Stranger's Kiss
by Ekiedro

1:30 on a foggy gray weeknight. No one with any sense was out, due to the thick fog blanketing the entire city of Baltimore. The few customers who had been in had left hours ago as the fog settled down. Tim hadn't seen another soul for at least an hour. The television had been on for background noise all evening, but for the first time, he actually paid attention to it. He didn't know what channel it was, but they were showing 'Casablanca', and it had just started. At least the end of the evening would have something good in it; something better than sitting in a bar all alone. He started to lose himself in the movie, forgetting the gray night and all the trouble of the preceding day. His reverie was interrupted by a draft of cool, damp air. Bogie was saying..."of all the gin joints in all the world..." Quite a coincidence that someone would walk in right on that line, but the world was like that sometimes.

Tim turned from the TV to see what kind of person would be out on a night like this. The man framed by the doorway reminded him of the movie. Not that he was dressed in old-fashioned clothing, or anything as obvious as that. He was dressed all in black, with dark hair and pale skin, and there was nothing behind him but unrelieved thick gray fog. The only hint of color about the man was his eyes, which were a bright green.

"You open?" the stranger asked.

Tim realized he'd been staring and collected himself. "Yeah, we are, there just aren't any customers."

"Well, now there's one."

"What do you want?"

"Vodka, and leave the bottle."

"Bad day?"

"Why do you care?" Despite the words, the man didn't sound upset. Uncaring and dead, but not upset. Tim was curious. Why was this man here, when no sane person was out? And what had happened to crush him? He knew the rest of the squad thought he worried too much about the whys, but he was driven to find out. And he had nothing better to do, and this mystery had practically fallen into his lap.

"Call it a professional hazard."

"You mean you actually believe all that crap about bartenders having to listen to world's troubles?"

"No, wrong profession. I'm a homicide detective. Bartending's just a hobby." Tim wondered why he was telling the man what he did for a living. It was more than just making conversation with a stranger on a lonely night. It might have had something to do with the stranger's big, green eyes... he realized he was staring again. The stranger was laughing, a bitter, humorless laugh.

"Of all the gin joints in all the world, I walk into a cop bar. Well, if that doesn't put the cap on this day."

"You don't like cops?"

The man was still laughing. He held up his hand in a gesture of surrender.. Tim realized he only had one arm. It didn't reflect well on his skills as a detective that he hadn't noticed that before. He had been distracted by green eyes, long lashes...

In a bad cockney accent, the man said "You got me guv'nor, it's a fair cop."

"Are you telling me you're a criminal? What did you do?"

"What didn't I do? Lie, cheat, steal, kill. You name it; I've done it. But nothing is as bad as what I did today."

The guy had to be drunk. No one did things like that and then wandered into a bar and admitted to it. Tim decided to humor him, see where it would lead.

"So what'd you do?" Quiet, understanding tone, one that worked on suspects in the Box.

"Sent the man I love off on a mission that's likely to kill him. He's the only one who could do it, and it's too important not to do. Fate of the world, all that shit. Resist or serve. First time he believes me, and it's gonna get him killed."

His words were telling Tim the man was drunk, but his demeanor was telling him the opposite. He hadn't touched the vodka in front of him. The fate of the world? Tim had no clue what to tell this man. Part of him wanted to haul him across the street, stick him in the Box, and not let him out until he knew all of the man's secrets. There was something about the man, though, that suggested danger. Maybe it was his admission of crimes, maybe just the leather jacket, but Tim realized this was not a man to be trifled with. At least, not when he was alone. So he gave in to the other part of himself, and tried to offer the man whatever comfort he could.

"If it's that important, really the fate of the world, won't he understand?"

A platitude, but somehow it helped. The man looked less desolate, more determined. Tim thought he was going to say something, answer his question.

Instead, he found himself pulled across the bar by the man's strong arm. Then the man was kissing him. He should have been frozen in shock, but instead he found himself enthusiastically responding. The man broke it off, and grinned at Tim.

"What was that for?"

"I guess it's just my day for kisses."

With that the stranger went out the door and vanished into the fog.


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