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like the smoke in your mouth

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The three half empty packs of cigarettes Jake cons out of Iris while sitting in the ambulance, under the judgmental stare of an EMT, empty out in the days and weeks after the new year’s night from hell. Now they’re mostly empty, five cigarettes left between the three packs.

Jake keeps staring at the one with a single stick left in it. It’d make sense to just get it over with, light it up and finally be able to throw the pack out. Wouldn’t it?

God, where was Iris even hiding them? Fuck, he needs to think about something else.

The pain meds are tempting, but that’s Jake’s New Year’s resolution – no more drugs. So he’s been avoiding taking them. His leg doesn’t even hurt that much, or maybe he’s gotten used to the constant fucking ache that burns through his thigh every time he even thinks about walking. It’s not bad. Tolerable. You can get used to all kinds of fucked up shit, Jake would know, so getting used to some pain again is easy.

What he’s having issues with is not being allowed back to work. Makes sense, logically, as he can only move around by limping and sometimes using walls to stay upright, and the inquiry into the fucking mess at the old precinct isn’t going to be done for ages. Hell, he’s not even sure this one will clear him, because, shit, the number of things that went wrong. The missing gun doesn’t help his case, though he sticks to the story that he had it when help finally arrived and then lost it in the woods in the chaos after. Not like anyone can go over every square inch of the forest.

But overall he feels like he’s been asleep for months and now that he’s woken up, he’s being told to go back to the damn bed.

There’s been some vague hints about witness protection, but it’s not like Jake knows anything more than he’s already explained in detail. If he’s not useful, people wanting him dead is just old news. It makes his blood boil though, that Bishop, who does know a helluva lot more, might get a new name and taxpayer protection instead of a prison cell.

No one’s said it, not to him, but he knows everyone wants this cleaned up all nice and quiet-like. Get everyone put away without getting any attention on the scale of the infestation, and if that means putting a gangster in witness protection, then that’s what’s going to happen.

The one thing helping Jake sleep better is knowing Bishop will sooner shoot himself in the foot than cooperate.

It might be the one thing keeping his neck off the block right now—no one wants Jake to talk about what went down before the mess has been mopped up.

His life and career are a goddamn mess, is the point. Even more of a mess, and that’s saying something.

He washes his daily pain pills down the drain and gets his jacket. Making the whole way from bathroom to the front door without needing to balance against walls is good enough for him, even if it isn’t for the doctors.

Two minutes later he limps back into the living room, pretends he doesn’t see Dog chewing on a chair leg and gets the cigarette pack from the coffee table. Fuck it, he needs something to take the edge off.

The drive to the new precinct takes forever. It’s been more than a month since he last drove anywhere, a month of his longest walks being the ten steps to the end of the driveway to let Dog do his business, so he knew it would be torture, but Jesus fuck, it sucks.

He drives around the block a couple of times and finds the closest bar out of ‘after-shift beers’ range. After almost rear-ending someone while parking, he spends several minutes in the car getting ready to make those twenty feet to the door.

When he gets inside, the place is a dump. Inexplicably crowded for a dump, but still a dump. Pretty sure he won’t even be able to get stale fries. It’s worse than what used to be his regular place, and that was already below any reasonable standards. Or maybe Jake’s just getting old and grouchy—Coral would have liked the place for sure. Iris would too, probably. They’d say it has character.

‘Character’ has got to be code for sticky floors. Like Jake needs any help falling on his ass.

He gets a single beer, weak and tasting like piss. No reason to get shitfaced when getting home already seems like a task and a half.

God, what the hell was his tox screen even like? He remembers there were enough hours, freezing cold and filled with paranoid desperation, between his last hit and dawn to feel sober, but not nearly enough to actually be clean.

He hasn’t been slapped with a warning or unpaid leave notice, so chances are high it’ll get brought up on his hearing, whenever that finally comes around.

Jake sips his shitty beer at the bar and looks around the place. Knows better than to let his gaze linger or his posture change when he sees a flash of someone he knows.

What are the chances he ends up in the same goddamn bar as Bishop of all people the first time he leaves his house on his own?

He keeps sipping the beer, stares down at the peeling label his fingers are shredding and tries to think. Who the hell does he even call? (‘No other cop but me,’ echoes in his mind no matter how hard he tries not to think about that really fucking stupid promise. He sure as fuck meant it when he said it, meant it more than anything.) Who would believe it’s a coincidence, him and Bishop at the same place? More than he hates Bishop, Jake hates the idea of being painted with the same brush as Duvall.

The beer runs out, no matter how slowly he sips it, and so does his time to think. The bartender puts a glass of something nicely amber in front of him, no explanation, and moves on to other patrons.

Jake stares into the translucent liquid for a full minute.

Now, anyone sane wouldn’t touch it. If he were sane, he’d pour it down the drain the same way he washed down his pills earlier. He knows who it’s from, which makes it an even worse idea. But anyone sane would have gotten the hell out and called the cops on Bishop the moment they noticed him.

Jake downs the whole thing at once. The burn going down is smoother than anything he’s had in years. Trust Bishop to ruin even cheap alcohol for him.

When the glass is empty, Jake doesn’t bother looking around for another glimpse of Bishop. He slams the glass down on the bar and makes his way to the brokenly flashing men’s room sign.

Jake’s got a real believable stupid face—it’s what his bosses told him when assigning him to undercover work that first time. But the key thing to it working was the fact that he isn’t actually an idiot. He knows what the fuck it means that someone he’s never met have been watching his every move like a hawk since the moment he walked in. There’s no chance in hell he looks like he has enough money on him to bother robbing him, that’s for sure.

It’s why he goes for the men’s room—the hallway’s just as cramped as he expected it to be, so he doesn’t need to be able to stand straight to slam the men’s room door into the face of the guy following him. The surprise is enough to let Jake wrestle the gun from the guy’s hand and then slam him against the wall again. The guy passes out, and Jake leaves him where he falls.

Up close, under the unsteady blue lights he still doesn’t recognize that face. The gun’s not a service pistol, though, that’s for sure.

Fuck. That kind of day, is it?

He checks the gun and then keeps it in hand when he hobbles to the back exit.

It’s still cold enough for the blast of outside air to make Jake’s eyes water slightly when he pushes the door open. The scene outside, though—

He’d be all for arresting Bishop. Hell, he’d even be happy with him getting arrested by someone else, no matter what he said in that forest, so long as Bishop ended up behind bars. But in his experience you don’t arrest people by shooting them in the head.

So Jake shoots the two guys about to do just that before the door slams shut behind him and alerts them to his presence. The echoing bangs make neither him nor Bishop flinch. Nor does it make the second guy flinch, Jake makes note in the split second before he shoots him in center mass.

The silence after those two shots echoes even more than the gunshots themselves. Jake waits, but there’s no follow-up, no one else but them in the alley. No one comes to investigate. There’s not even any change in the muted sounds coming from inside the bar.

“And we meet again,” Bishop says, not as loud and showy as Jake expects him to. He’s on his knees one the ground, and ‘close your eyes,’ echoes in Jake’s mind like a persistent fucking thought at the sight.

Jake stumbles back against the nearest brick wall, his leg finally giving out on him.

“Fucking tell me I didn’t just shoot cops—” for you, (and Jake’s almost sure they both hear this one, he can’t be the only one) “—again. Tell me.” He puts the gun in his jacket pocket, pulls his one cigarette out and pats the other pockets down for a lighter. His hands aren’t even shaking. They fucking should be.

“You want me to just lie to you like that?” Bishop asks while getting up to his feet. Despite the effort he puts into hiding it, Jake can tell he isn’t one hundred percent either. It can’t possibly have been long enough for that gut-shot to heal completely. But his voice is back to being so full of sarcasm someone could drown in it. “Would I do that to you, Sergeant?”

God, and this isn’t even the worst day Jake’s ever had. He takes a long slow drag of the cigarette and considers. Yeah, not even a contender for the top three. The smoke stings just right and the instant hit of nicotine washes over him softly. He really needs to quit these too. The stink of smoke is never coming out of his gloves.

He watches Bishop approach and doesn’t draw. What’s the fucking point? Jake’s already killed for him tonight. There’s no way to turn it into anything else, not in his own head.

Bishop steps over the bodies and way too fucking far into Jake’s personal space, looming over him, like he thinks height is the thing that’s intimidating about him. The raised eyebrow and pointed look at the cigarette in his hand are pretty universal, though for a moment Jake considers absolutely pretending he doesn’t understand. It doesn’t matter, though, because—

“My last one,” Jake says with a shrug, not even a little sorry. Of course right after he drags in another lungful of smoke, Bishop plucks the cigarette out of Jake’s fingers, right off his lips.

“It’s good then,” Bishop says and takes a drag, “that you’re so good at sharing, isn’t it?” He doesn’t have the decency to turn aside when he exhales the smoke. And when Jake blinks the smoke out of his eyes, he feels warm fingertips against his face and the end of the cigarette is pressed to his lips.

He’d turn away, refuse it, but it is his last fucking cigarette. He inhales the smoke one more time.

“I’d get out of here, if I were you,” Bishop warns before taking one last drag and extinguishing the remains against the brickwork right next to Jake’s head.

“What, and flee the scene of the crime? I’m a cop.” But he knows he can’t fucking afford to be involved in a shooting, in another shooting the first goddamn time he leaves the house. He’s in too much shit already. He might think about it seriously, if he could get out. As is, he’ll be flat on his face after a single step.

Or maybe not—Bishop grabs his wrist without a goddamn by your leave and pulls Jake’s arm over his shoulders until he’s supporting at least half his weight. “And you’ll live to be a cop another day, Sergeant. Let’s go, I’ll even help you to your car. I’m a gentleman like that.”

Jake has no choice but to make his way out of the alley leaning on Bishop. Unfair, that the guy with a gutshot is healing faster than him. He’s thinking back to all the cameras he hasn’t seen anywhere around this place, all the ways he knows he couldn’t possibly explain any of this away, if he were caught. But he’s unremarkable. Bishop on the other hand. Someone is bound to remember seeing him.

Fuck, Jake hates himself a little more, but he can already see how this is going to be logged.

Bishop helps him limp all the way to the door of his car (and how does Bishop know which one is his) and even stays close so Jake doesn’t brain himself while unlocking the car. And then that’s it—he’s just had a drink, killed two men and now he’s going fucking home? He holds on to the door and turns around, one last look at Bishop and one last chance to stop him from getting away, again. One last chance he knows he isn't going to take.

Bishop is still in his space, closer than when they were breathing the same smoke. Jake blinks, startled for the first time all night, and there’s a burning hot mouth pressed against his, and he blinks again, closes his eyes and— It’s Bishop, Bishop’s mouth on his and Bishop’s scent overpowering the biting cold around him.

It’s over before he can figure out if he wants to punch him or—kiss back.

“So you did like that drink,” Bishop says like he could tell that kind of shit just by the taste lingering on Jake’s lips. “You stay safe now, Sergeant,” Bishop adds with a smile hovering somewhere between mocking and something else altogether, and finally takes a step back. Then another step and another, and a car rolls up next to him, windows tinted blacker than black.

Jake gets into his car and slams the door shut the moment Bishop is gone.

Fuck.

When he checks his pocket, because he knows better than to take the murder weapon home with him, there’s a full pack of cigarettes where the gun should be. He didn’t even notice the moment it went missing—whether it was during their walk to his car or later, when Bishop kissed him. Had to be the latter, because why the fuck else would he—

Jake should be fucking terrified what Bishop could do with that gun, even without Jake’s prints on it. But for some reason the memory echoing through all his other thoughts as he makes his way home avoiding as many cameras as possible is once again of that moment when Bishop told him to close his eyes.