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"Why not?" and I let out a shaky little groan. "Your reasons are no worse than anyone else's," and I make a funny sort of noise, a teary laugh or a cough. No. They probably aren't not much worse, and I pick up the pieces of that all the time, I sort it out, that's what I do.

"You wanted to hurt her. And you didn't. Why not?"

"I don't l-like hurting people." I don't. "I'm not good at it, it scares me, I don't want to-- I'm not like Constantine." I haven't promised to be better yet, but if I do I'm sure as hell not going to piss all over that promise for a fit of the sulks and a whine about cash flow. "Didn't hurt Oscar, even, not really." I just made him sick 'cause I couldn't think of anything else to help him, really, that was such a lovely plan... Lean forward and lift my hands up and I can't unclench them, my fingers aren't shaking but they're cramped, and press them against my forehead. "You, you ever see guys arguing, on the street, in a bar, and they're yelling and they're waving their hands but they don't really hit? They're holding back'r they're waiting for their friends to get between them'n'give them an excuse to stop? It's like that. They don't want to. I don't want to, even if I do."

[Open to Dorian]
[Down at the Red Lantern, up on the third floor]
[Too late for patience]

"Perhaps I know him before than you do, Ms Beddau," and I can feel myself take slow cold umbrage to that; after all he had wrong, after all I have seen, to say that. "And no, I will not be sick again."

"That's good," flat words, but not cold; I think I am too tired to put in the effort to be cold. Settle for just being relieved that I don't need to worry about handling that. "And no," echo of his own words to me, "I don't think you do." Smile a little, very thinly, and gesture with my cigarette; a circle in the air, a thin streamer of smoke in the grimy air of the room. "Does it help to tell yourself I'm wrong?"

Not too tired to be sharp, I see. Bloody hell.

[Open to Oscar]
[Heading back out]
[Late enough to worry]

"Yeah." Dorian pulls himself up and I lean into him, arms light 'round him until I need to pull back enough to get to my feet. "We should go." And then he's adding "You don't have to go with me. You know that," and I realize he's talking about that we, not our we.

"I won't hurt him," and I think he means it, but it sounds like someone saying they won't be late. And I brought Oscar home, I'm the one who... "I just want to take him somewhere that's not, that's not here."

"I want to go with you," although saying that makes me feel heavy-headed and strange. "Let me just-- let me get out of this dress, okay? And I-- we--" Take a deep breath and shake my head. "I'm glad you're here." Look down at Oscar and my mouth twists a little. "And I'm sorry," and I hope it's different, this apology, clear enough for him and not for Dorian. "I didn't want you hurt." I didn't, stupid as it sounds.

Easy to change, when you know where everything is, and pulling on pants and a sweater scarcely takes longer than skinning off a dress. I can't carry Oscar if he decides to drop down and drag his weight, but I can move him, and keep him steady on his feet if he's willing to walk. And it's late enough that we're not likely to run into anyone on the way out of here...

Pull another sweater out of the closet, and remind myself to get that bag out of the trunk of my car, and call myself ready to go.

[Open to Oscar and Dorian]
[Outside the Diabolique, heading to home]
[Late enough to have ruined a relaxing night out]

"Yes. You will." Okay then, and I can feel my heart hitch and lift a little. Okay.

"See you soon." Turn up the volume a little and put the phone in the outside pocket of my purse, and pinch the bridge of my nose and try not to curse. Because this is how my night trying to convince myself that it can be okay goes.


Oscar's headed back to the Diabolique, and for a minute I have this horrible image of needing-- trying to drag him out, something like that, but I get closer and hear something about keys, and okay, that makes sense. Valet parking, who wouldn't? (Well, someone who had some very specific ideas about where she wanted her car parked and why, but aside from that...)

[Open to Oscar and Dorian]

Inching back to calm

[Up at the Diabolique]
[Just late enough to start to relax]

Quiet night, not leading into the weekend; I dressed down as much as I could without standing out, dim jewelry and low heels and a quiet table aside from the door.

I remember, once, friend of a friend who needed to stay over for a bit, because her place caught fire; she smelled of smoke and burnt plastic, and what she had left was basically her purse and what she was standing up in. Oya took her out for coffee, stopped in at a couple of places on the way home, picked up... I don't know. Not really luxuries, not really necessities. Her favourite kind of soap, I remember, and a scarf, and a tube of lipstick. Things that could be gifts without exactly being charity. That weren't about what you needed, because the hand-to-mouth of just what you need, when that's all there is, you can get to feel pretty shredded.

That's what it feels like, coming here, after-- everything. I don't need to be here, so it matters more that I want to. I imagine I need to not deal with people (alright, the waitstaff are a dream; you don't get to work here without learning how to be discreet), but that's different.

My wine comes, and the music's low and slow enough that I start to relax. Outside, and it's okay. See? It can be okay.

In the end.

Did my best, it wasn't much
Couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
I've told the truth, I didn't come to fool you...

[Outside the Whitechapel]
[Past lunch, too early to drink]

Stop outside; it's strange to not hurry back to work, with everything that's going on and the day being cold and damp and rather miserable besides, but there's one thing left I want to do. Light a cigarette for an excuse to linger in the lee of the doorway and take out my phone. Not a word when the line's picked up, and it takes me a second to realize I'm holding my breath, let it out in a rush. "Hey," I say softly.

"You okay?"

"Yeah. Just this guy..." Realize exactly what door that opens. "I'm okay!" I say hastily.

"...what happened?" He sounds sleep-dazed, muzzy; I start worrying about him, how well he's being careful.

"Says he's getting someone to set up a meeting with you." Right, that's only part of the problem. "Came to see me to see if there was any reason he shouldn't kill you. Have you killed, whatever, I don't know. You and Oscar." Can feel myself starting to get angry again, and tamp it down.

"He came to see you?" and I make a sound of agreement. "What's his name?"

Oh, well, that is a somewhat interesting question; mostly because of the ways it's not who is he? "Samuel Durand," I say after a moment. "Federal." Mouth twists a little. "At work," in disgust, and I'm just about to start warming up to that when Dorian speaks.

"Right... I'm meeting him tonight," and the bottom drops out of my heart, a sudden bloodless shock and a panicked why?! "Did he bother you? I mean... I'm sorry, um, did he- You're okay?"

"Yes." To both, really; yes I'm okay, and yes he goddamn well bothered me. "I mean, I can manage, but..." And then he's asking what Durand said and I'm trying to break it down. "He came in, said he wanted to talk off the record, said you and Oscar shouldn't exist." Draw on the cigarette and try not to spit. "Said I cared enough about you to be lying so he wanted me to say I cared, and implied that if I didn't it was my fault he'd kill you. Or have you killed." Dorian, please, the man is a fucking snake, you'd be no less safe meeting with Al Shairan, please don't go... "He knew where Oscar was two weeks ago. He met with him. And let him go."

Pause for a moment, and then "...what did you tell him? Did you tell him we- What should I tell him?" Honey, please, you cannot let that be what matters most right now, please you cannot. "About that."

"Told him you saved my life, of course I f-fucking care about you," moving away from the door of the Whitechapel and glancing down the street, keeping my voice low and not managing to keep it calm. "Even if I know you're dangerous and it's a bad idea to be around you. Said I hadn't seen you since Christmas, too," and then he just makes a little noise, oh, and I feel cruel and guilty and pull myself up short. "I... honey?"

Deep breath and "Okay." Wait wordlessly for him to go on. "That's good to know." Oh. "When I talk to him." He sounds...

"You know I love you, right?"

"Yeah," and I can hear the smile in his voice, warm and sweet in my lungs when I draw breath. "I love you too."

"Okay." Smiling a little myself, despite everything happening now. "Why are you going to talk to him?"

"Hughes called. Set up a meeting," and I guessed that was it, most likely of the three. Christ.

"Honey, he's-- do you need to go?" Struggling to find the words, better words, and then he speaks.

"Hughes told me to come," and we've been over what that means. I can feel my nails digging into my palms, uncurl my fingers, and I know it'll do no good but I cannot not ask.

"Listen..." and then I pause a moment, pull the words together. "Durand thinks you should die, unless he decides you shouldn't. Talked to me, maybe to Constantine, I don't know--I don't know if any of that is going to be enough. He might sit back and watch, he might sic Merton on you, he might decide the secret agent bullshit is too much like work and just shoot you." Alright, yes, he might decide that Dorian is a fascinating information-gathering opportunity and let him bound merrily free and unchecked through the wilds of Excolo, but there is only precedent for him doing that with groups of people who are currently wanted for assault. "Is there any way you can not go?" With Hughes and the papers, probably not, but please...

"I'll talk to him." Bloody hell. "He won't kill me. It wouldn't... Be in his interest to kill me." Which doesn't cover handing you over to Merton, honey. "Sounds like he wants this done with. I get that."

"I want this done with. Christ, honey, everyone I know wants this done with." You included, dammit. "It's just everyone else isn't talking about you like you're biological waste."

"It'll be over soon. Don't- It'll be okay," and I believe him, I believe he means it, but I think this is a very specialized definition of okay.

"Promise me that if you can," I say after a moment, "you'll call after you're done meeting him. Please?"

"I will. I promise, I'll try."

"'kay." It's not a lot, it's not knowing what's going on, but it's something. "I miss you."

"I know. I-" Nothing I was hoping to hear, then; nothing at all. "Someone is going to call you."

Wasn't expecting that, honestly; blink startled for a moment before I can speak. "Story of my life," I say, trying to catch up. "Who?"

"Friend of Sapphira's," and wait, what? "I don't remember her name. She's a fed."

...wait, what?

"She--" Stop and try again. "Who-- Uhm, honey, back up?" I manage. "Who's Sapphira and why is her friend calling for?"

"Sapphira..." He sounds distant, almost dreamy, and if he were here I would be reaching out to touch him. "I used to know her. She works for them now. I asked for a favor. Her friend will want to talk to you, though. So she'll call. You need to do what she says."

And it's piling up, part of it that he's talking about someone he used to know, talking about her like someone to trust, what the hell kind of name is Sapphira; and part of it is the them and do what she says and the little disconnected tics that were starting to creep out when I saw him last. Because he's been rationing, trying to stretch his medication out, and even I know that's not a good idea. Better than running out, maybe, but...

"...you're scaring me, honey." So many things, so many reasons, and it's not what I don't know that's bothering me. "I remember what happened last time you went to the cops."

"Sapphira won't let that happen." Yeah, no, really not liking this, the weird faith he's putting in whoever this woman is and the confusion and the twist of jealousy. "And I'm not going to them. You are."

"What are you doing, while I'm doing that?" The finality of it all, that's what's bothering me. The feeling of endings.

"Talking to Durand in a few minutes..."

"Christ!" Dammit, dammit, shriller than I meant to be. "...that's not what I meant," I say, wading through the apology. "Sorry, sorry, I..." Take a deep breath. "You want this over," walking through it and hating it more with every word, "and you're sending the feds to--take care of me? You think they will, you wouldn't tell me to go along elsewise." I am just going to worry about why he thinks that later, that's not the point. "So what's going to happen to you?"

"...I don't know. Exactly. I-" Silence again. "Just don't ask me that."

I'm trying to remember if he's ever said something like that to me before. It's hard to think. "You really want me to drop that question?" and I sound strange in my own ears, I sound like him. Flat and plain and I know no other way to ask, so asking is all it is.

"Yes. Please." Think about my hand on his face, over his mouth when I heard him lying. When we're alone together, you can ask me anything. Poor form to pick now to try and add a rider like except to stop pushing you. And given all the things he has answered, quicker almost than I asked...

"Okay." Push my hair back. "Am I gonna see you again? I mean, it's--" There's a quaver creeping into my voice and I hate it, but I can't seem to stop. "I hate not knowing, you know? I hate not knowing if he got you. Oscar. And I miss you, and..." And I just wanna see you again, last time was too long ago and I'm suddenly desperate to not have it have been the last time.

"I can't promise that. I'm- I'm sorry, Glass."

Bit of a choking sound, then, trying to swallow and laugh and nothing's funny, nothing's good or funny and my throat hurts with keeping quiet and Dorian, please, don't do this, don't don't don't-- "Are you gonna see me again? It never had to be the same thing, after all."

"I... You said-- You said I should just not say anything instead of lie..." Jitter waiting underneath his words, makes me think of just tell me what to do, the anxious tension when he doesn't understand what he's done wrong. Drag in a breath, hitching and raw, try to say something and all that comes out is a sort of hushing sound. That's enough to build on, catch my breath and try again.

"Shhh, honey, it's okay. I know," voice soft and steady--steadier, at least. "I meant it. I just..." I just don't want this, not for you. "I just keep hoping." Give up on the cigarette and drop it so I can wipe the tears away. "It's okay." It's not. "It's, it's just..." Groping for some stupid thing, old fallback of wishing Oscar Merton would just get run over or something, and he's talking and I hold on to that, make myself listen.

"It'll be okay. You'll be okay. I promise."

"You..." Dammit, Beddau, he is trying to help and there is not a damn thing you can do to get him to come back, so get that grip on yourself and keep it there. Do that much for him. "You take as much care of yourself as you can, okay?"

"I- I'll try." "Do what they tell you. The other one, I don't know, I think I met her. But Sapphira. Listen to her. Do what she says. Okay?"

"...'kay." Hardly loud enough to hear, and I echo myself, sniffle a little. Try to think of something good, and it's really hard going right about now. "And never run off into the park in the dark, right?"

"Right. You have the liston? Still?"

"Still." Lean back against the wall and grind my cigarette out, dirty smear of ash on the grey pavement and white salt stains and rimes of ice. "I love you," I say again. Angry and helpless and there's nothing else I can do but I will not forget this, not now, to you I will not deny it. "I wouldn't change anything."

"Thank you."

Swallow back one of those little puffs of air that could be a laugh or a sob. "Okay." I want you here, dammit, I want... "I know you've gotta go. Just... Can you stay on the line for a minute?" I am not-- I am crying, I hate this, I want him home and there is no time, there never was enough and now there won't be any more.

"Uhm." Dammit, this isn't fair, trying to fit everything in. "C-Constantine says he misses you. 'n he's sorry. I guess." Cradle the phone between ear and shoulder and light up another cigarette. My hands are shaking. "I... you been okay, since I saw you?"

[Open to Dorian]
[Not midnight yet; nothing so dramatic]
[Glass's apartment]

She didn't look like me. It doesn't help.

Okay, yes, dark hair and Caucasian and we're both women. That's not enough anymore; that isn't enough after the first month, if you're going to stick with the job. She didn't look like anyone I knew, really. Looked older than me, and she'll probably turn out to be younger. Pretty girl, or I guess she used to be.

Good bone structure, you know. Before.

It wasn't a special day; I worked late, stopped for groceries on the way home, had a shower and changed and ate dinner and I can't get her out of my mind. Not in the forefront of it, hanging around the edges like a tagalong guest at a party that no-one's bothering to talk to. Do the dishes and I know that they'll be dry by morning and that she was beaten long before she died, hours; sit down with the Journal ("Classification of Asphyxia: The Need for Standardization" and that makes me laugh, a little) and make notes and think about a glass of wine and remember seeing her elbow sticking out from between the garbage bags as I came down the alley. Her elbow, Christ. Can't we even get the poetry of a dead hand rising pale and frozen out of the grey slush and black plastic? What difference would it make if we did? We we we, it doesn't matter to her now, it doesn't matter to Gutierrez or Lashley, it wouldn't matter to anyone who knew her if we ever found them, it doesn't matter to me.

It doesn't.

Finish the article--the one I was actually looking at, bitemark distortion--and put down the journal and sit there for a moment with my hands folded together at the wrists. Think about a glass of wine, and I could--it'd be my first in three days, I don't mind that--but I don't. Sit there and listen to the weeknight hiss of traffic and the crack of the building settling, and...

I wish today had been special.


As of right-now-exactly January 19, 9:48 p./m.:

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