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But World Enough, And Time

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Sometimes people ask her what it's like, and Kono never knows what to tell them. They think that she must spend all her time waiting for him, but that's not it. Kono doesn't wait for Steve, because Steve is like the tide: coming and going according to a rhythm she only partly understands. He goes unwillingly, comes back with joy and gratitude shining in his eyes, kisses her as though he's been gone a hundred years, until her knees give way.

She thinks of the beach when she thinks of Steve, because that's where they've met the most often, where they've spent the most time together. She stands on the beach and waits for the tide to come in, the water to lap at her toes, creep up her calves, rise until it's swirling all around her. Being with Steve is like being surrounded by the ocean, buoyed by the salt water and pulled by the currents. It's being free and imprisoned at once.

~*~

"What's it like?" Steve laughs when she asks him. Then he looks at her and his expression sobers when he sees that she's in earnest. "I don't know."

He's not a man to whom words come easily, she knows this. So she goes gently. ('Be gentle, Kono,' he'd begged her the last time she saw him before he met her for the first time. 'For God's sake.' So she is, as gentle as she can be.) She takes his hand and plays with his fingers and tugs on the wristband of his watch as he looks on, mesmerised, a smile playing on his lips. The truth comes slowly, haltingly, one image at a time. How it feels like you've blinked and missed something. One minute you're sitting on the lanai, and the next you're standing hip-deep in the ocean, your beer is gone, presumably smashed as it dropped once you were no longer holding the bottle. Your clothes disappear, too―your favourite cargo pants, your green polo-necked t-shirt that you've worn so often that there's a hole under one of the arms where the seam has given way―and it's nothing but you in your bare skin left to fend for yourself until you're pulled back to where you're meant to be.

"Sometimes it's wonderful," he says, voice quiet. "Everything gets this sort of―glow. And that's usually when I get sick, right after. Like getting a migraine," he laughs a little.

She's read all of the reports about him. Only three people in all of HPD know the true identity of the John Doe who keeps cropping up every so often―always naked and reportedly intoxicated―and she's one of them. She sees from the outside what he experiences as terror and confusion and pain. None of the reports ever manages to quite explain how a crazy haole with no clothes managed to escape from where he was handcuffed in the back of a squad car, or how he vanished from the hospital bed to which he was handcuffed while he was still unconscious. More than half of HPD thinks he's a legend or a wild exaggeration, and the other half think that maybe he's a spirit sent to plague them, though they'll never admit to it out loud.

"You ever have those dreams when you're back in school?" he asks, and she nods. "When you're in a class you don't remember taking and there's an exam you haven't studied for, and you suddenly realise you're not wearing any clothes? It's like that, every time."

"I hate those dreams," Kono says fervently.

Steve closes his eyes for a moment. "I hate them too."