To Serve and Protect, But Not Jump or King

~ Written for thirdwatchsanta, for kateanderson.

Ty still didn't know what was wrong with the call they'd just got.

They'd been sitting in the RMP watching the street, talking and basically just waiting for something to happen. When the call had come over the radio Sully had practically jumped on it -- until he'd heard the address.

Ty didn't know what was wrong with it. It wasn't one of the bad neighborhoods on their beat. It wasn't a building he knew, but the way Sully had acted, it was one his partner knew all too well.

"Is it too late to tell them we're at dinner?" Sullivan asked, even as they walked into the apartment building.

Davis looked the place over as he said, "You know that doesn't matter." The building was old, clean, and too-little decorated to really tell how well it was kept up. It looked, and felt, like the sort of place that was full of retired folk trying to live on social security, and young couples just trying to get started.

Sully just grunted, and walked through the entryway towards a row of elevators. Davis wasn't surprised when he saw the sign hanging between two of them that read "out of service."

"Always the fuc--" Sullivan cut himself off and nodded at a young woman just exiting the stairwell. He rolled his eyes at Davis. "Come on. Looks like we're hoofing it."

"It's only the eleventh floor, right?" Davis said with a straight face, but he grinned -- standing safely behind Sully, where his partner couldn't see.

Sullivan looked over his shoulder. "Maybe I should wait down here and let you take this one."

Davis shrugged. "Why not? What's the deal with this guy?"

The call had sounded like a basic noise disturbance: someone's stereo was too loud, or the nearly-deaf old lady next door had her TV turned
up. The way Sullivan was acting, though, made him wonder just what was up there.

It couldn't be anything dangerous, because Sully would have called in 55-David to take the point if it were. Let Boscorelli catch the brunt of it and they'd come in after, to clean up.

But despite all Davis' questions, Sullivan wasn't talking.

He didn't get an answer this time, either, and Davis followed Sully up the first flight of stairs. As they headed up the second, he could hear Sully muttering under his breath.

By the fourth flight, Davis had gone past Sully, who was starting to breathe a little heavy. At the fifth floor, the muttering had stopped.

By the seventh floor, Davis looked over the railing and down at his partner. "Go on," Sully said, waving a hand at him. "Don't wait on my account."

Davis gave him a grin. "You think I can handle him by myself?"

An odd look crossed Sully's face, and he started climbing the stairs a little faster. Davis frowned. If it *was* something dangerous, Sullivan would have briefed him. He was always doing that -- lecturing him like he was still in the academy and hadn't a clue what to expect. It was mostly true; being on the streets was nothing like being in the Academy. But this time Sullivan wasn't telling him anything.

Davis waited on the stairs as Sullivan caught up. "You gonna tell me what sort of creep we're meeting?" he asked, hoping to jar some sort of information loose, by calling the guy names.

Sullivan shook his head. "He's not a creep."

But he didn't say anything else, just kept walking. Davis glared at his partner's back, and continued up.

Finally they reached the eleventh floor. Sullivan headed straight down one of the two hallways, not even looking at the numbers on the doors. Davis had never been in this building before, they hadn't had any calls here in the five months he'd been partnered with Sullivan. But Sully was acting like he had the layout memorised.

He stopped in front of apartment G, and hesitated. Davis raised an eyebrow. "You want me to knock?" he asked, voice low and serious. He nearly lost it and laughed, though, when Sullivan gave him a dirty look.

Sullivan raised his fist and knocked, twice, sharp and loud. They waited.

Sullivan knocked again.

A few moments later they heard the chains being undone and the door opened slowly. An old man, grey and wrinkled and hunched over, looked out at them. At first he looked confused -- like maybe he had no idea why the cops would be at his door. Then his eyes widened. "Well! Look who's here!" He smiled and reached out, took Sullivan's hand and shook it. Sullivan didn't say a word, although Davis could tell he was trying to look act he didn't mind being there.

The old man reached over and shook Davis' hand as well, then stepped back. "Come in, come in." He shuffled back away from the door, and Sullivan sighed, then went in. Davis followed him, curious to see what the old guy was gonna do.

They followed him through the apartment, into a tiny living room. It was well-kept, like either he was steadier on his feet than he looked or he had someone coming in regularly to take care of the place. Sullivan stopped in the middle of the room with a resigned expression on his face.

The old man had gone over to a chair and sat down. He waved them towards the couch, but Sullivan didn't make any move to take a seat. Davis couldn't decide if he should, or not.

"I'm so glad you're here," the man said, smiling at them.

"Yes, Mr. Cappelli," Sullivan said. "Can you tell us what's wrong?"

It didn't sound to Davis like his partner expected there to be anything wrong. He was beginning to get the feeling that maybe Sully was right.

Mr Cappelli waved towards the couch again. "Sit, sit, don't stand around. I've got the board all set. Still here from our last game, eh?"

Davis suddenly realised that between the chair and the couch was a small table -- with a checker board set up. There was a game in progress. Davis glanced at Sully.

"Mr. Cappelli, I've told you, you can't be calling the cops in just to play a game of checkers."

Davis had to fight to keep his grin hidden. Mr. Cappelli didn't seem to notice how exasperated Sully was. He was looking at the checkerboard, now, with a studious look on his face. He suddenly looked triumphant, and moved a checker. "There! Now, it's your turn." He looked at them, expectantly.

Davis looked at Sullivan, and said, softly enough that he hoped the old guy couldn't overhear, "What's it gonna hurt if we play one game?"

Instantly, Sullivan gave him the harshest, don't-you-dare look Davis had ever seen. Davis thought about going over there and playing a quick game just to jerk Sully's chain. What could one game hurt?

Only Sullivan knew this place pretty well, didn't he?

"Mr. Cappelli, we've got work to do," Sullivan began. "If you don't have a complaint, or something you need the police for, we have to go."

Mr. Cappelli began to frown. "But it's your turn." He waved a hand at the board. "You have to finish our game."

"Do you have any legitimate need for the police?" Sullivan asked, patiently. From the way the old man hesitated, they both knew the answer was 'no'. Sullivan shook his head. "Then we're gonna go. And *don't* be calling the cops again to play a game of checkers, all right? You call us if someone's bothering you, if you need help. But not for checkers."

There was no reply, though Mr. Cappelli was looking a little guilty -- like he'd known exactly what he was doing, and wasn't just too senile to know the difference.

Davis followed Sullivan out, glancing back over his shoulder. He saw Mr. Cappelli studying the checkerboard again. Davis was about to ask what he was doing, when he moved a checker.

He waited until they'd left the apartment and closed the door behind them. "He just played two moves in a row."

Sullivan rolled his eyes. "He plays all the moves in a row, if you leave him alone. It took me two years to get him to stop calling me up here. Always the same thing. Play a game of checkers." He shook his head again, then yelled through the door, "Mr. Cappelli, remember to lock the front door!"

They stood there for a minute until they heard footsteps, then the door chain being put back into place.

"Come on." Sullivan headed towards the stairs.

Davis followed, and asked, "So why didn't you just tell me what was up with this guy?"

Sullivan gave him a flat look. "Because I didn't want to listen to you going on about how could one game hurt. Come on, Sully, he's an old guy who's lonely. Let's just play one game."

Davis stopped walking, surprised. All right, so he'd been just about to say exactly that. "What *would* it hurt?"

"Two *years*, Davis. Two years of getting called up here every week, sometimes twice a week. And that was after playing just one game with him." Sullivan shook his head.

Davis laughed. "Maybe we should let Bosco and Yokas take his calls?"

Sullivan laughed once, then sighed. "Can't. They passed him onto me. No, I think we'll pass it onto Martin and Smith. Let them play
checkers for awhile."