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Light and Sweet (Smooth Criminal Remix)

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Bayliss had a theory about the Box. He had theories about everything, of course—up to and including a highly complex one that involved his flirtation a couple weeks ago with that New York DA, and his inability to go after things that were realistic and/or smart—he was a thinking cop now, and got a charge from thinking outside the box.

The irony, that he's thinking outside of the box about the Box, hasn't escaped him. He's thought, more than once, or sharing the humor with Frank but knew that Frank would give him one of his "one of us is stupid and I know it's not me'' looks. Identical to the look Frank was giving him now, as they stood on the other side of the one-way glass. Looking at the suspect, a rather pale brown-haired man, who sat like it pained him in some deep, muscle-ache sort of way. An ordinary-enough looking man, sort of professorially handsome, except now he was a suspect and see, that was Bayliss' theory: in the Box, you were yourself but also something more, something bigger and dangerous; something hard to name.

It wasn't just the suspects, it did it to Frank too, which was good and bad, depending. Tim always felt the same in or out: a little uncomfortable, a little warm in the heat of the lights and the knowledge that if this side of the table was scary, the other would be terrifying.

Although the perp (suspected perp, Tim's mind corrected almost-absently) didn't look terrified or upset or even nervous. Just tired, like he had a lot on his mind and no time to sleep on it.

This, according to Frank's theory (less ironic, more factual) and the evidence, was exactly why Remus Lupin had killed Mr. Williams. Stress, crime of passion, pure accident—forensic buzzwords that added up to red and black ink on the case board. Gee had once called it a haiku of color and vengeance, something that sharpened Bayliss' satisfaction every time they closed a case, turned the blood red writing to impenetrable black.

''Think that's the guy, Frank?''

Munch stood in the doorway, all cynicism and pushed-up shirt sleeves, holding one of those crappy faux-paper cups filled with coffee. Bayliss has a theory that the coffee was really just the same pot, boiled and reboiled, since Gee first started working here. Tastes like it.

Frank didn't answer, but kept staring at the man in the box, like he was peering into his head, past the slow blink of the man's eyes (Lupin, Remus Lupin, pushing forty but looking older, the edge of a scar running down the side of his neck into his shirt collar) to the moment the gun had gone off, the angry words still issuing from Williams' mouth. Maybe even from Lupin's, too, because Bayliss knew that people, sooner or later, had to strike out at someone, something, under pressure. He'd seen that theory in action, time and time again.

"It doesn't matter what I think, Munch," Frank murmured, ''but what the evidence… and the confession that I will get, can prove."

Munch joined them at the window, giving Lupin the once over.

''Almost looks too tame for it, doesn't he."

Tim opened his mouth, a quote about appearances being deceiving and the irony of the phrase of not knowing something just by its cover tucked behind his teeth, but Frank turned his dark stare away from the window. Now he's looking at Munch, and Bayliss, but also through them, into them. Bayliss is starting to get the itch like he's in the Box, because Frank's stare is his measured gaze of calm cruelty, still half-musing on how long it will take to rip Lupin's story apart, paste a confession back together.

"Life is never about how things look, Munch, but about how they are. Just because a man looks innocent doesn't mean that he does not have the capacity to commit heinous crimes.''

Munch laughed and chased it with a sip of his coffee.

"A little early for the philosophy, isn't it, Frank? Besides, all I'm saying is that there's a look they get, and this guy don't have it. Something in the eyes.''

''Don't you have some other conspiracy to unravel?'' Frank shot back.

Bayliss steeled himself to intervene between the two, an intersection of justice and philosophy, but fortunately Kay calls back into the squad room. One of his ex-wives on the phone. Munch mutters something likening his ex-wife's relation to the hindquarters of some barnyard animal, but he leaves before any punches, metaphorical or otherwise, are thrown.

Bayliss had only been on the job for a day, maybe less, when he began formulating his theory about Frank's unique personality and its implications on his continually-until-Bayliss partner-less state.

If now had been the beginning still, Frank would have asked him if he was ready, to go into the Box, to begin their dance of good cop-bad cop-sometimes worse cop that had always worked for them, even when other things weren't. Bayliss never felt graceful, or calm, or cool; the closest he felt to any of those things as when he was helping Frank interrogate. That's all it was, he knew, a necessary but still secondary addition to Frank's style, a slight kindness to soften the edges, lower the defenses. Bayliss knew that even though the power wasn't equal, it still worked, so he merely followed Frank into the Box and leaned against the wall, schooling his face into a not-quite smile to go with Frank's opening gesture of mannered normalcy.

''Mr. Lupin, is there anything we can get for you?"

"A cup of tea." Bayliss felt the pain and fatigue layering Lupin's voice slide over him, stick to his skin the way that dreams about his childhood did.

"Milk? Sugar?" These niceties were his job, almost rote like some crazy form of Miranda rights that they went through every time with every suspect. But this time Bayliss had to work to keep his voice level, to keep his mind off the itchiness that had nothing to do with the lights and everything to do with the look in Lupin's eyes. It was the same look that Bayliss sometimes saw in the bathroom mirror after a hard day, or a ruined date, of when the holidays rolled around.

"That's fine," Lupin (though Bayliss was sure that, once he left the room, Frank would ask to call him Remus. Another nicety observed.) answered.

Bayliss forced himself to turn and walk out the door, towards the crappy coffee maker with lukewarm hot water and paper cups and away from the look in Remus' eyes, the one that Munch had seen that wasn't guilt, merely too much thinking about things it shouldn't, too much loss in too little time. Sounded like a new theory to him.

Bayliss carefully gathered the three cups into his hands and entered the Box again, wondering if this theory could be proven, and if Remus Lupin would help him do it.