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Running Up That Hill

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PERCEPTION (SMELL) - Underneath the funk of men’s dirty clothes and cheap floral cleaning products, a caustic smell that lingers in the Precinct 41 men’s locker room, invading your nostrils like a olfactory ghost. A remnant from the days when this was a silk mill, and the room was used to store dyes.

CAUSTIC-SMELLING PRECINCT LOCKER ROOM - It is a Friday, and everyone but the night shift has gone home for the evening. Your unit was the last of the day shift to leave. You pushed yourself back in your chair and called it a night. 

ESPRIT DE CORPS - “Everyone did great today,” you say brightly, because you are trying to be a good and supportive unit head who tells his teammates they are valued. “Oh good, the shitkid seal of approval,” Jean mutters. Judit coughs and pointedly asks him for a lift home. Leaving just you and Kim alone in the office.

YOU - Your one-day weekend starts now, and you’re inaugurating it by standing in front of your locker, feeling the flimsy running shorts material between your fingers.

SAVOIR FAIRE - Perhaps you shouldn’t have chosen your first day running with Kim as the day you pulled your old running shorts out of the back of your closet.

PERCEPTION - It’s *really* thin.

YOU - You swallow, suddenly acutely aware of your own body.

PHYSICAL INSTRUMENT - A body that still needs a lot of work to be in peak condition, champ.

  1. Fuck you, I'm a disco superstar.
  2. Never mind. Self-improvement sounds too hard, actually.
  3. Come on, give me a break. What do you think I’m doing here?

ESPRIT DE CORPS - On the other side of the locker, you can hear fabric rustling. Kim is changing his clothes without getting weird about it.

COMPOSURE [Medium: Success] -  Going by the sounds, he does it the way he does all things: with smooth, deliberate grace.

  1. LOGIC [Medium] - Wait, why am I thinking about this?
  2. Think some more about it.
  3. You are not going to think about this. [Leave]

LOGIC [Medium: Failure] - I don’t know. Why are you here at all? Because Kim was worried about you pushing yourself too hard, with a healing bullet wound, and you agreed to let him set the pace while you ran.

HALF LIGHT- This week, you’ve been screamed at, spit on, shot at, and told about the end of the world by a hydrant. Your team has no less than five open cases waiting for you to come back after your day off.

TOO-SMALL PAIR OF RUNNING SHORTS - But tonight is yours. Yours and Kim’s.

  1. Physical Instrument: Challenging] - Let out a manly roar.
  2. I don’t know. I feel kind of shitty actually. Maybe it’d be better for my health if I just went home and ate crisps and cried?
  3. Huh. Yeah. I guess we should like take advantage of the time we have because life is short?

ELECTROCHEMISTRY [Formidable: Success] - Kim is naked on the other side of these lockers. If you get naked right now, you will both be naked. Together.

  1. [Electrochemistry: Formidable] - Drop your pants. Now.
  2. [Volition: Medium] - Wait, what does that have to do with anything?

VOLITION [Medium: Success] - It doesn’t. You are cop partners. You spend, on average, twelve hours a day, six days a week together. You are going to change in the same room together at some point. It’s weird that you’re being weird about this.

SAVOIR FAIRE [Challenging: Success] - Remember when you stripped off your shoes and pants like two hours after meeting him so you could jump into the harbor?

YOU - Huh, yeah. I guess that ship has pretty much sailed, hasn’t it?

  1. Ask the shorts what they think about all this.
  2. Don’t do that. That’s dumb.

TOO-SMALL PAIR OF RUNNING SHORTS - “We don’t care that we were cut for a younger, fitter man,” they whisper. “We’re just here to support you. Just like Kim is. Trust him.”

 

+1 Healed Morale

 

VOLITION - Believe it or not, that actually seemed to help. Okay. Now maybe focus on getting dressed?

YOU - You lift the shorts up to your lips first. “Thank you,” you whisper.

KIM - “Uh, detective?” the lieutenant calls from the other side of the row of battered lockers.

REACTION SPEED [Trivial: Success] - You realize you've been communing with your shorts for the last several minutes while Kim finished changing.

  1. [Interfacing: Trivial] Change your clothes, like a normal person.
  2. [Electrochemistry: Impossible] Drop your pants and shout “Ready!” 

INTERFACING [Trivial: Success] - You change in record time. Just as you finish tying your running shoes, Kim ventures around the lockers.

KIM - He’s changed into a white tank top and loose-fitting pants, and has swapped out his black boots for running shoes. You’ve never seen him without the jacket. You’ve run down fugitives together, and watched him work on the Coupris 40s in motor pool during his lunch break, and he’s kept the jacket on.

ESPRIT DE CORPS - The bomber has been smoothed and hung in his locker, where it will wait patiently for his return.

KIM - The gloves are gone too. You haven’t seen his bare hands that often. They’re lean, flecked with the occasional white scar from a burn or cut.

YOU - The sight of him makes you even more conscious of the figure you cut. How does he look so damn cool in running clothes?

KIM - If *he* has a problem with the figure you cut, he doesn’t show it. “Well? Shall we?”

OUTSIDE PRECINCT 41 - The miserably hot June day has mellowed since the sun went down. It’s a Friday night, 22:00. The city is laid out like a jewel before you. Music drifts up from basement clubs and you can hear the shouts of young people in cars racing down the street. There’s a glow on the horizon where Boogie Street is.

ELECTROCHEMISTRY - New idea! Ditch the bino and get reacquainted with your old friends on Boogie Street. Your real friends: Bennie, Blanca, Pyro.

  1. Wait, who?
  2. [Savoir Faire: Formidable] Sneak away while Kim’s back is turned.
  3. Hell no. I’m straight-edge as fuck these days.

ENCYCLOPEDIA [Medium: Success] - Common street names for amphetamines, cocaine, pyrholidon, respectively. 

RHETORIC [Easy: Success] - It was figurative language. Personification. It's kind of your thing.

LOGIC [Trivial: Success] - You do not actually have friends on Boogie Street waiting to party with you.

ELECTROCHEMISTRY - And don’t forget your oldest, bestest buddy of them all, Commodore Red. He was there long before Four-Eyes here was.

HALF LIGHT [Medium: Failure] - And he’ll be there long after.

  1. [Savoir Faire: Formidable] Sneak away before Kim notices.
  2. No, seriously, Kim’s my friend. I’m gonna stick to the running.

ELECTROCHEMISTRY - Okay, but seriously? Am I the only one who remembers that body in the back of that motor-carriage in the parking lot? It was hot in that motor carriage, and he was in it a long time.

HALF LIGHT - I HAVE CERTAINLY NOT FORGOTTEN.

ENDURANCE [Easy: Success]- Or that man in the alleyway, behind the dumpster? With his brains blown out.

INLAND EMPIRE [Medium: Success]- A corpse with a hole in his head, for the cop with a hole in his head.

ELECTROCHEMISTRY - Cloud-head’s being going on like that for days. You’ve all heard him. Am I the only one who’s interested in trying to forget that shit and feel better?

  1.  I *do* want to feel better. Chugalug time!
  2. I do want to feel better. But I like the running thing. That’s been working out for me so far.

YOU - You look around, and see Kim is already halfway down the street. Going in the opposite direction of Boogie Street.

  1. [Electrochemistry: Medium] Screw it! It’s Boogie-o’clock.
  2. Follow Kim.

ELECTROCHEMISTRY - You are making a huge mistake.

VOLITION - Give it ten minutes of running, and he’ll change his tune. He always does.

REACTION  SPEED - Kim is already a half-block ahead of you. He turns and waits for you. You push your body forward in a burst of energy.

KIM - “Let’s run,” he says, trying to wipe a look of concern from his face, “to the Waterfront.”

LOGIC [Easy: Failure] - Why the Waterfront?

EMPATHY [Medium: Success] - It’s the opposite direction of Boogie Street.

YOU - You are suddenly, powerfully grateful for Kim’s presence.

ESPRIT DE CORPS [Challenging: Success] - The reason he joined you tonight was not to keep you from backsliding and crawling up Boogie Street. He was worried you were pushing yourself too hard.

HALF LIGHT - Just getting up and going to work every day is pushing yourself too hard. Facing your old colleagues and your old life.

PHYSICAL INSTRUMENT [Medium: Success] - Who does that scrawny bino think he is? Who’s the *coach* here?

EMPATHY [Formidable: Success] - He cares about that leg. He stitched it up. He feels a sense of ownership over it now, and a responsibility to the man it’s attached to.

PECEPTION (SIGHT) [Easy: Success] - Ahead of you, Kim is stretching. The lean muscles of his bare shoulders shift as he bends down in a toe-touch before you start. His control over his body is unmatched. He straightens, adjusting his glasses, and starts running. 

PHYSICAL INSTRUMENT [Medium: Success] - He’s been holding out on us. This is a man with a fine physique. 

ELECTROCHEMISTRY - Maybe this wasn’t a mistake after all?

  1. What do you mean?
  2. I think I know what you mean, but I’m not ready to deal with that right now so I'm just going to play dumb.
  3. I really don’t know what any of you are talking about. I’m just here to run.

KIM - The lieutenant turns to you. Out of his work clothes and in running clothes, he looks different. Looser. More physical.

ENDURANCE - More mäsculine. 

KIM - “Are you ready to let me lead?”

  1. “God yes. Forever.”
  2. “How did you get so mäsculine, Kim?”
  3. “I mean, sure. That’s the plan, right?” [shoot finger guns]
  4. [Authority: Formidable] Absolutely not. Break into a run right now. Remind him who has the longer legs.

KIM - He gives you a fond smile. Then, the smile turns sly, and he breaks into a run while you’re still holstering your finger guns.

REACTION SPEED - MOVE MOVE MOVE!!

PHYSICAL INSTRUMENT - Catch up with him, son! Don’t let a dirty trick like that go unpunished!

HAND/EYE COORDINATION - He’s carefully modulating his speed, though. Careful not to push himself, or you, too hard, but fast enough that you’re not bored. 

YOU - You sail down the streets of Jamrock with Kim leading. Your cop self falls away and the older self emerges. The guy who could really run.

KIM - Kim can really run too. With your half-healed leg injury, it’s obvious that he’s the stronger sprinter, although he’s pacing himself, knowing it’ll be work to match you in endurance. From time to time, he’ll even runs backwards for a few paces.

SAVOIR FAIRE - To keep an eye on you, and just to show off that he can.

PHYSICAL INSTRUMENT - That’s a gym teacher move! He’s not allowed to do that!

EMPATHY - Grousing about your running up and down the Marinaise coast aside, he *likes* running, just like he likes speeding in the Kineema. Reveling in speed, and what he can do.

YOU - The two of you falling into step in time with each other.

ELECTROCHEMISTRY [Medium: Success] - Your neuroreceptors are tingling with pleasure. This is… fun. 

VOLITION - Told you.

KIM - A triangle of sweat is forming on the lower back of his tank top, and you watch the muscles of his back shift as his tank top turns transparent, his lean, ropey arms pumping as he runs.

ELECTROCHEMISTRY [Formidable: Success] - Also, just so you know? Your horny receptors are tingling everywhere.

ENDURANCE [Challenging: Failure] - May I remind you that he is a man, and you are absolutely, positively not a hömo-sexual. You decided that definitively after thinking about it for eight hours in Martinaise.

VOLITION [Easy: Success]- That is not what happened.

ENDURANCE [Medium: Failure] - Pretty sure it was.

YOU - Uh, I don’t think it was. I think I just made myself really confused and then pestered Kim into coming out to me.

ELECTROCHEMISTRY [Trivial: Success] - Fun fact: Kim did not take his jacket off or walk around in a sweaty tank top at any point in those eight hours.

  1. I don’t see how that’s relevant.
  2. Oh, shit.
  3. [Physical Instrument: Challenging] He’s outpacing you! This cannot stand!

PHYSICAL INSTRUMENT [Challenging: Success] - This homo-sexuality thing, whatever it is, is terrible for your run time.

REACTION SPEED - He is halfway down the block, and you are staring after his running form, dry-mouthed and stupid. Left in his dust.

PHYSICAL INSTRUMENT - Fine form, though. He’ll make varsity yet.

HAND-EYE COORDINATION [Challenging: Success]- Maybe try lifting your legs and following him before you lose him around a corner?

KIM - He must sense you’re not right behind him anymore, because he stops and turns. “Are you all right?” He notices just how hard you’re breathing and just how wide-eyed you look. “Is it your leg?” He pauses and frowns, concern knitting his eyebrows.

  1. Jump away and yell, “actually this was all just a feint and you fell for it. Catch you later!”

KIM - You can hear his sigh, then you hear his footsteps pounding along the pavement after you. 

PHYSICAL INSTRUMENT [Easy: Success] - You run. You were made for this, champ.

KIM - Eventually Kim pulls even with you. 

PHYSICAL INSTRUMENT - You run beside each other, two masculine men engaging in masculine pursuits.

YOU - You round the corner of an alley, and a waterfront stretches out before you.

THE WATERFRONT - You have reached the edge of the River Esperance, the natural border demarcating West from East. Across the river, Revachol East towers like a glittering jewel box.

KIM - Kim catches up with you, panting. “Let’s not have any more… jogging feints going forward, okay?”

YOU - “Haha. Sorry. I get, uh, competitive.”

KIM - “Shocking.” He takes off his glasses, which have started to fog, trying to conceal a small smile as he works.

EMPATHY - He gets competitive too. 

YOU - You scan the waterfront, and see a kebab cart. “Let me buy you a kebab.”

ENDURANCE - Neither of you have eaten since lunchtime. 

EMPATHY - How does he do it? the lieutenant wonders. How does he run like that on a gunshot leg? And he doesn’t even need to stop to eat?

ELECTROCHEMISTRY - Imagine how we’d blow his mind if we were firing on all cylinders. You’d be a bronze god in his eyes.

  1. [Physical Instrument: Challenging] Impress the lieutenant with a feat of strength.
  2. [Electrochemistry: Formidable] Ask the lieutenant to show you his stretching regimen again.
  3. [Volition: Legendary] Say nothing, just buy the kebabs.

YOU - After you have acquired two fully loaded kebabs, you sit on the old stone steps leading down to the dock, remembering just how hungry you are.

ELECTROCHEMISTRY [Easy: Success] - You are going to destroy this kebab, like you have separated it from its herd of fellow kebabs in the grasslands and ran it to ground.

KIM - Kim sits sideways, his straight back propped up against a dock piling, one knee casually pulled up to his chest, the other dangling on the step below.

SAVOIR FAIRE [Medium: Success] - It’s such a cool way to sit.  He even manages to look cool eating a kebab. 

ELECTROCHEMISTRY [Easy: Success] - A pose like that is meant to be stared at. It would be rude not to.

SAVOIR FAIRE [Challenging: Failure] - Meanwhile, you can barely keep your facial hair from running with kebab sauce.

THE WATERFRONT - Across the river, the skyscrapers and luxury condominiums of Revachol East stretch skyward, its lofty skyline mirrored on the water. To the south, you can see quaint houses and lush gardens climbing up the hills.

INLAND EMPIRE [Formidable: Success] - She came from a house like that, beside a garden strung with fairy lights. She probably has a garden in Mirova too. Life follows her everywhere she goes.

HALF LIGHT [Legendary: Failure] - And where she leaves, life shrivels and dies.

  1. Ruminate some more on your inherent unlovability.
  2. Go find some alcohol and drink it.
  3. Shake the apricot-scented despair away. [Discard thought.]

THE WATERFRONT - A handful of East Revacholieres, mostly students and young creative types, brave the river crossing on a water taxi, ready to spend their Friday nights getting wild on the bad side of town. Velocipede-carriages sit on this side of the river, working-class velocipedalists waiting to cycle passengers for a night of decadence on Boogie Street, where–all hip East Revacholieres agree–the club scene is superior. Cheaper cover charges. Obscurer DJs. Fuck-you-uppier drugs, and sluttier locals.

ELECTROCHEMISTRY [Easy: Success] - Go on...

VOLITION [Medium: Success] - Or don’t. Thin shorts, remember?

THE WATERFRONT - There’s a pleasure wheel on the Revachol East side of the river, and as you sit and eat your kebabs, you watch the glittering wheel spin. Kim’s eyes follow it closely.

EMPATHY [Medium: Success] - He likes the pleasure wheel. He wishes it was on this side of the river.

YOU - You lower your kebab, and nod. “You ever been?”

KIM - “Hm?” he starts, looking away guiltily. “To Revachol East?”

EMPATHY [Challenging: Success] - He feels like he’s been caught at something foolish.

YOU - “On that pleasure wheel you were eyeing.”

KIM - “Oh.” Even in the dark, you can see his ears color. “No. I never have reason to go to Revachol East anymore. The only people who go on it are people who have someone to impress. An out-of-town friend or a date, usually. And ten reál to drop on a ride.” 

ELECTROCHEMISTRY - A date, you say?

YOU - “It looks pretty cool to me. You could see all of Revachol from up there.”

KIM - He looks at you, a smile fluttering on his lips. “I suppose that would be cool.”

  1. [Volition: Impossible] Ask Kim on a pleasure-wheel date right now.
  2. [Rhetoric: Medium] Wait, back up. Anymore? When did Kim have a reason to go to Revachol East?

RHETORIC [Medium: Success] - “Wait, when did you used to have a reason to go to Revachol East?” 

KIM - “Oh, a long time ago.” He wipes each of his fingers clean of kebab sauce with a napkin. He pauses, considering, then adds, “I dated someone from there once.”

RHETORIC - He says it crisply, not looking at you.

YOU - You stare at him. Boggled. Kim rarely talks about his past, and never at all about his dating life. Has running really loosened him up that much? "What, really? Who?"

KIM - He looks down at his kebab, something compelling him to fill the silence. “He did something with finance. Making money off the interisolary currency exchange, I think? It wasn’t very interesting to me, to be honest. Though I suppose my career wasn’t any more interesting to him.”

  1. “Sounds like a guy who knows how to hustle.”
  2. “Sounds like your typical bourgeois parasite.”
  3. [Electrochemistry: Godly] “Sounds like this relationship was based purely on sex.”
  4. I have no thoughts about this whatsoever.

KIM - He snorts. “I can’t say I was too concerned about that. I was twenty-six. We met on the underground street racing scene.”

ENCYCLOPEDIA [Challenging: Success] - Underground street racing is a very literal phenomenon in Revachol. The abandoned catacombs of Revachol are a popular spot for illicit drag races.

EMPATHY - Kim is just relieved you have shifted the conversation to Mazovian socio-economics. He was scolding himself for talking about his personal life just then.

SUGGESTION [Easy: Success] - You probably shouldn’t pester him for more. Just be grateful he’s opened up this much to you.

VOLITION - Be grateful for what you have from the lieutenant. Don’t threaten it by dwelling on whatever this flight of fancy is.

HALF LIGHT [Formidable: Failure] - He would never go for you. Look at him. Now look at you. He’s not weak and flabby and needy and wearing running shorts too small for him.

CONCEPTUALIZATION - What kind of men does he like, anyway? What was that East Revacholiere like? Rich, obviously, but what else?

ENDURANCE [Medium: Failure] - Yes, this is important. Hömos can be anywhere, even running the financial system. We need to investigate.

YOU - What? No! You just want to better understand your cop partner. Sharing more about yourselves will increase your cop bond.

  1. Just ask Kim.
  2. [Conceptualization: Legendary] Try to visualize Kim’s type.
  3. No, seriously. Why do you even want to know?

CONCEPTUALIZATION [Legendary: Failure] - Um… well… he’s obviously a ‘he.’

ELECTROCHEMISTRY [Formidable: Failure] - Look, I can’t believe I’m the one who has to say this, but just use logic. Who’s the most fuckable man you two have both met? The Smoker! Ergo, that’s his type.

YOU - Um. I’m not sure it works like that.

CONCEPTUALIZATION [Medium: Failure] - Okay, wait, you’ve got it. What about someone like the Smoker’s Sunday Friend? He did date that financier type. Clearly he wants an educated man who’s traveled the world and can navigate bureaucracy. 

YOU - You sneak a glance at Kim. Absolutely not. 

LOGIC [Medium: Success] - He wasn’t into the financier for the finance, remember? He was into him for the racing.

CONCEPTUALIZATION [Medium: Failure] - What about... oh wait, that’s all the homo-sexual men you know, actually.

INLAND EMPIRE [Challenging: Success] - That you know you know.

YOU - There must be other homo-sexuals I’ve at least heard of, right? 

LOGIC [Medium: Success]- You don’t need to literally think of a homo-sexual in order to visualize Kim's type. You know that, right?

VOLITION [Easy: Success] - Also, why are you still thinking about this?

YOU - You don’t know, but it’s too late to stop now.

  1. [Shivers: Formidable]  Who are the other homo-sexuals you’ve heard of?
  2. [Volition: Legendary] Maybe finish your kebab or something?

SHIVERS [Formidable: Success] - The wind stirs your hair. It blows in from the coast, where a struggling bookstore sits closed for the night. A biography has fallen off the shelf and lies on the floor, waiting to be returned to its rightful spot by the young girl who will find it tomorrow. The book is a story of love, heartbreak, and spectacles of motorized destruction. High Speed Love: the Tragic True Love Story of Jacob Irw and Alfie Deletraz, by Cecilia Averbrook. On the cover...

ENCYCLOPEDIA [Trivial: Success] - Jacob Irw. 

PHYSICAL INSTRUMENT [Medium: Success] - Blond god with a jaw chiseled out of solid granite. Total speedfreak.

INLAND EMPIRE - Could he be Kim’s ideal man?

  1. Only one way to find out.

YOU -  “Hey, Kim. Did you ever read High Speed Love?”

KIM - He’s been contentedly sitting on the stairs, watching a water taxi ease into the dock. He startles at your question. “Uh… what?”

DRAMA [Medium: Success] - Bingo.

YOU - “You know. That biography from the bookstore in Martinaise. High Speed Love. I just thought it seemed like something you might be interested in. Because it’s about TipTop, and you know… TipTop men. Digging on each other.”

KIM - “So you thought of me.” His tone is light, but it’s also a little…

HALF LIGHT [Medium: Success] - Wary.

EMPATHY [Challenging: Success] - His past experiences with his colleagues bringing his sexuality up out of the blue have not been overwhelmingly positive. 

VOLITION - Why are you asking about this?

  1. [Pain Threshold: Challenging] Drop this. This way lies pain.
  2. [Electrochemistry: Formidable] No, this an important stereo-investigation that absolutely deserves the full weight of your investigative attention. [Proceed.]

SUGGESTION [Medium: Success] - Proceed delicately.

  1. “Because I’m trying to figure out your type.”
  2. “Because I’m think I might be digging on a man too.”
  3. [Drama: Formidable] “Because I’m so interested in TipTop?”

DRAMA [Formidable: Failure] - My liege, the upspeak giveth you away.

LOGIC - Too late to do anything about it now. You’ve committed.

KIM - He’s looking at you, assessing. Something shifts in his face. A flutter. Surprise. Amusement.

COMPOSURE - That earlier unease thankfully released from his shoulders. 

KIM - “Mhm. I have read it. Years ago.”

SHIVERS [Godly: Success] - The wind blows through the north edge of Jamrock, near the G.R.I.H. There sits a clean, unassuming apartment waiting for its occupant to return. A bookshelf is filled with battered motor-carriage manuals and science fiction novels. On the bottom shelf is a worn and faded paperback. A coating of dust sits on top. It hasn’t been moved in a very long time. A strip of yellow tape around the spine bears the letters BIO , and below it, JPL.

ENCYCLOPEDIA [Trivial: Success] - Jamrock Public Library.

  1. Be normal. Don’t mention it.
  2. “Kim, did you steal a library book?”

SAVOIR FAIRE - You’re scandalized, and a little impressed.

KIM - Your words wipe the half-smile from his face. He’s gotten used to your little hunches, and come to appreciate them on cases, but sometimes you pull out something so weird, so impossible to countenance, it unnerves him. He can’t see how you do it, and your attempts to explain it have left him uneasy. They do not fit into his understanding of the world.

KIM - “How…” He shakes his head. He doesn’t want to get into that now. “I planned to return it someday.” He wraps his arms around the leg pulled up to his chest.

ELECTROCHEMISTRY - He looks really cool like that.

  1. “Don’t worry, I won’t turn you into the library police.”
  2. “I’m afraid I’m going to have to report this. The law is the law.”

KIM - “I wasn’t worried, since that’s not a thing.”

EMPATHY [Legendary: Success] - He wasn’t so confident when he took it. His hands shook and his mouth was dry as he walked through the turnstile with the book under his school jacket, half expecting an alarm to go off at any moment.

AUTHORITY [Medium: Success] - He squared his shoulders, and he did it anyway. 

  1. “You were so brave.”
  2. “Stealing’s cool. Do you want to go steal something with me now?”
  3. “So… how was the book? Was it worth a life of crime?”

KIM - He shrugs. “It was fine. It significantly undersold Delatraz’s accomplishments as a driver, but that was typical of writers of the time.  It’s only in the last five years that you've seen commentators start to appreciate his innovations to the sport.”

INLAND EMPIRE - Finding the art in recklessness. Controlled chaos.

ELECTROCHEMISTRY [Formidable: Success] - So Alfie Deletraz is his kind of man, not the blond god!

ENCYCLOPEDIA [Medium: Failure] - You don’t have a clue what he looks like.

  1. Ask Kim what Alfie Deletraz has that you don’t.
  2. Ask about the parts of the book that aren’t about TipTop.

KIM - “Ah," he looks sideways at you. "The parts you wouldn’t be interested in. Because you’re just here for the TipTop.”

YOU - “Kim, I’m interested in all parts of books.”

KIM - “Of course.” He supresses a smile, then pauses, thoughtful. “Well, as the title says. It's a tragedy. One of them struck down in the prime of life." He picks at his kebab wrapper. It's obvious he's less comfortable talking about this. "The nature of their relationship was an open secret for years, but I suppose the book was groundbreaking for its time in making it so... explicit. Or our time, for that matter.”

  1. "It's obvious you're not comfortable talking about this. Let's talk about something else."
  2. “And is the relationship stuff the reason you stole it instead of checking it out?”

KIM - He leans back, gazing up at the sodium lights and the stars. The pull of the human can opener is strong, and not entirely unpleasant.

EMPATHY - He’s not used to talking to colleagues about this side of himself. But with you, it doesn’t feel threatening. And something about your curiosity is interesting to him.

YOU - Interesting how?

EMPATHY [Medium: Failure] - That’s all I got, sorry.

KIM - He’s leaning back, running his hands through his hair. 

COMPOSURE [Challenging: Success] - Normally he would deflect. He should deflect, he thinks. But something about the runner’s high and dinner and the pleasure wheel have loosened him up. He feels loose right now. Comfortable.

KIM - “Mhm. Yes, that’s right. I was fifteen, and my foster family at the time would not have approved if they knew what I was reading.”

ENCYCLOPEDIA [Medium: Success] - There were many orphans after the revolution. It stretched the old Dolorian institutions to the breaking point. Placing orphans with struggling families that were paid a small monthly stipend by the state became commonplace.

YOU - You never knew who raised him before now.

INLAND EMPIRE [Challenging: Success] - You have only the dimmest recollections of who raised you.

  1. “You were brave, to take it.”
  2. “Did you know, even then? That you were… y’know?”
  3. “Do most people know they’re… y’know… by the time they’re fifteen?"
  4. “That doesn’t seem fair.”

KIM - He shrugs. “They were… traditional. Conservative.

YOU - “Sounds like they were assholes.”

KIM -  “They weren’t, actually.” There’s a shade of defensiveness in his tone. “I should know, I had other foster families that were.”

HALF LIGHT [Medium: Failure] - You’re the asshole now. 

  1. “God, I’m such a piece of shit.”
  2. “I’m sorry, Kim. I don’t know why I said that.”

KIM - “It’s all right.” He smiles gently. “They tried. So many others didn’t. Hiding some of myself from them seemed a small price to pay to repay their generosity.”

INLAND EMPIRE [Legendary: Success] - He is used to loving people and places who do not love him back. Not all of him.

YOU - Not the way he deserves.

  1. Tell him he deserves better.
  2. Say nothing.

YOU - “That’s not right,” you say stupidly.

KIM - He stares across the water at the pleasure wheel. “I’ve made my peace with it.”

YOU - “Well, you shouldn’t have to.”

KIM - “No, but I do, so I have.” 

RHETORIC [Medium: Success] - His words are curt and definitive. He’s had enough of being can-opened for tonight.

EMPATHY -  He is a little melancholy, thinking about the past. He’s not sure why he told you all this.

ESPRIT DE CORPS [Medium: Success]- Also, he’s feeling kind of guilty about the library book.

ENCYCLOPEDIA [Easy: Success] - The public library system is even more strapped for funds than the RCM.

CONCEPTUALIZATION - The pleasure wheel across the river casts his face in a warm light. His arms are lean, defined. You watch the glittering carnival lights reflected in his glasses, and realize he’s beautiful. 

PAIN THRESHOLD [Medium: Success] - There’s an ache in your chest when you look at him. 

INLAND EMPIRE - Perhaps it’s been there all along.

VOLITION [Formidable: Success] - He’s been good to you. He is your partner and your closest friend. Think very carefully about whether you want to risk what you have.

HALF LIGHT - Are you sure you want to do this? He is good. And you are not.

KIM - He straightens. “We might want to head back.”

YOU - “Wait,” you say.

KIM - He raises an eyebrow expectantly.

  1. “Seeing your back has raised a lot of questions about my sexuality I’m working through.”
  2. “Do you want to go back to my place for ‘coffee?’” (Make air quotes with your fingers.)
  3. “Maybe, uh. I could read it sometime? I think you’ve sold me on this book.”

KIM - He blinks at you. Something shifts behind his eyes. “Did I?”

YOU - You nods, your mouth going dry at the sight of him.

ELECTROCHEMISTRY [Challenging: Success] - How did you manage to work beside him for three months and not notice that he is the most attractive man you’ve ever met?

KIM - “I suppose it’s not getting any more stolen.” He cracks a smile, and you smile back.

THE WATERFRONT - It’s well past midnight by now, and the pleasure wheel is finally grinding to a halt for the night, the lights dimming.

YOU - You want to take him on it.

INLAND EMPIRE  [Legendary: Success]- You would take him up to the top of the wheel, and watch his face brighten, that boyish wonder that sometimes descends on him, and his hand would close over yours.

LOGIC  - But It’s out of reach, on the good side of town, where officers of the 41st have no good reason to go.

___

HIGH SPEED LOVE: THE TRAGIC TRUE LOVE STORY OF JACOB IRW AND ALFIE DELETRAZ - You find the book in your locker the next day you’re both at work. Usually you would read a new book while killing time at a crime scene or waiting to talk to witnesses, but you feel instinctively that this is something private.

HALF LIGHT [Easy: Success] - Something dangerous.

INLAND EMPIRE [Challenging: Success]  -  Something secret shared between you and Kim, even if you’re not sure yet what it is you two share.

YOU - You start the book at home that night, and you are gripped for the rest of the night.

COMPOSURE - When you finally close the book in the early hours of the morning you are a bleary-eyed, red-nosed mess.

ELECTROCHEMISTRY - Alfie Deletraz was a drunk and a designer drug enthusiast who died young. He seems like the kind of guy you’d like to party with.

PAIN THRESHOLD [Medium: Success] - He’s not going to do any partying ever again. 

YOU - There’s an aching sort of longing twisting your gut when you read about these men that you cannot name.

INLAND EMPIRE [Formidable: Success] - Sorrow. For them. For yourself. For the world never born. And…

INLAND EMPIRE [Heroic: Success] -  You see a teenage boy in round glasses, painfully skinny in a hand-me-down sweater shoved up to his elbows. He is safe, ducked under the covers with a flashlight, bent over the pages of a book. A new world opens up before him. How good it could be. And how quickly it could all be lost. He reads, and a longing opens up in his chest. He feels very adult in this moment. Understanding things he’s still afraid to fully understand, but knowing how badly he wants to.

YOU - And now here's you, thirty years later, going through something very similar.

ENDURANCE - This is you now? Crying like a little baby over two hömo-sexuals. You remember you fuck women, right?

YOU - But it’s just so sad? 

INLAND EMPIRE [Medium: Success] - They loved each other. They had so little time together. Life is fleeting and short.

HALF LIGHT - What if you lose Kim?

VOLITION - That’s not going to happen. You won’t let it. Although shortchanging yourself on sleep isn’t really helping in that regard.

ENDURANCE - So what, you want to fuck men now?

  1. So what if I do?
  2. I want to drink.
  3. No way. I'm all man. 
  4. This is all so confusing and overwhelming. I think I’m just going to have a good cry.

YOU - You lie on the bed, curled around the book, and let the tears flow.

__

 

YOU - When you return the book to Kim, in the men’s locker room, you do it silently, when no one is around.

COMPOSURE [Easy: Success] - You instinctively understand that this is not the place for discussing High Speed Love.

RHETORIC - You wouldn’t begin to know how to talk about the feelings it stirred in you. The fear and the longing and the aching sadness at the thought of losing him.

KIM - The lieutenant doesn’t ask what you thought.

HALF LIGHT - And he wouldn’t want to know.

VOLITION - Just enjoy your time with him. When he looks over to you, and annihilates you at Suzerainty with a small smile that he can’t hide, you will feel your heart flutter. Being near him, having him smile at you like that, having him trust you. After everything you’ve destroyed, he is still here. You’re lucky to have that much.

VOLITION - It will be enough, because you’ll make it be enough. 

__

 

PHYSICAL INSTRUMENT - Pick up those hamhocks! Attack that hill. Are you hungry?

YOU - Yes, oh god, you are. You haven’t eaten since breakfast. You are hungry, and tired, and gasping for air like some great beached disco whale.

  1. Suffer in stoic silence.
  2. Complain to Kim.

YOU - “Bipedalism was a mistake.”

KIM -  He is gasping for air next to you. “That may be, detective,” he says around ragged breaths. “But that’s what we have to work with.”

EMPATHY [Challenging: Success] - He is pushing himself harder with you on his heels, and he likes that. He likes that you’re tired too, but that you keep pushing each other forward. It’s been a long time since he had a partnership like that.

PHYSICAL INSTRUMENT - It’s been a long time for you, too, champ. He’s a good motivator. I say keep him around, as long as you keep getting negative splits like these.

INLAND EMPIRE - When you run, the voices go quiet. The good chemicals rush in. You achieve that most miraculous of things: complete oblivion before the throne of exertion…

ELECTROCHEMISTRY - Not complete. Even as the blood and stress of the day fades away, and the apricot scent is carried away on the wind, you still feel jumping electrical currents when you look at him and that tight tank top. You still want him, baby.

THE PARK AT THE END OF YOUR RUN - July in Revachol is when the people pour into the few public green spaces in the city, stripped down and relaxed. People drink, play games, sleep on the grass, do drugs, and if they can get away with it, fuck in the bushes. 

YOU - As you sit by a cracked fountain that looks like it has not seen water in years, you both eat your Fritte sandwiches. Ravenous.

KIM - Kim remains in a tank top and loose pants. The same man who ran along the coast in the snow wearing a short nylon jacket also appears to refuse to wear shorts in the sweltering months of summer.

  1. Wallow in what you can’t have.
  2. Look at something else.

THE PARK AT THE END OF YOUR RUN - There’s actually no shortage of people here who’ve stripped down thanks to the heat, and as fixated as you’ve been on the lieutenant, you can’t help but notice how attractive pretty much everyone around you is. There’s an athletic guy in shorts that are barely hanging onto his hips kicking a ball around, and he playfully kicks it towards a bronzed woman lying on a towel in a bikini.

ELECTROCHEMISTRY [Easy: Success] - Yeah, baby. We’re into allll of this.

CONCEPTUALIZATION - This reminds you of another thing you’ve been wondering about since reading High Speed Love. Since your time in Martinaise, really.

INLAND EMPIRE - Do homo-sexuals like both women and men? You weren’t sure in Martinaise, and looking back on it, a big part of your thought project involved your brain ping-ponging back and forth between the various people you’d met who turned your crank there. But then, High Speed Love was explicit about the fact that Jacob Irw and Alfie Deletraz didn’t date women. You’re still not sure, honestly, if you really can be a homo-sexual, with your past history of falling hopelessly in love with women and trying to obliterate yourself in grief when they leave.

LOGIC - There’s no harm in asking a simple question about sexuality, surely. Kim was indulgent enough when you asked about his, after all.

  1. “Kim, am I a homo-sexual?”
  2. “Kim, should I get a pair of shorts like that guy’s?”
  3. “Kim, will you run away with me?”
  4. “Kim, do you like women?”

KIM - He goes still, his teeth half-sunk into the sandwich. He bites and chews slowly. He’s confused.

EMPATHY [Medium: Success] - What does the detective think being a homo-sexual is

KIM - “Um… if you mean *attraction*, then no. I can’t say I do.” He pauses. “Is that… a problem?”

  1. Oh shit. He thinks you only accepted him because you still don’t get what homo-sexuality is.
  2. [Endurance: Godly] - Ask him how he can’t be at least a little into women.
  3. [Half Light: Impossible] - Turn and run.

YOU -  “No, no! I didn’t mean it like that! I was just trying to figure out if…some people do like both, right? That’s a normal thing, to be, uh… stereo-sexual?”

COMPOSURE - Kim’s shoulders come down. 

PERCEPTION (SIGHT) -  He is looking at you with an expression that looks like tenderness.

EMPATHY - Of course. The detective doesn’t know. That’s why he’s been so confused.

KIM - He gives you a fond look. “I mean, no one calls it *that*, but yes. One could be bi-sexual.”

YOU - “Ah. That would have been useful to know, back in Martinaise.”

KIM -  He snorts. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about it then. Imagine how much of those eight hours could have been spent on the investigation.”

YOU - You laugh, and he smiles as he returns to the sandwich.

VOLITION [Challenging: Success] - And like that, he knows. You have found a name for what you are, and Kim knows. That… actually wasn’t as scary as you expected.

  1. [Rhetoric: Godly] Tell Kim about your feelings for him.
  2. [Electrochemistry: Legendary]  Ask Kim if you can touch his back.
  3. [Volition: Medium] Just admire the city in silence, together.

VOLITION [Medium: Success] -  You sit and stare out over the city together.

ESPRIT DE CORPS [Formidable: Success] - The lieutenant loves Revachol the same way you do. Disgraced and half-in-ruins, it’s still beautiful, still worth dedicating a life to. The city speaks to him--maybe not quite as literally as it speaks to you, but…

INLAND EMPIRE - He’s been in communion with it all the same. 

__

 

CAUSTIC-SMELLING PRECINCT LOCKER ROOM - You return late after today's run.

KIM - “You’re starting to outrace me,” Kim says, disappointed in himself.

YOU - “Sorry.”

KIM - “It’s nothing to be sorry for. It means your leg is healing up as it should.” He smiles. “Soon our little arrangement will be holding you back. You won’t need me any more.”

  1. “Instead of holding me back, maybe you’d like to hold me down, if you know what I mean?” (Waggle your eyebrows.)
  2. “That will never happen.”

KIM - Is it your imagination, or does that seem to lift his spirits?

EMPATHY - He’s been glad for all this time together. Watching your leg heal. Watching you transform. Talking through cases, sometimes, or talking about the city, board games, whatever drifts into your mind. Or just following his back as he reintroduces you to the city you both love.

PERCEPTION (SIGHT) - He is stretching his arms an awful lot, tonight, though. 

ESPRIT DE CORPS - Earlier today he was thrown against a wall in pursuit. He insisted he wasn’t hurt, but you’ve watched him enough to know when something is wrong. He’s been tense, rolling his shoulders when he thinks no one is looking, trying to work the pain out.

  1. Point it out. Weakness must be called attention to.
  2. Leave him alone. He obviously prefers not to make a big deal of it.
  3. [Inland Empire: Legendary] - Call upon some deeper knowledge locked away within yourself that might help matters.

INLAND EMPIRE [Legendary: Success] - Muscle memory stirs. A gym you once worked in. Even before the teaching gig. You just spent time here, because it wasn’t the streets. You took a pride in your ability to find the source of the pain.

CONCEPTUALIZATION [Challenging: Success] - To zero in on the source of a problem. It’s not so unlike being a good detective.

YOU - “Hey, here.” You straddle the long bench beside the lockers furthest from the door, and pat the seat in front of you.

KIM - He stills, his expression sliding deeper into opacity.

YOU - “I, uh, I think I give good massages.”

KIM -  His eyebrows go up. “I believe that.” But he doesn’t make a move towards you.

CAUSTIC-SMELLING PRECINCT LOCKER ROOM - There is weight in the air. The locker room is even more abandoned than usual.

EMPATHY - He is wrestling with himself. A sense of propriety weighing against…

  1. [Empathy: Legendary] - What?

EMPATHY [Legendary: Success] - What he wants. He has worked hard against it. There are many reasons to. But today, he heaves a sigh under his breath. Well, why not? He has trusted you before, and you have not made him regret it yet.

KIM -  “All right. Show me.” There’s a glint of a challenge in his eyes.

PHYSICAL INSTRUMENT - Is he doubting the coach?

KIM - He swings his leg around, and straddles the bench. Offering his back to you.

ELECTROCHEMISTRY [Easy: Success] - That back is ours! Get in there!

VOLITION - Do not do that. Give the man the massage you promised him. He’s in obvious discomfort.

  1. HAND/EYE COORDINATION [Challenging] - Give the lieutenant a world class massage.
  2. ELECTROCHEMISTRY [Godly] - Feel him up, but like, respectfully.
  3. Chicken out and go home.

HAND/EYE COORDINATION [Success] - Your hands move of their own accord to the ridge of his shoulders, fitting like they belong there. You slowly start to apply pressure, feeling where the points of tension are.

PERCEPTION (SOUND) - There’s a soft intake of breath from the lieutenant.

ELECTROCHEMISTRY - When did you last touch anyone like this? When was he last touched like this?

VOLITION - This is not a productive line of thought.

YOU - You hands move with surprising assurance across his back and shoulders, feeling the muscles, trying to sense the source of the problem.

INTERFACING - Finally, you zero in on the tightest part of his shoulders–no wonder he’s in pain, you think as you probe the knot of tissue there. You let your hands take over, doing their thing, everything else falling away but the need to solve this. You’re close. You can feel it–

PHYSICAL INSTRUMENT - There it is! You can feel it when the knot dissolves under your hands.

PERCEPTION (SOUND) - A moan escapes his lips. 

ELECTROCHEMISTRY - He sounds like he’s into it!!

ENCYCLOPEDIA [Easy: Success] - Many people experience sensual pleasure from massage.

COMPOSURE  [Easy: Success] - His shoulders are tensing. He’s embarrassed. Like he just gave something away.

  1. Okay, that’s a little suspicious.
  2. Don’t read too much into it. Just keep massaging his shoulders.

YOU - So you keep giving the massage. You may never get the chance do this again, and you’re reluctant to let go.

  1. Okay, this is starting to get weird and sad. Release the lieutenant.
  2. [Physical Instrument: Formidable] Massages aren’t over until Coach Physical Instrument says they’re over.
  3. [Empathy: Challenging] What does Kim want you to do?

EMPATHY - He is losing himself in the moment. A brief respite from the tight control he exerts over himself. 

PERCEPTION - His breath is coming soft and shallow and surprisingly fast. 

  1. Okay, that’s definitely suspicious.
  2. Wait, what does your breath sound like to him?

COMPOSURE - Oh boy. You are breathing huskily. And uh, did you mean to be leaning so close to his ear?

  1. [Physical Instrument: Godly] Keep going like normal.

PHYSICAL INSTRUMENT [Godly: Failure] - You try, you really do, but it’s too much. The coach wasn’t trained for the sheer amount of feelings and repressed desires and fears currently ricocheting inside your body. Your hands turn to noodles and collapse by your sides.

KIM - A disappointed sound escapes his throat. Then, he says, so softly you're not sure you heard him at first, "You can continue, if you want."

EMPATHY - Getting the words out was difficult for him.

  1. [Physical Instrument: Formidable] You heard the man! Get back in there!
  2. "What about you do me now?"
  3. “Kim, I can’t.”

KIM - He turns to look at you, and sees the stricken expression on your face. 

RHETORIC - Stop talking, for the love of god! 

HALF LIGHT [Medium: Failure] - You're ruining everything.

KIM - The lieutenant isn't wearing a "you're ruining everything" expression, though. You really don’t remember anyone ever looking at you the way he is right now. 

ELECTROCHEMISTRY [Medium: Success] - All you know is it sends a straight line to your cock. 

SAVOIR FAIRE - And then he’s swinging his legs over the bench and turning around to face you on the bench, knee to knee.

COMPOSURE - You cringe a little. Ashamed to face him head on. Afraid of how easy you are to read in this moment.

KIM - And then the lieutenant brushes the back of a gloved hand down your face.

PERCEPTION - It is rough and warm and sends shivers down your spine.

ELECTROCHEMISTRY - God, yes. If we can't have drugs, we’ll take a lifetime of this, please. 

HALF LIGHT - You know someone could walk in at any time, right? 

REACTION SPEED - You would hear someone come in before they’d see you. Plenty of time to guiltily jump apart like the horny boys you are.

YOU - You lean into the touch, your lips mouthing his name like a prayer. “Please…”

KIM - He is trying to read you. He is thinking about the person you are when you run, when you put your hands on him.

KIM - And then his hands are grasping greedy handfuls of your t-shirt and he is pulling you forward.

YOU - Your lips slam together, and oh god, this is what kissing Kim is like. 

PERCEPTION - You are too stunned to move, to react for a moment. His lean body is pressed against yours and every nerve in your body hums with electricity. You are vibrating with repressed energy. Like you're flying through the catacombs in one of Revachol's underground drag races right now.

INLAND EMPIRE [Medium: Success] - High speed love indeed.

INTERFACING - When you remember how to work your arms again, you snake them around his waist. It's slim and solid and everything you've wanted to touch for so long.

EMPATHY [Godly: Success] - He doesn't know the future. He's afraid. He knows this, all of this--your sobriety, your recovery, your partnership--is a marathon that you have just begun to run, and anything could still happen in the miles ahead. But he also knows he likes running with you.

KIM - He whispers against your mouth. “You give one hell of a massage, detective.”

YOU - “I, um…”

KIM - And then he’s rising calmly and moving to his locker to grab his things, like nothing has happened. 

ELECTROCHEMISTRY - Wait, what? He can’t do that!

KIM - He pauses while grabbing his jacket and turns to you, not quite hiding a smile. “I’m going home,” he says softly. “You’re welcome come with me, if you want.”

YOU - Your heart feels full to bursting. “I’ll race you there."