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Three's Company

Chapter Text

Jack stared into his pint, absorbing the companionable warmth being generated from the babbling conversations going on around him, all seemingly focused on the London Olympics. It was good to get out of his miserable room and English pubs seemed to be the meeting place of choice for everybody all around this wet, wretched country. He sighed, that was unfair. He liked England, it was just it wasn’t home, but then he didn’t have one of those anymore. And it was always raining. And if it wasn’t raining, it was grey. The British seemed obsessed with the weather, almost all casual conversations making reference to it, although they also appeared to be resolutely accepting. There had been an almost gleeful edge to all the media reports that the summer had been the wettest for a hundred years, only the second wettest since records began. As far as Jack could see, this news was met almost universally by the locals with understanding and as if it explained everything. Then the conversation would immediately move on to predictions for the winter and long chuckles about how the country fell apart at the first hint of snow, along with the odd snigger about leaves on the line. He wasn’t quite sure where lines and leaves came into it, but had smiled politely both times he’d heard it talked about. It was certainly a very different climate to the almost incessant sunshine of California where he’d spent much of his life, and a damned sight colder here. He gave a slight involuntary shiver, he’d need to buy some warmer clothes soon if he was going to stay on much longer. As if he needed reminding, he felt the draught across his knees as two more customers pushed their way through the door into the pub. He felt rather than saw the newcomers glance over at him as they headed towards the bar and left it a moment before letting his eyes scan over their way.

Two men, one a couple of inches taller than the other. Him clean shaven and smartly dressed in a crisp, white button up shirt with a tie perfectly matching his navy blue suit, the other one scruffy, almost bohemian looking with his frayed jeans, an old, misshapen fisherman’s sweater with sleeves pushed up to the elbows, facial stubble and shaggy silvering hair, albeit clearly regularly maintained by a barber. Not who he was looking for, but he studied them a moment longer out of habit. They both had their backs to him now, focused on attracting the barman’s attention. The taller of the two was dark haired, his back broad, but solid, Jack could see the strong, wide shoulders under the line of his jacket, all giving an impression of energy and power beneath the surface. The other was slender, smaller proportioned than his friend and looked a bit like a weirdy beardy, but with a fluidity of movement that would likely equal the muscled strength of his friend in a fight. The taller one turned his head to speak to his scruffy companion and Jack saw the slight greying at the temples and the handsome profile, the face far older than the sturdy physical form had suggested. Further scrutiny showed a liberal dusting of salt and pepper on the dark cap of short hair. Both of similar age, older than himself by at least ten years he reckoned. The taller one reached over and ruffled his friend’s hair. Perhaps they were a couple, not unusual here in Brighton. Not one for prejudices, Jack was a firm believer that happiness should be sought wherever it could, there wasn’t enough of it around and he knew from bitter personal experience how easily it could all be stolen away in a heartbeat. After a quick glance around the rest of the pub lest there was anybody else there that he had missed, Jack let his eyes slide back to his pint. In his peripheral vision, he saw the two newcomers move away from the bar, both moving the easy motion of men in good physical shape, clutching their respective pints as they made their way over to a table with no real visible sign of communication between them. Likely they always sat there, he thought absently, and proceeded to re-analyse the positioning of his chosen table. It gave him a perfect view of the entire pub, both exits and the bar. His bench seat up against the wall meant nobody could sneak up on him from behind, a perfect lookout. He idly considered the other seating options and decided that the table where the newcomers had just settled at was probably the second best location, certainly for the dark haired one of the two. He had an almost uninterrupted view of the bar, his back to the wall, whereas his tousle-headed companion had his back to much of the pub. And as he thought it, the scruffy one shuffled his chair round closer to his pal until they were sitting side by side instead of facing each other and they bent their heads together, deep in conversation.

Jack looked at his watch, just over an hour until the barman would call time and now it was starting to look increasingly unlikely the man he was looking for would make an appearance, but Jack was patient. He’d stay till closing, would keep coming back until he was confident that his target wasn’t a patron of this particular hostelry and then he’d move onto the next. Combined with the surveillance work he was doing during the day he knew it was only a matter of time before he found his quarry. He’d covered a third of the grids he’d carefully marked out on the street map that he’d got from the tourist office. Although it wasn’t a sure fire way of spotting his target as there would always be the small matter of right place, right time, it meant he could at least guarantee to cover every road in the town. There were some areas he spent longer in and others the minimum time he’d allocated, but over the last few months, he’d refined his method and proved its success several times over.