in which people “stare” and “look” a lot, I overuse the word “silence,” and seriously just what even am I doing
This isn’t actually a proper fanfiction, so it doesn’t actually have a proper heading.
Title: Okay (Or: The events of the day)
Fandom: Dirk Gently (BBC television adaptation version, references to book material)
Summary: ”God knows why, but – I’m pretty sure this detective agency is where I need to be, and want to be.” (Immediate follow-up to the events of Episode 2. In other words, full of spoilers and soon to be Jossed.)
Warnings: SPOILERS. FROM HERE ON DOWN, EVEN BEFORE THE READMORE. Also, vague (very vague) spoilers for The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul.
Also, I am American. Feel free to Britpick.
Characters: Dirk, MacDuff
Pairings: Dirk/MAX mentioned, Dirk/MacDuff if you want it to be. (Wasn’t really the goal.)
“Right,” Richard said shortly, pointing an accusing finger at Dirk and shutting the door behind him. “I am still mad at you.”
Dirk, his feet up on his desk and his hands behind his head, indicated with carefully executed facial maneuvers that he was neither surprised by nor particularly interested in this fact.
Richard crossed the floor to his own desk and sat in his destroyed chair, which did nothing to improve his mood. “We’ve both called,” he said, determined to at least pretend he thought Dirk cared about what he had to say. Keeping up appearances. For whom, he wasn’t sure. “Separately. And told them ‘Dr. Gently’ was a mate of mine who thought it would be funny.”
Dirk raised his eyebrows. “And did they believe you?”
“After a time, yes.”
An unpleasant silence settled across the office. Dirk slowly swung his legs off his desk and sat up straight. “So you’ll be moving to Cambridge after all, then,” he said, the nonchalantness in his voice so blatantly forced that Richard nearly flinched.
Instead, he said, “No.”
Dirk frowned, leaning forward across his desk. “What? Why? She was perfectly qualified for the job! That’s why I had to call in the first place; she was bound to get it!”
“She did get it,” Richard said, voice clipped - and it occurred to him, not for the first time, that had this happened just a few months ago, he would be well on his way to proper intoxication by now. “Susan is moving to Cambridge. I’m not.”
The silence resurfaced, becoming less sharp and more wary. Dirk blinked. “Oh. Going to try for a long-distance relationship? Well, I hope you fair better than David Cho and Noel the Orc…”
“No.” Richard cleared his throat. “We’re going to try for… not… being in a relationship.”
The silence dutifully put in one last appearance, during which it transformed itself into a confused tangle of things that were almost but not quite being said – until one of them was.
“I’m… sorry.” Dirk’s mouth didn’t quite seem to fit around the word. It was clear he wasn’t used to saying it with any sort of sincerity.
Richard shook his head. “It’s fine.” And somewhat to his surprise, he found that he wasn’t lying. “It wasn’t – she didn’t dump me. We just… decided.”
“But you love her,” Dirk protested, brows drawn together in confusion.
“No. I really… really like her. …If I loved her, I would have punched you in the face when we found out what you’d done.”
With a stiff flourishing motion, Dirk indicated the purpling mess that was his right eye. Richard smirked. “Yeah, I know. She didn’t need me to. …If I loved her, though, I would have done it anyway. I would have… I would have been able to wish her good luck before her interview and mean it, even though I didn’t want to move to Cambridge.”
“You’re aware that you are basing a complete reevaluation of your relationship on the events of the past twenty-four hours.”
Richard shook his head again. “It’s not just that; it’s… little things. Missing dinners to come and work with you and not really being sorry for it until she gets angry. Forgetting to answer her emails when she’s out of town, or we are – I used to answer them right away, you know, even if I was working on something important…”
“To be fair, ‘something important’ could now mean crouching in the shadows while a lunatic or the Pentagon tries to kill you with weapons you’ve never heard of,” Dirk pointed out. “Not an ideal time to catch up on correspondence, even with cherished loved ones.”
“Dirk,” Richard huffed. “You don’t even like her. Why are you – demanding justification for this?”
“I am just trying to ensure that you aren’t making a horrible mistake, which, not to put too fine a point on it, was the case the last time the two of you broke up.”
“…Fair enough. I’m sure about this, though, Dirk,” Richard insisted. “And I’m – hardly ever sure of… anything. I mean, I’m… I’m sure I like pizza, and beer, and stupid quiz shows when I’m bored; and I’m sure the job I lost wasn’t ever what I wanted to do with my life in the first place; and, God knows why, but – I’m pretty sure this detective agency is where I need to be, and want to be, working – working with you, as your partner, solving ridiculous crimes and – sometimes getting paid for it.” Richard took a deep breath, wondering when he had become the type of man to launch into self-reflective speeches. He wished he could jump up and pace the room as he spoke, but he was afraid of spooking himself with sudden movement. “I was never sure about me and Susan. I always thought I was holding her back. That she… could have been doing so much more with her life if she didn’t have me to worry about, even before I lost my job – I was always miserable; I hated working there and I complained about it all the time, and then I complained when I didn’t have to do it anymore –”
“I’m guessing the latter set of complaints were based more around the fact that you were no longer being paid to do a job which you disliked than the fact that you no longer had to do it.”
“…Well, yeah. But – anyway… I could never - figure out why she didn’t leave me. Or cheat on me. Or strangle me, sometimes. When that whole thing with the cat, and the poison, and… everything else happened, I think I’d been waiting for us to crash and burn for at least six months. When I thought she’d been sleeping with Gordon, it just… all made sense, and I didn’t think about what type of person Susan is, or the fact that – she would never do that to someone, or – or anything; all I could think was – you know, finally. She’s done something wrong and I can… make this her fault.” Richard swallowed dryly and stared down at his hands where they rested limply on his knees. “And, I mean… We made up, but… It just really… wasn’t working. But it wasn’t – bad, so we just… kept going. There was no real reason not to, I suppose, but… now there is, so…” He shrugged. “We’ll still keep in touch.”
“Out of your left eye, maybe.”
And just like that, things were back to normal.
Which, for them, meant that they spent the next couple of hours arguing about Janice’s (lack of) wages, how long it would take for the thick layer of paint that was Dirk’s whiteboard to crumble, and whether or not Richard needed or deserved a new chair.
As the afternoon drifted into early evening, however, Richard noticed that Dirk was getting quieter and more subdued – two traits that could normally not be applied to the man at all, let alone in terms of progressing severity.
Eventually, he stopped talking altogether and merely stared at his desk – his jaw clenched, his eyes dim, hands splayed twitching occasionally before him.
Richard trailed off in the middle of the awful joke with which he had been attempting to lighten the mood. “Uhhm… Dirk? You okay?”
Dirk glanced up at him, his throat working visibly as he apparently tried to formulate a reply. “You need to leave,” he said at last, tonelessly.
Richard blinked. “…What?”
“Leave.” Dirk’s voice was hoarse. He swallowed. “Please.”
“Because,” Dirk said impatiently, gritting his teeth, “the events of the day are beginning to catch up with me, and I don’t know what I’m going to do, but it won’t be pretty, it won’t be dignified, and it won’t be fun. Or particularly… sane.”
Richard frowned. “The events of the day? A genius robot fell in love with you.”
“A genius consciousness. But yes,” Dirk said flatly. “And then she left. And before that, she killed the only man who had ever believed in me. And after that, it turned out he hadn’t. And then your now-ex-girlfriend punched me.”
“You deserved that.”
“I did a bit.”
For several seconds, they took turns staring at the floor and ceiling alternately. Then Richard said quietly, “Sorry. For some reason I thought once you… you know, got over the whole… lying about having any regard whatsoever for you… thing, that might – sort of – negate the murder.”
“Make me realize, you mean, that I had not in fact lost a beloved mentor, but had instead been freed from a web of lies spun by a man who has - had probably been manipulating me since my days as a self-conscious and vulnerable university student?”
“Who sold exam questions and hung upside-down from trees and exercise equipment so people would think he was a vampire. But… yeah.”
Dirk sighed. “Yes, I’d sort of hoped that would be the case myself…”
“But - it’s… not?”
“Apparently, what – whichever part of my brain is in charge right now – has decided has happened is that I’ve lost a beloved mentor twice.”
“And been left by the only person who’s ever… called me brilliant, and meant it, and not taken it back.”
“And my face really hurts.”
Richard swallowed and looked down at his desk again, angry at himself for starting to feel guilty about Dirk’s black eye. For one thing, he hadn’t given it to him. For another thing, he really had deserved it.
On the other hand…
People did stupid things when they were grieving. Not that Dirk didn’t do stupid, bizarre, dangerous things whilst in his usual state of mind, but that phone call had been a step beyond what Richard would think even he would normally do.
There was also the fact that literally the only thing Dirk gained from the whole thing was keeping Richard as his business partner.
(Richard and Susan held their breath. Dirk obviously hadn’t spotted them, somehow, and to Richard at least it was suddenly terribly important to see what he would do.)
(Stare sadly at Richard’s things, apparently.)
Not keeping Richard as his business partner.
Keeping Richard around.
He glanced up at Dirk, who was staring at the whiteboard and looking ill.
Fuck. Dirk had been upset and confused, the girl he had fallen madly in love with in less than a day had left, his business partner and quite-possibly-only friend was about to do the same, and he had done something outrageously horrible and desperate to stop it happening.
Dirk stood up with such force that his chair overturned and clattered to the floor, wheels clacking mournfully.
For a moment, Dirk looked like he was seriously considering vaulting his desk.
Instead he walked around it, slowly and calmly and with a look on his face that made Richard want to reach for a golf club.
He crossed the room to the blank whiteboard and studied it.
“Professor Jericho was the one who first convinced me to try working out the solutions to problems like this,” he said off-handedly. “Said that the way my mind worked, it required visual input to function at optimal levels. Otherwise, my thoughts – raced ahead of themselves, and I got caught up in things like ‘boy who tripped in corridor was stepson of man who sold drugs to girl who shuffled down same corridor and dislodged the carpet,’ and forgot about boring things like assignments and bills. It was the first time anyone had ever thought I was – just different, instead of wrong.”
“…Okay,” said Richard, who was suddenly profoundly uncomfortable.
“Hm.” Dirk traced one hand over some line of marker that wasn’t quite gone. “Right.”
And he bent down, grabbed one of the paint buckets littering the floor, drew it back behind his head, and slammed it into the wall.
Then he did it again.
“Okay!” Richard sprang to his feet and snatched the (thankfully mostly empty) pail from his friend, setting it carefully off to the side.
Dirk slammed his open palms against the wall once, twice, uttered a moan that was somehow nearly a scream, and covered his face with one hand. He leaned into the wall and half-heartedly thumped it with a loose fist.
“Okay,” Richard said again, and wondered if he would ever be able to say anything else. “…Okay. Okay.”
He stepped forward and hesitantly laid a hand on Dirk’s back.
He was shaking.
“Okay. Right. No. I think you should probably sit down. Yeah?”
Dirk nodded, keeping his hand over his face and breathing hard.
Keeping up a constant mantra of don’t panic don’t panic don’t panic at least he’s not drunk or throwing things at you don’t panic, Richard tried to steer Dirk back towards his desk.
Halfway there, Dirk’s legs seemed to give out. He sank to the floor, Richard quickly following suit.
“…You all right?” he asked softly, and hated himself. Be more of an idiot, MacDuff.
Slowly, Dirk lowered his hand from his face. His eyes were red. He cleared his throat. “You were right.”
“I was in shock.”
The conversation took a brief recess.
“Dirk,” Richard said, deciding after a pretty intense internal debate that absolutely any choice in this situation was bound to be the wrong choice, so he might as well pick one and get on with it. “I… believe you. About the cheating.”
“You drive a three-decades-old car that still mostly works except when we really need it to, you have a plaque outside your door with the words holistic detective agency on it, and you got dive-bombed by an eagle in the street two weeks ago. Do I believe that you accidentally foretold the future while you were trying to rip us all off? Yes.”
This was not the wrong choice. This was the wrongest choice; it shouldn’t have crossed his mind as a choice; he was going to regret it instantly.
He swallowed. “I do think you’re – I mean, well, mad. And a con artist. And a bit of a prick. But also… a bit, um. Brilliant.”
He looked at Dirk, saw the surprised smile tugging at his lips as he tried to discreetly wipe his face, and regretted nothing.
A few minutes passed in an easy silence as the office darkened around them.
“So,” Dirk said contemplatively. “My old professor did not think me brilliant. My esteemed partner Richard MacDuff, and Max-Elaine-Jane-Whoever, literally the most intelligent being on the planet, do. I believe that puts me one up.”
Richard clapped Dirk on the shoulder and stood, offering him a hand. “Fancy a pizza?”
“You actually are reading my mind now.”
“And we are going to pay for it rather than wear it this time.”
Dirk scoffed. “Where’s the challenge in that, MacDuff?”