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Pointless Distractions

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“Travis, what -- where’s… where’s Dref?” Gable asks, striding into the hotel room, brows furrowed in confusion.

Jonnit runs up, gasping for breath, behind them. “Travis -- the captain, he -- where did he go?”

Travis just looks at the both of them for a moment. “Captain’s here. What’s all the fuss about?” he drawls, fidgeting with his sleeve.

“Where’s,” Jonnit pauses to pant, “Dref?”

Gable looks at Travis for a moment, and he squirms under their gaze. He doesn’t want to think about what just happened. He doesn’t want to think.

“Travis,” says Gable, legitimate concern in their voice, “are you okay?”

No, he’s not, but he doesn’t want to hear that note of concern. He doesn’t want people to worry about him. It’s Dref that they -- but no, he can’t think about that either. He looks up at Gable, forces a quick smile. “Travis is just fine . Travis is,” he shoulders past them to the doorway, “going to get a drink,” and he’s out the door and there’s a few less feet between him and alcohol.

“Travis, where are you going? ” Jonnit calls, behind him, but it’s too late and Travis is already pretending to be out of earshot.

Where Travis is going is to a night of shitty ale and worse bilgewater and cups and tankards until he can’t see straight, and then meaningless sex until he can’t think straight, because he feels bad and nothing is allowed to make Travis Matagot feel bad. So he’s going to do what he does every time something like this happens, which is to become aggressively hedonistic until everything is okay again.

Works every time.

Give or take a few.

He stumbles out of the lobby of the hotel, hoping everyone around him thinks he’s drunk and knowing full well that he’s nowhere near drunk enough yet, god, why did he have to experience that sober . The all-over shudders don’t really stop until he’s gotten into a hole-in-the-wall bar and slapped a gold coin down on the counter and gotten halfway through the first of many tankards.

It gets a little blurry. He puts down coins and coins, and as the night wears on he runs out of coins and starts paying in watches. At one point he realizes that he’s actually got no watches left and somehow stumbles through spectacularly winning an Illimat for enough coin to get one more drink. But the person on the other side of the Illimat table offers to pay for his drink anyway, which Travis gladly accepts.

The man puts a hand on Travis’ back as they walk up to the bar to get shots of something harsh and terrible Travis doesn’t remember the name of. Travis peers up at him. “D’I know you?” he slurs, squinting at the man’s face.

The man smiles, leaning in close, and says something Travis is too busy drinking to understand.

“‘S’okay, you can fuck me anyway,” Travis says once he’s downed a shot, pulling at the other man’s sleeve and trying not to sound too needy.

And then everything is even more of a blur.

They end up in the man’s room upstairs in a seedy inn, in a tiny creaky bed; clothes come off and they get down to it. Travis isn’t coherent enough to actually notice how angry his movements are, nor how smooth the other man’s, but it’s fine. This was what he wanted. It’s strangely satisfying for what it is.

Honestly, Travis thinks in a half-coherent moment, this might be the best drunken hookup I’ve ever had.

“You’re good,” he slurs to the stranger. “I’m better, but you’re good.”

“Mmm,” the man says into his ear, “but I’m the best .”

“Nah,” Travis says, and then he sinks back into a drunken stupor because he’d been thinking too much.

Eventually it’s over, and Travis curls up, sweaty and sated and utterly distracted, in the stranger’s bed. He just kind of drifts off there, and it’s fine . He doesn’t feel anything or have any dreams at all. He’s not sad . He’s Travis Matagot and he’s hooking up with strangers and he doesn’t get sad.

 

A ray of sunlight gently drapes itself over Travis’ face and squirms its way under his eyelids. He opens one, then the other, stifling a moan at the splitting pain in his head. He’s naked in an unfamiliar bed. Oh gods, what did he do , where is he?

He got drunk. So drunk. Too drunk. Because of… no, better not think about that now.

And then he hooked up with…

Travis glances over at the stranger, still asleep on the other side of the bed.

He hooked up with…

With…

Oh. Oh gods .

Oh fuck .

On the other pillow, Tiberius Youngblood, touched by the same sunbeam, stirs, opens his eyes, and sits up.

Travis just stares at him, overwhelmed by fear, disgust, anger .

How could he have done this? How could he have not noticed ?

Tiberius smiles, and it’s not a happy smile. It’s a shark smile, like he knows he’s got Travis cornered. And as Travis watches the smile, Tiberius casually plucks a switchblade from the nightstand, flicks it open, and has it to Travis’ throat before he can react.

“Good morning, Travis Matagot,” he says, utterly calm. “Had a good night, did you?”

Travis says nothing.

“I must admit, I was surprised you went with me willingly. After the whole business in the elevator. I assumed you’d want nothing to do with me.”

“You --” Travis starts, angry .

“But you were just so sloppy drunk. Falling all over me. Quite incautious of you. Especially given your circumstances. Does your captain know you’re out like this? Getting overdrunk? Begging to be fucked by a stranger?” He brings his face closer to Travis. “Stealing watches from privateers ?”

Travis can feel the edge of the blade pressing barely sharp into his skin. He doesn’t trust himself to swallow. “I didn’t take your watch,” he mumbles, wincing as the effort of speech sends new shooting pain through his head. “I have enough. Don’t care about yours.”

“Oh,” Tiberius says, a corner of his mouth quirked, “I do hear you all are quite well off these days.”

Travis tenses. “What of it?” And then he laughs a little. “And you, Youngblood, staying in a hotel like this ? God, you must really suck at Illimat!”

Tiberius laughs, softly, less amused and more prideful. “Travis, Travis. I got this room for you . Seemed more your style, a place like this.”

Travis closes his eyes. And then his head flares up and he winces, again, and can’t suppress a quiet whimper. God, this is a bad morning.

“Oh, is your hangover bothering you?” Tiberius asks. “What a shame.” And he looks to the side and smirks, oh so condescending, as if he is laughing at some private joke. “I hear the Uhuru is down a doctor .”

Travis’ vision goes red and he lunges for the knife.

 

“Hellooooo,” Travis yells, sauntering into the room in the Broker’s hotel. “I’m hoooome . Jonnit! Gable?”

Gable is sitting at a table, head in their hands, and turns around, brightening just a little at his voice. They’ve clearly been crying.

Travis ,” they say, bringing themself up to their full height. They take three large strides and they’re right next to him, one hand on his shoulder. “Where were you?” They’re almost laughing, a little wild-eyed, a little angry. They probably haven’t slept. “You haven’t been here all night. You... smell gross. I -- the Broker told us what happened, but --”

“We’re leaving this city today,” Travis interrupts. “Get the captain. Tell the crew.”

“I -- what?” Gable says, tilting their head at him. “We still need to compete in Aur Pióra. We have an agreement with the Broker. We can’t just… leave?”

Travis heaves a dramatic sigh and tosses something small and golden onto the table. Gable frowns and picks it up, holds it up to the light.

It’s Tiberius Youngblood’s pocket watch. The face is spattered with nearly-dry blood.

“We’re leaving this city today,” Travis says.

“O-oh,” Gable says, staring at the watch for another minute. “Did you. Uh.”

“...I did,” Travis says. “Of course I did.”

Gable clears their throat. “Well,” they say, after a brief moment of presumably angelic internal conflict, “I suppose that was… entirely justified.” They look down, lips a tight line, and then look back at him (also down but less so). “Well done, Travis. We had no idea you were leaving to find and kill the man.”

Travis tries to plaster a grin onto his face. “Yeah.” He looks at the watch a moment longer, and then rubs his throat where he swears he can still feel the bite of a knife.

“Anytime.”