i. surprise that I am
Claire leaned back against the Luke’s sofa, hissing as the movement brought another twinge of pain to her arm. She frowned at the blood marring the right shoulder of her jacket; it would stain. She heard a faint rustle and thump down the hallway. “Remind me again why you have first aid supplies in your apartment?” Claire called out. “It’s not like you get paper cuts or anything.”
Luke returned to the living room, a white plastic box in hand. “For nights when stubborn women get their arms cut up when they try to beat some guy robbing an electronics store with their purse filled with bingo nickels.”
“It was quarters,” Claire joked. She flinched as she tugged her jacket off. Luke handed her an alcohol swab, and she tore the packet open using her left hand and her teeth. “I’m the one who’s supposed to patch you up,” she noted, managing not to curse as she cleaned the wound. It was shallow, but long.
Luke smiled as he placed a gauze pad on the cut. She held it in place while he affixed it with surgical tape. “Maybe you should find yourself some patients that aren’t bulletproof.”
“Got some,” she said. She braced the bottle of aspirin between her knees and awkwardly popped the top off, shaking two pills onto the coffee table. “They’re a pain in the ass.”
“I’d imagine.” Luke gathered the trash together and walked to the kitchen. Claire reassembled the first aid kit while he washed his hands, and when he returned with a glass of water, she muttered thanks. She tossed the two pills in her mouth and chased them down with a long, cool gulp of water. “I could have handled it, Claire,” he said, finally.
She rolled her eyes. “I was handling things just fine.” Luke looked pointedly at her bloodstained jacket, and she gave a lopsided shrug. “Aside from the broken window.”
His eyes went dark. “I don’t like seeing you hurt.”
Claire sighed. “And I don’t like assholes pointing switchblades at Mr. Ortega. Luke,” she said, twisting on the sofa, pressing close. “It’s fine.” She shifted, rising on one knee as she reached up, brushed her fingers against Luke’s cheek. “I’m fine.”
Luke hummed as he leaned into her. Carefully, he ran his hand up Claire’s leg, stopping at her hip to trace circles, back and forth. “I’m not entirely convinced,” he suggested. He tugged her forward, until she was flush against him. She rocked forward, and Luke, back.
“Well,” Claire said, drawing back so he could pull her T-shirt up, slowly over her right arm, then suddenly, off. “Maybe I could show you.”
“Yes,” Luke said, his voice dropping low, and satisfied. “Indeed.”
ii. new, fresh, and not disorderly
It was just after 9:30 PM. Claire was making tonight’s leftover chicken into tomorrow’s Caesar salad when her phone buzzed, skittering against countertop. She sealed the salad container, then the packet of dressing, and set them in the fridge. A quick scan of the fridge’s contents told her she needed to make a grocery store run after work at the clinic.
The phone buzzed again. She rinsed off the last of the dishes and set them in the dishwasher, then picked up the phone as it vibrated a third time. It was Misty, and Claire laughed at the sequence of messages.
I need so much wine.
Or possibly tequila.
I’m bringing you tequila.
Claire looked at the time, then sent off her response. Yes, and then, Absolutely yes, and then, And more.
Misty arrived twelve minutes later, and she laughed at the array on Claire’s kitchen table: two shot glasses, a salt shaker, and a dish of lime wedges. “I didn’t realize we were doing it up like Spring break,” she said. She twisted the bottle cap off and poured.
“What’s the occasion?” Claire asked. Misty wasn’t wearing her badge, or her “serious detective at a crime scene” jacket, and when she stepped past Claire, warmth radiated from her skin, inviting.
“Tequila’s the occasion,” Misty responded. She set the bottle on the table. She looked at Claire, her eyes glancing over her hair, coiled loosely around her shoulders, the worn tank top with its faded Knicks logo, and the jeans riding low on her hips. “It’s got a ritual,” she said, smiling. Salt, shot, and lime. Her eyes flickered when Claire made a show of salt and tongue and skin. She echoed Claire’s movements, tracing a figure eight on her wrist while Claire watched, rapt.
“Yeah, well.” The acid stung Claire’s lips, and she caught Misty’s arm in her hands. “I like the foreplay.” Misty’s breath caught as Claire dipped her head, her tongue darting against the faint trace of salt on Misty’s wrist. She looked up, and Misty was already popping open the buttons of her shirt, one-handed.
“There are better ways,” Misty said. And Claire straightened, slipped her palms against the bare skin of Misty’s back, then around, and up. The lace of Misty’s bra was delicate but coarse. Claire ducked her head, pressed her lips against the lace. Misty choked out, “maybe,” and one of her hands slid under Claire’s tank top, teasing lightly across her belly, then lower.
“What’s the occasion?” Claire asked again, when she could focus.
Misty’s smile was sharp and sly. “This,” she said, and she caught Claire by the waist, and Claire breathed, “yes,” before Misty’s lips met hers.
iii. friendly old pain
Luke was three moves away from once again losing a game to Bobby when the bell rang above the door. Bobby tipped his hat. “Misty.”
“Hey, Bobby.” Misty had her jacket slung over her shoulder. The sunlight limned her silhouette, adding a brief glint from the badge at her hip as she stepped fully inside the shop. “How’s business?”
“Moving forward.” Bobby scratched his chin, looking over the board. “Now, Luke--”
“I know,” Luke said. “I yield.”
Bobby started resetting the pieces, looking sidelong at Misty. “I bet the detective here could teach you some moves.” Misty snorted. “But what do I know?” He stood and strolled to the back. “See you tomorrow.”
“Sure,” Luke replied. He turned to Misty. “Been a while.”
Misty stepped forward, close enough that he could smell the leather of her jacket. “I think you should make me some dinner,” she murmured. She edged closer, threaded two fingers into one of his belt loops. “Or.”
Luke smiled. “Or.” She leaned forward and brushed her lips against his throat. “That is,” he said, catching his breath as ventured slightly lower. “An excellent idea.”
There was a clang from the back, and Luke jerked back. “You all right, Bobby?”
“I am locking up,” Bobby called out. “And when I get back out there, y’all better be gone.”
Luke looked at Misty, and she laughed. “Good night, Bobby.” And she caught Luke’s hand in hers. “Come on,” she said. “I already called us a cab.”