So, today I was supposed to meet with Ambrosia AND conference with my publisher, but both meetings fell through.
I’ll be honest–I felt sort of at loose ends, especially because I was editing all day, and, well, boring!
The funniest part of my day was when ZoomBoy discovered Green Day– and an album called Dookie. Given that Green Day is like the ADHD anthem, this was a big deal for him, and, honestly, the most useful thing the Google speaker as ever given us. Woohoo!
So, boring day for me equals more free fic for you! (Also, I need to have the first part of this done before I write the meeting in Fish, because, well, reasons.)
So enjoy! And have a happy weekend afterward!
Hiding the Moon–Part 4
Burton yawned and looked at the clock on the dash. Seven o’clock.
It was true, he could drive straight through to Victoriana and be there in another three hours–but, maddeningly enough, Ernie was right.
Burton wanted to talk to his boss first, and it would be nice of him to offer a heads up to the people in Victoriana. Yeah, Ace owed him a few, but Burton had been raised to be polite.
Besides, Ace would be fine with it, but Sonny always needed a little warning, and Burton didn’t want to piss Sonny off. Idly, he thought bad to his interactions with the laconic Ace and the highly unstable Sonny Daye and wondered if Ernie would think they were “good” or “full of bugs.”
“Good,” Ernie mumbled, turning sideways in the seat and curling up like a little kid. The Tahoe came fully loaded, and Burton hit the passenger seat adjustments to tilt the thing back and make Ernie more comfortable. “Like you,” he said happily. “I’m hungry. I usually eat at the bakery by now. Stop, get some food, find a room. Your friends will be there tomorrow morning.”
Burton snorted. Yeah, sure, a hotel room was probably a good idea–there was a Motel 6 at the next turnoff and he had cash–but he wasn’t planning to spend more than a few hours there.
The thought had no sooner crossed his mind than Ernie chuckled, like he knew something Burton didn’t.
“Goddammit!” The fine hairs on the back of Burton’s neck stood up. “Why are you laughing like that?”
He knew when the kid’s eyes opened.
“I’m a pretty good lay,” Ernie murmured. “You’re going to want to take more time than that.”
“So help me, I will wreck the car.” The idea was preposterous. Burton had urges–he knew them for what they were. But he’d never taken a man to his bed, and he certainly wasn’t going to do so now, in the middle of a failed op and the… the frickin’ mystery that was Ernie Caulfield.
“That’d be a shame,” Ernie said, sitting up and readjusting the seat. “I think I wouldn’t mind you touching me.”
Burton growled. “You’re stoned. It’s not happening.”
Ernie gurgled happily. “Nope. Wore off before…” His voice dropped. “Before the Corduroy guys thing.” He sighed. “I… I wish it lasted longer. That would… it would have been nice to be stoned when that happened.”
“Why?” Burton wanted his wits as sharp as possible when shit was going down.
“Don’t feel so much. The X or the pot takes over and it… it muffles shit. All the bad shit–hell, even the good shit’s bad when there’s too much of it. I… I really wish it had all been muffled when all that bad shit happened.” He whimpered. “The club guy grabbed my dick. That… that wasn’t pleasant.”
“Not the first time it happened,” Burton wagered.
“It’s better when I want it,” Ernie said dispiritedly. “I mean, got lots I didn’t want, but some of it I wanted. I didn’t want that.”
“Why do you take it when you don’t want it?” He asked, curious. So many pictures of Ernie naked with other people. Always with the same dreamy expression like he wasn’t really there.
“Cause you can ride it,” Ernie said, eyes closed. “Like ride their endorphins like you ride the drugs. Both ways suck, but one way you’re not alone. Until I found the club. That was perfect.”
A week ago, and Burton would have dismissed what Ernie was talking about out of hand. But Ernie had unnerved him, pretty much from the beginning, and he found himself flirting with the possibility, the outright probability of the impossible thing that Ernie was in his head.
“Maybe be somewhere without so many people?” Burton suggested. Hell, even if the kid was simply agoraphobic, the self-medication he was talking about wasn’t good for him.
“They can find me in the empty.” Ernie pulled his knees up and wrapped his arms around his shins, which spoke well of his flexibility since he was using the seatbelt. “But now they found me in the city and I don’t know what to do.”
And then Lee Burton, once in Marine Special Ops, now in special devision covert ops, soldier, assassin, all around logical guy, found himself making the rashest of promises.
“I’m taking you someplace safe,” he said. “Someplace not even my boss knows about. You tell me why people are after you and I’ll find a way to make it stop. I swear.”
Ernie looked at him sideways from his big brown eyes. “Why would you do that? We haven’t even rented the hotel room yet.” He stared back out into the desert moodily. “Everybody wants sex first.”
“Kid, I’m not in it for sex–“
Ernie snorted derisively.
“I was supposed to kill you, you understand? I am a finely trained killing machine–I’m great at it. But I don’t kill club bunnies or witchy little bakers or kids who feed all the stray cats in downtown Phoenix. I kill bad men–and somebody put you on my list, and on Corduroy’s list, and for all I know on the CIA’s list and Jesus, you probably have a fucking SEAL team hunting down your scrawny ass, and I want to know why! My boss didn’t like this op and I don’t like it, and I’m going to find out who tried to make me a murderer.”
“But aren’t you–“
“Like you said, kid. It matters if I want it. I kill bad men who like to kill innocent people. I don’t kill innocent people who are hunted by bad men.”
Ernie “hmmd”, appearing to be thinking very carefully. “You still want me,” he breathed. “This is your exit. There’s a donut shop down past the Motel. Let’s go there first.”
Burton hesitated to ask, because like this kid would know, right?
“They have Crullers,” Ernie murmured, looking sublimely happy.
“How do you do that?” Burton asked bluntly. He’d been already to go for the donut question, but seriously, how did this kid keep reading his mind?
“I’m not usually so good at it,” Ernie said, looking down at his tennis shoes on Burton’s upholstery and picking at the upholstery. “But your mind is very clear. I think it’s because of that assassin thing. You need to be totally focused. So It’s like reading something etched in stone. But most people aren’t like that. I just get fuzzy sort of auras. I…I wish I’d learned how to damp down on it when I had the chance.”
“You had the chance to learn how to use this… this thing in your head?” Burton wasn’t sure how he was going to tell Jason Constance that their target was psychic, and that was probably why he was the target–but he was really interested in why that made someone want him dead.
“Yeah.” Ernie sighed again, like this was the heaviest concept on the planet. “But they didn’t want me to make it stop or quiet it down. They just wanted me to tell them who was good and who was bad.”
This was interesting.
“What did they do then?”
Ernie’s face fell. “They hurt the good people to see if it would make them bad. And sometimes they would.”
Burton sucked in air. It sounded like something illegal. It sounded like behavior modification–of the most monstrous type.
It sounded like a reason to kill a dreamy kid who just wanted to get stoned enough to stay in his own head. “Donuts,” he said grimly. “You and me need some sugar before I call my boss, and then we need to talk about what’s next.”
“Okay, Cruller.” The kid closed his eyes happily. “You can ask me anything you want after donuts. But maybe make sure we get a kingsized bed for that other thing–“
Ernie’s voice tinkled, low and charming, and Burton wondered exactly what sort of pictures he was painting on the kid’s mind.
It would be nice if Burton knew himself, wouldn’t it!