“Drinking alone is never any good, Officer.” Kate smiled wryly as she watched the shoulders in front of her stiffen with recognition.
“I wasn’t alone until a few minutes ago, but you already know that if you’ve been watching,” Renee responded evenly, not turning around. “And it’s ‘detective’ now.”
Undeterred, Kate hopped on the empty barstool next to Renee. “That’s right, ‘detective.’ Congratulations.”
Finally, Renee looked up long enough to make eye contact. They were clouded, although Kate couldn’t tell if that was a product of fatigue or alcohol. “Have you been out of town?”
Kate knew better than to be flattered into thinking that Renee had been checking up on her. Gotham always seemed like the biggest city in the world, until there was someone she didn’t want to run into. She knew after their breakup both of them had spent too much time tripping over each other’s ghosts. “Almost two years. Just got back.” She motioned for the bartender to take away Renee’s dry drink and bring them each another.
“Where’d your buddies go? Looked like you were having fun, celebrating.”
“They went home. Because it’s late. And most of us work in the morning.” Renee nursed her new beer, hardly recognizing that her glass had been switched out.
“Then maybe you should let me get you home, too. You still live … somewhere in this neighborhood, right?”
Kate’s hand fell lightly on Renee’s forearm, but Renee jerked away before the touch could register. “Stop it,” Renee hissed, looking around them reflexively.
“Oh,” Kate withdrew her hand, finally getting it. “Really, Renee, still?” But when her inquiry was met with silence she didn’t press the issue.
After a few minutes of stiff silence between them, Renee looked up. “You never did tell me what you’re doing in this part of town anyway.”
Kate shrugged and smiled. “I’ve been gone a long time. Just getting to know my city again.”
Renee laughed, almost despite herself. “I forgot: your penchant for hanging out in dive bars goes hand-in-hand with your lack of regard for personal safety.”
Kate finished her drink and slammed the glass down with finality. “I’m getting out of here. I wouldn’t be opposed to a good cop escorting me home, if she felt like it was part of her duty.”
Renee looked down again, her smile gone. “Kate, I can’t—”
“Hey—I’m not asking for anything. Except for you to walk me home as a friend.” Kate laid down cash for their drinks and slipped off her barstool. “I know you won’t walk out with me. So I’ll wait for you outside.” She had every confidence that Renee would follow.
“So, did you travel the world?”
Kate emerged from the kitchen with a cup of tea for each of them. She flashed her same smile from before. “Something like that.” She settled on the couch beside Renee. “I don’t really feel like talking about travel.”
“Well, I don’t really want to talk about real things, like why I’m here.”
Kate leaned back, relaxing. “You’re here because I asked you up, and you said yes. Maybe we should talk about that.”
Renee stared into her tea with the same intensity that she’d stared into her beer half an hour before. “Look I’m really sorry about the things I said when I ended it between us. It was unfair of me, I—”
“I’m so far over that, it feels like another lifetime ago,” Kate said with a sigh. “I think it was bad timing, on both our parts.”
Renee leaned forward to set her cup on the coffee table, but also smoothly closing the distance between herself and Kate. She considered Kate quietly for a minute. “You seem different now.”
Kate’s hand once again fell onto Renee’s forearm—this time, it was allowed to stay. “Different?” She asked, trying to sound casual as she noticed the closing distance between them. “How so?”
Renee shook her head, smiling, still leaning forward, almost unconsciously. “I don’t know. Just—different…”
The kiss started slow, both of them almost too shocked to move once their lips finally met. Kate attempted to take it deeper by putting her hand behind Renee’s neck when she felt Renee pull back.
“I’m seeing someone,” Renee whispered, eyes focused on the floor.
“And we’re both pretty drunk,” Kate added.
“And I swore I’d never do this again.”
“Is it serious? With the woman you’re seeing?” Kate asked as she straightened on the couch, hoping the distance between them would clear her suddenly foggy head.
“No. Not really. She’s about as big a fan of my closet lifestyle as you were.” Renee shrugged. “I guess some things can only grow so far.”
Kate softened again, hating the pain she could hear in Renee’s voice. She wondered if Renee even realized it was there. “Stay here tonight,” she offered.
“It’s late, and you should get some sleep if you’re working tomorrow. I can find you a nightshirt, and I’ll sleep on the couch.”
Kate opened an oversized drawer on her oversized dresser and began inspecting t-shirts. Ones that didn’t meet her approval found a new home on the floor. “Here,” she said finally, holding up a long, almost threadbare Aerosmith t-shirt.
Renee laughed as she sat down on the edge of Kate’s unmade bed. “I can’t believe you still have that.”
“It was hidden under the bed while I was purging all the rest of the shit you left here. By the time I found it, I wasn’t mad at you anymore. So I kept it. Sort of a ‘never again’ reminder, I guess.”
Renee rolled her eyes as she grabbed the shirt. “You always were such a charmer.”
“Hey, you said the same thing to me five minutes ago!” Kate disappeared into her closet as she spoke, and when she re-emerged she wore only a tight white tank top and gym shorts.
Renee made no effort to hide her stare. “Jesus. You are different now.”
Kate winked playfully. “You still haven’t told me how so.” She tried to tell herself she wasn’t doing this on purpose, showing off the tone in her legs, the strength in her arms.
Renee crossed the room, standing directly in front of Kate. She reached out and allowed her fingertips to trail down Kate’s arm lightly. Her eyes held Kate’s with a mystical intensity. “You know exactly what you’re doing right now.”
Kate returned the intense stare, all the laughter gone out of her eyes. “Careful there, Detective, you said you’d never go down that road again. You promised yourself.”
“Fuck promises,” Renee growled as she grabbed Kate and pulled her in possessively. Their mouths crashed together in urgency and desperation, Kate fighting to direct them towards the bed, Renee fighting with Kate’s impossibly tight shirt.
They fell to the bed together in a tangle of arms and legs and flying clothing, each of them struggling to gain the upper hand. Kate ultimately won, pinning Renee easily with a newfound restraint technique.
Renee’s eyes flashed hot with anger for a brief moment, then she laughed. “You’re seriously not going to let me win this?”
Kate laughed too. “Competitive spirit dies hard, I guess.” She loosened her grip and flopped beside Renee, knowing the moment had passed. “God, how did we even stay together as long as we did?”
Renee just shook her head. “I should get home.”
“You mean you should get out of here.”
“That’s what I said,” Renee grabbed for her discarded clothes and started putting them back on hastily. “I did make myself that promise, after all.”
“Right. Never again,” Kate said as she donned a robe from her bedpost.
“You don’t have to get up. I know the way out.” Renee paused as she picked up the ratty Aerosmith t-shirt. She looked at Kate.
“Can I keep it?” Kate asked softly.
Renee laid it back down on the bed, her hand absently smoothing out the wrinkles. “Of course.”
Kate smiled. “Thanks. I don’t know why—”
“You don’t have to explain,” Renee said with a wink as she turned toward the door. “Goodnight, Kate. It’s good to have you back.”