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A 3am Phone Call

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YOU - You punch the numbers into the handset. Slow. One at a time. 

PERCEPTION (TOUCH) - The buttons are greasy and some of them stick a little when you press them down. 

INLAND EMPIRE - This is your phone and it has absorbed almost as many drinks as your liver has. Years upon years of calls you shouldn’t have made. 

VOLITION - This one might be the next in that particular series.

INLAND EMPIRE - No, this one is good. This one is right.

YOU - You are hunched over your couch, wearing only the underwear you tried and failed to sleep in tonight. The only light cast onto you is an artificial, yellow glow radiating from the kitchen. Sweat is still sticky on the back of your neck, from that same fucking nightmare you’ve had every night for the past two weeks. You are distinctly aware that this is not the set up for a good phone call at all. 

Your thumb lingers over the final number in the sequence.

PAIN THRESHOLD - It’s not too late to back down. Punch a different pattern of numbers, the combination you only know when you close your eyes and tune out your thoughts. Think of how deliciously it would burn, to come crawling back after all this time. 

VOLITION - That’s an even worse idea than the one you started with. 

LOGIC - Look, he probably won’t even answer anyway. It’s really late.

AUTHORITY - Why are you even this nervous? Look at your hands, they’re almost shaking. He’s just a guy.

SUGGESTION - He is *not* just a guy. 

COMPOSURE -  Suck in a deep breath. You can do this. Press the button. 

YOU - Your finger hovers over the number six, and then slowly sinks into that little square of plastic. The button clicks, and then the handset begins to ring.

PERCEPTION (SOUND) - Distant and muffled where you haven’t put it to your ear yet. 

YOU - It just sits lamely in your palm for a moment, until you carefully bring it to your face. Your skin feels clammy. You hear the ringing better now. 

LOGIC - As I said before, the chances of him answering this late were slim. He is probably asleep, like most of Jamrock.

YOU - That’s not fair. How come everyone else gets to sleep, and I don’t?

VOLITION - Most of the people in Jamrock haven’t been through what you’ve been through. That’s why.

ELECTROCHEMISTRY - And the ones that have, weren’t dumb enough to swear off booze. How do you expect to ever sleep again, without booze ?

VOLITION - It may help you sleep, but it also helps you die. Let’s not forget that.

ELECTROCHEMISTRY - Better to die partying than live doing...whatever this is.

VOLITION - This ? This is recovery. This is --

KIM KITSURAGI - “Good evening, detective.”

SUGGESTION - Familiarity. Fondness immediately ripples through you.

COMPOSURE - You are suddenly, painfully aware of this strange feeling coming from your chest. It’s like there’s a little bird trapped inside of you, desperate for a way out and rattling against your ribcage. You were mostly not expecting him to pick up.

PERCEPTION (SOUND) - It’s odd, though, hearing that voice through the static muffle of a receiver. It’s like he’s a world away.

 

YOU - “Hello, um,” you try to swallow the dryness in your throat, “How did you know it was me?”

EMPATHY -  You can practically see how Kim’s expression shifts at that. He’s alone in his apartment; he shouldn’t have to withhold a smile. It’s a habit that is hard broken, apparently. 

KIM KITSURAGI - “Who else would call me at this time?”

YOU - Sentiment, amidst all your nervousness and self-loathing and guilt. God, you’ve missed him.

SUGGESTION - Is it relief, too? That he doesn’t have anyone else that calls him up in the middle of the night? 

CONCEPTUALISATION - And hey, minus the sweating and the anxiety and the crushing sobriety, isn’t this scene a little bit...intimate? Two troubled souls, finding comfort in each other in the early hours...

VOLITION - Oh… is *that* why you’re nervous? 

YOU - “It might’ve been a prank call,” you suggest.

KIM KITSURAGI - “Mm. With your track record, I imagine it still could be.”

YOU - “You know I’d never prank you, Kim. I wouldn’t do you like that.”

PERCEPTION (SOUND) - You hear him hum, half amused, and the static fuzz tickles your ear.

KIM KITSURAGI - “I’m relieved to hear it.” He goes silent for a moment, before he asks, “Are you alright?”

RHETORIC - He probably thinks you’ve relapsed. Why else would you call him this late? 

YOU - “I’m not drunk.” You snap, suddenly. You sound defensive, even to yourself, and even though you haven’t had a sip in weeks. 

KIM KITSURAGI - “Are you sure?”

EMPATHY - No derision there, no judgment. He’s nervous; he so desperately wants to believe you, but…

YOU - “I swear it, on all that’s Dolorian. Want me to prove it? Want me to touch my nose and walk in a straight line?”

KIM KITSURAGI - “By all means, detective, don’t let me stop you. But I’m not sure how it would help, while we’re talking on the phone..”

YOU - “Er. Right. Yeah. But then how *do* I prove myself?”

KIM KITSURAGI - “How about I just trust that you’re telling me the truth, and we go from there?”

SUGGESTION - How did you *ever* get a man like this to trust you?

YOU - Isn’t it...kind of your job to answer that?

SUGGESTION - But it just doesn’t make sense, does it? The lieutenant is calm, composed, *cool* , and you are decidedly none of those things. Sometimes it feels like a damn miracle that he tolerates you in the way that he does.

YOU - You swallow again. “Thanks, Kim.”

KIM KITSURAGI - “So...was there something I could help you with?” He doesn’t really acknowledge your gratitude, at least not from what you can hear. 

YOU - “Well, no, I, uh,” 

COMPOSURE - You’re curling the phone cord around your finger. Comfort seeking behaviour. 

YOU - “I know it’s late. I just couldn’t sleep and…I wanted to hear your voice.”

RHETORIC - Too much. Infinitely too much.

COMPOSURE - But despite it all, you do feel safer for being behind the phone, when you say things like that. He doesn’t have to see the face you’re making, and you don’t have to see his.

EMPATHY - Except you can, somehow. You can see him, sat up in bed, wearing a white vest, holding the receiver to his ear as well. There is a book open and upturned on his lap. His mouth is open, he’s struggling to find a response to what you said. 

KIM KITSURAGI - “I understand,” He replies eventually, ”I don’t sleep well myself, haven’t for a long time. Comes with the occupation, I guess.” 

ELECTROCHEMISTRY - Doesn’t drink, doesn’t sleep...so *what*?

YOU - “How do you do it, Kim? How do you face the promise of another day, *every* day ?” 

PAIN THRESHOLD - It makes you sick just thinking about it, how much longer it might be this hard. How many more sleepless nights are waiting for you. One after the other. It never stops. 

VOLITION - Having Kim near makes it easier, though. I was wrong; calling him was a good idea. 

KIM KITSURAGI - “Hm.” He seems to genuinely consider your question for a moment. “I suppose I just take the little pleasures where I can.”

YOU - “What were you reading?”

COMPOSURE - If he’s at all surprised by you knowing that he was reading anything at all, he hides it very well. 

KIM KITSURAGI - “Nothing in particular. A brief account of the historical and political aftermath of Dolores Dei’s assassination.”

PHYSICAL INSTRUMENT - Yawn.

YOU - “And that’s what you call a little pleasure?”

KIM KITSURAGI - “Pleasure is subjective, Harry.”

CONCEPTUALISATION - It shouldn’t be possible, that someone could use your own name to hold such power over you. 

AUTHORITY - It’s not fair.

COMPOSURE - Your mouth quivers and flaps, entirely useless. You can feel your pulse throbbing in your ears, in time with your heartbeat. It is as though all your discordant parts, for once, are on the same page. All struggling.

KIM KITSURAGI - “Besides, what else would you suggest? I can hardly play Suzerainty by myself.”

SUGGESTION - You would drop everything and *run* to his apartment, on the other side of Jamrock, to play that shitty board game with him right now. You would.

YOU - When you think of the first time you played it together, tucked away in some dusty old corner of that book shop. You felt the same way then as you do now.

SUGGESTION - Beyond the nerves, an overwhelming stillness. All the evil inside of you still there, but pushed aside to make room for something alarmingly similar to contentment. 

PAIN THRESHOLD - You still didn’t sleep that night, but at least you were able to spend the hours in the company of the one good memory you had back then.

YOU - “I miss you.”

PERCEPTION (SOUND) - An unidentifiable scuffle comes out of the receiver. 

EMPATHY - Kim is cradling the receiver closer to his face, embracing it between his mouth and his shoulder. Perhaps without realising, he sinks back against his pillows a little.

KIM KITSURAGI - But he doesn’t say anything.

YOU - “I miss being your partner.” 

KIM KITSURAGI - “Transferring a lieutenant takes time. There’s a process. We have to be patient.”
HALF LIGHT - He says it so matter of factly, like he really doesn’t give a fuck about anything.

EMPATHY - The transfer must mean something to him. Why else would anyone go through such a tedious process?

SUGGESTION - It’s more obvious than that. He said *we*.

YOU - “But Kim, I don’t wanna be patient! I want…”

You’re not quite sure what it is you do want, actually.

ELECTROCHEMISTRY - So much, but everything is muddled. It burns like vodka neat over ice, and lingers in the lungs like a Samaran cigar. If only he was here with you, then you could just show him. 

KIM KITSURAGI - “Yes?” He was never going to let that thought linger unfinished.

HALF LIGHT - Terror and thrill in equal parts, when you think of exposing the truth to him. To what you think you really want here.

ELECTROCHEMISTRY - You want it all, baby. Every last inch of him. You want to gorge yourself on everything he is until it's all you are as well. 

YOU - "I…"

PERCEPTION (SOUND) - Kim is breathing into the receiver. He sounds perfectly calm, but deathly silent.

YOU - "I just want you to stay on the phone with me. Just for a bit longer."

KIM KITSURAGI - "Of course. I'm not going anywhere, detective."

ESPRIT DE CORPS - He wouldn't dream of it. He is still your partner, even if it isn't official yet. 

SUGGESTION - Affection, crippling affection. It is blossoming in your chest. What the fuck are you going to do?

HALF LIGHT - This is dangerous .

COMPOSURE - Heat is starting to creep up the back of your neck. You shift uncomfortably on the couch.

YOU - "Fuck, Kim. I really don't know what to say…"

KIM KITSURAGI - "You don't have to say anything."

ESPRIT DE CORPS - He would be more than happy to just sit there with you in silence, if it would help.

INLAND EMPIRE - More than happy just to bask in your presence. Touching himself under the sheets, as if to keep it a secret even from himself.

YOU - Well that’s-- wait. *What* ?

ELECTROCHEMISTRY - HOLY SHIT?

VOLITION - Oh no. Disregard that. That's what we call an intrusive thought. 

ESPRIT DE CORPS - Lieutenant Kim Kitsuragi sits mostly-upright in bed, in a vest and boxers, his glasses perched at the end of his nose. He is cradling his phone in one hand, keeping the man on the other end as close as can. The other rests idly against the inside of his thigh, over his boxers. With his thumb he traces over the shape of a very respectable erection beneath the fabric. Flirting with the idea of giving himself more.

He wasn't hard before he picked up the phone.

VOLITION - An intrusive thought. A lengthy, incredibly vivid intrusive thought…

PERCEPTION (SOUND) - You hear Kim suck in a breath. It's a sound that could easily be mistaken for the start of a yawn.

SUGGESTION - But it's not, it can't be. I don't know how you did it, Harry, but this man is enamoured by you.

ELECTROCHEMISTRY - Enough that the sound of your voice alone gives him a hard-on. It's that bad. 

YOU - Oh God...what do I do?!

ELECTROCHEMISTRY - What do you mean, *what do you do*? Obviously, you *reciprocate*.

HALF LIGHT - You're insane. You're all insane. This is suicide.

PAIN THRESHOLD - Death, delicious death. Perhaps you *will* die. Embrace the feeling of your stomach sinking, as you throw yourself from this cliff.

SUGGESTION - Do it.

YOU - "Hey."

KIM KITSURAGI - "Hey."

EMPATHY - He sounds vaguely amused by that. Little does he know...

YOU - It's adrenaline alone, that forms what you say next. 

"I'm kinda horny too, y'know."

COMPOSURE - It's a good thing you're sitting right now. Your head isn't swimming so much as it's drowning.

KIM KITSURAGI - He's not saying a word, and it’s absolutely deafening. 

PAIN THRESHOLD - It's over. He's gone. All of it is crumbling between your fingers into dust. What have you done? 

YOU - "Fuck Kim wait don't hang up--"

KIM KITSURAGI - "...I'm not going anywhere. I’ve already told you that."

LOGIC - Perhaps he misheard you.  Perhaps he glazed over the part where you started talking about being horny.

RHETORIC - That was kind of...the whole thing though. There wasn’t really much there to misinterpret.

AUTHORITY - It’s not too late to save this. Tell him you’re horny for solving crimes, or something?

ELECTROCHEMISTRY - No no no. I’m taking the reins on this one now, and I say we ride this out. 

YOU - You're flapping your mouth again. 

CONCEPTUALISATION - Like a fish out of water, utterly baffled by this brand new world it has been thrust into. In this case, it is a world in which Kim is actually willing to entertain everything that is happening here.

KIM KITSURAGI - "So...do you need me to keep talking?" His voice is more hushed, like he doesn't want to be heard.

INLAND EMPIRE - But he is alone, definitely. Has been for a long time.

EMPATHY - There is no one more aware of that fact than him. It's how he's justifying the palm slowly gliding over the shape of his dick.

YOU - "Need?" That word in particular sends sparks through your sad, shrivelled spinal cord.

KIM KITSURAGI - "Mmhm." It's a simple sound, but you can still hear him smile through it. 

ELECTROCHEMISTRY - The only thing you need is to strip down. It's starting to get pretty crowded down here in your underpants. You can thank the sultry tone on the other end of the phone for that.

VOLITION - It might be time to finally accept that you are a little bit attracted to Kim.

YOU - "I think I'm a little bit attracted to you, Kim."

SAVOIR FAIRE - Please tell me you didn't actually mean to say that out loud. Please say you're not that hopeless.

KIM KITSURAGI - "That's really not professional, Harry. We're going to be partners soon."

SUGGESTION - He says that, like you have any control over who you are and- much less frequently- aren't attracted to.

PAIN THRESHOLD - Like the two of you were never on the same page about this at all.

HALF LIGHT - Because you don't *deserve* good things. 

INLAND EMPIRE - If that's the case, then why is he inching down the waistband of his boxers? He would only have to lift up his hips to pull them down his legs now. There is a prominent scar in the dip beside his left hip bone. Perhaps one day you will see it for yourself, rather than just having it described to you.

YOU - "I don't care." You sound breathless as you say it. "I don't care if it's professional or not."

KIM KITSURAGI - "I've noticed that in you, yes."

SUGGESTION - You're recklessness ignites something within him, the same way his *coolness* does for you. Perhaps he enjoys the idea of taming you. Perhaps it's more the prospect of being dragged down with you instead.

YOU - "Alright, but…" You're chewing your lip, desperate for a way to negotiate this small obstacle of so-called professionalism.

EMPATHY - It won't take much of a push, if Kim is almost to the point of undressing. 

RHETORIC - You just need to give him an excuse to misbehave. 

YOU - "But what if we weren't gonna be partners? What if we were just two guys? What would you say then? Y'know, hypothetically?" 

KIM KITSURAGI - He's quiet again.

YOU - You roll your shoulders against the warmth and anticipation. 

ELECTROCHEMISTRY - The hand not cradling the receiver is at the ready.

KIM KITSURAGI - "...How do you ever expect to relax if you're always can-opening people, detective?"

SUGGESTION - Almost...

YOU - "Just answer the question, Lieutenant."

EMPATHY - Whether it was the forcefulness or you actually calling him by rank for once, it draws a noise out of him.

PERCEPTION (SOUND) - Muffled with static, it almost sounds like a purr.

INLAND EMPIRE - He writhes over the sheets, almost as if he's trying to fight against the arousal that's starting to swallow him. In actual fact, he's just finally lifting his hips up to tug down his boxers.

PERCEPTION (SOUND) - It's true, you hear the rustle of fabric on the other end of the phone.

ELECTROCHEMISTRY - Your hand slips into your underwear at record fucking speed.

KIM KITSURAGI - "Well in that case, *hypothetically*, I would probably ask you if you’re touching yourself."

ELECTROCHEMISTRY - Of course you are, and much less delicately than how Kim started off. Already treating yourself to long, indulgent strokes, aren't you? Getting off almost purely on knowing that someone as cool as Kim is interested in you.

DRAMA - Just this once, sire, I'm giving you permission to *not* lie. 

YOU - "Yeah, yeah I am."

KIM KITSURAGI - "Of course. And I bet you're rushing it, too." 

YOU - You still your wrist, and the corresponding pleasure quickly subsides.

"How, uh," you're not sure whether to ask how he knew, or... "How slow did you want me to go?"

ESPRIT DE CORPS - From within the walls of his apartment, the Lieutenant from 57th opens his mouth. His eyelids flutter. The friction of his palm forces him to point his chin up towards the ceiling, baring his throat for someone that isn't there.

KIM KITSURAGI - "As slow as you can bear it."

AUTHORITY- You don't have to listen to him, you know. It's not like he's gonna find out.

ELECTROCHEMISTRY - But holy shit man , why would you not play along?

YOU - You squeeze your cock tight, and gradually drag your fist upwards, from base to head.

ELECTROCHEMISTRY - Slow like this, and sober like this, you can really savour every little point of sensation. You roll your palm over the head of your dick when you reach it, before spreading it back down your length.

COMPOSURE - A groan is forming in your throat, but you still have time to swallow it down.

YOU - You don't, of course. Instead you let the sound travel full-fledged into the receiver, and lift your hips from the couch to revel in the teasing you are inflicting upon yourself.

KIM KITSURAGI - One word, uttered under his breath: "Fuck…"

EMPATHY - *There's something wrong with me*, he's thinking. It's the only way to explain how a mere noise could turn him on so much.

ELECTROCHEMISTRY - As if that one, harsh syllable he just uttered didn't also go straight to your dick.

YOU - "Are-- are you going slow too?"

KIM KITSURAGI - "No, I'm not."

INLAND EMPIRE - Rolling his thumb over the leaking tip of his dick, showing off like he somehow knows you'll know about it.

YOU - "How is that fair," you whine. 

VOLITION - Try not to sound too jealous, you are essentially on the same team here. 

KIM KITSURAGI - "Well, the way I see it," you hear him suck in a short, delighted breath, "I'm not the one that needs to learn a little impulse control."

RHETORIC - Ignoring that he *is* the one who started this…

YOU - "That's not…" You trail off, when you realise you've started to speed up without realising it. You manage to stop, grinding to a halt again, but it makes your whole body hum with unfulfilled desire. 

KIM KITSURAGI - "No? Then what do you call it, if not poor impulse control: calling your partner at three in the morning to jerk off to his voice?"

AUTHORITY - It feels incredibly like you are being scolded, suddenly.

ELECTROCHEMISTRY - And you are *so* painfully into it. 

YOU - "That's not why I did it, Kim, I just...I just really miss you…"

You're open-mouthed, almost kissing the receiver where it's pressed so close.

"It doesn't feel right, you not being by my side…"

SUGGESTION - Just so you know? This kind of neediness? Not sexy to listen to.

SAVOIR FAIRE - Not the least bit sexy. You should probably stop.

YOU - "It's not the same, doing it all without you. It feels like I'm just wasting time, I...I don't know…"

COMPOSURE - Oh fuck. You *can't* stop, can you? You're actually stuck in this loop of slightly creepy, boner-killing sentimentality.

ELECTROCHEMISTRY - You're speeding up, while you ramble like this. It feels too good, confessing to everything that’s been on your mind. Too good to stop.

YOU - "I need you too fucking much, Kim…" 

KIM KITSURAGI - Once again, he has nothing to say.

INLAND EMPIRE - Because he's got his mouth pressed into his wrist, the one holding the phone, with the effort it’s taking to not start moaning. His other hand is the one he's bucking into, the one whose fingers are slick with precum.

SUGGESTION - He can't remember the last time anyone wanted him this badly. The sentiment was too much after all, just in the complete opposite direction to what we thought.

EMPATHY - He’s been waiting longer than you think, to hear that from you.

KIM KITSURAGI - "Harry," he sighs, eventually, "I- nnh- I need your hands on me…"

YOU - Your mouth is dry. "A-are we still talking hypothetically?"

KIM KITSURAGI - He actually groans at that.

EMPATHY - That one was actually half out of frustration.

ELECTROCHEMISTRY - Still sounded hot as fuck, though. 

KIM KITSURAGI - "No, *really*, I really want you to touch me. Exactly the way I tell you to, exactly *where* I tell you."

YOU - “God, Kim, that’s…”

ELECTROCHEMISTRY - *Way* too potent. There’s no way you’re gonna last like this.

VOLITION - This can’t be real. This has to be a dream. 

YOU - “Tell me, then.”

KIM KITSURAGI - You can hear him, but it’s nothing resembling words or syllables. Maybe, eventually, you just hear, “...I…”

EMPATHY - He’s way too far gone to think of anything smart. Too far gone to put words to the overwhelming *need* that is currently gripping him. 

INLAND EMPIRE - Ideally this would be the part where you would do away with language. The part where you would press your tongue against his throat and know exactly how he wanted it, purely from the taste of his skin. 

RHETORIC - For now, you’re stuck with words.

PAIN THRESHOLD - It’s not enough. It could never be enough. 

YOU - But you try, anyway.

 “I can be patient, is that what you want? I can, I promise, if that’s how you like it. Slow, yeah? I’ll take all day, if you want. I-I’ll take all week. I don’t mind. I wanna. That’s, nnh, that’s how bad I got it, really, I--”

KIM KITSURAGI - “*Harry*,” He says it with the same urgency as if he were telling you to stop.

EMPATHY - He doesn’t know how to cope with what he’s feeling. It’s as though he’s been reduced to a single, raw nerve that you continue to pluck at. Over and over and over and…

ESPRIT DE CORPS - Alone in his apartment, Lieutenant Kitsuragi pushes his hips off of the mattress one last time as, open-mouthed and body flushed, he finishes into his palm.

PERCEPTION (SOUND) - After a few moments of delay, you hear an unrestrained moan from him that could only ever coincide with an orgasm. 

ELECTROCHEMISTRY - You’re done for. Even if you hadn’t already been jerking off in earnest for the last few minutes, no one would be able keep going after hearing a noise like that. No one should be *allowed* to hear a noise like that.

SUGGESTION - There’s no question about it. Right now you are the luckiest man in Elysium. 

ELECTROCHEMISTRY - And the noise you make as you cum is probably nowhere near as elegant, but holy shit. *Holy shit*. 

INLAND EMPIRE - Kim turns his face into the receiver of his phone while he listens to you finish. Like he’s thinking of turning his face into your neck instead.

EMPATHY - Or your shoulder, or your chest. It doesn’t matter. He just wishes bitterly that you were there. Lying limp against the sheets, the room suddenly feels very cold for him. 

ESPRIT DE CORPS - Guilt, *overwhelming* guilt. And fear, a little bit. What would people say? But despite it all, there’s something that worries him much, much more.

KIM KITSURAGI - “Harry…” He says, suddenly, after a few blissful moments of you hearing nothing more than his attempts to catch his breath. 

YOU - You push sweat-slick hair from your face, and do your best not to sound a *complete* wreck when you reply, “Yeah?”

KIM KITSURAGI - “...Did you really  mean all that? Or…” A pause. “Or were you just saying what you needed to say, in the moment?”

EMPATHY - All of a sudden, there’s a bite to his words. It is not just *a little* fear.

PAIN THRESHOLD - All of a sudden you are staring down a void of uncertainty. Loss. Heartbreak. None of it is off the table. If you tell him you didn’t mean it, there’s always a chance things could go back to the way things were before.

ESPRIT DE CORPS - Things will never go back to the way they were. 

YOU - “Kim…” You turn your face towards your receiver, as well.

INLAND EMPIRE - For a moment, you swear you can feel the weight of his forehead, pressed to yours. 

YOU - “Didn’t I say I’d never prank you?”

KIM KITSURAGI - Silence.

INLAND EMPIRE - He thinks you don’t know that he’s openly, unapologetically, started smiling to himself.  

EMPATHY - He thinks you don’t know how glad he is that he picked up the phone tonight.