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life is full of your regrets and I should be one

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Another really nice thing about the 3.14% Bar & Grill: the chairs. Super comfortable, not at all like the beaten down rolling chair he uses back at his office. These have cushions that don't have too-large ass-grooves he has to fall into! They don't tilt sideways if he breathes too hard! They don't smell like sour curry!

"You camp out in that one enough I wouldn't be surprised if it's formed a cast of your ass by now." Mag Sellers sips his scotch, keeps his eyes on the stage where the cabaret is halfway through its routine. The lights hitting the amber liquid cast an odd orange shadow on his normally pale face.

Dick Rochard licks at his dark brown wrist to get the whiskey that slopped over the glass rim as he was talking. "Nah, I know better. You like quality and class. You get those slender boys of yours to perch on each seat and if they don't feel the proper amount of give and sponginess then you order the cushion replaced."

"Those boys are dancers. I pay them to dance, not sit around and test the furniture."

Rochard perks up a little and peers up at the stage. He can't tell if anyone twirling around up there is a male, but then again, he hasn't looked very hard.

"Are they wearing dresses?"

Sellers closes his eyes and breathes out heavy through his nostrils. "Why would they wear dresses?"

"I don't know, because if you're a dancer you need to wear a dress?"

"You don't need a dress to be a dancer."

"You might not need one, but I would."

"Suddenly a lot of things make more sense," Sellers says, drains his scotch and puts the glass on the table. "I'm learning so many new things about you today."

Rochard waggles his eyebrows. "Sexy things?"

Sellers smiles that bemused, I'm going to kill you next smile of his.

"Not even close."

# # # #

He wakes up hungover like a cliff's age and entirely too late to hit the bulletin board at the Precinct for worthwhile work. He manages to crawl onto the metro and get there anyway because at least he'll be able to bum coffee off the front desk while he's there, and it's not like has anything else to do with his time.

There are two notices on the board to be claimed: a missing dog-- poodle, gorgeous fur, probably stolen and going to be kept inside until the heat is off-- and a lost child's toy.

Rochard considers the case of the vanishing teddy bear, then shrugs and goes back to the front desk. No one is manning it, the coffee pot is half-full and just sitting there on the bank of cupboards behind the desk, it would be a crime for him to not remedy this situation.

Cromwell catches sight of him from the bank of lifts down the hall and shouts "Don't even think about it!" before he manages to even find a clean mug to use.

"I am being deprived!" He shouts back at the lanky woman glaring at him with the force of a thousand judgemental suns.

"Get in my office now," she commands. Then after a moment of consideration, adds, "And you can have one mug."

Rochard is now alarmed; Cromwell has only ever indulged his need for free stuff when she wants something from him, like a pint of blood to lure in some guy pretending to be a vampire, or that time with the collective pie worshippers.

He finds a dusty mug in the cupboard under the coffee maker and fills it of delicious caffeine despite himself. Then he meanders past desk-jockeys and their paperwork mountains of depression to saunter into the Chief Inspector's office.

Cromwell was his Division Supervisor back when he worked at the Precinct; he has many fond memories of making the woman's face go red in anger. Now that she's been promoted over the last batch of corrupted heels that used to run the joint, her hair has gone greyish and her face is perpetually ashen with exhaustion.

It's a public service that he gets her blood pressure up so much she gets some colour to her skin. He does it because he's concerned for her health.

He settles into a guest chair, which he's found doubles as a torture device quite nicely, and loudly slurps at his mug. "I work at twice the rate of your normal spooks if I have to go into anything wet. And that includes a frosting override at a bakery."

Cromwell rubs at her chin and mutters, "One time," then sighs. "Fine, no frosting, and I'll get right to the point: I need you as an intermediary between the force and Mag Sellers."

The coffee goes sour in his mouth. "It's so nice to be wanted for my wit and charm. Why?"

She shoves an overstuffed folder from her side of the table to his. "Human trafficking."

This cup of coffee is now ruined. He grimaces and places the mug on the edge of her desk with a halfhearted hope that it falls and splashes and ruins her carpet. He takes the folder and props it in his lap to flip through.

"I'm not deluded that he's not a criminal here, because he's a super major big one, but what's the evidence he's involved?" He comes to a photo a quarter way into the folder that shows a woman's corpse, swollen from being in the bay and covered in lacerations that could only come from a whip. A vice closes onto his throat

"He's not involved as far as we know," Cromwell says. She's inspecting her nails very carefully. "But he's got the best nose for information in this city, so he'll at least know about it."

A little bit of relief seeps its way into the tightness in Rochard's throat, though he'll deny it to his dying day. He's been flirting at the man for years now, he really doesn't want to have to reexamine his life choices if it turns out he's been fantasising about how big the dick of a monster is.

"So you want me to act as an intermediary and you want him to act as an intermediary, and just hope that anything that comes of this shitstorm will pan out for you and your boys in blue?"

Cromwell takes a sip from her own mug and eyeballs him. "I'll pay you freelancer rates if you can get him to hand over a name we can follow up on."

There are a lot more photos in this folder, but also a list of names with lines of text below each one blacked out in marker. Trinity, Wooster, Prince; he should remember those, he supposes.

"Immediate follow-up or eventual follow-up? I can't waste time on this if I'm not getting paid for work upon information delivery, not some nebulous date in the future."

She shrugs. "Half when received and the other half if we find connection, how about that?"

"No deal." He places the folder back on the desk, nudges it a little back towards Cromwell. "Full on delivery, and I'll keep poking him every time you need elaboration on something he provides for only half rate."

Cromwell takes the folder back and dumps it on a stack of other folders she has on her desk. The stack is a decent-sized tower but not in danger of falling any time soon, though Rochard watches it in the hopes it slides over the edge of the furniture anyway.

"Okay, accepted." She opens a drawer and begins to rummage. "I was prepared for more demands, so this is a better deal than I expected."

"Wait, I can always demand a booze and stripper stipend."

Cromwell finds a temp badge in the drawer and throws it at his head. "Too late, terms are set. Use that to get into the building if you need to, but no loitering or making off with bags of coffee like last time."

He catches the badge and inspects the surface of it. Same one he was given last time, why she's kept it in her desk drawer is weird. Or maybe she found it and put it in there when she decided to hire him for this. Either way, he's a little weirded out.

"It's okay, I never pay my tab anyway," he says and pockets the rectangle of plastic.

Cromwell stares at him. "Why hasn't that man broken your kneecaps yet?"

"He doesn't break kneecaps, he gets people to break kneecaps for him-- it's part of his delegation strategy." He tries a smile to win her over, but when she persists in staring he drops it and just shrugs. "If he ever broke someone's legs himself that would be as good as proposing marriage, you know?"

She hums, leans back in her chair. "Interesting choice of words."

"I have no idea what you mean." He stands from the horrible, horrible chair and stretches. "I'm getting another coffee before I leave and I'm not taking no for an answer."

"At least finish that one first," she says and points at the mug he put on her desk.

He snags it and drains the lukewarm sludge in four long swallows. Then he belches, grins wide at her repulsed frown, and saunters back out of the office to gloat over the desk-jockeys who are still stuck there filling out forms and being miserable. There's a reason he left this job, and he likes to be reminded of it, is all.

The front desk is still empty and everyone is around are making a point to ignore him. He refills his mug with the burnt remainder of the pot, graciously sets a new one to start, and decides to poke around a bit.

The computer the receptionist uses is locked down with a numerical pin, so he doesn't bother with that beyond a few attempts at "12345" and "54321".

The Lost & Found tray just under the desk is much more interesting to sift though, anyway. He finds a crumpled fedora that smells like cheese, two yo-yos, and a plastic square just like the one he was given by Cromwell. The back has a well-worn magnetic strip on it, the front has an official ID picture with a number and name under it in tiny type. Whoever this Inspector Eder is, he should be more careful with his City Mandated Access Cards.

Rochard pockets the card, finishes his coffee, and whistles a tune as he leaves the Precinct.

# # # #

The 3.14% Bar & Grill doesn't open until long after the sun's gone down, so he drags himself back to his office to shower. Before he can get up the stairs his landlady throws the door to her ground floor flat open and points at his head.

"You are late." Mz. Green rubs her fingers together and glares at him.

Rochard holds up one hand to keep her from lunging at his head and uses the other to retrieve his wallet from his back pocket. "I just got a job with guaranteed payout today, you'll have all of it soon."

Mz. Green's lip curls. "I want it all and I want it today."

His wallet has two hundred in cash, which he hands over immediately. "This is all I have on me. But the rest is coming, I get to go work tonight and I should get paid tomorrow or the next."

Mz. Green carefully counts the money, then suspiciously eyeballs him. "This is all? No money hidden in your socks?"

He actually does have two twenties hidden, one in each sock, but he's not about to hand those over.

"I already topped off my shrimp card for the month, this was supposed to keep me in food until the job paid."

The mention of his likely starvation is met with casual indifference by the woman, as always. She waves a hand at him and backs into the open doorway to her flat.

"Fine, but bring the rest before week is out or I call police!"

She slams the door in his face. He knows she's watching through the peep hole so he doesn't flip it off or make a face, just shrugs and starts to climb the stairs.

A shower will be great, he should take a shower. His key only sticks in the lock for a minute, too, so the fates are with him today, he should relax with some hot water and then heat up the leftover curry before a nap.

The hot water is indeed heavenly, but what is less so is knocking at his door before he's washed the soap out of his hair. It might be a client so he can't ignore whoever it is, so he throws on a towel and hurries to the door.

Waiting on the landing outside is one of Sellers' dancing boys. The kid can't be older than twenty, is wide-eyed and plump-lipped, and he's wearing a newsboy cap.

They blink at each other for a moment, then Rochard asks, "Okay, enquiring minds. Do you wear a dress when you dance?"

The boy holds out an envelope to Rochard and says nothing. He looks scared.

Rochard has a choice between letting go of his towel or letting go of the door handle to take the envelope; he chooses the handle because he doesn't want the kid to have an aneurysm on his doormat.

The envelope is brown, fat, and wrapped tight with a ream of twine. As soon as he has it firm in hand, the kid flies down the stairs like a pack of hounds are on his heels.

"Come on, I'm not that bad!" Rochard shouts at him, then kicks the door closed.

He unwinds the twine around the envelope and raises an eyebrow at the return address: Same street and building number as the 3.14%, but the ATTN isn't for Sellers, it's for Marino, his Assistant Manager. Rochard has never gotten along with the man, they always glare at each other when they're forced to be in the same room, so why the guy would send him anything is confusing.

Turns out the envelope is stuffed full of old-fashioned black and white printouts of photos featuring Sellers and Rochard together. Rochard is making a lot of cow eyes at Sellers, and Sellers is making a lot of bemused grins back at him. There's not a lot of variety, though the timestamps in the lower lefthand corner provide evidence that this has been going on for a very long time.

He dumps the stack of photos on top of his desk. There are at least a hundred of them, glossy and finger-print free. He peers into the envelope looking for a clue and finds a small slip of paper crumpled at the bottom.

He fishes it out and smooths it against the desk. In blocky letters is one word: SOON.

"Huh, that's weird," he says to himself in the empty room. Then he leaves the mess alone to go finish his shower and rinse out his hair.

# # # #

Rochard gets to the 3.14% just before midnight. He never bothers getting there earlier because past experience has informed him of Sellers schedule, a schedule that does not include getting to his own damn establishment until it's been opened for ages already. The man prefers to be off supervising the breaking kneecaps or taking tea with politicians or whatever it is with his spare time instead.

But then of course Sellers swans in and shakes hands and looks all dapper in his three piece suit, so the wait is well worth it.

Rochard snags his favourite chair and a glass of his favourite whiskey, then sits back to wait. The poster tube he brought with him he places on the low table next to him. The folder full of copies of his favourite selections from this morning's blackmail attempt he keeps in his lap.

Sellers meanders into the building after Rochard patiently waits for an hour. He's impeccable in his grey tweed suit, his slicked-back greying hair, his manicured nails.

It doesn't take very long for the man to make his way over to where Rochard sits. "What's that you've got?" he asks as he takes a seat.

Rochard hands him the folder without a word, first.

Sellers' lips quirk, he opens the folder to look at the first photo, then the quirked mouth goes away and he goes still as a statue.

That isn't exactly the reaction Rochard was hoping for, but that's okay. He can work with it.

"I also not a note with it, said "Soon". Really scary, I don't think I'll be able to sleep tonight, you should take responsibility for that." He polishes off his whiskey and puts the glass on the table between the two chairs. A waitress will see it and bring him a new one if he's patient enough. "I'll take reparations in the form of naked touching."

Sellers slowly flips through the collection of photographs. "Do I want to know what's in that tube?"

"I got my downstairs neighbour's son to blow up my favourite one," he says, pats the tube fondly. "I'm going to pin it up in Marino's office."

"And what does he have to do with it?"

Rochard shrugs. "The return address was his. The courier was one of your boys. I did the math."

Sellers stares. "I really hope he's not that stupid."

"Don't you have a really nasty thing you say about the word hope?" Rochard props his chin in one hand and grins at him.

Sellers grimaces and hands back the folder. Stands up and carefully buttons his suit jacket back up. Rochard mourns the vanishing of that perfect waistcoat.

"Yes, I do," Sellers says. He steps around his newly vacant chair and starts for the bar.

Rochard jumps to his feet and almost falls over for his troubles. "Hey no, wait!"

Sellers stops and looks over his shoulder at Rochard, eyebrows raised.

"I actually do have something to talk to you about, get back here."

"I need to take care of this now." Sellers shakes his head. "Come back tomorrow. Leave the photos and the poster with the doorman, he'll make sure I get it for use later."

Sellers walks off back to the bar. Rochard fumes at the man's disappearing back. He fumes at himself for leading with the joke instead of the information exchange like a professional would. But mostly still fuming at Sellers' back, because he hates being dismissed and all that man does is dismiss him.

He juggles the folder and the poster tube as he stands up, then books it to the exit. He's been dismissed, he has no reason to stick around.

Doorman Luigi stops him on his way out the door with a hand on his shoulder and an apologetic shrug. "Mister Sellers said you're supposed to give that--"

Rochard shoves the folder and the tube into Doorman Luigi's hands and stomps off down the street. The man shouts after him, "Sorry, Mister Rochard," and the poor guy actually sounds guilty.

"Yeah, yeah," Rochard answers and waves without looking back.

# # # #

It's quarter past three in the morning when he gets to the Precinct. The metro isn't running next to the 3.14% right now due to repairs, and Rochard doesn't like taking hacks on principle, so instead of going home to sleep he skips down ten city blocks to his old workplace and proceeds to break in.

Well, not break in really. He has a his own access ID, but because he doesn't use the one given to him it's technically entering under false pretences.

He uses Inspector Eder's card instead, who he's probably met before but he doesn't really remember. The man's console is against the far wall, and as a super bonus is out of range of the working security cameras. He boots it up and waits for the OS to run through its usual security checks, then logs in with the stolen keycard's ID.

The search gives him restricted access. He plugs in the names Trinity and Wooster and Prince, single line searches to run simultaneously. Ten seconds later they ping back with nil results.

Some janitorial staff are mucking about in the hallway, muttering about wax polish. Rochard sighs and logs out of Eder's credentials, inputs Cromwell's old login from when she was Assistant Chief Inspector and Old Man Juniper was everyone's boss.

The password still works, and now he has a lot of nifty shortcuts to mess with. One is labelled Icky, so he clicks on it and finds out that's where the gruesome crime scene photos are stored.

His failed search results are still down on the taskbar. He reruns the search and this time the screen throws up a series of addresses for him to use. He takes the back of a random page from one of the reports on Eder's desk and writes them down, then closes out of the console with a satisfied feeling.

To think, he'd have to beg and plead for this information if he still worked here. He saunters to the main entry to the building, not caring if the cameras catch him on his way out. The two janitors trying to get the floor waxer to start jump in surprise as he passes them.

# # # #

After a fitful nap on his office sofa he has a whole ream of daylight hours to burn before he can accost Sellers again at the 3.14%. So he looks up on a public terminal the few addresses provided by the search from last night, and picks the closest one to idly check out.

The word idly is used because if there's evidence of wrongdoing he's going to have to stop being such a slacker and actually do something about it, and he's not sure yet if he wants to be involved to such a degree. There's a reason he's not on the force anymore; laziness doesn't factor into it, but it sure as hell is a surprising perk for after the fact.

The address is an Office Park in the Northern section of the city, where all the Corporations lie in wait for their meals to wander into their collective webs. There are nerds wearing pocket protectors sitting at the various fountains and eating their homemade lunches out of brown paper bags, enjoying the sunshine, playing pick-up games of frisbee in the meagre patches of grass.

"Well this is disturbing," Rochard says, then decides he what he needs to do here is some good old-fashioned trash rummaging.

Unfortunately he cannot find a skip to save him, so he ends up doing a loop-de-loop around the parameter until he runs headfirst into some goons coming out a back exit carrying out a long bendy thing rolled up in a massive rug between them.

"Cheese it, it's the crunchies!" one of the guys shouts at Rochard.

Rochard shouts, "Fuck!" and turns right around to run back the way he came. Then the bendy thing wrapped in the rug hits him from behind and he goes down like a sack of bricks.

A human hand lands next to his face on the pavement. It's bloated and white skinned and attached to a gross-smelling corpse, partially unravelled from the rug after its aerodynamic use as a missile, and Rochard doesn't get even a moment to try to worm out from under the body before the goons have caught up with him.

# # # #

They tear the sweatshirt with all but one of the holes tied shut off his head to reveal a small dark room with a naked lightbulb screwed into a floor lamp set next to the door. Rochard is unimpressed. Doubly so when Sellers' Assistant Manager, one Mr. Marino himself, walks into the room. His two goons settle on either side of him, stoic and manly and probably very hamfisted when pressed.

He's got on a cheap linen suit that's oddly crumpled at the knees and elbows, and his hair is slicked back in a bad imitation of Sellers'. In this light the man's skin looks jaundiced. Or just a victim of a bad tanning bed.

"I see you've come to the bottom of my operation," he says.

Rochard had no idea Marino was even off-work right now, not to mention that he was involved in anything less savoury than Sellers' usual business. Not that he's going to admit it. "It's not like it was hard, man," he says.

Marino narrows his eyes.

"How much information have you passed on to Sellers?"

"Oh, all of it." Rochard rotates his head like he's stretching out his neck. There's a camera set in the ceiling, not good.

"Yes, but what is "all" of it? I want specifics."

Rochard rolls his eyes and sags his shoulders. "Okay, look: Think of Sellers as the Company Head and think of me as HR. I have the resources to see who is being an appropriate level of human or not. And when you, yes, you, are being a human-shaped sack of shit, I use those resources to deal with it."

Marino and his bookend goons take a moment to absorb that.

Finally, Marino says, "You're just as difficult as I imagined."

Rochard widens his eyes. "You imagine me? What am I wearing?"

Marino taps the goon on his right with his hand, jerks his head towards Rochard. "Work him over," he says, then leaves with the other goon out the door.

The goon left cracks his knuckles and takes a step toward Rochard. In a sudden panic, because those are big knuckles on very big fists, Rochard pretends to cry by hanging his head and wibbles his lower lip as he whimpers.

The goon waits for him to finish. After a minute Rochard figures out that this isn't going to work out, so he sighs, completely put out.

"Oh, fine." He says and tries to tense his abdomen muscles. "Be a cruel bastard, see if I give a fuck."

The goon's thin lips curl into a smile. "Your kidneys will."

Rochard blinks at him. "Kidneys will what? That's a fragment, not a full sentence."

"Your kidneys will give a fuck." The goon frowns at him, concerned furrow to the brow. "I was building on your previous statement to supply my response."

Understanding dawns and Rochard nods. "Oh, okay. That makes sense."

Both of them satisfied about the recent sentence syntax, the goon pulls back one fist and drives it into Rochard's stomach, which makes him go "oof."

# # # #

The plastic office-sized rubbish bin is taken off his head so he can squint at the harsh fluorescent lighting and the slightly bigger room he's been moved to. There's a fridge to his left and some counter space, so Private Dick Deduction tells him he's in an employee break room. Further Deduction says he probably hasn't left the office complex itself.

That means the interrogation room was most likely a supply closet or something. This is so embarrassing, he''s going to have to modify it to a dungeon lined with blades of torture when he retells this later to the dancing girls at the 3.14%

"Starting a side business is one thing but kidnapping known patrons of my club is crossing the line," Sellers says from behind him. "The attempted blackmailing is also to be considered in my decision."

Rochard tries to twist around so he can get a visual confirmation of the man in the room, but his back really hurts so he stops midway and carefully faces front again.

"He's a weak point. I'm doing you a favour!"

Sellers takes pity on Rochard's twinging midsection and takes a couple steps around so he's in Rochard's peripheral. He's got a classy suit on, like always, but his hair is in disarray and his lips are peeled back in a snarl, which is actually pretty new for him.

"What rights do you have to determine where your employer has weak spots? Why were you looking for them?"

Marino goes quiet. In Rochard's mind's eye, the man looks like a freaked out rabbit. It's a very entertaining mental image.

"I-- I'm sorry sir, I didn't--"

"You didn't what?" Sellers gestures to someone behind Rochard, and Doorman Luigi steps around with a big knife that he begins to use on the ropes tying Rochard to the chair. "You didn't think? You didn't plan on my finding out? What did you not do?"

"I didn't." A loud swallow that sounds like a gunshot. Rochard's mental image of freaked out rabbit-Marino now pisses itself. "I'm sorry. I guess I didn't--"

Sellers cuts Marino off with a hand and turns to Rochard. "Can you walk?"

Rochard shakes his head but that makes everything hurt worse. "They dragged me in so probably not."

"If he starts to urinate blood he needs lots of fluids and rest," the goon who stayed with Rochard in the supply closet says. "And if it doesn't clear up in a couple days, you should get him an ultrasound or a--"

"I know how to treat kidney stress, thank you," Sellers snaps.

Doorman Luigi finishes cutting the rope. He pockets the knife then picks Rochard up and slings him over his shoulder. Rochard doesn't puke down the guy's back, but it's close.

His vision is too hazy and he's clenching his jaw too hard to really see his surroundings as he is hauled to an idling car and unceremoniously tossed inside. Sellers follows him into the backseat, though, and the driver sitting on the other side of the privacy glass is very smooth as he gets the car going.

"I understand that this is probably going to fall upon deaf ears, but I was taking care of him. You didn't need to get involved," Sellers says, studiously staring straight ahead.

Rochard groans. "Oh Christ. I didn't even know he would be there, damnit."

Sellers finally looks at him, face carefully blank and eyes flat. The pain in his middle and his back is spiking so Rochard breathes through his teeth and resolutely doesn't care about being stared at.

"Explain," Sellers says.

Rochard closes his eyes. "The address is on a list of suspected sites housing a human trafficking ring. I got a job checking out the info, and if you'd hung around last night I could've clued you in and asked a few questions." He drops his head back against the seat and tenses his legs to try and brace himself against the car's floor, but that doesn't help. "But no, you gotta run off to be the Big Bad Mobster, no care for the guy who came all that way to see you, you gotta go be badass."

"Are you done?"

He throws his hands up; regrets it immediately. "Are you involved in the trafficking? Are you taking me somewhere to kill me now?"

Sellers sighs. "You're in pain so I'm going to ignore that unwise question. Be a bit more careful in the future please."

"Oh, unwise." The car stops and Rochard almost slides out of his seat. "My kidneys are already meat paste, maybe you can beat my face in for a change. At least a nose can be reset."

Sellers' door opens first. He hesitates with one foot out onto the pavement and gives Rochard a Look.

"But a kneecap cannot," he says, then exits the car.

The door next to Rochard swings open and hands reach in to grab at his arms and pull him from the vehicle. He mumbles, "Cannot what?" and passes out before he fully clears the doorframe.

Next thing he knows theres a cold compress on his stomach and his head swims as he tries to flee the sharp pain that comes with it.

"Hold still," Sellers says, and Rochard tries to focus on the guy with a stethoscope looped around his neck in confusion.

"You're not Maggie," he says, suspicious.

The doctor ignores him. "Nothing permanent has happened from what I can see, but if he urinates blood for longer than two days he needs to be admitted for better tests than I can provide with the portables."

"Noted. Thank you, Doctor," Sellers says, and the doctor steps back so Rochard can see the man himself, standing in the doorway with his arms crossed.

"He's Maggie," Rochard tells the doctor. The doctor continues to ignore him.

The aforementioned portables must have already been removed from the room because the doctor only picks up a small messenger bag before he vacates the room. Sellers moves to the side only to let the man escape before resuming his nonchalant lean against the doorframe.

"You've been busy," Sellers says.

"Oh yeah, as a fucking bee." Rochard shoves the ice pack off his stomach and grunts. "Question here is, how busy have you been?"

Sellers sighs. "You best elaborate on that before I take it the wrong way."

"Are you involved in the ring?" Rochard snarls. "That clear enough for you? Are you part of a group of people who heist little girls and sell them to skeezy dudes?"

Sellers' expression does not change.

"That's certainly elaborate."

Rochard tries the ice pack again but it feels like fire on his bruises. He chucks it against the bit of wall that Sellers is next to.

"Look, me liking you isn't going to be enough on this. If you're into something this bad, I need to know about it so I can get the fuck away from you."

Sellers leans back and stares in the direction of up. "Why do you even think to ask?" he asks the ceiling, "What have I done to give you the idea that I would be involved?"

"Commit to being repulsed or walk the fuck out of this room, damnit."

Sellers sighs. "It's not good for our current dynamic as the light and dark shades of the law if I give you an absolute."

Rochard groans and rolls onto his side with his back to Sellers. The bright sunlight streaming in through the window isn't doing his head any favours, but it's better than looking at Sellers right now. "This isn't shades of the law, this is innocent people being sold to bad men for bad things. Get with the fucking programme here."

The door clicks closed, and Rochard scrunches his eyes shut. He just knows Sellers left, and that doesn't do his peace of mind a good thing at all.

# # # #

That great big picture window isn't locked.

This alone is enough to confirm what he already suspected-- this is one of Sellers' safehouses, not his actual abode. No way he'd take a former Police Officer to his home, that would be silly. And no way he'd have windows that were ever unlocked.

He still feels bitter and angry about it. The bitterness might be from the meds, he always goes wonky on painkillers and boy was he given a lot this time.

There's only one bedsheet in the entire bloody room and that isn't nearly enough to make a rope, so he decides to climb out using the window ledge and the decorative edging on bits of the exterior brickwork to make his escape. It works great to get him from the second storey down to the first, but then his foot slips over the metal doorframe to the shop on the ground level and he falls the remaining eight feet to land in a heap on the pavement.

This fall does nothing to help his kidney pain, but he staggers upright and does his best to pretend that he meant to do all of that. The people staring at him in horror from the other side of the shop's windows need for him to pretend, else they might call the cops.

He squints up at the sign over the doorframe he slipped on. It's a package store! With a two for one special on beer! So not only is it a package store, but it's a cheap one too!

A look around informs him that he's never been to this part of town before. He contemplates the pavement, then strikes out so the sun is at his back, intent on finding a terminal for directions.

It's not far along when he notices he's being followed. Hulking men wearing trench coats in the light of day is always a tail, even though the stereotype is wildly known and everyone can spot them if they're looking in the proper direction.

A cross street is up ahead. He forces himself to jog and get there quicker, then taps his foot and waits for the lights to change.

He gets across the street, inspects a newspaper dispenser against the corner shop until the light changes again, then turns around and waves at the trencher tails. He does a little dance, flaps the back of his coat at them, kicks his heels and squawks.

The two men watch for a moment, then they run off down the street in the opposite direction. Rochard stops dancing to watch them go.

"Pfft, amateurs."

There's an underground metro station down the street, he can see the blinking sign clearly even with his headache. A quick check of his pockets produce his shrimp card, so he hustles in that direction so he can catch the next train out of here.

The actual train ride is agony because his tailbone hurts; he stands to mitigate the worst of it so he won't pass out and get robbed. Then he gets off at the stop that happens to vomit him out onto one street over from his office building, and he staggers mostly upright back to his lair.

It takes three tries for his key to get the door to the building unlocked. By the time he gets to his own door he's shaking and ready to keel over, but good news, his door is ajar and the lights are all on.

No one is inside, and nothing is missing. Everything is gently ruffled, however, and he is so absolutely unimpressed about that, the least they could do was clean up and close the door behind them.

They probably installed surveillance equipment while they were here. Rochard combats this by turning on a repeat of the Money Programme-- this is the episode where the host dances on the table and sings with some burly men's group doing backing vocals while wearing full regency corset dresses-- and reheats the last of the curry for dinner.

He has to rummage through his booze cabinet to find a clean bowl to use. All of his others are crusted and stacked in the sink, and is the only bit of the office that was apparently left alone.

After he's settled down with his curry and his soreness, he relaxes on the sofa and drifts in and out of consciousness. Next thing he's aware of there is only darkness outside the one window in his flat, and heavy footsteps are trying to be quiet on the stairs.

Rochard sits up and listens. Grabs his remote and mutes the television mid-Announcer shill. The steps pause every few seconds, like they're testing out each step for squeaks and creaks. He could be imagining it, he could be paranoid, but he thinks those noises are coming for him.

He hobbles to the kitchen and fills a mug full of water on the sink, shoves it into the microwave and hits "boiling." The steps are still coming, but they're slow, and a hundred twenty seconds isn't enough time for them to get to him.

The microwave softly beeps, and he carefully removed the mug full of boiling water. Goes back to the sofa and sets the scalding hot ceramic on his end table. Sits and listens to the steps coming up the stairs, now loud enough to be heard over his harsh, terrified breathing.

He settles on the sofa in front of the television, sound off and the cup of bubbling water set next to him. The steps coming up the stairs stop right in front of his door.

He leans forward, hand around the cup, then the door busts open with a bang. He flings the boiling water, cup and all, at the first man in through the door, then hauls his ass to the small bedroom in the back while the man screeches and claws at his own face.

Someone is on his heels. Rochard snags the floor lamp from just inside the bedroom door and blindly hits back with it in a whirling motion. His stomach protests at the movement, and he swings too high, doesn't even hit the guy going after him.

This goon is shorter than Rochard and has a porn 'stache. He slams forward into Rochard, shoulderchecks right into his midsection, and they both go down to the floor.

Rochard takes his revenge by kneeing the man in the balls.

Pain in his stomach and his kidneys is too much for him to get far, but he still tries to crawl away from the goon. The bedroom light switches on and a third man walks into the room.

Rochard doesn't look at him. He just tenses and waits.

A foot strikes out at the small of his back, and he crumples. Pukes right into his carpet. Groans a lot in tandem with the goon still recovering from his balls being crushed.

The third goon mutters, "This is so not what I was paid to do," then he kicks Rochard in the back again.

# # # #

Another interrogation room. That suspiciously looks like the last one, right down to Marino standing in front of him with his goonish bookends.

"Did you bring me back to the same supply closet?" Rochard asks, incredulous.

Marino's lip curls. "Shut the fuck up."

Rochard rolls his eyes and Marino backhands him. The pain from his face snapping to the side really quickly makes his stomach dip, and he instinctively swings his head back to face front right before he projectile vomits onto Marino's swanky leather shoes.

The man tip-toe dances away with an inarticulate yell. Rochard coughs and spits and would laugh if it didn't hurt so much.

"What did you expect you dumbass? I'm already injured!"

Marino points at one of his goons. Said goon startles, points at himself.

"Yes, you," Marino snarls. "Come over here and hit him."

The goon looks at Rochard with wide eyes, who grins at him.

"I'd rather not if'n that's alright. He might gob more."

The other goon tuts and shakes his head. "Nah, mate. Everyone gobs, what you're afraid of is him pukin' on ya."

"Ah, right. Sorry, I was confused by the vernacular." To Marino, he nods and looks very sorrowful. "I'd rather not hit him, sir, cos he might puke again."

Marino takes off one of his shoes and pitches it at the head of the forthright goon. Both of the men duck and flee out the door, leaving it open behind them.

"Touch break, man," Rochard says. "But I can't blame them.

Marino whirls on him with a snarl. "Oh? Why can't you blame them?"

Rochard shrugs, as much as he's able. "I wouldn't want to be puked on either. It's pathetic."

The man leans close and gets right in Rochard's face. "I will pull out your eyeballs and make you eat them raw," he hisses.

Rochard sighs. "Points given for delivery but deducted for lack of originality."

Marino's fist hits him in the jaw. He's ready for it, so his head doesn't snap to the side again. Small favours and all.

He makes to hit Rochard again, but some kind of explosion sounds and then something behind Rochard that he can't see rattles in a metallic way. It makes the man pause, and it makes Rochard let out a pained hiss between his teeth.

"I'll be right back," Marino tells him as he backs away. He disappears down the hall somewhere, footsteps picking up speed.

Now that he's alone it is time to escape, he decides. He methodically twists his wrists and shifts his arms, looking for give. There is none. He tries his legs, but they're so tightly tied to the chair at the ankles that his toes are tingly. He tries to lean forward, but the muscles pull in such a way that he doesn't know if he has a floating rib or not, there's just so much pain from such a little movement.

It's probably time to give up, he realises. He hangs his head and makes his body go lax.

"This sucks," he says to his knees.

Marino runs back into the room. He has a length of pipe hefted over his shoulder, soot all over his crappy suit, and looks like he's gone completely crazy.

"You told him about the circuitry!" Marino yells.

Rochard doesn't know a damn thing about circuitry, this is ridiculous. Regardless, he starts to tense all his muscles again just in case. "You realise I know nothing, right? Wrong place, wrong time."

Marino swings the pipe over Rochard's head like a bat. It makes him want to duck, but there's nowhere to go, so he grits his teeth and tries not to flinch.

"No, you know plenty," Marino says, "and you told all of it to Sellers."

Rochard groans. "Why do you give a shit?"

"My employers like secrecy. I'm going to have to grovel and beg for them to let me live after this."

Rochard blinks at the plural there. This is starting to suck big time.

"Which ones?" he asks, trying to be casual. "Infinity, Roster, or Ponce?"

Marino points at him with the hand that isn't wielding the pipe.

"See! I knew you-- wait, who? You mean Trinity, Wooster, and Prince, right?"

Rochard closes his eyes and tries to not scream. Pretending to be stupid isn't gonna work with this guy, there goes that hope.

Marino pokes him in the shoulder with the pipe until he opens his eyes; the man grins at him and shakes his head, slowly.

Someone casually walks up behind Marino, taps him on the shoulder. Marino sidesteps, and now Rochard can see that Sellers is there with a big honking machete in hand.

"What are you doing here?" Marino asks, squeaky. "Where's your delegation?"

Sellers doesn't answer. Unless raising the machete and swinging it down with one big heavy whack to where Marino's neck and shoulder meets is considered an answer.

Blood squirts from where the knife goes in. It hits the wall and Sellers and goes all over the carpet. Marino gives one last gurgle, Sellers releases his hold on the machete, and then the ex-Assistant Manager topples over backwards, dead as badly made toast.

Sellers produces a handkerchief from his pocket and carefully wipes the blood from his fingers as he looks at Rochard.

His sleeves are rolled up, which is a first for Rochard's eyes. His hair is back in dissaray, he has small bruises littering his face and throat and the sliver of collarbone visible with the shirt's top button full-on missing in action.

The man is also soaked in blood. Smears everywhere, coating his hair, the shell of his left ear. Rochard doesn't know what he feels about it, but he swallows roughly and stares at the swipe of new blood across Sellers' cheek with great fascination.

"I was very angry when you ran off," Sellers says to him. He uses both of his hands to tilt Rochard's head back, towards the light. He stares direct in Rochard's eyes, though he's probably checking for a concussion. "I don't like it when I try to help someone and they spit in my eye like that."

"You might be a human trafficker," Rochard mumbles. He's getting woozy, which is actually a relief from feeling the sharp clarity of the pain as he has been.

Sellers' lip curls, he releases Rochard's head and crouches down to pull a knife from his boot that he then uses on the bonds keeping Rochard's ankles stuck to the chair legs.

"I am not a bloody trafficker," Sellers snarls as he viciously hacks at the rope. "Do you honestly think that I'd let a lag-about like you wander in and out of my establishment and never bloody pay a cent if I were one?"

The pain is starting to get sharp again. It feels like something is stabbing into his lungs, this kind of hurt is scaring him a little too much for his brain to function correctly.

"I don't follow," he says, swallows a couple times to keep the bile down. "Why does my tab keep you from selling children? Does drunk booze keep kids safe? What?"

Doorman Luigi appears in the doorway. He's carrying a bazooka, which Rochard would be totally interested in if he wasn't dying.

"Sir, you shouldn't be in here, it's dangerous."

Sellers is done with the ropes on Rochard's ankles. He starts on the ones keeping his arms down.

"Sometimes, Luigi, a personal touch is required." He darts up a glance at Rochard's face, then twists at the waist to look at the goon. "Get Nacho in here, we're going to need morphine before we can move him over the rubble to the door."

Luigi sketches a salute and disappears from the door. Rochard frowns. He has no idea what is going on.

"I have no idea what's happening right now," Rochard says. Slurs, maybe. Yeah, he's slurring.

Someone down the hall curses in Spanish and stumbles into a wall. Sellers finishes cutting Rochard free, drops the knife to the floor and places his hands flat on top of Rochard's thighs.

"I am getting you out of here. You are not dying."

Rochard blinks. "I don't think you can order someone to not die, man."

Sellers' grin is bloody and mean.

"Watch me."

# # # #

The haze of the morphine lifts eventually to allow him to claw his way to consciousness. When it does, Sellers is on the bed next to him, watching television. Rochard tries to move his arm and realises he's handcuffed to the bed.

"Not that I don't appreciate this transition in our relationship, but I'm too injured to get it up right now."

Sellers snorts. "Dream on. Two officers employed by your favourite Precinct are in on the ring you're set to investigate."

Rochard slumps sideways so his arm pulls on the handcuff. No give in the chain at all, damnit. He rotates his wrist and winces. "Okay, then. Am I ever getting out of here to tell the boss about it?"

"Their names are Lt. Eder and Inspector Leppo. They work out of the space port on the north side of the city. Not the sanctioned one. That nameless third party affair."

Rochard groans and weakly kicks at Sellers' ankles. He does no damage whatsoever.

Sellers sighs and shifts his ankles away from Rochard's reach. "What now?"

"I used Eder's terminal to look up the addresses," he groans.

A moment of blissful silence. Then Sellers says, "That wasn't the brightest thing you've ever done."

Rochard groans again. "Nope."

"Not to belabour," Sellers continues, "but neither was breaking out of my hospitality suite and dodging back to your flat without anyone to look after you."

"I am an independent person who acts independently."

Sellers snorts. "Swap out the word independent with foolish and we're in business."

Rochard tries to shift into a comfortable position. All the bruises on his stomach and his thighs throb horribly at the motion, so he stops and lets himself sink into the mattress instead. "Why are you involved?" he mumbles.

"Already told you I'm not."

"Involved in keeping me alive," Rochard clarifies.

Sellers thinks for a moment. The show ends, he uses the clunky remote to switch the channel to some classic movie thing. Then he gets up off the bed.

"Fuck if I know," he says, then leaves the room.

As soon as the door closes behind him Rochard twists his wrist to see if there's any slip to the other end of the cuff. There is none, he has a grand total of three inches of chain and no mechanism visible for him to pick because it's locked onto a bar somewhere under the heavy slabs of metal that serve as a bedframe.

Rochard hisses and kicks at the air. "Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck."

# # # #

Sellers comes back hours later to fetch him, presumable after his nightly appearance at 3.14% is over with. Rochard has already taken the room apart in an even radius of where he is imprisoned, so there are drawers upended and the legs of the bedside table are all screwed right off, There is also no more floor lamp.

Rochard lifts his chin and eyeballs Sellers as the man stands in the doorway, inscrutable. He managed to get off the bed a few hours ago so he's sitting on the floor cross legged and arm contorted, but he was aiming to drag the dresser over to himself by his feet so it's not like he's down here without a goal.

"I'm escorting you to your office," Sellers finally says. He gestures at someone in the hall and steps aside. A goon Rochard's never met before comes in with the handcuff keys and his face goes bloodless at the sight of the mess. "Then I will be escorting you to the doors of that Precinct of yours. Hopefully they can keep a leash on you, because I sure as fuck can't."

Rochard massages his wrist now that the cuff is off it. There's angry lines wrapped around the bony part, they feel hot to his touch. "What, nanny not going in with me?"

Sellers is never so gauche as to roll his eyes, but his jaw gets a set to it that is just as good as. "Little boys need to learn to go into Kindergarten all on their own someday."

It's a very quiet car ride because Rochard sulks and Sellers decided to take a god damn magazine on the trip. The only sounds the entire way are the rustle of magazine pages, the hum of the car engine, and Rochard's grinding teeth.

The car parks right outside Rochard's building. Two goons pile out of the car that was following them and each open one of the back doors so Sellers and Rochard can get out without ever having to touch a door handle. It's creepy, but Rochard's gotten used to it, which probably says horrible things about him.

"Lay on," Sellers says to Rochard as he tosses his magazine back into the seat. The goon closes the car door and takes on the position of watching Sellers' six, while the goon on Rochard's side of the car does the same for him.

Rochard grimaces, walks around the front of the car. He notices that Doorman Luigi is being the driver's seat, who gives a little wave that Rochard returns.

His keys are in his pocket, so he gropes and rummages for them longer than he has to to make Sellers angry. It doesn't work, because the man is ignoring him in favour of staring down the street.

He jerks the heavy door to the building open, blinks in surprise at how dark it is inside. Did the safety lights all burn out at once? Then three things happen all at once: Something in the darkness shifts. Sellers grabs the back of Rochard's shirt collar and jerks him back and to the side. A bullet whizzes past his head and smacks into the chin of his goon guard, who hits the pavement like a wet rotting sack of turnips.

A herd of white men in crumpled suits stream out from the stairwell and into the street. One guy clotheslines Sellers' protective goon, the poor guy goes down choking on air. Sellers shoves Rochard behind him and keeps both of them pressed against the wall.

There are at least ten of the goons, and they're all grinning wide at Sellers and Rochard. The blood from Rochard's goon is making a puddle on the pavement, Rochard can't stop staring at it in wonder.

"This isn't your best avenue of action," Sellers warns them.

One of them has jaundiced skin and a five o'clock shadow. He chortles and rubs at his belly with both hands.

"Oh good, we don' have to track you down too, we get both at once." He says, shows off his crooked but pearly white teeth which contrast how jaundiced his skin is. Seriously, the man has to have liver issues.

The car engine revs, and Doorman Luigi hits the accelerator. Half the swarm of goons go down under the car's tires, the rest scatter over the hood and land on the pavement in a pained heap.

There are still enough moving to pose a threat. Rochard readies himself to start a-kicking at some heads, but Sellers grabs him by the back of his jacket and drags him to the open door of his building. Rochard resists, because that means Doorman Luigi is left driving over the goons all on his own.

"Higher ground," Sellers hisses and keeps dragging him up the stairs.

Somewhere Mz. Green screeches; Rochard distantly hopes she's not being tortured.

A gun goes bang and a bullet whines past Rochard's head. He collides against the wall as he ducks, then takes control of his own escape and runs past Sellers up the the stairs.

"I thought you took care of Marino's people!" Rochard shouts.

"Personally escorted them to the bottom of the bay myself, where do you think I was all night?"

"I thought you were schmoozing at the bar!"

Sellers shoves at his back so he doesn't slow down while he's yelling. "Thank you for the vote of confidence, but no, I was out murdering people. Hate to disappoint!"

Rochard stumbles and flails. "I don't wish to know that!"

They hit the second storey landing. Rochard full-body slams his door and the lock gives way immediately, then he runs around his filing cabinet wall to rummage through the kitchen while Sellers kicks the door closed behind them.

"What are you doing?" Sellers asks. He picks up a lamp from the end table next to the sofa, tests the heft, then replaces it.

"Looking for my butane kitchen torch!" he answers, picking up his rummaging speed frantically. It's not where he keeps it, and the people who came in to toss his place might have stolen it, and they are so, so fucked.

The door slams open and some heavy goon with wild eyes yells "Got ya!"

Rochard grabs the closest thing at hand and throws it. His heavy metal old-fashioned cheese grater hits the goon in the head hard enough he staggers back, and Sellers kicks the door closed again.

"I can't find the torch," Rochard tells Sellers, miserable. Neither of them have guns and he only has the one cheese grater. The goon definitely has a gun and probably knives too.

The door slams open and the goon gives an inarticulate roar of rage. Sellers grabs Rochard's coat and drags him down so they're ducked behind the filing cabinets.

"Quick, hand me that gun!" Sellers bellows into Rochard's face. Rochard sees no gun, so he smacks Sellers hard enough in the mouth to make him fall back.

Three running steps and a thud; the unmistakable sound of Rochard's rolling chair hitting the wall, and the goon cackles. "We gonna have a firefight?"

Rochard stops being confused. Sellers' lip is bloody and he looks angry, so Rochard tries to smile an apology; it doesn't work.

"Uh, sure, why not?" Rochard shouts back.

Sellers reaches past him and grabs one of the whiskey bottles; apparently Rochard left that cupboard open when he was trying to find the torch. Rochard watches in horror as the other man takes one moment to aim, then lobs the bottle in an overhand arc right at the guy hunkered behind his desk.

The bottle shatters, and their attacker yelps. Sellers reaches for the booze cupboard again and Rochard slaps at his wrists.

"Those are expensive!"

Sellers shoves him away and pulls out three more bottles, lines them up on the floor right next to him.

"Noted," he says, then throws another bottle. It lands on their attacker with a shatter and a pained noise.

"Stop that!" the man screeches from behind Rochard's desk.

Sellers lobs a third bottle by way of answer, then snaps his fingers and points at the dishtowel hanging off the edge of the far counter. Rochard leans over and snags it, hands it over, while Sellers picks up yet another bottle of whiskey.

Instead of throwing this bottle he cracks the seal. Rochard leans with his back to the filing cabinet wall and says, "He's not gone yet."

"I know that," Sellers says, then wads up the towel and pours very expensive whiskey all over it.

"Are you gonna buy me new whiskey to replace that?" Rochard asks.

Sellers produces a lighter from his pocket, holds the soaked towel away from his body, and clicks the flint to make it turn on.

"I'll forgive your tab at my club and we'll call it even, what do you say that?" he asks, then the dishtowel catches fire and he chucks that at the man hiding behind the desk.

Sellers' aim is true and the man promptly lights up like a flailing, screaming bonfire. Unfortunately the man flails right onto Rochard's desk and lights that on fire too.

"Did you just set my office on fire?" Rochard asks out of genuine curiosity.

Sellers grabs him by the arm and drags him out of the kitchenette and towards the door to the office. "We need to get out of here now."

Smoke is already billowing out of his office window when they reach the street. Other residents of Rochard's building are evacuating carrying their television sets and their cats. Residents from other buildings on the street are evacuating their own building just to gawk and see what's going on.

Some officer Rochard doesn't know takes one look at how singed he and Sellers are, indicates the boot of his police vehicle. "Sit here while I take statements, please."

Sellers is looking around for his own car, probably to escape by. Rochard snags the lapels of the man's suit and drags him to to car indicated.

"We're giving statements, I don't want a manhunt out," He hisses.

"I would pay off the police to have them call it off," Sellers snipes but allows himself to be dragged.

Mz. Green comes at him from out of the darkness. "You can't move back in," she hisses.

Rochard manages to only jump a little, and he absolutely does not fall off the boot of the police car. "It's a fair cop, but I want it on the record that I didn't set that fire, he did."

He points at Sellers, who stares at him.

"Thanks a lot."

"Your criminal record can handle it," Rochard says.

Sellers shrugs. It's not a point he can argue and he obviously knows it.

Mz. Green scowls at them both. "Well, yes, but you brought him here. So you can't move back in. You're unsavoury."

Sellers snorts, then coughs from smoke inhalation. Rochard smacks him too hard on the back until a fireman comes over with oxygen masks for both of them.

# # # #

A terrified Junior Officer drives both of them back to the Precinct. Sellers made one more attempt to run off into the shadows except he couldn't take the oxygen tank with him, and Rochard wouldn't let go of him anyway, so both of them were eventually shoved into the back of the car and taken along like criminals.

Rochard is sooty and irritated. Sellers doesn't look much better. Cromwell sits behind her desk with her head in her hands and groans like she's dying. "You couldn't have brought this to me? I'm paying you for information on this job, not action!"

"There's a reason I don't work here anymore," Rochard points out.

Cromwell bares her teeth. "You don't work here anymore because Old Man Juniper took a bribe and when you could prove it he held a gun to your head to force you to bloody quit."

Sellers stares at Rochard. "You're anti-corruption?"

"Shut up, no." Rochard waves a hand at him. "I quit because I'm lazy. Too much paperwork. The commute is terrible."

"If you're anti-corruption why do you hang around me?"

Rochard sneers at Sellers. It makes his swollen nose hurt, but he manfully persists through the pain. "Your ass is perfection. But I'm not anti-corruption, stop it."

Sellers rolls his eyes, then nods to Cromwell. "He's anti-injustice, everyone already knows this. You should've known better than to put him on human trafficking of all things."

"Am I talking to myself here?" Rochard leans forward to shout at the surface of Cromwell's desk. "Is this thing on?"

Sellers reaches over and stops him from tapping on the desk like it's a faulty microphone. Cromwell claws at her own scalp for a moment and then stops to desperately sip her coffee.

"I'm not paying hazard on this," Cromwell mumbles around her mug. "The terms were carefully outlined, and the precinct is not culpable if you go outside them."

Rochard jerks his hand out of Sellers's grip. "I'd sue anyway, but again, I'm lazy," he says to Cromwell.

Sellers glares at him. "Will you shut up for a minute, your not-Boss is talking."

Rochard's mouth falls open in outrage.

"Give me all the information you have on the ring, I'll write out the voucher, and you can go home," Cromwell says. She starts to rummage about in the stacks of paper on the desk like she's desperate for a map out of this room.

"My home is burnt to the ground," Rochard sniffs.

Cromwell eyeballs him and picks up a pen. "And whose fault is that?"

Rochard wordlessly points at Sellers.

The pen in Cromwell's grip snaps in half; a gush of blue ink splatters the front of her shirt, along her sleeve, and all over the papers strewn on the desk. The woman curses and scrambles about wildly.

Sellers tilts his head back and to the side, facing Rochard. He looks casual at a glance, but the man's shoulders are tense. "You're coming home with me, yes?" he asks Rochard.

He blinks. Asks, "Are you asking or telling?"

Sellers leans back in his chair. "Well if you have an honest objection I'll hear it, but no, this is me telling."

Rochard winks. It's the least painful flirtatious action he can take with his face the way it is. "You want me to make sure you keep breathing?"

"More like if anyone comes after you again I have guns that can shoot them without needing to get creative."

"Do you have licenses for those guns?" Cromwell asks, eyebrows raised and wadded paper towels in her hands streaked with blue.

Rochard waves a hand at her. "Hey, private conversation!"

"There is no privacy in my office."

"I am a Private Dick, and that means I contain multitudes of privacy."

Cromwell makes a weak noise of distress. Sellers ignores Rochard and inclines his head in deference to Cromwell.

"You have quite a bit of ink down your shirtfront, Chief Inspector. Would you like a moment to step out and change? We won't go anywhere."

Cromwell doesn't argue, but she does grumble. She uses both hands to shove herself up from her chair, then she stomps to the west side of the room where a small door is set. She opens it, flicks on a light, and disappears into what is apparently an en suite bathroom.

The door closes after Cromwell. Rochard waggles his eyebrows at Sellers. "You see how I said that, right?"

"Come here," Sellers orders.

Rochard says "huh what," and Sellers leans over to grab him by his burnt jacket and pull him close. Without so much as a by-your-leave he firmly kisses Rochard on the mouth, then releases his jacket and settles back into his own seat like nothing happened.

Rochard blinks at him. His mouth feels swollen even though he knows that nothing that just happened could make it... swell. But his lips are hyper-aware. And he would really like to try that again, but Sellers is checking the cuff links on his ruined suit jacket and Rochard is so confused.

Cromwell emerges from her en suite wearing a fresh shirt. She gets as far as her desk before she looks between them suspiciously.

"What did you do?"