“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she had to walk into mine.”
Lorne stared across the smoke-filled room at the slight blonde framed in the doorway.
“What?” The bartender next to him pulled his head out from under the counter where he’d been sweeping up the detritus from a torn bag of beer nuts. “You say something?”
Lorne took an involuntary step backwards as the woman began to make her way towards the bar. He pressed himself against the wall as if it might somehow disguise him – a ruse that was unlikely to work given the paisley wallpaper, his green skin, and lavender leisure suit. It was like trying to hide polka dots against plaid. His eyes darted from side to side as he considered other possibilities for escape. The office – if he could make it there, he could close the door and stay out of sight.
“Listen, Zeke.” Lorne edged along the rear wall. “If anyone asks for me, tell them that I’m, uh, that I’m…”
“That you’re what, Boss?”
It was too late – she’d seen him. Her eyes settled on him and widened in surprised recognition, and his shoulders slumped in response.
“Never mind,” he sighed. Lorne reached for his martini and downed the contents in a single gulp, then held the glass out to Zeke. “Here – would you freshen this up for me? In fact, make it a double and I’ll love you forever.” Zeke quirked an eyebrow at him, but made no further comment. Lorne turned back to the bar with a sense of foreboding.
“Lorne. I - I didn’t expect to find you here.”
“I didn’t expect you to find me here either.” Lorne tried to keep his face expressionless. “That was kind of the point.” He pulled a tumbler from the dishwasher and began polishing it.
She gave him a sad smile. It matched the rest of her – she looked distressed, discouraged, dispirited, and a whole passel of other dis’s all at once. Her hair hadn’t seen the hand of a decent stylist – or possibly even shampoo – for some time and hung limply over her shoulders. There were dark hollows under her eyes and a permanent crease of worry between her eyebrows. She’d lost weight and was trying to hide the trembling of her hands by shoving them into the pockets of her worn and faded jeans.
She lowered herself gingerly onto a barstool and looked up at him.
“You don’t need to worry – I’m not going to bring the Senior Partners down on you.” She gave him a rueful look. “Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t. I’m nothing to them anymore.” Her voice dropped to a whisper. “I’m nothing to anyone anymore.” She turned her face from him and he pretended not to notice the tears she was blinking away.
It took a minute for her to get herself back under control, before she could speak again. When she did, she kept her gaze lowered, as if she didn’t want to look him in the eyes. “I heard five times that you were killed, in five different places.”
“Well, as you can see, it was true every single time.” Lorne finished his polishing and set the glass on the counter with a little more force than was necessary. Eve cringed. He wondered briefly what her life must have been like in the last year – the woman who sat before him now was more than a few songs and dances away from her former assured and cocky self. He decided he didn’t really want to know – didn’t really care – and reached into the dishwasher for another glass.
“You despise me, don't you?” Hunched on her stool, she looked and sounded like a frightened little girl.
“If I gave you any thought, I probably would.”
She nodded in vague assent and then was silent for another minute, staring dully at the blinking neon sign that hung in the dust-smeared window and at the flat, arid landscape beyond. “It’s so empty…” She said it so quietly that he almost missed her words.
After a moment, she turned to him again. “What brought you here?”
“My health.” He couldn’t keep the sardonic note out of his voice. “I came here for the waters.”
“The waters?” She looked confused. “What waters? We're in the desert.”
“I was misinformed.” Lorne heard Zeke stifle a snicker, but Eve’s bafflement only seemed to increase. Lorne sighed, pulled up a stool, and reached for his refilled drink.
“Eve,” he said as patiently as if he were talking to a three year-old, “there aren’t many places that someone who looks like me can disappear. It’s not hard to get lost in a crowd, but the time had come for me to leave that crowd. This is Roswell – people expect to see the unusual here. I don’t stand out any more than that wallpaper does. No one pays me any mind and that’s what’s good for my health.”
She nodded. Her head drooped again and she began twisting a ring on her finger. Lorne recognised it as one that Lindsey used to wear.
“I can’t find… I’ve been looking…” She paused and cleared her throat. “No one seems to know what happened that night. I know that each of you had your missions,” – Lorne suppressed a flinch – “and about the fight in the alley. I know that some of you – them – survived, but there were so many different stories, and I’ve been looking and looking, but I can’t find…” She gripped the ring on her finger and this time the welling tears spilled over her lower lids and ran down her cheeks. “I can’t find…” Her voice broke and she looked up at him, her eyes filled with fear and hope and dread.
Lorne pushed his glass towards her. “I think you need this more than I do.” He gestured at Zeke to make him another. Eve raised the drink to her lips with trembling hands and grimaced a little at the taste.
“Go on, drink up. The worst it can do is make you numb. Actually, come to think of it, that’s also the best it can do.” She took another sip.
“You really loved him.”
She nodded again and went back to playing with the ring. “He was my… my everything.” Her voice quivered. “I wanted what he wanted, because I wanted him. And he wanted… well, I’m not really sure now what he wanted. I thought he wanted revenge because the Senior Partners had given Angel what he’d worked so hard for and hadn’t gotten. But there was something else.” Her brow furrowed with remembered uncertainty. “Something… I don’t know.” She gave herself a shake and tried to sit up straight. “I tried to talk him out of it, but he went to the fight with you. I know what happened to some of the others – Wesley and Gunn, their deaths were in the papers – and now I’ve found you, but I can’t find… Lindsey.” His name seemed to tear a hole in her throat. “I need to find… I need to know. I’ve looked for so long. Can you… can you tell me anything? Where he is? How… Please?” The last word came out as a ragged gasp.
Lorne bowed his head and silently cursed the fates that had crossed her path with his. His mind recoiled from having to remember, having to relive, what had happened that night. He reached out and stilled her worrying hands by laying one of his own over them.
“I was with Lindsey that night.” He heard the catch in her breath, but quelled her rising emotions with a hard stare. “I haven’t got any good news for you, Evie,” he said as gently as he could. “‘Cause there isn’t any good news. Lindsey… died on his mission. He succeeded in killing the Sahrvin, but he… didn’t survive.” Lorne released Eve’s hands, picked up his martini glass, and drained it. Numb. That was the way to go.
When he looked back at Eve, she had her arms wrapped tightly around her chest and was rocking back and forth on her seat. Tears flowed unchecked down her face and she was crooning words that Lorne could just barely make out.
“Pretty as a picture. She is like a golden ring…”
She blinked, then caught and held his gaze. Her eyes were glassy, but focussed. “You were with him when he… when he died?” The word sounded experimental, as if she were testing its validity.
Lorne accepted another martini from Zeke. The man had the makings of an excellent bartender.
“Yes, I was with him.”
“Did he… did he say anything? About me? Give you a message to pass on…” Her voice faded to a whisper. “Anything?”
Lorne stared at his olive and wished he were anywhere but here. The olive and its pimento stared back impassively. “Like I said, Eve, I’ve got no good news for you. I’m an empath demon – I know what’s in a man’s mind, what’s in his heart. And even if I weren’t – well, a man’s last words, they tell his story. Better than I ever could.” He took another swallow, then raised his eyes to hers.
“They were about Angel, sugar plum. His last words – his last thoughts, his last feelings – were all about Angel. For Lindsey, it was always all about Angel.”
For a few seconds, it looked like she’d stopped breathing. Her mouth moved as though she were trying to speak, but there was no sound. After a moment, she turned away from him and stood, then shakily walked towards the door without looking back. Lorne finished the rest of his drink.
“Bit harsh with that last part, weren’t you?” Zeke was regarding him with disapproval.
Lorne shook his head. “She already knew, Zeke. She already knew.” He picked up the ring that Eve had left behind on the bar. “I heard her sing.” .
A/N: Some of the dialogue – including, of course, the opening line – was borrowed from Casablanca
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