Crimson Regret 11/?
Rating: 15 overall, don't think there's anything above PG in this part,
maybe some language again.
Spoilers: Post-Chosen, follows up from "All Of Me" and "Alone All
Disclaimer: Not mine, never will be - I'm just playing in a pretty big sandbox.
Previous parts can be found here
The light takes on an amber tint as he lifts the glass in mock salute to the past. Knocking it back in one swallow, he barely notices the burn of the whiskey against his parched throat. As it hits his stomach, however, there's a minor protest, brought about no doubt by the lack of food to absorb any of the sting. The moment's rebellion is soon past, and it leaves him once again with the empty feeling that's been prevalent over the past week or so.
Had it really been over a week? He puts the now empty glass back on the bar and catches the eye of bartender. This time he orders draught Guinness and watches as the man pours it expertly, somehow he'd expected the service to be on the sloppy side but now thinking about it he then realises that if the customers here took offence then the staff probably had more to lose than their client base – limbs and the ability to breathe, for example.
While he's waiting for the beer, he has another whisky – this one from the bottles kept under the bar, no doubt the good stuff reserved for people who proved they could pay and didn't look like they had anywhere else they needed to be. Xander almost smirks as he remembers where he learned the tricks of this particular trade until he recalls the rest of what happened at the time – perhaps draught beer of any kind wasn't the best plan. But then again does he really care? The glass appears in front of him and he decides he really doesn't.
He knows retreating into the bottle is a dangerous habit, hell he'd grown up with alcoholics, if anyone knows the danger signs it's him. The statistics showing that the children of alcoholics are far more likely to themselves become alcoholics are something he knows far too much about. He has done for years, but he's not worried. Despite current appearances he knows it won't happen to him.
It's not dependency; it's just easier for now to keep that buzz, to not think. It'll pass, one way or another. His hand automatically goes to the bulge in his jacket pocket. One way or another.
He nurses the Guinness, not in any particular hurry to finish it when he hears someone approach on his blindside. He lifts his head, checks the mirror behind the bar and doesn't see anyone beside him. Dammit! What felt like a lifetime ago Willow had called him a demon magnet and it looked like he still was.
Sighing heavily, he puts down his drink and brings out the stake he'd used earlier. It snags a little on his jacket pocket and makes a dull clink against the bottle he's been carrying around. He makes a mental note to bring up the benefits of well-crafted weaponry at the first possible opportunity before he remembers that he doesn't care anymore. He slams the stake onto the bar and leaves it there, within both easy reach and plain sight. He lifts the glass again and takes another long swallow and waits for a reaction.
He tells himself he's not looking for a fight, and he almost believes that. He can't forget the incredible high he'd hit earlier; he wants that again, he's craving it like a junkie looking for his next fix. That worries him a little, getting caught up in the cycle of violence is something he's seen happen to too many people in his life. He shakes his head. No, it's not going to happen to him, he's not going to become his father constantly itching for a fight.
Again his hand reaches down to check the weight in his jacket, the dull rattle reassures him. That's something he won't ever become.
All eyes are on him as he calmly puts the glass back on the bar. There was a time, not so long ago, when he'd craved being the centre of attention, not to be ignored or overlooked, but time and experience have changed him. Now he'd be content just to get on with things without anyone watching, waiting for him to screw up again.
Finally there's movement from off to his left and a slender hand reaches past him to rest on the bar next to the stake. There's something vaguely familiar about it but he can't place what it is. Still nothing shows in the mirror in front of him and his heart sinks, up until that moment he'd told himself it was just a bad angle and once whoever it was moved their reflection would appear.
His mind takes another random route and he briefly wonders if there's ever been a Slayer who had been turned. Probably not, he realises, something that powerful would be pretty much unstoppable.
God he hopes that was just a random thought because he really doesn't want to think about the possibility that the hand mere inches from his own could belong to someone like that.
Suddenly, he can't breathe, he doesn't want to turn round because to do so would confirm the identity of his uninvited companion. A shiver runs down his spine as he feels her lean forward to whisper conspiratorially in his ear.
"It's all because of you, you know that don't you? If you'd said something, done something, this wouldn't have happened…"
He's frozen; his mind flashes back to that hallway and sees himself agreeing to watch out for Dawn, leaving the two weakest fighters together by default. He should have said something, he should have pointed out they were sorely unbalanced, he should have insisted that the Giles/Wood team be split up. If he could see it made no sense then why could no one else? But he hadn't said anything and she'd died. It *was* all his fault. If he *had* said something, it wouldn't have happened.
Suddenly the door slams open spurring him into action. He grabs the stake and spins to face his tormenter. There's no one there, just empty space. Had he imagined the whole thing? Was he further gone than he'd realised?
He scans the room looking for any clue as to whether there had ever been anyone beside him. No one, just the same mix of bikers and loners who obviously treated the place as a home away from home. To a man they're staring at the door, towards the newcomer. He sees more than a few appreciative looks on their faces and he turns to see the object of their leering even though he already knows who it is. Faith.