Earlier that evening the team won the first game of the season on home ground, as such the traditional celebration in one of the bars the team frequents in turns resumed. Andrew has accepted the invitation only because The Devil makes three is an English pub with good whiskey, and music that doesn't make him wants to pierce his own eardrums. The fact that it doesn't have a TV constantly broadcasting sport news is also a selling argument.
Now his teammates are well on their way to drunk, and therefore more rambunctious than usual.
Surprisingly he doesn't actually hate all of them, some he even appreciates. Laila Dermott at their head. Somehow the former Trojan goalkeeper, with her fiery temper and dry humour, has wedged herself in a tiny crack of his armour – granted he doesn't wear it as tight as he used to; years of appointments with Betsy helped with that. In some aspects, Laila reminds him a little of Renee. Both of them wear their faith – albeit to differents gods – openly but without imposing it on others. They respect his boundaries but aren't detered by his blank expression and vaguely threatening silences. Andrew's guess is, if it wasn't a natural incline of Laila's character, befriending Jean Moreau in college must have something to do with it.
Even so, Andrew never is comfortable in large group of people for long, and he only tolerates human interaction in small doses before he needs a break. Nicotine addiction is convenient for that.
He escapes through the back door of the pub he's probably not meant to use, but he's not one to be bothered by that kind of rules.
The cool air of the early autumn night is a reprieve from the warmth of the pub. Andrew quickly scans the courtyard, barely lit by the lamp above the door and made darker by the branches of a massive tree obscuring the sky. Some instincts never fade away, especially those born from a far less than ideal childhood. To be aware of his surroundings at all time is one of the very first Andrew picked up, alongside sleeping with his back to the wall.
There's a high stool carefully situated just outside the range of the light. Sitting on it is another smoker. His head is tilted against the wall, and his eyes are closed, but the minute way his shoulders tense when Andrew steps out is enough for him to know the man is aware of his presence.
Well, Andrew corrects himself, he's not so much smoking as simply breathing in the smoke drifting from the cigarette he holds close to his face.
Andrew reaches in his pocket for a lighter at the same time his mind provides him with an image of said lighter sitting on the windowsill of the main room of his apartment, on the other side of the city. The low curse he lets out prompts a scarred hand to breach the circle of light, holding a bright orange plastic lighter toward him.
Andrew lights up and lets the smoke fills his lungs until the need to breathe forces him to release it into the night air before he passes the lighter back without a word. The man doesn't seem to mind the lack of thanks, and Andrew can't help but notice the way their fingers don't touch during both exchanges. People usually don't care enough to be careful with little things like that.
Andrew is intrigued despite himself.
Instead of hating the feeling, he accepts it and lets himself take a closer look to satisfy his interest. Bee would be proud, he thinks dimly.
The stranger appears to be about Andrew’s age, dark-haired, and dressed in a oversized gray sweater and dark trousers. The black lines of a tattoo are peeking out under the hem of one sleeve riding up on his wrist. The night isn't dark enough to obscur completely his features, Andrew can discern a thin face dominated by high cheekbones. He's handsome despite the several thin scars that mar the side of his face turned toward Andrew.
It's not the scars that snatch Andrew's attention. The man's face tugs at something in his memory, but somehow he can't make it surface. It's like he saw it before, but only in passing, without really paying attention so it wasn't neatly labelled and stored on the shelves of his memory, but rather thrown haphazardly in a box in a corner. Most of the memories in that box belong to the years court-mandated medication took over his control. Anything not interesting enough to catch Andrew's skipping attention span ended in there. It doesn't mean he has forgotten; he never does. It will just take more than a few seconds to associate this face with its context.
Andrew realizes he's starring when a self-deprecating smile twists the corner of the stranger's lips. That lapse in control is unlike him. Somehow, Andrew has the feeling that interacting with this man has the potential to make him break character more often than not.
“I tell you mine if you show me yours.” There is a pleasant British lilt to his voice Andrew notes while the man looks pointedly at the dark armbands embroided with constellations (a gift from Renee) concelling knives and old scars. Andrew isn't sure which one he's referring to, he doesn't care to find out.
The refusal is met with a simple nod of acceptance. The man just returns to not smoking and staring at the sky over their heads.
Andrew tries not to watch him from the corner of his eyes, and does not completely succeed.
The comfortable silence shatters suddenly when the door bangs open. Like the first time, fight-or-flight tension take over the other's body for a fraction of a second, and he looks ready to bolt. The word runaway pops unbidden in Andrew's thoughts.
“Abram?” one of the bartender calls – Marissa, Andrew's memory supplies uselessly. She looks relieved at finding him here, like he has the habit of disappearing and not being found. “Giacomo's drunk and blabblering in Italian. Send him home, will you?” The door closes again before Abram has any time to reply.
Abram stubs out his half-finished cigarette in an ashtray with a sigh and gracefully hops off the stool. He isn't much taller than Andrew, a few inches at most. Dark hair shines auburn in the light, a shock of color in his otherwise monochrome appearance. Andrew is surprised to see him grab a cane that was leaning on the wall out of his sight. If you don't know to look for it, the limp is anything but obvious. It should belies his earlier assessment of Abram being a runner, yet Andrew can't shake the feeling that there is truth to it.
The door closes behind Abram with a soft click, and Andrew finds himself almost missing his quiet presence.
Not long after, Andrew takes one last drag from his cigarette and flicks it into the ashtray. The pub is still as loud as before, and he considers calling it a night when he sees the redhead behind the counter. Curiosity alters the course of his path.
In the light of the pub Andrew notices that the scars are not limited to the left side of Abram's face, although on the other the neat lines left behind by a knife have been replaced by perfectly circular burns; the same kind that cover his knuckles. Abram has been put through a very deliberate and probably beyond painful torture. Andrew wonders if the leg was part of it too.
When Abram finally stops in front of him, the icy blue eyes that settle on Andrew's face contain an emptiness that Andrew isn't used to see outside of the kids at the center he volunteers when he has time, or outside of the mirror on bad days. An emptiness caused by firsthand experience of the horrors the world can inflict on someone.
There is a beat of silence, and then Abram huffs out a breath of faint amusement that makes the ice of his eyes melt a little.
“Whiskey, right ?” At Andrew's nod, Abram sets down a glass with a soft clink against the wood of the counter.
“What about you ?”
“I don't drink.” A shrug accompanies the reply, resignation to the inevitable comment of how odd a bartender who doesn't drink is.
Andrew, who resents being predictable, says nothing. Instead he sips his drink and tracks Abram's efficient movements cutting slices of lime to put into the colorful drinks ordered by an elderly couple. His grip on the knife is easy and all control; to Andrew's trained eyes it speaks of more than a simple use on fruit.
That thought finally makes the memory clicks into place.
Five years ago, in the mist of Kengo Moriyama's death and the subsequent takeover of his empire by his elder son, Andrew was too caught up in Kevin dealing with his breakdown by drowning himself in liquor to really pay attention to anything else. But he does remember seeing news reports about the dismantling of a crime circle in Baltimore by the FBI that ended in bloodbath. They never failed to mention the numerous murders of Nathan Wesninski, wife and son allegedly among them. Both events were seemingly unrelated for anyone not privy to the working of the Moriyama's family. Andrew knew enough to connect the dots and concluded the new Lord was cutting loose ends at the start of his reign. He didn't give it much more toughts.
Finding the missing son of a mass murderer in a quiet pub of the East Cost isn't the most far-fetched thing to happen in Andrew's life. It may be one of the most interesting though.
For the second time of the night, Andrew catches himself staring at Abram's face and hates him a little for it because in addition to being unfairly attractive, he's intriguing. A puzzle Andrew wants to solve.
He hasn't felt this curious about something in a very long time; it's unnerving.
And a little bit exciting if he's completely honest with himself, which he tends to be these days.
“Staring,” Abram points out with the barest edge of a smile on his lips.
“You don't add up.”
“I'm not a math problem,” Abram replies, nonplussed.
I still want to solve you though, Andrew doesn't say, then turns back to his table to get his jacket and leave.
Laila flicks a look from him to the counter where Abram is filling a line of shot glasses with pink liquid. She turns back to Andrew with a raised eyebrow and a smirk but wisely doesn't comment on it.