Story: Radial: Unravel
Challenge: Buttercream #1 - Spring Showers; Vanilla #21 - A Dare
Word Count: 1,756
Summary: Milos has a delivery to make, but between the weather and the client allows his temper to get the better of him.
Notes: Oh look, something in third person. I wrote this ages ago now but his personality shifted and made this completely wrong. I've only just [finally] rewritten it, so it's probably a bit dodgy around the edges.
The rain muffled the sounds of a city just waking up: a veil of static from pavement to sky. Milos leaned back against the tree and stared up at the canopy, its sparse branches almost no protection from the downpour—not that it mattered anyway: his hair had plastered across his skull and face hours ago and water streamed down his neck into his jacket, gluing the clammy clothes beneath to his body.
At least it made the air smell sweet and masked the less fragrant scents of city life. Under its steady fall the wretched stench and sights of the weekend bingers were washed away. Nature prevailed every time.
Whatever made him feel better. Milos grunted noncommittally. The alternative would be to point out that the recipient was late, and down that road lay his soggy ire. Better instead to continue to stare up at the leaves, eyes flicking from one bud to another. Each one was huddled in on itself, petals firmly wrapped around to protect from the heavy drops splashing past. Each one a tiny, beautiful miracle in this square surrounded by stone and glass.
Faltering footsteps splashing through the puddles told the alfa that his recipient was approaching, not as steadily as he’d hope but faster than he expected. Shame he hadn’t been so quick to arrive an hour ago, when he was due to and Milos was a lot drier. His hand skimmed over the outline of the gun holstered beneath his jacket, the damp leather masking the reassuring shape, before dropping to rest on the satchel hanging from his shoulder.
“Where is it?”
“Here.” Milos patted the bag once, spattering himself with the rainwater resting on its surface. “Where did you think it’d be?”
“What?” The voice was only a couple of feet away now. Give him a couple of minutes and he’d be up on the raised square along with the alfa himself, mercilessly crushing the grass beneath careless feet.
Milos raised his eyebrows to the heavens without tearing his gaze from the leaves. “I’m delivering something to you, where did you think it would be?” Maybe he’d be less bad tempered if the question wasn’t so goddamn stupid, or if he’d not spent an hour being rained on waiting for someone who sounded like they’d just stumbled from the pub. He glowered at a branch and slapped the bag again, a little harder than necessary.
“Well, y’know...” From the corner of his eye he could see what looked like a shrug. “You lot are pretty rare. Thought you might have a different way of—”
His hand curled into a fist. “Don’t finish that sentence.” Wet, tired and now insulted; could this get any better?
The grass let out a squeak of protest as the client joined him on the damp centrepiece. “No offence, mate.” Whether it was the drunken slurring or something more intentional but Milos had a hard time believing the sentiment.
Stopping barely two feet away, he was near enough that he was impinging on the freshness of the rain, a heavy undertone of sweat and alcohol that made Milos want to retch. He swallowed it down again, clenching his jaw. The idea of demonstrating how he felt to the human who even now was fixing a nakedly curious stare on him did nothing for his nausea but wonders for his self-control.
Close up the recipient wasn’t as old as he first appeared: a thirty-something trapped in the rapidly-ageing body of someone with a less than healthy lifestyle; he looked like he was pushing fifty. The smile he turned on the alfa was hungry. “Come on, then.”
The recipient’s hand, halfway toward Milos’s shoulder, froze as the word brought him up short. “What?”
“Show me your ID.”
The hand didn’t move. Good. The last thing Milos wanted was those clammy digits anywhere near him. If he actually tried to touch him he might just have to beat him to death with the pistol. “Why would you want that?” Funny how he sounded less drunk once he encountered something he didn’t like.
The alfa glared at him and was gratified to see the other man’s expression darken. “You could be anyone.” Considering the value of the box in his bag, he’d have thought the man would be happy someone was being careful, but apparently not. He splashed his hand against it again, scattering more drops of water, each pat like a gunshot in the silent square. The rain had finally stopped; soaked to the skin, he hadn’t noticed. “No ID, no package.” Not strictly true, but well worth it for the look that passed over his client’s face. It’d been a while since he’d seen someone turn so many different colours in such a short time.
Settling on a particularly vivid shade of puce, the man withdrew a battered driver’s license from his wallet and held it out towards Milos; it was all he could do not to recoil from the fingers suddenly inches from his nose. Underneath the patina of age and grime the picture was definitely the man in front of him, only with a little more hair and a lot fewer lines. “Happy now?”
“It’ll do,” Milos shrugged, dropping his gaze to the satchel fractionally too late to avoid seeing the expression slide into avariciousness with a short detour via disgust on the way. The box was heavier out of the bag than it had felt inside it and perfectly undamaged by the weather. Along with it came a clipboard, a creased sheet of paper and a forlorn pencil strangled by a line of string clipped beneath the metal clasp. “Sign.”
The man gave it a grudging stare but his signature—little more than a scrawl—was duly applied and the pencil was left with a perfect heat outline of his fingers. Milos gave it a disdainful look as he shoved it back into the bag and passed the parcel over one-handed. It was snatched from his palm in an instant. “Finally!”
“A ‘thank you’ would be nice.” The alfa busied himself with the task of pulling the satchel straps closed rather than see the look he knew he’d be receiving right now. He’d got nothing more to hold over him; time to leave before things got nasty.
A plan that was only slightly hindered by the hand that snapped out and grabbed his shoulder with more force than he’d have liked—or expected his customer to possess. “You should watch who you piss off.” The words were growled under his breath and almost drowned out by a passing bus.
He let his eyes settle on the hand, face a mask of carefully constructed contempt layered over the sudden churning of his stomach. It had absolutely no effect on the grip whatsoever. “Let go of me.”
“Make me” The sneer was mocking him. It didn’t matter that his heart was pounding or that his throat constricted so tightly it almost strangled him, the thing that truly upset him was the mocking, daring tone. “There’s nothing you can do.”
Oh, really? He had no intention of shooting anyone—not to mention it’d be a massive overreaction—but it didn’t mean the gun was wholly useless. Only a short distance above the satchel and in easy reach even with the now-painful grip on his shoulder, if this human thought he was unable to defend himself without the full use of his right arm he was sorely mistaken. Passed from his right hand to his left, fingers wrapped so tightly around the butt his knuckles were pale, the gun made a satisfying smack as it slammed into the human’s face.
The hand released its grip immediately, flying to its owner’s face along with its partner to staunch the sudden flow of blood from his nose. “What the fuck?!”
Milos lowered the gun slowly, trying to breathe deeply with only limited success. It didn’t look like the weapon sustained any damage, not that the same could be said for the man’s face, but the gun was more important than the wet sputterings and crunch of dewy grass underfoot. “You asked for it,” he murmured, leaning down to wipe the barrel on the grass.
He didn’t need to look up at the sudden scrabble and then audible thud which indicated his customer had toppled off the raised greenery in his efforts to back away from the dokkalfa. “You’re a menace!” came a bubbling squeak from the cheap marble. “Robin’ll hear about this!”
“I’m sure he will.” There was no point looking for him: he’d vanished from Milos’s vision the minute he dropped off the wall. The flowers were starting to bloom with vigour now as the sun scythed its way through the clouds to blaze between the brick and concrete, burning golden lanes of light into the dull slabs. “I don’t really care.” Sometimes he was good enough at lying that he almost believed it himself. Sticking around to watch the sun rise was tempting, but he’d been up all night and the familiar ache in his muscles told him he’d regret it if he didn’t sleep soon.
He’d have plenty more to regret when he got back too; he tried not to think about it. He cast another glance over his shoulder at the recently-vacated ledge but there was still no sign of his client. Either he’d decided to stay down in case he upset Milos again, or he’d finally passed out.
Milos hoped it was the latter. The paving here were no stranger to blood but he didn’t want to add any more than he already had. Shaking out his hair, surrounding himself for a second in a vast arc of water, he strode in the opposite direction to the subject of his recent retaliation and hopped, cat-like, from the stone bounding wall.
The motorbike inside the bank’s broad portico was as dry as a bone. Milos didn’t bother to wheel it from its shelter, simply squeaked his wet-leathered self into the saddle and settled more deeply into the machine. At least the short journey home would dry his hair.
The roar as the bike shot forward on its back wheel was deafening; Milos’s broad grin as he weaved between the buildings and back onto the road wouldn’t last: he knew what was coming. For now, however, he could at least lose himself in the thrill of a fast ride along a quiet road.
The sunrise heralded the start of a new day—and not one he was looking forward to.