Closing Time

Written by Luna


"So gather up your jackets,
And move it to the exits.
I hope that you have found a friend.
Closing time - Every new beginning
Comes from some other beginning's end..."

The clock on the wall made hollow sounds in the nearly empty bar. It was three in the morning, and the lights should have been out. Meldrick folded his arms and studied the -- friend? stranger? -- resting his tousled head on the bar. After another minute or two, he sighed and gently shook him by the shoulder.

"Wake up, Kellerman. Go home."

Mike lifted his head a couple of inches, then lowered it again. "What time is it?" he asked, hoarsely.

"Too damn late," Meldrick replied. "Everybody else left a couple hours ago. I even sent Billie Lou home. Get out of here, or at least move your big head so's I can clean where you're sleeping."

Slowly, Mike sat up on his stool, rubbing his eyes with the heels of his hands. "I can't believe this is happening. It's awful. I can't think of Gee as really being gone."

"I know what you mean," Lewis agreed. "I never thought anything would happen to Gee. I always thought he was -- you know, larger than life."

"Permanent," Kellerman suggested.

"'Zackly. Like Dick Clark on New Year's Eve, only every day."

"And he doesn't look anything like Dick Clark," Mike said, wryly, and then corrected himself. "Didn't."

Meldrick started to wipe down the bar. "I didn't really know what to think when he quit. First Bayliss goes AWOL, next Munch jumps ship, and then Gee takes his pension and decides to run for mayor, of all things. I guess he thought he'd make more of a difference there, or something."

"You have to admit, it was a little crazy. All his talk about legalizing drugs, I mean."

"I dunno. Maybe it would solve a few problems we couldn't solve with laws and raids." He paused. "Or guns."

"You know what else I can't believe, Meldrick?" Mike asked, shaking his head.


"That after all this time, I still know you better than you know yourself."

Lewis drew back and leveled a stony stare at Kellerman. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"You think I don't see right through you? I know what you're doing right now, Meldrick. You blame yourself for everything, and then you push people away so they won't find out how guilty you feel. Crosetti, Luther Mahoney, now Gee. It's the same thing. I know how you felt about getting a new partner after Steve died. I guess you did the same thing after I left."

"That ain't true!" Meldrick retorted. "I never -"

"I know for a fact you treated Renée Sheppard like shit. Maybe she isn't the best cop in the world, but you were wrong anyway. And that crazy brother of yours. Anthony. Did you ever visit him, or did you just keep blaming yourself and pretending he didn't exist?"

Lewis was lost for words, so Kellerman continued. "And me. After... after everything. All I wanted, all I needed, was for you to tell me I was all right, that I was still a good cop. I needed you to be there for me like I was -"

"I was!" Meldrick interrupted, finding his voice. "Didn't I cover for you? Didn't I stand up for you? Wasn't I there for you when you was thinking about offing yourself?"

Mike shook his head. "No, Meldrick. You were there for yourself."

"How can you say that?"

"You remember what you said to me that night? You said you weren't going to lose another partner. You. You weren't going to. It was always about what you needed."

"No -"

"Yeah, even then."

"No," Meldrick repeated. "I just didn't want you to die."

They didn't talk for a few minutes. The clock ticked quietly in the background.

"I'm not angry at you anymore," Mike said, eventually. "It was eating me up inside, being angry at you, and the Mahoney people, and that runt Falsone. So I stopped. And I don't drink that much anymore, either."

Lewis tried to change the subject. "Didn't seem that way tonight. You put down quite a few."

"After the news we got tonight? I think I'm entitled -- but that's not the point. Look, all I'm trying to say is that I'm working on getting things right with myself. I know I screwed up. I just wish...." Mike looked for the right thing to say, didn't find it, and settled for the closest thing he could put into words. "I just wish you would look at what you do, to yourself, to people who care about you. I don't want you to be angry anymore, either."

"Thanks for your concern," Meldrick said, a bit too flippantly to sound natural. "I'll be fine."

"And you'll just pretend we never had this conversation, huh?"

"You got it."

"I shouldn't have bothered."

"Maybe not."

Kellerman sighed and got to his feet, a trifle unsteadily. "Goodbye."

"Bye," Lewis said, watching him without blinking. Their eyes met across the bar.

Kellerman stood there. In spite of everything, and as naive as it was, he still couldn't help hoping, thinking there must be something he could say or do to bring about a resolution. Then he thought of the first year of their partnership, of how well they'd gotten along and how close they'd become, so quickly. He remembered Lewis making fun of Pembleton and Bayliss and their codependent relationship -- and wondered if he and Meldrick were any different, in the end.

Lewis looked back at him, waiting for him to leave. Inwardly, he cringed, remembering what the two of them had gone through, together and alone, in the past years. He hated to think it, but somewhere deep in his mind he knew Kellerman was right about everything. *Be cool,* he admonished himself, and didn't understand why his heart was pounding.

*Forgive me,* Mike pleaded silently, leaning in a little closer, wishing he could beam the thought into Meldrick's mind without speaking. *Forgive yourself.* It wasn't much use. He wasn't telepathic. Mike knew he was much better inside than he had been when he'd left Homicide, but he couldn't say those words yet. *I miss you,* he thought, and was unable to say that either.

"...The hell you looking at me like that for?" Meldrick muttered. A dark red flush was rising under his skin. "You still drunk, man."

The stormy expression on Meldrick's face told Mike how to react. "Yeah," he lied, "I guess I must be."

"Must be. Fuckin' crazy."

Still blushing, Meldrick picked up the bar towel and studiously worked at an invisible stain on the countertop. Mike smiled a slight, sad smile to himself and sat back down on the barstool.

"Damn shame about Gee," Meldrick said after a while.

"Yeah," Mike replied, regarding him seriously. "It's a damn shame."

The awkward moment was broken by the sound of the front door opening. They turned. Stu Gharty -- a lieutenant now, Mike reminded himself with a little amusement -- walked in, head bowed, looking grim. If he even noticed Mike was there, he didn't show it.

"Lewis. We need you across the street."

Lewis was incredulous. "At three-thirty? I'm about to go home, Gharty. It can't wait for the morning?"

"No, it can't. Something opened up in the Ryland case. You're going to want to get over there. Now."

Gharty turned and walked out. Lewis and Kellerman stared after him.

"You heard the man," Lewis said. "I've gotta go."

"What's that all about?" Kellerman wondered.

"Guess I'll find out. You want me to call you a cab or something?"

"No, I'll walk. It'll do me good, clear my head."

"Yeah, you could use that," Meldrick agreed, shooting him a suspicious glance. "Well, come on then."

He shut off the lights and they headed out to the street. Mike yawned. "It's been a long day. I'll be glad to get home and get some rest."

"If I ever get home, me too," Meldrick answered, locking the door behind them.

There were plenty of things left unsaid, but, Mike thought, he didn't need to say them anymore. He shrugged and started off towards Broadway. "See you, Meldrick."

"Goodnight, Mikey," Lewis called after him, crossing to the stationhouse.

The nickname made Kellerman catch his breath and turn around, but Lewis was already disappearing into the building. He turned back and kept walking, through the sleeping city, leaving Thames Street and Meldrick Lewis and three years of his life behind him. *It's really over now,* he told himself, and knew he would lie awake until dawn wondering if that was true.