A/N: Posting this again because I realized that the site got rid of all my section breaks, making me go, "Grrr," and "Arg," a LOT. This is sort of AU now for Cho's backstory, because I wrote it before second season.
Summary: Everyone talks too much. It can really give Cho a headache. Some definite Cho angst here, plus Jane snoops and Rigsby eats. Mild spoilers for "Blood Brothers."
Disclaimer: I don't own The Mentalist or any of its characters. I'm just wasting time here that I should be spending on homework.
Nobody would think it now, but as a kid, he'd been downright chatty. His mother used to tease him about it all the time. "The words out of your mouth, like leaves in autumn." His dad had died when he was seven years old. He'd been driving home from his work at the grocery store. "When I get there, you tell me all about your day. I want to hear everything." But then he was dead.
People talked too much about their childhoods. They talked too much, period.
Rigsby was a perfect example. In with the junk food, out with the vowel sounds.
"So, did you watch American Idol?"
Cho didn't even bother responding.
"That skinny one, John something, the country singer? Man, I don't know why Simon gets on his case so much. He's way better than that Keri Ann, and they keep saying she has star potential or something, and what does that even mean?" He pushed large bites of powdered donut into his mouth, white dust sprinkling his fingertips and everything else he touched, the seatbelt, the heater, the radio dial. Cho could see the imprint of greasy white fingertips at the two and ten o'clock positions on the steering wheel. "Mmm. She—mmm—she's overrated, if you ask me." Another bite of his donut then, followed by a swig of some overpriced, over caffeinated drink from Starbucks, as if Rigsby needed the caffeine. "I hope she gets voted off next time. I think America will vote her off. I don't know. What do you think; do you like her?"
"I don't like television."
Rigsby paused, the last bite of his donut frozen half an inch or so from his mouth. "Oh," he said, and then shrugged, popped the rest of his "breakfast"—at four o'clock in the afternoon—into his mouth. "What about movies? Did you see Transformers 2? I-Max, man. Only way to go."
Cho closed his eyes.
Sometimes, the constant noise got to him. Buzzing. Headaches. Migraines. He didn't let it show. He didn't like to let things show. It was unnecessary. It was irritating. It was public.
Cho liked his privacy.
Not enough people respected privacy. Some people had to stick their nose in everything. It could be a good quality in detective.
With Jane, it was just annoying.
Jane's grin split his face half open. "Something's wrong with you. Don't deny it. What's bothering you about this case?"
Cho stared at him.
"Now I said: don't deny it. Come on. Is it . . . the widow?"
Cho went back to his paperwork.
"No, that's not it. You don't fall for the pretty widow types. The victim—"
"We don't know he's a victim."
Jane's eyes lit up like a kid at Christmastime. Cho instantly regretted speaking. "You don't think he's connected to the others, the 101 Killer. You think Peter Castle's accident was just an accident?"
Accident. Cho hated that word.
"It's too early to know anything," Cho said steadily. He didn't look up from his paperwork for three and a half minutes. When he did, Jane was still there, watching him with a quizzical half-smile on his face, working out the puzzle. Cho ignored him. He didn't like people watching him that closely, and Jane knew it, and Jane knew that Cho knew that Jane knew it, so there really wasn't anything to do but pretend he wasn't there.
Another two minutes. Like bugs on his skin. "Jane," Cho said flatly.
"Jane," Lisbon said from across the room. "Stop bothering Cho. Do we have anything yet or not?"
"No," Jane said, jumping up from where he'd been leaning against Cho's desk. "Not really. Well, Rigsby's wondering whether or not there's any of that blackberry pie left in the fridge—" Rigsby looked up guiltily—"and Van Pelt's got a dentist appointment tomorrow, and Cho has a headache, and—"
"Anything about the case, Jane?"
"No," Jane shrugged. "Not about that. Is it five o'clock yet? I think I'll make myself a cup of tea. Tea, tea anyone?" He sauntered off to the kitchen, a child badly in need of Ritalin. Cho didn't bother rolling his eyes. He was used to it.
Lisbon crossed the room. She stopped in front of Cho's desk. "You okay?" she asked him, left hand making a half-hearted gesture near her head. She knew that Cho got migraines, sometimes. She saw him go through one once.
Cho didn't like that, either. People didn't need to know everything (anything) about him.
"Yes, Boss," Cho said steadily, resisting the temptation to rub at his temples.
Lisbon waited a second, giving Cho the opportunity to speak, and then just shrugged. "Okay," she said and went back to Minelli's office. The second she went inside, Jane was back. Cho didn't sigh out loud, but it was a near thing.
"Thought you were getting tea," he said, going back to his paperwork.
"In a minute. Tell me: why don't you think Mr. Castle's death was a homicide? His car flipped on the same stretch of highway as the other three victims, and Rigsby found the life insurance policy the wife had on him."
"You said it wasn't her. I thought she was your clean soul or something." For being the Great Supernatural Skeptic, Jane seemed to have odd faith in people's innocence sometimes.
"She is," Jane said, "but that's not why you believe Castle's death was an accident." Jane hopped back on the desk, ignoring what he referred to as Cho's Steady Glare of Impending Deadpan Doom. "I want to know why you believe that."
"I don't believe anything yet," Cho said, his face giving away nothing as he stared back at Jane. "It's too early to know anything for sure. But, people are careless, especially when they drive."
Jane nodded, his smile smaller, satisfied, like he had trapped something. "And you don't like careless people, do you, Cho?"
He was up, hopping away, before Cho could answer.
It was true; Cho didn't have much use for truly careless people. Jane seemed as frivolous as the wind sometimes, but he understood actions had consequences, even if he chose to disregard them. Other people didn't understand that. They thought their intention was the only thing that mattered.
Cho wasn't really crazy about overly chatty people, either.
"What do you mean; you haven't seen The Wizard of Oz? Everyone's seen The Wizard of Oz. You really haven't seen it?"
Rigsby paused. "You gotta have seen it."
Cho sighed, rubbed his temples. They were on stake out duty again, watching Mrs. Castle, Jane's "clean soul" in case she did anything suspicious. Rigsby was eating a greasy slice of pizza. He hadn't shut his mouth in thirty minutes. Usually, Rigsby's inane chatter didn't bother him so much. Usually, he enjoyed blowing off steam by bantering back. But his headache hadn't receded in three days, and he didn't give a damn about The Wizard of Oz.
"What's so great about it? Girl, witch, golden brick road. Whole thing is a dream. What's the point?"
"It's a classic," Rigsby protested.
"There are flying monkeys," Cho reminded him.
"You're scared of the flying monkeys?"
"Flying monkeys are creepy."
" . . .you're scared of the flying monkeys." Rigsby grinned. Cho shook his head and went back to watching Elaine Castle. She was kneeling on the ground, working in her garden. She had a ridiculously large hat on.
"I don't get those hats," he told Rigsby.
"I think they're supposed to be fashionable. Protect you from the sun; make you look good while working."
"Stupid," Cho decided.
He fished his book out from under the seat. Reading wasn't exactly helping his headache, but it was his favorite way of passing the time. Also, Rigsby might decide to leave him alone.
He usually wasn't so much of an optimist.
"I just don't get it, man. How the hell did you ever get through childhood without seeing The Wizard of Oz at least once?"
Cho's mouth tightened at the question. Unfortunately, Rigsby noticed. His voice was quiet and curious when he asked, "What was your childhood like?"
Cho didn't even look up.
"I'll tell you all about it sometime."
He went home after his shift, took off his shoes, and called his mother. He always called her on Thursdays nights. Also on Sundays. Twice a week, like clockwork, plus brunch at least once a month for the past ten years. His mother always answered on the sixth or seventh ring and put a lot of effort into sounding surprised, as if she wasn't sure he'd remember.
She knew he'd remember. She did it just to bother him.
This wasn't paranoia. She'd told him as much two months ago.
"You are so rigid," she'd said to him. "So ordered. You needed to loosen up. You use to be such a free-spirited boy."
He didn't tell her that boy was dead. He hated people who said things like that. He wasn't dead. You couldn't breathe and be dead. Instead, he said, "I used to be a lot of things." It went unsaid that a lot of them weren't very good.
"Aiya." That noise. It followed him into his dreams sometimes. "You were never a bad son, never. Just, got into trouble. Now, no trouble. No fun. All serious."
But Cho knew better than that. He hadn't always been a good son. Good sons didn't make their mothers cry. Good sons didn't get so out of control.
He was in control now. He had to be.
More stake out duty. More junk food. Oreos this time.
"You've got to give me something. It was . . . stealing. Car theft. Drugs?" Rigsby laughed. "I just can't imagine you doing drugs, no matter how old you were."
Cho stared at his book. His headache was making the words start to scramble. He wished it was making him deaf. People would be much easier to ignore if he was deaf.
Maybe his head wouldn't hurt so much.
"Oh, come on, Cho. You can't just drop cryptic hints about something and then never bring it up again. Cryptic is Jane's thing." Cho didn't respond, and Rigsby sighed. He was bored; that was the problem. Rigsby always talked when he was bored. "All right, then. Forget about juvie. Tell me something about your childhood. Anything."
"Usual stuff. School, sports, toys."
"That doesn't tell me anything," Rigsby complained. "Come on, man. Where did you grow up? What cartoons did you watch? Did you get dragged to Sunday School as much as I did?" He sighed. "I'm going to have to make up my own version if you don't give me some hints. I'll turn it into a soap opera. Very melodramatic."
Cho stayed silent. He was too tired for this.
"Okay, you asked for it. You were actually adopted. You didn't find out until you were ten, and you ran away to find your real parents, only to find out that they were . . . yeah, carny folk, and your mom was an acrobat with a booze problem, and your dad used to tie you to one of those boards and throw knives at you and, I don't know, probably locked you in dark closets and wanted you to join the family business, but you wanted to break away from them, hoped you never saw him a—"
"Rigsby," Cho snapped. He threw his book down to the floor and glared at him. "Shut. Up."
Rigsby's goofy smile immediately melted from his face, and he stopped talking, looking at Cho like he couldn't decide whether to be concerned, angry, or just confused. Cho wanted to shake him. He looked out the window until that feeling went away.
It took awhile.
Rigsby shifted uncomfortably in the seat behind him. He was probably trying to decide whether to say something or not. Cho thought about apologizing—Rigsby didn't mean anything by his nonsense; he knew that—but he decided against it. Cho didn't snap at people very often. He certainly didn't apologize. An apology would probably just freak Rigsby out even more.
Looking out the window, Cho said, "Childhood's gone. There's not a lot of point in talking about it."
Rigsby picked up an Oreo, tried to eat it, and then put it down.
"I think you're wrong about that," he said quietly.
The stakeout had been long and uncomfortable. Though Cho had finally gotten his peace and quiet, it didn't feel well earned. The pain inside of his skull was crushing.
He had been relieved when Lisbon called in, told them to report back to the office. There had been a break in the case, Castle's case, anyway. They had a suspect in custody, guy named Neil Phillips. Thirty three years old and local to the area, Phillips was a part time construction worker, full time screw up, and had three minor accidents on his record, all his fault to date.
Someone had seen a truck matching his vehicle's description driving away from the site of the crash. They knew Phillips wasn't the 101 Killer. Tire treads confirmed Cho's theory; Mr. Castle's accident didn't fit the pattern.
It was up to Cho to see if they at least had one person they could put behind bars.
Cho watched him through the one-way glass of the interrogation room. Phillips was pale, sweaty, and fidgety—nervous, not an addict. He kept clenching and unclenching his hands.
Looking at him, Cho felt tired. A confession wouldn't be hard to get. He knew how to handle men like Phillips.
Some men couldn't be comfortable with silence.
Cho hadn't spoken a word in over four and a half minutes.
Phillips sat nervously, his fingers jittering across the table. His forehead was beaded with sweat. He was nearly as pale as the shirt he wore. He tried to wait Cho out, but no man had ever waited Cho out, at least not in interrogation. Finally, he cracked. "Aren't you going to ask me any questions?'
"Wasn't planning to," Cho said. The pressure in his head was tightening more and more. He once again resisted the urge to rub at his temples. "We already know what happened."
"You—you do?" Cho nodded, although strictly speaking, this wasn't true. They suspected Phillips, but they had no hard proof, nor did they know the cause of the accident. But Phillips didn't know that. He looked almost relieved as Cho nodded.
"It wasn't my fault," he said. "I didn't mean to. I didn't."
"It was an accident," Cho said, and Phillips nodded frantically.
"It was an accident," Phillips agreed. "An accident; I didn't mean it."
"I believe you," Cho said flatly.
Phillips continued to shake. "I never meant to hurt anyone."
"Tell me," Cho said.
Phillips nodded, crossing his arms against his chest. "Look, look, I was—I was going kind of fast, okay? Not, not that fast, but a little fast, and I—that guy's car was just suddenly there, you know, out of nowhere, and –look, I tried to avoid it, but I couldn't, it was an accident."
The pain in Cho's head sharpened, felt like the sides of his head were concaving. Phillip's high-pitched whine wasn't helping. Cho wanted nothing more than to tape the guy's mouth shut. Maybe hit him in the mouth. Knock him over in the chair. The violence of the emotion surprised him. He felt his control slipping more and more as the pain flared again, shredding the inside of his head, brains to cheese grater. He tried to hide the wince. He was pretty sure he failed.
Cho did not knock the man across the face. He did what he always did as an interrogator, taking the man's point of view, letting him trap himself with his own tongue. "You couldn't stop," Cho said. "You wanted to, but you couldn't."
"I didn't want to go to jail," Phillips whined. "I didn't deserve to; I didn't mean it." Cho's resolve to stay in Phillips's shoes was quickly dissipating as Phillips continued to weakly defend his own innocence. "I didn't mean to. It wasn't like I was drunk."
Cho closed his eyes briefly. Phillip's voice just seemed to get louder. "I wouldn't do anything like that. I'm not a bad guy. I wouldn't drink and drive."
"No. You wouldn't do anything like that."
"I'm not a bad guy," Phillips repeated.
"You were stone-cold sober when you ran an innocent man off the road and left him there to die."
Phillips's eyes bugged out, suddenly realizing that Cho, officer of the law, was not actually on his side. His mouth opened and closed. He looked like a fish. "But—I didn't—"
"You didn't mean to," Cho finished for him. His voice flattened even more. "You were reckless. Careless. Careless isn't a good legal defensive position, Mr. Phillips."
"It was an accident." Like that somehow excused him.
"It was an accident at the beginning. You didn't mean to run him off the road. But it was your choice to drive at dangerous speeds, your choice to leave the scene of the crime." Though not yelling, Cho's voice seemed to rise of its own accord. His head hurt so much he could feel tremors in his hands.
He tightened his fingers into fists, not because he was angry, although he was angry. Inexplicably, he felt the small stirrings of fury in the pit of his stomach. Or maybe that was nausea. The lights in the room seemed to pulse, stabbing him through his eye sockets and making his stomach queasy.
He tightened his hands into fists so that no one would see them shaking. "Did you know that Mr. Castle survived the initial impact?" Phillips shook his head mutely, more like he was denying the truth of this statement to himself. "No. You'd have had to stop, get out of your car, and check on him to know that. If you had, you would have found Mr. Castle trapped and bleeding, but still alive. You might have been able to save him. But it was your choice to drive away."
Tears poured down Phillips's face as he started whispering, "Stop."
Cho didn't stop. Couldn't. "You chose to leave Mr. Castle's seven year old boy without a father. That's not an accident, Mr. Phillips. That's a crime, and you're going to prison for it."
Phillips completely broke down, hands covering his pale face. Cho stared at him dispassionately until the pain in his head caused his vision to throb. He had to get out of this room, maybe throw some water on his face, try to make it through the end of the day. He stood up carefully and left the sobbing Phillips behind.
He nearly ran into Lisbon on his way out. She looked almost mildly impressed, one eyebrow raised upwards. Jane, behind her, peered curiously at him. "Good work," Lisbon said to Cho. "I think you may have almost shown an actual emotion in there." The tone was wry, and Cho knew how he was supposed to respond to it—but he didn't think he could respond to anything. He didn't know if he could speak. Opening his mouth seemed like a bad idea. The queasiness in his stomach had advanced to serious churning.
The boss liked him well enough, but no one liked you so much that they wanted puke on their shoes.
He frowned vaguely in Lisbon's direction. His head hurt all the way down to his jawbone.
Lisbon's smirk faded into a concerned frown. "Cho?" she asked.
"You're not fine," Jane said quickly. Cho didn't bother to contradict him. He needed to get to the bathroom. Now.
"Phillips is all yours," Cho said and moved past them. The room seemed to move as he walked to the bathroom. He hoped he was walking steadily and not staggering. At this point, it was hard to tell. He heard someone call his name from behind him, probably the boss, but he couldn't answer just then. He needed to throw some water on his face, sit down for a minute. He'd be okay. He'd be fine.
When he got to the men's room, the florescent lights flickered so brightly that something seemed to burst inside of his head.
He barely managed to make it to the toilet before falling to his knees and throwing up.
It seemed like he was vomiting for a long time, long after he had anything to come back up. There was a voice, saying his name, but he couldn't figure out who it was. He didn't try all that hard. Vomiting came first. He was good with priorities. His stomach heaved and he threw up again. The lights in the restroom suddenly went out.
Cho could have wept with relief.
Obviously, he did no such thing. He sat in the darkness, head over the toilet bowl, eyes squeezed shut against the pressure in his head. He felt hands touching his back. He jolted, tried to stand. The hands held him on the floor. "No, Cho, stay down. Stay still." Jane, Cho realized. Great.
Cho didn't say anything. He kept his eyes closed and leaned just slightly into the stall, Jane kneeling silently beside him. Cho was grateful for the quiet. The nausea in his stomach settled somewhat, but he made no further move to get up. Sitting on the floor of a public men's room. He'd have to burn this suit later.
There was another voice then, a woman's, and the lights suddenly flared back on. Cho made an involuntary sound from the back of his throat as the light seemed to pound its way through his entire body. Jane snapped something sharply and the lights immediately turned back off. Cho thought he might vomit again, but he didn't. He kept absolutely still.
Footsteps. The female voice again, just above a whisper. Lisbon, he realized. "How you doing, Cho?" She was trying to sound casual and not concerned.
Cho almost smiled at that. "Okay, boss," he managed to mutter, still not opening his eyes.
"Of course you are," she said. Cho could hear the smile in her voice. Wryness was one of his favorite qualities about Lisbon. "Guess who's getting a couple of day's sick leave? Mandatory sick leave."
He wasn't in the position to argue, so he didn't bother saying anything.
Lisbon patted him very gently on the shoulder and went away somewhere. Cho very slowly opened his eyes. When they adjusted to the darkness, they settled on Jane's face. Jane looked at him with a very small smile. "No more interrogations for you," Jane murmured.
"Yeah," Cho said. That, he could get on board with.
Lisbon came back into the bathroom a few minutes later. If she was uncomfortable in a men's room, she didn't show it. "Van Pelt is going to drive you home," she said. "You think you're okay to stand?"
Jane started to grin. "I'm sure we could find him a wheelchair."
Cho frowned at Jane. "Not necessary." Jane's grin split even wider.
Slowly, with the other man's help, Cho got to his feet and took small, steady steps out of the restroom. Rigsby sat at his desk, staring at him. He was too big of a guy to look that helpless. Cho wasn't quite sure what he looked so guilty for, or maybe he was just worried. Waste of time: it was just a damn migraine, after all. Cho might have gone over, teased him about it, but Rigsby's desk was easily twenty feet away, and Cho wanted to get back to somewhere dark as quickly as possible. The light in the room was making him slightly queasy again.
Van Pelt met them at the door. She stared at him and then tried to make it look like she wasn't staring. She offered him a small, tentative smile. "Hey," she said.
"Hi," he said dryly.
Jane helped him into Van Pelt's car. Cho closed his eyes as soon as he sat down. "Get better soon," he heard Jane say. "Home isn't the same without our deadpan investigator."
Cho wanted to tell him that headquarters shouldn't be synonymous with home, it wasn't healthy, but by the time he opened his eyes again, Jane was gone.
Van Pelt got into the car and fired up the engine. Music blasted from the radio and she shut it off instantly. Cho was grateful for that. That music would have given him a headache whether he had a migraine or not. It sounded vaguely inspirational. Cho hated inspirational music. His mother listened to it all the time.
It wasn't Sunday today. He was grateful for that too.
Van Pelt drove him home, slowly and steadily, avoiding any sudden stops or swerving. She followed him up to his apartment, unlocked the door for him, and got him pain meds while he got into bed. He ignored the glass of water and swallowed the pills dry. Van Pelt stood at the foot of his bed, hovering uncertainly.
"Is there something—"
"No," Cho told her.
"Okay. Well. Feel better, okay?"
"Will do," he said. "Thanks."
Van Pelt smiled at him and left. Cho sunk underneath his covers, where it was dark and warm and quiet.
Silence really was golden.
He spent the next day doing next to nothing. By degrees, the migraine dissolved, from god-awful to awful to mostly manageable to almost non-existent. He came back to work on Sunday. He reminded himself to call his mother that night.
"Welcome back," Lisbon said as he entered the office. She had a slight smile on her face. "How are you feeling?" she asked.
"Mmm." Lisbon gave him the look that she usually directed at Jane, that one that clearly said she was going to be watching him. "Break in the case with the 101 Killer. You and Rigsby are on stakeout duty again."
Cho nodded once and Lisbon walked off. Jane danced over the second she was gone.
"Oh," Cho said. "You."
Jane gave him his widest grin. "All better?" he asked, leaning on Cho's desk. His eyes actually seemed to twinkle. Probably too much tea.
"Good." Jane nodded to himself, started messing around with the folders on the desk. Cho had those papers in specific order.
"Stop that," he said flatly.
Jane did and glanced up at him, his smile dimming considerably as he did so. "You know," he said, "in the interrogation room with Phillips, you said Mr. Castle left behind a seven year old boy." He paused, as if waiting for Cho to reply. Cho said nothing. "He was eight, actually."
Cho stared at Jane for awhile. "Whoops," he finally allowed.
"Kind of unlike you, to make a mistake like that."
"I had a migraine."
"Yes. I suppose that could have been it." Jane didn't seem to have anything else to say, and Cho had work to catch up on, so he sat down at his desk. He was looking at his files when he heard Jane ask, "Were you and your father close?"
Cho considered not answering the question. He glanced up at the other man. It was always a little strange to see Jane not smiling. He was the kind of guy that would smile into Hell. "Yes," he finally answered.
Jane nodded. "Were they careless?"
"The person who killed him."
Cho didn't hesitate. "Yes."
Jane nodded again, like he was seeing things that other people couldn't see, that Cho couldn't see in himself. Jane was like that. It was a mildly obnoxious trait. Of course, it was what they paid him for. And it was always funny when he did it to Rigsby. "I'm sorry," Jane said quietly. Cho could tell that he actually was.
Cho glanced down again. "It happened a long time ago."
"Time doesn't really heal anything."
Cho looked up.
"No," he said.
"No, it doesn't."
Fourth stakeout in a week.
Rigsby fidgeted uncomfortably. He had a bag of Cooler Ranch Doritos, but he wasn't even eating them. Cho got tired of it. "Okay," he said. "What's with you?"
"What? Nothing." Rigsby shifted around some more.
Cho folded his arms and stared at him.
"Well, just . . . I feel bad, you know? We were sitting in this car for hours, and I never noticed how much pain you were in. You could have said something."
"It wasn't that bad."
Rigsby shook his head incredulously. "You ran out of interrogation and barfed in the restroom."
"I did not."
"You practically ran out."
"You were sick," Rigsby said. "And all I was thinking was that you had been a little . . ."
"Bitchy," Cho suggested flatly.
"Sharp with me in the car." Rigsby shrugged uncomfortably. "I just . . . feel bad."
"Well, don't," Cho said. "That's ridiculous. And more to the point, it's useless."
Rigsby rolled his eyes and looked away. Apparently, that wasn't what he wanted to hear.
"Anyway, it's not your fault," Cho said.
"It's hard to have a partner who doesn't trust you," Rigsby said.
Cho glanced at him. "I trust you," he said, surprised.
"I don't surround myself with armed people that I don't trust."
Rigsby sighed. "That's not the kind of trust I mean," he said. "Partners should know stuff about each other. Partners are supposed to trust each other with, you know, personal stuff."
Cho was silent. Finally, he said, "You've been hanging out with Jane, haven't you?"
Rigsby actually huffed. He turned back to watch the suspect's home, almost grumbling as he ate from his bag of Doritos.
Cho watched him for awhile. Something was going to have to give. If he ever wanted them to get back to their normal relationship—which he did; cops needed to have patterns, banter, routines; it just wasn't safe for there to be tension like this—something was definitely going to have to give.
What Cho had to give, he didn't want to offer.
"I went to juvie when I was fifteen for beating another kid half to death."
Rigsby turned his head so fast, he spilled the bag of Doritos. "You did?" he asked. "Really?" He seemed kind of shocked.
"I was angry."
"Yeah, I kind of guessed that," Rigsby laughed. "I mean, what did he do to you?"
Cho stared straight ahead. "Not much," he admitted. "It didn't take a lot to set me off back then."
"Yeah," Cho said. "Me."
Rigsby processed this. Since he processed better with food, he reached into the glove compartment and got out a half-melted chocolate bar. "Wow," he said, biting into the candy.
"So, what are you going to tell me?"
Rigsby blinked. "What?"
"It's your turn, right? You're supposed to tell me something now, some big secret."
"Oh, yeah. Ummm . . . ."
"It better not be about Van Pelt. People in Turkmenistan know how you feel about Van Pelt."
Rigsby threw the wrapper at him. "Shut up, Cho."
There. That was better.
Cho got off of work after seven, went home, and called his mother. She actually gasped when she picked up the phone. "So good to hear from you! Always good to hear from you."
Cho didn't rise to the bait. He asked her how she was, attempted to care about the details of her day, the annoying man in the grocery store, the gossip from the hairdresser. "You sound tired," she accused him. She said it like he'd done something wrong.
"It's been a long week," he told her.
"Yes," she said. "Thinking about your father." For the life of him, he had no idea how she did that. She was worse than Jane sometimes, really. It was impossible to keep things from her. "I think about him too, sometimes," she said.
Cho had nothing to say to that. After a few moments of silence, she audibly sighed. "You should talk about him," she said. "No good, keeping everything inside."
He felt like he had just had this conversation. He wasn't interested in having it again. If it had been anyone else, Cho would have just glared at them until they left him alone.
He couldn't that with his mother.
"Nothing to talk about," he said.
"Bullshit." Cho's lips twitched. His mother didn't swear a lot and when she did, it usually startled him into laughing. She would stomp one tiny foot and shake her fists. "Much to say. You never talk." Cho really didn't want to hear about how much he used to talk. His headache had only just gone away. Conversations like that always brought it back.
"It was an accident," she said quietly. "It was nobody's fault."
"It was somebody's fault," Cho said. There are no accidents.
His mother sighed again. "Your father, he didn't mean for it to happen. He didn't want to leave us. Didn't want to leave you. He was excited to be getting home. He was happy. He was—"
"Careless," Cho said.
His mother said nothing at all. The silence seemed to drag on a long time, even to Cho, who revered silences as underappreciated and valuable moments of time. When I get there, you tell me all about your day. I want to hear everything. "He loved you very much," his mother said. "It was not his fault. Not your fault."
Cho closed his eyes, rubbed his temples. He didn't believe her, never would.
He and Rigsby brought in a suspect on Monday. He didn't confess, but there was solid evidence against him. Rigsby wanted to go out and do something to celebrate, but everyone had plans. Except Cho.
"I have plans," Cho told him. "I plan to go home. That's a plan."
Predictably, Rigsby whined and wheedled. Cho shook his head. "What do you want to go do? Bowl?"
Rigsby's eyes lit up at the very thought.
"Maybe I should work on different inflections after all," Cho muttered to himself.
"Why not?" Rigsby asked. "Bowling's fun. You already have the shirt for it."
Cho looked down at his customary, short-sleeved white work shirt. "This isn't a bowling shirt," he said. "Don't mock the shirt."
"It's too easy, anyway," Jane said from his couch.
Cho turned to him. "Why don't you bowling with Rigsby?"
But Jane just smiled and shut his eyes. His plans remained mysterious.
"Come on, Cho. Bowling would be fun. What do you have against bowling?"
"Paying money to knock down pins. Yeah. That's fun."
Rigsby sighed theatrically. "Okay, well, something. We could get a drink. Oh, get some food." As if he hadn't eaten enough for four people today. "I know a great restaurant downtown."
Cho did not want to know what Rigsby thought of as a great restaurant. His face remained impassive, but inside, Cho's arteries shuddered at the very thought. "No," he said flatly.
Rigsby looked like a puppy that had been kicked.
"Now, you broke him," Jane said from his couch. Cho turned to glare at him and then looked back at Rigsby, who was now looking at him hopefully.
"A movie?" Rigsby suggested.
A movie. Probably something mindless, with no plot and women in skimpy clothes who couldn't act. Maybe not the women. If it didn't star Van Pelt, Rigsby wouldn't be interested. Movies cost ten bucks now. He didn't need to spend ten bucks watching something that cost millions of dollars to film and could have been better spent on law enforcement or health care or anything.
Still. It had been a long week, and they had put the 101 Killer behind bars. And Rigsby had been pretty good about limiting the barf jokes. And Cho never really apologized for snapping at him.
And, of course, nobody would be talking about fathers or childhoods or at all.
"Fine," Cho finally allowed. "But I pick the movie."