Title: Whiskey
Author: AXZ
Rating: FRT+ (Not suitable for anyone under 14)
Fandom: The Invisible Man
Pairing: None
Sequel: filler, between "Deliver us..." and "From evil."
Summary: An annual celebration.
Spoilers: Probably, does it really matter after all these years?
Disclaimer: a) The characters and basic story ideas of The Invisible Man are the property of others including, but not limited to Matt Greenberg, Studios USA, Stu Segall Productions and NBC Universal. Any additional characters or story ideas are mine. I make no money from this intellectual exercise. b) This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any opinions or views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the author and are used for story-telling purposes only.
Many thanks to my ever-brave beta -- Suz.

Whiskey

The stars were out. Tiny points of light imbedded in the velvet blue canvas that spread from horizon to horizon above them. At least where they weren't washed out by the orange glow of the sodium arc lamps lining the many streets of the city. Still, the twinkling pinpricks of distant realms provided a sweeping backdrop for the pair seated casually on the rooftop. Between them stood a round table on which were a pair of glass tumblers, a bottle half filled with a dark amber liquid, and a laptop, closed and turned off, business done for the day.

An air of anticipation, somber and sad, settled about them like a shroud, something heavy that must be bourn upon shoulders uncertain of their ability to withstand the weight. She moved first, lifting the bottle and tipping it, the dark liquid flowing into one glass and then the other, before being set back in place. A single finger was used to slide the glass within easy reach of the occupant in the other chair.

"Time to get on with the... celebratin'," she stated, picking up the glass and taking a sip from it. There had been a time, not so long ago, she would have downed the contents in one long breathless swallow, praying for the effects to come upon her swiftly. To numb pain that could not be eased. To soften memories that could not be forgotten.

Times... she had changed, though for better or worse she'd yet to ascertain. The web she found herself entangled within allowed her little freedom to move, much less a viable avenue for escape. So she waited, bided her time, in hopes the strands would part of their own volition and leave the path clear.

Yes, she knew it was futile hope, but it was the only one she had.

He chuckled softly and reached for his glass, swirling the contents about instead of partaking. "What? No gun?" he asked, humor lighting his features and almost -- almost -- touching his eyes.

"Can fix that." She slipped the gun from its holster, made sure the safety was on and set it on the table. "Do ye want to take a turn doin' the pointin'?"

He set his hand atop it, the metal warm from being pressed up against her body; she rarely went anywhere without it these days. He twirled his hand and released the gun to spin about on the table top, like a macabre version of spin the bottle, though kissing was not likely to be the result should the gun actually come to rest with the barrel pointing at one of them. He watched the gun as she watched him, his eyes hooded, a frown causing his brow to furrow. The sound of metal rotating on the rough surface slowed and then stopped, the barrel aiming off into the distance.

"Not tonight," he finally said, then tossed back a fair portion of the drink. She caught a glimpse of the tattoo, noting the newest addition of red. Another segment had turned, days sooner than expected if her memory hadn't failed her. That explained his mood. "I was wondering something."

She stared out over the rooftops without really seeing anything and shifted a bit deeper into the embrace of the cushions. She didn't speak, not even a grunt of acknowledgement to encourage him to share his thoughts with her. But she wanted to. Wanted to encourage his interest in her, wanted him to ask those hard-to-answer questions, wanted him to understand, to know her in ways few others had, but instead she kept her silence. Restrained by his rules on how this relationship -- the personal one and not the business one -- would be handled. So she kept her distance; emotionally, anyway, refusing to allow him to see exactly how far into her heart he had buried himself, regardless of how much it hurt.

For hurt it did, and not just her. She'd seen the pain, anger, and dismay on full display when she'd said or done just the right thing to make him want to turn away.

Yet he stayed. He continued to return to her, and to her bed, of his own free will time and time again. And it baffled her.

They worked so bleedin' well together that it had become more and more difficult to push him away even that tiny distance she knew she must. Life had taught both of them many hard lessons, and since they had no choice but to deal the hand they were dealt, they did the best they could and survived one day at a time.

They could do nothing else. Only today mattered. One might never be around to see tomorrow. So they lived in the now.

Even if one could barely call it living.

"You usually celebrate alone, so why'd you invite me in last year?"

The question actually startled her. "What brought this on?"

He looked into the depths of the glass, a thin film of alcohol lining the bottom, as if using it as a divining tool. Whiskey ripples instead of tea leaves. "It's just so out of character for you. Fluthered or not." The last was said with a smile crossing his features, exchanging the furrows for fine lines about his eyes that signaled real pleasure. A rare sight these days.

She set her glass down, uncertain if she would be able to answer. "I'm still wonderin' that meself," she finally conceded. "I should've shot ye."

"And risk losing a potential paying client? Not a chance in hell."

She snorted, not about to argue with that, as it was quite true. "Why do ye think I did it?" she asked in curiosity.

He eyed her speculatively. "For the same reasons I'm here tonight. My quick wit and boyish charm."

That caused laughter to spill from her unbidden.

"No?" he queried, his eyes lighting up with humor. "C'mon, tell the truth, you were smitten the moment you laid eyes on me."

Her response was to pour more of the whiskey into his glass and then drink most of her own. "T'ain't nearly gee-eyed enough for this conversation," she admitted.

"Steve says this is first time, that he knows of, that you weren't shit-faced by noon."

"So?" Damn it. She was gonna rip dear old Stevie a new one should she and tomorrow meet.

"Not gonna give me even an inch, are you?" he sounded hurt, which didn't surprise her, given her typical lack of response.

"An inch?" she said snidely, "I've given ye a fecking lot more'n that."

"Shit. Only you could out-bitch Monroe," he growled and tossed back a mouthful of whiskey.

She forced herself to not smile, remembering a time when he couldn't handle much more than a tiny sip without gasping. "We all 'ave our fine points, boyo."

"Well, this ain't one of yours," he groused, turning away from her to stare out across the darkened city.

"What is it ye want from me?" A dangerous question and one that she knew could cost her dearly.

"Want? What I want?" He turned to her, his gaze unaccountably intense, even angry, but clearly giving the question frighteningly serious consideration. "You've heard of W.H. Auden, right?"

Fallon frowned. "I've 'ad me education, Fawkes. Yes, I've 'eard'a Auden. American poet. Brilliant. Like you. What of it?"

"I came across a quote once. I didn't know why it stuck with me… until now." He turned away again, staring out at the city lights sparkling in every direction. "I want what every red-blooded American male wants: to be blown by a stranger while I'm reading a newspaper and to be fucked by a buddy when I'm drunk."

The sarcasm in his voice didn't prevent her from answering, and honestly at that, "An' with me, ye get both."

His shoulders drooped, one hand moving up towards his face as he began to shake. The low rumble of laughter lacked any evidence of mirth. "I walked right into that one."

"Aye, ye did," she agreed, and for an instant, she wished she could help him, could hold him, comfort him, take all his pain and anguish away. On today, of all days, the day when her heart ached so badly she inevitably turned to the succor of a bottle in a vain attempt to wash away the past with the astringent properties of the alcohol, she actually wanted to take his pain away.

And that frightened her most of all.

She raised the bottle. "Care to join me in a few shorts?"

He turned to face her, watching her with an intensity that, from anyone else, would have had her going for her weapon without a second thought. "Are you planning on getting me drunk and using me for your personal pleasure?"

"Only if ye be very jammy." It had become a ritual now, an unexpected one at that. But he didn't move, still watching her with a look that demanded a response. "I was tired of going through it alone and ye... ye were there. When everyone else 'ad left, leaving me to my misery, ye were there, givin' me a choice: chase ye away, or take a chance."

He nodded slowly, his understanding obvious. "Was it worth it?"

She reached out and set the gun to spinning again. And, once again, it came to a stop pointing at neither of them. "Ye tell me."

finis