Confession time- I actually wrote this in 3 chunks, but never came to a good stopping point, so I haven’t posted until now. All three of you reading can chastise me soundly for this if you wish. (Hi, Mom!)
Part 7 – In which Collin does not avail himself of public transportation. As always, you can read the entire (ongoing) story here: Inkling – Fifteen Minute Fiction
An Ongoing Flash Fiction Serial
This time, Collin did laugh, scrubbing a hand across his face. “Not that I go around telling a lot of people, but most of them don’t react that well.”
Grays shrugged. “What else am I gonna do? Demand that you take me back to work, where I absolutely didn’t see a nightmare monster try to eat me? Also, if I get out of the car, this becomes grand theft auto, rather than me letting you drive.”
There was a beat while Collin looked around the car, from the cracked vinyl of the dashboard to the seat covers Grays had made out of thrift store quilts. “I think you’d have a hard time making a case for anything more than a misdemeanor.”
Folding his arms across his chest, Grayson glared. “My car does exactly what I need it to do.”
“Hey, it runs when it counts. I’m not complaining.”
The traffic noise rumbled through the windows, a steady whine of cars speeding by while they hugged the curb. Grayson pulled his phone out and hit the speed dial for the store.
“Eva? Hey, it’s Grays. I’m—Oh, the fire trucks are there? Yeah, I got knocked down in the blast, and it looked pretty bad, so I’m driving myself to the hospital. No, no, hands-free, I promise. But I feel pretty beat up—Okay, yeah, I’ll see you on Tuesday. Thanks, Eva.”
Dropping his phone into the pocket of his flannel shirt, Grays looked at Collin. “I don’t know what the hell is going on, but there’s no way I can deal with this crazy and having to look all over the store for gum erasers today. I have limits.”
The tattoos on Collin’s arms stretched as he leaned back in the driver’s seat, his hands clenching tight around the wheel. They looked normal enough, the lines sharp and clear, almost wet. The one Collin had pulled off earlier, birds chasing each other in a circle, wasn’t any worse for the wear, and Grays didn’t realize that he was going to say something stupid until he’d already started talking.
“Does it grow back?” He manages to stop short of actually touching the ink, snatching his hand back and glaring at it as though he hadn’t been the one controlling the motion. “Because it looked like you took it off your skin, earlier. Back when the black dog was trying to eat us, and I was losing my mind.”
It’s a good thing, his hand resting on his knee, because he can squeeze his kneecap to hide some of the shaking. Likewise, the fact that his blood is pounding in his ears means that it’s still inside him, and Grays is a pretty simple guy, so he appreciates the little things. For a second he thinks he might rattle apart, like his car, the shaking and the pounding tearing him at the seams, but he takes a deep breath and gets a handle on himself before it has the chance to happen.
“It’s a physical representation of a stunning and binding spell. It doesn’t actually come off, it just looks like it.” Collin’s voice was even, not at all like he was talking Grayson down, and hopefully not like he was getting ready to wipe someone’s memory and steal their car. “I can get out here, or we can both keep driving, but either way, we should move again. I’m sorry you got caught in the middle of this because you were trying to be nice.”
“Where are you going?” Grayson looked up from the careful study of his jeans, in time to catch the flash of uncertainty on Collin’s face.
“There’s a safehouse downtown, if I can find it. So there, I guess.”
Grays tried to keep the skepticism out of his voice, but he still wound up sounding like his Mom. “You guess. You don’t know for sure?” Art school, Grayson? That’s your plan? Apparently, breeding would tell.
Pulling himself out of whatever fit of indecisiveness he was having, Collin sat up straight, finally letting go of the wheel. “I’ve got a general idea of where it is, but I don’t know if they’ll let me in or not.” The flash of dark in his eyes made the wry twist of his smile look almost cruel. “Usually I’d be the person they’re trying to keep out.”
He’d always been a sucker for a good story, and Grays could smell the hint of redemption in this one, or maybe adventure. Either way, he had the afternoon off, and it wasn’t like things were going to get any less weird if he made Collin take the public transportation. He waved his hand at the passing traffic, almost impatient now that he’d made up his mind. “Just drive. I can only imagine what a pain in the ass it would be to validate a bus transfer while you’re trying to avoid getting eaten by a fire-breathing dog.”
“I… Thanks. You don’t have to get more involved though.” Collin’s grin wiped away the lingering uncertainty, whether sincere or not. “I’m sure I can find someone else to steal a car from.”
“Not someone who won’t press charges. It’s fine. You can buy me some gas, or a burrito or something.” He fell silent as Collin pulled the car back into traffic, and started imagining how he’d panel this, if his life were a comic book.