I stared at that stupid door, took a deep breath, and hoped like hell that I wouldn't be viciously murdered by a half-baked plan that Raith thought of. The entire thing seems entirely too stupid to keep thinking about. Here I am, standing in front of a two dollar door from Costco painted with ink from an exploded pen and thinking about the way for me and a vampire to Assassin's Creed our way out of Tony's house. That, by the way, the vampire I don't trust with the air he breathes thought of somewhere along the lines between being a prince charming to being a girl with PTSD and nursing his friend back to health after my father had near beat him to death for grabbing my ass. On top of that, there were numerous creatures of every kind walking just behind us to get somewhere but luckily too self-absorbed with whatever they were doing to notice that we were just staring at a door.
Seems a little crazy when I spell it out, doesn't it?
"This better work." I said sternly at Raith without looking at him.
No, seriously, Raith. This better work. There isn't a lot of room for failure at this point. If those Swords know about us leaving, there will be some kind of response along the lines of thinking that we're the leak they're looking for and dragging my ass back to Istanbul. They're as green as fresh spray painted sports grass, meaning they are going to follow the book to the letter rather then use their damn heads and one of those letters gives them the power to smite anyone deemed a threat. It doesn't help that we're trying not to tell them, but to be fair, who would let us leave after your father beat one of your men to a pulp because he was having a bad day?
"It'll work." Raith nodded toward the door. "You helped think of it."
Yeah, but if this fails, I'm solely and completely blaming you for it. Straight up blaming you. It'll be the first thing out of my mouth upon possible interrogation. Besides, what did I really contribute besides my nerfed magic and a sharp shot? This is all you, who seemed to immediately after Ava looked away to come up with a plan to get us the hell right out of this situation.
Not that I'm complaining. Nope. Solving this damn crisis would be great.
I shook the thoughts from my head and I put my head against the door, sighed, and thought about Tessa. I could hear slight sounds of people walking around on the other side somewhere reasonably close to the door. I pushed out of my mind as I focused on Tessa. She should be a slightly bigger dog then Riot hanging out on the other side of the door, hopefully. Her fur looked soft and was the same color as her natural hair color, which seemed to bother Riot to no end.
I felt my magic pulse and rush towards me ears causing them to ring and burn a little bit.
"We need to talk. Can you hear me?" I asked in a whispered voice.
Heard her voice was in my head like I was thinking it myself, almost hearing it in my ears, but with the added twist that there was no sound coming in my ears other then the white noise.
"Yeah, of course I can hear you."
"That's terrifying." I said out loud in my normal tone of voice as I frowned at the door.
"Nice to know that works." Raith said slyly before I stuck my tongue out at him. The amount of disdain I have for him when he's right and knows it could fly me to the moon and back if it was converted to fuel.
"Shut up." I hissed at him and stared at the door. I kept my voice hushed. "How the hell can you hear me? Dogs can't speak."
Which caused me to reflect for a moment how it was a strange sentence out of context, but her voice came in just like before. "Same way it always has. Earworms. Long distance mindreading doesn't hurt either."
"That has got to give you a headache." I leaned back from the door and rubbed my ears and turned around to face the crowd.
"Oh, yeah. Talk fast."
"You're on the other side of this door, right? With Eliana?" I whispered as I watched people passed us as they went down the halls. They didn't even acknowledge us as they kept moving.
"Me and Raith want to leave. Can you distract the guards?" I said watched an elderly naked woman appear out of thin air, look up and down the hallway before asking directions from a mermaid in a wheelchair, before disappearing again.
"Ooooh, you and Shaun, huh? Sure thing."
I crossed my arms. "We're going to talk to Nikki's fiance. You know, about her murder and all." I turned back around and glared at the cheap paint on the door. It seemed to mock me as Tessa's voice rang in my head. I don't know how it mocked me, it was just a cheap door covered in ink, but it did and I felt like insulting it and it's mother.
"Ugh, nothing but work with you. Make it quick, someone is going to notice you two are gone sooner or later."
I said my thanks as I listened for a response.
There was suddenly an insane amount of barking on the other side of the door as I listened to people talking and running away from the door. It didn't sound like Riot, at first. It was deeper and angrier then Riot ever really was, but it wasn't long until I heard a generally louder and more annoyed bark. Riot's bark joined into the chorus of increasingly angry barking based argument between the two.
I reached for the doornob.
My grip loosened as I waited and looked over at Raith. He tilted his head as he looked at my hand as I shrugged.
I opened the door carefully and saw neither of the guards around the door as the barking got more erratic and louder. Riot snarl echoed as I quietly hoped that was all was going on. Raith and I stepped carefully into the room, shut the door, and bolted for the basement door. Raith beat me to the door by a landslide and twice as quietly as he gingerly opened the door. I stepped though first and he shut the door behind us as quietly as possible.
He dashed quietly across the floor for the back door in the kitchen and did a double take at me as he slowly and quietly opened the back door. I avoided looking at him as I slowly made my way across the floor because, unlike him, I had to move carefully and patently as I tried to remember which floorboard made a sound. The trick to moving across any floor quietly is moving on the balls of your feet and having as little impact as you step as possible. Ideally, you want to be as low to the ground and be wearing boots that absorb sound, but you make do with what you can.
Too bad it takes forever compared to Quicksilver over there.
"Hurry up!" Raith growled as I shot him a look.
"Not a vampire." I pointed at myself as he huffed.
He turned on his heels and moved so fast that he almost vanished from sight. I felt myself lift off the ground as arms wrapped around me. "Don't you dare!" I angrily hissed in a hushed voice.
He slung me over his shoulders as I tried to keep my voice down and not saying anything as I felt the air rush out of my stomach. He closed the door as soundlessly as he could before dashing across the field to a black Impala parked neatly in a row with several others from this morning, which he threw me in the passenger seat as he slammed the door closed. There is no way to close old car doors other then to slam them, really, and it did cover up the sound of what felt like my spine snapping in half.
My head spun as I tried to think straight. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath trying to orient myself. The car sprung to life in a loud roar of manly thunder that I'm sure those Swords would hear as I slammed my hand on the dashboard. A large green circle appeared around my hand and I drew several runes with my index finger in rapid succession before punching the circle with the side of my fist. The dash pulsed with green light and the car came to a sudden silence with every move it made as Raith pulled away from the house and on to the road as quickly as the car allowed.
I tried to focus on thoughts of Tessa as the house disappeared into the landscape.
"We're clear, thanks."
"You sound nauseous. Are you alright?"
"Raith used his bullet time on me." I leaned back into the black bench seat trying to see the landscape move in front of me. "Hey, is Riot okay?"
"She's fine, don't worry about her. Keep me updated on what you find."
I covered my mouth to keep myself from puking. "Can do."
Raith reached into his pocket while driving and handed me the key without taking his eyes off the road.
I put the key into a divot near my wrist where the girl had locked them shut. The key refused to turn as though it was entirely the wrong key. I inspected the it, flipped the key over, and tried it again. The blatant resistance made me try and turn it the other way, which it refused just as hard. I looked up at Raith as I wondered if he had lifted the wrong key. It had no distinguishing attributes other then being made as the same material as the cuffs it was possible that this was a different key.
Raith took the key out of my hands, grabbed my left arm, and turned it on the cuff on my left arm while driving with one hand. I reached over and grabbed the wheel as I heard an unhesitant pop of metal. I looked down and saw the cuff laying on the bench seat between us.
I took the key back and tried it again on my other cuff and it refused to turn. Raith immediately reached over and it popped off in a half second all without looking at me.
I looked at him with sheer disbelief and he grinned.
"Magic touch." He winked and I rolled my eyes.
"Bullshit." I hid the cuffs and hid them under the seat. I rubbed my wrists, which were a bit stiff. "How come your super speed wasn't numbed by the cuffs?"
"That's the way my body is built, you can't just turn that off." He rolled his shoulders. "Of course now I'm tired as hell, which is new. Man, you're heavy."
"That what you get for slinging me around like a sack of potatoes." I rubbed my forehead. When you don't give the other person enough time to react to your actions or they choose to not to help you while you're moving them, you end up being straight dead weight to you, subsequently making them heavier and harder to move. I offered him the key. "You want to unlock your cuffs Mr. Magic Touch?"
Raith pulled over to the side of the road and took the key from me. He put the key in the slot and I watched as it refused to turn. He tried it again and it still didn't turn. He looked confused as I leaned back on the door and just watched the chaos ensue. As he failed to take of either cuff I tried my hardest not to laugh.
"The hell is with these things?"
I frowned when I realized I didn't know the answer and he fumbled in trying to turn the key. I reached over and turned the key in the slot and the cuff fell off into his lap without a second thought. I grabbed his other wrist and did it again with the other cuff and it came off in an instant. He looked at me as though I had something awful about his favorite sports team.
"I guess someone else can to take them off of you." I said taking his cuffs and stuffing the key in my pocket.
"This is that metaphor magic, isn't it?" He glared at me as I tried not to smile.
"Everything is metaphor." I said as he kicked the car back to life while looking sternly though the corner of his eyes. "Metaphors have meaning and wizards really into stuff with meaning. It could also just be a safety measure. "
Seeing as these cuffs are too big to fit them both under the seat, which offered some pretty limited space to begin with, I opened the glove box and tried to stuff them in there. A crunching sound made me pull the cuffs back out and look inside. A crumpled white envelope sat in the back, which I pulled out and shoved the cuffs into there with extreme prejudice.
After slamming the glove box closed, I flipped the letter over in my hand as Raith's name was neatly printed on the front in curvy letters and underlined. It wasn't sealed as I felt the back easily left from it's sides. Well not sealed due to a technically. There was a distinct red lip print on the back that weighed the whole thing closed.
"What's that?" Raith asked I examined it for any more clues. I sniffed it and it was a weird mix of lilac febreze and gunpowder. The lip print seemed like a perfect replica of the type of lip print you find on the internet when you google it. There wasn't the usual creases from the muscles in the lips or anything defining it, just the perfect level cherry red lips sealing it closed at an angle.
"You tell me. It was in your glove box." I asked. flipped it over to show him is name on the front. "What's in it?"
"Never seen it before. Open it." He shrugged.
I opened it and pulled out a sheet of notebook paper neatly folded into thirds. I unfolded the sheet of paper and read the printed handwriting.
"Dear Shaun," I read aloud as I noticed the paper smelled like roses. " Found you! I asked around and found out which car you drive. Classy! How are you? I had a dream about you during my cat nap today. I have something important to tell you, and there is no easy way to say this, so here it goes: Shaun, I-"
I stared at the next two words for a couple minutes as I scanned the letter over before my lips said the words slowly and cautiously as I didn't entirely know what I was saying.
I felt the car jolt and forced me to slide forward with enough momentum that my body nearly failed to catch itself. I felt pain radiated out from my shoulder as I moved it away from the dashboard. I had reached for something to push myself up with as I realized my shoulder had taken an uncomfortable position on the dashboard when Raith slammed the breaks.
"Jesus Raith, learn to drive!" I near shouted. He looked at me as I held up the letter. I studied his face for a half second before it defaulted into ambivalence and looked away. "It's what it says. How can you possibly be surprise by this? You must get a dozen of these every day." I said rubbing my shoulder and resettling in the seat.
This stupid goddamn vampire can't even freakin' drive properly.
"I'm...not." Raith refocused on the road and held his head up with his hand with his elbow on the door. His face didn't change from being bored as he continued to drive with one hand and the steering wheel lit up blue glow to give him power steering. "Just surprised to hear you say my name so many times in a row."
"Don't get used to it." I said looking back at the letter. "Where was I? Right, the heartattack." I took a deep breath and put on my best dramatized voice. "I really do. You just looked so beautiful walking in the halls and shopping in the market that I just want to be near you. Your voice is beautiful and your hair is absolutely perfect. Do you miss me? I miss you dearly and, please, I know you feel the same. Be safe, the thought of losing you would be the death of me. I want you and I need you and I will see you again my love, sincerely, your Serenity."
He waited for a moment before speaking up. "Serenity?"
"That's either her name or bad way to sign a letter." I said normally as I flipped the letter over a couple times and checked the envelope. There was nothing else, at least not to the visible eye. I wonder if exposing it to an open flame would show anything. "So how old is this letter?"
"There was nothing in that glove box this morning." Raith shook his head as he watched the empty road, as though there was even remotely anything for him to crash into. "Tony would have noticed."
Ah, the cleaning habits of a paranoid psychopath. Tony cleans out each of the every morning looking for possible tracking devices and empties every possible area as he refuels everything. Anything we left behind would either get trashed or stuffed in our faces while we run laps.
I looked it over again and checked the paper. It was still bright white, carefully ripped along the side from some notebook, and the ink black as though it had been written recently. "When'd you have time to sleep with anyone?"
"I didn't." He glared at me as I held up the letter again. He smacked his lips and looked away again. "You would have noticed."
I nodded and thought about it. We just got back from a heist where we were all sleeping out of a van and I've been sleeping on the couch for the last three days. I have seen pretty much everyone come in and out of that house and Raith had not left since we got back. Tessa, sure. Dirk? Couple times to go find Tessa. Everyone else was passed out upstairs. "I also spent eight hours of it asleep and another eight hours playing letter carrier girl in another building."
"You really think Tony would have let that fly?" He asked flatly and vaguely insulting of my intelligence.
"I'm not saying that Tony wouldn't murder you." I said flattening my tone enough to let him know I heard that. looked at the letter and then back at him. "But you do look really alive, so that theory's out. But really, who is she?"
He didn't say anything as he shrugged. I stared at him and he broke his silence. "That letter is a little creepy, or is that just me?"
"No, this is definitely creepy." I folded it back up and put it back in the envelope. I offered it to him. "You want it?"
"No, that's okay." He said shaking his head. I folded the letter and put it in my back pocket. I could trash it in the first garbage can I find or put it in a frame depending on how the rest of the conversation goes. "I'm still trying to figure who is she is."
"Probably your last weekday girlfriend. Who is Thursday these days anyways?"
"There is no Thursday," He hissed. "No weekdays. Haven't done that since I was sixteen."
"Touchy. Sorry." I leaned back in the car seat and looked out the window as the dead landscape passed us by. A solid few minutes went by as I watched what I swear was the same tumble weed pass us four or five times.
Raith broke the silence as awkwardly as he knew how to sound. "Again with the sorrys. I can get used to that, you know."
"I can get used to using magic again." I just kept looking out the window wondering if there was any kind life out there besides the random rat or bush. "You think I can Jump us into town?"
"That's stupid for two reasons." I looked at him out of the corner my eye without turning towards him as he held a half smile. "One, all magic is off limits and the Conclave is looking for the leak while we're suppose to be underground. They'll be looking for every kind of magic everywhere. Two, you can't Jump that far."
I huffed and crossed my arms as I looked at the same old landscape. "So I'm just suppose to sit though hours of desert and watch you play the cold and aloof vampire?"
"Okay, first, I have been informed by a neutral third party that I'm adorable." He said notoriously pretentiously that made me want to puke. "Secondly, if I'm the emotionless vampire, you're the lackluster and flat female protagonist everyone hates."
"You're cute at best, don't get ahead of yourself." I said sternly as I caught a glimps of myself looking pissy in the car mirror. I looked away immediately. "And we both know that everyone loves my precocious adorability that outshines you by a factor of ten."
I resettled in my seat and stared at him as he grinned and looked at me from the corner of his eyes, still trying to keep an eye on the road. "You think I'm cute?"
"Ava thinks you're cute. I think you're a pain in my ass." I corrected him and kept my eyes away from either him or reflective surfaces. "Eyes on the road. We're going to be here a while."
"What could I possibly hit out here?"
"I don't know, you're clever, you'll figure it out."
"Oh, so I'm clever now." I could hear the smile in his voice.
"Clever enough to get us killed on a straight dirt road, yes." I slumped into the seat, attempted to stare out the window again, and sat quietly for a half second before we both tried not to laugh.
This entire thing was ridiculous. Here we are, trapped in the same car, going to find a murderer while I trying desperately not to say something nice to him. Yeah, sometimes even I have to laugh at how screwy I am.
Raith spoke through his laughter. "I'm not that bad."
"That has yet to be seen." I briefly looked at him as I caught him look away from me. I bit my lower lip to hide a smile as I looked back out the window. "So what are we to be Nicole's fiance? Police, FBI, friendly neighborhood journalists?"
"No one's responding to a reporter anymore." Raith said in a controlled manner. "She died this morning. Last person this guy wants to talk to is a couple of over eager reporters."
"Then what?" I asked as he looked at me though the corner of his eyes. "Locke probably already talked to him and the fiance would call someone to confirm FBI. No one's home to pick up the phone."
"I was thinking something far more subtle." He nodded to himself.
"Friends he's never heard of?" I offered.
"Fiance would get suspicious."
"Well I'm out of ideas then." I frowned as the landscape stayed in various shades of brown. There isn't a lot of people anyone wants to talk to when someone you love has just died. Friends and family mostly, but that's about it.
"We got three hours to figure it out."
I groaned, threw my head back, and stared at the ceiling. Three hours. In this car. With him. "Not even a little magic? I mean you get power steering."
"Yeah, a little inadvertent magic that you can chalk up to glow lights isn't going to kill anyone. Making a car disappear and reappear in another location is a little bit bigger and can be caught on camera."
I didn't bother to stop looking at the ceiling. It's much easier to yell at. "They'd need a satellite camera to catch that."
"They'd also need to know you were at a crime scene in Connecticut earlier today and they got a picture of that."
I groaned as thought about the improbability of getting the exact moment on film. With that kind of luck, I could probably win the lottery a few times. I turned my head and watched the landscape once again just stretch for miles of empty barren land. "Can we at least take a shortcut?"
"And what would that be?"
"The gas station." The sound of him groaning for a change made me smile. "Oh c'mon, this old gas guzzler probably needs to refuel anyways and I doubt that whatever we go as is office casual." I gestured to my attire.
"No." He said flatly.
"Why? 'Cause Sal is prettier then you?" I smiled as I watched him frown at me.
"No, the place smells like ass and Sal is a whole new strain of douchbag." He glared at me.
"Oh c'mon, it's been four years. If you've changed, Sal must have gotten a little better."
There was a beat of silence as I waited for either there to be the sign of the lone gas station between here and there or for him to shoot back. You could probably see either one of them a few miles off.
"You think I've changed?" Raith asked quietly as I smiled a little.
"Maybe a little." I said crossing my arms and leaning against the door as he studied me carefully. "Only a little though. Like cutting the crusts off a turd sandwich or carving a smily face into an apple. Same thing, different aesthetics. "
"Apple?" His voice dropped into something snarky. "Apple of your eye?"
"Turd in my sandwich." I watched his face frown as I tried not to laugh.
There was beat of silence as I waited for an answer. "Five minutes. For gas."
It appeared in the distance almost the moment he said that. The gas station is the type of thing you see in movies for those establishing shots to say that no one has been around for ages. Nothing had around it for miles and looks like some kind of lost relic of a time when this was the highway of in and out of the biggest city to the little farm house that used to dot the country side. Most everything had been rusted over and the architecture was significantly smaller then modern conveniences. It also reeked of sixties sensibilities with the way everything was designed, but had been reasonably well maintained through out time to keep trucking along until the city expanded out in this direction.
Raith was right though, it still smelled like ass though. There was a stench of spilled gas mixed with rotting garbage somewhere.
We pulled up to a pump and both got out of the car. Raith scanned over the small station and started filling up the car with gas as I leaned on the trunk. The pump came to life with a little button glowing a bright green, and then Raith made his way over to sit next to me.
"So really, what are we going to do get her fiance to talk to us?" I asked as I looked at him.
"Good old fashion sympathy." Raith answered as he tapped the trunk of the car. I tilted my head as I moved off the trunk. He moved off the trunk and opened the trunk of the car.
"Sym-Oh, c'mon!" I protested as he flipped up the lining of the trunk to reveal stacks of clothes. "Really?"
"You got a better idea?" He asked snobbishly as I huffed.
"...no." I grumbled as I crossed my arms and looked around. The place does smell like complete and utter ass. I mean the rotten garbage I'm sure has reached toxic waste level a few years back. "Are you sure we can't do Special Agent Scully?"
"Seeing at there is nothing supernatural about a not-wizard dying, logically, I would have to say no, Mulder."
"Ah, the conventional wisdom of a killjoy." I huffed as Raith sorted though the stacks of clothing.
"Or the conventional wisdom of someone on a prison break." A man walked out of the small store attached to the gas station and waved at us. "Piper Williams, look at you."
He had olive skin, slicked back hair, looked somewhere around his mid twenties, and dressed like he just rolled out of bed and into a punk rock concert. He wasn't particularly tall, but wasn't short either. Of course the most surprising part for me was that he had only two legs.
"Hey Sal, how's it goin'?" I asked as Raith handed me a stack of clothing.
"Not bad, not bad, at all." Sal looked me up and down and punctuated his words. I crossed my arms closer over my chest holding the clothes close. "Sorry about the wait, lockdown and all." He nodded over at Raith. "Shaun."
"Sal." Raith watched him carefully as he pulled off his shirt. I blinked and looked away from Raith as he changed his clothes.
Sal leaned against the car with me as I noticed Raith kept a careful eye on us as I stared into the car door mirror. I looked over Sal repeatedly as he nodded and did a little twirl. "Like the new look?"
"Yeah, never thought I'd asked this, but why are you wearing pants and where's your hooves?" I asked as he nodded knowingly. I could hear Raith loudly groan as he shuffled though the trunk. The clothes he was wearing hit the trunk with a little more force then necessary.
"Well, I could take them off if you want." Sal leaned in and smiled mischievously.
"Yeah, uh, just as a warning, " I warned as I pushed him away from me. "One more crack like that and take the gun on my waist and shove it so far up your ass that I'm going to land a headshot on two different counts, okay?"
Sal nodded and looked away. "You haven't changed, have you? Lot changed since you left. I got this glamour, see, that's not just an illusion, but actually reworked my anatomy."
I bit the inner lining of my cheek. "You had work done?"
Sal pulled down the collar of his shirt to show a small faded rune that could easily be mistaken for a surgical scar. The only reason I could figure it was a rune was because he was showing it to me in the first place. "I got tired of being a four legged freak with an interest in human women."
To his credit, that is a bit of problem. Being a centaur that is simply in an illusion of looking human meant you had three viable options, really. Either you find a very open woman, another centaur, or, graces and gods forbid, an actual horse. All three are very complicated in ways I didn't really want to think about.
Sal smacked his lips as he fixed his shirt. "So, had to beat down the guards, how did you fair?"
"You what?" I asked as I processed what he said.
"Yeah, newbies, barely knew what hit them." He nodded as he thought about it.
I felt the words leave my mouth before I knew what was happening. "Did you really have to do that?"
"How else did you expect me to get out of there?"
I thought about it before opening my mouth again as his face dropped. "They're new. Ours were a set of teenagers. You can sneak right past them. Are they okay?"
"Hell if I know." His head tilted as he watched my expression. "That was a while ago and they haven't come looking for me." He smiled and tapped me on the arm. "Anyways, look at you college girl, all back and ready for action." His eyes shifted to behind me before clicking his teeth. "Speaking of which, you seeing anyone these days?"
My brain stalled for half a second to process. "No, uh, I'm not."
"You wanna?" Sal smiled and nodded to the store. "I got two tickets to whatever you want."
My voice and demeanor firmed up as I stood my ground. "No. No, I don't."
He looked at me and then behind me. I looked over my shoulder to see Raith staring at us as he fixed his collar. Sal snapped his fingers and my turned my attention back to him. "Since when was the answer something verbal and not a burst of fire?"
I wordlessly stared at him for a half second before walking off towards the bathroom inside the store. I heard Sal whistle as his steps followed behind me. "Hello sexy."
I whipped around and pointed the gun holstered to my hip at Sal's head as he stopped dead in his tracks. He looked like he was going to burst out in laughter. "There you are."
"Williams." Raith said leaning against the car as he crossed his arms.
"Can't set me on fire." Sal said while smiling like a mad man."You wouldn't shoot me."
"Look, we just need Jump into town." I said though my teeth.
He looked at me playfully. "Don't have the juice or a the skill?"
"I don't have a need to die. Can you do it or not?"
"Of course, gonna cost ya though. You could put the prop down for one."
"Then why aren't you moving?" I asked blankly as Sal's smile faded.
"Because you're just crazy enough pull the trigger."
"Says who?" I said putting the gun at my side as he let out a breath. "Don't be such a baby. It would have been a graze at least and a ricochet at most." Sal looked at me with frustration as I smiled. I walked right up to him and raised the gun for him to see. "This gun. Your ass. I swear."
He nodded slightly in acknowledgement. "Sorry."
I walked into the store and changed my clothes in the grungy bathroom. It was reasonably clean and had a minimal amount of graffiti over the walls. A little cramped though.
I fixed my hair, smoothed out my new clothes, and strapped the gun to my leg because the problem with woman's clothing is it's all very form fitting. You can't hide a damn thing anywhere except where no one looks, which as it works out, is usually near the ground over directly above them.
I looked around the cheap store, which looked like a low budget version of seven-eleven, before grabbing a pie in a box, and stopped at the counter. I grabbed the nearest sheet of paper and a pen. I tapped my fingers and focused on Nicole's fiance as my headache came on. I wrote down the first string of what came to mind before stuffing it in my pocket heading back out. I grabbed some extra paper and the pen just in case.
When I walked out of the store, Raith was holding Sal against the door of the impala while hovering over him and saying something quietly enough out of ear shot.
"Am I interrupting something?" I asked as I watch them watch me walk up to the open trunk. I put everything in my arms into the trunk. I sorted my clothes and hid them under the lining of the trunk. "If you're going to at it, I should point out that the condom in Raith's wallet is expired."
Sal looked up at Raith confused before Raith rolled his eyes and let him go. Raith walked past me and slammed the trunk closed, which is about the only way to do it when it's older then dirt and made of metal.
"How could you possibly know that?" Raith said as we got into the car. My eyes widened as I physically stopped myself from dropping my jaw.
"Wait, you actually keep an expired condom in your wallet?" I got in and slammed the door. "I was kidding. Gods and Grace Raith-"
He groaned and he reached for his keys. "It's been a long dry spell."
"A long and hard dry spell?"
"Williams, are you trying to seduce me?"
"God no, I'm trying to give you an awkward boner in front of the woman you hate and Sal."
He paused before responding. "I don't hate you."
I kicked my brain back into high gear and I physically felt it stop working. "What about Sal?"
"Nah, I hate him." He nodded.
I took a moment to process as he leaned over the steering wheel waiting for Sal to finish the job before I spoke. "You know that I legitimately tried to set you on fire and condemned you to hundred years of servitude to my government on penalty of death, right?"
"I didn't say it wasn't a steady state of incredible dislike." He shrugged. "Don't hate you though."
Now, what I should have done was just accept that answer and move on. What I actually did, you guessed it, was keep talking. "Why not?"
"Guess you're just too cute."
My face moved like I tasted something sour. "You think I'm cute?"
"I think you're adorable." He said effortlessly looking out the windshield before realizing what he had said.
I huffed as I felt my cheeks flare up and sat there with crossed my arms looking out the window as I could feel him looking at me. I muttered something under my breath as I stared out the window.
"What was that?" Raith asked in a small voice.
"Hold on tight. Sal is about to do the thing." I said louder as I watched Sal out of the reflection in the mirror in an effort to I get my body temperature under control.
"No, the other thing." He said carefully as I kept my eyes on the reflection in the mirror.
"What other thing?"
There was this moment right then when we could have just let it pass in silence. He could just call it nothing and I'd just go with it before falling back to where we were. But his mouth said something anyways. "The thing you said about not hating me either."
"I didn't say that!" I felt blood rush back to my face as I cursed for reacting like a small child. "Hey, Sal, hurry up!"
"Not a wizard, this shit takes time!" Sal called back.
Stupid drunken asshole plastic horse. All you have to do is draw the damn series of symbols in the gravel and pump them full of magic. What could possibly be so hard about that? It takes thirty seconds at most. What is his problem? Grace and Gods, I could probably do it myself quicker.
"So you do hate me then?" Raith asked quietly.
"No!" I said little to forcefully as I turned towards him. I saw a little smile in corner of his mouth as I tried to come up with any kind argument. "I, um, I mean-"
There was a knock on the window that I immediately answered with a little too much haste.
"Hey, Piper, all this is going to cost you." Sal said leaning on the open window.
"Yeah, sure," I reached into my pockets for what little cash that I still had on me, which was about the worth of the lint in my pocket.
"Your funny paper money means nothing here wizard."
Right. The many problems with a magical society that has to also be independent from mortals is that there used to be so many different currencies from different species and countries that they all became worthless to one another. Some economist could probably explain it better then I can, but when every government started printing money to keep up with one another, the ink starts to be worth more then paper it's printed on.
"What do you want?" I asked trying to get my head straight.
"One Jump, one pie, a tank of gas, and the hassle of working with both of you? It's goin' to be steep."
"There must be a discount for the sexual harassment." I asked leaning against the door.
"It was canceled by assault with a deadly weapon." Sal reminded me as I rolled my eyes.
"I never pulled the trigger."
"No, but your partner can't take a joke." Sal's eyes narrowed as he nodded to Raith.
"What do you want Sal?" Raith asked though his teeth.
Sal's voice sweetened and put on a sleazy half smile. "I could take a kiss from a fair maiden."
I pulled the pen out of my pocket and slammed it down into the door where Sal's hand was. He had moved it at the last second before smacking his lips and assessing the situation.
"Worth a shot. How about something to remember this whole ordeal?"
I pulled out the extra paper in my pocket and wrote some profanities mixed with a fake phone number. Raith reached over and scratched in some extra drawings as I nodded approvingly. I handed it and the pen to Sal.
"Isn't this from my counter?" Sal asked looking at the pen suspiciously.
"Worth more now, aint it?"
He nodded and stuffed both of them in his pocket. "Take care assholes."
There is one thing that never goes out style in terms of currency, and that's the power that's attached to it. So in a move that I'm sure that magical economists pulled out of their collective asses when ten different economies where going to straight to hell, everyone now traded magical symbolism.
At any rate, it was the one currency that I could use to pay for anything these days.
Sal slapped the back of the car as he walked away.
I stared down Raith as I resettled into the lumpy bench seat. He held his head smiling at me. Not grinning, not the way that made want to use him face as a mop on the nearest sewage spill, or even one where he knew more then me and me want to punch him.
Smiling, like he was happy about something. It wasn't grandiose or even childlike, it was just this way his face moved made it glow a little as though for moment someone had wished away all the bad in the world and left nothing but the best behind. I wouldn't say it was awe but there was certainly something hopeful about the way his eyes had softened.
"What?" I asked quietly without breaking eye contact.
"Nothing." He shook his head a bit but didn't look away. "Just thinking about what you said."
The world changed colors and landscapes in a rush of light and water as though someone had just painted us into somewhere else as I just stared at him. When the literal washing away of colors settled, It seemed we had landed somewhere between two buildings and behind an industrial trash can.
He, however, didn't change. Not a muscle in his face moved and neither did mine as we just waited for the other to say something. I feel the blood rush to my face and my heart beat against the walls of my chest as brain raced to say something. My throat closed up as I tried to say something. The knowing smile grew as I looked away and bit down on the tip of my thumb.
"Was Sal always that much of a douchebag?" I asked breaking the silence and biting into my thumb further.
"Yup. Your tolerance just dropped though the floor with being away all this time. However, it cleared your eyes up." He paused and turned the engine over that made me take a sigh of relief. "So where the hell are we going?"
I reached into my pocket and handed him the sheet of paper with the address on it without looking at him.