Angus woke with a start at a knock on his door. The pain wasn't letting him sleep too deeply anyway, so he figured he should get up. With a long groan and a heavy sigh he did just that, dragging himself off the mattress with a mumbled reply to the second knock.

He opened the door to see Erica there, smiling as he met her golden eyes. He noticed they seemed freshly painted. "Hello again, Angus." She clasped her hands before her dress—the honey-colored one that matched her makeup. He could almost swear she hadn't nearly drowned in a river this morning.

"Erica," he said, painfully aware of his own state of dress. "What time is it?" He glanced behind at his trunk.

"A few hours into the afternoon by now," she answered. "Have you been asleep a while?" She peered around him, a cursory look cast over his dark room.

"Guess so," he said, pausing to yawn. "How's... everything?" He heard voices coming down the hall from the warehouse. It sounded like the guild was back to work.

"Things seem to be settling down, comparatively. I'm not too shaken up, myself. Um, do you mind talking inside?" Her eyes once again passed over the dark space behind him before coming back up to his.

Angus turned back to his room. He noticed a light-switch on the wall, and flipped it on as he stepped aside. "Only if you don't mind the mess."

It was oddly exciting, he thought as Erica took a careful seat on the edge of his mattress, having a woman visit him in his bedroom—even one he'd barely spent twelve hours in. He found he couldn't shake the nervousness brought by that thought as he sat beside her, interlacing his fingers as he leaned forward on his knees.

"So we promised we'd talk," Angus said. "About what happened... out there."

She met his eyes as she nodded. "I suppose I'm the one with most of the easy answers..." She looked to her feet thoughtfully, breathing a silent sigh before beginning.

"You asked how I got put on the raft, no?" she said. He nodded. "It was pretty simply done, really. I had been in my bedroom, alone, unable to sleep due to the sound of distant... explosions. It had me on edge already." She looked aside, rubbing her shoulder. "I had decided to go and see if my father was awake, and was on my way downstairs when... he came up behind me... in my own home."

Angus frowned. Jackal, of course. She briefly looked to him before continuing.

"He'd held his gun against my back as he told me to follow his lead, leading me out and along the streets in the dead of the rainy night. He was silent all the way there, to the river, but in something of a hurry, as much as I could tell. When we got there, though, he told me about the... crate... as he tied me up on it and... well... primed the mechanism. After that, he seemed to grow impatient, and started to talk while he waited.

"He mumbled at first, about wasting time, and needing more. I heard him say things about uncertainty, and unpredictability—the same way he spoke about it to you, now that I think about it. Almost like he was... rehearsing it. I could only sit there and listen, and try to make sense of it all. You have no idea how relieved I was when I saw you there." She turned to look in his eyes, and she held that look for a long moment.

He finally looked away, studying his clasped hands with a frown. "I'm sorry," he eventually said, soft and quiet.

"You got me out of there."

"I'm the reason you were dragged there in the first place." Angus found himself reluctant to meet her eyes again, but forced himself to do it anyway. "It all had to do with that man, Raster Jackal, and his damned obsession with me. He had known you and I... knew each-other. He had his boys watching me the past few days, I guess. It's how he knew where you lived. It's how he knew a lot of things, I reckon. I tried my best to stop him, and he came after you. Just to... prove a point? Even after all that I still don't know what he was trying to do..."

Erica turned her eyes down, a pensive look behind her long lashes. "He said you took something of his, so he'd take..." She looked away with a nervous laugh. "Well, you were there. Apparently he equated my worth to you with the worth of his... gunpowder." Her golden eyes flickered back in his direction for a moment, suddenly diffident.

"That man wasn't ever right in the head," Angus said, leaning the slightest bit closer. "I can't begin to imagine what went on in there, but he had more in mind than equalizing a wrong. What putting you across the Noble had to do with it, I'll never guess."

"I think he meant for me to die there," she said plainly. He looked over to see her modest frown, and she shrugged. "It seemed obvious. Had I been arrested, I would have been removed from the crate, and it would have gone off, as it did when you pushed me from it."

His brow drew down sharply. "You don't know that—you could have-"

She shook her head, dark curls swinging around a firmly set expression. "Actually, I do. The night before... I had a dream..."

His frown grew deeper. If she were implying she had a vision, then...

"In my dream... I was struck by lightning. Not explicitly, but in a sense... a sense I'm not too clear on, but such is the way with my visions. It was akin to a nightmare, one that woke me quite suddenly, but it felt the same as all my visions, and it was timed... accurately, in retrospect."

Her expression was gravely serious, and Angus could only regard it with skepticism. "If that were true, then..."

"Then you changed the future."

Angus was the one shaking his head, now. "Hold up—I just did what I had to. There's no telling what your dream meant. There was plenty of lightning last night."

She only shrugged. "I suppose there was, but none of it hit me."

He heaved a heavy sigh. He was too tired for this. "Well, I guess there's no telling what would have happened, exactly, if your visions aren't clear."

She was frowning now, down at her knees with a look of intent contemplation. "Sometimes... they are..."

Angus wondered whether she wanted to elaborate on that or not, unsure if he should prompt her to. "What's that supposed to mean?" he decided to ask.

Erica met his eyes for another silent moment, hands fidgeting in her lap. "Suppose you did... change the future... Would that make my visions obsolete?"

He brought a hand to his face, scrubbing it over his stubble. The only conclusion he could come to was that he needed a shave. "I don't know. Why?"

"I saw something... that night... on the way to the river."

They were both quiet again, the sounds of activity downstairs the only noise. "You mean one of you? Or..." She gave a slight shake of her head. "But he was on the raft when..."

When it exploded. Jackal was there, right next to the bomb crate, on a sinking, shattered excuse for a raft. Angus supposed since he and Erica survived that there was a chance that man could have.

"It was only a brief vision, but as he was leading me along, it came to me." Erica looked off at nothing in particular, like she did when she was seeing things, but this time still quite present. "There was a sense of pain... and the sight of... the man himself, like he was looking in a mirror, only his face was... different."

"Different how?"

"For the second it lasted, I saw him... scowling... at himself, and the long red cut sliced across the side of his face." Gingerly, she brought a hand up to her own cheek, brushing it back to her ear. She looked to him again with a vague uncertainty.

If it were true, and the vision was fulfilled like so many others, then Jackal was alive. Hurt, but alive. Yet if Angus changed things by saving Erica, then it would be negated like her other vision, only...

"If I really changed the future, then would that vision still... count?" he asked, not sure if he even understood his own question, let alone the answer.

"I don't know. My dream was very powerful, but I never felt it that night after. This vision was very brief, but there's no way we can be sure it comes true, unless..."

"Unless we find Jackal, assuming he's not at the bottom of the Noble already." Angus worked his stiff neck as he stared at the far wall, feeling the erstwhile protests of his bruises and cuts. "I don't care either way. I'm not wasting my time on him anymore. I'll help Winslow clean up whatever's left of Blue Bomb any way I can, but as far as I'm concerned, Jackal can rot in hell."

Erica didn't have anything to say to that. She just gazed at her neatly-folded hands with a subtle nod. He found himself doing much the same, until he caught her looking at him out of the corner of his eye. She didn't stop and look away, though, like he was inclined to. She seemed to study him, as if she hadn't really looked at him before. He himself noticed something about her, in that her makeup was the same color as the paint on the carving he'd done.

"So that's where it came from," he muttered.

"Hmm?" Erica blinked, studious stare turning curious.

"The whittled man," Angus said, eyes looking past her and to the chest at the foot of his mattress. He reached behind her to grab the figurine from inside, noting how she didn't mind the closeness. Holding the carving before him, he turned it about. The color was worn away a bit already, but not too much. "I was wondering, with how you said paint was hard to come by, how you managed to color it."

Her eyes drifted from his to the figurine, then away somewhat shyly. "Oh, I just got bored waiting in your room that morning, and found it on the desk. It's only cosmetics—it should clean off easily." She looked back with a bashful smile.

"I actually like it," he said, examining the roughly-carved shape and the perspective the coloring lent it. He didn't have much of a vision for it when he began working with the piece, but like this it looked better than he could have imagined. "It's like a man born from a mountain—a Golem, even."

Her smile grew, and she gave a light laugh. "As a matter of fact, that was my very intention." She looked to the carving with that studious eye. "I could try to find some more permanent paint for it, if you like."

Angus gave a laugh of his own. "I'd be honored to have it painted so professionally. I can carve some more detail into it in the meantime." He carefully set it aside, frowning at nothing in particular for a moment. His body was still hurting in a number of places, but he found it easy to ignore.

"So..." he soon said into the growing silence. "I can only assume, based on that... kiss this morning, that some of Jackal's assumptions about the two of us... weren't too far off-base." He turned to meet her eyes, seeing those golden irises circle around above a playful smirk.

"I suppose, perhaps," she said, leaning towards him, "that I wouldn't be disinclined toward exploring such a... relationship. If you're of a similar mind, that is."

He breathed a brief chuckle as he grinned. "You know I'm not much for that vague fancy-talk."

She pulled a curly lock behind her ear. "Ah, right. You like your conversations to be blunt and to-the-point."

He grimaced. "When you put it that way it sounds rude."

She looked up at him through slyly slimmed lashes. "How would you put it, then?"

"To begin with," he said, looking from her eyes to her lips, "I would say I find simple actions preferable to complicated words."

"A reasonable preference." Erica's hand gently gripped his between the two of them. "One I'm willing to indulge." She leaned ever closer, and her lips met his.

He smiled into her kiss, feeling her drag him closer before pulling away to look in his eyes once more. "Now doesn't that speak for itself?" he said. She responded with a like smile and a finger to his lips as she fell back onto his mattress, continuing to drag him with her.

He was always eternally grateful for that one, ever so effective remedy for pain: Pleasure.


The warehouse was noticeably more organized by the time Angus came downstairs, with the back end of the main space cleared to make room for a dozen or so different tables, each with their own sets of chairs. Many of them were occupied, and to the delight of his empty stomach, set with hearty meals.

The Golem Boys were all enjoying a leisurely mealtime, and the spacious room was filled with idle chatter and echoing laughter. As Angus made his way toward the Boss' quarters, he caught cheers from those who noticed him, returning their friendly waves. Dacker raised a bottle in his good arm as he grinned his way before laughing at something Gina said beside him. Walt smiled past his bruises when he went by the young man's table, which was a heartening sight, and Ricky gave a smirking nod from across the plates of food between them. Even Gnorris was up and about, raising a chicken drumstick in salute.

Before he made it to Winslow's improvised office, he heard Tilly call out his name. He turned around to see the girl smiling broadly and waving him over to the corner she sat in. Lefty sat beside her, looking as happy and healthy as ever, until Angus got close enough to see the kid's bandaged leg propped up beneath the table.

"Someone's in a good mood," Lefty said, grinning up from the armchair he was using as a dining chair.

Angus caught a glance from Erica, who just came downstairs, and cleared his throat, though his smile remained. "Seems everyone is this evening," he said as he took a seat across from the kid. "How'd all this pop up while I was asleep?"

Tilly smiled over her intertwined fingers, glancing over at the wide open warehouse doors. There was a big truck parked out there, and just inside was a long table where some white-aproned people stood preparing food.

"Miss O'Theo organized it," said the girl. "She got Great Golem to bring over a bunch of food for us. She said it was the least she could do. There's more than enough for everyone, so I hope you're hungry."

Angus looked to the platter sitting before him, barely a dent made in the assortment of vegetables, smashed potatoes, and diced ham. "Ravenously." He grabbed a fork that looked to be placed aside just for him, and began to dig in. Winslow could wait.

"So?" Lefty eventually asked, staring at him with wide, expectant eyes. "What happened?!" He had an eager grin as he leaned in as far as he could despite his leg.

As Angus came close to choking on his food, Erica walked over to their table and smiled at each of them, lingering on him a bit longer than the others. "Mind if I join you?" she asked.

"Not at all," Tilly said with a grin, gesturing to a chair across from her. "Was Angus hard to wake?" she then asked, a sly glance his way.

Erica sat down with a shrug. "It took a few knocks," she said.

The girl laughed. "I thought he'd need as much rest as he could get, so I didn't bother trying."

"I would have," Lefty chimed in, "but it seems that stairs are going to be a bit of an obstacle for me until my leg's back in working order." He patted his right knee beneath the table, grimacing. "So then, you gonna tell us?" he asked Angus.

"I'm curious as well," Tilly added, looking between him and Erica. "What did happen with you two?" She propped her chin on her hands again, brown eyes bright with wonder.

Angus made a too-sudden effort to swallow, coughing when the task proved slightly more difficult than he expected. Erica looked to him with a bit of concern, and he held up a finger before managing the feat with a thump to his chest.

Erica gazed at her lap with a rather sad smile. "I suppose I'll fill you in on what I can," she said. "It began when I was kidnapped from my home."

The others' eyes went wide, and Angus' started to as well, when he realized the topic wasn't what he expected. He breathed a sigh of relief before clearing his throat, and listened along as Erica began the story.

By the time it was his turn to fill them in, they were both wide-eyed and slack-jawed already. It only got more exciting from there, and their table drew a modest crowd, for which he backtracked and began his tale anew. Erica added her own details, and he laid out the events with as much narrative ability as he possessed—which wasn't very much, if he was being honest. Still, the guild was enthralled nonetheless, and by the end—a climax that he recounted with grim austerity—there was a hush over the warehouse.

When it became apparent that the story was over, there was a slow rise in muttering, and soon Angus was subject to countless comforting comments and pats on the back. He ate some more as the excitement died down, until it was back to just the four of them in their little corner of the warehouse.

"So I was thinking..." Erica said as she picked at the food. "If there's anything I can do to help you guys," she glanced up at Angus and his unit, "anything at all, don't hesitate to ask. I'm never too far if you need me."

Lefty raised his eyebrows, nodding. "A special sort of help you'd be, that's for sure-" He was interrupted by a kick from Tilly beneath the table, meeting her disapproving stare with a look that appeared more hurt than he was. "Hey! I have enough trouble with the one leg as it is! And there was nothing bad in what I said at all, just a relevant observation!"

Tilly grimaced at the platter, pointedly averting her eyes. "Would it kill you to word it better?"

Lefty huffed, glancing to Erica who simply did a lax job of suppressing a smile. "Anyway, let your old man know he came in pretty handy himself. We might've gotten off on the wrong foot," he cleared his throat with a furtive look downward, "but I'll admit he knows his stuff."

Erica smiled fully at that. "I think he'd be more than willing to offer his help if ever you should need it." She then looked up at a window, and the darkening sky beyond. "Speaking of my father, he'd probably be more than a little worried about me staying out very long, given... recent events."

Angus turned to her with a soft smile. "You alright making your way home?" he asked, one brow lifted slightly.

She breathed an airy sigh. "As tempting as your company is, it would be a shame to steal you from your Guild."

He gave a deep nod. There was still a lot to take care of, and of course after their talk in bed, she'd understood that much. Still, he was tempted by her company as well. "Then I'll see you around."

"Likewise," Erica said as she got up from the table, stepping around to his side. She leaned down to peck his cheek with a kiss before turning for the exit. "Bye."

Angus held a bashful smile on his dawdling fork before catching the looks Lefty and Tilly were fixing him with. They aimed their slack-jawed faces at each-other for a moment, and then broke into tight smiles.

"Angus!" Tilly sang, leaning his way. Her eyes bounced off Erica outside. "Are the two of you...?" The girl left the sentence unfinished, a conspiratorial tip to her head.

"I thought she liked you!" Lefty said with a grin. "Never knew you could feel the same way, though!" He snickered as he laid back in his chair.

Angus shrugged, grimacing at the food again. "What 'we' are... has yet to be set in stone, as far as anyone else is concerned." He pressed his mouth into something of a smile as he glanced back up. "Might be somethin' in the future... But for now, I'd appreciate less schoolyard snickering on the subject."

Tilly hadn't stopped smirking. "Well I'm very happy for you—both of you." She turned her eyes to the table, hands in her lap, her smirk shifting around as her thoughts appeared to drift elsewhere.

"Really, man, I am too," said the kid. "About time you found someone. Not that it's a big deal or anything, but I mean... you know what I mean." He swayed his head dismissively.

Angus waved over a young man passing by with a case of bottles. "It is what it is," he said to Lefty as the man approached. The kid gave an affirmative point and grin in response. "What've you got to drink?" he asked.

"Just water here, sir."

"Perfect. I'm parched," Angus said, taking a few bottles off the man's hands. He set to quenching his thirst, putting together something to tell Winslow in his head.

"Hey, Lefty..." Tilly began, eyeing the kid for a moment. "Do you remember what happened to you when all that... stuff was going down?"

Lefty started to nod, before turning a puzzled stare to the table. "I was shot, right? Hence this," he said as he patted his leg. "It's actually... kinda fuzzy after that..." He chuckled. "You guys carried me outta there... right?" He glanced between them, eyes landing on the girl. "And you carried me the rest of the way back."

"I told you all that already," Tilly said, averting her gaze with a wave of her hand.

"Yeah, I guess. I'm still sorry about the wrong turn." The kid frowned softly. "I can't say I remember it too well, though, to be honest. Why?" He looked at her again, frown shifting as he slimmed his blue eyes.

"No reason," she said with a shrug, breathing a loud sigh. She then turned toward the direction the guy with the drinks went, and waved at him. "Excuse me!"

Angus took a deep breath as he set his empty bottle on the table, pushing himself to his feet. "I'm gonna go see the boss, I guess. Got some things to talk about."

"Of course," Lefty said, nodding.

He passed the young man on his way to the back as Tilly caught his attention. "Did you happen to bring any wine?" the girl asked.


Inside the boss' makeshift office, Angus was a little surprised to find June behind the man's desk, eating her own dinner there by the light of a flickering lantern. The little girl stared back at him for a moment before returning to her meal. He turned to see Winslow off to the side on a long sofa, with none other than Liliana O'Theo for company. The two looked to him as he entered, wine glasses in hand, the boss clearing his throat.

"Angus," Winslow said, "how are you this evening?" The man looked genuinely concerned as he set his glass aside.

Angus glanced to Ms. O'Theo as he walked over. "Good, considering last night. Am I interrupting?"

Winslow offered his guest a tight smile as he sat up straighter at the opposite end of the sofa. "If you hadn't, we might have never stopped talking, so I suppose a break is necessary."

Ms. O'Theo let out a light laugh. "I suppose it is," she said as she rose, straightening out the skirt of her dark red evening dress. "I'll see you... next week?"

Winslow looked up at her for a moment, and blinked. "Yes, right, that sounds good." He cleared his throat once more, and smiled. "Thank you for everything, Lily. Have a good night."

She smiled back as she grabbed her coat up and folded it over her arm. "You too," she said as she left.

Angus found a chair as the boss heaved a silent sigh, falling back in the sofa. "You two get along well, then?"

A smile tugged at Winslow's mouth as he gazed at the door, folding his bandaged hands behind his head. "You could say that... So," his eyes turned to Angus, "you did the job. You took care of their powder, you rescued Walt, and you... I'm fuzzy on this... sank Raster Jackal in the Noble...?"

Angus frowned at the man. "You overhear our little story-time out there?"

"Bits and pieces, but it was Erica who filled me in after she arrived." The boss gave him a skeptical frown of his own. "He really had... an obsession with you? And went that far?"

Angus eyed the floor as he rubbed at the back of his neck. "I don't claim to know his reasons, but... that's how it seemed. I mean, he made some crazy excuses, but anything... concrete as to why just didn't come together. Always feels like there's another curtain behind each one pulled."

Winslow turned a pair of tired green eyes to the ceiling, mouth drawn thin. "Hmm. What did he say, exactly?" Those eyes fell upon Angus once again. "What were the reasons he gave?"

For a time he just stared at the floor, thinking back on it all. "Petty excuses... General angry bullshit... He wanted to get back at society for some perceived wrong he was apparently the victim of. Said he had some sort of fucked-up point to make. One of the reasons was one he'd expressed to me before—he made it clear he had some sort of... interest in me, personally." His skin crawled at the thought, remembering how Erica was found.

"Based on... what?" the boss said with a puzzled frown. "Your luck at cards?"

Angus suddenly wondered the same thing. Jackal said that he liked him—that he reminded him of himself—but more than that he had previously mentioned seeing something special in him. That had aroused some suspicion at the time, but he'd discounted it just as quickly. Now, however, it made him wonder how much Jackal really knew. The first time he'd seen the man was... at Ali's, when he caused that brawl.

"Based on how I fought my way out of a bar brawl, maybe," he said with a deep frown. "On how I took a beating from his boys and was still able to play poker—not that I had a choice either way. Maybe the man needed muscle..." Or someone with an abnormal resistance to pain. But he couldn't have known that much...

"The boys he orders—or, well, ordered—around aren't very threatening on their own, for the most part," Winslow said as he scratched his unshaven face.

"The bombs and flintlocks helped with that, but without 'em..."

The boss nodded. "I suppose he was fine with expressing strength through firepower. Why he wanted your... alliance, as it seemed, must have to do with something else..." He turned his eyes to Angus, a slim glint of scrutiny behind heavy lids.

"As far as I'm aware, he was after my 'driven personality', as he put it. You know I don't advertise my... special skills."

"But if he had somehow discerned as much on his own, that's what worries me." Winslow's eyes reflected that worry as they fell from him to the floor. "Seeing you fight is one way to learn about it, if you're observant enough. Still, it'd be a pretty far jump from that to the truth, eh?"

Angus gave a vague grunt. "He doesn't know. At least... he doesn't know the truth."

Winslow eyed him again with that same glint. "'Doesn't'? Or 'didn't'?"

He stared back blankly. "Never saw him die, myself."

There was a moment of silent staring, until the boss heaved a heavy sigh. "I guess we'd be wise not to assume anything." He looked off across the disorganized room, first at his daughter, and then at the shadows. "Still, after all that happened, we've got an upper hand of sorts. We'll need to stay on top of things to keep it, though. Check in on all our old reliable spots, and scout the less reliable ones. There's gonna be some work to do..."

Angus grimaced at his hands as he idly massaged the knuckles of his crooked one. "Yeah, about that..." Winslow glanced to him curiously, and he took a deep breath. "I'm taking some time off."

The man looked slightly surprised, but not in any sort of disagreeable way. "Oh? How soon?"

"Tomorrow," he replied. "Only so I can be back soon as possible. But I can't say I know how long I'll be gone."

Winslow nodded. "I suppose you've earned a vacation. Where will you be going?"

Angus sighed. "Home."

The man's nod continued slowly. "We could use every pair of hands available right now," he said, glancing over again. "But if yours won't be, it shouldn't be too hard on us."

"Glad you can do without me for a bit." Angus rose from his seat, looking at June out of the corner of his eye. The girl was playing with the food on her plate, without a care in the world. "I'm sorry, by the way."

Winslow's attention was focused on the wine as he started to clean up. "Hm? Oh..." His eyes fell from Angus, to his daughter, and to the glasses once again, a softness to them that was quite a contrast to the panicked reflection of the fire that night. "It's alright. She's safe, and that's what matters."

"Was she... in there after all?" Angus has a hard time meeting the man's gaze, settling for a brief glance.

"She was." Winslow continued to gather the glasses with the bottle, tossing back the last sip of one. He swallowed hard, and then spoke quietly, eyes not leaving the wine. "It took some work to get up to her, but I got there... Not without a few burns, as you can see..." He gingerly flexed a bandaged hand. "But, uh... getting back down was the hard part. Not easy to traverse something like that with a kid in your arms. I'd show you the other burns from it, but they're less flattering..." He tried to manage a laugh, but it came out a little too dry.

"I would've helped, if only..." Angus realized too late he would have been better off not saying it, and so he let the sentence die there.

The boss' eyes turned up to him for an accusatory moment—or maybe that was only the guilt coloring his interpretation of the look. Winslow's expression was soft enough afterward. "We could have everything we want, if only... 'If only' gets us nowhere... I tried to pressure you when I already gave you a job to do—one with higher stakes. I don't blame you for choosing one over the other. We can dwell on 'if only', or we can learn from the past and move forward."

Eventually the man worked up a smile, meeting Angus' eyes as he stood. Angus didn't quite smile back, more than he grimaced, crossed arms lifted by a slow breath. "I'll keep that in mind."

The boss snorted. "If you like, but my wisdom's shallow at best." He walked over to his desk to set the glasses with the other dinner dishes there. June smiled up at him before letting out a big yawn. "If you take something from it, take the bare-bones gist of it: put more effort into the future than the past. It's a simple enough concept, but you probably knew that much already."

As Winslow turned his attention to his daughter, Angus left his office, catching the odd wave on his way back to Tilly and Lefty's table. He couldn't help feeling like some kind of celebrity. The others greeted him with quiet smiles as he sat down. Lefty looked like he'd enjoyed his dinner, laying back with his hands on his stomach. Tilly looked like she enjoyed her drink, hands folded around the stem of her wine glass.

"How's the Boss?" the kid asked.

"Well enough," Angus answered as he frowned at the table, thoughts elsewhere.

"At least he's not too distraught," the girl said, stifling a hiccup, "after his apartment burned down."

Lefty grimaced. "I wish there was more we could do for him..."

"He's the boss," Tilly said, swirling the last sip of dark-purple wine in her glass. "He's got his plans in the works. We'll be doing our part by doing our jobs." She gave a shrug and a smirk before gulping down her drink.

"At least what jobs we're fit for, for the time being." The kid shifted his propped-up leg with a wince. "But then Angus does the heavy lifting anyway, right?" He looked across the table with a grin.

"Not this time," Angus said, eyes leaving the table for only a moment. "Not 'til I get back. I'll be taking some time off to see my Dad back home. Don't know how long I'll be, but I'll be back soon as I can. You'll have to find someone else to lean on 'til then. I suggest a crutch; they don't care how heavy you are."

Lefty's grin melted away to match Tilly's curious stare. Afterward they both gave him understanding nods, eyes falling to the table.

"I suppose it would help at this point to use a crutch." Lefty crossed his arms, brow raised as he looked to his leg. "Guess there's no avoiding a bit of fumbling around on some old sticks now."

"Knowing you, you'd find some way to make an art of fumbling around," Tilly said as she lifted her glass to her eye.

The kid looked to her with a surprised frown. "Was that a... compliment?"

Her eye peered at him through the glass. "Huh. Maybe. I've only had two glasses of this wine."

Lefty laughed, and she followed along shortly after. "I'd keep it to the two, then, if I were you."

The girl waved her hand at him. "Oh, I wasn't going to ask for more anyway."

"I saw you eyeing that waiter."

"I was not!"

As the two joked with each-other, Angus' mind was already turned toward home. He needed time off, that was certain. Why he decided on spending it at his old home on the farm, that, he was less certain about. Maybe he'd been gone too long. Maybe he was feeling nostalgic. He wasn't exactly looking forward to it, but he wasn't looking away at this point. He just needed a bit of distance from all the excitement of the city. But was he dwelling on the past, or moving forward?

He'd see his father. He'd try not to let the visit sour, as it tended to. He'd see his mother, at least in the only sense he could—he owed her that much, after so long away. He'd say hello to whatever familiar faces still hung around. And maybe, at some point through it all, he'd find it in himself to come back.

Come back and do his job, like only he can.