Hi all! This is my first Homicide fic, and I haven't seen either season seven or the movie, and I'm just going by my memories of season six at the moment. Hopefully it won't be too much of a problem, but it may be that some things contradict canon. If so, I beg your indulgence...
Lewis was tired. Not tired of anything in particular, just generally tired. There was a word for it, some high-faluting French word or other that one of his more mismatched dates had once mentioned. What was the word?
Ennui. That was it.
Actually, though, he thought as he left the station house, that wasn't true. He was tired of specific things. He was tired of his new partner, for one. Not that his other partners had been perfect – Crosetti, the suicidal drunk with a Lincoln obsession, and Kellerman, the suicidal drunk with a vigilante complex, sprang immediately to mind – but Lagrand was cold. He had only been working with him two months, but damn was he cold; to him, murder was a game, a puzzle to be solved. Nothing affected him, not weeping families, not the blind hatred that fear inspired, not the death of the innocent. He was worse than Pembleton. Yeah, he was tired of Lagrand, all right.
He was tired of being rotated out of Homicide, too, away from the work he was best at; tired of having to forge new bonds every few months, having to work with a new partner. He was tired of pulling overtime. He was tired of the rain that had been battering down for the last two weeks, turning grey, dreary Baltimore even greyer and drearier. He was tired of his boots, that let in water through the soles because he didn't have the time or the money to get new ones. He was tired.
Ennui was the word, all right.
He stepped into the Waterfront, pausing a moment to let his eyes adjust to the gloomy light that filtered through the rain-drenched front window. It was dead, as it always was this time of day; a drunk was asleep at the corner table, and a glass of beer stood abandoned on the bar, its owner in the bathroom, or so the barman told him. Shrugging off his coat, he began to polish the glasses as the barman gathered his things and left. The polishing made him feel a little better; here, at least, were stains that could be removed, problems that could be solved, until the glass shone like it had been newly-made. He was concentrating on a particularly stubborn smear when he heard the bathroom door go. Lost in thought, he didn't look up even when the solitary drinker slid onto the stool in front of the bar. He looked up, though, when the drinker spoke, in a quiet, familiar voice.
It was Kellerman. Somehow, Lewis wasn't surprised. He hadn't seen his former partner in three years, not since Gee... Well, three years, anyway. But he felt a strange sense of inevitability about this meeting, as if he had been expecting it.
"Kellerman," he nodded.
Kellerman looked the same; a little thinner perhaps, his hair a little longer than the last time they had met, his near-set eyes slightly bloodshot from drink. He rubbed his hand over the lower half of his face, and started to get up.
"I'm sorry, I didn't think you'd be here. I'll go."
"It's OK," Lewis raised a hand to stop him. "This here's a public bar. You can drink here if you want."
Kellerman stared at him for a moment, then settled back onto the stool. "I'll just finish this beer, then."
Lewis nodded, looking back down at the glass he was polishing. "Whatever."
There was a long silence, broken only by the quiet snores of the drunk at the corner table. Lewis didn't look up from his glass; he didn't know how he felt about Kellerman being in his bar, but he sure wished there were some other customers too, something to break the silence that was swiftly upgrading from awkward to unpleasant.
"So how're you doing?" Kellerman's question scarcely lowered the level of tension in the air. Lewis looked up and shrugged.
"Same old, same old. You?"
Kellerman peered into the bottom of his glass. "Y'know. Nothing special."
Lewis rubbed his forehead. "Still in the PI business?"
"Yeah," Kellerman nodded.
"How's that treating you?"
Kellerman looked up, a muscle twitching slightly in his jaw. "Nothing special," he repeated. "How's Homicide?"
Lewis shrugged. "People still getting murdered."
There was another silence. Kellerman sipped his beer. Lewis went back to polishing his glass, even though it was as clean as it was ever going to get.
"My dad died." Kellerman's voice was almost accusatory.
Lewis stopped polishing. Kellerman was staring at his hands, folded on the counter.
"Oh, man, I'm sorry." What else was there to say? Lewis knew how much Kellerman's dad had meant to him. "What happened?"
Kellerman shrugged, not lifting his gaze. "Lung cancer. Liver cancer. Skin cancer. Something like that. Who cares, he's still dead." He finished his beer in a gulp and started to get to his feet.
"Hey," Lewis said, putting a hand on his arm. Kellerman looked up, his eyes hard. I'm going to regret this, Lewis thought, but all he said was, "Have another beer."
For a moment, it seemed like Kellerman would decline his offer, but then he sat back down. "Thanks," he muttered.
The silence stretched out again as Lewis poured the beer. Silence ought to be so easy to break, he reflected. All it was was the absence of sound. But still, there it was, like a physical barrier.
"Do you know how many people die in Baltimore every year, Meldrick?"
Lewis put the glass of beer down on the bar. "Course I do, I see most of 'em, don't I? Two-fifty, two-seventy-five, give or take a stiff here or there."
Kellerman shook his head. "That's not what I mean. I mean, how many people die altogether, not just the murders."
"Oh." Lewis thought for a moment. "Guess I don't."
Kellerman took a gulp of beer. "Me either."
The silence was shorter this time.
"You know," Kellerman said, fiddling with a coaster, "my dad told me not to take risks. Worked all his life down at the distillery, never shot for anything else. He was happy with what he did, with what he had. He knew he was good at it."
Lewis raised his eyebrows. "Your old man was happy pulling double shifts at the distillery till he died?"
Kellerman closed his eyes. "Maybe not. But he was right, I should never have taken that job."
"What job? The PI job?"
Kellerman gave a bitter laugh. "No, Meldrick, not the PI job. The job at Homicide."
"What you talking about?" Lewis put down the dishrag he was holding and leaned his elbows on the counter.
Kellerman was smiling now, the smile he always got when he was furious about something. "It wasn't Mahoney," he said, waving his right hand. "It wasn't Georgia Ray, or Pembleton, or even Falsone. It was the damn job, Meldrick. The job was what did for me. I was good at arson, I was happy there. People burn down buildings for profit, sure, it makes you angry, but the killing." He shook his hand and ran his hand through his hair. "Arson never made me so angry that I couldn't see. Arson never made my... my teeth, Meldrick, my damn teeth hurt." He closed his eyes. "Arson never put me in the same room as a child-killer with a loaded gun," he whispered.
Lewis shook his head, remembering another time, another place. It's the job. It's what we do. That was what he had said then.
"You didn't have to pull the trigger," was what he said now.
"No." Kellerman subsided, running his finger around the rim of his glass. "No, I didn't."
Outside, the rain was still beating down, streaming down the glass of the front window in a grey curtain. Lewis felt an odd sense of unreality, as if they were cut off from the world by that thin wall of moving water.
Lewis was snapped back from his reverie by Kellerman's question. He looked away from the window. "What you talking about?"
"You know what I'm talking about. What happened between us, Meldrick? You told me you would back me up."
"And I did," Lewis pointed out, keeping his voice even.
"But you stopped being my friend. You said the shooting was clean. What happened?"
Lewis leaned back against the shelves of glasses behind him, folding his arms. "I had second thoughts," he said.
"Yeah?" Kellerman shook his head, staring into his beer. "So did I. Every day."
"Then why'd you do it?" Lewis asked.
Kellerman looked up. "You know why," he said, sounding tired. "You were there, that night on the boat. I told you to go, but you didn't. I was best man at your wedding, for Christ's sake. You know why."
Lewis didn't say anything.
"I told you to go, but you didn't," Kellerman repeated, his voice very quiet. "We were friends. I told you to go, but you didn't." He looked up, his face empty. "If I told you to go now, would you?"
Lewis looked away. "We ain't friends no more, Mikey."
Kellerman closed his eyes for a long moment. "No," he said, getting to his feet. "No, I guess we're not."
Lewis watched him as he stepped through the door into the pouring rain. The bar was quiet, except for the steady drumming sound of water against glass. He picked up the glass he had been polishing, and began to work on it once more. There was a particularly stubborn stain near the bottom of the glass, but Lewis was determined to get it off.