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Bitter Tea

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It really is too late to be drinking tea. Of course, the alternative is to be drinking whiskey but he has to work tomorrow so it’s probably not a wise idea on his part since he has to be at work in about...Charlie lifted his eyes from the cooling tea to the wall clock. In about three hours from now. Actually, that clock was six minutes fast, so more like three hours and six minutes. So maybe it’s not too late, maybe it’s too early. Well, he wasn’t going to get to sleep tonight anyway, and he was sick of the tossing and turning he was doing upstairs so. Here he was. Drinking milkless tea at three am. Alone. 


With a sigh, he used a teaspoon that had a fancy fish design on the handle to stir any un-dissolved sugar around, it made a soft clink-clink noise against the rim of the cup. Funny, how he could be in a house full of people. Full of his friends. And still feel totally alone. With an exhale of air, he sat forward in his chair, resting his chin on his hands and looking down into his tea. 


He read somewhere once that you can tell the future by reading tea leaves. But that was for moot now, since he and most people he knew were making the switch over to tea bags. For a moment, he wondered about fishing the teabag out, ripping it open and then seeing what his hot drink had to say about his future. But, that too was probably pointless, since he didn’t know how to read them and didn’t know anyone who could. 


The doc probably knew since it seemed he knew just about bloody everything. But it seems rude to intrude on his office at such a late or...Early, hour with such a ridiculous request. As a rule, Charlie doesn’t subscribe to fate, or psychics, tarot cards, palm readings or anything else of that nature. But he would like guidance from some kind of higher power right about now, and it seems it’s not going to come from the Big Man Upstairs. As soon as he was old enough to stop going to church when he got to the academy he took hold of it with both hands and had never looked back. 


Finally, he picked up his teacup and took a drink. It’s bitter from him leaving the teabag in too long, and the sugar didn’t help. 


“What are you doing up at this hour?” 


Charlie just about spit out his tea. He was so enveloped in the quiet of the kitchen that he hadn’t expected anyone to intrude and burst his bubble. He manages not to make himself look like more of an idiot than he already has and put the cup down without spilling it on himself. 


“Doc.” He said, more out of habit than anything else. “I, uh, couldn’t sleep.” The doctor nods his head, and then touched the handle of the kettle that was sitting abandoned on the sideboard. “How about you.” 


“I just had a lot to get done.” He says, non-specifically and that’s okay because Charlie isn’t nosy enough to ask about the specifics of what he did in there all night every night. He finds a cup for himself and pours hot water over a second teabag. 


“We don’t have any milk,” Charlie said, dumbly. They didn’t, not until it was delivered in about oh, three hours from now. Seems like the whole world just wanted to be three hours ahead of where it was. Charlie didn’t blame it. The doc sat across from him, cup in hand, and gave Charlie that look he gave to all the unfortunate people who came into his practice. Somewhere between sympathy and empathy, and a dose of concerned eyebrows tossed in. 


“What’s keeping you up?” For a moment, Charlie considers lying, but he’s not a liar; never has been. He could, perhaps, obscure the truth and simply say he was stressed and with the recent debacle with Ray and his Mother who would blame him? But; he doesn’t. There’s no point, the doctor can probably read minds, Charlie’s included. And his mind barely has enough room for him these days, he doesn’t want to give up the precious space he does have to someone else. 


“Got my blazer back, with the new stripes.” 


“Ah, yes. Your promotion. Congratulations.” 




“But I suspect it’s not a problem with your jacket keeping you up.” 


“No. It’s not. It’s...Well. It’s everything. Do you know what I mean?” 


“You may have to be a little bit more specific.” The Doc said, but his face looks encouraging, perhaps suggesting that he does. 


“My dad. He only made it to Sergeant, before he was...Before he…”


“I know.” Charlie looked down into his cup, he can’t take the look on the Doc’s face, has never been able to take it. The same look he saw on every face, at the morgue, at the funeral, at the wake, every time he went to Chruch. That ‘there’s the Davis boy who lost his father’s look, he can’t stand it. “It’s difficult to eclipse one of your parents.” The Doc said, and this time Charlie does look up but sees something entirely different on his face. 


“Your...Mother?” He guesses. 


“Mmm. I was ten when she died.” He says and takes a sip of his tea. “Since I’ve been in Ballarat, I find myself wondering what she would think of everything.” Charlie didn’t know what to say in reply, honestly, he didn’t even know where his train of thought about his father was going. So he just says what feels right to say in the situation. 

“I’m sure she’d think that you were doing the best you could.” The Doc smiled at him, albeit a little half-hearted and nodded. 


“Perhaps.” He agreed, “What would your father say about you?” He can’t stop himself from scoffing at the question and took a sip of his drink to delay answering. Lucien is waiting for him when he puts the cup down, the tea well and truly cold. 


“Oh, I can’t see that he’d have much good to say about it.” He said, finally. “It’s not like it’s a promotion I earned. It’s a promotion because my boss got hit by a car. Not exactly a sparkling recommendation.” Lucien took a thoughtful sip of tea and contemplated him for a long minute. A minute Charlie spent trying to look anywhere and do anything other than think about what he just admitted out loud. “A car that would have hit me.” He added, and he thinks that was what Lucien was waiting for because he nods again, sips his tea again, and then speaks. 


“I’ve known Matthew for a long time.” 


“Since the dinosaurs roamed the Earth.” He agreed before he can stop himself. Lucien gave him a pointed look so he shut up. 


“I’ve known Matthew for a long time, long enough to know that he cares about that station more than just about anything. Which includes the people in it.” 


“Like me?” 


“Like you.” He agrees, “I know him well enough to say that he would never give anything to someone who he thought hadn’t earned it. I’m pretty sure the Top Brass wanted him to give that promotion to Hobart, but he didn’t pick Hobart. He picked you.” 


“Why would he do that?” 


“Because you’re the one he thinks will do a better job of running his station if he can’t. Because he thinks you’re a good police officer.” 


“Yeah?” He asked, hating the vulnerability that seeped into his tone, wishing he could be as stoic as Lawson, or as his father. 


“Yeah. And, you didn’t hear this from me, but he was proud of the way you handled things when he was gone. With Munro, and then when Frank Carlyle took over. I didn’t know your father, but I would struggle to see how any father could not be proud of his son after everything you’ve gone through, everything  we’ve  gone through.” 


Charlie nodded to himself, and finally stood, taking his cup to the sink and tipping its contents down the drain. He needed to distract himself for a moment before he did something stupid like cry in front of his landlord at three-thirty am. He didn’t bother rinsing the cup, just turned around, leaning back on the countertop. 


“Now I think you should go and try to get at least a little bit of sleep before your shift.” He nodded his agreement and made his way out of the kitchen. 


“Oh? And Charlie?” 


“Yes, Doc?” 


“I’m proud of you too.” Something warm fluttered around in Charlie's chest.