"I don't suppose you could have found us a bigger getaway vehicle?" said Dirk, although his grin didn't quite match the sarcasm.
Todd, smashed right up against his side due to the crowded nature of the van, gave him a look.
Dirk rolled his eyes. "Yes, yes, I know. Beggars and choosers."
He glanced around at the eight people currently inhabiting the pokey space, and found he didn't even have it in him to be nervous about being driven to safety in the Rowdies' van. The space may be even smaller than his cell and chock-a-block with shouty psychic vampires, but it was the freest he'd felt in a long time nonetheless.
"It's about eleven hours from here to the safe house," said Farah from behind the wheel- which the white-haired Rowdy leader looked mildly put-out about, but he was also a little worse for wear from his Blackwing treatment and not in any shape for seizing back control of his vehicle. "We'll have to stop for gas sometime. And we'll take shifts driving and keeping watch. Martin, you're next on the wheel-" White-hair grunted in agreement- "Amanda... Keep your eyes peeled."
"On it," Amanda chirped from the passenger seat (which all four Rowdies had left clear for her with no sign of prior discussion), eyes glued to the dented wing mirror.
"Rest of you guys sit tight," Farah continued, eyes on the road but concern in her tone. Clearly she was as dubious about a van full of Rowdies' ability to play nice in a cramped space for eleven hours as Dirk was.
"What happened to those other guys?" Todd asked, shuffling uncomfortably in his seat. "Y'know, the uh-"
"Homicidal dirt Muppet and her sidekick?" Dirk suggested, shrugging. "Not a clue."
"Last I saw," said Farah, grimacing. "They were commandeering a tank."
"Ah. Right, okay, they're probably fine."
"But it was very nice of you to think of them," said Dirk, beaming fondly at Todd. His smile only grew in size when Todd's cheeks flushed and he ducked his head and tried to hide it with an annoyed frown. Oh, god, he'd missed that expression. Those eyebrows all scrunched together like angry caterpillars, that little jaw clench. Bloody hell, Todd was here. In a van, with Dirk, with Amanda and Farah, rescuing him. His team. His friends. All together again. On the run from the law. Exciting! And... very, very bad. Right, yes, that was something that needed sorting out.
“So!” he exclaimed, slapping his knees and startling Todd. “What’s the plan? Aside from getting to the safe house, that is? Obviously we can’t stay in hiding forever- but taking down a top-secret government facility is hardly a walk in the park! Especially given that several of us are wanted fugitives, which is a bit inconvenient. Not an awful lot we can do as long as we’re lying low, after all."
That was when he had a sudden brilliant brainwave, and he clamped a hand on Todd’s shoulder and shook it excitedly. "Ah, but! We’re not completely alone, are we? We’ve got at least one non-fugitive friend on our side! And he’s in the police force- I’m sure he can help us get the word to someone who can do something! Farah, have you called what’s-his-name yet? That lovely missing persons chap who nearly shot us? Estelle? Esteban?”
Todd looked a little paler than he had a minute ago. Strange. Was he cold? “Estevez.”
“Right! We should call him, ask him to rendezvous with us at the safe house! I’m sure he can help us sort out this mess- he’s a good policeman, when he’s not pointing guns at us. Anyone have his number?”
The van had gone… rather quiet. Even the Rowdies seemed subdued- he caught the little one, the one who’d helped break the rest of them out, give the others a look that he couldn’t interpret, and the rest of them turn their gazes to the floor. Amanda and Farah shared a glance, wide-eyed, and then a few mouthed words that Dirk couldn’t make out. Todd seemed to be avoiding looking at anyone. They were all being very odd, to say the least.
“What’s going on?” Dirk asked, peering around at each of them for answers. “Why are you all being so quiet?” he leaned into Todd, lowering his voice to a stage whisper. “You don’t think anyone’s listening in, do you? Should I not have said anything?”
Todd looked up long enough to share a look and apparently an entire telepathic conversation with Farah and Amanda at the front of the van. He sighed and turned back to Dirk, and it was as if he’d aged several years in the space of a minute.
“Dirk,” he said quietly, ducking his head once more. “Estevez... didn’t make it.”
“What do you mean? Was he supposed to come on this rescue mission? Did he have somewhere else to be?”
“No, I mean he’s…” he looked up at Dirk, and the annoyed brows were gone and now he had the sad brows and Dirk had no idea what he was even saying. “He was shot. Same day they took you. He’s dead.”
Dirk frowned. “No. What? No, that doesn’t make sense, why would… why would anyone shoot-?”
“We don’t know who it was,” said Todd, barely above a mumble. “I was- none of us were… we weren’t there when it happened. I mean, we’re guessing the CIA, but…”
“But…” he blinked, shook his head, and still the words made absolutely no sense in his mind. “He had nothing to do with… anything, really. He was just there. Are you absolutely certain that he’s… ‘cause, you know, he could be faking it. Stranger things have happened! I’ll bet he’s waiting for us right now at the safe house! He’ll help us sort all this mess out for sure!”
He grinned, but Todd didn’t return it. No one did. Amanda watched him over the back of the seat with a look of concern almost identical to her brother’s. The Rowdies were eerily quiet. He never thought he’d miss their yelling.
“Todd?” his voice felt an awful lot smaller.
Todd looked at him, all sad, sad eyes and sad, sad eyebrows, and didn’t say a word. Somehow, it was the worst thing he could have possibly said.
“Oh…” Dirk said softly, blinking. “Right.”
So. Estevez was… right. Well, that was unfortunate. But, well, he hadn’t even known him that well, so really… it wasn’t worth thinking about, was it? Just another thing on top of the pile of things that was his life lately. Nothing to be done. Probably nothing that could have been done, although obviously he’d never know now. No, he’d just been in the wrong place. Wrong place, wrong time. Wasn’t his fault, it wasn’t like he asked to be shot. He didn’t ask to become involved with Dirk or his government-hired stalkers. Barely asked to be involved in the case, in all honesty- all he ever wanted to do was find Lydia Spring. Certainly never signed up for soul-swapping and electric crossbows and secret government operations. He was just doing his job. That was all he was ever doing, really. Well, he went above and beyond, did more for Lydia than he’d ever seen an officer or detective do for anyone, threw himself in at the deep end to save her life and lost his best friend and partner in the process. But that was no one’s fault really, now was it? Not Lydia’s for getting kidnapped, or Farah’s for getting captured. Certainly not Estevez’s. He was just being a good cop. Just being one of the best and least corrupt cops Dirk had ever met and probably ever would. And now he was gone. Murdered, probably by someone who wouldn’t have even entered his life were it not for the case. Were it not for Dirk.
Yes. Barely worth thinking about.
"Dirk? Dirk, you're- hang on"
He started as he felt a warm hand close over his own. "Dirk, you're shaking," Todd said softly, clutching his hand tight.
Oh. So he was. "Well, we did just narrowly escape with our lives," he said with a dry, humourless laugh. "It's... the adrenaline crash. Not to worry. I'll be right as rain in a-"
He tried to look at Todd but his eyes were all blurry. He tried to speak but he was out of breath. He tried to laugh again, and all that came out was a choked-off gasp, and he found himself struggling to find air to replace it.
"Jesus- Dirk, Dirk, it's okay! You're okay, just- just breathe, alright?"
Breathe what? There wasn't a drop of spare air to be found. But he tried, and he must have found some somewhere. He wasn't entirely sure. He felt Todd shift against his side, felt an arm come up to drape over his back, a hand rubbing circles between his shoulder blades comfortingly. The first friendly touch he'd felt in... God, however long he'd been trapped there. It was too much. It wasn't enough. He sagged, leaning his entire bodyweight into Todd, who supported him unquestioningly as his gasps turned to sobs. He didn’t even care that he was breaking down in front of the Rowdies, or that he was wasting his first night back with Todd on crying, or that he was getting tears all over Todd’s shirt.
His Mexican Funeral shirt.
His heart sank.
“Todd,” he rasped, unable to lift his head from his shoulder just yet. “Todd, I lost it.”
“Your shirt,” he choked out, clutching the fabric at Todd’s chest a little tighter. “The shirt you gave me- they took it, I’m sorry, I couldn’t-“
“It doesn’t matter-“
“We can- we can go back,” he didn’t even know what he was saying at this point, only that it needed to be said. Like it would explode out of his chest like one of those scary, gooey alien things in the films if he didn’t let it out through his mouth. “They must still have it somewhere- we can go back and find it and it’ll be fine!”
“Dirk, we barely got out alive, we’re not going back for a stupid shirt, it’s fine-!”
“It’s not a stupid shirt!” he practically shrieked, and he was definitely holding on too tightly now but he couldn’t seem to control his hands. “You gave it to me, it’s mine, I-! They, they can’t take it, they can’t take another thing, it’s-!”
“Dirk, I’ll give you another one, it’s okay! Just- just calm down!”
“Dude,” Amanda chimed in from the front seat, leaning round. “Is he hyperventilating?”
“Shit,” Todd muttered, pushing Dirk away to look at him. Dirk thought he looked concerned, but he couldn’t really focus on his face. “Shit, I’ve never seen him- what do I-?”
“He’s having a panic attack,” said Farah, glancing at them in the rear-view mirror. “You need to calm him down.”
“I don’t know how-!”
Suddenly there was another presence at Dirk’s side, tall and solid and a little imposing in Dirk’s panic-ridden state, and a hand fell on his shoulder. He flinched away instinctively, but it followed, a steady weight, pinning him in place and he couldn’t get away- he wasn’t sure he wanted to.
And then everything went blue.
He froze, mouth falling open as he felt something pouring out through it, out into the world, turning it blue and smoky as his chest deflated, racing mind grinding to an almost total standstill. It wasn't exactly nice but it was... something.
Eventually the blue faded, and Dirk sagged fully forward into Todd again, drawing in a deep, exhausted breath. Breath. Breath! He could breathe again! That was nice. The panic had subsided too, but now he just felt... Hollow. And tired. God, he was tired. Maybe he could just... shut his eyes. Just for a second...
He drifted off to the sound of Todd's breathing by his ear, and the nagging feeling in the back of his mind that he was supposed to be feeling guilty about something...
Martin lifted his hand from Dirk's shoulder, eyes crackling with energy from his feeding. "Night night, Icarus," he said gruffly, reaching into his pocket for a cigarette.
Todd sighed, running a hand through Dirk's hair on some strange automatic impulse that he was too tired to question. "I didn't expect him to react like..." He shrugged. "I dunno. It's not like we even knew him that well."
Farah met his gaze in the rear view mirror. "D'you think that makes it easier?"
Todd thought about the short time they did spend with Estevez. His commitment to his partner, his anxiety as they turned his entire worldview upside down. His determination to save Lydia Spring, even if it meant suspending his disbelief and, yes, occasionally pointing guns in their faces.
Todd frowned, met her eyes, and shook his head.
"No," she said quietly, turning her eyes back on the road. "Didn't think so."
He heard the soft hiss of a can opening, and turned back to Martin. He was holding out a can of beer towards him, already going for another one. Todd carefully shifted Dirk onto his shoulder, freeing up one hand to take it.
Martin passed them out to everyone- even Farah, who mainly took it as a gesture, not because she had any intention of drinking at the wheel. When everyone- minus Dirk, who was a little preoccupied snoring in Todd's ear- had a drink, he raised his own in a toast.
"To freedom," he barked, and the other Rowdies hollered in agreement. "To family."
Todd glanced between them all, meeting Amanda's gaze a little longer than the others. They had a long road ahead of them, all of them. People had been hurt. People were gonna get hurt. All any of them had now was each other.
And that could change at just the pull of a trigger.
He raised his drink.
Everyone echoed him, respect even in the voices of those who’d never met the man. Amanda met his gaze and raised her can. “To Zimmerfield.”
“To Zimmerfield,” everyone repeated. Everyone except Farah, who had her eyes fixed on the road and a haunted look on her face. Todd wondered what she was thinking about exactly. Maybe the young girl who’d once been her charge, and the two good cops who’d died for her. Maybe about the young girl’s father, the man who’d given her a job and a purpose after her own father’s death, killed by his own hand in the most impossible way.
She glanced at the untouched can of beer by her side, grimaced, and picked it up.
“To absent friends,” she said, taking a swig.
He’d drink to that.