Lydia felt like her lungs were on fire.

Yeah, she was a runner. Sure, she could run ten miles at a pop. But with fires burning across Griffith Park and filling the L.A. basin with smoke, it kind of made running a bitch.

The worst part about it was, the perp she was trying to bring down was getting away. Little son of a bitch had to be on meth or something for his system to keep going with this much smoke in the air.

Either that, or Lydia was getting complacent about running. Thing was, it used to be that she ran for the endorphins. But lately, she'd been getting her endorphins elsewhere.

Shit. That was the last thing she needed to be thinking about right now. Sure, maybe Rodrigo had sent her on such an endorphin high this morning that she hadn't gone running. But how much longer was that gonna last? He was bound to find out sooner or later that his mom had requested a transfer to West Valley Division, and when he asked her why, Lydia just KNEW that Josie was gonna tell him that it was because of the two of them.

No. Stop thinking about that crap, Lydia told herself. Gotta run down the perp -

An LAPD black and white cruiser came around the corner. Sammy Bryant at the wheel. Oh, thank God.

"LYDIA!" Sammy shouted. "GET IN!"

Lydia stumbled to a stop against the passenger side of the cruiser. Wrenching the door open, she fell into the shotgun seat, and was barely in before Sammy hit the gas, the door slamming shut as the car rocketed forward. "Where's... your partner?" she gasped.

"Ben's a block down, with the sky team in his ear," Sammy replied. "He's got a cutoff on this little bastard. Punk doesn't even know what's about to hit him."

Then a puzzled look crossed Sammy's face, and he looked over at Lydia. "Wait a minute. Where's YOUR partner?"

Lydia scowled. "Hell if I know."

Every LAPD officer and detective knows – the less your personal bullshit interferes with the job, the happier you're going to be. Detective Lydia Adams has spent the last day getting a harsh reminder.

Gang/Narcotics Division, thirty-two hours earlier

Lydia knew something was up as soon as she walked into the bullpen that morning. Josie's desk was clean. Not that it was ordinarily less than tidy, but this morning it was TOO clean.

And there was a cardboard box sitting on her chair.

"Dammit," Lydia breathed. Looking up, she looked through the window of Lieutenant Fernandez' office -

Yep, there she was. Josie was standing in front of Fernandez' desk, a... resigned? Pissed off? Lydia couldn't tell. She had some sort of look on her face. Either way, it did not bode well.

Fernandez turned, saw Lydia looking their way. Her eyes narrowed, her hand came up, her finger curled. Come hither, the finger said, right the eff now.

Lydia sighed. This was not going to be good.

Each step toward the lieutenant's office felt like it took forever – and yet, somehow, Lydia was knocking on Fernandez' door before she even realized it. "Come. IN."

Gritting her teeth, Lydia turned the knob and pushed the door open. "Close it behind you," Fernandez growled. Lydia just nodded, stepping all the way into the office and shutting the door behind her.

Lieutenant Fernandez glared at Lydia and sighed. "I really don't know what the hell has gotten into you lately -"

"Besides my son," Josie grumped under her breath.

"Detective Ochoa, shut up," Fernandez snapped. "Detective Adams, you've been a real pain in the ass lately, you know that?"

Okay. What? "Excuse me?" Lydia shot back, as a LOOK crossed her face.

"You got into a fight with Officer Dudek at a crime scene -"

"He was being a racist jackass."

"The thing with the pictures from Billy Stearn's place -"

"Yeah, it was my fault that Russ is a thieving shithead."

"You had a witness just DROP DEAD -"

"And it was CERTAINLY my fault that he had a bullet in his bra-"

"LYDIA, SHUT THE FUCK UP." Fernandez rocketed up out of her chair, the words rolling out of her mouth like monsoon thunder. "I have had it up to HERE with your performance, and that's even WITHOUT taking into consideration the fact that you're riding Detective Ochoa's son like a goddamn Kentucky Derby stallion."

Lydia put her hands up, but the only surrender she was indicating was a mockery of surrender. "You know what? Yeah, he's a P2. But he's Newton Division. He's NOT in my chain of command, and I am NOT violating any departmental regs."

"No, you're just fucking your partner's kid," Fernandez muttered as she collapsed back into her chair, suddenly appearing deflated. "Who the hell is gonna want to work with you?"

"Not me," Josie pronounced. "I'm done working with her."

Fernandez rolled her eyes. "So I gathered when you presented me with your transfer request to West Valley, Detective Ochoa."

Lydia looked down at Josie with disbelief. "West Valley? Josie, what the hell -"

"Don't," Josie cut her off, turning to look at Lydia, hatred burning in her eyes. "You lost the right to talk to me that way the first time you touched my son's verga."

"Detective Ochoa, that's enou-"

"Pinche puta."

"GET OUT." Fernandez shot up out of her chair again. "Take your shit and go. I'll take care of the paperwork."

And so Josie went, rising and stalking out of the office, without so much as a backward glance to the woman who had been her partner for the last three months.

Olympic Boulevard, eastbound at Soto Street

"A43, A43, 4-5-9 in progress at 2-6-0-0 North Main, please respond."

His hand went out purely out of reflex. Officer Ben Sherman wasn't even thinking about it when he reached out to grab the radio. He would bring it to his mouth, mash the button, and say, "A43, roger," just like he had a hundred, maybe a thousand times before -

"Sherman, what the hell are you doing?"

And just like that, another voice crackled out of the radio. "A43, roger," came the voice of Dewey Dudek over the radio.

Ben closed his eyes and sighed. He wasn't riding in car 6A43 anymore. It had been four weeks since the last time he and John Cooper had been on patrol in that car. Four weeks since the night he had watched his field training officer turn into a quivering, sniveling shell of a man – and then, somehow, regain his dignity enough to walk, unmedicated, unassisted into the hospital.

One week since the first time Ben had ridden with Sammy Bryant.

Bryant was, perhaps, the most batshit insane officer Ben had ever encountered in the thirteen months he had been an officer with the Los Angeles Police Department. More driven than John Cooper, more intense than Dewey Dudek, he seemed like he was constantly on a high wire, about to snap.

Then again, watching your partner get bludgeoned to death with a pipe would do that to a man. Even if Bryant HAD watched with grim satisfaction as the man who the department was 99% sure had done it bled to death from multiple nine-millimeter hemorrhages.

Ben had heard a downright chilling story about that little incident. A bright, sunny afternoon. The Avenidas gang member known best as "Leprechaun", gunned down by LAPD detectives after shooting a boot trying to serve him with an arrest warrant. Bryant holding Leprechaun's head, slapping his cheek to keep him awake as he bled out.

Nate Moretta, motherfucker.

In short, Sammy Bryant scared the living shit out of Ben Sherman. And he was stuck in a Ford Crown Victoria with him eight hours a day.

"Come on, Sherman, you're riding in D22 now. Have been for a week. Get with the program," Bryant groused. "Jesus."

"Sorry," Ben apologized, putting the radio back into its holder. "It's just, you know, you ride around for a year with the same call sign, it takes a little getting used to a new one."

"No, believe me, I hear ya," Bryant replied. "That, though, is one of the advantages to driving a desk for nearly a decade. You forget every damn call sign you had beforehand."

Ben frowned as he looked over at the senior officer. "Wait a minute, though, didn't you have a 'king' call sign when you were working with gangs?"

"I did, but we very rarely used it. See, those little gang punks, they get their hands on police radios. They figure out your call sign, they know exactly what you're doing. Me and Nate, we hardly ever used our call sign. We needed to call something in, we used our cell phones," Bryant explained. "But now? I'm ridin' in black and white now. I WANT those little bastards to know I'm coming."

Right, Ben thought. I'm going to die. It's pretty clear.

"Anyway," Bryant continued. "You seen Cooper lately?"

Ben frowned as he looked back at his partner. "John? Nah. He made it pretty clear he didn't want visitors after I took him some stuff a couple weeks back."

Bryant nodded. "Yeah, not too surprised," he said. "Cooper's always been a pretty secretive guy. But, then, I guess when you're a gay LAPD officer, it sorta comes with the territory."

What the hell? "Seriously?" he asked Bryant. "Come on, man, let's leave John's personal life out of this. Everybody else does."

"'Let's leave John's personal life out of this,'" Bryant mocked Ben. "Look, I know you look up to Cooper and all. Hell, so do I. He's a hell of an officer. But come on. You were super-boot, weren't you? Shot a banger your first day on patrol?"

Ben sighed, but nodded his head. "See, you can't just live in your TO's shadow," Bryant told him. "You gotta be your own man, be your own officer. You can't spend from now until whenever Cooper finally hangs up his Sam Browne defending him from the rest of the department."

"Defend him?" Ben asked incredulously. "You kidding? I don't have to defend John Cooper."

"Don't gotta tell me that," Bryant shot back. "I know the man better than you think. We used to work CRASH together."

Now THAT, Ben did not know. "Really? John was at Rampart?"

"Oh, yeah, a whole bunch of us were, back around the time all the shit went down," Bryant told him. "Me, Nate, Cooper, Dewey, Sal, No Gun – hell, Chickie Brown was Cooper's boot there back in 2000."

"And then, when the Mayor shut CRASH down -"

"Cooper, Dewey, and Brown went to Hollywood, and me, Nate, No Gun, and Sal were sent to the new Gangs Unit being run out of Alvarado."

"Huh," Ben said. "I had no idea."

Gang/Narcotics Division

Lydia's day had, so far, not gotten any better. By the time Fernandez was done reaming her, Josie had completely cleaned out her desk and was gone. Lydia was ordered to go to her desk and catch up on paperwork.

Around noon, Lydia got a call. IAD. Because she hadn't heard enough from them lately.

But they were done talking to her about the Billy Stearns incident. No, they were definitely hanging Russ Clarke out to dry on that one, and as far as Lydia was concerned, more power to them.

Unfortunately, now IAD was up her ass about her shooting the crazy bastard with the machine gun at that textile factory a few weeks back. Apparently, some of the witnesses had given wildly exaggerated reports, which IAD now had to look into to make sure Lydia hadn't used excessive force.

I shot him three times with a Beretta, she thought angrily. The son of a bitch had a fucking AK-47!

Lydia was so lost in thought that she didn't even notice the man approach. Didn't hear him say her name. The second time, either.

Finally, he tapped her on the shoulder and she just about jumped out of her chair. "Jesus!" she exclaimed, turning around to face him.

Pale skin. Bright red hair. A lot of freckles. Really familiar looking. "Uh, not today," he said, raising an eyebrow.

Lydia frowned. "Not today what?"

"I'm not Jesus," he said. "Not today. You know, a joke?"

Lydia nodded. "Uh-huh," she muttered, as she tried to figure out who this guy was. She KNEW she had seen his face somewhere before.

"Anyway, you're Lydia Adams?"

"Yeah, that's me," she said. "And you are?"

"Charlie Crews," he replied. "I just got sent over from Robbery Hom-"

"Son of a bitch!" she yelped, jumping out of her chair. "I knew I knew who you were! You're that murderer!"

Crews grimaced and sighed. "I was exonerated. Or did you not hear about the part where the City of Los Angeles paid me fifty-three million dollars and reinstated me?"

"Yeah, yeah, and OJ didn't do it either," Lydia shot back. "There's a lot of shit that goes around about you, Crews."

He smiled, but there was no humor behind his smile. "If you say so," he replied. "I guess you'll just have to get used to it."

"I'll have to get used to it?" Lydia asked him. "Why am I going to have to get used to it?"

"Welll..." Crews paused for a minute. "I'm your new partner."

To be continued...

SouthLAnd – Life in Alvarado

Shawn Hatosy – Officer Sammy Bryant
Regina King – Detective Lydia Adams
Ben McKenzie – Officer Ben Sherman

guest stars

Roxana Brusso – Lieutenant Alicia Fernandez
Jenny Gago – Detective Josie Ochoa
C. Thomas Howell – Officer William "Dewey" Dudek

special guest star

Damien Lewis – Detective Charlie Crews

Author's note: for those of you who watched Life – yet another damn good LAPD show that NBC shafted – this is, indeed, Charlie Crews from that show. If you're unfamiliar with that show, Charlie Crews was an LAPD patrol officer who was convicted of a double homicide in 1995. DNA evidence exonerated him in 2007. After filing civil suit against the City of Los Angeles, the city settled with him by giving him a $53,000,000 payout and reinstating him, this time as a Robbery/Homicide Detective.