Hey gang. For those that read the last chap in the first 24hrs of posting, I changed the ending. You can re-read starting when they stop for the hitchhikers at "But you didn't know Mana." If you don't want to, just know that the clowns ended up making off with all their stuff (except Mugen) and Kanda's car has a dent in the back. So sorry folks.
Thank you for those who reviewed and favorited/followed! FYI, this chap is going to be a bit heavier - Apologies. Fun resumes next chap.
Elogane – thank you for the suggestion! Will definitely keep an ETA in future updates but might change how I present them.
SheuOgama – I actually haven't seen Vacation, so it could be XD. Got it from the original Lampoon's Vacation I saw years ago. Is the new one good? If so, I will definitely give it a try.
Only Walk Pets in Designated Areas
Allen glanced at the Japanese driver, his jaw and bangs illuminated by the dashboard lighting. His face barely moved, midnight eyes pinned to the roadway like he could simply will their stuff back into existence. That, or he was imagining the various ways he'd kill Allen in his sleep. Both equally likely, given the samurai's rage.
Allen had planned on apologizing. But, when Kanda had seen the dent in the back bumper…
Let's just say the pale, scarred adult would be paying for more than gas money on the trip.
By the time they got to Petersburg, Virginia that night, it was almost eleven o'clock. Despite Kanda's break-neck driving and minimal traffic, it had taken them almost five hours to get there.
They were some of the most miserable five hours of Allen's life.
Between nearly dying right there on the roadside, suffering through the phone calls to the bank (stolen credit cards having to be canceled and all that), and the hour-long interrogation from the police after the robbery, and then finding an alternative route to avoid Washington, D.C. traffic, Allen was exhausted.
At some point, he'd gotten so tired and irritable that Kanda's death-glares had quit bothering him. The two had moved from fighting about the police to snapping about directions to absolute silence.
Sure, the robbery and subsequent dent in the car were technically his fault. After all, it was the white-haired adult who'd insisted they stop.
But how was he supposed to know the stranded clowns were actually highway robbers? Or that Timcanpy and one of said robbers would get locked in Kanda's sedan? And that said sedan would end up crashing into a tree? Because arguably the trunk could still close – nothing a little rope and bungee cord wouldn't fix.
Besides, all their stuff was replaceable. Their credit cards had been canceled, and Kanda had a spare driver's license in his glove box. No harm done, really.
Of course, their wedding presents had been some of the things highjacked, and Kanda was now forcing him to pay for everything – the stolen clothes, the dented car, and the gas money… but Allen was doing his best not to think about that right then.
And then there had been Timcanpy, who was somehow to blame for landing his car into a ditch.
Tim was an innocent dog, with sweet brown eyes. Hell, he actually liked Kanda, for some strange reason. How was he to blame?
For Allen, the exhaustion, hunger, and overall irritation made blaming his dog the final straw. Plunging the car into an endless silence, sans music or any book-on-tape, nothing but Timcanpy's panting and the road beneath the tires to fill the car.
Darkness had fallen hours ago, only the reflectors on the road and the occasional driver's headlights illuminating the tree-shrouded landscape. They were coming upon Petersburg, Virginia. Allen could admit – if silently – that he was glad Kanda had already made a reservation in a hotel. He was too tired and hungry to hunt around for a place to stay.
The darkness and silence was interrupted as the pulled into Petersburg, exiting the interstate and onto the old streets. The lamps overhead and neon signs should have made it easier to see, but instead, Allen found his eyes almost blinded by the sudden brightness. Kanda, thankfully, didn't have a problem navigating the luminous light to find their hotel.
Their sedan pulled under the parking eave outside a Best Western, lights from the lobby to their right and the recess lighting above trickling into the dark car. Tim, seeing them stop, sat up in the back seat, alert for any bathroom breaks or food offerings, as was customary for their stops in the past.
Kanda unbuckled his seat to head inside the hotel, but Allen stopped him with, "Just stay here. What's the name?"
"It's under mine," He snapped.
Allen, grabbing his canvas jacket, hopped out of the car and into the cool, humid air of Virginia.
Best to keep Kanda away from populated areas. Didn't need him pissing anyone else off.
The receptionist was a petite woman with brunette hair and a crooked smile, teeth not having had any orthodontics when she was little.
"Hello, sir," She greeted, dark eyes meeting his. "Checking in?"
"Yes," Allen smiled automatically, ingrained expression masking some of his exhaustion. "Kanda Yuu."
"Yes… one room, two beds, right? That's 83.95."
The young adult smiled in agreement, automatically reaching into his baggy pockets for his wallet.
Only to remember he'd been robbed five hours ago. Cash included.
No, no, there was no need to panic. Because… well, if they couldn't get a room, the alternative meant sleeping in the car with Kanda. And Timcanpy. Which was not only out of the question, it would take an army of zombies and an apocalypse to make it happen.
Grinning sheepishly at the girl, Allen tucked some escaping ivory strands behind his ear before saying, "My friend promised to pay for the room, but he didn't give me the cash for it. Can he call and give you a credit card?"
"Um, I think so," She answered, looking at her screen. Allen's smile, as always, had a pleasant effect on people, making them more willing to help him whether they wanted to or not. "Do you need the hotel's number?"
"Sure, that'd be great," Allen agreed, finding his own cellphone and dialing a number he'd memorized in high school.
While the woman wrote the hotel phone number down, Allen listened to the customary two rings before a familiar cheery voice sounded over the line.
"If it isn't the Bean Sprout! How's the trip comin'?" Lavi asked, far too much cheer in his voice for such a 'trip'.
Which had to mean…
"Lenalee told you, didn't she."
Why did he even have to ask? They were engaged, for Pete's sake. Lavi knew her bra size, when she'd gotten scared by a deer as a child, and definitely that Kanda and Allen were driving down to Florida. In one car. Together.
"What's with that tone? Take it the trip isn't going as planned?" Lavi continued, tone still too cheery.
"I need your help," Allen said, trying to change the subject, already done with anything to do with Kanda at that point. "We're at a hotel but I don't have my credit card. Can you give them yours? I'll pay you back when we get there."
"Eh, no problem, little buddy! Just, uh, what happened?"
Ah. To lie, or not to lie?
It took him less than a second to decide. No reason to give Lavi any more fuel than he already had.
"We were robbed. By five guys. Beefy guys, taller than Kanda by, like, a foot. It was nasty, man. We barely made it out alive."
Did he feel guilty for lying? Yes. Did he want to keep Lavi off his back? Also a yes.
"Whoa, seriously? Jeez, Allen, that sounds awful. Hey, no prob, man, I'll give them my card. What's the hotel?"
The white-haired adult rattled off the information. "I'll give them a call. Lena wants to talk with you, so we're going to trade phones. Oh, but dude, if you guys get too bored on the ride," Allen rolled his eyes, "Just remember Yuu hasn't gotten laid in like five years. All that pent-up energy's got to be good for somethin', know what I mean?"
"I'll keep that in mind," Allen said blandly, trying not to roll his eyes.
Easy for Lavi to say – he was down in the Keys enjoying the sunshine with his fiancé. A lot more conducive to fun times and… whatever Lavi had on his mind than being stuck in a car with the biggest prick on the east coast.
"See ya, Bean Sprout! Give Yuu my love."
A brief shuffling, and Lavi's voice was replaced with Lenalee's. "Hi, Allen!" She greeted, just as the hotel phone rang. "Lavi had you on speakerphone, so I heard about the robbery… that's awful. Are you guys alright? Is Tim doing Ok?"
Finally. Someone who actually cared for his plight. "Yeah, we're great, Lenalee." Or doing better, anyway. "Kanda's still a little mad about our missing stuff, but we'll stop at the bank tomorrow for some cash. Everything should straighten itself out soon."
Allen's bank account probably wouldn't, but he'd already agreed to pay to replace their stuff, and Kanda wouldn't let him back out. Not while the fate of arriving at the wedding was still in his hands.
"How's the wedding planning coming?" Allen asked instead, needing something to distract from his growing hunger.
"Um, Ok," Lenalee said hesitantly.
"Well, nothing, it's just… Miranda's been really sick the past few days, and she's not sure she can be my Bridesmaid for the wedding."
"Oh wow, that's terrible. Is she going to be alright?"
"Yeah, she's fine, just pregnancy sickness. Marie's watching her like a hawk. Well, you know what I mean," she amended, referring to Marie's blindness.
"What's going to happen now? Are you saying you don't have a bridesmaid?"
"Maybe not," the Chinese woman answered hesitantly. "It depends on if she gets better by Saturday. We don't want to put any more stress on her system and I really don't want her doing anything if she's already unwell."
"Do you have anyone that can replace her?"
"We're deciding that now," Lenalee answered, voice growing even more weary. "I'm thinking of just cancelling the bachelorette party at this point."
"Don't do that! Your friends from college are coming, right? You guys need some time."
"That's what I keep telling her," Lavi chimed in, appearing over the phone like the Rabbit Kanda so aptly name him.
"Yeah, everything'll probably sort itself out," Lenalee agreed, despite not sounding entirely confident in her own words. "You guys just worry about yourselves on the road. And maybe consider getting a gun to carry for safety."
Allen thought about pointing out they'd already been robbed, and things probably wouldn't get any more dangerous, but wisely kept his mouth shut. "We'll think about it."
"Oh, make sure Yuu stays out of trouble. Don't need him going down for murder before the bachelor party," Lavi added in that particularly suggestive tone of his.
"You mean the one Komui's planning?" Allen asked, unable to keep the apprehension from his tone.
"Exactly. I need back-up. You know, like my wingmen. Uh, not to get laid, o' course, just to help smuggle in the booze!"
"Uh huh," Lenalee agreed, doubtful.
"Goodnight, guys," Allen cut in, growing hunger pains winning over the need to talk with his friends. "See you soon."
"See you! Stay safe!" With that, Lenalee hung-up, thankfully before Lavi could say anything else disturbing.
After confirming with the hotel desk attendant that the room had been paid for, retrieving the room keys, Allen went back out into the humid air to get Kanda and Tim.
Only… the car was empty. The dog and his (annoying) traveling companion... were gone.
Kanda was still pissed.
It was his car. His goddamned car! The nicest thing he'd bought since graduating college. An accumulation of the money he'd saved (thanks to the scholarship) and the graduation-gift money from Marie and Tiedoll.
He'd been driving it for less than a year and it already had a dent.
This trip was supposed to be about breaking it in. A little time with nothing but his car, his thoughts, and the road.
But, as with everything, the Moyashi had to ruin it. Him and that mangy dog.
Who, despite the towel on the seats and constant attention from his master, still managed to slobber on the leather.
Kanda's dark eyes turned out to the dark road just beyond the hotel, pony-tail swishing against the seat rest. So late at night, everything was quiet. Peaceful and empty. Without the Moyashi's constant presence and the pitch-black night of the drive, it was easier to relax. To fall into a semi-meditative state in an attempt to quit dwelling on his stolen clothes, stolen wallet, and dented car.
Then Timcanpy had to ruin it.
As the dog started whining in the back-seat, Kanda realized it had been a while since the dog had a bathroom break. Not since the Sonic in Harrisburg. The Japanese man didn't know a lot about dogs, but he did know from the drive so far that Allen made sure to stop at least every three hours, sometimes more, for Tim to relieve himself.
Kanda wanted to just let the Moyashi deal with it. But… he also didn't want dog pee on the backseat.
Muttering a curse, the Japanese man scrounged around for the ruby leash. Tim, sensing freedom at hand, jumped up onto all fours in the back, tail wagging, little hairs flittering down in the draft. Chocolate eyes were pinned on Kanda, ready for some fresh air.
Tim practically leapt from the backseat when the door opened. To Kanda's chagrin, the dog did a circle around his legs, forcing the Japanese man to unwind himself before the two continued into the grass around the side of the hotel.
The humid air, fresh with the smell of trees and mulch, filled his nose. Because it was so dark, he didn't know a lot about where they were in Petersburg, but they had to be on the edge of the city. It would explain the older road and forest smells. As well as the quiet – aside from interstate traffic and the crickets in the parking lot, there wasn't anything else.
Tim relieved himself in the grass, Kanda noticing absently the half-filled parking lot and forest opposite the cars.
Timcanpy didn't seem to object to walking some more, but Allen wasn't back yet, and after almost… ten hours stuck in a car, Kanda needed to stretch his legs. He also decided to take the retriever with him since he didn't really trust the shaggy carpet alone in his car anymore after the clown episode.
The two – one cheery, the other scowling – wandered around the small patch of grass before venturing across the parking lot to the small ribbon of grass separating the parked cars from the woods beyond. A lamp overhead illuminated the parking lot and some of the woods beyond, even though the ivy made it hard to see much more than the occasional flash of tree-bark and ground.
The Japanese man spent a few minutes walking before he realized Tim had quit following along.
The dog was stopped maybe two feet behind him, head lowered, a small whine escaping from his throat. His hairy tail was, for once, no longer wagging, practically touching the grass, body still.
"Come on," Kanda snapped, not really having the patience for Tim's mood-swings. Between Allen, the car, the clowns, and the drive… the day had totally sucked. Lip from a mangy, shedding animal was just icing on the veritable cake-day of shit.
"Tim," Kanda growled, meeting the dog's brown eyes.
The retriever just whined, pulling back on the short stretch of leash.
Goddammit. "You damned mutt," Kanda cursed, stepping towards the dog, grabbing it by the collar. Trying to get Tim to move.
It was over their mini-struggle in the grass that Kanda heard a faint rattling noise.
It sounded like those rattles found in mariachi bands. Similar to a slot machine when someone won and coins tumbled down to the till in the bottom.
Only this sound was finer-pitched, and smaller, like a collection of beads tossed around in a chemistry vial.
Kanda felt himself tense up, knowing instinctively that it belonged to a threat. Trying not to move much, hand still around Tim's collar, his sapphire eyes shifted towards the left. Towards the woods, and the source of the small sound.
It took him a second to spo the dark reptile coiled in the grass, in part thanks to his tired, road-weary eyes. So good at camouflage that it's black scales and coiled body looked like nothing more than a piece of thick, dark rope in the dead leaves.
A rattlesnake. Still rattling as it tried to get its threats to leave.
Kanda stepped back, trying to do just that, when the snake poised to strike.
The triangular head snapped out, like a turtle moving from its shell. Too fast for Kanda to move and avoid it.
Timcanpy reacted faster.
The golden retriever lunged on the snake, vicious snarl emerging from its throat as it barked, trying to terrorize the reptile with its size.
All it did was give the snake a better target.
"Stop it, Tim!" Kanda shouted, jerking the barking dog away from the snake. Tim, still snarling, followed the leash-pull back, the two falling into a space between parked cars and away from the snake.
The Japanese man didn't stop pulling the dog away until he and Tim were in the middle of the parking lot, the area open and lit enough that Kanda could be sure there weren't any other venomous reptiles within striking distance.
Tim had calmed down, at least, but… he wasn't putting any weight on his front leg. And it looked like it was bleeding.
The dog whimpered as Kanda crouched down beside the retriever, hand grabbing its fluffy leg for examination.
He only had to part some of the long, sandy hair to see what the problem was.
"Tim! Is everything alright? I heard him barking."
Allen, sneakers pounding on the pavement, stopped at their side, concerned grey eyes assessing the dog and Kanda alike. They stopped on Tim's exposed leg, widening in surprise. "Is that…"
"We need an animal hospital," Kanda answered in his deep voice, finally letting Tim's leg go. The dog was still whining, shaking his injured leg as if to dislodge the pain.
"What happened?" Allen asked, pulling out his phone to do the search, eyes still glancing at his dog.
"A rattlesnake," Kanda explained. Allen glared at his phone, illuminated by the white phone screen. "They should have an antivenom at the hospital."
"Yeah," the white-haired agreed, grey eyes snapping over the screen. Then, calling a number, placed the phone to his ear. "I have a dog with a rattlesnake bite. Can we bring him in for treatment?" Allen asked, tone unusually direct and pointed. "Great. See you in fifteen." Then, turning back to Kanda, reached for his golden retriever. "Help me get him into the car, will you?"
Kanda didn't have to be told twice.
Tim, despite the obvious pain in his leg, was able to make it to the car fine. Allen started rattling off directions for the hospital as Kanda pulled back onto the main road. The Brit's voice was overlaid by Tim's whimpering in the back, painful noises driving Kanda's anxiety up even more. Allen, who had to be feeling even worse, managed to keep his voice level, tone direct as he gave precise directions.
"Turn here," He continued. "It's on the right. 24 hour hospital over the top of the door."
Kanda found it, pulling into an open parking spot right upfront by the sliding doors.
When they opened the passenger door, they found Tim on his side, panting hard. Kanda didn't want to struggle with the pained dog, instead lifting Tim up in his arms. Which was surprisingly easy, all that fur making him look heavier than he was.
Allen was already inside, getting the issue squared away with the receptionist. Dressed in scrubs like a nurse, she said something about the phone call and a quiet night giving them time to prepare. Within minutes, she was carting the dog back to a room where the antivenom was already waiting.
Allen's grey eyes, lined with worry, followed the dog's figure until Timcanpy disappeared. His attention returned to the receptionist when she said something about filling out some forms on the dog's medical history. Almost automatically Allen took them, finding a place in one of the plastic chairs by the front door to do so. Kanda, tired of sitting, leaned against the wall beside the chair.
"Text Lavi, will you?" Allen muttered, eyes trained on the clipboard. "I need his credit-card number."
"He's in bed by now."
"I talked to him already. He and Lenalee are still awake," he answered, tone bland.
Kanda grudgingly did as requested, and to his surprise, Lenalee texted the information back with a quick question making sure everyone was Ok. Sending a simple, all fine now. Explain later, he read off the card information to Moyashi and returned the phone to his pocket.
After maybe ten minutes of filling out forms, Allen finally turned the papers back over to the front desk, managing his clown-mask smile. Back in his seat, hunched over his knees with his hands clasped between them, they waited.
The only time Kanda had ever seen Allen that worried was during Lenalee's rollerblading accident senior year when the girl had been hospitalized for a broken arm. Usually, Allen could at least muster up the strength for a straight posture and pleasant attitude. Now, he was barely managing to look at anyone.
"What happened?" the Brit finally asked, tone sharp as his accusatory eyes met Kanda's. His jaw was clenched, looking unusually… angry.
"Tim wanted a walk. We wandered over to the forest. The snake was lying just in the trees."
Allen shook his head, glare meeting Kanda's. "Really, Bakanda? You were mad enough at Tim to let him get bitten by a snake? What the hell is wrong with you?!" He jumped from the chair as if his sudden rage were too much to contain sitting down.
"I didn't let him do anything," Kanda grit out, holding the other's angry look. "He jumped in front of the snake. Not my damned fault."
"You should know better than to let the dog wander aimlessly in the forest at night! What the hell?" Allen kept glaring, but finally shook his head, looking away. "Whatever. I'm done reasoning with you."
"Even I'm not low enough to get some dog bitten by a snake," Kanda growled, trying to hold his temper. "It tried to lunge at me, but Tim got in the way. Be mad at your chivalrous mutt."
Allen's eyes narrowed, a little disbelieving. "…He jumped in front of the snake?"
"Yes," Kanda grit out, tired of talking about it.
Allen finally calmed down a bit, expression going from enraged to just… resigned. Running his hands through his tied-up hair, he muttered, "I'm surprised he got close at all."
"Why?" Kanda found himself asking.
"I used to do some hiking in college. Tim started coming with me, so I got him snake-proofed."
"Snake-proofed," Kanda said blandly.
Allen rolled his eyes. "It's a real thing. You put the dog around a rattlesnake and squirt them with water when they get too close. Then when the dog smells the snake outdoors, it knows to stay away."
"…you put Tim in a pit with live snakes and let people squirt him in the eyes?"
Moyashi winced. "When you put it like that it sounds kind of bad, but… he's saved me a few times before. I guess he didn't this time because it was so long ago."
Kanda internally agreed until he remembered Tim's strange behavior before the snake lunged. How the dog had stopped for no reason in the grass and started pulling on the leash, wanting to go back to the car.
Not only had the dog taken a snake-bite for him, it'd also tried to warn him.
"What?" Allen asked, apparently seeing something in Kanda's expression.
Shaking his head, the Japanese man muttered, "Your dog knew."
The white-haired adult smiled fondly. Not the over-sweet ones he gave everyone else, but the smiles he reserved for the special things in his life. Like his dog. "He did? That's good."
And, for the first time on their trip, the conversation ended without enraged voices and bruised egos.
A few minutes later, the door separating the veterinary space from the office swung open, veterinarian stepping out into the linoleum waiting area.
"You're here for Tim?" The middle-aged woman asked, pencil stuck in the back of her messy bun.
"Yeah. Is he Ok?"
"Fine. He'll be fine. We just gave him a little something for the pain until the treatment kicks in. He'll be good-as-new by morning."
"Perfect! Thank you so much."
"Of course," She smiled tiredly. "He's a sweet dog. If you've taken care of the bill, you can go home now."
As if on cue, Timcanpy walked in from the back of the animal hospital. He looked… more subdued than usual – his tail was still wagging, but the chocolate eyes were a little softer, gait a little slower. Something that, Kanda soon learned, was due to the pain medication and not any lingering effects from the snake bite. There was a bandage wrapped around the dog's leg, his limp all-but-gone. Tim's attitude brightened some at the sight of Allen, perfectly happy to see his master now that it meant getting away from scary needles.
After more 'thank-you's' on Allen's part, the three of them finally returned to the dark sedan.
Despite the fact it was after twelve at night, he'd been on the road nine hours, had been with the police for one, been robbed, and had to put up with Allen and the dog for most of that time, Kanda felt less pissed-off than he had early. Probably some of the exhaustion setting in, he reasoned.
When they got back to the hotel, the white-haired adult charged some snacks to their room (AKA Lavi's card), the trio feasting on Doritos and Chips Ahoy for dinner. A silent dinner filled with less hostility than had filled the silence on the ride down.
When Allen had gone into the bathroom to freshen up with whatever they could buy at the front desk, Kanda was left alone with the golden retriever.
Timcanpy, thanks to the pain meds, was so out of it he was close to tipping over. Still, the promise of Doritos had him sitting on his haunches, chocolate eyes watching Kanda with a small amount of anticipation.
The Japanese adult had never been good at words. Which was why he had a cat, since they didn't require much nurturing.
Still, he found himself looking into Tim's dark eyes with a, "Thank you."
The dog rested his golden muzzle on Kanda's knee, chocolate orbs flicking from his eyes, to the Doritos bag, and back again. Moving like the second-hand of a clock stuck on repeat.
"Just this once," Kanda grunted, handing a few orange triangles to the dog.
Tim crunched them down in one bite, barely pausing to chew before they were gone. Just in time, as a few moments later, Allen emerged from the bathroom. Timcanpy – either sensing that exchange had been a secret or knowing he could pawn more food off of his master – drifted over to Allen with a listed gait, begging eyes trained on the white-haired man's bag of chips.
And much like Tim had predicted, Allen split the food 30-70.
Florida Keys: 14 hours
Sorry all, prev ETA was wrong – Harrisburg is 17hrs away, and now the gang is 14hrs from FL (took a little longer than three hours because Kanda took a side road to bypass D.C. and Richmond).
Also apologies for the seriousness… believe me, there are (hopefully) hilarious shenanigans to follow.
P.S. I know there's no Best Western in Petersburg. Just humor me.