n_wilkinson: (bluesummerdaydream)
[personal profile] n_wilkinson

Genre: M/M Romance, SciFi Urban Fantasy
Series: Part of the Synesthesia universe (not required reading)

Description:
Jasper doesn't like complications. But he's the Repel for the leader of Rhapsody, and his lover is the clade's computer tech, Sander. Wrapped up in that is the uneasy truce between the clades, Utara's ever growing madness, and the realization that the Norms aren't all that happy with peace. And nothing about any of that is simple. Damn.

Shady Hill
Chapter Four


More curses sought to pour from Jasper’s lips, but he kept them clamped behind a thin line as he pushed through the heavy emergency exit and into the echoing stairs. Whether Mik had left by the front or shoved his way out the bottom door didn’t matter. He wasn’t in the building. Jasper knew that for sure. He didn’t have to head to the common room to ask.

At five in the morning, with Utara’s unknown plots dancing around and Jeremiah on the brain, there was only one thing that Mik did for stress relief. And it couldn’t be found at the base.

It would annoy Jasper, if he weren’t so used to it. But as it were, from the moment he’d first been inducted into the “make sure Mik doesn’t kill himself” club two years ago, he’d learned not to be surprised.

“He was talking about Jeremiah again?”

Jasper nodded, eyes darting between Sophia and Sander, who were exchanging knowing glances and looks of exhaustion. He felt left out of the loop, standing in the doorway of the main room as the two higher-ups discussed something between them. Sure he’d only been Rhapsody’s Repel for a few months, but he’d been with Rhapsody for much, much longer. He was trustworthy, wasn’t he?

Sophia sighed, folding up her newspaper and rubbing the bridge of her nose. “I’ll keep an eye out.”

Jasper frowned.“What do you mean?”

Sander tapped the ash from his cigarette, his eyes dark and unreadable behind his glasses. Jasper still wasn’t sure how to act around Sander, even after the blond had been with them for three years. “Guess it’s time for the kid to be inducted.”

“I’m not a kid!” Jasper scowled.

Sophia straightened, shooting Sander a hard glare. “Alesander!”

Sander shrugged. “You’ve got the meeting with Fantasia tomorrow, right?” he asked, bringing his cigarette back to his lips. “Someone has to watch Mik’s back.”

“You do it!”

“With my minor power?”

Sophia sat back in her seat. “Cole’s too young,” she argued like Jasper wasn’t standing there, listening to the two of them debate this.

“Hello!” Jasper said, waving a hand in the air, his face burning with embarrassment. He was eighteen, damn it! He wasn’t a kid. “I’m standing right here.”

They ignored him.

Sander stared at Sophia, just as stubborn as she, lifting his cigarette from his lips. “Either the kid goes or we twiddle our thumbs and wait. He’s got to find out sooner or later.”

Sophia pinched the bridge of her nose. “Do you think he can handle it?”

“He’ll have to,” Sander said, and finally looked at Jasper, including him in the conversation. “Think you have what it takes to look after the boss, kid?”

“I’m not a kid,” Jasper said, twisting his jaw. “And isn’t that what I’ve been doing for the past three months?”

Sander snorted, sitting forward in his chair. “Blocking a few fireballs and water spouts is easy compared to this.”

“I can handle it.” Jasper lifted his chin. He might be younger than anyone else, but he’d worked hard to be accepted as Rhapsody’s repel. He wasn’t going to let Mik down now.

“See?” Sander said, gesturing to Jasper. “The kid says he can handle it.”

Sophia rose to her feet, abandoning her newspaper on the table. “Cole doesn’t know what this entails. I’ll leave that explanation to you, since you seem to think you know what you’re doing.” She abandoned the table, her heels clicking across the wood floor.

“Such a drama queen.” Sander stood, crushing out his cigarette. “Okay, kid. Let me explain,” he said, throwing an arm over Jasper’s shoulder and leading him out of the common room. “It’s pretty simple really. Just follow the boss, make sure no one kills him, and then drag him back home when he’s done.”

“Done?”

Sander scratched at his jaw. “That kind of thing is better seen than explained, I think. Your virgin eyes will probably be horrified but there’s nothing to be done for that I suppose.”

Jasper’s forehead crinkled. Sander wasn’t making much sense, but then, the pyrokinetic had a bad habit of joking too much about things.

“I don’t get it.”

“You will,” Sander said, something in his tone sobering, no longer teasing. “Trust me, Cole. You will.”


Sander hadn’t been lying, Jasper mused. Mik’s behavior wasn’t something that could be put into words.

He didn’t bother to knock, pushing into Sander’s room with little warning. “Get up,” Jasper barked, knowing that Sander hadn’t fallen asleep. “Mik’s gone.”

“Are you sure?” Sander asked, voice muffled by the blankets he’d pulled over his body.

“I’ve done this often enough to know. Come on, Sander. I need you to drive.”

The covers were thrown back as Sander sat up, groping blindly on his nightstand for his glasses. “You’re perfectly capable of hauling in the boss on your own.”

“Yes but…” Jasper hesitated, folding his arms over his chest as he looked away.

He didn’t want to explain why he didn’t want to do this alone. Sander should already understand why. Besides, it would be harder to drag Mik home without transportation and Jasper wasn’t that great behind the wheel.

“Never mind. I’m getting up.” Sander slid off the bed and pulled open drawers in search of clothing. “Should have known better than to think I was getting any sleep tonight.”

Jasper stayed silent, the teasing humor gone from their conversation. Sander was clearly irritated, though he should have seen this coming. Jasper was hard-pressed to blame Sander’s foul mood on Mik alone.

It took only a minute for Sander to slide into a pair of jeans and a grey sweater, one that matched his eyes. Sufficiently prepared, the two of them headed out the door and to the garage. Old Betty was driveable, but they needed something a bit more inconspicuous than a SUV with visible bullet holes. Sander grabbed keys from the rack and slid behind the wheel of a mini-van, grumbling under his breath about having to drive a vehicle meant for soccer moms.

They headed straight for Norm territory. Kinetics didn’t much venture beyond the limits of their territory. Not because it was against the rules, merely frowned upon. It simply wasn’t worth the hassle and anything the Kinetic gangs needed could be found in their own territories. There were, however, exceptions.

Mik was one of them.

Marieke wasn't fenced in, it was too large for that, but Jasper knew there were murmurs about it. Norms who wanted to keep the Kinetics out of sight and mind, who thought they'd be safer if the Kinetics were caged like dangerous criminals or animals in a museum. They wanted fences and armed guards and patrolled gates that demanded identification.

They wanted internment camps in other words. But with the uneasy truce still in place, no one was outright saying it. Jasper feared the day it might become law. Maybe moving to another continent was a good idea after all.

It was so late it was early, the clock ticking toward six in the morning with a steady determination. Jasper kept glancing at the sky, expecting the sun to rise at any moment. On the far edges, he could see the sky beginning to lighten.

They'd all been awake since dawn yesterday. Jasper felt the fatigue pulling at his limbs and was too late to conceal a yawn.

Sander didn’t look much better, but now he had irritation to give him energy. His lips were drawn in a thin line, fingers white around the steering wheel as he leaned his head on his other hand, braced against the window.

Even here, six in the morning meant empty streets. They passed few cars, and few pedestrians. It wasn’t safe anywhere these days. Marieke was a hotbed of violence, deceit, and oppression. It was a wonder anyone bothered living there at all.

Jasper had heard of other places, other towns where Kinetics and Norms had learned to coexist, or where the Kinetic war had never touched. He'd even heard of countries on other continents were Kinetics were treated like gods. He’d seen them on television, read about them in books. But Jasper couldn’t imagine moving elsewhere. Marieke and Rhapsody were his home.

“Where do you want to check first?”

Jasper stirred. “Does it matter? He never sticks with one.”

The leather on the steering wheel creaked. “You’re the one who does this the most,” Sander said tightly. “You should have some idea.”

Jasper flicked his hand through the air. “Then try the Dancing Queen. Or better yet, Midnight Special. He usually goes there first.”

He could feel Sander watching him, but Jasper kept his eyes firmly fixed out the window, at the blurring windows and the empty streets, and the bright street lights. He watched huge city buses lumber by, empty of occupants, and caught sight of a few morning joggers, their breaths puffs of gray in the morning chill.

Sander followed Jasper’s advice. They checked both the Dancing Queen and Midnight Special, but neither of the dance clubs held their errant leader. It was growing early, time was running out. By sun rise, the clubs will have closed their doors, shoving their inebriated patrons into the streets with little care as to their fate. If it came to that, it could take ages to find Mik, if they found him at all.

Jasper gritted his teeth and tried to rein in both worry and annoyance. Sometimes, he just wanted to take the boss and shake him, for all the good it would do. Jasper understood why Mik pulled these stunts, but that didn’t mean he liked the inevitable chase.

When was the last time he’d had to do this? Three… four months ago, perhaps. The last time Mik and Utara had clashed near the borders, just beyond the ruined Starlight Theatre. The battle had been bloody, and neither side had walked away without casualties. That was the night Mik had stared at the dying sun, bathing the sky in orange and bloody red, while members of Rhapsody bled and wailed around him.

Jasper’s fingers wandered to his arm, where a scar lingered, white and raised near his elbow. He’d gotten knifed, almost killed, an attack he hadn't seen coming. The sight of blood on his flesh had scared him, but no more so than the horror he caught in Mik’s eyes. His last repel had died by knife, taking a blow meant for Mik.

No more, Mik said. But in the end, the need for a Repel proved heavier than his convictions. That and Sophia had insisted. Jasper had volunteered and Mik couldn’t argue.

Sander pulled to a stop in front of The Cock’s Walk, a seedy two-story club buried in what was left of Norm Blacksburg, dangerously close to Utara's territory. It wasn’t hard to believe that Mik, at his most drunk and foolish, could be found within. He’d be damn lucky if one of Utara’s lackeys hadn’t spotted him yet, figuring that the intoxicated leader of Rhapsody would be easy pickings.

Jasper was out of the van before Sander had thrown it into park. It seemed just like Mik, to pick a club that danced the line of danger. Sometimes, Jasper swore that the boss had a death wish, like he’d died a long time ago and was just waiting for someone to do him the mercy of destroying his undead corpse.

Ugh.

Even from the street Jasper could feel the tremors of the music and hear the occasional snippet of lyrics as the doors opened, releasing patrons in twos or threes. The guard at the door looked asleep on his feet, a yawn making his jaw crack.

Jasper crossed the street and was at the door before Sander joined him, jogging to catch up.

“You think he’s here?”

“If he’s not, then we’re out of luck,” Jasper said, and approached the doorman with something resembling politeness. “Would you let us in?”

The man eyed him, glancing once at his wristwatch. “We’re closing in twenty minutes,” he grunted, skeptical as he looked Sander and Jasper over from head to toe.

They were both rumpled, hardly dressed for clubbing and no doubt Jasper didn’t look old enough. His youthful face betrayed him.

“We’re here to pick someone up, not dance,” Sander said, and gestured with his hand. Jasper didn’t fail to notice the twenty chit folded between Sander’s fingers. “This high. Red hair. Probably wearing leather and a killer smile.”

The doorman snorted, hand snatching the twenty as fast as a striking snake. “Yeah, like that doesn’t describe half the people in here already.” He stepped to the side, jerking a thumb over his shoulder. The chit disappeared into his pocket. “Go get him then. But nothing funny.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Sander promised, and grabbed Jasper’s arm, pulling him along as they slipped in past the doorman and into the dark, heated interior of the club.

There was a narrow entryway lit by black lights that gleamed off glass-covered pictures of various origins. Jasper didn’t peer at them too closely, too focused on the music that pulsed in the floor and throbbed in his ears. Some kind of techno mixed with rock that screamed hoarse lyrics. He could see bodies moving, twisting and writhing in a crowd where lights strobed down over them, highlighting lots of flesh and glittering off jewelry, men and women alike.

Jasper approached the main floor with something like trepidation. He hated clubs, and being here was no exception. He hated the thick crowds, the wall to wall skin, the thick smoke of cigarettes and other things, the smell of spilled beer and unwashed flesh. He hated the music, so loud it could hardly be called enjoyable, and the roar of people shouting to be overheard.

The only spot of luck for he and Sander was that it was so late – or early depending on how you looked at it – that the crowd had thinned. It should be easier to spot Mik. Not from the ground, however, so Jasper found the nearest stairwell and climbed to the second floor. It was open in the middle, a huge railing giving view of the dance floor. Sander followed him, his eyes searching the dancing, swaying crowd.

It took several minutes of searching, minutes where Jasper thought they had come to the wrong place yet again, before he caught a flash of red hair in the crowd. It had been near the DJ’s stage and tucked in the corner by the now-closed bar. Jasper’s eyes swung, peering through the smoke and gloom, catching sight as the dancer turned, Mik’s face coming view. His shoulders sagged with relief, though finding Mik was not the easy part, it was neither the hardest either.

He grabbed Sander’s arm, squeezing it, while pointing with his free hand toward the dance floor. “You see him?” Jasper asked, raised voice to be heard over the sultry, throaty lyrics.

Mik was dancing with a woman, her long blond hair flowing over her shoulders and down her back, her lips painted a bright red. If one could even call that a dance. It looked more like sex from the gyrating of their bodies to the way Mik’s hands shamelessly roamed and the woman was no less uninhibited.

Sander nodded, face expressionless in the dim lighting of the club. “He’s drunk.”

Or worse, Jasper feared.

“Of course he is,” Jasper said, and let go of Sander’s arm, following the railing toward the stairs that would take them closest to Mik. “Come on.”

“What are you going to do?”

Jasper shook his head, edging past bodies closely entwined with one another and trying to avoid being doused in whatever alcoholic cocktail sloshed in their plastic cups. “Nothing,” he said, because it was the sobering truth. “I’m not his mother. I can’t storm out there and drag him home.”

He could only watch. Watch and make sure whoever Mik chose for the night didn’t stab him in the back while he slept, or used other, more elemental means to destroy Rhapsody’s boss. Jasper could only be there to pick up Mik’s intoxicated body and drag him back home once the boss had exhausted himself. He could no more stop Mik than he could bring himself to chastise Mik, no matter how often the words danced on the tip of his tongue.

Sander uttered a low curse, heard only because of an odd pause in the music. “We ought to.” He clomped down the wooden stairs until they waded into the thinning crowd. “He’s old enough to know better.”

They were closer now, barely twenty paces away. At this distance, Jasper could see Mik’s clothing, the tightness of his black leather pants and shiny silver buckles. The long-sleeved and almost-sheer black shirt clung to his body and rose with every sway to the music so that slivers of flesh from his abdomen could be seen. Mik’s face and neck were streaked with sweat, his grey eyes unfocused and dark.

Somehow, in the short time it had taken Sander and Jasper to descend to the second floor, Mik and his female companion had been joined by a third. A male pressed himself against Mik’s back, hands locked possessively on Mik’s hips. The woman didn’t seem to mind, her arms wound around Mik’s neck as she rocked against him, her tight black dress leaving little to the imagination.

Jasper felt his teeth clench, the urge to storm out there and rip both of those strangers away from Mik nearly forcing him into action. If it weren’t for Sander at his back, watching and knowing, he might have done something that foolish. Instead, he stood there, hiding in the eaves of the second floor, watching as his boss threw all caution and propriety out the window. Jasper’s only consolation was that he could see none of Utara’s minions, and there didn’t seem to be any other Kinetics here.

He could smell them, taste them. They felt differently than Norms, as though their bodies carried a different scent and origin. Jasper could always hear the elements stirring in them, whether the steady tide of a hydrokinetic, or the rhythmic breath of fire, or the sturdy solidity of earth, and the flowing calm of air. A telepath was much more difficult to detect, but they were also rare, and Jasper knew the faces of every telepath in a hundred-mile radius. The same with telekinetics.

Jasper watched as the man, who stood a good head taller than Mik, leaned down and whispered something in Mik’s ear, taking the opportunity to nibble on the lobe. Jasper felt his hands clench into his fists, but he said and did nothing, could only watch as the woman took Mik’s hands and the three of them wandered off the dance floor. The beat of the music throbbed in the flooring; Jasper felt it through the soles of his boots. Odd how it seemed to match the out of rhythm beat his heart had taken.

“Now what?” Sander demanded.

He didn’t answer. He was trailing behind them at a safe distance, knowing their destination from one too many times having to do this very same thing. Sometimes, it was to a hotel room, sometimes it was to the nearest semblance of privacy. This time, it appeared the unisex bathroom was their destination. Jasper wished he could be surprised.

The man stumbled inside, dragging Mik along with him, and the woman followed, her high-pitched giggle grating on Jasper’s ears. He waited until the door banged shut before parking himself outside it, thanking some unnamed deity that the music masked the noises inside. It wouldn’t have been the first time he’d heard noises of pleasure, but any chance to avoid being an auditory witness was a chance taken in Jasper’s opinion.

Sander’s face was carefully blank, his arms folded over his chest. “You’re an idiot, you know that?”

“I do what I have to.” Jasper's face flamed.

Sander pulled out a pack of cigarettes, tapping it against his palm before pulling one out. “You really think he needs you standing guard? He seemed to get here just fine.” He offered a cigarette but Jasper declined. He was too jittery to be calmed down.

Jasper glared at an approaching visitor. There was another bathroom in the club, they could use it.

“Getting here is never the problem. It’s getting back.” Drunk, and sometimes high on whatever drug his new friend had convinced him to take, Mik was rarely coherent enough to find his way back to the base.

“It bothers you.”

Jasper snorted, feeling the first of many clenches in his stomach. “Of course it does,” he said, giving Sander a hard look. “You know the truth better than anyone.”

More smoke joined what was already clogging the club. “He’s tearing himself apart.” Sander glanced at the closed door and whatever was surely happening behind it.

Jasper could imagine it easily. In fact, his imagination created the scene without his permission. Mik trapped between two strangers, panting and sweating, eyes dark and drugged, face flushed with exertion and arousal.

He probably had the woman against the wall, her long legs wrapped around his waist, heels pressing against his back. She would cling to him, painted nails gripping his shirt. The man would press against Mik, hands roaming and groping, grinding against Mik’s ass like he had every right to do it. One hand would bury itself in red hair, the other gripping a firm hip, his mouth latched on the exposed bit of flesh on Mik’s shoulder.

The image was too strong for Jasper to chase away. His subconscious wasn’t making this any easier. Jasper lifted a hand and Sander handed over his cigarette.

“There’s nothing I can do about it,” Jasper said, taking a drag from the menthol. He hated the way it tasted, but it was better than nothing. “That’s what bothers me the most. There’s not a goddamn thing I can do about it.” He handed the cigarette back to Sander.

“Why are you torturing yourself like that?”

“I have to.”

Sander sneered. “Bullshit.” He ran a hand through his hair. “You’re his shield, yeah, but you’re not the only one who can drag him home, drunk and out of his mind.”

Jasper’s eyes narrowed, feeling as though he’d been insulted. “So I should let Florian do it?” he demanded. “Or better yet Markel? Let one of them see him like that?”

See Mik at his most vulnerable? Broken, needy and giving it to anyone who asked, doing anything to chase away the memories and the pain and all the things that reality dumped on him? Like hell. Jasper would rather die before exposing Mik like that.

Sander breathed another puff of smoke into the air. “It’s not exactly a secret.”

“That’s not the point.” Jasper folded his arms, turning his gaze away from Sander.

“Your funeral then,” Sander said, and he sounded… angry. “You must be a masochist, Jasper. Only an idiot would subject himself to this kind of torture.”

Who was he angry with? Jasper who he considered the idiot or Mik for putting them all in this situation? Jasper couldn’t even begin to guess.

The bathroom door clattered open behind them, spilling out the two strangers. Well, that was quick, a little too quick, in fact. The woman was grinning, her lipstick smudged, and the man looked far too smug. Jasper resisted the urge to attack as they stumbled out together and noticed Jasper and Sander.

“Were you waiting for someone, handsome?” the woman purred, her tongue sliding over her lips in an action Jasper supposed was meant to be erotic.

Sander puffed on his cigarette. “I don’t know. You seem to have your hands full.”

She laughed and lurched drunkenly against her partner, stroking his chest. “There’s always room for one more.”

Jasper ignored the both of them. Mik hadn’t come out. He swore on the gods that if they hurt him, Jasper wouldn’t let a little thing like self-restraint stop him.

“Sorry, babe. But it looks like my dance card’s full. Thank you anyway,” Sander said, his words almost flirting as Jasper stomped toward the bathroom.

He pushed through the swinging door and blinked at the onset of bright light. The dim decoration of the interior did not carry forward into the restroom. It smelled in here, like sour beer and the musky, stale odor of sex, all overlain with cigarette smoke. Jasper’s nose wrinkled, his eyes wandering from the sink and its cracked mirrors, to the narrow bit of floor in front of the three stalls.

He didn’t see Mik at first, until he heard a low groan and caught sight of a pair of legs jutting out from the last stall. Jasper sighed.

“Boss?”

There was a rattle, as though Mik had made a grab for the door to the stall and failed. There was another stare.

Jasper stopped at the last stall, the door swung open to reveal the man who was supposed to be his boss. There was nothing impressive about the sight.

Mik’s eyes were rimmed in red, from smoke rather than crying, and he was unfocused, wobbly as he looked up at Jasper. He was pale, his clothes rumpled, and his belt undone. There was a mark on his throat, and marks around his wrist, and he was sitting on the filthy floor, one arm draped over the filthy toilet as though it were the most normal thing in the world.

This time, Jasper didn’t bother to fight his sigh. “Are you hurt?” he asked, wishing he could reconcile the flurry of emotions within him. He didn’t know if he were disappointed or hurt or angry or disgusted. Somehow, he was all four.

Mik’s free hand pressed to his forehead, the palm digging into his left eye. “No,” he said, and his Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed. “Sick.”

“From drinking?”

“And whatever that woman gave me,” he muttered after a moment’s pause which, to Jasper’s relief, held a hint of shame.

Jasper’s knowledge of recreational drugs was limited. “Pills? Cocaine? By the gods, boss, please tell me you didn’t let her stick a needle in you.”

One eye peered up at him,. “I’m not a complete moron, Cole.”

“That’s debatable,” Jasper muttered , and flexed his fingers, knowing he’d have to pull Mik off the floor. He held out a hand. “Come on. Let’s go. This place is disgusting.”

It felt wrong, backward, Jasper here as the responsible adult while his boss huddled on the floor next to a filthy toilet because he’d made the wrong decision.

“I don’t know how you do it.” Mik took Jasper’s hand and was hauled to his feet. “You always seem to find me.”

“We searched two other places before coming here. We got lucky.”

Mik wobbled on his feet, his face taking on an unhealthy green tinge. One hand clutched the stall door. “We?”

The bathroom door swung open and Sander strode inside, cigarette gone and hands in his pockets. “So I got rid of Tweedle-Dumb and Tweedle-Dumber,” he said, only to stop and get a good look at Mik. One blond brow lifted. “You look like hell, boss.”

“Thanks for the compliment,” Mik drawled, only to tear away from Jasper, making a beeline for the toilet.

Jasper grimaced as the sound of retching filled the bathroom. At least that would help move whatever Mik had taken out of his system, along with the copious amounts of alcohol he had no doubt consumed.

Sander scowled. “I’ll get the car. Think you can get him to the back door?”

“Yeah. We’ll be there in a minute,” Jasper said, rubbing his forehead.

Mik bent over the toilet again, making those terrible noises.

“At least that explains why the Wonder Idiots were so disappointed. Guess he was too sick to perform to their liking,” Sander said, and was gone before Jasper could form a comment.

The sound of retching stopped, followed by coughing, choking, and spitting. Jasper found the towel dispenser – surprised that it was full and working – and pulled off several sheets for Mik’s use. He wet one with water from the tap and returned to his boss’ side, handing over the whole stack.

Mik gave him a wan smile as he wiped the corners of his mouth and the sweat from his brow. Here, in the yellow light of the bathroom, he looked less enticing than he had on the dance floor, surrounded by glitter and strobe lights and the gleam of sweat and hints of bare skin. Here, he looked broken, struggling to find anything to replace that dead feeling inside of him.

It made Jasper ache just to look at him, aches in ways he could never properly express to anyone, not to Sander and least of all to Mik himself.

“Think you can make it home?” Jasper asked, and surprised himself with the gentleness in his voice. Usually, he had only harsh words and chastisements for the man who had once been like a big brother to him, until Jasper made the foolish mistake of desiring more. “Or would you rather attach to the toilet all night?”

Mik took the hand that Jasper offered him. “I doubt the club’s owners will allow that, as tempting an offer as it may be.” He stumbled, half-leaning on Jasper’s side. “Besides, as they say, there is no place like home.”

This wasn't Jasper's first rodeo, so to speak.

He kept Mik braced against one side and vacated the bathroom. It was easy to find the back exit, especially since bouncers were shooing dancers toward all available exits.

Mik wobbled and made thick, swallowing sounds as though he were trying not to vomit again. Jasper prayed that Mik didn’t upchuck then and there or on Jasper especially. The smell was horrible and never washed out on the first try. Nor would Sander be happy if the boss yakked in the van, his Betty or not.

Sander waited at the curb, the van idling as he leaned against its side, lit cigarette in hand. He was smoking a lot more lately, Jasper noticed.

“Have any trouble?” Sander dropped the cigarette, crushing it with his heel.

“No.”

Mik said nothing, probably for the best.

Sander slid open the back door and helped Jasper maneuver Mik inside, their boss blinking sleepily as he slumped in his seat. Jasper climbed in after him, knowing Mik would roll out of the seat and onto the floor at the first sharp turn.

“I can’t help but feel like the father escorting his misbehaving daughter home,” Sander said as he climbed into the driver’s seat and pulled the van out into the street, nearly sideswiping a passing Volkswagon.

Jasper ignored him and rolled down the window. The sunrise was in full bloom, bathing the sky in soft pinks and blues. The air was crisp and clean, a brand new morning. It helped to wash out the smell of the club, though Jasper couldn’t escape from it. Not with Mik slumped against his side, heated from exertion, his hair smelling like smoke and beer and other unsavory things.

Jasper should be angry. He should be annoyed and disappointed, but all that Jasper could manage was a dull, throbbing hurt. He was far too used to this to feel anything else.

* * *


a/n: Sorry for the delay in posting this. I keep forgetting that I need to update~ ^_^

As always, feedback of any sort is welcome and appreciated. Thank you!

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