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Raindrops In The Desert

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 Cover art for the story. The background is dark gray and there are three silver keys, suspended from above with silver chains. Each key has a portion of the story title written on it.

Scott doesn’t notice his gun is missing until he’s already at work. He follows his usual routine when he gets to his desk; puts his coffee on his own desk, puts Ryan’s on his desk, sits down and turns on his computer. He vaguely registers that something feels weird when he sits down, but it’s not until he glances down that he realizes what’s wrong.

He’s wearing his gun belt and his holster…but there’s no gun. The holster’s empty.

Blinking, he stares down at the empty holster, hoping he’s imagining things. His gun has to be in the holster. That’s where the gun lives 24 hours a day, unless it’s in his hands. It’s a habit that’s been drilled into him over the past ten years.

The gun needs to be in the holster or in his hands, nowhere else.

And now, the gun is definitely not in the holster and it’s not in his hands.

Shit!

His hands automatically touch his waist, feeling around as if the gun somehow jumped out of its holster and attached itself to another part of his pants. But all that’s there is his badge, clipped to his waistband. Staring down at it, he confirms that yes, that’s his gold colored badge cheerfully glinting up at him, but there’s no gun anywhere.

The first thought is that somebody must have stolen his gun. But when? He definitely had his gun—in its holster—on his drive home yesterday. He remembers because he hadn’t been paying attention when he’d gotten into his car and the seat belt had gotten tangled on the holster, which is something that always happens when his brain is somewhere else.

He’d driven home, taken off the belt and his badge and put both into his bedside table drawer, like he does every single day when he comes home from work. Except he’d been distracted the entire time…and when he remembers why he’d been so distracted and what he’d done in the hours after that, everything comes flooding back and he knows exactly where his gun is.

Shit. Shit, shit, shit! Panic starts to overwhelm him and he can barely breathe.

“Morning, Scotty.”

Scott barely registers the sound of Ryan greeting him as his partner takes off his jacket and throws it over the back of his chair. Before Ryan sits down, Scott’s eyes zero in on Ryan’s gun in his holster. Ryan’s gun is exactly where it should be. His own gun is definitely not where it should be.

Fear is making his heart race and his hands are shaking. Shit!

There’s the sound of Ryan sitting down and he’s reaching for the coffee with one hand and turning on his computer with the other.

“Did Dr. Ishikura send us the autopsy results yet?” He asks, letting out a yawn as he stares at his computer screen and scrubs a hand through his hair.

With his eyes glued to his desk, Scott can’t even begin to think about Ryan’s question. Instead, he has to concentrate on not passing out.

Horrible images are streaming through his mind. The idiot he gave his gun to could be out there right now, killing somebody. Or the idiot could leave it lying around and a kid could grab it and shot themselves or somebody else.

He has to get his gun back. He has to get his gun back right now! But how? He can’t just go up to the idiot’s apartment, bang on his door and demand his gun back. The guy probably wouldn’t even open the door.

His stomach twists and he’s sweating. He has to report this. In fact, he should have started filling out the paperwork five minutes ago, instead of sitting here panicking. But paperwork means having to admit what a stupid slut he is and it’ll cost him his job.

But what choice does he have?! The idiot could be planning to kill somebody right now. In fact, he could have done it already.

Shifting in his chair, he notices his ass is really damn sore and his desk chair isn’t very comfortable. Well, good. He deserves the discomfort. He also deserves to lose his job, his friends and everything else good in his life. That’s what he gets for being a dumb slut.

“Hello? Planet Earth is calling Scotty Jenkins. Anybody home over there?”

Scott manages to tear his eyes off his desk and stares at Ryan, who’s frowning at him. “You okay? You look like you’re gonna pass out. You feeling sick? Want me to drive you home?”

Scott opens his mouth, but he can’t seem to make the words come out. He just keeps gaping at Ryan. Somehow, he’s desperately hoping his partner will read his mind, come up with a perfect solution and Scott’s gun will be back in his holster, nobody will have gotten hurt or killed, and Scott will still have his job.

But that’s not what happens.

Ryan’s looking more concerned, his eyes searching Scott’s face. Finally, he stands up. “Okay, car. Now. Come on.”

It’s on the tip of Scott’s tongue to tell Ryan that this isn’t a car-worthy issue. Discussions in the car are only for very serious issues. But then it dawns on him that he’s an idiot. Obviously this counts as a very serious issue! God, he’s a such a stupid whore!

Standing up, he numbly follows Ryan out into the parking lot and they climb into the backseat of Ryan’s car, slam the doors shut behind them and slouch down so people passing by won’t notice them. Even though the seats are softer than his desk chair, his ass still isn’t happy sitting down, but he pushes aside the discomfort. It’s what he deserves.

“Okay, start talking. What’s wrong?”

That’s when it hits Scott. He needs Ryan’s help to fix this—he can’t even string two sentence together in his head, never mind come up with a good plan—but that means telling Ryan what happened. And then their friendship and partnership will be over. There’s no way Ryan will want to stay with Scott once he learns what a dumb slut he is.

“Scotty, you’re freaking me out. Did we screw something up? Did somebody die?”

Scott manages to let out an ugly, strangled laugh. “I did and I’m about to.”

“What?”

“I…” He can’t seem to make the words come, but he has to. Damn it, he should already be finished filling out the paperwork and a team should be heading to the idiot’s apartment to get his gun back. He’s wasting time and endangering people’s lives because he’s a useless idiot. Come on, Jenkins! This was your stupid mistake, now own up to it and do the right thing. “I screwed up. I really, really screwed up.”

“Okay. When did we screw up?”

“No, not ‘we’. Just me. I screwed up. It’s got nothing to do with work.”

“What did you do?”

“I…gave my gun to somebody.” There. Now it’s out in the open.

“You let somebody play with your gun? What are you—a rookie? You know that’s against policy. Jesus, after all these years, you’d think the whole novelty would have worn off for you.” Ryan snorts. “But we’ve all been there, right? And anyway, it was unloaded so no big deal. Did they damage it?”

And the situation is turning into crap again. “No. I mean I gave my gun to somebody. I literally handed my gun to somebody. They have it now, not me. That’s—that’s the problem.”

There’s silence from beside him. Ryan shifts and Scott knows without looking at him that Ryan’s staring at him incredulously. There goes four years of friendship and partnership. There goes Scott’s career and life. But he can’t stay silent about this. It wouldn’t be right and he couldn’t live with himself if he did.

“What the fuck do you mean you gave your gun to somebody?!”

Scott closes his eyes. “It means exactly what it sounds like. I was an idiot and gave my gun to somebody.”

There’s silence. Then Ryan starts laughing and punches his shoulder. “Oh, that was good! Damn, you got me going, Jenkins!”

Ryan’s laughter is making Scott’s panic grow thicker in his throat and his hands are shaking. “It’s not a fucking joke, Harris! I’m in trouble, real trouble and if you aren’t gonna help me, then I gotta go fill out paperwork because somebody’s gonna get killed while I’m sitting here!”

Abruptly, Ryan stops laughing. “You’re serious?” He sounds stunned.

Scott sits there.

“Jenkins, look at me.”

That’s one thing Scott definitely can’t do. He’ll fill out the paperwork, he’ll look the Captain and everybody else in the face while he’s being fired, but he can’t face Ryan.

Ryan grabs his arm in a tight grip. “Jenkins, look at me right now. I fucking mean it.”

With difficulty, Scott forces himself to open his eyes and look at Ryan, staring into his shocked face.

“You’re serious? You’re really fucking serious? You lost your gun?”

In response, Scott pulls his gun belt around until the empty holster is sitting in his lap.

Ryan’s staring down at it, looking stunned. “You—fuck! You really lost your gun? How—when the fuck did this happen?! You had it last night when you went home. I saw it.”

Scott can tell Ryan’s really upset because he rarely swears, unless things are very intense. “I didn’t lose it,” he mumbles quietly, still feeling numb. “I gave it to somebody.”

Ryan frowns. “Why? I—why the fuck would you do that?! Were you drunk?”

Not technically, no. Mentally compromised yes, but not drunk. But he’d compromised himself, so he’s still to blame. “No. I just…it was a messed up situation. I put myself into a stupid situation last night, I made one stupid decision after another and then I gave my gun to this person.”

“Did they threaten you? Did they hurt you? Jesus, why didn’t you—”

Well, Scott did get hurt, but only in ways that he’d agreed to, so that doesn’t count. “No, nothing like that. It was my fault, not theirs.”

“What the fuck does that mean?!

And that’s something Scott can’t—won’t—answer, so he falls silent again.

Ryan tolerates his silence for a few seconds, then keeps trying. “Is it gambling? You owed somebody money and you gave them your gun to pay off debts? Why the hell didn’t you come to me?”

Jesus, this is getting worse by the second. “It doesn’t have anything to do with money. It’s not like that. Yes, it’s my fault, but it’s nothing long term. I’m never gonna do it again, so that’s not an issue. But I’m terrified that the person’s gonna do something with my gun and somebody’s gonna get hurt.”

Ryan stares at him, looking stunned and also disappointed. “I can’t believe this. You’ve never been stupid. Never.”

Scott lets out another ugly laugh. “Oh, I’ve been plenty stupid. I just haven’t told you about it cause this is a new level of stupid that I haven’t reached before. My other displays of stupidity had nothing to do with work or you, so I didn’t tell you about them.”

In his 33 years of life, he’s done plenty of things that were stupider than this, but none of them had ever threatened the lives of other people. His own, yes. Plenty of times. But not other people’s.

“Okay. Okay, okay, okay. Shit. We have to fix this.”

We? Scott stares at him. “This has nothing to do with you and you aren’t gonna get involved.”

“I—”

“No. I’m gonna fill out paperwork, a team’s gonna go get my gun back, I’m gonna lose my job and be humiliated, but that’s what I deserve. I’m not dragging you down with me.”

Ryan smacks him hard on the arm. “Okay, first—you’re gonna stop that.”

“Stop what? I’m—”

“You’re acting like you killed somebody. That hasn’t happened.”

His panic is making his throat tight and it brings with it some anger. “It could be happening right now!”

“Which is why we have to focus on getting your gun back as fast as possible instead of sitting around, pretending that your life’s already over!”

Scott stares at him, a small ray of hope is pushing through his panic. “You—you’re really gonna help me?”

Ryan stares at him incredulously. “You’re being a special kind of stupid today, huh? Come on, get in the front seat and tell me where your gun is.”

“We’re going now?”

“Yes, obviously! Hurry up.” Reaching past Scott, Ryan yanks on the door handle and starts shoving Scott to get out of the car.

Feeling numb, Scott slides out and gets into the passenger seat.

The driver’s side door clicks open and Ryan climbs in and starts the car. Scott stares at Ryan without really seeing him.

Maybe Ryan notices his stare because he glances at him and frowns. “Put on your seatbelt, Scotty. Now.”

The order manages to penetrate his numb haze a bit. Reaching up with a numb hand, Scott fumbles for the belt, pulls it down and clicks it in, the empty holster still sitting on his lap, mocking him.

“Where does the person live?” Ryan demands.

Scott stares at Ryan, who glances at him as he backs out of the parking spot. “Scotty, come on! Get your brain moving. I need an address and we need to come up with a plan.”

“It’s—it’s on Phibbs.”

“Phibbs and what?”

“Phibbs and Second.” He’s mildly impressed with himself that he remembers the address. The years he’d spent driving around as a beat cop have permanently drilled the city’s layout into his head, which is nice. Useful. Maybe that’s a skill he can put on his resume when he tries to get a new job.

“Okay. So now we need a plan. To do that, I need to know what happened.”

Shit. Scott starts feeling panicked again. The panic had faded a bit when it had become clear that Ryan was supporting him and helping him, but he’d completely forgotten about the fact that he hadn’t told Ryan any of the details.

All of his earlier fears come flooding back. He can’t tell Ryan. He just can’t. He’ll survive losing his job and losing the respect of his co-workers and he’ll even survive losing Ryan’s friendship, but he won’t survive having Ryan hate him because he’s a disgusting slut. “I…can’t tell you how it happened,” he mumbles, his lips numb.

Ryan slams his hand on the steering wheel as they slow down for a red light. “I’m not going in blind and neither are you! You need to give me something or we’re gonna get fucking killed. Is it a guy?”

“What?”

“The person you gave your gun to. Is it a guy?”

Oh, definitely. His sore ass won’t let him forget that any time soon. “Yeah.”

“Have you seen the inside of his place?”

Well, the bedroom. Remembering the musty smell of the mattress that his face had been pressed into, he feels even more disgusted with himself. But thinking about the apartment keeps him a bit more focused. “Yeah. I remember the layout.”

“How many people is he living with? Any kids in there?”

“No. I didn’t notice any kids stuff. I think he lives by himself.”

“Okay, good. Now for the million dollar question: why the fuck did you give him your gun?!”

And that’s the one question Scott can’t make himself answer. It’s not fear, but humiliation that keeps the words stuck in his throat. He can’t bear the thought of Ryan knowing what a disgusting whore he is. “I can’t tell you that.”

Ryan hits the steering wheel again. “You gotta give me something, Jenkins. Jesus! I can’t go in there blind.”

“I’ll go in.”

Ryan snorts. “You can barely get full sentences out of your mouth. You’re not going in there. Besides, if he recognizes you, he’s probably not gonna open the door and I don’t wanna bust his door down. I can talk my way in, take control, get the gun and be on my way.”

When Scott realizes that Ryan’s planning on taking this huge risk by himself, his numbness evaporates. “You’re an idiot if you think I’m gonna let you go in there without backup!”

“You can stay in the hallway and I’ll keep the door open, but you’re staying out of sight until things go south.” Ryan shots him a strained grin. “It’ll be like old times. Talking our way in, confiscating stuff people shouldn’t have. Huh? It might even be fun. We can compare and contrast how our old teams used to do things.”

Scott can’t believe the idiot isn’t taking this seriously. “This isn’t the same and we’re not in vice anymore. We don’t even have a warrant!”

“You really wanna get a warrant for this, huh? It’ll be fine. I still remember the drill. He won’t get a good look at my face, I’ll have him on the floor in no time, he’ll hand over the gun and then I’ll be gone.”

This is crazy. “You’re not putting your life at risk for me!”

“I put my life at risk for you every damn day. This isn’t any different. If we don’t do this, your career is over. I won’t let one stupid decision ruin your career and if this blows up in our faces, I’d rather be by your side than standing on the sidelines. We can both find new jobs if we have to.”

“You can’t—”

“It’s done, Jenkins. We’re done discussing it. You made a decision last night and I’m making one right now. I’m accepting the decision you made last night—without knowing any of the fucking details—and you’re gonna accept mine. Tell me the layout of the apartment.”

*             *             *

Concentrating on the task ahead of them lets Ryan avoid thinking about what Scott had done. He still can’t believe that Scott would hand over his gun to somebody without his life being threatened.

He’s known Scott for four years and if anything, Scott’s never been stupid or impulsive. He’d had some anger issues when they’d started working together, but Scott had calmed down a lot over the last few years. He’s smart, doesn’t take anybody’s shit and he follows the rules as much as anybody does. Every cop learns early on which rules are the ones you follow all the time and which ones can be bent a little to make people’s lives better. But there’s a difference between embellishing the arrest record for a man who beats his wife so he stays locked up for a few days longer than necessary so she has more time to move out, versus giving some random person a gun.

Those two things aren’t in the same universe and he can’t wrap his head around the fact that Scott had done something this stupid. Ryan dismisses one option after another and he can’t come up with a plausible situation where Scott would willingly hand over his gun to somebody.

But here they are.

Once they arrive at the address, they scope out the entrance, make a plan and park around the corner. They dig through the box of spare clothes in Ryan’s trunk—always useful if they’re going to interview witnesses in different parts of town where certain clothes make people view them with suspicion right off the bat—and pull on hooded sweaters, hats and their sunglasses.

They might look ridiculous, but that’s better than being recognized later.

It takes a few minutes of waiting out front until somebody comes out of the apartment building and they can slip through the door and head upstairs. Scott confirms which apartment door it is, then he takes Ryan’s gun and badge from him and hangs back, as they’d discussed.

Keeping his face down, Ryan knocks on the apartment door. He can hear the sounds of somebody shuffling across the floor from inside the apartment and Ryan prepares himself.

“Who is it?” A man’s gravelly voice comes through the door.

“I have a delivery for Ben Larson,” Ryan calls through the door, his tone a mixture of polite customer service and the bored drawl of somebody who says these lines all day.

“What is it?”

Ryan struggles not to roll his eyes. Typical. The greedy son of a bitch has decided he might be ‘Ben Larson’ if the package contents sound expensive enough. It’s sad but useful that people never change. “I’m not sure, sir. There’s ‘fragile’ stickers on the box.”

Just as he’d suspected would happen, the door opens a crack and an overweight middle-aged man, reeking of cigarette smoke peers at him suspiciously. “I’ll take it.”

Ryan is even more confused than before. He’s seen Scott take down violent people who were in much better shape than this guy. It’s impossible that this guy physically overpowered Scott, so Ryan still doesn’t understand why the hell Scott gave him the gun.

But it’s time to focus. He can see both of the man’s hands and he’s unarmed and eager to collect what he’s pretending is his package. “You’re Ben Larson?”

“Yeah. Gimme the—”

That’s when Ryan shoves his shoulder into the door, opening it enough to get inside. Keeping his face low so the man won’t see too much of his face, Ryan grabs the man’s arms, spins him around and kicks him in the back of the knees. The man drops to his knees with a thud.

“Ow! What the fuck?!”

Ryan shoves him down onto his stomach, pinning his arms behind his back and keeping his face pressed to the floor. Keeping one foot on the floor for balance, he digs his other knee into the man’s back.

The man is struggling as much as he can. “What the fuck? Get the fuck off me! I’m gonna call the cops!”

“This won’t take long and the less you struggle, the easier it’ll be for you. You took a gun from somebody last night and I want it back.”

“What?!” The man screeches, wriggling uselessly in Ryan’s grip.

Ryan digs his knee in harder and increases his pressure on the man’s hands. “Pay attention. You took a gun from somebody last night and I want it back.”

“Is this about the blond bitch? The slut said I could keep it!”

Anger runs through Ryan and he twists the man’s hands to make them burn a bit. “Watch your mouth. And no, he didn’t say you could keep it.”

“I asked him and he didn’t say no, so that’s the same thing!”

“I don’t think you understand how conversations are supposed to go. Just because somebody doesn’t say ‘no’ doesn’t mean it’s a ‘yes’.”

“I didn’t do nothing to him that he didn’t want! I asked him if I can be rough and the dumb slut didn’t say anything. That’s as good as him saying yes!”

Ryan struggles not to snort. “Rough? There’s no way you bested him in a fight, you idiot.”

“Fight?! What the fuck are you talking about? He was here to get fucked, not fight. And there wasn’t no miscommunication about that. Bitch was drooling and got on his knees as soon as I opened the door. I didn’t do nothing that he didn’t want!”

A cold shudder runs down Ryan’s back. One of his most plausible theories had been that Scott had been drunk and the man had tricked him into giving him his gun and then refused to give it back, but the man’s words are painting a scenario that’s much, much worse.

Did Scott have sex with this man?

Ryan doesn’t know much about his partner’s sex life since it’s one area they rarely discuss. They’re both openly gay, but they never talk about the people they’re seeing or who they find attractive. But even if this guy were Scott’s type, something about the situation is giving him a really bad feeling in his gut. In any case, Ryan doesn’t want to dig into Scott’s personal business any more than he already has. He’d agreed to help Scott get his gun back, that’s it. “I wanna know about the gun.”

“I’m gonna call the cops and they’re gonna throw your ass into jail for life, you stupid motherfucker!”

“This is gonna be over a whole lot faster if you start telling me what I wanna know.”

The man sighs with annoyance, which turns into a whimper of pain when Ryan twists his arms. “Ow, ow, ow! Okay, okay! Ease up and I’ll talk!”

Ryan loosens the pressure a bit, but not much.

The man lets out an annoyed sound, but finally starts talking. “I didn’t make him suck it, okay? I wanna make that clear. I fucked him, then I noticed he brought his gun and I thought it would be sexy, so I asked him to suck on it and he did. I didn’t force him to! I even reminded him it was loaded two times and he just kept drooling and whining like a horny bitch, so it’s not my fault. I reminded him twice! Then I asked him if I could keep it and he just stared at me and he left. That’s all that happened, I swear!”

Ryan’s so stunned that he nearly lets up on the pressure he’s using to keep the man on the floor.