He was not an innocent man. He didn’t have to be. It had been half a decade since he had taken law or morality into consideration. Maybe longer. Maybe much longer. It was hard to remember exactly when those hard edges had stopped eating into him, worrying him out of sleep, hedging him in.
His pulse used to hum in his ears when he burst a lock or broke a window and waded into homes which weren’t his. His skin would grow too thin to keep him together, to keep him from shaking.
At some point in time, the slick of blood between his fingers soured his stomach. He would accidentally smell it after he scrubbed them clean, wince, try to pull away from himself. He kept his hands in pockets, to forget. He washed with hard, sour soap to overpower the metallic taste in the back of his throat.
Once, a long time ago, he would freeze when he heard an odd creak. A noise over his head. A call behind him on the street. A cough around the next corner. A breeze wound run the wrong way, like a door had been opened somewhere he had hoped it wouldn’t. He would pray to gods who had never proven themselves that no one had found him in the middle of his business. That no one had come to catch him.
A long time ago. He could remember all the facts of it – the rattle, the smell, the raw air on exposed skin – but every sensation had faded into falseness. An incoherent ache that was nothing like the bone-deep throb, but was the only thing that still fit in his chest.
He had walked through too many jails since then, in and out, a breath in between. Others, he had escaped without ever stepping inside. Too often, he had looked Watchmen in the eye, while they blanched or seethed, and knew they couldn’t touch him.
He was not innocent. He was inviolable.
Except, perhaps, now.
The manacles jangled on his wrists, heavy. If he sat still, they warmed against his skin, but every time he shifted, he found a new, cold edge. His feet were chained to the floor, and the stone walls of the holding cell echoed and sighed. He had not eaten since the morning before. Annoyingly, his hands shook.
When Fallon came, she looked at him through the bars for a moment, and sat on the stone ground outside without bothering to greet him.
She pulled a pear from her pocket, green and over-round, and rolled it toward him. It curved on its path to his hand, hit his boot instead. Picking it up, he squeezed it for ripeness just out of habit. He steadied his hands before he took a bite, and sucked all the juice he could with it. Just the corners of her mouth tilted up in a smile. It was honest, but there was something too heavy in the silence for Fallon to give her usual grin.
He wiped his lip with his thumb, slowly, watching her. Her shoulders were curled, her knee drawn to her chest. Her face was a schooled canvas, painted all in calm that was poorly shaded.
“What happened to Timot?” he asked.
Fallon tilted her head, just a little, confusion that she had not yet decided to make a question. “Nothing,” she said.
“You’ve seen him?” he asked, and Fallon nodded almost immediately. “Something must have happened. Or I wouldn’t still be in here.”
Fallon blinked, just once. He was surprised at how sharp a motion it seemed, how deep it seemed to cut the air. “No?” she murmured. Her mouth was sharp too, her tongue something silver and steel at once. “Which killing is it that you think you shouldn’t be in here for?”
He stared at her. “Where’s Timot?”
Fallon shrugged. “Wherever he usually is, I think.”
“Go tell him where I am,” he ordered. “Now.”
“He knows,” Fallon said.
Pear juice slipped between his fingers. He had squeezed it too tight, held it too long without thinking. He hated the feeling, thought he caught the smell of something else and hated it more.
“Go get him,” he said. “He would never leave me here.”
Fallon shook her head. “I’m sorry,” she murmured, and it almost seemed like she meant it. “He decided he doesn’t need you anymore.”
He spat. Onto the ground. At her. “He’ll always need me.”
She looked at the wet spatter, inches from her hand. “Maybe,” she whispered to the floor. “But it seems like he needed me more.” For one more breath, she stayed. Her eyes shifted absently while she thought, and for a moment and she licked her lips like she might say something more. Than she shut her mouth, pushed herself to her feet, turned and started slowly away in the echoing hall.
“Which one?” he demanded. Her heels kept their steady pace against the floor. He pulled at the chains, leaned as close as he could to the bars. “Which one was yours?”
“Can you undo it?” she called back, too far away for him to see.