Perry should never have made Harry go undercover, even if it was supposedly one of the easiest assignments ever. Nothing Harry is involved in ever stays easy. Plus, both Harry and Perry are so in denial that it can probably be seen from space. Harry/Harmony, Harry/Perry, minor dubcon btw Harry/OC. Same rating and behavior as the film (meaning gratuitous violence, h/c, language and kissing). FYI: the Avenues are a gang that have been present in Glassell Park since the 1950s. There’s your obligatory trivia for the day.
* * *
He knew enough to go looking for Harry about an hour in.
They were four months out from the crazed bullshit at Christmas that had turned life on its ear, and Perry still wasn’t sure how the fuck things had been turned around to the point where he not only had a roommate/errand boy but hadn’t killed him yet.
Getting his new sidekick used to the scene was still a struggle, since Harry just flat out didn’t fit in, and that was both a detriment and a relief. If he was going to have one at all, Perry didn’t really want a sidekick who was as goddamn fake as everyone else he came in contact with on a regular basis.
Harry may not have been capable of being fake.
That, sadly, also led to the detrimental part, because while the kid had a gift for details and could remember almost anything said to him, he couldn’t lie properly to save his life and couldn’t really blend in with the local set. They were things he’d need to be proficient at to go on living in that part of California, to stay near Harmony, to be in the goddamn PI business.
So Perry brought him to these damn parties and gave him nonexistent chores. Harry had to watch and report on random people without getting caught. Who were they talking to, what were they talking about, what were they drinking; he needed to pick up impressions on who they were, learn how to observe and absorb. Street smarts weren’t good enough to get by on, anymore.
So far, Harry had received another beat down of medium severity after jumping to some drunk girl’s defense, had been thrown out of two other places for accusations of stalking, and had narrowly avoided yet another beating from someone’s jealous significant other because he just didn’t seem to understand subtlety.
Perry hadn’t blown his own cover on the first beating, because the idiot was in no real danger, and he needed a better idea of what Harry needed to work on as far as fighting skills went (blocking, mostly, and getting his weight behind any blow he managed to sneak in). Also, he needed Harry to understand that he couldn’t save the world, possibly couldn’t save anyone, ever. That would likely never stick, but Perry was hoping the world itself would beat it out of him eventually.
The second beating didn’t happen because the other guy was significantly bigger than Harry, and there were weapons involved once the guy destroyed a chair and decided to use its legs to introduce a little blunt force trauma. Perry’s gun trumped chair legs any day.
The total loss of his own higher brain functions when he’d seen the guy wrap one hand around Harry’s throat and raise the other to pummel a chair leg into the kid’s skull was new, though. He was genuinely beginning to care whether anyone hurt Harry. That would usually have been enough to get him to boot the guy out, anywhere away from him, and pretend they’d never met. He thought about it daily. Then the little shit would begin to babble about something, eyes all lit up with excitement, almost completely lacking in cynicism, and Perry would reconsider.
Then there was yet another problem.
By the time Perry went looking for him in the middle of their latest excursion, Harry was up against a wall and staring with visible confusion and amazement into the eyes of a tall, dark and handsome thirty-something who had an arm braced on the wall at face height and was leaning in too close, most likely describing what he was thinking of doing to Harry. It was not the first time Perry had broken up that kind of situation.
Harry had a way of attracting everybody that he’d never want, which meant anyone with a dick. He seemed to be some sort of…draw.
“Taken,” Perry said in a bright sing-song, grabbing Harry by one bicep and dragging him along behind. He knew better than to say anything like that in front of someone who knew who he was -- he had a rep to maintain, after all -- but for clueless, drunken idiots who found Harry irresistible, it wasn’t an issue.
“Wow,” Harry said breathlessly, stumbling along. “He said -- ”
“Forget it,” Perry said dismissively.
“Do you ever -- ”
“No,” Perry said. “I’m one hell of a lot better than whatever he made up.”
Harry’s knees buckled. He folded to the floor in an ungainly heap, and Perry paused to look down on him.
“Oh, Chief,” he said, shaking his head. “I’m going to blackmail you over this until you die.”
“Uh,” Harry mumbled into the floor. “Mmmph.”
When Perry dragged him upright and out of the party, Harry was sporting the noticeable beginnings of a boner.
“You are one confused little monkey,” Perry said.
“Ficus,” Harry said immediately.
Perry laughed. That was another thing: the guy made him laugh. Not just the socially polite snicker he’d developed early on. Harry could startle him into actually laughing.
Harry glanced at him warily.
“Get in the car, idiot.”
Perry was still chuckling to himself when he got in. “He was into you,” he said with a smirk. “Given the chance, I think that would be literal.”
“Not gay,” Harry said loudly. “Can’t say it enough.”
“The lady doth protest too -- ”
“Not happening,” Harry snapped.
“Hoist with his own petard, an’t shall go hard…”
“If I was ever gonna let some guy fuck me, it would be you,” Harry said.
They both froze. Harry’s eyes went wide, comically wide, and Perry started to laugh.
Harry‘s voice took on an edge of panic. “Hey, I’m just…it was a response. Okay? You know, because, guys, I don’t really like guys, so if there was ever one and it had to happen, because aliens took over or whatever, and made everybody gay, then, if I had to be stuck with somebody, you’re like the only…I mean if you weren’t, even, shit, maybe if I just knew you or something, right, you’re still really hot, I would still do it.”
Harry’s eyes got even wider as he stopped for breath and his own words sank in. Perry kept laughing.
“Jesus,” Harry said, “I mean…you know what I mean, right? I hate guys, guys are gross, no offense, I love tits, I mean, tits on girls, because I am really, really fucking straight, but if I wasn’t, like, hypothetically, completely straight, I could do a lot worse than you. Plus, we already kissed and everything, anyway.”
Perry was turning a few shades that couldn’t be healthy with the laughing he was doing.
“Fuck,” Harry said. “Fuck.”
“Keep digging the hole, Chief,” Perry gasped.
No one made him laugh like Harry did. He told himself that was the real reason he hadn’t turned the idiot loose.
“It wasn’t really a kiss, it was messed up, so I’m only trying to say that if I was stuck choosing between you, and that guy, I would choose you,” Harry said. “So, luckily, I’m not gay and that’s not a problem, at all.”
“Luckily,” Perry said, holding his side and nearly giggling. “I thank God every day that you’re not gay, Harry.”
“Just so we’re…I mean, you get it,” Harry said. “I’m not fucking any guys anytime soon.”
Perry broke into a renewed fit of laughter. “Anytime soon?”
“Even though I’d do anything for you,” Harry said, then his eyes went wide again in shock.
Perry quit laughing so fast that it left a low, hollow place in the car.
Perry always sounded angry by default when he was handed something he wasn‘t sure how to process. “What the fuck is wrong with you?”
“I don’t know,” Harry said immediately. “Sorry. I‘m sorry.”
Silence the rest of the way home. Once there, Harry made himself scarce as fast as he could without running.
Perry stared after him, looking ready to kill. The best and worst thing about Harry was the nonstop, accidental honesty.
* * *
“I thought I told you to stay away from the fucking coffee maker.”
Perry was not in a better mood the next morning.
Luckily, Harry was mostly impervious.
“I didn’t touch the fucking coffee maker,” he snapped back from a distance. “You probably did it in your sleep, just, coming out here and pushing buttons because you like pushing buttons so much.”
Perry sighed. God hated him. He knew it. There was no other explanation.
“Call and check on that wiretap permit for the Carston case,” he said to Harry without looking at him. “Then watch the front for awhile, I got stuff to do.”
“Dabney’s called twice,” Harry said.
“Why the hell didn’t you tell me?”
When he glanced up, Harry was giving him a deeply disgruntled look. “You have your phone turned off. He called the backup office number and left a message.” He turned and stalked down the stairs.
“Don’t be such a bitch,” Perry yelled.
One of Harry’s hands popped back up through the railing and flipped him off.
“You keep doing that, you’re gonna be missing more fingers,” Perry said.
When nothing more came from the stairs, Perry smirked. Everything was back to normal.
* * *
Harry sat at the main desk downstairs and shuffled shit around, trying to look busy in case Perry snuck up on him again. He hated that, from the beginning, the way Perry tended to wander up behind him and scare him half to death. Like that was training or something, all that ninja bullshit about being aware of his surroundings. Perry just liked to yell at him.
He reminded himself again that he needed to learn to shut up, something he’d been trying to teach himself since about the age of ten. It was no wonder Perry had been so good at this business on his own in LA for years, because he could get people to tell him anything. Harry already had a shutting-up problem, but with Perry he just seemed to fucking overshare on a daily basis. He couldn’t seem to help it.
Fucking impossible to get a wiretapping permit on the best of days, so no luck there, yet. Goddamn bureaucracy. Perry kept reminding him that they had to handle damn near everything like it might end up in court, because plenty of things did.
He could always just go down there and talk someone into it. That usually seemed to work when doing shit over the phone didn’t move things quick enough.
Quickly enough? Quick enough? Quickly was an adverb, and if he just said quick rather than quickly, it made it seem like the mechanism that…
“Never mind,” he mumbled. He was never going to get that one straightened out. In any case, Perry said it had something to do with his ‘dumb, lost puppy’ look, something Harry didn’t believe at all. Harmony said it was because he was adorable.
It was one hell of a culture shock to be living in LA, but it was worth it.
“Quit daydreaming,” Perry said directly behind him.
Harry tried not to jump, but he did it anyway. Dammit.
Perry walked around and sat in one of the client chairs, propping his feet on the desk and flipping his phone back open to check his messages. “Dabney heard this guy might be embezzling,” he said. “Wants me to look into it. It’s one of the bigger movie studios, no matter which one. Guy’s not quite big time, maybe medium-time, running a little something on the side, pulls capital from the day job, never thinks anybody will notice. Name is Dick Maslin.”
“Right,” Harry said. “Dick. So who is this Dick?”
“Exec,” Perry said.
“Aaaaand that tells me nothing, “ Harry said. “Everybody’s an exec. Why don’t they do some sort of internal investigation? Isn’t that what big companies usually do?”
“Politics,” Perry said. “Ever heard of them? You don’t fucking pull an exec aside in The Industry and start asking questions. You catch them in the act.”
“So why us, then?” Harry said. “Because you’re friends with Dabney?”
“Probably because I’m gay,” Perry said. “And Maslin is as gay as the day is long.”
“Days aren’t that long, in the winter,” Harry said. Then something seemed to click, and he snapped his fingers to punctuate it. “Waitaminute, what’s it matter? Just because you’re gay? What, he thinks there’s some secret language to it or something?” He was genuinely angry on Perry’s behalf. “That’s bullshit, it’s not like you have some special --”
“Shut up,” Perry said.
Harry did, immediately. Perry had at least gained that much sway over him, recently.
“Yeah, it’s likely because I’m gay,” Perry said. “So what? It’s a fee, and not a hell of a lot of work. I’ve tossed a hundred embezzlers.”
Harry stared between Perry and the view out the front windows, looking annoyed.
“What the fuck are you feeling all defensive for, anyway?” Perry said.
“He doesn’t need to treat you like --”
“Like what?” Perry said. “Are you insane enough to think you need to defend me, over anything?”
Perry stared at him.
“Being gay’s not bad, and being acknowledged as being gay isn’t an insult,” Harry said. “It’s just, did he even ask, or was he like, ‘Hey you’re gay, therefore you’re perfect for this’?”
Perry kept glancing between Harry and his phone with a strange mix of curiosity and annoyance on his face.
Harry slid down further in his chair, frowning harder.
“My long-sullied virtue doesn’t need your half-assed chivalry,” Perry said.
Harry made a noncommittal sound.
“It’s like Guinevere trying to defend Lancelot,” Perry said, then paused.
“That was maybe the worst…analogy ever,” Harry said, resting his chin in one hand to try and slightly mask the threat of a grin.
“I get to choose another,” Perry said.
“Yeah, keep trying. You’re not…like, some token…whatever,” Harry said.
“Dabney might keep me on retainer for something besides being gay,” Perry said in a hard, final tone. “Like it’s any of your business.”
Harry let something go verbally, for once, but it was obvious that he was still turning something over in his head.
Perry wanted to hit Harry, and he wasn’t quite sure why, which made him want to hit him even more.
* * *
Two days passed without a single mention of the case or whether they (Harry always thought they when it came to cases whether Perry let him be part of them or not) were taking it. Perry sent Harry on a dozen or so errands that involved getting a few things notarized, cashing a couple of checks and getting a copy of a police report, because he could be trusted with those things, but not the coffee pot.
Perry came back from the shooting range with a gleam in his eye that Harry recognized as one of his eureka moments. Harry had just spent an hour on the phone with Harmony, so he was in a ridiculously good mood and wasn’t braced for the insanity that came out of Perry’s mouth.
He blinked and listened for a moment, blinked some more, than said, “I think I just heard you say you want me to…be gay.”
“Gay enough to get close to Maslin and get him talking,” Perry said, looking smug. “I’ve done a little checking, and you’re pretty much his type, whatever the hell that says about him.”
“You’ll get his attention,” Perry said. “Let’s look at the evidence, shall we? You attract everyone you’re terrified of or repulsed by within a fifty mile radius. He’ll come right for you, maybe proposition you, and --”
“No way,” Harry said. “No goddamn way. I --”
Perry hooked one hand around the back of Harry’s neck and pulled him in close. Harry staggered forward into him and held his breath, inches away, hands braced on Perry’s chest.
“Sooner or later, every bi or gay jackass at a party comes straight for you,” Perry said, breath soft and warm on Harry’s temple. “It’s probably the wide-eyed, clueless thing you have going, which puts a big bullseye right on your forehead to either be rolled or bent over something. I spend fifty percent of my time networking or tailing at these fucking parties, and the rest of the time warding horny assholes away from you or keeping you from doing something stupid. Do you get it, Harry? You never even see the majority of what heads your way. So use your special gift for the cause and do your part by standing around and being you. Think you can do that?”
Harry nodded quickly.
“We’ll have to do something about the perpetual mess you thrive on being, then,” Perry said.
* * *
Harmony found out about the plan later that evening when she came over for dinner.
She sat between them on the couch over beers and laughed for maybe ten minutes while Harry drowned in annoyance and tried not to find the laughter adorable.
When she could breathe, she said, “Let me help. I get to help make Harry gay-ready. Or at least let me watch.”
“I’ve got this handled,” Perry said. “He’s slightly more hetero with you around, and you’ll ruin the effect.”
Harry was troubled the most by the emphasis Harmony had put on let me watch.
“It’s no big deal, Harry,” Harmony said. “I’ve done this for Perry a few times. You know, be all interested in somebody to distract them. It’s just an acting job. You‘ll be fine.” Then she went back to laughing.
Harry pointed at her and glared at Perry. “This is what you meant when you said she’s ‘done some work’ for you?”
“You gonna defend her from some imaginary slight, now, too?” Perry said with a smirk.
Harry had a hard time being annoyed by anything with Harmony in his lap, especially when she was laughing.
* * *
“He likes to talk about cars,” Perry said the next morning. “He only likes to hang out in a couple of places, so we’ll pick one tomorrow night and see if he shows up, and if he doesn’t, we’ll try the other.”
Harry usually liked debriefings. He even liked research. He liked neither in this case.
“None of that makes any difference if he doesn’t even look me over,” Harry said. “How much conversation do I have to have with this guy?”
“Shut up and listen,” Perry said. “You have to be prepared to make small talk with him and not bore him so badly with your inane chatter that he drops you before you can get anything out of him. Get him talking, and then get him talking about his job.”
“What do I do?”
Perry looked at him like he was insane.
“Hello, I mean, what’s my fake job,” Harry said.
Perry shrugged. “You’re a hairdresser.”
“No, come on,” Harry said, titling his head back in exasperation. “Jesus, that’s so cliché’. I get to do something cool, like, I’m already rich so I don’t need somebody who thinks he’s about to become rich. Think about it, I need to be his ideal guy but not too ideal.”
“Every now and then, something smart comes out of your mouth,” Perry said. “I just wish you sounded smart when you said it.”
Harry rolled his eyes. “It can’t be anything in the entertainment industry, either, because he’ll know.”
“Then say you invented something stupid that turned out to be a hit, and you’re living off the royalties,” Perry said.
“Post-Its,” Harry said.
“Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion,” they said in unison, pointing at each other.
“I said it first, you owe me a Coke,” Harry said, laughing.
“No, I said it first, and that whole East coast Coke-owing thing is bullshit,” Perry said. “C’mon, Chief. Think of something.”
“I invented a…new kind of really cheap packing material for shipping that keeps the contents the same temp all the time,” Harry said, snapping his fingers. “He won’t know anything about that, or even care.”
“I don’t even care,” Perry said, making notes. “Ok, that’s a go. Don’t go into depth about anything, just keep the conversation on him. Be interested. Get it? Don’t get all caught up and start sharing personal stories and shit, because you’ll give yourself away. The one big thing you have going for you is your total lack of official behavior. He won’t make you for even having met a cop, much less working with one.”
The interest in Harry‘s voice was intense and raised it a pitch. “You used to be a cop?”
“Once,” Perry said dismissively. “Stay focused, Harry.”
“Because I wouldn’t have figured you for one, I just thought that -- ”
“Right, focused,” Harry mumbled.
“Go look up car shit and try and remember enough to keep a decent conversation going,” Perry said. “And look Maslin up, while you’re at it, so you don’t let yourself get hit on by the wrong guy. You look enough like his most recent ex that he’ll almost have to do something.”
“Great,” Harry said. “It’s the something that worries me. What am I supposed to do if he hits on me?”
“The same thing you’d do when a hot girl hits on you,” Perry said. Then he covered his eyes with one hand. “I forgot, that never happens to you. Have you ever been hit on, in this life?”
“Funny,” Harry said. “I’m just saying, is there like a secret handshake you guys have?”
“Only in private,” Perry said. “And there are no hands involved. Jesus Christ, Harry, I promise you we don’t have magic bullets we shoot from our dicks, there’s no handshake, and it’s not communicable. Okay?”
“Hey, I’d just had my balls electrocuted,” Harry said. “I was allowed to jump to any conclusion I wanted.”
Perry just shook his head and fell to rubbing the spot on his forehead just between his brows as if warding off a headache. “You know my methods. Apply them.”
Harry could tell he was quoting from something, but he had no idea what. When Perry glanced at him, he seemed kind of disappointed that Harry hadn’t gotten it.
“Just be you, Harry, and relax, and try to be interested in him. You’re capable of some basic, goofy charm that some people enjoy. Please remember that less is more with what comes out of your mouth.”
“Or goes in,” Harry mumbled.
Perry snorted. “Right, try not to accidentally blow him.”
“What if he wants to sleep with me or something?” Harry said.
“No one, anywhere, actually wants to sleep with you,“ Perry said. “Offer to meet up with him some other time and place. This is just a fact-finding thing, not a sting operation. If there’s a second meeting, you’ll be wired. All I want right now is for him to drop something that might give us a lead on whether he’s actually skimming, and how. People will say damn near anything to someone they want to fuck.”
Their eyes met for a moment. Harry froze.
“Except you,” Perry said. “You’ll say anything to anybody.”
* * *
“Hold still,” Perry said.
Harry was perched on a stool in the bathroom, leaning away and staring at Perry with open trepidation. Perry had a can of some hair product in his hand and Harry was fairly sure he wasn’t going to like whatever happened next.
“Is this the big slumber party?” Harry said. “We do each other’s hair, gossip a little, maybe order pizza later?”
Perry slapped one of Harry’s ears.
“Ow. I can do my own hair, you know.”
“Obviously not, from what I‘ve seen,” Perry said, applying mousse, combing his fingers through the shorter strands at Harry’s temples, over his ears and down to his nape.
Harry shivered and his eyes rolled up in his head.
“Knock it off, you little pervert,” Perry said, but he didn‘t sound annoyed.
Harry‘s tone was full of all the outraged defensiveness he could muster with Perry playing with his hair. “You’re doing it on purpose!”
“You’re gayer than I could ever hope to be,” Perry said.
“So long as I’m better at something than you, I don’t give a fuck what it is.”
Perry chuckled low in his throat and kept applying mousse. Harry was suspiciously quiet, face tilted up, expression ecstatic. Perry tried to ignore him. Finally, he turned the hair dryer on Harry, who reacted to having his hair blow dried and brushed like a dog getting a tummy rub, nearly thumping one foot on the floor. Perry shook his head, fussed with Harry’s hair a little more, then stepped back and regarded his handiwork with a critical eye.
Harry waited, refusing to glance in the mirror. He just didn’t want to know.
Perry sprayed hair spray on him.
“Fuck!” Harry shouted, shielding his eyes. “You have to be kidding!”
“Quit being a big straight baby and go get dressed,” Perry said.
Harry went back to his room and put on the long-sleeved white and burgundy Henley, dark jacket and carefully chosen form-fitting jeans. He straightened everything reflexively, and walked back out.
“No,” Perry snapped. “Slouch like you usually do. Christ, is that what you think of as standing straight?”
Harry sighed but relaxed, shoving his hands into his pockets and leaning against the wall like he didn’t really care anymore, which he didn’t, so it wasn’t even a front.
He got an appreciative once-over complete with a raised eyebrow. “You almost pass as some kind of…something, I don’t know what yet.”
“What, I’m so hot you can barely look at me, right?” Harry said.
“Nice try.” Perry stepped up to him and adjusted the jacket’s collar, fingers brushing against Harry‘s throat. He ran his palms down Harry‘s chest, smoothing fabric. “You’ll do.”
He didn’t step away. Harry looked at the center of his chest and wondered if he could get Harmony to play with his hair without telling her why it was so important.
“What’s the plan, again?” Perry said.
“I already --”
Harry sighed. “We go in separately, we both keep an eye out, I stand around looking clueless and lost like I always do, and wait for Maslin to come chat me up.”
“Good boy,” Perry said. “Get in the fucking car.”
* * *
“Why do you call me Chief?” Harry said.
Perry sighed. They were obviously going to have another one of their fascinating car-chats. Harry was forbidden to ask questions on stakeouts, when he came along, so he snuck them in whenever they happened to be together in a car in a non-stakeout situation. Harry babbled and fidgeted when he was nervous, and Perry was hoping that if he indulged it before they got to their destination, Harry would wear himself out a little and not lose his mind in front of Maslin.
“It’s from the Doom Patrol comics,” Perry said.
The look on Harry’s face said he had no idea what the hell that was about.
“Read comics, ever?” Perry said. “I assume that’s where you learned grammar.”
“Batman,” Harry said. His tone was slightly wary. He’d known Perry long enough to realize that wariness was a good idea.
“Mainstream,” Perry said. “How predictable.”
“So answer the question,” Harry said.
“The Chief was a character in the Doom Patrol comics,” Perry said. “A genius, which you aren’t. I was being ironic. Plus, he ended up as just a head, in a bucket of ice, drinking milkshakes.”
Harry squinted at him, unsure of how to take that.
“For a while, he had a bomb in his chest,” Perry said. “Which I wish you did. Then I could just blow you up rather than listen to you bitch.”
“Shut up,” Harry said. “You love me.”
“Like the plague,” Perry said.
“You’re the kind of guy who would love the plague,” Harry shot back.
“Assuming it kills off a few percentage points of the dumbasses on this planet, I just might have a slight fondness for it.”
Harry stared at him for a moment, trying to figure out what the original point had been.
It didn’t matter. Perry parked well down the block from a bar called The Blue Note and shoved Harry out of the car, waited twenty minutes, and followed.
Low lighting, mildly upscale without being too pretentious; brass and leather and oak. Widely mixed clientele, from suits to sweatsuits. Preset top 40 music, horseshoe bar at the back, tall circular tables that were too small to do more than balance a drink on. It wasn’t about comfort; it was about being seen.
He placed himself near the wall closest to the doors and milled, people-watching. He didn’t recognize anyone for the first several minutes, which was very, very good since he didn’t want to be made. Typical crowd for a bar near west LA; affected malaise tempered with the occasional purposefully struck pose in case someone important was watching. Living in LA meant assuming someone was watching you, sooner or later. After about fifteen minutes, he gave up lurking and headed for the back, knowing that if Harry was still milling around trying to be cute, he’d have seen him.
He got a club soda and glanced to his left down the length of the curved bar.
He had a terrible moment of thinking, just before he realized who it was, that the guy with the big, dark eyes and lean face sitting at the end of the bar was striking to look at.
There was Harry, grinning and gesturing, eyes alight, yammering away about something that had to be pointless, but he’d found his mark. Maslin seemed to be hanging off every word. The latter had a mildly amused but darkly interested look on his face that made Perry look longer than he should have.
Harry leaned in a little, smirking, lashes dipping. Making a stab at coy.
Maslin was leaning in to meet him, sharing some joke, shoulder brushing Harry’s. Leaning in even further, lips right against Harry’s ear, hands coming to rest on Harry’s thighs.
Harry’s eyes flashed with a moment of genuine, wary discomfort, visible from yards away, but he laid his own hands over Maslin‘s anyway.
Perry was halfway across the floor, hand already out to make contact and likely do damage before he realized what he was doing. He stopped and glared, hands clenched into fists, then took his drink and turned his back and deliberately got as far back into the crowd as he could without completely losing sight.
A painful half hour of watching Harry try and be a slightly exaggerated version of himself followed, and Perry waited, treating it like a stakeout except taking care to change positions from time to time. He didn’t want to catch the eyes of either man. If Harry saw him, he was not going to be able to keep from lighting up with recognition. If Maslin saw him, well, Perry wasn’t sure if he would recognize him.
When Maslin wrote something down on a napkin and slid it over, Harry took it and began the sly, glancing-up-from-under-his-lashes thing again, slipping it into a jacket pocket.
Maslin brushed fingertips along Harry’s jaw as he stood, pressing a thumb into Harry’s lower lip, smiling. Harry looked startled but didn’t react, not even when Maslin leaned in close to murmur in his ear again.
Harry stared at Maslin’s back, watching until he was sure the other man was gone.
He turned and drummed nervous fingertips along the surface of the bar for a long moment, then checked his watch.
Even from there, Perry could see his hands were shaking.
It almost killed off his anger. Almost.
Harry downed the rest of his drink and left the bar, heading for the bathroom. Perry followed.
That was some crazy shit, but I think I pulled it off.
Harry was fairly proud of himself, for once.
He washed his hands, whistling something, completely unaware that Perry was standing just to one side, ready to kill him. He shut the water off and turned to get a paper towel, and yelped when he ran right into Perry.
Perry had Harry by the back of his neck and was walking him out the emergency exit toward his car like he was a recalcitrant child. Harry hunched his shoulders to try and minimize the vise-like grip. “Ow, ow, what the fuck?”
When Perry remained silent and tightened his grip, Harry gave up and let Perry manhandle him. It didn’t even occur to him to try and get away.
When they got close enough to it, Perry shoved him up against the side of the car.
Harry caught himself with his hands and rolled along the car’s surface to face Perry. “Wha --”
“That’s the last time you ever pull something like that,” Perry said, voice low and angry. Even without the tone, the lack of name calling would have tipped Harry off as to how angry he was.
“I don’t --”
“The touching, Harry,” Perry snarled. “At no point did I tell you to feel him up.”
“He touched first,” Harry said breathlessly. “He just started talking, opened up, you know? I was getting information. That’s what this was about. What the fuck is your problem, man? You’re the one who asked me to -- ”
“I never asked,” Perry snapped. “I told you. I told you to stand around and be you, not to fucking hump the guy’s leg.”
“I got his fucking attention like you wanted!” Harry yelled.
“I didn’t want you to get his attention!” Perry shouted. “You idiot, if he approached you, and started talking, fine. In no way were you supposed to go looking for him and make a fucking spectacle of yourself. You -- ”
“You’re jealous,” Harry blurted.
They stared at each other for a moment, looking equally horrified.
“Holy shit. You’re actually j -”
Perry took a swing at him. Harry just barely ducked out of the way, then scrambled away until the car was between him and Perry.
“Come back here,” Perry said in the kind of voice that sounded like that was the last thing Harry would want to do, if he liked his bones in the configuration they were already in. He started around the car.
“You are not allowed to kill me over something that’s your own fault,” Harry said, making sure he stayed as far from Perry as the length and width of the car would allow. “Not justifiable homicide. Hit yourself instead of me.”
“You’re fired,” Perry said.
“Okay, look, you don’t mean that,” Harry said. “I don’t officially work for you, anyway. Shit, Perry, what the fuck is your problem! I was trying to make it easier. He approached me. I didn’t fuck anything up, I finally didn’t fuck something up, and you’re all…whatever this whole bipolar freakout thing is.”
“He came to you,” Perry said, pausing by the front of the car.
“Yes,” Harry said from the right rear quarter panel. “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you. I was just trying to keep him talking, once he was already there. Okay?”
“You suck at flirting,” Perry said.
“He didn’t seem to mind,” Harry said, then scrambled away with his hands along the trunk as Perry started toward him again.
Perry faked him out by starting to backtrack, and when Harry turned the other way, he moved faster than Harry thought he was capable of. Harry slipped in the gravel and Perry was already on him before he could regain his footing.
Harry cowered, arms up and around his head. “Don’tkillmedon’tkillmeIdidn’tevenenjoyit!”
“Idiot,” Perry said, yanking him up and gripping him by his jacket, shaking him a little. “The reason I tell you to do things a specific way is because I’m looking for a specific result, and I know you don’t have the mental capacity to deal with really involved scenarios.”
“I was against this from the beginning,” Harry said, voice muffled by his own arms. “Let the record show, th --”
“Get in the car before I decide to leave you here to go home with whatever else with a dick wants to hit on you.”
Harry tucked himself into the car in record time.
Perry got in and didn’t look at him.
“I was just trying to be good bait,” Harry said softly.
Perry’s shoulders slumped, and he rested his forehead on the steering wheel for a moment. Then he grabbed Harry by the scruff of his neck again and shook him a little. Even though it was much gentler than it had been before, Harry tried to tuck his face into his shirt and cringe back against the door, but it didn’t do him any good.
“I’m never going to use you as bait,” Perry said. “I can’t believe you thought that and then did it anyway. There’s a huge difference between bait and you just hanging around and keeping an eye out.”
“I wanted to be…useful,” Harry said. “You know, do whatever it took to help you.”
Perry let go of Harry and rested a hand against his own forehead instead. “I hate you,” Perry said.
Harry took that for what it really was and un-cringed himself with visible relief.
“So tell me what you learned,” Perry said.
Harry untucked his face and straightened the rest of the way.
“He said he was about to come into a lot of money,” Harry said. “Said he’s really high up on the ladder at Paramount and he was headed for big things. He just came off a break up, non-public, said it was nothing because they were never good together anyway, and he needed someone he could trust, to be his right hand. Someone like me, because he could tell by looking in my eyes that I was that kind of guy, that I wouldn’t fuck him in any way he didn’t want me to.” Harry squirmed a little without realizing it was so visible to Perry. “He said he’s been busting his ass for years and finally found a way to get things to work for him, and he’s been planning things out just right and I should seriously think about what’s important, about maybe just taking a chance and dropping everything and taking off with him because we could be great.”
“You got all that, in half an hour?” Perry said. “All without hooking his balls up to a battery?”
Harry shifted uncomfortably again at the memory Perry was invoking. “People like to talk to me. Most people.”
“You’re mach ten gay bait,” Perry said, sounding amazed. “What the fuck. What the hell is it about you, that every fag for miles gravitates toward you?”
“Um,” Harry said. When he didn’t continue, Perry glanced at him. “I just…you…I mean, so, does that mean, you’re --”
“No, Harry,” Perry said, as if to a very slow child. “Idiot. Not if you were the last human male on earth after some bizarre apocalypse that involved the destruction of every cock on the planet but yours. I have no attraction to you whatsoever. You may as well be a woman. In fact, in some ways, you are.”
Harry leaned back into his seat and digested that.
“You thought I was hot, earlier,” he said finally. “I could tell.”
“You dense little jackanape,” Perry said. “There’s a difference between lust and appreciation, which you obviously don’t fucking understand.”
“You appreciated me?” Harry said, hearing the ridiculous amount of hope in his own voice.
Perry tsked. “You clean up well enough,” he said. “With my help.”
Harry felt like thumping his foot against the floor again.
“What else did he say?” Perry said.
“He wants to meet me tomorrow night, at his place,” Harry said. “Shit, what else do I need to do? He practically admitted to everything.”
“He didn’t admit to shit,” Perry said. “You need to get the rest of it, what he’s going to do, where he’s going to go. He’s not doing this alone, and we need names. You’ve nearly got your foot in the door -- or your dick in his ass, if the metaphor fits -- so you need the rest of it. You have to go.”
“What?” Harry spluttered. “He almost had his fucking tongue in my ear, okay? That’s not cool.”
“I’m going to be watching you the whole time,” Perry said. “You think I’ll let him do anything to you?”
He realized too late how that sounded, and when he glanced at Harry again, the goofball was staring at him with some sort of smug adoration, all crinkled eyes and drawn brows and a half-smirk.
“I hate you,” Perry sighed, and started the car. “You’ll never be good at this, Harry,” he said. “All I can ask is that you suck a little less.”
“Wow, imagine you asking a guy to suck a little less,” Harry snapped.
Perry whipped his head around so fast that Harry flinched back a little. Then Perry began to laugh.
Harry raised his eyebrows and kept a slight distance. But he was kind of happy, all the same.
* * *
“I get to be armed,” Harry said the next evening.
Perry was goofing with his hair again, only Harry was too tense to think it was as much fun that time.
Perry’s voice was as stern as anyone warning a puppy not to pee on the new carpet. “No. No, no.”
“He’s going to try and put more than his tongue in my ear,” Harry argued. “He might be one of those sick fucks who tries to put his dick anywhere, you know, any port in a storm.”
“I’m pretty sure your virgin ears are safe,” Perry said. “If I wanna keep my insurance in force, there are no guns on your person at any time. Possibly ever. You’re the biggest liability risk I’ve ever seen, outside of Jackie Chan. And quit the nonstop hetero freakout. You’re so bi it‘s breaking records.”
“Not helping,” Harry said, glaring at him in the mirror.
“I suggest you adjust your expectations in that area,” Perry said. “Jesus, Harry. You’re wired. I’ll be listening.” He paused. “And laughing while you fend him off.”
Harry thought about the really angry, really huge guy with the chair leg at that one party, and the look in Perry’s eyes when he’d nearly shoved his gun down the guy’s throat. He had never, never been afraid of Perry, except for that one instant. And to be fair, Perry hadn’t really been Perry right then. Not his Perry.
Perry met his eyes in the mirror for a moment and rested a hand on the back of his neck. There was a promise there, before they both looked away and Perry poked him in the back of the head.
“Pick a safe word.”
Harry immediately stared at him in the mirror again. “Whaaaaat?”
“Let’s pretend you need a safe word for…something,” Perry said.
“I don’t like pretending,” Harry said immediately.
“C’mon, I’m sure it’ll come in handy once you’ve lived in LA long enough.”
“My safe word is 'fuck off',” Harry said.
“That’s a phrase, and it’s not that safe,” Perry said. “Look, we have to agree on the ‘I need help’ trigger word so I can call you and pretend to be an urgent family emergency so you can get out of there.”
“Oh. Uh…shit, why didn’t you just say so?”
“More fun to watch you squirm,” Perry said. “You’re the one who assumed I was being kinky.”
Harry shook his head.
* * *
He chose magic.
* * *
Time to play dress up again. Harry huffed an impatient sigh. “Is this really necessary?”
“You’re not trolling a bar this time, idiot, you’re on a date,” Perry said. “With a gay man. There’s a difference.”
“He has to know I’m not gay,” Harry said. “Don’t you guys have…straightdar?”
Perry sighed in a way that let Harry know he was not going to deign to answer that.
White button down shirt this time, better jacket, decent cologne from Perry’s collection. Less stubble. Black boots. Another pair of tight jeans.
“Seriously,” Harry said. “These are not comfortable.”
“You have the ass of a sixteen year old track star,” Perry said. “That’s why you’re not triggering his ‘straightdar’. And I can’t fucking believe I just said your stupid, made-up word aloud.”
Harry wandered off in his head at the remark, weighing it, ignoring Perry while the latter adjusted his clothes to his liking. Perry’s hands were warm and careful and he barely noticed.
Harry stood outside and smoked until the cab came to get him. Perry followed at a wide distance and was around the corner from Maslin’s less than half an hour later, listening.
Maslin lived in West LA, in one of the resort-style apartment communities that catered to the faux-upscale set. The Palazzo at Park La Brea. Gated entrance, concierge service, Mediterranean ambience. Not above his pay scale, but well below the scale he meant to have if he was skimming. Depending on what Harry got out of him, the next step would be to rifle the guy’s office after hours. It all looked textbook, except for the undercover part.
Perry tailgated in behind another resident a few minutes after Harry’s cab. Gated community. Yeah, like that was ever a good example of security. All an illusion, like every other goddamn thing in LA.
He listened to Harry buzz Maslin’s apartment.
There were basic pleasantries, mild awkwardness from Harry like usual, then Maslin seemed to be showing him the place. Offered him a drink. Got Harry talking while he seemed to take one hell of a long time putting drinks together.
Don’t talk, Harry, Perry thought. Don’t give him the upper hand, c’mon.
“Ever been in love, Harry?” Maslin said. Clink of ice, faintly distant.
“Sure,” Harry said. “Maybe…a few times.”
“You don’t sound sure,” Maslin said.
“Not sure about the last one,” Harry said. “Not a good idea. Not my type. What about you?”
“Thought the last one might be forever,” Maslin said.
“Come on,” Harry said. “You believe in that stuff? In your line of work?”
“No,” Maslin said with a laugh. “I mean it just felt like it went on forever.”
Perry got the distinct feeling, suddenly, that he’d missed something. He shrugged it off.
They talked cars, and Harry held his own. The new 2005 Audi A8 had a lightweight aluminum chassis that made it feel more nimble than other full-size sedans; the Porsche 911 Carrera and Carrera S had been redesigned. He started pausing a little between phrases, and Perry put it down to nervousness, or Harry just trying to make sure he had his details right.
A shuffle, a clink of ice against glass, and Maslin’s voice was closer. Sitting right next to Harry, probably.
“How long have you been in LA, Harry?” Maslin said.
“Long enough to know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em,” Harry said.
Perry shook his head, wondering what the hell it was like to think the way Harry thought. There seemed to be a mildly slurred amusement to the quip, though, and Perry wasn’t sure if he’d heard that correctly.
Maslin made a small, amused sound. “The more we talk, the more I like you. I think we should get to know each other better.”
Perry waited, and for a moment he just figured nothing was happening, but then he realized he’d lost the signal altogether because even the ambient noise was gone. The wire was dead.
He sat back and thought. No reason to think anything had gone wrong; Maslin didn’t have a record of violence. The wire was crap, and that was all. He still had a visual on the apartment. There was no reason for the whisper of worry in the back of his head. He’d give it maybe forty minutes, then call Harry no matter what and tell him to get out.
* * *
Harry didn’t fight when Maslin pulled him up off the sofa and pressed him into the facing wall. He was suddenly just hanging on and trying not to fall down, and that took all of his attention. His limbs were loose and didn’t respond immediately when he tried to move.
“I put a little something in your drink, Harry,” Maslin said with a laugh. “You were so nervous and such a rube that you didn’t even notice. It’s great, right?”
“Yeah,” Harry said, leaning into him. “It’s great.”
Maslin laughed a little and then leaned in, mouth pressing rough against his, one hand rough in his hair, a knee pressed between his legs.
Harry didn’t fight that, either. The world was narrowing and spinning a little and he knew he should have been protesting at least a little, but he was trying to stay upright. He had to get more info.
It was a kiss, a real kiss, except not, fully there physically but not emotionally, not caring about him. He could tell the difference, even as much as the world was off and getting fuzzy. The guy knew what he was doing and was doing it, kind of ramping him up. He felt like he should have shoved him off. It didn’t matter right then.
“I want to show you something,” Maslin said in his ear. “It’s down in my car, though. It’ll only take a minute.”
“I’m not…I mean, I should…you…”
Harry completely lost his train of thought and knew there was something important about it, that he should have been doing or saying something, but he couldn’t remember what. The room spun.
“Just for a minute, sweetheart,” Maslin said. “C’mon. Perry won’t mind.”
Harry wavered. He knew that wasn‘t right, he should have…done something. Perry said…
The world tilted a little. Perry.
* * *
Perry only lasted twenty minutes before he gave in and dialed Harry’s number.
Harry did not answer.
The low hum of suspicion he’d been battling became a full blown air-raid siren and he was out of his car and around the corner, up the stairs, gun drawn once inside. If he fucked this up and burst in when nothing was wrong and Harry had just simply forgotten to turn his phone on, then shit, that was just going to have to do, but he knew in his gut that wasn’t the case.
He listened close at Maslin’s door and heard nothing, not a damn thing, and the damn door was unlocked when he tried it.
In the middle of the living room floor was the wire Harry had been wearing, stark against a cream area rug.
He went room to room and there was nothing, no one.
Jesus, what was he going to tell Harmony? That he lost her boyfriend, or whatever the hell he was to her? That he flat out underestimated some fucking studio exec, of all people, and Harry would probably turn up eventually, but not in one piece?
But the feeling in the pit of his stomach was not a harbinger of worry about breaking something to Harmony, or even that he might have fucked up. He had lost Harry.
Do you think I’d let him do anything to you?
Maslin was a stupid, small time embezzler. There was no way he’d gotten the drop on them.
“He’s not that stupid,” Perry said aloud, redialing Harry’s number.
No answer. Voicemail; Harry trying to sound official but revealing the faintest hint of glee. This is Harold Lockhart with Sentron, Inc. Please leave a message.
Maslin didn’t have a record of violence. But that didn’t mean he wasn’t capable of all kinds of shit.
He felt himself begin to panic and immediately tried to slam it down. It wasn’t going to help him. He was going to think it through, and he’d find Harry.
Second floor apartment. Two ways in and out - front door and balcony. Maslin had not wrestled Harry off the balcony. Two turns in the hallway, two sets of stairs at opposite ends. Perry had only had a visual on one. The other led through a courtyard with a fountain, decorative pool, potted palms. There was covered parking on the far side.
He found the smashed remains of Harry’s phone by the fountain.
He tried not to make more out of it than it was. Looking around, he could see many points of escape, but the covered parking was the most likely. Maslin was not going to drag Harry far on foot. Harry had obviously not gone willingly. The question was, how far out were they? Twenty minutes worth, if he counted from the moment the wire died. There was quick access to the 101 and the 10 from there, and if he was really paranoid, half an hour to LAX that time of night.
God help me, what is he going to do with Harry?
Maslin had known what Harry was doing, and he’d tossed Harry’s phone.
It occurred to him, then, how little he wanted to lose his new roommate. His annoying, noisy, mess of a roommate that had come to mean everything.
He called the LAPD detective he knew and paged him. He needed an APB on Maslin‘s car, if he could get one. He was happy to overreact if it meant not discovering Harry’s corpse later.
He didn’t say kidnapped, when he got a call back. He said surveillance gone bad.
All that remained to be seen was how bad.
* * *
He drove around for an hour, checking alleys and calling hospitals, trying to figure out what the hell else to do. He wasn’t good at waiting, and the window to find Maslin before he rabbited over state lines was long closed. There was too much ground to cover; Maslin had put an escape plan into place, and it remained to be seen what kind of detour Harry had caused in that plan.
Perry had to admit that Harry was fairly good at getting away, if he could.
He went back home to check, on the off chance in a million that Harry would just be there, would just find his way back, was just simply waiting.
He started another online search, and widened it this time. Maslin had somehow made his tail, and had reacted with far too much precision. At first there was nothing interesting on the surface, just minor AP bullshit from film releases. He remembered seeing the photo of Maslin’s last ex and had stopped there because the resemblance to Harry was too good to be true, and he’d run with that without looking deeper.
And then, suddenly, there it was. His heart sank.
Maslin’s last ex had disappeared three months earlier, long off the current news cycle and on no one’s radar. Since they had broken up more than a month before that, and there was no sign of a body or foul play, it wasn’t news. No suspects.
Thought the last one might be forever.
I mean it just felt like it went on forever.
He had underestimated the guy, hugely. He hadn’t slipped up that badly in a long, long time, not since his rookie days. Had he become that arrogant? Was that all it was?
He found himself thinking don’t hurt him, but if you do, please end it quick.
When his phone went off, it wasn’t a number he recognized, so he was cautious in answering. He wouldn’t have put it past Maslin at that point to taunt him if he still had Harry.
An uncertain female voice answered him.
“There’s a guy down here who isn’t gonna last long if someone don’t come get him,” she said. “He’s acting really messed up, and he’s not somewhere where it’s smart to do that.”
“His name’s Harry,” Perry said, grabbing his keys, startled to discover it was hard to catch his breath. “Just tell me where he is, then put him on, okay?”
She gave him the cross streets -- Jesus, Harry was wandering around the rougher part of Glassell Park, right in the middle of Avenues territory -- then there was a muffled shout and Harry came on.
“Harry,” Perry said. “What the fuck is going on?”
“The lights,” Harry said, his voice a low gasp of amazement, the nuances audible even over the tinny connection. “Oh, wow, they‘re great. There was something I needed to tell you.”
“Are you hurt?” Perry said.
“Wait, I remember. Magic.” Harry started to laugh, slightly manic and uncontrolled. “Magic, Perry. Magic.”
* * *
Harry was lolling against the crumbling brick face of a vacant building when Perry first saw him, and he wasn’t alone. There were two prostitutes flanking him, looking almost like an entourage. One of them was laughing at something Harry had said. They both turned to stare at Perry as he pulled up.
Perry pulled Harry away from the wall and looked him over. “Harry? Hey. C’mon.”
Harry smiled at him, half in shadow. “I think I fucked up. He said he would be right back, but he never came back.”
“Shit,” Perry said. He glanced around, taking in the two women who were still standing there as if trying to decide what to do.
“He’s cute,” the blond one said. “You gonna be nice to him?”
“He’s my --”
Perry paused, and felt the pause, and wanted to turn and slam his own head against the wall. Harry was his what, exactly? Jesus, what the fuck? Where was this coming from? And what did he care about what a couple of strangers thought?
“…friend. So which one of you rolled him?”
That started an immediate chatter of half-hearted offense that started with oh, hey now and quickly graduated to ungrateful motherfucker, but Perry didn’t hear most of it. He thanked them and was even halfway sincere.
He put Harry into the car and headed for the nearest ER.
“I’m okay,” Harry whispered, hands pressed to his own face. “I’m okay, I’m okay.”
Perry was going to demolish Maslin when he found him.
* * *
The closest decent ER was Glendale Memorial. He sat in the waiting room and finally realized that what he was waiting for was someone to come tell him the kid had flatlined. There was no telling what was in his system. He wanted to believe it was just a diversion, that Harry had been made, nothing more. He just wasn’t that much of an optimist.
After an hour or so, the attending ER doc was headed straight for him. He always knew them among the techs and nurses, and it wasn’t just the badge. It was all in the body language.
“I’m Dr. Leyvas,” he said, shaking Perry’s hand. “You’re here for Mr. Lockhart?”
“Is Mr. Lockhart a regular user of narcotics?”
“No,” Perry said. “No. He wasn’t partying. He was drugged. Do you know what it is?”
“We’d need a full toxicology panel to find out what’s in his system, but the preliminary labs are showing a combination of flunitrazepam, an MAOI and Methylenedioxymethamphetamine,” Leyvas said, glancing at him apologetically as he rolled out syllables with too much practice.
Perry actually felt himself blink as he tried to process all of it. Flunitrazepam was a fucking roofie, he knew that, but the other insanely multisyllabic word… “Meth?”
There was a knowing and slightly regretful tilt of the head. “The street names include X, E --”
“Ecstasy,“ Perry said, feeling a sudden surge of anger that approached an ecstasy of its own. “What does that mean, in this case?”
“The combination itself isn’t automatically lethal at the doses he was apparently given,” Leyvas said. “But the combo is potentially lethal. I’ve seen it before, but haven‘t personally seen it kill anybody. The purpose of adding the MAOI is to inhibit the metabolism and draw the effects out as long as possible, to leave the victim high as long as possible, up to 16 hours, depending on their tolerance. It can make someone highly suggestible, lacking in any kind of reasonable judgment, gaining a heightened sense of euphoria --”
“That’s him on a good day,” Perry said.
“It can still be a dangerous combination,” Leyvas said. “There are side effects, and the intent is to keep the person compliant for a while. There might be other components that were added that we can’t detect. So, he doesn’t require hospitalization unless the side effects get out of control, but he needs to be watched, for at least two days. He needs someone to watch him who won’t take advantage of the situation but might be able to restrain him. Whoever did this likely meant to keep him for a couple of days, or to cause trouble for whoever might. Can you keep an eye on him?”
“Yes,” Perry said immediately, even though it was the last thing he wanted to say. He felt, for the first time in years, the urge to run. This was not his problem, Harry was not his goddamn problem. But all he’d heard was compliant and keep him for a couple of days and it caused such a protective terror that Perry was willing to do anything to alleviate it. “Did he have any sign of injuries?”
“Nothing apparent,” Leyvas started to say. “We didn’t --”
“Any sign of injuries,” Perry said, lowering his voice and putting enough emphasis on the words to make himself clear.
Leyvas gave him a harder look.
“Someone roofied him but didn’t take his wallet,” Perry said. “Check him over again. All of him, this time. Please.”
Leyvas nodded shortly. “Understood. Right now he’s too stable for us to keep him, beyond that, but he could change fast. Bring him back or call 911 if he does.”
He took Harry home half an hour later with the relief of knowing there wasn’t a scratch on the kid, and a printout of things to watch out for, because there were too many things that could go wrong.
Business as usual.
* * *
Harry was quiet in the car, or at least quieter than usual; he hummed aimlessly to himself and seemed to be fascinated with his seatbelt, plucking at it and staring at any passing light with unblinking, amazed eyes. Perry felt as if he was waiting for some sort of explosion, for Harry to do something completely unforeseeable. Jesus, he’d dealt with doped up friends before, many times, but this was different. He hadn’t felt guilt over it, any other time, or as if he’d allowed something in his care to be mishandled.
He didn’t feel like that, didn’t do these things, didn’t behave this way, for anyone.
He wondered, again, how he’d ended up there, with this random, semi-adult, absentminded bit of fluff that he was babysitting, for crissakes. His life had been simple and orderly and all his until he’d let Dabney talk him into pretending to train yet another ‘actor’.
Harry is my friend and we’re here now because I fucked this up.
And Harry was probably going to forgive him for it, whether he remembered anything about it or not.
Harry started to laugh as if he’d just heard the funniest joke in the world, tipping over and leaning against the car door.
“Hey,” Perry said, wishing the car had child proof locks on it. “Stay with me here, Chief.”
Harry kept leaning against the door, but he angled his head to look at Perry. “Perry,” he said. His voice sounded relieved and excited at the same time. “When did you get here?”
“A while ago,” Perry said.
“The funniest fucking thing happened,” Harry said. “Ever. Really. It was so great.”
“What was it?”
“I have no idea,” Harry said. “Wow, you are all, like, sideways and shit. Are you an acrobat, today?”
“Sit up straight, idiot,” Perry said. “What’s your middle name?”
“Emerson,” Harry said.
Perry wanted to make some comment about it, but Harry wasn’t in any condition to verbally spar with him, and that took the fun out of it. Plus, he’d already known Harry’s middle name after running a background check on him months earlier. Harry was wasted, but wasn’t missing much of his higher brain function, because he was answering quickly without getting disoriented. He hadn’t been roofied that hard, then, just enough to make him compliant enough to kidnap. That shit tended to kick in 15-20 minutes after ingestion, especially with alcohol, and would have knocked Harry for a loop long enough to give the E time to kick in a while later.
“You have to tell me if you start feeling like it’s too hot in here, okay?” Perry said.
“I love you,” Harry said. “You know that, right? God, I love you. You are great.”
“And this is the part where I remember that E makes people get all affectionate,” Perry said. “My least favorite part.”
“You’re the best friend I’ve ever had,” Harry said.
“That’s the saddest thing anyone’s ever said to me, Harry,” Perry said, and he heard the guilt he felt as he said it.
“I mean it, it’s like, this whole thing, where I accidentally ended up out here and found Harmony and all that stuff happened and here we are, right, all of us, it’s just destiny.”
“No, you and Harmony can be destiny-bound all you want,” Perry said. “You keep me out of that equation.”
“I really, really love you,” Harry said. “Do anything for you.”
“We’ve been through this,” Perry said, gripping the steering wheel until he could feel the tendons in his hands and wrists ache with the strain. “The fact that you’ll say it sober and wasted just makes me think I should have you committed. Aren’t you tired? Why don’t you just close your eyes and get some rest?”
Harry was sitting up again and had gone back to staring at the passing lights with open fascination. “Wow.”
* * *
It wasn’t hard to get him into the house.
Harry was staring at the sky, at the two or three stars that the light pollution didn’t mask, and let himself be guided by one elbow.
Once inside, he danced to unheard music, spinning to something dizzy and beyond the understanding of any typical, inhibited, drugless mind.
Perry debated calling Harmony and decided not to, because she’d want to come over and he wouldn’t really be able to keep her from doing it. She didn’t need to see Harry like that, and she sure as hell didn’t need to try and deal with Harry like that.
She wasn’t responsible for it. He was.
He gave Harry a bottle of water and then set a desk toy in front of him on the counter, some stupid disc-thing a client had given him. It was laser-etched to catch light as it spun and make insane rainbows out of it along the surface.
Harry stared with rapt enjoyment, lips parted. He looked about five years old, suddenly, and Perry was almost sorry he’d done it.
“There you go, Chief,” he said. “Later on we’ll see if Teletubbies is on. I hear that’s a big favorite with the rave set.”
Harry played with the disc for an hour. Perry made coffee, knowing it was going to be a long night, then sat and watched him for a while, unable to stop. Harry was rocking slightly, eyes darting around like he might miss something, hands flat on the counter, eyes huge and bright.
Perry went and made sure everything was locked up, then put things in front of all doors and most doorways in the interest of being alerted should his excessively doped roommate try to explore. He checked his messages. Nothing but a couple of follow-up case details that had nothing to do with Maslin.
He went back out to the kitchen and took the colorful disc away from Harry, and told him to drink the damn water.
Harry seemed to snap awake a little, and he looked around. “When did I get home?”
“Little while ago. Listen, Harry - Harry. Harry.”
Harry finally locked eyes on him and then stared, unblinking. He got up from the bar and came around the counter toward Perry, one hand sliding across the slick surface for support, getting right into Perry’s space and gazing up at him.
The dilated pupils would normally have turned him off, but it only made Harry’s eyes seem impossibly bigger, his focus more intense.
“You are so beautiful,” Harry said breathlessly. “You don’t even know.”
“You’re wasted,” Perry said, trying to ignore the zing of discomfort he felt.
“You don’t even know,” Harry said again. “I see you.”
“You have no idea who I am,” Perry said. “Let it go, Harry. Just ride it out.”
Harry came up close against Perry, face pressed into his chest. “I feel so, so good,” he whispered.
“I know,” Perry said, running a hand through Harry’s hair, feeling him shudder. “It’s okay. I need to ask you some questions.”
“Did he do anything to you?” Perry said, leaving his hand tangled in Harry‘s hair. “Maslin. Did he…touch you?” Just because there weren’t injuries didn’t mean nothing had happened. And there was no way Harry was going to remember a lot of what had happened later, with the cocktail he was riding.
Harry was rubbing his face along Perry’s shirt. “Kissed me,” Harry said. “Wasn’t great. You try it.”
“No,” Perry said deliberately. “I have standards. And morals. Most of the time. Did he say anything to you that you can remember?”
“Hmm. Said it was good to get so much warning. And there was something about…he said he meant it, he’d take me along. I said, sorry, I loooooove Perry.”
“So he dropped me off but I got really lost and then Violet and Bunny came along, and --”
“Violet and Bunny?” Perry said with flat incredulity. “Really?”
“They were so great.”
“You have the worst and best luck, simultaneously, of anyone I’ve ever seen,” Perry said, ignoring the fact that he still had his hand in Harry’s hair.
Harry continued to rub his face into Perry’s shirt.
“Why don’t you go lie down?” Perry said finally, and it came out sounding much gentler than he’d intended.
The next couple of hours sucked.
Harry wandered aimlessly through the house, touching surfaces like they were something new and fascinating. Fingertips were brushed along walls, furniture, countertops. The look on his face was ecstatic wonder. He was obviously getting something out of every encounter, something that should have been ridiculous but managed to come off as sensual and evocative. He rubbed his face and most of his upper body along the back of the couch like a cat, eyes distant with some inner rapture.
Perry would take another bullet before saying so, but it was beautiful. Harry like that was beautiful. He felt a moment of self loathing for thinking so, even though it had little to do with Harry’s maleness. It had more to do with Harry’s Harryness. It was the ultimate version of the person who fished moths out of pools, who saved damsels in distress, who tried to breathe life back into near-strangers lying in the street. This was bad, this was the fucking worst scenario involving Harry that Perry could imagine, because Harry was damn near helpless when he was perfectly sane and sober, and suddenly he was wandering around Perry’s house ten times as helpless but also beautiful and begging to be touched.
Perry tried to keep an eye on him without really looking at him.
Making further eye contact was out of the question.
Harry focused on him occasionally anyway and gravitated toward him, and Perry warded him off as gently as he could.
You smell so good.
Harry pressed against him and breathed deep, moaned low and shameless.
Harry was stupidly affectionate on a regular basis as it was. He’d previously allowed Perry to clap a hand over his mouth without the slightest struggle, kiss him without getting a knee in the balls, slap him without any defensive retaliation. Harry like this was ten times worse, accommodating and sweet.
Perry used those moments to feel Harry’s skin and check for hyperthermia. E was famous for that. If Harry got too hot, things were going to get bad. He knew it. So he broke it up every time Harry tried to start dancing even though there was no music; he was hearing something. He just kept telling him that white, straight boys couldn’t dance, and Harry would laugh and fall against him.
Open mouthed patterns were made on the glass of his living room windows. Harry made breath-patterns of mist and then giggled, drawing aimless figures like a child, tic-tac-toe and stick people. He pressed his entire body against the glass and his eyes grew even more distant, whispers drifting like ghosts, tales told slow and soft and unheard against the cold, smooth surface. He murmured something into the distance, breath and moisture mingled, and Perry wasn’t brave enough to ask.
Perry drank more coffee and fidgeted. He left a message for Dabney, that Maslin had made a break for it. He didn’t give details. He would never tell anyone about this, not about all of it. He would tell Harmony that Harry had been roofied on a bar surveillance, if it came to that, and that was it. He had damn near bullied Harry into the whole thing, even though Harry loved this shit and was always trying to get into the middle of everything. Harry wanted to be useful.
Harry came along again and broke him out of his thoughts. “Hey, Slick.”
“Hey, Chief. You tired yet?”
“No.” Harry stood there and smiled and swayed, never still in his sober moments and twice as bad under a mix of drugs. His shirt was open by several buttons and his hair stood out in all directions, making him look mildly debauched.
“You okay? Still feel good?”
Harry’s smile widened.
“Want some water? I won’t play twenty questions with you, Harry.”
“Do we have any pop?” Harry said.
“It’s ‘soda’ out here, idiot,” Perry said, wanting the contact enough to argue over stupid, pointless shit. He was still concentrating on Harry’s use of ‘we’ and ‘home’ like they were lifelines.
“Do we have anything cold and sweet?” Harry said, and Perry knew he half meant it and was half trying to be lascivious.
“Diet Coke, shithead,” Perry said.
Harry looked at him expectantly.
Perry went to the fridge and reached in for a can, holding it out to Harry impatiently. In his head, it felt more like he was holding out a treat to a wild animal.
Harry came within arm’s length and took it, snapping it open and then drinking half of it. Perry watched his throat work and waited to see what would happen.
Harry put the can on the counter and wandered away again.
Perry suppressed a sigh of relief.
“Why don’t you go lie down for awhile?” he said. “You’re tired, right?”
Harry looked at him for a moment like he’d had some sort of revelation.
“Let’s go swimming,” he said.
“No, Harry. No swimming. Maybe ever. Swimming is not allowed in California.”
Harry frowned a little but seemed to deal with the concept. “Fucking red tide,” Harry said.
“Yeah, exactly. Sure.”
“That was a Rush song,” Harry said. “I think. They’re from Canada.”
“Why don’t you go have a shower?” Perry said. “That’s second place to swimming.”
Harry stared at him, and Perry was afraid they’d have another session of half-cuddling or whatever the hell it was.
Harry focused his attention elsewhere, though, and decided to explore the house a little more. Perry let him go, with relief.
He checked the news, hoping Maslin had been hit by a semi or something and was currently dying a fiery death on some freeway. We was out of luck. He made more coffee and was glad Dabney hadn’t fronted him a retainer on this one, because he’d have had to give it back anyway.
It had been quiet for too long. A quiet Harry was a bad thing.
He went down the hall and checked Harry‘s room, then started checking each room. Nothing. Not until he got to his own room, the one place Harry had been warned away from repeatedly.
He stared, aroused and horrified and sympathetic.
Harry was on his bed, shirt on the floor, writhing mindlessly on the silk sheets, lost in the sensation alone.
Knowing he was being damn near voyeuristic, he half-closed the door and went back out to the kitchen to lean against the counter with his palms pressed against his eyes.
He waited a few minutes, then went to check again, and Harry was out like a light, spread out over as much of the bed as he could get. His breathing was a little rapid, but he didn’t seem to be any warmer than he needed to be.
Perry went back out and settled himself on the couch, flipping channels to calm himself, trying to pretend everything was normal. Not much else he could do until morning. At least Harry had settled down.
It felt like moments later when he startled awake, and he lifted his head with a sense of anxiety. He checked his watch. He’d been out for about twenty minutes. Harry. Where was Harry?
He stalked through the house, not daring to shout for him, afraid of what he might find. Or not find.
The house was empty.
He immediately went for the driveway. Harry was outside, a silhouette against off-orange streetlights.
Naked, as the day he was born.
Harry’s clothes were strewn from the doorway to the driveway, flung off one piece at a time.
Perry made quick, purposeful strides to where he stood.
Harry whispered something unintelligible without looking at him.
“Are you --” Perry didn’t get to finish.
Harry’s breath came too quickly, a low panting between words. He looked up at Perry with eyes that were far too bright for the lack of light. “Help.”
* * *
Harry’s temp reached 106.3.
* * *
Perry had no problem swinging Harry into his arms and getting him into the bathroom and running a tub of cool - not cold - water. Heat was radiating off his skin but he clung to Perry and shivered like he was freezing.
Once Harry hit the water, however, his cooperation ended.
Perry had braced himself, but there was no bracing oneself against someone who was drugged, crazed with fever, and panicking. Harry had already been wiry and quick, and in his right mind would still have been something to deal with under the right circumstances. As it was, it was like dealing with a flailing, squalling, Harry-sized cat.
“Harry! Harry, calm down, dammit, it’s just --”
No reasoning with him, either.
Harry got in one lucky shot, to Perry’s nose with a struggling elbow, and it wasn’t bad enough to break anything but it stung like no one’s business. Perry tried to hold him down with his eyes tightly shut against the pain and shock, knowing that if Harry kept struggling it was only going to be worse for them both.
Then Harry started shrieking.
Completely unnerved, Perry started the shower so that Harry was going to get cooled down no matter what, then got into the tub with him and wrapped his arms around the struggling form, getting soaked with him and shivering with the mixture of cold and worry.
Harry ran out of energy quickly after that, shivering along with Perry, screams dying to low sobs as he stayed tense against Perry’s chest.
Perry had never felt so sorry for someone in his whole life.
He made hushing sounds over the sound of the shower, cool water beating against his clothes and streaming down his face, holding Harry almost too tightly just to keep him still; Harry’s too-hot skin nearly burned him through cloth.
* * *
Harry was nearly unresponsive once he was cool enough to remove from the water. All his energy went into shivering.
* * *
After a perfunctory towel-off, Perry put Harry in his bed, onto the same silk sheets he’d been so enamored of earlier.
It was the first time since puberty that he’d been to bed with a guy and not fucked him.
Harry wrapped himself in tight, arms and legs, nearly suffocating them both with how badly he needed the contact.
Perry just held on, knowing he owed Harry at least that much.
He drifted off once or twice only to startle awake any time Harry made the slightest noise or motion. Harry stayed cool and breathed evenly and didn’t die.
When he woke again, it was getting light, and Harry had retreated to the other side of the bed.
Perry stared at the ceiling as the light changed, thinking about how he should have been right back on the case last night and trying to track Maslin down, figured out where he’d gone and finished what he’d set out to do. But he had dropped everything for Harry. He tried to tell himself that didn’t mean anything, that it was just a combination of his own guilt and Harry’s patent helplessness.
He rolled out of bed and checked for messages, checked in with the cops (no hit on the APB) and wondered how pissed Dabney was going to be. He decided he didn’t care.
He finished up some casework on something they’d wrapped a few days earlier, making out what he could of Harry’s notes and filing the report away.
Somewhere around nine, he tried to wake Harry and make him deal with toast and juice, but Harry wasn’t interested in lifting his head, much less eating anything. He was too out of it, and he never quite woke up enough to do more than blink and nod.
Perry let him sleep it off. He did the math in his head, and figured the worst of it was just finally beginning to wear off. The drugs he knew about, anyway.
Dabney called at about 10:30. Perry gave him a brief rundown. Dabney really didn’t need to know more than ‘the asshole drugged my employee and dumped him in an alley’.
“Yeah, he does that,” Dabney said.
Perry let a long beat of silence pass. “Say again?”
“Maslin roofies just about everybody he comes near,” Dabney said, and Perry could hear him shuffling paper in the background like what he’d just said was perfectly normal. “Everybody knows that.”
“It would have been nice to know that just a little earlier,” Perry said, tone sharp with sarcasm.
“Well, what the fuck, Perry,” Dabney said. “You’re the detective. I figured you’d have done a little research.”
Perry wasn’t sure who he hated more right about then - Maslin, Dabney, or himself.
When he tried to wake Harry at noon to make him drink something, anything, Harry was marginally more lucid for nearly a minute.
“I’m naked in your bed,” he said slowly. “Is that good or bad?”
“You remember anything?” Perry said, tugging Harry up enough to handle the bottle of water he offered.
Harry winced at the daylight coming in the southern-facing window and sipped at the water before downing half of it like he’d been in the desert. Perry grabbed it back, worried Harry might throw it right back up.
Harry looked at him like he‘d completely lost the train of their conversation. “What?”
“Do you remember anything?”
Harry wavered a little, eyes darting around the room. “Little bits. I didn’t want to go with him, I swear.”
“I know,” Perry said. “Don’t worry about it. He drugged the shit out of you.”
Harry nodded a little and frowned. “Did you try to drown me?”
“Yes,” Perry said.
“Okay. I gotta piss.”
Perry gave his unsteady roommate a hand out of bed and then studiously ignored him from the shoulders down. He hung around outside the bathroom door.
“If you fall in there and crack your head open, I’m going to really drown you this time,” he said.
Harry thought that was funny and snorted with laughter. “What the fuck am I on? I am so hung over.”
“We’ll talk about it later.”
Harry came out, hairline damp from washing his face. “Should I go get in my own bed?” he said.
Harry meandered back to bed with only one misstep, but he managed not to tumble.
He pulled the covers up and hunkered down until his head was mostly covered. “Why are you being so nice to me? I fucked up.”
“You didn’t,” Perry said. “And I’m not being nice. You’re imagining all of this.”
Harry made a humming noise and remained still.
Perry tried to get some work done while keeping an ear out for Harry.
The cops found Maslin’s car abandoned in Tahoe. It was no small stretch to think he’d fled the country.
Wasn’t his case anymore.
Harmony called around three. “I just got in. Tell me how the big date went. Was he adorable?”
“He was,” Perry said. “Too adorable. The mark made him and drugged him.”
“Oh, shit. Perry, goddamnit! Is he okay?”
“Yeah,” Perry said, sighing a little to himself. “I would have tracked you down if he wasn’t. He’s just a little hung over and he’s gotta sleep it off. Come see him tomorrow when he’s human again. I don’t think he can stand a lot of attention right now.”
“You’d better not blame him for this,” Harmony said. “There’s no way he would have seen this coming, and you are way too hard on him.”
“I don’t blame him,” Perry said. “Okay? Yell at me later, I feel bad enough as it is. I know he doesn’t know better.”
She paused. “Are you okay? You don’t sound like yourself.”
“There are maybe three days a year I’m not an asshole, Harmony, and I’m using one today,” he said.
“You were scared,” Harmony said, like it was a revelation. “I have never seen you scared, even while you were being shot at. What else happened?”
“I’m just tired,” Perry said. “Anyone would be after a night of dealing with sober Harry. Drugged-up Harry is way too much Harry.”
He heard her snort a little. “Okay, if that’s all it is. Are you sure I should wait until tomorrow?”
“He’s too out of it to talk,” Perry said. “Let him come down a ways and it’ll be fine.”
“It’s cute when you get all protective of him,” she said.
Her tone was only partly teasing.
“No idea what the fuck you’re talking about.”
She laughed and said right, whatever, and the conversation was over.
* * *
Perry made something simple for dinner with the intention of enticing Harry with it, but he didn’t have to. Harry shuffled out around six, sleepy-eyed and fully dressed. His face was blank and Perry didn’t take that as a good sign. He watched Harry climb onto a barstool at the counter with exaggerated care before he slid a bottle of water over to him.
Harry took it with marked disinterest and sipped at it. Perry restrained himself from coming around the counter to feel his skin and see what temp he was.
“Tell me how you feel,” Perry said instead. “And I mean, in full sentences, with many details, as if you were on a stakeout on yourself.”
Harry frowned over that for a moment, but it appeared to make sense to him. “Disconnected,” he said. “Thirsty, like, all over thirsty, and tired, and not like myself, meaning everything seems really far away and I don’t really care about it right now.”
“Okay,” Perry said, turning away to turn off the stove. “That’s a good start. Hot, cold? Hurt anywhere?”
“Back hurts a little,” Harry said dully. “Not running a fever or anything. I just feel bad, like something bad happened but I can’t remember what it was. Did something bad happen?”
“Just that Maslin grabbed you and dragged you around for awhile after doping you,” Perry said, coming closer to lean his elbows against the opposite side of the counter. He looked Harry over carefully, and Harry looked as sad as he sounded. “You’re coming down off what he doped you with, which is pretty normal. He started with E - you know what that is? - and then he tossed a few other things in, which made it worse.”
“He made me,” Harry said, then clarified once he realized Perry looked worried and confused. “I mean, he made my cover. Long before I got there. It never occurred to me that he’d put something in my drink.”
“Me either, if it’s any consolation,” Perry said.
Harry took a deep breath and glanced around like he was trying to reacquaint himself with reality. “How long did he have me?”
Perry paused, and Harry was just lucid enough to catch it. He refocused on Perry and looked hard. “Jesus, Perry, how long did he have me?”
“Couple of hours, before he dropped you off near Glassell Park,” Perry said, eyes on the counter.
“Long enough to scare you a little?” Harry said. “I remember him finding the wire and telling me you said it was okay to leave with him and get in the car, and I couldn’t get my shit together.”
Perry’s mouth was set into a line that said there was some emotion trying to get loose.
“I remember…him ranting at me about something, partly about you and mostly about his boss, I was trying to make sense of it, and then he kept trying to get me to say I’d go with him wherever the fuck he was going. He started yelling about how he was sorry about Matt but he didn’t have any choice.“
“Matt,” Perry said.
Harry nodded. “I knew I was doped, but I couldn’t seem to do anything about it and I didn’t agree to anything. He didn’t do anything to me, but I think…for a little while there, it seemed like he was gearing up to do something. Which one of you said I had ‘the ass of a sixteen year old track star‘?”
“That was me,” Perry said shortly.
“Good, I wasn’t sure where that came from anymore,” Harry said. “He kept reaching for me and then would back off, it was really fucked up. He broke my phone, did you find it?”
Perry nodded. “Yeah, Chief, I did.”
“I don’t remember being dropped off, but I kind of remember Bunny and Violet. They were nice, and then you showed up, and I was so glad, and after that it’s mainly…lights and everything being fucking beautiful and feeling really, really good until the cold water. Why did you dunk me in cold water?”
“Your brain was frying,” Perry said, tone clipped.
Harry waited. Perry didn’t have anything to add, so he waited too.
Harry kept looking at him narrowly.
Harry blinked. “This is the part where you’re supposed to say ‘it didn’t make any difference’ or ‘a little frying might be an improvement for you’, or whatever.”
“Not much about this was funny, Harry,” Perry said.
“I fucked this up,” Harry said. “I’m sorry, I thought --”
“No,” Perry said quickly, cutting him off. “That’s not what I meant. I didn’t catch on in time, and I told you I’d watch your back. He could have really hurt you, and he almost did. I’m sorry.”
Harry stared at him like he didn’t know him.
“C’mon, I want you to eat something,” Perry said, turning away again.
“I’m not sure I --”
“Eat. Something. Now.”
Harry dutifully picked at what was put in front of him (turkey was good after a run-in with E; anything with tryptophan was), and Perry knew all too well that he had no appetite. He’d done E before, for fun, and at the best it was just a lack of appetite. With whatever else Harry had been dosed with against his will, it had to be worse.
They watched tv for awhile, and Harry dozed off again. When he woke, he was thirsty and mildly disoriented and as close to morose as Perry thought Harry was capable of getting.
Perry gave him water and then sent the kid back to his own bed because that was likely the only thing he was going to do right for Harry, out of the whole mess. Harry still hadn’t asked him many questions, and Perry was grateful.
* * *
When he went in to get Harry up the next morning, Harry was already awake and staring at him with large, dark eyes, head off the pillow, lying prone and half-covered, hands loosely curled. Perry didn’t say anything for a moment. Then he entered and sat on the edge of the bed.
“Why am I so sad?” Harry said, voice low and hoarse.
“The drugs used up all the serotonin you had at once,” Perry said. He clasped his hands in his lap and tried to make it look casual instead of what it really was: a struggle not to touch.
Harry seemed to mull that over. “So I used all the…happiness I had, in one night?”
“It’ll be back,” Perry said. “Give it a couple of days and eat a lot of turkey and bananas and you’ll be you again.”
Harry turned over and blinked at him expectantly, but Perry kept his gaze slightly to one side of his face. He‘d passed up another perfect opportunity to be sarcastic, and he knew it. “How long until you’re you again?” Harry said softly. “Because every hour that goes by that you don’t call me an idiot or insult me kind of makes it worse.”
Perry shook his head. He had a whole lecture to give, there, on how fucked up that was. He’d asked Harry many times, generally out of anger, what the fuck was wrong with him, and neither of them had an answer.
He patted Harry stiffly and absently on one hip and rose to go. “Come out and eat something,” he said. “Have a shower. You’ll feel better. Harmony’s coming over. That’ll cheer you up.”
* * *
It did cheer him up.
Harmony came in and kissed Perry, and there was no recrimination in her face, just a little bit of pity and something a little sly, like she’d figured something out and wasn’t going to say anything about it. Perry rolled his eyes.
Harry and Harmony went to the beach. Later that afternoon a small portion of the feeling of doom lifted as his head cleared a little further, and it was replaced with worry about how hard Perry was taking everything.
* * *
A small, generic thank-you notecard with no return address was in the mail when Perry went to pick it up.
The postmark was from Tahoe, a day earlier.
The moment I saw your sidekick, I figured you were around. Thanks for the sacrificial lamb.
It would have been fun to break him in, but I decided distracting you would be more useful. I’m sure it was an interesting night or two.
If I ever see him again, I’m going to really break him.
Kind of a sweet kid. What’s he doing hanging out with you?
It was unsigned. Perry wasn’t surprised.
The problem was, he’d gotten a little complacent and jaded about what it took to really take down the typical idiot in LA, and he had not only misjudged Maslin, he’d been distracted long before Harry had been drugged.
Harry was already known. Perry should have realized it, realized that the whole goddamn town already had him made as Perry’s sidekick. As Perry’s anything.
* * *
When Harry got back, Perry was gone. There was dinner in the fridge and a note on the counter.
Stakeout. Don’t wait up.
He felt a little off and knew Perry wasn’t going to clear him to work again until he was 100%, or whatever passed for that, but this wasn’t how they did things.
As pissed as he was, he still let it rest for a couple of days. Even he knew, sometimes, when to let something sit. He let Perry avoid him, and let him make awkward conversation when he couldn’t.
He screwed with the coffee pot. He changed all the settings.
He spent the extra time pulling things from Perry’s bookshelves. He didn’t want to borrow Harmony’s Johnny Gossamers because he didn’t think he could crack them open ever again.
There were actually encyclopedias, for fuck’s sake, and a series of something that looked like thinly veiled gay romance, and sets of books on poisons, crime scene investigation, fingerprinting. Some of them were seriously old, like Perry was a collector.
Real private detective shit. Harry felt a moment of minor hero worship. Again.
By process of elimination, he ended up with some old volume of Sherlock Holmes stories. He’d had to read Hound of the Baskervilles in school and all he remembered was there was some dog killing people, and it hadn’t sucked more than anything else he’d had to read in school.
If it would make Perry happy in any way, he would try it.
* * *
That crazy shit turned out to be hilariously interesting. And, man. Perry was not the world’s first gay detective.
* * *
He didn’t exactly pick the best time to jump in with both feet, but he wasn’t sure when that would have been anyway.
He watched Perry move around the office upstairs, staking him out. He knew Perry knew he was there, because Perry’s shoulders were stiff, but he didn’t get called on it. That was bad, too; Perry should have yelled at him or at least told him to fuck off.
He stalked up to Perry‘s desk. “You told me I didn’t fuck up. And I’m all drug-free now. So how come I’m not even filing shit? Am I fired?”
Perry raised his eyebrows without looking up at him. “According to you, you didn’t officially work here anyway, remember?”
“Hilarious. Are we still roommates, then, or are you just gonna ignore me until I go away?”
“Are you going to be a girl about this?” Perry said, continuing to focus on paperwork. “I thought you’d love a vacation.”
“This isn’t a vacation,” Harry snapped. “This is being sidelined. This is bullshit.”
“Well, your current career path isn’t doing much more than almost getting you killed on a regular basis,” Perry said. “Might wanna try something less dangerous, like shark baiting or joining a militia.”
“I agreed to do the thing with Maslin!”
Perry stilled. “I didn’t give you much choice, Harry.”
Harry shook his head. “You were heavy handed, but you always are, and I’m not scared of you. Except when you’re acting like you might kill me, but even then, I’m not exactly scared, it’s more like I don’t want to get pummeled, I hate getting the shit beaten out of me, it sucks. So I could have come up with another plan if I didn’t like yours. I just let you persuade me.”
Perry slammed his hands down on his desk, flinching when Harry did. “That’s bullshit,” he snapped, finally looking at him. “You’ve told me one too many times that you’d do anything for me. What the fuck is that? I don’t want that from you.”
“That’s pretty much what you’re getting anyway,” Harry shot back. “I’m sorry, what? I’m some fucking loser you took in. What the fuck did you do that for? I’ve got a job and a better life and I get to be close to Harmony, because of you. I’d be in jail or dead by now, otherwise, the way I was headed.”
Perry just shook his head. “That’s why you let me get away with so much?” he said.
“No. Because we’re friends, and you’ll never really hurt me,” Harry said. “You won’t. I can feel it.”
Perry felt a shiver he couldn’t fully suppress. “You were so nervous about Maslin because you knew what he was like, you could tell,” he said. “You’re a good judge of character most of the time, aren’t you. It’s what’s kept you alive all this time.”
Perry slumped back in his chair, looking mildly defeated. “I’ll wash your hair, if you want,” he said.
“Oh my God,” Harry said, tipping his head back and closing his eyes. “You’re turning me gay.”
“Oh, you’re doing that all on your own, Harry,” Perry said. “Don’t think of it as gay. Think of it as an ‘alternative lifestyle’. Plus, you said there was nothing wrong with it.”
“There isn’t,” Harry said. “Because it’s you.”
He tilted his head forward again and stared at Perry, but Perry didn’t meet his eyes. Couldn’t.
“I would do anything for you,” Harry said. “You’re the best friend I’ve ever had.”
Perry wished that didn’t frighten him so. He grimaced and dug the heel of one hand into an eye. “I’m so sorry,” he said.
“No,” Harry said. “C‘mon. That wasn’t your fault. There was no way --”
“Harry,” Perry said gently, and Harry fell silent. No shouting, this once, no hands-over-mouths. “Shut up. It was my fault.”
They were silent for a long moment, registering at least an 8 on the awkward scale by Perry’s estimation. He got up and came around the desk and looked out the window so he could turn his back to Harry for a minute and get some distance.
Harry fidgeted for a moment more, then said, “It was worth a wound.”
Perry turned and stared at him, finally meeting his eyes. He could tell by the look in Harry’s eyes that the jackass had gone out of his way to not only listen, but to try to join in. He smirked a little in acknowledgment and tried not to encourage him too much.
“Being forced to suck face with that asshole was on a level with getting shot?”
Harry snorted. “He was never the first guy to kiss me, anyway, right?”
Perry stepped forward and grabbed him.
He took Harry’s face in both hands, cradled him close, and pulled him in. Harry fell into it without struggle, just acceded to Perry’s wishes; he trusted so hard that Perry felt it like a blow. Harry was trusting, but not this trusting, not with five priors and two stints in jail, not with an ex wife and a life in New York. This was trust in its purest form, lodged in his gut, with no fear or hesitation.
He gave Harry a moment to back away, to shove him off, but he never did. He just blinked up at him and waited.
When lips met, Harry never shied away, just pressed in closer, hands tangling in Perry’s shirt, mouth opening when Perry drew his tongue against his lower lip. Asking, not telling, soft and respectful.
Harry actually let him in.
For a real kiss, it was heartfelt and messy, nothing like the movies and everything like real life, a press of lips and teeth and tongues, meaning more than most things. Harry tasted of fear and need, coffee and cigarettes, personal and desperate and loved.
Perry had never wanted anything so badly in his life.
It couldn’t happen, but he could have this, just this once. Someone else had kissed Harry, with all the wrong intent and for all the wrong reasons, and he had to clear it away with this, with something real.
Harry moaned into it, pressing in, hands clenched into Perry’s clothes, pulling himself in deeper.
Perry felt himself respond and knew that was the end, that unless he quit, it was no longer something soothing and claiming and cleansing but would become everything and god please yes.
He gently pulled away and was met with resistance.
“You’re okay,” Perry whispered against Harry‘s mouth. “You’re okay.”
A return whisper, a further press of lips. “Perry --”
Goddamnit. So needy, so there.
“Now I’m the first and last guy to ever kiss you,” Perry said. He leaned in for another quick, full meeting of mouths, then set Harry away from him, trying to ignore the sleepy-stunned-aroused look on Harry’s face. “You got that?”
Harry nodded quickly, swallowing hard enough that Perry could hear it.
Perry walked away from him, because if he didn’t put some distance between them then and there, they would be something else.
Harry watched him walk away, fingers pressed against his own lips, stunned into letting it happen.
* * *
Perry looked close into the life of Matthew Caldwell, Maslin’s last ex, without being open about it.
He started yelling about how he was sorry about Matt but he didn’t have any choice.
Perry had waved a red flag at a lunatic without realizing he was doing it, without taking care to understand that he was doing it. Matt, Harry’s height and build with dark, clueless-looking eyes and dark lashes. Matt, who’d vanished after leaving a bar in West LA three months earlier with someone who wasn’t Maslin. There’d been an investigation, but there wasn’t much close family around to care, and the one night stand had been able to produce a decent alibi.
A skeleton matching the basic description had been found in the Nevada desert with bones showing at least 14 knife marks. No teeth.
Not conclusive, but enough for Perry.
Harry didn’t resist or make a remark of any kind when Perry grabbed him as he walked by and hugged him. It was brief and rough and still completely un-Perry like, but Harry wrapped arms around and took it for what it was: free affection.
* * *
“Oh my God, that’s Violet!”
Perry slowed immediately. They had been looking for nearly a week and he’d been ready to call it off because not even he was arrogant enough to keep prowling around Avenues territory with any impunity.
Harry barely waited for him to come to a full stop before he jumped out with the flowers. For all his lack of grace and propriety, though, all the enthusiasm, he approached carefully. Perry closed the door and didn’t mind that he didn’t hear the words that followed; Harry was all shy gratefulness and the look of recognition on the woman’s face was payoff enough. He was hugged, and got his hair ruffled, and was generally fussed over. She took the flowers with a fond look, kissing Harry’s cheek. Harry’s blush reached his ears.
A New Yorker, now LA transplant, who could still blush.
“Fuck me running,” Perry murmured. He took a deep, audible breath. “You, Perry, are currently in possession of a fucking unicorn.”
Harry bounced from foot to foot and shrugged, and when he finally came back to the car he looked a little more settled and content.
Perry waited until he got buckled in. “So when, exactly, do you start shooting rainbows out of your ass?”
The confusion was as cute as everything else. Perry wondered if they made a microwave big enough to put Harry in.
“Never mind. Feel better?”
Harry sighed contentedly. “Yeah, actually,” he said. “In a lot of ways.”
* * *
Perry knew better. He knew better. No cute, straight morons, no hoping, no waiting.
But God, it would be good. Love was involved for once, and he’d catalogue every breath, figure out what made Harry lose his mind. Harry was of the kind that would throw himself into it, give himself over in so many ways, for so many reasons. Harry made him laugh, reminded him of what was good in the world. He hadn’t thought there was anyone or anything that could bring that back to him.
One day, maybe, Harry and Harmony would stop working and just go back to being friends. He didn’t expect it; but he could wait.
Just this once.
* * * * * *