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New Tricks fic: The Burning Boy (1/1)

November 15th, 2012 (06:38 am)
artistic

feeling: artistic

Title: The Burning Boy

Disclaimer: I do not own New Tricks.

A/N: So after watching James Murray in New Tricks, I apparently needed to write fic. So this is the rest of the story of Luke, from where he started to where he might end up. With thanks to lena7142 for her beta, encourage, and really general awesomeness. Almost forgot to thank kristen_mara for her help as well!

Summary: Luke couldn’t find the words. He found a lot of other things in the meantime.



-o-

Luke had always been a writer. He’d scrawled lyrics to his favorite songs in the margins of his notebooks at school, scribbling intricate stanzas into his journals at home. He was always trying to find the words, though, like they were hidden inside of him and if he just searched hard enough, he might find them soon enough.

University helped, but only to show him how badly he wanted it. He wanted to write, to express himself, to find himself. And the words came onto the page -- too many, too fast -- and his mediocre marks said more than his poetry ever could.

He just needed a chance, though. He just needed to look harder.

He took freelance work where he could, moonlighting as a stage actor to make ends meet. It was a busy, demanding job on the stage, but he had no other skills to market; no one else would hire him. Besides, he had a flair for the melodramatic, and the artistic climate could only help, he told himself and anyone who would listen. He was almost poor, and no agent would take him, but he had enough money to get drunk and sleep around.

But none of the plays, none of the men or women, none of the rejections letters: none of them gave him what he wanted. He still couldn’t find the words.

And then one day, he found Sean.

-o-

Sean had the words -- and then some. He had the heart and the soul and the mind of a writer. He existed fully within himself, fully encapsulated in the moment. He blinked and unfolded a verse; he breathed and unfurled a edda. It was a raw kind of talent that improved everything he touched; a vibrant energy that drew Luke like a moth to a flame.

And Luke found things he hadn’t known he’d been looking for. He found intellectual stimulation; he found humor; he found excitement. They wrote together, spending long nights drinking, sprawled together on the couch, just letting the words flow.

In the morning, Luke woke with his face pressed against the bare skin of Sean’s stomach, and Luke found something more important than all the words in the world.

-o-

They wrote together, but Sean kept everything else separate. The parties and the women, the gambling and the drugs. He told Luke that those things weren’t worth it, that Luke wouldn’t fit in.

At the time, Luke thought it was sweet, thought maybe Sean was protecting him.

When enough time had passed, Luke started to wonder if that were true. And Luke found jealousy.

-o-

Still, he couldn’t stand the thought of losing Sean. When he pushed for more, Sean balked and Luke retreated hastily.

“I’ll do anything you need,” he promised, almost begging as Sean left one night. “Just...don’t forget you can count on me.”

Sean turned back and grinned. “I won’t.”

-o-

There were more women. There were more drugs. There was more gambling. Sean grew dark and desperate. He wrote frantically, drinking cheap liquor from the bottle to keep his muse dark and moving, selling any verse he could come up with.

Luke stayed with him, giving him fresh pieces of paper and trading out the pens when one died. He drank the last drops of every bottle Sean started, and fell asleep by the dim lamplight watching Sean write his way out of disaster.

In the morning, when Sean was too hungover to leave, Luke dropped the poetry off with Sean’s agent. She took it anxiously, and didn’t spare him a second look. Luke thought about giving her a reading, right then and there, make her reconsider her rejection letter, but she was already engrossed.

It would be insulting, except Luke had read the pages.

He couldn’t blame her.

-o-

“I love you,” Luke finally said one night. He closed his eyes and breathed in Sean’s scent. “I love you.”

Sean didn’t move for a moment, before leafing through one of the books stacked next to him, coming to a page and creasing it open to a stanza. Then he read:

Love's the boy stood on the burning deck
trying to recite `The boy stood on
the burning deck.' Love's the son
stood stammering elocution
while the poor ship in flames went down.

Love's the obstinate boy, the ship,
even the swimming sailors, who
would like a schoolroom platform, too,
or an excuse to stay
on deck. And love's the burning boy.

Luke smiled. “Casabianca; Elizabeth Bishop.”

Sean was silent for a moment, his eyes on Luke. “I want you to know I love you, too,” he said. “With all my soul. You keep me grounded enough to write. Without you...”

Luke’s stomach twisted.

Sean smiled. “You’re like a friend. Like a brother. Agape,” he said. “Love’s the boy stood on the burning deck.”

Agape, Luke thought, as Sean started to write again.

Like a friend, like a brother. Without Sean...

And love’s the burning boy.

-o-

Sean left that night, and Luke suspected he might not see him again.

The next day, Luke discovered loss.

-o-

Two weeks passed before Sean showed up again. This time, he was there when Luke got back, having used the key he’d given him months ago.

At first, the unlocked door gave Luke hope, but then he heard the screams.

There Sean was, tied to a chair, being beaten, being tortured. He was going to die.

Luke was a writer, and a bad one at that. He had no meaningful job; he had no prospects. He had done nothing noteworthy in his life, and he’d probably live poor and anonymous for the rest of his days.

But seeing Sean, seeing the man attacking him, Luke found his purpose.

-o-

It was Sean’s idea. He thought to burn the body; he thought to stage the death. Luke had been shaky and scared, the reality of what he’d done just starting to catch up with him. He’d just wanted to stop the man. He’d just punched him the once. One hit -- and the man had gone down and not got up again.

Luke had killed a man. He couldn’t write worth a damn, but he’d taken a life.

He’d killed a man.

When he finally broke down in tears, Sean caught him, holding him up.

“Hey,” he said, shaking him a little. “Hey.”

Luke shook his head, sobbing. “I killed him,” he said. “We have to -- I --”

Sean’s grip tightened. “I know, but it was self defense, okay? It wasn’t your fault.”

“But we have to get help,” Luke babbled. “We need to--”

Sean shook his head. “Luke, no--”

“But he’s dead!” Luke said, almost hysterical now.

“I know!” Sean said. “You saved my life.”

There was a pause, laden and meaningful. Luke stopped, Sean’s eyes on him.

“I know,” Sean repeated, then he pulled Luke close, enveloping him in a hug. “I know.”

Luke resisted, but only for a moment. Then his body eased into Sean’s grip and all his protests fell away until there was no argument left at all.

-o-

In the years that followed, Luke thought it might be a dream. He had Sean to himself, the two of them, alone in a cottage, writing together. The days were quiet; the nights were peaceful.

More than that, he was famous. And he had money now. He had an agent and a career; people came to listen to him, to hang on his every word. The things he said mattered, and the high of it all was almost overwhelming.

The words weren’t his, of course. Not exactly. But they weren’t Sean’s either. Together, he and Sean were more than they had been apart. They brought out the best in each other; two perfect complements.

Luke thought he’d found everything he’d ever wanted.

-o-

But some nights, when Sean found a local girl, or one passing through the village, who didn’t know who he was and brought her back, Luke fell asleep to the sounds of lovemaking upstairs and he woke up in a cold sweat because he could still see the way the body had fallen, the way it had smelled when they burned it beyond all recognition.

-o-

Then, one day the cops showed up.

They’d showed up before, when it had first happened. They’d asked their questions and left him alone. But he’d been poor and meaningless then. So scared, too.

So much had changed, though he still had his story memorized. Like a play, one that he embellished with every retelling. Sometimes he told it enough that he thought it might be true.

The important parts anyway.

That he would die for Sean. That he would do anything to bring Sean back. That that day had changed him forever.

The truths didn’t negate the lies, but Luke learned that every lie had its own parcel of truth.

And every truth had its share of falsehood.

-o-

Luke wasn’t sure what was different this time, but something felt different. The story he told was the same, the same inflection, the same flourishes. But the luxurious home and the numerous accolades; the readings with all the fans and the women who swooned -- they felt hollow now.

Because Luke was still looking for the words, but every time he opened his mouth, all that came out were Sean’s.

-o-

When Luke visited Sean at the cottage, he thought he’d feel better. He thought they’d sit together, and that they’d drink and laugh and talk about rhythm.

But Sean was dark and moody; he couldn’t write so he pulled on his bathrobe and started to bed early. “You can’t screw this up,” he told Luke. “Not after all these years.”

“I wouldn’t,” Luke said. “You know that.”

Sean was pale, and he said nothing more as he turned for his bed.

Luke stood there, watching him go. Instead of going to bed, he drank Sean’s share of the alcohol and scrawled angry notes on any surface he could find.

Luke realized he didn’t feel better at all.

-o-

In the interrogation room, they asked him questions. The pelted him with doubts and inconsistencies. They had suspicions.

Luke thought about Sean, thought about the bathrobe and his favorite pen, half chewed in the sunroom. He thought about the way Sean slept until noon, the way he ate cereal straight from the box. The good things.

The best things.

Sean had changed him. Made him a man.

It wasn’t until Luke was on his way home that he even wondered if that was a man he wanted to be.

-o-

It was easy to forget the rest, though. The lies, the blood, the burned-up bodies. The police, the interrogations, the doubts.

Luke sprawled next to Sean on the floor, half drunk with tears streaming down his face while Sean recited a verse in Latin.

“Agape,” Luke said. “I love your soul. I love every part of you.”

Sean hiccuped, his hand flailing to pat Luke on the shoulder. “I know,” he replied, his eyes closing as he started to pass out. “I know.”

-o-

In the long hours of the night, Luke thought about what he’d done. How he’d taken a life to save one. How he’d given it all up for love.

It was a beautiful thing, really. And a dirty one. Murder for the best cause of all.

Downright poetic.

Next to him, Sean slept on the floor, slack-jawed and snoring.

Then, as the sun rose, Luke remembered that his own poetry had never been very good.

-o-

The next time he saw Sean, the literature professor was there, half naked and smiling. She blushed as she dressed, making awkward chit chat while Luke looked away and stammered.

“I should have known he was alive,” she told Luke over coffee while Sean showered. “I can always recognize his words.”

-o-

Later, when she was taking a nap in Sean’s room, Sean slumped next to him. “Nothing has changed, you know.”

Luke closed his eyes, too tired to try writing. “I know,” he said.

Maybe that was the problem.

-o-

When Sean came forward, Luke’s heart skipped a beat. He’d done all of this for Sean, to protect him.

But the truth was, Sean had never needed him.

Not like he had needed Sean.

-o-

In the interrogation room, Luke explained everything. He talked about the killing and the plans and the lies.

When it was over, his lawyers got him out on bail and promised they’d clear this up, no questions asked. Self defense wasn’t murder, after all. And none of this had been his idea.

From the beginning, not one thing had been his idea.

-o-

The lawyers were true to their word. It took a little time, a little doing, but after painting Luke as a victim in the media, the crown seemed keen to avoid further prosecution. Luke took a deal to a lesser obstruction charge and was handed a commuted sentence.

Sean, however, saved himself. His eloquent confession left no dry eye, and no one dared bring a charge against him, not the man who was really the voice of England. A light of his generation.

They were both free to go.

Back in the cottage, Sean broke open a bottle of champagne. “I think we deserve to celebrate,” he said, beaming.

Luke accepted the glass, watching as Sean tipped his head back, downing his in a single gulp.

“That tastes good,” Sean said. “Like freedom! All these years, and I can finally be free again.”

Free to leave; free to write under his own name. Free.

“Aren’t you going to drink?” Sean asked, looking at Luke earnestly.

Luke looked at the glass. Looked at Sean. Looked and saw all the years between them, all the what-ifs, all the words. They’d been Sean’s words. It’d been Sean’s life.

Sean was finally free to leave.

But Luke had been free all along.

That night, Luke found himself walking out the front door and not looking back.

-o-

It wasn’t easy, of course. He loved Sean, and he always would. He missed the way Sean’s laugh filled the house; he would never forget the way he looked when he was lost in a poem, trying to get a line just so. Sean would always be his soulmate, maybe the better part of him.

But alone for the first time in ten years, Luke sat down at a table with a pen in hand. He stared at the blank page for a long moment. Then, he began to write.

For the first time in Luke’s life, he started to find the words.

Comments

Posted by: Lena7142 (lena7142)
Posted at: November 17th, 2012 02:09 am (UTC)
stephen

How fitting that you wrote an incredibly poetic fic about poets. :)

I love this fic. The flow of it, the language, the structure, the bittersweet heartache of it... and how deeply you develop these characters and their relationship, saying volumes between the lines.

Also, I feel like I've been hit in the chest every time I read this passage:


Sean was silent for a moment, his eyes on Luke. “I want you to know I love you, too,” he said. “With all my soul. You keep me grounded enough to write. Without you...”

Luke’s stomach twisted.

Sean smiled. “You’re like a friend. Like a brother. Agape,” he said. “Love’s the boy stood on the burning deck.”

Agape, Luke thought, as Sean started to write again.

Like a friend, like a brother. Without Sean...

And love’s the burning boy.

---

Beautiful. And sad. And beautiful. Have I mentioned lately how wonderful you are?

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: November 27th, 2012 01:36 pm (UTC)
james murray luke oswald

When an actor I like has only a small/guest role, I have a tendency to overdevelop the character in my head. And then write fic. LOL.

But I'm very glad that this one works, because I really did find the character to be fascinating. And even without an h/c element, this was a lot of fun to write :)

So thank you. For helping me watch the ep, for encouraging me to write, for beta'ing. For sort of being awesome :)

Posted by: kristen_mara (kristen_mara)
Posted at: November 17th, 2012 10:36 pm (UTC)
Pensive


I love how you brought Luke to further life and showed how he got to that point and what he did after the episode. Very lyrical and I'm glad he then found his own voice

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: November 27th, 2012 01:37 pm (UTC)
james murray luke oswald

The episode really did set things up for him to "grow up" a bit after the events, I think. I like to hope so anyway :)

Thanks!

Posted by: nietie (nietie)
Posted at: November 20th, 2012 12:21 pm (UTC)
JamesMurray

This is a great background story of Luke (and Sean). I love it how you wrote what happened after the episode. I'm happy he finally started to find his own words.


Edited at 2012-11-20 12:22 pm (UTC)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: November 27th, 2012 01:38 pm (UTC)
james murray luke oswald

Thank you! I seem to be set on writing something about most of James Murray's characters, and I thought Luke was especially interesting.

Posted by: sophie_deangirl (sophie_deangirl)
Posted at: February 24th, 2013 01:07 am (UTC)

I love the way you gave Luke an emerging identity in this, that you have him stepping out from Sean's shadow in many ways, creatively, emotionally, becoming his own man and I love that he did things from the nobility of love as well. Loved this episode!


Fave parts:

Luke was a writer, and a bad one at that. He had no meaningful job; he had no prospects. He had done nothing noteworthy in his life, and he’d probably live poor and anonymous for the rest of his days.

But seeing Sean, seeing the man attacking him, Luke found his purpose.

-- there's a bit of heroic in this thought.


.Sean had changed him. Made him a man.

It wasn’t until Luke was on his way home that he even wondered if that was a man he wanted to be.

--I love this doubt.

In the long hours of the night, Luke thought about what he’d done. How he’d taken a life to save one. How he’d given it all up for love.

-- *sigh! The things we do for love!

From the beginning, not one thing had been his idea.

--*so sad! A sad realization, a sad acceptance.

That night, Luke found himself walking out the front door and not looking back.

-- I loved that Luke found himself, determined that he could find his own muse and leave Sean. He has done everything for Sean and it had gained him nothing for himself so leaving was the only way he could discover his muse.

Lovely interpretation and tag of the episode.


Edited at 2013-02-24 02:24 am (UTC)

Posted by: do i dare or do i dare? (faye_dartmouth)
Posted at: March 24th, 2013 02:40 am (UTC)
james murray luke oswald

I really loved this role for James -- he gave it such amazing depth in every scene he was in. I like to think there was more for him after all that he went through, so I wrote this fic :)

(LOL, I'm remembering my fleeting ideas for Luke h/c...maybe someday!)

Thanks!

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