Rating: Chapter 14 has no sex or kissing or anything to prevent you from reading it at work. The F-word gets tossed around a couple of times.
Spoilers: To Volume 7
Timing: Set in May directly after Book 7 ended
Summary: Ryo is coming to terms with the changes in his relationship with Dee, as well as his new sexual identity. Meanwhile, Dee and Ryo are trying to help a young runaway. This story explores homophobic attitudes but is primarily a love story between two men.
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters. They are the property of Sanami Matoh. I am not making any money from this.
Author's notes: I believe in a strong and equal Ryo and Dee. There will be no gratuitous crying and running away! I HATE it when characters cry and run away. Ryo and Dee are men, not boys.
Thank you Blue Simplicity for so efficiently beta-ing this chapter and standing ready to beta the next one.
Thank you also to all the people out there who are kind enough to read my work and comment on it.
Arriving punctually at five minutes before seven the next morning, Detective McLean was surprised to be informed by Janet that his partner was already there. He wondered if there might be something special going on that he had forgotten about, apart from the nine o'clock appointment between Eddie and Detective Shaver, of course. He found Dee in the break room dumping sugar liberally into a cup of coffee.
"Good Morning, Dee. Nice to see you here so early. Are you turning over a new leaf?"
Dee turned to him with a weak grin. "Nah. Just couldn't sleep. Gave up trying and came to work. How ya doin'?"
He certainly did look tired. "Why couldn't you sleep? Is anything wrong?"
"Too much coffee, probably," Dee lied. He wasn't about to tell Ryo the truth. Well, actually I was worrying that a certain someone is having second thoughts about being in a male-male relationship with me and is shortly going to give me my walking papers. Nope. Couldn't say that.
Ryo shook his head and said, "When are you going to remember that you can't drink coffee in the evenings? Some people can, but not you."
"Yeah, like you for example. Hey, we never got a chance to talk about Thomas last night. What did the doc say?"
Ryo frowned and said, "Ah." He poured a cup of coffee for himself.
"Well, she did find some faded bruises on his thighs and buttocks that were consistent with some kind of beating---long thin bruises, like he'd been hit with a stick or a switch."
Looking down at his coffee, Dee swore under his breath through clenched teeth. Then he glanced up at Ryo. "But?"
"But, Thomas wouldn't tell her how he got them. Or me. First he said he couldn't remember, and then he said he might have fallen."
They left the break room and started heading toward the stairs.
"Kid's having second thoughts about getting his dad in trouble," Dee said thoughtfully.
"Yeah, and he doesn't even know at this point that the woman he thinks of as his mother is about to take off, leaving him alone with Lieutenant Abernathy." Ryo glanced at Dee. He wondered if Mrs. Abernathy's impending abandonment of her son was upsetting for Dee. After all, Dee's own mother had abandoned him when he was a baby. It couldn't be easy for him to hear about things like this. But on the other hand, he had grown up in an orphanage surrounded by other children in similar circumstances. Ryo understood that there was a difference between being orphaned and being abandoned. He just couldn't be sure how inured Dee was to the concept of parents deserting their children. He suspected however, from certain things Dee had said while drunk, that his own experience was a deep and private pain that was not up for discussion.
Dee's expression was grim, but his thoughts were mainly for Thomas. "He told us his dad didn't beat him when she was around. If she's gone, and that bastard Abernathy is pissed about her leaving him, he could end up taking it out on the kid."
"I'm worried about that, too. Personally, I'd like to see Thomas go into foster care for a while. He could feel safe for long enough to consider his options properly."
"Well, nothing we can do until we see the lay of the land at the meeting. It's all up to him. What time are we picking him up?"
"WE are not picking him up. I am. YOU are going to stay here and recopy all those files you spilled coffee all over."
"What? Waste of time. I dried 'em off. They're a little stained and wrinkled, but they're legible. Mostly."
"No, they're not as legible as you think, and they look like hell. What if someone else needs to cross-reference them? I'm not gonna give anyone a chance to say we're sloppy or unprofessional. You spilled the coffee, you make them look pretty again."
"Don't argue with me. If you spent the same amount of time working as you do bitching, you'd be in the Chief's job by now."
"Okay, okay. What time does my file-copying torture start?"
"I'm picking Thomas up at 1:00 after lunch. The meeting's at two. You can get a lot done between one and two."
"But we can at least have lunch together, right?"
"Nope, I already made plans to have lunch with Drake."
"Drake! Well, why can't I come?"
"I think he wants to talk about Megan."
"Well, then I'M the guy he should be talking to!"
"Yeah, but you're the guy that organizes betting pools on how long his relationships are going to last. And you always give him way too much stupid advice that just gets him in trouble. I think he's a little too fragile to deal with you right now."
"Ahhh, maybe you're right. He was pretty upset yesterday. He doesn't usually blow up like that. Go on then, leave me to eat my lonely lunch by myself. See if I care."
"I'm sure JJ will be available if you're looking for a lunch partner," said Ryo blandly.
Dee groaned in response as they entered their office. "I'd rather have lunch with a starving werewolf. At least silver bullets work on THEM."
Ryo just sighed and bit back his rejoinder. Dee could keep this up for hours and if he wanted any work to get done before they had to head out for their meeting, it would be best for him to just keep quiet and not offer any encouragement to Dee's imagination.
For his part, Dee, who had been testing the waters, sat down at his desk with a considerable feeling of relief. Ryo was acting normally with him, not shutting him out or being cold. Perhaps that meant he wasn't as upset about what he had learned from Thomas last night as Dee had previously thought. But then he remembered that his partner was not a fast decision maker. He might still be considering the implications of Bikky's fight and slowly working his way toward some kind of resolution. His relief faded somewhat. He wished he knew what was going on in Ryo's mind.
Dee kept pace with Eddie on the opposite side of the broad street. It took all his concentration because of the heavy traffic whizzing back and forth in both directions that frequently obscured his view of Eddie's sloping, slightly hunched form. From their respective vantage points, Dee and Ryo had observed Detective Shaver arrive just before nine with a surly expression and a crumpled brown paper grocery bag under one arm. Shaver hadn't stayed longer than ten minutes, and Eddie had left shortly after him. Dee knew that Ryo was thinking the same thing he was. Evidently some kind of drop had just taken place, because now it was Eddie who was carrying the bag, and man, was he moving quickly.
Ryo, who was following about 20 paces or so behind Eddie, couldn't wait to get his hands on whatever was in that bag. He was pretty sure it wasn't groceries, or even cigarettes. Eddie's urgent pace and the frequent, furtive glances he cast over his shoulder spoke of barely suppressed excitement and anxiety. Ryo hoped Eddie hadn't realized he was being followed. He had dressed in nondescript clothing today specifically because of the meeting between Detective Shaver and Eddie. He managed to make full use of the crowds on the busy sidewalk, mostly contriving to keep other pedestrians between himself and Eddie.
They turned right once onto West 45th Street, and then left, and then suddenly Eddie was disappearing through the etched plexiglas doors of the Westington. Ryo had half expected to end up here as soon as their quarry had turned onto Hammersley. He knelt down and pretended to tie his shoe as he waited for Dee to catch up with him. When his partner arrived, Ryo turned to him.
"Think we should try for a warrant?" he asked. "If that's what I think it is in the bag, we could nail Shaver and find out who he's working for."
"Nah, whatever's in that bag will be long gone by the time we get one and get back here. So what if it's inadmissible? What we need right now is information."
Ryo nodded in agreement and they walked side by side up the steps of the hotel. Several unkempt, lounging figures got up and hastily shambled off down the street as the two men entered the building.
Ryo glanced at Dee. "Guess we've got 'cop' written all over us," he muttered.
"I don't," Dee said. "It's all you, dude."
Ryo privately disagreed with that, but he wasn't about to waste time arguing. The desk clerk, a heavy, grizzled middle-aged man, was glaring at them pugnaciously. He had unshaven jowls and a pouty, red little mouth set incongruously between them.
"What the fuck do you want?"
Ryo slapped his badge on the counter and said, "The guy that just came in, Eddie Calvetti, what room is he in?"
"Officers, I'm gonna take a wild guess that you didn't walk in here with a warrant all signed and ready to go, did you?"
Dee's hand shot out and gripped a fistful of the man's greasy, stained shirt. "Listen asshole, just tell us the room number right now this fucking second unless you want to be arrested for obstruction AND have your business shut down for numerous violations of city bylaws," he snarled.
"I ain't in violation of no bylaws."
"Oh yeah? I could have sworn I saw the lights flicker just now. Betcha got some faulty wiring in the walls there. Whadda you think, Detective McLean?"
"Looks like this place might not be wired to code. If so, it's a firetrap."
Dee still hadn't let go of the desk clerk's shirt, and the man began to struggle and strain away from him.
"Officers, lemme go, goddammit. N-nothing wrong with the wiring here," he huffed.
"Let him go, Dee." Ryo turned back to the desk clerk. "I've got a friend in the building inspection department at City Hall," he informed him. "If you'd prefer not to get a visit from him, you'd better give us the room number right now."
"And the key too, if you don't wanna be replacing a busted door later," Dee added, cracking his neck and grinning as though the thought of kicking in a door seemed like fun.
With a look of resentment, the man slapped a key on the desk in front of them. "Two-seventeen," he snarled. "If you gotta take him in, try to save the police brutality shit for when you get outside, okay? I fucking hate cleaning blood off the carpets."
"You got it, boss," sneered Dee.
"If you give him a call to say that we're on our way up, I will personally make sure that the city closes your establishment for extensive repairs," Ryo warned him.
"Yeah, yeah, don't worry," grumbled the man dismissively as he fumbled for a cigarette. "Man, I hate you pigs. Think you can walk all over anyone."
The sudden loud rapping on the door startled Eddie. "Who-who is it?" he called.
"Manager," growled Dee in an imitation of the desk clerk's voice that was so uncannily accurate that Ryo stared at him for a moment.
"Uh...Just a minute, okay?"
"Emergency," Dee growled again. "Come on, right now!" But even as he said it, he was turning the key in the lock.
The door swung open to reveal Eddie and a skinny black hooker in a skimpy yellow dress in the act of stuffing several packages back into the paper bag.
"Shit!" exclaimed Eddie, and before Ryo and Dee could even open their mouths, he had dropped the bag, streaked across the room, and yanked open the window. This time Ryo was right behind him.
"Eddie, wait! You're not in trouble!" he cried, reaching for Eddie as the boy ducked through the open window. Unfortunately, the window had jammed and wouldn’t open wide enough to admit Ryo, who was not as small and thin as Eddie. They could hear him clattering noisily down the fire escape. Ryo finally forced the window open wide enough for him to get his shoulders through, but it was too late. One glance told him that he wasn't going to be able to catch Eddie now.
"He's gone, damn it," he swore and turned his attention to his surroundings. The small dirty room was piled high with junk, although there did seem to be a few items with resale value. Ryo thought he recognized the two laptops he'd seen the last time they had invited themselves into one of Eddie's domiciles. An unmade twin bed sporting greyish sheets was pushed up against one wall. The whole effect was depressing.
The young girl was staring at them with wide eyes. Well, one eye anyway. The other one was ringed with purple and swollen closed. It looked like someone, most likely her pimp, had done a number on her face. Her hands went up and she started backing away from the two detectives. Presently, she backed into the bed.
"I don't know nothin' 'bout nothin'," she said. "I don't even live here."
"Don't worry, hon," said Dee. "We're not after you. We weren't even after him." He jerked his thumb at the window. "We just wanted to talk, that's all."
"Well, scaring the shit out of a person is not the best way to start a conversation, now is it?"
"Sometimes, surprise is the only thing that works," Dee retorted, opening the bag. He whistled when he saw the contents. "Look at this, partner."
It was full of individual packages wrapped round with duct tape so as to obscure their contents.
Ryo nodded. "I knew it," he said.
"That's gotta be worth fifteen hundred right there."
Ryo looked hard at the girl. "Did you take any of this?"
"No way, sir, there weren't no time! You musta been right behind him. We was only looking inside the bag, that's all, and then bam, you guys come through the door." She wrapped her arms around herself and sat down on the bed.
Dee had fished out a smaller package. Unlike the others, this one was not protected by duct tape. It was a plastic bag full of coarse white powder. A label on the bag contained the word 'Yours'.
"'Yours'. That's his cut," Ryo said thoughtfully.
"Not much, is it?" Dee remarked. "That wouldn't last him more than a couple of days, maybe three if he was careful with it. Judging by the tracks we saw on him that other time, he really goes through the stuff."
"They must not have expected him to have all this for longer than a couple of days, then. Otherwise, he'd be dipping into the merchandise." Ryo sighed. "We really need to talk to that guy." He turned to Tamara who was watching them both cautiously. It was written all over her face that she was concerned they might want to take her back to the station for questioning.
"What's your name, Miss?"
"Uh, Tammy," she said.
"Have you known Eddie long?"
"Nah," she lied. "I just came home wit' him last night, that's all. I gotta be leaving soon."
"Well, if he comes back before you go, would you please tell him that we just want to ask him some questions about a friend of his." He handed her his business card, and she took it from him.
"Sure thing, Officer."
"And tell him we're sorry but we gotta take this stuff away," Dee added with a grin as he picked up the bag full of drugs.
"Oh, I'll tell him you're REAL sorry," she said, but her eyes were fixed on the bag, rather than Dee.
"Ready to go?" Dee asked Ryo, and received a nod in reply.
"Take care, Tammy," Ryo called as he and Dee exited the dingy room, leaving her behind.
Dee pitched the key back at the desk clerk on their way out. The man was forced to drop the beer he was drinking in his scramble to catch it.
"Fucking pigs!" he screamed after them.
Tamara, who had been leaning out the window, watched the two handsome plainclothes officers disappearing down the street. Why couldn't her customers ever look like that? She smiled ruefully, but quickly stopped when the action hurt her still-swollen lower lip. Why did she have to meet a couple of lookers like that when she herself was looking like hell? Life really was unfair. It was also too bad they had to take all that good stuff away with them before she and Eddie had had a chance to have a little party. But then they hadn't got it all, had they? She went over to the bed and fished out a little plastic bag from under the tangled sheets. There was a small label on it that said 'Yours'.
"Bless you, Eddie," she said to herself. "You always were a sweetheart."
Dee banged open the door of the fourth floor office he shared with Ryo, saying, "Good news, dude. Liz says--"
He stopped speaking when he realized Ryo was not at his desk. Again. He had barely had a chance to exchange two words with his partner since they had come back from the Westington. He was trying not to be paranoid, but it really did seem like Ryo, normally such a dedicated desk jockey, appeared to be avoiding him. He stepped across the hall to the CI room shared by Drake, JJ, Ted and Marty.
"Hey guys, have you seen Ryo?"
"Yeah, he was just here," said Drake. "He said he was going to get a coffee."
"Didn't he say he was going to the john?" asked Ted.
"No, YOU'RE the only one around here who thinks it's necessary to make an announcement whenever you go to the john," said JJ snappishly. He sprang up from his chair and hurried over to Dee. "I'll help you find him, Mr. Studly."
"No thanks, not urgent. Besides, don't you and Drake have an appointment?" Dee started edging away.
"Not until one o'clock, so I'm all yours till then," said JJ joyfully, taking back in a single bound all of the distance Dee had managed to put between them.
"Forget it, JJ. I'm just going back to wait for Ryo and make a few phone calls. Jesus, let go of my arm, would ya?" Dee tried to shake him off, but JJ just clung to his arm and more or less hugged it close to his body. "Drake! Call him off."
"Come on JJ, quit fooling around. I need your help over here," Drake said. "Can you get the Chief to sign off on this report and then fax this warrant over to the DA's office?"
JJ immediately let go of Dee and returned to Drake. He was still feeling a little guilty about yesterday. "Sure thing, partner," he said. "Anything for you! I'll be back soon. And don't worry, Dee. I'll keep my eyes open for Ryo on my travels." He disappeared out the door with the papers in his hand.
Dee didn't see Ryo again until almost noon, when his partner came in carrying a clipboard and wearing a thoughtful expression.
"Where have you been?" he demanded indignantly. "I was looking for you. I've been all alone with this damn boring paperwork for almost two hours with no one to talk to."
Ryo looked at him and frowned slightly. "Doesn't look like you made much of an impression on it," he remarked.
"Sure I did, but no thanks to you. Every time I needed to ask you a question, you weren't here."
"Well, I'm here now, but not for long because it's almost time for me to meet Drake for lunch. So if you have any questions for me, ask me quickly."
"Oh yeah, lunch with Drake," said Dee sulkily. "How could I forget?"
"How many of those files have you actually done?"
Dee flung an arm over the pile as though to forestall any investigation of that point and threw out a question of his own.
"Hey, if Drake's buying you lunch, can I buy you dinner?"
"Not tonight, sorry. I really need to talk to Bikky and I haven't been able to do that for the past couple of days since Thomas has been staying with us. But he'll be either going home with his parents or getting sent to a foster home after the meeting today. This will be my first opportunity since Sunday night to spend some time with B."
"Oh, hey, it was just a suggestion," said Dee casually, although he could feel his insides starting to knot up. "We can do dinner tomorrow or the next day."
"Sure, whatever," said Ryo abstractedly, as he pulled out a blank file and labeled it.
"Oh, I got some good news," Dee said, trying to swing Ryo's attention back toward him.
But Ryo just gave him the briefest of glances. "Oh?"
"Liz says that even though the lab is backlogged, she'll try to get us the results on that smack we brought in by tomorrow."
"Well, that's great news if it's true," murmured Ryo, who was transferring the contents of his clipboard into his newly labeled file. "But maybe she just said that to get rid of you so she could get back to work."
"Dude, I'm offended. I've been exerting myself to flirt with her all these months for times just such as these."
"No, you've been exerting yourself to flirt with her because you automatically enter 'flirt mode' whenever you encounter any female in a short skirt." Ryo picked up his jacket and headed for the door.
"Not true!" Dee called after him weakly. "Tight pants work too."
A couple of hours after his precipitate exit, cold and needing a fix, Eddie slunk back to the Westington. Surely those cops would have given up by now. But it was a certain bet that they would have taken the stuff he'd picked up that morning. Fuck. This was the latest shitty thing to happen in what was turning out to be quite a long run of bad luck. He didn't even want to think about what Mike would say. Eddie didn't believe that this particular pair of cops would have kept it for themselves, especially not the one that he knew to be Bikky's dad, although there were plenty who would. They had probably done the righteous thing and taken it back to the station where it would eventually get incinerated. Jesus. Just thinking about that made Eddie's hands shake worse. He had to somehow get a hold of another hit of something before too much more time had gone by, or he was soon going to be in a bad way.
He retrieved his key from the front desk clerk, who seemed to have the best part of a six pack inside him.
"You got away, eh? Pigs didn't catch you, huh?' The man laughed uproariously at the thought of the police being thwarted like that. Finally, he smacked the key down on the counter in front of Eddie and all laughter abruptly stopped.
"If the police come back here looking for you one more time, you're out. You got that? I can't have heat showing up here. They're bad for business."
"Yes sir," said Eddie meekly, retrieving the key and backing away. He took the stairs two at a time hoping against hope that Tamara would still be there and that she still had some of the junk he had given her earlier.
To his surprise, the door wasn't locked. He opened it cautiously and entered, calling out, "Tamara! Where are you, honey?" When he saw her lying on the bed, he felt a rush of relief. Thank God she hadn't left. She was just taking a nap.
"Come on, sweetie, wake up," he called softly, so as not to startle her, and then suddenly stopped, his hackles rising in alarm. He could smell vomit. She wasn't moving. Oh god, this was bad. He took another step closer. "T-Tamara?"
She lay on her side with her eyes and mouth open. There was puke everywhere. She wasn't breathing. Eddie felt tears prickling at the back of his eyelids while a million thoughts sprang into his head at once. He knew he ought to close the door, but he was afraid to be alone in the room with a dead body. He had to get the fuck away from here. But he had to pack up his stuff because it was worth money and it was all he had. He needed a hit real bad. Maybe the rest of the smack was somewhere on her person. Maybe she hadn't used it all. Jesus, he was going to get blamed for this, he just knew it. And actually, it was his fault. He had given her the drug she had OD'd on. If he hadn't brought her home with him, this never would have happened. When was he going to learn to stop meddling in other people's lives? He had been only trying to help and look what had happened to Tamara.
Eventually, he pulled himself together. He couldn't bring himself to touch her body, junk or no junk. He had to get out and he had to travel light, so most of his possessions were going to have to stay behind.
Having reached a decision, Eddie went into action. First he shut the still-open door of his room lest anyone passing by in the hall took it upon himself to peer in. Then he stepped to a random-looking pile of his stuff and shook a dusty, dark green backpack out from under it. Despite the appearance of disorder, Eddie always knew exactly where every one of his belongings was. He stuffed both of the laptops into the backpack, along with an extra battery and an adaptor. He added a sweater and some socks, a package of tea biscuits and a few more items he figured he could sell for quick cash. Next he dug out his tool box and hefted it experimentally. It was pretty heavy, but he hated to leave his tools behind. If worse came to worst, he could earn a bit of money by doing odd jobs with them. He decided to take them with him, but stash them somewhere safe as soon as possible. Almost ready to go, he took one last look around the room and checked his pockets. After all, if he forgot anything important, there would be no coming back here. He had his notebook in the inside breast pocket of his coat, his cell phone in the front right pocket—Where was his charger? He quickly fetched it from out of a knotted plastic grocery bag and shoved it into one of the pockets of his jacket. His hand came up and patted the reassuring lump made by a very old and ornate key that hung round his neck on a piece of strong string. If he could get to Queens before 5:30, he could use that key and stash some of his stuff. It was time to go. Eddie slung the backpack over his shoulder and vanished down the fire escape for the second time that day. His one thought was to disappear for a while. He didn't want to call Mike until he had had time to think. But it was going to be hard not to think about Tamara, whom he'd known since she was eight.
If anyone had noticed a skinny, scruffy young guy loping along the sidewalk with the tense, desperate look of a junkie in need of a fix, they would have dismissed the tears running down his face as mere tears of self-pity. No one would have guessed that he was trying his best not to think of a once-pretty girl in a yellow dress whom he had left lying cold and still in a pool of her own vomit.