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"day in the life"

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Sep. 14th, 2011 | 09:52 pm

Title: day in the life
Fandom: The Eagle.
Characters: Marcus&Esca.
Word Count: 2301.
Rating: 15
Summary: Another day, another murder. Marcus/Esca, sort of.
Warnings: violent/disturbing imagery; minor character death; discussion of suicide.
Notes: Written for the Fanmedia Challenge over on ninth_eagle, based on the image of the bathtub: an unashamed love letter to ITV’s Lewis.





day in the life


The tub is unremarkable. White-enamelled, claw-footed, hand-held showerhead draped inelegantly over the taps: maybe not the kind of thing you’d find in a typical family home, but here, in the winding back staircases of Regina College, Oxford, it’s right at home. It even matches the sprawlingly-griffined ornamentation out on the becroqueted quad – if said quad had recently been the killing ground for a particularly-vicious academic dispute.

“What a mess,” DS MacCunoval half-sighs, almost to himself. His hair is messy, and the knot of his tie is slightly too tight; it’s early.

The only reason DI Aquila’s shoes aren’t sticky with blood already is the saving grace of the paper overshoes he was handed by Forensics at the foot of the taped-off staircase. “Something you rarely see,” he answers, deadpan, almost aggressive (he doesn’t mean it to be; he’s tired). “A conscientious murderer. Selfish bastards, the lot of them. And blood is fuck-hard to get out of flooring like this.” He scuffs his heel against the hardwood floor, and crosses his arms.

The body is splayed out in the bathtub, blue eyes watching the ceiling with the glazed vacancy of the recently deceased. She’s naked, thighs and lower stomach drowned in crimson-swirled water; her forearms are slashed elbow to wrist, both of them, and her arms are propped on the bath’s edges like she’s offering them for study. Blood has spiderwebbed down the sides of the tub and pooled on the floor, covered the floor. It’s sticky in her hair, somehow.

Forensics are snapping photos, flash blazing in the dimness.

Marcus studies her face. “Who is she?” he asks, quietly.

Esca consults his sharply-creased notebook. “Rose Langley,” he answers clinically. “A student at the college. Second year. English with Spanish. Born in the US. Her room’s just down the staircase – it’s open; you’ll’ve passed it on the way up.” He fingers the thumbed page-edges of the petite Moleskine, and says, “Suicide?”

“You’d think,” Marcus answers. “But where’s the blade?”

Esca taps the notebook against his palm. Sharply neutral (too neutral? cold?), he says, “No knife. Forensics found a woman’s safety razor, under the bath. Blood on the grip; she could’ve thrown it. Embarrassment, maybe. Shame.”

“If she was worried about being embarrassed,” Marcus observes, “she wouldn’t’ve taken her clothes off.”

“Pride in her appearance?” Esca suggests. “Wanted to show off those hours in the gym?” The familiar whisper in his tone tells Marcus that he is fully aware of his own impropriety – but there’s a sharpness in his voice, too, a sharpness Marcus doesn’t think he likes but doesn’t entirely understand. Resentment; regret?

He doesn’t respond.

The dingy bathroom is slowly beginning to glimmer into brightness, the morning sun peeking in through a tiny window in the low-slung eaves. A golden gleam plays across the girl’s cheekbones, catches in her red hair. She’s pretty, Marcus catalogues, even beautiful. There’s no towel draped across the peelingly-white radiator, which would seem to support the suicide theory (who takes a towel when they know they’re not coming back?), but no clothes, either. Did she walk here naked? Unlikely – but possible; everything always is.

The pages of Esca’s notebook are rustling again. “Forensics say she died sometime between midnight and two am,” Esca reports, and Marcus thinks about the stickiness of blood against paper overshoes. “Found at six-thirty by one of the students – hence the footprints in the blood Forensics found when they got here. Liathan bagged the razor, sent it back to the station; they’ll take the body to the mortuary once we’re done – and once they figure out how to get it down those stairs.”

Marcus thinks of the labyrinth of paper-thin corridors, and says, “Liathan’ll figure something out.”

Esca doesn’t answer. He slips the notebook into his top pocket, then, with half a last look, pads stickily out of the room. Marcus studies the girl’s face, Rose Langley’s face, just for a second, and wonders what she thought as she died.

He follows Esca out, after a moment, hands his bloody overshoes over to Forensics—Liathan offers him a nod, bent almost-double under the cumbersome weight of a dismantled stretcher—and heads down the twisting staircase, a frown faintly creasing his forehead. He’s split: half a thought tumbles over Rose, over the girl, over where are her clothes? and a safety razor? – but the other half is distracted. This morning, Esca might be cold, and Marcus determinedly doesn’t think of it as the morning after.

The stairs are narrow.

Marcus navigates his way back down the staircase, back down through the breadcrumb trail of police and pyjamaed students – and there’s Esca, on a tiny landing, notebook in hand. His suit is creased, and the low door next to him is open. There’s a sign on the frame, a name: Rose Langley, in a curling hand, with a tiny flower in the curl of the ‘y’. Marcus expects a rose. It’s a daisy.

Esca must see him looking, because he says expansively, “Irony.”

Marcus thinks, oh oxford, and ducks inside, because Esca’s voice is warmer, now. Just the death, then? – and the very fact that he thinks just with those words makes his teeth itch.

Inside, the room is spacious and neat, but the curtains are closed; it’s dim. The light’s flicked on, and he can see rows of alphabetised fiction on the shelves (horror and crime), a stack of colour-coded DVDs next to the desk (blockbusters and rom coms). A sprawl of tickets are arrayed on a pinboard (OUO concerts and ball wristbands), and the laptop screen is open, PostIts arrayed around the frame (the date this album comes out, the time this Worcester bop starts). The standby light gleams quietly blue. The duvet is a deep pink; the throw pillows are deep green.

Cat-quiet, Esca has come to stand at his side, too close. “No work,” he says, and breaks the almost-reverential quiet in the room. Marcus thinks he can feel the warmth of his DS’ heart, and Esca continues, “No library books, no essay notes. Just Stephen King and The Notebook.”

A coldness settles in Marcus’ stomach, and he picks up the novel on the bedside table. PD James; it’s half read, the bookmark spilling out of page 201. “See if the laptop’s logged in,” he says, and if Esca bristles at being ordered around, Marcus doesn’t notice. He opens the book to the marked page; the first word is bathtub.

“On and logged in,” Esca says. He’s leant forwards, gloved palms flat on the desktop, body arched in the dim air, and his face is slanted by the sharp brightness of the laptop screen. The morning sun is striving to get through the thick curtains. Marcus pads over, shows Esca the book with heaviness in his heart – and his DS says, “Oh.” The book is taken from his hand, and their fingers brush, cut off from skin by latex, snapped thin. Esca tugs glasses out of his top pocket, tucks them on, begins to skim; Marcus looks away.

The laptop background is a snap of the night sky, the whiteness of the Milky Way swirling through the darkness. Marcus thinks about the red of blood, fractured down the sides of the bright white bathtub. He calls up the My Documents folder, taps into the folder labelled Work. Essays are neatly labelled with topic and tutor; translations are referenced by author and term. The last time a document was edited was three days ago.

“In this book,” Esca observes, “after a disastrous one night stand, a guy offs himself. In the bath.”

Marcus straightens, and watches distractedly as Esca thumbs another page of the book over, then snaps it shut. His eyes are sharp behind the lens, and Marcus wonders if he’s thinking more about disastrous one night stand than in the bath. This is why he doesn’t do office relationships; this is why he said no for so long. “Is this too obvious?” he says, softly, and there are far too many double meanings in that.

Esca goes for the one Marcus intended. “Maybe,” he says. “The room doesn’t look like she’s worked here much, could be indicative of depression, of the work being too much – but she could just work in the library, leave the books there. The book could be coincidence – and this guy—” He brandishes the novel like it’s his Moleskine. “—uses a kitchen knife, not a safety razor.”

“And it doesn’t explain the lack of clothes,” Marcus adds. “Most obvious answer: her killer’s playing games with us. He planted the books, took the work, staged the whole thing.”

“Yeah,” Esca says, “maybe.” He replaces the paperback on the bedside table, and it’s as innocuous as the Pirates of the Caribbean DVD propped next to the laptop.

They’re quiet for a moment.

Marcus can’t stop thinking but.

“But,” Esca says haltingly, pointedly, “also—”

“Yeah,” Marcus interrupts, “I know.” He thinks about the irony of the daisy on the door. Students love a prank – and, for a moment, he hates himself for thinking about a girl sprawled dead in a bathtub, arteries cracked open like a cold beer, as a prank.

Esca’s quiet for a moment, and slowly he reaches out and twitches the curtains open. The window looks out over Oxford rooftops and the tiny cloistered garden below, complete with beer cellar gardenspace and grass worn brown by the encroaching winter. It’s a sweet view, as so much of this city is – but the curtains were closed. She didn’t look out, didn’t open the curtains before she went for her morning bath. She didn’t want to look out at the world.

Marcus doesn’t look out at the world. He looks at Esca, looks at how the light catches the rim of his glasses and glimmers against the brightness of his eyes. He shouldn’t be thinking about this, not really, but he is, he can’t help it. He wonders about last night—Last Night, really, considering the importance his mind and his heart afford those broken hours—but doesn’t dwell on it. No time for that.

“A safety razor,” he says, softly, and then: “How?”

“Assuming that was the murder weapon,” Esca says, hardly above a murmur, but there’s no conviction in his voice. Marcus thinks it might be sad that it’s only taken them this long to decide what’s happened – but there’s an instinct to this work, an instinct they both know they have. Maybe they’re right. After a moment, Esca says, “Pry out the blade, shove it back in after, quickly, before you lose too much blood. It’s possible, if you try.”

Marcus nods, and absently thinks about the taste of whisky on Esca’s tongue. “Irony,” he says.

There’s a hum of conversation from outside the open door. Marcus thinks he might be able to hear someone crying, just a little, and he wonders if that person knew the girl, if they were her best friend, or if it’s just the shock, just the closeness, just the fact of oh god i knew her. He’s done this long enough to realise that it’s more likely the latter. The now-opened curtain lets the cool morning light slant in the window, and Esca’s tired eyes are pinched in its brightness. He says, “We’ll know more when we get the report from Forensics.”

Esca looks at him, and his eyes are so-bright behind those glasses. “Yeah,” he says, and somehow that notebook has crept out of his pocket, into his hands. He taps it against his palm, just once.

In the room of a dead girl, a room full of memory and possibilities, Marcus says, “You were gone, when I woke.” It’s not the right time, he knows, but in this life, there never is a right time – and if a conversation about a relationship that’s half-beginning takes place in the context of a girl who died alone, well, that’s just a little ironic. In their life, there’s too much death to take it all to heart.

“I know,” Esca answers, and his fingers flex around that ever-present Moleskine. It’s like a comfort blanket, like something a child uses to blot out the world – and Marcus takes half a step forward, takes the notebook out of Esca’s grasp. The leather is soft against his fingerpads, and he tucks the book into its favourite pocket in Esca’s suit. Esca doesn’t stop him; Esca just watches him, and for a moment, they’re caught in their own quiet.

In the end, Marcus says, “There’s a girl dead in a bathtub upstairs.”

Esca’s expression is smooth, placid. “I’ll ask around,” he says. “Friends, boyfriend, girlfriend. Tutor. This staircase is closed off until Forensics are done in here; fingerprints. I’ll catch the masses outside.”

“Good,” Marcus says. “I want to observe the autopsy. Keep me informed.”

Esca nods, and Marcus turns away, heads out. He doesn’t look back, but he thinks about the line of Esca’s cheekbones and the weight of the glasses on the bridge of his nose, and he thinks they might be going to be okay.

The college’s front quad is brightening with the early morning sun, just beginning to nod its head above the chapel’s stained-glass windows. Students mill sleepily, turfed out of their rooms after the night before—perfect fish for Esca’s barrel—and a girl with her hair in thick plaits watches Marcus with blearily-squinted eyes. He leaves the college, leaves its nearly-brown winter lawns and rows of pidges by the Porters’ Lodge, and steps out onto High Street. It’s quiet, this offensively early. He thinks that rightly he ought to still be in bed, maybe even not on his own, if he’s lucky – but things are never that simple. He knows that.

His car is parked just down the road. The day is unremarkable.


finis

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Comments {28}

Tiferet

from: ladytiferet
date: Sep. 14th, 2011 08:56 pm (UTC)
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Wow, this fic is amazing, all the layers in such a short story, all the things hinted at but not explained ♥
I hope they'll be OK!

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sea-sky

from: vixys
date: Sep. 14th, 2011 09:02 pm (UTC)
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I kinda wanted to write a longer story, with the fullness of the case and whatnot, but I thought it was more interesting, in the end, to just have this snapshot. Or, alternatively, I ran out of time for the challenge: both are true. :D Thank you! ♥

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Tiferet

from: ladytiferet
date: Sep. 14th, 2011 10:23 pm (UTC)
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I think it's a perfect fill for the challenge - if you ever feel like coming back to them, you can do it, but it works great as it is :)

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meggington

from: poziomeczka
date: Sep. 14th, 2011 09:32 pm (UTC)
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ladytiferet and I shared a little squee on the IM the moment you've posted it and to quote my darling friend:
"vixys has done it again"

And you indeed have. Everything about it is perfect, absolutely perfect. I think the only disadvantage your works have is the fact that I want infinitely more after reading them!!

(also Lewis te hehehehe! I love it)

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sea-sky

from: vixys
date: Sep. 14th, 2011 09:37 pm (UTC)
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See, I'm still a little perturbed by the fact that I seem to have a pair of ardent fans here. It's disturbing, really. ;D You flatter me and make me all squiggly inside. Dude. ♥♥ And Lewis is just utterly fabulous: I watch it for the Oxford-spotting. :D THANK YOU. ♥

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meggington

from: poziomeczka
date: Sep. 14th, 2011 09:42 pm (UTC)
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ahahahha you probably should, we are rather dangerous!
Yes, I know, it's like a hot choco every episode, there's something so cushy about it.

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Tiferet

from: ladytiferet
date: Sep. 14th, 2011 10:29 pm (UTC)
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We are disturbing. Meg, for example, is disturbingly cute :P

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coeurdesoleil

from: coeurdesoleil
date: Sep. 14th, 2011 09:33 pm (UTC)
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Ooo this was a really original and different take on the prompt and on Marcus/Esca. I love how understated their burgeoning relationship is, and how much that is happening in the space between the lines. Beautifully written and very clever!

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sea-sky

from: vixys
date: Sep. 14th, 2011 09:39 pm (UTC)
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really original and different take on the prompt I saw that image, and (morbid person that I apparently am), the only thing I could think was that image of a redheaded girl dead in a bathtub - and Marcus&Esca/Lewis&Hathaway just kinda slotted in around that. :D Thank you! ♥

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elzed

from: elzed
date: Sep. 14th, 2011 10:04 pm (UTC)
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Some great images there (the blood spiderwebbing down the tub got me); love the writing. And the awkwardness between them, and Marcus, uncertain, uncomfortable, still hopeful, a little.

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sea-sky

from: vixys
date: Sep. 14th, 2011 10:26 pm (UTC)
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Thank you. :D ♥

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oh! beautiful! a fish!

from: figletofvenice
date: Sep. 14th, 2011 10:29 pm (UTC)
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goddamn this is awesome. just - goddamn. I'm a huge lover of crime dramas (give me luther, and thorne, and should I figure out what lewis is?) so this just cuts right into everything that I love - both the horror and the banality of murder, the stress, the exhaustion, the taking-affection-as-it-comes. I would read another 10,000 words of this and not even pause for breath. ♥

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sea-sky

from: vixys
date: Sep. 15th, 2011 10:28 am (UTC)
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I was half on the cusp of making this an epic, but I have so much to do atm that I didn't think losing myself in another 10000 words would be sensible - but thank you. ♥♥ And if you're into crime dramas, definitely check out Lewis: it's the successor to Morse, and features murder-solving in Oxford, complete with shady dons and academic backstabbery. And beautiful scenery, obvs, because it's set in Oxford.

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oh! beautiful! a fish!

from: figletofvenice
date: Sep. 25th, 2011 03:52 am (UTC)
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belatedly, I've mainlined all of series one and two of lewis, and I'm not planning on stopping anytime soon. I just love it. thank you so much for pointing me in this direction! ♥

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sea-sky

from: vixys
date: Sep. 25th, 2011 11:34 am (UTC)
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Haha fantastic! It's glorious, isn't it? Hathaway = ♥

Edited at 2011-09-25 11:35 am (UTC)

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oh! beautiful! a fish!

from: figletofvenice
date: Sep. 25th, 2011 01:24 pm (UTC)
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yes! ♥hathaway♥ he is unabashedly my favorite. and I love that we've got tragic backstory for both of them, now! (granted, I am sure that will be expanded upon, but I'm only just about to start series three.)

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riventhorn

from: riventhorn
date: Sep. 15th, 2011 12:10 am (UTC)
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You did such an excellent job of interweaving the parts about their relationship with the details of the crime scene--everything felt so crisp and vivid the way you described it. And how Esca's always fiddling with his notebook--I loved all the little character details. And when Marcus takes it away from him and tucks it in his pocket, a little moment that hints at so much more.

Congratulations on defeating your first opponent! ;)

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sea-sky

from: vixys
date: Sep. 15th, 2011 10:28 am (UTC)
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Congratulations on defeating your first opponent! ;) Hells yeah. :D Thank you! ♥

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(Deleted comment)

sea-sky

from: vixys
date: Sep. 15th, 2011 10:29 am (UTC)
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Lewis = murder-solving in the city&university of Oxford. It's glorious. And thank you. :D ♥

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ideserveyou

from: ideserveyou
date: Sep. 15th, 2011 08:19 am (UTC)
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Fantastic take on this prompt - and so atmospheric with all the little details! I love the understated way it gradually becomes apparent that they were together last night but it wasn't entirely a bed of roses, and the faint hope in Marcus' mind that 'they might be going to be okay'... I'm sure they are...

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sea-sky

from: vixys
date: Sep. 15th, 2011 10:30 am (UTC)
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Thank you! ♥

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sistermine

from: sistermine
date: Sep. 16th, 2011 06:48 am (UTC)
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Nicely done.

Like the way real life (and your ironic take on it) dominates, and little is actually said, either about the body in the bathtub or about the relationship dynamics.

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sea-sky

from: vixys
date: Sep. 17th, 2011 09:06 pm (UTC)
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Thank you. ♥♥

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take it away, saxophone sheep!

from: citruses
date: Sep. 17th, 2011 09:38 pm (UTC)
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Oh, wow. This is beautiful -- very Lewis, and very Eagle, but at the same time very much its own thing. I'd watch a whole series of Marcus & Esca: Romantically Involved Oxford Detectives, but this fic is enough to whet the appetite and satisfy at the same time. ♥

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sea-sky

from: vixys
date: Sep. 17th, 2011 10:15 pm (UTC)
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Marcus & Esca: Romantically Involved Oxford Detectives I'd watch the hell out of that. I think ITV should take notice. ;D Thank you! ♥

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lallyloo

from: lallyloo
date: Oct. 15th, 2011 04:39 am (UTC)
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Ohh this was really interesting! So different, and so many little details.. and I hope they'll be okay.. :)

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sea-sky

from: vixys
date: Oct. 15th, 2011 07:25 am (UTC)
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Thank you! ♥

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