"Don't trust the heart, it wants your blood." – Stanislaw Lec
He meets her at a diner. He wears jeans, a long-sleeved shirt, and a baseball cap. She mocks the cap mercilessly. She calls it his sneaky, undercover hat.
It is his sneaky undercover hat. He says, "I didn't come here to talk about clothes."
Summer leans over the table, already pouting. It may, he thinks, be her default expression. "Kimball," she says, drawing his name out. Between the wheedling and her order—a banana split without the banana, plus extra sprinkles—she appears to be regressing into childhood right before his eyes.
Although. Children don't normally come with cleavage like that.
He refuses to respond—to her pouting or to her cleavage—and she changes tactics instantly, leaning back, kicking at his foot with her foot, her whole body languid as she stretches out in the uncomfortable, black and white checkered booth. "I'm sure we could find much more interesting things to talk about," she says, one eyebrow arching upwards.
Cho clears his throat. Her smile is a slow, wicked thing, and while he's met a lot of bad people in his life—on the job and off—wicked is not an adjective he's used to attributing to real people.
"Tell me about Eddie Rocco," Cho says finally.
"Oh, Cho," Summer complains, rolling her eyes, but she's still smiling at him, and maybe a bit more softly now.
Van Pelt's the first one to say anything about it. "You really like her, don't you?"
He doesn't look up from his paperwork because there is a lot of it. There always is. "Who?" Cho asks.
Van Pelt makes an impatient sound—you KNOW who, it says—but he doesn't indulge her by confessing that she's right. He's never been one to give away information for free. The DA's office loves his testimonies for that reason alone. "You know," Van Pelt says finally. "The prost—um. Your CI."
Cho does look up then. Van Pelt is leaning back against her desk, watching him with a tentative smile on her face that is probably meant to seem inviting, trustworthy. It only serves to make her look uncomfortable. "She has good information," he allows finally.
"Yeah, but I mean—"
Cho stares at her.
Van Pelt gives up. She sits back down at her desk, a little flustered, fiddling with some files and straightening some notebooks before eventually turning towards her computer. Cho goes back to his own paperwork. Incident reports, mostly. He doesn't like writing reports more than any other cop, but it's a part of the job. He just doesn't complain about it as loud or as much as the others, that's all.
Of course, if Jane's involved in the incident, the report only gets that much longer.
Jane is involved in 97% of the incidents.
Cho's trying to determine the best way to phrase Jane tricked the suspect into thinking he was an omnipotent being when he hears Van Pelt's chair roll back around. "Just," she starts, and he looks up at her again. The frown on her face is telling. She doesn't know how to say what she wants to say, not to him.
"She seems really nice," Van Pelt says, and, well. That's just a damn lie. Summer is many things, but Cho's not convinced nice is one of them. And even if she is, Van Pelt certainly doesn't believe it. The mistrust is written all over her face. "But . . . well . . ."
"She's a prostitute," Cho says. He nods. "I know. Don't worry. It's not like that."
Van Pelt doesn't ask him what it's like.
"Just be careful," she says, rubbing the bare skin on her ring finger.
They meet in a dive bar, and he buys her a drink. She orders scotch. It surprises him. He'd figured her more for tequila.
"Ugh," she says, and the face she makes at this suggestion is not a terribly attractive one. "No thank you, not anymore."
Cho can sympathize. He's had one or two bad experiences with tequila, himself. He orders another scotch, but he doesn't drink it, just swirls the liquid around and around in his glass and pretends to take a sip or two.
Summer is observant. Being observant is never really a detriment, but he expects that it's a particularly beneficial trait for a hooker. "You're not drinking your drink," she says. He nods his agreement.
She thinks its because he's on duty, and he is, but it's not.
"Tell me about Joseph Adler," Cho says to her.
"He's a real creep," Summer replies immediately. Then, "Your back's still hurting you, huh?"
It is. He wishes people would stop trying to flee crime scenes. He tells Summer this, and she laughs at him. The line of her throat when she tips her head back is long and smooth.
It's not that he isn't attracted to her. It's not that he doesn't want to kiss that neck, and work his way back up to meet her lips, press into those lips, and then work his way back down, and down, and down again. He is. He does. But that's only to be expected—she's an attractive woman, and confident, and people are naturally attracted to things they cannot have, even him. He wants her, but not in a way that keeps him awake at nights, not in a way makes him doubt his own self-control.
What worries him, what makes her dangerous, is that when she laughs and asks him things, like how he hurt his back or what he did in the military or if he's ever fallen in love, he wants to tell her.
She watches him for a while, and he lets her, because there is nothing at home waiting for him but a half-empty fridge, some books, and—maybe—a message on the answering machine from his mother. When Summer abruptly slides off the stool, presumably to leave, he frowns at her.
"Adler," he says, reminding her why they're here. "I'm going to need more than 'he's a real creep'."
Summer ignores this. She drains the rest of her glass, sets it back on the counter, and then steps up behind him, her hands coming to rest on the middle of his back. Cho tenses immediately. "What are you doing?" he asks.
Her thumbs, just starting to move in slow circles, still, and she leans forward into him, resting her chin in the crook of his neck. "You don't trust many people, do you, Cho?"
He watches her out of the corner of his eye. "No."
She doesn't say, "That's a shame," but he senses it somehow, in the way she nods against his collarbone and slowly draws back away from him. It seems like an odd sentiment coming from her, spoken or otherwise. Van Pelt wasn't wrong, of course: you can't trust a prostitute, but what she hadn't said, what was equally true, was that cops really weren't too be trusted, either. Summer's too smart not to understand this.
But her hands are still on his back, and after a moment, she starts moving her fingers again, making small spirals down the length of his spine. It takes some effort not to sigh out loud. "Adler surrounds himself with girls," she tells him. "And if they can drive, they're probably too old for him." Her touch is gentle but firm. Her thumbs dig a little more painfully into his lower back, but it's good thing, it's good, it's good.
"Is that helpful?" Summer asks him, her voice close to his ear.
Yes. It is. It is definitely helpful.
"I still need more information," Cho says, eyes closed.
"Okay," Summer says, and her thumbs keep moving as she talks.
Rigsby is a good cop and a good partner. He's also, occasionally, an idiot. Although he refers to it as being romantic, of course.
"Only literary periods should be described as romantic," Cho says. Self-described romantics almost always have bad priorities and very poor decision making skills.
"I'm just saying, man. I've seen you smile two times this week. Two times." Rigsby holds up two fingers, in case Cho is somehow confused. Then he shrugs his shoulders, returning his gaze to the warehouse that they're supposed to be watching for suspicious activity. "She's good for you."
She is good for him, Cho thinks, or at least for his back. He's only had two spasms this month, and he's recovered from them far more quickly than in the past. Rigsby's noticed that as well. Of course, Rigsby thinks sex is involved.
"I know Grace thinks it's a bad idea," Rigsby says, his fingers tightening around his coffee cup the way they often do when he talks about Van Pelt. "But she's, you know. She's still hurting. It's hard for her."
That's likely an accurate assessment, if not an entirely objective one. Cho likes Sarah well enough, but it's clear that Rigsby still isn't over Van Pelt, even if he doesn't quite realize it yet. There's an office pool going on when they'll finally get back together. Cho has twenty dollars down on New Years Eve, 2017.
Romantics always take forever to figure out what they really want.
Rigsby opens a box of donuts like the walking cliché that he is. "You can't be scared to listen to your heart," he says.
Cho turns his head to look at him.
"Were you in a boy band?" he asks.
He meets her at a park bench, but she refuses to sit next to him. Instead, she spreads a small pink picnic blanket over the grass near his feet and pats at the empty spot next to her. He only joins her on the ground because it would look suspicious if he didn't. Also, she has Pringles.
"Tell me about Ray Mann," he says, opening the can of sour cream and onion chips.
Summer eats the barbecue ones because she has inferior tastes. "He's a gun runner," she says quickly. She almost always has the answer quickly. It makes him wonder—weirdly—what she'd been like in elementary school. He wonders if they would have been friends when they were young, and he has to remind himself that they aren't even friends now, exactly.
"Rumor is, he had a big falling out with his boy, Dave—"
"Lipnowski." Lipnowsi's the vic. They found his body in a dumpster. Half of it, anyway. "Do you know what they fought about?"
Summer shrugs her slim shoulders. She's wearing a blue tank top to match the streak in her white-blonde hair. He misses the pink. "Not for sure," she says. "But word on the street says it's over a woman. Did a woman break your heart, Kimball?"
She's always doing that, asking questions about his personal life that have absolutely no bearing on the subject at hand. She doesn't seem to believe in natural transitions. Or, more likely, she's trying to surprise him into revealing something that should be kept secret, something that she can hold over him if needs be. So far, it hasn't worked.
"No," he tells her. "Where does Mann usually hang out?"
Summer sighs and flops forward to the ground dramatically. She rises back up to her elbows, glaring at him. "Do I have to do all your work for you?"
"Ideally," he says.
She grins at that, although she tries to hide it. She's too expressive by half. They make quite a pair. "You're impossible," she tells him.
She sighs again and eats another chip. "O'Hallaran's. You know where that is?" When he nods, she continues. "They do business in the back of the bar. And I think someone did break your heart. I think it's why you don't trust people."
"I don't trust you," Cho says. "That doesn't mean I don't trust anybody."
He says it to be clear, not to be cruel, but she freezes for a moment, regardless. He considers apologizing, but he doesn't entirely see the point, not when what he's said is perfectly true.
Summer sits back up again. She doesn't seem to be angry, but she's not smiling, either, and that alone seems wrong to him. "Kimball," she says softly. "I'm not planning to hurt you. You know that, right?"
"No one plans," he tells her. He considers adding, but someone always gets hurt. It seems unnecessary, so he doesn't say it.
"Besides," he adds instead, shutting the can of Pringles. "No one's ever broken my heart."
Jane offers to make him a cup of tea. Tea sounds nice. If Lisbon had offered, he probably would have taken her up on it.
"No, thanks," Cho says instead.
Jane just smiles and dances over to Cho's desk. Dammit. "Come now, Cho. What sinister purpose could I possibly have for making you a nice cup of tea?"
Cho considers the question. "You could have drugged it," he suggests.
"And why would I want to do that?"
"Ah-ha! Perhaps that's because I have no sinister purpose, and I only wanted to be kind to my very stoic colleague who is clearly in need of some caffeine."
That could be it.
"No, thanks," Cho says again.
His phone rings. It's someone from the DA's office, trying to get a hold of Wainwright. He transfers the call and is disappointed (if not surprised) to see that Jane is still standing there, watching him with an expression that Cho can't quite decipher. "You know," Jane says finally. "I've always liked you. I've never lied about that."
Cho stares back at him impassively. There's no way to tell when Jane is lying—he had thought differently, back at that house, as Jane had stared at that little, ruined doll and murmured about forgetting his family. Cho had thought he'd read real grief there, grief that Jane would never have been cruel enough to fake—but he'd been fooled, and he'd be damned if he would be fooled again by Patrick Jane. Lisbon had said that Jane had always been a good person, somewhere deep down, a prisoner in his own skin, but Cho isn't quite so sure about that. If you have to dig for compassion, for goodness, how good could you really be, in the end?
The safest way to deal with Jane is just to assume that everything he says is a lie, and it was Cho's own fault for forgetting that.
But this makes him think of Summer, and he frowns.
Jane sees it because he's Jane. "Love's a bit of a con, you know," he says. "You're going to lie, a little. More importantly, you have to let yourself be lied to. Let yourself be conned."
"Did you con your dead wife?"
It's a problematic question, grammatically. The dead are the only people in the whole world who can't be conned by anyone. It's also too sharp, too unfair. But Jane doesn't even blink. "Yes."
Cho decides not to apologize. He doubts Jane would accept it, anyway. "Okay," he says instead, and turns back to his computer, reboots it when it freezes on him for no good reason. It seems to take a long time, and Jane says nothing the entire time. Finally, he picks up a paperweight off Cho's desk (the one that Van Pelt got him last year for the Secret Santa exchange, the one that he hates) and idly tosses it back and forth from one hand to the other.
"If the game goes on long enough," Jane says, "someone always gets hurt. Someone cheats, someone lies, someone dies." He smiles, setting the paperweight back down, looking Cho in the eyes. "But that's not the point of the game, is it?"
Cho leans back in his chair and folds his arms across his stomach, but he doesn't break eye contact with Jane. "I'm not in love with her," he says, because he's not.
"Oh, of course not," Jane says, fluttering one hand in the air, as if this bit of nonsense is something he can literally flick away with his fingers, like soap bubbles or breadcrumbs. "Rigsby is just a romantic fool, and Van Pelt, well, she's hampered by conventional thinking. But you do like this girl. Summer, is it? You care about her. Even if you don't want to."
Cho doesn't know what to say to that, so he doesn't say anything at all. After a few minutes of silence, Jane finally seems to take the hint—or else gets bored—and wanders off. Cho is grateful.
But then Jane wanders back, a cup of tea in his hands.
"I always have ulterior motives," Jane says softly, squatting down beside Cho's desk. "And I will always value your friendship. It doesn't have to be one or the other, you know."
Jane leaves him with the cup of steaming hot tea, and by the time Cho finally decides to drink it, it's gone cold.
He meets her at the movie theater. It's the independent one downtown, the one that has theme nights and never shows recent releases. They normally have a lot of art house and low budget horror films. Today, inexplicably, they're showing Pretty Woman.
It's Summer's idea, of course. And then she has the gall to complain the whole way through it.
"Look, different economy is one thing, and you gotta factor in, like, the fact that she's a newbie and clearly doesn't know what she's doing, but come on. Six full nights, days too, at a rate of 100 dollars an hour is not 4,000 dollars. 24 times 100 is like 2,400, right? Even rounding down—and what kind of self-respecting working girl rounds down—she should be asking for 12,000 easy. You don't have to graduate high school in order to do basic math. Ugh. Where did this dumb bitch learn how to count?"
Cho tries to bite back his smile. "James Gulliver?" he asks again.
Summer rolls her eyes. "Don't know much about him," she says. "He's a rich guy. Likes his hookers classy. You know, escorts." She takes a sip of her blue raspberry Icee. "I'm not his type on paper, but five minutes alone with me, he wouldn't care if I introduced myself naked to his mother."
She reaches for the popcorn, he suspects, because he's reaching for it as well, and their fingers connect, sliding on top of one another. If something feels natural about this, about how easily their hands meet, about how his skin likes her skin, well. That's probably just because of all the liquid butter.
He pulls his hand back in the slow, measured way that absolutely does not speak of panic. "I can't believe we're watching this movie," he says, indicating the screen with a tilt of his head.
She pouts, of course. "I thought you'd like the irony," she says.
"You don't know the actual definition of irony, do you?"
"Oh, whatever." She turns in her seat towards him, disregarding the film, and angles her head so close that he can feel the breath of her next words against his neck. "I could be your Julia Roberts," she says, smiling that damn smile.
But he doesn't want any of that.
"Stop it," he says.
He looks at her.
Summer sighs, pulls back from him. "Kimball," she says. "How am I ever going to get you to trust me?"
She seems disappointed, like she honestly hadn't expected that. "Never?" she asks.
Probably. He looks back at the screen. Julia Roberts is on the bed, talking on the phone with the other prostitute, the prettier one. "I read they weren't supposed to stay together," Cho says. "Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, I mean. In the original script."
If she's upset about the change in subject, it doesn't show. "They changed the ending," Summer says.
She smirks at that. "Don't you believe in happy endings, Agent Cho?"
He actually considers it.
"No," he finally decides. "Not really."
And if there's regret there . . . well. He doesn't think she can see it, at least.
He walks out of Interrogation, and Lisbon is waiting for him, one eyebrow raised. "You made him cry," she says, clearly amused.
Cho shrugs at this. "Creepy mother issues," he explains. Tears were inevitable.
"Well, Van Pelt just got a lead. Seems like Kyle Wagner didn't tell us the whole story before. Apparently, he owes our vic some money, somewhere in the vicinity of forty K."
He nods. "Do you want me to go pick him up?"
"No, Van Pelt and Rigsby are doing that. Apparently, Mr. Wagner has a fondness for buying women he can't afford. I thought maybe your CI might have a few tips."
He thinks he feels the beginnings of a migraine, which is ridiculous.
"I'll give her a call," Cho says, waiting. They haven't had this discussion yet. It was stupid of him to hope that they wouldn't have to have it ever. At this point, the only person who hasn't tried to give him an opinion of his relationship with Summer is his mother, and he isn't about to rule that out as an impossibility, either. That woman knows things. It's unnerving.
"Good," Lisbon says, turning. "Let me know if something hits."
She starts to walk away.
The pure surprise of it all apparently short-circuits his brain. "Boss," he calls, and when she stops to look at him, he realizes that he doesn't have a more elegant follow-up than, "Aren't you going to lecture me about falling for my prostitute informant?"
Van Pelt says that he's usually too abrupt, but even for him that seems a little uncomfortable. He shakes his head. "Never mind," he says.
She smiles at him, like she knows what he's thinking, and walks back over to where he's standing in the middle of the hall. "Kimball," she says gently—and it's a rare thing, when she uses his first name. Only if she wants to make sure he hears whatever she's not saying. She touches him on the shoulder. "I'm not concerned."
And what Lisbon's not saying is this: I trust you, Cho.
And for that, he is surprised. For that, honored.
For that, he smiles just for her.
He meets her at the diner again the next morning, wearing jeans, a dark hoodie, and his sneaky, undercover hat. She continues to mock the hat mercilessly. Also, breakfast.
"I didn't really think you could screw up scrambled eggs," Summer mutters. "Even I can make scrambled eggs. Why do cops always have the worst taste in food?"
"We'll meet somewhere else next time," Cho says. He'd picked the diner mostly because it was close to work, and he hadn't eaten yet. His omelette isn't exactly amazing, either, but it's protein, anyway. It gets the job done. "Maybe we can go back to the movies next time. You liked the popcorn."
She doesn't drop her fork because only fictional characters are that obvious. But she is surprised. "Didn't think you liked the theater."
"Liked the company," he admits, before frowning. "But I am picking the movie next time."
She smirks at that, but he thinks there's something else there, something uncertain. "Let me guess: something old and tragic, right?"
Maybe. He's already looked at the online listings, and they're showing Of Mice and Men this weekend. He wants to compare it to the novel. He expects that it won't even remotely compare.
"Maybe," he tells her. "But. I was thinking earlier."
He hesitates, which is unlike him. She's clearly amused by this, leaning both elbows on the table and making a careless 'go on' gesture with her left hand.
"Well, an ending's just where you stop telling a story," Cho says. "So maybe Pretty Woman doesn't end happily after all. Maybe she's secretly using him for his money all along."
"Or maybe he'll dump her for the next pretty girl who comes his way," Summer says dryly. "A girl he doesn't have to lie about to all his friends." She does drop her fork then, pushing away her half-eaten food. "Thanks, Cho. That's cheery."
"Wasn't finished," he tells her.
"Then what's your point?"
"That maybe . . . maybe it doesn't matter how the story ends. Maybe what matters is . . . now. Just now."
She stares at him for a moment, squints, even. "Who are you?" she asks finally. "And what have you done with my Kimball Cho?"
He won't reward that with a laugh.
She says, "I see you smiling. That little corner of your lip, I see it!"
"It's hard not to smile around you," he says. It's just the kind of thing he was scared of saying, control he didn't want to give up, weakness he didn't want to admit to, but she just shrugs and says that everyone feels that way. She says he makes her smile too.
Then, because she clearly just has to, she adds, "Especially in that stupid hat."
Cho puts his sneaky undercover hat on top of Summer's head. It's too big on her, but she looks better in it, anyway.
"Tell me about Kyle Wagner," he says, and she tilts her chin up, grinning, so that she can see him from under the brim.