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Frontier Town Sun Stone Saloon

Odette nodded slowly along with Nolan's commentary. So there were different branches of the Covenant, it seemed. She recalled him mentioning something like that in their initial meeting, but the specification this time around was appreciated. She'd have to think long and hard about where she wanted to dig her heel in and work upward from there. Perhaps she'd need to wait and see what the recruiting agent said (if they even contacted them at all--gods she hoped they would) and make a spur of the moment decision there. All things to consider in the coming days.

"I will be sure to give it some careful thought in the meantime," she said. "Thank you for taking time out of your day to speak with me. I greatly appreciate this insight."

Ch04: Dancing in the Sun Stone Light [Odette, Wes, and Archie]
"Merci et bonsoir," Odette said through the thundering applause that was sent her way. As per usual, some drunks in the front jeered at and heckled her through it, but she'd made a show of mocking them back, which only earned her more applause. See, people loved watching hecklers get their asses handed to them. And she enjoyed doing it. It made her feel better.

"Note to self," she muttered under her breath as she walked offstage, "Kalosian lyrics also hit." She hadn't been sure about transcribing songs in her native tongue to this setting, more out of fear of backlash due to a lack of understanding. But, 'mon came to see her because of the multiversal songs, and naturally, singing in a foreign language was received just the same. It certainly helped her voice was still carrying even after the back-to-back beatings she'd received,. Having bandages on had just seemingly become part of her onstage persona.

It wasn't horribly late, but she still managed to feel beat. It had been a hot minute since she last indulged in an alcoholic drink, so after exchanging a few words with some patrons, she sauntered her way over to the bar, humming through a vocal cooldown as she went. She could stand to get a little tipsy. She lived here now, after all.

[[ @HelloYellow17 @Weazel ]]
Gods, this place was so…stuffy.

The Sun Stone Saloon was, in short, absolutely not Wes’s type of place. He much preferred the humbler, homier spots like the Zera or Nina’s Place over whatever this was supposed to be. It reeked of the same pompous pretentiousness that Phenac did, and it probably didn’t help matters that his first visit here was when he’d met that godsforsaken snot-bird of a mayor, Ignatius.

Whatever. He wasn’t here to put on airs or dine in luxury, anyway. He was here for a purpose.

He found her at the bar, humming to herself and actually looking to be in a good mood. Wes hesitated, guilt beginning to swirl, and the feeling doubled when he caught sight of her bandages, making his stomach lurch. Did he really want to show his face and potentially ruin her day by reminding her of that night? Of his betrayal to her? Attacking her just after they’d started to become…well, maybe friends wasn’t the right word, because Wes didn’t know exactly what made someone a friend. Friendly acquaintances, at least. And now even that was probably ruined.

He steeled himself with a deep breath. Two images flashed in his head—Steven, which brought reassurance, and Koa, which brought stone-cold dread, anger, pain. Wes was terrified of getting the Koa treatment from Odette, but…Steven had proved not everyone was like that. He somehow felt that he owed it to Steven to at least try.

He hopped up on a stool beside her—wow, she was so small to him now, after his evolution. And you attacked her without mercy with your new strength. His mouth was dry. He pushed forward.

“Hi. I need to talk to you.”

Maybe not the best introduction, but dammit, it was something.
The bartender on duty seemed to know she was coming, because her usual was ready before she even settled in her seat. She raised it in thanks before she began to sip away at it. She took a moment to actually enjoy the alcohol running down her throat, enjoy the fact that everyone was too busy drinking and socializing among their rich selves to talk to her, enjoy a moment of actual downtime where she could just sit with her thoughts and--

“Hi. I need to talk to you.”

The presence came on so quickly that she inhaled out of pure reflex, causing her sip to go down a wrong pipe. Before she knew it, she was doubled over and nursing a coughing fit that only got more violent with each passing second. "Sor...ry," she managed between wheezes. She raised her index finger. "One...second..."

She lowered her head against the bar top, more out of embarrassment than anything. A few patrons walking by stopped, looking concerned. Some of them reached out, as if looking to help her, and she waved them off with a head shake and a shallow yet forced, "Walk away, walk away."

After about a minute, she managed to settle her breath. She pounded on her chest for added assurance that her lungs were done having a fucking fit. She chugged another long sip of her drink, hoping it would help ease the new burn in her throat, before taking a breath and regarding Wes with a tired, apologetic look. But holy fucking gods, he was tall now.

"Hi." She rubbed her throat. "You rang?"
Well, of all the initial reactions he’d expected, that wasn’t one of them. “Oh. Oh, shit, I’m sorry, I—”

He wondered if he needed to help her in some way, but how? How the does one save a choking person without opposable thumbs? Fortunately she recovered after a moment, and looked up at him with watery eyes.

“…Sorry,” he said again. He allowed himself a sheepish grin. “Seems I keep trying to kill you without meaning to.”

…Well. That definitely sounded better in his head.
The Sunstone Saloon was usually outside of Archie’s budget. Especially with his primary source of income being his share of bounties where he was often little more than a tag along, an extra pair of paws and eyes rather than an active combatant. But, that was going to change soon, he had a big job lined up knocking a few Fiend heads together, and a celebratory dinner to plan for Nova. So, he figured, maybe he’d give the place a shot, see if it was worth the cost of bringing the de-masked chimera here over any other place.

Walking through the door, the Oshawott found himself immediately under assault by unhappy memories. The last time he’d been here, they’d all gathered upstairs for a group meeting. That was when he’d found out Corey was gone. The first time he’d been here, it had been for the meeting with Ignatius, with Bellatrix, and Corey, and Wes. Also unpleasant. Why exactly was he considering this place, again?

Oh, right, there was one other time he’d been here. After they’d beaten Ignatius, Ridley had brought a number of them here for ice cream. He’d actually properly met Ridley and Koa for the first time then. Actually, he and the Electrike hadn’t had the greatest of first impressions, but they’d become fairly solid friends despite that. Actually, Koa and Wes were already fighting even back then. The Oshawott had dragged the Rockruff along, because he’d wanted to thank Wes for trying to help Corey when no one else had. Archie had gotten something he’d recognized as a Casteliacone, even though it obviously wasn’t called that here. He and Wes had sat together at the bar, right about…

Archie’s eyes settled on the Lycanroc and Mawile seated side by side, and he froze in the middle of the saloon floor. It couldn’t be anyone but Wes and Odette. He’d recognize that blue fur – and that fashion sense – anywhere. They had their backs to him, and thus hadn’t noticed him walk in. This was his chance. He’d been wanting to speak to Wes, explain to him everything that had happened in Silver Ravine. Apologize for causing… All this. But now that he was actually here, about to do it, he suddenly felt like he was losing his nerve.

He could probably leave before either of them noticed he was here. Or he could stop being a coward and get it over with. For now though, he stayed rooted to the spot.
“Yeah well,” she said in a jagged chuckle, “I think I’ll take the rock throwing over this. If I tear my vocal cords coughing, I’m out of a job.”

She was still rubbing her throat, but she stopped for a moment to think on what she just said. Wait. They were joking about that already? It seemed inappropriate, though she wasn’t exactly sure why. It wasn’t like she was mad at him for what happened during that fight with Seth. But it was there she realized this was the first time they’d spoken since then.

“Sorry, you know what? That was in horrifically poor taste, and I apologize,” she said, reaching for her drink again and going for another sip. Despite the light alcoholic burn, she felt her throat settling more around it. As she set the glass back down, she pursed her lips awkwardly, and took a second to swish the liquid, ice and all, around in the cup. Now, she felt tense. What the hell was she supposed to say here? He’d clearly sought her out but…what now?

“Soooo…how’s evolution?”
Thank the scorching stars she took that comment in stride. Wes let himself relax a little, only to tense when she suddenly stuttered out an apology.

“I—what?” he sputtered. “You—no. Gods, no, why the hell are you the one apologizing?”

He realized his tone was harsher than intended, so he sucked in a breath and spoke again more calmly. “You don’t have a damn thing to apologize for,” he muttered. “But I do. That’s why I came here.” His eyes fell on her bandages and he felt that storm of guilt again. “I just…wanted to say I’m sorry, is all. For losing it like that. And I know ‘sorry’ doesn’t take it back or make wounds heal faster, and you’re well within your rights if you’d rather…keep your distance from me. I want you to know I won’t hold it against you.”

He found himself unable to meet her eyes, so he gazed at their surroundings instead—and found himself making eye contact with a certain Oshawott. Gods in a scorching goblet, Wes couldn’t catch a break—but no, maybe this was a good thing. He’d already resolved to apologize to everyone he’d hurt.

Well, save for Koa; Wes had wondered whether he’d have been receptive to an apology in the first place, and their run-in earlier only confirmed his fears. Hell, the kid was probably reveling in Wes’s shame, boasting to everyone he knew about the worthless Lycanroc on the team who snapped and how Koa was the one to bring him down.

The thought made him burn with fury, shame, and regret.

But Archie wasn’t Koa. Wes suddenly realized that, of all the teammates he’s struck out at, he desperately wanted Archie’s forgiveness the most. Archie was the closest thing Wes had to a friend since…well, since Rui. And she wasn’t here.

But the hesitation on Archie’s face filled him with dread. Maybe that night had been one offense too many. Maybe he would forever be afraid, or bitter, or resentful of Wes now. It was hard to read what he was feeling from his expression, and it made Wes sick with anxiety. So, rather than wave him over, he simply acknowledged Archie with a nod and timid flick of his ears. If the Oshawott wanted to approach him, Wes wanted it to be on Archie’s own terms.
Another moment’s hesitation, and the decision was made for him. By random happenstance, or perhaps because of something in his conversation with Odette – Archie was too far away to hear them over the din of the saloon – Wes looked back. The two locked eyes, and Archie’s heart momentarily froze. The Lycanroc gave him a nod, and the Oshawott lifted a paw to give a weak wave in response. Was that permission to approach, then? Didn’t seem like he would be able to put this off any longer. He took a deep breath, dropped his paws back into his coat pockets, and slowly approached the pair.

“I hope I’m not interrupting anything?” He asked once he was properly within earshot, glancing back and forth between the Mawile and the Lycanroc. They seemed to be getting along, which was a good sign. “Actually, it’s good that you’re both here. I have a confession to make.”

He hesitated again. Wes was probably his closest friend on Forlas, and Archie knew very well that he could be… Volatile. This could very well end up blowing up their friendship, not that the Oshawott would blame the Lycanroc in this instance. Still, even so, Wes still deserved to know the truth.

“The truth is… I’m the reason we’re all Shadow corrupted,” he said, before his eyes focused on the Lycanroc again, “Everything that happened to you that night with Seth. It’s my fault. I’m the root cause of it. I’m… So very sorry, Wes.”
Odette knit her brows at Wes, frowning at just how curt he’d sounded. But, she released the tension in her forehead after he took his breath. She supposed she knew that’s what he’d come to her for, but truthfully, she didn’t need the apology. She’d been more concerned about him than herself in that moment. And truth be told, she’d been so out of it after the fire, that she only fully understood what was happening after she’d been knocked out. But, she didn’t need to get into those specifics again.

She opened her mouth to tell him to stop talking, but he started going into the whole “I understand if you don’t want to be near me” shit, and she furrowed her brow again.

“I mean this in the nicest way possible,” she said after a beat, “but what the actual fuck are you going on about?”

She forced another sip down her throat. “I just want to let the record show that my wounds from the last big fight I was in still hadn’t healed before we went out to that brush. So I’m not sure where you’re getting the notion that you need to apologize for all,” she gestured to the bandages on her body, “this. Besides, newsflash.” She leaned in closer to him and cuffed her hand around her mouth. “I have a fucking demon attached to my fucking head. You think I have room to give you shit because you went off the rails for a couple minutes? After facing off with your dickhead doppelgänger?”

Rolling her eyes she settled back in her chair. “Fucking please. I did ask to be smashed with a rock if things got bad, so if anything, thanks for following directions. You’re real pal.” She offered a crooked smile as she spoke those words, hoping he’d get the gist of what she was trying to say in far too many words: she wasn’t mad.

She opened her mouth to say something else, but saw that Wes’s attention had shifted, she followed his gaze and ended up meeting eyes with that Oshawott—Archie. She’d never formally met him, and she stiffened as he approached. He looked hesitant; like he’d worked up some nerve to come over. Was he scared of Wes?

No. But he had a confession—one that truthfully didn’t strike her as a confession. More just more confirmation of things she’d heard before.

“Wait,” she said, raising a hand. “You mean what happened with that dickshit Alex?”
Wes blinked, taken aback at first by Odette’s response, then slowly relaxed into a sheepish grin. “Right, well…at least your demon head hasn’t tried to tear anybody to pieces.” He glanced at the chains. “Yet.”

She didn’t have an ounce of resentment in her voice, and Wes couldn’t be more relieved. With a chuckle, he said, “How about we make it a deal, then. Any of us goes nuts in the future, we both have permission to punch the others’ lights out. Granted, he sure as hell hoped what happened the other night would never repeat itself. But still, the reassurance was nice.

Archie was beside them now, still looking like he had half a mind to bolt out of there. Wes felt a stab of pain at his friend’s distress. I caused that. He decided to cut right to the chase. “Listen, Archie, I—”

He didn’t get to finish, because Archie suddenly blurted out his confession. Wes blinked for a second, slowly putting the pieces together, and Odette’s comment about Alexander made them fall into place. “You were the one who ran into that guy?”

Gods, and Archie looked so miserable about it. Was that it? Really? Wes could have laughed, but the anguish on Archie’s face made him think better of it. Bellatrix never did say who she suspected might have been the one to make contact…but none of that mattered anymore, because Archie was freely owning up to it, not hiding or pretending otherwise. It was a relief; nobody on the team was trying to keep a vital secret, and that was all Wes cared about.

He called after the bartender to order a drink; he got the feeling they were in for a story. “Well, damn. What happened, exactly?”
“I was, yes,” the Oshawott confirmed. Once again, this was not exactly the reaction he’d been expecting. He was starting to get the feeling maybe the way Dave had responded might’ve skewed his expectations… Or maybe he was just getting extremely lucky with who he was telling. Either way, more information was clearly desired.

“Alex appeared to Koa and I in the jail, while we were trying to get through to the Drapion,” he began, “He did something to intimidate the feral into compliance. When we confronted him, he claimed to be a shadow investigator. He was willing to share information, but not in a public place. I suggested Silver Ravine, figuring that Betel would be able to listen in and call for help if anything went wrong.”

The Oshawott shook his head, “Only, I underestimated Alex from the start. He’d done something to cloak his true nature from Betel. They weren’t able to get a read on him until it was far too late. As soon as we’d gotten deep enough into the Dungeon for his liking, he did something to cut us off from Betel. He threatened us, but played it off as some kind of test.”

He paused again. Part of him wanted to explain himself. Talk about how desperate he’d been for information after his conversation about the spread of Shadow Corruption with Nova. His fear that they’d already been corrupted long before Alex appeared on the scene. How he’d latched on to the first good lead they’d gotten, after every previous Shadow encounter had ended up with multiple people in the hospital. But, in the end, those were just excuses. So he forged on instead.

“He hit us with something that looked like black lightning, but the feeling of it was icy cold. After that, Koa and I were able to summon Shadow energy, like we all did fighting Seth,” another pause, before, “Alex left soon after, and Betel was able to reconnect to us. Only, when they did, the Shadows spread from us to them. And once Betel was infected, it was only a matter of time before it spread to all of you, too.”

He looked down at the floor, no longer able to look Wes in the eyes, “All we’d wanted was to learn how we could tell if we were corrupted, and instead, we invited that corruption on everyone else. Because I wasn’t more responsible, you went berserk. And when you… Lost yourself… I couldn’t do anything. It fell to Koa and Leaf to subdue you. They’re just kids, Wes. I should never have put that on them, or you.”
Wes ordered “something sweet” in a half mumble, hoping neither Odette nor Archie would notice or care, then listened to Archie’s account. His face darkened. “Well, whoever this Alexander is, he’s a serious threat. Especially if he has the power to silence Betel and mask himself from them. And—taint you guys in such a way that it spread to the rest of us.” How exactly did Mhynt, of all people, seem to know that guy on a personal level?

It fell to Koa and Leaf to subdue you. They’re just kids, Wes. I should never have put that on them, or you.”

They’re just kids. That sent a shockwave of emotions through Wes; festering guilt, stabbing anguish, and, at the mention of Koa’s name, rage. He struggled to keep his tone even, but he couldn’t hide the curl of his lip.

“I’m aware they’re just kids,” he snapped. “You think I haven’t lost sleep over that fact? That I directly endangered the lives of not just my teammates, but kids?”

He closed his eyes and sucked in a breath. Godsdammit, it wasn’t Archie’s fault. None of this was. It was his.

“All right, first of all. Stop playing the martyr. You’re not responsible for everybody’s actions, and I, for one, don’t want you or anybody else trying to take the fall for my mistakes. The only one to blame for my losing it is me. Got it?” The growl was back in his voice now. “Second, if anybody is to blame here, it’s that Alexander bastard. For tricking you, for forcing you to accept his offer. You clearly didn’t have any other choice, and he made sure of that. Hell, even Bellatrix didn’t realize how shady he was when she met him Blaguarro.”

Huh. Maybe he shouldn’t have shared that. But this was Archie; he wouldn’t spread it around maliciously.

“And for another, I’m sure Koa loved getting the opportunity to put my face in the dirt. He went out of his way to rub it in earlier today.” Wes was trembling now. “So, I wouldn’t worry about him. He thinks he’s got the whole damn world figured out and can do everything himself. If he’s so hellbent on doing things his own way, then let him.”

The bartender came back with Wes’s drink. Wes seized it and slammed it back with vengeful vigor. Gods, if he never heard that damn kid’s name again, it would be too soon.

“You were a victim of someone far more powerful than you, who took advantage of you. Stop blaming yourself and direct your energy to the real threat.”
Odette listened to Archie go on about Alex. It was the same thing Koa had told her, except tinged with far more martyrdom that left her running her hand down her face.

“Okay, I’m gonna say this again,” she said. Archie clearly was not speaking to her, and she didn’t care. She waved nonetheless. “Hi, Odette. Nice to meet you, formally. Anyway. Again. What the actual fuck are you going on about?”

She angled herself so she was facing both of them. “I already heard about this. While yes, I do think it was absolutely not wise for you two to have walked off with that bitch whore, you do realize that if it wasn’t you, it was going to be someone else, right?” she said, gazing intently at Archie. “This feels like a situation where it was only a matter of time. You saw how much of that fucking shadow energy Powehi had. If it didn’t happen with you, it’d have happened at some point. That Alex headass is bad fucking news; I don’t trust him as far as I can fucking throw him. Horrible liar.”

She was clearly getting upset about it, but she abruptly shook her head. “Anyway. There’s already so much bullshit happening around us, and that bullshit keeps expanding. You are doing yourself no favors sitting in that mindset you have right now. All it’s gonna do is weigh your ass down when it matters most. You can help the team, but don’t take responsibility for everyone. That helps nobody.”

She opened her mouth to make a comment about kids, but Wes’s clear venom around the mention of Koa startled her. She gave him a quick once over, wondering where the hell that came from. He was trembling over the mere mention of him. What the fuck had a 14 year old done to him that had his boxers so bunched? Was there some fight she missed?

She decided to stick a pin in that, and tackle the more pressing matter at hand. “Right…but all of that to say that we’re supposed to be working as a team. While I do think some of our comrades aren’t that fucking bright, it’s not your job to have everything fall to you. Not to mention, I have plenty of self-loathing fueling my own actions; with all due respect I don’t need anybody else’s, ever.”
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Well, this was certainly more the reaction he was expecting out of the Lycanroc. He still reflexively took a step back, and blinked in surprise. Just because he knew it was coming didn't make it any less unpleasant to be on the receiving end of. And did Wes think he was accusing him of targeting kids on purpose?

"Wes, that's not what- I didn't-"

Too little, too late. Wes was literally shaking with rage at this point. And ranting something about Koa that sounded distinctly out of character for the Electrike. Had things between them deteriorated even more? Maybe something to ask Koa about later.

For now, Odette was joining In on the tongue lashing. Honestly, what they were saying should be making him feel better. Instead, it was just making him deflate into himself more. There was one word in particular that the Oshawott found himself chaffing against: Martyr.

That wasn't what this was. He was trying to take responsibility for his own poor judgment, his own failure to act appropriately, and the ways those shortcomings had come back to hurt his friends. He wasn't self-martyring. Was he?

"I'm sorry," he said, again. He wasn't really sure what else to say.
Odette could practically see whatever remnants of confidence Archie had drain out of his face. She’d thought her explanation was logical and reassuring enough but he looked more distraught than he had before he walked over here. She felt her frustration starting to brew again, and she enclosed a chunk of her skirt fabric in a fist. It was funny how quickly things ruffled here in Forlas. She’d been enjoying a drink by her lonesome not 5 minutes ago and was now knee deep in a relatively tense conversation. Now what was she supposed to do? If she doubled down, or got mad, that was only going to make the situation worse, and she’d been on a solid streak of ensuring people didn’t hate her so far. She wanted to keep that going.

What did normal, sane people do to help virtual strangers with their emotional brain bugs? This was well outside her comfort zone, but doing something was better than just leaving him standing there wilting like a depressed flower.

She lowered her head and groaned to herself. Without looking up, she pointed to the empty stool next to her.

“Sit. You probably need a drink. What’s your poison?”
Nearly all of Wes’s vitriol drained upon seeing Archie recoil from him. Great. Fantastic. He’d managed to make things worse.

He took another swig of his drink and leaned over the counter with a defeated sigh. Gods-dammit, he was so tired of people apologizing to him. What the hell did anybody have to apologize for? Somehow he found himself wishing people would just be angry at him—not smug like Koa, but just rightfully upset. At least he had experience navigating people being angry at him. But he was at an utter loss when dealing with this game of blame tug-of-war.

“No, Archie,” he said tiredly, “I don’t want to hear another apology. You’ve got nothing to apologize for. The only one who needs to be doing that is me.”

He looked the Oshawott in the eyes. “You were caught off guard and got trapped by someone way too powerful. Like Odette said, it could have—and probably would have—happened to any of us. Meanwhile, I was the one who got careless, who got so wrapped up in my own head that I lost control. And I ended up directly hurting several of you. I just…I’m sorry. For all of it.” He deflated with a small sigh. “And…fine, if it makes you feel better, I accept your apology. But I never needed it in the first place. I don’t blame you for this, and you shouldn’t, either.”

He nodded at Odette’s suggestion of a drink and added, “Get whatever you’d like, it’s on me.”
For a moment, she briefly considered and excusing herself back to her room. That was the cool part about living here, she could just do that. No awkwardly leaving to walk out the front door; she could just say “Hey, I need to go make my rounds upstairs,” and just go lock herself in her room. But, Wes had sought her out to say sorry, and Archie was…in a state. It just felt rude. And she was trying to not be rude.

“To be fair, I wasn’t apologizing for you, I was apologizing for my poor attempt at comedy. In case I didn’t say it earlier, I accept your apology. But I don’t need it.” She glanced at Archie and added a low, “Yours too.”

Another thought occurred to her then—something about accepting apologies the right way or whatever—and she sighed. “However, it’s very much appreciated. The thought, I mean. I don’t hold it against you, but I understand how you might think I would. But we can just mutually agree to keep checks and balances on each other going forward, and it’ll make any other case of Shadowified rock throwing run a lot smoother. That goes for everyone sitting here right now.”

She finished off her drink right then and there, and leaned over the counter to set it on a pile of other dirty glasses. She then called down to the bartender, “I think about five more of those should do the trick, thanks.”
“Huh?” The Oshawott blinked again, looking over at Odette. She wanted him to… Oh! “Oh, I don’t…”

But then Wes chimed in too, and it started to seem like maybe they were going to salvage this. So, maybe just this once, he could stomach a little alcohol. He pulled himself up into the offered seat.

“Maybe, something sour?”

He leaned forward in his seat, resting his elbows on the counter top, and mulled over what the Mawile and Lycanroc had said. He was still more than a little bothered by the accusation of martyrdom – that wasn’t really what he was doing, was it? – but it seemed like they had a chance to move past that, and he didn’t want to spend the whole conversation arguing about guilt. They’d both taking the time to at least try to reassure him, so now it was his turn to do the same.

“Listen, Wes, like you said, you weren’t in control of yourself,” Archie said, trying his best to sound reassuring, “Shadow really messes with your head. I… Think I almost went over the edge too. So I’m not blaming you or anything, either.”

Koa had been the one who brought him back from the brink that time. Which was another reason why it was so hard to believe that Koa would gloat about fighting Wes like that. Just what was going on between these two? There was no way he could ask Wes about it if even the slightest mention had the Lycanroc shaking that bad. For now, best to just focus on the rock dog in front of him, and not the electric dog somewhere else in town.

“But, since you were good enough to accept my apology, I’ll accept yours, too,” he said, teasingly. The Oshawott shot the Lycanroc a tired smile. This really had been a stressful couple of days, hadn’t it? Then he glanced again between Wes and Odette, before adding, “Seriously though, I hope I wasn’t interrupting anything?”
“Well…I appreciate that.” It would be a long time before Wes’s guilt would dissipate entirely, but at least Archie, Odette and Steven held no ill will. “And…I’m sorry. About what I said just now. Didn’t mean to bite your head off.” He managed a weary smile. “But if you keep blaming yourself for things that aren’t your fault, I might have to throw a few more rocks at your head.”

He ordered something sour for Archie (damn, he liked that kind of stuff? Wes couldn’t fathom it, but hey, he wasn’t one to judge with his taste for frilly drinks), and shrugged at his friend’s question. “Nah, not interrupting. If anything, your timing was appropriate, since I was giving Odette a proper apology, myself.”
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