The single shot he had fired rang in his ears. One shot, one hit. As usual. He didn’t miss. Years with Special Forces had taught him not to. Missing meant a dangerous criminal on the run, a sustained injury or a dead team member. Missing wasn’t an option. So Kimball Cho didn’t. Miss.
“Stay down”, he yelled at the man on the floor. His weapon lay a few feet away and blood spilled from under his body. Out of a hole in his left shoulder. From where Cho had aimed.
He moved over to the man, knelt down and cuffed him. He ignored the injury. The man wasn’t in immediate danger, he would live through the rough treatment. It was his own fault. He had asked for it when he had aimed and fired at a state agent. Easy as that.
Rigsby was on his feet again. He took the man’s gun. “Weapon’s secure.” Cho gave him the affirmative.
He stood and dragged the man with him. “Get up.”
His partner was staring at the wall. Two holes were in it, just below head height. Cho felt like he had put them there himself.
“Guess it’s my lucky day.” He barely heard Rigsby talking. Could only look at the holes.
He had failed his partner. Had let him down. Hadn’t been where he was supposed to be. Had almost gotten him killed.
He had missed. Had missed without even firing a shot.
Two holes. Two bullet holes were his partner had been moments ago.
Because he had fallen asleep. Had drugged himself into unconsciousness. For what?
To stop his back aching. He had risked lives because he couldn’t handle a bit of pain.
There were many things he had done in his life he wasn’t proud of. But this was the worst. He had put his own needs over his partner’s life. That was unacceptable. It was something he would never forgive himself.
He felt like the holes were staring at him. Taunting him. ‘You failed him’, they seemed to say. He abruptly turned his gaze away and shoved the man in his grip to move.
Rigsby stood in the small kitchen, preparing coffee. Cho hesitated when he walked up to him. He dreaded the moment to come. He wasn’t a coward and he didn’t mind criticism when he had made a mistake. But he couldn’t stand disappointment from people he cared about. And he deserved disappointment.
“Oh, hey.” Rigsby, cheery as ever. Pulled something out of his inside pocket. “I wanted to show you some...”
Cho cut him off. No distractions. Get this done and over with. “We need to talk about what happened today. I was late covering your back.” Had been preoccupied caring too much about his own. “I’m sorry.”
“You’re sorry?” Confusion on Rigsby’s face. He ignored it.
“It won’t happen again.” It wouldn’t. He promised himself that even more than his partner.
“Cho, you saved my life.” No, he hadn’t. The opposite. Cho lowered his eyes. Unable to stand the grateful look his partner gave him. He didn’t deserve it. He deserved being yelled at or not being talked to at all. He deserved suspension or getting fired. But he didn’t deserve kindness and certainly not gratitude.
“You were there for me when I needed you.” Rigsby had walked around the counter and grabbed his shoulder. The physical contact felt even more inappropriate to Cho than usual. A hit to the face or being strangled he would accept. But not a companionable slap. He wanted to flinch away. “I owe you, big time.”
“No.” Cho shook his head. “You don’t owe me anything.”
“Okay.” At least his partner didn’t try again. Rigsby left and Cho didn’t know what to do with himself.
It was late. The others had already left. Only himself and Agent Lisbon still there. He curtly knocked on her office door. Entered without waiting for an invitation. She had told them not to. Wanted to be accessible at all times.
“Boss, you have a minute?”
She looked up. “Sure.”
He closed the door behind him and took a seat. “Heard about you and Rigsby with the drug dealer earlier. Nice work.” Appreciation, again. Couldn’t they all stop this already? He exhaled heavily.
“No.” He couldn’t stop himself from involuntarily answering.
“This is a safe room.” She caught on to how uncomfortable he felt. “You can talk about whatever you like here.” He was too obvious. Now she was concerned. He didn’t need concern, didn’t want it. He had to show her that.
“Okay.” He was determined to tell her. Leaned forward, wanted to close the distance. Felt like he wouldn’t have to say it quite so loud then. Didn’t have to show his shame to the whole world. Only the small distance over the desk.
How would she react? Disappointed like he feared? Angry like he deserved? Or compassionate? He wouldn’t be able to stand that. No compassion.
He looked at her face. Inquiring, concerned.
He would scream if she was nice. And she would be. He knew her. She would want to help him not to punish him. But he didn’t want her help. Needed to deal with this on his own. It was his problem, he had to bear the consequences.
He leaned back again. “I’m sorry I was late this morning.”
He had to say something. Had to explain why he had come here. She didn’t believe him, he could see it. “I’ll make sure it never happens again.”
He didn’t mean being late. He meant failing. He couldn’t tell her what had happened. But he could tell her he would not make a mistake again. Would never endanger his colleagues again. And she needed to believe him.
“Okay.” She nodded. Obviously wanted to say more.
He interrupted her by getting up. She would start asking questions. He couldn’t have that.
“Good night, boss.”
He left before she could say another word. Felt her eyes on him, confused, worried. But he knew, this would be clear enough for her. She wouldn’t bother him about it later.
He needed to be alone. The restroom. No one there at this time of night.
He looked in the mirror. Looked at the man he was supposed to recognize. A reliable, loyal man. Or so he had thought. But he wasn’t. Not anymore. He had lost his grip on the most important part of himself.
Pain flared and not only physical.
Instinctively he pulled the bottle out of his pocket. Tiny yellow thing. It had become a reflex. He hesitated when he looked at it. This was what he had become. An addict. Used to the numb feeling the stuff gave him. Needing it.
He let four pills roll into the palm of his hand. Looked at them. Contemplated them. So small a thing and so big an effect. They reminded him of bullets. Tiny but lethal.
This had to stop.
He put the pills back into the bottle and walked over to the toilet. He needed to make a cut. Now. Before it was too late.
He emptied the bottle into the bowl and flushed.
Nothing like this would ever happen again. No matter how much pain it caused him.
He threw the bottle into the trash bin and left the restroom without a glance back.