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Second Hand Rose

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It turns out that Pascal has obtained not just a car, but a van. Not just any van, either; it’s the kind of van that you would live in down by the river. If you were the kind of person who would live down by the river, that is, and not a vampire. (Ricardo is still a little weirded out by what Pascal had said about rivers.)

The van’s a deep gold color with airbrushed swirls painted along its sides, and other than the windshield and cab side windows there are only windows on the rear doors and one big window in the middle of the right side. So that’s going to be fairly easy to rig trash bags over to keep the sun out while they sleep, which is good. Also good is the large bed that stretches across the entire back of the van. The red shag rug all over the floor is not exactly good, but it’s relatively clean, at least. It makes the van look like a mobile whorehouse, which is no doubt why Pascal looks so pleased with himself.

The bad thing is that Pascal doesn’t actually know how to drive. Or rather, that he thinks he knows how to drive, but after twenty heart-pounding hair-raising minutes, Ricardo carefully unwraps his fingers from where they are clenched around the door handle, takes a deep breath, and says, “You know, I think maybe I should drive.”

“No, no, we are fine, we are almost –”

There is a screech of tires and Ricardo is thrown forward against the shoulder-strap of his seatbelt, then sideways as the van brakes abruptly and then accelerates into a corner.

“You see, there is nothing to worry about! We are nearly to the interstate, and then it will all be easy.”

“Assuming we get there,” Ricardo grits out. “Your driving style is...a bit flamboyant.”

Pascal grins and turns to face him, swerving slightly into the oncoming lane – fortunately, nobody’s approaching – and eliciting a loud honk from the car behind them. “So we get pulled over by the police. I use my hypnosis, and presto! The nice policeman forgets that anything happened, and there is no more problem.”

“Getting pulled over would be no problem,” agrees Ricardo. “Going off the road into a ditch would be a problem. Hitting a semi-truck head-on would be a definite problem.”

“We would heal quickly. We have both recently fed, after all. But I concede that it would be annoying to have to find another car. So.” Abruptly he pulls over to the side of the road. “Alright. Your turn to drive. I shall look through what you bought.”

As Ricardo pulls back into traffic, he can’t help wondering whether Pascal had intended this all along – whether he had only pretended to be a terrible driver so that Ricardo would take over. He would not put that sort of behavior past him. Oh, well.

“Oh, this is very nice shirt!” coos Pascal from the back as Ricardo turns onto the interstate. Apparently he’s opened one of the bags from the thrift store. “You should wear this one when we go to casino.”

Ricardo spares a glance towards the rear-view mirror. Pascal is holding up one of the shirts that Ricardo had bought for himself: a linen shirt with a subtle pattern, delicate stripes of white on white embroidery alternating with plain. It isn’t the sort of thing he would have worn, back before he was a vampire, but when he saw it in the thrift store it had made him think of James Bond, of Humphrey Bogart. A good-looking man with a martini in his hand, leaning across a card table to put down the winning hand. He feels a little smug to have his taste confirmed.

Then he’s alarmed, again, when Pascal puts down that shirt and picks up another bag. “No, don’t open that one,” he calls into the rear of the van.

“Why not?”

He’s about to answer when his phone, propped against the dashboard, makes the buzzing noise that means an incoming text.

FROM: KEL
YOU BETTER BE OUT OF TOWN BY NOW
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~+*MOST VALUABLE RAIDER 804 AD - 1021 AD*+~ 
..:: AINT NO BITCH LIKE A GALLOWGLASS BIIIITCH ::..

“Hang on, something’s up.” He pokes at his phone and types a message with one finger.

TO: KEL
What happened?

FROM: KEL
STEVIES LADS SHOWED UP
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~+*MOST VALUABLE RAIDER 804 AD - 1021 AD*+~
..:: AINT NO BITCH LIKE A GALLOWGLASS BIIIITCH ::..

“Hey,” he calls toward the back of the van. “Who are Stevie’s lads?”

Pascal comes up to the front and slides onto the passenger seat. “Ehh, that is something you don’t want to know. Why?”

“Kel said they were in town.”

“We are lucky, then. We made our clean getaway before they found us!”

Ricardo swivels his head toward Pascal, and then back, eyes on the road. Only a quick glance, but that is all his persistent hair-trigger boner needs to pop to life again. Which is not going to help him drive to Las fucking Vegas. “I told you not to open that bag.”

“Why not? Look at the lovely thing I found in it. How sweet of you to buy clothes for me!” Pascal sounds pleased, but Ricardo can’t tell if it’s actual pleasure in the outfit he’s wearing, or a predatory anticipatory pleasure in ripping Ricardo a new one.

“That was supposed to be a surprise.” Ricardo tries not to let his anxiety bleed into his voice, but only succeeds in sounding sulky. They are on the run in a ridiculous van from some guy named Stevie – some vampire named Stevie, he supposes – and it would have been nice to have been able to present them to Pascal deliberately. At the right moment. Not while they are driving west on the interstate trying to make miles in a Vegas-ward direction.

“Oh, it was. Very surprising.” There is a click and a flash as Pascal takes a selfie. “Oh, don’t I look fetching! No, don’t look at me, you need to keep your eyes on the road.”

He does need to keep his eyes on the road, he knows it, and it’s only partly because he needs to pilot the van and not run into anything. It’s partly – okay, it’s mostly – because if he looks at Pascal, his Inexplicable Undead Boner level is likely to increase rapidly to the point where it’s gonna be uncomfortable as hell to drive.

“Though I think I shall wear something else for the casino,” Pascal muses. “This is very nice, yes, but not – elegant enough to stand up to that lovely shirt of yours.” There is another phone-camera flash.

Ricardo barks a laugh. “Not a lot of selection, sorry.”

“Oh, no, this is perfect. But only for special occasions – for your eyes, yes? Oh! I should take a picture with your phone. So you can look at me like this.” He takes Ricardo’s phone from the dashboard and frowns at it. “This one is not the same as mine.”

“It’s an older model. Same operating system, though.” He glances at Pascal, who is frowning at Ricardo’s phone as though it had deliberately chosen to be different from the one they’d bought him this morning, just to annoy him. “You can just send the photo from your phone to mine, like you did the one of both of us.”

“No, I want to try yours. How do I get the camera?”

“Press the power button twice, quickly – that’s the one on the upper right edge.”

“Ah, yes! No, wait. It is not showing me.”

“Uh, right, that’s the back camera, not the front. There’s a little symbol near the bottom of the screen? With curvy arrows?”

“Yes, it is showing me now,” Pascal says happily. He holds the camera out as far as he can, to capture as much as he can of the outfit. And – really it is some outfit. Sleeveless red velvet with a bubbling fall of pink ruffles at the neck. The phone clicks and flashes. “Hmph. You cannot really see the skirt.”

And that right there is why Ricardo had been hoping to present it privately in their hotel room, once they got to Las Vegas – or at least, privately in the back of the van when they’d stopped for a rest. Because what he bought – what Pascal is wearing – is a very cute red velvet dress, with a pleated skirt that falls to, would it be mid-thigh? Ricardo sneaks a quick look, and wishes he hadn’t, because yep, mid-thigh, and we’re now at Inexplicable Undead Boner Level: Red Velvet. Matching the fabric, which probably matches Pascal’s eyes, not that he can tell in the semidarkness of the van cab.

Pascal takes a few more photos with Ricardo’s phone, twisting in the bucket seat, holding the phone out as far as he can and holding it at different angles. He flips on the light and takes a few without the flash. “There,” he finally says, sounding satisfied. “I like this one the best. I will send it to my phone.”

“You need to go to my contacts –”

“Yes, yes, I know how,” says Pascal dismissively. He pokes at Ricardo’s phone a few times, it buzzes at him, and then he places it on the dashboard again as Ricardo does his very best to look at the road in front of him and not the red-velvet-clad vampire leaning across him. “Here, you may have it back,” he says, then settles back into the bucket seat and picks up his phone and frowns at it. “But it has not come to my phone yet. Strange. It is only a few feet away!”

“That doesn’t make it any faster,” begins Ricardo, but then his phone buzzes again, and he looks at it.

FROM: KEL
HAHAHAHAHA
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~+*MOST VALUABLE RAIDER 804 AD - 1021 AD*+~
..:: AINT NO BITCH LIKE A GALLOWGLASS BIIIITCH ::..

He groans. “Pascal. You didn’t send it to your phone.”

“No? What did it do?” Pascal reaches out for Ricardo’s phone again. His fingers close around it just as a second message comes in.

“Wait,” says Ricardo and grabs for his phone, but it’s too late. He hears Pascal’s sharp intake of breath. Hopefully he won’t go too ballistic. After all, it’s Pascal’s own damn fault that he sent it to Kel instead of himself. Ricardo sighs. “What did she say?”

There is a long and ominous silence from the other side of the cab. Then, to Ricardo’s surprise, Pascal bursts out laughing.

Ricardo risks a quick glance over to the side. Pascal is red-faced, snorting in a most undignified way. “Uh, Pascal? I hope that’s a good sign?”

“Oh! Oh! But you don’t...” Pascal dissolves into a fresh round of giggles. “Ah, Ricardo. Your shopping expedition, it was to the thrift store, yes?”

“That’s right.”

“They sell the clothes that other people no longer want,” says Pascal. “Because they are not in fashion any more, or because they people have grown too fat to wear them. Or because they are not as beautiful as I am.” He turns the phone so that Ricardo can see the screen.

The second text is also from Kel, as he’d expected. What he hadn’t expected was that she’d sent a picture: it’s Lamb, glaring out of the screen with an expression of pure poison. She’s wearing a red velvet dress with pink ruffles at the neck.

It’s the exact same dress that Pascal’s wearing.

She looks terrible in it.

Ricardo starts laughing. “You definitely wear it better.”

“Well, of course!” Pascal sounds almost offended, but he starts to laugh again, too. That makes Ricardo laugh even harder, uncontrollably, tears streaming from his eyes, and it’s getting to the point where he can hardly see to drive, so he pulls over to the side of the road.

“I don’t suppose,” says Ricardo, wiping his eyes, “that vampires have fashion duels? Givenchy rules?”

“Of course not,” says Pascal primly. “What would be the point? I would always win!”

Ricardo shakes his head, grinning. “You would. Maybe you should put your other clothes back on. That dress is too much of a distraction.”

“Maybe,” says Pascal. He puts the phone on the floor, then slides out of his seat and takes Ricardo’s hand. “Or maybe I should just take this off.”

The sirens go off in Ricardo’s body. Inexplicable Undead Boner Level: Red Alert Red Alert Danger Will Robinson! He gulps. “Maybe,” he says, through suddenly-dry lips, “maybe you should.”

Pascal tugs on Ricardo’s hand. Ricardo has just enough presence of mind to hit the switch for the hazard blinkers before Pascal pulls him into the back of the van and onto the bed.

Ricardo’s phone buzzes again with an incoming text, and then another, but by then, neither of them is paying attention to the phone anymore.