Montague started all of his stories the same. That probably meant he was a creature of habit, predictable, and easy to guess his next move. It had never been a problem for him, so he didn't really worry about it.
Having Damien living in his house, of course, changed everything. It wasn't that Damien was a noisy guest. If anything, Damien was too quiet. Damien would spend the morning perched in a kitchen chair in the sun and he'd watch the news and read the paper. Then he usually would wander ghostlike into the living room, snag one of Montague's books, and then he'd spend the rest of the day huddled up with his book reading. He would read anything, but he seemed to like cheesy science fiction, mysteries without any blood, and things of that nature. Late in the day, Damien would eat dinner with Montague, and then sit on the couch watching the news.
Damien hardly talked though. He'd babble that hysterical patter of his, but it wasn't really talking. It was just noise to fill the space. Montague always felt like anything he said was awkward and that Damien sort of stole his words away. Not that he had ever been that eloquent, but - what could you say to a friend who was arrested by the very thing he believed in? Not that Damien believed in the government per se, but Damien had believed that the people serving the government wouldn't arrest someone without good reason.
Given half a chance, Damien would fall asleep leaning against Montague on the couch. If Montague wasn't there, he'd just stay up until the news went off, and then he'd go back to reading until he fell asleep. After a few days of waking up with a stiff neck and Damien curled up against him, Montague offered to have Damien sleep in his bed. Damien had made some distracted comment about his parents, and followed Montague into his bedroom.
A few days after Damien showed up, Damien suddenly said, "Would you come down to my house? I need to talk with my parents, and I want you to be there. If you don't mind -"
Montague shrugged and sipped his coffee. "It won't be a problem at all." He would sooner not go back to that house and have Mr. Montechristeu trying so hard to not look at his arm. It didn't matter though, since he'd go there if Damien wanted.
So, they took the ferry up to the Grand Canal and walked from there to Damien's house. Damien spent most of the walk flinching away from the cops and pulling his hat down to hide his face. Montague was used to that by now though. Almost anyone in a uniform would get Damien nervous. Cops just happened to have uniforms which resembled the stuff worn in Intelligence. The butler led them in to talk to Damien's mother.
She turned out to be the sort of woman who was more attractive thanks to makeup and obsessive reading of fashion then any smiles or natural beauty. Her son took a chair that was far from the windows, and Montague stood behind it. She offered them tea which Montague refused and Damien spilled into the saucer of his cup. She sipped her tea and said, "We heard that they cleared you of the accusations."
Damien nodded and set down his tea cup with more care then it needed. "I'm living at Orchard's house right now."
"Orchard is that - gentleman who's with you?" His mother frowned a little. "Is he a friend?"
"Yes, yes, he is." Damien shifted uncomfortably in the chair. "He was in the army with me. And he's letting me stay at his place. I just wanted to tell you that I was fine."
"You have a pension, right?" His mother looked up at Montague as if she was trying to find out something about him in his face.
Damien laughed another one of his brittle laughs. "Yes. They gave me a higher one just to keep me silent."
"Son, I'm sure they had good reasons for suspecting you -" Her voice had a bit of warning in it.
Damien's voice was louder then her's, "I'm not blaming you for denouncing me. You and dad had to play along to keep your jobs." Damien turned the tea cup in its saucer. "I've got money from my pension. It's enough to live on."
His mother bit her lip and adjusted her skirt. "Damien, you can move back up here, find a nice apartment, and no one will bother you. I could even find you a nice girl. That Moreau girl is still in town. You remember her right?"
"Yvette? Yeah. I remember her." Damien jumped as a police boat went by on the canal below. "I - I don't want to move back here. I can't handle people. I can't handle anything. I - just want to be left alone."
His mother looked at Montague for no reason that he could divine. "I see," she said finally. "We will send you a bit of money, of course. Let us know if you need anything."
Damien nodded abruptly and stood up. "Thanks." He was watching the window more than his mother.
She stood up and reached out to touch Damien's hand. Damien flinched away from her. She then turned to Montague and said quietly, "Take care of him."
Montague smiled faintly at her. "I will." He hesitated and then added, "He'll be safe with me."
She watched him for a second before touching his shoulder. "Thank you."
She was still watching from the window as they left.
That night, Damien turned over, and quietly started telling Montague about the day that he went down to find him, and Montague put an arm around him and felt like he had no words to use. From the sound of it, Damien was in the hospital for a while, and then he was released. He had gone to the pension office, and they had wanted to know where he was going. He didn't want to go home, so he tried to find Montague's address. And then he headed down to where Montague lived.
Which still didn't answer the question why Damien had bruises on his wrists like he had been restrained with something when he showed up.
That was another habit. Montague didn't ask what they did to Damien while he was in jail, and he didn't comment when Damien flinched away from something. Part of it was that he didn't want to know, part of it was that he didn't know what to say, and part of it was that he thought it'd be better for Damien's pride if he didn't comment.
One night, he woke up to find Damien crying, and Damien whispered to him that 'they' hadn't done anything. That, he told Montague, was the worst of it. They didn't hit him or do anything more then just ask him questions. And drug him. And not let him go. Montague held him and tried to say comforting things that didn't sound stupid. The next morning, he got up and made breakfast like nothing had happened, and Damien got up a little later and things were normal.
The dole came in on Mondays or Tuesdays, depending on how the deliveries were doing. Montague had the box delivered to his house, and he would unpack the food, booze, and cigarettes. If it was obvious that something major wouldn't be in the dole - like meat, he'd shop the day before since the stores would have stuff on sale to make room for the dole food. He'd also go out on the day of the dole to pick up a bit more food and to get more booze if the stuff in the dole wasn't drinkable.
He didn't notice that he was drinking less with Damien around until a few months had passed. The first week he had Damien there, he came home from talking to some neighbors to find Damien curled up in the kitchen munching on some ancient crackers that he must have found somewhere. Damien looked guilty enough that Montague had apologized, though he didn't know why. It was easy enough to pick up a bit more snacks for Damien, especially since Damien had lost weight in prison. The fact that Damien loved to try new brands of cookies and the like was just a bonus. It was nice to see Damien happy, especially if it was through something simple.
He made a bit of money on dole days by picking up the dole for his neighbors and doing shopping for them. It was easy work if the boxes weren't too heavy, and it was nice to have his neighbors protecting him. His mother told him to always know his neighbors names since he never knew when they'd get shot or he'd need them. She was practical like that.
When the rains started again, Montague started dreaming about drowning again. Damien didn't comment when Montague would wake up to go make coffee, but he did look nervous when Montague would go out to walk off the nightmares. Some nights, they went out together, and some nights, Montague just sat and watched the late news while his coffee cooled. It startled him when he found Damien shaking in the shower, and mumbling about how the water everywhere sounded odd after being away from it.
Yvette called when the weather was cooling. Her first words when Montague picked up the phone was, "Charles said that they let him out."
Montague took a moment to place the voice, and leaned against his kitchen wall. "Yeah. He's been staying at my place, Ms. Moreau."
"Yvette," she sounded like she was smiling, "I told you to just call me Yvette. Or Moreau, if you insist on being formal. His mom thinks you're sleeping with him, you know?"
"She . . . does, does she." Montague knew that his voice sounded flat and he didn't particularly care. He hadn't been impressed with Damien's mother.
"Yeah. She still wants me to to marry him for some silly reason." There was a pause on the other end of the phone and static crackled across the line. "How is he?"
"He's as well as could be expected. Better on some days. That's true for a lot of people though." Montague could see Damien sitting on the balcony enjoying a rare sunny fall day.
Yvette made a noise under her breath. "I'd like to talk to him."
Montague leaned over to knock on the balcony door, and Damien jumped. "I can ask if he wants to." Montague waved at Damien to come in.
Damien slipped in the door. "Who's on the phone?"
"Yvette." Montague eyed Damien. "Want to talk to her?"
Damien hesitated, and then nodded. "Yes. I'd like that." He took the phone from Montague. "Hi."
Montague poured a cup of coffee for himself.
"I - yes, I'm fine." Damien's voice sounded soft and nervous, but at least he sounded happy to talk to her. "I . . . I'd love to see you. If you want. You know where Montague's place is right? I don't think Montague would mind."
Montague said quietly, "I don't." He sipped his coffee and looked out the balcony door.
"I'll - yes, I'll see you then." Damien paused for a moment staring at the phone before he remembered to hang it up. "She's coming here tomorrow."
Montague looked at Damien. "You're okay with that?"
"Yeah." Damien smiled at him. "I'm okay with that." He refilled his coffee, and his hand wasn't shaking. "I'm ready to see her."