Collateral Matters


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Scene Title Collateral Matters
Synopsis As the bright future crumbles away to reveal dark secrets and dangers, Kaylee and Luther must brave the matters of the heart.
Date December 2014 to December 2016

A Matter Of

December 2014 "Principle"
February 2015 "Minutes"
June 2015 "Importance"
September 2015 "Time"
January 2016 "Life and Death"
March 2016 "Policy"
May 2016 "Faith"
November 2016 "Consideration"
December 2016 "Trust"

December 25, 2014

"A Matter of Principle"

The holiday spirit is in full swing throughout the city. New Yorkers, they always figure out how to party harder when the chips are down. The clean up after tragedy makes people appreciate what they had more. For the precinct, the mentality has been the same every year. Holidays tend to get rushed, then slowed, then rushed again in a predictable cycle almost like a circadian rhythm of society.

Just like those who don’t have family to go home to, or don’t want to go home to, or need the hours, stay behind to work. That usually means rookies too, drawing the short straw of the seniority leave list. Everywhere, though, there’s little reminders of what lay outside the walls. Memories of Christmases past, present, future. A past that was full, a present that is empty, and a future that looked bleak and blank like the snow drifts gathering outside the station walls.

But not so quiet…

“Come on, Lady!” The complaint is loud, echoing in the mostly empty front entry to the NYPD. “Ain’t ya got no heart? It’s Christma —aaaah!!” The handcuffed man is practically brought up on his tiptoes by a much smaller Detective Thatcher; who twists his wrist higher up his back. This gets some of the others stuck at the precinct looking up and watching.

“I suggest you take your right to shut the fuck up seriously,” Kaylee comment blandly, easing up on the grip and giving the man some mercy.

“Fuckin’ crazy bitch,” the young man, dressed like a homeless thug, spits out, rolling his shoulders. “Get me out of these cuffs and lets see what ya got.” Of course, he can’t see the roll of blue eyes behind his back.

“Whatever,” Kaylee sighs out with irritation when they get to her desk. “Sit your ass down.” Which he does without any struggle…. She might be helping him make that decision.

“Hey! That’s no way to talk to a lady, pendejo.” Diaz’s voice calls out from where he’s seated at his desk finishing some paperwork. He doesn’t get up, barely even looks up from the report he’s jotting down notes for, but when he does it’s with a humored glance in watching the telepath work. For him, that mental trick never gets old.

The rookie, Detective Sanders, comes in shortly after from booking and upon spotting a fresh new catch at Kaylee’s desk, looks astonished to see another young man cuffed and collared. He glances between Diaz and Kaylee, blinking. “Okay… What’s he in for? Don’t you have somewhere you could be, Stitch?” The nickname is so old hat in the station now that even the rookie knows it. Sanders shoots a curious, concerned glance in Kaylee’s direction. There’s no doubt been a few worried glances her way lately, ever since her return from her trip out west.

Stitch might be compliant in physical body, but his mouth still works. “Man, I don’t know. I didn’t do nothing! She just came up and threw me against the wall, sayin’ I was taking stuff that wasn’t mine!” He rolls his shoulders in a short shrug.

“Were you?” The question comes from Diaz’s direction. His pencil hasn’t stopped scribbling.

Stitch averts his eyes back to the floor. “Just trying to make some money, man, look. Someone stole my shoes last week and I been trying to find a pair that looked the same, and I finally did but they wanted like fifty bucks…” The man trails away, realizing what company he’s in, but upon seeing Kaylee again, he bristles and shakes his head. “What’re you all working at Christmas for anyway! Ain’t you got families or shit to go back to?”

Flopping into the desk chair, it creaks in protest even if the detective is quite the thin thing. As she reaches for her keyboard that looks like it is a few decades too old, she offers the thief as fake of a bright smile as she can muster. “Nope!” She offers in response. “Lucky you, I don’t have anyone or anything to go back to right now.”

The smile drops immediately as she types, each strike of the key a good clue at her mood. Tread carefully boys. “How ‘bout you Stitch? Have someone to go home to? Do they know what you do…” She glances at the screen with a furrow of brows. “Often. Wow. Look it there.” She looks up at Sanders and then over to Diaz. “He had a warrant.”

“Merry fucking Christmas to me.” That was sarcasm.

All three men cast glances at each other, sharing a 'hooboy' moment of silence that comes from wariness of the lady detective's drop in mood. Stitch furrows his brow at Kaylee as she reads his rap sheet. Petty theft, drug possession, public indecency, trespassing, loitering… he's barely in his mid-twenties like her, the drifter being one of those who are just in and out of the rotating door that is the system. Her barb at him gets a sharp reply in response, clear that she struck a deep nerve. "Fuck you."

That swear has Sanders up on his feet again, ready to defend Kaylee's honor in some fashion. The rookie stomps over to where Stitch sits and snags the young man's jacket collar, yanking the guy up. "Shut the fuck up, Stitch. You don't get talk to her like that," he snaps in the suspect's face, before turning to Kaylee and arching a brow. "I'll take him to booking?"

Diaz does likewise, lifting a brow at the display of machismo from Sanders, but looks back over to Kaylee. He sets his pencil down and takes a long breath. He turns his gaze to a wrapped fruit basket beside the corner of his desk, hidden behind his chair legs, set against the wall out of the way. And debates inwardly on whether or not to draw attention to it.

The telepathic detective looks like she is about to say something, when Sanders is suddenly there. There is a surprised blink. It takes her a moment to realize what he is offering. The awkward moment stretches as she debates letting someone else book, since Cyrus’ dead staring eyes still haunt her. “I—” Lips press tight together for a moment, but then she suddenly sighs, shoulders sinking a little, with a small nod. “Yeah. thanks, Sanders, I’ll start the paperwork.”

It’s like a sudden turn.

The thug is give one last long look, but then just dismissed. Kaylee’s attention turns back to the computer to tap away, her expression a flicker of sadness. It doesn’t last long and her faces falls into that neutral expression that all cops eventually master.

The awkward moment stretches but Sanders simply stands there waiting for the go ahead or the rejection, unaware of the memory haunting the more senior detective. When she finally nods, he nods back and grabs the homeless man again. Stitch bares his yellowish teeth at Sanders in an unfriendly smile, unable to stop the rookie detective from jerking him up to his feet. “Move it,” Detective Sanders commands with a forceful push as they head further down the hall to booking. Stitch tries to shrug off Sanders’ grip, but isn’t successful. The detective’s hold is firm, moreso when he tries to shrug him off.

But when the quiet settles once more in the front part of the office, the awkward silence is that once again. Just Diaz with a notepad and pencil, and Kaylee typing away. Diaz tries not to think too hard on the package that sits beside his feet, but gets an immediate reminder every time he hears Kaylee’s fingers clacking on the keys. Finally, he sighs resignedly, reaches down to pick up the cellophane wrapped parcel, and swivels it around to set on the corner of his desk. “Hey Thatcher,” he says with a new attempt to get her attention, “Merry Christmas.”

The gift at first appears to be a typical gift basket, full of boxed snacks, jam jars, holiday chocolates and fruits to round out the profusion of food wrapped up within it. It’s sizable, worthy of notice for any office. The most notable aspect of the basket isn’t the food or the size but an addition inside of the clear plastic that appears to be an evidence folder. That, and a fancy calligraphically written card looped at the top of the basket with Kaylee’s name written upon the envelope.

“Before you get any ideas,” Diaz quickly says in front of her reaction, “It’s not from me.” And that follows a pointed look and flatter expression from the man. She can see the bit of wariness behind his dark eyed gaze regarding her, the debate if he should tell her who or if she’ll just know.

There is half a glance Diaz’s way; but, catching the basket out of the corner of her eye, Kaylee looks at him with a confused look. They didn’t do things like this. Then she sees the folder and her expression falls and schools itself quickly.

She had hoped it was from the detective, even if it would have been weird, then it meant Kaylee’s suspicions were not right. The telepath’s eyes are on the folder. Even though her face in unreadable, she swallows hard and slowly rises to her feet. Pulling apart the cellophane, the folder is extracted. Flipping it open and seeing the first item, her body goes cold.

“That son of a bitch,” Kaylee growls out, under her breath. Only Diaz would hear her. “Does he think he can win me back with this shit?!” A glare goes to the fruit basket and the folder is snapped shut and offered to Diaz. “You want this? This is the kind of stuff that will skyrocket your career.” It’s dropped on her desk and she quickly turns away. “Do me a favor and drop that basket in the break room.” The card is ripped off it, torn in half, and dropped in the trash can as she walks away from her desk.

Composure crumbling with each step, Kaylee didn’t want the guys to catch her. She would never live it down.

The confused look from Kaylee earns a hands spread shrug from the detective. He doesn’t explain - doesn’t need to explain - when she figures out for herself who the basket is from. It would feel tongue in cheek almost, but it’s obvious what Luther has sent is meant to be less obtrusive by appearance. And that he apparently entrusted Diaz to handle the delivery with the basket and its evidence folder untampered with.

Whether or not Luther knew what reaction it would get is unknown. But Diaz half-winces, half-smirks uncomfortably as he watches his fellow detective’s loss of composure. “Depends what’s in it,” comes the detective’s noncommittal, although inquisitive, reply. He doesn’t budge from his desk right away. Waiting as Kaylee leaves to a more secluded part of the station, the detective braves a short adventure to the abandoned desk.

Questing fingers flip the evidence folder open and, contents examined, Diaz frowns at the sight of the hitlist of names and last known addresses, all Evolved citizens within the city, some with abilities listed. Kaylee’s name appears near the bottom, circled in ink. “Dios mio,” utters Detective Diaz as he fingers through a few more pieces of key evidence pointing to Humanis First supporters and members within the city, including the identity of the “bomber” of Pinehearst Tower. At least, the one blamed publicly for it.

The folder gets flipped closed after a minute of perusal. By then she’s gone off somewhere. That’s when Diaz feels it safe to pick up the basket and head off to the break room to divvy up the goods as is fair, and makes sure to stop along the holding cells for at least a little bit of Christmas cheer there as well.

Text message from: Luther

Did Diaz give you the basket? It had something important inside.
The company is still working for the greater good. Ok?
For everyone’s safety. For people like Dennis. And people like us.
The company


I need you to know, it wasn’t your fault.

I miss you.

Merry Christmas, Beautiful.

February 2015

"A Matter of Minutes"

“Here you go, Luther, one medium coffee.”

The coffee shop is bustling with customers coming in and out, grabbing morning coffees and on-the-go breakfast items to start their days. For some, it’s actually more of an end of their day and the caffeine is just a routine. Luther’s something in between, with the somewhat erratic schedule the man has had these days, sometimes coming in early and sometimes later. And lately, he hasn’t come in at all.

But today he’s there, and despite the busy volume of clientele, one barista turned assistant manager - Jennifer - takes a moment to chat up the man she’s not seen much of lately. Ever since Luther dropped the comment, a suggestion really, about the strength and taste of the brew, she’s made sure to take note of it and keep up the quality and consistency of product. That little increase in customer care’s gotten her good marks, too. She’s appreciated the man more since.

“How is it today?” comes Jennifer’s inquiry as she leans on the pickup counter from the serving side.

After the sip, Luther nods in approval, casting a small smile back to the woman. “It’s good. Tastes right,” he responds in routine answer.

“Good,” Jennifer says with a wider smile that falters as Luther turns to leave. “Hey, Luther? Haven’t seen you around lately, what’s going on?”

Luther turns and looks over his shoulder at his name being called again, but his gaze dips as he’s asked after. The man withholds a sigh, mustering a slight shrug of the shoulder he’s looking over. “Got busy with the job,” he answers vaguely. “Different shifts. I gotta go, though, so. See you later.” He does at least give the woman a short handwave in farewell and steps around a number of people still waiting for their cups and food.

There is the tinkling ring of bells as the door to the coffee shop opens followed by a familiar voice. “Look Mary, I’m not interested. No. I’m happy at home with my cat and t—” Kaylee Thatcher trails off when she sees him there. There is a flicker of something there, a flicker of a broken heart, but it settles into a look of shock. The phone starts to lower slightly until the voice on the other end starts calling her name.

Surprise is replaced with anger as she pulls the phone back up to her ear. “Hey. Gotta go. He’s here.” The phone is pocketed and attention turns to him, look edged with defiance. Even if internally she wants to either turn and flee… or run to him and kiss him.

She does neither.

“What are you doing here?” The answer is obvious, but there is more to that question. How dare he be here when she is, it says. “Don’t you have some crime scene to tamper with?” She growls out softly. Her head tilts a bit as she asks that. “I have the address of my current homicide you want that?” With that knife strike, she tries to move past him towards the counter.

Luther's in the middle of another sip of his coffee when the front door bells chime and he looks up to see Kaylee walking in. It's all he can do to not choke on the slide of liquid down a hard swallow. The sight of her stops him short, triggering a mixture of thought and emotion that manifests only in the tensing of his jaw and tightening in his overall posture. He hasn't seen her in nearly two whole months.

She hasn't returned any of his attempts to contact her.

Now she's here, and the bristling and sharp stare she angles at him is met by a wall of storm grey gaze and flat, tightlipped line on his mouth. She can sense the conflict in him too, caught in a moment of indecision whether to speak or to close that short distance between them.

They're both stuck, until she speaks first.

Her first question causes an arch of his brow up. He's caught that tone, and it twists his expression. He's here because he happens to enjoy the coffee of this shop too. And dares her to challenge the permission he gives himself. But the second, growled question shifts his features again to surprise, a visible twitch of guilt, then resentment. She strikes first.

But she doesn't get around him. Luther moves back a step and blocks her way, forcing the confrontation. "You think I'm here just to fuck with you?" he snipes back, harsh words earning more than a few glances from nearby haplessly eavesdropping customers and the couple of baristas working behind the counter, Jennifer included.

He is so close that Kaylee can smell his cologne, see the exact color of his eyes, and feel that radiant warmth. It calls to a deeper part of herself, the part he broke with the truth. The part of her that still wants him, despite the crumbling cracks. It leaves her unable to speak and because she is denying that part of herself… she feels that well of emotions.

Blue gaze drops to his shoulder under his stormy one, to keep from tearing up. Kaylee needed to get away.

“Aren’t you?” Kaylee manages to say, though the words are softer and missing the edge that she was trying to keep. “Isn’t that what you did the whole time?” she accuses, the hurt in her eyes again. “You know when I come in here for coffee.”

She's close enough proximity to him, and he is to her. Lavender and vanilla, a back part of his mind registers, and mentally he wants to grab for her. But the sight of her blue eyes dropping away act like a jerk back of the reins on his high horse. Her accusation throws him. "What?" His initial confusion gives way to a reflection of hurt, then anger, volume rising. "I can't believe you think that. That the company put me here as just a… a distraction? You think you were a target this whole time?

"Don't you think I wanted to be—" He cuts himself off as there's a few audible murmurs of worried and confused people and their unfiltered thoughts seep out.

What's happening?… What's going on?… Who are they?… I think I've seen them before…

Jennifer's hand is over her mouth, eyes round as she and others bear witness to the argument unfolding. Sandy the barista and another exchange uncomfortable glances to each other, neither wanting to step in.

Luther glances around and steps back a pace, distancing himself as he exhales a rough breath. "It's not all about you," he grits out between teeth. But the instant he gets it out he regrets it, and backs up another step with a look away. The coffee cup in his hand strains inside his tightened grip.

Taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly, he’ll see her blink a few times a bit too fast. Kaylee doesn’t dare look at him, she can sense it though, hear it in the tone of his mind. A part of her hates doing it, but he needs to know what he did to her.

Barely holding it together, those last words cut deep. Shoulders twitch as if she might curl into herself, but the rising volume of the minds around her, pulls herself back to the moment. The words are soft, but dripping with ice. “A target? No… but I, clearly, wasn't good enough for the truth,” she says it like it is fact. “For the real you,” her voice catches as she threatens to be choked by the emotions welling up within her.

“You know. I suddenly don’t feel very much like coffee.” There is a sense of defeat there, the edge of tears in her words. Looking past him to the counter, she gives the girls an apologetic smile. Then without another thought, Kaylee turns her back on him and heads for the door.

A hand rests on the handle for a moment and for the first time in sometime, he gets to hear her in his head. It is obvious that Kaylee doesn’t trust her voice anymore, even her mental voice wavers. «How much of our relationship was real? Or was it all just some big story you fabricated to get what you want?» A tearful and pained look is sent his way, before she hurries out the door. If he tries to follow, he’ll find she is already lost in the flowing river of humanity.

The audience to the drama playing out in the coffee shop is at a standstill because the baristas behind the counter have all paused their work in the awkward tension that has befallen the little shop, centered around the pickup counter and nearby cashier. The quiet surrounding the pair means that they hear every word. It means Luther’s secretive nature peeled back and bared by the accusations.

He’s silent still when she turns away to leave, stunned by the truth bomb dropped upon his being. He’s helplessly staring at her as she leaves him again, and blinks only once to show that he’s startled by the voice - her voice - questioning him in his mind. How much of their relationship was real? How many times had he wondered if it were all just a dream, and that every time he clung to her it was with a fear that she would one day be gone.

Like today. The man doesn’t get a chance to answer in any way, verbal or mental. By the time he’s recovered from the realization of all of hurt, by the time he’s prodded into movement by a simple ‘excuse me’ from another customer of the coffee shop trying to get around him to pick up their order, she’s long gone.

Text message from: Luther

Do you remember
when we first met?
Sandy said try a mocha instead of a misto
I remember you looking at me.
At dinner, you had a burger. Not a salad.

I remember looking at you.

You put your arm around mine.
I thought it was a dream.

It was real
all real…

June 2015

"A Matter of Importance"

Months ago, Luther had included an evidence folder along with a Christmas gift basket to the station, dropped off by courier to the desk of Detective Diaz but meant for delivery to Detective Thatcher. The details and dossiers contained within the folder resulted in several leads to potential terrorists, and arrests in some cases with charges of conspiracy.

Kaylee had been right. It made Diaz’s and Sanders’ personnel files practically glow with commendations.

But there were others, the harder to collar, harder to make charges stick. One such person was the elusive Luther Bellamy, who had somehow still managed to avoid the long arm of the law. At times, by simply not being at his last known address. Others, while she could paranoidly assume that his hands had touched on any new case she was confronted with, there was no proof. No evidence that she had on him.

Until one day, Kaylee receives a choppy call from a young man she had pulled from a shoplifting incident. Stitch, as he was known through the roaming homeless community, could be heard on the other side of the phone line.

“I done tol’ja that there’s a body! I saw it!” Stitch’s voice is insistent as he clings to a cellphone, likely a burner. “Tell Detective Thatcher. She works Homicide.” And from the long sigh that Officer Hodges had exhaled, he was obviously not too pleased with having to deal with the man who wasn’t able to provide any information about being a CI, except for his absolute certainty that he had to talk to Kaylee about a sensitive matter.

After some discussion on the phone, Stitch had told her to come to Great Kills National Park on Staten Island, and to meet him at the entrance to a road into the park interior that was closed to the public due to radium contamintation amongst decades old unsanitary conditions. That there was a potential body there was already reason enough to investigate. But then Stitch mentioned a tall man who came to the park. Well dressed sometimes, short hair and beard.

Things had clicked into place quickly. The broken phone call and the description of the man. It suddenly made sense why on the day of the bombing his call had cut out so much. He hadn’t been at work, like he had told Kaylee. He had been here burying a body.

This is the break she was waiting for. The chance to put him away and finally get him out of her life so that she could try to put back the pieces of her broken heart. Little did she know love doesn’t work that way. While it wasn’t her first heartbreak, the last one had completely disappeared from her life.

Glancing out the window, blue eyes hidden by a pair of aviator sunglasses, Kaylee Thatcher checks her weapons one last time. She watches the informant beyond the tempered glass. She was taking a chance coming out there alone. This was restricted territory the place where good cops dread to tread. The telepath couldn’t sit there all day. Stepping out of the car, she pulls on a blazer over the shoulder harness that holds her service weapons. “Alright Stitch. You got me all the way out here. Show me what you got.”

Stitch isn't readily visible when she reaches the closed off gate bearing signs that the area beyond prohibits trespassing by the public. He's easily found once he emerges from the vegetation where he'd been sitting in wait, though, and paces over to the car with a nervous air. "He's in there, been there for a few." The young man jerks his head in the direction of the shut gate.

It takes him a belated moment to realize she might want him to lead the way, and that makes Stitch balk visibly. He shakes his head, the mop of hair atop it swishing. "Nuh uh, you don't pay me enough to go down that," he remarks, fear making his voice quieter and his eyes shift to look down the very lonely, very potentially hazardous looking road. She can see the fresher disturbance of tire tracks, and so can he.

It isn’t until she sees the fresh tire tracks, that the mention of ‘he’ registers. Alarm cuts sharp through her and the detective turns a surprised look his way, unseen except for the raise of brows above the sunglasses. “Then stay here and don’t let anything happen to my car.” The words are harsher then she means them to be, but the prospect of catching Luther has her anxiety up.

Kaylee moves to hop the guard rail, prefering to go by foot. The sound of the gravel under her boots is loud to her own ears. A pause to look back at him, she adds, “Anything happens to it, I’ll scramble your brain so hard you won’t know how to piss right.” With that, he gets her back as she hurries down the road.

There is no real fear for the road and the surroundings, only for who might be on the other end.

The closer she gets, Kaylee pulls one of her service pistols, holding it at ready with the barrel pointed at the ground… she makes her way ever forward, breath held in anticipation of what she would find.

She doesn't need to tell Stitch twice, although there's a twinge of fear in the homeless man as he shrinks back physically. He doesn't even want to stay by the car, but her threat is real enough that he doesn't budge far. Whether or not he'll be there when she gets back is a question yet to be answered.


The pungent salt scent of the marshland made from fill dirt hangs in the air. The tracks continue until the road transitions from packed dirt to muddied, damp ground flush with grasses and bushland. The only sounds, for a while, are those of birds and insects buzzing about, and the warm summer breeze wafting over the reeds. It almost seems like she could get lost out here, without a soul around. There's also the thought of just how much radioactive contamination is out here. The government is still studying it, after all.

Then she spots the top half of a dark colored sedan in the distance, trunk open, and Luther slightly hunched over the open back of the car. The man, clad in t-shirt and jeans, workman's boots, wipes his hands and arms with a towel. He hasn't noticed the telepath's approach, but at her trajectory he's likely to spot the movement in his periphery if she gets closer.

This is what she wanted. To see this. Wasn’t it?

So why was her chest tight and her breathing rough, catching in her throat? Why were her emotions threatening to spill over her cheeks. Maybe it was the shock of being right of the shattering of what little hope she had that she was wrong.

“Hands on your head,” She says in a calm and steady voice, glock lifted and aimed in his direction. It’s a good thing most of her expression was hidden behind those glasses, because his form blurs a little, even if her voice holds. Boots make careful progress to close the distance.

If he hadn’t seen her yet, he’ll know she’s there. Standing there looking very much like the officer of the law she is, wisps of blonde hair curling across her features as the stiff breeze blows through. The gun barrel dips slightly as she repeats flatly, “Hands on your head and get down on your knees. Now.” Last word pitched louder with a command behind it, but it’s obvious that she hadn’t backed it with her ability. He’s still master of his own movements.

Technically, if she left now, that hope would still be there. Technically, there was still no evidence outside of an eyewitness of trespassing on closed government grounds, that Luther was doing anything criminal. He’s noticed her, she can tell from the shift in his focus, but doesn’t act on the immediate urge to do a sudden, quick turn. His instinct is good in that regard, as he turns to face her. His expression is an inscrutable neutral, but she can feel the turmoil behind his gaze, deep in his mind.

Guilt. But not for what he’d done here. It is the guilt that hits only when he realizes it’s her that has the gun pointed at him. Her voice ordering him to comply. The fact that he’s seeing her again, months later. She might not be feeling it, but he makes the mental note that she looks good, still. And that’s good.

Luther is slow to comply, only shifting recently wiped hands up to lace his fingers over his head. “How’d you find me?” he asks after doing so, not yet kneeling. The slowness is deliberate as he checks with a sidelong glance. She didn’t have backup.

He isn’t the only one making note of how good the other looks, Kaylee’s eyes not leaving him as he only half complies. She couldn’t help but notice the changes, the cut of him. Clearly, getting a bit more of a workout. It looked good on him.

Her free hand pulls the sunglasses off her face, folding the arms in and hooking it on the collar of her shirt. “You really expect me to tell you?” she asks gruffly, taking another step forward. “On. Your. Knees. Don’t make me force you.”

She really doesn’t want to do it.

Her path has her keeping distance, but sidestepping with the intention of looking in the car. Kaylee needed to see for herself, steeling herself on what she might find. “What am I going to find in there?” she asks even as she slowly inches her way there. “A body? I heard there was one. Did Petrelli use you as a hit man, too?”

Her repetition of the command and step forward at first receive defiance from Luther, his chin tilting slightly up in challenge. The man’s gaze meets hers finally, studying her whole face now that she’s revealed it. He tilts his head too, shoulders lifting and rolling back down with a short shrug. “Was worth asking.” A few possibilities cross his mind, but are quickly dismissed given she’s moving ever closer to his position. And with the gun still pointed at him. Finally, though, he does slowly lower himself to his knees in the damp ground, hands still laced on his head.

He watches her as she side steps along, the closer she gets the more anticipation builds in him. Not because he’s worried, though. When she gets to the car trunk and is able to peek inside, she finds a metal briefcase, a black duffelbag half open that’s half full of what appears to be gym clothes and the towel he’d been wiping off with, a baseball bat, a handgun, and a shovel. No sign of dead bodies anywhere. Had Stitch been lying? Or is Luther just lucky?

The homeless man had been insistent, even over the phone. But for now, his claims remain unsubstantiated. Luther in the meanwhile remains still and stony silent as she inspects the trunk. Her question of his being used causes a frown to crease on Luther’s face. “No,” he replies evenly, which lends itself to a feeling of truth. Though it doesn’t preclude the possibilities of his cleanup of the dead bodies left in Arthur Petrelli’s wake.

“What else do you want to know?” The question rumbles out of him before he’s really able to stop it, a dryly tinged wry humor wrung out of the query. She could demand anything of him. She’s the one with the gun in hand.

Even with that ring of truth in his answer, Kaylee looks in the car. Nothing. The lack of a body, has the gun lowering a little. Kaylee looks briefly confused, before the gun drops to her side. Fingers move to press to the bridge of her nose for a moment, as she whispers out a soft, “Fuck.” Every turn, a dead end. It was getting old for the detective. A glance goes up towards where her car is, eyes narrowed slightly.

God-damned, useless informants.

“So…” Kaylee begins after a moment and a heavy sigh, the gun isn’t exactly pointing at him now, but she isn’t moving to put it away either. “Why exactly are you out here, Luther?” The question is asked as she gives him wide berth again and moves to stand in front of him. “People like you don’t exactly come out here to have picnics.”

Luther’s watching carefully as she looks in the car. The nondescript sedan holds few secrets there with its open trunk and readily viewable windows. The man doesn’t exactly smile, even when she comes to the conclusion of the obvious lack of a corpse. He follows her gaze down the road for a moment, but his attention comes back to her when she speaks again, questioning him on his motives for being there. The secondary comment stings, and Luther pulls a face of distaste and some hurt.

Even though it’s true. He’s not here for a picnic.

“You don’t want to know.” He gives his answer flatly, firmly despite an averted gaze downward towards her boots. “Trust me.” It’s a bold statement to say, but when he looks at her again his gaze is full of gravity, brimming in seriousness. She doesn’t have to read minds to know there’s nefarious work going on. She’s spent several months now in the research of that. Now, she’s right on the cusp of that revelation.

“Please, Kaylee. Whatever it is you think you’re doing, you need to stop, before…” Luther trails as his manner seems to soften, the pain of possibilities and outcomes less desirable pepper the air between them with awkward tension.

“You mean doing my job?” Kaylee asks quietly, “Protecting people. Putting away the bad guys?” She doesn’t call him that directly, but it is implied. “Making sure people don’t end up with bullets in their heads just for being what they are? Stuck away in black sites and experimented on?” Her hand motions in the direction of Pinehearst.

Taking a step closer she leans down so that they can really look each other in the eyes. “When I signed on the dotted line, I knew what I was signing up for. Judah made damn sure I knew.” Kaylee’s eyes watch him, a touch of saddness reveals itself in the crease of her brow. “I will do my damnest, to make sure your boss and company goes down. I’ve seen what they will do and I will protect anymore innocent people, like my father from ending up in his hands again.”

That might be news to him.

“That’s right. I found my father in Moab. My brother, too. Red Level.” Kaylee is watching for things to register. “Last I knew, he died in Midtown.” The telepath straightens then and backs away a little. “So no, handsome. I’m not stopping.” There is ice in those words and a challenge. Taking another step back, her pistol is put back in her rig.

“Keep an eye on the news.” There is a threat in those words.

Unfortunately, she can’t take him in on anything, except trespassing and that felt too petty to try. “You better hope, I don’t find something that sticks. I will enjoy dragging your ass in.” Those words don’t hold the conviction they should. They are flat and emotionless; even tinged with the heartbreak she’s dealt with all this time.

“Doing your job…” Luther echoes, his voice a low rumble. “It’s not always so simple though, is it, Detective?” His gaze drops back to the salt marsh before him, uttering a wry swear for the situation. All of it. The black sites, experimenting, executions. And because of it, the two of them are where they are now.

When she steps close and leans, he straightens and looks up at her. Grey meets blue, and her threat of making sure the company and Petrelli going down causes a bristling not from anger but fear. Then she drops the statement about her father being in the hands of the company. Grey eyes widen in surprise - he hadn’t known. She had told him her parents were dead. Despite her still holding pistol in hand, Luther undoes his laced fingers upon his head, more out of a reaction to the further information she gives of a father and a brother being alive. In Moab.

Red Level.

She can see it in Luther’s stare up at her, fear as cold as the ice in her words. The reminder of the prison, memories of darkness, slip over the man’s mind for split moments before he can blink hard and shove it away. His brows furrow deeply, lips tight with worry. Whatever he might say to her disappears as she speaks of enjoying the prospect of his arrest. Once those words strike, he turns his gaze down again, whatever he was going to say fleeing from him. Instead, the kneeling man stares groundward and looks the picture of guilt and chastisement. Luther goes still.

“I’m sorry,” he utters quietly.

Those two words have Kaylee jerking back a step as if he physically struck her. It wasn’t something she expected from him. Luther had always been steadfast and stubborn. In fact, in her mind she feels like he isn’t allowed to say those words. Again, her gaze drops, brows furrow a little in her confusion.

Her foot slides back again, putting a little more distance between them. “You got lucky today,” Kaylee says gruffly, in an attempt to regain control of her emotions and put on that cop face. It fails, her heart is racing too fast. “I don’t recommend coming back here, the next cop might not be so nice. Trespassing is a serious offense.”

Slowly, Kaylee turns away; surprisingly showing her back to him. That was different. In fact, there isn’t the deep hatred when she looks back, mainly just confusion. Mouth parting slightly, like she plans to say something, the detective stops herself. Instead, her chin tips up a bit. “Take care of yourself. Next time I see you, it might very well be to arrest you.”

She leaves him there kneeling in the damp earth, still free.

Text Message From: UNKNOWN

It’s not always easy to do your job
Trying to protect people
I’m sorry about your father. Your brother.

thanks for lettin me go

Be safe, Beautiful

September 12, 2015

"A Matter of Time"

«…following the shocking leaked footage of Moab Federal Penitentiary and revelations of the Pinehearst company’s involvement with the government run facility, protests have broken out across the nation and some turned violent. The National Guard reserve has already been called in at several cities including New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Kansas City, as violent riots have broken out between supporters of human rights and those favoring calling upon the President and Congress for the immediate establishment of stricter measures for an Evolved registry. Despite several attempts by various media outlets, Pinehearst top executive Arthur Petrelli has not yet been reached for comment on the allegations that Pinehearst orchestrated experiments on the non-Evolved, using a formula that created synthesized Evolved powers but lead to the deaths of several human test subjects…»

The cab driver switches away from the AM news radio station to something less incendiary and more melodic and mellow. “Can you believe that? What is this world coming to?” The cabbie whose ID displayed reads as Bob Barazani shakes his head with a rough, disappointed sigh for the state of the world. The cab pulls up to Kaylee’s apartment complex and slows to a halt along the sidewalk, letting her out after a long day at work.

Offering the price of the fare and a decent tip, Kaylee offers a small smile. Studying him through the plexiglass partition, the telepath offers blandly, “It’s always been there Mr. Barazani. It’s just finally oozing to the surface for all the world to see.” Scooting over to the door, she pops it open and steps out into the chilly air of fall. “Take care of yourself.”

Dealing with the aftermath of the leaked footage was exhausting. Between the riots and fielding questions about who the source might be…. This meant fingers were fumbling tiredly for keys as she makes her way up the steps. The riots meant that much more paperwork, which made it a department wide effort. Worth it, she reminds herself. This was just a small piece of what Tamara smuggled from the prison. The rest in the hands of people that could distribute it better.

If there’s any indication of the shitstorm that’s come blowing through, it’s the amount of work there is at the station. Angry, frustrated people, outraged people, violent people. But they’re all people. And cabbies like Bob, people who are just trying to make a life in the world, caught up in it but still managing to find some room for compassion. “You too, miss,” he tells her with a genuinely warm smile, “And it’s not all bad. Tomorrow will be another day.” Once the door’s shut, the taxi cab motors away to the next fare.

Even in her exhaustion, she will find it hard not to notice the faint, familiar resonance of a mind she hasn’t felt the presence of in months. Especially not this close to her apartment door - it’s been nearly a year for that, given a season. There could be no other, unless he had a clone or a twin somewhere. She doesn’t have to look for him, because he’s standing beside her door as if he were guarding Scotland Yard’s crown jewels. Luther looks up at the sound of fumbling keys, and his jaw tightens at the sight of her. As it always has since that day in November. He swallows the knot in his throat, clearing it lightly.

“Kaylee,” he greets her quietly, a short shift of his gaze off her to check the open hallway, then back to her. There was something off about that greeting. A distance he purposefully assumes.

Even before he speaks her name, Kaylee stops dead in her tracks. Still some distance from the door and the safety of her home, she looks like a deer in the headlights. Poised ready for something to happen, her who body is still and motionless.

Is that a flicker of fear?

He hadn’t called her ‘Beautiful’ and for once that concerned her. There is a disconnect that hasn’t been there every other time they had been face to face. “Luther,” she offers just as quietly. She may look like she is ready to bolt if need be; however, instead she approaches the door, trying not to look at him. Her heart races for many reasons, not just fear. “Your boss send you?” is asked casually as she works to open the door.

Kaylee can already hear it, the yowl of a cat who wants something. That something is Luther. As soon as the door opens, the cat wiggles out of the partially open door to wind around the man’s legs with enthusiasm giving those chirping mews of happiness.

His other human can only watch helplessly, looking rather betrayed by the feline.

Now that the owner of the apartment is there, Luther steps a pace to the side to let her get to the door itself. But he doesn’t stray far, in fact keeping close enough so their conversation can remain clandestine in nature and in volume. “No,” he answers her question simply, though the next words turn wry. “I’d say he has a lot worse things to worry about right now.” She’s not the only one who hears the yowl behind the door, and for a moment he’s distracted from the worry that’s creased his brow.

The moment Jojo appears, Luther feels a different sort of knot of emotion tighten in him. He looks down to the chirping cat reclaiming his pant legs, and eventually bends down to pick up the feline and give the cat a good scritching between the ears with those warm fingers. “Hey there Jojo,” he rumbles to the happy kitty, “Bet you wondered where I went, didn’t you?”

Still, Luther reminds himself inwardly not to get too distracted from his mission. That being voiced when he refocuses his attentions to Kaylee. “We need to talk,” he says with absolute seriousness. “Not out here though.” But will he be allowed in? It’s a question hanging in the awkward moments between them. One that Jojo most definitely comments on with a loud, interrupting purr.

Awkward it is.

Kaylee isn’t looking at him, so much as watching the cat. Animals were funny things. They often say that they know the bad ones from the good. It’s an odd thought that flickers at the back of her mind. Wouldn’t Jojo be able to tell that he was a threat to her. That he was there to kill her?

Blue-eyes lift slowly to look at the man holding the cat. Brows twitch down, but then Kaylee slowly nods and looks away. “Okay,” she says softly, pushing the door open finally. Motioning him to proceed her, a glance going down the hallway. Almost immediately, he’d find a box sitting near the door. It was filled with the things he had left there over the years. She had purged him from her life, yet, who knows how long that box has set there. There was an obvious reluctance to take that last step. By the way the clothing was pressed down and fur covered, Jojo had taken to snoozing in it on occasion. As much as she acts like she is done with him, even after this long, there were little clues. Kaylee was having a hard time really giving up.

The rest of the apartment hadn’t changed, but it was obvious that it could use a cleaning. The appliances he purchased were still there and obviously used. So in a way he still had a presence in her life.

Once the door is closed behind them, Kaylee tosses the keys into the ceramic bowl on the table. “What do you want, Luther?” she asks, while pulling her leather jacket off.

They had often joked that Jojo’s opinion was the only one that truly mattered. So if the cat had anything to say about it, then Luther would get let in. When Kaylee looks up at him, blue eyes met with a grey, almost pleading gaze, and lets him in to the apartment, she can sense the faint relief and twinge of hope cresting the surface of his thoughts. Still, he enters with caution, releasing the cat in his arms down onto the floor only for the feline to stick close by.

The box with the clothing and items gets a notable, long look as well. Luther crosses over to it and inspects the contents, fingers lifting a few of the shirts and things to see what he had left behind. It’s something surprising to him, that she hasn’t thrown it all away. That twinge of hope flickers with a little more life.

Then she closes the door and his attention snaps back to the present. In that look up, he takes in the state of the apartment, the presence of the appliances and the signs of their use getting a brief, fleeting smile. One that quickly disappears as she asks him what he wants. Luther breathes in, considering. “That’s a loaded question,” he replies as he straightens and steps closer, but remains out of arm’s reach. He could answer that question in so many ways.

“The footage of the prison,” he says instead, eyes focused on her, “You put it out there. They’re going to go after you.” His brow furrows, a twitch down of the corners of his mouth portraying his seriousness. “Kaylee, you need to leave here. They know where you are and they know that you’re one of the ones…” His thoughts turn to worry, but Jojo bats at his leg and he looks down.

It would be comical, except for the topic at hand. Luther looks apologetic to the cat, then to Kaylee. “I have a place in town where you could stay. They don’t know about it, yet.” A beat. “You could take Jojo with you.”

Even though the jacket has been hung up, Kaylee keeps her shoulder harness on, allowing her to stay armed. When she notices him at the box, there is a bit of awkward discomfort. Everyday she has debated tossing it and everyday she talks herself out of it. Now her own reluctance betrays her a little.

But the thing about being around a telepath, they often times can hear those thoughts. Kaylee has a pretty good clue of how Luther would like to answer her question. The way her heart skips a beat and starts beating a little faster, she knows a part of her wants him to show her.

However, the sensible part of her helps him maintain the distance between them, by casually stepping around the edge of the table, as she listens. Once the table is between them, she turns to give him her full attention; hands rest on the back of one of the chairs.

“Thanks for the offer, handsome.” The nickname slips out far to easily. Internally, she winces at the mistake. Still, Kaylee continues on with a small shake of her head, “but I'm going to have to say no. If I run, then they win. I hold my ground, then any action Pinehearst takes will just damn them that much more.” The woman had no illusions of what could happen to her, once the evidence starts pointing at her as the leaks.

“You might want to consider taking yourself up on that.” There isn't anything smug about those words. Unlike before, Kaylee doesn't seem to be gloating about this victory in her personal war against his company.

Luther huffs a frustrated noise at her refusal. The note of the nickname is almost too natural now that he doesn’t make anything of it, at least not at first, and certainly not when she’s being stubborn. “You don’t understand… they aren’t going to stop at just some PR spin,” he insists, hands planting on the opposite end of the table and leaning in.

“They’ll come after you. After everything you know. And anyone connected.” The words are telling, in a way. He’s not in the loop, that much she can tell. Or he’s being kept out of it on purpose. That, or he’s still really good at the fake out. But the way he’s looking at her, eyes steady on and not wanting to leave the sight of her, expresses a deeper concern. One that he still hasn’t brought himself to speak of, a concept still wrapped in the unthinkable.

There is enough already to release the floodgates, just from the footage. To pile on the idea of interdimensional terrorism would be a whole other…

“Come with me, then,” he suddenly blurts out before he can stop himself. “You don’t have to stay. But at least let me show you where it is.” He’s about to say something more, something personal, but catches himself that time and straightens up from the lean forward on the table.

Even as he talks he can see the stubborn back and forth of her head. “No.” Kaylee says with stubborn firmness when he is done. “When I started all of this, I knew what I could face.” Little did she know she would soon find out he was one of those types of people she expected to come after her.

The fact that she isn't holding onto a gun as they talk says she at least believes he isn't there to take care of it himself. However, she isn't stupid enough to be completely unarmed.

Fingers tighten on the chair back as he leans on the table. Memories were scratching at the edges of her mind, probably some of his too. “I'm not going anywhere with you, Luther. I’ll be fine,” she tried to assure him. “I have friends at the PD that I trust to have my back. You met all of them, Diaz, Sanders, and Varlane?”

Then she says the hardest thing she has ever had too, “I don't need you looking after me, anymore. We broke up, remember.” Kaylee can't really look at him when she says it, gaze on his hands. “Besides, I'm a big girl. I’ll be fine.”

Scrubbing a hand on his jaw, Luther grumbles under his breath, “‘You can’t trust the police.’” It sounds like he’s reiterating some words said to him or words he’d heard sometime ago. But the unease he has in his frame when she names the friends at the station doesn’t dissipate much. Which is why, when she says they’ve broken up, he shakes his head too. She can see his hands twitch with her words. They curl into loose fists at his side.

His gaze drops to the tabletop, as does his volume to a low rumble. “Fine,” he says after a long moment. A step taken back, carefully done so he doesn’t accidentally bump Jojo in case the cat is there, and another takes him further from her. He’s dissatisfied with her answer, but he’ll have to accept it for the time being.

Taking one last look around the messier apartment, he makes a few mental notes about the state of it before finally turning away and heading back for the front door. The cat follows, a confused chirp from the feline making Luther pause and look down again. He bends down to give the cat another quick scratch, but done so in silence before he straightens and hurries away. The door shuts with a quiet click behind him.

He’s left the box of items and clothes behind too. It’s there that Jojo hops up onto the pile of things and sits, tail curling and looking at the door in silence.


Kaylee, it’s me.

I… you know you’re in danger. You can’t— don’t stay at your place. You need to be careful. I know you’re probably thinking that’s rich, coming from me. But you need to watch yourself. Whoever you think has your back, don’t trust them. Please… watch your back.
… I lo— …

Take care of yourself.

January 2016

"A Matter of Life and Death"

Pain. It blossomed through her head sharp and red, when she moved it. He had hit her a little harder that time. Kaylee could feel a dull ache in her cheek, the skin already bruising and swelling. Soon she wouldn’t be able to see out of that eye, not that it mattered, her vision was blurred by tears of pain.

The taste of pennies filled her mouth where her teeth had cut into cheek. A timid touch of her tongue tells her that at least one tooth was probably broken. Ugh. She hated the dentist.

The sensations all together were nauseating and it threatened to take her under; but, Kaylee wanted the darkness of unconsciousness to claim her. That way she could escape what she knew would come at the end of it all, because she wouldn’t give them what they wanted. Her source for the footage. For now, all she could do is endure, slumped forward in the chair, zipties cutting hard into the delicate skin of her wrists, strapped down tight to the arms of a chair. An attempted shift of legs told her that they were strapped into place as well.

The telepath wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

More importantly there was the silence. It spread out around her. It terrified her, where the beating she had been enduring only strengthened her anger. No matter how she reached for it, her ability had been taken from her by the barely remembered stab of a needle to her neck.

She was completely at the mercy of Petrelli’s goon. What was worse, she knew this one. With that came the feeling of betrayal.

From what she can see, the walls are concrete, industrial. A warehouse probably. The room isn’t entirely secure in that there’s windows to a hallway, and a metal-latticed slit in a metal door that constitutes the only entrance and exit from it. It’s not much bigger than an interrogation room at the station. This one, though, is devoid of any furniture save for the hard metal chair she’s strapped to. It’s only the second time they’ve uprighted her after knocking her so hard the chair tipped over with the momentum.

The chair’s too light weight.

The one light, an industrial work light, the kind used for hanging up in a garage or a workshop, does so from a hook in the low ceiling. The beam is strong, causing a sharp ache between her eyes and if she squints just so and ignores the pain in doing, she could see a faint rainbow teasing the edge of her vision. It’s like the same one she saw in the station just before she’d headed out of the door to head back home. Just after the stab of the needle. Just after she heard the rapid clicks and the tell-tale muscle-wrenching sensation of several volts of electricity coursing through her. Just before she blacked out.

A hand roughly grabs her chin, forcing her to look up into her captor’s face. Even in the blurred vision, she can see him. Detective Sanders exhales slowly, twisting Kaylee’s face this way and that in his inspection of her condition. Or rather, his handiwork.

“What are we going to do, Thatcher?” Sanders releases her jaw, taking a step back, eyeing her up and down. “You know how this works. I don’t need to give the run down of what’s going to happen to you, or even when it’s going to happen. Do I?” He clicks his tongue against the back of his teeth once, turning to the latticed window before he calls out, “Hey can I get a coffee up in here?” Turning back to Kaylee, he doesn’t offer her one. Only, “It’s a good thing we’re used to working such late hours.”

Unfortunately, Kaylee can't hide the wince when her head is jerked up, the blinding lights only make the headache worse. Squinting up at the man, she takes some pleasure in the spray of red across his face, from the last him he forced her to look at him. Probably why he lets go as quick as he does.

Of course, she can't help the sarcastic smile as she sees the bloody ruin of his hand, where she managed to get a good bite in.

Needless to say, she earned her bruised and bloody appearance. Mouth full of the taste of pennies she leans forward and spits it out on the floor in front of him. “You can beat me all you want, asshole. I will say it again. I acted alone.”

The telepath offers him a bloody grin, teeth outlined in bright blood. “How’s the hand doing?” She gives a tired chuckle, head dropping forward. Kaylee was feeling awfully tired, which would be alarming if she could think straight. “I guess you and your wife won't be enjoying that hand for awhile.” She might sound a little hysterical as she gives a little giggle.

The smile Sanders gives her is humorless when she asks how his hand is doing. The skin between thumb and index finger bitten into, wrapped in a strip of ripped towel, still throbs as he’s reminded of it. He’s still smiling when he backhands her again on the side that’s already bruised, not hard enough to send her crashing back to the ground but enough to scoot the light chair she’s strapped to a few screechy centimeters to the side.

He’ll not admit it, but Sanders’ other hand is also throbbing with pain. He turns so his side faces her, hidden fingers flexing and unflexing. “We know you weren’t alone,” the detective states firmly, “so you don’t have to lie about it.” When he turns back to face her, Sanders shakes his head slowly, a disapproval expressed in the gesture. “It’s only a matter of time, as you’re probably familiar with, while we find the rest of your cohorts in this. And maybe there’s some story to be told there.”

He takes a step forward, leaning down close to her, the overhead hanging light casting half his features with a yellow glare and the other half with dark shadow. “You’re familiar with getting stories told to you, aren’t you. Living with one of our own as long as you did.” The man casts another glance back to the door, calling out again, “Hey! What’s taking so long with that coffee?”

There are instant tears in her eyes when he backhands her across already bruised features. No matter how strong of a person you are, shit still hurts. Her vision edges with black, but mostly from the pain, then the force used.

Working her jaw back and forth, she glares at him out of corner of her good eye. “I didn't work with anyone,” she repeats for the millionth time. “I went down and freed prisoners and made that footage. Forced the pilot to fly us out of there.” At this point it sounded rehearsed.

When he makes a jab at her about living with one of theirs and stories told, they strike true enough that she gives and angry jerk of her arms in the restraints. It is when he turns back around from calling about coffee, that Kaylee gets her revenge, as his nose meets her forehead with a loud crack.

He’ll have to blame himself for that rookie move. Kaylee would laugh in the face of his pain, if she could.

At least, he can take some satisfaction in the fact that it wasn't a great experience for her either. Luckily, being a telepath, you learn to work through headaches.

“Well maybe you’re not going to give them up, but we’ve got a whole crew working on this and sooner or later, one of you is going t—” The crack is heard and felt when forehead crashes into delicate bone and cartilage around Sanders’ nose. The man stumbles backward, falling on his as and clutching his broken nose with a muffled swearing of pain. On the bright side, he has a towel already wrapped around his hand. So when it comes away, soaked in a trail of blood, he knows it’s broken. “My fuckin’, ugh!! You bitch…”

Sanders scrambles back up to his feet, irate now, and pulls the pistol in his shoulder holster out to point at Kaylee’s offending forehead. For a split second, he looks to be entertaining the notion of shooting her right then and there. Her vision edges blacken as exhaustion and blood loss and trauma make the whole room seem to fade in and out of light.

Until it’s clear that it’s not just her experiencing that flickering of the lightbulb above her and Sanders. The detective looks up as the worklight struggles to stay lit, like electrical problems have suddenly struck the wiring. Briefly, the room drops into darkness as the light goes out.

Then, there’s the unmistakable pops of gunfire and shouting coming from the hallway.

The light flickers back on, staying that way at least for now. Sanders pulls his gun away from Kaylee’s forehead and instead moves to the metal door, using its angle to check through one of the windows, trying to spot down the hallway.

He doesn’t see the bat that’s swung straight into the window with a forceful shattering of glass exploding inward and sending shards cutting into the detective’s face and neck. Sanders is knocked down, gun clattering on the concrete as he lets out an agonized scream and clutches the side of his face. He was bleeding before. He’s bleeding far more profusely now.

“Kaylee?!” The voice is unmistakeably Luther’s, even when it sounds like he’s far away and shouting through a tin can phone.

Past the point of caring, ready for the pain and misery to stop, Kaylee waits for what might be coming as the gun is pressed into her forehead. Her throat works as fear threatens to take her, but there was no reason to let it. Soon it wouldn’t mat — wait — The world flickers and gunfire erupts. Hope springs to life in her chest, as all hell seems to break loose. However, it might not be what it seems, so rather then let her guard down, Kaylee blearily looks up at the sound of the window breaking and the angelic sounds of Sander’s scream of pain.

Then she hears his voice, a sound far better than even the screams of her torturer. Instantly, tears of relief spring to her eyes, even bruised and swollen as they are. Kaylee tries to gather the energy to call out, but she only manages a weary gasp of his name, “Luther.” Her head hangs as she slumps with relief and exhaustion. One thought keeps rolling around in her head, as she sits there with her face surrounded by tangled and blood caked hair…. He came for her.

Blood-tinged tears run down her face and drip steadily to her lap, as Kaylee realizes that even though she had tried to push him away and treated him like shit, he was there trying to save her.

She can’t see Luther at the angle she’s positioned, but she can spot Sanders on the floor, the man groaning in pain and surrounded by glass. Luther doesn’t call out her name again, which may even give off the impression that maybe she had hallucinated the whole thing were it not for her captor being where he is. And the sound of the metal door getting kicked a couple times before it too is slammed inward on its hinges.

Luther barrels in shortly after, a bloodied, cracked baseball bat held in one hand. His suit is stained, as is his shirt, with sprays of blood. He immediately goes to her and drops the bat down beside him as he kneels at her feet, hands brushing away soggy bits of blonde hair from her battered face. Grey eyes wildly search hers, finding one eye swollen shut and cuts from her beating all over. The warmth against her cheek might not be his fingers, but the slow drip of her blood. The negation drug is still working through her, but she doesn’t have to read his mind to sense relief.

“Hey, Beautiful,” he says to her, “Gonna get you out of here. Can you walk?” He looks down to her tied wrists and ankles, and with a flare of anger to fuel his power, grabs the plastic ties and rips them off with heated snaps as the plastic melts and becomes brittle.

But he’s busy tending to her, so much of his attention focused upon her, that he doesn’t notice nor suspect the stirrings of Sanders behind him in the corner. The detective crawls slightly to a side, reaching fingers for gun that lies a few more inches from his reach. A rag-wrapped hand quests for the pistol grip and takes hold. And slowly, painfully, Sanders orients the gun towards the pair. Towards Luther’s back.

Kaylee knows she looks like hell, so when he calls her beautiful, she can’t help but give a tear choked huff of amusement. She wants to call him a liar, but instead she licks her cracked and bleeding lip and offers her own familiar response, with a voice thick with emotion, “Hey handsome.” There is more warmth in that greeting then he’s experienced in sometime.

The question about her ability to walk doesn’t get answered right away, “Maybe.” Kaylee won’t know until she tries to stand. Her world is spinning a little, so who knows what will happen.

Movement past his shoulder, catches her eye and panic quickly sets in. “Gun!” she manages to croak out, though not quite a shout she wants it to be. No thought is given to her action, Kaylee throws her full weight into Luther to drive him the ground. Unsteady and weak as she is from the abuse, knees buckle and the telepath hits the ground with him.

There’s no time to look for the gun, and Luther suddenly is knocked down and to the side with a grunt. The gunfire is deafening in such a small interior space, so there’s barely a register of the sound of the ricochet. She can feel his arms wrap around her, rolling over so that he’s draped like a human bodyshield. There’s suddenly a flash of light, a strangled yelp from Sanders as he’s blinded by it.

Then Luther’s pushing up off of her, standing and stomping Sander’s gun hand hard enough to break something in those delicate bones, eliciting another scream. Luther yanks the gun out of the detective’s broken hand, backing up so he’s looming over her prone form. “You okay?” he grunts before leaning down to help take up one of her arms in support.

There is a hiss of pain, when Luther helps haul her to her feet. Kaylee’s fingers grips weakly at his shoulder, while the fingers of her free hand curl into the fabric of his shirt. The sudden upward movement makes her a little woozy, but she manages to keep her lunch in her stomach and her feet under her. After a moment, the telepath lets out the breath she had been holding. “I’ll live,” she says softly, angling her head enough that she can look at him through her good eye, “thanks to you.” There is a small smile offered, but it slides away quickly in favor of a grimace of pain. “Is this where you say, ‘I told you so?’”

Swallowing hard, the detective makes herself look down at her former captor. Looking at him, bring back every moment she suffered at his hands. Her vision edges with red… a flash of anger, fury that he had claimed to be a friend… to say he has her back, only to stab her with a negation needle when it is turned to him.

As Sanders looks up at her, fingers unwind from Luther’s shirt and she holds out her hand, “Let me see that gun,” her voice is so cold and flat. Her teary gaze, filled with so much anger for the man huddling on the ground, shifts to her ex. She waits patiently for him to comply.

There’s no up and at ‘em from Luther, only the steady support her fingers can grab on to, helping to maintain her upright stance. The smile from her gets a faint reflection from him, though it turns wry as she clearly expresses pain. He looks down at her, rumbling a low, “Told you so.” But it’s not intended for lording over her, rather to try and reassure her that he knows and understands how they wound up here. All the events that have gone down.

When her hand holds out for the gun, Luther is the one to hesitate. He looks from her to Sanders and back. Pistol presses into her open hand, relinquishing control of the firearm. “If he knows,” he says quietly with a baleful eye at the downed detective, “they’ll all know by now.” Her look back to him will find the man’s face holding an apology in his gaze towards her.

Shaky fingers curl around the grip of the pistol and for a moment she isn’t sure if she can hold it up. However, her eyes don’t leave his. There is something that softens in her gaze, even as bruised as she is. “I’m not doing this to protect me, handsome.” The gun raises towards Sanders, her head slowly turning to look at him. Her fellow detective will only see that cold nothingness in her eyes, before she pulls the trigger to end his life.

Later, she’ll regret that. Making a widow out of his wife, she was a nice lady and he loved her.

The gun clatters to the floor from her slackened grip, “I did it to protect you.” After a moment, she adds, “He saw you. They’d find out.” Kaylee is still looking at the slumped form of Sanders, as she lets go of him and tries to push him away. “Go. Call Diaz, tell him where I am.”

In a way, Luther knows that it must be done. Looking to Sanders, he sees the other man’s expression, a mix of fear, anger, pain and hate. It’s an expression he knows too well, having received it several times before from many sources. But then he looks back to Kaylee, and the softness in her gaze catches him, pushing the darkness of the thoughts of the inevitable back for a few seconds. Furrowed brow pulling deeper, he breathes out slowly and turns his gaze away from the sight of the gun lifting and aiming. Eyes close. She squeezes the trigger.

Again, he waits for the ringing of his ears to fade a bit before he turns back. Only to get pushed back. “But…” He looks to her in confusion, that bit of push making what thoughts he may have had about convincing her to leave with him flitter back away with the birds in the trees. The man frowns. He lingers, stubbornly so, for a few moments of quiet around them in the most awkward of places. Then, Luther moves to pick up the baseball bat he’d dropped near the chair.

He heads for the busted door, but stops at the threshold to look over his shoulder at her. “I’ll call him after I get the rest of this cleaned up,” he says after a long beat. “Just give me a little time.” And that is all the explanation she gets before he steps away, headed down the hallway from whence he came and leaving her to come up with her story to tell.

Text message from: KAT

You didn't have to save me, but you did.
You took on your own people to protect me.
You risked everything by doing it.

I know I didn't get to say it but
Thank you.
God. What am I doing?
I don't even know if you still have this number.

March 2016

"A Matter of Policy"

Only a couple of months later since the harrowing experience of being kidnapped and subsequently rescued (although official reports in the ongoing investigation don’t mention Luther), Kaylee’s days have stretched out with the coming of spring. While the department has been looking into and sweeping their house so to speak, she’s been given plenty of time to recover from her injuries and the trauma. One of those things is the mandatory therapy sessions.

Though, she’s been given her choice of counselors. And they’ve all been so helpful. Or at least, they’ve been trying. It’s hard to be a telepath in a psychologist’s office.

It’s after one session that as she’re returning to her apartment, she approaches the door to find that sight of it being broken. The door is shut, but only barely so. Whoever got inside used a bit of blunt brute force to do so. It brings up immediate worry, and all the paranoia those counselors have been trying to help assuage comes roaring back in.

Which is why Kaylee always hated these mandatory counselings, not only could she hear their grumbling and secrets…. They were useless in her mind, because, first thing that crosses her mind.

Not again!

Anxiety spikes and for a moment Kaylee has to stand, back pressed to the wall, as she fights of a sudden panic attack. Eyes closed against the surge of fear and memories, she starts to count softly to herself. Backwards, allowing her mind to wander to good moments in her life. One for each number. Ten moments. Many of those involved her ex, Luther. Still she clings to them, willing her heart to stop trying to burst from her chest.

Moments stretch into minutes, but finally she’s able to to think clearly. With a heavy exhale of breath, Kaylee slumps against the wall.

Only then does she have the presence of mind to listen to the single solitary mind that is currently sitting in her home. The familiar sound of that hum, suddenly has she standing up straight and turning towards the door. It’s hard to really understand it, could something be wrong. A new sort of panic and anxiety sets in, her personal Glock is pulled from the shoulder holster and held at ready as she moves to make her way into the apartment.
Kaylee wants to call out as she enters the apartment as carefully as she can through her broken door; but, she also doesn’t know what could be in there waiting for her.

The door slowly swings open, only the softest creak of the hinges revealing that they probably need a dab or two of oil. The apartment is cast in darker shadows as the late afternoon sun has passed overhead, dipping the living area in a reddish, sunset-like cast. The feel of the mind she’s looking for comes with a sluggish sense, one that she recognizes as sleep-ridden, or the type that’s under the influence.

Jojo’s nowhere to be found in the main area, not waiting for her like usual by his food dish or curled up on a chair or a couch cushion.

And her sense of the lone mind presence in the apartment aims her towards the bedroom. Her bedroom.

The main area of the apartment gets a quick glance, it’s not exactly big, before Kaylee starts for the bedroom. Anxiety, slowly turns to irritation the closer she gets. What the hell was he doing in her bedroom? Once they’d broke up, it was no longer their room, he had no right to be in it. Right?

Taking a deep breath, Kaylee gently nudges the door open, almost fearing what she was going to find there. Whatever, she sees there. The door is suddenly slammed open, it wobbles a bit as it bounces off the wall, only to be stopped by her still outstretched hand. “Lu-ther Bell-a-my! What the hell do you think you are doing in my room?” At least, she isn’t point the gun at him yet.

If Luther were one to play by rules, he probably wouldn’t be in the position that he’s in. So far as she knew, he’d broken so many of the unstated breakup rules be it by ignorance of them or willful disobedience. The fact that he’s there, though, sleeping on the side of the bed that used to be “his” side, is a bit much. That Jojo is curled up, a fuzzy ball tucked beside the man for the natural warmth of him, perhaps a betrayal.

She might get a little satisfaction from the fact that the sudden bang of the door and her loud voice startles both awake, with the feline lashing out at the nearest target to clamber up and away. The nearest target just happens to be Luther’s face. The man yelps with a loud “ow!” and flails into a half-sitting, half-leaning position. He bumps the nightstand in the movement, sending empty vodka bottle toppling with a heavy glass clatter against the floor. The tumbler beside it teeters close to the edge, but doesn’t fall.

Luther touches his face with a short hiss and wince, then squints in the direction of the bedroom door where Kaylee stands. The man doesn’t have an immediate answer to her demanding questions, mostly because he’s barely coming awake. And the alcohol makes his whole system of processing slow. But he musters a sheepish look at her once he realizes just where he actually is. It’s highly possible he’s still too drunk to know how he got there. “Uh. Hey, Beautiful.”

He eyes the empty vodka bottle on the floor. Puts two and two together. Wipes his face with a hand, only to touch at the clawed spot again and lets out a rough grunt.

Storming further into the bedroom, shoving her sidearm back into its spot, Kaylee growls out a, “Don’t you ‘hey beautiful’ me. You’re lucky I didn’t shoot first and ask questions later.” She can’t even get herself to feel sympathy for the marks left by the cat.

Coming around the edge of the bed, the telepath take the time to pick up the vodka bottle and look at it. “God… I hope you only had the one.” Bottle that is. The offending bottle is set down on the nightstand with a heavy glassy thump, before the hand is transferred to his face, so that she can turn it and look at the scratches.

Unfortunately for him, her fingers are not gentle as she turns his head. She’s mad at him. Too upset to realize what she is doing, Kaylee leans a little closer to see how deep those cuts are. Even she has a few claw scars herself. Letting go of him suddenly, she turns for the bathroom and what first aid items she has there. Her voice, laced with her irritation, drifts from the other room along with the sound of her searching cabinets. “I should arrest you for trespassing.” She won’t. “Breaking and entering.” It’s not happening. All empty threats.

Luther only blinks blearily as she storms closer, weathering said storm like a rock in tumultuous seas. The bottle is completely empty, but it’s more than likely he’d had more before it. She’s seen her fair share of drunks in the tank. More than likely she could guess how many he’s had by the mud-flow speed, or lack thereof, of his mental processes. Luther winces a little as his face is manhandled a bit. Jojo didn’t have room for kindness. The cat’s likely found a spot under the couch to eye the bedroom from.

As she shuts the cabinet once she’s found the first aid kit, she hears Luther’s voice from much closer, at the bathroom door. “You forgot, vandalism,” he ticks off helpfully, as he leans against the frame of the door. “And littering…” Now he’s being deliberately cheeky. Possibly, purposefully annoying. But there’s no hint of malice or coldness behind the man’s tone, if anything it’s meant to be… playful. As if he were trying to lighten her mood, turn it from the sour frustration.

It might have amused her, if the the sudden sound of his voice behind her didn’t make Kaylee jump with a sharp gasp of fear. What she was holding hits the ground and scatters around her on the tile floor. “Dammit, Luther… Don’t do that!” It was one of the things that frustrated her the most since she was kidnapped, she didn’t use to react like that to someone coming up behind her.

Cheeks color with embarrassment and eyes shine a little brighter with unshed tears of frustration; when she crouches down to pick up what she dropped.. Was she ever going to be over that? “Just go sit down. Okay?” There is a bit of a pleading to that question, her mood going from anger to something more demurred and defeated… that kidnapping damaged something in her.

What had been intended as a lighthearted joke goes awry, and Luther, even in his still-drunken state, recognizes the frustration and embarrassment of her tone. Eyes dip down, watching as she stoops to pick up her dropped objects, and her askance gets him to back up a couple of steps in retreat into the bedroom at first. There’s a moment where he lingers, but then he turns away more fully and walks out of the room entirely. Unsteadily, but remaining upright as he goes, he makes it to the main living space.

She can hear the footsteps, feel that his mind is still there. The sound of a dining chair scraping lightly on the flooring as he pulls it out. Then it’s back to quiet, as it had been when she first entered the apartment, letting her have a moment to recollect herself.

Mentally, Kaylee follows him. She tells herself it is cause she finds comfort there, but in all honesty, she is paranoid. Things gathered again, Kaylee steps out of the bathroom, with a curious look. She really thought he’d sit on the bed. The glass and bottle are retrieved and she brings everything out with her. There is a flurry of emotions when she finds him sitting at the kitchen table. Thankful for the moment he gave her, she doesn’t say it, just gives him a weak smile when she sets supplies and then the glass on the table. That alone might be surprising.

More so is when the telepath retrieves a bottle from her cabinet. While she doesn’t drink, he did. Kaylee hadn’t thrown it out. This is set next to the tumbler. “This is going to hurt.” As if that is an excuse for offering him the bottle.

The cotton ball and the bottle of pure alcohol — used for medical purposes, not drinking Luther — might be the reason. “Upside, the ladies will love the scars. Pretty sure you could spin some wild story about how— you— “ Kaylee trails off, realizing she had just brought up the very activity that broke them up, changing the story. Eyes drop to her hands and their task of applying the solution to the cotton ball. “Sorry,” she murmurs on the heels of her snafu.

Luther’s sitting at the kitchen dining table when she finds him, forehead laid on folded arms as a pillow. He twitches back up after hearing movement from the bedroom, and the weak smile she gives him actually gets one in return. But he doesn’t say anything right away, for fear of ruining the briefest moment where they don’t look like they’re at each other’s throats.

He’s watching her every movement as she moves to the cabinets, pulling out a particular bottle of whiskey he’d tucked in. The man lifts his brows in surprise at her when she sets it down. There’s an unasked question that crosses his mind, on her reasons for keeping the liquor. He hesitates even as she gives him the virtual go ahead to pour himself a drink. Nonetheless, he takes the bottle into hand and unscrews the cap, pouring out a double before screwing the cap back on and setting the bottle a bit further away. After he takes a slow sip, the tumbler joins the bottle, half drunken down, half remaining.

Grey eyes don’t leave her for a second after that, but watch as she soaks up the disinfectant into the cotton ball. “That’s a myth,” he says after she starts, searching her face even when she drops her gaze. “It’s got to be a good looking scar, and s’ far as I know, there’s no good looking scar on a face.”

The man pauses a beat, considering that thought. Considering her.

“Only,” he says even quieter, “good looking faces…” Luther trails off himself, leaning in closer to her, leading with an intent to try and kiss her.

Before he even starts to lean in, Kaylee knows what is coming, her heart wants to meet him halfway for that kiss, but it is the normally level head that panics a little. So, instead of leaning in, the cotton ball full of liquid fire, connects with the cuts on his fact, at the same time her other hand moves to grab his face and turn it, like she is trying to get a better look at it. She even tries to act like she didn’t know what he was doing, still she grimaces at the pain that will come from that alcohol meeting that open wound.

Her heart aches to do it, but Kaylee worries he’ll continue to influence the story like he did before. If she kissed him, though… it would be game over.

Still she feels bad for the rejection.

So to ease her conscious… “Your drunk,” Kaylee states the obvious in a gentle, yet flat manner. As she gently dabs at the cuts, she continues, “So you can stay here tonight and crash on the couch.” Not her bed, the couch. “I’d be an even bigger failure as a cop, if I let you go out there like this.”

The moment the alcohol soaked cotton ball presses into the deep scratch, Luther tries to jerk back. Her hand snags his chin though, and turns him so she can see Jojo’s damage done. It won’t scar too badly, looking worse than it really is as long as it’s taken care of properly. But, the alcohol stings. As does his pride, from the rejection. Or, as he thinks, missed opportunity. “That really hurts,” grumbles Luther as he shifts uncomfortably under her medicinal ministration.

Whether he means the stinging alcohol (which he does) or that she’s kicking him out to the couch, it’s set aside as he tries to eye her sidelong while she cleans the scratches. His jawline tenses and works, with there being other thoughts about what they could could be doing. Thoughts that are interrupted every time a new sting of the cotton ball applied to his cuts pains him. “I wanted to see you,” he utters after a longer beat.

He lifts his hand to grasp the one that’s holding the cotton ball, turning his gaze more fully towards hers. “Sorry about scaring you,” he says, a slow blink following with a genuine, longing look to his drunk gaze. His fingers twitch again, his breath hitching with a wave of emotion trying to break through. “I love you, Kaylee.” The words crawl out of him, the edge of it slurred with drink, but there they are.

“Don’t be such a baby,” Kaylee murmurs quietly as she continues to clean the cut. She refuses to look at him, until he grabs her hand. That he wanted to see her, he succeeds in getting her features to soften a little. Just as quickly the look is gone, as she schools her features again into something more neutral. “Well, you saw me,” she comments lightly, though secretly she is glad to see him again.

Even now she felt a little safer. “It’s fine, handsome.” The apology is blown off as she as she closes up the bottle of alcohol. “The counselor said it was natural after that kind of trauma.”

And those three little words? Kaylee’s whole body goes still, eyes closing against a surge of emotions. Why did he have to say that. Standing there for a long moment, blinking a bit too rapidly, Kaylee says with a voice husky with emotions, “I know.” She knows it’ll hurt, but she can't help herself. Turning back to him, she lightly rests a hand against the warmth of his face, thumb brushing along the stubble of his jaw. Her own jaw tightens against the emotions that well up from within. That flame that hasn't quite gone out yet.

“But,” She starts quietly, “you are very drunk,” it is really strong on his breath, “and you’re not thinking straight. What you need right now is to get some sleep and clear your head.”

Reluctant to do so, Kaylee pulls her hand away. Hopefully in the morning, he won't remember that moment of weakness. “I’ll get you a blanket and a pillow. Jojo will keep you company tonight.” It was a fact, since the cat liked him so much.

A brow lifts at the mention of a counselor, and he wonders what she may have told them in confidence. That sends his thoughts slipping further back to a lot more of the past between them. Her response, a little discouraging, contrasts with the touch of her hand to his face. His own hand holds the other of hers gently, fingers flexing a short squeeze, reflecting the desire in his alcohol glazed gaze.

He’s not thinking straight. Only because he doesn’t want to, and he had come to rely on her as his north star. “I am,” he admits of being very drunk, “but what I need is y—” He doesn’t finish the reply because she pulls away, and that cuts off his train of thought with a more immediate noise of protest.

Her retreating back gets a blank look of indecision, whether or not he’s going to get up and step after her. But her words keep him seated, and eventually the man exhales a long drawn out sigh of acceptance of her conditions. At least he’ll get to stay on the couch.

He’ll have finished the poured whiskey and moved to the couch by the time she returns with the extra blanket and pillow. And though he’ll have the mind to wish her to stay, Luther falls back to a drunken stupor and then unconsciousness after a few minutes more of the simple comfort in being on those familiar cushions, with Jojo curled on top of his slowly rising and falling chest.

Text message from: KAT

You asked me once if I remembered when we first met.
I remember.

I was so excited about making detective, I wanted to do something nice for someone.
That someone ended up being you.
I watched you order and found you fascinating.
And charmingly odd.

Next thing I knew you asked me to dinner.
I almost said no.
Never once have I regretted saying yes.

Not even now.

June 2016

"A Matter of Faith"

“Oh my god, Kaylee. You look amazing,” gushes Jennifer with a bright smile, as she rings up the iced mocha the telepath always gets. “Got a hot date?” There is a knowing wink, which Kaylee finds amusing, a smile tugging at one corner of her mouth.

“Um… no?” Kaylee says with a glance down at the dress she is wearing. Lips pressed together a little. It was light and airy for the weather and a rich blue, with silvery sequins sewing into the bodice. Good for clubbing. In truth, Kaylee hasn't worn a dress in awhile, not since— Well, she didn't want to think about it. “Going out with some friends.” She doesn’t sound particularly thrilled about this. “I feel like this is a mistake. Not sure I’m ready.” It was the truth. Kaylee knew the girls at the PD wanted to find someone new… different. They found it unfathomable that the telepath could still be so hung up on a guy. They were all tired of seeing her moping, and bullied her into agreeing. It has been long enough that she should have been over him by now — she wasn’t, especially, after her kidnapping. The conflicting emotions were causing havoc in her life. However, she realized Jojo might like a night off.

Good thing about popular coffee places; they open super early and stay open super late. With the hours Kaylee keeps it is a godsend. Especially, when she is expected to ‘Go out with the girls,’ she needed something to keep her going.

“Well, if you ask me— “ Kaylee never would ask her, but Jennifer was the type to tell her anyhow, “ — I think any guy you meet is gonna want to snatch that up. You might as well enjoy the attention, Luther’s moved on, been for awhile… Really cute number, too. ” Almost as soon as the words leave the barrista’s mouth she regrets it, especially the look the telepath gives her, as if she has been betrayed. It isn’t a feeling that is leveled at her, but the man himself. Hands covers Jennifer’s mouth, but not before she whispers, “I’m so sorry. We didn’t think much of it until you guys…” broke up. “H-h-hey! Don’t you want your mocha?!” she calls after the detective when she suddenly turns and leaves.

The next several minutes are a blur. Kaylee doesn’t remember how she got there, only that she mind goes over the last time he was in her apartment. All too soon, however, she finds herself standing in front of Luther’s secret apartment door; fist banging on the solid wood surface. The telepath didn’t quite understand it, but she was furious. She had only just started to feel like she could let him back in… then this.

Well, she wasn’t going to let this slight go.

Most people wouldn't know that Luther is inside with how quiet he's been, and fewer still know who is the current resident of the apartment. But Kaylee can sense his mind within. The alarm from the sudden banging at the front door sharpens with caution. It's almost a full minute before finally the door opens, at first a narrow slot, then more fully as he realizes who it is.

She can see him tucking the pistol in his hand behind him, but more, she can that he's quite exposed. Water beads on the skin of his bare chest where he had hastily toweled off and missed a few spots. His hair's still damp. He'd thrown on a pair of grey sweatpants, but hadn't finished the job of dressing.

Luther, who was entirely expecting to apologize and greet her, finds himself stunned speechless at the unexpected sight of her dressed up. She could have shot him there, if she had wanted. And she sort of does. Her face, however, carries an entirely different set of emotions wrapped up in a made up package, splashed with hurt and betrayal. So, the man's own freshly groomed face settles into a confused mixture of furrowed brow and blinking, wide eyes.

In the moment, Silence is her immediate greeter.

Almost as soon as the door swings open, Kaylee gives a growl of frustration, like just seeing his face upsets her more. There is already the start of frustrated tears in her eyes. Manicured hands slap solidly on his chest as she pushes him inside. “I can't believe you!” She snaps out angrily. “You… you…”

Whatever Kaylee came here to yell at him about is suddenly forgotten as she registers the warm damp skin under her palms. Even as a single tear, escapes to draw a slow line down her cheek to her chin, he can see her eyes drop to follow the lines of him, noticing the state of undress. Much like him, she is completely stunned by sight of his body right there on display. Whatever he’s been doing when he isn't around…. Wow.

Her ability to breath seems to come back in a deep inhale, a startled expression angled up to meet his. This was so unfair…. Especially, when he….

“You…” She starts again, as she suddenly remembers why she is here. The hands on his chest curl into fist. “You bastard!” Kaylee says in a strangle voice, tears returning almost instantly. “You asshole!” She says louder, her fists thumping solid against that sculpted chest. “They saw you…” She accuses and she gives him another shove, tears drifting down her cheeks and staining the blue fabric of her dress.

Still stunned, Luther doesn’t manage to look any less confused as he’s pushed back into the apartment. The man takes the punishment, fiery and brief, endured silently as he watches tears fall. Her distress, her noticing his state of undress. And then the restart of her strangled anger gets him back into a sense of action at that shove. “Kaylee, what,” he asks in an attempt to calm her with a neutral tone, “what’s wrong? What are you talking about?” The gun in his hand slowly lowers from being tucked behind his back to his side. Again, he blinks at her puzzledly. Distractedly.

Even as she cries, he can’t help but think of how beautiful she looks. And he’s prompted thus to ask, “Why… why are you dressed like that?” Nevermind that she’s probably ruined the makeup and will have to reapply.

A small note is made of the door that’s still open, but he doesn’t yet move to close it.

“You were seen with another woman!” Kaylee shouts at him, pushing away from him looking hurt.

She knows how ridiculous she sounds, but years of the emotional roller coaster they were on…. the woman was tired of the game he was playing with her heart. “You tell me you love me, but then I find out you’re with someone else?” A hand presses to her chest, “God, I was a fool thinking that we both still loved each other…. That we could still…” The wind is suddenly blown out of her sails, shoulder slump in defeat, and she finds herself unable to finish that sentence.

Turning her eyes back to him, she asks simply, “How long?” Brows lift a bit with that question, as if she was curious to hear his answer. “How long have you been with her? The girls at the shop say they saw you with her.” There is the source of all his and her confusion.

Hands come up in a stopping motion, held out in front of her. “No. I don't want to know.” Luther can see the moment she realizes what she is doing and the regret. “I don't even know why I came here.” With that, Kaylee turns for the door intent on leaving quickly before she can embarrass herself more.

It really is a rollercoaster ride, with its ups and downs and general feelings of being not in control of the forces that pull and push them around. Luther, pushed back again, shakes his head in growing frustration. “What are you talking about?” he manages to ask, but he’s struck with surprise at what she says. We both still loved each other. He latches onto the phrase, barely able to hear what comes next, the questions Kaylee throws his way. And the source of these rumors.

The coffee shop girls. Jennifer. God damnit.

“I still don’t—” He’s trying to process, taking in the whirlwind accusation and trying to remember who the coffee shop girls would have seen him with, until he does. Shit. He finally gets what she’s mad about, but then Kaylee’s turning to leave. He moves to stop her, his free hand shooting out to snag her wrist or arm. “Wait,” he snaps out a bit loudly, enough so that he’ll probably regret the volume later.

One of the doors further down the empty hall opens, a neighbor leans out with a poke of her head. With the apartment door open, she can spot the pair and something of Luther in a compromising moment. He’s got a gun in hand. There’s a crying woman. He’s trying to stop her. But the neighbor, seeing a gun, widens her eyes at the sight and quickly withdraws back to the safety of her own apartment.

Luther will probably fix that later. Right now, though, he’s focused on fixing this situation. “It’s not what you’re thinking,” he tells her flatly, tone trying to remain calm but faltering.

The hand on Kaylee’s arm brings her up short, heels clicking heavily from the suddenly stop. Her heart jumps in her chest and her breathing hitches with her volatile emotions. Sequins sparkle with each breath.

Still, she doesn't look at him.

“Isn’t it!?!” She growls out as she tries to yank her arm out of his stronger grip, not very easy in heels. “You’ve woven so many stories. I don't know what is even real. ” She lets out a frustrated sigh. “I'm sure whoever they are, they could make you just as happy.”

Head turning back toward him a little, Kaylee still won't look at him. “I use to think I had my life all figured out till I met you. After we—” she swallows down the sudden lump in her throat. “Even after we broke up, I couldn't find that balance in my life again. You were always there.” She gives a humorless laughs, only to have it turn into a half choked sob.

“I love you, Luther,” There she finally said what she’s been feeling out loud, “..but I can't keep doing this.” Kaylee gives another weaker tug at her captured arm. “Please, let me go.” Finally, with those pleading words, she looks back at him, blue eyes watery.

It felt like a true crossroads for them.

“No it’s not,” Luther huffs, his tone tight with desperation tinting the low rolling rumble. “That woman is a part of the team I was - am - on." The recent news of the government's seizure of Pinehearst's assets was a shock that rippled through the whole structure of not just the company, but businesses and social circles, affecting the world's reality as if the leaked footage of Moab hadn't been enough to topple the giant. The turn of the government certainly pushed Luther away, and he hadn't been in communication.

Then one day, in the weeks previous, she'd gotten a gift card to the coffee shop she and Luther frequented in the mail. The unexpected letter had also contained a slip of paper with an address. And now she was at that address, but so ready to escape it. If only he wasn't so stubbornly holding on. And still trying to defend himself without explaining. "She came to tell me what was happening with the company, what was going to happen. To the company. To me. To us.”

She can sense his annoyance, his stubborn insistence of his innocence in that regard, translated physically through the way he keeps his grip on her, the yank only serving to tighten it. Luther glances down to that hand holding her, mind racing back to where he’d been confronted outside of the shop. Most likely, the girls had seen him and Ruia’s conversation. What they do exactly, he hasn’t entirely revealed either, only that there's a counter-terrorism unit of Pinehearst. Was. She could assume, if she wanted to, about the mystery woman and him, just as the coffee shop girls had.

But as she goes on, his attention turns back up along with his gaze. And her feelings finally spoken aloud, only to be countered by the second tug on his grip, get at first a confused look that then softens at the sight of her. He hated to see her cry. Her plea to be let go, though, brings his inner turmoil to a head as sure as she might have slapped him in the face. He snaps into action, a reaction to the sudden surge of energy brought on by a decision.

The gun in his other hand clatters to the floor, tossed away as he suddenly pulls her to him. He catches her against his body from the force of the movement. Without another spoken word, he bends to kiss her fully, the heat of it physically, passionately piqued. The now gun-free hand wraps behind her head, fingers slide through her hair, she can sense the tangle of emotions, and above all his desire for her. There's barely any room given to breathe at all, and none allowed for a retreat.

At the pull, he finds resistance, her body physically leaning away, as if a part of her was still trying to avoid what is there. One last gasping attempt to not lose herself. Hands trapped between them push weakly, he can feel as if she was trying to keep distance between them. In truth, Kaylee could stop him with a thought; but the moment that his arm traps her there, the moment lips meet… the moment she feels feels his passion, hears it in his mind…. The woman knows she’s lost.

And in that instant all tension goes out of her and the sound that escapes the woman is one filled with the desire that she has kept pent up all this time.

Years she had tried to push him out of her life, to find ways to harden her heart against him. How often had she cried over what she lost, over the lies that destroyed them. Kaylee hadn’t lied when she said couldn’t find her balance after him. Yet, there she was in the radiant warmth of his arms and she didn’t ever want to leave them.

She felt whole. She felt safe. She had that sense of balance again.

Hands slide up his bare chest, winding behind his neck as she removed that last physical barrier between them and just melts into him. Luther feels something he hasn’t in sometime, the pressure and presence of her in his mind; winding around his and showing him without words, exactly what she wants him to be doing. Possibly in detail.

The first attempts to pull away, to push him from her, barely break through the man's headspace. She knows that dogged determination well enough, expressed through action rather than words. There is a glimmer of reluctance for it though, a reflection of doubt and lingering guilt for the wrongs he's done her, for the tears he's caused. For the fear that he had lost her completely… until she had said that she still loved him.

When she relaxes in his arms he finally lets go. Then, she's the one who pulls him closer physically, then psychically. She can feel the brief surprise of it, the waters tested yet again, until her thoughts and desires dip into his and intermingle. The hand twined in her hair slips down, fingers moving to collar of her dress, searching for the tucked in zipper. When he finds it, Luther breaks off the kiss but sticks close, a breathless moment in grey eyes searching her blue, confirming with her even when she shows him what she wants.

"You're sure? Do you want to stay?" There's a please say yes couching the question mentally, but he's aware of it, what he wants to hear.

The kiss broken, there is a sharp intake of air as if Kaylee suddenly remembers how important it is to breathe. Her head tips forward to press her forehead against his jaw, eyes closed as she wills her heart not to beat so hard. He can feel a fine tremble in the woman in his arms, as emotions and desires are held at check a little longer. Only once she has caught her breath does she lean back , so that she can meet his gray eyes. He doesn’t have to ask her to say yes, he can see it there in her eyes.

Not taking her eyes off his, Kaylee reaches back and snags the edge of the door. Giving it a significant push, it shuts firmly, but it also echoes loud down the hallway; telling the nosey neighbors to mind their business.

The telepath declares in that single move: She was staying.

Now left in their own little world, private and away from prying eyes, Kaylee reaches behind her to gently grab ahold of his hand were it clasps the zipper and guides it down slowly. The sound noticeable in the silence of the apartment. Releasing his hand, she moves to pull the clasp free, at the back of her neck. The action sends the light dress floating to the ground. There it lays in a blue pool at her heel clad feet.

Then with a small mischievous smile, chin lifting in that defiant way she does, Kaylee asks softly, “What do you think, Handsome?”

Given his freshly shaved state, there's only the hint of aftershave to the stubble of his jaw where her forehead presses. He leans against her at that point of contact, then turns his face slightly to brush his lower lip along her hairline, warm breath sighing against the strands of blonde hair. When she leans back to look into his eyes, he stares with a hooded look of desire meeting her declaration.

The door shuts. He smiles crookedly.

He lets her guide his hand, the pull of the zipper downward an agonizingly slow movement. Once her hands pull the neck clasp apart and the dress drifts down, he follows the fabric with dip of his gaze. Eyes flick back up, catching that mischievous smile and reflecting it with one of his own.

"What do I think?" he repeats in kind, the warmth of his hands slipping around her waist as he draws in close, the skin of his torso with the spots of dampness brushing against her. "You're the telepath… you already know." By the time he's finished speaking, he's more than ready to show her, too. The man leans down to press his mouth to hers, her defiant chin angling her face just so that makes it easier for him to do so.

He walks her back up against the door, not leaving her lips unattended, the better to use the solid wood backing as a bit of leverage. Strong, bare arms wrap around her more fully to pick her up. Because he knows he's not going to let her go anywhere else, after all, and there's a moment that they might not make it any further into the apartment.

The door is cool against her bare back, a sharp contrast to the radiant warmth of him pressed along the front of her. Enough so that she can't help, gasp, the sound muffled slightly by the hungry press of their lips.

When he lifts her up, he can feel the heels of her shoes pressed against the back of his thighs, as her legs wrap tight around his waist. Kaylee clearly had no plans of being anywhere else, but in his arms.

So, no in those first moments together, they might not get any further, as long pent up needs and desires take hold and drive them to claim what has always been theirs; but, they do have a whole night to find their way into the bedroom.

And the morning will eventually find them curled up together, asleep in a tangle of limbs and sheets. When she finally wakes to the first hints of light turning the city outside from blacks to grays, Kaylee can't remember when she last slept so good.

Head shifting on the pillow, the telepath looks at the man slumbering peacefully beside her, his mind that sluggish hum of sleep. She felt at home, finally.


Careful not to wake Luther, she extracts herself -somewhat reluctantly - from his hold, even soothing his mind if he seems to stir. A part of her didn't want to face him, as doubt and uncertainty start wiggling their way into her thoughts.

That doubt and uncertainty will continue to nag at her all the way home. Something even more important starts to nag at the back of her mind.

While everything about last night was true, she hadn't lied about anything she said — not that they had done much talking — Kaylee couldn’t shake the idea that he was still hiding himself from her.

How could she take him him back, if she couldn't trust him to tell the truth? Kaylee wanted all of him, not just what he was willing to give her or some story.

But, that was going to be up to Luther.

Text message from: KAT

I’m sorry for not being there.
I didn't want to wake you. You looked so peaceful.
But I had to get back to Jojo. I hadn’t planned to be out all night. ;)

I’d like to see you again at our favorite place.
Once things are safe to do so.
We still have a lot to talk about.

Love you, Handsome. <3

November 2016

"A Matter of Consideration"

Autumn is a season of change. Fall colors burst through in what seems like an overnight turn of leaf color, and the weather shifts from the sweltering press of summer to a cool, hinting breeze that carries a sense of chillier weather. It means, for some, a coming home - families and friends gathering around heat sources, sharing in each other’s company, of bountiful harvest and a generous, giving spirit.

Birch Coffee, the shop which has seen the patronage of Kaylee and Luther for years now, has not changed in its tradition of prepping for the commercial version of the season. Yes, they even carry Pumpkin Spice. The scent of cinnamon and clove greets those who enter now, but at least overlaying it is still the regular coffee that long time patrons have come to expect. The baristas are all dressed in their usual outfits too, the only change being the season’s promotional pin of a cornucopia horn out of which spills coffee beans and the shop logo beneath.

It’s still early enough in the morning that few customers are in line waiting to order. But more exciting is that Kaylee’s been cleared for a return to work. Investigations into Detective Sanders’ activities that led to his death at her hands, though ongoing, have turned a different direction. The department had to do some cleaning house, especially after internal affairs dug deeper into the connections Pinehearst had with the precinct.

Which is all good to say that Kaylee had not heard from Luther for some time following the seizure of Pinehearst’s assets by the government. Though any searches for his name coming up in arrest reports turned up nothing, it could have been a bit worrisome that the man had disappeared from the city. From the grid. The secret apartment, rented under a different name, stood uninhabited as well.

“Hey Sandy. Hot Mocha… Too cold for my normal,” Kaylee comments lightly, as she pays for the drink and adds a tip to the jar.

“So today the day?” Sandy asks with a knowing grin.

“Yeah, they cleared me.” There is a thrill of excitement in Kaylee to finally be going back. To have been cleared in Sanders’ shooting. It would be nice to keep busy rather than sitting around feeling guilty about making his wife a widow… or stress over if Luther was okay or not.

The one comfort Kaylee has taken so far is that Luther hadn’t been arrested and he wasn’t showing up dead anywhere. Though she does think he should be texting her now and then to let her know he was alive.

Still, all that was not going to ruin her good mood. She offers Sandy another twenty, “Use this to pay for a few orders.” She was feeling generous today.

“Sure thing. We’ll have your mocha out shortly,” with that Sandy turns to the next customer, while the detective moves down the line to wait for her coffee. She busies herself texting Diaz to see if there were any new leads on a certain case.

Diaz’s returned texts are still inconclusive, but with an added note that the department has been a real chaotic environment without her. He’s going to be glad to see his fellow detective back in action.

The giving spirit in full swing allows the next few customers to enjoy in the generosity of Kaylee, with some inquiring the source and others paying it forward. It boosts the overall atmosphere to a nice buzz, caffeinated or not yet so, which makes it seem like it’s all the more attractive to the one man whose ability has the tendency to take in energy. Luther Bellamy steps into the coffee shop with a light twinkling sound of the door’s bells.

His gaze sweeps the room, a habit now, and it immediately slows to halt on the sight of Kaylee. Luther angles not to the detective and where she stands, but takes a somewhat circling path that puts him not quite in line, but notably in her periphery. It’s like he’s aware of their public appearance now, and wary of presenting an obvious relation to her. But, he still wants her to notice. He casts a short glance to the cashier counter, greeting Sandy’s surprised smile that shifts to a sudden wariness as well, with a short nod of acknowledgment.

The coffee shop hadn’t seen the pair of them in the same space since that one date, several months ago.

A smile tugs at the corner of her mouth at the idea of being missed at work, Kaylee doubted the brass was looking forward to this day. Still, it was good to know she still had a friend in the PD. Thumbs tap across the screen working on a response when movement snags her attention, she doesn’t plan on looking, until she realizes there is something familiar in the humming of the mind.

He’ll know the moment she realizes, as her head pops up and turns his direction. The baristas might be relieved to see how the woman lights up when she sees him standing there. With a bright smile, Kaylee moves to close the distance between them, a bright smile on her lips.

Whether he wants it or not, Luther was going to get a proper greeting from the woman he loved. Arms are thrown around his neck and a kiss is pressed to his stubbled jaw. “I’ve been worried sick,” Kaylee says softly, when she leans back a bit to get a good look at him up close.

Kaylee doesn’t nag him about not texting, she is just glad he was here now. “You doing okay?”

Of course, once it’s clear that Kaylee isn’t storming over to demand why Luther is once again present in the coffee shop at the same time, Sandy breathes a soft sigh of relief and continues ringing up customers. Only Kaylee would know that the barista’s smile is a little more so because unlike some others, she hadn’t dropped out of the ongoing pool. The pot will be so much sweeter.

When Luther is encircled into the telepath’s arms, he naturally moves his hands to her waist. Head tilted to receive the kiss, she can feel the smile that tugs at his mouth corner, at his stubbled cheek. “Hey Beautiful,” rumbles the man as he looks back down at her. To answer her question to how he’s doing, he nods once, but slowly. Only up close and in the sense of his mind does she see and feel more.

He’d not chosen to wear a suit this morning, but some comfortable looking travel clothes. Maybe he’d gotten in not long ago. There’s a tiredness to his expression he tries to erase from his face as he looks into her eyes, mostly succeeding, but he can’t relieve the mental exhaustion. Attributable to a life on the lam, certainly, but also a bone-deep, physical exertion. Like he’d been training a lot, stretching and testing energy reserves to the limit and beyond.

It would explain why the first thing he did coming off a plane would be to beeline for coffee. But of course, he couldn’t just settle for any coffee. He’d made a beeline for the familiar, but also because he knew her routine. And now that he’s found her here again, he’s relaxing in feeling her arms once again around him. She was his steadying anchor point. Or perhaps, the lighthouse guiding him through the perilous cliffs and into safe harbor. “I missed you,” he says into her ear at a low volume. “I’m sorry I haven’t contacted you,” he adds, thinking she’ll understand given the givens.

This close, smelling the scent of that lavender and vanilla, it’s like a trigger that he doesn’t entirely realize when he starts to turn to her with the intent for a more full kiss on her lips. Until the worker at the pick-up counter calls out, “Hot mocha for Kaylee!?” That call draws a knowing smile from Luther. The man straightens, hands retreating so that she can retrieve the most important drink of the day.

“I should be angry that you haven’t at least told me you were alive.” Kaylee points out, with a look of mild reproach, nothing serious though. “Spending my days bugging Diaz about the morgues and jail lists… well, I’m sure he is tired of it.” In other words, she worried okay?!? “But. I get it.” She sighs out softly, giving him a bit of a lop-sided smile, hands moving to bracket his face.

While scent is a trigger for him, the tone of his mind is one for her. So she is moving to meet him for the kiss when her name is called, interrupting the moment. Stepping back, she offers him a soft smile, “I missed you, too,” she finally responds, letting hands fall away. “Go order your coffee,” her head is nodded the direction before she turns to go get her coffee; offering a soft thank you.

"Poor Diaz," Luther sympathizes with the other detective from afar, though the way he smirks, he's really going to feel bad for having hidden away from the law enforcement out to actually get him. Kaylee already knows what that's been like, chasing him down in the previous year and change. "But should I be a little insulted you were checkin' the morgues?" He laughs

He really is sorry for not having contacted her though. So when she bids him to go get his coffee, he promises, "I'll be back." He means it, too. The man steps in line, only a couple of customers away before he starts to order a coffee.

Sandy interrupts with a sly smile, "Don't you want to try the mocha?"

Luther gives the barista a blank, slightly confused look.

The barista laughs and she continues, "It's on the house, today only." Sandy shakes her head, seeing that her reference went over the man's head. Temporarily only, as she nods in Kaylee's direction which gives the right hint. Luther's brow arches up, and he keeps his chuckle low. Alright, he'll play. And then he sticks a bill into the tip box, a bit of a contribution to the mix.

Time ticks by, the coffee and mocha made. Luther picks up his drinks, and with both in hand, steps back around to where Kaylee's standing. Even he can feel the eyes of the coffee shop girls watching sidelong again, studying the man's back and Kaylee's expression. He lifts both cups with a faintly amused smile for it, for the reminder of their first meeting.

But now that his hands are full of cups, he’s not about to wrap them back around her.

Shoulders shake with barely contained laughter, as she watches him approach with the two drinks. “I’m having a bit of deja vu.” Her head tilts a bit and nods a little, “First time we met.” Glancing past him to the girls, she says softly, “Wonder if they are trying to tell us something.” Eyes narrow suspiciously at the girls who try to act innocent in it all.

“I guess last time we were here was…” Kaylee sighs a little, looking back at him. “Intense?” There is a touch of embarrassment there.

Eyes fall to the cups between them and Kaylee suddenly chuckles. “I guess they are right.” She smiles brightly at him, raising her cup to him. “New beginnings.” The cup is switched hands and she offers hers out, without thinking. “Let’s try this again, but do it right this time.”

Taking a deep breath, the telepath starts, “Hello, good-looking. Name’s Kaylee Thatcher. I’m a detective with the NYPD and a telepath. I’m not very adventurous with my coffee or my food, but I do have a cat named Jojo.” Only after she says that, does she realize his hands are full so she drops the hand awkwardly.

“Sorry,” Kaylee murmurs a little embarrassed by that.

“Maybe they are,” Luther realizes quietly as he too finally solidifies the feeling that taps at the back of his mind about this situation, this setting. That she acknowledges it, too, bolsters him - she remembers as well as he does, their initial and last run ins here. He echoes the sheepishness of the memory of their previous meeting.

But given that she toasts, he does too with a few moments’ delay. Luther looks amused as she re-introduces herself, and angles his head with a lift of his brow. “A pleasure to meet you, Detective,” he rumbles after a pause, glancing to her hand as it drops back down.

The process of the meeting and introduction, though, gets a little awkward further when Luther doesn’t exactly become forthcoming. He sets his coffee down on the long length of the nearby pickup counter, switches the mocha to the free hand, and gamely lifts his own to offer out in a return invitation of a handshake.

“Good morning,” he starts with opting not to include that familiar nickname, seeing as they’re working on fresh introductions. “I’m Luther Bellamy, and I too have an ability that I’ve heard categorized as a type of energy conversion. I won’t bore you with the details, Detective. Unless.” He quirks a crooked smile. “Unless, I could tempt you into a small adventure regarding your choice of food in your near future. And go into further detail then. Dinner, maybe?” The man remains dodgy for those details, and yet thinks he’s on the right track with this as he finalizes that invtation with, “A beautiful woman, such as yourself, should not be left to dine alone with only a cat for company.”

There is amusement shining in her eyes as Kaylee takes his much warmer hand with hers, “A pleasure for sure.” Letting her hand linger in his, enjoying the contact. “And he isn’t only a cat. He is a very nice cat and I have a feeling the two of you would get along quite well.”

Of course, it doesn’t pass Kaylee’s notice that he is skipping certain things, glossing over others and trying to avoid others. So slowly extracting her hand from his, she wraps it around her cup. Her head tilts a little to one side as she considers him, looking rather innocently about it. “Before I consider this idea of dinner with you, which I would absolutely love to do…. What is it you do for a living, Mr. Bellamy? Girl can’t be too certain about strange men in coffee shops.” There is a flirty smile as she waits for the answer, coyly sipping her mocha, blue-eyes watching him over the rim of the cup.

Luther's handshake is as firm and professional as ever, though she could note the feel of a working man's grip to it and not one of a cushy desk jockey's. He retrieves his second cup of coffee when their hands mutually retreat, and he meets the tilt of her head, the question she poses him about occupation with one of his own silent askances. He thought he was on the right track, until that. Now, not so sure.

“Used to be a janitor,” he answers after the long pause, “Now I’d call my job… security specialist.” His shoulders roll up and down, a slight shrug of ‘take that as you will’ to it. Then he furrows his brow slightly at her coyness, her smile, trying to get a bead on her. “You think I’m strange?” he rumbles as he head-tilts the other way, venturing a step closer to her. “In your line of work, surely there’ve been far stranger things to be less than certain about than a man’s invitation for dinner.”

From the moment he starts speaking til when he steps closer, Kaylee listens is quiet contemplation. She doesn't step back when he steps closer, her head only shifts to keep eye contact.

The quiet stretches for the tick of a few seconds. “You’re right there are,” Kaylee say softly. Leaning forward, she gives him a short, lingering kiss. It doesn't last, too overly long.

When she leans back again, he sees a touch of sadness. “Pity. I was looking forward to dinner.” Fingers brush his cheek, “Come find me when you’re ready to really let me know the real you.” There is no anger, just disappointment. The first step is made to put distance between them again.

“I want you. All of you. The good and the bad, Luther.” Turning to leave, she gives him a loving and understanding look. “Think on that. I love you.”

In the moment of her kiss against his lips, Luther almost forgets that he’s got his hands full, lost to the feeling of wanting her more than that brief contact provides. Her leaning back sees a shift of his weight forward slightly, only to halt at the sight of sadness, or disappointment. The man’s brow furrows. He blinks a few times. Her words draw out an expression of confusion then discomfort, the man’s features poised that way until she steps away.

He starts to shift himself forward again, the urge to follow like a reflex rather than choice, but what she says next halts him again as if there were an invisible set of reins that yanks him back. It’s all he can do to stare after her as she gives him that look, as she tells him that she loves him still.

While her steps take her away once more, he remains standing in the middle of the shop, held back by his own consternation and indecisions. By the time he’s snapped out of the awe, startled back into movement by the call of another customer’s name at the pickup counter, she’s gone within the sea of people.

December 25, 2016

"A Matter of Trust"

You have… ONE new message… First message…

Hey Beautiful. It’s me. I thought I might surprise you… but it’s getting harder to get away. You know what I mean. Anyway, I’ve been thinking about what you said, back at the coffee shop.
I’ve been thinking about you. ‘Bout Jojo, too.

{low throat clear}
Anyway, I… I figure if I can’t get back to the city tonight… I could at least give you this.
{nervous throat clear}
{piano intro}
I’m dreaming tonight, of a place I love, even more than I usually do
And although I know it’s a long road back
I promise you
I’ll be home for Christmas, you can count on me
Please have snow and mistletoe, and presents by the tree
Christmas Eve will find me, where the love light gleams
I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams…

Merry Christmas, Beautiful.
I love you.

Caller ID: Kaylee Thatcher

I’m sorry I missed your call, but I must say, you sure know how to make a girl smile. It’s okay that you weren’t able to make it, I am working a long shift so Diaz could celebrate Christmas with his new girl.
Been a typical day, so your message showed up at the right time.

Remember our first Christmas together? I do.
I really miss you.
The new year is around the corner. I’ve been patient, lover. I—
{soft sigh}
I’m trying to understand. Why it is so hard to let me in and know who you really are? What are you really afraid of?
{long silence}
I’m sorry. I just — I just really miss having you here. You make me feel —
{happy sigh}
Anyhow, Merry Christmas, Handsome.

I love you and I’m waiting for you.

Text Message from: Kaylee Thatcher

P.S. Jojo wants you to know he misses you, too.


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