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where the sleepless kids live

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What if the very thing that threatens you, is the very thing that beckons you
Roll up your sleeves, pull down your hood
Why do all the bad things feel so good?

 

 

Somewhere in northern Mexico...

“It’s called ‘The Titty Twister.’”

Bellamy ‘Bell’ Blake rolls his eyes for what must be the twentieth time in the last half hour. “Yes, Clarke, no matter what you might think after the week we’ve spent together, I am mostly literate.”

“It’s a trucker’s strip joint,” Clarke says, her voice curdling into something ugly and reproachful with it.

Playing it casual, Bell doesn’t do much more than lean sideways a bit to make sure his hair doesn’t look like it’s been through a blender. The rear-view mirror is speckled with dust from a thousand miles of driving but even through that layer of dirt he can tell his hair’s flying in every direction and there’s not much he can do about it but run his hand through it a couple of times. He’s not nervous at all. Not one red letter bit. This is only the difference between a quarter million and the peanuts he’s been making for the last few months since he started working as a glorified janitor.

“A strip joint, hunh. The big ass billboard with the naked woman with gold tassels on her nipples didn’t give that away at all, thanks.”

They’d crossed the border into Mexico a scant three hours earlier and he’d been driving through the desert with no idea exactly where this place was, only that he was supposed to keep going east. His Spanish was pretty crap and Clarke's wasn't much better (but apparently she could speak German and Swedish, which was nice and everything but not particularly useful). Finally, he’d seen the corona of lights in the distance.

“Well, I’m not going in there.” She folds her arms across her chest and sticks her chin out mutinously. It’s an expression he’s gotten all too familiar with since this road trip from hell started.

Bell shrugs, opens his door to clamber out of the car. He pokes his head back in to say with an unpleasant smirk, “Fine, Princess, you sit in this hot box of a car as long as you want. If I make the drop with The Mechanic and he gives me the money, you can kiss your cut goodbye.” Her gasp and the way her brows beetle across her forehead in anger makes his smile grow even wider. “By the time you wake up enough to get off your high horse, I’ll be gone with half a million dollars.”

She opens her mouth as if to launch into one of her tirades but Bellamy doesn’t stick around to hear it. Once she gets going, she can rant for a full hour without pausing to take a breath. It’s exhausting is what it is. Grabbing his worn leather jacket off the front seat, he yells out, “Your call,” over his shoulder and makes his way to the flashy and bright, palm-lined entrance of the Titty Twister. He grins meanly when he hears the door of his ’67 Camaro click open and slam shut then the dull clip of heels following him across the dirt trail to the bar.

When she catches up, he can’t resist goading. “Knew you’d give in.”

“Yeah,” she huffs. “I quit my job, left my family and my house and stole confidential insurance information to get these bonds. There’s no way in hell I’ll let you get my cut of the money, dickwad.”

“Oh, I like it when you use endearments, honey.” He clutches his chest dramatically. “It makes me feel real warm inside.”

Clarke narrows her eyes, swipes wisps of blonde hair out of her face into the half-collapsed bun at the top of her head, and says, “Take that heat and shove it up your ass.” She overtakes him just as they reach the ornate steel entrance to the bar.

He’s not sure what look she gives the fat, bald bouncer idling by the door but the guy immediately steps back with his hands held up. Bell imagines she did the flared-nostril-dragon look of hers. He’s been on the receiving end of that one enough times to know it’s got the power to leave even the bravest soul quaking in their boots. Before she turns the door handle, she hisses back at him, “I really can’t wait to get rid of you for good.”

Bell rolls his eyes (the twenty-first time) and mutters, “Feeling’s mutual.”

But what he says is drowned out by the cacophony inside, heavy rolling guitars over a gut-throbbing drumbeat and raucous cat-calls and wolf whistles.

Bell’s mouth drops open.

The Titty Twister isn’t like anything he’s ever seen before. And he’s been inside enough titty bars in his time to be something of a connoisseur. But those places, dank, grimy holes in the wall are nothing like this—this palace, no, an out-and-out cathedral of tits-and-ass. The room feels massive even though there must be close to a hundred-and-fifty people, mostly grizzly truckers with tattoos down their arms and beards to their bellies, milling around in every nook and cranny there is. The stage takes up half the space, ramps and aisles in an incomprehensible zigzag, at least ten shiny stripper poles from floor to ceiling, vines creeping all along the heavy brick walls and hanging down in green tendrils, strobe lights flashing every colour of the rainbow—blue, red, yellow, green and blue again—are the only thing that interrupts the murkiness of the place. It’s like wading through a swamp-water nightclub, the smell of sweat and beer, hard liquor and too-sweet perfume and something coppery underneath stinking up the place real good.

There’s something familiar about this bar, its frank seediness maybe. This is his kind of place undoubtedly. But, at the same time, there’s a tickle along the base of his spine. He can’t put into words but just something niggling there that makes it difficult for him to let his guard down even a little.

The big attraction is, of course, the women. Scores of them, writhing and shaking and waving and jiggling. Bell blinks. Because he’s sure he’s never witnessed this many half- and fully-naked bodies in his life—it’s a little overwhelming.

If he’s overwhelmed, Clarke’s probably ready to faint or run out screaming bloody murder. He looks to her and—shockingly—she’s still holding it together. She’s embarrassingly out of place with her crisp collared shirt and blazer, like she just got out of an 8-hour workday at a tax firm. Instead of freaking out like he expected, she’s gazing at everything with an inquisitive light in her eyes. She watches the dancers twirl their hips and instead of being all scandalised, the corner of her mouth lifts up and she nods to the beat of the music, visibly impressed. And Bell’s not hallucinating, he definitely saw her lick her lips as one stripper slid down a pole with her foot pointed in their direction.

Well, well, well, that was unexpected.

 

“Enjoying yourself?” he can’t resist asking.

Clarke snorts. “Just appreciating the view like everyone else in here.”

She keeps checking out one dancer in particular. Dark-haired girl, slender and sleek, who doesn’t seem interested in courting the attention of the crowd. She just dances as though she’s in her own world. It’s that that makes her hard to look away from as she moves her hips from side-to-side and touches her breasts, still covered in a seashell-shaped bikini, then her navel which is pierced with a golden stud, and then her hips and finally the apex of her thighs. She’s got her lips painted a dark red, and a snake tattoo coils around her wrist as she pushes her fingers into her mouth and undulates against the pole behind her.

Bell gulps. Yeah, he can see why Clarke’s enjoying the view. No one with a pulse could do otherwise—heck, maybe even undead folks (if they were real) wouldn’t be able to resist taking a look. Even so, he finds his gaze scuttling back to Clarke with that half-undone bun of hers and the boxy suit she’s been wearing for two days, and the way her cheeks are mottled pink, her mouth open and moist as she bites the inside of it and watches  the dancing girl unabashedly.

Maybe he likes a lot of different kinds of views.

Clearing his throat, Bell tries to focus on something else. Anything else.

When the song ends minutes later and the dancers hop off the stage to mingle with customers until the next routine, he leans in close and says, “We better go find this mechanic.”

 

*

 

Two circuits around the joint and The Mechanic is still nowhere to be found. Not that Bell expected the guy to wear a big old sign but they probably could’ve set up this drop-and-pick a little better.

“Maybe we should just take a seat somewhere,” Clarke suggests. Her hair has given up the struggle, and falls down to her shoulders in a thick curtain the colour of some of those wheat fields they drove by in Arkansas. It’s pretty. “We can just stick in one place and wait for The Mechanic to find us.”

It’s a good plan and he opens his mouth to tell her so but a hand slides along the back of his neck, a voice whispers in his ear like smoke, “Hello handsome, looking for a good time?”

He freezes as the dancer from earlier slinks in front of him and invades his space. She’s even more petite up close but somehow the force of her, her cat-like eyes and the flash of white teeth as she grins up at him under the strobe lights, the smell of her, sweat and something sweet and girly too, makes him want to lean down and sniff in spite of himself.

“Um,” he says. He swallows thickly and glances up at Clarke who’s watching them with her patented look of disdain.

The dancer doesn’t seem to have any sense of boundaries (which isn’t surprising, she does take her clothes off for a living after all) and he can feel her hands slip underneath his leather jacket to the hem of his ratty t-shirt, fingernails scratching at the skin on his hips. His belly clenches at the touch.

Clarke meets his gaze and there’s a flash of irritation in her eyes, her mouth’s all twisted up like she’s barely stopping herself from launching into a rant. He can’t even resist smirking at that. He drags the dancer closer even as he keeps his eyes on Clarke, “Sure, sweetheart, how about a lap dance.”

The dancer snorts but leans up to press her lips to his ear. When she murmurs, “Whatever you want, baby—but it’ll cost you,” he feels her teeth nip at his earlobe, hard enough that it makes him wince.

She shoves him back into a tiny alcove that had been almost invisible from the outside and Bell lets her. He doesn’t mind a little roughhousing every now and again. The girl tosses her dark hair out of her eyes and then, inclines her head toward Clarke, says, “Your girlfriend can watch if she wants.”

“I’m not his girlfriend,” Clarke says stridently.

“Hm,” the dancer hums, amusement curving her mouth as she nudges Bell onto the couch and sits right on his lap.  “Well, stick around, you might learn a thing or two.” He can practically hear Clarke bristling. But that slips his mind when the stripper rubs herself along the length of his thighs and a very excited Bell Jr wakes up to say hello. She tilts backwards until her pert breasts are right in Bell’s face and that long hair of hers is touching the floor, working her hips in an agonisingly slow circle right above his dick.

If Bell wasn’t fully hard before, he is now. He’s only human after all. He falls back against the tacky flower-print couch and closes his eyes. He might as well enjoy this. As soon as The Mechanic shows up, he’s going to split with his cut of the cash for delivering the bonds in one piece just like his brother-in-law, Lincoln, told him to and then he’ll never see either of these people ever again. What was the saying? Carpe diem.

There’s an audible huff from the other end of the couch as Clarke plops down next to them. He shifts his head to look at her and smiles wide. Clarke looks down at his obvious hard-on and the strippers leanly muscled thighs. He’s expecting her to roll her eyes in disgust but she just stares, unblinking, her lower lip caught between her teeth.

Bellamy’s not sure what about that look magnifies everything, pulls things into sharp focus. It’s like the world slows down for a beat, two and three more, and there’s nothing but him and Clarke and this nameless woman perched on his dick. He wants to hold the woman on his lap and reach out with his other hand to press his thumb against Clarke’s flush-red mouth.

And then it all stops.

“The two of you are about as subtle as a clown stripper in a board meeting, you know that right?”

“Hunh?”

Bellamy drags his eyes away from Clarke and back to the dancer who’s no longer twirling on his lap like it’s her job. She’s slipped back a bit until she’s teetering on his knees with her arms crossed across her chest, an unimpressed look on her face.

“The whole wandering around the place like a pair of lost puppies looking for their owner shtick? There’s probably five guards on high alert already.”

Bell doesn’t want to seem like a dumbass but all he can do is grunt unintelligently. “Um—what?”

The woman kisses her teeth in disgust. “Jesus fucking Christ, Monty and Jasper promised me they wouldn’t set me up with idiots again. Bonds? Half a million big ones? Any of this sound familiar to you, genius?”

It clicks into place then.

“Wait. You’re The Mechanic?” Bell asks incredulously.

His disbelief doesn’t go down well. “Yeah, you got a problem with that?”

It’s beyond ludicrous. Anyone on the West Coast who’s been in prison for even small-time crimes in the last five years has heard about The Mechanic. He’s—she’s a legend. Bell’s not even sure for what, the stories seem to contradict each other half the time—but the word is if you’re looking for something to get done, anything, then The Mechanic will do it. No fingerprints, no trace-backs, nothing.

Before he can scramble for some response that won’t piss her off, Clarke steps in. “Ignore him, he tends to run his mouth.” She smiles, all teeth and charm. “I’m Clarke and this is Bellamy. I’ve got the bonds but we’re not giving them up until we see the cash.”

Bell gapes. In all the time he’s known Clarke he can count on two fingers the number of times she’s smiled at him—and both times were kind of ambiguous. It was highly possible she’d been flossing her teeth the first time. And the other, she’d been half asleep while they crossed the border from Tennessee into Arkansas. They’d hit a rut in the road and the Camaro had jolted a foot upward, forcing her out of her nap. She’d turned her head and, her eyes still fuzzy and inexplicably warm, smiled softly. Then she’d turned around and started snoring only to wake up hours later yelling at him about something or other.

He tunes back into the conversation that’s continued without him.

“You’ve gotta give me the bonds.”

“No way, not until you show us the money.” Bell’s grateful he’s not the one that has to try negotiate with either of them—it’s clear neither’s particularly good at giving an inch.

Really? Where do you think I could be hiding that kind of money under this get-up?”

Clarke raises one eyebrow as she looks the stripper outfit up and down. “Well, maybe you ought to find a better get-up.”

“Well maybe you, Ms Fancy-pants, ought to pull the giant stick up your ass out so you can breathe a little.” The Mechanic climbs off Bell’s lap and looks at them both with her hands on her hips. “Listen, if we mess this up then the two of you can kiss the money goodbye because it’s not me stabbing you in the back that you’ll have to worry about. There are eyes and ears everywhere.” She brushes aside the curtain of creeper vines that shroud the small alcove from the rest of the bar, her sharp eyes scanning the room. “Give me the bonds now and I’ll meet you both outside within half an hour,” she says, quiet and firm.

Bell smells a rat. He’s not sure what it is—it could be the way The Mechanic, who he really had pictured as someone taller than five feet and maybe a lot grizzlier, is looking around the Twister, an alert frown on her face and her mouth tight and anxious. It could be that he’s this close to finally getting what he wants and maybe he’ll be able to see his sister again and that is bound to make him antsy. Or it’s the fact that he’d been on edge since the second he got here. Something wasn’t right.

“You need to give us some insurance, first,” Clarke pushes. “There’s still no guarantee that you’ll give us our share.”

Bell keeps quiet even as he studies Clarke, who’s matching The Mechanic, glare for glare. She’s more stubborn than a billy goat and he can’t tell if he finds that impressive or impossibly dumb given that they’re dealing with one of the most dangerous criminals this side of the country. He almost wishes the two of them would duke it out, throw a punch or three, and that there was jello involved.

The Mechanic blows out an irritated breath. She wraps her fingers around a delicate silver necklace with a weird bird’s nest pendant on it and rips it off her throat without hesitation. Holding it out to Clarke, she says, “Here. Take this.”

“How do we know it means anything to you?”

“Someone I loved very much gave it to me—I haven’t taken it off since I was sixteen.” The Mechanic swallows and closes her eyes for a brief moment as if to hide any hint of weakness there. “You lose it, I will kill you myself, got it?”

Clarke takes the necklace and curls her fist around it, surprisingly gentle. “Got it. I promise.” She hands the inconspicuous envelope over.

Bell watches as The Mechanic sizes Clarke up. There’s a challenge in the tilt of her chin, teasing almost. But there’s also respect there too, a tiny smile shivers at the corner of mouth as she nods. Clarke smiles back.

And Bell feels very much like someone’s third wheel. He clears his throat.

The Mechanic shifts her gaze to him and gets back to business, tucking the envelope into the waistband of her tiny panties. “Okay, the two of you need to get out of here. Things tend to get a little… crazy in the Twister once you hit midnight.”

“Crazy? How?” he asks.

“Trust me.” She scans the bar again, the wariness back in her eyes and stiff posture. “You really don’t want to know. And none of us wants to get caught in here once that shit starts up.”

She gestures for them to follow her but sticks close enough that they can hear her above the music. “Take the side entrance out and I’ll meet you by the gas station down the street.” Within seconds, she’s disappeared into the crowd.

Bell looks at Clarke with raised brows. “So, that was interesting.”

“Yeah,” she says. “I guess we better get out of here like she told us to. I have a bad feeling about this place.”

Glad that he’s not the only one who’d been getting weird vibes about the bar, he leads the way to the entrance The Mechanic pointed out to them.

The crowd seems to have filled up even more and winding through all the bodies is like squeezing the last bit of toothpaste out of a tube. He reaches back without thinking for Clarke’s hand. She takes it. He doesn’t think about why her fingers clasped in his makes him feel a little warm inside like a kid with a crush and he definitely doesn’t look back at her, he just holds on. Squaring his shoulders, he ploughs through the mob and nearly runs over some old dude in a grey windbreaker who looks like he would fit better in a church and not a strip club full of miscreants and debauchery. He forges ahead with a mumbled apology until they finally reach the door.

The second they’re outside and the much-cooler night air hits him in the face, Bell lets out a sigh of relief.

“Phew,” Clarke says. “That was pretty claustrophobic.” She leans against the wall and there’s a playful glint in her eyes. “Sorry you couldn’t get your full lap dance.”

He breathes out a laugh. “I’ll live.”

They make their way back to the Camaro side-by-side. Bell keeps hold of her hand and she doesn’t make to pull away at all. It’s not awkward or anything. In fact the weight of it feels just about right.

He lets himself smile.

 

*

 

The gas station’s closed by the time they get there. The music from the Twister is muted from this distance but its lights are bright and visible, a sleazy oasis rising up out of the desert, drawing hundreds of thirsty truckers and drifters for miles.

Bell kills the engine and strolls over to the ancient-looking vending machine. There’s not much in it to buy but he slides in a few quarters to get himself a Snickers bar. He slides in a few more to get some Reese’s for Clarke—he’s noticed that she likes to eat them, she bought a pack of them every single time they’d stopped on the way here.

He leans against the bumper for some fresh air tinged with a bit of spilled gasoline and holds out the Reese’s for Clarke without turning back to look at her. She comes out to join him, grabs the packet with a mumbled, “Thanks.”

As far as dinners go, it’s not the most glamourous but it does the job. They both munch on their snacks like it’s the first meal they’ve had in days, which it kind of feels like that since they haven’t eaten properly since breakfast.

He crumples his Snickers packet and stuffs it in his jacket pocket. Lying back against the hood, he settles himself to search for the stars in the sky as he asks, “How’d you get mixed up in all of this, anyway?”

“How’d you mean?”

“I mean—you seem like a straight-and-narrow kind of girl, right side of the tracks, honour roll, all that shit. But you’re here, committing insurance fraud.”

She shrugs. A distant look creeps into her eyes and she seems to drift into her own thoughts for a moment. “I… don’t know,” she says with a wry smile. “I guess…. You know how you can just wake up one day and realise that everything’s a lie? And what you thought mattered doesn’t really matter much at all. You look at yourself in the mirror and start questioning every part of life and the people you love and the things you need. Then you find something that makes you want—more. Or different. New, even. Y’know?”

“Not really, no,” Bellamy replies honestly.

Clarke laughs. “I guess that probably sounded kind of pretentious.” She lays back next to him, her body warm against his side.

“Was it a guy or something?”

Clarke looks down to her lap where her hands are fiddling with the bird’s nest necklace The Mechanic gave her for safekeeping and says into the quiet, “Or something.”

That’s when the sound of screaming reaches them. Bell jerks up from the car and looks toward the Twister. He glances at Clarke, wide-eyed. The screams are insane is what they are, inhuman even. If there’s a hell, Bell’s sure that it might sound something like that. He shivers and it’s like somebody’s trampling all over his grave. If The Mechanic hadn’t warned them, they’d still be in there.

Clarke’s frowning. “Those poor people,” she says under her breath.

Bell looks back at the club. The stripper with tassels on her nipples in the flashing neon sign keeps grinning even as the screeching and panicked shrieking escalate. “Good thing we got out of there,” he says with blunt relief. Clarke shoots him a disapproving look. He doesn’t feel a lick of guilt for being alive, he knew there was something shady about that place.

She shakes her head as if she didn’t really expect any different from him and like she kind of agrees with his sentiment even though she’d never say it out loud.

“So how about you? How’d you end up transporting insurance fraudsters halfway across the country for 200,000 bucks?”

He’s tempted for a split second to lie as is his habit. Instead, he says, “My kid sister.”

 He can see Octavia in his mind’s eye then, hear the lilt of her laughter, always filled with mischief and his heart pangs. “She was in and out of juvie as a kid—kind of like I was but worse. We only had each other after my mom died and I didn’t do as good a job as I could’ve taking care of her.” The familiar guilt crowds his chest and he feels like he can’t breathe for a second. “Anyway, she got mixed up with the wrong crowd. Her boyfriend managed to get her out before things went real sour.” He can’t help but let the bitterness seep through in his words—bitterness that it’d been Lincoln who’d done right by Olivia, got her out of the country, while he’d been fucking around serving jail time for a petty credit card scam. “So,” he continues on a loud exhale, “I get this money, I go and find her and Lincoln in Limon, little town in Costa Rica and maybe try to be the kind of brother I’m supposed to be.”

 Clarke lets his confession hang in the air between them for a while before she turns to look at him. He can feel her eyes on him and it makes him a little self-conscious.

“You might be an asshole most of the time but I don’t think you did as a bad a job as you think.” She can’t know that for sure but the earnest comfort (even with the insult in there) is nice all the same. “Your sister probably misses you a lot—I hope you can get to her.”

“Thanks, Clarke.”

He turns his head and it brings their faces close. So close he can almost taste the chocolate and peanut butter on her breath. He scans her angular but pretty features, the crystal-like eyes, the stubborn jaw, that hair of hers looking like a chaotic halo, and her mouth, soft and invitingly pink—and he lingers there.

She licks her lips. He does the same unconsciously.

“Is this the part where we make-out?” he asks, only because he’s never been too good at being quiet in these kinds of moments, full and weighty with some sort of expectation. It feels like there’s a swarm of crazed termites in his belly and he cranes forward an inch. This close, he can smell the cheap motel shampoo she used that morning, the uncomplicated scent of her deodorant and some kind of fruity lip balm. For one stupid second, he wants to soak himself up in it.

“I’m not sure that’s such a good idea.” She’s whispering as though they’re in a crowded room and she doesn’t want anyone else to hear. “We’re not gonna see each other ever again after tonight. Kissing would be—bad. Very bad.”

He tilts his head a couple of inches and they’re noses are touching, he’s almost going cross-eyed just looking at her. “Maybe that’s the reason why we should.”

It’s Clarke who scales the last inch and pushes their lips together. It’s clumsy and not all that sexy with her teeth clacking against his, their noses smushed because the angle’s all wrong. But even with that awkwardness, it feels like taking a deep breath after you’ve been holding it, suffocating for hours.

Bell pushes himself half on top of her and cups her jaw, softens the contact. She sighs into his mouth and swipes at his tongue with her own. Her hands are gripping the base of his back, tugging him onto her until he settles in the cradle of her legs.

He pulls back to gulp in a bit of air. Unsure where this is going, he kisses her slower the next time. Probes her mouth with his tongue, learns the taste and texture of her until everything around them fades into an undistinguishable static. He forgets about the Titty Twister and the two hundred grand he’s waiting for and the newly-printed passport with a whole different identity tucked in the inside pocket of his leather jacket—and all he can see and feel and want is Clarke underneath him. Or on top of him. He’s not picky.

A sharp pain stabs him in the back of the head. He slips off of Clarke involuntarily with a grimace. What the fuck? Another hit and he opens his mouth to tell her to run. But his mouth feels heavy and darkness floods his vision quickly. But not quick enough for him to miss the faint flicker of regret in Clarke’s eyes and the way she looks beyond him to someone behind and then—

 

*

 

Bell wakes up with a roaring headache, sprawled on the familiar backseat of his Camaro with his face smushed against the window and a bit of drool dribbling out of his mouth. His aching head isn’t made much better by the two people bickering in the front seats of the car.

“You didn’t have to hit him so hard, Raven.”

“Well, excuse me if I wasn’t prepared to see you making out with the mark instead of, y’know, keeping an eye out like I told you.”

“We weren’t in danger—it was one kiss, calm down.” A pause. “Okay, maybe three kisses. But that’s it.”

“Yeah, well, if you get to kiss him then I do too.”

“What? What kind of logic is that? Besides, you looked like you were enjoying giving that lap dance a hell of a lot last night.”

“Were you jealous?”

“Probably not as much as you were when you caught us kissing,” Clarke retorts and Bell can hear a certain smugness in her voice.

“Whatever. You made us bring him, Clarke. I would’ve been fine to leave him in the gutter outside the gas station. But he’s here and besides, he’s kind of good-looking in a hungry wolf kind of way. Like a mutt. A cute mutt.”

Bell clears his throat before this embarrassing conversation can go any further.

As soon as Clarke and The Mechanic, whose name is Raven apparently, realise he’s awake they both curse.

Clarke sends him a frazzled look from her seat. While The—Raven pulls up on the shoulder of the road and says loudly as if she knows his head is pounding like a cosmic drum, “Well, well, Sleeping Beauty’s finally decided to join us.”

Turning around fully in her seat, Clarke smiles at him. Bell’s got a concussion that’s hurting like a son of a bitch but he can detect relief in her gaze and fondness too.

“How’re you feeling?”

“Like I got hit in the head by a tow truck,” he says caustically.

Raven swivels to face him with a snort. “I tend to have that kind of effect on people.” She looks different in the daylight with her hair caught up in a ponytail and her face scrubbed clean of make-up. She’s far younger than he’d always assumed The Mechanic was, maybe a year or two younger than him. She’s still pretty though—he’s not concussed enough to miss that.

“So, you two.” He waves his hand at them. “You knew each other the whole time?”

He’s stating the obvious but his brain is full of molasses so he can’t be blamed for it.

Clarke responds quickly—probably to cut off the sarcastic comment Bell could see forming in Raven’s mind from a mile away. “Yeah, Raven and I, we’re….” She trails off uncertainly and glances at Raven. A tender smile drifts across her face and Bell feels a bit like an intruder just witnessing it. “Raven and I, we go a long way back and we’re—.”

“We’re together,” Raven interrupts as if all the vagueness is too annoying for her to listen to. “Sort of.”

He can’t really act surprised, he’d figured that was the case a few seconds after he’d woken up. It’s still crazy that Clarke somehow knew The Mechanic the whole time, and that they were clearly lovers or whatever. He looks from one to the other and thinks back to last night and the way Clarke had been watching Raven onstage, the way she’d been watching Raven on Bell’s lap even, all naked hunger and want. He wondered what it would be like to watch Raven dance like that for Clarke, to be the silent observer while the two of them—.

“Seriously?” Raven interrupts his lewd thoughts. “Are you imagining us naked?”

Bell doesn’t even try to deny it.

“He’s imagining us naked. God, why are all men dogs?”

“I thought I was a cute mutt,” he says and bursts into frenzied laughter. His whole entire idiotic life has gone seriously pear-shaped, his master plan is shot to hell. And he’s here sitting in the backseat of his stolen car fantasising about the two women who stole his car, whom he barely knows by the way, doing the dirty and maybe letting him watch. Or better yet, participate.

Clarke chuckles and Raven even lets out a snicker. None of them has to even talk to appreciate the ridiculousness of it all.

Bell laughs and laughs until his stomach hurts. When he finally stops, he asks, “So, you’ve got me. What are you going to do with me?”

It’s not Clarke that answers this time.

“Depends,” Raven says and there’s a curious note to it that he doesn’t expect. “You got two choices. Either you come with us while we get the hell out of Dodge and keep on driving until we’re safe enough that no one cares to find us. Or we dump you in the next dusty town we come across with your money and nothing else.” Her eyes are dark and liquid and he could drown in them, he thinks.

He can’t be certain with Raven whether she really wants him to come along or not, so he looks to Clarke. The mid-morning sunlight catches the gold streaks in her hair as she nods. There’s an echo of whatever happened between them on the hood of his car last night—what’s been happening over the last week even—in her gaze.

“Come with us,” she murmurs.

He can’t refuse her, he doesn’t want to. So he asks, “Where are we going?”

And Clarke, who hasn’t known him long at all but seems to know him better than 'most anyone else he’s ever met, hitches her left shoulder upwards. A grin splits her face in two as she glances at Raven and then back at him. “I don’t know, lately I’ve been thinking about Costa Rica.”

 

A little time after…

Bellamy Blake is possibly—probably the luckiest schmuck on earth.

His arms ache like hell and his skin feels like it’s on fire. He’s also tied to a chair, legs and wrists bound fast to its wooden frame, and naked as the day he was born. The best thing about his situation is the view. Two women moving against each other on the bed, all sweat-sheened naked limbs and mouths kissing so hungrily, it looks like they might eat each other up. Bell might as well not be there for all the attention they’re paying to him. But that’s what he likes best. They’re tearing at each other, no grace or self-consciousness, and he’s the lucky guy who gets to be a part of it.

He can’t help the way his hips jerk at the scene in front of him. His dick’s making a mess of his stomach and there’s a real possibility he might come just from watching them, no touch required. The rope at his wrists chafes against his skin and his eyes roll into the back of his head at the steady but pleasurable burn of it. Clarke’s inner Girl Scout has a real way with knots, they’ve discovered.

Clarke looks up from where she’s been kissing a trail down the centre of Raven’s chest and leers at him. “Hm, Raven, I think our boy’s getting impatient. Think we should untie him?”

Raven’s laughter lilts toward him as she arches into Clarke’s mouth. “Oh, not yet. But maybe—in a little while.”

 

Fin