Author Topic: Exposure  (Read 1102 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Existentially Odd

  • Navigator
  • Administrator
  • Novelist
  • *****
  • Posts: 11293
  • Wanderer
    • View Profile
Re: Exposure
« Reply #15 on: May 06, 2019, 05:52:04 AM »
"It's been a long shift. And there's salad on the burger," he justified, grinning. His expression sobered as he observed Luke's conflict with not knowing who he was. His turmoil was palpable and Harm couldn't imagine how lost he must feel. He wanted to reach over and touch him, squeeze his hand, something, but he refrained. He watched the way his old friend's eyes lowered to his mug, his gaze lingering on Luke's lips. He'd always had the most beautiful, kissable lips, so plump and pink and definitely wasted on the likes of that coffee mug. Harm blinked and cleared his throat a little as he was invited to talk about himself.

"Nothing very interesting to tell about me. I have two brothers, one older, one much younger - he's fourteen, lives with my parents. I get out to see them whenever I can. I split my time between the hospital - where I get paid - and the clinic we met in - where I don't." He fell victim to gazing at Luke's lips again, feeling mellow and distracted. His Coke being delivered forced him to sit up off his hand, blinking and taking a drink to help him wake up.

"I met you when I was eighteen. We started college in the same intake. I met Trevor first and you through him. There was a pretty sizeable group of us - twelve? Fifteen? Something like that - and we were the usual young, dumb and full of... well," he laughed it off, blushing as he took another sip of his drink. He'd need another one by the time his food came, at the rate he was going. "We were the gay scene on campus, anyway. And off, when we ventured out to the clubs here in the city itself. After a while, you and Trevor became a thing. You and I were only ever friends but... you'd confide in me, when things weren't great with Trevor. You'd talk, I'd listen, then you'd go back to him. We were just friends," he finished quietly.

He fiddled with his drink, knowing he should admit the rest - Luke had practically guessed anyway, so what did it even matter? - but so nervous about it. It was humiliating. It was his life. He looked up at Luke through his lashes, his mouth twisting to the side while he debated. He sighed, just tired enough that his inhibitions had loosened, just impatient enough with holding it in for years that he needed to say it. "I was in love with you. Nothing ever happened between us, though, it was all one sided. You barely noticed me, I think. You were in love with Trevor, though I saw him with other guys, towards the end. I never told you." Harm shrugged, sitting back as their food was delivered. He was grateful for its appearance. "Now you know my dirty little secret," he said with false cheer, winking at Luke and popping a chip into his mouth.

Offline suneater

  • Wordsmith
  • ***
  • Posts: 251
  • Initiate
    • View Profile
Re: Exposure
« Reply #16 on: May 06, 2019, 10:31:47 AM »
Luke leaned forward bare inches, his hands still surrounding the mug, leeching heat from it. He drew it to his mouth for a slow, bitter sip while he listened to Harm's story. The casual way he started with his family only served to reinforce just how different their lives were. Luke knew he had parents - he'd only been made monstrous in a lab, not grown in one. He'd caught glimpses of them in his memories as well; only Trevor appeared more frequently. He hadn't looked for them though. He knew they were out there, but there was no way they weren't being watched. Contacting them would only put them in danger, and without any actual feelings for them, it wasn't worth the risk.

His interest was visibly more acute when Harm moved on to their college days. He sat forward a bit, sliding the mug forward and resting his elbows on the table. It was strange to hear Harm say we and mean for Luke to be part of it when it wasn't a part of him. It sounded nice, though. A big group of friends, a boyfriend, a confidante. He didn't interrupt until Harm mentioned clubbing. He shared a memory he'd uncovered, one of a group of gay men, himself included, hitting up a pizza place. His smile grew dazzling when Harm confirmed it, and he urged him to continue.

His expression softened along with Harm's voice. Listening to it, Luke couldn't help but get the impression that he'd been using Harm. Picking him up when things were rough, then putting him back down when they weren't. There was no guilt attached to it, because he hadn't done it, but as a semi-impartial observer, it sounded like he'd taken his friend for granted at the very least. He almost wanted to apologize on his own behalf, but that would just be more pretending.

He'd been holding the mug, frozen on the way to another sip by his inability to think of anything worthwhile to say. He couldn't re-write the past, and his concept of the future was even more fragile and uncertain. He watched as Harm worked through a decision. He was sure it would be something negative about him- an elaboration on his being an asshole, something embarrassing, like Luke making a drunken pass at him. Harm would probably realize that Luke hadn't sussed out the exact nature of what he meant to him when he made his revelation. Luke's eyebrows hedged in, and the muscles behind his cheeks stood out as he pressed his jaw together.

He sat in stunned silence as the plates of food were delivered, running his thumb along the handle of the mug. He mumbled thanks to the waitress without even looking up; he couldn't take his eyes off of Harm. It wasn't as if the admission had potent emotional impact. Harm's love only existed in the past, and it belonged to someone that Luke didn't actually know. Harm's vulnerability, his willingness to be vulnerable, was what had blind-sided him.

"Thanks for... letting me know." He set the coffee down, resting his gloved right hand on the bundle of silverware wrapped in a plain napkin, but he didn't open it yet. His brow furrowed. "Nothing ever happened?" His tone held a strained note of incredulity as he regarded the man on the other side of the booth. He'd more or less assumed that they'd at least fooled around. He would have been happy to have Harm in his bed, or anywhere, for that matter. It was hard to look at that tangled, sandy hair and not want to run his fingers through it, or better yet, grab hold and use it to...

He shook his head, not actually giving Harm a chance to respond to the question. Regarding the tilapia a little dubiously, he finally unfurled his silverware and speared off a piece with his fork, talking all the while. "I must have been pretty oblivious. I can't really say for certain, but there's no way I didn't notice you. You're... very noticeable." He faint grin he offered Harm was conspiratorial, accompanied by an almost imperceptible shrug of his broad shoulders. "His loss." He smiled before popping the bit of fish into his mouth and letting it flake and melt away. The tilapia exceeded his expectations, but he did reach with his left hand to squeeze some lemon over it. He looked up at Harm as he assembled a forkful that included both fish and a floret of limp broccoli.

Offline Existentially Odd

  • Navigator
  • Administrator
  • Novelist
  • *****
  • Posts: 11293
  • Wanderer
    • View Profile
Re: Exposure
« Reply #17 on: May 06, 2019, 01:13:11 PM »
Harm nodded solemnly at the thanks but then Luke went on with such surprising and flattering comments that he had to put his burger - which he’d been carefully picking up to bite - back down on his plate because he was giggling too much. And blushing all the way to his toes. As Luke continued complimenting him and finished with that flippant-yet-decisive ‘his loss’, the giggles became a giddy petal of laughter, full of life and appreciation.

It was surreal, to have pined for this big, beautiful man for so long and get next to nothing in return but now sit here and have him not believe they didn’t hook up. The fucking irony. There’d been more than one quasi-intervention because of the group’s suspicion that Harm was doing his best to get between the Golden Couple and they didn’t like it. They’d told him he was embarrassing himself and making everyone uncomfortable, so he should just back off, not believing him when he claimed Luke sought him out because he liked to talk. Their belief that something fishy was going on - when Harm was wishing with all his body that it was - had been the highlight of his love for Luke (pathetic as it was) because it’d given him hope that someone saw something.

But never Luke, unfortunately.

Thinking about ‘fishy’ and looking at Luke’s food almost got him laughing again but he looked up at the ceiling in order to pull himself together, black eyelashes fluttering as he fought off the mirth. It bubbled happily in his chest, warming him as he let out a luxuriating sigh, stretching his face to feel if tears had leaked out of his eyes.

Finally, he looked back at Luke, his eyes twinkling with the humour of the situation. “I swear to you, the highlight of our time together was a hug when you sort of, mayyyybe brushed my cheek with your lips - it really couldn’t have been called a kiss - as you pulled back to leave the party we were at and run off to find your boyfriend. And how does the saying go? You think I’m hot? You should see the other bitch,” he quipped, waggling his eyebrows and pursing his lips exaggeratedly. “Trevor was off-the-charts pretty. You two together were just ri-dic-u-lous-ly gorgeous!” he announced, accompanied by a dismissive wave of his hand.

He knew the ‘you should see the other guy” saying generally referred to the outcome of fisticuffs but he was pretty sure Luke would understand his play on words, along with all the rest of his comments. At least, he hoped he would. Harm was going for a laugh like the tension-releasing one he’d had thanks to Luke and they’d always used to get each other’s jokes and one-liners. A lot had changed, however and he suddenly felt nervous that he was being too silly, too casual, too extra. In the face of Luke’s serious facade, that was an easy assumption to make. He went back to finessing his burger into his long fingers, watching his companion surreptitiously for his reaction.

Offline suneater

  • Wordsmith
  • ***
  • Posts: 251
  • Initiate
    • View Profile
Re: Exposure
« Reply #18 on: May 07, 2019, 10:42:15 AM »
Amusement glinted in Luke's eyes as he watched Harm's mirth bubble forth. His aspect was almost academic as he drank in the sight and sounds of it. Since escaping, he'd learned he excelled at several things, most of them militant. Humor definitely wasn't on the list. At best, he managed a fair deadpan, sarcasm born of the fatalism he'd adopted while scrounging to survive. He'd earned appreciative chuckles here and there, or a roll of the eyes accompanied by a smile, but never anything like this. He couldn't imagine himself engaging in that kind of laughter, never mind provoking it. Puzzlement settled into place on his features as Harm carried on, but a slow smile had settled into place on his full lips.

The cheerfulness was alluring in a way he didn't grasp. The whole process was just so inefficient, so energy-intensive. Luke prided himself on brutal effectiveness, on economy of movement and thought. Wasted effort translated into death or dismemberment in his world. What was it like, to not have to abide by those rules? It wasn't as if Harm's world was devoid of consequences. His profession was just as bloody as Luke's, if not more, but somehow he managed to laugh at the end of long shift. What had he lost that defined this difference between them? Or was he ever like that?

Harm's descriptions were like listening to gossip about people he didn't know. There was a hint of entertainment value, sure, but it didn't mean much. He tried to picture himself as part of a power couple that a social group had hinged upon. He tried to imagine a life where his biggest problem was that his beautiful boyfriend had been cheating on him. Harm wasn't wrong - Trevor was flawless, at least physically, from the glimpses Luke had caught of him in his stolen past. But he was just a pretty face in a photograph. Calling him to mind didn't summon any thrill or dredge up any emotion.

Not like Jake. Thinking of the Ventrue never failed to impact his mood in some way. Usually it was annoyance or frustration, but the lust was undeniable. He still woke up hard from Jake dreams every so often. He still had to bury himself in business whenever he was at hand, which fortunately had been less and less often of late.

Not like Harm, either. Something about the man was pulling at him. It wasn't at all the raw, wild appeal of his vampiric benefactor. It was endearing. It was warm. He'd smiled more across from Harm in a diner tonight than he had in the last several months.

A smile was all Harm got for his efforts to share his laughter, but it was at least an earnest smile. Luke shook his head. "I've seen him. At least, I'm pretty sure it's him." Now that he thought on it, there were a lot of physical similarities between Harm and the person he was pretty sure was Trevor. Blond, blue eyes, slender builds. No wonder Harm had a bit of a complex.

He set down his fork and paid attention to his coffee for a while. "I'm trying to picture it. All of it. What if I'd never had my accident, you know?" He shook his head. "I just can't. Maybe I'm just not imaginative enough, but it seems like... a bad TV show, or something. Poorly written. Flat characters." He took a slow sip from his mug.

His voice was soft. "Tell me about me. What I was like. What I did, besides chase Trevor around. Who I was." Why you loved me, he didn't add. He wanted impartiality he wasn't sure Harm could deliver. It wasn't that he mistrusted him; he just got the sense that Harm's view of him had been decidedly rose-tinted.

Offline Existentially Odd

  • Navigator
  • Administrator
  • Novelist
  • *****
  • Posts: 11293
  • Wanderer
    • View Profile
Re: Exposure
« Reply #19 on: May 07, 2019, 03:50:47 PM »
Harm had taken the opportunity of Luke's ruminative words to tuck into his burger, nodding or adding an exclamatory, 'Mhmm,' where appropriate but mainly focussing his energy on eating. He was starving but also nervous and the food gave him something to do with his hands that wasn't reaching out to touch Luke. He was determined not to be that guy again, the puppy that followed his master, wagging his tail hopefully whenever he was looked at. He was older, wiser. He wasn't even convinced that what he'd felt for Luke had been genuine love. It'd seemed so, to someone as inexperienced as he'd been but hindsight raised some valid questions.

Or maybe it was just that Luke was so different now. He could imagine how difficult it would be to have snippets of memories come at you randomly, not knowing who anyone in them was. Or caring. That was perhaps the greatest tragedy, considering how warm Luke had once been. Either way, it was a good idea to take this carefully, not throw himself at the pretty face he'd once known, because there was now a darkness behind those eyes that scared him. It was the kind of drifting, untempered rage that sought a home - or a target - and didn't much care what or who got in the way, as long as it got to unleash every now and then. It was borne of despair and nurtured in abandonment and Harm wasn't confident he had the fortitude to weather that storm. Not without a very good cause and the promise of being met halfway, anyway.

Conceding that he didn't have enough time to finish the burger before he had to respond, Harm put it down and reached for some napkins, wiping juices off his hands and face. He remained blissfully unaware that he'd left a smear of ketchup halfway up his right cheek. He took a sip of his drink before he started talking.

"Okay. The Story of Luke Kingston: The College Years," he began with appropriate drama (and an inappropriately cheeky grin), his tongue sweeping around inside his mouth to usher bits of meat and lettuce out from between his teeth to be swallowed. He reached under the table and linked the fingers of both hands around one of his knees, tilting his head to the left as he composed his thoughts and memories into some sort of order.

"To begin with, you were sporty. You were on the wrestling team - I can't remember if you had a scholarship or not," he frowned, looking momentarily at Luke like he'd be able to clarify for him before he shook his head dismissively. Of course he couldn't. "Anyway, you wrestled and you were into martial arts. You did that with your roommate, Jin. I think he got you into it, actually, and you loved it.

"So, whenever you had spare time, you sparred with Jin or you were training for wrestling meets. Maybe I made it sound like you and I hung out a lot, but we didn't, really. Not in the beginning. Weekend parties, clubbing with everyone, occasional group study sessions, that was about it. Sometimes, between classes, you and your jock friends would hang out on the grassy quad, throwing balls around. Somehow, one of you always produced one from thin air - I never did figure out that magic trick - and then there'd be a whole group of hot, shirtless guys getting sweaty in the sun, throwing stuff at each other. That was the only spectator sport I was interested in. Ahh, it was a thing of beauty," Harm grinned, fluttering his eyelashes playfully as he remembered those golden days.

"As a person you were funny, kind and so honest. Sometimes rigidly so. You got uptight when people broke too many rules, when they were disloyal or just plain assholes. You were big on authority but you loved debating everything," Harm rolled his eyes for emphasis, rocking slightly on the seat due to his posture. "You were a high level debater in high school and you did. Not. Let. That. Shit. Go in college. You'd debate anything, anyone, anywhere, anytime," he laughed at the memory. "You kept up with all the current events in the world and you were smart. About everything.

"You could be really obnoxious, though. If you were in one of your righteous moods, you'd go for hours, at a club, a party or a cafe, you didn't care about anything except running through victim after victim, badgering them into submission until they either walked away laughing or telling you to go fuck yourself. You'd argue about everything. Trevor was the only one who could handle you, when you were like that, the only one who matched your level of... zeal," he eventually added, tasting the word he finally settled on.

"It's part of what made you two awesome. You both became, like, energised by the arguing, whipping yourselves into a debating frenzy and then going off to work it out in bed, I guess. It was like some weird foreplay, at times. Intense and strange to watch. It was pretty jaw-dropping, all that passion." Harm lowered his eyes and dropped his leg, using his hand to feed a couple more fries to himself. He frowned, speaking after he'd chewed and swallowed most of his mouthful.

"You were the kind of honest, trustworthy guy that everybody was happy to call a friend. You always did the right thing. Like, you never walked past rubbish without picking it up or a wild chair without pushing it in - I do that to this day, because of you, heh. You were kind, you never put up with anyone bullying people, you stood up for anyone that couldn't do it themselves. Girls loved you, guys wanted to be you, that kind of thing. You were a little bit too good to be true, really, but you were true. Loyal to a fault. Honest. Upstanding.

"When Trevor started pulling away from you, you kinda lost your shit. You didn't get it. You expected everybody to be like you, I don't think you were prepared for just how shitty people can really be. It was towards the end of our second year that it started. That's when you and I got closer, because I'd listen to you. Debate you sometimes but mostly, just... be a friend. You always thanked me, always told me I knew just what to say. But I could never tell you the truth about Trevor, so I felt like a hypocrite. Trevor moved beyond you, to... new people, new friends that you didn't approve of. He got pretty wild and you... that wasn't you. Sure, you knew how to have a good time, but nothing crazy or dangerous. Trevor wanted all of that, you wanted none of it but yet you still tried to make it work, because it was in your nature. Loyal to a fault," he said, his voice apologetic as he implied the bitter side of those words, which should have only been good.

"Did you ever become a cop?" he asked, not interested in pursuing the line of conversation where Harm explained in vivid detail just how blind to Trevor Luke had been and how he'd humiliated himself for a man that hadn't deserved him. It was implied. Surely that was enough. He went back to eating his burger, ready to put it back down if there was something deeply interrogative coming his way.

Offline suneater

  • Wordsmith
  • ***
  • Posts: 251
  • Initiate
    • View Profile
Re: Exposure
« Reply #20 on: May 08, 2019, 10:21:12 AM »
The ketchup was a distraction on Harm's cheek, standing out and tugging at his attention throughout the entire recitation. Part of him wanted to reach over and delete it, and part of him wanted to let Harm know so he could take care of it. He reached an impasse with himself and ended up doing nothing at all, doing his best to ignore it. The only thing that helped was focusing on Harm's lips while he spoke. His words were more than just words. They were his past, the absence of which had haunted him on a nightly basis every since torn himself free of Project Twilight.

They were proof that he'd been nothing other than human once.

He tried to see himself in Harm's depiction, to home in on what elements of his personality had survived the conditioning and psychic tampering he'd endured. It made sense that he'd been a combat-athlete. No doubt that was one of the criteria for being a Special Asset, whatever that meant.

As Harm continued, Luke came to a realization: his former existence sounded tedious. Sports competitions, parties and clubs, asserting his intelligence by badgering people- he could do without the lot of it. Not to mention the unfaithful boyfriend who he'd apparently went off the rails for. College-Luke plenty had time for that kind of bullshit. He'd been blissfully unaware of the monsters that stalked the city, or worse, the people who made monsters themselves. Present-Luke had to keep himself honed to a knife's edge. Even if he could have carried out a normal social life, he was beginning to doubt that he would.

He'd sort of started zoning out at some point, focused more on reconciling his past and present selves than what Harm was actually saying. His features remained set and intense all the while, evincing his wandering attention not at all. It wasn't until the flow of Harm's voice shifted that he paid attention again. The interrogative was different enough that it pulled his conscious mind back into the booth.

Did you ever become a cop?

His gloved hand closed on a napkin. He leaned and reached forward to wipe away the splotch of ketchup. The napkin kept his thumb from making contact with Harm's soft cheek, but the covered tips of his ring and pinky fingers did brush gently over the other man's jawline in the process. It was over in an instant. He retracted his arm and leaned back in his seat, crumpling the napkin and dropping it on the table near his plate. "Sorry, it was bugging me."

A not-inconsiderable portion of his time in the Mexican bar had been spent sorting out what he was going to tell Harm when the conversation inevitably turned to his current life. As such, he had his pseudo-truths, devoid of detail, at the ready. He puzzled visibly over the question for a few seconds before offering a shrug.

"Not really, but kind of. I'm a security consultant, so I guess there are some parallels, but... well, I don't think they mint many amnesiac cops." He allowed a self-deprecating smile to touch his lips. He reached for his coffee, lacing his left hand through the handle partway. "I lead a pretty quiet life. I work a lot. I get the feeling I'm in line for a promotion, and the work is pretty interesting, so sometimes it feels like all I do." He shook his head. "Honestly this is the most social I've been in months." His nose wrinkled. "My latest attempt to blow off some steam landed me in a clinic, which reminds me-"

He'd been waiting to get some food in him before taking the meds. The bottle rattled when he withdrew it from him sweatshirt pocket. He worked the cap off and spilled a dose of germ-killers into his palm and then popped them neatly into his mouth. He washed it down with black coffee, swallowing thoroughly, and then grinned almost sheepishly Harm's way.

"Thanks by the way. Where was I? Oh, yeah- it will be a while before I do that again."

Offline Existentially Odd

  • Navigator
  • Administrator
  • Novelist
  • *****
  • Posts: 11293
  • Wanderer
    • View Profile
Re: Exposure
« Reply #21 on: May 08, 2019, 09:27:04 PM »
When Luke leant towards him to wipe his face, Harm instinctively flinched back, looking at the gloved hand warily until he processed that it had a napkin in it. He held himself rigid while his face was wiped, blushing at being treated like a child with food all over his face. The gentle brush of Luke's fingers against his face was a surprise; it sent a ripple of awareness through him. "It's okay. Sorry," he said shyly, lowering his gaze to the last bite of his burger and hoping the heat he felt in the tops of his ears wasn't as obvious as his red cheeks were (it was a flagging hope).

Sorry I've been hit too often to trust you. Sorry I'm a mess and can't eat tidily. Sorry I made you touch me. Sorrynotsorry at the last one.

He glanced up as Luke answered his question, his breath catching at that little smile. It brightened his face and made him so much sexier that Harm had to fight to concentrate on what he was saying. Interestingly, they were in exactly the same place in their lives; overworked and underplayed. Harm's eyebrows shot up at the implication Luke had been relieving some work stress by fucking around and ended up with a potential disease. He watched the medication be swallowed, finding it difficult to reel his imagination back into line. Luke. Fucking some guy. Yeah, that was the kind of imagery that had sent him off to sleep for years. He didn't need those urges riled up again.

"De nada," he dismissed the thanks for the pills, confident it wouldn't become problematic for him. He'd done similar things his whole career, learning quickly how flexible rules were in needy communities like the Brazilian Quarter. He giggled at Luke's final statement. "What? It'll be a while before you have sex again?" he chuckled, a twinkle in his eyes. "You should probably give it a week but I dunno if you need to abstain for 'a while," he teased, wiping his hands - and especially his face - carefully now that he'd finished all his food (bar a few chips).

Offline suneater

  • Wordsmith
  • ***
  • Posts: 251
  • Initiate
    • View Profile
Re: Exposure
« Reply #22 on: May 09, 2019, 07:13:14 AM »
Luke didn’t react visibly when Harm shied away from his hand, but the wariness followed by embarrassment stirred some mental sediment. Protectiveness was a quality he’d come to consider a pillar of his self, but it had only applied generally until Harm flinched. He’d decided to protect mortals from supernaturals, to protect Jake’s territory from the other factions within the city, to protect others from the darkness lurking inside him, but there had never been a specific person he’d wanted to protect.

Now, it seemed, there was.

He stowed that thought temporarily becauseHarmhadjustaskedhimaboutsex! Not just that, but he was making fun of him. He’d brought him on itself but given the dynamic they’d apparently had once upon a time, he had been expecting him to sidestep. Both of Luke’s eyebrows lifted in response, and he took a diplomatic sip of coffee.

“No. Well. Yes? It will be a while, hopefully an indefinite while, before I go out prowling for it again.” He pursed his lips. “It’s not as if I’m suddenly sex-phobic or something. I did something stupid in a weak moment and I don’t even-“ He shook his head. “Actually, nope, let’s just drop it.” He sounded annoyed, but it was aimed at himself.

He exhaled. “What about you? Any men in your life?” His tone was friendly, even if the rhetorical deflection was blatantly obvious. He wouldn’t seem salacious, just interested- making conversation. He relaxed back in the booth, lofting his mug. He looked to have forgotten completely about his half-finished food.

Offline Existentially Odd

  • Navigator
  • Administrator
  • Novelist
  • *****
  • Posts: 11293
  • Wanderer
    • View Profile
Re: Exposure
« Reply #23 on: May 09, 2019, 11:27:21 AM »
Harm smiled and chuckled to himself as Luke insisted they drop the subject of sex. Was he actually shy about it? When they were younger he'd never been a boaster but he'd been hot-blooded enough to engage in sexual banter and discussion without shutting it down. Harm sobered when he rationalised that he was probably appearing prudish now due to embarrassment. The whole unsafe sex and clinic visit wasn't something to joke about and him laughing in Luke's face might be misconstrued; he was amused by how cute Luke was when he seemed shy, not because he'd fucked himself into an awkward position. Corner? Whatever. He made sure he was looking sympathetic rather than judgey.

When Luke asked his question and relaxed back, Harm scoffed and leant forward over the table. He glanced sideways, as if he was afraid of someone overhearing him (there was no-one even nearby) and then eyed Luke with raised eyebrows. "Let me tell you something," he began conspiratorially. "You don't know me, but believe me when I tell you: I have a superpower." He gave it a moment for that statement to sink in, the twinkle in his blue-green eyes growing as he poured himself into this persona with gusto.

"It's true. Put me in a room - any room where there's a selection of men, a club, a bar, the fucking library - and I will unerringly find the only emotionally unavailable male in the place. It's my gift. He doesn't even have to be emotionally unavailable, possibly just plain unavailable - married, in a relationship and looking to cheat, experimenting - I will find him. I won't even date him once, oh no, I'm fucking good at this superpower. I will date him for at least a month and then I'll figure out how screwed up he is. If there's not some potential humiliation or a bit of emotional savagery in it for me, then I just haven't done my job as thoroughly as I can guarantee you I'm able," he nodded sombrely.

He smiled deprecatingly and sat back a little. "Short answer: I'm hopelessly single. I make too many bad choices so I'm burying myself in work for a while. I had a tough breakup last year and I'm more of a serial monogamist than a casual fling-type guy - though I've been there, too. I seem to have a weakness for asshole doctors. They are the worst. D'you know, I actually had one tell me I was just his 'experimental phase' but that he's actually straight? After he did things with me that are not polite to talk about in public," he grinned, looking around again for emphasis. "Pfft, that fucker is gayer than a Cher concert in San Francisco and he had the hide to blow me off with his winds of denial? Fucking please," Harm snorted, picking up his Coke, only to realise it was finished.

He raised his empty glass towards where Sandy was, behind the counter, pouting at her and pointing at it, silently entreating her for another. She nodded, raising a finger to show she'd be just a minute, while she finished whatever she was doing, and he turned back to smile at Luke.

Offline suneater

  • Wordsmith
  • ***
  • Posts: 251
  • Initiate
    • View Profile
Re: Exposure
« Reply #24 on: May 09, 2019, 12:36:07 PM »
He cocked a brow when Harm leaned in, and it only climbed further up his forehead when he divulged his superpower. For a split second, Luke's mind shifted into a freewheeling panic. Harm might have divined a hint of nervousness while he kept Luke hanging. Rational Luke knew he was being figurative, joking, but Crazypants Luke was the one at the pulpit while silence reigned. What were the odds that his college friend was something other than human? What were the odds that he would be telling Luke if he were?

He didn't have much interaction with normal people. The White Rabbit was replete with monsters and people who were in on it, so casually learning that someone who looked otherwise mundane was actually a were-turtle or godknowswhatelse was de rigeur. It was going to be difficult keeping up the act if he and Harm ended up spending more time together... which was the first time he'd considered the prospect. He turned the notion over in his mind and realized that so far, he wanted to.

The faint tension bled out of him immediately when Harm went into his bit. Luke's lips bent into a smirk, and amusement danced in his eyes. Taken as is, it really wasn't all that funny. Harm's love-life sounded miserable, and Luke had two equally ugly thoughts simultaneous. Either: 1.) his experience loving Luke without reciprocity had done some damage or 2.) the damage had always been there and Luke was just the first of an apparent legion. Yeah, definitely not funny. Harm seemed to want it to be funny, though, so Luke embraced it, appreciating the delivery more than the content.

He's single. The notion surfaced while he tracked Harm's attention to Sandy. He lifted his tepid mug of coffee to indicate that he was ready for a refill as well and save her a trip, all the while processing. What did it matter if Harm was single? Present-Luke wasn't all that emotionally available, or generally available. He didn't have the time or patience for the double-life it would require, or the solipsism necessary to expose Harm to the danger that defined his existence.

He was lost in thought for a few long seconds, but he snapped out of it and offered a distracted smile. He replayed what Harm had said quickly, then shrugged. "Apparently the last guy I dated was cheating on me. I'm not sure who wins this tilt." He set down his mug at the edge of the table so Sandy would have easy access. His brow knit, and he met Harm's eyes briefly before he continued. "I'm with you though. I think single is better for me, too. My life really isn't right for anything other than flings and... I guess I'm with you on that. At the time it seems great, but afterwards you realize you were better off just taking care of things yourself." His smirk reappeared.

Sandy trundled up, sliding Harm his Coke and refilling Luke's mug. "I'll be back for those plates in a minute. You want me to pack that up?" She nodded at Luke's plate, and he shook his head in response. "How about dessert for you boys?" She lifted an eyebrow at Harm. "French toast?" Luke regarded him from across the table, as if to say, your call.

Offline Existentially Odd

  • Navigator
  • Administrator
  • Novelist
  • *****
  • Posts: 11293
  • Wanderer
    • View Profile
Re: Exposure
« Reply #25 on: May 09, 2019, 01:48:16 PM »
"Oh, I do. One hundred percent," Harm argued when Luke suggested he might have a chance at winning the who-had-the-worst-dating-record contest. His deadpan expression quickly shifted into something more playful. As Luke went on to agree with him, he sighed and nodded but his wistful response was interrupted by Sandy's appearance at the table.

"I did not eat those," he grinned, pointing to the leftover fries on his plate, "specifically so I could get the french toast!" he beamed, extremely proud of himself. "We can share, if you want?" he offered, looking at Luke. He wasn't sure that he was all that hungry but he didn't want his conversation with Luke to end so soon. He was enjoying being able to look at him again very much - and the air between them was becoming more relaxed as time went on. The way Luke was looking at him, it seemed like his companion was advocating for dragging this little reunion out, also. "Maybe a scoop of ice cream, Sandy? But no bacon," he warned with a wink. That would just be excessive.

When she walked away, he shifted position on the seat, moving his legs around. He bumped into Luke's and, deliberately, left his calf leaning against Luke's calf while he pulled his other leg up onto the seat beside him, to hug. "Yeah," he sighed, "but I have to admit, it's been... a while now. And I'm beginning to really miss it. I mean, I'm excellent in the sack, don't get me wrong," he joked, holding a hand horizontal to the table as he made his point but then he relaxed, his shoulders drooping, "but I miss that feeling of human contact, those unexpected treats of touch and sensation, the pressure of being held down and pushed into, the-" he broke off with a dramatic sigh, his cheeks flushing because he was letting his imagination get away from him.

"Bah, you know what I mean," he smiled poutily, leaning his head against his knee. "I imagine that's exactly what got you out of the house last night." He held back a wink, not wanting to tease.

Offline suneater

  • Wordsmith
  • ***
  • Posts: 251
  • Initiate
    • View Profile
Re: Exposure
« Reply #26 on: May 10, 2019, 12:42:38 PM »
Luke smiled and shrugged. "Sure." It didn't seem worth mentioning that he almost never ate sugar. Harm might have noticed that he didn't take much joy in eating at all. Diner tilapia was not a delicacy by any measure, but Luke hadn't seemed interested in tasting it. He'd eaten mechanically, dutifully, only what he needed. He skewed toward protein and cruciferous vegetables when he could, prepared simply. His body was a machine, well-honed, and it didn't run on sweets. He wasn't about to cast a shadow on an evening that was going remarkably well by taking a stand against sucrose, though.

His smile curved wider when Harm's repositioning just happened to bump their legs together. He opened up his hips and nudged against Harm's calf playfully with his own. Harm no doubt appreciated the visual elements of Luke's body, but coming into actual contact with it might prove surprising. The muscle sheathed in jean was implacable, with a circumference similar to Harm's thigh. He let his leg rest just like that, feeling the warmth at the point of contact.

Luke listened with keen interest as Harm picked up the conversation where they'd left off. Where did he get all this energy? There was a performative aspect to Harm's side of the conversation that Luke found both mystifying and adorable. If it were up to him, he would have just sat back and born witness to the one-man-show. When things took a graphic turn he was even more acutely aware of their legs pressed together. Was Harm... trying to seduce him? His experience with seduction was limited so far, but it felt like it, in a sort of goofy way.

"Something like that, yeah." His grin looked like it had snagged on something. His dalliances hadn't had anything to do with human contact. How exactly was he supposed to tell Harm that? Actually, I have monster parts and I'm pretty sure that they make me some kind of sexual predator when my guard is down. It was more like potential energy gathering that needed to be released. Neither of his post-escape sexual liaisons had been warm or cuddly. He'd damn-near brutalized Riley. Last night he'd unloaded, buttoned up, and left the guy dazed in the bathroom stall. It was telling that he could only remember what the back of his head looked like.

He pushed the gloved hand through his hair and then smoothed it back down. It hadn't escaped his notice that Harm had alluded to a more passive, submissive role in the bedroom. It hadn't escaped the notice of the darker urges that dwelt inside him, either. His leg shifted, rubbing their calves together again. "For me, I just get... pent up. At some point the hand just doesn't cut it. Eventually my brain isn't really calling the shots anymore." He chuckled, but it was devoid of humor. "I can get kind of aggressive, I guess. It's not great, honestly. Something I have to work on."

His brow knit. "Did we ever talk about sex, you know, before?" He was curious what he'd been like- where the similarities lay, and what the differences were.

Offline Existentially Odd

  • Navigator
  • Administrator
  • Novelist
  • *****
  • Posts: 11293
  • Wanderer
    • View Profile
Re: Exposure
« Reply #27 on: May 10, 2019, 06:49:17 PM »
Harm was not-so-secretly pleased that Luke didn't pull away from his tentative leg touch; a happy warmth spread through his chest at the way Luke nudged him back (though he was initially disturbed that it was the table leg against his, so hard was the muscle pressed against his thin scrubs). Luke's accompanying grin took the rigid man before him much closer to his younger, more carefree aspect, too, igniting a longing in Harm that he thought he'd abandoned years ago. It only intensified as Luke ruffled his golden hair and rubbed his leg again, discussing how aggressive he got when he needed to fuck.

Jesus. Sounds like you should have sex more regularly, then, he wanted to say. Pick me. Fucking please, pick me. I won't let you get to that stage, I'll keep you happy. Daily. Just let me use my tongue on your cock, let me suck it and run it around inside my mouth or climb into bed behind me and just slide into me and rock me until--

Luke had said something else. Shit.

"Hrmm?" he asked, even while he rewound the auditory clues his distracted body had managed to absorb automatically. "Oh! Um," he hedged once he had it, frowning. Apart from the fact he needed to give his answer some thought, he needed to fill in time. He shifted position again, dropping his raised leg back down and tilting his hips upward in order to tug at his pants before he sat. They'd got somewhat tighter while his mind wandered, thinking of fucking Luke. He hoped his inattention and drooping eyelids might be explained by tiredness in Luke's mind. Better that than advertising the rampant return of a lust he'd thought long-buried.

It was fucking confusing. This guy was a relative stranger to him yet he wasn't. Harm knew a part of him that was long gone, yet there were fleeting instances of his old crush. The mischievous twinkle in his hazel eyes, the smile that could launch ships and stop frantic babies crying was still there, it just didn't linger as it had once. That was worse, in a way, because it became a challenge for Harm to draw it out. As if he hadn't spent enough nights obsessing about Luke, like a dog with a

permanent boner

bone.

"In the beginning, not really. I mean, you weren't so shy, you'd make jokes in front of your buddies, talk about guy's asses or mouths but it was just general crudeness. I was uptight about all of it at first and shied away from it but once I got a few notches on the old bedpost - so to speak - it was easier," he winked and pretended to shine his knuckles on his chest, finding it impossible to not be excessively animated due to his nerves.

Losing his virginity and taking his first few lovers had been a very big deal to Harm but he hadn't been afforded the luxury of being precious about it then and he didn't think it would be all that welcome now, either. He'd figured out the score pretty quickly, unfortunately. He'd known he was good looking but the fact that that had equated to experience in a lot of guys' opinions had traumatised him. They'd thought, because they told him he was hot, it had been okay to treat him irreverently, to execute the sex like it was just another item on their to do list to tick off. It'd left Harm confused and feeling dirty because none of it had fulfilled him. Hearing guys like Luke joke about sex had rubbed some rather raw wounds - until he'd managed to lower his expectations and build up his defences.

Laughing off his vague feelings of violation and loss now only made Harm feel even more vulnerable and disloyal. To himself. He didn't like it, though he couldn't imagine himself being honest about a mindset that had become a pattern he'd still never completely broken. No wonder he'd lifted a nice, faithful, caring guy like Luke up onto a pedestal. He was the ideal. A fucking unicorn.

"One time, you got reeeeally drunk and confessed you love eating ass," Harm grinned, blushing delicately. Thinking of Luke tonguing his hole had been a nightly fantasy for a long time after that little tidbit had been shared and it was impossible to keep the colour out of his cheeks thinking about it now, too. "But, as we became better friends, we talked about it less. I had some casual hookups - very rarely - and you had Trevor so... it never really came up, unless you were upset that Trevor was pulling away from you and admitted there was no, uh, intimacy, that is," he said offhandedly, biting his lower lip as other memories returned to him.

"I, uh... well, I know more about how things were with you than I should. Not because of you but... because of Trevor," he admitted sheepishly, glancing agitatedly from his hands fidgeting on the table up to Luke and back again, unsure if he should admit these details. Luke's expression seemed to be urging him to continue so he did, if somewhat hesitantly.

"There was a point, towards the end, where I'd seen him with someone else and I confronted him about it. He was pretty savage. He knew how I felt about you and he laughed at me for caring, telling me I was pathetic. He talked about how you liked to, uh, fuck him and how good you were in bed - in some detail - and told me I'd never have you. That I wasn't good enough for you. He laughed a lot, actually. Telling me how he was tired of your dick, implying he'd keep stringing you along until he was done with you, even though you weren't all that fun anymore." Harm frowned, wondering what Luke knew about the city. When he looked at him now, his expression was more calculating.

"He did it to me a couple more times. Sought me out when he was feeling low, purposely to be cruel to me. He knew I'd never say anything to you about it and I guess it made him feel like King Shit to dangle you over my head, knowing I was listening to you worry about how much he was gone, how pale and apathetic he was and then having to listen to him tell me he didn't care. Maybe he was daring me to tell you. It kind of felt like it, but I never did. You loved him, I couldn't do that to you. Do you... you say you work security details here, in the city? So do you... you know what's here, right? What comes out... only at night?" Harm hinted, waiting for Luke's face to show he understood what he was alluding to so could get to his point.

Offline suneater

  • Wordsmith
  • ***
  • Posts: 251
  • Initiate
    • View Profile
Re: Exposure
« Reply #28 on: May 11, 2019, 03:12:50 AM »
Luke listened studiously. It was hard to imagine himself bro-ing it up locker room style. Jake's enforcers weren't shy about discussing those sorts of things as a general rule, but Luke never participated. Did he want to on some level? Grudgingly, he had to admit that he did. The impulse was there, but it was checked by the need to retain control, the need to separate himself from them, both because of what they were and for the sake of the chain of command.

His whole body became a frown when Harm began detailing the depths of Trevor's infidelities and the way that he'd used them to put Harm in his place. That same protective urge he'd felt earlier flared, and he had to consciously force himself to keep his strength in check in order to not shatter the freshly-steaming mug of coffee he was cradling.

Of course, Harm didn't need his protection from that particular dead man. He'd processed that the accident was a cover up, but he hadn't thought about what that meant for Trevor. What had actually happened to him? Had there really been some kind of accident that Project Twilight had taken advantage of, or had it been more nefarious than that? Was Trevor yet another of their victims, murdered to help them get to Luke? Harm's recounting read as genuine, leaving Luke inclined to believe that his ex might have gotten what he deserved.

His expression went stony when he realized the implications of the revelation. He had loved someone capable of that sort of sadism, and he'd either been fooled or let it happen. The idea of the latter made his stomach lurch. Whatever fundamental truth that represented about him, it was an ugly one, and he had to wonder if that was an intrinsic element of who he was, something that transcended the aspects of himself that had been ripped from him.

He searched for a reply, but Harm apparently wasn't ready for one. His nonsequitur caused Luke's jaw to set and his eyes to narrow slightly. It was at that moment that Sandy turned up with a massive plate of French toast laden with scoops of ice cream and clouds of whipped cream. Luke nodded thanks dully, but his mind was in gear, processing the fact that Harm was aware of the supernatural.

It made sense. Healthcare and law enforcement employees were likely to encounter something at some point. Harm was getting it from both ends- the volume of a hospital, and the dire straits of a free clinic in a rough neighborhood. Now that he considered it in earnest, he would have been shocked if there weren't patterns for any intelligent person to pick up on in those fields. Half of his job for Jake was minimizing how public the incidentals of the city's supernatural populace got. Botched feedings, freak accidents, monsters on the loose. For every one he dealt with, there were probably two that wound up in the emergency room.

Harm knew. That was the other take away. In terms of them spending time together, it would go a long way if Luke didn't have to lie about absolutely everything. Once Sandy had departed, he nodded slowly.

"Yeah. Very aware." His voice was more curt than he'd planned it to be. He took a sip of coffee, brow knitting. "If I'm being honest, too aware." His right arm started to itch, like it sometimes did, at the exact terminus between the gray flesh of his monstrous arm and the human body it was attached to. He set down the coffee and used his left hand to scratch. "You aren't... tied up in any of that, are you?"

Offline Existentially Odd

  • Navigator
  • Administrator
  • Novelist
  • *****
  • Posts: 11293
  • Wanderer
    • View Profile
Re: Exposure
« Reply #29 on: May 11, 2019, 07:55:15 PM »
When the french toast was delivered, Harm sat up straighter, wriggling his feet until both of his legs were on the inside of Luke's splayed limbs. He knew this because the outsides of his calves were against the insides of Luke's... briefly. He shifted the new one ever so slightly away after making contact, because it felt like too much suddenly. Too relaxed. Too intimate. His hips were lined up directly with Luke's, it could only have been better if his legs were the ones on the outside, and they were somewhere he could shuffle forward and wrap them around Luke's waist, lowering himself down... but it wasn't that intimate. And Luke wouldn't exactly have to chase him down for years to reconnect their legs, if he'd enjoyed the sensation of Harm pressed against him.

Harm had a bite of food in his mouth when Luke asked his question. He frowned as he chewed, initially uncertain what he meant but then his eyes widened and he swallowed rapidly when he realised Luke was asking him if he had anything to do with vampires.

"Me? No! Well, apart from the fact that I'm pretty sure a whole bunch of vampires moved into my apartment building not too long ago and I guess I've always been curious - I've been told their bite feels amazing - no. What I mean is that I think Trevor was into them. There was a guy, his name was Chris or Steve or Tom or something boring in first year, but second year of college he turned completely goth and started insisting everyone call him Onyx. He pulled away from the group, hinting at a secret world he was privy to. I'm thinking it was him that got Trevor involved."

He pointed from one part of the table to another as he spoke, finger extended beyond his knife, intimating the connection between the people and creatures he was discussing. He cut another portion of french toast, not noticing that Luke hadn't bothered to pick up his cutlery and join in, even though the dish was positioned between them. He fastidiously scooped a bit of ice cream and cream on top of the bite on his fork but paused before he lifted it to his mouth, frowning at Luke. "What do you mean you're 'too aware, if you're honest'? How can you be too aware?"