Let the Wicked Forsake His Way
Written by Hayley

PROLOGUE: It Eats Away...

I woke up for the first time at twelve-sixteen. I had only been asleep for an hour... not even that if you really wanted to get accurate. It was another nightmare, another one about Luther. I am afraid to close my eyes now, so I stare at the ceiling and I try to figure out what happened again. Another dream where I am in the room, and I don't even remember what I was seeing, just hearing. Just hearing the shot echo again and again and again. Stop it, please, stop it.

I push out of bed, and look around me, at my boat and I prey that everything can just go back to the way it was. Terri, Meldrick, I can't put them through this. Terri, she tells me she can't eat, and I can see that Meldrick can't sleep. I don't care about myself; I can go without sleep, I've done it before. I sat at the breakroom, eating, and Stivers came in again. She made that accusation that I seemed to be eating well enough. I wanted to tell her that I was eating so much because I hadn't for the days after the shooting. I couldnít face her though, not then. She's going through all this because of me...

... because of what I did. I still can't face that I-- did that. I can't figure out what happened to make me do that. To kill someone, to murder. Even scum like Luther Mahoney, I still /killed/ someone, and it feels like I released a monster because now I /know/ I can do it. You don't think you can do it, pull the trigger like that, until you do and then there's no turning back. You're marked. Out of all the years as a cop, I never got that. All the cornerboys saying how they were 'marked' because they killed someone. Marked.

I try to remember what I was thinking, but I can't. Maybe I wasn't thinking? Maybe that's why I did it. Could be, I don't know. I'm still standing in the middle of my floor like some retard, all still and just staring at the wall, through the wall... at nothing really. Or at myself, trying to look inside and see what I've become. A killer, a murderer, someone that I've worked for a year and a half trying to put away. I'm disgusted in myself. I don't want to know what Meldrick and Terri thing of me... but that would be lying, and I don't want to lie.

I want to know what they want. I want to ask Meldrick if he wants to stand by me or not, but I'm too afraid to ask him to get in deeper with me, or maybe I'm afraid he'll say no. I just don't know anymore. I don't know anything, and it's like I'm a whole new person now because I killed someone. I just want everything to be all right, but I know it can never be all right, ever again.

My knees go weak and I sink to the side of my bed. I'm shaking, I don't want to, but I do. I can't take it back; I can't call dad and get reassured that I did okay because I don't need reassurance. I know I did it, and that it was wrong, and that asking Terri and Meldrick to lie for me is wrong. But I do, I don't want to, but I'm scared. I don't know what of, but I'm terrified of letting anyone know what I'm thinking, because then I would have to explain why I can't give them answers and I can't do that. Not now.

Please, God please just let me get through this. I feel sick, so I stand up again and go back onto my deck for some fresh air. But being out on the deck doesn't help either, because I can turn to my right and see Luther's penthouse. I can't get away from it. I can't get away from myself.

~

I can see him standing on his deck. I sink down on the steps that lead down from the road onto the marina docks and I can see him so clearly even though he's so far away. He's shaking, and I know. He won't forgive himself for this. He's a changed man now. I came down here to see how he was doing, but I also know I came down here to see if it was bothering him at all. I needed to know and now I feel guilty because I couldn't comprehend just how much it's bothering him. At work he puts up a damn good faÁade because I sure as hell couldn't tell. I want to go to him and talk to him about this, because I /know/ that's what he needs right now. I'm afraid he'll just go deeper into that little shell of his if I do, though, he's so damned complicated and all I want to do is help.

Help him and me. Damn he sure pulled a number this time, the paleface. I guess I'm still sort of stunned. Who's to know if his or her partner's going to up and shoot someone some day? Sure as hell didn't see it coming, but when it happened I think I saw this; him standing on his deck, holding himself and knowing he's all alone with this. But he's not, and I guess that's what is bothering about this. Then again, I don't know what it's like to shoot someone dead, so maybe I can't be there. I want to talk to him, but I can't. It's like he... crossed a line and now I can't get to him anymore.

Jesus, just look at him standing like that over there. I want to get up but I'll be damned if I do and damned if I don't. So I just sit here, and watch him fall apart. Goddamn, I /knew/, just /knew/ he would do it, and I know he's going to break down. This is my punishment, to watch him do this to himself. HE doesn't need Terri raggin' on him. Nah, he's got everything from guilt to self-hate covered. I wonder how long before he changes completely, and becomes a ghost.

A ghost, just like Luther said. Except it was me that was supposed to turn into one, not Mikey. I'm such an idiot, because I knew that Mike would come and I knew that something was going to happen, but I never, /never/ thought it would be Mikey. He's no murderer, I still believe that. He was desperate, like any cop gets after he's been ragged on for too long. Desperate for justice, and so he got it the only way he knew he could. He did it for me, for Terri, and for all of the bodies he couldn't defend through regular means.

He goes back inside, and I stand, making my way cautiously down the docks to get nearer to the boat. I have to know if he's going to sleep, or trying some other way to get peace. The light inside doesn't go off, but I don't see him through the open blinds either, so I assume he's lying down. I set one foot squarely on the side of the boat and softly set the other one down next to it. I tread across the wooden deck and look into the window.

He's sitting with his hands clutching at the side of his head, his elbows on his knees, and he's rocking himself back and forth. Just look at him, and you know shooting Luther is more then just another day to him. He's still in shock now, but he's still /Kellerman/ enough to only blame himself. Mike won't blame me for being such an idiot, and I sort of wish he would, because then we could get through it together.

I dare to step closer and I put a hand on the glass of the window. It's freezing cold inside his boat, and the imprint of my hand has vaporized on the glass. He puts his hands down now, like any movements just not worth it, and I want to tell him that this is my fault but I don't.

I wonder what he thinks of me now?

~

I killed a man, my partner saw what I did, I know I'm scum.

But I wonder what he thinks of me now?

Chapter 1: Two Partners

Mike held the gun for a while, just staring at it before placing it in his holster. He nodded to the ballistics expert and walked out of the lab, not relishing in the weight at his hip.

He took his time getting into his Explorer and turning it on. His head ached from the hangover he sported. Squeezing his eyes shut, he concentrated on getting the car into reverse and getting it back to the squadroom. The world spun, and several times he had to slow down and ask himself if he was going to make it. He eventually did, but as he climbed the stairs, he decided that maybe it wasn't such a good thing.

Mike looked into the squadroom and saw that Meldrick was already there, sitting at a table in the coffee room and reading a newspaper. Good. Maybe he wouldn't be noticed until the last second and he wouldn't have to endure any looks or questions. His luck must have ended the second he shot Mahoney, because Lewis looked back and a look of disappointment spread across his face.

"Hey, Mikey, don't even bother comin' in when you're hungover, huh?"

Kellerman blinked at him before scooting past him to his desk. He relished in the ability to sit down and close his eyes for more then a few seconds, and the bustle of the squadroom felt like home to him. More home then even his boat sometimes. Light pulsed behind his eyelids and he sighed deeply and miserably. Opening one eye, he saw that Meldrick was still standing over him with his arms crossed. He could not take the disapproving look and turned away.

"Why don't you try coming in without wearing last night's whiskey on your self?"

There was nothing to say to the digs that Meldrick was giving him. He just sat and took it without a word against his partner, because something told him that it was the truth. He didn't need to be coming into work in this condition. Mike closed his eyes again and nodded, feeling his gut twist and flop within his stomach. He heard Lewis walk back around their desks and sit down in the creaking office chair. Kellerman was sure that the pair of brown eyes were still on him, but he did not move.

"You goin' to say anything, Kellerman?" Meldrick asked tightly.

He shook his head, opening his eyes to the blinding fluorescent lights. The small squabble between them made him feel almost human again, because Meldrick was able to beat him down and make him feel something. He was having trouble doing that lately, feeling. It was all one big blur now. Passing by so quickly as if he didnít have time to feel emotions. He felt something now though, self-loathing because he couldn't stand to be around himself.

"Okay, I'm seein' that maybe this isn't the environment that you feel comfortable in. How'wa bout you and me grab a bite to eat later, and we can talk then?"

Mike nodded, and Meldrick frowned again, but he didn't know what to make of the frown. When he thought too hard about it though, his head began to feel unbelievably worse, and he kept having to close his eyes and rub his forehead. Lewis just sat across from him silently, watching the futile attempts to rub away the headache. Finally, he took pity on his partner and dug around in his desk for a bottle of aspirin, tossing it to Kellerman.

"Thanks," It was the first words Mike had spoken. It was in a dry voice that scratched against his dry throat and made Meldrick wince. He popped open the bottle and dumped five of the pills out. Lewis was about to protest, but Mike threw his head back and tossed them in, swallowing before the bitter powder taste could catch up with him. Placing the top back on the bottle, he pushed it back across to Meldrick, not looking up to meet his eye. Meldrick coughed and leaned back in his chair. Mike looked up and saw that his partner was looking over his shoulder. Kellerman didn't have time to look over his shoulder because suddenly a small black woman came around from Kellerman's left, her hands around her waist. Mike stood abruptly and backed away, not saying or doing anything to greet her. Stivers looked at him accusingly, but said nothing until he had left the room. Lewis watched his partner leave and seethed at Terri for pushing Mike away.

"How are you, Meldrick?" She asked quietly, taking a seat in a chair that was alongside Kellerman's desk. She had pushed it forward a little, avoiding the wastebasket that was in-between the two desks. She looked into his eyes and asked it again, only this time without words. Meldrick shrugged, and looked off to see where Mikey had gone. He assumed that his partner had escaped to the coffee room, but instead of getting up to go look for him, he stayed in his seat.

"I'm fine, Terri, fine."

There was a silence between them, and Lewis sighed. He was tired of silences between people that used to be able to talk about /everything/. There was nothing he could do now, not that he could see. Mike was too far-gone, and Terri was never going to forgive him. That was why the next question surprised him.

"How's Mike?"

He looked up startled and shrugged. He didn't know what he could tell her that might not have been a lie. He was pretty sure that Mike was bothered by it, but it wasn't for him to say. He sighed and put his feet up, not wanting to deal with Stivers right then. She took the subtle insult in silence, but he could feel her frown even though his eyes were closed. It was hard for him to talk to her since she obviously held hatred to his partner. Mike didn't need this from anybody, but he was so willing to take it that Meldrick had respect for him.

"You must know, you're his partner."

"That's true, but that didn't keep him from shooting Luther."

"What does that mean?"

He frowned and tried to figure it out himself. It had made such sense before, or maybe he had just said it to sound good. Terri looked around the squadroom, sighing she turned back to him after making sure that Kellerman was no where around. She picked up a file from his folder and took it away, making sure that there was nothing that he could concern himself with other then her.

"Look what he's doing to us, Meldrick," She said harshly.

"He ain't doing anything!" Lewis almost yelled, taking his feet down from his desk and putting a finger in her face. Stivers pushed herself back into her chair, startled by his sudden anger. She swallowed and collected herself, straightening out her back.

"Yeah, big man, you going to hit me?" She hissed.

"You know I wouldn't do that, Terri," He replied quietly, leaning back in his own chair. Bayliss had looked over, but just assumed it was none of his business. The squadroom was decidedly quieter, but people had gotten used to the odd squabbles between detectives. Mike peeked around the breakroom's wall and Meldrick nodded to him and he slinked back to sit at one of the tables.

"I'm not so sure now, Meldrick. I'm not so sure about anything. I didn't think Mike could shoot Luther, but he did, and now look at him."

"I've been looking at him Stivers," Lewis said, pushing his chair closer, "and he doesn't look good at all."

"No he doesn't," Terri nodded.

"Then why were you saying those things to him the other day, about him not being bothered by it? Huh?"

Terri shook her head, throwing her hands up. She stood up and leaned over his desk, throwing down the file that she had picked up. There was nothing said between them for awhile again, but he knew there was something that she wanted to say, so he didn't make a move for the phone when it began to ring. This collected more attention from the people in the room, but he didn't care.

"Tell him I'm sorry," she finally said, "I didn't need to say that. But I will tell you this, Meldrick, what he did wasn't right, and I don't think things will ever be right between us again."

With that she took a couple steps back before turning and exiting the squadroom, finalizing her statement. Swallowing, he looked back to the breakroom again, seeing if Mike had noticed that Terri had left. Before heading to find him, he reached for his phone and picked it up. There was another murder, and he wrote down all of the info before heading off to find Mike. Kellerman was sitting in the breakroom, nursing a cup of coffee. There were two, and he held one up for Meldrick when Lewis came by and sat on the edge of the table. He looked around the breakroom before reaching down and grasping Mike's chin in a strong hand. Kellerman did nothing just winced when Meldrick tightened his grip, knowing that there would be bruises left by the strong fingers when he was released.

"You will stop this right now Kellerman, or else I'm going to get Bayliss to go out on the call with me. You will shake whatever mood you're in and do your job."

He let his partner's face go, and Mike immedeantly reached up to rub at the red splotches and sore jaw. Nodding, he stood and followed his partner, who regarded the coffee before mumbling his thanks and scooping it up on the way out. Kellerman followed him out like an obedient child. He walked in step, just slowing his pace so that he could stay out of Meldrick's way. Like he didn't want to be noticed. Meldrick sighed and slowed his pace even more down the stairs. Mike stopped completely, and reached for his arm.

"What?" Meldrick asked, the white hand on his shoulder.

Mike didn't reply, but his face was pale and his breathing rapid. The blue eyes were glazed and Meldrick felt the fingers tighten. Uniforms passed up and down the stairs next to them, but didn't seem to notice the strain in the blonde man's form. Lewis stepped closer and waved a hand in front of Kellerman's eyes. It was like Mike couldn't see him, and was looking right through him and past him. Finally, the hand dropped, as did the eyes, and his partner went back to his sullen self.

"What was that?" Lewis asked, stepping closer as a troop of persons pushed past them.

"I don't know," Mike shrugged, reaching in his jacket for his cigarettes, but coming up empty handed.

Meldrick looked worried for a second, then continued down the stairs at a normal rate of speed. His partner followed, and looking back, Meldrick could see the bruises on the pale cheeks, and instantly regretted assaulting his partner like that. Mikey was already suffering, didn't need any physical pain to go along with it. Sighing he held the door open for his partner and watched the man move past him.

~

The crime scene was busy with Crime-Scene Units and uniforms standing at the tape to ward off the oppressive crowd. People looked over shoulders, gasped at the carnage, and shook heads before turning to leave. Mike seemed invigorated by the familiar scene and went so far as to hold up the yellow tape for Meldrick. Nodding to Mike, Meldrick made his way to the body. Dyer was there already, kneeling in front of the white sheet and reaching in once and a while to adjust something. Mike hung back and surveyed the scene, taking note of the location, and the apparent lack of attention from several open windows above the alley. There was even a woman hanging her laundry outside her window that was not even glancing down at the turmoil beneath.

Suddenly, he did not feel like he belonged here. That all of this- the crime scene and officers -just was not him. He felt the headache come back, fighting through the medicine he had been supplied. Trying to focus, but failing, he walked up to Meldrick.

"I think... I think I should sit this one out, Lewis."

"You really feelin' that bad? All right, I guess, you go back and get someone else down here fast. I'll hold everything."

Mike looked into his eyes and nodded. It was the least he could do. Meldrick looked away and then back up to him.

"I thought we were going to talk over lunch, huh, Mikey?" He asked casually.

"I'll be at the boat, okay? You can pick me up and we can go get something together," offered Mike, taking a step closer to Meldrick, who patted him on the shoulder and smiled. The smile left an empty feeling in Mike, and he backed away unsteadily. Meldrick was trying to pretend nothing had happened, and for some reason he could not figure, it made him feel worse.

Chapter 2: No Control

"I need some days," Kellerman said, looking his lieutenant straight in the eyes.

"Just like I suggested right after the shooting," Gee smiled. He reached under a few papers and pulled out a preliminary shift log.

"Yes, sir."

"You're in luck then, Detective, because I kept the days aside for you just in case. You have as long as you need, but all I put aside was a week. After that, the department will no longer pay for your time unless you take it up with them."

"Thanks," Mike said dully. He turned to exit, but Giardello's prompting act of clearing his throat brought him back around to face him.

"Take my advice, Kellerman, and sober up. I don't want my detectives screwing up on the job, or coming in less then enthusiastic about rolling bodies. Remember, keep me happy."

Mike swallowed, reaching blindly behind him for the doorknob. The large, smoldering eyes of his lieutenant raking over him and taking every last detail of his condition out of their carefully protected places. He wanted to leave, but the gaze held him to his spot. Finally, Giardello looked into his eyes, letting concern fill his gaze.

"This is hitting you harder then I assumed, Mike, take it easy during your off time. That's a direct order. I don't want you touching a single bottle. If I find out about your going near any alcohol, I'll give you all the cold cases I can find for you to go over and think over what a real headache feels like."

"I'll keep that in mind."

"I hope so. Go, Kellerman, now."

Mike opened the door, exited, and took a deep breath. He had worked with his superior for a year, and he still could scare the shit out of him. Sighing, he looked around, trying to choose whom Meldrick would most like to work with. His eyes flitted over Munch, Frank, finally coming to rest on Bayliss. They seemed to have had some hitches, Lewis and Bayliss, but otherwise they worked well together. He approached the tall man, who was sitting at his desk writing something.

"Hey Bayliss," he called, swallowing as his voice almost cracked. Tim slammed closed a book and looked up nervously.

"Yeah, Mike?"

"I was wondering if you'd want to go and help Lewis on a call. I decided I'd take advantage of some downtime after the... uh, shooting."

"I don't know, I've got a lot of work here... I'm glad you're taking the time though."

"Consider it a personal favor, then," Mike sighed, already looking around and deciding on Munch as his next target.

"All right," Bayliss surprised Mike with his answer. He reached for Tim's coat that lay draped on the chair next to his desk and handed it to him wordlessly.

"Thanks, Tim, I owe you one or two."

"It's no problem, I'll just sic Frank on you when he gets onto me," Tim said with a smile, taking his jacket and slipping it on.

"Yeah, well. I'll just avoid Frank for a few days when I get back." Again there was a silent 'if'.

Making his way back to his desk, Mike pulled out all of his case files from their stacks and headed back to Gee's office. He dreaded going back into it; the anxiety felt around someone who trusted him, but it was beginning to become like that everywhere he went. Hiding the truth from those that trusted him. He wanted the murders to be solved before the trails got cold. At least he could try and make up for what he did... if that were possible. He stepped in and set the folders on Gee's desk.

"I'm out of here. I'll come back when I feel up to it." His own mind added a silent 'if' to the statement.

"Good. I don't want to see your face in my squadroom for a week, at least."

"Yeah, uh..." he pursed his lips together and shook his head, "forget it."

Gee raised his eyebrows but said nothing, letting Kellerman go.

~

He brought a shaking cigarette to his mouth, sucking in the sickly scratch of tobacco smoke. It was getting to where even the routine of smoking was not soothing him any more. That scared him; it was one of his few options. That or hitting the bottle, but he had promised Gee he would not go near it. Too many trusts had been broken already that were already causing him too many stabs of regret and negative thoughts he had promised himself not to go near. He shuddered and sighed in the half-silence.

At least his headache had faded, finally. No more stabs of pain when he bent it a certain way. Now he was beginning to think clearly, yet all the thinking just brought more, unanswerable, questions to mind- which was why he generally tried to avoid thinking in times like this. Another drag and he threw the half-finished cigarette into the water; he was disgusted with himself and the roll of tobacco for not being able to sooth his mind like it used to.

He heard a familiar sound of footsteps pounding on the wood, getting nearer to his boat on the last dock. From the time between each step, he knew it was Meldrick before the voice called over his bent shoulder.

"Hello, Mikey, my partner in justice. Don't ever let me forget that, because Bayliss was in some kind of mood when he got there. Not that I'm complaining about who you sent, but he's depressed again."

Mike turned and gave a strained smile before reaching over and helping Meldrick onto the boat, though Meldrick could have done it easily by himself. A common courtesy both men enjoyed performing. It was even a custom, but to Mike it was some sign that his world had not completely changed into something unrecognizable.

"Hmm," Meldrick hummed, "why is everyone depressed? It's a fine Baltimore day."

"I don't know why Bayliss is depressed, but I've had a lot on my mind lately, Lewis," Mike said, hearing his voice come out flat and distorted. Shivering he turned back to the water. There was no answer to his comment, so he left it at that. He chose to follow the smooth patterns of the water with his eyes.

"Well... well, well, well. I've come to pick you up and take you to lunch so we can talk," Meldrick's voice got lower, "and maybe talkin' will help us both."

"I doubt it," Mike heard himself say. He seemed so far away. As if he were hearing himself speak, and not having any control over what he was saying. A feeling of panic threatened to surface from his painfully kept cool exterior, but the sudden weight of Meldrick's hand on his shoulder pushed it down and brought him back to his body. He blinked a few times into his friend's brown eyes, then returned to his slumped stance. He would not meet the brown pools.

"Mikey, I'm worried. What's goin' on man?"

"You said we'd talk over lunch, right?" Mike asked, his voice stronger. Meldrick nodded slipping his hands down to feel for his wallet.

"Good, because I'm starving."

Mike smiled a real, genuine smile. In turn, Meldrick smiled, but more in relief then anything.

~

He tore into the sandwich, smiling around every bite with an almost manic glee. He felt this incredible urge to laugh coming from his stomach, which was still twisted into knots, but now there was something else. A fluctuation from his depression that had brought him so low, into a hyper sensation that could only be described as a buzz. Some kind of high as a result of him being depressed for too long, or perhaps all of the built up energy was being released, leaving him strung out.

"It's like I don't have control anymore." He said, taking a swallow of the soda he had had in his hand. A few more seconds of silence and he put the last few bites of his sandwich back on the wax paper, suddenly sobered.

"Okay, I feel normal now. What I wanted to say is," his voice dropping lower and lower as he went on, "is that I don't know what happened up in that room anymore. I can't remember- I really don't want to remember. I know I killed him, but I can't remember why or what I was thinking, or what happened."

Mike shook his head, biting on the straw and furrowing his brow, trying to figure it out, his nerves still on end from the pulsing energy.

"I can understand that," Meldrick said calmly, "I don't quite understand what went down myself. Yeah, you shot him, but I donít know what was goin' on in your mind. I can't answer for you, Mikey. You're going to have to figure it out in your own mind. My mom used to ask me if I had done something that had happened in the building, when I said I didn't- which, for the record, I did not do. She always said the first person you have to answer to is yourself. I ain't never going to forget that."

Kellerman frowned, looking outside and sighing. He looked down at his partially eaten food.

"I'm done here," his eyes flitted to Meldrick's plate, "you haven't eaten anything."

"I wasn't really hungry, just wanted to get you some place you could talk where you would feel comfortable."

"Well, I need a cigarette... and a walk."

"I'll go with you," Meldrick jumped out of his seat. Mike reached into his pocket and dumped three dollars onto the table, pushing past Meldrick before he could protest. He heard Meldrick sigh, and the steps of him following. He turned to him only to hold the door to the restaurant open for him.

They walked down the street in silence, just watching the day unfold in the city. The cars and busy people as they moved down the streets. It was almost overwhelming for the both of them. Their built detective skills taught them to be constantly aware of everything, especially as Homicide detectives. Mike was the one to break the comfortable silence.

"Don't you have to go back and solve that case?"

"Nope. I discovered it was a dunker after you left. CSU boys lifted a print found on the weapon that was dumped in the trashcan nearby. Didn't take long to bring him back and pump a confession out of him."

"Hmm, should have been there."

"That's okay, I think Bayliss needed the break from Frank as much as you need some time."

They both chuckled softly.

"Tell me, Mikey, what's bothering you," Meldrick said out of no where. Mike frowned and looked up at him, his eyes narrowing. This was not like Meldrick at all. Meldrick was not receptive. It bothered Mike that he was changing just as much as he was because of this. Not only that, he had no real answer for him.

He reached in his pocket for the cigarette he had needed in the restaurant. Lighting it, he sucked heavily, feeling the smoke settle and calm him. He held the lighter lit for a second, watching the flames dance and eventually blow out.

They came to a bench at the corner, and took a seat.

"You know it's not supposed to be this way," he said at last, almost to himself, "I'm not supposed to be a murderer. We're not supposed to be stepping around each other like this, trying not to strike a goddamned nerve with the other. Me and Stivers were friends before this, and now we can't look each other in the eyes," he made a violent gesture with his hand to his eye, "This wasn't what I wanted."

Then again, how was he to know what he had wanted? He could not, or chose not, to remember what he wanted when he shot Luther. Release? How could there be release in killing someone? He did not want to think about it, but the question lingered in his mind.

"You're not a murderer, Kellerman," Meldrick said stiffly.

"Oh come on, you don't even believe what you're saying."

"No, you made a mistake, is all. You shouldn't have killed him, but you didn't murder him."

"There's a difference," Mike asked with a sidelong glance.

"Felton always thought there was," Meldrick replied.

"Felton?" For a second the name did not register, "Oh. Well, where is he now, huh?"

"He was a good cop, believed in a few hinky things, but still a good cop. You're a good cop."

Mike shook his head, "Stop feeding me this bullshit. There's nothing right about what I did, and you know it. Shit."

"Fine, you don't want to believe it, you don't have to. But I do, and you can tell me you're a murdering piece of garbage if you want to, but I won't believe it. You're my partner," Meldrick smiled, "you can do no wrong."

"You're even more stupid then I thought you were," Mike whispered, looking down at the concrete between his feet.

"Why? Because I won't believe you're a bad cop, which you aren't? Why don't you want me to think you're good police?"

'Because I don't want to hurt you,' he thought. "Because I don't want you to have to carry this, you or Stivers. The way I see it now, though, is that it's too late to go back and tell them what happened."

Meldrick looked away, shaking his head. He turned back and held Mike's eyes with his.

"There's a lot of things we would go back and do if we could," he said softly, "like with Rose Halligen and... and a whole bunch of other things we should have done, but didn't and did, but shouldn't have."

"But never anything like this, Meldrick. Those other things were just between you and me, and if that was what this was, I think we could handle it. But now we have Terri in it, too..."

"Yeah, but there's nothing we can do but move on. Try to move on."

"I can't do that," Mike said, leaning with his elbows supported on his knees.

"Why? This can be pushed away- Why, Terri's trying, and I'm doin' my best."

"No," Mike said harshly, "you're just trying to pretend it never happened. There's a difference."

"You think you're the only one that had a hand in this, Mikey? I was the one that got him beat up, the one who got his gun took, and the one that made you shoot him."

"You didnít make me do anything. Are you thinking if--"

"Oh? And if he didn't have my gun, would you have thought to shot him."

"I don't know," Mike replied, stomping on the cigarette he had thrown down, "I just don't know anymore, that's the problem. I don't know what happened, and... and I donít know who I am because of what I did."

Mike laughed, "I don't believe this. I'm letting some scumbag ruin my damn life."

"I don't understand that either."

"He's was still a person, Meldrick. I still took something I had no right to take."

"Damn it, he wasn't a human being like you or me. He- he was a murderer who was getting off on technicalities and the fact that he ordered it instead of doing it his own self," Lewis stressed.

Mike shook his head, "That still doesn't make it right."

"You're right, it doesn't. That don't mean you can't try to put it behind you though. What's done is done, Mikey, you can't let it eat you up like this. I don't want a repeat of happened on your boat. I don't want to pull a gun out of your mouth, but I'll do it again. I'm here for you, and you have to know that."

"I know that, I always knew that. That's why I can't let it be."

"What are you going to do?"

"I don't know yet," Mike said. The simple words sent shivers down Meldrick's spine, reaching into the depths of his mind and pulling out memories that he had hoped to have buried. He shook them away from his mind though, focusing on the face of his partner. Taking in the worry and letting his brain go to work on finding a way so that he was not so damned helpless to help Mikey.

"Promise me you won't do anything without talkin' to me. I'm too used to your funky ass to have to break in a new partner."

"I won't kill myself, Meldrick," Mike sighed, not feeling anger at his partner's distrust. It was a justified prodding, and he did not mind at all that someone actually cared enough to get upset over it. He needed Meldrick right now. A person to talk to that possibly could understand what he was going through.

"What are you going to do," Meldrick asked again.

"I still don't know."

~

Terri watched Meldrick walk in, knowing where he had gone by the serious look on his face. She was secretly amazed at how he could stand look at Mike, much less talk to him, after what had happened. Then again, he had been there beating on Luther before Mike and she had arrived, he was his partner, and his friend. Maybe he was being able to justify this better then she was able to.

"Hey, have a good lunch?"

"Yeah," Meldrick said, tossing his hat onto the desk and sliding out of his coat, "but I still don't really know what's bothering Mike."

"He shot and killed a man, I think that would bother any of us no matter what the circumstances were."

"It's more then that, though. He's looking for some way of making everything good again. I don't think he can, but it's... he's messed up right now, Terri."

She nodded, sitting down in Mike's desk; "Do you want to talk about it?"

"I guess so," he sighed, "all right. When we came back, and were typing up our reports, I was scared of him. I was typing, he was typing, and I couldn't tell what he was thinking.

"It's not like other times when I was scared for him, this time I was scared of him. I was afraid of what this would do to our partnership, to his mind. He has trouble... coping with some things."

"What do you mean," Stivers asked, her eyes on his. He stared back into the soothing brown eyes with a sigh. He sucked his bottom lip into his mouth and chewed on it distractedly.

"I mean... no. I promised I wouldn't tell anyone, I promised him."

"Mike and I were friends, maybe if you'd tell me we'd be able to help him. I didn't want this to happen, Meldrick, but I didn't want to be sucked into this, either."

Lewis shook his head indecisively.

"I promised."

"I know."

"I can't."

"You can, Meldrick. Trust me with this, I'm sure Mike would have at one time."

Meldrick looked up at her, "You can't tell anyone what happened, or that I told you anything. You can't."

"I won't, Meldrick, trust me."

"All right, let's go somewhere where we can know this won't get out."

"Where," She asked, looking around the squadroom at the gathered detectives.

"The roof."

~

"You know about his being called to the Grand Jury for charges of bribery, right?"

"Sure, it was in the papers and on the news almost every day," Terri said, leaning against the metal links of the fence.

"Did you see Mike at all, during that time?"

"Of course, we ran into each other a lot in the halls of this building."

"Did he seem all right to you?"

He nodded under Terri's wary gaze, and pulled his tie, which had been tossed over in a gust of wind, from his over shoulder. He breathed in the air, always mixed in with the sea's salty and fishy smell. It was getting harder for him to ignore the obvious dislike in her voice. He wanted to tell her to get over whatever it was that kept her from being comfortable around Mike, but the failure with attempting that with Mike he decided to keep it to himself.

"Now that you bring it up, no, he didnít seem his usual self."

"Of course not. I pulled a gun out of his mouth, Terri. He was going to kill himself that night he pulled a Mahoney related case. That bastard was nothing but trouble for him, and it never got any better."

"What? He was going to commit suicide? You never told your lieutenant about this?"

"Mike asked me not to," Meldrick replied.

"Are you willing to risk him doing it again because he won't go and talk to someone about this?"

"He said he was talking to someone. About it."

"Do you know for sure," she asked, her mouth open.

"No."

"Jesus, Meldrick."

"What? I promised. Plus, I didn't, and don't, want to remember it. It was a bad night for the both of us. I could have easily been to late, or not have gotten it out of his hands in time or something like that."

Terri shook her head and turned her back on him, "That doesn ít make it all right, Meldrick. He needs help."

"He said he wouldn't kill himself," he said lamely, his shoulders sagging because he knew she was right.

"Oh, so you talked about it over lunch? You talked to him about his problems over lunch?"

"No, it just came up."

"It just came up... just came up. This is great. Not only do I have to sidestep Giardello every time he looks at me, I have to worry about being woken up one day and told that my old best friend just killed himself?"

"He won't."

She shook her head and turned around. Her eyes said everything. 'You don't know that. You can't know that.' Another gust of wind blew the loose gravel and paper cups across the roof, distracting each of them momentarily.

"This is turning out to be a big mess, Meldrick," she sighed.

"I know."

He closed his eyes, squeezing them shut, willing everything that had happened to go away. He stood on the roof; his shoulders slumped in defeat. Terri and he were up here, while Mike was at home, alone. Mike was trying to figure a way to make everything fine again. The fact that he was trying to think of a good direction to follow was not what scared Meldrick. It was what Mike would do when he realized there was no where to go anymore.

~

Mike picked up the phone and dialed a familiar number. His hand itched to set it back down, but it was already ringing. He knew from experience that she disliked prank calls.

"Hello?"

"Hi, Mom," He said weakly.

"Mike? Oh Mike we haven't talked in ages. Are you okay?"

"No, I was wondering if I could come over. Dad's in Wisconsin, right?"

"You don't have to ask to come over, Son. Yes, he's visiting his brother, you know how Uncle Harry's heart is these days."

Mike slumped against the wall of his boat, a hand over his closed eyes. He drew a shuddering breath and bit his lip, "I love you, Mom."

"Mike, tell me what's wrong, hon."

"I made a mistake, Mom," his voice was small. It reminded him of the time he had fallen and scraped his knee on the curb in front of their house. So small and scared, shaking and crying silent tears as the disinfectant was poured and burned across the abrasion. Painful, but it was not like the dull ache that had been raging inside his stomach for days.

"I'll be here, waiting, and you come and tell me all about it."

"Thank you."

"Always, Michael, for you, always."

~

Terri waved as she walked down the steps heading for some unknown destination. Meldrick pushed open the door to the unit to see all of the detectives standing silently, looking toward Giardello. His face was stony- a warning sign that he was not pleased with whatever he had just heard, or whatever had just occurred.

"Detective Lewis, get over here, this is for the entire unit."

Meldrick walked cautiously over to the crowd, crossing his arms over his chest. The expressions on the other detectives' faces revealed the same confusion and worry he was feeling.

"The department in its infinite wisdom has decided to enforce a new rotation policy so that all units of the Baltimore Police Department CID will get to sample some of Baltimore's finest."

A quiet murmur went through the group, each detective turning to the one nearest to him or her and expressing his dislike or confusion over what this meant.

"Silence," he said sternly, "Each of you will be assigned to another unit for a period of ninety days, or three months. Pack up your supplies and have your case files on your desks by shift change."

"Hey, wait a minute, Gee," Meldrick called out.

"No, Detective, there's to be no further discussion. Pack up your things, or go empty handed."

~

Mike knocked on the aluminum frame of the screen door that entered into his old home. The home his two brothers and one sister had grown up in since childhood. It still held the same furnishings with aging wallpaper and dark toned woodwork. His mother opened the door, her eyes soft and happy.

"Mikey," she reached up and hugged him, turning to kiss him on the cheek, "you look terrible, come in and have something to eat and drink."

"I just ate--"

"Well obviously not enough, come. We'll sit and talk in the parlor after you've gotten something hearty in you."

He smiled weakly and followed the small woman through the doorways to the kitchen. There was already something baking in the oven, and he took a deep breath. His stomach growling even though he had indeed just had lunch. This was what he needed. He sat at the round table, telling himself that nothing could break the bond that his mother and he had. She would always love him, even for this.

Mike watched his mom prepare hot tea, more at ease with his decision, and unaware of the department's decision to further scatter the shards of his life.