Variation for Rifle and Car Keys


Set after ‘The Price’

The sharp rap at the door startled him. He wasn’t expecting anyone. Cordelia, perhaps, come to tell him—what? That Angel forgave him? That Connor had been found, unharmed? Angel himself, come to finish the job? Most likely, Charles, come back to tell him his cure had worked—or hadn’t.

Wesley sank further down on the couch, ignored the noise, poured another whisky. Jack Daniel’s wasn’t quite as smooth as the fifteen-year-old Macallan he’d preferred back in London, but after the third glass the distinction blurred.

More rapping. Determined, whoever they were.

Wesley sighed, put down the glass. He made his way slowly to the door, drew the bolts, opened it just a crack against the chain. He glanced round, then leaned back against the wall, suddenly faint. Took a couple of deep breaths – the pain in his throat was oddly calming.

The last person he’d been expecting.

He trekked to the wardrobe, retrieved his rifle, returned to the door, opened it slightly wider this time.


‘Came to return your car keys,’ she said. He wanted to laugh. The sheer incongruity of the statement made him reel. ‘Car’s parked right outside.’

He went to the window, poked up the blind using the rifle. She appeared to be telling the truth this time.

During the brief moment he’d had his back turned, Justine had followed him in. Under the lights of his apartment, her black eye still looked florid, though the split lip had almost healed. She put the keys down on the table with a clunk. ‘There’s a bit of a dent on the rear fender,’ she said. ‘Sorry.’

This time he did laugh, couldn’t help himself. It came out more like a strangled giggle. He collapsed back onto the couch, nursing his throat. The rifle clattered to the floor. He took another swallow of Jack Daniel’s.

‘You’ll have to excuse me,’ he said. His voice sounded gravelly. ‘I’m not quite up on the etiquette of conversing with someone who slit my throat the last time we met.’

She glanced at his throat, at the scar that his beard didn’t cover yet, then away towards the window. ‘Me neither,’ she said. Then added, as if it explained everything, ‘I trusted the wrong man.’

Actually, on consideration, her statement did seem to encompass most aspects of the whole debacle.

‘What made you change your mind?’

‘Holtz abandoned me,’ she said flatly. ‘Took the baby through some portal.’

(So that’s what happened. Kind of someone to inform me.)

‘The vampire saved my life.’

(He tried to smother me.)

After a while, when he didn’t reply, she added, ‘The two kids came looking for you. Tall black guy, skinny long-haired chick. Nearly got themselves killed. Did they—’

‘They found me, yes.’

Justine nodded briskly, half-smiled, and turned towards the door.

Suddenly he didn’t want her to leave. Not just yet. Probably a reaction to having seen virtually no-one since he’d been discharged from hospital. Over a week now. ‘You were close. You and your sister.’

‘We had no-one else.’

‘What will you do?’

Justine turned back to face him. ‘Soldier can’t fight if the captain’s deserted,’ she said, her hand resting on the door knob. ‘Gotta job. Flipping burgers down at Pier Nine. Near the Ferris wheel.’ The click as the door closed echoed round the apartment. He could hear her heavy boots tramping down the stairs.

Wesley picked up the keys, still warm from her hand, crushed them in his palm. Stared at them for a long while, then replaced them carefully on the bookcase beside his glasses.

Maybe he’d stop by Pier Nine one day.

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