Title: Every Fifteen Minutes
Author: Gixxer Pilot
Summary: Cop!verse AU. Chris Pike doesn't think his job description includes babysitting his partner. But after a particularly rough day at the office, he realizes that he can't just ignore his rookie partner any longer. Not if he wants to live, that is.
Author's Notes: Cop!verse AU. There are parts of the job in law enforcement that are downright horrible, and I felt that I needed to touch on it. So, I'm stepping away from the crazy crack for a bit with this piece. This story takes place not long after McCoy joined the police force, perhaps six or eight months. If you've read my other cop!verse pieces, you'll notice a distinct difference in Pike and McCoy's relationship as partners as you go along. That's intentional, and it'll give you all a good idea of where they started (circa this fic) and far they came (Accidentally on Purpose).
Disclaimer: I own nothing related to Star Trek, nor do I claim any origination for the program that inspired this story's title.
There was something making an obscene racket near his head, and Chris Pike was hell-bent on figuring out what dared disturb his sleep. Step two was going to involve silencing whatever it was, if necessary by deadly force with his service .40 S&W. He groped blindly until his fingers found the toggle switch on the bottom of the lamp situated next to his bed. Flipping it on, he winced against the sudden onslaught of light that flooded the room, temporarily rendering him blind. Chris blinked a couple of times, rubbed his face, and heaved himself out of his nice, comfortable bed.
It was his cell phone that was the culprit, alight in full, aggravating glory. He snagged it off the nightstand and walked out into closet to answer it. Chris' short venture across the room was two-pronged in reasoning; one, he wanted to avoid waking his sleeping wife if at all possible, and two, he wanted to go the fuck back to bed. Chris pondered the caller ID briefly before he flipped the small device open, barking a hushed but rather impolite greeting to the asshole that dared disturb him at 0240. "Whoever the fuck this is, the world better be on fire for you to be calling at this time of night. And if it is, call the goddamned fire department."
'Whoa, Pike. Power down there, buddy,' replied an amused and almost fatherly male voice. 'It's AJ, from The Stumble Inn. Look, I know you just came off a rough shift and that I obviously woke you up, but I need a favor.'
Sixty-year-old AJ Harris, sole proprietor and operator of one of the seediest yet homiest bars in all of Iowa, was a round fellow with a deep, commanding voice and an even bigger presence. A retired Army man, he returned stateside from 'Nam minus his left hand and bought the decrepit Stumble with the cash he received from his imminent danger pay and the sale of his classic 'Vette. The bar became his pride and joy, even though he was repeatedly told he was nuts for settling in a little Podunk, backwater town of Riverside, Iowa. AJ renovated the place from the inside out and rebuilt its reputation from the ground up. So successful was the little establishment that the bar predated many of the locals of the small community. After thirty-five years in operation, it became a staple of Riverside. Many places on Main Street came and went, but the Stumble, in the middle of the cornfield down the end of a dusty dirt road, was a landmark that was there to stay.
As much as the bar as a whole was woven into the tapestry of the town, Harris himself was quite honestly the bigger draw. He was always more than cordial to the patrons that stopped in and made everyone feel like they belonged, like it was home. Harris' bigger than life persona was the mystique and the draw of the place; AJ knew everyone by name and by face. Not only did he know exactly what each individual drank and how they took it, he knew their stories and their lives. It was one of the two big reasons Chris drove some thirty miles to go drink at Stumble when there were twenty perfectly good bars within Iowa City proper.
Pike blew out a big breath and scratched his head. There was no way he could bring himself to stay angry with a guy as genuine and jovial as AJ Harris, and Chris instantly regretted his snappish tone. He sank down onto the soft carpeting of the closet and ran one hand through his messy hair. "AJ. I'm sorry, I didn't recognize the number and it's been a long night."
A deep laugh answered his apology, signaling a universal acceptance. 'Don't I know it, Pike? It's okay, son. Apology accepted. It happens. Stress does that to a man.'
"Yeah, it can," he responded automatically before he could fully process what Harris just said. There was something strange about the way AJ was talking, and it normally would have had Pike on edge if he were more alert. The cryptic phrasing of the older man's sentences and the short, minutely pinched tone would have given it away to a trained observer in a heartbeat.
On the other end of the phone, Harris simply grunted while he waited for Pike to wake up.
Chris' sleep deprived brain muddled through Harris' words again before he raised one hand in forced habit. His brain was starting to turn over after stalling out, and Pike wasn't sure he liked the feeling. Furrowing his brows, Chris let a deep, disapproving rumble rise from his throat and sent it through the phone's receiver. In a throaty voice, Pike asked, "AJ, what are you up to now? I know that tone, and I don't like it. And I told you if you bought that damned scanner I was going to-"
'Would you just stop and take a breath? There's no need to threaten an old man with an ass whooping,' AJ insisted, interrupting the early onset of a Pike tirade and the coming threat of violence. When he heard the younger man breathe in a shaky breath, he started again. 'We all saw you on the news tonight. You know what I'm talking about. Looked like the news crew got there right behind you and that fresh-faced kid of yours."
Silently, Chris seethed. He disliked very few things in life, but meddling news crews was definitely high up on his list. Though he understood they had a job to do just as he did, the extra element of having to babysit a curious reporter and her cameraman complicated an already intricate situation. He was told that the crew managed to grab some very dramatic footage of his work that wound up on the ten o'clock news. The images featured both him and McCoy, but Chris was still too wound up to want to watch it. Sighing deeply, he leaned his head back against the wall of the closet. The Adam's apple of his throat bobbed up and down when he swallowed once, then twice, before he replied simply, "Yeah."
Harris let silence ring over his end of the line, presumably waiting for Pike to make the first move. When the younger man said nothing, AJ added, "What a shame that was, losing that high school girl like that.'
Chris nodded his head without another word, feeling the twisted lump of emotions he thought he buried earlier in the evening tick up slowly to the surface. Forcing them back down, Pike replied, "It was," after taking a moment to school his voice back to the strong and secure cop tone.
'Why didn't you come down?' Harris asked, practically tisking at the younger man over the phone line. 'We could have talked, 'specially when you do something stupid that damn near got you roasted, toasted and burned to a crisp.'
Inwardly, Chris shuddered, wanting to chase away the reminders of the night. "Aww, AJ. I didn't want to bother you with that. You saw the story on the news apparently – you know how it went," Pike began, cradling the phone in the crook of his shoulder while he picked at the gauze that encapsulated the back of his right hand. The bandage ran up to the middle of his forearm, but more than a protective barrier, it offered Pike physical confirmation that his night hadn't simply been a bad dream. Pushing the melancholy mood aside, he cleared his throat and said, "Besides, I only got a little singed. No big deal. I wasn't being an idiotic asshat like my rookie partner, who apparently is too dumb to listen to reason."
'Can you honestly tell me you would have done anything differently if you two had been on opposite sides of that car?' AJ asked. It was more of a statement rather than a question, and the silence from the other end of the phone confirmed the older man's suspicions.
Pike closed his eyes but instantly snapped them back open. Part of the reason he was so irritated with Harris when the phone rang was that he'd just finally fallen asleep after tossing restlessly for two hours. Every time he closed his eyes, he saw the twisted remains of what was once a proud, classic American muscle car, wrapped tightly around the tree it impacted after skidding off the road. He could envision the dancing orange, red and blue flames licking at the paint and melting the metal of the totaled Camaro. He could still smell the sweet, wet grass and the salty mud. The memories of the gravel digging into the palm of his left hand and the sudden blast of heat on his face and arms were still raw and real. He could still feel the sinking sensation in his chest while he dragged McCoy backwards towards relative safety. But most of all, he could still smell the sickly, rotten smell of burning flesh emanated from the inside of the ruined vehicle.
It was not one of his better days at the office.
Shaking the images from his mind, Pike stretched his legs out in front of him. Chest bare and in only his boxers, he shivered suddenly, though he wasn't sure it was because of the open window in the bedroom, or due to the sudden onslaught of reminders. Reaching to his left, Pike set the phone on the floor and grabbed one of the blankets Lynn kept folded up in the corner of the walk in closet. He unfurled the handmade patchwork quilt and pulled it around his shoulders, letting the tail of the soft fleece fall over his lap.
Chris picked the phone back up and gave an honest thought to AJ's questions, knowing full well the man was waiting on his response. "No," he answered quietly. "Doesn't mean I like it, but we did our jobs, did the best we could with what we had to work with. We're not the fire department, and we sure as hell don't have their equipment in the trunk of our car. Don't you think I've gone over this in my head, AJ?" Pike spat out of frustration.
'Of course I know you have. You wouldn't be you if you didn't.'
Pike's grip on the phone tightened so much that the plastic creaked under the strain exerted by his fingers. "I don't know what else we could have done to pull off a miracle," he admitted candidly.
'I believe you, Chris. And I know that you're right. But, I also think your man here would beg to differ on topic,' he replied in the patented no-nonsense sort of way the barkeep knew Pike always appreciated. AJ leaned back in his chair and waited for the cop to connect the dots. Harris knew that Chris was nothing if not curious, and he was also aware that Pike couldn't help but walk right into the trap he just laid out.
"My man?" Chris asked predictably.
Harris knew that was as good as hook, line and sinker. 'Oh! I forgot to mention that, didn't I? Old age I guess. Yes, one of your men," AJ replied as if he was making an announcement in the bar. 'What? Do you think I'd call you at quarter to three in the morning just hear your cheerful voice?'
"As much as I love to chat, I was wondering about that," Pike answered with a snort. "Who is he and what can I do to help?"
'Never thought you'd get around to asking. We had this new fellow wander in here tonight. Nobody'd ever seen laid eyes on him before. Young, tall, good-looking fellow, but quiet. He reminded me of a like a fish out of water. Came in, sat down and didn't say but two words to me all night. No matter how hard I tried, the kid just wouldn't talk. But he could put bourbon shots back like the dickens, that's for damned sure. About cleaned me out of the Kentucky malt,' Harris explained, his rich Texas accent like molasses coating Pike's ears.
Chris, obviously still missing the connection, replied, "If he's drunk and belligerent, call the local sheriffs. They'll take care of him and bring him to our station here. You have their numbers, I know. I gave them to you." Pike rolled his eyes and smirked. While he was still batting a solid zero on identifying where Harris was really going with the conversation, the sergeant did at least catch the paternal tone in the older man's voice.
'Oh, his manners ain't the reason for my call. He's very well behaved for being as hammered as he is. You don't have to worry about that. Silent, really. No, what I was concerned about was how he was going to get himself home, and if he had anyone to look after him. I wasn't about to shove him in a cab for a thirty mile ride before I exhausted all of my options. It didn't seem right to do that,' Harris said. 'You know me – it wouldn't be responsible of me if I didn't at least try.'
"You're nothing if not that, AJ," Chris answered with a laugh and a smirk. "All right. I'll bite. How does this involve me?"
Shifting the phone on his shoulder, Chris could hear the tape of the calculator as AJ added up the night's total receivables. The man was the consummate master of the art of multitasking, and it was probably part of the reason he could strike up conversation while tending the bar at the same time. 'We were squaring up at closing time while trying to figure out where to send the stragglers. I found your card on our silent guy, along with his Iowa City badge and ID when he tossed his wallet my direction. Thought I'd give you a call and see what you want to do with him.'
Pike rolled his eyes. Sometimes, AJ did really worry too much. "Dump his ass in a cab and send him home, just like you do with all the other drunks. I'm sure he'll sleep it off just fine at his own place, and I'll figure out who it was at roll call tomorrow when one of my guys shows up hungover." Chris, phone about halfway from his ear, was about to hang up before his ears caught AJ's voice faintly one last time.
'The name on the ID was Leonard Horatio McCoy.'
Pike froze. Of all the goddamn bars in the state, McCoy had to find his way to the one where everyone knew the sergeant's name. Realizing it was probably both a blessing and a curse, Chris growled under his breath. After a beat, he brought the receiver back up to the side of his head and said, "What? What did you just say?"
The same deep chuckle that Pike heard earlier reverberated through the phone line. 'Got your attention now, didn't I? The young man in front of me claims to be your new partner, and he needs some help finding his house. Think you can manage that, Pike?'
Pike shot a longing look back toward his nice, soft bed. He wanted nothing more than to dump the phone down the toilet, crawl back into bed, curl up next to Lynn and sleep for the ensuing three days while he forgot his day ever happened. Despite what people claimed, ignorance, in some cases, was still bliss. But, he knew he couldn't just forget about his partner for a myriad of reasons. Growling, Chris pinched his eyes shut and answered, "I'll be right down."
Next Up: Pike arrives at The Stumble Inn to pick up his partner and gets a lecture for his troubles.