Kim cannot deny, at least in the privacy of his own mind, the little thrill of excitement that goes through him when he approaches Precinct 41. It is infamous in its own right, a precinct with history and grit and a peculiar lack of funding in spite of those things. Its officers are not dissimilar to the officers in Precinct 57—somewhat dysfunctional, highly caffeinated, just as likely to make a joke of their work as they are to take things seriously—but there is a certain pigheaded stubbornness to each of them, like the determination a rock climber would show in the last quarter of a climb. They have made it too far to concern themselves with the sunk cost fallacy. All they have left to do is keep climbing, one handhold at a time, and hope that the view at the top is worth it.
There is a heavy rain coming down when Kim approaches the old refurbished silk mill—by foot, without a hat or umbrella, two facts which he refuses to feel any way about aside from wet and chilled. Still, in the eaves over the door, barely protected by the rain, is a man Kim has come to recognize by silhouette—the partner of Lieutenant Double-Yefreitor Harry Du Bois, Lieutenant Jean Vicquemare, an irascible man who grows soft at any small sign of respect. He is smoking and appears to be watching a trashcan, that is until he notices Kim's sodden approach. He lifts a hand to Kim.
"News from your precinct?" he asks, as Kim steps under the eaves, into his cloud of smoke.
Kim takes a moment—just a short one—to inhale the secondhand smoke, reveling a bit in the comforting smell. Secondhand smoke is not cheating. If it were, it would be impossible for Kim to do his job. Too many criminals and officers smoke for him to escape it entirely. "Not really," he says. "I am bringing paperwork for Captain Pryce."
"We have a mailbox, you know," Jean says. Kim does not get the impression he is unhappy to see Kim, however. He flicks ash off the end of his cigarette and chews the inside of his cheek, sucking in humid air. He seems to be steadying himself, but Kim cannot tell for what at this time. "Harry isn't in, if you are hoping to see him."
Ah. Actually, Kim had been. He takes care to keep it out of his face and shoulders, though he has spent too little time with Lieutenant Vicquemare to reliably judge the man's perceptiveness. For now he assumes it is on par with Harry's, a fact that does not intimidate Kim when it comes to withholding information. "I am here to drop off my paperwork and speak with the Captain," he says. "Then I have casework to attend to."
"Uh-huh. Listen, after you talk to the Captain—before you get back to work—have you eaten? I was on my way to lunch, after..." He lifts his half-smoked cigarette. "Care to join me?"
Interesting. Kim feels like he should make a note of this, but of course this is far from case-related, and only the sort of lead Harry would follow, anyway. He hesitates. There is no reason to say no, so he does not. "Sure," he says, "but not kebabs. I've heard about what a...horrorshow they are. Fair?"
"Sure, fair," Jean says. "You'd better go on, then, Pryce is in a shit mood today; he could use some good news about you."
Kim tips his head in acknowledgement and steps past Jean into the precinct. He heads straight for the Captain's office, leaving a trail of water behind him; his boots squeak on every step, making curious heads lift from tedious paperwork. The officers here recognize him, with varying degrees of friendliness, but he doesn't stop to chat to any of them, reciprocating greetings with a nod or wave of his hand. Captain Pryce's door is open and the man appears to be whittling with a fantastically dour expression on his face, which does indeed quickly change when Kim delivers his paperwork and his brief report on his own Captain's opinions on the matter of his transfer, which can be summarized as, "Fuck you, Lieutenant Kitsuragi. But fine."
Kim, of course, elects not to put it in those exact words to Captain Pryce's face. The man does not need him to be so reductive.
Jean is on his second—or third? Fourth? Hard to say—cigarette when Kim steps back out, and the rain has not let up. He doesn't wait for Kim to speak before setting off into the rain, his coat's collar upturned. He has also procured a brimmed hat from somewhere, which he tugs down over his forehead. "There's a decent diner near here," he says over his shoulder, as they walk. "Harry hasn't managed to get us kicked out, yet. It's not far. Ugh, this fucking rain."
No comment necessary—and beside, the steady downpour is noisy enough to make unnecessary talk less appealing than usual. Kim keeps pace behind him. He is not surprised in the slightest when Jean abruptly stops by a trashcan and prods through the soaked cardboard boxes sitting next to it; Kim simply folds his hands behind his back and watches, curiosity piqued. Jean comes up empty and snorts, then drops his cigarette butt into the mess. The diner turns out to be just across the street from there—a little hole in the wall, with two other patrons and a tired, albeit smiling, waitress who greets Jean quite familiarly. Kim wonders as she does if she has some personal history with the Lieutenant, or if this is simply the familiarity of a service worker who has served a police officer and his comrades too many times to not become attached. As soon as she has taken their orders, Jean taps another cigarette out of its pack and lights up.
"So," he says. "How much longer on your transfer? Any idea?"
"Perhaps another month," Kim says. "Not long, all things considered."
"Excellent. I hope your precinct understands what they are losing by giving you to us, Lieutenant Kitsuragi. We've seen your record. Anyway, any detective that gets Harry worked up like you do is bound to be a good one. Even when he can't find his own asshole." Jean sweeps his soaked hat off his head and lays it gently on the table. "Just so you know, Harry is really pushing for you two to partner up when you move here. But I don't think that will happen. Not officially, anyway—you know how that prick is, he'll do what he wants how he wants anyway. If you want my advice—" Here, he does not pause to give Kim the chance to say that no, when it comes to Harry, he does not need this man's advice. "- don't push the matter. Find someone else at the station you click with. Stop letting Harry join you on extraneous missions."
The waitress brings over their food, which is for the better—it gives Kim time to process his response. This is a conversation he has been anticipating ever since the Whirling-in-Rags, when Jean first arrived in a blond wig and sunglasses and enough anger to fill the hostel. The waitress asks Jean about his cat—a conversation detour Kim did not expect, and one he would have expected Jean to dismiss, but the man takes his time telling her about a dead bird it dragged home three days ago. Kim begins to eat, mulling over Harry and Jean's relationship—what he knows of it, anyway, which to be fair isn't much—as he does.
When the waitress steps away, Kim clears his throat. "Lieutenant Double-Yefreitor Du Bois has been very helpful when it comes to wrapping up my final few cases for Precinct 57," he says. "I understand he has been doing it outside of his official capacity, which will mean his current work for Precinct 41 has suffered. I apologize for that."
"Don't start apologizing on Harry's behalf now or you'll never stop," Jean says. He takes several large bites in quick succession and chews through them; the food seems to relax him more than the cigarettes did. "Besides, I'm not here to scold you for taking away Harry's attention. You haven't been."
"Why are we here, then, detective?" Kim asks. He suspects he knows the answer, but he would like to hear as much in Jean's words. He glances at the half-smoked cigarette burning through itself on the edge of Jean's plate.
Jean sighs. He does not want to be having this conversation. He takes another huge bite of food to forestall the conversation; Kim waits as the man turns over his choices in his head. "I only want to have this conversation once, Lieutenant. Consider it a professional courtesy if you want, but it's more that..." He trails off and doesn't finish that thought; instead, he takes a puff from his cigarette and sits back in his chair. "Lieutenant Du Bois has told me a lot about you. It's one of the only things he talks about now, aside from casework. Kim..." He pinches the bridge of his nose. "There isn't a delicate way to say this, and you aren't a delicate man, so let me be blunt. You are a homo-sexual, correct?" He doesn't wait for Kim to reply, which might be some small dignity but is a tad off-putting when put so bluntly. "Harry told me all about 'breaking sexual boundaries' and learning about the homo-sexual underground. And he has this discovery once every couple of years. He sees or smells some handsome man and he goes on a whole spiritual quest and makes stupid decisions in a bar and then asks stupid questions like, 'Jean, did you know you do not have to have sex with women? Did you know?'"
Kim cannot taste the food anymore, but he takes another bite anyway, and keeps his face neutral. He coughs, discreetly, hoping the lieutenant will take the hint.
He does not. "And our shitkid Harry...look...he likes the way you smell, do you catch my drift? So I feel obligated, as his partner, to warn you about the trajectory of Harry Du Bois's romantic relationships. So you don't get blindsided, like every other idiot who gets blindsided by Harry even when they see the writing on the wall. Even when someone writes them a letter..." Jean stares at a picture on the wall, losing himself in thought for a moment—just long enough that Kim believes he understands. This is personal for Jean Vicquemare. What he is telling Kim is not easy, and not because Jean is concerned it will put Kim off his transfer. "Look, you are not an idiot and I'm sure I'm not telling you anything new."
"But you will tell me anyway," Kim says, before he can stop himself. "So, tell me. About Lieutenant Du Bois's romantic trajectory as you see it in relation to me."
Jean massages his temples. It is the habitual movement of a man who does such a thing multiple times a day—and perhaps most of those have been in relation to Harry. It is a movement that elicits sympathy in Kim. It's one he has had to keep himself from doing many times while following Harry. "You've seen him. The choices he makes—the ones he doesn't make but thinks about for a little too long....He's been on his best behavior since his little episode. And I do mean his best. Harry...he makes people feel like they're standing on top of the world. Like you can do or be anything you want. He is so brilliant that it can make you feel brilliant, too, like even his cast-off light is enough to change you, make you the best version of yourself. He will tell you how much he loves you, how much he admires you. He will even respect you. He'll change for you, become a better cop, go sober, fucking volunteer with troubled youths, whatever. He will put all of his little love eggs into your basket and need you, and he'll tell you how much he needs you, and you will think—this is it, this is the man he is meant to be and the person I am meant to be. It's fate."
He is ignoring his food, now, in favor of finishing his cigarette in slow drags. He is no longer looking at Kim, but deep into his memories, staring out at the sheets of rain pouring from the diner's colorful eaves.
"Then, one day, inevitably, he will show up to work drunk, or at your apartment drunk, or he'll call you, drunk, and you'll think, Oh, poor Harry, poor suicidal Harry, he is so brilliant and so misunderstood and so maligned by this fucked up world. Poor fucking Harry. And you'll take his gun from him and talk him down and think, okay, this was a bump in the road. And then he'll get drunk again, and again. Things will go missing from your apartment. From casefiles. You will think, ah, no big deal, it's Harry, whatever he has done is for good reason even if it doesn't make sense yet. You will see the nastiness brewing under his surface, but it will always be directed at other people, at some other enemy. Until it isn't. Until he has opened you up like a god damn human can opener and has seen the ugly little vulnerable pieces inside of you, and this time, instead of empathizing with you, instead of making you feel like you two are alone together in his horrible little reality, he will turn it against you. What about that girl, he'll say, two bottles of Commodore Red deep, and it will hurt you more than you ever expected from him because he has never hurt you like that. Maybe no one has."
Kim wants him to stop, but does not see a tactful way of shutting the conversation down. He lays his fork on his plate and listens, instead.
"You will start lying for him, and lying to yourself about him. Oh, he has been sober for a week. Oh, things are changing. Ah, it's just Harry. That's just Harry. And he will suddenly have a screaming fit in the middle of a case and ruin your cover and break everything he can in a bar that is not tied down, and you won't understand but you'll forgive him. Because he's brilliant, you see, and he trusts you and respects you. He makes you feel seen in a way no one else has."
Kim waits. This is the same tactic he uses frequently on suspects—just let them talk until they arrive to their own confessions. To say he has not been curious about Jean and Harry's relationship would be a lie; he is grateful to not have to pry to learn more, but this feels dirty, too, and he believes he should not be letting Jean continue. He has a strong impulse to simply stand and leave. Under the table, his foot taps—but he folds his hands under his chin.
"The more you know him, the more he will know you, and he'll tell you all kinds of fucked up stupid sad shit that will make you think you really get him. And it will keep falling apart, anyway. And he will keep trying to kill himself, and begging you to give him a reason to live, and he will keep drinking and doing any drug he can get his hands on, and one day he will try to kill you because you tried to keep him from his worst impulses and you'll realize you have nowhere to go. But, if, like me, you are tied to him professionally—where do you go? You go to work. You see him. You drag his stinking drunk ass out of the gutter, again and again. You wake up at night and have to call him, just in case he is dead, this time, and he will take that call personally, and you'll know what he's doing on the other end of the phone."
Quite abruptly, Jean seems to come back to the present—to Kim across the table, to his half-empty plate, to his cigarette that has been smoked through for several minutes now. He scowls at the cigarette and flicks the butt onto the floor of the diner. Kim understands why Harry might like this man. They both make things too personal, and share a flair for dramatics.
"What I'm saying is," he says, "do not let him make you his partner. And I don't recommend pursuing anything personal, either. Harry is a bad lay and an even worse lover. People leave Harry because he wants them to, and he will sabotage your relationship until you do or until..." He waves vaguely and laughs, a sound that is completely devoid of pleasure. "Until you wish you could have a nice, prolonged amnestic fugue-state."
"I mean this in the kindest way possible," Kim says. "I have no interest in your personal life when it comes to Harry. I can see it has made working with him difficult for you. In that case, don't you think it may benefit you and Lieutenant Du Bois to work separately? That is to say, it may be benefit both of you if one of you were to take on a new partner."
Jean stares at him. Outside, thunder rumbles and the rain comes down in sheets. Kim stays focused on Vicquemare's eyes. They carry the same deep sadness that Harry's eyes do—that most police officers do, eventually, in Kim's experience. Idly, he clinks his fork on his plate, then breaks eye contact with Kim. "Maybe so," he says. He leaves it at that, returning to his food, taking those huge bites again, as if he is afraid to lose this chance to eat.
In the silence, Kim wonders how to continue, or if he even should. He is not even certain himself that he wants to partner with Harry—though that is ultimately what is driving him to complete the transfer. Working with Harry has helped Kim in ways he can't quite conceptualize or put into words—rather, it is little things. He dreams about Eyes less. He does not close in on himself quite so much when he goes home to his empty apartment, like a tired animal retreating into its shell. There is a little song inside of him when he hears Harry's voice over the phone or radio, that grows in proportion to Harry's proximity. But, as Vicquemare said, Kim is not stupid. Harry telegraphs his bad behavior indiscreetly, almost as if hoping Kim will reprimand him. There are many things in Harry that will most likely not change their course.
He eats, mulling over Jean's words, in spite of himself. This is, of course, why he does not like when things get personal. There is something to Jean's words that seemed almost possessive, protective even as he laid out his colleague's worst traits. Kim wonders, not for the first time, if Jean is jealous of Harry's relationship with Kim. He must admit that he would be, if he were in Jean's position, watching some other precinct's lieutenant worm his way into Eyes's esteem, overriding years of history on a technicality.
"Lieutenant," Kim finally says, when his plate is nearly cleared. "I have one question."
"Hm?" Jean lifts his head.
"You said that Harry goes on this...how did you put it...spiritual quest, every couple of years. What about you?"
"I'm not a regular," Jean says, mildly. "Harry has just been a handful of mistakes. It's not like that between us." Anymore, he doesn't say, but might as well, Kim has understood it so clearly.
Kim does not really believe him. But he doesn't press it. After all, it is not his business.
"Well, Lieutenant," Kim says. "I thank you for lunch. I do appreciate hearing your perspective on things. I should get going."
Jean smiles at him, but it is a forced thing. Kim leaves a few reál on the table and steps back out into the rain, which is noisy enough, at least, to put Kim's thoughts to rest for a little while.
That night, the phone rings at 01:36, according to Kim's watch. There is really only one person it can be.
He answers. Harry says, "Kim, I've just had a vision."
Kim thinks, he likes the way you smell. "Hello, Harry," he says. "Was this vision actually a dream?"
"Kim, I'm a visionary."
Kim waits. He can almost envision Harry going through his choices of what to say next—can easily imagine Harry's face as he struggles to think of how to move forward in the face of Kim's skepticism.
Finally, he decides on: "...it was a dream and a vision. Can't it be both?"
"And what was this...vision...about?" Kim asks, taking mercy on him. On himself, too, a bit.
"It was that your transfer is officially happening! Or going to happen. I saw you in the office, opening a new notebook to its fresh first page. It was..." Reverent? Stupid? Ceremonial? "Reverent. Sombre, like you were aware you'd just made a choice you could never come back from."
"I see," Kim says. "Was this vision perhaps inspired by something Captain Pryce told you, today?" His phone is on a table next to his lone couch; he settles into it, leaning his back into the crook of the armrest and the back. He swings one leg onto the couch and stretches.
"Huh? No. Wait—why would he tell me something today? Did you talk to him today?"
Sharp as always. "I dropped off some paperwork at the station. I doubt he would actually have any news between then and now."
"You came to the station today?" he says. And I missed it? he does not, but Kim can hear it in his tone, unfettered disappointment and some sadness.
There it goes, that little song in his chest, a sweet little tune swooping up. "Yes. I met Lieutenant Jean Vicquemare there as well. We went out to lunch." Perhaps this is unkind. But Kim is a detective, and his interest is piqued. He wants to hear what Harry has to say.
It turns out to be nothing, for a long moment. Kim pretends, for his own amusement, that the faint rhythmic hush of Harry's breath on the line is actually the sound of some great gears turning in Harry's skull. "Lunch? With Jean? You?"
"That is indeed what I just said."
"He never eats with me. Wow. Am I that bad of a partner?"
"Don't take it personally," Kim says, though of course he is not off-base. Kim wishes he had intervened sooner in his conversation with Jean; there are too many things from Jean and Harry's past living in Kim's head, now: Suppositions, theories, grotesque speculation. "He thinks you want me to be his partner, and wanted to advise against that."
"Oh. Well, I do want you to be my partner, Kim. You're nicer than Jean, for one thing." He pauses. "And...you saved my life." Kim lets silence fill the line at that; the full spectrum of that truth is not easily covered in words. "Wait, do you not want to be partners?"
"I do," he says, before he can stop himself. Funny—if asked just a minute ago, he would have insisted he did not have a firm answer to that. But no other words would have fit in Kim's mouth honestly. "But we should take things one step at a time. There may be an issue with my transfer. Once there, Captain Pryce may choose to partner me up with someone else. Perhaps Lieutenant Vicquemare, based on your previous request to take on cases alone."
"You and Vicquemare? I guess...it does make sense. You're both detectives who have your heads screwed on right."
"Is that so?" Mild, mild. "I thought we had agreed that you might need someone to cramp your 'style.'" He leans on that last word, teasing. Immediately after, he wants to say, I can hear that you are sober, right now, Harry. I am proud of you. Did you know that? He only barely catches the words in his mouth, and manages that only because Harry picks up the conversation thread before he can.
"I'm glad you and Jean talked," he says, slowly. "I can't put my finger on it, but I think there's something connecting you two...it's probably something I've forgotten. Hey! I'm getting more memories back, though! Turns out going to all the places you've been a million times makes it easier. And the visions, too."
"Ah, yes, the visions," Kim says.
"I have a lot of bad memories stuck in here, turns out. Who knew someone would want to kill themselves because a bunch of bad stuff happened to them. Right?"
"Actually, I would imagine that is a typical prerequisite for suicidal impulses." Kim gazes at his pistol, which he has left undone after a cleaning, its metal guts lined precisely in a square. He thinks of the shape of Harry's mouth wrapped around his barrel—and some perverse part of him changes the memory, takes the image of Harry's lips wet and red around a barrel and changes it to a cock—Jean Vicquemare's. Not even his own. Kim is glad he is alone, and can cringe and rub his hand over his face without being dissected for it. "Harry...was there something you wanted to talk about?"
"Uh, no. Just the vision." He likes the way you smell. "Did I wake you up?"
"No," Kim says. He cradles the phone between his cheek and shoulder and sits forward. He begins to reassemble his gun, focusing on the tactile feel of it between his calloused fingers. It dispels the mental image well enough.
Harry doesn't speak again, for so long that Kim has time to reassemble and finish cleaning his gun. He reloads it, turns on the safety, and sets it back on the table with the barrel pointing at the only other chair in the room—a discharge would put a hole in the chair and nothing else. Kim resumes his reclined position from before, and, without thinking too much about it, cups his dick through his khakis. He has no real interest in touching himself, but once he has settled his hand there, he does not take it away. He thinks about Harry's smell. He wishes he had not smoked his one cigarette earlier in the night, before cleaning his gun.
"Are you still there, Lieutenant Double-Yefreitor?" he asks, enunciating Harry's title carefully.
"We should have lunch, Kim," Harry says, finally, in a rush.
"Okay," Kim says. He swipes his thumb back and forth. What am I doing? "Tomorrow?"
"Yeah. We can go over cases. There's this little diner near the precinct that actually lets me eat there. You'd be amazed by how many places I can't eat, anymore. I must've really sucked. Tomorrow?" he says again, all unrestrained eagerness.
"Tomorrow," Kim says. "Let's say, 1300."
"Yes! You won't regret it, Kim! And I swear I won't get us kicked out."
"I'll hold you to that," Kim says. "Anything else, detective?" Say yes.
Harry pauses; he adjusts the phone, sending extra static down the line. Kim lets his eyes drift shut. You'll know what he's doing on the other end of the phone. "No." Just that: No. Kim could not possibly read any more into it, but that does not stop him from trying. "Have a good night, Kim."
Silence, then, and Kim alone on his couch, cradling the phone against his shoulder, hand resting over his zipper. Knowing too much, now, and at the same time not nearly enough.