He - wakes up is wrong since it implies that he was sleeping; comes to is closer – sprawled on the sofa with a stiff neck and bursting bladder. Debris from his three day drunk litters the coffee table and creates a treacherous obstacle course on the floor. He squints against the unforgiving morning light, measures the last few fingers of Scotch in the nearest bottle by eye, then pushes it away with a sigh. Not now. Today is the day.
In the bathroom, he peels off the rank t-shirt and sweatpants and stuffs them into the hamper. His scar is livid and pulses with nauseating pain as he pisses. Two Tylenol, and if he had anything stronger to hand, no power in the 'verse could stop him from taking advantage. He turns the shower on, hot enough to scald, and scrubs the acrid alcoholic residue from his pores.
Afterwards he shaves carefully, methodically, wondering when the face looking back at him became that of an old man. The crow's feet, the dulled blue eyes, the sunken cheeks, liver spots starting to sprout – had they advanced imperceptibly, step by insidious step, or arrived and encamped victoriously more or less overnight?
The clothes are ready for him, set aside in his last moments of sobriety – the only decent suit that still fits, a relatively new gray silk shirt. His fingers shake only a little as they fasten on his armor. He can barely remember how to arrange the cranberry tie. Not the most tasteful option for a funeral, perhaps, but he considers it the most appropriate, and protocol be damned.
The doorbell shrills as he sinks onto the bed, socks in hand. He hesitates, calculates. Curiosity gets the better of him, as usual, so he reaches for his cane and limps down the long hallway, cursing.
She's older than he remembers her, of course she is, more rounded at breast and belly and hip, the first furrows in her forehead and at the sides of her serious mouth. Strands of silver are starting to appear in her auburn hair. But her eyes are the same, alight with a fierce compassion, and unshadowed by the pity she knows he'd hate.
She doesn't say, How are you holding up? or I know how much he meant to you or He's in a better place now. She knows better than to bother with banalities, much less comforting fictions. At least he's taught her that much.
What she says is, "I came as soon as I heard."
The mild reproof, left unspoken, reminds him so strongly of Wilson that for a moment he fears that he is going to retch right in front of her. When he recovers, he rasps, "I called Stacy," and watches her face while the shaft hits home.
"I know," she says, no heat in her voice despite the telltale flush that stains her cheeks. "We're staying at the same hotel." She tilts her head, regarding him. "I looked for you at the loft first."
His gaze shifts sideways despite himself. "Couldn't sleep there," he mumbles. She of all people will understand what he means. How Wilson could have stayed in Amber's apartment, after, is something he has never understood. But then there were so many things he never understood about Wilson, and now it is too late.
She touches his sleeve, tentatively, seeking comfort or giving it, he isn't sure which. When he looks back, her eyes are brimming with empathy. "You haven't been able to sleep here, either."
Now she brushes her fingertips softly against his face, and he is surprised to see that they're wet when they come away. "You've been drinking your meals for days. You need food and rest. And… this." She steps forward, rising on tiptoe, and against his will, he finds himself lowering his lips to hers, rough hands tangling in her hair. His cane clatters to the floor.
He's dizzy when she draws away from him just far enough to murmur, "Invite me in."
"If you think I'm dying, you've been misinformed," he growls, but even as he twists the knife, it turns in his hand. He's been dealt a mortal blow and knows it.
"We're all dying," she says, and slips in under his arm, and shuts the door behind her.
"I'm already dressed," he points out. "Got places to go."
"I didn't think you did funerals."
"In this case…" he finds that he can't continue. In this case, he'll make an exception. He always did, for Wilson.
She nods and extricates him, considerate as ever. "You look very handsome." She encircles his wrist with her small, strong hand, fingers reaching only halfway round despite the weight he's lost. "But the service isn't for hours."
He lets her lead him to the bedroom, bracing himself against the wall with his free hand, swallowing hard against the searing pain that shoots through his thigh with every other step. She lets go of him long enough to shrug out of her heavy coat, to unbutton her blouse and step out of her skirt. He fumbles behind her, finally succeeds in freeing her breasts even as she finishes unbuckling his belt and unzips his fly. They are heavy in his hands, generous and pliant, her nipples crinkling in the cool air.
"The tie," he groans, and she unknots it with deft fingers and drapes it over her arm, then unbuttons his shirt and glides a hand over the cage of bone that encloses his hammering heart.
Undressed at last, they lie down together; he almost cries with relief when he can take the pressure off of his leg. She kisses him again, hooking a smooth, still-slim calf over his hip, and pulls him close.
He doesn't want to think about how many years have passed since he's been with a woman – Lisa was the last – and in the meantime, his aging body seems to have lost the knack. Even as he half-hardens against her, light-headed with the slightly spicy scent of her flesh, he knows that this is a no-go. Her eyes miss nothing; she slides her hand from his shoulder to the small of his back, a gentling motion, a wordless absolution.
He rolls away with an apologetic grimace, but she follows his movement, wrapping her arms around his waist, and fits her cheek between his scapulas, against the bony curve of his spine. His heartbeat slows; the reflexive erection subsides. A wave of heaviness washes over him, his eyes closing despite himself.
"Sleep," she whispers, breath warm against his back, and he does.