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by shalott

Exley starts reloading the .38 as Bud scrambles back through the window. The four men on the floor are dead, blood congealing in pools underneath them. Bud looks at them, nods in satisfaction, and reloads the shotgun. The only sound is the scrape of metal on metal, bullets going into magazines. No footsteps, and maybe they'll get out of this after all.

Ed barely sees Dudley framed in the bathroom door before he's going down under a hard shove; the gunshot above his head spins Bud completely around, and Ed's not sure if he's alive or dead. Even the possibility makes him so angry, the stupid fucking waste of it; the gun is heavy and cold in his hand, and Dudley goes down with all five bullets in his chest. Bud staggers up with a red stain high up on his left shoulder; he's in pain, but he's still got the strength to pull Ed back up onto his feet, and they walk out into the glare of the police lights together, holding up their badges.

The explanations take a long time, in separate rooms. The Internal Affairs detectives try and push Ed around on the story, try and make him admit to something, anything but the truth; he doesn't. On the other side of the wall, Bud tells them the exact same story, and smiles as he sees it driving them nuts.

Ed goes to his office when they finally let him out with orders to come back the next day for more of the same; Bud's already there, his arm bandaged up and in a sling. They grab their coats and head down to Ed's car. It's after sunrise, around seven a.m.; they stop at a diner and eat greasy eggs and bacon and toast and coffee for what feels like forever, while the morning rush-hour crowd swirls around them.

Then on to his condo; they sprawl on the big queen-size bed that Ed got in a fit of optimism and put the TV on with the sound muted; they're asleep almost instantly, and by the time the flickers wake them up again, it's dark outside, and they're both hungry. Ed goes to the kitchen for a delivery menu and orders chinese food. They throw away the fortunes without reading them and eat the cookies.

Bud smokes a few cigarettes, lying on his back; it's the most comfortable position with his arm. "Think they'll arrest us, or fire us?" he asks.

"Probably neither," Exley says; he's sitting up and reading a book. "We're a public relations disaster waiting to happen; they're going to want to keep a leash on us, and that means leaving us something to lose."

Bud nods. It's not even close to the way he thinks, but it makes sense when Exley says it; like having a translator. That makes him think about Lynn. The sides of his mouth pull down; the food's suddenly a lump in his stomach. Ed looks away, and for a moment there's a wall between them; then he puts a hand on Bud's right shoulder and leaves it there. If it were an apology, it would be a lie, and he'd probably slug the guy for it again; but it's not. He's not sure what it is, that it makes him feel better; just a connection, maybe.

"Where are you going to go?" he asks her, wistfully; she's gone back to being a brunette, and she looks damn fine. Behind them, the reporters are streaming out of the headquarters with their cameras.

"Home to Arizona," she says. "I've got enough put aside to get a little house. I'll get a job, I'll be fine." Her smile's still beautiful, even though it's sad. "Keep an eye on him, will you?"

He looks down. "I know it's none of my business," he says, and it's pretty fucking stupid too, because if she was staying, he'd do his best to cut the guy out, "but are you sure you can't forgive him?"

"Honey, I thought you'd figured him out better than that by now," she says, and he finally gets it: Bud's the one who hasn't forgiven himself.

"Are you out of your mind?" Ed asks, later; Bud didn't come out of the building until after she'd driven away.

"Fuck off," Bud says, even though he's staring down the road where she isn't. His shoulder's still healing up, but he's out of the sling, and he got it into his dress blues for the ceremony; the fresh lieutenant bars are bright gold on his shoulders, and he looks incongruously clean-cut.

They get into the car. Halfway back to his apartment, Bud says, "I thought there was something I'd never do. I can't -- " He can't do a lot of things. He can't look at her without remembering. He can't trust himself again.

"Jesus. You stupid son of a bitch, you were played like a fucking piano," Ed says. He's so pissed-off he's hitting the steering wheel with the ball of his hand while he drives; swerving around cars in the way. "You're going to fuck your whole life because you were set up to make a mistake?"

"Look, you asshole, it wasn't a mistake," Bud says. "I was pissed off and I hit her. It's not a mistake because I was sorry afterwards. Half the fuckers I've thrown in jail were sorry afterwards. For all I know my old man was sorry after. It doesn't mean shit, so shut the fuck up about it already."

Ed does, but only because he can't think of anything else to say that wouldn't be incredibly stupid. Things like, you didn't really hurt her that badly, or, you only slapped her a few times, or, you could just decide to never do it again.

Bud looks down at his big hands, half-curled in his lap. "Maybe if I'd gone with her," he says softly. "I don't know, maybe if I wasn't doing this job, if I built houses or became a mechanic or something: if I wasn't beating the crap out of slimeballs half the time."

Ed swallows, because that makes perfect sense, and he knows if he was really a decent human being he'd say, "So get in your car and go after her, and I'll turn your resignation in tomorrow." Instead he keeps his mouth shut.

They take off their jackets and ties when they get in; it's hot outside, and Bud has a case of cold beer in the fridge. Six bottles in, Ed gets too sick of himself to live. "So why the hell don't you?" he says abruptly. "What's keeping you here? It sure isn't this place." The paint on the walls is peeling, the linoleum looks like it hasn't been washed in a few years, and the air's moist and stale. There aren't any roots here.

"Don't be a stupid fuck," Bud says, and Ed relaxes: he's not going anywhere.

"Then it wouldn't kill you to hire a maid," he says, more easily. "Or just move someplace that doesn't look like a sty."

Bud puts down his bottle and glares. "Do you want me to kick your ass again?"

"Let's get out of this dump; I'll buy you dinner," Ed says.

"Forget it. I'm going to have a heart attack if I eat at one more diner with you." Bud gets up and starts taking things out of the fridge.

The temperature in the apartment goes up about ten degrees when Bud gets the oven and the stove going. He's literally shining all over with sweat. Ed drinks more beer just to keep from panting like a dog, even with his shirt off, his feet bare, and his suspenders hanging from his waist. It smells great, though, like something out of his mom's kitchen, and even though the hot food makes him practically dizzy with heat, he eats three helpings sitting at the cracked, dirty table.

They go sit in the bedroom after; there isn't a living room. It's a lot cooler, so neither of them care, especially after Bud puts on the one big fan and starts it blowing air from the one small window over the bed. They pretty much just lie there breathing for a while. Bud smells like the food, like sweat, and Ed's mouth starts watering again, for no reason.

They're both a little afraid to begin with, but as it turns out, for no reason. Everything clicks, just like the first time. First case out of the gate, after all the publicity dies down: missing girl found dead with a couple hundred dollars worth of heroin in her back pocket. It's a bitch of a case; the body's four weeks old, the coroner doesn't have squat for them, and no one's identified her. "Revenge," Ed says, succinctly, meaning from the brass, against them.

It doesn't slow them down. Bud takes them downtown to shake up some pimps to find out which ones might be using their girls to run drugs on the side. After they hit half a dozen positives, it's not looking like such a great way to find the killer, but then Ed does some math and figures out this is actually the tip of a serious mountain of smack coming into the city. Five days of legwork later, they bust ten guys in a half-million dope deal, six of whom end up permanently removed from circulation in the resulting gunfight.

They interrogate the other four one after another. Bud stands in the corner smoking while Ed talks to them, quietly and steadily, giving them all the details: 10 years in prison, 20 years in prison, life, the gas chamber. Then Ed steps out for a glass of water; when he gets back, Bud's got the perp cringing and sweating. Ed doesn't have to step out a second time with any of them.

They come away with five more names, and one of them's a pimp with a bloodstain in his trunk that matches the girl's type. It's good enough for a conviction, and busting a $5-million-a-month dope ring is some pretty thick icing. They celebrate at Ed's place with a bottle of ten-year-old scotch and end up plastered and crying with laughter. They can't remember the joke the next morning when they roll blind, naked, and retching off opposite sides of the bed. Their clothes are hanging over different lamps throughout the apartment, and they can't remember why they did that, either, but at least it keeps things dim while they spend all of Saturday creeping around and drinking water.

The next four cases don't even take them that long; it doesn't even feel like work. They talk out the evidence, go ask a few questions, do a little digging, and the answers just fall into place. The takedowns are just as smooth; they don't even need to plan out their approaches, they just cover each other by instinct.

After that they hit their first dead-end. It's an ordinary mugging gone wrong on a block where muggings happen three times a day. The suspect's described variously as black, white, and Chinese by the three witnesses. A beat cop finds the victim's wallet in a dumpster, complete with license and credit cards, no cash and no fingerprints. It's hopeless, but they run themselves ragged over it for a week until the captain notices and chews them out for being idiots; he tells them to file it and gives them another case.

It pisses Bud off, even though it's obviously the right thing to do. Ed drags him out to a bar and nurses a beer while Bud tries to pick a fight with everyone in the room who looks like they could stay with him for a couple of rounds. Nobody's stupid or drunk enough to take him up on it, so he just keeps drinking until the bartender timidly suggests to Ed that maybe he'd better take his partner home.

"So captain says we drop it, and that's the end of it?" he says, as Ed maneuvers him up the stairs to his apartment. "Just going to bend over on his say-so, and you have no problems with that, do you, you fucking cocksucker."

"No, I don't," Ed says, getting him through the door and shoving him back onto the bed so he can take off his shoes. "We're going to drop it because it's a dead-end, and we've got better things to do. And I'm not going to hit you, so quit the name-calling."

Bud may be so drunk he can't walk a straight line, but he can still move fast. Ed forgets how strong he is; it's pretty fucking scary to have those big hands on him. "Maybe I'm going to hit you," Bud says, really close; he's got Ed's hands and shoulders pinned to the bed, and he's holding the rest of Ed's body down with his weight. His eyes are bloodshot and a little crazy, and his breath's so thick with alcohol Ed's getting dizzy just inhaling it.

"If it's going to stop you acting like a fucking pissant, go ahead and do it," Ed says; he's already tense and waiting for it. "Captain's right, I'm right, and you know it; now do whatever you've got to do to get over it, and let's quit fucking around."

For a moment he still thinks it's going to happen, then Bud sighs and rolls off him. "Fuck you, Exley," he says, and closes his eyes; he's asleep just that fast. Ed just lies there next to him and breathes for a while until his heart stops racing, then he gets Bud out of most of his clothes, folds up his own, and lies back down to sleep. Bud's got a hangover the next day, and he bites the head off anyone else stupid enough to come into range, but the two of them are good again.

One month of a ninety-percent closure rate and they're getting pats on the back, envious congratulations in the hallways; six months and nobody's saying a word to them about it anymore, because they're all afraid of jinxing the streak, like teammates avoiding the perfect-game pitcher in the ninth inning. D.A. Loew has decided that bygones are bygones and that he loves them both, though he still looks a little panicky whenever there are less than three people between him and Bud.

Ed keeps trying to talk Bud into taking the condo down the block; with more enthusiasm every time he gets dragged back to Bud's shithole apartment. Finally, Bud says, "Why the fuck would I buy a house around the corner from you that's exactly the same as yours? If you want me to live in your house that bad, I'll fucking move in."

They agree on rent, borrow a van from Jones in Narcotics, and spend the weekend carting stuff over. It all fits without a problem: Ed's spare bedroom is bigger than the bedroom in Bud's old apartment, and his kitchen cabinets have nothing in them but dead cockroaches.

"Starved to death," Bud says, sweeping them out and putting away his dishes and the food he brought over. "Jesus, this is fucking pitiful."

The living room is full of papers from their cases, and it's more comfortable to watch TV in bed anyway, so they still end up sleeping together more often than not. Dirty clothes pile up on Bud's bed until Exley starts doing the laundry for both of them; he figures it's a fair trade for eating at home most nights.

Bud gets knifed in the thigh a few weeks later by a stupid perp who ends up in traction, lucky to be alive. Ed changes the bandages because Bud would let them sit for days at a time if he were left alone. Bud bitches about it but lets him. Each night, Ed cleans the stitches, puts on a fresh pad, wraps white gauze around the hairy, muscled leg. He keeps a couple fingers between the bandage and the skin, high on the inner thigh, and goes slow to make sure he's not making it too tight. Bud lies spread out naked or in an unbuttoned shirt on the bed while Ed works; it takes about half an hour.

They fuck up about three months after. They're asking some questions in a red-light district flophouse, and they find a guy smacking around a crying fifteen-year-old girl with a black eye and bloody nose. Bud nearly kills him. The perp turns out to be the mayor's son, and the girl's a $10-dollar hooker with no one on her side. Bud gets suspended. Exley gets put in an interrogation room and offered the choice of testifying against his partner or turning in his badge and gun. He leaves them on the table.

They don't have a clue what to do with themselves. Television kills a couple of days. They clean the house. Ed finally suggests they go to the beach. There's something to be said for lying out on the sand baking into mindlessness. Bud takes him to a beachside bar after the sun goes down; they pick up a couple bottles of tequila and a couple of girls, redhead and blonde. They all get drunk together back at the house, and end up making out in the living room. Tina passes out before things get too far, but Bud actually fucks Marian right there, sitting on the couch next to Ed, Marian sliding down onto his dick and moaning with a smeared-lipstick mouth.

She's the hottest fucking thing they've ever seen, her breasts bouncing, and Ed climbs on behind her to peel off her shirt. He moves with her while she rides Bud's dick, cupping her breasts for Bud to lick and suck, Bud's tongue sliding over her nipples and Ed's fingers. Bud's thighs are trembling with the strain, pressing out against Ed's inner thighs; his hips keep jerking up.

"Oh, fuck, yes," Bud says, just at the same moment Ed's dick slides into the hot, wet, slick space between her thigh and where Bud is going into her. After Bud comes and eases out of her, Ed pushes her a little further forward onto him and goes in himself; she whimpers and wriggles back against him while he fucks her hard and fast. Bud works her clit with his fingers, occasionally rubbing the lips of her pussy and Ed's dick.

They put the girls to sleep in their beds, and crash on the living room floor. In the morning, Marian slips her number onto the phone table before she leaves, and smiles at both of them widely. Her lipstick is perfect again, and her teeth are even, white, fake. She's not half as hot by daylight, just another girl who thinks she's going to be a movie star. They throw out the number along with the empty bottles while cleaning up, and go find a pick-up game of softball.

They go to the movies that night: Julius Caesar. Bud's dubious, but he gets into it after Caesar's killed and Marlon Brando starts making his big speeches. "Reminds me of you," he says, eating leftover popcorn on the way home. "The way he completely suckered those guys and played that crowd. That was beautiful."

Ed grins. "I tried out for Marc Antony in high school," he says. "Some guy I can't remember beat me out for it, but I always liked the part."

Bud drops the bag of popcorn and takes off; Ed's running after him before he even sees what they're going towards. There's a group of four guys beating up an older man in a dark alley between buildings. The old guy's glasses are knocked askew and his briefcase is spilling papers out all over the ground. Ed gropes for the gun that's not there. Bud tackles all five of them to the ground at the same time, just taking them down with his body like bowling pins.

Bud focuses on one at a time; Ed works on keeping the rest of them off-balance. He looks over his shoulder to see the third one go down hard, and the last one pulls a knife and gets him in the arm. Then Bud's there, slamming the guy's head into the ground. Ed's bleeding everywhere, it's just gushing out, welling through the fingers he's trying to use to hold the gash closed. "Think he hit an artery," he says to Bud. He feels completely calm, even while he's sinking to his knees.

Bud's face is white and sick. "Don't you fucking do this to me, Exley," he says, big hand squeezing down so hard it hurts. "Stay with me, you fucking asshole."

"Yeah, okay," Ed says. Bud wraps his belt around the arm and yanks it tight; the blood slows down. Ed hears the ambulance coming before he blacks out.

He wakes up in the hospital; Bud's slumped in the chair next to the bed, staring down at the tile; he's frowning, unshaven, with his clothes stiff with dried blood. "Jesus, you look scary," Ed says, squinting. "You couldn't put a clean shirt on?"

"Fuck you," Bud says, leaning over him and taking his face roughly in both hands, shaking him a little. "How're you feeling?"

Ed smiles up at him through the morphine. "High as a kite. When can you spring me?"

Bud strokes his callused thumbs along Ed's cheekbones. "Soon as they let me. Go back to sleep; I'll make 'em get you some food."

"Go get cleaned up while you're at it; I can't eat with you looking like that in front of me," Ed says, closing his eyes; he feels fantastic.

The old guy owns most of the Herald Express; the four guys were thugs sent by someone objecting to an editorial. Ed and Bud end up on the front page of the newspapers, heroes again; Loew leaks the story about the mayor's kid, and some enterprising reporter works out their case-closing stats. They're back to work as soon as Ed can walk.

Ed makes Bud come home with him for Thanksgiving. His sister's doing the cooking; his mom's living with her and her husband now, in their house out in the suburbs. His brother-in-law's sister is there too, with her family. It's tight for seven adults and five kids and a dog, but they squeeze in somehow, and his mom says grace in her soft, faded voice while they hold hands around the table.

They drive home late, through quiet streets, and don't even bother turning on the lights before they go to bed. In the dark, Bud says quietly, "Thanks."

Ed rolls onto his side and they grip each other's hands. They fall asleep that way, and in the morning their legs are tangled up and Bud's snuffling at the join of Ed's neck and shoulder. They're both hard. Bud has him pinned on his back and is between his legs before they're even really awake; they stare at each other for a second, then Ed says, "Yeah, come on already," and they just rub up against each other groping and kissing until they both come.

They've got work, so they can't do anything else then, but it's a slow day. When they get home Bud grabs the baby oil and fucks him so hard Ed makes high whining noises with every thrust. "Fuck, yes," Bud pants. "Jesus Christ." It's so good he's almost sorry when he comes.

"Shit, I'm not going to be able to walk tomorrow," Ed says, breathing hard; he's lying sprawled on his back and they're sharing a cigarette. His mouth is red and his face is flushed and sweaty.

"It's okay; I got Richardson and O'Reilly to cover for us this weekend," Bud says, yawning and satisfied.

"Easy for you to say, asshole," Ed says, stretching out a little gingerly. "Wait until you try it."

"Yeah, yeah, like you're going to be able to give it to me that hard," Bud says, blowing a cloud of smoke. Ed gives him a look to say he'll be paying for that remark tomorrow, and Bud's dick twitches at the idea. "You want something to drink?" He gets a couple of beers, and turns on the game while he's up.

= End =

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