pupils blown out. “You have the same abilities as the Inspector, the same as me.”

“You want me to fight that thing? I’ve never handled a sword in my life.”

“The sword is part of you. You’ll know what to do with it.”

Jakes hefted it. “It’s nothing but a dead weight,” he said, supremely unimpressed.

“That’s because that one’s mine. We need to call yours.”

“Alright Morse, quiet down,” cut in Thursday. And then, to Jakes, “Morse isn’t wrong, sergeant. You can take on this burden. But that’s what it is – a burden. And a risk. The thing is hurt – that’s both good and bad. It will be an easier fight. But it will also be a more desperate one. It’s a bad situation, and I won’t pretend otherwise.”

“What’ll you do if I say no?” asked Jakes.

“Then I’ll go after it myself,” replied Thursday. “I’m not quite done for yet.”

Jakes looked at the Inspector, bent low beside his injured DC. His face was waxen, the skin of his hand wrinkled and mottled where it was supporting his weight against the wall. He might not have another spell in him, and even if he did would one be enough?

Hollows hunted people like him. In all the years of his life, he had never seen one. Was it because people like Thursday – and Morse – had been fighting them? Killing them, to protect him?

Were there others like him who would die tonight if he did nothing? Children like the child he had once been, looking out their windows at ghosts on the pavement?

Jakes looked down at the sword. “Alright,” he said, jaw stiff. “I’ll do it. How do we call this sword of mine?”

Morse held out his uninjured left hand for the sword, which Jakes slowly gave him.

And then, before he could react, Morse stabbed him in the chest.

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