Title: Loose Change
Author: Jordanna Morgan (librarie@jordanna.net)
Archive Rights: Please request the author’s consent.
Rating/Warnings: G.
Characters: Leo and Zapp.
Setting: General.
Summary: Zapp still can’t resist picking up fallen coins.
Disclaimer: They belong to Yasuhiro Nightow. I’m just playing with them.
Notes: Written for the prompt of “avarice” (and the bonus prompt of map usage) at Fandom Weekly, where it won first place. This came to me completely at random.


Loose Change


At first, Leonardo Watch didn’t hear his name being called. The summons came in a rather low voice, after all, and at the time his attention was focused on the screen of his phone. He had run into a traffic jam on Madison Avenue (something about a couple million insectoid eggs spilling out of a cab at 97th Street; it seems the driver didn’t quite get his very expectant alterworlder fare to Mount Sinai in time), and the alternate route Google Maps suggested had ended ignominiously in a pile of rubble.

Not that it was necessarily Google’s fault. Leo was pretty sure even they couldn’t keep up with the regular destruction and rebuilding of roads in Hellsalem’s Lot since the Great Collapse.

“Hey! Leo! Is a crappy sense of hearing some kind of reverse compensation for your super-eyesight, or something?”

That one he heard. Leo gritted his teeth at the insult hurled from the vicinity of his moped, parked near a bent streetlamp several paces away.

He’d gotten lucky for once, and been on his way back from a delivery with an empty pizza bag, when Zapp Renfro fell out of the sky and onto the back of the moped like a ninja. …How Leo had managed not to immediately crash in his surprise was a mystery to him. Anyway, undeterred by the absence of a Stuffed Crust Supreme to pilfer, his watchdog-cum-stalker was content to hang on for the ride.

Leo was kind of over asking why, and Zapp, as usual, didn’t volunteer anything; so they hadn’t talked. At least, not until that moment, when Zapp interrupted his search for yet another detour around the remains of one of Hellsalem’s daily catastrophes.

“What is it?” Leo muttered, still fussing with his phone, as he rose from the chunk of demolished building he had been sitting on in what used to be the middle of the street.

When there was no immediate answer, he stifled a grumble, shoved the phone into his pocket, and moved back toward Zapp. As he circled the moped, he saw the older man squatting on the sidewalk, staring down into a sewer grate. There was a look of intent focus on his face, the tip of his tongue caught between bared teeth.

As Leo watched, Zapp stretched out his arm and shot a fine, steel-hard thread of his blood down through the grating. It flailed for a second as if searching about for something, and then retracted, as its owner released a frustrated hiss.

“…Okay, seriously,” said Leo, shaking his head with a grimace. “What kind of germs are you exposing yourself to by fishing around in a sewer with your blood?”

“Enhanced immune system. Not a problem…” Zapp sent out another crimson whipcord, with the same result.

“What are you doing?”

“Trying to reach that quarter down there.”

Leo could have facepalmed. He had seen Zapp use his abilities to snag coins off the street before, but going to this much effort for twenty-five cents seemed like overkill. Even for Zapp, who really didn’t know much about moderation… or rationality, for that matter.

“Are you actually that greedy?” he marveled, as Zapp made yet another attempt.

Hey. A penny saved, yada yada…”

For a moment, Leo considered that Zapp might simply have some kind of obsessive, magpie-like attraction to small shiny objects.

“I just barely keep missing it. It’s dark down there. I can’t get at a good angle to see it.” Zapp glanced up at Leo, with a calculation the younger man sincerely did not like. “…So how about doing me a favor? If you’ll just take over my eyes for a sec, and help me aim—”

The hapless possessor of All-Seeing Eyes looked back at him, stone-faced.

“I am not using my vision to help you pick nasty loose change out of a sewer, Zapp.”

“Aw, come on!”

“No way! This is ridiculous. Haven’t you got anything better to do?”

The answer, evidently, was no. Zapp huffed in offense and dismissed Leo from his awareness, turning back to his solo efforts.

So stupid.

…Somehow, though, Leo couldn’t not watch. He took a step closer and twisted his head to one side, to peer down into the grate as Zapp again missed his mark. Even through closed eyelids, his supernatural eyes saw every movement of his companion’s blood strand, flicking about like scarlet lightning with a speed no normal eyes could follow. He also saw the duller silver glint of the quarter Zapp was fixated on. The red tendril missed it repeatedly, sometimes by scarcely an inch.

Out of grudging curiosity, Leo opened one unearthly blue eye to look deeper… and at just that moment, he saw something else.

The lunge of a blacker shape in the shadows. Scales and rows of teeth and—


Leo reached out. He barely failed to catch Zapp’s sleeve before the other was violently pulled downward, as something seized onto his strand of solidified blood and jerked it like a fishing line.

Zapp met the grate face-first, with a prodigious clang. The whatever-it-was yanked again, slamming him down onto the metal three more times before the blood strand mercifully released; either due to it simply breaking, or because Zapp managed to sever it.

In hindsight, Leo realized they probably should have remembered that the Great Collapse brought a whole new meaning to the old joke about alligators in the sewers.

Very slowly, Zapp pushed himself onto his knees. He raised his head even more slowly. When he glowered up at Leo—as if it was his fault—the imprint of the grate was emblazoned in colorful purples and reds across the entire right side of his face. To Leo’s sight, the bruising glowed in a way that was… actually sort of pretty.

“…Not one word about this at the office,” Zapp hissed.

Leo was barely able to turn away and cover his mouth before he choked on his laughter.

© 2016 Jordanna Morgan