YOU - You walk out of the crumbling apartment complex as the sun sets, Kim trailing along after you. "I think that went... well. Only four doors slammed in our faces."
KIM - He nods, lost in thought. “We made real progress today." He arrives at the precinct motor carriage, and lets himself into the driver's seat, because he's the one who hasn't been banned from driving all Precinct 41 vehicles under all circumstances, forever.
YOU - You clamber into the passenger seat beside him.
KIM - When the door is closed, he glances at you. "Though I notice that every time you show someone your badge, you feel the need to preface it by saying that you know it doesn’t look like you anymore,” Kim murmurs as you walk away. “I feel like it might be easier to take a new badge photo.”
DRAMA - He speaks true, sire. It would be easier. More honest, too.
HALF LIGHT - No. You can't change it. Change the subject. Now.
YOU - Wait, why does a badge photo provoke all these feelings of dread and panic?
PAIN THRESHOLD - Admitting you don't currently look like that man is one thing. Doing away with him entirely, though...
INLAND EMPIRE [Trivial: Success] - It's admitting you can never go back.
CONCEPTUALIZATION - That man in the badge was swept away years ago, drowned in heartbreak and ruin. Time has done away with him quite thoroughly, whether you like it or not.
COMPOSURE [Formidable: Failure] - “You’re right.” You say. “It's time I embraced the 'tragic gargoyle' stage of my decline and enshrine it in acetate for all to see.”
KIM - Kim tilts his head, glancing at you in the passenger's seat. “That's not... what I mean." He looks puzzled.
YOU - Was this not what you were talking about?
KIM - “I wasn't-” he begins. “Harry, you're not. Is that what you think?"
EMPATHY - You've dragged him into the the realm of feelings, and the lieutenant is uneasy.
HALF LIGHT - You ruin everything.
KIM - "Besides," he says lightly. "I only have your badge photo to go on, but personally, I like your look better now.”
YOU - You blink at him. What?
PERCEPTION (SOUND) - You’re quite certain you heard that right.
RHETORIC - You’ve become something of an expert in all the layers and variations of Kim sarcasm over the past few months--it gets quite a work-out around you--but this one’s clean, boss.
KIM - Whatever look there is in your eyes makes Kim drop your gaze, and mumble, “More importantly, out-of-date badge photos pose a security risk.”
ELECTROCHEMISTRY - Yeah, whatever, your endorphins are still focused on the "Kim thinks you look better now" of it all.
HALF LIGHT - Don't get too excited. He’s made it clear what he thinks of you and your body on previous occasions. This is not a man who's attracted to you.
VOLITION - A compliment doesn’t need this much digging into. Just take it and move on.
REACTION SPEED [Challenging: Failure] - But you just can’t keep your mouth shut.
YOU - “But back in Martinaise you told me I shouldn't have shaved because I needed facial hair to hide the damage.”
SAVOIR FAIRE - Well, now. Great. Now it sounds like you store up every comment he’s ever made about your appearance to obsess over later. Because apparently, you do.
KIM - He winces at the memory. “Oh, yes. Sorry. I shouldn’t have said that.”
RHETORIC - Technically, he didn’t. He had the tact to drift off before voicing the word “damage.” The kind of tact you should have exercised in not bringing this up.
YOU - “Hey, it’s fine. it’s not like you were wrong.” You grin breezily and stroke your mutton chops.
SAVOIR FAIRE - Throw in the finger guns! That’ll turn this awkward conversation right around.
KIM - He seems curiously unmoved by the finger guns. He's peering at you with genuine concern on his face. “Harry," he says softly. "You’ve had six months sobriety since then. You know you don't look the same way you did when we met, right?"
PAIN THRESHOLD - The gentleness of his gaze hurts. It reminds you of desires you thought you'd successful learned to keep in check.
PHYSICAL INSTRUMENT - Strengthen your backbone and take a damn picture! What are you, champ? Vain about your appearance?
HALF LIGHT- You suppose you don’t want any security risks.
YOU - “Maybe I should take a new photo. I don’t have a camera, though…”
SUGGESTION - You know who does?
KIM - “I’d be happy to. We can take it at work tomorrow.”
YOU - You wince. You’re already thinking about logistics of being in a picture-taking state now, and one thing you know, you’re sweaty as hell by the time you get to work. If you’re going to do this, you’re going to do this well, which means…
YOU - “What if you swung by my place before work tomorrow? You can take my picture before I sweat through all my clothes.”
KIM - He seems amused by how seriously you’re taking this, stifling a smile. “Sure.”
COMPOSURE - He’s going to see your apartment, but there’s no helping that. Besides, he’s seen it in worse shape than this, he's the one who helped you into your apartment after you got back from Martinaise.
VOLITION - You still have time to clean, too. This’ll be fine. Just don’t overthink it.
YOU - You’re vastly overthinking this. No one cares about badge photos or puts any thought into them. You stand against a wall and a bored clerk tells you to hold still and don’t make that face, and you get it a week later. This doesn’t matter to anyone. Except you.
CONCEPTUALIZATION - Because it’s taken on Significance in your mind. Now it's a symbol of all you've lost.
ELECTROCHEMISTRY - And it's not a bored clerk taking your picture. It's Kim.
EMPATHY - As you dress, you glance down at the badge photo on your dresser. He’s still got the cockiness of youth and good looks. The naivete of thinking he’s got this “love” thing all sewn up.
PAIN THRESHOLD - You don’t envy him the shit he’s about to go through.
AUTHORITY - Why do you want to be him? He doesn’t know so much. He hadn’t even figured out his sexuality. Or discovered a cryptid. You outrank him.
YOU - You flip your badge upside upside down on your dresser and focus your attention on your tie.
YOU - You let Kim into your apartment a few minutes before eight, still adjusting your non-horrific necktie and smoothing your clean white shirt.
COMPOSURE - You are still trying to remember how to make a face like a normal person. No Expressions. No Party Eyes. There’s no wholly excavating the geological strata of sadness upon fucked-up upon sadness that’s settled into your face, but you’ve already decided you’re going to at least try for a smile.
AUTHORITY - Not too big, though. Nobody respects the detective grinning idiotically in his badge photo.
YOU - But you know what? You already are smiling, because Kim’s in your apartment. It’s as neat as you can manage. The shelf in the living room is still overflowing with board games and Wirral handbooks. You definitely were a bit of a bino in your past life, even if the sealed plastic on a number of them suggests that you didn’t actually seem to have anyone to play with.
SAVOIR FAIRE - Which somehow may be even sadder than drinking and partying alone.
ESPRIT DE CORPS - Maybe you can get all of C-Wing to play with you. Morale-building Wirral campaigns? You like the sound of that.
SUGGESTION - You should pitch the idea to Kim.
KIM - “Hm… perhaps. Maybe we should just start with the two of us. Warm the rest of C-Wing up to the idea.”
YOU - “I’m going to hold you to that,” you say, grinning at him. Just the two of you sounds just fine.
KIM - You are smiling at each other now.
COMPOSURE [Medium: Success] - He’s not the one getting his picture taken, but somehow he still manages to look a million times more put together and photogenic than you.
YOU - “So, uh, should I just stand in front of this plain white wall? I think it’s my plainest, whitest wall. Major badge clerk’s office energy coming off of this wall.”
KIM - “Actually, I think we’ll have better light by the window over there,” he points to the kitchen, and you take a few big steps back.
YOU - “Here?”
KIM - He frowns, considering. “Move a little to the left.” He lowers the camera. “No Harry, your left.”
HAND-EYE COORDINATION - “Ah.” You move the opposite direction. You aren’t flustered by just being under Kim’s gaze. You are calm and professional and also you have a firm grasp of body-relative directions because you are an adult.
KIM - “Hm, no, here,” he sets the Trigat Sunshine Mini down on the table and steps toward you.
PERCEPTION - He stops just a foot away from you, and places his hands on your shoulders. They’re gentle and firm as he directs you, nudging you back a few inches away from where you were. You heart is pounding in your chest.
ELECTROCHEMISTRY - You are suddenly, intensely aware of just how painfully celibate you have been for the entire length of your post-amnesia life.
VOLITION - Stop making this inappropriate. Just because you can’t be professional doesn’t mean this is anything but collegial for him.
KIM - He leans back--but keeps his hands on your shoulders. He's peering at you assessingly, then makes a noise in the back of his throat. “Never mind, that won’t work.” He pulls you towards him.
REACTION SPEED - Your legs, which have now turned to jelly, take a second to receive the orders to move, but you step when he glances down at them.
YOU - You hadn’t realized just how starved for touch you are until he put his hands on you. Has he ever done that before?
ENCYCLOPEDIA - He’s patted you on the back a few times, usually when you were throwing up at a crime scene. And of course, he stitched you back together.
ELECTROCHEMISTRY - You were unconscious! That doesn’t count!
KIM - Kim has his hands on your shoulders and you want to do nothing in the world but follow exactly where he leads you.
ELECTROCHEMISTRY - What if he pushed you back against the wall. What if he leaned his firm, lean body against your body--
VOLITION - No. Stop being ridiculous. That is not going to happen.
ENDURANCE - So this is what you want? To let yourself be pushed around and bent to his will, like some kind of wöman?
ELECTROCHEMISTRY - No. You want to let yourself be pushed around and bent to his will like a man.
YOU - If he’s into that.
HALF LIGHT - He’s not.
LOGIC [Formidable: Success] - You know, there’s something important here you’re missing.
ELECTROCHEMISTRY - No one cares, nerd.
LOGIC - You in particular might care about this.
ELECTROCHEMISTRY - Wait, what?
LOGIC [Legendary: Success] - He doesn’t need to be keeping his hands on you this long.
COMPOSURE - It’s actually a little awkward that he hasn’t stopped and stepped away. His movements are more stilted and his posture more contorted than it would normally be. He could see better if he stepped back, but he doesn't.
HALF LIGHT - Oh god, what? Are you sure? You can’t handle this-
KIM - Kim stills. It’s like he sees the calculation you were just making. He feels seen through, and steps away, dropping his hands from you. Color is creeping up his neck.
ELECTROCHEMISTRY - What? No. It was just getting good.
HALF LIGHT - You ruined it. It's all over. Turn your finger guns on yourself.
KIM - He coughs. “Forgive me. I sometimes get carried away with getting the right shot. It’s an unfortunate indulgence I’m trying to curb. Right there should do it.”
PERCEPTION (SIGHT) - His hands go to the Trigat Sunshine Mini, and he starts loading it, working the spinning mechanism to get the ampoule in place with sudden ferocity. You watch him work. His fingers are slim and agile, perfect for fine motor work like this, and move with practiced ease. They know what they’re doing, even when his mind is elsewhere.
EMPATHY [Legendary: Success] - And it is elsewhere. He’s wrestling with something in himself.
SAVOIR FAIRE - Probably discomfort with you getting all red-faced and blushing from him putting his hands on you. Not very cool.
LOGIC - He’s uncomfortable, yes, but you are partners, after all. Even if he felt something, he would feel obligated to rein it in.
ESPRIT DE CORPS - This is, ostensibly, one colleague helping another colleague out with a work-related matter. He feels like he overstepped a boundary. A boundary he cares about.
PERCEPTION (SIGHT) - He looks at you. There’s a glimmer of something--he covers it up in an instant--but your eye is faster. It’s something you’ve never seen on his face before. Or maybe you have, and you just haven’t recognized it.
YOU - Well? What is it?
ELECTROCHEMISTRY - He liked having his hands on you. He liked moving you where he wanted you.
HALF LIGHT [Challenging: Failure] - Oh god oh god turn away now, walk out of the room.
VOLITION - You’re going to have to make your own mind here. But one thing’s for certain, you’re compromised.
YOU - What, what should I do?
VOLITION - I don’t know.
VISUAL CALCULUS [Godly: Success] - The slight stumbling of his fingers as they move over the settings of the camera. Color has crept all the way to his ears, and there’s a slight hitch in his chest, a barely perceptible stutter in his breath. The color at his neck has reached critical levels and may imminently spill over onto his face. It all adds up to one thing: He’s compromised too.
KIM - He’s locked his face down. He’s nervous. And annoyed at himself. He is trying carefully to get himself under control. “Okay,” he says. “On the count of three-”
YOU - “How does that work, exactly?” you say, and step out of the spot he put you in.
AUTHORITY - This better work. If you’ve misjudged him, you’re just diminishing yourself in his eyes for no good reason.
KIM - He lowers the camera. “You stepped out of your spot,” he murmurs. There is a small smile playing at his lips.
YOU - “Yeah, I guess I did.” You swallow. “Can you show me how I was supposed to stand again?”
SHIVERS [Legendary: Success] - There will come a time when you are both pinned down by gunfire in a burnt-out motor-carriage factory at the intersection of Perdition and LaPointe. Your eyes will scrape around the factory floor, past rusting machinery intermittently lit by muzzle flash, and will find his. A moment of wordless communication will pass between you in the time it takes for your neurons to fire. You’ll know what you need to do.
INLAND EMPIRE - Compared to that moment, the understanding that passes between you now is almost easy.
PERCEPTION (SIGHT) - There’s an almost-smile on his lips. It's not quite like any other almost-smile you’ve yet catalogued in your mental taxonomy of Kim almost-expressions.
KIM - He sets the Trigat Sunshine Mini on the table again, and, in a movement you didn’t expect, removes his gloves one at a time, tossing them on the table. A shiver of excitement runs through you.
COMPOSURE - The uncertainty in his posture has vanished. Once he decides upon a goal, the lieutenant approaches it with full conviction.
KIM - He steps forward, and puts one bare hand on you chest, and pushes you back into place. A breath escapes your throat, cut off, but unmistakable in the silence between you.
DRAMA - Keep up the pretense, sire. He knows, but a little dramatic irony is just what this scene needs.
YOU - “Thanks,” you chance a grin at him. “I would never have found that on my own.”
KIM - “That’s all right, detective. I know you respond well to additional guidance, sometimes.”
PERCEPTION - His hand is resting on your chest, and he makes no attempt to move it. You’re certain he can feel your heart threatening to break out of your ribcage. His other hand clenches around your shoulder, warm and firm around your arm. The weight shifts, moving upward, and his fingers are brushing against your neck. Your collar’s somehow gone up, and he is straightening it.
SAVOIR FAIRE - You apparently managed to make more of a mess of your collar than you realized, because he has to get both his hands in on it.
PERCEPTION - You can feel his calloused finger tips brush your nape as he works. When he is finished, he is standing a few inches away from you with his hands on your collar.
ELECTROCHEMISTRY - Oh fuck, that’s basically the same as his hands being on your neck.
PERCEPTION (SCENT) - He is close enough for you to smell the faint hint of motor oil and pine aftershave in the folds of his jacket.
INLAND EMPIRE - You will never smell either again without being transported back to this moment in time.
ELECTROCHEMISTRY - C'mon, man. Don’t just smell him. Kiss him!
AUTHORITY - Take charge of the situation.
REACTION SPEED [Godly: Failure] - You send the order to your body, but you can’t. It's too much. You’re frozen.
ELECTROCHEMISTRY - No. You’re not falling short right at the finish line. Find another way!
YOU - You stammer out, “I-Kim. Please.”
AUTHORITY - So much for taking charge.
INLAND EMPIRE [Challenging: Success] - Maybe he likes it that way.
KIM - He moves forward, quick and assertive, and his lips are on yours. They’re more on your mustache than your mouth, but you quickly course-correct.
PERCEPTION - His lips are warm and dry, and you open your mouth to take more of him in.
YOU - You don’t dare lift your hands. Some part of you still wants to be good, to hold the pose he put you in, but his hands are brushing through the hair on your cheek.
EMPATHY - The hair there is softer than he expected, and he likes being able to tangle his fingers in it.
HAND-EYE COORDINATION - Do something with your hands! Put them somewhere! Maybe his…
SAVOIR FAIRE [Challenging: Failure] - Cock?
ELECTROCHEMISTRY [Easy: Success] - Cock?
COMPOSURE [Medium: Success] - No, waist. Work up to cock.
HAND-EYE COORDINATION [Formidable: Failure] - Your hands fumble it a bit, landing more on his lean hips than his waist, but you know what? Your hands like that just fine, and he does too, from the way he sighs into your mouth, and his hips tilt towards yours.
PAIN THRESHOLD - His glasses are askew and digging into your cheekbone, but you know? It’s not really a problem. You might be into that actually.
COMPOSURE - Eventually, he takes control back over himself, and breaks the kiss. Your lips chase after his for a moment, but he just smiles.
ESPRIT DE CORPS - He steps back, and when he does, he’s in the mode of photographer once more.
INTERFACING - He considers the picture you make--the scrutiny is as terrifying as it is hot--and takes your face in one hand and tilts it towards the light coming in from the window, then slightly, down, so your eyes meet. He nods. Satisfied.
SAVOIR FAIRE - He reaches back in and brushes his hands over your facial hair and the non-horrific tie. Smoothing down what he disheveled.
KIM - “Good,” he murmurs. The words make a shiver run up your spine. “Now, stay.”
YOU - You don’t even dare nod, just let out an affirmative breath and try to nod with your eyes. A thing people can do, you hope.
KIM - He smiles. Satisfied with his work and with you.
HALF LIGHT [Challenging: Failure] - He doesn’t know all the terrible things you did when you were a drunk. He can’t know how badly you long to return to the bottle still.
AUTHORITY- He knows he doesn’t know. He knows he is choosing to put himself in a vulnerable position by crossing this line.
EMPATHY - It’s not an easy position to put himself in. In fact, although he’s doing a good job of hiding it, it’s safe to say it scares the hell out of him.
VOLITION - Don’t make him regret it.
INTERFACING- He picks up the camera. He takes his time, adjusting the aperture, fixing levels. He really is serious about this picture. It’s not to tease you.
ELECTROCHEMISTRY - Not just to tease you.
COMPOSURE - He doesn’t do anything unless it’s worth doing well.
CONCEPTUALIZATION - And although he’ll never admit it, he cares about getting a picture right. He does have a good eye. And he does have a vision. Especially of this--of you. He sees you a particular way, and he wants you to see it too.
COMPOSURE - He raises the camera to his eye. You have not a clue what your face currently looks like. You can’t imagine it can be anything you want to slap on your badge.
KIM - “Harry--relax,” he says. And you can’t help but do what he says. So you relax.
PERCEPTION (SOUND) - You hear the ampoule break in the camera.
KIM - “Got it!” he says. Then, because you’re still not moving, he nods. “You can move now, Harry.”
YOU - You relax. He busies himself with watching the photo develop. Now that you have control over your body again, you’re not quite sure what to do with it.
PHYSICAL INSTRUMENT - Stretch those arms, work those legs. Reach out and touch him, champ.
KIM - “Here,” he says, handing over the photo. “It’s ready. I think it turned out well.”
YOU - You brace yourself as you take it. You look… normal. There’s a smile in your eyes--because you’re looking at Kim. You’re still a middle-aged man. Still wearing your years of alcoholism in the shape of your nose and the drooping bags under your eyes. Quitting alcohol and even getting back into running hasn’t exactly changed your overall shape--you’d probably need to stop eating most your meals at food carts for that, and who has the time--but the redness in your face is gone. And there’s a light back in your eye.
CONCEPTUALIZATION - You don’t know why. It’s not a revelation--you’re still an aging alcoholic--just a sober at the moment--but you feel hopeful, looking at that. You don’t look bad. You like a man who’s crawled his way back from something.
YOU - “I liked it,” you choke out. “You’ve got a good eye for this, Kim.”
EMPATHY - People don’t tell him he has a good eye.
KIM - He drops his gaze, suddenly self-conscious. “Yes, well.” He looks sideways. “I suppose it’s like marksmanship. It’s funny how these things work.“
YOU - You step towards him, and wrap your arms around his waist. He's lean and deceptively strong, and you can feel his muscles shifting through the thin fabric of his shirt.
PERCEPTION - In the relatively short span of time you can remember, no one’s ever looked at you the way he is right now. He lifts his hand to your face, ghosting the back of his hand down your face.
YOU - This time, when you lean in to kiss him, his hands clench around your shirt, and he physically pulls you towards him, deepening the kiss.
COMPOSURE - When he pulls away, his glasses are askew on his face, and he reaches up to straighten them, embarrassed.
KIM - “We should go to work. We’re late as it is.”
YOU - “We could be a little more late?” you say hopefully.
KIM - He shoots you a severe look. “Are you proposing playing hookie from work?”
YOU - “Yeah? Or just, like, being an hour late?”
RHETORIC - Romantic.
YOU - “Or we could take the whole day off--”
KIM - He raises the Eyebrow. “Absolutely not.”
SHIVERS - Besides, the city will need you before the day is up. But not now. Not for a little while yet.
ESPRIT DE CORPS - Anyway, all you have scheduled in the first hour today is paperwork.
KIM - Your eyes meet again. Another understanding reached. “We have one hour, detective. Let’s make it count.”