I can explain, Lito said, all hyper-emotive like he always is and Hernando feels faint. There’s something-- Something he hasn’t known-- Something…
Dani takes the reigns, following along while Hernando almost floats beside her. He wants to be engaged in the conversation. But he senses something coming, something in the air. He’s distracted by it, and right now he can’t listen to Lito, he literally can’t hear well. There’s something. Something wrong. Something coming.
Eventually they’ve piled into a cab with bags Dani packed and he is immensely grateful she can keep it together while he’s suddenly floating through life. Lito bleeding, Lito freaking him out.
He doesn’t want this to be like the separation. He doesn’t want to find out they’re all going to meet Lito’s lover.
What the hell is this? And why can’t he stop that floating feeling?
Why are they going to London? He’s going, he’s going, he’ll follow Lito to the ends of the earth, but….
They arrive at the airport. Hernando is livid. This has been going on for how long now? He’s seen the look on Lito’s face, the anywhere but here look. Well now Hernando is anywhere but here.
They can’t get onto their plane. Hernando shrinks back from the desk and lets Lito emote and Dani smile warningly at the gate agent.
The air is buzzing.
There’s a man here with close cropped hair and dangerous eyes and he’s watching Hernando.
“That’s right. Take a step back. Do not piss off those bitches in airports.
Hernando steps back and the world shifts.
Another airport, another place, smaller, something….something’s definitely off, how can he be in another place?
Another step back and he bumps squarely into a tall black man who looks as jumpy as he does.
“This isn’t Eagle Point,” the man says to him.
Hernando wants to growl but holds it together, looking around for the guy with the close cropped hair and wicked grin.
Hernando is holding an airline ticket. He holds it out, still dazed.
“That’s my flight,” the taller man says. He hesitates, giving Hernando a good once over and then looks resigned. “Come on.”
They race through the airport together and Hernando feels like he is floating, untethered, unsure.
And Lito is missing.
Some time later.... They were settled in their seats, 3 to a row in first class. The tall guy who had led Hernando forward and taken the middle seat peered at the older man.
“I don’t know, Shadow Moon, Moon Shadow, haven’t you ever wanted to star in a buddy cop movie?” the older man asked with an easy grin with no humor in it.
“A buddy cop movie--? Are you--?”
“No? Well it’s just that you do have this buddy here and I was thinking he might need some help. It just so happens I’m in a similar position, although perhaps from a better vantage point. Almost seems like he doesn’t know how he got here.”
“I don’t even know how I got here. This is ridiculous,” the man named Shadow said.
“Yes, but...there’s confusion and then there’s disorientation. They are slightly different. Whereas I...I have two talents, as I was saying, and one of them is to get what I want in the long run, and I think I will. You know, part of that whole thing is just to know what you want. I wonder if our friend here knows what he wants.”
Hernando shook himself out of his daze. “Of course I do. If Lito--if my partner--is on a plane right now I should be with him.”
“Ah, a little carnal knowledge, Mile High Club style?”
“No. Lito and I, we’re….we’re….well we are partners, but I don’t understand….”
“Mayhap if you star in this buddy cop movie with Shadow Moon Moon Shadow here...you could get some answers.”
Hernando’s heart thudded in his ears. He hated planes.
“Yeah. Well now I’m on this plane with you so I guess I’m going wherever you’re going.”
“Don’t worry. You’re with Shadow now and between the two of us...we’ll help you work it out, won’t we, Shadow?”
“I’m not going where you’re going,” Shadow said. “I’ll go with him,” he gestured to Hernando, “He’s not a creepy old guy who knows too much.”
“I see,” Wednesday said, and then he turned away from both of them and seemed to fall asleep within seconds.
Hernando and Shadow exchange looks. They peer at Wednesday for a second. Well, he did say that one of his talents was falling asleep anywhere.
Neither of them wants to play buddy cop.
The doors of the airplane open and they make a break for it--together.
They run along the tarmac and through the airport. Shadow almost loses Hernando when he veers for the floor. They duck into the bathroom together and Hernando throws up.
“Nevermind, just run!”
They both know at any second Wednesday could be following them.
“I know. Run!”
And they do.
The rental car they have now is red, and they floor it. “I’m going to Eagle Point. I have to make it back there for a funeral.”
“How do I get home?” Hernando asks, bewildered.
“We’ll figure that out.”
“Lito said he had something to explain to us. I don’t think it was this. I hope it wasn’t this.”
“I know, buddy,” Shadow says, and then they look at each other and laugh. The laugh is tinged with exhaustion.
“I’ll… I’ll go with you… Where else am I going? I don’t even know where I am.”
“We’ll get you home. We’ll get you home.”
"Listen....I know this is a freaky example of just getting into a car with someone and--and--well...well, but I really have a funeral to get to. I...I would drop you off somewhere so you don't have to deal with me but--"
"No! I really would have no idea how to get back then."
"That's what I was thinking. I have to tell you, weird things have been happening to me lately, really weird things... They were low key for a while but it's getting weirder. So..."
"You're tellin' me. Just listen, I'll stick with you and whatever happens happens, it's my best bet of getting home... Although when I do, Lito may be in London and..." His face falls. "But still, getting home will be...better. Better. I don't mean offense because...thank you for helping me, but I'd rather be home."
"You and me both, buddy. So listen, where we're going isn't filled with happy memories for me so..."
"I understand." He looks tired.
"Sorry to make you speak so much English. I know how to be quiet, so... so yeah."
"Mm. Gracias," Hernando floats out to his strange new maybe-friend. Inside he's quaking but what better chance does he have than this?
They were both getting hungry around the same time. Hungry and fidgety, and soon it would be really uncomfortable in the car. Already there was a weirdly uncomfortable silence, people trying not to be uncomfortable when they really have no choice but to be.
"I--" Hernando says. He lets himself trail off a little bit though.
"I just saw this sign," Shadow says, "Jack's Crocodile Bar."
"C'mon. It doesn't sound great, but it's food."
"Evenin', kitties," says the lone, curly haired waitress. "Interesting evening?"
They exchange a look.
"You can't do better'n the best chili in the state."
They pause. Then Hernando says, "I have cash. I can pay for mine."
Shadow gets a burger and chili and Hernando looks with irritation at some of the Tex-Mex or Florida-esque-Mex offerings and gets a grilled chicken salad. He thinks about it and then gets a beer. Lito's not here. That's the point. Lito's not here. Lito's not here.
"Lito's not here, it's like I don't even know what to--"
Shadow watches him, not interceding where his opinion would not be wanted.
"So I guess I'm drinking."
"You'll never fuckin' guess who I just saw in the goddamn john."
"Oh. Oh my goodness." Hernando's face flushes.
"Not like that. It was him. The guy. The plane guy. He's headed here now. Brace yourself."
Hernando looks a little green, but he does.
"As I was saying, Robbie Burton is dead," Wednesday says. "Page 7."
"So you don't have a job. But you do have each other. And a side quest."
"You can work for me, and I'll make it worth your while. I'll even let you build in time to get our friend here home," he says, a hand coming down hard on Hernando's shoulder and back. "It's the least I can do after my associates got him here."
"How did...?" Shadow begins.
"But. Don't you worry. You have the power to do it all, Shadow Moon, Moon Shadow, my boy. And you will. And not just with coin tricks. Here, I knicked one for you."
"Another associate. Careful, he fights dirty."
"I don't want his coin."
"Oh, but you do..."
"This is a guy's coin?" Shadow asks.
"Mmyep," Wednesday says, looking smug.
"Seven foot tall guy. He's out in the alley now, I think."
"You want me to believe you and take this?"
"If you wanna take care of the likes of me...I'm a liar and a cheater, that's why I need help."
"I never said I would work for you. I'm definitely not working for someone with worse luck than me."
"First: you don't know my luck is worse than yours--I just nabbed that off a Leprechaun, though the less said about him the better, usually. And second, if you don't work for me, how do you expect to get poor Hernando here home? Across dimensions?"
Shadow and Hernando exchange a look.
Hernando clears his throat. "Don't use me as bait, old man."
"Too late," Wednesday says, and his grin is like that of a wolf.
Hernando and Shadow look between each other.
"So, we have a compact," Wednesday says, long before they ever do. But he brings six glasses of yellow wine to the table, rancid like pickle juice gone wrong a drunk diabetic's piss and something makes Shadow reach for it all the same.
"Shadow must drink this, it's part of our bargain," Wednesday says, "But Hernando, you may drink all, or half, or none. It is Shadow's job to be accountable for you and your well-being. It is, perhaps, a little experiment."
Hernando glares at Wednesday. He sips delicately at the liquid.
"Mead. Drink of heroes, drink of the gods."
"I have my own ethics," Hernando says. "I don't know what you're pulling--"
"Ah, ah, ah. You want to get home, don't you? Besides. The mead might offer you some bits of protection. You could use that in a strange world, couldn't you?"
"I'm not drinking in tribute."
Shadow looks between Hernando and Wednesday. He meets Wednesday's grey eyes and glares as he drinks one, two, three glasses of the sweet pickle-y wine.
"Now the compact is complete," Wednesday says.
The three of them pile into a dark sedan. Shadow palms the gold coin that doesn't have an identifiable origin from anywhere he's been. He keeps it close to him, but it keeps his fingers moving on autopilot.
"This is Betty, here, Shadow," Wednesday says, "And you'll be driving her. She likes a slow and steady ride. Now, normally I'd not drive my assistants, but you do have something rather, shall we say, grim, by human standards, to do at our destination. It's not every day a man buries his wife."
The words sting.
"Ay," Hernando says. It's plain on his face he wishes he wasn't here at all, wishes for his little family instead.
Still going through some stuff that makes updating this bunny a little harder to do, but here's a little something for this. Updates still likely to be every now and again, but I'll try to get to an end point for all of you.
It was slow and painstaking work. Getting Shadow from Jack’s Crocodile Bar to the funeral parlor--and it was a little bit grim. Actually, it was a lot grim. “Hi, I just met you and…”
Well, Shadow had warned Hernando that they needed to get somewhere that he couldn’t miss. That this buddy cop movie was going to start out really, really weird.
And also (again) that Shadow did not want to be in a buddy cop movie.
And that his wife was dead and he didn’t much want to be friends with anyone.
Hernando thought of Lito and where he and Daniela might be.
On their family errand.
Or wondering where Hernando was.
Christ, he hoped they were wondering where he was.
Shadow swore up and down they’d get Hernando home, but it definitely seemed a few times like he was saying it because he wanted to be alone.
Hernando shifted uncomfortably in his seat and wondered why he was here.
Was part of it how much Lito didn’t want him there? Was that even possible? It couldn’t be, right? But then neither was this. This wasn’t supposed to be possible either.
During the funeral, Hernando sat outside to give Shadow the privacy he needed. To give everyone the privacy they needed--including himself.
Lito. Lito. Jesus, Lito. Let me get home to you.
What if Lito wasn’t even there when he got home?
What the hell was he going to do?
They are moving from the funeral parlor to the gravesite. Grim indeed. Hernando tries to think of Lito but then it's too freaky to think of Lito and how he may be dying in London or wherever they end up in this crazy mess, separated and all.
Shadow looks back at Hernando. "Look. I know I've gotten us into a mess but do you think you could--"
"I'll walk back now," Hernando says, nodding.
In the limo with Technical Boy, two goons look out and watch Hernando walk past. Technical Boy shakes his head. "There weren't supposed to be two. I don't think he's..."
They're bloodthirsty, though, so they lower the window of the limo and one of them howls, then the other joins him.
Hernando takes off at a run.
Shadow is the one they want, and everyone involved in this whole mess is about to know that soon enough. When Hernando makes it back to his room, Wednesday knows. He casts one grey eye over the surface of the earth nearby and finds Shadow.
The goons, grab him, hold him in place in Technical Boy's limo while Technical Boy pontificates about who works for who and who will be deleted when making the wrong moves.
But when they lay a hand on Shadow physically, as if to hurt him, the bird that's been following Shadow and Hernando and Wednesday in the car swoops down and hits his wrist hard enough to break it.
Wednesday isn't a safe man, but he's safer than this mess.
Finally things calmed down here enough for me to cap this off. I hope it wasn't too much of a letdown. At a certain point this became the planned ending, but I just was extremely distracted/sick/etc. Thanks for bearing with me. :)
Shadow drives, keeping his head down a bit and does not go near the highway. The back of the car is loaded with campy trinkets and wine, good meat. He floors it when Wednesday says, "Chicago," and that's where they will end up. He's spent many a lifetime there, so when they reach the city he maneuvers expertly. They turn onto a dingy street and Wednesday points to the most dilapidated place on the block. It's fitting, Shadow thinks.
The bird is still following them, the one that stopped the goons, and Shadow thinks maybe it'll fly in the window and watch whatever happens inside. The truth is it heads up to the roof and stays there.
"Two houseguests that are not yourself," an old woman says. "We will send you to the store yourself then, with that many people."
"I come bearing gifts," Wednesday says, "Not even mead."
"You're not kidding with this, not even mead, I will not drink that for the likes of you and neither will he. You know this. If you bring your own food, you are invited."
The old man who comes in later is angry, very angry, and ready, Shadow sees from the glint in his eye, to have a prison fight. There's blood on his hands, blood as easily spilled this morning as on any morning.
Hernando sits back. Scared. Wanting to be home. He can see that like recognizes like and he's completely out of his element. But Wednesday is watching him closely and all he can do is be quiet and think of his family. His family he wants to get back to.
The old Russian man pontificates on his job and how easy it is to kill. And when he offers to put Shadow's life on the line to see if he'll go to Wednesday's meeting or not, Wednesday nods. "Fine. Yes. But if you don't mind, things have become a little bit more heavy handed than I believe our buddy cop may be comfortable with. I would like to send him home."
Czernobog grunts, and Wednesday draws a rectangle in the air. Through the door as it opens slowly, Hernando can see the airport. It's the one he left. It's home.
His name is being called over the loudspeaker.
"Thank you!" he all but screams. "I wish you... I wish... yes, thank you." It's the most English he knows for this particular moment, and then he takes off at a run.
A run towards home. And Lito. And Dani. And safety. And everything else.