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Nicholas found Travis asleep by the fire, still wearing the change of clothes brought to him in the overnight bag. Good. That meant he hadn’t been home yet, and was at least taking some of the advice he’d been given. Nicholas could live with that, and hopefully be able to work on the rest in the interim.

“Wake up,” he said, dragging Travis’ feet off the sofa so that he could sit down.

Travis blinked blearily awake, twisting painfully to see what areshole had woke him up like this. Seeing that it was Nicholas, he rolled his eyes and tried to go back to sleep. The left side of his face had swelled and exploded in dark blues and violets, which made Nicholas cringe to look at.

“We need to talk,” Nicholas said, reaching over to pull Travis upright. Before he had been able to protest, Nicholas handed him a cup of tea.

“About what?” Travis asked.

Nicholas was glad to hear that the odd voice Belar had inflicted upon him had been lifted, but wasn’t ready to claim any victories yet.

“About you,” said Nicholas. “And us.” He sighed. “I think we’ve both been under a lot of stress lately, and it’s rather impairing our judgement.”

Travis would have snorted, but he was too busy enjoying the tea Nicholas had given him.

“You, maybe,” he said after a moment. “I know what I’m doing.”

Nicholas took a moment to process that. “You picked a fight with Gene Hunt,” he pointed out. “What about that suggests rational thought?”

Travis shrugged. “Never said it was rational. Just said that I knew what I was doing.”

It took all of Nicholas’ willpower not to sigh at that. “It’s just that it’s occurred to me that it’s been a while since either of us has been to confession,” he pointed out.

Travis cast him a sidelong glance. “No,” he said simply. As far as he was concerned, this was not a topic that was up for discussion, and hadn’t been up for discussion in a very long time.

Nicholas did sigh. “I just really think we would benefit—”

“You, maybe,” Travis repeated with a bit of bite in his voice.

“And you.”

“No.”

“Travis.” Nicholas was almost pleading by now. This was very quickly shaping up to be one of those rather aggravating situations that he had no idea how to control.

“Nick, I think it’s great that you still hold on to all that. I really do,” Travis argued. “But you were born into it. I wasn’t. Now, let me hold on to that.”

He sighed into his tea, not entirely sure why he’d said that.

“Is that what’s been bothering you lately?” Nicholas asked quietly.

“Nothing’s bothering me,” Travis insisted, rather unconvincingly.

“You sure?”

“Yes,” Travis snapped. “I’m fine, and just quit asking.”

Nicholas was quiet for a long moment while he let the tension settle as much as it was willing. “Mum and Dad are back from Calais next week,” he said. “Maybe you should go stay with them for a few days.”

“I’m fine,” Travis repeated. “Stop trying to take care of me. I don’t need it.”

“Okay,” Nicholas agreed finally.

It was clear to Nicholas that something had been bothering Travis lately, which probably meant that it had been clear to everyone else for even longer. Whatever it was, Nicholas couldn’t figure out. Travis had actually been fine up until recently. The hostility, while not exactly new, was certainly elevated, and Nicholas feared that if it kept up, Travis would very soon find himself in even worse shape than he was as he sat by the fire, staring at his tea.

“Go away,” Travis said after a few moments.

Nicholas started to say something, but stopped himself. Instead, he slowly and quietly rose to his feet, taking a few moments to figure out if there was anything else he could do.

“This isn’t leaving,” Travis pointed out, still not looking at him.

If he wanted to be left alone so badly, Nicholas didn’t see the point in trying to fight him on the matter. Without another sound, he turned and walked toward the door.

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Police Chief Inspector Nicholas Angel

September 2013

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