Written by Luna

*If I try hard and concentrate
I can still hear you speak
I picture myself in your room by the chair
You're smoking a cigarette
If I close my eyes I can see your face
You're saying, "I missed you...."*

The cellblock's main doors buzzed, clanged open, buzzed again, slammed shut. Sitting on his bed, Tim silently counted the footsteps. Thirty steps. It always took about thirty steps before the guard came into his line of sight.

The guard stopped in front of his cell and keyed open the bars. "01170800. Visitor."

Tim didn't like his cellmate. Joe Stenton had also been a cop; they were supposed to be kept out of the general population, though they still took plenty of shit from inmates and guards alike. He had taken a ridiculous amount of graft while working Narcotics, and bragged about it even though he'd gotten caught. Every Monday morning, Stenton's wife came by and talked dirty to him through the glass. Once a month they were allowed a conjugal visit. Tim knew he'd be hearing about Samantha Stenton's underwear for the rest of the day.

*It's funny,* he thought, *Every day is the same here, except I still have a reason to hate Mondays.*

Stenton got up and stepped out, and the guard closed and locked the door behind him. Tim put aside the magazine he'd begun to read, saving it for later as a diversion from his cellmate's prattle. He enjoyed these scattered moments of privacy to think, though it was never really quiet and he was never really alone. Leaning back against the wall, he closed his eyes and thought of his own visitors.

Several of the people who had come to see him in the beginning had drifted away. He'd expected that. There was not much reason for anyone other than his close relatives to waste time on him now.

John Munch had actually been the first person outside Tim's family to visit. He'd stopped by before going back to New York, just after Giardello's funeral, which Tim was sorry he'd missed. Munch had talked a lot without having much of substance to say, though he'd studied Tim intently through the glass.

*Translation: Munch wants to make sure I won't turn him in like I did myself.* But, Tim decided, that wasn't quite true. *He must have known I wouldn't say anything. He was more afraid that he might end up like me and do it to himself.*

Lewis had also visited him exactly once, after his plea bargain had hit the newspapers. Six years; a fairly average sentence for a manslaughter plea. He wondered what that meant -- was six years of his own life enough to pay for taking someone else's? Could he even survive in prison that long? It seemed like forever, and like nothing at all.

Meldrick had correctly pointed out that he would probably be paroled before the third year was up. He'd kept talking about Tim making an "error in judgement" and an "emotional mistake," and asserted that Tim was going to get by just fine.

*Translation, Meldrick: You're feeling guilty, just like you have about Steve and Mike. You shouldn't bother. This is no one's fault but my own.*

He had his own regular visitors, of course. His mother came two or three times a month -- *as much for her own sake as mine,* Tim guessed -- always with the same look of mingled disappointment and concern. His cousin Jim also came every now and then, trying to be cheerful, talking with forced lightness about sports and current events. Tim found it easy to interpret his cousin's visits: *There but for the grace of God....*

Surprisingly, Mike Kellerman had become a recurring visitor too. He and Bayliss hadn't been especially close when they'd worked together -- though Tim remembered how it had saddened and scared him to watch the spirited, buoyant new guy become doubtful, angry, and bitter in the space of only a few years. He realized now how much they had in common.

It had obviously taken a lot of time and effort for Kellerman to put the Mahoney debacle behind him, but he no longer tried to rationalize any of it; on his first visit, he'd calmly asked forgiveness for nearly getting Tim killed. Tim forgave him, and was refreshed to find that Mike neither condemned nor excused either of their actions. Kellerman had gotten through it. Tim didn't know if he would be able to do the same, but the conversations every two weeks and the mutual acceptance somehow helped them both.

Frank did not visit him at all.

Bayliss hadn't seen his partner -- even still, he thought of Frank that way -- since the night when he'd confessed and asked him, urged him, begged him to turn him in. Thinking about it now, he knew how much that had hurt Frank, forcing that knowledge on him. He regretted it, but there was still an angry part of his mind that said, *Good. Let it hurt him. Let him taste what you felt when he ditched you.*

He didn't want to think that, but it was there whenever he remembered the last time -- *the last time?* -- he'd seen Pembleton. They had gone inside, walking side by side down the stairs. Frank told Tim to sit down and type up his statement. He did, and placed the confession on Lewis' desk. Without looking at him, Frank left the room briefly and returned with a couple of officers Tim didn't know. He did not look at him as one of the uniforms mechanically cuffed his wrists. But Frank did stare at him, steadily, unblinking, just as they led him out the door. Though his pain and anger and bewilderment had been evident up on the roof, there was nothing but coldness in his eyes at the end.

Even the memory of it made Tim shiver. Frank had left him in every way he could imagine, and it made him angry, just as the thought of Luke Ryland going free still enraged him. So did the unshakable knowledge that Adena Watson's killer - whoever it had been - would never see the inside of a cell like this one. Whenever he thought of that, Frank's exasperated words echoed in his head: *Are you still beating that horse, Tim?* He was. And he still missed his partner.

The familiar whirring noise of the cellblock door distracted him from the reverie. He automatically counted steps again, thirty-four of them this time. Whoever it was, they didn't have a long stride. Sure enough, the guard that appeared at the door was a good eight or nine inches shorter than Tim.

"02281200. Visitor."

He wasn't expecting one. It almost made him believe that thinking so much about visitors, and Frank in particular, could conjure him up out of nowhere. But that was nonsense, and he knew it, so he let it go. At least this would at least break the day's monotony.

*Maybe Renée Sheppard is experiencing a crisis of conscience.* He didn't particularly want to see her, or anyone he used to work with. As he followed the guard down the stairs and along the hall, he crossed his fingers. *I hope it's someone nice. Someone who isn't just here to feel better about himself. Someone who cares.*

Tim walked along the prisoner's side of the divided visiting room. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted his cellmate, who was starting to sweat as his bottle-blonde wife leaned in close to the glass, displaying quite a lot of the breast augmentation her husband's ill-gotten gains had paid for. Tim looked away, half amused and half disgusted, and made his way down to the open booth at the end.

When he saw her, he froze in mid-step.

She looked up at him, searchingly, and said something he couldn't hear through the partition. He thought it must have been "Hello," and he managed a weak, wondering smile. He slowly moved forward, sat down in the hard plastic chair, and picked up his phone receiver as she picked up hers.


"Tim. You look...." Mary didn't lie to him. "Tired."

He nodded. "I am. I've dropped some weight, too. But you look lovely. Are you...." He trailed off, because he couldn't find words that didn't make him sound pathetic.

She knew what he was going to ask. "Here by myself? Yes. Tim... I told Frank he should come see you. We argued about it. Finally, I told him I'd go alone if he wouldn't. He's being stubborn. I'm sorry."

"Stubborn," Tim repeated. "Well. He wouldn't be Frank Pembleton if he wasn't. How is he - how are you both doing? And the kids?"

"The kids are great. Livvie's starting kindergarten this fall, you know."

"Is that right? I can't believe she's old enough already. It seems like she was just taking her first steps."

Mary smiled. "It's scary, isn't it? Now she runs around the house telling me that she's a big girl, not a baby."

"She must get such a kick out of being a big sister."

"She loves it. And Frankie's at that inquisitive stage where he just wants to find out everything about everything. Frank must have been just like that as a little boy." Her smile faded. "He hasn't had a very easy time with this. I know that doesn't make you feel better..."

She was right, except for the little vindictive part of his mind that muttered, *He doesn't deserve an easy time.* He mentally shushed it.

"...But it's true," Mary continued. "The night that Giardello died, he came home and he couldn't even talk to me about what happened. I didn't find out until I read the paper the next morning. And when he finally told me what happened, he was so angry and so hurt that he was literally shaking. He feels so betrayed, Tim. And I'm not having an easy time with this either. I don't understand how you could do this."

He considered this for a moment. "Frank used to tell me I shouldn't worry about why people kill, that why doesn't matter. We could never agree on that. He also used to say that every life has an equal value, that every time a life is taken, it's an equal crime. And we never agreed on that either, see, because I always said nothing is that black and white."

She waited for him to say more. When he didn't, she ventured, "I don't believe you would go this far to prove a moral point."

"I went through a lot last year. I was trying to figure out who I am - no. Who I was. I'm not the same person now. I tried really hard to be at peace with the world, and then this bastard came around and showed me exactly where I fell short. It's really just a coincidence that it happened to be that man, that case, that moment. It was the same evil I've been fighting all my life. Luke Ryland tortured innocent people, and he was going to do it again."

"You killed him."

"I stopped him."

"You killed him."

He leaned in close to the barrier. "I believed then, and I still believe now, that Ryland had to be prevented from hurting anyone else."

"But you turned yourself in -"

"If that proves anything at all, it proves Frank's point. There's virtue, and there's vice. I crossed the line. Yes, I killed him," he said, and the pain was obvious. "And that is an evil thing. I thought I couldn't live with myself if I let him walk away without paying for his crimes, and maybe that's true. But I found out that I couldn't live with myself if I didn't pay for mine."

Mary remembered what her husband had told her about the night Tim confessed. *He was going to kill himself,* Frank had said, barely controlling his emotions enough to speak. *He said he would do it if I didn't bring him in.*

She looked into his eyes, through the glass and through his efforts to stay calm. *This is Tim,* she thought. She had instinctively liked him from their first meeting, thinking Frank and Tim balanced each other perfectly. After a while, they had become as close as partners could be, so important to each other -- maybe too important -- and she'd realized along the way that she would never understand the partnership's dynamic. She'd thought they were healthy for each other.

"The system failed," Tim said. "So did I."

She had wished Frank had made an effort to keep in touch with Tim after quitting the force. She wondered whether that would have saved him, but guessed there was something else, an older, deeper wrong that explained why he needed Frank so badly, and why he seemed so lost.

"Tim, you're not an evil person," she said.

He shook his head sadly. "Frank was right when he said he couldn't absolve me. I can't absolve myself. I'm paying for what I did. I just wish he didn't hate me now."

"He doesn't hate you," Mary reassured him. "He's very hurt, and very angry at you, like I said before. But he really doesn't hate you; I think he's scared for you. He needs time."

Tim started to reply that he didn't blame Frank for being angry, but he knew that, however unfairly, part of him did. He didn't want to lie to Mary; she was too kind.

"I miss him," he said, plainly.

"I know."

She wanted to reach through the glass and touch his shoulder, or hold his hand, or at least tell him everything was going to be all right again. She knew, though, that nothing was that simple. Things might eventually be all right for Tim -- he needed time, too -- but she couldn't promise him anything, and nothing was going to be the same.

"I have to go," she said, regretfully. "I wish I could stay longer, but I'm way behind schedule today and I'm due to pick the kids up at day care. Oh, I almost forgot! I brought you something."

She took an envelope out of her purse and passed it to a guard, who checked the contents, brought it around, and handed it to Tim. He opened it. Inside the envelope was a photograph, dated a few years back. In the foreground, tiny Olivia Pembleton lay curled up on a quilt, asleep, with her head resting on a teddy bear with a policeman's hat. Tim and Frank stood behind her, both leaning down and smiling, as if whatever they'd been discussing had been interrupted by the sheer adorableness of the baby.

He looked up from the picture, unable to speak.

"I took that ages ago, and I meant to give you a copy; it came out so well. I even put it aside for you, but then I forgot about it entirely. It turned up when I was cleaning the other day."

"Thank you," he finally managed, a lump in his throat. "And thank you so much for coming to visit. Would you... would you just give your family a hug for me?"

She nodded. "I promise. I'll write you a letter, okay?"

"I'd like that, but please, don't feel like you have to."

"I want to." She hesitated. "I'm... I'm really sorry that things are like this. I hope it gets better. Goodbye, Tim."

"Thanks, Mary. Bye."

Mary put her phone receiver down slowly. She stood, picked up her purse, looked at him for one more moment, and walked away. Tim got up from his chair, hung up his phone, and made his way across the room, waiting for a guard to take him back upstairs.

The cellblock's main doors buzzed, clanged open, buzzed again, slammed shut. Tim held the photograph delicately, afraid to bend or damage it, and counted his own strides. Twenty-seven steps, and he was proud of himself, because he held the tears back the whole way. He did not cry until he was in his cell, by himself for the moment, though it was never really quiet and he was never really alone.