Set post-Hard Goodbye. Rated T for minor suggestive adult themes.


God knows she's scared.

It's been a long time since she's been this scared of a man. After all, what are men, really, but big dumb animals? If you stay in Old Town long enough, you learn how to tame them, how to keep them happy. You learn to watch for the warning signs, until you can walk amongst the herd without flinching, ready with a quick reprimand and a clip on the ear (or perhaps something a little harder, a little more painful, something that will keep them in their place) if they look like they might try to take a bite out of you. There are nips and scrapes, but it only serves to teach you: keep better watch next time.

She's learned how to watch, what to look out for. She's had to learn. Dealing with them has become second nature to her. She's used to the constant circling, the hungry eyes and snatching claws. She knows how to deal with them. She's had to learn.

None of the lessons quite prepared her for this.

For him.

She's met - and serviced - a lot of men in her time. They're all like nothing to her now, they pass through her life that quickly. Faces and bodies, and sometimes voices, which come and go, shifting like a continuous tide of testosterone around her. She's accustomed to them. She knows all the types, all the sort of Johns she could ever expect to meet.

She'd never expected to meet the likes of him.

At least, not in Old Town. The city is a dangerous place, a sink hole which can easily swallow you wherever you step, however cautiously you try to tread. Nowhere is really safe. And yet, even Old Town has its standards. Its walls and gates are something of a buffer between the girls and the countless beasts who would like nothing more than to rip into the tender young feminine flesh, to let feast their sadistic fetishes and blood-fuelled appetites. Old Town takes measures to keep such predators out. It is still possibly safer to be a woman in Old Town, than it is anywhere else in the city.

But then, he hadn't exactly frequented Old Town. He'd even said outright that he could never convince a woman to be with him, even for money. Not with a face like his.

She's afraid of him.

She wasn't afraid when she knocked him round that backstreet parking lot. She thought that shooting at him from a moving car would've been like hitting the broad side of a barn, given his size. Looks were deceptive. He could've relied on his bulk, on the force of those sledgehammer fists of his, to carry him through life's endless series of skirmishes. But however simple he seemed, he had been too smart for that. His instinct and experience had helped him twist out of the way of each bullet. The city has taught him, too. He's had to learn, and he'd probably had to learn faster than she had, else he wouldn't still be alive. Unlike her, he doesn't really have any redeeming features. He certainly doesn't have his looks.

She's amazed that he's still alive. No one should've been able to kill Roark and live. Yet he did. But for how much longer…

That's why she's here.

Because she knows she owes him. On behalf of her sister, and on behalf of herself, she owes him. Goldie already paid. Now it's her turn.

She wasn't afraid of him before; not really. When she whipped him with his own pistol, he hadn't been a threat, just an obstacle. An object that needed to be destroyed, like a rabid dog that had sunk its teeth into human flesh and needed to be shot. He's been shot up several times now – she herself put a dint in his chest and took a chip out of that thick skull of his. Not that it had done much. Not even seven rounds at point blank range, from Roark's hired guards, hadn't been able to kill him. He seems so stubbornly, indestructibly alive, that it's almost hard to imagine anything really being enough to kill him.

She hasn't been this scared in a long time.

The sound of her heels clicking on concrete sounds like the fragile clack of her fraught nerves, clattering over one another like beads on a broken string. It's like an amplification of her heartbeat, but far too slow. Too resolute.

Her feet keep carrying her forward. The fear grows with each step. It's not the kind of fear that could stop her, could make her freeze up and crumple, incapable of moving. This fear isn't that kind, that considerate of her. It won't let her think of preserving herself. All her deftly-honed instincts tell her that she should turn and walk right back out the way she came. They tell her that she's walking straight into the lair of a caged animal.

But the fear won't let her turn around.

The fear is a resolute thing living in the pit of her stomach, dragging her legs forward one step at a time. Fear can be a form of inertia; it can paralyse or propel. An object at rest wants to stay at rest; an object in motion wants to remain in motion. It's simple physics. She's smart enough to know that the fear is leading her on.

But she's also smart enough to know that the fear is right.

His cell is only three blocks away now. There's no turning back now. He'll have heard her coming. She's close enough to hear a low sound, betraying the presence of a hidden predator. A barely audible sound seemingly too soft for a creature of his stature to make; a mere intake of breath. She can't help but think that it's his way of picking up her scent.

She feels more hunted than ever.

She knows him now. Before he was just another man to her, a petty thug with balls bigger than his own head, a rampaging bull in a menagerie of stupid animals. Before, he had been no different from the rest. Now she knows better. And knowing him as she does now – knowing his capabilities, his wants, that hungriness she has seen in those sunken eyes of his – it makes her more scared than she would've been just judging him on his looks. And those looks are intimidating enough. She wonders if he can hear her heart pounding.

They've kept him in a lonely cell, a mile away from the other inmates. At least, it feels like she's walked a mile. His cell door isn't locked; they've already ushered her through more locked gates than they probably have in all of Fort Knox. He's got no hope of escaping. The fact that even she can easily pull open the door of welded bars tells her that much.

He's a dog that's set to be destroyed. But that doesn't make her any less afraid of his bite. A desperate dog might well devour any prey it stumbles upon.

She feels like prey.

But the fear – the inertia, that resolute terror – makes her step across the threshold. It's dim, and she can't see much of him, though there's plenty of him in there. She can feel his bulk towering over her, not three feet away. The confines of the cell don't allow her to keep much further away from him.

She stops at this distance. Old habits kick in. Habit has trained her to be wary. She can't see his face, but she can practically hear him looking at her. She wonders she didn't hear his rasping, laboured breath the whole time she's been coming towards him, it sounds so loud now. There's no other sound to compete with it, save the beating of her heart.

"I got him for you good, didn't I, Goldie?"

His voice is rough; it grates on the air, like knuckles scraping against scattered teeth. He sounds smug, proud of himself; like a child who thinks he has done well at his lessons, seeking praise from his teacher. Like a child standing awkwardly in class, she hears him laugh self-consciously when she doesn't respond. Then he says, apologetically:

"I'm sorry, Wendy."

It's a plaintive sound. Different to the way he said it last time, in that dingy hotel room. That time, she had been ready and waiting for him to lumber over from the couch. Had been waiting for the probing fingers, each as thick as lead pipes, groping for her in the gloom. She'd been ready with the slap. Ready to struggle as best she could to hold off whatever might have followed it. What she hadn't been ready for, not then and not now, were those two little words.

I'm sorry. Those are words she doesn't hear too often. Now she's heard them twice from him. He sounds like he means it.

He says it so simply. So pleadingly.

As though he's afraid of her.

"I'm sorry, Wendy. I got confused again, seeing you like this."

Her eyes are getting accustomed to the dark. She can see him now, though still only vaguely. She can see him as a rough silhouette, jutting out from a brick wall like a stone gargoyle on the side of a church. He's wearing prison clothes, which make him look cleaner and tidier, more tamed, than she's ever seen him look. He shifts uncomfortably on the spot, as though he's not sure what to do with himself. The inaction of being caged in a small space has made him restless, perhaps.

Or perhaps, he is afraid to move towards her.

As she watches he backs away from her, eyes wary. It's like looking at the head of a tortoise within its shell; he seems to be peering out from within his own massive body, as though the mountain of muscle and sinew and bone were his protective armour. His eyes betray the vulnerability within. They're pleading to her.

They're pleading her not to hurt him.

The fear tightens its grip on her guts. The inertia drags her forward, one step at a time, until she can practically feel the body heat emanating from him.

She doesn't have to do this. She could have done what Nancy said he wanted her to do, walked away without a backward glance and left him to the chair without a second thought. If she has manipulated him into killing Rourke, she has done nothing more than Goldie had already done. He could have just as easily walked away when he woke and found her corpse beside him. When he didn't, well, he brought all that followed on himself. He got involved on his own. It's not like she asked him to do all this, not at first. It really had nothing to do with her, from start to finish. It was her sister he avenged, not her. Everything he has done has been for Goldie. He didn't owe her anything, and she so shouldn't owe him anything either.

She shouldn't. But she knows she does. That's why she's here.

She doesn't really have to do this. But, on another level, she does. It's this paradox of should/shouldn't that has her so afraid.

It's not business any more. Before he was her mercenary, wielding the sword of vengeance, which she herself hadn't strong enough to hold. But now, there's no more vengeance, no more rage; only grief for the dead. The vendetta is over. Now the vigil has begun.

With her own hands, she drags the straps of her dress down off her shoulders. She goes in closer to him, step by step, until she fancies she can see her own fear mirrored in his eyes.

"It's alright, Marv," she says.

She puts as much strength into her voice as she can. Strength for both of them. God knows they both need all the strength they can muster between them. This is far scarier than when it was the two of them back of the farm, facing that cannibal bastard. This is possibly the scariest thing either of them has ever done.

"You can call me Goldie."

She closes any distance left between them, what little is left of it. She lets him take her in his arms. Once she gives her unspoken permission, only then does he let his hands touch her, with a gentleness she never would've imagined he could possess, even as she presses her bare flesh against him as hard as she can. He's so incredibly tough, she's not sure if the feeling will get through to him at all, what with that thick, insensitive hide of his, which seems to even go some way towards deflecting bullets. She wants him to be able to feel her, even if she has to ram herself against him.

He's as good a lover, possibly better, than any man who's ever had her. And there have been many.

She feels his hands ghosting on her back, so fleetingly, so softly that they seem barely there at all. Each flutter of contact causes a shock to go through her, more powerful than if he had hit her full-force. She's been steeling herself for this for weeks now, and yet, everything is so different from what she expected…

His lips graze against her breast. She can feel the drag as a rough edge – a scar from a split lip which has reopened and healed over again countless times before – whispering against her nipple. He doesn't dare taste her any more than that, though she knows he desperately wants to. She can feel every ounce of the strength in his arms, holding himself back.

It's the fear that restrains him. She can practically smell it on him. He doesn't need to say, she knows why it's there.

He's afraid that if he tastes any more of her, he'll bite her in half.

She reaches up and wraps her arms around his neck. She drags him down towards her, pulling him down to her level. It's as though the strain of everything he's been through finally causes him to crumple, though the force she's using is nothing compared to the slam of the pistol butt or the barrage of bullets that he's managed to weather. She knows he is letting her disarm him. She knows her trust is mutual. When he ends up lying prostrate on the floor of the cell, she follows him down, lowers herself on top of him.

The only forces that can overcome inertia are gravity and friction.

Something peaks, then plummets somewhere deep inside her.

It's the fear. As it twists again, deep in the pit of her gut, she knows that her worst fear has been realized.

She knew - knows - that he will die. And even though she had gotten used to this fact, she still feared that he wasn't half as bad as he seemed. She was afraid of this – afraid that she would actually come to like him. To trust him. She was afraid of just how sorry she'll be when he's dead.

If she'd just stayed away, she might've spared herself.

She's afraid of the pain to come – she'll be keenly, inconsolably remorseful when he's finally gone, when they've finally succeeded in destroying him. She's afraid of that pain, which wavers steadily malignantly on horizon, coming ever closer, becoming more and more inevitable. The loss will hurt her almost as much as Goldie's did. After all, he did so much for Goldie. And for her.

Yet, as his heavy fingers glide over her as light as a scattering of shadow left in the moonlight's wake, she thinks that at least she has this. At least this feeling, the memory of this, might go some way towards numbing the pain.

Goldie must have felt like this, during her one brief encounter with him. Perhaps it had gone some way towards preparing her for her own death.

Wendy is prepared for death. For his death. What she's not prepared for is the small death her soul will undergo, when he his life is finally snuffed out.

She's so afraid.

And yet, with every touch of his sandpaper skin, with every searing breath he breathes against her cheek, with every drop of sweat she sheds as she devotes herself to pleasuring him, she feels a little braver.

For tonight at least, they don't have to face their fears alone.