Kevin Ryan sat on his desk in the Bullpen, the silence piercing his soul. The Bullpen was never silent, not at this time of day anyway. It was 1800: The Witching Hour. After work, people would piss each other off on the commute home or get into it with their spouse over who had the crappier day...calls picked up and arrests were made. Not today.
He glanced around. There were still a few detectives and officers around but none were speaking and no one wanted to meet his eye. Even the Captain had her back to the glass, focused on her computer. She'd told him it was the right thing to do, coming to her. Yet even she knew what the consequences would be.
He grabbed his jacket and left. There was a pretty good chance that Javier would be at the bar and maybe, maybe, he could make him understand.
When the door opened and the late-afternoon sun flooded the darkened interior, Kevin could hear the silence fall. He was quiet by nature, leaving the boisterous exuberation to Castle and Esposito. In fact, if you'd asked him before today, he'd have told you how much he loved the moments of quiet solitude he'd get at home after a loud day on the streets. Now, the silence was a curse full of shame, condemnation and heartbreak.
As his eyes adjusted to the dark of the bar, he saw Javi at the end of the room, sitting at a table with a bunch of guys from SWAT. Javi trained with them and it was only his bulldoggish devotion to Beckett that kept him from requesting to be assigned there full time. No, that wasn't true. Ryan knew that Javi got bored with "all sniper-all the time". He'd told him it was too much like the service; all about the op, gearing up for the big event, training over and over. Esposito liked being able to use his brain in different ways and Homicide offered him that.
Ryan couldn't bring himself to walk up to them and stand there, asking Esposito if they could talk, like he was some kind of jilted prom date. Instead, he took a seat at the bar and ordered a Black & Tan. Far sooner than he expected, he saw his partner's familiar profile next to him.
"What're you doin' here?" Esposito spoke low and not quite menacing.
"I thought you might be here." Ryan glanced sideways to see if Javi was looking at him. He wasn't, so he kept looking forward too.
"I got nothin' to say to you."
"Then why'd you come over here?" Ryan looked at Esposito now, challenging him.
"To tell you to go home. In case you forgot, this is a cop bar." Esposito squared up, looking at Ryan, his fingers in loose fists, but twitching.
Ryan's first thought was to snap back that he was the only one in this conversation that still had a badge in his pocket, but instantly thought better of it.
"I'm a cop Javier. I have as much right to be here as anyone else." Ryan's eyes glanced over to the table where the SWAT guys were clearly watching them.
"You're a cop here," Espositio slapped him upside his head, hard and Ryan's reflexes kicked in and he stood up fast, turning his body slightly to brace for another blow. "But not here." Javi pushed against his chest and Ryan rocked back on his heels but stayed upright. "Go home Kevin. To your family." Esposito walked back to the table where the other officers sat, not looking back to see if Ryan followed his order or not. Leaving his half-drunk beer on the bar, he left.
Ryan walked up the stairs of his brownstone slowly. Where else was there but to go home? Walking inside, he took his time hanging up his coat and securing his gun in the wall safe he mounted in the closet. Ever since losing his gun two years ago, he was obsessive about where it was. It was either on his hip or in this safe. He had a Glock 19 locked in a floor-safe under his bed, but his department-issued one was always right here by the door. It went to work, it came home.
"Hey Sweetie!" Jenny wrapped her arms around his waist and stretched on her toes to kiss him under his ear. He turned into her embrace and nuzzled her neck. She smelled great, but he was suddenly aware of the hardest part of being a man; you had to be strong. As much as he wanted to fall into her arms, he wasn't sure she could hold what he was carrying.
"What is it Kev?" Jenny took women's intuition to greater heights than even his mom and that was saying something.
"I gotta tell you something Jen." He took her hand and led her into the kitchen.
"You're worrying about nothing Kevin. You saved Beckett's life! She's not mad at you. And Javier will calm down once his suspension is over. They're your friends. This will blow over."
Ryan ran a hand through his hair. He appreciated what she was trying to do, but how could he expect her to understand? He'd betrayed a code that no one ever wrote down for you; you either learned it or you were left in the cold.
"It's not that simple Jenny. You don't understand."
"Well, I'm trying to Kev, but it doesn't make any sense. You followed procedure. You saved them! You were right. Even your Captain thinks so."
"No, she doesn't. It will never matter how right I am. I could get a commendation from the Commissioner and it will never be "right" in the eyes of the people I care about most!"
Jenny looked stunned. "The people you care about most?"
Great job, idiot. While you're at it, let's make sure you turn everyone in your life against you.
"Jenny, don't do that. I told you before we got married that there would be times I couldn't tell you things and stuff you wouldn't understand. This is one of those times."
"I thought you meant like when you sent me out of town last year or when a serial killer is on the loose and you're working days on end without coming home. You think I can't understand how you're feeling? Then tell me!"
"You can't understand this. You aren't a cop." The looks she was giving him only made his broken heart split further into shards and he couldn't take it. "I gotta go."
"Wait, Kevin, don't go, please." She grabbed his arm and he stood, placing a hand over hers.
"I'll come back. Right now though, you have to let me go. Please." She dropped her hands and he went to the door, pausing only to remove his gun from the wall safe once more, before he went into the cool light of dusk.
After walking a few blocks, Ryan wasn't sure where he was going. He knew the neighborhood from his early-morning runs, but he'd not stopped to hang out at any of the local bars or coffee shops, so he didn't know which of them might be a good place for him to sit and think. Rounding a corner he noticed a bar called "Partners". That seemed to be a sign, so he pulled on the heavy green door and went in.
Inside was brighter than he would have expected. There were several tables made of highly resined pine that echoed the bar top. Behind the bar were the usual shelves with bottles of liquor, but off to the side, behind the cash register was a stack of shelves that held items that clearly were personal mementos and some photographs. It gave the place a homey feeling that made his stress level drop a few ticks. He took the seat closest to the register so he could look at them. From the other end of the bar a man said, "Be with you in a moment." Ryan nodded at him.
Laying a cocktail napkin down, the barman leaned on his left forearm and asked, "What can I get you officer?"
Ryan looked at him sharply. "How'd you know I'm a cop?"
"Easy now. You just have that air about you."
Kevin studied the man. Nothing about him triggered his suspicions. He was tall, maybe 6'4. African-American, which made his age harder to pinpoint but if he had to guess he'd say late 50's or early 60's, and he wasn't heavy, but had a slight paunch. His face seemed friendly and honest.
"Most of the people I meet who can peg me as law enforcement that fast are either other cops or criminals."
"Well, I wasn't exactly a saint in my younger days and I've never been a White Knight. But a couple of my closest brothas were, so I know what I'm talking about."
Brothers, not cousins. Yeah, this guy was definitely of his parent's generation.
"Now, what can I get for you?"
"A shot of Glennlivet. Maybe two."
"I see." The barman turned to grab the whiskey bottle and a highball glass. "You want ice?"
"No, neat, if you please."
"If I please? Sure, I please. That'll be six dollars."
Ryan pulled a credit card out of his wallet and handed it to the man. "How about if I just open a tab?"
"Sure thing, Mr. Kevin J Ryan."
"OK, since you know my name, what's yours?"
"You can call me Tony. I'm the proprietor and chef of this fine establishment. Since you seem to be settling in for a while, you want anything to eat?"
Tony's genial nature and bright smile were leading Ryan to like him more and more by the second. "What do you make?"
"You name it, I'll cook it. Or find someone who does."
"Anything?" Ryan was somewhat doubtful and wanted to come up with something really crazy just to see what the man would do. He decided that would be rude though, since the guy was being so friendly. "I guess what I feel like most is a bowl of soup and some garlic bread."
"Tomato Bisque sound alright?" Tony poured a glass of ice water and left it next to the whiskey double.
"Great." With a nod, the tall man headed back into the kitchen, leaving him to nurse his drink and resume examining the mementoes on the shelf noting a picture of a younger Tony with two men wearing old-school shoulder holsters.
Ryan finished his soup in silence, not all that closer to knowing how he was going to fix this, but at least certain that if he had to do it all over again, he would. Beckett and Esposito were worth it, though he hoped that once she calmed down, she'd change her mind about quitting.
"You all done there?" Tony asked, leaning down on the bar top again. Ryan appreciated that the man was making the effort to not look down on him.
"Yeah, I guess I am. I'd like a beer though."
"Sure thing. If you don't mind my saying so, you look like a man with troubles."
Ryan gave a weary smile, "My partners aren't too happy with me right now."
Tony raised an eyebrow, "You have multiple partners?"
Immediately he understood how that could sound and held up his hand, "Oh, not like that. On the force, my squad. There are three of us, well four if you count Castle, but he's not a cop. Anyway, they were getting too hot over a case and I had a bad feeling about it. I tried to pull them back, to get them to see the danger they were headed for, but they wouldn't listen. So I went to the brass."
"You ratted them out. Broke the code."
He looked at the bar man, pain and anger on his face. "Yeah." Ryan hated hearing that, but at least he found someone who understood.
"So what happened?"
"We saved my squad leader from dying. But our Captain suspended them both and my squad leader quit. My partner won't talk to me. He told me to 'go home to my family'."
"Meaning he wasn't. Family that is." Ryan nodded.
"Well, my brotha, that is a heavy chain you carry, no doubt about that."
"I don't know how to fix it. And I'd do it again, since saving Beckett was the prize. But there's this hole inside me."
"You're busted open, I see that. What I wanna know is why you're letting them off the hook?"
Kevin looked at him quizzically. "What do you mean?"
"You were a part of this team right? You're trained, you seem smart and they ignored you. They ignored you and it nearly cost them their lives. Still, you had their backs and now they're pissed off because they got caught being stupid. Sounds to me like they owe you."
"Somehow I don't think telling them that is going to win me any points." Ryan chuckled softly, taking a drink of his water glass.
"Tonight no. Eventually though, you gotta stand up and call 'em on it. From where I sit, you didn't break the code. They did." Tony stood up and stretched his back a little from being hunched over. "What kind of beer you want?"
Kevin wiped his hands on the napkin on the bar and said, "Y'know what, I think I'm gonna head home. I was pretty cranky with the wife earlier and I should probably do something about that. What do I owe you for dinner?"
"Tell you what, tonight it's on me. In exchange, you come back and regale me with tales from the line. I miss hearin' those."
Kevin shook Tony's hand, "You got it. I love the name of the place too. Thanks for everything. I'm glad I met you tonight."
"As my Great Aunt Sally would say, 'It's Kismet'. You take care of yourself Officer Ryan."
"It's Detective Ryan, actually."
"Even better, my friend, even better."
Ryan walked home, holding his head higher and while not sure how, at least confident that things would get better. Just like Jenny had said. But it took this man, who understood cops pretty well for never having been one, to help him see it. Maybe he wasn't giving Jenny enough credit for being able to support him. Tomorrow night he was going to take her to their new hang-out to meet Tony. Family, he decided, would be who he wanted them to be.