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Nicholas forced himself to get through the second half of the day. He hardly talked to Travis at all, and focused his everything on finding even the most minor infractions to cite. More than once, Travis tried to engage him in a bit of ‘healthy conversation,’ but Nicholas ignored his efforts.

By two o’clock, Nicholas felt like he could jump out of his skin. By three, he wasn’t sure that he’d even be able to finish the day. When four o’clock finally did roll by, he hardly even bothered changing back into his civvies; going only as far as to take off any badges and official gear before pulling on his jacket and fetching a taxi home.

In the flat, he took off his jacket and tried to put it on the hook by the door. He didn’t even notice that he’d missed, making tracks straight for his bedroom without even looking at anything around him.

Around twenty minutes later, Travis hefted Nicholas’ bicycle up the stairs to their flat. He couldn’t get it up onto the hook that had been mounted in the ceiling, not even sure how Nicholas managed to heft the massive thing up the stairs at all. As he leaned the bicycle against the wall, he spotted Nicholas’ jacket on the floor.

“Nick?” he called hesitantly as he hung the jacket on the hook.

He wasn’t exactly surprised to not get an answer, but that didn’t stop him being worried. He made his way to Nicholas’ bedroom, gently tapping on the closed door.

“Nicky, can you talk to me?” he asked.

Through the door, Travis could hear Nicholas start to move around, so he stepped back to avoid crowding him. After a few long moments, the door did open, if only slightly, and Nicholas all but glared out at him.

“Fuck, Nick,” Travis said. “Do I need to call Paul?”

“I already did,” Nicholas said, not making any effort to actually leave his room. “He can’t get me in until tomorrow. I’ll be taking a personal day.”

Travis wasn’t entirely sure how to handle this. Nicholas having mild freak-outs at random moments wasn’t exactly unheard of, but he hadn’t been quite this bad since they were students.

“You want me to order a curry or something?” Travis tried. “Or... to throw me through a wall?”


With that, Nicholas shut the door and disappeared into his bedroom again.

The next morning, he was able to convince Travis that he didn’t need a minder to see Paul, and made his own way to the small office space on Upper Woburn. He’d shown up nearly 45 minutes early, but he didn’t want to stay in the flat any longer than he needed. When he was finally called back, Nicholas practically jumped to his feet.

“Nicholas, what’s up?” Paul asked, sounding genuinely concerned as he held the door open for him as he walked in.

Nicholas scrubbed his face with his hands as he let himself fall onto the sofa. “I don’t know,” he said.

“Okay...” Paul sat down in his chair, picking up his clipboard. “Well, why don’t you tell me why you’re here?”

“I don’t know,” Nicholas repeated. “I mean...” he realised that telling the full ‘truth,’ as it all actually happened wouldn’t be a very productive strategy, but he also wasn’t entirely sure how else to go about this whole thing.

Telling one’s counsellor that one was turned into a mouse by an angry small-G god at a bar at the end of the universe really can only have one outcome, and Nicholas had no desire to be sectioned. He took a long moment to find the right words, knowing that Paul would be patient and not try to rush him. He’d been seeing him for nearly nine years, and in that time, they’d both become very familiar with one another.

But the more he thought about what to say, the more he realised he’d have lie.

“I’ve been... having dreams lately,” he settled on. It sounded weak, and he hoped and prayed that Paul wasn’t able to pick up on that. “For the last few days or so.”

“Can you tell me about them?” Paul asked.

So far, so good. “I was... am?”

“Whichever you’re more comfortable with.”

“I was small,” Nicholas said. “Like, a mouse or something. I don’t know.” It was very strange to be talking about this, especially since he’d made it a habit to go out of his way to avoid ever mentioning anything about Milliways. “I was running around, trying to avoid getting trod on. And then people would pick me up and play with me, and pass me around. And then I’d get chased around by dogs and cats, I think because they wanted to eat me. Then there was something else where the room I was in was flooded because someone had a fire hose. I’m not entirely sure.”

Paul took a moment to respond. “And this is recurring?”

“Yes,” Nicholas said, figuring that was a good way to put it. “For about three or four days, and I’ve not really been sleeping well from it. I thought, yesterday, that I’d be fine, but as the day went on, I sort of...”

When Paul was certain that Nicholas wasn’t going to finish that thought, he took the conversation in a different direction. “How are you recovering?” he asked. “Last time I saw you, you were on crutches.”

“The injuries weren’t as bad as they first thought,” Nicholas said. “I’ve been back on the job for about a week now.”

“Do you think you might have gone back too soon?” Paul asked simply.

“What do you mean?” Nicholas was getting very bored of hearing that question, but Paul was allowed to ask annoying questions. It was his job, after all.

“Well, just because you’ve physically healed, the mind needs time to recover from a traumatic experience. I’d imagine getting bitten by a dog would be quite traumatic, indeed.”

Nicholas considered this. “I don’t really think this had anything to do with the dog.”

“Maybe not directly, no,” Paul agreed. “But I think it might be in your best interest to take a bit more time off. I know you work hard, and that you enjoy it, but you also need to rest.”

“I can’t just sit in the flat all day,” Nicholas argues. “And with Travis around, I’m hardly resting at all, anyway.”

“You two are a bit old for sibling rivalry, aren’t you?” Paul asked, misunderstanding Nicholas.

Nicholas shook his head. “By this point, it’s evolved into ‘flatmate rivalry,’ I think.”

“Right.” Paul nodded, smiling lightly. “Well, it’s just a suggestion, but perhaps you should get out of the house for a few days. You don’t have to leave London, but at least get away from the flat and from your brother. I know he means well, but I also worry that you treat him as a crutch.”

“He did offer to let me throw him through a wall last night,” Nicholas said, already feeling a bit better having been able to just talk about the last few days; even if he wasn’t completely honest about the circumstances.

“I do hope you didn’t take him up on the offer.”

He laughed slightly. “No, I didn’t feel like going to the dojo.”

Standing on the street corner, Nicholas tried to figure out what to do with the rest of his evening. Travis would be home shortly, and while he hadn’t been outright ordered to avoid him, Paul seemed rather insistent that he try to find some space between them.

Not entirely sure what was leading the decision, Nicholas pulled his mobile from his pocket and dialled Janine’s number. He wasn’t sure why he was ringing her, or even what he’d say, but when she answered, he knew he had to think of something fast.

“Are you busy tonight?” Okay, not the most articulate question, but it could have been worse.

An hour later, he was standing in her flat, watching as she dodged around the same half-empty boxes that had been taking up space the last time he was over.

“Is everything all right?” he asked cautiously. “I can go if this isn’t a good time.”

Janine sighed deeply as she ducked into the small kitchen. “No, it’s Denise,” she said. “She’s meant to be moving out, but she hasn’t been home enough to actually... move.”

“Right.” Nicholas looked around at everything. “Well, I suppose I could help get it out of your way, if you just show me what’s hers.”

Janine took a moment to try to figure out what he meant. “Are you offering to throw it all into a skip, or pack it?”

This confused Nicholas. “I don’t imagine she’d be very happy with the first one,” he pointed out.

She stepped out of the kitchen, looking over him curiously. “If you want, I guess,” she said. “Most of my stuff is still in boxes in my bedroom, because I’ve not had the room to properly unpack.”

Paul said absolutely nothing against starting new projects. After looking over the cluttered flat once more, he took off his jacket so he could get to work.
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Police Chief Inspector Nicholas Angel

September 2013

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