|Cristobal Rodriguez ♦ Coyote (coyoti) wrote in paxletalelogs,|
@ 2017-03-28 11:06:00
|Entry tags:||ares, coyote|
they're warnings you never hear
Who: Chris & Daniel.
What: Chris and Daniel go out for lunch and end up biting off more than they can chew.
Where: On the way to El Coyote, but then a diversion.
When: March 28, midday.
"You'll like this place," Chris said, waiting for Daniel to buckle up before pulling away from the curb. He'd just picked the other man up from the courthouse; no lingering touches, no friendly kisses hello were exchanged, and Chris felt strange seeing the other man after their long St. Paddy's Day excursion. The smile on his face reached his eyes, showing his barely tamped-down excitement at the impromptu lunch date. That mixed with Kal's introduction to Pax had him slightly reeling; food, he hoped, would remedy all, at least in that moment so he could approach the problems with fresh eyes.
"Some margaritas, some fajitas, maybe I'll even play footsie with you under the table," he continued, trying to poke fun at his own insecurities before Daniel had a chance to bring it up; he deeply and honestly wished the other man would leave well enough alone. Deciding it was something better not left to chance, he cast a glance in Daniel's direction as they came to a stop at an intersection. "How was work?"
Daniel twitched a small smile, as unwilling to let Chris think his mood was Chris's doing as he was to explain what had him on edge. In the days since Andre's death Daniel had been contemplating a great many things; not least, how well suited he actually was to his chosen career.
"Let's just say I might do tequila shots instead of a margarita." He settled back against the seat, rolling his shoulders as though he might nestle deeper into the thin cloth. "What've you got goin' on the rest of the day?"
Sensing something was amiss, he took the topic change and ran with it, trying to find some neutral ground on which they could connect. He didn't want to think that, now that Daniel had had a taste of what he sought, the interest had fled, but the thought nagged in the back his mind. A dark 'I told you so' that refused to abate.
"Not much; there's another property to inspect in Venice, gonna drive down there after this. Just, you know," he shrugged, implying the work was run of the mill, the car lurching forward and down the street. He felt his phone vibrate, but he ignored it; whoever, whatever it was could wait for a bare hour while he spent time with Daniel. Chris raked his lower lip with incisors, changing the topic yet again before Daniel could delve deeper into the sparse information he'd offered. "I was thinking, if you're up for it, the Rooftop Cinema Club is showing Bladerunner next Wednesday. I could get tickets."
"Oh yeah?" Daniel's brows rose. His smile returned, and had broadened considerably. "Yeah, absolutely. Sounds great, actually." His head lolled against the headrest. An impish gleam lit up his eyes. His hand stretched out across the center console, warm fingers trailing a path down Chris's leg. "If you're buyin', does that mean I have to put out?"
"That's the implication," he replied with a cheeky smile, a hand moving down from the steering wheel to grab at Daniel's fingers and squeeze them. The reaction garnered by his offer made the voice in the back of his head just a little bit quieter. It did not, however, quiet the phone in his pocket, and he muttered an apology as he pulled the device free.
"Hello?" He fell to listening, switching lanes with the phone pressed between cheek and shoulder. "Are you serious? ... Yeah, I'm near La Brea." Silence reigned for another few minutes, Chris offering well-timed mhms and other affirmatives, grunts and various smatterings of reactive sounds. The excited, happy-to-see-Daniel demeanor melted away, replaced by something else that was removed and much colder to the touch.
"Fine," he finally said, the word admitted with some finality. "I said fine. Five minutes. If they're not there, I'm gone." Chris ended the call with an annoyed tap to his phone, putting the device down in a cup holder. He swallowed, trying to keep the motion small and unnoticeable, glancing at Daniel. "Sorry, but I need to run by... I need to pick something up, real quick. Are you OK with a quick detour? I swear it won't take more than 15 minutes."
Daniel shrugged. "I'm all yours for the afternoon," he said. "You gotta run errands, let's run errands." He hooked his index finger in the knot of his tie, loosening it, then pulling it free. He tossed it into the backseat, where it fell into a loose coil of black silk. The top button of his shirt came undone, followed almost immediately by his cuffs, each one quickly rolled halfway up his forearms.
"I'm still gettin' that tequila after, though, right?"
"Only if the tie goes back on, because that's ridiculously sexy." He turned his blinker on, switching back over a few lanes to head in a direction opposite the one they'd been traveling in. "You gonna dress up like that for our movie date?"
"Well I mean… I hadn't really thought about it, but I absolutely can." Daniel flashed a bright grin. "Be worth it just to see your reaction, I bet. And this is just work stuff." He gestured down to his pressed white shirt. "Wait'll you see what I break out when I really wanna make an impression."
"Oh?" Chris made a left, heading toward Koreatown. Buildings outside the car became less gentrified, the people slower and more at ease in comparison to the brisk walk adopted by most Hollywoodites. Unlit neon signs hung throughout the air. "As long as I get to take it off of you at the end of the night." His stomach flip-flopped, pleased at their easy banter. The earlier worry had shrunk to nearly nothing, so when they pulled up outside a thai restaurant, his annoyance at the deviation in his plans was almost gone.
He parallel parked in front of the restaurant, turning the vehicle off; for a moment, he lingered, nearly leaning over into Daniel's space to do something more than just sit next to him. Then he popped the driver's side door open.
"Be right back; I swear, this won't take long," he said again, trying to convince himself more than Daniel. He slid out of the vehicle, heading past a handful of outdoor diners. He had barely pulled the restaurant door open when a large black van strangely slowed just outside of the building. A large, sliding door opened, the tips of three automatic weapons poking out and delivering a quick spray of bullets that was there and gone in seconds; the quiet of the afternoon was broken as the glass exterior of the restaurant shattered into a million pieces, slivers spraying both interior and exterior diners more effectively than the bullets themselves. Screams and mass confusion reigned as some of the diners dropped to the ground, either hurt or for their own safety; others ran, trying to get away from the main point of devastation.
Chris was one of the former, the glass door he'd had his hand on now just a steel frame; almost before the shooting started, he'd gone down. Daniel's reaction had not been so quick. He slid up in his seat, peering over the dash, dark eyes darting to where Chris had been. A deep furrow creased his brow, but he held his tongue for the time being, surveying the damage instead. Some diners did appear to have been hit, though a a cursory glance showed a growing flurry of movement; for the time being, at least, there appeared to be no casualties. His hand was on the cell phone in his pocket, but he had long ago learned not to make the police his first call. Suspicion pricked at the back of his neck, raising small, short hairs there.
The van was gone, the street cleared in the wake of the chaos it had sown. Daniel slipped from the car, staying low as he sprinted toward the door. The moment he reached it, his hand wrapped around Chris's arm. He was breathing hard and visibly shaken, but for the time being all his attention was focused on this single point. His attention was broken by the sound of rapidly approaching sirens.
"I think you... we need to go," he said, his voice raw, underscored with something that brooked no disagreement. He glanced into the diner through the blown-out windows. "You good to get to the car?"
Chris nodded, using Daniel's grip and posture to haul himself to his feet. He and Daniel were of one mind, that their presence was no longer needed in the immediate vicinity. Much like everyone else on the scene -- though actually far fewer were one to make a more realistic observation -- they were quickly moving away from the cries and the sobs of those trying to make sense of the violence rained down upon them. Chris was perfectly put together, despite the fact that he'd just been shot at; he hurried as quickly as he could toward his car, moving around it to the driver's side and getting into the seat without buckling. He started the engine, pulling away from the curb as soon as Daniel had his passenger side door closed.
He said nothing. Chris's total focus was simply on driving away. He glanced periodically in the rearview, but apparently he saw nothing to make the tension in his shoulders worsen. He let silence reign in the car, his mind working through a million other items, his grip on the wheel tightening far enough to whiten his knuckles, showing that he was less afraid as he was pissed off.
Daniel's eyes never left him. His jaw was tight, his mind racing, putting together pieces of a puzzle he badly did not want to solve. But after miles were between them and the crime scene, and there was no apparent sign of their being followed, something in him snapped.
"You wanna tell me what the fuck that was about?"
Chris's lips rolled over his teeth, his head canting back as he mentally kicked himself. He should not have done that with Daniel in the car, he should not even have called the other man for lunch. What the fuck had he been thinking? That there was room for some kind of normal, middle-of-the-day date, that he could even have kept this from Daniel for any amount of time was utterly ridiculous. Granted, he didn't get caught in a drive by everyday, but there were just certain factors in his life and his career path that made too many unsavory elements a given.
"It's complicated," he started, trying to divert Daniel's attention to something else, to put off that explanation just a few moments longer. He glanced in Daniel's direction. "You're OK, right? You don't, you didn't...?" He shrugged, looking back to the road, and then back to Daniel, his focus torn both mentally and physically as he tried to figure out how to best juggle this sudden and unwanted interruption.
"Get shot? No, thank you very much for asking." He turned further in his seat, the safety belt whirring as it fed out more of the strap. With the immediate danger gone, anger and fear were rapidly taking the place of self-preservation. "It's not complicated, Chris. You had a little errand to run and the second you're out of the car we're in fuckin' Menace II Society or some shit. How stupid do you think I am?"
The car came to a stop, screeching tires indicating the speed that Chris had been applying to the vehicle just moments before they nearly struck another car. Hands at ten and two gripped the wheel as he closed his eyes and tried to focus on his breathing, hoping that a calm demeanor would bleed over into Daniel's. Calm, however, remained elusive.
"I don't," he shot back, turning to to spit words directly in Daniel's face. "I didn't fucking know that was going to happen, though..." Chris turned back to the steering wheel and hit it in lieu of Daniel's own angry mug. The horn blared loudly, Daniel started, and he pulled his hand back, his anger now underlined with embarrassment.
"Look, I'm sorry, okay? You were never supposed to know." He nibbled his bottom lip, visibly trying to reign in his anger. "I didn't want you to know," he repeated softly.
"To know what?" Daniel raked a hand through his hair. Sweat had beaded on his brow; he wiped it away on the black line of his trousers, and the gesture did nothing to hide the faint tremor in his hand. "Don't make me fuckin' guess. Don't do that to me. I think you owe me a little fuckin' honesty right now, don't you?"
Chris stared straight out the windshield, his lips pressed into a tight line. The light turned green, and the car surged forward with a much more measured pace.
"I told you before that I was a dealer," he finally said, carefully studying the road, not wanting to watch the inevitable reaction play out over Daniel's face. "I'm not as connected with it as I used to be, but... I still am. I tried something to keep this sort of thing from happening, and I swear," here he glanced at Daniel, his eyes begging the other man to believe him, "I swear I would not have brought you with me if I thought something like this would happen. I swear I never meant to put you in danger." He looked back out the windshield. "I knew we shouldn't have gotten involved."
"Nope. No. Don't you fuckin'--" Daniel's hands were balled to fists in his lap. His stomach roiled, a knot of tension lying heavy as stone in his gut. The bloom of color in his cheeks had faded with the bulk of his anger, but it had left confusion in its wake; neither had been comfortable, and in fact, this was less familiar to him. He struggled to find words, but did not pause to search for them.
"This isn't about us. Don't change the subject, or try to distract me, or whatever the hell you're tryin' to do right now. You put me in danger because you lied to me. That's what we need to talk about. You lied before, and you lied today. Is there anything else you gotta get off your chest?"
Chris opened, then closed his mouth, clearly trying to see if there was another way he could navigate around this scenario. He sighed. "I'm the reason why my friend overdosed. Partially. I'm how she got the drugs, though I didn't sell them to her. I just put her in a situation where they were available, though she didn't fucking tell me she was a former addict. She's in our building; I don't know if you know her. Nishka Bariss." He tightened his jaw at the same time he was tightening his grip once more on the steering wheel. "I don't sell directly anymore, but I oversee some who do. I..." He shrugged, then slapped his leg. "I got benched after this. I got shot. Didn't heal right, and now I'm a fucking useless cripple.
"So now I'm just trying to mitigate damage. I do what I'm told; I'm not in fucking charge. I'm... I'm trying to get out. It's something I've been working on for almost two years, and I'm close, but... it's delicate. And this might've just ruined everything." He rolled his tongue over his teeth, coming to another intersection. "You want me to take you home? Or the courthouse? Or I guess I could just pull over."
Daniel was staring openly at Chris. His lips were faintly parted, but whatever words sat on the tip of his tongue eluded him entirely. Only a small sigh slipped free. Then he fell back against the back of the seat and put his hands over his face. He rubbed roughly at his eyes.
"Okay. So… no. Do not pull over, do not go to the courthouse. Just… go wherever you think is best. I'm not leavin' until we've got this straight."
He drew in a long, slow breath, exhaling much the same. Then his hands fell back to his lap, and he turned to look at Chris.
"Yeah, I know Nish. You know she had a fuckin' heart attack, right? A heart attack. She will die next time. So you and me, we're gonna keep her off this shit, or do whatever we can to keep her off it. That's first." He wet his lips with the tip of his tongue. Index and middle finger rose, eye level to them both. "Second, if you want out, we'll get you out. I'll help you however I can. But you cannot lie to me anymore, Chris. I don't need to know everything and I don't want to. But I can't stick around, I can't help you if I never know if you're full of shit or not. I'm not stupid, I'm not a fuckin' narc, and I'm not a child. Just be fuckin' honest with me."
Chris nodded, but said nothing further. Instead, he brought the car over two lanes and took a right, bringing them down a relatively deserted street that looked to be office buildings. He pulled into a parking lot, drove to the far corner that had the fewest number of cars, and pulled into a spot. Turning the car off, he left the keys in the ignition, and sat back against the seat.
"You're taking this a lot better than I imagined in my head," he commented, staring at his hands in his lap. He sniffed, glancing at Daniel. "I don't... I'm not looking for help. I want to keep everyone out of shit as much as possible. Nish was... That was a special scenario, one I do not intend on repeating. Ever. I don't need more shit on that front, she gave me plenty already." He gently flung his head back on the headrest of his seat. It felt slightly surreal that they were even having a conversation on this topic. "I seriously thought you'd drop me like a hot potato if you found out about this. I'm still expecting you to."
"Yeah, well." Daniel glanced around the parking lot, judging their new surroundings. He looked no more comfortable than he had earlier, in the now shot-up neighborhood, but at least the worst of his ire had gone. "Don't forget what I do for a living. I told you I'm all about second chances. I've seen people get outta worse. Besides, I like you, you fuckin' ass. You say you want out, I'm gonna believe you." He turned again, fixing Chris with an unblinking stare. "Please. Please. Don't make me regret this."
"I do," Chris said, nodding hard enough to make his teeth click. "I swear I'm not fucking lying. I didn't... I started doing it to help my family out. Even then, I didn't really realize... I was a kid. I was a fucking idiot, but I was just a kid, and it..." He slouched in the seat; after a moment, he reached down and pulled the handle to make the seat push back, adjusting the legroom, giving himself space to move his leg. The brace was starting to pinch. He kept talking as he moved, needing to fill the silence that was starting to feel oppressive. "I started young. Selling to other kids, rich kids, dumb rich white kids who had their parents' wallets to blow through. My mom got pregnant with me at 16, my grandparents worked their hands to the bone to keep a roof over our heads. I thought I was helping."
A hand rose, ruffling his hair; he leaned back in his seat, suddenly pressed into the corner as he put as much distance as he could between himself and Daniel, as though at some point in the story, the other man would turn on him. "It just... Things got more and more complicated. Then I got hurt, and even before then, it was too late to get out. Even now, I... I don't know if it'll happen, but I'm done. I've been done for years." His eyes focused on the dash, the radio, every piece of the car that was used but still usable. It felt good to finally admit these things, to explain himself to someone, even if it meant they'd change their minds about him. At least he would be able to stop wondering.
But Daniel's mind only seemed more firmly made up. He did not reach out to Chris, clearly intent upon letting him have his space, but resolve shone through in his voice. "Shit's always complicated," he said. "It took time to get in. It'll take time to get out. But it's doable. Don't tell yourself otherwise."
He raked a hand through his hair. His gaze grew distracted, glazed over as he lost himself in thought. After a moment he blinked, clearing his vision, and glanced down to Chris's now nearly reclining form. "Okay. So do you have any legitimate work goin' on? Any funds you can use that aren't tied to… whoever."
Chris glanced suspiciously in Daniel's direction, not understanding this new tangent in the conversation.
"A couple of things," he replied, slowly. "I'm... I should not be telling you this, but I've got a handful of commercial properties in my name, getting rent from tenants, that kind of thing. I'm... I'm getting enough together so I can broker some kind of a deal. Buy my way out. That," he shrugged, watching Daniel carefully, "that and just between what I know. That's something I can't erase. I'll always be a liability. I just have to make myself seem like a smaller one."
"Right," Daniel said, "and that's easier to do when they're not payin' all your bills. See what I'm sayin'? If they've got leverage on you they'll use it, so if you can dump assets they're tied to, do it. Get as much income you can they can't take when you dip out."
He smirked, and tried for a joke. "All else fails, talk to that Brandt guy in our building. According to BB he's got contacts for this kinda shady shit. Who knows what he could help you liquidate."
Chris just flat out stared, slightly confused. One hand rose, scratching at his jaw, then descended back to his lap.
"You know, the fact that you're not mad and you're trying to help is making you really fucking hot right now, and it's incredibly confusing," he finally said, not sure how he should be reacting to this development. "And I know of Brandt; whatever your friend said isn't a lie. But he's... He's a bigger shark than I was hoping to deal with.
"You're not wrong, though. That's not a bad idea." He stopped, turning completely back toward Daniel; he slid forward in his seat, closing the distance between them a touch. "Why are you helping me?"
Daniel spread his hands, shrugging softly. "How many times I gotta tell you? You said you want out. That's what I do. Just… most of the time the guys I deal with already got caught. I've seen what that shit can do to folks. To their families. I don't want that for you. That's a little selfish, maybe, but whatever, I don't care."
He swallowed hard; the lump in his throat budged the slightest, though it did not dissipate entirely. "I didn't say I'm not mad. I… I dunno what I am. I wish you'd been up front with me. But gettin' shot at has a way of puttin' things in perspective?" He chuckled. "So fuck it. Whatever. I'm into you and you're stuck with me for now. Deal with it."
Chris nodded, sharp, staccato bursts of movement that were a rush to reassure that he did not at all mind this idea that he was stuck with Daniel. He slid fully back into his seat, hands rising to the steering wheel.
"OK." He looked up and out the windshield, toward the fence they were facing; then he looked back at Daniel. "Thanks. For not completely deserting me." He wasn't sure if that thanks was premature, but it felt appropriate in the moment. His fingers curled around the leather of the wheel, hand dropping to the ignition to start the car up. "So...what'd'yah wanna do? I can still take you back to Pax, or I guess the courthouse..."
Daniel shook his head. He reached into the back seat, his hand brushing Chris's arm as he did, and retrieved the tie he had cast off. "Fuck all that," he said. "I want that tequila. And footsie under the table." He laughed; it was steadier now, with more than a hint of its true, typical brightness. His hands were no longer shaking as he buttoned up his shirt and redid the knot in his tie. That done, he smoothed a hand over the line of black silk. "I think we've fuckin' earned that, don't you?"
Chris paused in moving out of the parking spot, turning toward Daniel. "Can I kiss you? Right now? Because I don't know if I've earned that, but you've fucking earned way more than some drinks and footsie."
"You said it," Daniel teased, "not me." His hand came to rest on Chris's thigh. He leaned over the center console, smiling softly. "Yeah you can. You can do whatever you want."
Stopping himself from shaking his head and making another snide comment, Chris leaned forward to softly catch Daniel's mouth with his own. A hand came up, cupping the other man's jaw as Chris sucked Daniel's bottom lip, the engine of the car making the frame subtly vibrate around them. After a short period of time that didn't feel nearly long enough, Chris pulled back, his hand still holding Daniel's face. "If I had more time, I'd take you home and just give you head for the rest of the day. I guess food will have to do."
He sat back in his seat, almost back to the excited feeling he'd had upon initially picking Daniel up. He put the car into reverse and started them back on their path toward El Coyote.