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[personal profile] laeria
[... I'd totally forgotten to post this to dreamwidth. I'm working on changing my account soonish anyway - I like changing online identities, and I SWEAR I'll check out automated crossposting them.]

A/N:
So, this is the first fic I've written in years that took more than one afternoon to complete. I am absurdly proud.

Written for [community profile] hc_bingo   May Amnesty Challenge (my prompt: runaways!). The fandom is Tanya Huff's novel, Fire's Stone, but it's a modern AU thing, so I think you should probably be able to follow/enjoy even if you're unfamiliar with the canon.

Warnings: character death, violence, suicidal themes

Title: Come Along and Take That Ride

Fic:


Aaron fought consciousness but consciousness won. He was curled up on his side, and his stomach felt hard and painful. The fingers of his left hand were swollen and numb. He lifted his head a fraction and vomited, then rolled onto his back.

“Hi.” An unknown man’s concerned face hovered above him. “Do you need an ambulance?”

Aaron shook his head, which made it hurt more. He tried to remember how he got there.

“I’m sorry they hurt you,” said the man. He looked spent and unkept, but his clothes were the ridiculously expensive kind, and, oh, a Rolex. He sounded younger than he looked. “The twins have always been like that.”

Flashes returned now: Doc Martens and knuckles, the girl calling him a fucking fag, the boy standing on his hand. They were teenagers, teenagers without guns, who nearly killed him but didn’t.

“I think dad probably regrets signing them up for karate when they were four,” said the man. “He’ll want to - er, reimburse you. I mean, he doesn’t like paparazzi, but - ”

“I’m a thief,” Aaron announced, because he didn’t really want to extend the conversation any further.

“Oh. Well, in that case. Security will probably come back once they settle the twins. So if you want to - leave? I can get you a painkiller first if you want.”

Aaron stared at the fidgeting man, and held out a hand out of morbid curiosity. The man - the boy of the house, he guessed - helped him up, and even gripped his shoulder when he nearly lost balance.

“I’m really sorry about this,” he repeated. “You shouldn’t be stealing our shit, but - do you want to sue?”

Aaron just kept staring. The man had watery eyes and a bright unhappy grin. All teeth and nerves.

“I guess not,” the man conceded at last, sounding resigned. “My dad is - influential, anyway, so you probably wouldn’t win. But, look, here” he held out a card with trembling hands. “If you need anything, call me.”

The card said Darvish in fancy script, no last name or profession, merely a number an an email address.

“Thank you,” Aaron said woodenly. “Can I go?”

“Yeah, do you need help walking? Look, are you sure you don’t need an ambulance?”

“I climbed the gates to get in. I don’t think I should leave the same way.”

“No, yeah, you’re right.”

He watched Darvish’s shaking hands fumble with the keys to the elaborate wrought-iron gates. “Do you have someone to stay with you?” He asked. “To help with all that?”

“Yeah,” Aaron said. He would call Faharra and she would pick him up. For all she disapproved of stealing, she always parked near, ready for a get-away chase. “Goodbye, then.”

“Bye, thief.”

“It’s Aaron.”

“Nice. Well. Better luck next time, Aaron. And seriously, call me.”

Aaron didn’t answer and limped away without looking back.

-


“You’ll get your bullet yet, boy,” Faharra had promised a few hours before she died.

He was holding her cooling palm in his broken left hand, and her gun in his right. This was the moment to do it. He’d collapse on the floor beneath her, like in that book he once read, about the dog who died at his master’s feet. When someone eventually found them, it would be a moving scene, despite the decomposition, and Faharra’s granddaughter would cry when she heard about it.

He already knew he wasn’t going to kill himself, though. He was the wrong kind of coward for it. Faharra hadn’t made him promise to live - she never did that. But he did promise to have her cremated. She was clear about it: he was to send half of her ashes to her bitch of a granddaughter and take the other half to Italy. (Not the one in Europe. The one in Texas.) And she grinned at him, her clear-eyed old-lady grin. That was the last thing she said that still made sense, before she sank into talking to dead people; mixing Arabic and English. She called to ‘Nina’ a lot. Aaron couldn’t remember if that was her daughter’s name.

Hours passed in complete silence, but then his phone chirped. Its battery was running low again. He gripped it, ready to fling it out the van - he had nobody left to call anymore. But as he got up, the numbness lifted, and he realised he had no money to cremate her, of course. He could try to steal it - but if he got caught, he could never make sure her dying wish was fulfilled. The granddaughter would lock her in a cold heavy grave somewhere.

He did have an option. The thing about Aaron’s life was, he never quite ran out of options.

“Hello,” Darvish said muzzily. “Whozzere?”

“Aaron. Thief Aaron. I need a loan.”

“Oooh, money? I have money. More money than is healthy to have. Or legal, prob’ly.”

Darvish was very, very drunk.

“I’ll pay you back.”

Darvish said something unintelligable, and maybe flirtatious. It didn’t matter. Aaron named his sum and chose a time and place - made Darvish write it down - and then hung up. There were still arrangements to be made.

-

Darvish did not come sober and he did not come alone. A thin, scowling girl was holding onto his arm, as though she was afraid he would run off.

“Aaron!” Darvish announced, too loud for a parking lot. “How’s the thieving?”

“Good. This is?”

“Chandra,” said the girl curtly.

“My internet girlfriend,” Darvish added, swaying peacefully but sounding somewhat rueful.

“So, how did you think this would go exactly?” Chandra asked. “You convince Darvish to give you money out of ridiculous rich black kid guilt, and then you ride off to the sunset?”

“I’ll pay him back. Whatever he wants.”

“I don’t want anything from him, Chandra,” Darvish said, more or less firmly.

“Well, I do. Can you drive, thief?”

“Sure.”

“You’ll drive us to Texas.”

Darvish seemed ready to argue, but she glared and said “Or I’m telling your father.”

“Is this a kidnapping thing?” Aaron asked mildly.

“No,” Darvish wobbled. “We really need to get to Texas. Chandra has trouble with public transportation.”

“We want it to be as anonymous as possible,” she added. “Are you in, thief?”

“Sure.”

“Do you have a ride?”

“Yes.” Because he wanted to see her relent, he added “there’s a dead woman in it, but I’ll get that sorted by morning.”

Darvish made a weird sound, but Chandra just shrugged. “I’m good with dead women.”

-

The first day of their journey passed in near-complete silence. Chandra took the backseat and didn’t take off her old-fashioned headphones, not even when she when she was giving curt directions. Aaron drove. Darvish tried making conversation with him (“How’re your fingers?” “Fine.” “If it helps, dad upgraded the twins’ meds.” “It doesn’t.”), then fiddled with the radio, then settled into an obvious sulk.

When they reached the motel, Chandra paid for a separate room for Aaron without further comment. He wondered when and how he’ll be paying them back for that. He slept with his right hand curled around Faharra’s gun.

It was still dark outside when somebody knocked. It was Chandra, in the same dark clothes she’d worn all day. Aaron felt a moment’s worry, but she looked annoyed, but not scared.

“Darvish is still down in the bar,” she said. “Would you go check if he’s still alive or whatever? We need to leave in four hours, we have a schedule.”

The bar next to the motel was full of locals. Aaron took note of their clothes and the music, and decided Darvish - dark-skinned, long-haired, with his shiny boots and too-tight jeans - was probably not welcome in the establishment.

Darvish wasn’t there though. The bartender said he’d gone “out back with some guys”. Aaron felt another pang of nervousness.

In the garden behind the motel, Darvish was with several solid-looking local men. They all looked relaxed and happy, and drunk out of their mind.

“Aaron,” he flailed, “izzit time to go?”

“Nearly. Thought you need to catch some sleep.”

“I’ll sleep in the car. It’s not like we do anything else, hah.”

“Okay.”

He came nearer and Darvish readily came to him. He said goodbye to his new friends and promise to Like their band on Facebook.

“Don’t forget the aspirin,” yelled one of the locals after them.

“Great people,” Darvish said.

“They seemed to like you,” Aaron observed. He didn’t want to lead Darvish, but he kept near enough to catch him if he stumbled.

“Yeah, I have this party trick.”

“Yeah?”

“Arm-wrestling.” He giggled. “The trick is that I win.”

Aaron snorted. At least Darvish was lucky, for a crazy self-destructive drunk. He let himself be handed off to Chandra agreeably enough. She put him to bed immediately - it was a matter-of-fact action, but still somehow delicate. She smiled at Aaron, and he found himself smiling back.

-

Aaron had stopped for gas and was entirely unsurprised that Dar loved gas stations. It was noon of their third day on the road, and Darvish was for once neither drunk nor hungover.

“It’s a fake telescope,” Aaron pointed out. “A tiny plastic fake telescope.”

“It’s a souvenir! Sentimental value, Aaron, surely you’ve heard of the concept.”

“I’ll be very disappointed if Chandra gets sentimental over a plastic telescope.”

“You don’t understand, it’s an in-joke. Her nick on the forum was stargazer, and then she started dating me, and, I mean, well, you know.”

“Know what?”

Chandra returned with actual food, and echoed his “know what?”

“Well, that I’m an ex-star.”

Aaron raised his eyebrows. (“Don’t shake those devil’s wings at me, boy.”)

“You don’t know?” Darvish looked elated. Chandra looked, if anything, skeptical.

Aaron shook his head.

“You don’t remember Yasimina?” Dar hummed a few opening notes. “That song? It’s my song. Well, it’s my brother’s really, but he didn’t want to go against his developing manly rock star image.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Aaron admitted.
“Right. Darvish, washed-out teen pop sensation, pleased to meet you.”

Aaron blinked. Chandra actually laughed. “You didn’t know!” she said. “How did you miss it? We were twelve and everyone knew his songs. Half the girls in my class were in love with him.” She paused. “I hated him, obviously.”

“Obviously,” Dar grinned and half-hugged her. “Yasimina was a huge hit, you know. I had a bright and gleaming future in front of me.”

“What happened?” Aaron.

“I wrote the next song. It... didn’t do well. At all. And then the usual things, about how I was a hack and a bad role model. You know how it goes.” He shrugged. “I made a few public messes, and not even my dad’s PR guy could soothe them over. Then I faded into obscurity, and my brother’s manly rock star image is untarnished. All his messes are okay.”

He looked pained, briefly, then he shrugged it off. “Still can’t believe you didn’t hear of me.”

“When was this?”

“Three years ago. You were fourteen, right, same as me?”

“Right. I had other things on my mind that year.”

“Ooh, what other things?” Chandra asked, and Aaron bit his lip. “Aaron? What were you doing at that age? Is that when you ran away from home?” Darvish had learned to accept his silences, but Chandra was new to them, having spent most of the previous days silent in the privacy of her headphones.

“Or we could try not interrogating the driver,” Darvish drawled, annoyed. “He’s not asking you why you’re running away, is he?”

This seemed to be a low blow, because Chandra retreated into her music. Aaron wanted to snap at Dar - he could defend his own secrets - but instead they drove in silence.

“I am running away, you know,” Dar said at last. “Kinda. Does it count if nobody gives a fuck if you’re home or not?”

“It counts.”

“Oh. Well, I think dad’s just assuming I’m off finally doing the sex, drugs and rock’n’roll rebellion thing.”

“Well, are you?”

“With Chandra? Not likely. Anyway, I had access to all the drugs I ever wanted since dad started letting me attend his parties. Booze is just so much more straight-forward.”

Aaron shrugged. He really didn’t want to talk about it.

Darvish fidgeted, then added. “We are going to a concert. It’s not rock, but - have you ever heard of Fire Stone?”

“No.”

“She’s a blues singer, more or less. Total genius. Coming out of retirement, it’s kind of a - secret private underground thing. Totally free, so - I mean, you’re welcome to join us. As long as you don’t talk over the music, because then Chandra will have to kill you.” Aaron caught Chandra's eye in the mirror and they shared a half-smile.

“Right,” Aaron said. He wasn’t a music fan, but Faharra had been into blues. Maybe he would look into the old lady’s iPod one day. Another day.

"Turn on the radio, Dar," he directed, and kept his eyes on the road.

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laeria: Implied-Parisian lamp post, Eiffel tower, people embracing, all meshed together and looking golden-autumny, um. (Default)
Laeria

October 2012

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