The bench outside of the station maybe wasn't the most comfortable one, but Charlie honestly preferred it to the stifling atmosphere inside the office. It was his lunch break though he felt anything but hungry. Inside, a man was just making a complaint against Blake and Charlie couldn't help the churning of his stomach. One more nail in the doc's coffin, at least if Monroe's attempts at getting rid of the doctor came to fruition. Charlie couldn't stand the man. Or rather, he couldn't stand the fact that under different circumstances he would have very much liked a boss such as Monroe. A man that personally knew Charlie's father, a man that worked with him. Monroe was by the book and up until last week, except for one little thing, Charlie would have thought he was a good boss to follow. That was if Charlie completely ignored Monroe's crusade against Blake. And of course the photo he found when he snooped around the man's office.
Taking a sip of his already cold tea, Charlie looked at his watch. His lunchbreak would end in about five minutes and that meant he would have to return inside the station. If Blake didn't appear until then, Charlie would have to either call him on the phone, aware that Bill Hobart had his ears perched, or try and keep an eye out for the doc and try to give him a subtle warning upon arrival. Charlie just had to make sure that the Doc knew in what a precarious situation they were at the moment.
Charlie was about ready to give up the wait and finish his tea, when he heard a car pulling up. He was more than happy to see Blake getting out. So happy in fact that he completely missed the warning signs.
"Oh, am I glad to see you-" Charlie stood and approached Blake with a smile. Maybe finally some things worked in his favour after all.
"Do you know anything about this?" Blake asked, waving an envelope in his hands and Charlie tensed at the tone.
"I don't know what it is," he admitted, expecting Blake to say something about new evidence. Or maybe it was an official letter about a complaint against Blake... Charlie's mind tried to come up with possible things, thinking about whether he and Lawson missed something, whether Monroe managed to get a piece of damning evidence...
Charlie's eyes were trying to catch the return address on the letter, hoping to gain more information but he didn't really get the chance. One second he was standing there, posture relaxed, the next he felt the heel of a palm connect with his chest and slam him hard against the wall. The force behind the move was so strong that the teacup slipped from his suddenly lax fingers and shattered on the ground. His back absorbed the impact, but for a second Charlie couldn't breathe, and he wasn't sure if it was because Blake's palm had just delivered a blow to his sternum, pushing out all the air from his lungs, or if it was the simple fact that doctor Lucien Blake had attacked him in front of police station in broad daylight.
"My daughter, Charlie. You remember?" Blake spat angrily, his hand now curled into a fist around Charlie's uniform, keeping hold of him. "The one you were asking about when you were convinced I was spying for Chinese!"
Another push and Charlie grimaced as he felt his back give a painful protest.
"What are you talking about?" he finally managed to ask in utter confusion when Blake let go and stepped away, his face contorted in anger and disgust.
"I sent her letter after letter. I sent her money, and none of it got through! Did you know?"
Charlie frowned as the pieces came together in his mind.
"Did you know?!" Blake bellowed, once again grabbing Charlie's uniform and pushing him against the wall. Charlie had a fleeting thought that if this continued any longer, he would have a permanent imprint of the bricks on his back. But that thought was quickly chased away, when Blake looked him right in the eyes.
For a moment there was only silence and Charlie was sure Blake saw straight into his mind. That the doctor must've seen everything, that there were no secrets. Charlie felt like a guilty schoolboy under that piercing gaze and something must've shown in his eyes. A tell, or a sign. Because Blake's eyes went just a bit wide at the realization, his teeth clenched and face a picture of disappointment.
"Argh, Charlie!" Blake shouted, turning away from Charlie, clearly an attempt to stop another attack. Charlie still flinched, expecting the blow that didn't come. But watching Blake... seeing the pain and hearing the turmoil in his voice as he spoke about his daughter, Charlie couldn't help but feel guilty. And that must've been enough of an answer for Blake.
"You knew! She thinks I abandoned her again, and I promised I would never!" Blake swished the envelope again, teeth clenched tight, his whole body seemingly vibrating with anger. Charlie could feel the disappointment and anguish and despite his better judgment, he couldn't stop but say:
"It's the boss!"
"The what?" Blake looked at him as if he was crazy.
"The boss," Charlie repeated, then looked around because really, the last thing he needed right now was Monroe or Hobart being somewhere near.
"Your name. It came up on a watch list."
Blake frowned, looking momentarily stunned. That quickly turned into annoyed confusion.
"What's that got to do with my daughter?"
"They're onto this!" Charlie said. "He told me."
Blake looked away for a moment as if in thought and Charlie inwardly cringed. He was hoping Blake would understand, that he would accept Charlie's numerous attempts of warning him about Monroe. But the moment Blake looked back up, Charlie knew that was not the case.
"Let me read you something, Charlie," Blake said with an emphasis on Charlie's name and Charlie felt ice cold fingers wrap around his stomach, because he never heard his name sound like a curse from the doctor's lips before.
As Blake started reading his daughter's latest letter, Charlie watched the raw emotions clearly displayed on the usually composed face. Each word from the letter felt like a hit in the gut and Charlie knew it was thousands times worse for Blake.
Charlie felt bad. He felt horrible in fact, wishing he could take it all back, that he could somehow hand deliver the money to Blake's daughter and explain everything to her. To take away her fear and pain as well. But he knew that was impossible, just as he knew that this wasn't his fault. That there was nothing he could have done to prevent this. Not without endangering his own family. And as Blake was hurting for his daughter, Charlie thought about his mother back in Melbourne. About his two younger brothers. About the fact he had to leave his hard working mother alone with them, just so he could send back enough money to keep all of them fed and under a roof.
Oh, he understood Blake's anguish well. If someone would have put him in the same position and Charlie had learned that none of his money reached his family for such a long time... he would be furious too. He would do more than just slam a measly copper against the wall. But that was the thing.
Charlie didn't know about the money issue with Blake's daughter. He couldn't have stopped it from happening even if he knew. What he could do... he was doing already. But there was no way to explain it right now without risking that Blake would slip up in his anger and give Monroe a clue they are on his heels.
Blake finished with the letter, the last words ringing in Charlie's ears.
"Why are you silent. Why... are you punishing me?" Blake's voice sounded choked, almost shaking.
"Lucien. I'm sorry," Charlie said, because he truly was.
"Where is your... boss? Charlie?" And still, the name sounded like a rebuke. Charlie swallowed, feeling like his own emotions might overwhelm him at any moment. For the last year he had looked up to Blake, admired him. He thought of the man as family and friend and hearing his own name uttered in such way cut deep. It felt like he just lost something important.
"He's in his office, talking to Malcolm Beaufort. He's... making an official complaint."
"He's trying to force me out, isn't he?" Blake pointed a finger at Charlie, then turned and headed towards the entrance of the police station.
Charlie couldn't stand it anymore. There were so many things Blake didn't know and that Charlie wanted to say but knew he couldn't. Not now. Still... a thought of his mother and brothers flew over his mind. He had to make sure Blake didn't do something stupid. He had to make sure Blake didn't bring them all down with him without knowing.
"He said that you've got loyal friends," Charlie spoke and Blake paused, turning to look at him. "And that that's your weakness."
"Really." Blake said, his voice going cold. "That sounds like a threat."
Charlie felt like shouting. Yes, of course it was a damn threat. This whole damn time Monroe didn't do anything but threaten everyone that was close to Blake and the man should finally realize that.
"And I'm included," Charlie said, his tone defeated. He hated to show weakness, he hated to show Blake just how much power Monroe had over him. But he also needed the doctor to know. That he wasn't doing this out of malice. That he wasn't keeping information from him just for fun. But most of all... Charlie needed Blake to know that he was a loyal friend. Whatever that might bring in the future.
Blake took that in and the momentary pause gave Charlie a flicker of hope that maybe the man won't bring the whole building down on their heads. But that hope was quickly gone when Blake resumed his walk inside.
"Hey. Hey! You can't just barge in on him," Charlie called after him, but Blake was on a warpath and Charlie realized there was nothing he could do stop him. Not without making the situation so much worse.
He watched Blake vanish inside the building. He wanted to follow, but his feet felt frozen. Despite the beautiful day, Charlie felt chilled to the bone. Somehow, he managed to lose the man's trust in a span of a minute. It hurt. It hurt even more because Charlie knew he could change it. All he needed was to tell Blake the truth. All of it. Tell him about Monroe's bribes and threats, tell him about the photography... about the plan. He was aching to tell Blake everything... but he couldn't.
A car passed by, the radio playing loudly. It was like a gust of fresh air, pulling him from his stupor. With a shaky breath, Charlie turned away from the station.
He should probably go inside, try to do some damage control. At the least he should return to his desk and await the wrath of Monroe. His break was over after all. But somehow instead of heading inside Charlie found himself walking towards the bench and place where Lucien confronted him.
He stopped right over the broken teacup. Feeling incredibly numb, thoughts all over the place and unable to settle, Charlie leaned down to clean up the mess. It wouldn't do for someone to step onto the sharp shards and hurt themselves after all.
The moment he bent down, a painful twinge ran over Charlie's back. He winced, for a second confused by the sensation until his brain kicked in and he remembered. Blake was so angry he slammed him against the wall. He could feel the bruises now as he was picking up the pieces of the broken teacup. When he stood up with a wince and disposed of the mess in the nearest trash bin, Charlie hoped his relationship with the man wasn't broken beyond repair as well.
As his mind replayed the scene over and over, the anger and pain in Blake's eyes, Charlie couldn't but feel he deserved those bruises. That if the tides were turned, he would have delivered so much worse to someone else. Charlie couldn't blame Blake for lashing out, but at the same time he would not be just a helpless observer of the forthcoming battle.
Straightening his shoulders and lifting his head up high, ignoring the twitch in his back, Charlie headed back inside the building, making a point not to linger around Monroe's office. He went straight to his desk and sat down, ignoring Hobart's comment about taking his sweet time.
Charlie wasn't sure how much time passed with him blindly writing down a report, or rather pretending to do so, before the familiar figure of Lucien Blake appeared in the door and walked towards his desk, grabbing the case file and looking at the photo of their latest victim.
Charlie looked up at Blake and noted with some relief that there were no bruises on his face, no bruises on his knuckles. No shouting or yelling was heard and Monroe wasn't hot on Blake's trail. So far so good. Except for the tightness around Blake's lips.
"Doc?" Charlie asked, waiting for any sign that things were okay between them. Wanting to know that Monroe wasn't lying dead in the office, that Blake wasn't fired from his post as a police surgeon.
"Doc!" Charlie repeated more forcefully, his voice tinged with despair. He needed to hear Blake say something, anything, as long as it wasn't his name uttered like a curse. Anything but to be ignored like some stranger.
Blake didn't look up from the file he was studying, but he did speak.
"I expected better from you, Charlie," Blake said, and this time he didn't sound angry. This time he sounded disappointed and weary and hell if it didn't cut Charlie deeper than if he had been yelling at him. Blake finally looked Charlie straight in the eyes, communicating his feelings clearly, then closed the file and without another word walked out of the office, leaving Charlie alone with his thoughts.
The day passed in a blur. Charlie felt numb for most of it. Well, no. Numb wasn't the right word. He might've felt numb if it wasn't for the uncomfortable feeling in his back every time he moved a bit faster or when he leaned back against the chair. The word to best describe Charlie was feeling lost..
It didn't help that next time when Charlie saw Blake, he was trying to warn the man from what Monroe had planned with doctor Harvey. Blake was in one of his 'light bulb' moments when he figured out some important piece of evidence, too caught up in the case to give Charlie any grief. And Charlie would've jumped in happiness about that if it wasn't the wrong time. He tried to warn Blake, to jump into his strife of explanations, but just then Monroe appeared in the door and Charlie shut up. He cringed and felt like cursing when Blake gave him a questioning look before following Monroe into the interrogation room. Charlie wished he could make this whole thing go away, he wished for the day to finally end, because things were just getting worse and worse. He couldn't even imagine how Blake would react to one of his old friends being treated in such way. But all Charlie could do was return back to work and try and solve the case. Whatever the outcome.
That afternoon Charlie felt some relief and hope when he picked up the phone and heard Blake's voice on the other side, telling him to come to the hospital, that he knew who the killer was. The conversation was short and somehow formal but when Charlie arrived at the scene Blake quickly caught him up on the situation.
They were already searching the hospital for the man when they heard the ruckus and a familiar voice calling for help. Charlie rushed in and separated the two fighting men, not losing a moment to lock up the killer. As he led him out of the room, Alice Harvey rushed through the hall and blocked their way. Charlie started to protest, but Blake stopped him.
"Charlie, that's okay," he said, putting a hand on his arm and Charlie paused, looking at the man. He knew this wasn't about him, that this was about giving Dr. Harvey a chance at trying to understand what really happened.
So he gave Alice a moment, then led the killer away, all the time thinking that maybe Blake had realized Charlie's precarious position and somehow accepted his place in this whole mess. Maybe Blake didn't hate him after all, even though Charlie was sure something in their bond had been broken.
And that just made Charlie feel all the more guilty.
Charlie wished to go home, to just have all the paperwork finished already so he could call this a day and leave. He had a call he needed to make and the police station was the last place to do it. But at the same time he was in no rush. The idea of sitting at the dinner table with Blake in an awkward silence made his hunger vanish faster than a look at a decaying corpse. No, he could do with a bit of overtime, then slip in after the dinner was over with. Then he would sneak into his room and maybe finally manage to put his thoughts in order enough to have a serious talk with Blake.
Charlie was determined to do just that when he walked towards Monroe's office, files in hand. His other hand was poised for a knock when he heard the familiar voice and Charlie froze up. Monroe's door had a surprising lack of soundproofing, as most people at the office knew. Charlie thought it was for the purpose of letting the whole police station know when someone was being berated. Right now Charlie didn't mind this feature. He stepped closer than it was necessary for someone who was just waiting for a sign to come in, but it was getting late and the station was starting to empty out. There was no one else in the hall and Charlie could clearly hear Blake's words.
"My resignation. As police surgeon."
"I'll need it in writing."
"First thing tomorrow. And... you'll leave everyone else alone."
Charlie blinked, unable to believe his ears. Did Blake really just resign? Without a fight? And did he ask Monroe to leave everyone else alone... including Charlie?
He was so taken aback by this latest development that when the door opened he couldn't even pretend not to have been listening in on the conversation. Lucien looked up at him, a bit startled to have had a witness. Charlie looked him straight in the eyes, hoping to see a sparkle of fight or even a wink, showing that this was just some elaborate plan he wasn't part of. But all he saw was defeat and calm acceptance and he hated that more than anything. Blake turned to look back at Monroe as if changing his mind, but then just proceeded to walk out.
Charlie stood there, flabbergasted for a second. It was the equally surprised look on Monroe's face that shook him out of his stupor. He entered the office, put the case files on Monroe's desk and without a word or a look headed out. He was just about done.
Charlie's head was reeling and he quickened his steps, hoping to catch up with Blake, to try and convince him to change his mind. But he only caught sight of the doctor's car driving off.
Charlie watched it vanish from sight at the end of the street. He leaned back against the same wall Blake had slammed him into just this morning. He could feel the bricks push against the bruises but he didn't flinch away this time. He welcomed the uncomfortable pressure on his back, just as he welcomed the gust of night air on his face. It helped him focus.
This changed things. They couldn't afford for Blake to hand in his resignation. It was one thing keeping him on as a police surgeon, but reinstating him once he was gone would have been much harder. With the enemies Blake acquired over the last few years, Charlie thought it might be even impossible. No, they needed to fast track their plan and convince Blake to change his mind. But Charlie knew he couldn't do it alone. Not now when he lost the man's trust. There was just one person who was aware of the whole situation and who Lucien Blake would listen to.
With a sigh, Charlie pushed away from the brick wall and got into his car. He drove for a few minutes, until he saw a paid phone booth. He grabbed several coins from his pocket and dialled the number he knew by heart now.
"Lawson," came the curt voice and Charlie had to smile at the familiar gruffness.
"It's me, Boss. Something happened and... I think we ran out of time."
"How many times do I have to tell you I'm not your boss anymore?" Lawson said with a sigh and Charlie could hear the man sitting down and grabbing a glass.
"Now tell me what did that bloody fool do this time."
Charlie leaned against the wall of the booth and recounted the last day's happenings. He felt some of the tension leaving his body just by having an understanding ear. And Lawson did listen.
"You should've seen him, boss. I was sure he would kick me out of the house right then and there," Charlie said when he thought about Blake's disappointment.
Matthew Lawson snorted.
"He would never do that," he reassured Charlie. "He might try to poison you, but he would not kick you out on the street."
"Well, that's encouraging, boss," Charlie said with a horrified frown only to grimace when he heard Lawson's laughter on the other end of the line.
"I'm joking, Davis. You're absolutely safe. But you're right... the situation calls for reinforcement," Lawson turned serious and Charlie gave a silent nod in agreement.
"I was already expecting something like this, so I have set things in motion. I'll be there in the morning. Try to keep him from handing in that resignation, will you?"
"I'll do what I can," Charlie said eagerly, his heart jumping in excitement upon hearing that Lawson was coming. He wouldn't have to fight this battle alone anymore.
"Don't worry, kid. I'm sure Lucien will realize on what side you are standing pretty soon. I'll make sure he will know what is what."
"Thanks, boss," Charlie said and for the first time since that morning he felt like breathing again. Maybe things could get back to what was normal for their little family of choice soon enough.