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Recipient: dawnebeth
Title: Men Don't Need Reasons...Only an Excuse
Characters/Pairing: James Hathaway, Robbie Lewis
Rating: Strong PG13
Wordcount: 2026
Warnings: Nothing you wouldn't see on the show.
Summary: The path to enlightenment is dark and filled with monsters...





"I only went out for a walk…"

~ John Muir

The forest was the perfect place to be on a fine summer's day. The woods were lovely, shaded and cool. The air was sweet with new life and God had granted him the grace of solitude; there were no joggers, dog walkers, yummy mummy's or their progeny. On this serene sunny day, James found himself alone in the forest with only birdsong and the whine of insects to keep company.

The trail was clear of twigs and stones and he had an urge to take his shoes and socks off, to get into contact with the very earth. Torn between propriety and a sudden streak of daring, James looked up and down the trail. Still alone. After a moments hesitation, he dashed to a long-fallen tree sitting astride the stream. He sat, toed off his shoes, removed his socks, stuffing them into his jacket pockets.

Still feeling like a naughty schoolboy, he worked his toes into the soft soil at the edge of the stream, which was cool and moist, not yet turned to mud. He shouldn't have been surprised, the season had been fairly dry overall. At this rate it would dry up completely before summer was out. Closing his eyes, he breathed the soft air. God was great, to have provided such succor for mankind, yes. He felt warmth on his back, cracked an eye open to look up - a shaft of sunlight speared through the leaves. If that wasn't a sign from God that he was doing the right thing, he didn't know what was.

He closed his eyes again and rested his hands on his knees and breathed deep slow, exhaled out even more slowly. He did nothing but breathe and listen to the birds, the rustle of leaves in the mild breeze the sound of life, the warp and weft of God's vision and was glad to be a part of it, a minute cog in his great Work.

A moment later he huffed in silent laughter. As much as he loved poetry, no one would ever call him a master of the form. Just look at the poor metaphor he had used only a moment before! Yes, he was feeling better already.

Standing up, he continued his walk, mindful of the need to return and deal with all of the nonsense from Bishop Andrews. James recognized that he was the problem. He wanted no part of church politickin so long as the souls of his congregation were not adversely affected. Lately, however, he had awoken out of his ignorance and could not morally ignore what had happened to Matthew and Robin. It was not his place to judge. Saying so had clearly been a mistake.

The question was, what was he going to do about it?

Further contemplation was needed…though he was pretty sure he already knew the answer.

Then there was the matter of Father Kliment, who had come to the parish from Austria. James realized he was scowling and smoothed his features into a bland semblance of normality. Wouldn't do for someone to come upon him suddenly and be frightened by the expression on his face. Father Paul-Michael had been most emphatic about that in Seminary, rounding on James on an almost daily basis. Father Paul-Michael would, like everyone else, have loved Father Kliment. Because Father Kliment was a good priest, an effective priest, a handsome priest with large, dark blue eyes and dark brown hair perfectly coiffed. He wore expensive cologne that James wished he had a bottle of for himself, heaven forfend he ever had the money for it, and tailored coats and handmade leather shoes. He was as tall as James, but broader and more heavily muscled. People loved him the way they did not love James, he was honest enough to admit that to himself.

James was also honest enough to admit that he did not care for Kliment, for no particular reason good or bad. It was in the way the man walked, and the way he talked, the way he combed his hair and tied his shoes, the manner in which he ate his sandwiches with both hands, like a squirrel worrying a nut, and the resemblance did not end there. His front teeth had a large gab between them, for all they were white. James often wondered why he didn't have them fixed, but when Kliment had come back form a days excursion to show him the fresh tattoo inked onto his left forearm skin, James realized where any extra money Kliment received was gone.

Coming out of the forest into a broad meadow high with grass, the river moving ceaselessly towards London, James turned onto the towpath for a few minutes before following a loop of trail back in to the forest. Hands (and thus shoes) behind his back, he ambled along up the stream's bank and watched the dapple of sunlight on the water. It would be worth the headache, he was sure of it. Next time he would have to bring his sunglasses…or maybe what he really needed to do was get back out there with a scull. Flying along the water would be good exercise of both mind and body, hmm. He would definitely look into it. His schedule was not so difficult as to not have a free hour or two, especially if Father Kliment were willing to take over James' duties. A wave of guilt threatened to swamp him, and he ruthlessly pushed it back, telling himself that those who cared for the body and soul were especially in need of time off, so as to be able to serve as necessary. As called. Then he wondered if that was a challenge in and of itself, both needing the break, and wanting it. Sick people expected their physicians to be on hand when required, surely it was the same for priests? Perhaps not so much in this modern world, and there he went, again. Thinking too far about his station, one of the other things Father Paul-Michael frequently told him.

James still wasn't quite sure what Father Paul-Michael meant. In any case, he should get back. Tend to any wandering flock who might have stopped by.

The bank was a little steeper here, the stream deeper, forcing him to grab on to a few young branches to pull himself up. The moss underfoot was surprisingly slippery, he went down on one knee with a grunt, managed to scramble onto the bank with only a bit of strain in his back. He stood, brushing the dirt off of, glad to see there was no tear. The green mash of moss should come out in the wash, he hoped. Mrs. Gottfried would have words with him, otherwise.

James straightened, suddenly feeling a little out of sorts and not quite understanding why. The weather was still beautiful, sun shining through the leaves and turning the atmosphere that peculiar shade of bright that only happened when a person was in the forest at the perfect time. He shook his head and put on his socks, hopping on one foot and then the other as he did so. Shoes, then, tying the laces tightly. Hands on hips, he turned in a small circle, trying to figure out what was bothering him. It was like an itch on his brain...there was - ah.

There was a body.

Right where he had gotten out of the water, it - he - was partially covered by a few ferns, a few broken saplings, their leaves curled as if in sympathy.

James recoiled, forearm against his mouth, his stomach threatening to heave what remained of his lunch. It wasn't the man he had noticed, it was his bare feet, dead pale against the warm brown of the soil and the dark green of the moss. The strip of his white belly, because his legs were partially over the bank and his pullover was short.

James took a step forward, then another, carefully peering at the man's face where it wasn't covered. The eyes were open and opaque. He backed away again, looked up and down the path before getting his mobile out of his pocket. He dialed 999, gave his location as best he could. Task completed, he stumbled even further away to wait, and think.

His first inclination was to give the Last Rites, but without knowing if the man was Catholic or CoE...no, best not. Couldn't hurt to say a brief prayer, nonetheless. Despite his experiences with death, he remained oddly disturbed by this one in particular, and couldn't help wandering over every few minutes to see if there was anything he could do. He remained on the path, not wishing to disturb the crime scene further. Finally, some forty minutes after his call, the police arrived.

James didn't recognise any of them. He hung back, wishing he hadn't decided to give up cigarettes. Maybe that's what he would do for Lent, give up giving up cigarettes. Eventually one of the detectives peeled off from the group and ambled over.

"DI Lewis," said the man, nodding at James and giving him an intense once-over. "You found the body?"

"Yes, I did," answered James. "Father James Hathaway."

DI Lewis rocked back on his heels a little. "Thought you looked familiar."

James blinked. "Sir?"

"Dr. Hobson has a picture of the two of you on her desk. DS Hathaway?"

"Yes...that was me," James said, trying not to let the little inner thrill show. Laura still remembered him.

Lewis nodded agin, motioned toward the scene behind him.

"I was walking along the stream, taking a break from work, you understand, and climbed up the bank, there. Didn't notice the body right away, called you as soon as," said James. "Didn't see anyone about, nor did I see any footprints in the soil beyond my own, but I can get booties as soon as you like."

"Do you know who he is?"

"No. He's not one of my parishioners, but I would talk to Father Kliment, he's been here longer than I have."

"Alright. Thank you, Father."

James grimaced, shook his head. "Just James, please. Or Hathaway."

One of Lewis's eyebrows twitched, but he said nothing to James's seemingly odd request.

James was a little surprised, too. He was Father James Hathaway, he's worked hard to attain his position, and despite all the infighting and disagreements and, and, and everything, he did love the work. Didn't he?

Lewis took a card out of his jacket pocket, held it out. "If you think of anything else, please don't hesitate to call."

"I won't," said James, staring down at the familiar logo for Thames Valley Police. He'd had a stack of these at one point in time.

Lewis started walking away, then swung back. "Y'can call me at any time, lad. Apart from this case, if you want to talk. I wasn't here for Operation Spearpoint, but I heard what happened."

Numbly, James nodded, because it was an offer he would never have expected from anyone at Thames Valley. Oh, Laura had urged him to continue counseling after the mandatory visits, but James had begged off. Dr. Spencer hadn't supported him one bit, though he supposed their mutual dislike hadn't helped. Ultimately James had found more comfort in the church, though..it was difficult. The challenges were different and far less immediate. There he found forgiveness. Of a sort.

Yet wasn't Harper his burden to bear? Wasn't what happened his fault, ultimately? Not the first part, of course not, he and Shaw had arrived late on the scene. But the chase thereafter, Shaw being high and misinterpreting the damned directions, and then - then - James swallowed thickly and turned blindly down the path, away from the body and Lewis and his past.




"…and finally concluded to stay out until sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in."

~ John Muir

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
dawnebeth
26th Dec, 2016 03:15 (UTC)
Oh, yippee! I cannot wait to read this--tomorrow morning for sure. Thank you, Santa! And actually on Christmas day.
dawnebeth
26th Dec, 2016 16:33 (UTC)
This was lovely--and sad. Beautiful detail and left me wanting more of this alternate view of his life. I, like James, love to see shafts of sun shining down, and I always think it is God looking down on us!

Then he finds the body, meets Lewis, and the reader learns that he's closed himself off from his cop days, before he worked with Robbie. Oh, the poignancy. If he'd been with Lewis on Operation Spearpoint, would things have turned out differently--on the case, and in his life? So many things to consider in this short, seemingly small period of time.

Thank you so much!
dawnebeth
15th Jan, 2017 20:47 (UTC)
Thank you so much, xfdryad for writing this.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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