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A Tangled Web Chapter Six: The Shallow Divide

Title: A Tangled Web Chapter Six: The Shallow Divide
Fandoms: Cold Case
Author: tyhyin
Pairings: Jimmy Bruno/Sean 'Coop' Cooper, Owen Murphy/Joan Echols
Disclaimer: I don't own Cold Case or the episode 'Forever Blue', this is just for fun.
Summary: Owen Murphy believes he is a good man..
Spoilers: None unless you haven't seen 'Forever Blue'
Ratings: PG-13
Authors Note: Comments=Love

Chapter Six- The Shallow Divide

Owen Murphy believes he is a good man, he upholds the law and does it well. He is the only beat cop without a partner because his partner, Eddie, was killed by a guy trying to rob a bank. He was there he just wasn't fast enough. The guy had a shotgun and before either of them knew it Eddie had a hole in his chest. He feels an immense amount of guilt over it that sometimes he can't stand to put on his uniform. He is close to the other beat cops but they mostly feel sorry for him. Not Jimmy and Coop, they were friends with Eddie too. They share his grief. Eddie had a wife, Joan. At the funeral he'd stood next to her. holding her hand. As they lowered the coffin into the ground Joan had collapsed against him and sobbed into his shoulder. God bless her she doesn't blame him. She should but she doesn't. Coop and Jimmy had been there too along with Eddies mother and brother. He had made a speech about how Eddie was a brave, honourable man. How he was a good man, a good partner and his best friend. He'd held his head high and cried as he spoke. The blue sky bellied the sad occasion but Owen thought it fitting. Eddie would like that he was buried on a clear day. Hope shining as he was put to rest. Owen had smiled at that thought and made it part of his speech. Joan had smiled as a result. Eddie dress uniform picture from when he'd graduated from the academy was put up on the wall of honour in Joe's bar the day after. It had been nearly a year and still the guilt and sadness hadn't lessened, but at one point he'd knew he'd have to stop grieving and do his job. Protect and serve the people of Philadelphia. He swears he'll never have another partner though. Three weeks after Eddie had died McCree approached him about being on the take from Teddy Burke. He accepts and uses the money to help Joan. He would never have agreed if Eddie had not died, Joan need the financial help. But he thinks apart from that he is a good man.

Owen is a man who does as people say other people should not knowing there is a viable option to the contrary. He has lived his life as a good boy should but he finds himself falling for Joan. Even though Eddie's dead it still feels like a betrayal. He is a stack of emotions layered one atop the other, like a pile of old newspapers. Love on top of guilt, guilt on top of love. Never ceasing just getting higher until one day it will overbalance and fall dragging him with it. A raid was scheduled on a bar on the east side of the city and when they got there they found it full of queers. Owen has nothing against queers personally but the general opinion regarding them is bad so who is he to say its wrong. Jimmy and Coop weren't part of the raid and he only sees them when he's pulling a queer dressed in women’s clothes up the stairs in the station that he sees them. He tells the queer that no he cannot use the ladies room and then asks Jimmy "We're allowed to beat up queers for information, right Jimmy?" and gets an answer of "Your bust your call." When he turns the corner and is out of sight he says to the queer "Go on be quick about it." and nods his head at the ladies bathroom. Once he processes the man in drag and three more men from the club he goes back out on patrol. His day is only marred by two petty thieves who he puts firmly in their place.

When he clocks off at seven he doesn't head back to his own house he heads over to Eddie and Joan’s, he still can't call it just Joan’s. Joan is on the front porch sat on a rocking chair reading when he pulls up. His heart should not flutter when he sees her but it does. He thanks God that Joan never gave Eddie any children even though he knows if she had he'd support them too. It's the timing he doesn't understand because when Eddie was alive he never batted an eyelid Joan's way. Why is it now that he finds her residing in his heart? Was she always there? No good can come of following that train of thought so he brushes it aside and walks up the porch steps. Joan greets him with a wide smile. Owen is enraptured, the porch light is casting a glow over her making her auburn hair look as if it is fire and her blue eyes shine out at him. He can't move and he's sure the neighbours are having a field day with this. Joan giggles and the sound travels down his spine to a place a giggle has never gone before. Saving her place in the book she stands up from the rocking chair and approaches him. God he thinks, it's gotten worse. All she does is hug him hello and tells him to come in but his mind takes the moment and runs with it even as hes following her inside. He has to sit down at the kitchen table so that she doesn't see how hard he has got. She's made roast lamb because she knows it's his favourite. It's when she asks him if he wants some gravy on his lamb and tells him that she's lonely in such a big house by herself that he feels another layer of guilt and love added to the pile already gathered inside him. They eat and tell each other the day they had. Joan tells him how one of her kindergarteners made a picture of her out of Penne pasta and how she taught them the words to "Allouette." but not there meaning. He tells her about the raid on the bar and the queer he let go to the ladies room. She frowns at him and says "Why do you do that Owen, follow the crowd when I know you don't think what they think?" He doesn't have an answer for her so he puts a fork full of lamb in his mouth, she narrows her eyes at him and says "I hope you choke on that." He just gives her a closed mouthed grin. Once there plates are empty she smiles at him and says "I've got some cherry pie if you'd like some." and she takes his grunt as the affirmation that it is. She goes to the fridge and produces a cherry pie and a jug of cream when there is an almighty noise outside the back door. It sounds like dustbin lids been knocked against each other.

His mind registers the sound of crockery smashing before he’s out the door with his gun raised. Outside it's freezing and there's four kids gathered in Eddie's backyard banging dustbin lids together. They see him and there eyes widen almost comically as they turn and run. He shoots into the air as a warning. He stares after them and slowly turns to find Joan stood on the back porch staring into the darkness. She isn't shaking but just standing there. A thought sparks in his head, this isn't the first time that this has happened. He stalks over to Joan drawing out her name, she turns to look at him her face impassive.

"This has happened before hasn't it?" he asks her as he closes in. Her eyes leave his face and move back to the darkness outside the ring of light that the porch light provides. The same darkness that the little bastards ran into.

"Why did you never tell me?" he asks and still no answer. He's scared now and like every other time he's gotten scared it morphs into anger.

He grabs her by the shoulders and shakes her as he shouts "How many times has it happened Joan?" She is looking at him again but still not talking.

He shakes her again shouting "Why are they doing this?" and he can't seem to stop his arms from shaking her even though he sees fear start to creep into her eyes.

She whispers "Owen." and his arms stop and he takes a step back nearly falling off the porch steps.

Joan's hands go up to catch him and all her can do is stutter "I'm sorry."

Her eyes soften and with and "It's fine Owen." she's back in the kitchen with a whack from the door hitting its frame. The cold seeps through Owen's thin uniform shirt causing goose bumps to appear on his torso to join the ones on his arms and he goes back inside. The sound of smashing crockery was the dish containing the pie and the jug of cream smashing when Joan dropped then. Apparently she was startled but not surprised. But she is on her knees picking up the broken pieces of said jug and dish getting her fingers covered in cherries, pie crust and cream, Owen wont have that. Kneeling down himself he said "I'll handle this Joan it's ok." She gives up to easy but he's too focused on trying to save as much of the pie as possible that he doesn't notice. The dish had cracked down the middle causing the pie to lop sideways onto the floor. At least there was half of the pie still edible. He's glad cos it looks like a tasty pie. It's as hes collecting the pieces of the jug that he notices Joan's hands shaking out of the corner of his eyes. She'd not moved away when she let him take over clearing up merely sat still. He drops the pieces in his hands and says "Joan?" Not waiting for a response he has her in his arms before she answers. He knows it isn't the appropriate way to comfort a friends wife but the situation was far from normal. Joan is still shaking and Owen hugs her to him trying to keep her together.

Her voice is a breathy whisper when she says "It started the week after Eddie died, a man came to the house. He said I'd need protection now my husband was dead. I told him I could look after myself and he just laughed when I told him to get out of my house. The next when I woke up the mailbox was on the front lawn in pieces." She took a breath which blew against Owen's chest. Carrying on she said "The man returned that day, after you'd gone and demanded money. First it was just fifty then it increased to sixty. I told him that I needed money for myself but he just laughed." sighing she continued "When I'm not 'prompt' with paying him he sends kids round to 'encourage' me." She pulls her face out from the hollow of his throat and looks at him "You remember when that window got smashed." she asks and he nods numbly. "That was them." Anger flows through Owen's veins and he has to steady his breathing before he can say "I'm staying here tonight." Joan doesn't argue and he kisses the top of her head. Once they've tidied up the mess of cherry pie, cream and shards of pottery on the kitchen floor Joan says she's tired and goes to bed. Owen puts the surviving pie back in the fridge. Sleep evades him as he lays in the bed of Eddie's guest bedroom. Temptation is just across the hall. Admittedly his libido has been dampened, right now all he wants to do is hold her, keep her safe. He can't remember when he started but he doesn't think it matters that he loves her. He can't change it so why try. It's not the cop in him that wants to protect Joan, it's the man.

The next day he meets Joan in the kitchen already dressed in the uniform. He had slept in only his boxers. She made him some toast and sent him out the door with a hug. When he sets foot in the station he feels himself fall back into the role of Owen Murphy ordinary guy. He hates it but doesn't know how he can stop. Philadelphia Police Department is quiet that day, only one call coming in and that's only a robbery being reported. Beaumont Groceries has been hit during the night, Mann and Eckstrom are sent out to respond. Owen spends most of his day out on patrol trying hard to avoid places where Burke might be. He'd usually do that anyway just so he wouldn't feel guilty when the bastard would smile at him lecherously as he selled smack to kids that should really be in school. Today however he's avoiding him cos if the bastard smiles at him today he might just punch it off his face. It when the time is nearing seven and he is heading back to the locker room to hopefully shower and dress into the civy clothes he keeps in his locker that he thinks he shatters his friendship with Coop. Walking in to the locker room with Darryl and Faraday saying "So I'm pulling this little queer out of the bathhouse on Munroe Street and he's crying 'Don't tell my wife, waa'." and if he really meant the words he was saying he'd have missed the way Coop's face clouded over when he heard him. As it was Owen saw it. The men around him laugh and it only goads whatever it is inside him and it fixes on Coop. He can't stop his mouth even though he sees what he's doing. The others can't see what is so plainly in front of them, there hate hides it from them.

His mouth opens and words fall out that he'd never say "You must have took a lid on the back door in Nam huh Coop, all those lonely jungle nights?"

Owen hate himself when he can feel his own face form a smirk when Coop replies "Sure."

The other guys laugh as he nods his head towards Coop and says "See he agrees, didn't know you played on their team." and Jimmy stood next to Coop comes back with a "Shut up Murph."

This doesn't nothing to stop him, he just replies with "Ahh you too Jimmy, you a fairy queen or what?"

It's as Coop looks at him again and says "Give it a rest, man." that Owen tries to make him understand, that he can't back down now. The others will get suspicious. He isn't gay and he doesn't think there's anything wrong with being gay but labels sticks. He realises Coop can't back down either.

So he says "I get it, Jimmy and Coop the dynamic duo. You know they say Batman and Robin are homos." because he does. Sees it whenever there near and he's glad for Coop but Jimmy has a wife. That's the only condemnation he gives them, in his head, that Jimmy is married. He's close enough to Coop to know that he is about to snap but reining himself in has become impossible. In a blink of an eye Coop has slammed him against the lockers behind him and is close to his face.

Coop says "What if I was?" and Owen ignores the pain in his back to respond "Was what?" even though he knows what.

Coop says "A homo, a queer." getting closer to Owen's face with every word so he has to twist backwards into the lockers to keep away.

Jimmy says "Coop easy." from behind the wall of flesh and muscle that is Coop.

When he doesn't respond Coop deals another blow "You one too Murphy huh, that your problem fairy boy?" Coop must know that he can't let that one stand but he tries to calm down but can only follow as it leads him.
He knocks Coop's arms off him an almost hisses "Get off me!". He backs away hoping he can leave the situation in the mess it is in and not add to it.

He says "I aint no queer, you get that straight." then he walks out. He isn't gonna go back in there and change so Joan will have to deal with his hard work stink. He stays at Eddie's place that night, neither mentions it. Joan kisses his cheek when she says goodnight.

It has been a month since Coop albeit outed himself to everyone in the locker room and Owen can't find the words to apologise. He saw the truth in Coop's eyes when he was inches from his face, saw how Jimmy's hand trembled with the need to touch Coop. He has grown good at watching, he feels like a scientist observing a group of Gorillas to study there behaviour. Coop is always the brightest when he's around Jimmy, Owen hadn't really taken it into account has he overheard there conversation in the patrol car lot. When he went out to sit in his patrol car there was no-one else in the yard. He'd come out there to think about Joan and what the hell he was going to do about fucking Teddy Burke.

Then Coop and Jimmy’s patrol car pulled in and he actually itches to get a notepad out and start taking notes. They get out of the car and Coop goes around to Jimmy's side to lean against the car behind him. They do nothing but stare at anything that isn't the other for ages and Owen just wants them to go inside.

Coop says "I can't go on like this Jimmy." and Jimmy ever the obtuse one replies "Like what?"

Coop doesn't let it deter him "You know what I mean. Making plans day to day not knowing when I'm gonna see you." and there is the confirmation Owen didn't want to get. The confirmation that'll force his hand.

Owen can't see Jimmy's face but the tone of his voice shows he's still confused when he says "You see me everyday."

Coop looks down at his shoes and says "That's not what I mean."

Jimmy looks away from Coop then back in a second and says "Then say what you mean." He is half blinded by the sun but he doesn't need to see them he can hear what they feel in every word they say. He feels the love, anguish, defiance and most importantly he feels there hope. He doesn't want to be the one to dash it.

Coop becomes animated as he says "We got something here and it aint going away."

Jimmy shakes his head and says "I got a family." Owen's glad Jimmy has some guilt.

Coop says "You think Eileen wants to be married to a stranger, you think if she knew she'd wanna keep living a lie?"

Jimmy responds "I aint leaving my kids Coop." and Coop deflates a little.

"I'm not asking for that." Coop says and they look away from each other.

Then Jimmy says "What then?" and Coop inflates again and leans closer to Jimmy as he says "You remember what you were talking about, living a different kind of life? This is our shot."

He hears Jimmy reply "That was just talk. We're cursed with this thing." Whatever is in Jimmy's eyes stalls Coop for a few seconds and Owen hopes they'll stop, carry this conversation somewhere else, somewhere private.
But then Coop pushes himself off the patrol car he's leaning against and continues with "My folks, been married forever right? But whatever they had died years ago and I look around and I see everyone like that. Staying together cos of the church or cause it's expected or cause they've got nowhere else to go. Cursed. We're the lucky ones Jimmy."

Jimmy is shaking his head and he says "I dunno." and Owen's heart is reeling cos what Coop wants is what he wants.

Coop says "You sure about that?" as Jimmy pushes of from leaning on his and Coop's patrol car.

Suddenly they're close to each other and Owen hopes they don't kiss, not here in such a public place but all Jimmy does is say "I guess I don't got a choice." From the angle he's in he can see they do something with there hands but not what. Then just as suddenly as they came together they break apart and head back out to patrol. His brain knows what he has to do but his heart is screaming "NO!" so loud his ears are actually ringing. It's on the way to his apartment that a spark lights his brain as to whom the mystery crook is that is squeezing protection money out of Joan. He changes direction and heads home, and isn't it funny how Eddie's place went to Joan's place to being home in a night and a day, he asks Joan if the man that’s making her pay protection money wore a cheap leather jacket. When she says "Now you mention it, yeah he did. How did you know?" he feels a familiar anger flow through him. The money McCree gives him could very well be Joan’s hard earned money. He'd never thought about where Burke's money came from he'd just assumed it was from drugs not from threatening women in their own homes. That bastard was going to pay.

He agonises over the decision for days and suddenly it's Jimmy's kids baptism and he's sat in a pew with Joan them both dressed in there Sunday best. Coop is late and Owen curses him for it as it gives him more time to think. His heart was still fighting the good fight and God knows if he hadn't made a list naming the pros and cons of telling McCree. Coop arrives and before he knows it the ceremony is over and he has a choice to make. The choice has morphed from should he tell or shouldn't he into who should he tell, McCree or Serge. It was no secret around the station that there is no love lost between McCree and Coop so Owen decides to tell Serge. Everyone stands up to leave and he sees Mrs Cooper break away from her husband to talk to Jimmy's mother and he sees his opportunity. Serge is set to follow his wife but Owen catches him by the arm and whispers conspiratorially "I need to talk to you Serge...about Coop." whilst pulling him to the side.

The look on Serge's face didn't change much and he just said "If he's sleeping with your wife there's nothing I can do about it." whilst wrenching his arm out of Owen's grip. He marvelled at how little faith he had in his own son and how little he knew about his own officers.

Owen took a step forward and whispered again "More like someone’s husband." That got a reaction out of the older man and Owen smiled inside.

Serge looked like he wanted to punch him in the face but instead he hissed "You have no proof." It is true he doesn't have proof but by the look in Serge's eyes he doesn't need any.

Serge turned away and sighed "Who?" and Owen said "Jimmy Bruno." The older mans head whipped round so fast Owen thought he might have broke it.

Owen put his hand up and said "I'm not saying this cos I find it fun sir, I'm saying it cos I thought you should know. It isn't illegal anymore you know." he added the last bit hoping to console the man. Serge just glares at him and walks away. He thinks thats the end of the whole mess and he goes home with Joan feeling lighter than he did before. The weight however is hefted swiftly back onto his shoulders when he goes into the station the next day. McCree calls him into his office and upon walking into the room he finds Serge waiting. Owen's heart stops, Serge has told McCree. McCree asks him to take a seat and Owen hates the formality he says it with. They're going to want him to tell them what he saw. They'll will twist it into something sordid. For the first and not the last time Owen regrets telling Serge, he should have just stayed out of it. He should have warned Coop to be more careful and let that be the end. He has only seen one moment in which the relationship between the two other men has been definite so that’s what he tells them. Serge sits squirming in the chair next to him, his eyes widening when Owen recounts how Coop referenced his parents. At the time, as he sat in the car watching Coop open his heart to Jimmy he knew that nothing good could come of him hearing it. When Serge suggest getting someone to rough Coop up Owen is too shocked to respond or express his shock. McCree is far too eager and the look in his eyes scares him. Owen suspects he wants to do it himself. Serge nods silently and leaves. Owen sits there for a while after McCree leaves.

There is only a shallow divide between he and Joan and Jimmy and Coop. The only difference being that Joan is a woman, some people would say that that's all that matters. But to him it isn't, love is what matters but he had told Serge anyway and he had told McCree cos Coop wouldn't listen to his father. Owen had recognized the look in McCree's eyes when he went into his office and found Serge there, it was the same look the guy who had shot Eddie had worn just before he had pulled the trigger. Fear coursed through him. What he thought was the only thing for him to do had spiralled out of his grasp and now he sat safely off to the side as it lead a path of destruction to the two men he valued the most. He is powerless to stop it. Absently he wonders if this is how Dr Frankenstein felt once his creation began causing chaos. They are birds of a feather he and Dr Frankenstein, good intentions run a mock.

As the days passed and the curl of guilt in Owen's gut grew he tries hard to keep himself in the loop with McCree and Serge. He needs the information so he can help the two men. Owen decides that he will tell Jimmy on the day, so he has little time to tell Coop therefore the blonde man can not hunt McCree down and have it out with him. The plans change however when McCree decides that he will give Jimmy a test on the day, say some veiled comment about queers and see how he reacted. If Jimmy still went out on patrol with Coop then in McCree’s eyes he is just as guilty as Coop. Owen knows that Coop is hot-headed and most certainly wont listen to reason. His new plan formulates itself around the idea that if he explains to Jimmy the situation then he'll somehow be able to stop Coop from going in or something. But that still left him with a murderous McCree on his hands and he'd bet his life that the Lieutenant would just post pone his plans until Coop came back. Neither Coop nor Jimmy are men that hide from there problems and Owen knows it. He feels helpless he wants so much to help the two men that are his best friends but he can't. The divide between them has become a chasm with McCree on the other side stalking Coop like a Wolf that's down wind of an oblivious Deer.
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