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The Drive

by Petrichorincolour 4 months ago in Love

Story of a killer & a saint of the unnamed dead

Do not ask how they ended up working together or how they became friends. But if you do get either of them to reminisce, they’ll talk about the time the man they were hunting fell into a frozen pond. But that was a long time ago. Today, they are driving.

Cain's reality is shifting, although it is the same car, the same weight of weapons in the trunk, the same never-ending roads.

They dropped Julie off at a small apartment near her university campus. Her life belongs to her now. And Cain is okay with that. Cain is okay with that because he has his car, he has his name's blood-stained legacy, and he has his best friend by his side.

It's weird, though. Athena— Athena is a witch. Yes, a real one. But she doesn't flaunt it anymore. She’s retired. Her t-shirts are faded and untidy at the hems. Her boots are scuffed and golden with dust. Her eyes are tired, droopy, aged. Her smiles are lazy. Her gait is careless. It's weird because Athena scratches her head sometimes while talking. She takes naps in the backseat with her bare feet perched out of the rolled-down window of the car.

It's weird. It's so freaking weird but damn if it isn’t picturesque. Cain can see the appeal. The appeal is blatant, uncensored, and raw. But he refuses to acknowledge it. So he drives.

-

It rains in Washington. So Athena rolls the window down and grins at the damn sky like she's filled to the brim with dope. Cain scowls at her and bitches about the wet upholstery. But Athena refuses to give up on the carnival that the incessant drizzle is apparently turning out to be.

Who knew Cain Vincent would prefer a road trip with a retired witch who gets excited about rain and horrible postcards from gas stations?

-

Motels are the same in every state. The smell of tobacco clings to the curtains. The carpets look like well-scrubbed and sanitized scenes of crime.

Cain wakes up one night to Athena humming Hey Jude in the bathtub, adorned in white foam, with a bottle of Jack between her two fingers. The dark edge of the bottle drags on the tile back and forth like a pendulum. Cain leans at the door and stares at her. He grins and rolls his eyes because Athena can't get drunk and there's soap over her forearms making her look ridiculous and glorious and just stupid… Cain stays there for a while and Athena never turns her head to acknowledge his presence.

-

Roads are unwinding. But turns out their guns in the trunk aren't meant to rust. Cain bandages his bloody arm while Athena watches from her bed one night. Cain grits his teeth and curses into the mouth of his beer bottle. Athena’s eyes are mirthful, her lips are a straight line. She doesn't move to help. Cain thinks about the too-easy skinwalker hunt. And Athena stares at him unblinkingly, like he's a freak at a freak show. Later, Cain storms out of their room into the drizzle because he hates Athena.

It’s morning and they're leaving this town. They are quiet and the stereo is choked in the middle of a Bon Iver song that Cain will never admit to appreciating. Cain's fingers are warm around the steering. The rain is fleeting now but he can see Athena’ fingers still drumming under falling drops of water like she's trying to hold them. When she finally brings her hand in, she does it to freaking taste the water from the overrated Heavens above. She makes a freaking show out of it, which is horrifying and scintillating for Cain because it's just rainwater, not ambrosia. Cain almost swallows his tongue as he fights the emergence of a hollow pit in his stomach. He accelerates because he freaking hates Washington.

-

Gas stations are milestones. Diners are necessities. And Athena is a puzzle. She has dozens of tacky postcards in the backseat. Cain doesn't understand the appeal of the generic pictures of the Los Angeles skyline with a stupid quote stamped on it. What does ‘California dreamin’ even mean?

Cain fails to figure out why she loves postcards so much. Like he fails to figure out a lot of other things about Athena. And it scares him because they are rolling through towns like tumbleweed and they aren't getting younger and Cain sleeps at night while Athena doesn't (she had traded sleep for healing powers – she’s strangely selfless for a witch).

Athena just knows when Cain needs to stay awake and sip the night away from a bottle of whiskey on the hood of his car just because he has to watch the stars fade. Athena just knows of Cain’s persistent migraine that she removes by flicking his ear. Athena just knows what nightmares she has to quietly erase by the next morning and which of Cain’s dreams she has to solidify in his memories. Athena hasn't used her power of flight in the three months that they've spent on the road. Cain doesn’t ask her why but he sure is okay with that.

-

Cain stops the car at a diner and orders breakfast for takeaway. He misses cooking. He wants to go back but he can’t because his house is now a monster killer’s hideout. And he’s just started to figure out how to not be a killer.

Cain walks out with the food, his head filled with the idea of home but halts in the middle of the road because Athena isn’t in the car. He looks around frantically and finally takes a deep breath when he notices her kneeling at an unmarked grave on the other side of the road, caressing the worn wood of the haphazard cross like she would a lover’s face.

And just like that Cain is spellbound because that is Athena. That is the supernatural being who got bruised at the edges never to heal again because Cain was going to die in a frozen pond. That is the witch who cherishes his humanity when she's actually millions of stars trapped in a human body.

That is Athena – postcard collector, rain taster, Saint of unnamed dead.

-

The fourth month is quieter. It's unnerving, even for them. And that's because Cain is finally feeling Julie’s absence. The town is not too far away. But his baby sister doesn't want to see him anymore. Cain's eyelids are swollen due to a lack of sleep. Athena is stoic. Too stoic. The postcards are a stack in a spare duffel. The guns have finally started to rust. The car needs rest. But Cain is still driving because Julie begged him to stay away from her.

Please Cain, please. Just give me a couple of years. I'll see you when I've found a real life for me. Then you can come and be a part of it. I can’t live on the run forever. Please...

Julie had pleaded with him. Please, please, please… So now Cain was on this side of four months, away from Julie. Now normalcy for him was a life where he didn't take unknown calls and slept alone after counting the lines in the corners of his eyes. Freaking pathetic.

And Athena was… like background music. Like a jukebox stuck at Frank Sinatra in a sixties-style bar. Like a damn smoke machine in a discotheque that was too consistent in throwing the damn smoke.

Tonight, Athena is more noticeable, however, ferociously spinning a copy of Much Ado About Nothing on her index finger when Cain closes his eyes to his silent reality. This town is too quiet except for the trucks in the distance. Cain is quiet except for the tears congealing at the corner of his eyes. The darkness in the room is thick until Athena finally speaks from her bed.

‘Does this feel like a bad dream now?’

Cain swallows a lump in his throat and waits for her to say something else.

‘You are not happy. You're stuck. But I don't know what it is, Cain. Is this a cage or does it feel like running in circles...?’

‘I…’ Cain waits for his brain to give him something to say. ‘Please put me to sleep.’

‘Cain –’

‘Please, Athena.’

Her fingers feel like feathers on his forehead. The dreamless sleep that comes feels stale.

-

Athena wants to take something of Cain’s with her. Like a cowardly lover running from the commitment but not the love. The morning is purple. Athena wants to sleep but Cain needs his life back. She wants to explore everything with Cain but he wants his past back. The darkness cannot hide his sorrow from her. Even in sleep, he hurts.

She had thought she won when she had let the cold pond seep into her bones and damage her magic. She had pulled him out. She had thought she had saved Cain.

But today, she understands that she can’t save him. She is, ultimately, a failure. She cannot fix no matter how much she loves.

The morning star is fading when Athena spreads a heap of postcards on her bed and pockets Cain’s old lock pick. She doesn’t stop to trivialize the air with goodbyes or I love yous.

-

When Cain wakes up with a jolt, the morning is still young. His heart is beating fast and the room is silent. Cain doesn’t know how but he is suddenly outside, barefoot on the street.

He is a thirty-eight-year-old man crying through his panic on a deserted street, trying hard to not shout for Athena.

Cain runs. Cain runs for Athena because that's all he can think of. The morning fog has made the gravel slippery. His feet hurt and he is surrounded by broken old cars parked forlornly and Athena is gone. Cain is pulling his hair with both hands when he hears metal hit the ground. He finds Athena trying to key a beat-up Volkswagen. Athena has blue earmuffs on and her surprised eyes are red when they finally meet Cain’s.

‘What the…’ Cain closes his eyes and opens them again, half-relieved, half-angry.

‘Cain—’

‘No. What. The. Hell. Athena?’

‘You didn't want me—’

‘You're not allowed to leave me unless I'm dead and rotting!’

‘But you hate me—’

No. No. Athena. I hate myself. And I'll always hate myself because I'm hardwired like that. But you? I couldn’t—’

‘Cain, you aren’t happy. Julie—’

‘I couldn't breathe with you gone.’

Athena pauses. She peers into Cain’s sleepless eyes, dull green but sincere. She slouches because her back is heavy with the thought of those abandoned postcards that were just inane letters to God thanking him for Cain and love and humanity…

‘I'm sorry, Cain. I’m so sorry —’

Cain closes the distance between them in two strides and clutches her face, earmuffs and all.

‘I. Couldn't. Breathe.’

When they kiss, nothing freaking explodes. It’s all the same. The morning is dull and cold. A tiny pebble is digging into Cain's heel. The world keeps spinning. Someone dies somewhere. Someone lives somewhere. Julie probably starts her normal life's normal weekday somewhere.

But Cain and Athena can breathe again. It all clicks into motion. Clouds darken but it feels hopeful.

Just hopeful.

It isn’t earth-shattering but it is all they could ever hope for, need, live for, crave, want, desire…

You get the picture.

-

Love

Petrichorincolour

I enjoy the scenes in my head more than I enjoy writing. But I still try.

-P. A

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