Pairing: Dee/ Ryo
Rating: Worksafe. There's always swearing, however.
Spoilers: To Volume 7
Timing: Set in May, directly after book 7 ended
Summary: Ryo is coming to terms with his new sexual identity, as well as the changes in his relationship with Dee. 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 Fake or any of the characters created by Sanami Matoh. Detective Shaver is mine however, along with Detectives Mitchell, Palmer, Chang, Austen, Fowler and Greenspan. Captain Pete Dory is also mine, along with Lieutenant Guerrero. I have not based these characters on any living person.
Author's notes: I believe that in real life the fire site may have been too hot for the arson investigators to start sifting through debris as early as the next morning, but just like the liberties I took with the speed (or slowness) of CSI work and lab results, I have speeded up the investigative process in the interests of keeping the story moving.
I also don't know if Brooklyn's Greenwood Cemetery has a special area for impoverished Catholics or not. Many Catholic communities seem to be able to offer Catholic burials for those who died penniless. I'm also aware that the era of casket burials is coming to an end in NYC, and in fact, most cities or regions that have too many people and not enough land. However, I wanted an old-fashioned casket burial for this story, so I went ahead and wrote one anyway.
I have made JJ's hair white blond so that he can have the option of dying it blue or pink or whatever he wants. I just can't believe he has naturally blue hair!
Thank you to mtemplar , Moontatoo and LadyFeather for all that awesome beta-ing
Fake First Year Together: A New Day (May)
Just as Ryo and Dee were getting ready to leave their office, there was a knock on the door. Drake stood there, holding Dee's big bouquet of flowers with an apologetic expression on his face.
"Oh, hey, my funeral flowers. Thanks, man."
"No problem, dude. Helen sent 'em up. Are you guys on your way out?"
"Yeah," said Ryo, "and I'm afraid we're in a hurry. See you later, Dra - "
"Just a sec." Drake moved to block their progress, looking more sheepish than ever. "Any chance you can spare a quick word for JJ before you go? He's kinda...goin' through the tissues in there." With a jerk of his head he indicated the CI room a couple of doors down the hall.
"Aw, man." Dee appeared chagrined.
Ryo tried not to let his exasperation show. He well knew that Drake had a soft spot for JJ's little drama-queen moments, although his own personal opinion was that that JJ had been indulged too much in this regard.
Dee glanced at Ryo inquiringly and Ryo looked pointedly at his watch.
"Come on," said Drake. "Just fifteen seconds of friendliness. You know how sensitive he is, and I can't get any work outta him while he's in this condition."
Drake watched them carefully. Ted had been hinting at something between these two - what? He saw Dee look at Ryo again, clearly leaving the decision to him. Ryo was still hesitating, and there was a brief flash of what looked like resentment in his eyes when he returned Dee's gaze. Finally, he gave Dee a minute nod and Dee turned back to Drake.
"Okay, what the hell. But no hugging or attacking or touchy-feely shit! I'm holding you personally accountable, dude. And just fifteen seconds because we really gotta go."
"Thanks. Come on, then."
JJ was blowing his nose wetly on a tissue as they entered. When he raised his tear-streaked face and saw who his visitors were, a fresh flood of tears filled his eyes. Ryo felt a small, mean-spirited sense of satisfaction at the sight of the younger man's woebegone features. In his opinion, JJ had not been entirely without fault in his shameless, self-centered instigation of that secret breakfast meeting with Dee earlier. Ryo instantly felt guilty for having such thoughts, however. After all, as far as JJ knew, Dee was a single, unattached guy who had not been claimed by anyone. Ryo dutifully tried to summon up some sympathy for his co-worker.
"H-hi guys," JJ ventured in a creaky voice. "I'm sorry if I was bugging you back there...Ryo, you're always reminding me that I ought to knock f-first, but I never remember until..." Drake handed him another tissue, and he pressed it against his eyes for a moment before continuing... "until someone gets mad at me. So, I'm really, really sorr -"
Dee cut him off. "JJ, dude, just switch off the waterworks okay? We came to apologize for yelling at you back there, but we're late for a funeral so we don't have time for long speeches."
"You came to apologize? To ME? B-but - "
"Yeah. We were having a bad morning and your timing kinda sucked. But we're all still friends, right?"
A brilliant smile lit JJ's face, and his tears seemed to dry like magic. "Always, Dee-sempai! And you too, Ryo! I can't believe you guys came to apologize to me, even though everything was all my fault." He sprang to his feet and came around his desk toward them with his arms held wide. "GROUP HUG!"
Drake immediately intercepted him before he could reach an alarmed Ryo and Dee, both of whom were already backing away. "JJ, they've gotta leave right now," Drake said, hoping the other two men would be able to get the hell out of there before JJ got away on him. "But I'd really like a hug..." He wrapped his strong arms around JJ and held him immobile.
"Oh Drakey, just what I needed..." JJ sighed, and pressed his body against his partner's, nuzzling happily against his chest and clinging to his broad back.
"Aw man!" Ted groaned as he walked through the door with a fresh cup of coffee. "Just when the rumors about this place start to die down a little! I gotta get a transfer or I'll never get my hands on a female again."
As Dee and Ryo passed the Chief's office, Leona quickly stepped out to deliver a message that the Chief wanted to see them that afternoon at two o'clock sharp.
"Can you ask him if 2:30 is okay?" Ryo didn't stop; he merely slowed down. "We want to swing by the fire scene after the funeral."
"If it's not okay, I'll ring your cell phone," she called after them.
"Is your car nearby?" Ryo was hurrying down the front steps and Dee was trying to keep up with him, while lighting a cigarette. It took a bit of coordination.
"Yeah, just one street over. I couldn't get a spot in the lot today."
"It's nine-twenty. Do you think we can get to my place in twenty minutes?"
"We can get to your place in ten minutes if you don't mind a bit of creative driving."
"No thanks. Twenty minutes will be fine. I'd rather be late for Eddie's funeral than early for my own! Let's see, you've taken care of the flowers so we don't need to pick any up... I'm already dressed, but I bet Bikky hasn't even taken the dry cleaners' plastic off his suit yet. Oh, did you pick up your black suit?"
"Uhh... not exactly. You see, we all got a little busy there when I wasn't expecting it."
"What? Dee we don't have enough time to go get your suit now! You're going to have to wear the grey one that we brought from your place on Sunday night."
"Sure, whatever. It's too light for a funeral, but no one's gonna put my picture in the paper, right? Can I at least borrow your black shirt to wear with it?"
"Why do you always have to borrow my shirts? You treat my closet like an extension of your own! And by the way - isn't that my tee-shirt you're wearing?"
Dee looked mock-guilty. "Busted."
"I could've sworn I put it in the laundry hamper. Did you fish it out of there?"
"Dee, I don't understand you. If you were going to borrow one of my shirts without asking, why wouldn't you at least choose a clean one?"
Dee pulled up the front of the tee-shirt and pressed it to his nose. "This one smells like you."
Ryo felt his face getting warm and quickly averted his eyes. "I'm sure it smells quite gross."
"Nah, it smells fabulous. Especially in the pit area."
"Dee! For Pete's sake, don't do that right on the street. That's so embarrassing! Don't you have any shame?"
Dee considered that question for a moment. "Not much. When you're a hot-looking bastard like me, you can get away with practically anything." He grinned incorrigibly at Ryo. "There's the car. You wanna drive?"
"Nope. It's June now. My month at the wheel is over."
"Hot damn! That's right, too. Well, it was nice having a chauffeur for the month of May, but I'll be glad to start driving around at normal speeds again."
"You mean illegal speeds."
"Whatever you wanna call it, 'grandma'. By the way - " He unlocked the door and tossed the flowers over the roof of the car to Ryo. "These are for you."
"Huh? I thought you said they were for the funeral." Ryo was almost hidden behind the huge bouquet.
"Nah, just those six lilies tucked into the side. The rest are for you. Because your partner is sometimes an idiot."
Feeling embarrassed and pleased, Ryo stood for a moment, almost unconsciously clasping the flowers to himself, and thinking Your partner can be an idiot, too, but he certainly didn't say that out loud. Instead, he grinned slowly at Dee, and said, "Yeah, but he's my idiot, isn't he?"
"Bikky, I don't know why you're making such a fuss. Nobody wears shorts and a tee-shirt to a funeral, even if the tee-shirt is black."
"Eddie wasn't a 'suit' kind of guy! He wouldn't recognize me dressed like this. It seems fake for me to show up at his funeral looking like an overdressed doofus."
Ryo sighed in exasperation. "Trust me, you'll look like more of a doofus if you don't wear a suit. What's the big deal? Look, Thomas is wearing a suit."
"Lookin' good, Thomas." Dee gave him a thumbs up, and the boy smiled and preened himself slightly.
"That's 'cause his dad made him," Bikky scoffed, folding his arms mutinously.
"Oh, really?" Ryo stood up and towered over him. "Well, guess what, B? Your dad is making you wear one, too."
"That's enough! You've got ten minutes or we're all going without you." Ryo thrust the suit into his son's arms and gave him a push in the direction of his bedroom.
"I'll help." Carol slid off her perch on the arm of the overstuffed chair Thomas was sitting in.
"Uh...me too!" Thomas stood up quickly.
"No way, suit-boy!" Bikky pointed a finger at him. "Three's a crowd when I'm takin' off my clothes."
Thomas seemed a little confused. "But I've seen you in the locker room at the basketball game!"
Dee put a hand on Thomas' shoulder. "Say, let's get a dab of polish on your shoes, huh? Bein' a sharp-dressed man is all in the details, kid."
"Sure, Dee." Thomas followed him to the kitchen, glad for a bit of masculine advice.
Ryo looked anxiously at his watch. Why did no one seem to have any concept of time or punctuality except him? Even Carol had shown up later than usual today. At least Dee had gotten dressed relatively quickly, an ability no doubt refined through many years of waking up late for work.
Just as Ryo was thinking that maybe he could grab two minutes to himself, Dee yelled from the kitchen that he couldn't find the shoe polish. It sounded like he was pulling things out of drawers and tossing them onto the floor.
Ryo sighed, wondering if the day would ever come when this bunch could do things without him. And without making a mess. "Okay, I'll find it, Dee. You just go down and get the mail, okay? It should be here by now." Ryo took the mailbox key off its hook on the wall and handed it to his partner.
Bikky glowered at his reflection. He looked like a total dork. If Eddie could see him right now, he'd be laughing his ass off. The only good thing about this whole experience was that Carol had been like his personal handmaiden while he was getting dressed, and now she was choosing a tie for him. He really didn't want to wear a tie, but she had already said she'd put it on for him, which meant she would be standing really close to him, pretty well kissing distance. He wasn't sure if he was going to try to kiss her again, especially since his last attempt, on the night of Ryo's goofy lecture about fighting his own battles, hadn't gone down so well. He wondered what Eddie would advise, if he were there. In earlier years, Eddie had often been a source of good advice.
Almost like magic, he heard Eddie's voice in his head. Go for it, little brother. But be a gentleman.
Then Carol was standing in front of him, frowning. "Bikky, I can't believe you have only two ties! And they're both ugly. I wonder if we could borrow one of Ryo's?"
"Nah," said Bikky quickly, not wanting to lose the moment. "Just put that striped one on me."
"All right," she said, looping it around his neck, and standing close. "But I think it looks like a school tie."
"So I look like a refugee from a Catholic school?" He grinned at her, and she smiled back at him. She seemed about to say something, but then she closed her mouth and her eyes darted involuntarily to his lips. Bikky raised a hand to her shoulder. It was now or never.
Suddenly there was a series of loud and rapid bangs on the door, causing the young pair to spring guiltily apart. Perv-man's voice was shouting something, and all Bikky knew at that moment was that he wanted to kill him. Slowly.
He stalked to the door and yanked it open. "What the hell are you yapping about, asshole?"
Dee thrust a large, battered-looking yellow envelope at Bikky's chest. "Special delivery. That porno you ordered finally arrived. 'Wild Girls of Waikiki'. Or is it 'Whale Girls?' I didn't look too closely. But make sure you show it to Carol. There's nothing more romantic than looking at porn together." He smirked at both of them and disappeared back to the kitchen.
"What the fuck?" Bikky looked anxiously at the envelope, before realizing that he'd been had. He wouldn't have put it past that loser-moron to set him up with some kind of plus-size lingerie catalogue.
"What is it and who's it from?" Carol was looking suspiciously at the package, a larger than average envelope, heavily taped, and stamped.
"Dunno. Who cares? I'm kinda busy right now."
"I can't believe you don’t care." She took it from him and turned it over. "Hmm. No return address. How mysterious! Are you going to open it?"
At that particular point in time, Bikky couldn't have cared less about the package. His mind was on getting Carol back into position for a possible kiss. Taking the envelope from her, he tossed it into a corner of the room. "Maybe later. How about my tie? Ryo's about to start nagging."
"Oh, right. Stand still, then."
Bikky submitted to the care of his handmaiden. She was so close to him, frowning slightly in concentration as she tugged the tail of his tie through the loop she had made. Did she ever smell great. It was too bad she was still a little bit taller than him. A lock of her beautiful silvery-blond hair fell forward over her eyes and he reached up without thinking to push it back. She glanced up at him from the knot at his throat and her busy hands stilled. There was a heart-stopping moment where the subtle energy between them began to coalesce into something amazing...
And then Ryo was at the door snapping, "Bikky! Carol! If you guys aren't in the car in 60 seconds, you're taking the bus to Brooklyn!"
With that, the spell was broken. Bikky swore softly. He couldn't wait to fucking grow up.
"I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; and though this body be destroyed, yet shall I see God..."
Ryo stood with Dee, Bikky, Carol, Thomas and more than two hundred of Eddie's former friends and acquaintances on the south lawn of Brooklyn's Greenwood Cemetery, listening to Father Russell perform an abbreviated version of the funeral rites. Father Russell was the bearded and rather solemn priest who conducted services at the small church on the grounds of Mother Maria's orphanage. To Ryo's surprise, it turned out that Father Russell had known Eddie quite well and had been happy to perform the service free of charge.
"Eddie never would accept help any help from me," the old man had said. "He was more comfortable with giving than taking, and he often gave more than he could really afford to part with. But it looks like finally Heaven has granted me the opportunity to do something for him."
Today, the sun was shining, and a gentle breeze rustled the leaves of the trees, causing the sunlight to shimmer on them in a dancing pattern of green and gold. Although the occasion was intrinsically sad - the laying to rest of a young man dead before his time - Ryo felt a sense of peace settle over him. Greenwood Cemetery was a beautiful, tranquil place, a verdant jewel in the middle of Brooklyn. The sounds of city traffic could barely be heard in this part of the funeral grounds, but the air seemed to be alive with the chirps and calls of various birds. He was delighted when he saw a green parakeet swoop above the assembled party. He had heard about the parakeets of Greenwood, but he hadn't actually seen one before. The scent of freshly cut grass filled his nostrils, along with that of various blossoms. Summer's here, he thought, wondering how it had managed to sneak up on him without his really noticing until now.
His eyes ranged over the mourners and he wondered what his father's somewhat stuffy family would have made of this motley crew. Judging by the quantity of pasty faces and sleepy eyes, Eddie's friends seemed to be mostly people of the night. There was a number of women and girls who were clearly prostitutes, upwards of twenty scruffy-looking teens who may or may not have been homeless, and a lot of people of both sexes who seemed like average working folk. The vast majority of them were young, twenty-five or younger. Some of them had made an effort to dress up, with varying levels of success, but most of the youngest ones had simply come as they were, just as Bikky would have if he hadn't had a father to make him wear a suit.
Mother Maria had reportedly stayed behind at the orphanage to look after the youngest children, but Sister Germana was there with about seven of the older ones. Their faces had lit up at the sight of Dee, but they held themselves in check out of respect for the occasion.
Father Russell was in the process of conducting a highly Catholic, rather than a non-denominational graveside ceremony, and had, in fact, been able to use Eddie's 'religion' as a means of getting the costs of this funeral reduced to much more affordable levels for Ryo. He had apparently performed Eddie's baptism twenty years ago, and had somehow managed to obtain a burial plot for Eddie in the Catholic section of Greenwood, in a spot reserved for impoverished Catholics who had nonetheless managed to have a great impact on their communities.
Ryo wondered whether a Catholic burial would have mattered to Eddie or not. It was possible that Eddie had been a regular church-goer, although he wouldn't have bet on it. He realized that apart from the string of disconnected anecdotes that Bikky had told him the night when they had all discovered that Eddie was dead, he really didn't know anything much about the young man whose funeral he was paying for. All of that changed, however, when Father Russell called upon the assembled individuals to each contribute a few words to the eulogy if they wished.
Everyone shuffled their feet nervously and looked sidelong at each other. Clearly, no one wanted to go first. Father Russell had expected that, however, and asked Bikky if he would say a few words.
When Bikky stepped out from the shelter of Ryo's shadow and felt the eyes of every person there upon him, he felt momentarily tongue-tied. Looking down at his dress shoes for a moment, he gathered both his courage and his thoughts, and then raised his eyes to the expectant crowd. Suddenly he was glad he was wearing a suit. It seemed appropriate to the occasion and to his role in it.
Ryo watched in surprise as a transformation came over Bikky. His habitual teen slouch seemed to drop from his shoulders; he stood up straight and addressed the mourners in a clear, strong voice. He appeared older all of a sudden, and Ryo realized that he was getting a glimpse of the future. Bikky was still a child, but the shape of the man he would become was there at that moment for all to see.
"Thanks, everyone, for coming here today. I know some of you were working all night, and it wasn't easy to find this place, but I'm sure Eddie appreciates it a lot. And we all know he woulda done the same for us, for any of us.
"All of us here had a different experience of Eddie. We all have different memories of him. I just wanna share a few of mine, and then say a couple of words to Eddie, because I believe he's right here with us, right now, listening to us. We just can't see him, that's all."
Beside Ryo, Dee's head was nodding, and so, Ryo noted, were several other heads around the grave site. Everyone seemed to be waiting for Bikky to go on.
"Most people," said Bikky, "when they looked at Eddie, saw a dirty, drug-addicted nobody, a second class citizen. Well, it's true he had a drug problem and that he was also homeless. But he wasn't always like that. Eddie was a brain-injured person. Before that, he had hopes, dreams and plans, like anyone else. He was my babysitter back in the day. My old man trusted him to look out for me. He looked out for a lot of kids. You guys know that better than anybody."
Carol leaned against Ryo, tears running down her face. She had been emotional from the moment they had arrived and she had seen the casket waiting with such solid, unarguable finality beside the open grave. He put his arm around her. On his other side, Thomas began to sniffle. They listened as Bikky continued with his part of the eulogy.
"Eddie wasn't a junkie, the first five or six years I knew him. That was something that happened after his head injury. After that it was hard for him to remember stuff sometimes, or other times he remembered it wrong, so he couldn't hold onto a job. He didn't have parents who could look out for him. It was kind of unavoidable that he'd get into trouble. He ran drugs for a gang out of Brooklyn for a while until all the principal members got sent up. By then, he was solidly addicted. He sold drugs, was a lookout, did B&Es, shoplifted and all in the name of survival. Yet, all through it, he somehow kept his independence. He never would hurt anyone, and got the crap beaten out of him countless times for sticking up for people."
Bikky walked over to the closed casket that held Eddie's remains and laid a hand on it. "Eddie, you were like a brother in the 'hood to me, man. You couldn't protect anyone, but you were always there to offer comfort, company, shelter, or something to eat. No matter how little you had, you were always willing to share it." He bowed his head. "Life on the streets can't really be called much of a life. But your life counted, Eddie. I'm gonna miss you. Always."
"Amen," said Father Russell, echoed softly by Dee and a few others. The priest asked if anyone else would like to speak.
One by one people stood up and said a few words about how Eddie had been there for them when they needed help. Eddie had encouraged, listened and fed people, and had even shared his drugs, practically unheard of for a junkie. Two girls who were dressed like boys stepped forward to the coffin and sang 'Amazing Grace' in sweet, although slightly off-key voices. Thomas plucked up his courage and read a heartfelt poem he had composed himself. And so it went on for a good twenty-five minutes, after which, Ryo couldn't really say that he no longer knew much about Eddie.
Many of the assembled mourners wept openly, although a few, notably Bikky, remained stoic. When Ryo put his hand on Bikky's shoulder, he shrugged it off and stood stiffly by himself. Near the end, Carol left Ryo's side and went to Bikky for comfort. He put his arms around her and her tears started anew.
"Into your hands, Father of mercies, we commend our brother in the sure and certain hope that, together with all who have died in Christ, he will rise with him on the last day."
While Father Russell spoke the final words of the Committal ceremony before the coffin was lowered into the ground, Ryo reflected on what he had heard and what it all meant. Listening to the hardships of Eddie's life had certainly put his own problems into a better perspective for him. Eddie had lost both his parents at an early age, his father to an accident that may have been a murder when he was about seven, and later, at sixteen, his mother to a severe psychotic disorder. There had been no Aunt Elena to step up to the plate and make sure he finished his education and ate regular meals. There had been no inheritance to help him get a start in life. Unlike himself, Ryo thought, Eddie had probably never had the time or leisure to work himself into a state of conflict about his sexuality. But, as Bikky had said that night at the kitchen table, no matter how hard life got, Eddie was always trying. Trying to find food and shelter from day to day, trying to be as successful as possible at whatever he was driven to do to ensure his survival, trying to help others, and trying to maintain his integrity and his sense of self in the face of insurmountable opposition. He was a dirty, homeless drug addict, as Bikky had said, as everyone there knew. And yet, in spite of that, his life had been a success in many ways.
Ryo had always thought that that success in life came from hard work and ambition, as well as from having a place in one's community. That was still true. But it also came from having integrity and the courage to fight for what you believe in. Eddie had a hard life, but stayed true to himself and always stood up for others. Dee and Bikky were, unfortunately, both brawlers, but they were also fighting for respect in every area of their lives. Thomas may not be able to fight the bullies who made his life hell, yet he was planning to march in the Gay Pride Parade. That was a different kind of fighting. Carol fought the shame and stigma of her past as a petty thief and the daughter of a bank robber every day of her life by striving for top grades in school with which to build the foundations of a successful future for herself. And she did it while being sweet and gracious to everybody around her, which had won her respect and popularity amongst her peers.
What do I believe in? Ryo asked himself. What should I be fighting for? Then he knew that he had been doing it for weeks, but in his own way. He'd been fighting to understand himself after years of being too afraid to find out. It had taken courage for him to face the hidden parts of his personality, as well as his own anxiety and doubt surrounding them. His recent acceptance of his sexuality had forced him to confront old fears - fears of being reviled, disliked, discriminated against, and excluded from the place he had found for himself in society. He had already experienced some of those things in recent weeks, in both overt and subtle ways, and his world hadn't exactly fallen apart. Even when Mel, the skinhead, had been pointing a gun at him and spewing hate and venom about 'fags', it really hadn't been that much different from other times when he had faced armed and angry people in the course of his police work.
Respectability was important to him, as it had been to his parents before him. He was still wondering whether it would be possible for him to live a respectable kind of life in the larger, straight community, but as a gay man. From what he had seen of the gay community, he could not really see himself fitting in there. He wanted to stay in the closet for now, but when he was honest with himself, he couldn't actually imagine opening his mouth and lying if someone were to ask him a direct question about his sexuality. He had been, frankly, quite surprised at how many people seemed to already know. He realized then that he would come out of the closet at some point in the future, but when he was good and ready and not before, and that he was really just gathering his forces in preparation for that day.
Everything else, his recent uncertainty about his fatherhood skills, and his self-doubts at work, were just side effects of the process he had been going through, was in fact, still going through. He had noticed that in the past week or so, his confidence had started to come back. And on several occasions, when his worst fears had actually been realized, such as when Lieutenant Abernathy practically announced to the entire 27th Precinct that he, Detective MacLean, was a homosexual, it hadn't been anywhere near as bad as he had expected.
The fear of being outed was a small, pale thing compared to the fear he had felt when Dee had been shot and he thought he had lost him. And if he could live with that fear on a daily basis, then he could face anything. He knew that he would and could continue to fight for everything that was important to him: justice for the victims of criminal acts committed in his community, his son's future, and his own right to happiness with the partner of his choice. Courage was something he knew he had, and as for confidence -- well, that was something he could fake until the real thing returned. Hadn't he been doing that for years?
As Carol tossed white lilies one by one onto the top of the coffin while it was lowered into the grave, Dee's fingers worked on his rosary. He wondered if he dared to hold Ryo's hand in front of all these people. But it was Ryo who turned to him and squeezed his hand. When he let it go, Dee put his arm around Ryo's shoulders and drew him close. Ryo let him, and laid his head on Dee's shoulder.
As the burial staff began to shovel earth down on top of the coffin, the guests began taking their leave. Some of them just melted away silently, but others came up to speak a few words to Bikky before they left.
Shantaya was there, black mascara streaking her unmade-up cheeks. "Aw, honey, that was beautiful. Thank you so much for organizing such a beautiful send-off for Eddie like that."
"You're welcome, Shantaya. But all of you guys helped by contributing money to the cause. It was the least we could do for him, huh?"
She nodded, fishing in her oversized bag for a tissue. "I'd best get going, babycakes. Rick don't know I'm here, and I'd like to be back before he gets home from the hospital."
"Hospital? Did something happen to him?"
"No, he's fine. But his music partner got beat up by a cop last night - got tasered up one side and down the other, or somethin' like that. Rick's mighty upset, 'cuz this is apparently gonna set back the release date of his debut single." She shrugged. "He's been in a bad mood since he heard, and I don't wanna be givin' him no excuses for takin' it out on me. See you round the 'hood, honey! Do your homework, now, and listen to your dad." She flashed a shy look at Ryo, before enveloping Bikky in a warm, perfumed hug.
Ryo gave her an equally shy nod before turning away to say goodbye to Father Russell, who was planning to take the bus back with the gang from the orphanage.
Bikky saw Giovanna there too, hovering in the background and looking indescribably elegant in a tight black dress and an enormous black hat with a veil. She was accompanied by a large, hulking man whom Bikky recognized as her pimp, Marlon. Marlon could have been a candidate for a guardian of the gate to hell. He was shaggy, ugly, and quite scary to look at. Give the man a pair of horns and a coat of red or green skin paint, and he'd get steady work playing bit parts in horror films. The thing was, he was as gentle as a lamb, and quite devoted to Gio. He took his job of protecting her quite seriously, and no one messed with her when he was around, which was most of the time. Bikky had seen Giovanna bossing him around something awful, though. He wasn't sure if they were lovers or not. They didn't seem to have the typical pimp/hooker relationship.
"Say, isn't that Giovanna?" Dee asked. "It looks like she wants to come over and talk to you, Biks."
"Nah, I think she wants to talk to YOU," Bikky retorted darkly, "But she gave me her word, so she's trying to control herself. I'll go say hi." He strode toward her and her massive companion.
Ryo turned to Carol, who was avidly staring at Giovanna's outfit. "Did you say someone was picking you up?"
"Yeah, my aunt's boyfriend, Wayne. I have a history test right after lunch, and I don't want to miss it. Wayne's going to take me home first so I can get changed quickly and then go to school." Carol indicated her rather conservative black and white suit. "I don't really want to show up at school like this. Everyone will think I'm trying to make a statement or something." She stole another look at Gio. "I wish I'd thought to wear a hat," she remarked.
"Do you even have a hat?" asked Dee.
"No, but if I did...I'd want one just like that." She nodded toward Giovanna, who was chatting with Bikky under the watchful eye of her guardian demon. Dee and Ryo joined her in gazing at Gio's hat, and Giovanna gave them a little wave. "That's like a movie star hat," Carol added. "A fashion shoot hat."
"Hmm, well, when you're older, I'm sure you'll get lots of opportunities to wear such hats," said Ryo reassuringly. Carol sighed.
"Anyway," said Ryo, thinking that a change of subject was in order, "Do you think Wayne would mind taking Bikky and Thomas back to the city? Dee and I have to swing by the Brooklyn Navy Yard on our way back, and I'd like Bikky to get back to school as soon as possible, too. If he comes with us, he'll probably miss the first period after lunch."
"I don't think Bikky would mind missing a class," Carol said wryly, "but I'll ask. I'm sure Wayne will say yes."
In the end, it was Bikky who said no. He was resolute that he wanted to leave with Dee and Ryo, and since the boy seemed a bit more subdued than usual, Ryo didn't argue with him or put his foot down. He felt that Bikky perhaps wanted a little bit of personal attention, and he completely understood. His own parents' funeral had been much more traumatic than this, what with the suddenness of it all and the shocking behavior of most of the members of his father's family. Their dark looks and cold disapproval had cut him like knives and had been almost impossible for him to bear on top of the double loss of his parents. Thank God for Aunt Elena. She really had saved his life, and he would never forget it if he lived to be a hundred. And now, here was a pensive-looking Bikky, fresh from presiding with such unwonted maturity over the funeral his biological father had never had...Ryo thought he perhaps understood a little bit of what was going through his foster son's mind. The boy probably needed a good cry.
Finally, Dee, Ryo and Bikky were the only ones left. There was a mound of fresh dirt on Eddie's grave, and a plain brass plaque to commemorate him. The sun still shone, the sky was still blue, and the breeze still stirred the grass and the flower beds. But Eddie was gone, along with so many other people from Bikky's life who would never walk this earth again.
Bikky, who had been gazing at the grave as though in a dream, suddenly lifted his head and looked around at all the life and beauty surrounding him. A butterfly fluttered a crazy flight path over the flattened grass where so many feet had recently stood. It was over. Bikky took a deep breath, filling his lungs with the sweet, fresh air of early summer, but he didn't look relieved.
"That...that funeral cost a fuck of a lot of money," he remarked, sounding as aggrieved as if he'd had to pay for it himself.
Ryo was silent, and Dee was kind of surprised that Ryo, for once, wasn't calling the kid on his use of the 'F'-word.
Bikky went on. "Even with the money I raised, even with Father Russell's help, it cost you an arm and a leg. Was it worth it?" He glared at Ryo, and Dee bristled.
"Now just a friggin' second there, you mouthy little punk..."
"Dee." Ryo rested his hand on Dee's shoulder. "Let him finish."
"Why'd you do it Ryo? Eddie was nothing to you. You hardly knew him."
Ryo looked down at Bikky's tight, angry face, seeing the grief that lay underneath, the layers of sorrow, the layers of loss. This boy had lost both parents, as well as several friends, and had never before been able to attend a funeral for any of them. This was the first one of his entire life. Ryo thought carefully as to how he should answer, and in the end, just went with what was in his heart. It was the truth, anyway.
"I did it for you, Bikky. You're right, Eddie wasn't important on a personal level to me, like he was to you. But he was kind to you on many occasions in the years before I knew you, and that means something to me, even now. Of course, I didn't know you in those days, and I can't do anything about the past. But...I love who you are, B. The person you turned out to be, in spite of everything that's happened to you. I love everything you ever were and ever will be, and if Eddie helped you when you needed it, then I'm grateful to him for that."
The tears which Bikky had resolutely not shed filled his eyes at that moment, and he blindly reached for Ryo, burying his face in his foster dad's shoulder. Even Dee looked moved.
"You too," said Ryo with affection, holding out his other arm to Dee. All three of them stood with their arms around each other in the pastoral serenity of Brooklyn's Greenwood Cemetery, while Bikky sobbed against Ryo's reassuring, dependable form.
The butterfly fluttered in the air above their heads, before alighting for a few seconds on Bikky's upper arm. A moment later, it was back in the air, buffeted by the breeze, but determined to keep on flying in the brightness of the day.
Dee and Ryo decided to take Bikky with them to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, since there wasn't time to drop him off in Manhattan first.
"It might be kind of boring for you," Ryo warned. "But I don't want to hear any complaining."
Bikky, who hadn't actually started a book report that was due that very day, wasn't about to complain about missing his English class. "No worries, there, Ryo! This ain't boring. This has got to be that big warehouse fire that Gio said was in the news - drug deals and gangs and shit - er, I mean 'stuff.'"
As Dee's car ate up the blocks between the cemetery and the Navy Yard, Ryo filled Dee in on some of the things that had happened last night. He was careful not to name Abernathy with Bikky in the car, referring to him instead as 'the bad lieutenant'.
"No kidding?" said Dee. "He just took off and left the other guy? What the hell for?"
"Well, it was pretty embarrassing for him, considering that while he was gone, Detective Collins was attacked and robbed. Some of the firefighters found him unconscious next to a side entrance. When he came to, he was asking about the lieutenant. He was worried about him! But it didn't look like Ab - like the bad lieutenant had been even a little bit concerned about him."
"Why did the lieutenant leave?"
"Oh, he told us some story about how he had been following a suspect and that there hadn't been time to alert Detective Collins. But he wasn't able to produce the guy he had allegedly been following, and it all seemed rather fishy."
Dee thought for a moment. "Well, it sounds like there could have been a suspect. After all, someone knocked out Collins."
"If it was one of the Dyre Street Devils, the lieutenant would certainly have just let him go, if the other info we got that he's working with them now is correct."
"Hmm, interesting. So we have at least one survivor."
"Make that two." Ryo corrected him. "Essien Ibo of The Stone Bloods also made it out. Marty ID'd him before they loaded his stretcher into the ambulance. He couldn't talk, though. He was in pretty rough shape."
"Ibo! Now that's a guy I wouldn't mind talking to."
"If the doctors will give us permission to interview him, we can try for that later today. He's at The Brooklyn Hospital Center."
"Well, I didn't mean today…I meant in a couple of days or so."
"Ryo," said Bikky suddenly from the back seat. "Is there some reason why you said I wasn't allowed to go to Thomas' place or talk to his dad?"
"Yes," said Ryo. "But I can't tell you what it is. Just do as I say on that one, B. This is really serious."
"Is he dangerous or something?"
"Whadda YOU think, Biks?" That was Dee. "You got a pretty good danger sense."
"I think the guy's not one hundred percent normal. He creeps me out. He really does whale on Tom. Or did, anyway. I don't know about now. Tom told Eddie that. And then he told me and Jim. Then he told you guys the night you practically arrested him at McDonalds. But then, a couple days later...I don't know what the hell happened, but it seemed like he backed out on everything and went back home with his dad."
"Yeah. That happens sometimes with people who are being abused," Dee said. "If we'd had any proof, we could have removed him from his parents' home anyway, no matter what he said. But that cell phone video he was talking about never did surface. And whatever marks his father left on him had faded while he was hiding out with Eddie."
There was silence from the back seat for a block or two. Then Bikky leaned forward again. "Is Tom's dad a dirty cop or something?"
Ryo recoiled in shock and stared at Dee. Dee gave Bikky a piercing look in the rear view mirror, before pulling the car over to the curb and throwing it into park. He twisted around in his seat to face the boy.
"What you got, punk?"
"How about a brain?" Bikky folded his arms and leaned back in the seat, one foot propped up on the back of Ryo's chair. "You guys think no one can put two and two together 'cept you?"
"Bikky, how did you -?" Ryo was cursing himself. He and Dee must have discussed the case in Bikky's hearing at some point. They would have to be more careful in the future.
"I'm kind of in the middle of it, don'tcha think? I brought you Tom AND Eddie. Tom's dad was involved with Eddie. He told us all that, remember? At first I thought it was just because Eddie was some kind of informant and also because he was looking out for Tom. But later when I heard Eddie talking to you on the phone and I heard that he was scared of someone called 'Mike' who was somehow the cause of Tamara's OD, I remembered Tony sayin' that Eddie was dealing for another guy too. All he could tell me was that it wasn't someone from the 'hood. Then suddenly, Eddie gets murdered because he kept phone records, and maybe other records too. Yet, next thing I know, it's me and Carol who are being pretty well treated like murderers! But Detective Greenspin is going on about how that person, that killer, knew about eBay and everything. So, anyway, today I asked Thomas what his dad's first name was. He told me. It's 'Mike.' Now, I know there are a lotta Mikes in the world, but how many of them are scary dudes who were involved with Eddie?" Bikky looked back and forth from Ryo to Dee. "Am I onto something here, or am I way off base?" He tried not to grin. He knew he had already nailed it by their shocked reactions to his question about Tom's dad being dirty.
Dee looked at Ryo, eyebrows raised. "He's technically your kid, bro. This question's all yours."
Ryo sighed and looked unhappy. "You're not way off base, B."
"You're a pretty smart kid, actually," put in Dee.
"When did you figure all this out?" asked Ryo.
"Well, I wasn't really interested until me and Carol had to go to the station and give statements. After that asshole guy tried to blame Carol and me for Eddie's death, we got a whole lot more interested in what was really going on. So we put our heads together."
"Does Carol know about Tom's dad, too?" Ryo looked alarmed.
"Don't worry, Ryo. We know how to keep our mouths shut and act stupid. Don't wanna end up like Eddie, you know."
"Oh my God." Ryo shook his head, his unseeing eyes looking out beyond where his hands were clutching the dashboard. "Don't even THINK that."
Bikky glanced at Dee in mute appeal for help in correcting his mistake. He had lived with high levels of danger all his life until Ryo had come along, but Ryo wasn't really able to comprehend that. Now his foster-dad was all stressed out and Bikky knew he would need Dee to calm him down. The last thing he wanted was for Ryo to pack him off somewhere totally uncool and Carol-less right at the beginning of the summer.
Dee's eyes, still sharp, met Bikky's for a moment of perfect understanding. Together they turned their attention to Ryo.
"Ryo, to be honest, I don't know what Abernathy's capable of, but I don't think Bikky's at any risk from him right now. If he thought Bikky was a real danger to him, he never would've called Tina."
Bikky wasn't sure what that was about, but he filed it away for later. Right now, however, he had to add his own two cents. "If anything was gonna happen to me, I'd be best off here, on my own turf, where I know the lay of the land, and I got contacts to help me out."
"Eddie said something very similar when I offered him police protection!"
"You offered to take him into protective custody!" Bikky corrected loudly. "He was fuckin' right to say no! You got any idea how many guys have fuckin' DIED in 'protective custody'?"
"Not as many as they tell you on the street," snapped Ryo, "and don't you use that language with me, young man. You don't get a free pass to start throwing the 'F'-word around just because you went to a funeral today."
Bikky slumped down a little lower in his seat. "Sorry, Ryo. I just don't want you to send me away. I feel safest near you and Dee."
Ryo looked at him thoughtfully. "I don't want to send you away, B. It might take us a long time to... to resolve the source of the danger, if there is any, and I don't want to disrupt your education. Plus, I'd really miss you."
"Even though Dee is probably right that you're not at any risk right now, I need to think about this a little more," Ryo continued. "And if the level of risk changes, I reserve the right to send you somewhere safe."
"I'm safest on my home ground," protested Bikky.
"It's my responsibility to make that decision, Bikky." Ryo gave him a look that brooked no argument, then turned toward his partner. "Dee, let's be on our way. Don't forget we've got a two-thirty meeting today. And I'm sure Bikky here is wanting to get back to school." He cast a little grin at the boy in the back seat.
"Oh yeah, big time," said Bikky caustically.
But just as Dee pulled out, Ryo's cell phone rang. It was the Chief, ordering them back to the station.
"Boys, make sure you get your butts back here for two o'clock," he growled. "We're having a big debriefing with guests from the 51st and 62nd Precincts. I got the FDNY's preliminary report thirty minutes ago, so you don't have to visit the scene of the fire today."
"Will do, Chief." Ryo hung up and informed Dee of the change in plans.
Bikky was not only disappointed about not getting to go to the Navy Yard, but more than a little alarmed at the thought of having to face his English teacher after all.
"Hey, Ryo," he said. "Do we got time for lunch? I'm hungry." As he had expected, his cause was immediately championed by Dork-head.
"Yeah, let's get some FOOD. Breakfast was a helluva long time ago."
" 'Do we have time', Bikky," said Ryo. "You know better than to speak like that. Maybe I should have a word with Mrs. Chambers, your English teacher."
Bikky's face fell. Crap! There was Ryo being all psychic again. He hated it when his foster-dad did that. "Uh, not necessary, Ryo. Sorry! I only said that to yank your chain. And also because I'm weak with hunger. Can we please go eat?"
"Yeah, why not?" Ryo responded. We've got time now." Then he sighed because Bikky and Dee, after emitting a united cheer, immediately fell to quarreling about which restaurant to go to.
Having dropped Bikky off, Dee and Ryo strolled into the 27th Precinct with fifteen minutes to spare before the meeting. Ryo wanted to check his messages, so Dee went into the CI room to find out about Drake's date with Annette.
The first thing he saw was Detective Mitchell, the looker from the 62nd, leaning over JJ's desk, where he appeared to be receiving fashion advice about ties. His partner, Detective Palmer, was looking at a computer screen with Marty, while a harassed-looking Drake was loudly opening and slamming file drawers in an apparent search for something.
"Been dumped already?" Dee asked him, swaggering over to his co-worker's desk.
"In this case, I wish." Drake sighed glumly.
"Did the date suck?"
"I wish that too! No sucking allowed, it being a sin and all. It turns out she's a devout Christian, though you'd never guess that from all the cleavage and sexy talk."
"Fuck, man. Sounds like you didn't get any. Tell me the story quick, before the badger gets here."
Drake was only too willing. He had already complained to Ted, but he knew Dee would find a way to make him laugh about it.
Drake was heartily regretting that he had ever gone out with Annette. She had teased him dreadfully all night and then finally refused to do anything with him, even vetoing a good-night kiss until the second date. She said she was saving herself for marriage.
" 'Mother always told me that if a man can have the milk for free, he's certainly not going to buy the cow,' " Drake quoted in a falsetto tone.
"You just keep those cow metaphors coming, sister," muttered JJ, who, despite the pleasantly distracting presence of Detective Mitchell, or 'Bill', as he'd insisted on being called, had one ear trained on the conversation between Drake and Dee.
"What was that, JJ?" Bill was claiming his attention again.
"Nothing, nothing," he said airily. "I was just remembering a particularly hideous cow-print tie...Oh, hey, I think your partner wants to show you something." He directed Bill's attention to Detective Palmer, who was beckoning to him.
"You gonna date her again?" Dee was asking.
"I don't know... well, yeah, maybe," Drake replied, and then confessed in an undertone that he thought he thought he might be able to talk her into a 'titty-fuck'. "Surely she won't go to hell for that. And she can keep her virginity for the guy she marries, who sure as hell ain't gonna be me."
"Drake, you dog," said Dee, shaking his head. "You're better off out of it. This one has 'high-maintenance' tattooed across her ass."
"Considering the size of that ass, I'm sure the tattoo parlor had to send out for more ink halfway through," said JJ cattily, as he walked past with his nose in the air.
Drake blushed guiltily. He hoped JJ hadn't heard him talking about the hoped-for titty fuck. But before he could say anything else, the Chief appeared with a several guests, including the two TARU techs from the mission the night before, as well as Detective Andrea Fowler, the late Ned Shaver's partner. Ryo gave her a little wave as the Chief ordered everyone over to the white board.
All the members of the CI department were there, except for Sheldon, who was on third shift and Eliza, who had a day off. The Chief surveyed them all with his hands on his hips and the ever present unlit cigar clamped between his teeth. "If you jokers are done with the gossip and fashion advice for the time being, perhaps we can get this meeting underway," he said. Certain eyes immediately looked away from his, and throats were cleared.
"Let's do it, Chief," said Marty. "I heard you found out what caused the explosions. If it hadn’t been for them, I think Shaver could have survived the shooting until back up got there."
"Yeah," said Ted. "What the hell was in that warehouse?"
~ end of Chapter 38~