“I think I’m dangerous when I’m bored” floated mildly into his head from the direction of the driver’s seat, and Matthew was instantly at full alertness. Fuck. It had been nine kinds of stupid to drift off, and Matthew was a birdbrain these days but that was no excuse. Boss might have a special thing for him, he might be a semi-official part of the Dreaming – Matthew wasn’t much for official, even if being Boss’s raven was a pretty good gig, beat the alternative and usually he was the only one interested in the eyeballs – but Abel was official for sure and look what that got him.
Matthew considered hopping to the far side of the seat, but that would only spark the driver’s interest; he wouldn’t be out of reach. His claws dug into the upholstery as he considered flight paths into the back seat. Tricky even if he didn’t have to dodge a sudden grab.
“I think you’re dangerous all the time,” Matthew muttered, and was not reassured by the laugh that answered him.
He saw the hand moving and tensed, spreading his wings a little, but it wasn’t a grab. Tanned fingers skimmed around the controls, and the opening notes of a cheesy 80s song slid out of the car’s speakers.
“I’ve been meaning to tell you,” the driver murmured, and there was something odd in his cadence, almost sing-songy. “I’ve got this feelin’ that won’t subside.”
“Try ginger ale,” Matthew advised sourly. Fuck, he was not enjoying this trip, he appreciated Boss’s trust and all but he’d appreciate distance from this whack-job a hell of a lot more. If he was going to be tapped for this kind of supervisory role then he wanted much bigger claws and teeth and a lot more armor. Also a cattle-prod. He’d never been the middle-management type when he was human, but he had a feeling it was supposed to be easier than this. He didn’t think his current charge would be stopped by filing a complaint to HR.
“I look at you and I fantasize –”
Fates and Furies, he was full-on singing. Why would a nightmare have a good singing voice? What sort of twisted sense of humor did Boss have anyw- nope, nope, don’t ask if you don’t want to find out. At least he was keeping his eyes on the road.
“You’re mine tonight –” Three voices. Two of them tinier but far rougher and more menacing, one a shrill whine, one a gravelly scrape. The dissonances were making Matthew’s feathers crawl so much he almost missed the meaning – oh fuck, oh fuck, he was not staying in the hotel room tonight, oh hell no, he’d sleep in a tree even if it were hailing.
“Now I’ve – GOT – you in – my sights –” Sunglasses pulled down, it was only the two tiny voices grating their way through that line, fuck, the eyeballs were grinning at him –
A brief flurry of undignified flapping and squawking later, Matthew growled “Eyes on the road” from under the rear of the driver’s seat.
“With – these – hungry eyes –” It wasn’t fair that the eyes could snigger while he belted out the lyric with renewed gusto and perfect pitch.
Matthew spent the rest of the day’s travel crouched in the back seat, beak and claws hopelessly ready. Eventually the car stopped, and the driver got out. Matthew prepared for a desperate fight, but when the rear door opened, no hand reached for him. He could see the driver squat down, not too close.
“If you are afflicted,” said the Corinthian silkily, “it is for my comfort.”
Matthew shifted his weight.
The Corinthian chuckled and backed off, leaving the door open. “Come when you will, little bird,” he said. “You’ll like tomorrow’s songs even better.” He strolled away, three voices singing softly, “Now did I take you by surprise –”
Tomorrow, Matthew promised himself, he would ride on the roof.