Night Sweats

by Taryn

Disclaimer: The Black Company series of books are the creation and property of Glen Cook.

Notes: This particular fic follows the events of The Silver Spike, from the Northern Campaign portion of the series. Think of it as an attempt to explain, at least in part, why exactly Case was willing to follow Raven around the world on a quest he didn't believe in.

I probably shouldn't be writing this down, but hell, it's my journal and I guess I can say what I want. Someday someone might stumble across this who shouldn't and suddenly develop the unscratchable itch to read what happened in our frantic rush halfway across the world and back. The thought that it might be one of the kids in search of a new batch of what they believe are fantastic lies makes it tricky, but then there's always the chance that it'll be her. And Darling, you do deserve to see the whole that was Raven, even in his moments of darkest despair.

Sure, he had his problems. I guess that's about a waste of space to point that out, since if you've read this far you know everything I did about him and his fear of you and his kids and anything else that might possibly crack that iron badass exterior and touch the shaking soul underneath. I still wake up in a sweat some nights with the image of him standing straight in the snow despite a busted leg, holding that damn spike up in the air with the look of the Dominator in his eyes. Those nights I curse myself for being ten ways a fool. What would have happened if we'd been just a day ahead? Would we have missed the battle at the Temple and caught up to Croaker and the others? Would Raven still be alive today?

It's that thought, that constant incrimination mixed with the understanding in his daughter's eyes that day above Opal that drives the sweats and makes me remember. He had a chance there, and maybe he would have went back and made something of the rest of his life, starting with the tangled roots of the past to build a better present. Then again, maybe he would have run off into the night alone towards a cheap tavern with wine on credit and none of us would have ever seen him again.

I lull myself back to sleep with the hope that some things are destined, and maybe the Father Tree wouldn't have let us slip through the cracks of the far side of the world with the remnants of the Black Company. Much as I think the God listened to Darling, I'm still not convinced that he didn't take his own hand in events that were beyond our sight. At least, that's what I tell myself in the night, when the ghosts rise up and howl through my memories like the worst of the guardians of the Barrowland.

Still, the guilt and blame are always there, and I guess one day someone will have to sort things out for themselves. That wasn't the point of this story. No, this story is a tribute to Raven. Everyone who knows Raven already has their own opinion. Either he was a badass fit to make the toughest of the tough piss down his leg with a look, or a pitiful drunk crying into the night over all he'd had and thrown blindly away. To those who knew him best he was both. He was a fighter to the core, ready to give everything for the cause he believed in for reasons that in the end were purely his own, but yet he was ready to drop everything and run when the cause became too personal.

But sometimes, despite the alternating hardness and childish stubbornness, he could be almost human.

There were the nights in Oar, between those binges of drunkenness that he promised to stop completely, when I'd come home from guarding that rich man's family and he'd be there waiting. It was almost always a shock not to find him either gone or passed out in a puddle of his own vomit with empty wine casks thrown around the small apartment. He wasn't quite the old Raven in those days, or even my old buddy Corbie, but something altogether different. I'd walk in the door and he'd meet my eyes, and it was as if something exploded between us.

I never could quite remember when it started afterwards, when the touching and kisses became so violently passionate that we'd both walk away with bruises the next morning to the dirty looks of the landlady, but somehow it always did. I guess he was looking for answers, maybe even for forgiveness by coming back home the next night, even if he was at the wrong end of the bottle by then. I'd tell myself that it had to end, that I was only was making it worse, adding fuel to the inevitable fights that seemed to drive us in a vicious circle.

Sometimes I wonder why I didn't leave. Then I try to imagine that. I try to picture my life if I would've just walked out the damn door on his sorry drunken ass and left him in the hole he deserved, but the images just won't come. I no more could have done that than he could have pulled himself together on his own, I think.

No, that took the threat of the Limper and Darling and the spike and the end of the end for me. For all of us. And now I'm back full circle to that last night in the snow, when I looked down at the mad hatred in his eyes and could only picture them clouded and dark with lust as he cried out his release, cursing myself for not running for Croaker instead of backtracking to Darling and the hell it all became.

I guess, in the end, it probably ended the way it was meant to. I hope it did.

I still miss you, old man.

Email Taryn

Back to Taryn's Slash Fanfic Archive