Everyone watched as Mike Kellerman set his empty cup down on the bar, the thin plastic barely making a sound as it hit the polished wood. No one said anything. The fact was, was that no one knew what to say. Detective Michael Kellerman had turned out to be a complex man, more complex than anyone had thought when he came to homicide from arson. All the squad wanted to do was celebrate his declared innocence, his cleared name, but Mike had turned it into something different.
No one moved for thirty seconds after the door closed. The first one to move was Meldrick Lewis. His hand moved up to cover his mouth as his eyes flicked over the faces of his co-workers and friends. He let his hand drop to his side as he set his cup of beer down and shrugged at the others.
He was outside the next second, walking briskly to catch up with his partner. "Hey Mikey," he called loudly as he grew closer. "Yo, Mikey!"
"Go away, Lewis," Mike responded, not turning around.
"Can't do that."
Kellerman stopped and turned around, his eyes piercing into Lewis'. "Why can't you do that?"
"Because I'm your partner and I'm worried about you, that's why."
Mike's brow shifted into a scowl as his lips pursed together. "I'm touched."
"You don't have to be an asshole, Mikey."
Nodding, Kellerman agreed, "I don't have to be, you're right. But you know what, Meldrick? I want to be an asshole. It feels good to finally be an asshole."
"Hey, I ain't the one who accused you of taking them bribes." Meldrick's hands were raised as if warding off a physical attack.
"You aren't? I saw it in your eyes. The doubt, I saw it. I know you thought I might've taken the money."
"Stop doing that. You don't know nothing about what I'm thinking. You don't know shit, Mikey." Kellerman started to speak, but Meldrick stopped him with a wave of his hand. "I know you, Mikey. You're honest and no man as honest as you would take them bribes. I've always known that, so don't you go saying I doubted for one fucking second. You're my boy. I fucking know you. Just like you know me."
Mike gave a lengthy sigh then asked, "I know you?"
"Yeah, Mikey, you know me. And you know," Meldrick paused, looking Mike in the eye, his hand moving up to cup the other man's cheek before continuing. "And you know I ain't never doubted you." His deep brown eyes searched his partner's bright blue eyes. "Mikey, you know. You know. I never doubted you were clean."
"But you. . ." Mike started, only to be cut off by Meldrick.
"But nothing. You want me to doubt you. You want to be pissed off at the whole world." Mike looked away, but Meldrick moved his other hand to Mike's face and held his head so that Make had no choice but to looking into Meldrick's eyes again. "But that ain't you," he said softly. "You don't hate the world." At Mike's silence, he continued. "You want to push me away because if you can hate me, then you can hate everybody, the whole world. I'm a reminder. I remind you that you ain't an angry, sad, hateful person, Mikey and you don't want that. You want to be angry."
"And you won't let me," Mike said finally.
"That's right," Meldrick confirmed with a solid nod of his head.
Stepping back, Mike broke Meldrick's contact, then said, "But I am angry." His words were more sad than anything else, his face accentuating his depressed tone. "I'm a good person, right?"
"Yes," Meldrick replied, walking when Mike started to walk again. "You an outstanding person."
The blonde glanced to the side, making sure his partner was following him as he headed for the marina. "Outstanding," he sighed morosely. "I didn't turn them in, Mel. I knew they were on the take and I did shit all about it. How's that for outstanding?"
"You didn't rat out your friends, Mikey."
"I was going to," he admitted softly. "I would have given names and dates and amounts today. How does that make me an outstanding person, huh? Huh, Lewis? You tell me."
"Mikey," Meldrick's sadly said.
Kellerman held up his hand. "Nevermind. The point of me asking whether I'm a good person was to say that it doesn't matter if I'm good because people won't see that through all the dirt."
"You ain't dirty, Mikey," Lewis protested.
"No, I'm not, but they'll never know, Lewis." Kellerman paused as he came to his boat. "You'll never really know.
"Goddammit, Mike," Meldrick's voice boomed. "I do know! You not dirty. I know that. I know because I know you. Why can't you open your fool eyes and see that I know?" Meldrick moved closer to Kellerman, gripping his arms. "You and me, Mikey, we're partners. Part-Ners! I know you and you know me. Understand that. I know you feeling bad right now. You'll get over it."
Lowering his eyes, Mike said softly, "I don't think I will, Meldrick."
"Then I'll help you, Mikey." Detective Lewis closed in and pressed his lips to Kellerman's. It was light and short and Meldrick had meant for it to be an act of comfort, but as Mike pulled back, he knew that it hadn't comforted the other man.
"What was that?" Mike asked, his eyes flicking back and forth over his partner's face as his fingers lightly traced the curves of his lips.
"What you think it was, Mikey?"
"You kissed me."
Lewis gave one short nod. "I kissed you."
Meldrick thought, not really knowing why he had kissed Mike. Finally, he answered, "You needed it."
Mike said nothing for long moments; he just searched Meldrick's face, as if it held all the secrets of the universe. He was beginning to make Meldrick nervous, he could tell, so he looked down, then back up quickly. "I'm tired, Meldrick," he said as he boarded the Case Closed.
Lewis looked down at his feet, then back up at his friend and cleared his throat. "You going to be okay, Mikey?" The only answer Detective Lewis received was a shrug before his partner disappeared into his boat, closing the door behind him.