Clean (Live, Acoustic)
by Victoria P.

Remix of Clean by Seana Renay

You're tired of talking, but you need to say something, or Meldrick will be here all night.

"Thanks for--" You let it hang, because you're not sure what you're thanking him for, not sure you mean it. You glance briefly at your bare wrist. "Jesus, look at the fucking time. It's been great having you, really, we should do this again sometime..."

Meldrick laughs softly and shakes his head. "Yeah. Yeah, we should. How 'bout right now?"

"Man, don't you have a home? Don't you have a wife? If I were in your shoes, I sure as hell wouldn't be sitting where you're sitting right now."

He looks at you and says, "Yeah, you would," in a tone of quiet but absolute conviction.

"I would, huh?" You cross your arms over your chest and shrug. Maybe once you would have. You don't know, now. "Just go home, Meldrick."

Your fingers are curled into fists inside the too-long sleeves of Meldrick's jacket and you wish you still had your gun, but you're too tired to get up off the couch and get it. You clench your hands so tight you can feel your nails cutting into your palms, but you are holding on. Barely. If you let go, open them, the world will fly apart.

The taste of cool metal lingers heavy on your tongue, tinged with the oil you used to clean the gun. The air in the cabin reeks of bleach and Fantastik, evidence of your earlier frenzy to scrub everything clean.

Meldrick is still talking, but you can't hear him. He sounds like he's in a wind tunnel, or maybe you are. Or maybe he's speaking Greek. It makes no sense to you, just distorted sounds that make no impression on the whirling thoughts inside your head.

You shiver, but not from the cold. Meldrick's jacket is too long and too thin, and anyway, nothing can keep out the cold that comes from inside you, cold like metal in your mouth. You wonder if the heat of a bullet to the brain would warm you up, if you'd die with the hot copper taste of blood on your tongue instead of the cold iron and sour bile that lingers as you fight against the nausea roiling in your belly.

You're trying not to cry, because if you start, you won't stop, and you've got to go to work in the morning if you're not going to eat your gun.

Meldrick just keeps talking -- he wants you to say you're sorry, you didn't mean it, you'll never do it again. He wants you to absolve him, let him off the hook, and you can't. You're on the hook yourself -- on the hook, off the wall, under the gun. You're sure there's a bad joke in there somewhere, but you stopped seeing the humor in things a couple of months ago, stopped worshipping fun because you haven't had any since the investigation started and you've been chained to your desk, fielding sideways glances and listening to whispered gossip that stops when you enter the room.

Meldrick's talking, talking, talking, and his anger -- his honest anger and fear -- finally cuts through the daze you've been in.

"Mikey, you're my partner and my boy," he says, "but believe me when I say that I will smack you upside your fool head. Not an hour ago, you were sitting there, you had a gun barrel right up against your mouth. Now you're telling me you don't want me here, you don't want my help? Why, 'cause you're too fucking proud? That's bullshit and you know it."

You hear what he's saying, and you want to believe him when he says, I'm here for you, I'm doing this for you. But you can't. You also hear what's underneath, what he doesn't say.

He's already had one partner off himself, can't stand what people would say about him if another one eats his gun. He thinks it must be about him, what he did or didn't do, but it's not.

It's not.

It's about you and everything you did and didn't do, all the decisions you replay over and over in your head every night, every morning, in bed, in the shower, in the squadroom, in the car, until you end up scrubbing down your kitchen and putting a gun to your head.

You slump down on the couch and let go, stop fighting. You start crying and it hurts like a motherfucker. You hate feeling this weak, this exposed, but something in you has snapped, finally; maybe you should have let it snap a long time ago. But the swirling thoughts inside your head have stopped, and over the sound of your own choking gasps, there is only silence.

Finally, after what feels like forever, Meldrick puts an arm around your shoulder, presses your head against his chest.

He mumbles some nonsense about how everything's going to be all right, and you're too tired to yell at him, tell him he's wrong, that nothing's ever going to be all right again.

You finally stop crying, blowing your nose and rubbing your eyes dry with a handkerchief Meldrick produces from his pocket. It smells of laundry detergent and his cologne.

He moves away, and you can tell he feels awkward, just one more uncomfortable thing to add to tonight's list. Right now, you think you hate him for seeing you like this, for trying to help, for not being able to do a goddamn thing.

"I'm going to bed," you say.

"Bed?" he repeats, staring at you like you've said you're going to the opera.

"Yeah." You maneuver around him and head down the stairs toward your bedroom. "You got a problem with that?"

"Hold on. You telling me you don't want to talk about this?"

You turn at the door of your bedroom in disbelief. "You've done nothing but talk all night." You go into the room, close the door behind you.

You lie there in the dark, listening, but Meldrick doesn't leave. You finally fall into a restless sleep just as the sky is fading from black to gray.

When you wake, the sunlight is blinding and you have a killer headache.

Meldrick is gone.

Your gun is on the couch, and your kitchen is incredibly clean.


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