In the darkness, he felt safe and warm. He could feel something wrapped around him, holding him up and protecting him from the abyss he spent most nights in. Lazarus never knew why his dreams always featured him falling into nothingness, but he knew what stopped them. That realisation in the back of his mind was enough to wake him.
“What’re you doin’?” he demanded grumpily, struggling weakly in Gabriel’s arms, still half drunk, half asleep.
“Shhh,” Gabriel soothed, reaching up to stroke one of Lazarus’ cheeks, rough now with a day’s stubble. “We can talk about this when you are sober,” he murmured, relieved when the boy stopped fighting him.
“Ass,” Lazarus muttered, glaring at the wall before him. He would have glared at Gabriel instead, but the lord was behind him, holding him too tightly to allow Lazarus to move enough to direct his sleepy ire at him. Gabriel said nothing. He had had worse insults and curses directed at him before. Silently, he stroked Lazarus’ hair, until he heard the change in his breathing that announced he was asleep once more. Between Lazarus’ slow, steady breaths and the dog’s soft snoring, Gabriel found himself drifting off, just as the morning’s pale light started to creep in across the floor.
Gabriel’s eyes fluttered open around midday, though he wasn’t quite sure why. Taking a moment to adjust, he thought maybe it was because it felt as though he had spent the night on the floor. Rolling over, he realised it was because he was on his own in what apparently passed for a bed. He let out a low groan as his spine cracked and fell into place when he laid out flat on his back. Lazarus was sat at his table, his head on the surface with a cup of... something. Gabriel hoped it wasn’t more alcohol.
“How’s your head?” He asked, standing and stretching to the sound of more cracks and pops from his joints. He sincerely hoped he would never have to sleep on anything like that again.
“I think I’m dying,” Lazarus moaned into the table. “I’ve died, and this is my hell.” He listened to Gabriel chuckle. “Get me the gin,” he held out a hand for it without looking up.
“You had more than enough to drink last night.”
“Father always drank gin in the mornin’,” he grumbled, “said it helped.”
“You are not your father, and you will stay away from the gin, you hear me?” He glanced over just in time to see Lazarus sticking his middle finger up at him. “Gin in the mornings is how people like your father end up in such a state. I will not allow you to go the same way.”
“I fuckin’ hate you.” Gabriel turned fully to face him.
“I’m sorry, Lazarus, for last night. I thought I’d leave you time to calm down; I had no idea you would go out and drink yourself into a stupor the way you did.”
“I wouldn’t have gone out an’ got drunk if you weren’t so much a fuckin’ coward,” Lazarus snapped. “Spare me the excuses, I know them all already.”
“Then what is your problem? Why are you so angry with me?” Lazarus opened his mouth to reply, but shut it again. Folding his arms across his chest, Gabriel waited. The question couldn’t be answered properly. Lazarus was searching for an answer but there wasn’t one. At least, there wasn’t one until he realised it wasn’t Gabriel he was angry with.
“It ain’t... ain’t you,” he admitted reluctantly. “S’everything. Having to hide. I hate it. I dun wanna hide.” His gaze slid down to his cup, and Gabriel unfolded his arms. Perching on the edge of the bed, Gabriel absently fussed Tilly when she trotted over, thumping her head down on his knee.
“So it’s not something I’ve done to upset you? You were just taking your anger out on me?” Gabriel asked in as calm a voice as he could manage. He wasn’t particularly happy about being Lazarus’ emotional punching bag, but it was better than the thought that it might be entirely his fault that Lazarus was so irked in the first place.
Nodding, Lazarus winced and put his head back down on the table. “M’sorry,” he mumbled, shame starting to set in. Tilly stood up and wagged her tail, sensing the tension between them dissipate. She barked loudly, causing Lazarus to cover his ears as she licked his face and hands. “Get ‘er off,” he yelped, looking up to see Gabriel laughing.
“I think she wants to go for a walk. Shall we take her together? The fresh air might do you some good.” Lazarus tried to protest, but between Gabriel and the dog, it was hard to say no. He was soon pulled out of his chair and out of his room, squinting grumpily into the bright afternoon sunlight.