By 12.05 a.m the screaming had started. By 12.06 a.m he had turned away. He fell back asleep at 4.42 a.m. He never mentioned the sounds he heard. Neither did his roommate.
He had once toyed with the idea of providing the vital piece of aid, but all he got was a GI’s blood on his hands. His Slayer wouldn’t speak to him if she had known but that bothered him less than it should have. He found himself choosing the company of the silent undead over the cheerful chirping of his college-wrapped friends. He didn’t mind his silence, over theirs.
His alarm went off at 5.45 a.m and he groaned like he always did. He had grown used to the other half of the bed being empty. Sometimes it was filled, shadows and contours of flesh and bone, when he got home at 5.30 p.m. He never mentioned it. His roommate didn’t either.
At home he would eat, sometimes on tiptoe in the wake of bloodied dreams, but usually just with half an eye open. He paid more attention than they credited him. His movements were slow and easy not to startle, his voice only hard when it had to be.
Sometimes he wondered if things would ever settle back to his fractured normal. When he saw his roommate curled on the couch, shuddering in the evening sunset, he didn’t see how it could. But those times when he got a snark and a sneer for his troubles, he thought that maybe someday… Maybe someday he wouldn’t watch his vampire slaughter demons without a word to his savage joy. And maybe someday he would be brave enough to tell his Slayer the truth of her lost toy soldier. Someday when he could stomach that truth himself.
When he closed his eyes, he still saw the damage. It was one thing for the demon to bleed; another to know a worse monster had done it. He felt easier knowing the evil was dead; the stench of sticky death on borrowed clothes and a seizure in the wake of a chip-attack told him all he needed to know without a single question to be sure. Sometimes, when the duster would drop heavy to the floor, he heard the jangle of proof in deep pockets. Maybe a watch, a lighter, a set of dog tags. He never looked. He didn’t have to.
His demon didn’t volunteer the answers, if he knew the questions. There was a silence between them that neither seemed to know how to break. He wasn’t sure he wanted it to shatter, if it was the only thing keeping them both there. His fight with the Hellmouth was over. He knew it was only a matter of time before vampire left and he abandoned. It bothered him, at times, to wonder if they would notice. But mostly it bothered him to wonder why it bothered him.
He was looking at the clock, unable to find a dream to take him. The large, bloody numbers turned over slowly, making hours with minutes. He jumped when the first sob reached him and pulled the blankets to his ears.
At 12.01 a.m, he was debating what it would cost to get up when the door pushed open. He almost held his breath until a familiar, frightened face poked through. It was 12.03 a.m by the time the blankets were around them both. It was 12.05 a.m when he told his vampire he didn’t have to be alone. It was 12.06 a.m when he showed him how.