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Fergus has been on his best behaviour, taking blow after blow right in the pride until his childish things are straining under the stress. But he has his silence; silence goes a long way. He has a good reason to play nice.

Five years, and they put him in the C-wing. It's nice, because that means no more plastic windows. On Wednesdays and Fridays Dil holds his hand across the table, and it feels so fucking good just to be touched gently.

He doesn't tell her much about his life, but then sharing is a skill he unlearned a long time ago. They talk about hers instead. Millie's is doing better since she became a partner. She's not used to being good at things, let alone finance. She misses chaos.

'I'll have it saved up in just a couple of years. I'm scared, Fergus. My father died in surgery. Did I tell you that?'

'No, you didn't.'

She frowns behind her sunglasses. They tell him she stayed up late last night, counting pennies on the kitchen table, summing up to the number and drinking her way through the fear.

'Don't do it, Dil.' He gives her a look, I-mean-it-Dil.

'I'd do it for you.' She takes his hand. She has such warm soft hands, oh god it's been too long.

'Especially not for me.'

'You don't care?'

'I don't mind, Dil.'

She looks at him as if he was some angel wreathed in light, the Word between his palms.

It's not a lie, but he feels guilty, because he knows what she's hearing is not the whole of what he means, and she's loving him based on a half-truth. He does it anyway, because when she's not there, he misses the touch of her hand.


She's started wearing more make-up. Too much. She says she looks old. She's 30, she says. 37, later, in a whisper, her eyes downcast. He smiles secretly, his heart opening, and he reaches to her face, wipes off the lipstick, wipes off the rouge, like he did once before.

'You look beautiful,' he says, and she smacks him, a small sharp blow.


He's playing cards with the Grover twins when the message comes, losing cigarette after cigarette because he's one of the few men here who won't take them out to town for cheating. He doesn't tell them he's trying to quit. They might as well have their fun.

He's thinking of Dil as he looks for a sign of doubt in the edge of Billy's smile. She said she's coming tomorrow. He's looking forward to telling her.

Everybody knows about Dil. Everybody knows about the parole hearing. For the first five years, they swore she would forget about him, they were sure she was sleeping with someone else. After ten, they are calling him a lucky bastard. They don't know. What he knows. It hardly matters anymore.


Wednesday, and she's not there.

He waits, sitting at the table, trying not to listen to the conversations around him, Abdi's mother murmuring about his sister's virginity, Smurf's kid describing a chainsaw horror movie remake. He stays until they're shouted back behind bars.

He goes back to his cell, paces the few steps between the barred window and the green door, between his bed and a message board tacked with pictures of Dil.


Thursday. Yes, he's sorry. He's a different man. He deeply regrets his anarchist youth. He was trying to break away. He was trying to stop when they caught him. He lets his lawyer talk for him.

He's left behind his sword and armour. He's left behind his self, a long time ago.


The phone rings in the apartment, bouncing off her orange curtains, her dying blue hyacinths, a sound of distance piercing the stillness of stopped time.


Maybe it was what he said the week before. Maybe it was what he'd seen in her eye, guilt that made him think perhaps she'd found someone to hurt her for aging.

But lately she has been blooming - softening, opening like a flower.


Next Wednesday, ten minutes to the hour, he sees her pause at the door of the visiting hall, her eyes searching behind their sunglasses (red red rouge today). She sees him, marches to him, click-click go her heels on the stone. She ignores the twitching of his hands that long to reach for her.

'Tell me right now, Fergus,' she says, her voice low and smoky, shivering around the edges. This is the eleventh year of his penitence and he loves her. 'I'm scared shitless, Fergus, but I want you to look me in the eye and tell me you wouldn't like me better if I'd done it.'


'I want to cut myself for you.'

He grabs her and he kisses her, and she crushes him between her arms, too scared to affect frailty.

'Not for me. Never for me.'


It's been another five years, and her clean face looks lovely against the cruel light of the white skies outside, against the white pillows in the shining white room. Coming in with his bouquet of hyacinths he looks instinctively for a splash of red at her crotch, but she looks healthy and whole, and as she turns to him her eyes are fierce with triumph.

He kneels at her bed, and kisses her hand, her arm, and with one last look to make sure of his permission, lays his hand respectfully, carefully, on her grail.