“Ey. Gimme ‘nother,” Solseir demanded.
The human bartender looked at him, pursing his lips. “I think you’ve had enough whiskey for one night, buddy. Why don’t you call it a night and go home?”
Solseir coughed and shoved his glass toward the bartender. “I’m shippin’ out in two days. To California. Gimme ‘nother.”
He tilted his head to the left to show off the shiny red blinking light of the tracker on the right side of his neck, in case his words had failed to get his point across. It was a small metal circle, made from silver since elves can’t touch iron, designed for locating individuals presumed to have a flight risk. Since he had vanished once, he might do so again, Vitas Silverwyrm had reasoned.
Vitas had whistled a marching tune while he inserted it, either ignorant of the effect it had on Solseir or doing it on purpose to goad him. Vitas and Solseir had never been friends. The Silverwyrm had always enjoyed hassling him. He had never figured out why.
“I’m sorry,” the bartender said, cutting into Solseir’s thoughts.
He blinked the alcoholic haze from his eyes, waiting. The bartender glanced from side to side as if one of the other patrons in the bar this late on a Monday night would care if he gave Solseir another shot.
Three rough-looking human males all over the age of fifty sat at the bar, in various stages of slumped drunkenness. One of them had a familiar looking dark haired woman hanging off his arm, giggling and whispering in his ear. Solseir had given up trying to figure out where he might have seen her before. A few others sat in private booths here and there, not paying attention to anything but their conversations.
Solseir stared him down, willing him to pour the damn shot. The elf’s concentration was precarious at best; glamouring him would be next to impossible.
Eventually, the bartender sighed and poured more whiskey into the elf’s waiting glass.
“Las’ one, I swear,” Solseir assured him. From this bar, he thought. There were plenty more on this block.
The bartender walked away, shaking his head.
Solseir ignored him and cupped his glass in both hands. The scent of the whiskey calmed his nerves. He took a slow sip, savoring the burn that slid down his throat, and pressed the cool glass to his forehead.
Shipping out would be a nightmare, but that was Sober Solseir’s problem. Drunk Solseir was content to keep knocking back the whiskey until everything blurred and he woke up in detox on a military base. They would probably find him in an alley, thanks to Vitas’ stupid tracker.
He turned and blinked to clear his bleary eyes. The woman that had been leaning on the old man had come over to him, shaking her long black curls and fluttering her heavily mascaraed eyelashes at him. The other man had turned back to his gin and tonic, sipping it slowly and staring into the shiny bar surface as if it contained the secrets of the universe.
Now he remembered her. “Nikki? Ey, ‘ow are ya? ‘Aven’t seen you in…in ages…er, weeks?”
Nikki grinned at him, plunking her plump derriere onto the stool next to his. “I don’t work for Dr. Keller anymore. I took a job at Porter Adventist Hospital.”
“Ah, tha’s great, Nikki. I’m glad for you.” He smiled, weaving back and forth. “Do you have a sis…a sister?”
“Why? Are you seeing two of me?” Her eyes crinkled with humor.
“Yeah, itsh weird.” He sank lower on the bar, resting his head on the surface. It was nice and smooth under his cheek. He could fall asleep like this.
“Listen, Solseir. I’m going to get a tattoo. Could you come with me?” She fluttered her eyelashes at him. “I’m scared to go alone.”
Solseir shrugged and sat up straight, emboldened by her fluttering lashes and her request for his protection. “Sure, why not? Lemme pay my tab.”
Nikki smiled and tucked her arm underneath his, clasping his free hand in hers. Her eyes sparkled for a moment; he got lost in them. But that was silly. She was human, after all, and incapable of glamouring him. Science had proven beyond all doubt that humans had no magic centuries ago.
“Don’t worry about it,” she said with a toss of her shiny black curls, breaking the spell. “That gentleman over there said he’d pay your tab.”
He followed her gaze, swaying when she pulled him to his feet too fast. The cheap old man who had nursed the same gin and tonic for two hours bobbed his head and raised his glass to Nikki. He wondered if that was the same man Nikki had been leaning on when he first noticed her. The bartender had his back turned, mixing a drink while he chatted with one of the pretty servers, a blond surfer type with a broad smile and a deep, throaty laugh.
“Bye, Uncle Mort!” she called, steering Solseir out of the bar.
Before she could yank him out of reach, he dropped a gold coin on the bar surface. He had emptied at least one bottle of expensive whiskey, and he didn’t feel right about making the old man pay for his drinking binge. Even if Nikki had somehow managed to convince him to pay his tab. When he left this world, which would be soon given where he was headed, he wanted to leave as few debts behind as possible.
“Uncle Mort?” he asked, but she giggled and clutched his arm, hugging it to her chest, and her softness made him think of other things instead.
“Solseir, have you ever wanted to do something crazy?” she asked.
She inhaled, and his eyes drew down to her chest again. “I heard what you said about shipping out. How about I give you a good memory so that you have something to come back to?”
Aw, Nikki was sweet, if a bit naive. How could he tell her that he would likely die on the front lines no matter what she did for him?
He forced a smile. “How is that crazy?”
Nikki laughed, tossing her curls back. He couldn’t help joining in even though a small part of him thought she might be laughing at him instead of with him.
“Oh, honey, we’re just getting started.”
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Questions? Comments? Obviously I decided on a title. I’m not sure how I feel about it yet, but it’ll work for now. ^_^