Ronnie didn't know how long he had been sitting at the bar, drinking. But he didn't really care. He couldn't feel the effects of the alcohol, even the hard liquor was providing no comfort tonight.
He felt as if he would never feel the numbness he so needed right now.
But he was determined to try.
When the news bulletin came on, he was barely paying attention. And when he did start to listen, the things that Aceveda was saying made his blood run cold. Aceveda had known Lem. He knew he was a good cop. They all knew, but no-one cared. Not any more.
Ronnie sipped his whiskey slowly, grateful for the way it burned his throat on the way down. Because it was better to feel pain, then nothing at all. Swirling the amber liquid in his glass, Ronnie slowly raised his eyes to the TV screen above the bar, in time to see a picture of Lem smiling on the TV screen.
Ronnie's heart felt like someone had grabbed in a steel vice.
The numbness he'd wanted so desperately before, suddenly washed through his body.
And he felt cold.
That sweet, sweet smile.
So beautiful, so kind, so innocent.
It was breaking his heart.
What was left of it.
Ronnie frowned as he watched the screen, it seemed to be frozen on the image of Lem. Time seemed to be at a stand still, and it made Ronnie think of an old saying he had heard once; When time stands still, everything around you seems to stop.
Everything was definitely moving in slow motion around him, and he felt like his breathing had stopped. Maybe he would get to talk to Lem again, sooner then he'd expected to be able to.
Lem's smile was so bright, like the light at the end of a dark tunnel.
Lem had always been the light at the end of the Strike Teams tunnel.
And now he was gone.
All Ronnie could think was that they needed revenge. And they needed it soon.
Because he felt like he might die soon if he didn't get this taken care of.
Because Lem hadn't deserved that.
Finally forcing himself to blink, to look away, Ronnie was shocked by how loud the room had suddenly become.
Sitting with the glass raised half of the way to his mouth Ronnie frowned, blinking several times as he tried to understand what had just happened.
"You okay?" the bartender asked, as he stood behind the bar, holding the bottle of scotch.
Ronnie slowly focused his eyes on the bartender, and all he could think was; One of the only people I've ever loved just died. I'm great.
He nodded slowly as he rose from his seat, and quickly drank the rest of the scotch. Throwing a c-note on the counter he started to zip his jacket up, as if he were getting ready to leave. "I'm fabulous."
The bartender frowned as Ronnie walked out of the bar. He felt bad, like maybe he should stop him, but he had paid a hundred dollars for four drinks, and the bartender didn't want to point that mistake out.
Ronnie walked out of the bar, and looked off toward his car slowly, his eyes unfocused as he did so, remembering a time he and Lem had come here with Vic and Shane, and they'd all ended up drunk, and stumbling down the street, their arms wrapped around each others shoulders, as they sang drunken Irish folk songs (and Ronnie still hadn't ever figured out where Lem had learned that song).
Ronnie laughed sadly, as he raised a hand to cover his mouth, while he slipped the other one into his pocket. Turning to look down the street he tried to remember what had happened that night, it had been so long ago. After they had known each other for a year.
He wasn't as drunk as he had been that night, but he decided to try and find out where he'd gone, and what they'd done that night. As he walked down the street he tried to remember the words to the song Lem had taught them.
What had it been called again?
What will we do with a drunken sailor.
That was it.
Ronnie couldn't resist a failed attempt at a jig, thinking that if he had been drunk he might have had a better chance (it was Irish after all, he reasoned.). Grabbing a light pole, he used it as leverage to swing around the corner, noticing a liquor store he assumed this had been one of their stops (he vaguely remembered that strange shamrock poster on the wall. It looked old.)
Pushing the door open he walked inside slowly, and walked through the store silently, raising his hand to drag his fingers through his hair he grinned as he stood staring at a display of whiskey. Southern Comfort. Shane's preferred brand.
Feeling decidedly Irish tonight Ronnie grabbed a few bottles, and walked to the counter (noticing the angry look the cashier was giving him, he felt nervous). "Hi."
"Your friends aren't with you tonight?" the man growled as he extended his hand.
Ronnie narrowed his eyes as he looked at the man, "How much?" he asked, ignoring the question, because it had been years ago. And this man couldn't remember them. Unless they'd done something insane.
The door behind the counter opened, and a young woman peered out to look at him (her cleavage was quite clearly exposed), and Ronnie's face flushed. Whore.
Quickly looking down at the floor as he took his wallet out, "Wh-what was the total, sir?"
"Twenty sixty three." the man growled, and Ronnie almost choked, wondering how Shane could afford to drink this horse piss, even on the take. Handing over a twenty and a five, Ronnie glanced up in time to see a crest-fallen look on the girls face as she slipped into the back of the room, again.
"Who is that?" Ronnie asked without thinking.
"My sister." the man said as he gave Ronnie his change, and the paper bag holding the whiskey. "Tell your fuckin' friend he shouldn't ever come 'round here again."
"Shane?" Ronnie said without having to give it any thought, "What'd he do have sex with her, then brag about it to you? I've been there too."
The man frowned, and looked like he wanted to hit Ronnie, but held himself back for the shield was visible on Ronnie's belt. "Shane that tall dumb looking one?"
"The blond asshole." the man hissed.
Ronnie looked sad momentarily, and had the feeling of being stabbed in the stomach, "What did Lem do to you?"
"He knocked up my sister, and never called her!" The man roared slamming his hands onto the counter.
Ronnie looked incredulous as he shook his head, a look of shock plastered on his face, as he took a step back, "You're wrong. Don't blame him cause your slut sister can't keep to herself!"
Ronnie actually flinched at that outburst, turning around quickly he stumbled slightly, before shoving the door open, and as he was about to walk out the man called out to him; "And don't be comin' 'round here singing no irish drinkin' songs again!"
Ronnie felt like throwing up. He felt like he'd just been in a fight, and lost. Opening his jacket he slipped a bottle of whiskey into his inner pocket, tossing one to a bum he walked past. Opening the third one he drank from it.
Hadn't they sung another song right here? Shane had started it when he and Vic had stumbled over the lyrics too many times. All of them falling down laughing. And he barely remembered Vic bumping into another drunk here.
That had been an awesome drunken fight.
As he recalled the other guys hadn't picked themselves up and stumbled down the street, singing Danny Boy off key, as loud as they could, having to lean against their best friends (and the only real family they had) so that they didn't fall down.
Ronnie tried to forget the strange occurrence in the liquor store (though part of him hoped, and prayed that he had that secret... nephew, , he knew that it hadn't been Lem. Lem wasn't like that.), and drank heavily from the bottle. And it was always so much more fun to get drunk when you had your pals.
And though they were absent in person, they were with him in spirit.
Ronnie surprised himself when he let out a choked sob, his vision blurring with tears. Pausing at the corner he took a long sip from the bottle, as he looked around the area, frowning he decided it would have made more sense for them to go to the diner, then into the strange alley.
Making his way to the diner he put the cap on his whiskey before slipping inside and sitting in a booth. When the waitress came up to his table he didn't look up, he just quietly asked her for a coke, and some sweet'n low.
"...Hey, weren't you in here years ago? With your buddies?"
Ronnie looked up in disbelief, his eyes half lidded, and confusion washing over him in waves, "I guess so."
"You look different now. Better." She said winking suggestively at him, and he wondered in the back of his mind how many little Ronnie's he had left behind while drunk.
"Thanks." he slurred without really meaning to.
"Where's your cute friend? The southern one?" she asked hopefully, and Ronnie felt aggravated.
"He's probably with his wife." he muttered looking at the table top again.
She seemed to take that as a hint to walk away, because before he'd noticed she'd left she was placing the coke on the table. "This is on the house, sweetie."
"Thanks." Ronnie muttered, barely registering the fact that his badge was exposed.
Opening a pack of sweet'n low he dumped it into his mouth, the way Lem had showed him, and took a sip of the coke. Trying not to smile too wide as he swallowed the bubbles down.
He was aware that people probably thought he was crazy or something, but he didn't care. He was going to walk down the street singing drinking songs, and drinking whiskey until he felt better. Or at least until he felt something. Quickly finishing the coke he left a ten dollar bill on the table before slipping out side.
Ronnie was shocked how few people would bother a guy walking down the street drunk, and singing. It was strange. But he was glad, because he felt like he was about to stumble off of the edge of the world, and if people had tried to shut him up, then he was sure he would be delayed.
But right now he just had to find his way to Lem.
Find his way home, again.
Ronnie didn't remember opening the second bottle of whiskey. But as he took the last sip, stumbling off of the side walk, and into the street, he wished he hadn't given that third bottle away. Letting out an aggravated growl he threw the bottle into a nearby trash can, as he turned into an alley and started down it.
Half way through he was sure he heard someone softly singing 'Too ra loo ra loo ra'. And he just smiled. He knew Lem was watching over him.
Because they were family.
Inhaling deeply as he walked out of the alley he stumbled into the nearest pub, and ordered a whiskey, as he was standing at the bar he heard some guys at the table in the corner making a toast;
"Here's to a long life and a merry one.
A quick death and an easy one.
A pretty girl and an honest one.
A cold pint… and another one."
Licking his lips he smiled wide, and thought; Here's to Lem. A great cop. My best friend. And my brother.
Silently holding the glass up, he stood looking at it, when he felt a strong hand on his shoulder, and as he lowered the glass to his lips he looked back to see who was standing there. Frowning as the fading words of 'Too ra loo ra loo ra' echoed in his ears, he reached up to slowly place a hand on his shoulder, hoping to trap the warmth there.
Wishing that Lem had actually touched his shoulder Ronnie turned back to the bar, and closed his eyes. Tomorrow couldn't be any worse then today, he decided as he downed the scotch.
To my brother.
He thought, over and over again.
Their laughter was echoing through the alley as they stumbled down it, their arms slung over each others shoulders, as they desperately tried to calm their laughter long enough to get one line out.
"Wait, wait." Shane gasped as he placed a hand on the wall, trying to calm his laughter.
"Did you see the look on that guys face?" Lem said as he put his hands on his knees leaning down, laughing breathlessly.
Ronnie and Vic leaned against the wall by Shane, both of them laughing too hard to respond.
After several moments, as they all stood with their backs against the wall, looking up at the sky, they glanced toward each other and grinned. Standing up straight, slowly, they stumbled slightly. Before Shane wrapped an arm around Vic's shoulders, and Ronnie, on the other side of Vic, draped his arm over Shanes', as Lem wrapped his arm around Ronnie's shoulders. Vic grinned as he wrapped his arms around Ronnie's, and Shane's waists, While Ronnie wrapped his free arm around Lem's waist.
"Oh God, man." Shane muttered, giggling as they started down the alley. "I know another song." Lem said as he pulled Ronnie a little closer, throwing his free arm up to pseudo-hug Ronnie.
"I know another song." Lem said as he pulled Ronnie a little closer, throwing his free arm up to pseudo-hug Ronnie.
"Oh yeah? What is it?" Vic asked as he leaned heavily on Ronnie, while Shane stumbled and fell against Vic, laughing uncontrollably again.
Lem giggled before hesitantly starting to sing; Oh Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling
Shane, Vic and Ronnie, all grinned. All of them knew that song.
And as they joined in with Lem they didn't care who they bothered, as they stumbled down the street together.
I'll simply sleep in peace until you come to me.