Tuesday, March 29, 2016
Scorched Haven--Part 5: Consequences
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Zeb drove like he was playing a video game-- like crashing the car would have no consequences, and he'd just get another life.
Of course Zeb would be able to survive a car crash at 120 MPH, but Colton, moaning in the backseat and losing blood by the quart load wouldn't be so lucky.
He wasn't aware he'd even done the psychic scream thing until Green popped into his head, a cool burst of water in a shaded glen.
Hello, there, my boy. Long time no hear-- we've been worried.
Oh God. He'd been missing for a day--Richie had been dead for a day, and he'd known about a kid named Colton who was now dying in the backseat of this car for less then eight hours.
Richie was killed yesterday at the Grapevine. I got away and got help but... He couldn't make words, could only project a picture of that pretty kid with the strong jaw and long dark hair, bloody and undignified in the backseat.
Oh no. Green's concern helped a little. It meant he was taking this seriously, didn't it?
He's a good kid, Zeb said, aware that he sounded like he was begging. He helped me, he was worried for his friend, his family. He wanted out of that town so badly, and I told him... I told him... Oh Goddess. The hubris, of thinking that Zeb could rescue Colton the way that Adrian had rescued him. I just wanted to get to Bakersfield, Green. I thought if we could get there, I could get hold of someone, and we could at least get him up to the foothills. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry... He was crying. He was driving 120 MPH down Hwy 5 and he was crying. Desperately he wiped his eyes with his wrist and tried to pull his shit together.
He felt disoriented for a moment, and then as though it were more than Green's voice in his head. Oh, oh God-- was Green's entire mind in Zeb's head?
For a moment, Zeb was afraid Green could see all of his insecurities, all of the times he'd felt like a coward and failed. Oh, he'd rather wreck the car than have Green, or Teague, or Lady Cory know that he wasn't worthy of living on the hill. He'd spent three years laying low so nobody knew what a mistake Adrian had made, recruiting him. Three years not getting involved so nobody could see that he didn't count anyway.
And now Green was in his head, and who knew what' he'd see? Oh crap oh crap oh crap-- Zeb's hands were sweating so badly he could barely hold the wheel.
Okay, mate-- I need you to calm down. Bakersfield was a good try, but I want you to aim a little closer here. There's a turnoff coming up--Bracken says you can take back farm roads through Visalia, to Yosemite. Yosemite will be good, Zeb, because we know most of the people there. It hasn't been taken over by the crazy yet, and your friend is going to need some wide open spaces.
He can barely move, Zeb thought, glancing at Colton's almost blue face as he stuttered for breath through what looked to be a river of blood. He tried to keep the bark of insane laughter inside.
He'll surely be moving after you bite him, right? Now get ready--Bracken says you need to take one of the farm exit coming up. Yerkes, does that ring a bell?
Oh God. That was right... "Fuck!"
With one yank of the wheel, Zeb darted through two lanes of traffic toward the offramp, speeding toward's an intersection about a half-a-mile ahead. In his rearview he saw cherry lights, following him, and he kept his eyes glued to the cross traffic coming down the overpass. Timing. If he could time it before this semi and after this little Toyota, he could hit the two-lane farming road at full speed. Timing... timing... timing....
He skidded around the curve, jumped the light and bolted ahead of the semi. The oncoming lane was clear so he veered into that and stood on the gas, passing the Toyota and veering back into his own lane with nothing but free air in front of him.
Took the exit, Green, he said meekly to the passenger in his brain.
That a boy. Now in two stretches of trees, you're going to see a tiny road to your left. It leads to a one horse town that should have a gas station. You'll need to stop there.
We just got some.
You just squandered most of it going too fast for this car, which, by the way, will fall apart bolt by bolt if you don't give it a rest.
Zeb toned the speed down to 100 MPH and listened guiltily to the doors rattling inside the joins. God, this thing was not sturdy.
And to bite your passenger, dear boy. He's going to die if you don't.
Wait-- wait-- you want me to bring him over? ME?
Zebulon, you trusted this young man with your life. And now we owe him. Of course. Do you think we hold such service lightly? Now get to the gas station and then see if you can reach me by phone. Tired.
Green's psychic kiss on Zeb's forehead smelled like wildflowers and rich warm earth, and for a moment Zeb's heart rate slowed down and his adrenaline stopped dumping into his blood stream.
Of course he was tired--he didn't usually project into someone's head long distance--and when he did, it was usually someone he was much more closely connected to, which made the communication easier.
Colton groaned behind him, and some of that calmness seeped into Zeb's voice.
"Okay, kid. We've got a plan."
"Hospital?" Colton managed.
"No, better. Werewolf bite. You game?"
"No choice," the kid whispered, blood bubbling up between his lips, and fuck if Zeb was going to let him die.
The turnoff was almost invisible, and fuck Bracken for no warning at all. Zeb saw it and pulled a 90 degree turn in Colton's aging sedan. He managed to hold the thing to the road when by all accounts it should have just popped into a demolition derby style roll, and then he floored the car again.
Zeb, you've got about thirty seconds before he dies.
Zeb checked the rearview for cherry lights, saw none, and hit the brakes, fishtailing to a halt on the dusty side of the road.
Colton was unconscious, the breath bubbling from between his lips coming at gasping intervals, and Zeb didn't even bother to get out of the car or even stop the engine. He turned in his seat and grabbed the hand resting on Colton's thigh. It sat in his own hand, limp and unresponsive, and he closed his eyes and concentrated on the change.
Just his muzzle changed, a thing he'd practiced out of boredom one day, but had never considered a power or a skill, particularly-- until now.
As soon as he felt his muzzle in the shape of a wolves, he lifted Colton's hand to his mouth and nipped quickly. As soon as he tasted the fresh blood welling through the skin, adding to the copper patina of old blood crusting over Colton's hand, he dropped the hand back onto Colton's thigh and turned around, letting the change slide off his features.
He could only hope now-- and try to get to the gas station before the car rattled apart. Mindful that a functioning car needed doors and a chassis, he lowered his speed to sixty MPH and watched the road ahead.
He didn't even realize he was holding his breath, listening with his super-hearing for a heartbeat, praying to the Goddess herself for help, until he heard Colton's low moan behind him.
He didn't realize he'd said thank you out loud until Colton mumbled weakly, "You're welcome. For what? And I'm hungry again."
He'll live, he said gratefully, hoping Green could hear him.
Good. Now fix your phone.
Well, yeah. One thing at a time.