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Alice? Oh. Daniel never did well when she was brought up. But then again, he'd killed her, hadn't he? Or... he'd killed... the delusion of her? And Alice was actually one of his personalities, but it was also the name of his kid with Lily, but she'd been... stillborn? Bell rubbed at his face. It was complicated, was the point, and like most complicated things, also painful.
Still, if Miss Hannah's kid was really like that, then it'd be a powerful ally, on top of whatever Hannah's specialty was. Though he couldn't help but wonder if Miss Hannah's maternal instincts would allow them to use the kid like that. Who knew? Maybe it being a hybrid and... yeah, not hers, would make a difference. "You think she escaped from Richard, maybe?" he asked, curious. Be funny to run into her all the way over here.
"Alright," Bell conceded, navigating the van out of the narrow lane they'd turned down. Lunch it was. The yellow car lurched after them the first few tries, then settled into a more sedate pace as Cat got used to driving it. He drove away from the house and got them back on the interstate, figuring he'd put a few miles between the house and lunch, just in case the hunters decided to jump to and try to catch them.
Spot's interaction with Daniel was adorable in its own way, though he did feel a little twinge of jealousy towards Spot. "He won't take no for an answer," Bell laughed. "Thinks he's a lap dog." Spot did love to cuddle, and... well, Bell had a pretty good idea where he'd gotten it from. Another pang of jealousy slid through him. Spot got to cuddle, but not him? That wasn't fair at all. He missed Landon's clinginess. The man had always been down for a post-coital cuddle.
It was his fault this last time though. Bell sighed heavily and stared out the windshield. Things hadn't really gotten any better now that he had one boyfriend in one body, had they? It'd just been another step sideways. At least Daniel and Landon couldn't get jealous at himself anymore, but on the other hand, there was no 'getting tired' of Daniel and looking forward to Landon, because Daniel was all he had. And it wasn't [i Daniel], not really. He was both Daniel and Landon. If anything, that was only worse. He'd ended up with none of old-Daniel's passion and none of Landon's clinginess. Normal. Normal, is what he was. It wasn't bad. But why did Bell have to keep convincing himself of that?
Maybe it was because he was still... somehow, stupidly, even though it was impossible, still waiting for Landon to come back out.
A sign ahead told him there was plenty of fast food off the next exit, and he jerked the van maybe a little too hard to take it. "Chicken, burgers, or tacos," he offered unenthusiastically, too caught up in his own thoughts to mask his disappointment.
Bell-boy's hand to his shoulder was steadying, if nothing else. Sam seemed to have gotten the worse end of the deal though, the way she just leaned against him. Daniel gave her a second, reminded of Lily, then watched her gather herself enough to lead the way out of the dilapidated house.
"You sure?" Daniel muttered regarding driving. "Just need five minutes, it'll be fine," he waved away any concern. When Bell-boy asked, concern in his eyes, Daniel shook his head a little, evasive, then sighed.
"It brought up Alice -said she was the same as Hannah's boy. Not that...not that the kid's Hannah's, because if it's a hybrid..." Daniel shrugged, then wiped at his eyes.
"I'm fine," he stressed and started after Sam. Bell-boy hovered, but Daniel let him. He wasn't a hundred percent sure how he was either. The memories that'd been shuffled through and imprinted still dominated his thoughts, vying for attention.
Cat didn't give them any back-talk on driving the banana-mobile either, so that was one less worry. Spot nudged at his hand, then looked at Sam. Again, the mutt had been strangely absent while bringing out a goat, which was just as well.
Same as Cat, really.
Daniel wondered whether it was just a natural response.
Sometimes goats could get funny when in a group. He made his way to the van and climbed into the passenger's seat, head tipped back and eyes closed. After a few seconds, Daniel rooted through the glove-compartment in search of his sunglasses and put the shades to good use. Better.
He was tired now though.
"Just find somewhere we can have lunch," he glanced at Bell. "Probably don't want to stop anywhere fancy." Hunters had ambushed them at diners and breakfast places before, with no regard for the general populace. It was worrying, to know they were that determined. Not entirely surprising either, considering their track-record.
Daniel got comfortable and folded his arms, then was harrowed by dog-paws, trying to find a comfortable position on his lap.
"What're you doing?" Daniel muttered at Spot. The mutt merely looked at him once, then continued his previous searching and finally plopped down half on his lap and stomach, head on his shoulder.
"Nice," Daniel sighed.
Daniel didn't look okay, eyes screwed up against the light, face contorted by--by tears, then pain. Bell crossed to him as Sam emerged and put a hand on his shoulder, curious and slightly worried about what they'd chatted about. He didn't have the foggiest idea himself. The goat hadn't been talking to him; if anything, it'd been actively not talking to him, given that he'd been able to hear... [i something] before, when Daniel and goats had been chatting.
Poison? "Hopefully it won't poison us," he muttered, though he was glad to hear that this goat was the source of the poison hybrids. For two reasons, really; poison was a handy tool, but also, he was glad that the hunters wouldn't be able to make more of those nasty poisonous buggers.
"I'll drive," Bell declared, and this time he was serious. Daniel was not in the shape to drive after chatting with a goat for so long. Especially if hunters were in the mix--and they probably were--they needed to get out of here before anyone showed up, and Daniel needed to recover in case there [i was] a fight.
Sam frowned at Daniel, brows furrowing. They... had? But he'd just... waved his finger, and then... here she was. She climbed slowly to her feet, surprised by how tired she felt; it felt like she'd run a marathon or just done a dozen sprints up and down the football field. She staggered and leaned on Daniel, then pulled away and shook her head, forcing herself to walk. Her legs trembled under her, but she held herself upright with all her might. "Right. Let's... let's get going, then," she said. Slowly, she started for the door.
Bell glanced at Daniel, but figured he'd only injure the man's pride if he offered a shoulder. Still, he hovered close as he led the way out, in case Daniel stumbled. "Are you alright?" he whispered quietly, meaning the tears he'd seen. It might've been that Daniel was just in that much pain, but he wanted to make sure everything was okay.
Cat was waiting by the door. Bell nodded at her. "Get ready to drive Sam's car," he told her. Cat gave him a look and opened her mouth, then glanced at Sam and how tired she looked and just nodded instead. The girl even hurried over to help Sam into the car. Bell climbed into the van himself and waited for Daniel to get into the passenger's seat. It was time to get the hell out of dodge.
So much all at once. Daniel staggered on his feet, but kept standing. Poisonous gas? That- that'd be good. Deal with the hunters nice and quick. And then Miss Hannah was imprinted on his brain: her son, who was like Alice. Without realizing, bringing up the memory of Alice made him tear up. It wasn't really Alice. Never had been. Hybrid Alice was just a fiction of his imagination. Or the shell she'd decided to be, anyway.
Same as Lenny.
Tired? Yeah, Daniel agreed. His headache was pounding by then, the goatling's presence a draining one. Daniel hung his head as Sam came back out of the wood-works of the spidery-goat and pressed his hands against his eyes.
Shreds and faded images of what the goat had showed him repeated in front of his mind's eye, like a record that'd reached the very end.
"Great," Daniel chuckled, "good talk."
Knowing about Miss Hannah's son wouldn't help them one bit -unless...unless the kid would find them. Unlike Alice, the kid had no affiliation with them whatsoever and no real incentive to help them now that it'd escaped the hunters' clutches.
Daniel blinked up at Bell, eyes narrow, sensitive to the light.
Just what he needed; a migraine. At least he could barely feel his foot this way.
"Sam's goat's the one that made all the poison hybrids happen," Daniel managed to stammer out. He took a steadying breath and then steeled himself. Right. They needed to carry Sam back to her banana-mobile and get the hell out of dodge. The hunters would now be hot on their tails.
Sam was already sitting up, a confused look on her face.
Daniel smiled wanly at her. "You alright?"
A slight nod. Sam's arms folded to wrap around her.
"How did I get down here, I'm so silly -did I trip?"
She didn't remember? Well, Bell-boy never really seemed to remember everything about the transition, so it wasn't uncommon.
"No, you -we brought out the creature inside of you and had a lovely little chat," Daniel explained and reached down to help Sam back up.
"We need to get going, the hunters will have noticed this one," he warned both Sam and Bell-boy alike.
Bell struggled in the spider-goat's arm, but he might as well have been fighting against steel girders keeping him trapped in place. Despite the spindly arm and the tiny body down below, he couldn't get the goat's arm to budge, no matter how much he threw his weight around. Daniel was in pain, face distorting; but the goat wasn't touching him. Bell paused in his struggling for a moment. It wasn't? So why was he hurt?
Oh, right--the goatspeak thing. When he wasn't panicking over being trapped by the goat, he could almost feel it, rattling through the back of his mind like a half-remembered memory that he couldn't quite address, a headache simmering past his temples. Bell waited, watching, nervous. He couldn't do anything else. The goat had a hold on him, and he didn't want to injure or attack the goat while he and Daniel both were at the thing's mercy.
The goat tilted its head at Daniel's contorted face, matching it up to an emotion of Sam's. Pain? Pain. That one couldn't take much more. It was going to have to be quick. It flashed him an image. The hunters. Gas. The poisons they'd used. Itself. Gas. Itself. It found Daniel's memories of when they'd gone back to the base, of the box, of the odd way Bell had behaved while in that tiny room, then of itself. Its essence.
Then Miss Hannah. Her son. It showed him the link between the two, of the way it could see them: Miss Hannah, dark and perfect. Her son, who was not her son, who was imperfect in his own perfect way. Something attracted its attention, and it delved into Daniel's brain deeper and drew out a memory of Alice, of her walking around and smiling, then superimposed her with Miss Hannah's son. Same but not the same.
The goat retracted and stopped speaking, ignoring the goatling's further requests, only exuding sensation: it was tired. The hunters would come. Its bulbous eyes retreated into its head; then it folded in, arms curling in like a dead spider's arms. Bell dropped to the floor, forgotten, and climbed back to his feet, spitting curses, as Sam returned to reality.
"You're often more of a bloody mess," Daniel muttered. Bell-goat just used the openings that were already there to come crawling out of. Unlike Bell-boy, Daniel hadn't pulled out his weapon or anything of the sorts. A flash of regret and adrenaline pulsated through him as the goat scuttled at him with break-neck speed, and then the messages came. It hurt. Less, with the goatling, but it still felt like someone was stirring his brain as if it was a pot of soup.
Repeating emotions? No wonder Sam's head was a fair deal fragile.
Clever though. Not many goats bothered with emotions.
Vat-goat. Daniel recognized the image and involuntarily sent more of that goat: it, stuck in the vat, then the threat of Bell-boy being tossed into the greasy substance as well. Goats, drained of essence, all but dead and mere shreds inside the fluid.
Hunters: hybrids. Daniel could barely process everything he was trying to send, and figured the goatling might have something to do with it. Black essence, drained from it, served to humans to create imperfect beings. Killing goats too meek to defend themselves. The facility.
Daniel tried to guide what he was trying to get from this goat.
He pressed a hand to his forehead and shook his head as if trying to focus. It was hard. He'd been drugged too, so the memories of that time were hazy. Hallways, the cafeteria, the entrance they'd been meaning to sneak through -being surrounded, shot.
Miss Hannah? Yes!
Where was she?
"Where is she? She could be our ally, Sam could-" Memories of Miss Hannah; meeting her, fighting with her protector and his subsequent demise. They needed more. They needed vat-goat's weakness.
Needed to create a diversion. Make sure they had an earnest shot at killing vat-goat.
Daniel tried to wrestle for control, but eventually just gave up, weary. The goatling was a faster talker; he knew it was communicating with Sam's goat, just by how dense the air got. More images flashed inside his head.
Sam's escape from the facility; trees, the woods, then the first city. Sam herself, before she'd been chosen as a shell.
Bell followed Daniel into the old house, pulling his shirt up to cover his mouth as he did so. The air in here reeked of mold; probably wasn't safe for human consumption. Lucky none of them were human, then; except Daniel, but now that he had the goatling, he hardly counted either.
Like cattle to slaughter, Sam followed them in, nervously eyeing the walls. Her interaction with Daniel was short, and then Daniel started to draw her symbol. Bell drew his pipe, tensing. Here it came!
Appropriately for their setting, it crawled out of her like an effect from a B-rated horror movie, literally crawling its way out of her body. Bell grimaced and glanced at Daniel. "It doesn't look that gross when I do it, does it?" he asked. He hoped not. Being a horror-film extra wasn't his idea of sexy.
The last of Sam's flesh faded to black. The goat observed the both of them, black eyes lidless, soulless nodules on its head that brought to mind a spider more than anything. As though aware of his thoughts, the goat morphed, extra limbs growing from its abdomen to propel it forward. It scuttled towards them, then changed course to divert towards Daniel. It pulsated mild annoyance mixed with understanding, plus fear and loathing both, all in terms of Sam: images of her afraid, the sensation like the world was falling out from inside her when she was worried, her calm expression. Beyond all this, it radiated smugness in its ability to communicate to the lesser species, and pride in that it'd found such a fine instrument as repeating its host's emotions to get its point across. Bell it disregarded. Bell couldn't understand it. He wasn't sensitive the way this one was, or the one in front of it was. That goat was always careful about that.
Bell jumped in front of Daniel, ready to beat the spider-thing back. It picked him up in one spindly arm and held him up in the air.. "Hey!" Bell snapped, but the spider goat didn't care. Its focus was purely on Daniel.
It sent the man images, images of the hunters fighting something huge and black, then a blink, and there was nothing but a fog in the air, the hunters fighting one another. Another image. A woman. Miss Hannah. A question, Sam's inquisitive face sent as an image.
The scent of mould hit him square in the face upon opening the door. Waterlogged patches rotted in the corners of the ceiling, though the floorboards creaked; those were dry still. Dry enough anyway. Daniel weaved down the hallway, passed the kitchen and cracked open the door to the living area. Sam's voice was a dull drone in the background, something to distract from the ominous noises going on inside the house.
"I know you can't," Daniel replied matter-of-factly. "And I know it doesn't usually talk."
Sam didn't know, did she? That Bell-boy was a goat, that Cat was? That Spot was one? That he was carrying a goatling inside of him? She didn't know any of that and still decided to go with them.
Maybe it was time they told her some of those things.
Daniel sighed out. The living area was large, but there was no more furniture and some of the walls seemed like they offered view of the backyard. They had that many holes in them.
"Listen, we've dealt with our share of goats, alright? We won't kill you -you're; we're not meant to kill you, okay? So don't be scared, I'm just going to bring it out and once we're done, it'll bring you back. Easy, yeah?" he explained, nice and slow, because Sam's focus was elsewhere. Internalized, it seemed almost.
Cat was waiting by the door, but she didn't feel much inclined to follow the guys in there, not even to help Sam. Bellwether's goat had been nothing short of intimidating and powerful.
She was scared.
Why wasn't Daniel?
"Hey?" Daniel started, leaning down a little to catch Sam's gaze. "You ready?"
Sam's eyes scanned them both, but there weren't any weapons.
"Ready for what -how does it work?"
She watched Daniel then, followed his hand as it traced a line through the air. Like weaving a wand. Sam laughed then, hesitantly. It looked so funny.
And then her world shifted.
Daniel stepped back after the symbol was finished. The goat inside Sam came out slowly. Sam's eyes fluttered closed, her head lolled back, mouth open to reveal black. Her neck contorted back beyond what was humanly possible and out of Sam's mouth a black, deformed hand clutched for purchase. It found said purchase on Sam's shoulder and as it pulled, Sam's body buckled and shifted. Daniel watched the transformation take place; lazily and slowly, in utter control, Sam's goat crawled from beyond the event horizon of Sam's flesh.
Daniel protested, but then gave in easily. "Doesn't look any worse than where we usually stay," Bell said, giving Daniel a sideways look. Looked like a... what, exactly? A haunted house? He could see it, but did Daniel honestly think it'd be haunted? It was just an old house. Didn't look like a drug house, either. Not enough crap in the backyard, and it didn't look lived in, either.
The van drew to a halt. Bell climbed out, Spot on his heels, then racing ahead of them to greet the girls. Where Sam was cautious, uncertain, Spot provided a hyperactive counterpoint, bouncing up to the girls in a friendly way, tongue hanging out.
Sam reluctantly released the car door and glanced at Cat. Hopefully this wasn't where the madmen murdered her. She really didn't know why she was here. Every last ounce of common sense said she should run, get the hell out of dodge and vanish, and yet here she was. Because she had to be.
She understood that. That she had to be here. Was supposed to be here. It'd said so. But at the wants tone, she knew she was nuts to be here. Off her meds again. Though, honestly? They'd never helped much.
Swallowing her resolve back into place, Sam followed Daniel into the big, rotting house, keeping an eye on Bell the whole time. He was the one she didn't trust. Daniel was just another victim. Bell was the dangerous one. "I can't just talk to it on demand, you know," she advised him, pushing her hair back. "It decides. Whatever it is, it decides when it wants to talk. And it doesn't, usually. Want to talk."
She was nervous. Babbling. Why were they going in the house, anyways? Waiting for her to get in touch? It wouldn't be any easier in a broken-down house then out here. She shouldn't go in, but all the same, she couldn't stop herself, felt almost drawn to the house.
Bell looked at Daniel. When was he going to draw the goat out? Any time now was fine, wasn't it? Or was he waiting for her to just...do it on her own? Either way, it was chilly, and he'd rather get this over with already.
A whole set? Daniel narrowed his eyes at Bell-boy, then regarded the banana-mobile. More so than the van, Daniel expected the small car to have issues braving the cold weather. At least they had two vehicles, just in case they needed to jump-start one or whatever.
"Sleeping-bags, coats, a burner maybe, for hot water?" Daniel summed up. This time they had to get it right. No half-measures. If it was anything like last time though, camping wasn't likely in the charts. Still. A burner and sleeping bags would also be convenient for cold nights in abandoned buildings, especially when paired with their mattress.
At some point it'd be nice to have heated canned food, rather than cold too.
"God, yeah. Well, who knows, maybe Sam will be fine. Won't be long and she's not hurt," Daniel reasoned. Cat wouldn't be happy with the prospect of driving and whatever the two women discussed, Daniel was pretty sure Cat would pick Sam's side this time. Which made them look like the bad guys for bringing Sam's goat out.
They had little choice though. Sam's goat seemed to have a clear purpose joining them and it was important they found out what it was before heading into the facility, because despite Sam's apprehension about going there, the goat still made her.
A jostle of his arm snapped Daniel's attention to a dilapidated building.
"Are you nuts? That looks like a-...alright," Daniel shrugged. Whatever floated Bell-boy's tea-set. He just hoped it'd be enough space for a goat. Didn't fancy falling through any rotted floor-boards or whatever.
Daniel lead the way, trusting Sam to follow and she did. The look on her face when their eyes finally met spoke volumes about her misgivings.
"Why are we stopping here? It this part of the itinerary?"
Daniel could see the disbelief and impatience on Sam's face play out.
"Sort of," he mentioned, closing the van's door behind. "We need a chat."
Sam furrowed her brow, "okay? What about?"
"Not with you." Daniel scoffed light-heartedly, "well, with you....with the thing inside of you. The one that told you to go find us."
"Here? Wait? How?" Sam started, hands still on the door to her car. Ready to flee -just in case.
Rather than approach, Daniel just watched the woman, a few steps away from the van, towards the building.
"It won't hurt, you'll be yourself before you know it. We just need to know what it knows. Need to know as much as we can, that's all."
Cat's face was tense, but there wasn't a smart remark from her. She knew Daniel long enough that he didn't often bother lying to the people he cared or worked with. He didn't seem to be lying this time and after what she'd seen crawling out of Bellwether, she knew Daniel was probably going to try and bring out a similar being out of Sam.
Bell stretched. Gear, huh? Yeah, definitely needed some gear. "Might wanna get the whole camping kit again," he suggested, glancing at Daniel. Though then again, they'd probably just lose it all over again. "Or at least sleeping bags rated for this kind of cold." Their van and comforter wouldn't keep them very warm when they were dealing with negative temperatures and chill winds. For a minute, he imagined getting two sleeping bags and zipping them together to make one big sleeping bag, or just sharing one and how nice and close they'd have to be... but then Daniel spoke and broke him out of his daydream.
"Now?" he asked, mildly startled. But of course. No, it made sense. Any closer, and it'd be too dangerous. They'd be too close to the hunters. "Yeah, okay. Yeah. Better get Cat primed to drive." She wouldn't be too pleased about it, but it was necessary in the end.
Bell snorted. "Yeah, stop by the grocery store, grab a bag of apples and an order of plan, please," he joked. They really did need a plan, though. Maybe Sam's goat would have one. He snorted. Now that was wishful thinking.
Daniel turned off the interstate, and Bell sat up, stretching in his seat. Chances were Sam's goat would be peaceful, expecting to be yanked into this reality, but there was always the chance that it'd lash out. After all, who knew what goats were thinking? He had to be ready to protect Daniel.
He watched out the window as they drove, looking for a secluded place. There was a little glen up ahead on the left, but it was a public park. Then a dilapidated building, a crumbling old Victorian mansion, loomed up on the right, and he grinned. Now that was a place that looked properly secluded.
Bell grabbed Daniel's arm and pointed. "There, over there," he said. It'd keep Sam's goat out of the public eye, and constrain it inside the house, so that if it did rampage, it would have to rampage its way through the house instead of having the whole open area to go nuts in. And her goat was definitely nuts. The only question was, was it going to be violent about it?
Stupid dog, was it? Mostly a lookalike of Bell-boy when actually human, so Daniel merely chuckled. Even as a dog, Bell enjoyed watching people suffer at his expense.
"Yeah," he nodded at the map. Daniel got comfortable behind the wheel and started the van back up.
It took Bell-boy a good few minutes, but eventually he surprised Daniel by saying they were within a day's distance of the facility. Made sense, in a way, considering Sam managed to escape and the state her goat would've been in, it wouldn't have gone far to kill a host and hide.
"Great, Sam will enjoy that one," Daniel muttered.
"They don't have anything in the banana-mobile," he pointed out. At the very least they'd need some blankets for Sam and Cat, prevent them from catching cold sleeping out there.
Daniel sighed out. More than sleeping arrangements, they needed to figure out how they'd go about storming the facility with their little pack of goats. He'd secretly hoped they'd run into Miss Hannah again, because she'd seemed to know about more goats.
And they all hated the hunters.
Had to be.
Still hadn't talked to Sam's goat.
"I think I know Sam's goat's symbol, we should give that a try before planning anything else," he started. "Let's find a nice and quiet spot to bring it out."
Preferably before lunch or whatever. Should've done this a few hours ago, back at the hotel. Would've been more sheltered and safe for the goat, but whatever. Their atmosphere was going to hurt the goat no matter what.
"Then we get supplies and actually a plan, maybe? I sound like Lenny," Daniel chuckled and found a nice looking exit coming up. He directed Sam to follow him down the exit, even though Daniel knew she'd be suspicious of what they were going to do next. Maybe shouldn't give her the chance. Would be nice if her goat would just be able to control Sam, speak to her, like it seemed to be doing when they met her.
Or was that just her own sickness playing her parts? His delusions had been just as interesting, after all. Couldn't deny that might be a possibility.
What? If Daniel really wanted to escape to an island paradise, then why was he here with Bell, huh? Or had he done so in the past, and now he just wanted to go back? Bell just shrugged to himself. He'd be lying if he said he completely understood Daniel, but that was fine.
He played fetch with Spot while Daniel bought the map. Well, he was playing fetch. Spot seemed to have mixed up the rules with keep-away. Bell chased the dog down for the millionth time, but Spot just jumped up and legged it, grinning around the stick as he ran away from Bell. "Dumb idiot dog!" Bell accused him. He lunged for the stick and grabbed the end, only for Spot to twist and yank it out of his hands. "Stop it, you idiot. That's not how you play fetch!" he informed the dog, even as Spot raced away. He put the stick down and barked, and Bell ran for it, but Spot snatched it back up and hoofed it before he could get a grip.
Daniel called, and Bell looked up. Spot did as well, the both of them moving almost in sync. Suddenly obedient, Spot trotted over, mouth hanging open, and hopped into the car, leaving Bell to glare after him as he followed the dumb mutt in. "Stupid dog can't even play fetch," he informed Daniel, slamming the door behind himself. Spot gave the both of them a proud, self-satisfied look and plopped down under Bell's legs to take a nap.
"You get the map?" he asked, looking around for it. He spotted it after a moment and picked it up before unfolding it. There was no convenient 'you are here' note on the map, but after a while, he found a familiar interstate number and matched them up with the mile markers flitting past outside. Looked like they were in Tennessee. They had a couple more states to go until Pennsylvania, but two or three days' good driving would get them there, no problem. One day, if they rushed it.
"Might wanna sleep outside starting now-ish," Bell advised Daniel. "We're coming up on being a day's drive out of Pennsylvania, so the hunters'll probably start coming up much more often." He glanced at Daniel, then raised his eyebrows. "Upside, we're close to the Blue Ridge Mountains, and they're supposed to be gorgeous this time of year." The mountains would probably be more devoid of hunters as well, particularly this far out, though on the flipside, they'd be colder for sure. And less populated, which meant more sleeping-in-the-car and less finding-abandoned-buildings.
"The mix drinks, beaches, the umbrellas...they aren't imagining, Bell-boy," Daniel chuckled. "Why did you think I took it upon myself to embezzle so much money? Not for sports, I can tell you." Maybe there'd been a bet or two about whether or not he could pull it off, but in the end those had been jokes. Spare change he'd never cashed in on. Just a rumour.
Right, for their itinerary. Daniel finished his coffee and patted his pockets before taking out his wallet. The gas-station wasn't anything special. The young man behind the counter was chewing a tooth-pick and flipping through a magazine, eyes only lifting for a split-second to see what his new customer was up to before returning to read more nonsense articles.
Daniel scanned the maps and then picked the first one that seemed to cover a reasonable area and Pennsylvania. He nudged the map next to the magazine, which got the slow clerk moving to tally up the score.
Money changed hands.
His smile was lost on the man, so Daniel took the map and ambled back outside.
"You can't make her pay for everything, you know?" Cat chastised.
Daniel was almost startled by her presence. She stood, arms folded, leaning against the building while watching Bell-boy toss a stick for Spot to fetch. The mutt seemed to have different priorities -such as keeping the stick.
"Why not? It's not like Sam's paying for us," Daniel said calmly. "What do you care?"
"She can go back," Cat said, more serious now. "I mean, unlike all of us, she's got something to go back to. Family, friends...a home," she shrugged.
Daniel contemplated what Cat was saying and took a deep breath.
"What's money got to do with that?"
Cat glared at him.
"I know you're filthy rich, it just. Feels wrong," Cat spat.
He shrugged. "Money don't last forever, no matter how much it is. You might not know, but this is one of the last accounts I have that's still active. People don't like it very much when they kill other people and go walkabouts," Daniel said in a threatening whisper.
"Fine, ugh, forget I said anything," Cat snarked and pushed off. She joined Sam at her car and got in. Daniel moved to the truck, put the key in and honked the horn.
"Let's go," he waved over Spot and Bell.
Bell snorted with a shrug. Who knew? He sure wasn't any expert on women; who knew what she'd do, when she'd find it important to speak out? He'd almost welcome a confrontation. At least then it'd all be out in the air, instead of this irritating slow simmer. Though it'd also cause conflict, and conflict was not what they needed right now.
Daniel's question startled him; not the question itself, but the very serious way he posed it. Bell looked at him, trying to gauge where this was coming from, then shook his head. "Not really," he said. "Then who'd be there to take care of you? I couldn't do that. It's just, um... like your fruity drinks and tropical islands. You know. Just imagining a life without worry."
Escapism, that was all it was. Escaping his problems. Daniel should know better than anyone how much he wanted to just run away when things got rough. Run away and vanish. How many times had he done that, when they were just getting started as a couple? Tried to run away, leave it all behind, even though it was the best thing he'd ever had--because it was the best thing he ever had. Being a dog meant he could do just that--if he could hide as a dog, he could be there, receive mindless affection, and avoid any picky problems.
He listened as Sam and Daniel spoke, Sam oddly withdrawn. She wouldn't look at him, either. Bell rolled his eyes at her while she wasn't looking. Honestly, she was being ridiculous. Daniel made him chuckle too, though. 'Itinerary'--like the had one of those. But it'd make Sam relax to hear it, he figured, so he didn't mention that they had none. Oh--actually, he should've grabbed a map, so they knew where they were before they moved on. When Daniel and Sam finished talking, he sidled up to Daniel. "Grab a map while you're paying for gas," he mentioned quietly.
Sam shot him a dirty look for whispering at Daniel, but at this point, he hardly cared. While Daniel went to pay, he wandered over to Spot and threw his stick, letting the dog run a bit. They really needed to get the dog more exercise, poor thing. He snorted; maybe things weren't so great as a dog.
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