A/N: Merry Christmas! I know this was a long time coming, but it's extra long and I think it's an ok read. Things are starting to really move along between the two of them, and I have three weeks off now with no work or uni, so hopefully I will be inspired to write! Please review guys, it really does keep me going!

It was a dilemma I had all the time. People may tell me otherwise, but it was never an easy one to solve. It was always so hard to choose – they both had their merits. But which ones? The black jeans or the blue?


Behind me Quinn's sharp tone interrupted my inner quandary.

"Are you done yet?"

I had no idea why he sounded so exasperated. The boy spent more time standing in front of a mirror than most girls that I knew.

"Yeah, hand on. Jesus, what's the rush? Afraid you're going to miss the early bird special grandpa?"

"Actually yes. In case you didn't know, we're not exactly loaded with cash right now. I don't want to pay full-price."

"It's your thriftiness that's always attracted me to you. You're ability to ring every single cent out of a dollar," I grumbled, finally deciding on the black Sass and Bide skinnies and shimmering into them.

"Shut up."

"Is it cold outside?" I asked, wondering whether or not to throw my Lonsdale hoodie over the top of my tank top or not.


I grabbed my jumper off the scarred and chipped counter beside the door and slipped my phone and what little cash I had with me into my back pocket. "Ok ready."

Quinn got off the bed and threw his hands into the air. "Finally! Are you sure princess? There's not something else you need to do to fill in another forty minutes?"

"Can we stop with the sarcasm for one second champ?"

Quinn rolled his eyes and held the door open for me. "Let's just hurry up, willya? I'm fucking starvin'."

Quinn locked the door behind us and we set off down the road to the battered looking pub we'd driven past on the way in. Five hundred meters away from the Cosy Comfort motor inn, the decrepit looking building was one step away from being a tin shack and was probably as good as we were going to get in Piangil.

Outside the shed was covered with the usual signs you get at a pub. Sheets of tin advertising VB, Fourex and a $5.95 lunch special. I pointed the lunch special out to Quinn. He was always on the hunt for a bargain.

The inside of the hotel was almost worse than the outside. The air was thick and smelt of state beer, stale food and stale bodies. Opposite the entrance we'd just come through was the bar – to the right, the kitchen and the counter, to the left, the pokies. A sign hanging from one hinge pointed the way to the toilets in the rear. Apparently the new anti-smoking laws hadn't reached this part of the country yet, because hovering over the whole scene was thick layer of cigarette smoke. My nose wrinkled and I took an involuntary step back.

Quinn pushed me forward again. "It's not that bad."

"It's worse."

"It'll do," he snapped, propelling me across the pub floor to the direction of the bistro – or the counter and the sour-looking old boiler who counted as the bistro. All the way across the room I could feel eyes on me. The pub wasn't packed, but it was fairly busy. A group of men who looked like they're just escaped from prison were sitting on stools at the bar, looking at me in a decidedly unfriendly manner. Down the bar from them were two older women, poured into tight jeans and even tighter tops. They were discussing loudly one of their divorces over glasses of house wine and a packet of Winfield blues. Their rasping voices that made them sound like they'd been smoking since they were six.

A family with two small children were siting a table in the corner, the mother trying desperately to feed the little boys the wilted vegetables that passed as greens off the fish and chip plate.

In the gaming section a couple of slack-jawed, glassy-eyed men were watching the horse racing while a couple of younger women fed dollar coins in the pokies. I melted closer to Quinn, wilting under the hard stares of the men at the bar. I was so close I could smell his soap, and whatever cologne he was wearing. "What is that?" I asked, distractedly suddenly by how sexy his scent was.

"What's what?" he asked, startled by how close I was to him.

"What cologne are you wearing?"

He raised an eyebrow. "Why?"

"It smells really good."

"Oh." Now he was really surprised. "Um, it's something Chrissie bought me. Uhh, it's Chanel. Allure Homme or something like that."

"Oh." Unconsciously I leant closer. It smelt fantastic. Now I was directly in front of the tan skin of his throat, close enough for my breasts to graze his chest.

"Bryony, are you right?" Quinn asked suddenly. I took a jerky step backwards.

"What? Oh yeah. Sorry." Embarrassed, I spun around to face the giant chalkboard menu again. In front of me, the woman serving took a last drag from her cigarette and stubbed it out on the counter. "What'll it be kids?"

I stared with a mixture of horror and fascination. I knew nothing about the hospitality industry, but I was pretty sure she'd just broken about 30 health regulations. "I'll get the t-bone steak, cooked medium rare, with salad instead of chips," Quinn said over my shoulder. "Bryony, what do you want?"

I hadn't even looked yet. I cast my gaze skyward at the menu. "Um…" I sighed. "I'll just get the fish and chips, thanks."

The woman nodded and tapped a few buttons on the register in front of her. "$16.70."

My eyebrows flew into my hairline. In Brisbane, you'd be lucky to get one meal for that at the places I usually ate at. Quinn handed the woman a $20 and she gave him back a plastic number tag.

"I'll bring it over to you if you want. Give me a chance to get away from these dickheads," she offered, nodding her head towards the kitchen behind her. Over her shoulder, the two cooks waved and cackled madly. I didn't know whether to laugh or just run. Quinn nodded and smiled. "Thanks."

Turning on his heel, Quinn led me across the room and to a table against the outer wall, next to a window. In the parking lot, a couple of Bogan's in flannel shirts were drinking beer and loudly discussing their footy tips. Country towns. Had to love them. Quinn slid onto one side of the booth as I slid onto the other. For a second we were both silent, casting our gazes around and trying to think of something to say to break the awkward silence. Over the din the dj in the corner was playing Cold Chisel's Khe Sanh. Such a pub classic.

"How's your nanna?" I asked Quinn suddenly, shifting my gaze over from the pokies to look at him. He looked up at me in surprise.

"She's good, thanks."

I nodded and gave him a half smile. Quinn's nanna was one of the loveliest people I'd ever met. She was just so genuine, and years ago she and I had been close.

"She asks about you sometimes," he said. I was surprised.


He nodded. "Yeah. She's still convinced the nice girl she knew is buried in there somewhere."

I was embarrassed then. I realised Mrs Carter must have heard some truly terrible things about me over the last couple of years. I scratched at the surface of the dirty plastic table and raised an eyebrow.

"She'd probably be the only one."

Across the table Quinn raised an eyebrow of his own. "Maybe. Maybe not."

Then he glanced away, and when he looked back at me, his gaze was hard. "Maybe if you stopped caring so much about keeping up this reputation as a total ice queen, people would see the real you again. And maybe even like you."

My head shot up. "Oh, you're a real good one to talk about keeping up appearances."

Quinn looked away again, just as the waitress appeared with our meals. I had to admit, for the place we were in and the price we had paid – they weren't bad.

"Can I get you kids any drinks?"

Quinn shot a quick glance at me. "Can we get two schooners of beer please?"

I thought she would ask us for ID, but instead she just nodded. "XXXX or VB?"

"XXXX," Quinn replied. "Heavy, if you have it."

She nodded again. "Coming up."

We ate in silence. Half way through my fish, the woman reappeared with our beers. Mine was gone before I'd even finished eating. Quinn snorted at me as I drained the last dregs. "Slow down."

I ignored him and pushed my empty plate away. Shrugging a shoulder, Quinn stubbornly kept cutting his steak into tiny methodical pieces, chewing them slowly, and swallowing deliberately. It was the most annoying thing I'd ever seen.

"Can you not?" I snapped suddenly.

He just looked up at me calmly and put another tiny piece of meat into his mouth. My eye twitched, but I refused to be baited. Instead I just smiled sweetly and stood up. "Another beer?"

I didn't wait for him to answer before I stormed off to the bar. I could feel eyes on me as I stood waiting to be served.

"Haven't seen you around here before."

I glanced over at the young man who'd spoken to me. He was tall, probably mid twenties, and just looked…rough. He had tattoos all the way up his arms, one on his neck, and a bolt through his eyebrow. He was wearing a faded navy wife beater with ripped jeans and work boots, and looking at me with a lecherous look in his bloodshot eyes. "I'm just passing through," I replied, offering him a brief smile before turning away again.

The bloke moved closer to me. "That your boyfriend over there?"

I turned around and looked at Quinn. He was watching the two of us, and when he saw me looking he smiled. I smiled back, and turned back to the guy next to me.

"Yeah, it is."

"He's kind of a pretty boy, isn't he?" he replied scornfully. "Probably a total pillow biter."

Beside him his equally rough mates laughed loudly.

I smiled uncomfortably. "He's not." I edged away slightly; wishing the girl behind the bar would hurry the fuck up.

"Either way." Old mate with the eyebrow ring moved closer. "You're way too hot for a pansy like that to handle."

Suddenly he grabbed my arse. I really didn't know what to do. If I was in Brisbane, I probably would have slapped him, but I could tell that these boys were much more than I could handle. So I just moved away quickly. "I've got a boyfriend. Don't touch me."

Suddenly he turned nasty. "Or what?" he jeered, grabbing me around the waist and yanking me towards him.

"Hey!" Quinn's sharp voice cut through the air behind me. "Mind letting go of my girlfriend mate?"

Eyebrow rings' grip on me loosened, but he didn't completely let go. "Your girlfriend? I dunno mate. Ten minutes ago it looked like youse were fighting. If she is your girlfriend, it don't look like youse are very happy together. I reckon she might be looking for something better." He laughed.

Suddenly Quinn reached out and grabbed me, yanking me back so quickly I thumped into his chest. He wrapped his arm firmly around my neck and sent the bloke one of the meanest glare's I'd ever seen. Quinn then turned me away, keeping his hard, steady blue gaze on the guy behind me. He didn't say anything else, but even I could read the threat in his eyes. I'd never seen him act like that before.

It was kind of hot.

Keeping his hand firmly on my neck, with this thumb gently rubbing over the nape, Quinn stood next to me and called out to the bar girl. "Can we get two XXXX heavy's please?"

She looked up and nodded. We waited while she poured them. I was all too aware of the low muttered conversation the guy with the tatt's was having with his friends, and the darted glances in our direction. I guess Quinn was too, because to my shock he suddenly smiled down at me and planted a lingering kiss on my lips. Automatically I smiled back, a little confused and horrified at how natural it had felt. And how good.

Back at our table I took my beer from Quinn. "Don't bait them Quinn, please. They look like they'd love nothing more than to take a trolly pole to your head."

Quinn grinned at me. "Your concern is touching Bry. But don't worry. They won't try anything."

"I wouldn't count on that," I muttered. I felt a little strange. My head was reeling from the bizarreness of the place, the encounter with the guys at the bar and the stench of the cigarettes, and my stomach was churning from the $8.35 fish and chips and Quinn's kiss. We were both silent for a while, drinking and mulling over our thoughts. Something had been bugging me all night. I looked up at him suddenly.

"What did you mean when you said before that I'm always pretending to be something I'm not? Something about keeping up a reputation?"

Quinn rolled his eyes and put his beer down.

"Do we really have to get into this right now Bryony? It doesn't really matter."

"No, I want to know. It matters to me," I insisted stubbornly.

Quinn sighed. "Fine. I think that 99 of the person that you portray isn't real. I think it's a façade. I think you're so scared of showing people the real you. I think that deep down you're not nearly as mean as you think you are. I think you're not nearly as snarky, not nearly as sarcastic, not nearly as rude or as tough. I think you're afraid of getting close to people. You're afraid of getting hurt. You're never real. You cover it all with this thin veneer of bitchiness. It's true, you can be mean, you can be blunt, sometimes you say things without thinking. Actually, a lot of the time you say things without thinking. But truthfully, I think that deep down you're nice. I think you're a good person. It's true, you keep it well hidden. But this whole, too witty, too sharp, too cool for school thing you've got going on isn't real. You just do it because…you're afraid. That either people won't like the real you, and you can't handle that. At least, if they hate you the way you are now, at least that's not the real you. But what can you do if you are true to yourself, and people still don't like you? That's got to hurt more."

I was in shock. Quinn dropped his eyes to the table and continued. "And I know I'm more than a little to blame for it all. I guess…I guess you wouldn't be so ashamed of the real Bryony if her best friend hadn't ditched her for no apparent reason. Right?"

I didn't say anything. I couldn't believe the way the words had just gushed out of him. Maybe it was the beer. I sat there in silence, trying to digest it all, but apparently he wasn't done yet.

"I think you're afraid that people will laugh at you if you're open. If you let yourself be vulnerable, then anyone could just storm in and pull it all down around you. I think you're afraid…that the real you isn't good enough. That you won't have friends, won't fit in. But I think that you would find, Bryony, if you let people see the real you, you'd be much better off. You're going to be happier, once you let go of all this bullshit," he finished quietly.

I just stared at him. After awhile, he just shrugged and took another swing of his beer. "You asked me what I thought, and I told you. I'm not going to apologise for telling you the truth. You needed to hear it. I'm sick and tired of this shit and I want my friend back. I know it's a long time since we were friends, and I know we've both changed. But I refuse to believe you're really like this now. You've done some really shitty things to me in the last couple of years, but you still always knew when you'd crossed the line, and you tried to make up for it."

He lowered his glass and looked directly at me. "I've spent enough time with you over the past week to realise what an act you've been putting on. And I've got to say, I like the real Bryony a whole lot more. The Bryony that will help me fix my back, buy me honey weetbix for breakfast because I like them better, park on the side of the road to let me sleep, let me play my CD's even when you hate my music and cook me dinner. I think that's the real you, the you that you know you really are. And you know it too."

I just shook my head in disbelief and stared at the table. For a second we were both silent. Then I got up and walked out. I couldn't sit there with him anymore.

I walked straight out the door and got half way across the car park before I realised I didn't have anywhere to go. Quinn had the room key in the pocket of his jeans. "Fuck," I cursed, stopping in my tracks and burying my face in my hands. It took me a second to realise that I was crying. I think it was mostly shock. I was so surprised that he'd said what he'd said. Surprised that he'd thought it, surprised that he'd said it. Not really surprised by what he'd said – because I knew it was true. I knew a lot of the shit I carried on with was an act. It wasn't me. I just did it because…it was easier.

It was easier to be that way – easier to make friends, easier to deal with rejection. Somehow it didn't really matter…because…it wasn't me. It's strange, I know. To behave in a way that's not even you. It kind of started in high school, after Quinn and I stopped hanging out. I had to make new friends, and I suddenly found it was easier to impress people with elaborate stories and acts. I'd always thought that once I'd made friends, I could settle down, and stop mucking around. But…after awhile, people expect certain things from you. It just becomes easier to carry on with it. It had all gotten out of hand, and now…here I was, back at the beginning. With no friends, no future because I'd been kicked out of school, and no idea of who I really was.

I had problems, but I'd already known that. I was just trying to ignore it. But once someone else brings it up and says it to your face…it becomes much harder to ignore. I wiped my eyes on the sleeve of my jumper and took a deep breath. To my right the liquor barn adjacent to the pub was running enough lights to power a small country and calling my name. I checked the money in my pocket as I walked through the electric sliding doors. $9. Enough for a cheap bottle of champagne. Again, the guy behind the counter didn't even look like he was going to ask me for my ID.

Outside, I spotted a huge old tree that's roots were making a mess of the parking lot pavement. Being careful not to smash my champagne, I climbed up onto one of the lower branches and made myself comfortable. I'd decided that I would wait here for Quinn to come out of the pub and I would follow him home, so he could let me into the room. I settled back against the trunk of the tree and opened the champagne. Even its smell was enough to make me gag. I took a swig and the taste was even worse. It tasted like metho with a shot of fly spray. I couldn't believe that whatever winery had made the wine was still in business. Halfway through the bottle though, I wasn't noticing the taste anymore. I was down to the last couple of swigs when the pub door swung open and Quinn walked out, glancing behind him. He looked up and around the car park, his gaze fixing on my tree. The tiniest of smiles crossed his face. I was surprised when he walked straight over to my tree and looked up.



"What are you doing up there?"


He grinned. "Ok. Well, you want to come down now?"

Suddenly I was bone tired, and I realised I did want to get down. I just didn't know how. "I can't."

"Why not?"

"I don't know how."

"Well how did you get up there?"

"I don't remember?"

Quinn frowned slightly, his gaze fixing on the near-empty bottle in my hand. "You drink all that?"


He shook his head. "Ok. Swing your legs over towards me. Put your hand on that branch there. Good. Now step down," he said, reaching his arms out towards me.

I shook my fuzzy head, my vision blurring. "You're nuts. You can't catch me."

"I can. You forget what a jock I am. Come on Bry. I want to go home."

I shrugged, and suddenly launched my self off the branch, straight onto Quinn. I thumped into him, and sent us both sprawling onto the pavement. "Mother Fucker," Quinn swore, rolling me off him and holding his elbow.

I sat up. My hands were grazed, my back was grazed, and I was drunk, tired, hundreds of kilometres from home with a boy who'd just told me that I was a complete fake, and my bottle of wine was still in the tree.

"Why the fuck would you climb a tree anyway?" Quinn muttered, inspecting his knee for damage.

I burst into tears. Quinn sighed, got to his feet and pulled me up off the ground.

"I'm sorry," he said. He hugged me then, and it was the most comfort I'd had in a long time. I grabbed onto him then, and howled. He was warm and strong and I was lost.

I didn't even really know why I was crying. A combination of things probably. Quinn just held me, and I was really grateful. I think he was probably even proud. I was finally letting my guard down. It would have been a nice moment, if at that point the pub door hadn't opened again, and the dickheads from the bar hadn't come spilling out. Quinn broke the hug, and I grabbed his hand. "Let's go," he said in a low voice.

I just nodded, and together we started moving away from them pretty quickly. Quinn pulled me towards the tree I'd just fallen out off, probably hoping to get behind it and cut across the garden, before they could see us.

No such luck.

"Hey, you! You faggot, where ya going?"

"Come on Bry," Quinn urged, tugging on my hand. "Don't look at him."

"Hey, I'm talking to you, you stupid prick!"

Footsteps behind us picked up their pace.


I was genuinely frightened now. There were a lot of them, they were big, and we were scrawny and drunk.

"Hey! I'm fucking talking to you! Don't you fucking walk away from me you cunt!"

Suddenly a hand reached out and grabbed Quinn by the shoulder, spinning him around roughly. I stopped, and sheer stupidity took over. I stepped forward and gave the guy with the stupid tattoos and the eyebrow ring a huge shove. "Fuck off!"

"Bryony!" Quinn's hand closed around my wrist, as he tried to drag me backwards. I shook him off. "We got nothing to say to you, just leave us alone," I told him, trying to look as threatening as it's possible to look after three quarters of a bottle of cheap wine.

"Well I wasn't talking to you, sweetheart. You should keep a leash on your missus buddy. She might be beautiful, but she needs to learn to be seen and not heard."

He pushed me backwards then, and I stumbled, knocking into Quinn. He grabbed me and turned me back around, pushing me in the direction of the road again. "Come on."

"So what, that's it? You're not even going to tell me off for pushing your slut of a girlfriend? Come on pretty boy, what you go?" the guy yelled behind us. Beside me Quinn's eye twitched.

"Faggot, you little fucker! You're girlfriends a slut! I bet she's been out here the whole time without you, offering head jobs for $5 a blow! I guess that wouldn't bother you anyway, you're probably too busy wondering when you can get back to your boyfriend!"

Quinn bit his lip so hard he drew blood. I squeezed his hand and tried to make him move faster.

"Maybe I should take your girlfriend off your hands then mate? Give her a tumble, show her what a real bloke can do. Maybe put a pearl necklace around her pretty neck."

I felt sick, and humiliated. I'd never heard anything so disgusting, or degrading.

"I wonder if she likes it rough?"

Quinn snapped. He dropped my hand and spun around. Eyebrow suddenly stopped laughing and came towards him. "Come on fucker, what you got?"

Apparently a lot. Quinn let fly with a right hook that would have knocked Mike Tyson out. Eyebrow ring hit the pavement, out cold. I thought I was going to throw up. The look in Quinn's eyes was horrifying. He stood over the guy on the ground, struggling to get his breathing under control. In front of them, eyebrow's friends had stopped laughing. When one of them pulled a crow bar from the back of a ute, I knew Quinn was in trouble. "Quinn, come on! Please, Quinn, come on!"

I was almost hysterical; I didn't know what to do. They were going to make Quinn severely sorry he'd ever stopped walking. Quinn didn't seem to be able to hear me calling him. He just stood there, watching calmly as eyebrow rings' three friends advanced on him slowly.

I turned and ran as fast as I could back towards the pub. I burst through the door, and grabbed onto the first bloke I could find. "There's a fight, in the car park. It's three blokes against one, they're going to kill him, please…"

Apparently fights were nothing new in this part of town. The guy was an older guy, probably in his forties, and looked pretty tough. He just raised an eyebrow and whistled to two of his mates at the bar. "Gary, Wayne. Those nasty fuckers from the warehouse are in a fight again. Come on."

The three of them walked out the front door, followed by much of the clientele of the pub, all eager to see some blood. I was so scared I could barely breath. I didn't know how the men had known who Quinn was fighting with, I just wanted them to stop it. In the car park Quinn was getting his arse handed to him on plate. As I watched, one of them sent a sharp punch to the side of his head, and then a swift kick to his guts. Quinn fell to his knees, and while he was down one of the others kicked him again. Suddenly bile rose up in my throat and I vomited violently into the garden. I front of me, the blokes from the pub were breaking up the fight. One of them pulled Quinn to his feet and away from the fray, while the other two used their fists and a few choice words to send the warehouse boys packing.

"Bring him through here Gary," the woman from behind the bar directed the bloke helping Quinn. Quinn was so bad he could barely walk. The skin above his eyebrow was split, his lip was split, his cheekbone was red and raw and his left eye was swollen shut. Blood was dripping down his face and his knuckles were all grazed and bloody. Gary helped Quinn back through the pub and behind the bar. They sat him on some cases of beer, while the woman from before pulled out a first aid kit.

"Are you ok love? You're as white as a sheet." The first bloke I'd grabbed was talking to me. I just stared at him blankly, hardly hearing him.

"I'm ok."

He frowned, and cleared off a crate for me to sit on. "Here, sit down before you fall down." He then handed me a glass of brown water.

"What is this?"

"Rum and water. Drink it, it'll help."

I took it, hands shaking, watching as the woman tried to patch up Quinn. He didn't look good. He was swaying as he sat, and couldn't answer any of his questions.

The bloke saw me looking and smiled. "Your boy will be ok. He looks worse than he is, trust me." He laughed. "I speak from experience. Anyway, it looks like he got in a few good shots of his own. He did well to hold on as long as he could with those boys."

He must have sensed my confusion, because he continued. "Those boys are always getting into fights. Too few brains and too many beers. They're a bunch of dickheads who work in a warehouse near here. They get bored and picked fights. You kids were just unlucky."

Across from me, the woman had finished cleaning up Quinn. She handed him his own brown water and made him drink it. It must have helped, because some colour came back into his face and he managed a small smile for me. "There you go," the woman announced. "You'll live matey. I've seen worse. Don't worry about those boys, Don here will sort them out for you."

"Thanks," Quinn muttered.

"You should take him home now," she instructed me. "Where are you kids from anyway? You need a lift?"

"No, thankyou," I said softly. "We're not far from here. We'll walk."

I didn't want to accept anything else from these people. They'd been great, but we'd embarrassed ourselves enough already.

I helped Quinn off the beer cartons and took him back to the motel. It was a slow trip, with him leaning on me heavily all the way. I couldn't stop crying. The night had to rank as one of the worst nights ever.

"Bry, please stop crying," Quinn muttered as I helped him pull his blood-stained shirt off. "I'm ok."

I helped him pull his shoes and jeans off and got him some water before making up an icepack from one of my tank tops and the ice from the tiny freezer. He took it and smiled wryly at me. "See? Nice."

I gave a half laugh, half sob.

"I'm ok, you really can stop crying," he said, gingerly moving over so he could lie down. His torso was covered in bruises that had already come up. I got up and made up another ice pack before sitting back on the bed and holding it to his ribs.

"It's not that bad," he lied, wincing as the ice touched his skin. "I've had worse."

"Sure you have."

He laughed then, which soon turned into a cough, but it was comforting all the same.

Carefully I lay down next to him and pulled the doona over us. It had gotten really cold and our shitbox room didn't have heating. Quinn slipped his good arm behind my head.

"Do you need anything else?"

He shook his head. "I'm ok. Thanks. Just stop crying."

I gave a small laugh. "This sucks."

"I know."

"We shouldn't have ever left home."

"No, I'm glad we did. We're learning a lot." He turned his head and smiled at me.

I smiled back worriedly. "Are you sure you're ok? I have some more painkillers in my bag if you want them."

"Bryony, if I take any more of that stuff I'll have an overdose. I'm ok, really. You should sleep, you look hideous."

I really did laugh then. "Thanks."

Quinn just grinned and kissed the top of my head.

"You're welcome."

Sometime I did eventually fall asleep, because when I woke up it was morning. The sun was streaming in through the moth-eaten curtains. Beside me Quinn was still sleeping. Carefully, I leant over to make sure he was still breathing. The last thing I needed was for him to die on me. I lay on the bed next to him for a little while longer, staring at the pebbled ceiling. I didn't want to wake him. Because now everything had changed between us. After last night, I knew there was no way we'd go back to being the way we had been with each other. Last night was one of those turning points that change everything. There's nothing like beer and blood to completely set a relationship on a totally different track. And it was going to be weird, at least for a little while. I knew that.

I sighed and shifted slightly. I guessed that this was the real beginning of the new life of Bryony.