Yeah, thanks…One of these days I’m actually gonna learn how to fight.
No matter the assumptions people might make about him now, Perry waited for his mark dutifully. Though not with a lot of enthusiasm. Past a certain age, he figured it was another one of those rites of passage he’d missed out on. And he thought, good.
“Guess I just don’t have a soul,” he used to say back when he was moving in circles where this was only slightly offensive. L.A. is full of dirty cynics as well, but most of them sell dreams for a living, so there’s a certain obligation to pay lip service to the concept. Never mind the reality of it all, the hypocrisy Perry has always found alienating, the obsessive gossip about other people’s marks and the obsessive secrecy about your own. He always thought he could play the game anyway.
But trust Harry Lockhart to walk all over that.
„Hey, do we match?” Harry holds his wrist up, sleeve shoved aside like it’s not a weird thing to do surrounded by strangers at a fancy party. “Don’t worry, I’ve uh. Asked a lot of people. Not the most unique couple of words out there.”
Perry shrugs. “Tough luck. I don’t have one.”
Usually being blunt about it makes people uncomfortable enough to drop the subject, but Harry’s eyebrows still knit up.
“Oh. I’m sorry. I mean, that’s sorta sad.”
Perry sighs. Internally. Because this is a well-paying job and he can try to be diplomatic for a couple of hours.
“Oh, you know. Bound to some total stranger. Not really my thing.”
“Huh. I think it’s neat. I’ve got two.” Harry waves his other hand. “I’ve actually met her before, lost touch. Funny thing, saw a girl in here, looks just like her…”
Over the course of the next few days Perry will learn that of course Harry’s got two mates, because no one should ever have to deal with this on their own. He hopes for Harmony’s sake they’ll find the third person soon, because for some reason she actually agreed to give it a try again. Maybe the three-way thing was the reason she hadn’t stayed back then, that can’t have gone over well in 80s Indiana. Then again, she’s one of those people where it’s a wonder she never tattooed over her mark.
Perry won’t pretend he understands anything about the combination of Harmony’s endless striving for independence and Harry’s trailing after everybody who shows him kindness like a lost puppy. All he knows is that they’re both weird as fuck and haven’t clawed off each other’s faces yet. Seems that Harry simply has a way of making things happen around him, by sheer virtue of being dumb and sincere. It is sort of impressive, even if all this soulmate stuff is still utter bullshit. When it comes down to it, the universe did them all dirty, gave them a couple of words and left them scrambling to figure out whatever the hell to do with them. Perry has always been happy to have no part in that.
Honestly, Perry never meant to like Harry. It’s just that Harry knows exactly how to worm himself into your heart. And your job. And occasionally, but thank God only very occasionally (thanks, Harmony), your house. And when somebody keeps trailing after you, you’d have to be a cold-hearted bastard not to care about the guy at all. The fact that Perry isn’t known for being nice doesn’t mean he doesn’t actually have a soul. His attempts at diplomacy may not have lasted more than a few hours, but fuck diplomacy when you can be honest instead. And as stupid as it sounds, Harry’s seen the kind of sides Perry usually keeps hidden behind your standard shiny L.A. veneer, and hasn’t run away so far. For better or worse.
Because he never meant to like Harry, either. Funny how things work out sometimes. One day Harry does something stupid and Perry thinks he still can’t believe he has to put up with this idiot now. The next Harry gets caught in the rain on his way to Perry’s place and Perry thinks, fuck. The soaked-through shirt, he could've dealt with. But then Harry shakes out his hair, takes one of the good towels without asking and sits dripping all over his couch. And Perry finds he doesn’t fucking mind, goes to make Harry a hot drink and snaps at him to go change immediately. Because Harry is miserable when he gets sick and Perry hates seeing him suffer (and maybe it’s at least a bit telling that Harry has more clothes at his place than anybody Perry’s ever dated).
And Perry, for the fucking life of him, can’t take his eyes off Harry’s lashes, wet from the rain and sticking together, even darker than usual. And realizes he wants nothing more than kiss the water off his lips and get him out of those clothes himself.
But Harry believes in soulmates and Harry’s waiting for somebody else. So let him.
It’s fucking hard to keep his distance when Harry keeps doing stupid shit. Like jumping to the rescue of some girl while he’s running some errands and coming home with his knuckles bloody and swollen. Perry can’t believe he has to show a New York street rat how to throw a punch.
“You heard me.”
“Look, I just don’t want to-“
“Dream on, chief, you’re not getting to punch me. Basics first. Don’t stand like a limp noodle. That’s how you impress absolutely no one. How about you try standing like somebody who shot four bad guys and saved his friends’ lives, huh?”
Harry lights up.
“You think I’m your friend?”
“Good. Now make a fist.”
Harry curls up his fingers obediently.
“God yeah, I see the problem. Don’t put that here.” He takes Harry’s thumb from where it’s resting against the side of his index finger and moves it across his knuckles. “Here. And stop clutching your fist so hard, it’s like you’re scared to lose your fucking bus fare.”
“Huh,” Harry says, then smiles lightly. “Thanks. And what’s next?”
Perry tears his eyes away from the gentle curve of Harry’s jaw. Sighs.
“Next? You not getting in trouble all the fucking time, chief. That’s what.”
Thing is, Perry can live with shit he can’t have perfectly fine. He could just do without Harry being so goddamn starry-eyed about him. Thank God, there’s no chance in hell of this going anywhere, because Harry’s still a hopeless romantic. Sure, he’s not the type to make use of any services to speed up the process – he seems like the real old-fashioned type to still believe your meeting needs to be “authentic”, God’s sake – but he’s obviously waiting. And sometimes it even pays off. Which Perry learns in fucking person when they haven’t spent 5 minutes on a street downtown before Harry stumbles over his own untied shoelaces, because of course. And of course that makes him fall into a girl and of course she says the fucking words. Perry keeps walking, puts a little distance between them. People are touchy. He may not hear the ensuing conversation, but he still sees Harry smile at her, show her his arm. She shakes her head, shrugs. Harry shrugs, too.
For the first time, Perry wonders how it feels to actually believe all this and have this happen to you on a regular basis. And if that’s why Harry comes back every time looking at him like he’s hung the goddamn moon. Still, he doesn’t expect it to ever become a real problem.
Well, sometimes he’s fucking wrong, too.
“That didn’t go too badly!” Harry grins, kicking his dirty shoes all over Perry’s welcome mat.
(“You’re supposed to wipe your shoes on those!”
“You’re supposed to wipe your shoes on the one outside."
“That’s a stupid rule you just made up.”
“Yeah, it’s my house.”)
“I still had to finish him off, chief.” Perry grimaces at the state of his jacket, doesn’t even bother hanging it up. Balls it up and throws it into the trash instead.
“I did hold my own until then,” Harry says, leaning against the door. “And my hands aren’t fucked up. Uh, that much. Kind of a success?”
Perry turns to look at him, shakes his head. “For you, definitely.”
Harry grins like it’s the nicest thing anybody’s ever said to him (Perry hopes it isn’t, but it’s Harry, so who the fuck knows). And then Harry kisses him.
Tries to, anyway.
Perry catches him by the shoulder and holds him at an arm’s length.
“Okay, the actual fuck?”
“What’s it look like?” Harry retorts, voice wavering. Perry rolls his eyes.
“Stop playing dumb. What about the soulmate scrawled all over your arm?”
“I don’t care,” Harry says, crossing his arms. “Why would I wait for some stranger when you’re right here? And I mean, my mark’s stupid. Could be anybody. Maybe whoever it was already took a look at me and thought, fuck it. Hell, I used to kinda ignore guys saying it, always made me nervous-” Harry frowns. “Sorry, feels I shouldn’t. Say that. To you.”
“Why the hell did you ask me, then?”
“I…dunno? Felt like it? Look, I’ve been thinking and you not having a mark doesn't mean you have to be alone, y’know?”
Perry pinches the bridge of his nose.
“I know, idiot. Just why the fuck did you think this was a good idea?”
Harry winces. Perry already feels awful. And that's not even the full extent of it.
“And what about Harmony, anyway?”
“She said it’s okay. Whenever I meet them.”
“Yeah, your match, Harry. Not me.”
Harry says nothing, gaze dropping, face twisting up. Perry doesn’t quite manage to force down the guilt, but really, it’s all for the best.
“This didn’t go how I wanted it to,” Harry mutters.
“If wishes were horses, chief. Get used to it.”
Naturally, Harry’s a little subdued after. He doesn’t exactly disappear, after all he still works for Perry, but he’s quiet on stakeouts and when Perry gives him a case to file, he takes it home with him.
“Wrote down the client’s phone number?” Perry asks and Harry says, “Got it.” Doesn’t even look at him.
Fine. Perry just hopes this isn’t how things are going to be like forever now.
He drops Harry off at Harmony’s place, then drives home, frowning at his increasing headache. Those have been a thing lately. He’d chosen to blame them on the shocking novelty of listening to Harry being quiet so far, but by the time nausea and dizziness get added to the mix, that definitely stops being a good excuse. He calls off all appointments for the next fucking week, then swears under his breath all through trying to stay upright long enough to collapse somewhere more or less comfortable. Stumbling up the stairs to the bedroom, Perry tries remembering the last time he’s been this sick. Wonders if the fever’s already at hospitalization level as he shrugs off his shirt because it’s so goddamn warm and…stops.
Blinks at his arm.
Well. Some detective he is. He’d better start charging his clients a lot less. Also he may now regret having been an asshole about the other kids skipping school back in the day, because shit, it feels awful. Perry tears his eyes away from the forming dark lines and goes to sort through his cold medication. Why address fundamental changes to your life when you can knock yourself out for three days instead?
When he feels alright enough to roll out of bed again, he showers, puts on a dress shirt without looking at his arm and goes back to work. What’s the use? It’s not like he doesn’t already know what exactly he’d see anyway.
“Let’s not make this a habit, yeah?” Perry sighs as Harmony climbs into the car. She just snorts. He can’t believe he actually agreed to pick her up from her audition, considering he knows what Harry’s like. No chance for this to work out in his favor. He’ll be ferrying her around left and right before he knows it, too.
“Shit, are you preserving a corpse in the back?” Harmony makes a face. “It’s freezing.”
“It’s fine to me.”
Harmony frowns at his suit jacket. “Take off a fucking layer.”
“Put on a fucking layer. My car, my rules.”
Harmony groans and wraps herself in her cardigan. Starts flipping through her script as he’s pulling out the parking lot. Then freezes in the middle of turning a page. Whips around.
“Oh my God. Since when? How? I mean, that never happens, right?”
Oh, of fucking course. You don’t keep secrets from Harmony.
“Rarely.” Perry sighs. “Rarer than you’d think considering all the dumb movies about it, anyway.”
“Holy shit.” Harmony stares at him for a while. Then grins. “You know, it’s funny to see you out of your depth for once. And welcome to the club.”
“Yeah, thanks. You know I don’t believe in that shit.”
“Shit, if I did, why am I here and not in Indiana? The offer to be Mrs. Lockhart has been on the table for a while, y'know, but that's not why I’m with him. It just…fits.”
“Sure that’s not societal conditioning catching up to you?”
Harmony makes a face.
“Well, shit, maybe. But ever thought that not giving somebody a chance because they’re on your arm is a form of letting it control your life, too? I’m done with overthinking this. And you shouldn't either.”
“Good point,” he says simply. Wonders what she’d say if she knew who exactly was on his arm. Sure, they’re friends, sort of. Then again, this whole situation is a big fucking deal. Perry’s not exactly in denial about it. He just hates having to backtrack on anything, always has, and especially on this. Shit, it’s not only Harry. It’s kind of his whole life.
Perry can’t help but wonder what it would’ve been like if he hadn’t pushed Harry away. How it would’ve felt waking up next to him with his words on his arm. It’s kind of a nice thought. Shit.
Well, facts are facts. If Harry’s mark is as ambiguous as they come, Perry’s is anything but. He’s got Harry Lockhart’s blathering all over his arm for the rest of his life. At least the mark isn’t too bad. He’s seen a lot worse and considering it's Harry, the fact that it's a coherent sentence counts as a miracle.
Thing is, Perry should be happy. It’s like the universe has made him the most fucked up present. But he doesn’t trust any of it and he still couldn’t care less about the soulmate thing. It’s just that this means Harry won’t up and leave someday, which is a bit of a scary thought. Of course, Harry probably won’t up and leave even if things go sour now, because he actually believes this is destined and forever and all. And that's even scarier.
Perry, more than ever, wishes for a world without magic words that make people believe in them too much. But he also wants Harry. Stupidly. Fucking sue him. And Harmony’s right. Because if there hadn’t been any marks, Perry would’ve still picked Harry up off the ground at the party. Would’ve still hated him on second sight. And would’ve still held his fist and felt the desperate tension keeping Harry alive and wanted to him to let it go.
There’s just one more thing left to do. She probably deserves to know, whatever happens after.
“I cannot believe you didn’t fucking- What the fuck, Perry?” Harmony shouts, almost upending her iced coffee.
Perry throws her a look.
“Jesus Christ, do you think anything about this was easy?”
She sighs. “Look, I get it. If there’s anybody who does, it's me. But it’s also been real shitty for Harry. Not to guilt-trip you or anything. Just saying.”
“He told you, huh. See, you didn’t say anything either.”
Harmony shrugs. “Was trying to give you space, believe it or not.”
“Thanks.” He stares at the table for a moment. “Harry said you don’t care.”
“Nah, I really don’t. Had my whole life to get used to the idea. At some point I just decided there's nothing to do but hope and pray they wouldn’t turn out a huge asshole.”
Perry huffs. “So how disappointed are you?”
“Very,” she says, grinning. “I also used to think another upside to this weird bond thing was that I’d get to have a hot threesome sometime.”
“You know, I’m not sure, but I think I like you better with your clothes on.”
Harmony sticks her tongue out at him.
“A tragedy. I’m insulted. You’ve got two weeks to talk to Harry while I’m off filming, by the way. And if you won’t get your shit together until then, I swear to God I’ll tell him myself.”
“No pressure,” he sighs.
“None at all.”
Perry supposes it's somehow unethical of him to be glad that he can just make Harry come see him. The file he was supposed to set up is terribly overdue, after all. He also supposes he could’ve actually showed up himself, but it's a little too late for that. He’s on the cowardly trail now. He rolls his sleeves up and hopes it’ll do, which is obviously the best plan he’s ever had. Maybe that's Harry's bad influence, and this is all a terrible mistake after all.
He opens the door the second he hears the scrape of Harry’s key.
Harry stares up at him. His gaze flicks downward – and then fixes on Perry with an unreadable expression for so long he half-expects Harry to throw the file at him and leave. Then Harry pushes past him, inside. Stalks across the hallway, across the living room, into the kitchen. Perry follows him, frowning. Harry sits on a chair. Is quiet for a moment. Then -
“It’s okay if you don’t like me.”
“…and where the fuck did that come from?”
Harry breathes out in a rush. Perry sits down next to him, cautious to keep his distance.
“I mean, you didn’t want me to see this. So you don’t want- Told you, I always thought- Well. You could’ve told me straight out instead of fucking with me, though.”
Maybe Harry’s trying to sound angry. Mostly he just sounds miserable. Perry shakes his head.
“Harry, I didn’t lie to you. You’ve seen my arm before, for fuck’s sake.”
“Oh.” Harry frowns. “So you…didn’t have-?”
“No, I didn’t.”
Harry considers for a few moments. Then shrugs and looks down, fiddling with his shirt so desperately the seam looks seconds from coming apart.
“Right. I mean, it’s not like you- I’m not gonna- Well, I’ve got Harmony. I’ll be fine.”
This isn’t going the way I wanted it to. Perry just wants to have a good laugh about this.
“This is getting too damn complicated,” he says and closes the distance. Tilts Harry’s chin up and presses his lips to his. It’s probably the gentlest Perry’s ever kissed anybody.
Harry jumps back about a foot, eyes wide, very narrowly avoids falling over. A few moments pass, Harry’s clutching the chair for dear life, staring at him like he forgot how talking works for a change. Perry decides the best course of action is letting Harry get there on his own, so he stays quiet. Considers the dawning realization that he didn’t really expect Harry to reject him and that this is what may well be happening right now - and pushes it as far into the back of his mind as possible.
“Okay.” Harry finally gets out. “Lemme think.”
“As long as you need, chief,” Perry sighs. He refuses to feel stressed out over this, but well. If wishes were horses.
Harry spends about a minute frowning at his shoes. Then he looks up and squints at him.
Perry resists rolling his eyes. “Yes, Harry.”
Harry smiles hesitantly, bites his lip. Asks, “Can I see?”
“It’s right here,” Perry says. Still stretches out his arm, relief flowing through him.
Harry traces the words with his finger. It feels weird. Not because of the mark; as painful as the process is it makes no real difference afterwards. Because Harry’s touch is so goddamn gentle that it's honest to God overwhelming. For a moment, anyway.
“Okay, enough sap." Perry pushes his sleeve back down, buttons his cuff. "Surveillance in the Hills in 40 minutes, you coming?”
Harry just grins.
They’ve been driving for a while when Harry makes that soft noise which usually means he's dying to say something and holding back for Perry's benefit.
“What is it?” Perry asks when they hit a red light.
“Our marks rhyme!” Harry blurts out, grinning. “Same as our names. We’re like…extra special!”
Perry shakes his head.
“Ha! You love it.”
Perry cringes at the word choice, is just glad Harry didn’t go with another pronoun. Then again, there it is anyway, on his arm for all the world to see.
(At least in theory. Like hell he’ll let anybody else know, he’s got a reputation to uphold.)
So who knows, maybe one day he’ll get there, too. Until then there are all the things he thought he’d never get to do. Like sliding a hand into Harry’s hair and watching his eyes flutter shut. When Harry leans in to kiss him this time, Perry lets him. And almost has his car totaled by the asshole behind them when he misses the lights switching back to green.
(In the end, Perry’s not sure what the hell he was so scared of. The scariest part is that nothing much has changed at all. They do spend a lot more time together though. And also he now knows that Harry makes some incredible sounds when you lick the inside of his thigh. It’s kind of amazing, really.
Harmony makes them binge the entire show she starred in, even though she was only on a couple of episodes. Perry pretends to hate it because that’s what he does. By the second season Harry falls asleep between them, cuddled up to Perry and still holding Harmony’s hand. Perry throws his arm around Harry's shoulder to pull him closer, glances over at Harmony. She just smiles and cuddles up to Harry in turn, leaning her face against Perry’s hand.
And somehow, it’s not weird. It’s not weird at all.)