And in the afterwards...
He opens his eyes to a cloudless sky that slips away before he can get a sense of where the hell he is. The sky wavers far overhead, distorted by the water as he's pulled under by the current. Too shocked to stop himself, he gulps for air and gets bitter water instead. He chokes, he kicks, he flails his arms - but waterlogged cloth drags at his limbs and his shoes weigh him down. Down deeper into the ocean, brackish salt water in his mouth, stinging his eyes, and he kicks again, stronger this time. Bright sun and clear air are so close - his fingers break through the surface of the water into free space, but there is nothing to grab hold of, nothing to cling to, and he is submerged again before hope has time to blossom. Then a hand brushes his, two fists twist in the floating silk of his jacket, and he is yanked free of the water. He coughs and sputters, his eyes shut with salt and shock, so it takes him a good long moment to realize his body remains submerged - only his head has been pulled up into the air. When he manages to crack his eyelids into slits the first thing to swim into focus is his partner's face.
Sonny stares down at him, cold and calm and sharp as a tack. The fists loosen, ruined silk slides through open fingers, and he falls.
Ricardo Tubbs opened his eyes to blackness. Gasped for air, his hands flying out to meet tangled sheets, mind stuttering over the shift from wet to dry. Parallel slashes of washed-out blue light scored the wall, curved over the mattress and his legs under the covers. As he watched, still panting with the dream, the stripes changed. They elongated and squeezed together and he finally recognized the pattern of his blinds drifting in the air currents, filtering the light from the courtyard outside his bedroom window.
The light striped his arms as he sat up and shoved the covers aside; but movement in the dark stopped him from rising. He jerked backwards into the headboard as a face emerged into the grid of reflected light by the bed. Nothing changed when he blinked. Sonny loomed at the foot of the mattress, squinting at Rico through long hair that hung into his eyes in damp strands. What the-
"Where is he?" Sonny hissed. His shoulders were hunched like he was tensed to spring. Rico shook his head, grasping for words and coming up empty. He slid from beneath the sheets until his feet hit the cool wood of the floor, then stood up into the dark, moving slow. Careful. Barely daring to breathe. What the hell-
Sonny shifted in and out of the light. Face unrecognizable, contorted with a confused rage. He raised his arms and his body fell into firing stance.
And there was a gun in his hands.
He'd had this dream before, hadn't he? Over and over in the last four months. Sonny with a gun in the dark.
"Sonny-" Rico's holster, on the nightstand, lay deflated and empty. The clock glowed 3:45. He allowed himself a quick inhalation. Scanned the room from the corners of his eyes, but the only weapon was the revolver in Sonny's hands. Rico's service weapon.
"WHERE IS HE?"
Before he had a chance to form a thought, Sonny rushed him, shoved him up against the wall next to the bed, one arm pinning him by the throat. The gun thrust up under his jaw, chilly against his skin.
"Who, Sonny? I don't know-"
"Hackman." The name choked out in the dark made the hair on Rico's arms stand up. Jeezus.
His mouth responded before his brain had time to catch up. "Hackman's dead."
Sonny wavered. His expression smoothed out, softened, went blurry. He backed away from Rico, gun covering him the whole way, training and reflexes intact even while out of his mind. Rico stayed where he was, his back stuck to the wall with fear sweat, and watched his partner vanish through the bedroom door.
After he'd collected himself enough to go looking, Rico found Sonny outside in the courtyard.
He just stood there on the far side of the pool, his back to Rico, a grey silhouette that blotted out a patch of shadowed pavement and a pair of empty white chairs where pretty young things between gigs usually lounged under the Miami sun. Pale shards of blue light glinted off of the broken surface of the water, painting the surrounding walls with streaks of liquid illumination. Rows of windows floated in a field above their heads, curtained and blinded against the impending pool-side drama. Behind each one, civilians slept or partied or did whatever it was that people with jobs that ended at five o'clock did. Five years ago, Rico would have remembered what that was like; then, five years ago his dreams hadn't been filled with salt water and gunfire.
Sonny's hands dangled at his sides, Rico's revolver a deeper blackness in the half-light. He was too far away to see for sure, but he bet Sonny's finger was still on the trigger.
Rico navigated the edge of the pool, the pavement scraping at his feet like sandpaper, chlorine scouring his nose. As he passed the white plank of the diving board his heart crept up his throat at his partner's stillness. Sonny stared out at the courtyard's arched entryway, at the distant lights of the street beyond. He didn't show any sign that he knew he had company, so Rico left a decent cushion of space between them. Waited, but Sonny just stared and stared, like he expected some sign from the night.
"You know, I've lived in this place four years and I don't remember even once taking the time to dip my toe in that water?"
Sonny started, head coming around with a jerk, fist clenching around the gun. Seawater filled Rico's chest, but somehow he managed to steady the instinct to duck, to dive out of range, to defend himself. When the gun stayed pointed at the pavement he found he could breathe. "It's funny, man. All those years you spent living on that damn boat, and your partner's the driest man in Miami."
It wasn't that dark out here, not really, not with the blue security lights scattered around the courtyard and the clouds overhead glowing with the city's orange haze. Potted palms cast spidery shadows that tangled beneath Sonny's bare feet. Some sunbather had left a pile of fashion mags behind on one of the chairs. The constant coastal breeze ruffled the curled pages and sent blue emanations from the lights on the pool shimmering over the walls. Sonny's tee was spectral in the dimness, and from the closer vantage point Rico could see he wasn't still at all - he was planted to the spot like his feet had taken root in the hard pavement, but the rest of him quivered. His chest fluttered in and out in a quick, jagged rhythm, his nostrils flaring. Eyes wide and unreadable, reflecting nothing back. Nothing familiar there, not even the fuzzy half-recognition he'd shown in the lighthouse.
Dammit. Rico scrubbed at his own eyes, wishing he was in his bed. Wishing like hell the lieutenant had offered to take Sonny off his hands. Castillo would have known what to do. Castillo probably could have disarmed the bastard back there in the bedroom, before they reached this point.
Castillo would never have let Sonny get his hands on the gun in the first place.
"Sonny," he said, knowing it came out impatient. Knowing somewhere down deep his partner would hear that edge.
Sonny blinked. He was breathing through his mouth, probably teetering on the near edge of hyperventilation. Maybe he'd pass out and save Rico the trouble. Rico waited, but nothing happened. Just two guys in their boxer shorts, stripped to shirts and skins like they were planning on a pickup game, standing like idiots in the pre-dawn chill that was still warmer than most nights Rico remembered in the Big Apple. "Comeon," he tried, forcing everything but calm out of his voice. "Come back inside."
Sonny shook his head, but it didn't seem like a response to Rico's words. His empty gaze slid down to the gun in his hands, back up to sweep over Rico. Checking for a weapon, like Rico was the one who was the threat. The skin on the back of Rico's neck prickled.
"Whaddyou want?" Sonny rasped. His free hand came up to rub at his temple, but his attention never strayed from Rico's position.
"Sleep, mostly." Rico tried not to tense. Let out a long breath. "It's been in short supply the last few months."
Sonny blinked again. "Sleep." Shook his head. His mouth twisted with a cynicism just this side of familiar. A laugh escaped him, knife-edged with contempt. Rico's hands were in fists and he had to force himself to relax. If he didn't watch it Sonny would drag him down the rabbit hole, down where nothing made sense and everybody was out to get you. "I can't sleep," Sonny finished, a little more himself.
"So you're gonna stay out here all night?"
"Why the hell not?" The gun shifted next to his bare thigh, and yes, his finger was still curled around the trigger.
Rico shrugged. "Whatever, man. But I have to live here, and you're gonna freak out the early birds." It would help if he could tell who he was talking to here. This didn't seem like the stone cold killer who'd shot him in the alley without so much as a blink; but then, it sure as hell wasn't his partner, either. Maybe your partner's gone, pal. Maybe he's not coming back. So who did that leave, then? A stranger, that's who. You gonna trust your back to a stranger? He had once before. Five years ago. And it wasn't like he had much of a choice when his gun was eight feet away in another man's hand. Yeah, that's trust all right.
What the hell. Maybe if he got Sonny talking they could go inside. "What happened back there?"
Sonny swallowed. Turned toward the archway again. If he made a run for it, Rico would have to call it in.
"Hackman." This time the name was empty of hate, empty of anything but the sounds the letters made. "I let him go."
Rico waited. He didn't know just what had happened to Frank Hackman in the end - a body had turned up, yeah, but that didn't mean anything. At least, he hadn't let it mean anything - by the time the lieutenant had heard from the island police, Sonny hadn't been around to ask, and Hackman's fate was the least of their worries.
"I got him off." The words came haltingly, like Sonny was discovering the truth of them as he spoke. "I believed him."
Rico swallowed back his questions, his doubts. Remembered the look on Hackman's face, outside the prison, cutting Sonny's feet out from under him with a smug grin. Got him off in more ways than one. "You did what you thought was right."
Sonny laughed again, but now the disgust was aimed at himself. As far from Burnett as Rico could have wished. So why didn't he feel any better?
"What I thought was right?" How much had he remembered? How do you know he really forgot in the first place?
Rico crossed his arms over his bare chest. "It's old business, man. You gotta let it go."
And par for the course over the last couple days they were the wrong words at the wrong moment. Sonny's face twisted in distrust and he backed off a step, his heels brushing the blue tile that surrounded the pool. "Old business," he echoed, eyes locked back on Rico. "Right."
Rico couldn't meet the intensity of his partner's stare, looking at him like he was the one who'd played Judas. "You'd like that. You want this all to go away, like it never happened. Let it go, huh?" Sonny gestured with the gun, taking in the whole courtyard, the whole city. "It was fucking yesterday. It just happened. Just now. And you think I should be able to let it go?"
That's rich, coming from the dude who thought he could put everything right by blindsiding his friends. By taking on Cliff King and a passel of lowlife scum on his lonesome. As if any of it could make up for killing a cop. Even a dirty cop.
Rico stood there and took it, throat burning with the words he wouldn't let erupt. Because what he wanted to say wasn't gonna do anyone any good right now, least of all himself. And he wasn't the one waving the fucking gun around. Sonny fell into a fuming silence, doing his best to make Rico burst into flames with his glare. Rico gulped a deep breath, forcing down the last four months. They sat in his belly heavy as a brick.
"Hackman-" Rico tried for neutral and mostly succeeded. "It wasn't your fault."
"Yeah?" Sonny's lips peeled back into something that wasn't a grin, all white teeth in the watery gloom. "Tell that to my wife."
Shit. "You remembered what happened to Caitlin?" It escaped him before he had time to consider whether it was the smartest thing to say.
"I know I got Hackman off death row," Sonny ground out, "I know Hackman killed her." It wasn't an answer, not exactly. Rico felt the tightrope he'd been walking the last two days sway. The gun swooped up next to Sonny's ear, and Rico's stomach went to jelly. He was too far away. He was-
"Goddammit," Sonny clawed at his eyes, the gun forgotten in his hand. Rico balanced on the balls of his feet. Tried to be ready. "I can't stop it. I can't make it stop."
"What happened to Hackman?" He had to know. Had to know whether Sonny knew. And if he does? What makes you think he'll tell the truth?
In the moment before all expression slid away the lines of Sonny's face turned inimical. His hands dropped to his sides. Then the gun came up, slow as syrup, until it aimed for Rico's head. A shot Rico knew he could make sleepwalking. So to speak. "How. The hell," Sonny said, each word spat out like it was poison. "Should I know?"
"I dunno, man." Rico watched the gun, wiped every doubt from his mind so that nothing would show on his face, in his voice. "I'm sorry."
Sonny took another step backwards, a bare inch between his feet and the edge of the pool. If Rico went for his knees-
"I don't know what happened to Hackman." The words spilled out, crashing into one another, barely intelligible. "I don't know what happened to Caitlin. I don't know what happened on that goddamned boat. What happened afterwards. None of it makes any sense."
The gun never wavered. Sonny had been a sniper in 'Nam. Before Rico had even met the man he'd walked away with more marksmanship commendations than any cop in Dade County. If he took a shot at this range, even while shaking like a junkie, Rico was fucked. And where do you think the next shot will go?
Thing of it was, he didn't know anymore.
"All I know is she's dead." Sonny's eyes were closed. He held the gun out in front of himself like a shield. "And I might as well have pulled the trigger."
Angelina. Is this what it had felt like? It seemed like a long time ago.
"Hey." Rico risked a step forward. The gun wasn't aimed at him anymore, not really. He swallowed. "Comeon, man. Let's get outta here."
Sonny opened his eyes and met Rico's direct gaze for the first time. Blinked at the gun and dropped his aim back to the pavement. Looked around like he'd woken in an unfamiliar bed - clearly unsure where the hell he was, but careful to hide it. He turned toward the pool and startled to find himself so close to the edge. Shuffled back from the water and shivered.
He didn't offer to hand over the gun; but he seemed less likely to blow Rico away, accidentally or otherwise, so Rico let it go.
Sonny hesitated, like he was waiting for Rico to make the first move. Rico shook off the quivery tension left over in his chest from the panic and fury and skirted the pool, retracing his steps back towards his wing of the apartment building. The breeze picked up, driving the pool's clear water into ripples that lapped against the white tile. Beneath the sound of the water, the pad of bare feet told him Sonny followed. When he reached the doorway Rico paused and looked back, past Sonny, out to the blue glow of the courtyard. Next time he slept he knew he'd hear the even percussion of waves hitting the shore. Knew he'd search the tangled debris and bits of wood that washed up on the beach, again and again, until the flesh on his hands wrinkled from the water.
Knew that all the while, he'd be listening for the crack of the gun.