There were two windows, a few feet apart and high up so he couldn’t look out – and slanting across the wall and the floor away from them there were two patches of sunlight. All day long, two patches of sunlight that slid from one end of the room to the other to mark the passing of time.
Sometimes Will wondered if Angelus knew. How could he know? You would only know if you had spent the day in the narrow little space, watching the blocks of sunlight stamped by the window bars with two grey crosses, waiting for the eastern one to have travelled so close it was time to move again. There was room to crouch between the two, or even to lie down, but if he lay down he would fall asleep and if he fell asleep he would burn.
So crouching then, counting off the minutes by the slow crawl of sunlight across the gritty concrete of the floor, fighting the heaviness behind his eyes and waiting for the moment to shuffle sideways again.
And with the dark he would come.
Just as the last of the sunlight licked up to where he was spread-eagled, trapped against the far wall in the final seconds before it vanished, when he should be falling safely to sprawl out at full stretch in the cool of the night, the tread would pound down the corridor.
He tried to push the tiredness from his face in his last few seconds, tried to stand up straight and unbeaten.
Angelus. On the threshold, in his shirt sleeves for this grubby little bit of work but otherwise immaculate, and dangling from one hand, squirming slightly, a large brown rat, its leathery tail lashing and curling like a snake.
Will wouldn’t let himself look at it. He stared at Angelus’s boots instead, wondering who was blacking them now. Dru couldn’t be trusted, and it was no job for a minion. It was Will’s duty, nobody else’s.
Abruptly Angelus moved, covering the five paces to Will, using his free hand to take Will’s chin, tilting his head up and turning it from side to side, eyes narrowing at whatever it was he saw there. Angelus paused over one angle, fingers digging in insistently until Will tilted a fraction more and then a long cool finger reached up and brushed along the bone beneath his eye, making him flinch. He wasn’t sure if it had hurt or if it was just the touch itself, sending a quiver of shock down his spine. Then with a concluding tap to his jaw Angelus released him and held out the rat.
Will scooped it into his hands, grabbing as it trickled and wriggled through his fingers, wrinkling his nose at the ratty stench, feeling the soft fur and hot thrub, thrub, thrub of its heartbeat, trying not to let his mouth water.
Angelus’s hand on his shoulder while he struggled with the rat, turning him around, hoisting the caked stiffness of his shirt that rubbed sorely over his back, letting the cool air play across it. Will raised his arms, holding the rat up to the ceiling in bizarre suplication so Angelus could lift his shirt the whole way. It had stopped struggling, hung quivering in his hold as he gradually lowered it and held it to his chest, where he could feel one little paw scratching through the folds of shirt rucked around his neck.
Against his back he could feel Angelus’s hands moving in slow examination over his skin, making him shiver. Was it gentler than yesterday? He struggled to remember, no longer certain if the bone weary ache he felt in every muscle was bruising or the hurt of tiredness and despair.
Then the contact was gone, the clip of Angelus’s boots walking away from him echoing off the stone. He shrugged to let his shirt fall back and turned quickly, smoothing his finger down the rat’s knobbly spine to keep it calm as he moved. Angelus was by the door already but he hesitated and glanced back, one eyebrow raised questioningly. Will bit his lip, then dropped his eyes, meeting the button black ones of the rat. He heard the door shut, the key turn, the footsteps walk away. Only when there was nothing more to be heard at all did he let his knees buckle and he slumped to the floor. With a writhe the rat jerked itself free and as he closed his eyes he heard it scutter away. He didn’t care, it couldn’t get out any more than he could. He’d catch it later. And with a small sigh, like an animal curling up to rest, he let himself sleep.