It all started one time when Vecchio offered to check me over to see if Diamond Labinski had knocked any of my teeth loose. That's my life in a nutshell -- having my partner check if my teeth are loose.
Actually, here's my life in a nutshell: It wasn't even the first time.
Maybe he was looking closer than usual this time. I don't know. I wasn't paying very good attention, because there's something about Vecchio's fingers in my mouth that tends to make me not at my best as a detective. So all I was doing was trying not to think about him so warm, and smelling sexy and expensive, and how his fingers tasted like my soap, and how his face was so close I could feel his breath -- trying to ignore all that, like I said, and you can see exactly how well I was succeeding, right, but the point is that in those days I was still trying.
Anyhow, he was testing all my teeth, gentle as he could around the new fat lip that Diamond had given me as a souvenir, and I was about half turned on and the other half feeling like a horse in a John Wayne movie, when he suddenly made a surprised noise and slid his finger along the inside of my bottom lip.
I don't know if you ever had somebody touching the inside of your bottom lip, but try doing it to yourself and you'll see why it made me stop breathing. "Nn?" I said, which meant, What are you doing? and also, Think you could cut it out before I got no choice but to grope you?
"How many stitches?" he said in a hard voice, like he was mad. And he ran his finger back and forth over one little place, and then I figured out what he was looking at. Without thinking, I touched my tongue to the spot -- missed licking his fingers by almost nothing. The inside of my lip is still rough there, even after all these years.
" 'eben," I mumbled around his fingers.
"You were, what, six?" I couldn't figure how he could tell, but he kind of smirked at me. "You going around getting bitten by grade-schoolers, Kowalski? You got little tiny toothmarks in here plain as day."
I shook my head kind of slow and careful so I wouldn't dislodge his finger, which was still in my mouth. No, they were definitely my own teeth.
Looks bad, seven stitches on a kid who's still got baby teeth. I don't know what he was imagining, or maybe remembering, but even over the smirk his eyes were cold, and I thought, It's not me he's looking at like that. That look is for whoever just busted little Stanley's bottom lip open.
And then there was a softer look that had to be for little Stanley himself, the one he could see in his head.
Except obviously I was wrong about that, because next thing he was kissing me.
His tongue went over that spot, checking it out by feel, and then I grabbed hold of his lapels and dragged him over, and I'm here to tell you, Vecchio is a hell of a kisser once you get his full attention. He didn't even snap at me for crushing the jacket. Course, by the time he took a breath, I'd already moved on to crushing the pants.
After a while he even forgot to be gentle with the new scratches in there, so I could taste my own blood, but I didn't give a damn.
I'm pretty sure I know what he thinks happened to my mouth. He's got marks on him, too. Plus he's got this way with Frannie's kids. You can always spot a guy who doesn't trust his own impulses.
Actually I crashed my bike trying to do like Peter Fonda. But we won't tell him that just yet.
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September 23, 2004