Rating: No sex. Just plot. Read or pass.
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 find enough evidence to expose a crooked cop. 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.
Ryo, Dee, JJ, Bikky, Carol, Drake, Ted, Marty, the Chief, the Commissioner, Diana, Janet, Jim from the Bronx lab, B's friend Jim, and Carol's friend Liz are characters created by Sanami Matoh. (Apologies if I've left someone out!) All other characters are mine.
Author's notes: I would like to extend a big 'thank-you' to all the fans who have stuck with me for almost nine months! I'm doing this for all the Fake fans out there who felt as upset as I did when they came to the end of Volume 7 and couldn't stand to be parted from Dee and Ryo. By the way, I believe in a strong and equal Ryo and Dee.
Please read and review.
Thank you to BlueSimplicity, beta–wunderkind, for having the courage to slap me upside the head when needed. I made the changes you suggested and I agree with their necessity.
FAKE First Year Together: A New Day (May)
"Can you please make sure that the spinach and green peppers are hidden underneath the cheese and pepperoni?" Ryo asked the swarthy, middle-aged woman behind the counter at Sammy's Pizza.
She looked amused. "How old's the kid?"
"Thirteen." Ryo sighed. "And he doesn't like eating anything green."
"Well, there's nothing I can do about the spinach, but how about we change those green peppers to red? He might eat a couple by accident before he figures out they're vegetables." She chuckled sympathetically.
"Good idea! Thank you."
"Sure, hon. That’ll be fifteen dollars."
Ryo paid her and sat down at a window seat to wait the twenty minutes she had told him it would take before the pizza was ready. He looked at his watch and wondered what Dee was doing. He still felt bad about this morning. When they had been driving to the Bronx for their appointment with Ned Shaver, he had sat there thinking about what he had learned about the man's past and knowing he should tell Dee. And yet he hadn't opened his mouth. Why? Yes, of course he had been upset over the scene with Bikky at the breakfast table, and he had felt angry at Dee for seducing him...but he had to admit in all honesty that Dee wasn't really the one to blame. All Dee had done was look at him. He himself had taken it from there. And Dee was right -- the sex HAD been hot. He felt his face and body getting warm just from the memory of it. And if he was going to be honest, he should also admit to himself that the other reason he didn't tell Dee what he had learned about Shaver was a kind of professional jealousy that reared its head inside him every once in a while. Dee had once observed that although Ryo was a team player, he was competing with everyone at work. He had been right. Ryo did have a competitive streak. It was quiet, but it was there. Sometimes he felt resentful that he did most of the slogging and paperwork, only to have Dee come in at the end to share the glory. And more often than he liked, it was Dee who contributed the key piece of information that would clinch a case.
Everyone who worked with Dee in the CI Division seemed to think that he was a spontaneous, lucky type of cop who followed his gut on cases, whereas they saw Ryo as methodical and organized. Actually, the reverse was true. Ryo was the intuitive one and Dee, though lazy, actually had a very orderly and systematic approach to solving crimes. Dee also had an amazing memory for case details and Ryo had worked with him long enough to know that he was able to cross-reference hundreds of cases in his head, even though he often pretended not to remember things so that he wouldn't have to do much of the boring work. Ryo knew his own memory was not as good and that was why he relied on keeping extensive files and detailed records.
In weak moments, Ryo sometimes felt that Dee was a slightly better detective than he was, so therefore he had to work harder and longer in order to distinguish himself in his career. Accordingly, he sometimes tried to keep information to himself for just a little longer than he should. But Dee was right. A cop shouldn't withhold important case evidence from his partner. It led to mistrust and a lack of confidence and would in time affect the overall success of the team. He recalled just such a partnership in his old unit back when he was a patrol cop. Evan Mitchell and Mark Lesnik. They'd started off good together, but somewhere along the way something had occurred between them that destroyed their sense of trust and cooperation. Ryo had never found out what happened, but whatever it was had been sufficiently serious that the Captain had broken up their partnership and sent Mark to another precinct. He didn't think it was possible that such a thing could happen between himself and Dee. But then again, maybe he was presuming too much upon Dee's loyalty and devotion.
Just then, the neon light above Sammy's outside window chose that moment to come on and Ryo instinctively glanced up at it and then at the woman behind the counter, who was stacking pizza boxes. Had she switched it on? Perhaps it was set to switch on automatically when a certain depth of darkness was reached. Ryo gave his head a little shake at how easily he could be distracted and pushed it out of his mind. Having reached a resolution, he pulled out his cell phone and dialed Dee's number. No more withholding information from his partner, no matter what. He was never going to apologize of course, but that was beside the point. From now on he was turning over a new leaf. He would inform Dee ASAP whenever he had anything to report.
"Dee Laytner, Private Dick."
"Ha ha," said Ryo politely.
"Whaddaya mean, 'Ha ha'? Come on, admit it, you know you love it when I say the word dick."
Ryo was not about to admit to anything of the sort. "Well, you may be a detective," he said, "But you're not private. You're a public servant, just like the rest of us."
"Okay, you got me there. My brain and my sexy bod are on public display. But my dick? Well, that's private for you and you alone, baby."
"Dee, knock it off. Aren't you the slightest bit curious about why I'm calling?"
"Of course not. I know exactly why you're calling. You wanna talk about my dick and your dick and issues of privacy."
"Have you been drinking or something?"
"Absolutely not! I told the twerp to call if he wanted a ride, so I've been holding off, even though there's a nice cold six-pack in the fridge. I may be a little overly-caffeinated, though. Sorry 'bout that. Can't blame a guy for trying! I assume Bikky found Eddie?"
"Yeah," said Ryo, relieved that Dee was finally being serious. If his lover had said 'dick' one more time in that unduly direct but somehow irresistible voice of his, he would most likely have a problem standing up when they told him his pizza was ready.
"And Eddie confirmed Abernathy?"
"Yeah," Ryo said again, "But it's all off the record so far. Eddie's not crazy about meeting us. He doesn't exactly trust the police."
"Can't really blame him, can we?"
"What the hell kind of vegetable is this?" Bikky held up a piece of red pepper and glared at it in distaste.
"Um, looks like an irregular slice of pepperoni to me," Ryo lied through a mouth full of pizza.
"Yeah, right. Nice try, Ryo." Bikky flung it back into the box. "Hey, I'm gonna get some more juice. You want another glass of that fancy water?"
"Please," said Ryo, handing the boy his glass and trying not to smile. Bikky was really going out of his way to be accommodating tonight, and Ryo was enjoying the change from his son's usual challenging and irascible behavior. This was almost —almost— like the old days.
When Bikky had returned and plunked down a full glass of Perrier in front of Ryo, he asked, "So, how much trouble is Eddie in, anyway?"
"A lot," answered Ryo grimly, figuring Eddie had probably discussed the matter with him. "How much did he tell you?"
"A lot," the boy repeated carefully. "But I think I only heard one side of the story. So how bad is it?"
"As bad as you can get. I think someone tried to stage an OD with him as the victim. That person may try again. "
Bikky slowly, and with a look of great concentration, tugged another piece of red pepper out from under the cheese on his pizza.
"He doesn't think it's quite like that," he finally said. "He thinks Tamara's death was an accident."
Ryo met Bikky's eyes steadily. "I disagree," he said. "I hope that person doesn't make another attempt, but I believe there's a real good chance he will. But at least now Eddie has been warned. He thought Tammy OD'd, so he ran from the police. Now, whether he believes it or not, at least he's been told that's not how it was. It wasn’t just a random OD; she was killed with a drug that was intended for him. So I hope he stays out of sight for a while if he won't let us take him into protective custody." Ryo took a sip of his water and added, "Thanks for going to find him. I feel better now that I know he's had a warning."
"Me too, if it's as bad as that," Bikky mumbled and took a savage bite of his pizza.
Detective Ned Shaver stood at the bottom of the subway steps and forced his eyes to focus. Getting up them was going to require balance and focus, not to mention a tremendous physical effort, when all he wanted to do was lie down right here among the cigarette butts and the litter and let sleep overtake him. What a fucking day. First those two detectives from the 27th came by to drop a bombshell in the middle of his life, and then Andrea had been looking at him funny for the rest of the day. He was sure she knew something, the bitch. And speaking of bitches, Sheila had called screaming about money. The child support check had bounced again. He'd had a feeling that would happen after he paid that six-hundred-dollar bill from the mechanic. But a man had to have wheels, especially for doing the moonlighting necessary for paying the fees at his kid’s special school. What a fucking cow his ex-wife was. He couldn't imagine why he had ever married her in the first place. She had fooled him, of course, with her pretty hair and her laughing eyes, cleverly concealing her shrewish nature until it was too late. He had every intention of paying her, as the money was supposed to be for Kevin after all, but she was just going to have to wait a little later than usual this month. She could bitch all she liked, but the tribulations of the years had turned him into a man of stone. There was no more blood left in him.
He took a deep breath and started up the steps, his head swimming with whiskey and bitterness. Halfway up, his ears registered the arrival of another train below him and the sound of it disgorging its passengers. He heard their footsteps and their chattering voices, as they came up the stairs behind him. Dammit, he hoped nobody pushed or shoved, since he was none too steady on his feet. Suddenly there were bodies pushing past him, bumping him against the banister. "Get outta the way, old man!" somebody snarled and elbowed him in the ribs. In a matter of seconds they had all gone past him, and his resentful glance after them showed him the backs of men in suits, women in spring coats, young people in fashionable jeans. All of them in a hurry, all of them with places to go. Fuck, if this wasn't the story of his life-- always getting left in the dust by the people who'd been born with some luck in this fucked-up world.
It wasn't until he let himself into his dusty little third-floor apartment a couple of blocks away that he realized his handgun was no longer on his person. That couldn't be. Not again. Disbelievingly, his hand clumsily patted the empty holster. God damn it. Where had the blasted thing gone? Had he taken it out? He was sure he hadn't. He forced his muddled brain to concentrate. It had still been there when he was drinking at Dolph's. The feel of it against his side had given him a sense of reassurance when he had been taking a piss next to a freaky-looking guy in the men's room. But after that...he didn't know. How could he tell the lieutenant he had lost his piece twice in the same month? Jesus, what a day this had been.
"Are you sure you're done?" asked Ryo, picking up the pizza box. "There's a couple of slices left."
"Nah, I'm full. But I could take 'em for lunch tomorrow. That way you don't have to make me a lunch," Bikky offered.
Ryo decided that he might as well take advantage of Bikky's conciliatory mood while it lasted.
"B," he began. "About last night...There are a couple of things I'd like to talk to you about."
Bikky looked uncomfortable. "Okay then. Might as well get it out in the open."
"First of all, I just want to get you to clarify something for me, something you said when we talked last night, you know, before I went out on that call? When I said I felt bad about you having trouble at school because I was involved with another man, YOU said that was nothing new and that it had been going on for years. That kind of went over my head at the time, but later I thought about it and wondered what you meant."
"Oh, that. Well, brace yourself, Ryo, but my friends have been under the impression you were gay almost from the beginning."
"What?" Ryo was stunned. "But--but...how? Why?"
"Well, think about it. You and dork-head were always together, like, all the time, just the two of ya, no women, no girlfriends. Well, 'cept for that Meredith of course, but I always knew she wouldn't last," he added.
"But we WORK together! We have to spend time together, especially when we do overtime."
"Yeah, but even when you had time off, he was here sleepin' overnight or you were over at that orphanage with him, or you guys were grocery shopping or hitting the gym together. That cockroach has practically been stuck to you like glue for the past two years." Bikky sighed. "I knew he would eventually turn you gay," he said. "But I couldn't get rid of him."
"But he was--IS--my best friend! Can't a man have a best friend without everyone thinking he's gay?"
"I got best friends too, but they don't put the moves on me. And if they did, they know I'd deck 'em, and that would be that. And THAT'S the difference between you and a straight guy."
Ryo was stunned. He sat in silence for a moment, watching the bubbles gently rise in his Perrier, and then tried again. "I decked the Commissioner for putting the moves on me..."
"Yeah, but never the dorkhead. And it was obvious, Ryo."
"I really didn't know. I don't know what to say." His brow furrowed in confusion. "So if all your friends already thought I was gay, then what was that fight about?"
"Well, for years, it was like, 'Your dad is gay, right?' and I was like, 'No he's not, he's straight.' It was only after I stopped denying it that Brody thought he saw his way in. I don't think he even gave a crap about the subject, he just wanted to challenge me and make a name for himself. I've had way more fights about you being a cop, by the way," Bikky added nonchalantly.
"WHAT?" exclaimed Ryo yet again. "So it's a bad thing that your dad is a cop?"
"The kids at school always acted like I was gonna go tattling to you if they did anything even slightly illegal, like graffiti or smoking. 'Bik the Narc,' they called me. And none of my old friends from the neighborhood trusted me after I started living with a cop. Cops and whoever is hustling something on the street are always gonna be natural enemies. They look at cops and only think of the bad ones. They got no idea that a cop can be a good guy, that he can be honest, that he might actually be helpin' people." Bikky felt a little embarrassed. He hadn't meant to say that. Where the hell had that come from? But Ryo was looking kind of happy, so maybe it was okay.
"Do you still get into fights about that?" Ryo asked him.
"No, not really. It's all been settled now. Nobody disses you to my face, at least. And you don't have to worry about the fighting, you know. It's pretty rare nowadays. I already established a rep and most people know not to mess with me. And don't worry, I'm really not gonna do anything stupid. If I get injured, I won't be able to play basketball, will I?"
"That's true. I'm glad you realize that. What about if they call you 'a naturally blond jungle monkey'?"
"Oh, I get that a lot." Bikky waved a dismissive hand. "I'm a bona fide oreo: too white for the homeys, too black for the honkies. I don't give a crap what they say anymore. Anyhow, that's only dissin' ME. I can hold off from fighting when it's only me."
Ryo wondered if he was really as indifferent as he claimed. He would have liked to go further with that subject, but then Bikky fidgeted and started to get up.
"So, uh...we done talking?" Looking hopeful, Bikky glanced towards his room.
"No, unfortunately, we're not." When Ryo sighed and his face grew pink, Bikky knew what was coming and he cringed inwardly. Lovey-dovey jackrabbit time, he thought. Crap.
"About the noise last night...I guess I didn't realize at the time how loud it was and how...awful it was for you to have to listen to," Ryo said and then paused, looking unhappily at a spot on the floor a little to the left of his foster-son.
Bikky suddenly couldn't stand to see Ryo looking ashamed. It tore at his heart in a way that he didn't understand, and he felt the same regret that had assailed him at the breakfast table come rushing back to douse him again.
"Now come on, cut it out! Don't look all embarrassed like that. I feel bad about this morning. I wish I'd a-kept my mouth shut, really I do. But...But you gotta understand...It sounded like a--a porno movie...except more real. Shit." Now Bikky looked away, equally embarrassed.
"I'm truly sorry, Bikky," Ryo said simply, and forced himself to look his son in the eye. Somehow it was a much harder thing to do than facing a hardened criminal with a loaded gun.
"It's okay, I'm over it. Well, almost. And -- and I want you to be happy. I said it before and I still mean it. I know you love him and all, but can't you...maybe... do it at Dee's place from now on?"
"I've already told Dee that's how it should be," he said. "Of course I can't promise absolutely that you won't hear any noises at all from the bedroom in the future, but believe me when I tell you that I never want to have this conversation again." The corner of his mouth moved as though to smile.
Bikky grinned. "Well, that makes two of us," he said. "Are we friends again?"
Ryo held out his arms. "We never stopped being friends."
The boy gave him a slightly awkward hug, but affection and good humor had effectively been restored between them, and for that, Ryo was grateful. So, he suspected, was Bikky. But as a result of their conversation, he now had a lot to think about. If Bikky's friends all knew he was gay, and according to Drake, several surrounding precincts thought his whole division was gay, was there anyone left out there who might still think of him as straight? He had been hoping to stay in the closet for the time being, but now he felt as though someone had removed the door and carried it away when he wasn't looking.
Trying not to think of his throbbing head, Detective Shaver picked up the phone and hesitated. Mike had warned him not to speak to those two bastards over at the 27th. With a slight shudder, he recalled his conversation with Lt. Abernathy over coffee at Starbucks the evening before, and quickly put the phone down.
"The important thing, Ned, my good friend, is not to panic." The Lieutenant's gimlet eyes had bored into his. It was funny how Mike's hard eyes and smiling mouth always seemed to be contradicting each other.
"Hard not to be concerned," Ned had replied. "They've already done a fair bit of digging. My nuts are on the line here."
"They just got lucky, that's all. They don't have any hard evidence. No warrant for the delivery, no proof really, that it was you. The only weak link in our little chain is a certain dope-addled young fella we both know. But I'll take care of him, never you mind."
Although Mike had said it in a fatherly kind of way, Ned had felt a subtle undercurrent of something less than paternal.
"Take care of him -- how?" he asked, taking a quick swig of his coffee and eyeing Mike curiously.
"What's with the look, there, Neddie? It's nothing so scary as you might be thinking! I've got it in mind to send our young friend out of state for awhile, that's all. He's my top seller after all, and I'm hoping to get a few more years of work out of him before he finally dies of AIDS or something quicker."
Ned had hunched his shoulders and steeled himself to say, "Like a hefty dose of something deadly in his usual hit?"
"Now, now, now!" Mike had protested. "You canna be thinking that was any doing of mine. Why, I'm not in a position to test everything that's brought to me. I could hardly have known about the fentanyl that killed Karl's young lady-friend. Do you think I've a lab in my home? As soon as I learned what had happened, I immediately destroyed the rest of that particular batch." He clucked sadly and his reproachful gaze captured Ned's for a moment. "There's no trust left in this world. No appreciation of a man's honor."
"Whatever you say, Mike," Ned had replied quickly, eyes down on his coffee as he stirred it for the hundredth time. "I'm sorry if I offended you."
"Apology accepted, my good sir. I can see those two fairies from the 27th have got you rattled six ways to Sunday. But believe me when I tell you, they've no jurisdiction to investigate you. This is a matter for IA." He tapped the counter and smiled triumphantly. "And I hold the winning cards in THAT particular game."
"But you've already investigated me once," Ned said nervously. "I don't think your team will be able to do it again."
"Never you mind what I can and can't do," Mike had replied with the utmost of confidence. "The main point I want you to get through your Nervous Nellie head, my boyo, is 'Do not talk to Detectives Laytner and Mclean'. It'll spell your ruin if you do. Just leave everything to Uncle Mike, and keep your mouth shut. Got that?"
"Sure Mike, I got it. I just hope to God you're sure about this."
And after that, he had felt reassured. So much so, in fact, that he had gone and drunk himself into a rare state of inebriation, because no matter how reassuring Mike had tried to be, there was something about the senior officer's manner that gave him pause. And he was not the 'Nervous Nellie' that Mike had accused him of being. Detective Shaver knew he was as tough as they came. A poverty-stricken boyhood in one of the tougher neighborhoods in the Bronx that included a couple of years in Juvenile Hall, followed by a stint in the navy and a few bad years with the bottle before he had managed to turn his life around had cured him forever of any fears of pain or adversity that he might have come into this world with. And when Sheila walked into his life, for the first time he felt that all of the sorrow, the struggling and the misery had been worthwhile because they had forged him into the kind of man who could be loved by a beautiful and vibrant woman like her. He felt expunged of his sins, cleansed of the stains of the past, worthy of a new beginning. At least until the first time he had disappointed her. It had gone rapidly downhill after that, but by then they were already married and Kevin's imminent arrival was being trumpeted abroad by his mother and hers. If it hadn't been for Kevin, neither of them would have hung on for as long as they did. He sighed angrily and passed a rough hand over his eyes. Love was a sticky illusion, that was for sure. So was self-respect. Everything depended upon the spin you were able to put on it. But there always came a time when the old spins stopped working and the new spin just laughed contemptuously in your face. What could a man do then?
He pulled open his desk drawer and popped the lid off a bottle of ibuprophen. The three he had downed earlier didn’t seem to be making much of an impression on his aching head. He swallowed a couple more with a gulp of cold coffee and looked at his shaking hands in disgust. This was a doozy of a hangover. Kind of fitting, actually, since he was in a doozy of a fix. And on top of that, imagine getting drunk and losing his handgun a second time. The first time it had happened, he had accepted that it could have perhaps been a random act. This time, no. Maybe he should call Mike and tell him about it. Or maybe not. Between Mike's expectations of him and those of the Stone Blood Boys, he felt he was being slowly backed into a corner. He had very little left to lose at this point, but he still had hopes of being able to get back into the navy, that is, if Mike could be persuaded to lay off on his opposition to that idea. Perhaps it was finally time to back another horse.
He reached for the phone again.
"Dee, I've had enough. Stop looking at me like that."
"Like what?" Dee made sure to inject his voice with just the right combination of innocence and indignation.
"Don't you 'Like what' me. You've been staring at me for the last ten minutes like you're a hungry dog and I'm a--a steak slathered in barbeque sauce."
"Barbeque sauce! Dude, what a fantastic idea. I've never done that, have you?"
"Dee, I mean it. Stop undressing me with your eyes and do some actual work." Ryo's brows met in disapproval over his beautiful, but stern features.
Dee grinned lazily at him. Ryo was getting pissy, which he always found irresistible. Dee's frank appraisal of the other man’s physical attributes was making his partner feel self-conscious, annoyed, and slightly sexy when he wanted to be in worker-ant mode. However, Dee knew that deep, deep down, some naughty part of Ryo actually liked it. But not so whenever it was Commissioner Rose who was looking him over, he recalled with satisfaction. Like Dee, the Commissioner was aware of this difference, and occasionally Dee couldn't resist shooting him a smirk that basically said "Ha!"
"Well, I'll try," Dee said to Ryo. "But I was just getting ready to stop when you had to go and mention barbeque sauce, so now I'm afraid we have to let that fantasy run its course."
"We don't have to do anything of the kind. You should just turn around and face your own desk and think about something else, like that list of people you ought to be calling back and also what the hell you did with the Hastings file from last summer, which Ted was asking for yesterday." Ryo gestured bossily with the pen he had been making notes with, and Dee's grin just got a little wider and more wolfish as he thought about how very much he wanted to conquer his partner's adorably highhanded attitude with kisses and caresses. He knew he could do it, but getting permission was always nine-tenths of the battle. Too bad he wasn’t feeling confident enough to risk a pounce.
"Or," Ryo added, interrupting what had been shaping up to be a beautiful fantasy, "You could start thinking about what you're going to say to Detective Shaver when he calls."
"Yeah, right. Like that bastard would call ME. And I don't think we're going to hear from him until Sunday at the earliest, if at all. He's not the type that scares easily-- too stupid and too stubborn. Besides, that fuckwad's gonna need some time to cook up a nice little--"
Just then the phone on Dee's desk rang and Ryo said, "That's him; I'm sure of it. Say hello, Dee."
"Detective Laytner," Dee growled, snatching up the phone. Suddenly his whole demeanor changed. "Detective Shaver! How ya doing?" He stared wide-eyed at Ryo, who just nodded and sat waiting.
"Uh yeah," Dee said into the phone. "So, uh...Are you just calling to shoot the breeze, or can I start looking forward to getting away from all this damn paperwork to have a drink with you?""
Ryo couldn't quite hear what Shaver was saying, but he didn't need to, as he was able to pick up the gist of it from Dee's side of the conversation.
Dee was scribbling something down. "Do what we can...Get some good terms...Yup, I know the place. Had a drink there once with Jim, one of your lab guys. Crappy food but cold beer...Okay. I'm good for six, and my partner too..." He glanced at Ryo, who nodded. "Yes, of course...We're more interested in the other guy than you, anyway. And we want info, naturally. See you then."
Hanging up the phone, Dee turned around and asked, "How the hell do you DO that?"
Ryo shrugged. "I don't know," he said simply.
Dee gave him a wondering look. This had happened many times before. Sometimes a random bit of information would trigger some kind of intuitive leap in Ryo, and he was pretty nearly always right.
"Anyway, he wants to meet us at six, at a bar called Bender's, a few blocks from the 51st. Maybe he's ready to spill."
Ryo looked thoughtful. "It's you he wants to meet, not me. I think you'll get more out of him if I'm not there."
"Huh? What the hell are you talking about? He thinks I'm an asshole, and he's picked up on the fact that the feeling is mutual. YOU'VE been reasonably respectful toward him, though. I ain't gonna get jack shit from him without you there."
"No, that's where you're wrong. He relates to you, not me. Besides, if I go, it's gonna feel more like two against one and he'll be more on his guard."
"Ryo..." Dee tried again. "Do you remember that the Chief told us not to blow it? We've got a better chance of not blowing it if we meet him together."
"Look, would you just trust me on this one? You're the guy he's going to confide in, and I'll just be in the way. I've got a very strong feeling that something new has happened to scare him. I don't know what it is, but I don't think he would have called, otherwise."
"Well, he didn't say so..."
"We'll find out tonight, won't we? Care to place a bet?" Ryo's eyes sparkled at Dee.
"Uh, no thanks," said Dee, having lost money to Ryo in this way before. His experience with his partner had taught him that while Ryo would sometimes take a bet, he never proposed one unless he was absolutely sure of winning.
"Okay, so that's settled then. Let's get back to work." Ryo glanced up at the clock on the wall. "Six o'clock is a long way away, and we ought to be able to get a lot done if we pace ourselves. We have to take Drake and JJ's calls, of course, as well as our own, but I think if we work as a team and BOTH keep our noses to the grindstone, we can get most of it finished," Ryo said firmly.
"Yes sir, Mr. Drill Sergeant, SIR," Dee replied sarcastically. "My nose and the grindstone are on kissing-cousin terms, and speaking of kis--"
"Forget it. Work. I've prepared a list for you in case you get distracted." He slapped a piece of paper down on Dee's desk. "I'm going for lunch now. I'll see you in half an hour."
"Lunch! Wait, I'm hungry too. Lemme come with you."
"Not a chance. You've only been here for 45 minutes. Call those damn witnesses and line up some appointments. I'll be back soon." Ryo gathered up a small pile of files and picked up his blazer from the back of his chair. Slinging it over his shoulder, he exited their shared office without a backward look.
Dee wasted a moment glaring after that elegantly clad and rapidly disappearing back, and then shook his head, amazed once more by Ryo's instincts. Somehow his partner had known that Shaver was going to call, and that, incongruously, considering their earlier behavior toward each other, it would be Dee that he wanted to speak to. Now he was saying that Shaver had some new problem that had frightened him enough to actually call them, and even though they had absolutely nothing to base that idea on, Dee had a gut feeling that Ryo was going to turn out to be right.
He looked at the list Ryo had made for him, and his face softened. Not just in his personal life, but also in terms of his career, the day Ryo had been assigned to him as his partner was the luckiest day of his life. Dee knew in his heart that he was good at his job. But he had had a string of partners he hadn't gotten along with. They couldn't adapt to the way that he worked and they weren't patient enough. He couldn't make himself fit their working styles either. It was Ryo who had steadied and brought out the best in him. They balanced each other and highlighted each other's strengths. Except for those times when Ryo acted like he was saddled with an unreliable partner, which Dee could hardly blame him for. After all, where was he when Ryo was putting both of their file sets away and writing 90% of the reports for cases they had worked on together? Where was he when Ryo was composing apology letters for trouble that he, Dee, had gotten them into? Flirting with the girls on the front desk, that's where. Out in the yard telling dirty jokes to the uniforms or playing practical jokes on the lab and records staff. He felt the sour taste of guilt in his mouth as he savagely pulled out a cigarette and lit it. At least he was better now than he had been before. Ryo could, to a certain point anyway, manipulate him into pulling his weight. But he wished he could be as good a cop as his partner.