Who Can I Turn To? - 7
Angel had the maxim that you never know what you've had until you've lost it rammed home forcibly on the trip back to LA. He had taken Spike's friendship utterly for granted. Even the sparring, even the fighting, had always been done with a tinge of humour and shared memories of a long past together. This was like travelling with a stranger. Even worse, it was like travelling with a polite stranger. Spike seemed to have regretted his revealing outburst in the cemetery and was being icily, desperately, polite. He responded if spoken to; he insisted on carrying the bags; he didn't whine, chat up the stewardesses, drink alcohol, put his feet in Angel's lap, or any of the other things Angel had cursed on the trip over and now missed desperately.
He stared out of the window at the dark night; he chipped at his nail polish until his nails returned to their original colour. He read the safety instructions and listened carefully to the brief. He put his seatbelt on and kept it on the whole trip.
They arrived back at the Hyperion two days after leaving England, both exhausted. Angel made straight for his refrigerator and downed pint after pint of cold blood. He felt reanimated and poured some for Spike. He found his childe in the room next to his, moving. Spike stopped and looked at him, then continued to walk past him with armfuls of stuff. 'I assume you don't mind me staying for a few days.'
'Err... ' Angel trailed after him, bewildered. 'What are you doing?'
'I want a room further away from you.'
'Oh. Be blunt, Spike, why don't you.'
'Don't call me that.'
'What?' This came as too much of a surprise for Angel to keep the note of amusement out of his voice. Spike whirled around furiously, seemed to catch himself, paused, and then said with his continuing, icy restraint. 'Just don't call me that. I'm not him anymore.'
'Okay. Good point, Spike; what shall I call you then, Spike, until you have new name - Spike?'
Spike gritted his teeth at the provocation then smiled as if it were his duty to forebear. 'Don't call me anything. You won't be seeing much of me anyway. I have things to do, and I won't be here long.' He continued to pile up the new clothes Angel had bought for him, and then cast a rueful look behind him at the new CD player and discs. He pursed his lips slightly, and Angel heard a small whispered 'Devil's music.' He left the gifts where they stood.
Angel followed him into the dingy bedroom he had selected on the top floor. 'And you're going to be doing what?'
'That's not your business, Angel. We have no business together anymore. I appreciate your hospitality, but that's as far as it goes. Oh, and I'll pay you for the room.'
Angel gritted his teeth and also tried not to rise to the provocation. 'No need. I don't pay for the hotel anyway. Besides, I owe you a hundred or two now.'
Spike spun around and glared at him. 'You can't pay for righteousness, demon.' He pushed past Angel - but it was a polite shove.
Angel stood for a while, thinking. He went back to his own room, looked longingly at the comfortable bed, but grabbed his coat and headed out once again.
Wesley answered the door only after a prolonged knocking from Angel. He looked delighted to see the vampire and stepped out a little, went to embrace him, laughed ruefully, and then ran a hand in an embarrassed manner through his hair. The easy familiarity of the human, after the events of the previous few days, unmanned Angel slightly, and he pushed past Wesley and on into the apartment without waiting to be invited, dashing the back of his hand across his eyes before the human could pick up on the weakness.
He should have known Wesley better. He felt a hand on his shoulder as he sat morosely in an armchair. 'Not good then?'
'Honestly? I don't know, Wesley. I went to England with Spike, but I've come back with someone else.'
'Ah. And that person doesn't want you?'
Angel laughed. 'I'm not even thinking that far ahead, Wesley; he doesn't seem to want himself.'
'Say something else, please. "Ah" isn't going to help.'
'It helps me, Angel. Tea does too; can I get you something?'
'Something stronger, yes.'
Wesley glanced at the clock that confirmed it was three in the morning just as the clock in the bedroom had told him. He shrugged and poured them both a whisky.
'So, you confronted his demons?'
'He's feeling more…. souled?'
'A lot more, yes.'
'And this is all bad... how?'
Angel looked up. 'You'll see him for yourself tomorrow.'
Wesley nodded. 'How are you?'
Angel didn't catch his gaze. 'I'm strung out, Wesley and wishing I could put the clock back four days.'
'Not an improvement on "ah".'
'No. Sorry. Do you want to stay here tonight? The couch is yours, if you want it.' Angel nodded gratefully. Wesley went slowly back to bed, leaving the brooding vampire with the bottle of whisky.
They drove into work together in the morning before the sun rose. Wesley felt the lack of sleep and wasn't in the best mood to meet the problem childe.
He was... surprised and caught up short at the office door, Angel almost running into his back. Spike was in the office reading through some old files.
That was odd enough.
He had on a clean white shirt and a tie, a smart jacket lay over the chair back. Wesley did a double take at the effect and straightened his own tie slightly in response. He looked Spike over from head to toe, and his gaze lingered for a long time on the hair. He did not dare to turn and see Angel's expression. Finally he coughed lightly and said, 'I like it.'
Spike looked up, but did not smile. He merely said, 'It's irrelevant; don't mention it again.'
Angel stepped closer. 'What have you done?'
Spike didn't reply. Angel went even closer and stretched out a hand to groomed, brown hair.
'Don't touch me.' Spike flinched away.
'What have you done to your fucking hair?'
'Don't swear, demon.'
'Demon? Don't you ...'
'Angel!' Wesley physically manoeuvred Angel from the office and into the kitchen. Angel could hardly speak. 'See? See? I told you, you'd see for yourself!'
'Err... he seems somewhat improved to me.'
Angel's mouth dropped open. 'What? How? Where? What the fuck are you seeing, Wes... cus that's not Spike sitting there.'
'No, you're right; it's not. It's a young man, smartly dressed and working. I'll agree with you, not Spike.'
'So! So! What are you going to do about it, and he keeps calling me demon!'
Wesley frowned. 'Sit down, Angel. Calm down as well. I noticed that. I agree, that is rather unfortunate, given the circumstances, but it's not the first time you've been called that, is it? And you're not sensitive, surely?'
'Sensitive! I made him! What the fuck….'
'God, please, Angel, stop swearing. Spike's right; it is very unpleasant.'
Angel spluttered, looked aghast at him and stormed up the stairs to his room.
Wesley returned to the office and looked warily at Spike. Spike looked up. 'I need something to do. I want to keep ... busy. Please.'
Wesley recoiled slightly, took off his glasses and gave them a wipe, then came forward. 'All right. There's plenty you could do. The weapons need....'
'No. Nothing like that. I want something... else.' He trailed off lamely.
'Sending out invoices? Paying bills? I'm sure Cordelia could give you plenty of that.'
Spike hesitated for a moment then nodded. 'Do you want some tea?'
Wesley tried not to laugh. 'Yes, that would be very nice, thank you.'
Spike stood boiling the kettle, concentrating on the wait, keeping his mind blank, thinking only of the water. He was annoyed when he heard laughter from the office and an incredulous female voice. He steeled himself but continued to watch the steam.
'Well… hair's cool; clothes're square: over-compensating-much?'
Spike turned to her. 'Hello.'
'Hello? Hello? Jees, Spike, lame or what? How's the soul then? Need brown hair and oh... look, nails again... for a soul, do you?'
Spike tipped his head on one side, looking at her. 'I deserve that. You're right. But please don't call me Spike anymore.'
'Huh! Wesley! Get in here. I'm scared.'
Wesley's voice drifted out from the office. 'Stop teasing Spike: he's going to help you with paperwork all day. Be grateful.'
Cordelia raised one eyebrow. 'You can read?'
Spike quirked his lips a little. 'I can.'
'Okay then.' She watched him leave, pursing her lips slightly. 'So, what do you wanna be called?'
Spike kept his back to her. 'I don't know yet.'
'NO! I don't need any suggestions.'
'Au contraire, my little brown-haired soul-boy, you do. Hmm. Cecil.'
'Cecil. Cool English name.' She snickered slightly.
Wesley came into the reception. 'Brian.'
Cordelia said sweetly, 'Rupert.'
Spike ignored them and pulled the files toward him. They glanced at each other, and Wesley nodded for her to join him in the office. He shut the door.
Cordelia joined him by the window. 'Is this good or bad?'
'I'm not sure. Angel thinks it's bad.'
'Cus he's not getting any groiny, I'm thinking.'
'Cordelia! Please! And how did you know?'
'Oh, please. Wesley! Hello! Can't you see it between them? Jesus, Angel looks at him like he was made of pure Pope-blood; Spike looks as if he'd suck Angel's soul for him if he asked.'
'Err... yuck and... not now, apparently.'
'Angel and not getting it... again. Nothing changes at Angel Investigations, does it?'
'This is different. He took Spike to England to ....'
'Wesley, I'm not stupid. I can get the picture. But I like this Spike... Brian. He's cute.' She turned away as if she had a new pet to play with and went back to the reception. Wesley followed her more thoughtfully and watched them both for a while.
Angel came downstairs that evening just as the humans were getting ready to leave. He looked aghast at them. 'You're going?'
They looked at him and pointedly at the clock. 'What if I want to work on a case?'
Cordelia gave a small, wicked smile. 'Your new employee's still here, Angel, and he's tireless. Ask Brian. I'm sure he'll be up for... almost anything.'
They left, Wesley casting worried glances behind him.
Angel went into his office. Spike was standing by the window, staring out at the falling darkness. He braced slightly when he heard Angel come in, but otherwise didn't react to his presence. Angel sat on his desk with his feet on a chair. 'Talk to me, Spike.'
'Don't call me that, and I have nothing to say to you.'
'You have a morass of things churning around in there that you could talk to me about. Why are you doing this?'
Spike turned around. 'You are the devil, Angelus.'
'Okay. You're not Spike; I'll make an effort. But I'm not Angelus; you know that.'
Spike nodded to this concession. 'I'm going out.'
'Where? Why? I don't think that's a good idea.'
'I don't particularly - but I can't stay here with you all night.'
'Oh. Do you want to go for a drink?'
'I don't drink anymore.'
Angel tired to think of something to say to this, but was effectively silenced. He watched Spike put on the jacket of his suit and flatten his brown hair some more. 'You look like prey.'
Spike jerked his head a little at this, but didn't respond to the taunt.
He took one more look at the darkness, and then walked out of the hotel. Angel grabbed his coat and followed, far enough behind that Spike would not sense him, close enough to keep track of where he was going. He didn't appear to be going anywhere very fast. He seemed listless and without purpose. He avoided the crowded places. He avoided the dark alleyways that usually drew Angel. Eventually, he stopped in a small park and sat on a bench. Angel hovered in the trees some distance away. Spike put his head in his hands and didn't move for some hours. He attracted some strange glances from passers by.
Eventually, one of them sat down on the bench next to him. Angel moved closer. The man spoke to Spike. Spike looked up as if noticing for the first time that he was there. Angel couldn't hear what they were speaking about.
To his fury, Spike got up with the man and walked out of the park with him. Angel followed them, as he felt killing fury washing into his mouth. He could taste the man's blood; he wanted to see how firmly attached his head was.
He rounded a corner and watched them enter an old shabby-looking building. He looked up. A street mission. Spike was going to church.
Angel began to laugh, bitter, harsh laughter that drew the attention of the homeless scattered around the old mission. He backed away and began to run. The running felt good, but he couldn't run from his confusion.
Wesley hadn't even bothered to go to bed. He sat up, waiting for Angel's knock. He answered it with a smile and let him in.
Angel went straight to the whisky and helped himself, then he turned and looked at Wesley. 'You both think I'm being dumb, don't you?'
'No, Angel. I agree with you. I didn't... at first. At first, I thought he was an improvement. But it's unhealthy: it's a parody of something unhealthy. I don't know what it is, but I don't like it. I could never trust him like this: he's like a snake that's agreed not to bite you so long as you keep agreeing with it. It's ... spooky.'
Angel sat down and felt a weight taken from him. He nodded at Wesley gratefully.
'The only thing is, I'm not sure what we can do about it. We do sort of have to respect his journey. After all, we wanted it; we brought it on.'
'I did, you mean, and for my own selfish reasons.'
'No, Angel, you couldn't leave him as he was either. Goodness, has he always been this difficult?'
Angel only smiled at fond memories. Wesley shivered at that smile and wondered what the shiver was for.
'He's gone to church now.'
v Wesley spluttered his drink. 'Church? Spike? Or as Cordelia's decided to call him... Brian.'
Wesley smiled and pursed his lips. 'Hmm, my suggestion, I'm afraid. As in: Life of?
Angel shook his head, mystified.
Still a shake. Wesley looked sadly at him. 'You are very deficient, Angel, aren't you?'
'That's why I'm here, Wes.' Angel looked directly at him. 'To rectify one deficiency.'
Wesley felt his whole belly flip over and his bowels groan in ... fear?
His throat went dry. 'With me?'
Angel looked puzzled. 'What?'
'You want ... with me?'
'Want what with you, Wes? I want you to help me get Spike back!'
Wesley visibly slumped and was exceedingly grateful that Angel was not the most perceptive of people when it came to relationships.
'Yes, I'm fine, Angel. What can I do to help?'
Angel's slightly feral grin only made Wesley's stomach flip once more.
Spike returned from his night's activities helping the homeless, feeling filthy, and guilty for thinking this. He wanted to shower, but didn't want to imply that being with the homeless was less than rewarding.
He pursed his lips at the chatter from the office then turned towards the stairs. He looked up slowly. He took a step back. He stepped back some more. He had to look again to be sure. For one moment, he'd seen Angelus coming down the stairs. When he'd looked again, it was Angel - but only just. He seemed taller, very relaxed and easy in his body... the body that was encased in tight black leather jeans and a cream silk shirt.
He sauntered past Spike, clicked imaginary guns and shot him, and then leant on the counter. 'Whoa! Anyone in?'
Wesley came out of the office with his glasses perched on the top of his head. 'Morning, Angel. I think I've found what you asked me to.'
Cordelia looked up from her desk at Angel and carefully put back the telephone she was holding. 'Do we have an unearthed shroud anywhere here? Cus if we do, I'm leaving for the day.'
Angel looked over at her and laughed, then turned back to Wesley. Wesley glanced over at Spike and nodded. He began to look around for his glasses. Angel smiled and leaned toward him, taking them slowly out of his hair and adjusting them on his face. Wesley smiled his thanks, and Angel ran a finger down his cheek, but then looked down at the book with interest.
Spike moved closer, but they both closed the book and turned away, talking lightly of other things. Angel looked over at Spike. 'You smell.'
Spike recoiled slightly. 'I've been....' He turned away and went upstairs.
Wesley glanced at Angel; Angel kept his back turned and went into his office.
Spike did not come down again until the evening. If he was surprised and annoyed to find Wesley still here, he didn't show it. Angel and the human were sitting at the kitchen table, sharing the paper together. Their heads were lowered over the pages, almost touching. Angel, Spike noted, was still dressed in the leather pants, but now had on a black shirt to match.
Spike went to the refrigerator to get something, hesitated, and came out with a carton of milk. Angel glanced at him with no real interest then turned back to Wesley. 'Something violent.'
Wesley laughed. 'No, something intellectual. Something French maybe.'
'No, American. Lots of blood and guts. Hey, look "Road to Perdition" that sounds good to me.'
'Angel, if you think I'm going to a film with you about someone called the Angel of Death, you've another think coming - oh, and obsessional relationships between fathers and sons... err…. '
'What are you doing?'
Wesley turned to him. 'We're going to the pictures.'
Angel nudged Wesley, affectionately. 'Come on, decide. I'll let you this time.' He ruffled Wesley's hair, but instead of taking his hand off, let it fall naturally to the back of the human's neck and began to rub the short hairs with his thumb.
'"Life is Beautiful".'
'What?' Angel leant over the paper, close to Wesley's face; his hand slid around from the back of the neck to the side, and the thumb began to caress Wesley's ear. 'Sounds girlie.'
'You'll love it.'
'Hmm. I might. Will you be there?' Angel lowered his voice and swirled the thumb over the warm skin above Wesley's collar.
Wesley blushed a deep red, took off his glasses and began to polish them furiously, then replied extremely quietly, 'You know I will.'
'Then I'll love it.'
As if as an afterthought, Wesley turned to Spike. He recoiled visibly from the look that greeted him, but the expression was sucked off Spike's face quicker than the human's eyes really had time to register it. 'Would you like to come? You don't mind, do you, Angel?'
Angel's face darkened. 'No. Why not.' He looked pointedly at Wesley, and they all heard the unspoken, "Why'd you have to ask him?"
Spike looked from one to the other. 'Yes, I would.'
Angel tutted, but led the way to the car. Spike would have gotten into the passenger seat, but Angel leant over and opened the door for Wesley. He climbed into the back instead and folded his arms, watching the two brown heads. He heard some whispering, almost lost over the noise of the air, but leant forward and caught Wesley's quiet admonishment, 'Don't make him feel left out, Angel. I can have you anytime; he's only got you for a few more days... if he decides to move on.'
Spike felt, rather than actually saw, Angel's grinning response to this, but he heard the soft words. 'I'll hold you to that, Wes, later tonight.'
Wesley blushed and looked out of the side window.
Angel paid for all three tickets, and they sat down. The place being nearly empty, Angel put his feet up on the seat in front of him and folded his arms behind his head. He looked the picture of self-complacency. 'Wake me up when there's some blood, Wes.'
Wesley shushed him and thumped him lightly in the belly. Angel laughed and caught at the wrist, and did not let it go, and Wesley let his hand lie lightly on Angel's shirt as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
Spike got up and left, and they saw him no more that night.
In the morning, Wesley and Angel came into work together, and it was debatable who looked the rougher. Wesley was still slightly unshaven, bits clearly missed from water too cold. Angel looked hung over and as if he'd had very little sleep... but they were both laughing at something as they came through the door. Wesley stumbled, Angel put a hand out to catch him and, just for a second, held him too close, before standing him securely back on his feet. Cordelia and Spike watched this entrance from the desks.
Spike wasn't wearing his suit; he had on his own black jeans and tee shirt, which only made his soft brown, flat, very groomed hair look even more odd, and him even more of a stranger. He didn't say hello to either of the late arrivals, but went into the kitchen.
As he walked away, Angel noted that even Spike's own jeans gaped slightly on him now.
He followed Spike into the kitchen, and as he was preparing himself some blood, sniffed theatrically at his shirt. 'Jees.'
Spike didn't rise to the bait of conversation and stared mutely at his book. Hannibal, Angel noted, had given way to something called "Seeking the Divine in the Domestic" and he smiled inwardly at Spike's utter concentration on the first page.
'You missed a good movie last night.'
'Yeah, I quite warmed to it after an hour or two. Wes said I'd like it. He tends to know the things I like these days.'
Spike closed his book carefully and went back to the office.
Angel trailed in after him and waited until he'd sat down and picked up a file before nodding at Wesley. 'Shower?'
Wesley laughed and stood up. 'I certainly need one.'
They walked slowly up the stairs together, Angel's hand resting lightly on the small of Wesley's back.
Cordelia looked over at Spike. 'Make some coffee, hey?'
'Ground control to Brian?'
'Coffee! I need coffee!'
'How long have they .... ' Spike trailed off and looked down at the empty mug Cordelia was sliding in his direction.
'Have they what? Hey! You don't think anything's going on between Angel and Wes.... ' She began to laugh. '
Spike looked up annoyed. 'What? It's not funny.'
Cordelia spluttered. 'Oh. It is, Spike. It's very funny. Wesley... well, okay he might... he's a Brit, and you just have to hear that accent... oh, and you are, too, but well, anyway....' She trailed off then brightened visibly. 'But Angel? Please... he's got a curse and not the sort that makes you want to kill everyone every month... although, now you come to mention it, that would explain a lot: Angel with PMS.…'
She bristled slightly. 'He can't go groiny with the help… human - make - Angel - a - bad - boy. Come on, Brian, you were there; you remember the last time.'
Spike looked at her slowly and stood up. He made his way up the stairs and into Angel's bedroom. He sat on the bed and listened to the water. He listened to the laughter and chatter from the shower. He lay back, and his head rested on Angel's discarded shirt. He put an arm over his face and wished to die.
Angel sought him out eventually in the new room he'd selected for himself. 'You feel like some work?'
Spike didn't turn around from staring out of the window at the LA night.
'Demons. Need killing. Right up your street, I'd have thought.'
'You think wrong. I don't do that anymore.'
'They're ungodly, Spi... they need killing. I need your help.'
'Take the humans.'
'I am. I always take them. Now I want you, too.'
Spike turned, then shrugged slightly.
Angel repressed his smile until he heard Spike following him down the stairs. When he turned at the bottom, it was almost as if he had his childe back. Spike had donned his duster; other than the odd hair, he looked his normal self.
Wesley was handing out weapons. As he passed one to Angel, he held on and pulled Angel to him. He trailed a finger down Angel's chest. 'No heroics.'
Angel laughed, glanced briefly at Cordelia's turned back and kissed Wesley very swiftly - just a brief peck - then play punched him in the belly. 'But I'm a hero, Wesley; it's what I do.' He swirled his coat and stormed out of the lobby.
Wesley chuckled to himself but stopped when he felt a cold hand on his arm. He looked up into the face of a devil and recoiled, sharply, the weapon in his hand rising unconsciously.
Spike shook himself and the demon slid away, but the man was no less frightening in his expression. Wesley felt his arm bruising once more and cursed at the reawakening of the old injury. 'What's wrong, Spike?'
Spike did not even bristle at the use of his old name. 'Don't play with fire, human.'
'Fire? No, I try very hard not to do that, Spike. Where is this fire coming from then, and I'll be sure to avoid it.'
'Hey! Brian, what'ya'doing? Wes?'
'Nothing, Cordelia. I'm just asking when Spike is leaving?'
Spike let go of the arm and watched Wesley make his way to the car. He saw some intense conversation when he got there between the other two, and Angel turned his head speculatively towards him. The four of them drove to an abandoned warehouse, and the fight was relatively short.
Spike took no part in the fighting: he stood to one side watching Wesley. There were fewer vampires than they'd thought and, panting, Wesley declared they'd have to return the next night. Angel agreed, then nodded at the two humans. 'Leave us for a moment, would you?'
Wesley glanced nervously at Angel and put a hand on his arm. Once more, Angel watched Cordelia's retreating back before he pulled Wesley against him and kissed him deeply. The fighting had stirred them both, and Spike heard a groan. He had turned away when he felt his arm seized, and Wesley pushed past him to join Cordelia.
He spun around to Angel and punched him in the belly, making him go down briefly. Angel nodded faintly then stood up. 'Pity you didn't do that earlier, Spike. We could have used your help.'
'Fuck you, Angel.'
'Fuck? Spike! Language!'
'Don't laugh at me, Angel! I am what you made me.'
'Get over yourself sometime soon, why don't you, Spike.'
'Like you have.'
'Gotten over me.'
'Well, I'm not a fucking saint, Spike: I fucked you in England, and I enjoyed it, so now I'm fucking Wesley - and I'm enjoying that. It makes me feel good.'
'You're actually... with him. You said only demons.'
Angel looked down for a moment and then said, 'Wes is hardly going to make me forget my path, Spike... I'm... what can I say? Restrained. Hell, he'd split open if I did what I can do to you.'
Spike began to back away. He shook his head slightly. 'I'm glad I didn't fall for all that love shit you gave me when I arrived. I'm glad I stopped loving you in that churchyard.'
Angel looked up. 'You over-estimate yourself again, Spike,' and with that, he pushed past and began to load weapons into the car.
They dropped Cordelia off at her apartment on the way back and, as she got out of the car, she looked between the three of them for a moment: the tension so evident it was like small static shocks in the air. She shook her head and said with an amused grin, 'Sleep well.' They all ignored her and the small wave she gave them as they drove off.
Angel took a vice-like grip on Wesley's arm as soon as they parked. 'Upstairs, now.'
Wesley looked at Spike and blushed. 'Weapons, Angel: we can't leave them in the car.' Angel grimaced but agreed, and the increasing tension between him and the other two was almost unbearable as they unloaded, cleaned, and put them all away. Finally, Angel stood up and nodded to Wesley. 'Go upstairs; run me a bath; I'll be up in a minute.'
Wesley nodded and didn't need to look at Spike's face to know the expression he'd see there. He went swiftly up the stairs without looking back.
Angel backed Spike into the wall. 'You touch him - I'll kill you. I told you that when you arrived. Nothing's changed, Spike, except he's mine now in all ways. You bruise him - I stake you. You swear at him - I'll stake you. You forget to speak nicely to him one day - I'll stake you.'
He punched Spike low and hard and then turned and swaggered slightly as he went up the stairs, tunelessly humming.
Spike sat down on the one of the couches and put his head down onto his lap. Extreme hunger made him dizzy: extreme depression made him unable to cope with the hunger. He felt the maddening tears that cursed him night and day spring to his eyes, but he had nowhere left to go to outrun them. Where could he go now when no one, not even his sire, needed him? He had always thought that Angel would need him. He looked down at himself and felt an overwhelming hatred for what he had become. He stormed out of the hotel and made his way to the nearest bar, found some leftover money in one pocket and began to drink, steadily. He did not notice the figure in the shadows, watching him, or sense the intense scrutiny. He focused only on the alcohol, and the way it silenced his soul, made his guilt pack up and go away, and his pain numb. It was sublime, and he drank until he could not see, then laid his head on the bar and hoped he would be staked before he woke.