Author: Paladin Steelbreaker

Title:  Soaking A Wounded Heart In Alcohol

Copyright: December 2003

Rating:       PG

Spoilers:     Only for "Cries from the Heart" and "Searching For A Heart Of Gold". 

Keywords:     Nigel

Summary:      Nigel has hit the bottom, after the latest Relic Hunt. The pain of it all is too much, and he crawls into the bottle, while thinking of his situation.    

Legalese: All characters except those noted below with their respective rights, properties and copyrights are the property of their respective creators, authors, owners, producers and agencies. These characters are used without permission. No copyright infringement is intended or meant, and no money will be made from this story. This story may be copied in its entirety, and may be distributed as long as all copyright information remains.

Author's Note: I want to warn all readers. I am taking Nigel far out of character here. He really

Doesn't strike me as a person that would try to drink his sorrows away. But my

muse wanted it this way. So sue her not me.  

Author's Note: I want to thank my trusted Beta reader Red Dragons Order. Without her, this story

would not been anywhere near as good as it is. If there still are faults, they are  all mine. 

Dedications: I would like to dedicate this story, how ever amateurish, to all those fanfic writers out there who has fed my imagination over the past six or seven years.

Especially I will mention Tim Knight – May he rest in peace

If you want to comment on my story.(please, please, PLEASE!!) Compliments, or fire spitting criticism, you are welcome to mail me At this address: pal-o-lo@online.no

And now finally on with the story:

Soaking A Wounded Heart In Alcohol

Walking into the bar he noticed that it was almost empty. A few half old buggers were sitting around and in the furthest corner; a leather-clad woman was sitting, sipping on a bottle of light beer. He walked up to the disk and ordered a double whiskey on the rocks.

As he swallowed it, the alcohol stung on his bruised lips, unnecessarily reminding him of his own state. He was so tired! He rested his bandaged hand on the counter and asked for a refill. Yes, he was tired, both physically and mentally. On a physical level, he was tired from jetlag, and the pain in his hand and basically his entire body.

The doctors said he was lucky he would regain full mobility in his hand. Bloody hell, he was lucky to be alive. He just didn't feel like it. For years now he had been walking the line between life and sudden death. And he was tired of it.

Sure he had experienced lots of fantastic things. He had been able to be inn on several mind-blowing archaeological discoveries, which he wouldn't have if he hadn't signed up for the TA job at Trinity College. But whenever they were out on a hunt, he always felt like more of a burden than help.

And the way she always took charge and looked upon him like a rookie or something irked him to no end. He knew that she didn't do it on purpose. No, she was far too kind a person for that. It just was the way it had to be. To be honest, he never had understood why she always insisted on having him with her on these relic hunts.

It probably would have been easier for her to travel alone. Then she wouldn't have to look after him all the time. He always felt like such a klutz compared to her. She seemed always to have a grasp of the situation. She never panicked, she never misjudged the situation, and she always found a way out of a tight spot. She never seemed to be tired, or in doubt, and no matter what they experienced she never seemed to have trouble dealing with it afterwards.

The woman was bloody perfect! Well, not entirely. She had a tendency to demand from others the same as she did from herself, forgetting that they didn't have the same levels of skills. And she may act like nothing ever faced her, but in the last year or so he had started wondering.

The image she sported, it was just too perfect. It was like an armour, designed to hide her true self. And he felt kind of hurt that she felt she had to play a role in front of him. He increasingly often wondered what the true Sydney Fox was like. Was there perhaps a more human side to her?

He knocked back the last of the whiskey and asked for a refill again. But then again, she didn't do anything he didn't already do. All his life he had hid behind the books, while deep inside he had always yearned for adventure. He just never could work up the guts for it, he thought with a self-disgusted snort.

Being with her on her hunts had been his personal portal to Narnia, to the world of adventure. Oh, he had complained, and made a complete fool out of himself on more than one occasion. But the fact was, he had enjoyed it, or would have if he didn't feel so inferior. Academically his knowledge was on par with hers. In some areas he even surpassed her, but in everything else he jus felt embarrassingly out of league.

He noticed that he was thinking in circles.  It always came back to that, to his lack of confidence, and physical fitness. And it didn't exactly get better with him always feeling all thumbs whenever in the vicinity of Sydney. He knew that she saw him as a friend, as well as her teaching assistant. But the problem was that from the first day he met her he had been struggling with other feelings towards her, feelings that had no place in a working relationship.

He just hoped he would be capable of concealing it. She would be everything but pleased if she found out. Found out that her teaching assistant was having a constant hard on for his employer. O sod of, he thought to himself. It wasn't just the physical. That he could deal with. He prided himself in being a civilized person.

No, lets be honest with ourselves. The simple, and at the same time terribly complex, fact was that he loved her. He loved her smile. He loved her unstoppable optimism, her ability to never give up, no matter how dark a situation they were in. He loved her kindness, and the way she sometimes blushed in genuine embarrassment when she got standing ovations for her work. He loved the fact that the fame hadn't gone to her head. And unlike most relic hunters it seemed, she didn't do it for the money.

Every piece she found went to museums, or the rightful owners. She lived to unearth the past, so that the future would be richer. He loved her ability to challenge him intellectually, and her steadfast loyalty for those she considered friends. The fact that she had a body that could make even a eunuch crazy with lust, was just a small part of what made him love her for certain.

And it hurt like a bitch. Double so, because he knew that even if the school board hadn't initiated that rule about none fraternization between employees, he would never have had the courage to do something about it. What would be the point? He would just crash and burn anyway.  He knew he didn't stand a chance at getting her interested in him.

Why should she? He was just a scrawny bookworm. No woman would look twice at him. Well except for that crazy accountant. But that didn't count. She was probably a Nymphomaniac that jumped on any male. No he was well aware of it, had been for his entire adult life, that women didn't fancy him, they found him boring and unattractive. Or worse they looked upon him like he was a little boy. So why should Sydney be an exception?

It seemed like every other month another ex-lover of hers came crawling out of the woodwork, and each one were more muscle bound, dashing and daring than the previous. And of course they were all complete bastards. She seemed to have a real knack for finding the biggest assholes on the face of this planet, and it was driving him crazy.

Why didn't she see them for the bastards they were? Why didn't she see him! Argh! It was enough to make him see red! "Hit me again," he said to the bartender, after emptying the glass again. The world was starting to get increasingly fuzzy, and he welcomed it wholeheartedly. Because then it wouldn't hurt so much when he thought about their last relic hunt.

They had gone to Norway in the search for the crown of Harald Hårfagre. Through the whole hunt there seemed to be something on Sydney's mind. She was short fused and irritable, and she seemed uncomfortable when ever they were close. He feared she had found out how he felt about her, even though she never said anything in that direction.

But the fact was that she was snippy, and bad tempered the whole time, she seemed less focused on their work than she usually was, resulting in her finally stepping on a stone she shouldn't. He really thought they would meet their maker this time, when on the way back from the secret chamber deep under Nidarosdomen, the ceiling of the passage had collapsed. He had pushed Sydney out of the way, and taken the brunt of the cave-inn himself.

He woke up in hospital, with a bandaged hand and a bloody headache. He had told Sydney that he couldn't do this anymore. That she would have to take someone else with her on her hunts from now on, because he couldn't take it anymore.

She had seemed genuinely distressed then, and she even argued a little against it, before she accepted it with the final words that it wouldn't be half as fun without someone to share it with. For a moment he thought he saw pain in her eyes, but then her mental armour was back, and she had sauntered out, with a parting order for him to get well.

He hadn't seen her since then, and that was five days ago now. He had decided to quit at the school, and had even written his letter of resignation. But for some reason, he hadn't gotten himself to send it. And as he knocked back another drink, he knew he would never do it.

He let out a half choked sob. The simple reason being, then he would have no excuse for being in the closeness of Sydney. And as pathetic as it was, to him it would still be better to be around her and not being able to express his feelings towards her, than to not being around her, and still not being able to express those feelings to her. 

Through a blurry fog he reached for his glass and emptied it again, then he looked up at the barkeeper that was just a shadowy figure now. "Hit me again," he said. Attempting for that final shot of whiskey that would grant him the bliss of unconsciousness.

The End – for now.