Culture Shock
© 2009 gekizetsu

KKBB, PG-13 for viciously foul language, Perry’s behavior and Harry’s lack of a brain filter. There are a bunch of things about LA life that are foreign to a New Yorker…or maybe just to Harry.

1. That was never good for anything before…

Harry had a few strange talents that wouldn’t usually be good for much. Or they hadn’t been, until he’d ended up working for Perry.

“Wait,” Harry said as they came up to the next yellow light. “Don’t run it. The next will be red, we’ll catch up.”

“How do you know?”

Perry was irate. They weren’t supposed to have to even follow this guy at all, had no idea where he was going, and it was all the way north in Simi Valley where neither of them knew the area.

Harry didn’t answer. He was staring ahead, way ahead with some thousand-yard stare, unblinking. Harry could never think and talk at the same time, so Perry decided against reaching over and slapping him in the side of the head, but only because he really didn‘t want to lose sight of the moron they were following.

The next light up turned red a moment later, catching their guy in its thrall.

Perry drummed his fingers on the steering wheel impatiently, watching the mirrors, sighing.

Their light turned green. Perry rolled forward and settled two vehicles behind their mark.

“Next two lights will be green,” Harry said.

Perry didn’t say anything; he just simmered. When the light turned green, he kept enough space to allow for the next two lights to be green, for Christ’s sake, and Harry turned out to be right.

“Run the next yellow,” Harry said.

Perry did, veering around an Accord to do it.

“Next will be red, then another green.”

They kept pace with the guy back onto the freeway, never losing sight of him.

Harry settled back into his seat, looking distant.

“You can play the lights,” Perry said. “How idiot savant of you…without the savant.”

Harry smirked.

Perry took note and decided that Harry would be with him anytime he needed to shadow anybody in a car. He was not going to ask how Harry had learned that skill.

= = =

2. Guy talk: not quite the same.

“What does cock taste like?” Harry said.

“Chicken,” Perry shot back immediately.

Harry howled with laughter. Full on, drunken, rolling-against-the-seat laughter, and Perry watched with amused interest. Harry usually avoided discussing anything gay unless he was pointing out just how gay Perry was. Put some alcohol in him, though, and the idiot would pop out with ridiculous, pre-teen level questions.

“Why do you think no one can resist it?” Perry said. “Dumbass. It depends. What does pussy taste like?”

Harry mulled it over for a moment with a dreamy look on his face, head lolling against the seat. “It’s…it depends, I guess.”

“As if I believe you’ve ever been close enough to one to taste,” Perry scoffed.

“Hey,” Harry said, punctuating a moment of excessive defensiveness with a finger pointed in Perry‘s direction. “I was married, once, okay?”

“Exactly my point,” Perry said, an eyebrow raised at the finger.

Harry looked confused.

“I‘m not your gay Obi-Wan,” Perry said. “Quit asking me questions like you’re writing a fucking book about it.”

“I just like to watch the wildlife in its natural habitat,” Harry said.

“Oooh, it tries to be clever,” Perry said. “It fails.”

= = =

3. Terrifying local shit

Perry was in the kitchen making toast when the world shifted.

There was a preliminary jittering, rapid and typical of a large truck passing, but Perry knew what it was immediately, and he braced his hands on the counter for the secondary wave. It wasn’t that bad, just an unsettling twenty seconds or so of a rolling sensation as the building gently shifted back and forth. It stopped as quickly as it had started, leaving an eerie silence in its wake.

Perry rolled his eyes and took a brief inventory. No sounds of crashing from other rooms, no interruption of power. No big deal.

Harry came into the room, walking stiffly as if he was so wound up that he was unable to get everything to work properly. The whites of his eyes were showing. He came to stand within a hairsbreadth of Perry, not quite touching, as close as he could get without actually latching on.

Perry wound up with a standard disclaimer, the one he’d been given the first time he‘d experienced an earthquake. “It’s just -”

“I know what it is,” Harry said, hushed to a whisper as if noise might disturb the earth’s crust into doing more dance moves. “I’ve just never been in one before, you know? Ever. That shit doesn’t happen in Indiana or New York, not in my lifetime, and you hear about shit and see it on TV and you think you know but you don’t. So, on TV they tell you to get under something or get in a doorway or find the strongest place in the building.”

Perry listened to Harry describe him as the strongest place in the building, and therefore didn’t shove him away and tell him to get a grip. After a moment, he said, “It’s okay, Harry. The news makes it sound like we get one every day, but I’ve only been in maybe five, and they were all nothing to worry about.”

“It comes back, though,” Harry said, low and worried, breath soft against Perry’s collarbone. “What’s it called…the after. Aftershocks.”

“And they’re always smaller,” Perry said, leaning in toward him a little. “Hiccups. It’s nothing. I promise.”

Harry sighed audibly and seemed less afraid, suddenly, but still shaken.

“It’s not like getting shot or anything,” Perry said, meaning to make a joke of it.

“Yeah,” Harry whispered. “It’s worse. Bullets make noise, and warn you, and stuff.”

Perry had enough kindness in him to stand still until Harry could just walk away on his own.

= = =

4. Stuff he doesn’t want to know

Perry peeled the banana slowly. “Damn, I love a ripe, fresh banana.”

Harry grunted and kept filing.

“Nothing like a goddamn fresh banana,” Perry said.

Harry ignored him.

“Mmmmm,” Perry moaned. “This is the best fucking banana I’ve ever -- ”

Harry whipped his head around in annoyance. “What’s so goddamn --”

Perry deep throated the banana in one motion.

Harry’s eyes rounded in shock and fascination. He met Perry’s eyes and then quickly looked away, hands frozen above the open file drawer, face pale with horror.

Then he walked away, stiffly.

Perry, laughter muffled by an excessive mouthful of fruit, followed him outside and found him patting his pockets frantically for a cig.

“Not funny,” Harry said.

“Seriously, you’ve never seen anyone do that before?” Perry said. “You are so behind. And obviously dating the wrong girls.”

“Still not funny,” Harry said in a strangled voice that said he was serious. “God, Perry.”

“It’s a skill that’s required in order to live in LA,” Perry said. “It’s like the regional secret handshake.”

Harry was shaking so hard that he dropped the first cig he managed to get his fingers around.

“Harry. Harry. What‘s the big deal? I‘m just teasing you, you big girl.” Perry paused. “Holy shit, that turned you on, didn‘t it.”

“Shut up,” Harry said. “That’s perfectly normal.”

Perry left a banana on his desk every morning for a week, after that, but made no comments and kept the smirking to himself.

That somehow made it worse.

= = =

5. Shooting a guy

The guy had deserved it.

Seriously, sitting that girl down on the bed and making her think she was fine, then whipping a gun out of nowhere and plugging her. Sure, she was part of the whole thing, but shit. That was just cold.

Yet, the finger hurt less than the memory-loop of watching somebody die and knowing that he’d been the one to do it. On purpose. Even if the guy had deserved it.

Even knowing, later, that it been the same guy who’d tried to kill Harmony in the park didn’t completely kill off the weird spike of guilt and horror that came with the realization that he had killed a guy.

The firefight after he and Perry had been shot wasn’t the same. Everybody was armed. That was fair.

He was a thief. He’d been a thief for a long time. When things got bad or out of control, he vanished. He’d never learned to fight because he hadn’t needed to - he just avoided violence. He didn’t need violence, didn’t have the stomach for it. Didn’t want to hurt people, not really. Maybe financially when he stole shit, but fuck, there was insurance or whatever for that. Big deal.

When he’d hit Perry, it had been the first time in years that he’d done anything like that.

Shot twice, beaten to a pulp, half a finger gone, balls electrocuted and a handful of dead bodies behind him in the space of days; love of his life, new coast, best friend ever and new job on top of it.

What a week.

He watched Perry and Harmony play some card game and do shots, and realized he’d shoot anybody to keep them safe.

= = =

6. Acting

Perry sighed. “Enough, already. If I have to hear the dialogue again, I’ll throw you under a bus, and myself right after.”

“C’mon,” Harry said. “Harmony won’t run lines with me anymore.”

“Because you keep critiquing her, idiot,” Perry said. “You’re the least qualified person in a thousand mile radius to do that. What is this for, again?”

“It’s a pilot. It’s a spinoff for one of those cop shows. C’mon.”

Dabney had shown Harry’s ‘audition tape’ from the previous year to an exec, God help him, and someone actually thought Harry was perfect for a role. No one had ever told Dabney that nothing on the tape was acting. All of a sudden Harry had head shots that were just pictures instead of the kind that people often tried to take with a gun.

Okay, the one photo shoot was…well, it had turned out okay. Harry cleaned up respectably. Privately, Perry was slightly discomfited to discover that the scruffy, quirky screwup working for him was something of a hotass under the right circumstances. Harmony was giving out copies of the photos like they were party favors.

It wasn’t like Harry was going to get the part. It wasn’t like Harry was going to end up running off and becoming an actor and just…running off.

Still, Perry had a little residual guilt left after screwing the kid over that one Christmas and making him think he was really training him for a film. So what if he had to humor him a little? What did it hurt?

What did it matter if Perry was just now finding out, accidentally, that Harry was beautiful in ways he hadn’t seen, and that others could see it?

Harry leaned over his desk, arms braced, glowering. In character. “You’re going to tell me everything you know, or I’m going to put a bullet in your head.”


Perry leaned in, smirking. “Try and get a little of my brain matter on you, and see if it makes you any smarter, punk.”


7. Jealousy over something that has nothing to do with chicks


“Are you deaf?” Perry said. “I said Dabney’s got another ‘actor’ he wants me to train. Some kid from Florida. He’s coming in on Friday.”

It took Perry another moment or so to realize Harry was still standing there frozen. He glanced up. “What.”

Harry began to shift his weight from foot to foot. “So…training. Like, whatever case comes up, or something we have open?”

“Probably just the Gordon case,” Perry said, turning his attention back to typing up notes. “Not much left to do with that. It’ll give the little pissant something to do.”

More silence. Perry usually treasured that from Harry, but after more than a minute of it, it signaled some kind of impending disaster. He’d had Harry around long enough to know that. He sighed deeply, wondering what the hell it was this time.

When he glanced up again to lay into Harry and tell him to go find something to do that was more productive than staring, he paused. Harry had big brown eyes that were absolutely pathetic when Harry was worried. “What the hell is your problem?”

“I should come along, right? In case you need backup or something.”

“Why the hell would I need -”

Perry stopped himself. He hadn’t gotten as far as he had in the PI business without picking up clues and understanding subtle human behavior. Harry, luckily, didn’t do subtle.

The last time he’d ‘trained’ an actor, it had been Harry. And Harry had stuck around ever since.

“…to train some dipshit wannabe anyway?” Perry finished. “He’ll just wanna see a body or get into a car chase or something. Kids these days just watch CSI and think they know everything. Set up some kind of bullshit for us to run into, get Harmony involved. Tell her we’ve got an acting job for her and Dabney’s paying.”

Harry’s face lit up. “That’s fucking genius.” He turned and headed for the stairs.

“No dead girls in lakes,” Perry called after him. “I’m in no mood for swimming.”

He shook his head and went back to typing.

= = =

8. Getting kissed by a guy

Harry panicked, actually, unable to process the idea before it was something tangible. Perry hadn’t explained, had just given him an order and then grabbed him. He hadn’t even known the guy, really, except for maybe discovering dead bodies and bonding over first aid, and really who knew what kind of rules there were for hanging around gay guys in dark alleys in LA? Maybe that was par for the course. Then he’d realized there were cops nearby and it was all a distraction, and the relief let him sort of pet Perry’s hair and stop freaking out, a little, or at least pretend he wasn’t.

Later on he found himself a little insulted and regretful that Perry hadn’t just been unable to resist his hotness, that it was just to keep the cops from coming closer. That would still have been creepy, but cooler. Not that he wanted guys kissing him. He never, ever, wanted guys kissing him. Perry had smelled great and his mouth had been warm and it had been kind of interesting to have someone bigger pressed against him, lots of muscle and overpowering and not giving him a choice.

He slapped a hand against his forehead and went to call Harmony, because hearing her voice was such a good idea.

= = =

And one item Perry totally doesn’t get

He can’t be the one who teaches Harry how to defend himself.

He can’t.

Harry would be one of two things - completely, ridiculously serious, or completely, ridiculously silly, and he can’t handle either. One look at Harry’s determination, or those fucking eyelashes, and Perry wouldn’t be able to do what needed to be done.

“This guy is really good,” Perry said. “Knows what he’s doing, won’t follow the rules, won’t pull his punches.”

“Like you?” Harry said, and the tone was just plaintive enough that Perry refused to look at him.

No, nothing like me, Perry thought angrily. He won’t hesitate to hurt you a little if you need it.

“Trust me, Chief,” he said.

That was emotional terrorism, and he knew it. Harry did trust him, no matter how hard he tried to beat it out of him.

Harry gazed at him a moment longer, then got out of the car.

He’d teach Harry the little things, later, that no one else would. The slightly illegal things.

He couldn’t watch, either, so he left.

The first time he watched Harry deflect some moron at a party a couple of months later with a single hit, and come away without a mark, he felt an almost ridiculous amount of pride. He didn’t give a shit whether there was legal retribution to follow. He would just laugh, and say something along the lines of you let that little girl kick your ass but he knew Harry could take care of himself.

= = = = = =