Title: Broadchuch: Sins Of The Father
Authors' Notes: See Episode One, Part One. They're a bit long to include in each post. (Dang LJ!)
Episode Three, Chapter Seven: Family Outing - Second Section
“Why aren't we going straight home? Why are we here in the park?”
Hardy was not surprised by Tom's question. This was a break from their routine. He looked away from watching Fred playing, showing off for the twins seated in the double pushchair. Fred was disappointed that his siblings were still unable to join him. Ellie had muttered about how much trickier their lives would be once the twins started walking, but Hardy had hopes that Fred's energy would be a good guide to follow.
He shrugged. “Since I'm supposed to be staying away from the investigation and it's leaving your mum with no time on her hands, I thought I should make it up to you for the other night.”
Tom turned his gaze from watching his brother to looking at his dad where he sat on the bench. He took in the slumped posture and extra tension in the frame of the man he had adopted in his heart, long before the formal adoption that had given Tom the right to carry the same name. “You mean when you and Mum argued?”
“Yeah. I'm sorry about that. I shouldn't have let my fears out like that.”
“You're afraid? You investigate murders and hate crimes. You’ve seen dead bodies. You ask questions that make most people I know turn red. I've never known you to be afraid of anything.”
Hardy had to give him a pointed look.
Tom shuddered. “I try to not think about you in hospital. Or that girl I found.”
He cringed. “I’d like to forget that, too. Mostly because of the look in your eyes when you saw us arguing.”
“Mum says you’re happier now you're not fighting for your life. She says you’re taking better care of yourself now that you have us.” Tom sighed. “So what's changed? Are you leaving us?”
“No.” He put a hand on his boy's shoulder and squeezed gently. “Despite what I said I'm not going anywhere. I need you to know that.”
“But why did you say it?”
Hardy lowered his hand and looked over at Fred's antics. He was making the twins laugh, which was for once failing to make a happy expression crack his own face.
“If you haven't noticed, I hate when things are completely out of my control. My freedom is hanging in the balance even though I didn't do anything, my reputation is in worse shape than when I was working Danny's murder, and my job is on the line. I don't know what my own wife thinks about my innocence. Can you imagine what that's like?”
Tom's eyes widened as his body straightened. “No.”
“Good. I don't want you to ever know that feeling. I've got those feelings right now, and I would never wish them on anyone. Even my own worst enemy.”
Tom grew thoughtful. “I'd be as angry as you sounded that night if I thought I wasn't trusted by my own family. I mean, haven't you earned Mum's trust? You were there when no one else could really help.”
“That's what I thought. And I convinced myself I was doing right thing. I still believe that. It’s everything else getting in the way. Reverend Coates set me right.”
He wanted to ask about something else, but the last part made Tom snort in amusement. “You spoke to Paul?”
Hardy managed a tiny smile. “I know. I know. Hell must be freezing over if I'm looking to the church for guidance.”
He could only joke about that because they had talked about beliefs, from all sorts of places, and why he hardly went. Tom was a smart boy who deserved honest answers that would broaden his thinking, and he was meeting the challenge. He would become a fine young man.
Tom giggled for a moment. “Does every part of the world think Hell is a hot place?”
“No. In Iceland, they think Heaven is below ground, where it’s warm. Some cultures assume Hell was a freezing place. It's why there are paintings of blue devils. People everywhere always think Hell is the exact thing we can't stand any more of.”
Tom made a thoughtful noise, and then sobered after several moments. “So what did you talk to Paul about? Were you really so desperate that talking to a priest seemed like a good idea?”
“Since when were you old enough to be so cynical?” Hardy asked rhetorically. He sighed heavily. “When a man feels completely lost he's open to things he would otherwise reject. And while it might not look like it I do respect the man, which I hope you do now.”
It was the first time in well over a year that Tom's destroying his computer and threatening the Reverend if he turned it in to the police came up in any conversation. The last time had been when Alec helped him set up his newer machine, with a joking caution about not trying to cover anything up this time. He had not spoken of it since because he felt that Tom had learned his lesson and it did not need to be brought up again.
Tom cringed. “I apologised to him and did a penance of his choosing.”
Hardy was intrigued. “What did he make you do?”
“I had to help the church wardens deliver the parish magazines dressed in a supplicant’s alb, which I hated, until I accepted that I should've told the police immediately what I knew. I told mum not to tell you, because I was so embarrassed. I won’t do it again.”
“I know. With luck, there won't be anything like that happening again. But I digressed, didn't I?”
“Yeah. We were talking about you talking to Paul.”
Hardy took a deep breath. “He reminded me of things that as a seasoned investigator I should have remembered. Been doing this so long I'm a little embarrassed that I had to be reminded that your mum is just doing her job. As much as it stings to be kept out of the loop and how much I hate feeling like I can't do anything to defend myself, I have to accept that all I can do is act on my innocence. I can't let my family suffer for it. I have to let her prove that I’m innocent and couldn't have committed either crime. Despite our legal system assuming innocence until proven guilty, people still spread rumours. So while I'm effectively off-duty until further notice, your mum will catch the killer or killers and I'll focus on my family. If nothing else, I can ease some of your mum's burdens by making sure you're all fed, healthy and happy. She's going to be working late hours for a while. I can only hope this will be solved faster than Danny's case was.”
It was impossible to escape the comparisons to Danny. Not when two years had barely passed. “Mum's motivated.”
He nodded. “Coates did suggest that she may be ensuring that she can prove enough to get me back in. But I know she won’t risk the case's future in court. So... I'm sorry, Tom. You’ll have to put up with me taking you to the park. And sorry for scaring you with words I never should've said.”
Tom smiled supportively. “As long as you're not going anywhere, you're forgiven. Just don't ever leave us,” he said, his voice breaking on the end.
Hardy felt his heart constrict at the hint of tears in his eldest son’s eyes. “Eh, come here.”
There were things a teenager was not supposed to do in public, especially a boy. Showing affection toward or getting affection from a parent was often seen as childish and girly. But Tom had seen what could come of acting according to what was expected. If he had done that he would not have someone to call Dad. And with life feeling so uncertain until now, there was no thought to his moving in for a big hug.
Knowing that someone unconditionally believed in him allowed Hardy to feel like some of the tension that had been building since Tom had found the body was melting away. As depraved as he knew people could be, there was proof that the human spirit was also capable of incredible acts of kindness. Including loving someone as if they had always been part of the family.
It made him curious. “How were you able to take a chance on me so soon after you found out about... your father?"
It had been tricky figuring out how to speak about the man who Tom had called his dad for his whole life until it was torn apart by the news that his own father had killed his best friend. There were some things that seemed a matter of showing respect for traditions, and it seemed a little odd to encourage Tom to refer to Joe by his given name. Although Hardy supposed that given enough time it might happen.
Tom took a deep breath while he recovered the ability to speak. “I never said anything, but there as a distance between us for a while. He and Mum tried to hide that there was trouble between them, but I knew something was wrong. He resented Mum having Fred, resented having to give up his job. I’d known since the Christmas before Danny died that there were things he wasn't telling us, but I didn't want to think about it. I didn’t know he was going to Danny or that they were... doing things. It never occurred to me that he could...”
Hardy tightened the hug for just a moment. “I know. No kid wants to think that.”
“I guess I wanted someone to look up to. And you never once raised your voice at me, didn't let me get away with lying to you. He had let me get away with things because he wasn't paying enough attention. It felt like he didn't care enough. You? You care a lot, though you don't always show it. I could feel that when you started looking out for us, like compensating for missing Daisy, but in a good way. And... I guess it was easy to make the comparisons. He never brought me and Fred to the park, unless he’d broken something and wanted us to keep quiet about it. Letting you in was easy, like I was waiting for my real dad to come along. And it felt like I didn't have to be as strong for Fred or Mum whenever you were around.”
That truth made Hardy want to cry. His heart went out to him. He had assumed that he had been the lucky one in this relationship. Now, he had to wonder.
A thought hit Tom and he drew back to see the reaction. “Was it easy to let us in? I mean, you already had a family.”
The reminder made Hardy close his eyes briefly to hide the flash of emotion that he knew would have been spotted in an instant. “By the time I met your mum, I had been denied the chance to be a dad for nearly three years. I've tried to speak to Daisy so many times, and only got her voice mail. I've wondered why. I’m worried that she felt betrayed when her mother and I divorced, when I had to move away. I didn't trust the post because I thought that her mother would hide or even burn any letters I sent before Daisy could get them. Your mum once noted that it seemed like I needed someone to be a dad to. I wasn't looking to take over the role, but it kept being open, someone needed to look out for you three, and I could tell you needed someone. It was easy, like you said. But easy doesn't make it any less important.”
Tom sniffled. “Thanks, Dad. For being you.”
Hardy smiled. “Same to you, Tom.”
“Daddy, watch me!” cried Fred from the skateboard. He was lying on his belly pushing himself along. “Tom, Harry, Cattin, watch me!”
Tom straightened. “After he's exhausted, can I play with my skateboard?”
“Going to show off to anyone?”
“Not today. I just want to practice. Just make my dad proud.”
Hardy smiled. He already was, he thought silently as they got up. He pushed the pushchair to let the toddler show off on the otherwise deserted skate ramps. The break was welcome. Who knew how much time they would have before something else happened in Broadchurch? All they could do was hold tight to what they had and knew, and maybe pray for answers.
To be continued...
Broadchurch: Sins of the Father: Episode 3, Part 7b
Title: Broadchuch: Sins Of The Father