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Soul Man

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Soul Man

 

"Chase the lady, chase the lady. Watch where she goes! Catch her for one hundred dollars!" Hands and cards dancing together on the rickety little table, the showman flashed a slightly crumpled queen of hearts at the little crowd around him, then whisked it away into the shifting whirl of cards splayed out on the table. "You sir, are you feeling lucky? Catch the lady, and win yourself a hundred dollars. Only five dollars a try. That's a two thousand percent return on your investment! No? Then how about you, sir? You, young man; or you, madam? Here she is, and there she goes. Watch her as she dances."

"I'll take a chance." Stepping forward out of the crowd came a youngish man, black hair slicked back, bright red tie a dash of colour against a neat, expensive grey suit. A businessman, clearly. One who relished a gamble perhaps. The showman smiled a warm welcome, nodding appreciatively at the fresh, crisp new bill that his mark laid down on the table.

"Pleased to meet you, sir. Watch the lady now. You see where she is?

"I see her."

"Good. Then keep your eye on her. Watch her, because when she dances, she whirls like Ginger Rogers on roller-skates." His hands leapt, sending the cards on the tabletop flashing about in the confined space. "See her?"

"I see her." There was confidence in the grey eyes. The showman nodded.

"Then catch her." He stood back slightly, watching as the other man reached out, tapping smartly on the back of one of the cards. "And let's see if you're right. Go ahead. Turn it over." The businessman did so. Beneath his hand, instead of the queen of hearts, was a simple seven of clubs. His shoulders dropped slightly, a crestfallen look mingling with puzzlement on his face.

"But I was so sure," he protested feebly. The showman threw him a smile.

"The lady moves fast, sir. Another try? No? Well, good day to you, sir. Very well played." He waved the five dollar bill in farewell, and watched the businessman depart out of the corner of his eye. The smile that he wore was the same showman's smile that he had been wearing all along, but now, curling at the edges, was a different expression – one of cold, smug satisfaction.

**********

It was raining. She couldn't hear for the rain. It hammered down upon her with the force of a thousand fists, pummelling, bruising, making her long for further layers of clothing that were not there, and press herself down for shelter into unyielding, unforgiving soil. Cold and afraid, she stared around, seeing sodden ground, and a glowering, blue-black sky – cloud upon cloud until it felt like she couldn't breathe; as though the world itself couldn't breathe, and never would again. And then she saw herself – saw the wetness that saturated her clothes, and poured endlessly from the tip of every finger, from the bottom of her chin and the end of her nose, and from every strand of her long, dark hair. It wasn't colourless; it was red. Thick and red, streaming off her, spreading all over the soil, turning the ground beneath her to a gluey, sucking mire. It was raining blood. She gasped, tasting blood, trying to spit it out again, choking and wanting to run – but run where? Everywhere the blood was falling, for as far as she could see, on into the frowning, cloud-stacked night. There was no escape. She screwed up her eyes, pressing bloodied, sticky hands up against them, trying to shut it all out, but it didn't stop the taste of it, or the sound of it, or the feel of the onrushing red. It did make one small difference however. In the midst of the new blackness, somewhere far beyond her tightly clenched eyelids, she could see something else. A strange, two-headed woman. A woman as white as snow, her four arms bearing a pair of still-beating hearts, dazzling red against the whiteness of her skin.

**********

With a strangled gasp, Zed opened her eyes, blinking around in a panic. There was no blood, there was no suffocating cloud, there was no growing marsh to suck at her feet. She sat instead in the old mill, surrounded by the eclectic furniture of the place, and the weird collections of its owners, both past and present. Jasper's more tasteful furnishings, and careful provisions for what might come. Constantine's sprawl of books, parchments, half-burned candles, and overflowing ashtrays. Shaken beyond measure, she drew in a deep breath.

"Another vision?" Constantine's voice rang oddly in her ears, cutting through bewildering echoes of thudding rain. She nodded, her neck loath at first to work for her. She was still too tense; too stiff from recent memory.

"Blood. Raining blood. Everywhere. And a woman. No, two women. No." She shook her head, regaining control now, beginning to sort out her thoughts. She managed a smile. "Not a woman at all. I think it was a playing card. A queen of hearts."

"Interesting. Anything else? I mean, no offence, love, but there's a hell of a lot of playing cards in the world. I need a little more to go on if I'm gonna find just the one of them."

"They're visions, not road maps." She drew another breath, trying to calm herself, trying to utilise the focusing techniques that he had taught her. "I was out in the middle of nowhere, but I felt crowded in. Like..." Her eyes opened wide. "New York City."

"Just like that?" He looked sceptical, and she glared.

"You wanted something more precise. So look at your mystical map thing. Is there a drop of blood on New York City?"

"Course there is. It's New York sodding City. More weird stuff going on there than almost anywhere else. I just want to make sure you didn't pull the name out of your hat. What makes you think that's where the vision is pointing us?"

"It's a feeling. A sensation. I don't know exactly." She glared ever more fiercely. "Look, I'm doing my best here. So are we going or not?"

"Maybe." He heaved a sigh, then muttered something under his breath – she couldn't hear what, and was quite sure that it wasn't polite – before stubbing out his cigarette and going over to the map. He mumbled a brief incantation, shot her a distinctly unimpressed look, and scattered a little cigarette ash over the map. The drop of blood that covered much of the city liquefied, then splayed out. Zed joined him, peering over his shoulder.

"What's that supposed to prove?"

"If it turns to liquid, there's something recent there." He frowned. "Like I said though, it's New York City. I'd be more surprised if there wasn't something happening there. It's that full of people and cultures, all mingling together. All sorts of magic, good and bad. All kinds of everything."

"Sounds like a song," she told him, voice dry. He sighed.

"I give up. We're going. If it turns out to be just some ordinary sorcerer though, you're paying for the gas."

Businessman's murder baffles police!

"A murder in New York City?" Constantine's eyes widened in mock horror. "Well that's a bloody big shock. Call out the cavalry."

"Read the article." She shoved the paper into his lap, and he eyed it sourly. An up and coming businessman had been found hanging by his feet above a pentagram, apparently drawn in his own blood. Whoever had written the piece had revelled in each gruesome detail, from the signs and symbols painted around the pentagram, to the ones drawn on the victim's naked torso, as well as the fact that his throat had been cut. Constantine winced.

"Nasty. Alright, so it's not just another murder. No mention of a playing card though."

"It must factor in somewhere. His throat was cut. That would mean a lot of blood, right? And I saw a lot of blood."

"Yeah, I know. So you said." He nodded slowly. "Fair enough. We'll check this bloke out. What's his name?"

"Henry Simmonds. Aged thirty-one. Worked in insurance. It's all right there in the article."

"Yeah yeah. Whatever." Sliding off the car's hood, Constantine flicked his still-burning cigarette away across the street, and pulled open the driver's door. "An insurance salesman. Poor sod. Probably spent his life dreaming of a bit of adventure."

"Now he's probably wishing for a bit less."

"Maybe." The car door slammed shut as Constantine started up the engine. "Depends on who killed him and why. Not everybody makes it to the afterlife."

"But what else is there?" she asked, climbing in beside him. He shot her a dour look, and pulled the car back out onto the road.

"Plenty of things," he told her, in a voice as dark as the fast-falling night. "And none of them good."

"Don't sulk," she shot back. "It doesn't become you." She leaned back in her seat, wishing that the ever-darkening night did not remind her quite so much of her vision. "Our man was seen by a few people during the course of yesterday. He was last seen watching one of those cardsharps on the street. You know the type? 'Find the lady'? So there's your playing card."

"Looks like it. You know which cardsharp?"

"No name, just a description. I don't think the police are in too much of a hurry to find him. There was no sign of a struggle, as though Simmonds didn't do anything to fight back, so they're assuming it was somebody he knew. They're looking into his love life at the moment."

"Ah yes. The classic 'knock off your ex, and make it look like black magic' ruse." Constantine rolled his eyes. "Let them flounder. With a bit of luck it'll leave the playing field wide open for us. Far easier if we're not treading on the coppers' size twelves every way we turn."

"Tired of getting arrested, are we?" she teased. He glared.

"You said something about a description."

"Yes. Fifty to sixty, tall, with greying hair and a pointed beard. Dressed in one of those Nehru suits."

"White? Black? Brown?"

"Him or the suit? The suit was black, he was white. Latin maybe. Probably doesn't make him any easier to find, though. There must be hundreds of cardsharps in this city."

"Probably. If we're lucky there'll only be one who's recently performed real magic. That sort of thing stands out, if you know what you're looking for. You get an approximate location?"

"A last seen location, yes. He won't stick around if he's just killed somebody though, surely."

"I don't know. Act normal, avert suspicion. Or maybe he's superstitious, and likes to keep the same patch? Come on. Might as well check."

"Now?" She shot him an incredulous look. "It's gone two. He's not likely to be working again until the morning."

"Oh. Right." The idea that there were some people in the world who didn't work in the dead of night frequently seemed to pass him by. He shrugged, toying with an unlit cigarette. "I suppose we'd better find somewhere to stay then."

"Can I choose this time?" He seemed to have a knack for finding the sort of place where the rats were bullied by the cockroaches, and the creeping mould terrorised both. The sort of place that considered fresh air an optional extra. He scowled.

"Whatever. Listen, take the car, yeah? I'm going to take a gander at this bloke's stomping ground. You said you knew where it was?"

"Yes. But how will you know where we're staying if we split up?"

"Magic," he told her. "Or a mobile phone. One or the other. Don't worry, you can't lose me that easily."

"The chance would be a fine thing." She scribbled directions on the back of his cigarette packet, then he tossed her the car keys and climbed out. "Try not to get eaten by anything, or murdered too irretrievably."

"Very funny." He hunched his shoulders, the battered trench coat swinging in the faint breeze. "You look after yourself too. It's a weird place, this."

She raised her eyebrows at that. "You nearly sound like you care." He smiled – a faint thread of a smile that barely moved his lips. She saw it anyway, and briefly smiled back – then pulled the car door closed behind him and drove off. For a moment he remained reflected in the rear-view mirror, a garish, flickering street light shining in his dark blond hair. Then, in a blink, he had vanished.

**********

"Constantine! John? Wake up!" The hammering on the door was loud enough to wake the dead. Sprawled face down on the covers, still fully dressed, Constantine mumbled into the sheets. He had been dreaming. Not a particularly nice dream, certainly, but in his book, anything that didn't involve hell beasts, blood and mortal peril was near enough a good thing. He was just considering raising his head when the door burst open and Zed appeared, bearing newspapers and coffee. He had an idea that it was the former that he was supposed to be looking at, but he zoomed in on the latter instead, sitting up with tie askew and hair awry, blinking at his associate through eyes that looked as though they had been scrubbed with sandpaper.

"Look at the front page!" Zed told him, but he took a long drink of coffee instead, nodding vaguely.

"Don't suppose you thought to get some whisky as well, did you?" he asked. She fixed him with an impressively caustic glare, then stuffed the newspaper into his hands. He sighed, blinking yesterday's smoke and last night's jumble of nearly-nightmares out of his protesting eyes. More murders! Screamed the headline. Cult suspected! Police refuse to speculate!

"More murders?" This was a rather less ghoulish publication than the previous one, and although the headline itself was lurid enough, he had to read between the lines to get any real information. "Same as the last one?"

"Three last night alone. The police must have been mopping up for hours." She looked as though she wanted to shudder, but was holding it in for appearance's sakes. "No wonder I saw so much blood. Four people, all with their throats cut. What are they? Sacrifices? Is it some kind of cult, like the newspaper says? And why can't you at least try to look shocked occasionally?"

"Sorry." He drank some more coffee, before standing up to stretch. "Truth is I'm not surprised. Did a little spell last night. Didn't much like what I found. I was pretty sure there were going to be more murders then, but I admit I didn't expect three overnight." He scrubbed a hand though his hair, although if the intention was to tidy it up, it had the opposite effect. "But no, it's no cult. Just the one man. From what I saw last night, he's dabbling in some nasty stuff. Soul magic."

"That's nothing as pleasant as soul music, is it."

"Bit more lively, certainly. You take souls. Steal them, feed on them even. Draw their power into you. Often goes hand in hand with a ritualistic murder, although that bit's not really necessary. They tend to be the sort who enjoy it though."

"So our street magician's stealing these people's souls? Will four be enough?"

"Doubt it. They rarely stop once they've started. A soul burns up pretty fast. As a source of power or energy, it's not exactly efficient. Fine in its intended host, but suck it out, and it frazzles in a jiffy."

"The souls... burn up? But that means..."

"That whoever he nicks them from is gone for good. Yeah. No afterlife, no messages from the beyond, nothing. The real big sleep. It's a hell of a hit though, from what I hear. Far better than any powder you might want to smoke or inject."

"I think I'll stick to coffee." She hugged her styrofoam cup against herself, as though to ward off evil. "You're sure about this?"

"Yeah. I suppose he sounds out potential victims though the magic act. Good way of making contact maybe. He may even be using the power he gets to improve the act. Could probably get himself a nice little nest egg that way."

"I can think of nicer ways to get some savings."

"Well yeah. But then you're not a blood-thirsty psychopath with a dark magicks fetish." He finished his coffee. "Suppose we'd better track him down."

"How do we defeat him? I mean, if he has magic that can steal souls, he's not going to go easily, is he."

"Do they ever?"

"Some more than others." She finished her own coffee, looking small and rather pale. He straightened the collar of his coat, and began patting his pockets in search of a cigarette.

"You can stay behind if you like. I can probably handle this. Dealt with one before."

"Easily?" she asked, looking sceptical. He smiled around the butt of a new, as yet unlit cigarette.

"You kidding? Bloody nearly burned down Manchester airport. He was a tenacious sod. Finally cornered him with a dirty little hex, and then Chas shot him. .45 in the head at close range. You'll never get brains out of woollen socks." He scowled faintly at the memory. "Won't make that mistake again."

"Then we stay together," she told him. He nodded, and she got the impression that he was a little relieved. He might prefer to work alone, but he was not fool enough to avoid assistance when it was offered – at least, she didn't think so. Not nowadays. Not since that last time; the one that everybody kept alluding to, with the little girl who had been lost to a demon. Zed crumbled up her coffee cup, and threw it into the wastepaper basket.

"We're on then?" she asked. He nodded, lighting up as he strode from the room. Smoke coiled itself around his head, setting off a smoke detector as he strode down the corridor. She saw him toss a spent match at a no smoking sign, and sighed to herself; then, fighting misgivings, she hurried off in his wake.

"It'd be a hell of a party," said Constantine, and quirked a dark eyebrow. "Literally."

"Yeah, but... I don't know. Shouldn't he be more obvious? Shouldn't he look more evil? It'd help to level the playing field."

"He's got a pointed beard. And he's dressed in black. Practically an admission of guilt." They fell silent, watching as a sparse crowd began to gather. It was early yet, the sun still rising, shabby buildings on either side of the magician's chosen patch casting helpful shadows, in the daytime equivalent of the night-time lack of street lights. It was the perfect place to keep one's secrets safe from eager eyes. Zed gazed through a pair of binoculars, looking hopefully at the cards. If there was conventional trickery underway, she might be able to spot it. It might help. Somehow. Constantine put paid to that idea immediately.

"Forget it. He's running on animae most likely. You only see what he wants to be seen."

"All this for a few tricks at the roadside? It doesn't make sense."

"It doesn't have to. Every crook has their motive. He wouldn't be the first to do something unpleasant to improve his lot in life. Anyway, we don't really know what this is about. Man's a trickster. He's just playing his game with the cards he's already got."

"But—"

"Figure it this way. You're a street hustler. Games are your trade. Why snatch random victims off the street if you can get a game out of it?"

"Well it still sounds messed up to me." She lifted up the binoculars again, staring through them as the magician showed off his sleight of hand in a few simple tricks. "Wait a minute. Games? That's it, isn't it. How he chooses his victims."

"Yeah, I'd guess so. Win and he lets you live."

"Lose, and..." She remembered her dream again, and for a moment could once more smell the deluge of blood. "Can't we just shoot him?"

"I thought we were tired of being arrested? No, we can't. Too public."

"A spell? Something?"

"In front of all those punters? He might like a big audience, but I don't. Besides, I need to get the measure of him first. Some good it would do to start chucking magic about in the street when there's all these civilians who might easily get fried."

"But people are losing, John. Right now, people are losing. If that's what costs you your soul, then—"

"It might be that. It might be he just clocks the losers and marks them somehow. Trails them later. If we can get to him before he collects, it won't matter." He sighed, then clambered out of the car. "One good way to find out, isn't there."

"And then what?"

"When he comes for my soul, we'll nab him. Easy."

"About as easy as fighting a powerful magician always is when we don't know where he's coming from, or when, or how. Remember the newspapers! Nobody fought back. He must do something to them, and we don't know what."

"Maybe. We've got one secret weapon though, right?"

"What's that?" She had always thought him a little crazy. She was wondering now if she had underestimated how much.

"You. You're going to be my early warning system."

"Me? How exactly are visions of blood going to help us to work anything out?"

"They've got us this far. Don't underestimate yourself." He leaned in through the car window, flashing her one of the warmest smiles that she had ever seen him use. "You're good, Zed, and you're getting better all the time. Just do the best you can. Think about me. Think about him. Think about that queen of hearts you saw earlier, if you think it'll help. Just think. Focus. Close those pretty eyes and dream." He straightened up again. "I'll see you back at the hotel."

"John, don't rest all of this on my shoulders. Please."

"I trust you." He looked down at her, and through all the usual bravado, all the cocksure arrogance and who gives a fuck attitude to life, there was real honesty in his eyes. For a moment it startled her – then he flashed that cocky smile again, and the moment smashed. Offering a farewell nod, he walked away. Left behind in the car, she could only stare at his departing back, and wonder how she was ever going to do what he expected.

wrong."

"You know I have." There was that darkness in his voice again. That hint of things that she had heard about in passing, but that nobody had ever fully explained. She nodded.

"Yeah, but I mean... when it's your own life on the line. Properly on the line."

"I've never been murdered before, if that's what you're getting at." He toyed with a cigarette that had been in his hand for some half an hour – unlit out of respect for her, as far as she knew. Either that or he was trying to cut down, which she didn't think likely. "It's a good plan, Zed, for the two hundredth sodding time. You take some convincing."

"Your life is in my hands!"

"So enjoy it. There's plenty'd be glad to say the same. Most of them wouldn't find it anything to worry about."

"This is no time for jokes about your lousy people skills, you insufferable—" She drew in a breath. "I don't want to be the reason you die. I also don't want the last thing that I ever see to be your grisly death. Because he's hardly going to leave me alive, is he."

"You could hide under the bed."

"Oh, that's sure to work. Besides, it's a divan. A mouse couldn't hide underneath that."

"You getting anything yet?" It was a blatant subject change, and she glowered, before slowly shaking her head.

"No."

"You need to concentrate harder."

"Don't tell me how to do my job." He was right, and she knew it, but she was restless and edgy; worried, afraid, and half-convinced that this couldn't possibly work. She had no idea why he had such faith in her, but she badly wanted him to come to his senses. The night was going to end with him hanging by his feet above a pentagram painted in his own blood – and heaven alone knew what was going to happen to her. She would— The tirade of unhappy thoughts came to a sudden end when, beside her, Constantine held up a single, lighted match. He waved it from side to side, letting it burn perilously close to his fingers, before lighting another from its dying gasp. The flare of the second match burned a hot, startling green, a brief instant of playfully colourful light that illuminated all of the room – crumpled sheets, abandoned trench coat, litter and all. Another match, this time icy blue; another, in a lively, leaping magenta. She almost smiled, grateful for the mild distraction. And then, in the light of a fifth, scarlet flame, she saw a pack of cards on the floor. The pack had been cut, and the cards were in two piles, one face down and the other face up. The uppermost card was the queen of hearts. Her blood ran icy cold. He was here – he was already here in the room with them – the knife must already be poised to strike. It was several, blood-pounding moments before she realised that she was wrong. That Constantine must have put the cards there. He lit another match, and another, and in a brief window of warm, orange light, she saw his smile. A gentle, encouraging smile, like that of any good teacher. Her eyes drifted of their own accord back to the queen of hearts. The relief was enough to bolster her confidence a little, and with a shaky, steadying breath, she finally gave in. She had little enough choice anyway. Heart still thumping, head thumping alongside of it, the scent of blood rising up out of her memories to greet her, she let it all come. Unbidden, her eyes closed. A moment later all was madcap dreamery once more.

"He's coming," she said. "He'll open a window, and throw in a charm, or a – a sleeping curse. Yes, that's it. A sleeping curse."

"So we make it look like somebody's in bed. Might as well keep things looking ordinary." Constantine began shaping pillows and bedclothes. The result was serviceable, at least in the dark.

"Then he comes in. He has knives. Several knives. Big ones." Her head was filled with knives, straight and curved, smooth and serrated, long and even longer. "I don't think he has a gun. I don't think he feels there's any need."

"Full of himself then. That's good. Anything else?"

"Just that he's colder than anything has any right to be." She shivered again, deep inside the trench coat, and wished that she was in bed. Wrapped up safe and warm beneath a duvet, somewhere that was anywhere but here. "And he's close. Really close."

"No more talking then." He pulled her quietly away from the door, to the opposite side of the room, where they wouldn't be visible from the window. "When you hear the window open, you'll see the sleep spell. I can't counteract it without alerting him, so don't breathe until the lights go out. And if you smell anything weird after that... just try not to do much breathing at all, okay?"

"What could possibly go wrong?" she muttered to herself, restless, bitter and irritable. He smiled – and at that moment, a shadow fell across the window. Constantine's smile vanished, and his eyes turned as black as the watching night. Slowly, very slowly, the window inched open, and something bright and purple drifted in. It glittered quite beautifully – a tiny firework illuminating the slumped form of the nobody in Constantine's bed. In that sudden moment of light, it looked horribly unconvincing to Zed. She expected their quarry to catch on – expected him to flee, or to burst in and challenge them. He didn't. Instead, as the purple lights went out, he pushed the window up further, and quietly clambered through.

"I'll tear your head off and feast on your soul." The other man came towards him, muttering a deluge of words, his hands raised to cast his new spell. Constantine, several feet away, launched himself immediately in a deadly tackle, bearing them both to the ground. They collided with the bedside table, rolling over in a crunching, splintering mass of wood – new, makeshift weapons for which they both reached. The hustler was faster – spurred on by panic perhaps – but Constantine, it seemed, was finally stronger. Zed heard more splintering sounds, and a choked-off, desperate cry. After that there was nothing but heavy breathing. Slowly and painfully, Constantine rolled off his opponent, and flopped onto the floor.

"John?" Fear rose within her. Had the other man bested him? Was Constantine finished? He raised his head, groggy and stiff.

"We should get out of here. Somebody must have heard something."

"Are you okay? Can you move?"

"I'll bloody well have to, won't I!" He rose up uncertainly, and she hurried for the light switch, eager to see how he was. He flinched away from the light, throwing up an arm to protect his eyes, and she saw that his shirt was streaked with blood. Nearby lay the hustler, a long, splintered piece of broken bedside table skewering his neck.

"His blood or yours?" she asked, nodding at his shirt. He shook his head.

"Who cares? What name did you use when you registered here?"

"An alias, obviously. What am I, an idiot?"

"Just checking. You see any blood anywhere?"

"His, yes. Everywhere! I don't know, it's not like I can tell whose is whose." Somewhere a police siren wailed, and she didn't need to be told to extinguish the light. Darkness greeted them again. Constantine grabbed her shoulders, hastening her towards the window.

"There anything in your room?"

"I travel light, you know that."

"Good. In that case, time to fly." Briefly he hugged her; a sharp, swift hug, born, she suspected, of jubilance and perhaps also relief – then he was stuffing her through the window, and they were both running away, back to the waiting car. He let her drive, leaning back in his seat looking thoroughly exhausted. There was more blood on his shirt now than before, and she could see that he was holding one arm awkwardly. She slowed, but he waved her on.

"It's nothing. It can wait."

"You look awful."

"Yeah." He smiled, eyes half-closed, head rested on the seat. "But you should see the other guy."

"I did. You think the police will figure out who he is?"

"He's there with the murder weapons. Shouldn't take much. Simple self-defence really, but who wants to get caught up in all that bollocks." He closed his eyes, his smile rather more haggard now, but still triumphant. "Come on, let's find a bar. I fancy a drink."

"You're bleeding, John. We should find you a doctor."

"Choose the right bar and you might get both." The smile flared up – a bright, self-satisfied look that directed itself straight towards her. "I've earned myself a pint or two tonight."

"You've earned yourself a place in a mental ward," she told him, vaguely aware that this was something of a sore point. He laughed, the sound showing his pain, but also real amusement.

"Yeah. Beer first though, okay?" His eyes flicked open when she stole a look across at him, and she saw the colour in them, a hint of amusement beneath the obvious pain. She supposed that he could not be hurt too badly. All the same...

"Beer," he reiterated firmly, and closed his eyes again, turning his head to smile out into the night. "Beer first and stuff the rest." Despite herself, she couldn't help but smile at that. Whatever the discomfort, he still had his priorities. He was clearly not at death's door. For the first time since that vision of raining blood, she knew that everything was going to be okay.

 

The End