Written by Mary

For your perusal, a fic inspired by the Rewind-Fast Forward Challenge.
Thanks to Rachel and Vali, for planting this idea in my head for the past two days. It's not beta'ed, so don't blame them. Feedback appreciated.

Takes place immediately after the end of "I've Got a Secret".

"It's so quiet here", he said softly, looking everywhere but at Frank."Not like the hospital at all."

Tim sat down in the Cavalier and kept his back to his partner. He couldn't let the moment go yet. He could still decide. He could still walk in and arrest Dr. Wystan. Just not yet, he just needed another minute to make up his mind whether or not to take this woman away from her daughter and husband, to pry a terrified child away from her mother...He looked down at his hands, at the handcuffs. The cold metal gleamed from the streetlamps as he turned them over.

Tim wondered if this was the same metal they made scalpels out of. He wanted to compile a list of the similarities in his and the doctor's professions from today's observations and hand it to his mother. See, Mom, we're not all that different, there's no real satisfaction at the end of the day for either of us.

"Are you ready to go?" Frank asked softly. The softness surprised Tim. He was expecting scorn, disdain. Something sharper than what he heard. The voice sounded wounded and deeply disappointed.

One more second. He hadn't swung his legs into the Cavalier yet. It's not final. He could still do what Frank needed him to do.

The car started up, shattering the quiet that had surrounded Tim and his partner. It broke the spell. The Cavalier was rolling and only as an afterthought had Tim realized that he was inside the vehicle, doors closed and locked.

Tim looked over at Frank. He lights from the streetlamps made the whites of hiseyes look watery. It added to Tim's guilt.
"I couldn't do it, Frank."

Frank turned a corner onto a busier intersection, leaving the still-life neighborhood behind. The only indication that Frank had heard Tim was a blink of the eye and a tiny twitch in the jaw muscles.

"She's a good woman, Frank, a good doctor. Hell, for all we know Gabriel Slaytondid beat the crap out of her husband at that ATM. If Slayton had killed him we'd be locking him up right now-"
"-where he'd be safer in the long run. At least behind bars he'd still have a pulse."

Tim stared at him. "Good, I was beginning to wonder if you were going to say anything to me tonight. So you're saying that all the good that Dr. Wystan has done over the years is completely erased by one bad call on her part?"
"A man was murdered today."
"You said that already, Frank."
"And you're not listening! A man is dead because of the self-righteous acts of that doctor! She says she leaves them up to God, but what she's really doing is playing God. She has no right to decide whose life should be saved and whose should end."

Tim could see it in Frank's hand gestures and in his voice; the storm was brewing.
"Well, maybe Wystan did us all a good deed by letting that happen today,Frank."
A sharp intake of breath followed by a slow exhale from Frank's lips. Tim continued.
"Slayton might've decided to go back to his girlfriend's house, beat her up some more, maybe hard enough to kill her this time. He might have decided to go back to MC's and pop him for trying to shoot him in the firstplace. For all we know we could be investigating a handful of whodunit robbery murders all going back to Gabriel Slayton." Tim started to play restlessly with the handcuffs,flipping the free end over and over. He didn't look at Frank.

"It seems you're content to let Slayton's name stay in red, what would a few more names added to the pile have meant to you, Tim? You've got the clearance rate now, you can afford to let a few names slide. You keep this up though, and you'll never close a case again."
"What do you mean?"
"Remember William Mariner?"

There he goes again, I'm sharing a car with Mr. Rhetorical.

"Mariner killed nine people, but before that he'd never been arrested, had never made a wrong move in his life. He had children, a good job and a wife who loved him. Was he entirely evil, Tim? He may have retained some sliver of goodness in his pathetic existence."

Frank made the turn onto Broadway, paying more attention to Tim than the street. What was happening here was clearly more important to Frank than obeying rules of the road that no one bothered to follow in this city anyway. The momentum was gaining.
"He might've performed the Heimlich manuever on someone eating their ribeye too fast, or he might've pulled out a child who fell into the deepend of the city swimming pool. In his forty-odd years he may have saved more lives than he ended in the last week of his life. So by your logic we should've let him go, right? Because he was a good man? Because he'd only made one mistake?"

Tim took the bait. "He wasn't a good man, Frank, and you know that. And he didn't make one mistake, he made nine of them, and if we hadn't found him he would've made a hell of a lot more! He killed innocent people!"
"Innocent how? One of them was a drug addict! He undoubtedly lied, cheated, and robbed someone to pay for his habit. Should we then be grateful for Mr. Mariner for ridding usof the criminal element?"

Tim knew they would be at the stationhouse in another minute and he didn't want to carry this argument out of the Cavalier and up to the second floor. He turned towards the gale in the driver's seat and met him head on.
"What's your point, Frank? What's the reason for subjecting me to this diatribe?"

"My point is that there's not one of us on this entire planet that's a hundred percent guilty or innocent. We will, over the course of our lives, hurt other people, whether by accident or by intention, but it is not up to you, me or Dr. Wystan to sit in sentence and determine whether we are fit to live in this world! She is weighing each of our souls determining which is worthy enough to receive her gifts and it's not up to her to decide! How many young black men will have to die before she's satisfied that she got the ones who beat her husband? Two? Five? Ten? Twenty? Fifty? You know that we all look exactly alike, Tim, how can she be sure that gangbanger wasn't the one who broke her husband's arm? Better be sure to get 'em all!And even when she's confident that she's helped end the lives of the men who hurt her husband, why should it stop there? Why should she try her absolute best on a homeboy that's just going to go out onto the street and kill someoneelse's husband? Better give him substandard treatment, I mean, who's going to care, right? How many people will have to die to appease her sense of justice? Every life matters, Bayliss. The greatest sin-"

"-is the killer that goes unpunished. Tell me, did you feel this way about Gordon Pratt? Did you feel that Pratt's life was just as important as Kay's and Stan's and Beau's? Because you seemed pretty fucking ok with the fact that his name was going to stay in red under mine forever! You know something I don't, Frank? Is Pratt's murderer worth getting off scot-free? Is the world a better place because his killer has gone unpunished?"

The eye of the storm had broke over the pair. It passed over the Cavalier leaving both men drained. Their anger had exhausted them. Tim realized that they'd beenarguing in the garage of the stationhouse for the last minute or so. The resulting silence was a living thing between them. Anyone passing by might have been concerned, until they saw which two were fighting. Oh, that's Pembleton and Bayliss, the old married couple. Leave them alone,they'll kiss and make up in time, it's just part of the natural order of things.

Tim thought about what Frank was saying, and while his counted on this reaction from him, he had the nagging suspicion something else was bothering his partner. Under all the bluster, something was worrying Frank and he couldn't put his finger on its precise location.

"If you feel so strongly about this, Frank, why didn't you go in and arrest her?"Tim spoke quietly now, unwilling to disturb the fragile peace in the Cavalier.
"I tried to do that, Bayliss, and you wouldn't let me."
"I couldn't let you carry her out in handcuffs, not in front of her family like that."
"Right, we'll just snatch her away at work. Let her husband and kid go without supper a couple of nights in a row before they realize what happened to her."
"I wouldn't have stopped you if you'd gone back inside to take her to the station, you know that."
"That was your decision to make, Bayliss, and whatever you may believe, I do respect your decision. I may not agree with it, but I respect it. Just like I'll count on your respect when I lay out the facts to Danvers to see if this warrants an indictment by a grand jury."

Frank checked the odometer and logged the miles on the dispatch sheet. He turned to Tim, his face serious. He was intent on being understood by his partner.
"What if I end up in her ER one day, and I'm not dressed like a professional? What if by some perverse cosmic joke I happen to be wearing designer sweats and hightop shoes when someone decides to shoot me down? What are my chances of survival if I happen to fall under Dr. Wystan's care? What about Meldrick's, or Gee's, or Mary's? You heard her; we all look alike."

That's it, Tim thought. This's partly about race, but it's closer than that. He's afraid of the power of that doctor over him, over his pregnant wife. Wystan's got the power of life and death and he's afraid of her wielding it over him, over people he loves. A wrong move in the hospital and he might lose her...

"She didn't mean it like that, Frank, she meant that she sees the same patients day after day with the same injuries. Her life's a treadmill and she can't ever get ahead. And I'll be honest, I know how she feels. She feels like she's not making a difference anymore." This is starting to sound too familiar, Tim thought.

"If she truly feels that way, then she should leave. I don't want any half-hearted ER doc out there patching up anybody that I care about." Frank's gaze was unwavering. "If the rewards aren't exceeding the losses, she should get out now before more people get hurt."

Tim met Frank's steady look for a moment longer before turning to rub his eyelids with the heels of his hand. The moment was gone.

"Tim, I'm going up to turn the keys in to dispatch. You need anything while I'm inside?"
"No, I'm good. I don't have any energy to get out of this car, though."

Tim leaned against the headrest and turned to look across the parking lot onto Thames St. He could hear a deep thudding bass emanating from the nearby bars and see couples dressed inadequately against the cold huddling up against each other. The flashing lights and wail of the police siren seemedas natural as breathing.

Tim got out of the car and leaned over the top to face his partner."We'll both talk to Danvers tomorrow, Frank. I promise."
Frank watched him stonefaced. Then he nodded.
"Goodnight, Tim."

Bayliss turned and walked out the garage. He decided to leave the Jeep parked where it was. Tonight he needed to walk down the street with other people, to feel the cold air swirl up through his sleeves and his through his pantcuffs. He needed to feel like an ordinary soul walking the streets of Baltimore,one without decisions to make. Tonight he didn't want to have to give bad news to anyone.

The End.