Of course Dr. Hill can read his nervousness from miles away, and he knows he can, anyone could, he’s practically trembling with it. But being the empathetic, or it could be disinterest, or discretion, you can never really tell with the psychologist, he’s not as easily read as most people, and Kevin wonders briefly if this is intentional. If the older man has learned to shield his feelings from intrusive observation, or if it all happens on pure animalistic instinct. It wouldn’t surprise him much. For someone so intelligent, so constantly thinking, Tony Hill is a very instinctive person. An animal, in a sense.
Kevin shakes his head slightly and looks down. Shuffles his feet. Feeling all of five years old again and blushes with the embarrassment that quickly follows that thought.
Glancing up again, Kevin confirms the suspicion that the other man is watching him with that patient, slightly curious, but otherwise unreadable expression on his face. Head tilted slightly to the side. And catching his glance he holds on to it until Kevin realizes they’ve been maintaining eye contact for far longer than is strictly okay between two sometimes colleagues, two male sometimes colleagues no less, and he quickly looks away. Swallows the dust that’s been rapidly collecting like a blanket around his tongue. Swirls it around his mouth for a moment, gets used to the feel of it again, tastes the back of his teeth.
“Hello, Kevin”, Tony, Dr. Hill, finally greets, moments too late, but casual enough that Kevin doesn’t turn around and run away like the frightened little boy he feels like at the moment, but nods instead, once. “What’s the matter?”
Kevin marvels at the ease with which Tony, Dr. Hill, wraps his worry, concern, impatience, curiosity, whatever it is that underlies the niceness, with that unreadable, bloody polite tone of voice. He shifts his weight and shakes his head this time.
“Yeah, yeah”, he mumbles quickly, because Dr. Hill’s façade cracks just slightly, which can’t be good, and as much as Kevin wants to grab it by its corner and tear it to shreds, he doesn’t want it cracking like this, not like this, not with alarm, not with is it Carol, not with did you find another body, or any of the dark, bitter tasting, real stuff that their days are made of. Not today.
“Want to go for a coffee and talk about it?” Dr. Hill asks then. Kindness radiating off him in waves.
And Kevin wants to kick the ground and curse like the stupid little boy that he doesn’t want Dr. Hill to see him as. But he doesn’t, because he’s not that stupid. And he nods again instead.
Dr. Hill takes his time making himself at home at the corner table. Putting the plastic bag down on the chair next to the one he chooses for himself. Taking off his jacket and carefully draping it across the back of it and then taking a seat in his own. Crosses his legs and wraps his fingers around the cup of coffee Kevin brings him like he needs to warm them on the heated porcelain. Kevin takes the seat opposite and wraps his hands around his own cup. Dr. Hill takes a sip of coffee and allows a sigh of weary content escape him as he leans back in his chair and gazes out across the table. Kevin felt his shoulders tense up at the sound, all on their own, and has to will himself to relax again. He can feel Dr. Hill’s eyes on his face, but stubbornly stares at his own coffee, debating whether or not to risk taking a sip, or if he’ll drop the cup and spill coffee everywhere if he even attempts to move it from its secure place pushed against the table top.
“Oh dear”, Dr. Hill murmurs.
He then uncrosses his legs and leans forward, elbows on his knees, shoulders pressed against the edge of the table. Kevin flinches before he can stop himself. Of course it was only a matter of time before Dr. Hill saw completely right through him and figured it out for himself. He kind of anticipated it. Kind of didn’t expect to have to tell him. He takes a deep breath then carefully lifts the cup to his lips, concentrating hard on not letting his hands shake, blowing on the dark liquid in passing, before taking a couple of sips.
Cup securely back on the table again, he leans back in his own seat, nods resolutely, says “Yeah” with more confidence than he’s probably felt in his entire life.
“Are you going to look at me at least”, Dr. Hill says softly. “Seems only fair since you’re not talking to me.”
“Nothing to say”, Kevin mutters, but reluctantly raises his gaze and stares back at the older man.
Dr. Hill nods slowly.
“I can’t read minds, you know”, he offers like it’s a mildly interesting little anecdote. “So just to be sure, why don’t you tell me what’s on your mind?”
Kevin squirms in his seat and looks away again, scanning the coffee shop almost on reflex before talking again.
“I know you like, you know… women”, he begins.
Dr. Hill tilts his head to the side again. Kevin wonders if that’s supposed to be a ’yes’ or a ’no’ or a ’I’m a brilliant psychologist and I’ll be doing all the analysing here, thank you very much’.
“I mean, Carol, you like Carol. Or liked… or still like, probably… anyway, she’s a woman. So… I know. But you’re always helping us out with cases, so we’re essentially working together, so I thought it’d only fair to, you know… come clean, and whatnot… you know.”
“Come clean about what?”
“You know”, he says, annoyed more with his own blush than anything, but directing it at the other man anyway.
“No I don’t know Kevin, why don’t you tell me-”
“About me, about me liking you and all, you know. I mean, I’m not, I don’t usually, it’s not like I’m, and I didn’t think it’d ever get in the way or anything, but it’s a bit of a problem, but I’m dealing with it, but for now it’s kind of, I get distracted when you’re, you know… but, like I said I’m dealing with it, I just didn’t want you to think I’m a complete rookie in the meantime, I’m not… I don’t, I’m a good cop, I’m not, you know, stupid or…”
A tiny smile flicker across Dr. Hill’s face, lighting up his eyes more so than curling his lips, but the impact is immediate. Kevin feels the tension drain out of him and he melts gratefully into his seat. “I’m babbling”, he acknowledges and looks down, hoping to hide his blush a bit.
“Yes”, Dr. Hill agrees, amusement lacing his voice. “But it’s alright. I quite like it.”
“Yeah, right”, Kevin mutters.
“Kevin”, Dr. Hill says.
“Yes, Dr. Hill?”
Dr. Hill who has already opened his mouth to continue stops himself.
“Tony. Please”, he admonishes. “I do like women. I liked Carol. I like men too. In fact I like you. But even though I’m equally attracted to both genders, I also have intimacy and commitment issues with both, and I don’t think I’ll ever really be ready for a relationship, and I’m telling you this because I do like you and I don’t want to see you hurt. Okay.”
“You… wait, wait. What do you mean you like me? In what way do you-”
“Kevin, please. Where you even listening to anything I said after that?”
“I hurt people who love me, Kevin, and who I love, that’s what I do. I destroy them, and myself, I break hearts, I know I might not seem like it, I know I’m a bit weird, a bit of a geek, and not someone you’d expect to break your heart, quite the opposite I would think, which makes me dangerous. I’m sympathetic, empathetic, understanding, someone you would consider safe. Well, I’m not. I’m not safe at all. In fact I’m very dangerous.”
Kevin smiles, and he knows Dr. Hill, Tony, can tell it doesn’t reach his eyes, but he doesn’t care, not really.
“I know”, he says.
“Oh, Kevin…” Tony sighs and goes to reach for his hand across the table top.
Kevin pulls his hand away and slides off his chair. Tony isn’t trying to search out his gaze anymore. Which is fine, really. He wasn’t expecting this to go well, after all. In fact he was expecting things to be a lot worse than this.
“Don’t worry about it, Tony. Like I said. I’m dealing with it.”
Tony nods. Looks up at him then. And for a minute Kevin feels what it’s like to be the shielded one. He likes it.
“Okay?” he says, and it’s not really meant to be a challenge, well maybe.
“Bye, Kevin”, Tony says, his voice once again wrapped in that indefinable sound of whatever he’s not feeling.
Kevin smiles and nods. And walks away.