Title: Slippery when drunk
Pairing: Percy/Luke (slash).
Prompt: slippery world
Genre: Angst, AU
Rating: PG-15. Swearing and sexy things. Unbeta'd and written in roughly five hours. ~2500 words.
Summary: Luke drives a taxi to the end of the world. He picks up guests who have a similar destination. Two-pronged forks and candy-boxes ensue.
Notes: This was written for the Battle for Camp HalfBlood contest/challenge-thing at pjo_fic_battle on LJ. I'm sorry, I couldn't resist. XD.
As a taxi driver, he's used to being prodded around rudely like an ugly piece of clothing in a department store. He's used to playing the nonchalance card at the stiff anger that comes with traffic jams in rush-hour, used to impatient hands stuffing his cigarette ashtray with twenties for a quick ride, used to the minute-flirting that some of his younger female guests employ, used to the chattiness of his senior citizen customers who have no real destination and a lot of time to spare (if only for a few more dollars on his kilometer dial).
Taxi drivers lead a depressing life, he thinks. They sit in the driver's seat all day, drive around and waste gasoline with no destination in mind, no strategy to follow, until they meet up with a waving arm on the curb, and all future for the next forty-five minutes is decided, they would end up at the local museum, the supermarket on thirty-forth street, the airport, the hotel, the prison.
No freedom of destination, no thought. He's just an automaton with a cash register, a cigarette, and three different music tapes to play on a lonely road (the radio's broken), with a response always nodding yes, he can drive there, yes, the fee won't cost over a hundred dollars, yes, he'll carry the suitcase, madam, so don't break your back over it.
He could drive to the end of the world, but only if the commander in the passenger's seat desired it.
It gets lonely, but he manages.
"You really need to get out more," Thalia smiles, slapping him on the back on one of the few off-days he has from the taxi-company.
"Like you're one to talk, you Internet whore," he grumbles, but only earns another sharp slap, this time on the back of his head, and then Thalia's off to meet up with Annabeth and he recalls how reclusive his life has become.
Sometimes he allows himself to converse with the individual in the passenger seat, make small talk about traffic and the news and publicly accepted things (like, for example, swine flu and why it makes people drive slower on Saturdays as a result from being out of work and exposed to more air-born allergens). He thinks of it as a way to stifle the awkwardness oftentimes left undevoured for strangers who chance a meeting for the sake of a ride.
But most of the time, he keeps silent. Watch them sweat it out a little, while smirking to himself. People all act differently under stress. The businessmen usually go for handkerchief wiping, the young ladies giggle nervously. The best case he's seen yet has been a couple of partying teenagers with a nasty case of hiccups from what had probably been party drugs in a Budweiser bottle. It was all very amusing to him. He'd park his car at the end of the day by some side street and then burst into erratic laughter because of it.
Simply put—when he gets lonely, Luke the taxi driver likes to fuck with his customers.
Percy Jackson was the first customer to fuck back.
"Annabeth broke up with her boyfriend today."
"She's really sad about it, you know."
"…wants to kill herself and all…"
"That's ni—not very nice at all. Thalia, let me sleep."
"You should comfort her."
"When was the last time you had sex, anyway? Like, with someone whose name you actually remember? Moreover, with a girl?"
He buries his head under the pillow. "Go away. Or I'll never have sex with anyone ever again under your orders."
"Your loss. I would do Annabeth any day." Thalia mutters, but she leaves the room, and Luke remembers why he's friends with her again.
It's raining heavily today. Weather for him means business. Most people retire by nine fifty-five pm, but the unlucky ones that are stranded without shelter pay desperate prices to get home, away from the streets that have suddenly turned into a dirty soup of sour-smelling hobo-urine and sprinkled sidewalk-gum. The big glass windows of the city skyscrapers reveal casual late-night shoppers, high-class dining and contracts sealed over champagne bottles. An occasional passersby on the city walkway treks miserably into puddles, hunched under flimsy two-dollar umbrellas. Most of them are alone. All of them are soaked to the skin.
The world is such a slippery place, Luke muses as he shifts the gears at a red light. The left front-tire of the car scqrEEEs a little when he leans on the gas pedal, and as if on cue, large sheets of rain slam into the windshield from the sky. He scoots the windshield wipers into maximum force.
In this way, Luke catches sight of his Last Customer of the Day.
The Last Customer of the Day deserves a special name, because he or she or (rarely) they are the ones that Luke gets to hear about last before he drives home, showers and goes to bed. He usually remembers The Last Customer's face until the next morning, sleeps with this face in his dream.
This is why he must always ask for The Last Customer's name. No one –and Luke was no exception– should feel comfortable dreaming about someone without a proper title and honorific attached. This is also why he almost never talks to The Last Customer. It's a waste of time, because they almost always end up disappointing and annoying him. He'd rather not have a disappointing and annoying story stuck in his head than one that he makes up himself in his bed.
The Last Customer raises his left arm, thumb flicked towards the sky, standing on the edge of the rainy curb. He doesn't notice the storm around him, doesn't acknowledge the muted laughter from the skyscrapers, the clinking of cutlery and the beat of club music, and the quiet, quiet, slippery world.
Luke stops by the curb, slowly so as not to splash water against the sidewalk. The man waiting for him reaches out a timid hand, grasping the handle of the door like a child. That's it, Luke thinks to himself, exasperated and tired from work, pull the handle carefully, my lord. God forbid you get your hands dirty.
The door opens and his automatic line pops out, "Where to, sir?"
His new customer does not answer right away, settling down on the seat with a breath, shuts the door. Luke puts the car into a slow cruise; it's a no-parking zone in front of a large hotel. The taxi driver watches his customer discreetly. The customer swallows dryly.
"I'd like to go to the end of the world."
Luke decides that this'll be a really fun one to fuck around with.
He looks at the guy, sighs and asks the regulatory question. "Do you have specific directions, sir?"
"Just…" he hesitates. "Just drive. I have more than enough money."
What a disappointing Last Customer of the Day. He shifts in his seat. "May I ask for your name?"
"I'm Percy. Percy Jackson. What's your name?" Percy Jackson lifts his hand. He's about to reach forward and shake it when he realizes that Percy is not offering his hand. He is only examining each finger thoughtfully, as though he is remembering a glare, one that he had left behind somewhere between the sidewalk and the taxi door.
It's his turn to feel awkward. It was like the last time Thalia had tried to pull him into the seats of one of those ridiculous single's meetings. He isn't used to the passenger next to him caring about the name of the driver. "Luke," he grunts, feeling something hot rush over his cheeks. "Castellan."
His customer starts to laugh, in a way that has Luke both shivering from its warmth and wondering whether or not his dread of the customer being equal parts annoying and disappointing will come true. He starts the car, one hand on the steering wheel and the other on his forehead; he must be delirious. "You know," Percy wipes his hand against the seat cushion, "I was thrown out of the last three taxis when they heard about where I wanted to go. Not the most charitable people, those drivers. And now you ask for my name."
"I'd like to think of myself as a very charitable driver," Luke tried to remain conversational, "As long as you have the money for the ride." Oh god, I sound like a prostitute.
Percy laughs again, still in that weird warm-annoying way. And then it's silent for a while. He continues to drive, Percy decides to stare out the window, then gives up on this pursuit because the rain is too thick outside; they've even lost sight of the skyscraper lights and the sidewalk lines, and everything is a blur, even on the windshield with the wipers on maximum force. The left front-tire scqrEEEs at every stop sign.
He hopes that the conversation will not continue. He hopes that, if they drive further enough, Percy Jackson will give up his quest for the end of the world and then he'll be able to get a good night's sleep back home. And at the same time, he has a strange yearning to continue driving, resume talking, because he's kind of curious, in the way a young boy is about an unknown box on a high cabinet shelf.
"It's my birthday today," Percy begins, "I'm twenty-five today."
"No one to celebrate it with, eh?"
"No girlfriend? Not a handsome one like you?" Luke ventures, feeling himself cringe a little as another flame shoots up his neck. They're driving out of the business district now, into a more suburban setting with little two-story building shops. Supermarkets, bakeries, coin-laundries. With a vague irritation, he remembers the comment he just made. He should not have to unnerve his customers like that to get a laugh.
Percy only smiles, coughs lightly. "She left me. For a girl. You'd think I'd be able to hold a girl at twenty-five."
Additionally, he prides himself in the fact that, as a cynical taxi driver, he doesn't just fall for any guy who just happens to trip in through the passenger door of his car.
"But fuck," Percy continues, with a little resentment, "she just had to turn into a lesbian, didn't she?"
He can feel the box in the cabinet shelf tip forth its contents.
"Maybe," he couldn't help but offer, "Maybe it's because you don't want her, either. Maybe you happen to find men attractive, too."
No. He was not hinting at anything. He will not think along this line anymore. Thalia's right. He must be sex-deprived or something. He should not have to resort to this.
"Well, that could be true," Percy says reasonably. "But I doubt it."
Both of them mull over the conversation thus far. Luke feels a little light-headed, probably because the air in the taxi is still damp. The rain has lifted a couple of millimeters in favor of a dark misty atmosphere, and the streetlights are visible again. They are driving across a lonely patch of road between two housing communities. Ahead, a road sign glitters; there's a 24-hr bakery half-a-mile later.
It is as this moment that, somehow, the box in the cabinet shelf falls onto the little boy's lap.
Because it's now, between the two housing communities, when he feels the fingers touch his shoulder gently, and then Percy's breath is in his ear. "I'd like to try it."
It takes him a little while to recover, and when he does, he hates the stupid husky voice he has adopted. "Do you really want this or are you just fucking with me?"
And then Percy kisses him, a light one on the mouth, while they're still driving down the street. And for a moment, the roads become unbelievably slippery; the rain is back on full blast and there are no windshield wipers to secure vision. The left front-tire scqrEEEs. He stamps on the brakes, and Luke curses for a second time, stopping the car next to the late-night bakery before he turns around in his seat, all roles as a taxi driver forgotten, reaching an arm towards the passenger seat and gripping his customer with his right hand.
"As can be."
"I can't help you. I'm only a taxi driver."
"You can be my taxi driver."
Luke chuckles. "That's a line right out of some cheap porno, isn't it? It sounds so awful and wrong coming out of your mouth."
Percy smiles too, his grin slightly wolfish. "You remember the destination, right?"
He remembers, catches sight of the blinking sign in the distance. And then decides.
"Since it's your birthday and all, I'll buy you a cake. Stay in the car."
He runs into the bakery. Runs back out into the rain a minute later; he's forgotten his wallet. Percy only laughs. For some reason, he trusts Percy when he tells him to stay in the car and not drive it off. The key is still in the ignition.
He comes out of the bakery a few minutes later, dangling a plastic bag with a paper box around his wrist. The car is still there, Percy Jackson sealed safely away within it. He opens the driver's door and starts the engine, and they drive back into the city, to a park.
As they sit down on a park bench, side by side, Luke lifts the two cupcakes out of the box, the last two that the bakery had kept in stock, fumbles around for the flimsy birthday candles, and the two-pronged forks and napkins. They spend ten minutes trying to figure out how to light the candles with the provided matches before he gives up with a snort and Percy comforts him by snapping the candles in half and then throwing them on the ground.
He grabs a two-pronged fork and pokes Percy in the nose with it. Percy steals the fork from his hand with a smirk and both of them dig in.
Halfway into his cupcake, Percy frowns. "The cake tastes...odd," he mutters. "It's bitter."
He doesn't stop, continues chewing the fake Maraschino cherry. "There's brandy in it. It's liquor cake. Of course it'd be bitter."
Percy scratches his nose, then looks at the taxi driver with a newfound curiosity; watches as Luke finishes off his cupcake without another word of defense. "There's liquor in it. You drive a taxi for a living. How are you going to work with alcohol in your system now?"
The world spins, slips on its track. The candy box from the cabinet falls into the child's lap.
He only shrugs. "You said you wanted to go to the end of the world. I'll take you there. Now get in the car."
~and that's a wrap.
A/N: Slippery world, indeed. OMG EDITS PLZ.