Challenge: Pumpkin Pie #5 - Skeleton
Word Count: 100
Summary: Sometimes it's not worth sleeping.
Notes: Been writing but a little distracted when it came to the posting, ooops... Also, it's quite an interesting challenge adapting these to this kind of story...
He laid the tools out in a careful line, each one in its designated place. Enough for today; he didn’t want tiredness to make his hands unsteady.
“Looks impressive,” said the voice from the doorway. “Like something died.”
“Eh?” David paused, halfway through slipping on his jacket. “What do you mean?”
“Don’t look at me like that.” The voice was clearly amused. “Think: bones, bleached by the sun. Beautiful.”
“That’s a terrible cliché.” He laughed. “It’ll look better once it’s complete.”
“I do hope so; your fee’s pinned on this.”
David jolted awake, fists clenched. Sleep wasn’t worth the memories.
Challenge: Pumpkin Pie #6 - Face Paint
Word Count: 1,392
Summary: Cas is trying to snatch a quick break, but ends up intel-gathering anyway.
Notes: This one got a little away from me.
The beer tasted little better than water, but at least the drinking vessels were mostly their original colour. Cas stared at the insipid liquid, tilting it this way and that in the mug and pondered why they couldn’t use glasses like everyone else. Perhaps they thought it had an old-world charm.
If that was their intention then they’d missed by miles.
The barwoman hadn’t seen Deor in person, but had cooed over his face until he’d wanted to slap her. Or him. He’d resisted the former - the latter was looking increasingly likely once he got his hands on the wanderer - and ignored her pout as he pocketed the picture without a word of thanks for either her ‘help’ or the drink. At least this bar didn’t rattle fit to break when he slammed the scattering of coins on the surface.
It grated on him, this town. They had running water and a significant part of the population had roofs over their heads, but they wore their filth like a badge of honour. It was like the simple pleasures of a basin and a flannel were beyond them. It made his skin crawl, him,/i>, who’d hunted down his marks in some of the worst corners of the universe. At least there the people in filth had been trying to better themselves. They might’ve been thieving, murdering scum but they’d been upwardly mobile scum, scum with aspirations. Here they just didn’t care. They scrabbled around in the sand, turning their noses up at technological advancements already old news in the most backward areas of the galaxy, displaying smears of yellow grime across their cheeks like it was something to be proud of.
He pulled the picture out again and laid it flat on the table, stroking the ever-present golden dust from the glossy surface. Deor looked a clean, sensible man: clean-shaven, strong white teeth; bright, happy eyes that did nothing to improve Cas’s mood (and, judging from the barwoman’s lovestruck noises, weren’t as out of the ordinary as he’d been led to believe). What he was doing in this shithole Cas was at a loss to understand.
He drained the last dregs of the mug in one shuddering mouthful, suppressing the instinctive gag reflex, and clapped the dented vessel down on the equally pocked table. He was just about to pick up the picture and stand when a giddy squeal of excitement rang across the room, making him cringe.
“Meena,” came a long-suffering voice from the doorway, “calm down.”
“But daddy!” The girl’s voice was only slightly subdued. She came to a skittering stop in the middle of the room between two unoccupied tables and looked over at her father with entreating eyes. “It’s so, it’s so… nice!”
Cas watched the child carefully. It was the first one he’d seen not treat the building with suspicion - not that he’d seen that many in his short time here. They were even convincing their kids to shun normality; it made him sick. This one, on the other hand… Even now she was staring with wide-eyed wonder at the people around her, the stable walls and ceiling, scuffing her bare feet over the filthy, knotted wooden floor like she couldn’t believe it was there.
He didn’t have a great tolerance when it came to children but this one, he found, amused him.
It appeared the feeling was mutual. Her eyes settled on him and lit up, to his alarm; she danced toward him like gravity had little sway over her. “Hi there!”
Cas stared down at her and she stared back without fear, smiling simply up at him. “Hi,” he said finally, without moving.
Anyone else and he’d expect them to be intimidated. Her father, he could see from the corner of his eye, certainly did - why he wasn’t calling his daughter back immediately was beyond the mercenary. Meena, however, grinned and shifted her weight from side to side, her eyes flicking over Cas without judgement before she turned her attention to the table and, to Cas’s barely concealed surprise, the picture still laying on it. “What’s this? Is it…” Her voice trailed off and her eyes, if it was possible, widened even further.
Okay, this was weird. On a hunch - nothing more than an impulse that burst from the back of his mind - he picked up the photo and held it out to the child. “You know this man?”
She nodded vigorously, her tangled, jet hair falling into her face. “He’s a nice man!”
Nice man? He wanted to laugh; he choked the sound back with a force that burned his throat. “How do you mean?”
“That man,” her father said, hurrying to rest protective hands on his daughter’s slight shoulders, “is an abomination.”
“Daddy!” Her voice was sharp, a moment of foreshadowing to her adult self. “He was a good man!”
Emotions warred publicly across her father’s face; this was easily more interesting than that greasy little barman. “What happened?” Cas asked, turning his attention from the girl and her hands making their way toward the picture, to her suddenly worried-looking father. “You’ve met him?”
“Yes.” His hands tightened on the girl’s shoulders and she squirmed for a moment. “He— He did us a great service. He retrieved Meena from a storm. But—”
“But?” Cas prompted sharply.
“But he’s a magician.” The older man spat out with venom that both frustrated and amused the mercenary. Nice to see Deor wasn’t getting it all easy around here. Cas was starting to feel better already. “And once he knew that I knew, he fled.”
Not that Cas blamed him. Whatever this man thought had happened, it was probably wildly inaccurate. “Where did he go?”
A regretful shrug and shake of the head was the silent answer. A silence he was suddenly very aware of: he looked down to find the child staring up at him with a watchful expression, her previously so alive eyes closed and guarded. “Why?” She asked, her gaze fixed on his with a remarkable intensity.
Well shit, this was unexpected. “I need to talk to him. He has,” he paused, trying to come up with something that wouldn’t be an easily-detectable outright lie; it was harder than he expected, “a reward due to him. He did something very helpful. I have to find him to tell him this.”
She didn’t believe him. It was clear from the way her expression darkened. Fucking hell, this kid was weird, and the situation even more so. He groped around in his satchel and pulled out the newer picture, the fuzzy one that was basically useless and he’d already almost given up on prior to the bar incident, and dropped it onto the table in front of her “Yours. If you want it.”
Her hands were a blur. One minute the picture was there, the next it was clutched in her tiny paws like a security blanket; the suspicion never left her eyes.
“What do you say, Meena?” Her father prompted.
“Thank you.” It was like the grudging words had been dragged out by wild dogs. Her grip on the picture tightened.
“No problem,” Cas grated, fascinated by the child in front of him. One thing was for sure, once she was adult he pitied anyone who crossed her. Collecting his things was the signal for the man and his unruly daughter to leave - instant dismissal worked so well Cas had long ceased asking - when a thought crossed his mind: “where were you when you met him?”
The man started, glancing over his shoulder with eyebrows raised. “Just leaving the Caravan to Danavus. Why?”
“No reason.” Cas permitted himself a rare, small smile. “Curiosity.”
Finally displaying an acumen approaching his daughter’s, the man looked unconvinced; displaying tact far outweighing hers, he didn’t question any further.
Danavus, Cas reminded himself as he slung his bag over his shoulder, lay to the north. The fact he didn’t even need to consult a map told him everything he needed to know about how fast he had to get off this rock. Looping his now-full canteens with more care over his other shoulder, he found himself anticipating the moment he could lay his hands on Deor.
That moment was starting to be the only thing keeping him going on this increasingly frustrating job.