Flash Fiction: Let it Burn

“Whiskey.”

She tossed her satchel onto the bar and the glassware at the other end rattled in response. The ‘tender flicked a glance from his downcast gaze, his hand grasping around a bottle from below. She watched as he poured the liquid into a glass, contemplating the texture and the way it would feel burning down her throat. It would take longer than last time – it always did – but she knew eventually she’d be able to drink enough to satiate what she’d come there for.

He slid the glass toward her and she pulled a flat disc from her pocket, holding it up for him to scan. Anyone with half the sense they were born with knew better than to carry loose change into a public place, and even in her pre-drunken state, she maintained a firm grasp on common sense. The transaction was made in seconds and she slid the small device away, focusing her attention on the confinement of liquid before her.

Vile stuff, really. It tasted horrible. Every time she took that first sip she had to fight back a gag reflex. But not a half hour into it, and the detestable drink would be sliding into her with ease. She smirked a bit at that errant thought, her mind playing back to earlier in the day, when the fool with the gun had tried at her fancy, and she took her first swig.

“This seat taken?”

Her face scrunched and distorted from the taste of the whiskey as it lingered in her mouth. She swallowed hard, but didn’t bother to face the addresser. With that voice, there was no need, and no reason to give any form of encouragement.

“Yes.”

She could hear the old wooden stool creak a bit as he put his weight upon it. Her eyes rolled upward, and she took another long drink. Perhaps the quicker she could reach her goal, the quicker he would just disappear, and all her problems with him.

“Something for you, sir?” The ‘tender greeted him, and a wider smirk fit onto her lips.

“No, thank you.”

It was early morning, well before anyone should have been awake. What he was doing in an establishment she was certain he must consider beneath him, she would never know. Or at least, she wouldn’t be listening long enough to hear it.

“Do you think the crew plans to depart soon?”

She knew the question was directed to her, and before she even turned, she knew he must be leaning halfway off the stool and against the bar, looking at her with his head tilted slightly, that gleam of mischief in his eyes. She would not play his little games.

“You assume I care one way or the other.”

A note of surprise wove its way into his retort. “Yesterday you were practically banging down the Captain’s door to be sure we were charting a straight course with no frivolous stops.”

“Not about that.”

She gave him a moment, and finally tossed him a sidelong glance. “You assume I care for conversation.”

She grabbed the bottle by its neck and topped off her glass, throwing back another dose of self-medication.

“Then all you mean to do is sit here, drink yourself into uselessness, and pick up a martyr’s flag as soon as you recover from your hangover?”

A bitter smirk pulled her lips, yet her eyes held no humor. “That’s right.”

The sound of wood scraping against wood filled the quiet bar. He was leaving, and she turned to look at him over her shoulder. He stood not scowling, but not entirely impassive either.

“You are weak to do it.” He turned, pulling his hood back up to protect from the swirling sands outside. “And because of that, you make me weak as well.”

A quick comment made its way to her mind and threatened to leap forth, but he stilled it with one of his own, his hand searching for something underneath his cloak – a small disc he held up to the bartender.

“Put whatever she orders after that bottle on my tab.”

The bartender nodded, and the man left just as swiftly and quietly as he had entered.

She looked at her nearly spent bottle, at her glass, and then at the empty doorway, her eyes flashing with an indignant glare.

“Son of a bitch.”

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