“I don’t see why I have to be blindfolded.” Solan reached out to make sure Kyr was still walking beside him. “I feel like I’m going to fall on my face.”
“I won’t let you fall, relax. And you’re blindfolded because it’s a surprise. And because I think it’s fucking hilarious.” He felt Kyr’s fingers settle over his wrist. “Don’t walk into that wall.”
“Ow,” Solan said as his shoulder hit something solid and unmoving. “Thanks for the warning, Kyr.”
Trying not to sigh, Solan let himself be led onwards. He’d only agreed to be blindfolded because Kyr had bugged him for two hours to allow it, when all he really wanted to do was finish the last mural, go back to Oakenheart, and fall asleep for a week. Between stress over Jax—who hadn’t yet come through on his threat—and stress over classes, Solan had barely slept at all in the past week. Every time he closed his eyes he expected to wake up to the door being kicked in as the police came to arrest him for pretending to be something he wasn’t.
“Okay,” Kyr said finally. “You can see it in just a sec. Stand still and don’t move.”
“Kyr...” Solan sighed and did as he was told, shifting absently from one foot to the other. After a few minutes of waiting, his patience ran out and he reached up to remove the blindfold.
“I said not yet.” Kyr smacked his hand down. “Just let me... there. Now you can take it off.”
“Finally,” Solan muttered, sliding the blindfold down around his neck.
He stood in front of the last mural, the one that Kyr had insisted on doing alone and in secret, from sketch to the finished product now in front of Solan’s eyes. His first thought was that Kyr had captured his mother incredibly well, from the green of her eyes to the slightly faded blue sneakers she often wore. Kyr had made her look more human than Fae, of course, though Solan could see slight points to her ears, almost hidden beneath the fall of her dark hair. His father had been painted in beside her, one arm around her waist, looking at her with a fond smile. They were only a small part of the painting, two figures among a whole crowd in a park in a scene that felt so summery and alive that for a moment Solan could almost smell hot dogs roasting.
“So?” Kyr said anxiously. “Does it suck? You and me are in there too, playing catch.” He pointed to two more figures with a paint-splattered hand, and Solan studied them too, smiling a bit at the faded grey T-shirt his figure was wearing; the shirt he wore most often to bed, now that it was too worn to wear out in public. “I don’t know if you actually can play catch. Fuck me, Solo, do you actually like it?”
“Yeah,” Solan said, clearing his throat to get the hoarseness out of his voice. “It’s amazing.”
He might’ve said more but Kyr grabbed him and kissed him hard, tasting a little bit of paint and sweat, his fingers tangling in the front of Solan’s shirt. Solan kissed him back just as hard, playing with the stud in his tongue, until they had to break apart to catch their breath.
“Shit, I was afraid you’d think it was dumb. And I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to get your parents right. Fuck, that’d be an insult, right?” Kyr laughed, the sound relieved and a little giddy. “Half the student body’s in there too, not that they’ll probably ever know.”
Solan thought of Jax and fought to keep his smile from slipping. “Who cares about them? I love it. I can’t think of a better way to end this little volunteering thing.”
Kyr smiled up at him and looped an arm around his waist. “Good. Got a question for you.”
“Am I going to like this question?”
“Maybe. I talked to my dad and he said if I graduate, he’ll buy me apartment wherever I want. So depending on where you decide to go to university... Want to live with me?”
“Yes,” Solan said without hesitation, then laughed at the startled expression on Kyr’s face. “We already pretty much live together. I don’t think it’ll be all that much different in an apartment.”
“Shit, you asshole.” Kyr kissed him again then pulled away, wiping his hands against his jeans. “Let me just wash my hands and we can get going.”
Shaking his head, Solan finished cleaning up while Kyr was in the bathroom, pausing now and then to study the mural again. He gently touched Kyr’s signature in the corner then went to put the paints away, meeting Kyr coming back down the hall. They walked out to the car hand-in-hand and Kyr spent the drive talking about the hockey practice he’d had earlier that day and rolling his eyes over the goal someone had scored against him.
The school was quiet as they got out of the car, most of the students huddled up inside against the cold snap that had settled over the city. In the silence their footsteps crunching the snow seemed very loud. Solan had his head turned towards Kyr, smiling at something he was saying, when a sound like a car backfiring suddenly split the air. Something hard and hot punched him in the shoulder and spun him halfway around before landing him on his knees in the snow. He stared dumbfounded at the red droplets staining the white, vaguely aware that Kyr was yelling something, and looked up right into the glare of a high-beam flashlight and the yell of the police telling him to stay still.
Strong hands grabbed his arms and hauled him up onto his feet, making him yelp in pain at the strain on his injured shoulder. Other hands patted him down, rough and impersonal, and removed his wallet from his pocket. He could see Kyr out of the corner of his eye, struggling to free himself from the grip of a pair of burly policemen and demanding to know what was going on. Fingers went to the cuff on his ear and he heard something beep, then the cuff was roughly removed, and the glamour with it.
He lashed out, terror lending him strength, and landed a kick high on the inside of a cop’s thigh, doubling the man over. Yanking free the arm that didn’t feel as heavy and useless as a block of wood, he drove his fist into another cop’s nose, feeling both the cop’s nose and something in his finger break. The ring he was wearing—Kyr’s gift, that he had gotten resized to fit his ring finger—opened a broad cut in the cop’s skin and the man staggered away, blood leaking through the hands he cupped over his face.
“Solo!” Kyr’s voice broke slightly on the second syllable and Solan saw fear etched plain on his features, even as he headbutted the man trying to take him down.
Snow slipped under Solan’s feet as he lunged at one of the cops still standing and he landed hard on his side, feeling the wind of the cop’s billy club across his face as he fell under a blow that would have cracked his skull if it had connected. He saw Kyr come out of nowhere and hit the man in the face with one elbow, landing a kick to his crotch to send him all the way down into the snow. For a brief moment they had a pause to catch their breath and for Solan to scramble to his feet, then someone started firing, sending bullets whining past Solan’s face.
He grabbed Kyr’s hand and felt the hard edges of Kyr’s keys against his palm before Kyr spun away from him to kick a cop in the face with the heavy toe of his boot. Something crunched and more blood splattered the trampled snow. Kyr staggered back and gave Solan a hard push that nearly knocked him off his feet again, snarling, “Get to the car!”
Solan tried to catch his hand and pull him along, but Kyr’s fingers slipped through his and he ran, half-hearing Kyr’s panting breaths a few feet behind him. He stumbled over the curb edging the parking lot and nearly fell, just barely catching his balance before he fell on his face. His entire side felt numb and heavy, and when he looked down he saw his shirt was stained dark with blood. Behind him Kyr yelled, and he risked a quick glance over his shoulder to see another cop tackle Kyr onto his knees, yanking his arms behind his back. The cop’s partner belted Kyr across the face and Kyr sagged, his eyes rolling back in his head.
Solan almost turned and almost went back for him, but another hard hot punch caught him in the side, knocking his feet out from under him. He struggled up, aware of the cops moving warily in around him, and somehow summoned up a last burst of strength to make it to the car, throwing himself into the driver’s side seat and slamming the door shut. Bullets peppered the car’s metal frame as he struggled to start the engine, the keys slipping in his bloody grip, completely unaware that he was sobbing and apologizing at the same time.
Finally the keys slid home and he twisted them viciously to start the engine, throwing the car into gear and reversing as hard as he could. Shadows scattered out from behind the car and he ducked, cringing, as the rear window shattered with a harsh tinkle of broken glass. In the slight pause while they tried to regroup, he threw the car into Drive and stomped hard on the gas pedal, sending the car leaping forward and over another curb.
Lights flashed on behind him and the wail of sirens rose into the air as he skidded the car out of the parking lot, nearly fishtailing out of control on a patch of ice. He managed to straighten the car out, wishing he could get his arm to respond and take hold of the wheel, and pressed the gas down again, shooting the car straight down the highway.
He didn’t know how long he drove that way, one-handed and so hyped up on adrenaline that he didn’t even feel pain, while the cop cars screamed behind him, commanding him to stop in toneless bullhorn voices. The only thing he remembered clearly was being glad that the road was nearly empty, and glad that they apparently hadn’t though ahead enough to set up a road block. He didn’t think they’d expected to have any trouble at all rounding up a pair of teenagers, especially if they could shoot first and ask questions later.
The lights faded out of his rearview mirror soon after he left the city behind but he didn’t even notice, staring wild-eyed at the road in front of him until a sudden ding made him look down at the instrument panel. The low gas light was on and glowing, letting him know he didn’t have much further to go, whether he wanted to go further or not. Feeling dazed, he let the car slow and looked around himself, realizing slowly that he’d been driving for so long that he no longer even recognized his surroundings. He was somewhere out in the country, where the lights were few and far between, and no traffic passed him even when he stopped and let the car sit for nearly ten minutes.
He pushed on, not knowing what else to do, absently wiping tears on the shoulder that wasn’t sodden with blood. It got harder and harder to keep his eyes open, and when he realized he’d drifted almost off the road during one blank spot, he stopped, reached over, and punched himself hard in the side.
The pain was immediate and intense, and he felt a fresh rush of hot blood go down his side, soaking into his jeans. He let his breath out in a sob and pressed his foot down on the gas again, hunching over the steering wheel in an attempt to see the road clearly through the dark tunnel creeping in from the corners of his vision.
“Gotta keep going,” he said, the sound of his own hoarse voice startling him. “Fuck you, not going to pass out.”
He started to think of Kyr then yanked his thoughts away from that direction, feeling panic gnawing at the edges of his shaky control. If it won he didn’t know what he’d do, but it would probably end with him dead somewhere, either because he’d crashed the car and killed himself, or because he’d crashed the car and bled out. His shoulder and his side were beginning to hurt badly, making him bite his lip, but the pain helped clear some of the cobwebs from his mind and he kept the car going, glancing down again and again at the glowing orange gas light.
The car began to choke a few minutes later, shaking him in his seat as it tried to find the last traces of gas in the tank. With the last of its power, Solan moved it off to the side of the road, under cover of the trees. He started to get out, meaning to walk further until he found help, but his knees gave out on him as soon as he stepped onto the uneven ground. He went down hard and cried out as it jerked at the wound in his side, tasting blood in the back of his mouth.
For a few long moments he just knelt there, head hanging, his sweaty hair falling in his eyes. Then he gritted his teeth and forced himself up, using the car to support himself until he felt ready to step forward. The first few steps were the hardest and he weaved like an old drunk until he caught himself on a tree and in that way made his way deeper into the snowy forest, lurching from one tree to the next and trying not to sob every time he slammed his injured shoulder into an unyielding trunk.
When he couldn’t walk anymore, even with the trees to hang onto, he crawled, cradling his numb arm in against his chest and barely noticing the twigs and sharp bits of stone that bit into his knees even through his jeans and tore the palm of his good hand. He saw a light in the darkness and made his slow painful way towards it, but no matter how far he crawled, it never came any closer.
He realized he’d stopped crawling and was just kneeling there in the snow when a violent shiver went through him. He raised his head and looked around himself in dazed confusion, not sure where he was or how he’d gotten there. It was so cold that he was shivering uncontrollably, but the snow beneath him looked so comfortable that all he wanted to do was curl up on it and close his eyes until the pain went away.
Thumping onto his belly in the snow jarred his shoulder again but he barely noticed it. He breathed in the scent of snow and trees and faintly dirt, resting his tired head on one arm. The light came closer and bobbed around his head until he told it in a slurred voice to fuck off, then it slowly faded away, leaving him alone in the darkness. He closed his eyes and found it didn’t make much of a difference here under the trees, but it felt good to rest. Letting out a long slow breath, he let the darkness slide over his body and claim him, dragging him down into its black embrace.