Title: Both Sides Now

Author: [livejournal.com profile] fourzoas

Characters: Matt Devlin, James Steel

Setting/Spoilers: Midway through Law & Order | UK 1.07 (“Alesha”)

Rating: PG-13

Disclaimer: The show and characters belong to ITV; I’m just borrowing them.


A/N: Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] persiflage_1 for beta, Brit-pick, and suggestions.



###


An infant lovingly lain in a duffel bag.

A man’s mutilated corpse.

Seventeen bodies covered with sheets.

One of them is always first to the scene, the other always there at the last. They’re used to the handoff in the middle, the moment when the first submits the horror for judgment, when the last discovers some fresh human hell. The separation allows them some semblance of order, but this time the center stretches and bleeds across established boundaries.

Every victim haunts them, but this one walks among them, breathes their air.


###


He doesn’t watch this time. He just listens, his eyes trained on the city outside, the city below. How many times has he watched a recorded crime, how many hours of CCTV footage to find that one bit of evidence that might give someone some peace someday? How is it that he can’t watch this one?

It’s not the same when the victim on the screen is the object of your—Matt’s not certain what she is to him, exactly. Ronnie was right to call them mates, but Matt knows he’s wanted something more from her for a long, long time.

Still wants, he corrects himself, and he’ll never be able to help her toward the future with his mind trapped in the past. He knows that if he turns around, if he doesn’t look ahead and forward, that he’ll dissolve into dust. So he listens, hoping that time will help the image in his mind disintegrate, that by not feeding that memory he’ll find a way to lead her away from it when she’s ready.

One viewing was more than enough.


###


He has to watch. He resigns himself to the understanding that he’ll be watching this tape several times over again. To make this work in court—if Merrick pushes it that far—he’ll need to be the barrister who can watch her violation without breaching the security of the defendant’s dock.

He has to watch because he claimed he was as angry as she was. As soon as he’d said it, he knew there was no way he ever could be.

He needs to watch because she’s not going to be able to watch it for him this time. This time he has to find his heart on his own.

James sees how alone she is in that defiled room, the room he fears has sterilized their potential future. If he’s going to lead her out of this hell when all is done, he has to descend to find her there.


###


Of course, neither thinks that perhaps she can lead herself out, that she knows hells the tape can’t reveal. She won’t blame them for not knowing—how can you blame the shadow watchers in the cave—but she will hope they can cope with the underworld if (no, when) it’s revealed.


###


When the trial begins neither can avoid looking back.

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