I was disappointed, but not surprised, when Sienna was the one that opened the door to the apartment. She put a scowl on her face, creating a tableau very similar to when I had first met her a week prior… except that she did a poor job of concealing the smile at the corners of her eyes and mouth.
“It took you long enough.” She stepped back to let me in the apartment, looking me up and down and at the large bag I cradled in one arm. “That better be an apology gift. It’s been a week, Hector. Not cool.”
“It’s been four days,” came Juniper’s voice from around the corner in the kitchen.
“Sure, take his side,” Sienna called back, but it came across as playful. “Well, go on.”
They looked at me solemnly as I made my way toward Kim’s room, my stomach already tied in knots. She opened the door as I was raising my hand to knock.
Since both Sienna and Julie had been dressed down in apartment t-shirts, I was unprepared for Kimberly’s much nicer appearance. Her bust was emphasized in a low-cut top that barely tucked into a tight set of slacks. Her perfume hung strongly in the air, and as I finally raised my eyes to her face, she was wearing make-up as well. That face was blank – no smile, no frown, just an even stare.
She broke the silence. “Let’s start with the bottom line, Hector. Are you here to say goodbye, or try again?”
When I opened my mouth to respond, I was surprised by how dry it was. “Try. A… again. Continue,” I coughed the last word out, pushing harder than I probably should have.
A flicker of a smile brightened her lips for just a moment before she reigned it in behind her controlled expression and nodded. In the same even tone as before, “I’m happy to hear that. Come in.”
Her room was as clean as I remembered. She perched on the side of her bed, gesturing to her desk chair that had been positioned to face it. As I sat, I found the pressure building up inside me, and fast; as much as I wanted to resolve things with Kim, I had no idea what to say first.
And then Kimberly surprised me again: “I don’t want to have a repeat of last time. So here’s what I’d like to do.” She tucked one foot up under her knee and leaned an arm back on her bed; it undermined the illusion that she was feeling nothing. “I’m gonna tell you the rest of it. What I think I’ve figured out; what I suspect. About you and Paris. Not accusations, you understand. Nothing I have a problem with – just what I think is most likely true. And, before I say it, I promise you,” she leaned forward, “I haven’t broken into some files somewhere, I’m not on anybody’s payroll. This is just Kim knowing the world of supers, making good guesses. Or maybe bad guesses, but they’re just guesses either way. Okay?”
I nodded. “I’ve already concluded that’s what you’re doing, yeah. It’s just that -“
“Don’t jump ahead,” she interrupted. “Once I’ve told you what I think, you can decide what you want to do. You can,” she ticked off her fingers, “correct my misconceptions, or let me think what I think. You can fill in details, or leave me in the dark. You can decide, again, if you still want to try this, with me, or just…”
Kim choked on the next word, and broke eye contact for a second until she recovered her voice. “You can decide to try again or to walk out the door. I’m only going to ask one thing.”
Her eyes held mine at this point, and it took nearly a minute before I realized she was waiting for me to prompt her. “What is the one thing?”
“After I lay my cards on the table tonight, if you decide you still want there to be… whatever this is…” she spread her hands out vaguely, “no more freaking out because of what I guess about you, or what I figure out. Can you promise me that?”
I gave it just a moment’s consideration before I nodded. “Yeah. I can promise that.”
Her shoulders seemed to untense a little as she accepted my agreement. “Then, let’s get to it.” She watched my face intensely as she started in. “You are a super with an information power. I don’t know if it’s a prediction ability like 4cast, or an analysis ability like Stratico. But something along those lines. And you’re employed in secret – probably by a branch of the government – to support them with your powers. That’s why you’re so protective of your technology, and half of why you’re paranoid: if agents from Eutopia or China, or one of the international villain groups, found out who you were, it could put you in danger.”
Her legs still folded under her on the bed, she gave me a minute to let this sink in, although I could tell she wasn’t done. “That is very close to correct,” I finally admitted. “And I hope that helps explain how I treated you.”
“I’d already forgiven you for that, Hector,” Kim insisted. “This is about what comes next, not about what happened before.” I gave her a quiet nod before she continued. “You help Paris with her homicide cases, and probably to conceal her own powers from the DPD. That’s the larger half of your fear, because if she’s discovered, she’s done as a cop.”
“Not to mention possible jail time,” I added, but Kimberly shook her head.
“That never happens anymore. This isn’t the sixties; showing a super was involved with a case won’t get a jury to let them off, and the cops never get jail time. She’d be kicked off the force, yeah – and that’s bad enough, it’s her whole career. But it makes them look bad if they try to haul her up on charges.”
What she was saying fit my own limited experience. That was how it had gone down with Fitz, certainly, and other cops I knew who had later became private security or even tried their hands as professional supers. “Even so, we still take this all very seriously,” I pushed again.
“I know,” Kim said, “and I have some suggestions on ways you can do a better job hiding. I’ve done a lot of research into this area, Hector – there are groups out there that support people like Paris, and do so very discreetly.” When her hand reached out to lightly touch my arm, I realized that her position had shifted, little by little, until she was sitting off the edge of the bed, our knees almost touching. “Don’t you see how lonely she is?”
Paris, lonely? That didn’t make sense; she’d always been either as social or self-sufficient as she needed to be. “You really think so?”
Her nod was accompanied by the beginnings of a smile, towards my naivety, I presumed. “Yes, but a lot less than she would be if you and your parents weren’t around for her.”
That brought the discussion to a standstill for a moment, and as I met Kim’s eyes, I realized a couple of things. First, I was no longer nervous; we’d fallen right back into our same conversational rhythm from before. And, even better, Kim’s expression was more like before as well. Her lips were upturned, not the tight neutrality from when I opened the door, and her eyes were softened as well. That told me, more than her words, that maybe she really was ready for this thing to go on.
Both of us were content to let the gaze linger for a minute before I broke the silence. “Is… that all? Ah…” I quickly grabbed for more as I saw her face start to darken. “I mean, is that all that you guess? I know you wanted to explain everything.”
Kimberly nodded, her eyes dropping in fear. “So… where does that leave us?”
This was the easy part.
I wrapped her in my arms, my mouth finding hers without a word, and she melted against me. The kiss lasted a long time. I felt rather than saw her tears when they came. We were both allowing ourselves to feel again, to see what would come of our time together without holding back.
And yet, I was still holding back. For even after everything she had said and my own feelings, my decision to trust her, I still wasn’t going to let her in on the true secret. She hadn’t connected me to Delphic; she could stay disconnected from that part of me, at least for now.