In Sunshine or In Shadow
An excerpt from the short story by Josh Lanyon
“It's a little awkward,” Keiran said, and his gaze -- a green that was almost gray -- dropped suddenly to the little bowl of peanuts on the table between them. His blond eyebrows knitted together in a little scowl; very important to select exactly the right peanut, apparently.
Rick's mouth quirked indulgently. They'd been partnered in Homicide for nearly five years, and he could be forgiven for thinking he knew Keir pretty well by now. One of the things he knew was that Keir preferred whole peanuts; he had an annoying habit of cherry picking the perfect peanuts out of any dish. Another thing Rick knew was that Keir had a tendency to over-think things. Not in the field, fortunately. Nothing wrong with Keir's instincts or reflexes, but get three beers in him and he started brooding, and next thing you knew, he was spouting stuff from some half-forgotten philosophy course he'd taken in college.
Five years was a long time. Rick knew plenty of marriages that hadn't lasted five years.
“So?” he raised his mug, swallowed, watching Keir over the rim.
Keir's mouth curled derisively, and he picked out a peanut and tossed it in his mouth, crunching irritably, like he'd caught the peanut in a moving violation.
“It's just that I've been thinking...”
“I warned you about that.”
Keir's smile was mostly perfunctory twitch.
Rick drained his mug and rose. “Want another?” It was Friday night. After two brutal weeks, they finally had a weekend off, and they were on home turf -- a cop bar in Van Nuys. Decent selection on tap, plenty of Stones on the jukebox, and the knowledge they could let down their guard because pretty much everyone in the place was law enforcement or ex-law enforcement. Home sweet home.
Keir was staring up at Rick with a strange, disconcerted expression. He shook his head, and Rick moved to the bar. The memory of Keir's expression stayed with him -- like an irritating tap on the shoulder.
At the bar he ordered two Harps, chatted with Bill Suzuki also from Homicide, and unobtrusively watched his partner.
“Good going with the collar on the Martinez case,” Suzuki congratulated.
“Yeah. It's a pleasure putting that scumball, Olmos, behind bars.”
“What's eating Quinn?”
“Nothing.” Rick said it curtly, discouraging further discussion on the topic of his partner. He couldn't help glancing Keir's way again.
Keir was staring at nothing and chewing his bottom lip, a sure sign he was edgy. What now for chrissake? It had been a good week. A good month. Better than last couple of months, that was for sure. For once the bad guys were not swaggering away untouched, and tomorrow Keir was starting two weeks of well-deserved vacation. So what was there to bug him? Rick sighed inwardly. He was undoubtedly going to hear all about it when he got back to the table.
If anyone should be feeling out of sorts it was him. This was the first vacation they'd taken apart in three years. Keir had just announced it the previous week -- right out of the blue. No warning, no discussion. Not that he had to talk his vacation plans over with Rick, but…they were best friends in addition to partners, and they usually did spend a portion of their off-time together -- being gay gave them a natural bond, but they'd have been friends anyway. In fact, if Keir wasn't a cop --
But he was. So no point thinking about it.
Rick collected the sweating bottles and carried them back to the table, hooking the chair with his foot and sitting down. Keir jumped as though he'd been miles away, and Rick studied him before turning his attention to topping off Keir's half-empty mug.
“So you've been thinking,” he prompted.
Keir stared at him blankly before registering Rick's reference to earlier. His expression changed -- Rick couldn't read it at all, and that gave him an uneasy feeling. What the hell was going on?
Now that he thought about it, Keir had been acting weird for a couple of weeks. Since the Martinez case had been dropped in their laps. No wonder. Nobody enjoyed it when a kid was the victim. Even if the kid was a gang banger. Suspected gang banger. Gang bangers had parents too. Well, one usually. Some overworked, out-of-touch woman -- but in this case, a nice woman. A woman who loved her kids even if she couldn't control them, didn't begin to understand them -- these young, tough, tattooed strangers who lived in her house.
No. The trouble had started before that. Before the Martinez case. Keir had been short tempered, distant, absent-minded -- not at all like himself for nearly a month now. And then this sudden vacation.
Rick asked abruptly, “You okay, Quinn? You're not sick or something, are you?”
“Me? I'm fine.”
The tone was reassuring enough, but now that Rick examined his partner, he wondered. Keir looked tired. More tired than a Friday night warranted. And he'd lost weight recently -- even for his normal wiry self. There were shadows under his eyes and it seemed a long time since that full mouth had smiled.
Full mouth. Yeah. Keir had a very nice mouth. He tasted nice too. Funny how people had their own taste...
And no way was Rick letting his thoughts stray in that direction. They'd already tried that and it had been a mutually agreed upon disaster.
“You'd tell me if something was wrong, right?”
Keir reached for his mug and said, “Right.”
Rick picked his own mug up, tilted it, pouring beer against the side of the glass. He nearly dropped the bottle as Keir said, “I'm resigning.”
“Resigning. I have resigned, in fact.”
Keir just looked at him.
Keir shook his head -- like it was too complicated to explain?
Rick gave him an easier question. “When?”
“Last week? And you're telling me now?”
“I told Captain Friedman I'd think it over for a week.”
Rick stared at him, then gave a disbelieving laugh. “You're kidding me, right?”
Stone-faced, Keir stared right back.
“What the hell's going on? You can't quit.”
Unbelievably, Keir laughed. “Want to bet?”
“You resign and then you go on vacation?” It felt safer to give way to indignation on this score; Rick was still trying to assimilate the other.
“Hey, I'm entitled to my vacation.”
“I don't believe this.”
“I'm sorry --”
“Sorry? You didn't even discuss it with me.”
Keir was giving him a strange look. “It's my decision to make.”
“You're going to pretend this doesn't affect me? We're partners. We were.” Rick kept his voice low although -- shock wearing off -- he was getting angry.
“I know that. I'm telling you now. Before anyone else --”
“Gee, thanks! I feel better already.”
Keir sighed. “Listen, I know you're pissed. When I get back I still have two weeks. We can talk then.”
“Talk? I don't want to talk.” I want you to un-resign, that's what Rick meant. But Keir was looking at him as though this just confirmed a much-contested point. What point? What the hell was going on?
“Then we won't talk,” Keir said evenly. “Either way, I don't give a shit.”
What. The. Hell?
And now Rick was angry. Hurt and angry. “What does that mean, you don't give a shit? What am I supposed to make of that? What the fuck's going on with you?”
But Keir glanced at his watch and was already on his feet. “I've got a plane to catch. I'll see you in two weeks.”
He turned away, and Rick rose too and grabbed his arm. Keir stood perfectly still. They were the same height, but Rick was broader, bigger. He was by nature cool and low key, relying on his build and obvious strength to get his point across to perps. Keir relied on the force of his personality -- which was considerable. Especially after five years of it.
Rick let go of Keir's arm. He said, surprised to hear how aggrieved he sounded, “A plane to where? Where the hell are you flying off to?”
“Ireland,” Keir replied.
Copyright 2000-17, Josh Lanyon.
All rights reserved.