Authors: L Zimmerman
“Hey. Hey--look at me,” Clayton said softly, and wow, his hand was on Grant's chin. This would have been awesome in any other context except Grant was having trouble processing what had just happened. It was like his memories were on a repetitive loop of the past three minutes.
Look. At. Me,” this time, Clayton’s voice was firmer, something unreadable in the edge of how he spoke.Grant hadn’t stopped staring at the door. He flicked his eyes to lock with Clayton’s, startled to see that he looked genuinely concerned.
“Grant, did he hurt you?”
Grant's brain hadn’t seemed to actually come back online until Clayton was looked like he was close to grabbing Grant's head and shaking him like a rag doll. The computer gave a loud honk as a call came in, the sound shooting straight through Grant and jerking him out of the shock he’d settled into. Everything hit him with a startling clarity, and Grant tensed up as a hysterical rage welled up inside of him.
” he shrieked, shaking his head and sucking in a breath of air. “I mean, YEAH. A little! But
Ohmygod. What--what a fucking DICK! Seriously,” Grant's body started trembling, his lungs constricting as he started to gesture wildly, “did--did you SEE that shit? Wha--he fucking HIT Elliot! I’m… I’m so
. I’m so mad I--I can’t stop
Grant brought his hands up, shoving them in Clayton’s face to show him the way they couldn’t stop trembling.
Clayton released a soft sigh, reaching out and taking Grant's hands for a second. “You’re fine, Grant,” he set Grant's hands back into his lap, palm coming up and squeezing his arm before running down it in a soothing pet. “Just sit tight, I need to check on Elliot, okay?”
“Yeah…” Grant replied faintly, slumping just the tiniest bit. He’d had his fair share of assholes, of people getting their kicks out of knocking him around, but he’d never seen so much hatred in a man’s eyes before. It was more terrifying than being on the internet at stupid in the morning and coming across that traumatizing flashing gif of the crazy inverted ghost chick with the screaming background noise.
Grant pressed his hands together, rubbing them to try and coax the trembling to a minimum. He could hear Clayton talking to Elliot in that same calming voice. The phone was ringing, but Grant legitimately did not feel like answering it to talk to any one about any thing.
“I’m fine,” Elliot said shakily, “I’m fine. I’m… I’m sorry about my dad--I’m really sorry.”
Glancing up, Grant watched Clayton sigh and stand, carding a hand through his hair. “Neither of you two are fine. I’m calling the manager, and then I’m calling the police. Your dad’s stupidity just got himself arrested.” Clayton’s voice was a low, frustrated growl, which only turned into a snarl and curse when he glanced out the window to see Mike peeling out of the garage in his car, tow truck left abandoned on the lot.
Absently, Grant watched the car disappear down the road. Seriously? Grant's dad was a cop, did the guy honestly think he was going to get away with this?
“Clayton, you can’t--” Elliot cried softly.
Grant watched Clayton turn to Elliot, face clouding over in anger. “It isn’t up to you, Elliot. Did you miss the part where your dad was trying to strangle Grant? I don’t give a rat’s ass about that son of a bitch; he’d have attacked
if he had the chance,” Clayton looked over at Grant, which really made Grant wish that he wasn’t still sitting on the floor like some sort of helpless damsel, because he suddenly had a pair of strong, warm hands cupping his elbows and helping him to his feet.
Lightheaded, Grant took a second to gather himself, and pushed past Clayton to circle the office. He was still way too freaked out to deal with customers, or insurance companies, or truck drivers. Actually, he didn‘t feel like dealing with anything.
He flapped his arms up and down for a second, trying to work out the excess adrenaline built up inside of him--it was something he did sometimes after panic attacks, too--and then brushed by Clayton to go to his desk. Elliot was hovering in the corner of the room, face swollen and looking miserable.
Grant righted his chair, sat down, exhaled slowly, and then grabbed the mouse to dispatch the call that had come in. He could feel the other two watching him, and yeah--he should say something….
Right now, though, he didn’t feel like initiating some deep, emotional conversation about what had just occurred. Clayton approached the desk, eyes on Grant for a second before he grabbed the phone and turned it to face himself.
He called the owner, first, who was a man Grant had only met a small handful of times. The guy was a hermit who lived in his giant mobile home behind the office and only came out randomly to scare the shit out of Grant by suddenly appearing from the back office to grab the newspaper. Grant tuned out of the conversation, dispatching the call and then paging Billy on the radio to send him on the run.
Clayton called the manager next, a grouchy man named Robert Tucker, retelling the story and then hanging up to call the police. Elliot was pressed up against the wall, sniffing and shaking and trying to keep himself together. Grant kind of wanted to hug the guy, he looked like his entire world had just ended, but he really didn’t know if it was a good idea to get all touchy-feely right now.
When Clayton hung up, he sighed through his nose and took a second to gather his thoughts. “The cops are out looking for your dad. John says you can go home, but I think it’s best if you went somewhere else. Do you have any friends you could stay with?”
“No,” Elliot choked, shaking his head, “not really.”
Another sigh left Clayton, mind wracking for ideas. Grant was on the verge of offering for Elliot to stay at his house when Clayton spoke first.
“You can crash with me until the cops find your dad," he said it so easily that Grant couldn’t help but jerk his head up to stare at him, even though Clayton was busy watching Elliot for his response. He was so open with Elliot, so friendly that it made Grant worry that all the time he missed--the time Elliot spent hanging out with Clayton in the garage--meant that he really had no chance at all against someone else. Elliot was quiet, like Clayton, but kind and softspoken. He mumbled a lot, took a while on tire changes and things like that, but Grant could see how it would be endearing.
Much more endearing than someone who talked too much and didn’t know when to stop.
“Okay,” Elliot said quietly, digging the heel of his palm into his eye and rubbing. “Okay…”
“Go ahead and get in your truck, I’ll be out in a minute.”
Elliot shuffled out of the room, leaving Clayton alone with Grant.
“I want to go after him,” Clayton announced the instant the door was shut. Grant glanced up from his paperwork, eyebrows rising. “I want him to get more than just an assault charge. He’s fucked that kid up, and he nee-”
“I know,” Grant interrupted quietly, clicking his pen a few times, “I do too. We can all testify, dude. Every one of us has seen him hit Elliot. My dad is a cop, anyway, so y’know, I’m pretty sure I might be able to get Mike thrown in jail for a while.”
For a long moment, Clayton just stared at Grant, as if he was observing some new species of animal. Grant felt nervous and jittery under his scrutiny, and he had to break eye contact to shrug and look away.
“I‘ll hold you to that,” Clayton said. Grant gave him a crooked grin, saluting with two fingers.
“Scout‘s honor,” he said seriously, tapping his fingers to his forehead.
Snorting, Clayton back to the door and snorted, “you? In boy scouts? Bullshit,” he scoffed, shaking his head and muttering under his breath before heading out the door.
Grant stared down at his paperwork, counting the number of runs and deciding it would be better to wait until the other drivers were needed before calling them. It lowered the risk of people verbally abusing him over the phone.
Fuck. They were down three drivers for the next hour or so, and after that, they’d still be down two. Grant only had Billy until Clayton got back. He reached for the phone to try and call Jeff--just to be on the safe side--when the phone rang.
Grant answered it quickly, stiffening at the sound of their manager on the other line.
“Geo-notty! I watched the damn tape. You mind telling’ me what the hell you were thinking, talking back like that?” The sound of smacking gum was loud through the ear piece, and Grant winced internally.
“Uh, sir, I was very upset. Slandering anyone is against company policy.”
“Huh…” A longer silence, more gum being chewed, and then a snort. “Guy was a shitheel anyway; knew I hired you for a reason, Geo. Keep up the good work--don’t give Clayton any reward sex in the office. Keep that shit in the bedroom.”
Grant literally choked on air, stammering uselessly for a second. “I--w h a t.”
“I’ve seen the tapes, Geo. I swear, the sexual tension between you? I’d need a chainsaw to cut through that shit. Now get back to work.”
The line went dead and Grant temporarily wondered how many times a person could go into shock in one day before their brain finally gave up and vegetated itself. He set the phone back in the cradle, absently writing down the time on the dispatch sheet when Billy informed him that he was done with his current run.
He brought up the unlock that was across town, paging Billy back to give it to him. He waited half a second, and then paged again to let him know that Mike and Elliot weren’t going to be working for the rest of the day, and that Clayton was going to be indisposed for the next hour.
With the police on the lookout for Mike, and Clayton getting Elliot settled into his house or apartment or wherever he lived, Grant started to work on autopilot. The second they got a run that Grant knew Billy would never get to in time, he called Jeff up. Halfway through the second ring, another line started to call and he hung up on Jeff to answer.
“John's Towing,” Grant muttered, rubbing a palm down his face and preparing to deal with some sort of angry customer.
“Hungry?” Clayton grunted over the other line.
“Huh?” Grant sat up.
“You heard me, Superman. I asked if you were hungry.”
Startled, and mildly pleased, Grant tripped over his words. “Yeah, kinda. I haven’t eaten today--I was gonna get something from the vend--”
“What do you want?” Clayton didn’t even sound irritated at Grant. Actually, he sounded pretty calm, which was probably more of a shock to Grant than if he were being tased in the nipple or something.
“…. Chinese? Burgers work, too.” Truthfully, Grant was pretty much game for any type of food because hello, food. Food was amazing. Clayton huffed, the sound of a turn signal clicking in the background.
That was probably the best question anyone had ever asked him. “Tacos, or fish. Or anything containing onions.”
"Thanks, oh, and I'm totally Batman, not Superman." Grant smiled to himself, pleased at the half-chuckle from Clayton.
"If it helps you sleep at night," Clayton teased, hanging up before Grant could come up with a retort. Sitting back in his seat, Grant had to stop himself from grinning. What if Clayton was actually trying to seduce Grant through his stomach? It was possible, there was even a slogan all about it. Though, any time someone said it to Grant, he instantly thought of people going into cardiac arrest due to clogged arteries from too much McDonalds.
Grant could see himself going into cardiac arrest due to looking at Clayton’s face for too long. There was such thing as death-by-pining, right?
Shaking his head to try and clear his mind, Grant reached for the phone to dial Jared. The conversation was painful, mostly with Grant apologizing and Jared cursing up a storm. He was only mildly shaken by the time he got off the phone, feeling just a tiny bit of relief that--despite being furious--Jared had agreed to work the shift.
Next on the list was to call Jeff again, since he was the first available driver with a wrecker.
Billy and David were the main flatbed drivers on weekends, while Clayton, Mike, Jeff and Brian drove the wreckers. Grant didn’t really know Brian very well, he was an older man that was on parole and avoided the office like the plague because Grant was a cop’s son. Grant didn’t mind, the guy creeped him out. The only downside was that he made Grant's life harder because Grant couldn’t dispatch him to schools or parks, or generally anywhere that held an abundance of children.
The conversation went exactly how Grant anticipated--with a lot of cursing, being hung up on twice, and some passive aggressive threatening of losing one’s job. They were already running low on time left for the run by the time Grant finally got someone to come in. He had to thank the higher powers that David had a calm enough temperament not to really mind coming in to work on his day off.
Grant hung up the phone, slumping across the desk and smacking his forehead into the wood. He took a second to breathe, reminding himself that Clayton was on the way with food, and that he would eat and feel a hundred times better afterwards.
Of course, they had to get slammed with runs the second that Grant had finally relaxed for the first time since that morning. Grant could feel his stress and anxiety shooting higher than a heroine addict when he had to start calling insurance companies back and placating customers who had been waiting too long.