They drove North.
The drove quickly out of the immediate reach of Boom – the Ranch; the shantytown that had built up around it and, slowly but efficiently, turned into a small city; the two the Ranch had originally been built near.
It got bigger every time Pellinore visited; when he’d first come by, soon after the end of the world, it had looked like nothing more than a sad collection of terrified refugees, and Boom trying to hold them all together. Now it could be a nation-state, if Boom had interest in ruling anything at all.
In Boom’s immediate reach, the roads were smooth and likely in better repair than they had been before the Gods War. Pellinore knew the minute they passed out of the territory, because the highway became one solid pothole from shoulder to shoulder.
“Can the van…” He shut up halfway through the sentence. For one, it risked him biting his tongue off. For another, it was Cynara’s van. It could handle potholes.
“Yes.” She answered anyway. She had a habit of doing that.
“Good.” He braced himself a little better in his seat.
He couldn’t help glancing back at his son. His son, and a complete stranger to him.
John-Wayne shrugged back at him, as if saying she does that. Like the only thing they had in common was Cynara.
Well, it kind of was. Pellinore looked back at the road…
“Watch out!” That wasn’t a pothole. That was a hole that could swallow a small country, and definitely could eat a large van.
He’d no sooner shouted those words than he remembered he had better words to use, and that he could use them with impunity. He didn’t wear her damn collar any more. “Tempero Unutu, Meentik Eperu, Meentik Unutu δρόμος, δρόμος, δρόμος.” He spat the Words out, controlling the surface of the road down into something smooth and safe, pushing earth under it to hold it up, and then making more road. “Tempero Unutu δρόμος.” More road. Please, more road. “Jasfe Unutu δρόμος.”
He lay back in his chair, panting, as the road knit itself back together under the still-moving-forward tires of Cynara’s van.
“Thanks.” For a moment, he missed the warm rush that the praise would have given him, back when he was hers.
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