Author's Notes: Thanks to Genie for helping with the beta and for reintroducing me to the treat that is suffering Duncan MacLeod being all self righteous on Highlander. *g*
Oh! In a spot of rarely experienced political correctness I've changed the title to this from what it was originally and have *borrowed* the new title from an episode of 'Once A Thief'.
Not knowing a thing about 'Once A Thief' will not matter a damn. About the only thing you might need to know is that Victor Mansfield is played by Nicholas Lea... Who also plays Krycek... *drool*
This is loosely set around the time of Season Two Buffy. Angel is still Angel and Spike and Dru are still attempting to be up to no good.
The opinions expressed by the narrator -- Chris -- are one hundred percent that of the author. *g* Be warned if you are quite fond of either Xander or Duncan because, well, *whispers* I'm not... Sarcasm abounds in other words. It's meant to be funny. Nothing more.
Written for Halloween because... God forbid... Halloween marks the second anniversary of the first ever NP story I posted. Eeeeek! *Two* years. Unbelievable. *shakes head* Really, *really* unbelievable. Thank you to everyone who has ever sent me feedback or who has encouraged me. I wouldn't be writing without you! *hugs*
"I hate to break this to you Sam, seeing as I know how you're of the opinion that you're never wrong, but, well, in this case, you just are," I drawl, watching without any real interest as the drab scenery flies past through the windscreen. "Wrong, that is," I add for good measure when Sam doesn't immediately respond.
"So, tell me Chris, at what age did you realise you were fascinated by the sound of your own voice?" Sam retorts, indulging in a spot of barely controlled road rage and overtaking the daggy old station wagon we've been behind for the last half hour or so. I get a real good look at the mortified expression on the face of the driver of the Fed-Ex truck, whose lane we're in, before, just in time, we're back on our side of the road. All I can say is that I hope he has a change of underwear with him. I suspect, after that near miss, that he's going to need it.
If I had any sense of self-preservation I'd make a mental note not to bait my partner while he's driving. But, what the hey. You only live once. Besides, I'm enjoying myself. In the six months that I've known Sam I've never quite managed to get him so worked up. Sure the whole gnashing of teeth, drama queen act in that posh restaurant over the fact that, simply for his culinary gratification he'd reduced Kermit to a wheelchair, came close. I think the only thing that kept Sam's temper under control was the fact that we were in public. Otherwise he may very well have lost it.
Just like he's currently in the process of.
I smile serenely. "No point getting huffy with me Sam. It wasn't me that started the argument."
"It's *not* an argument," Sam seethes, pushing the hire car to well over the speed limit. "It's what is known as a *discussion*." Pausing, he sighs melodramatically before adding, "Or don't you Americans have them?"
"We have discussions!" I reply indignantly. Just because I want to give does not mean however that I want to be on the receiving end.
"About what? The superbowl? Whether there should be a public holiday to celebrate the opening of the first ever McDonald's? Why Bud make better commercials than Coors? Whether Monica Lewinsky actually swallowed or not?" Sam queries sarcastically, his eyes flashing more in amusement than real temper.
"All of which make for more interesting conversation than, tally-ho, pip-pip old chap, wondering whether this year's fox hunt will live up to the one of nineteen hundred and five," I mutter querulously, folding my arms across my chest and slumping further back in my seat. While it may not look like it, this is all nothing but an act. We're bickering simply for no other real reason than we can. Not to mention it's an entertaining way to kill time.
"Oooooohhh... Don't tell me I touched a raw nerve there," Sam replies happily. "Let me guess, it was because I dared mention Budweiser and Coors in the same sentence..."
It's on the tip of my tongue to resort to the good old fall back of 'fuck you', but I somehow manage to control myself. "Give it up Sam," I murmur calmly, "Just admit defeat. However peculiar you might find America, Britain makes it look positively normal."
Sam snorts. "Do you honestly believe half the crap you come up with Chris?" he queries, shaking his head in a way to indicate stunned disbelief.
"It's true," I state adamantly, favouring him with a suitably hard glare. "Compared to Britain, America is the land of the sane. I mean..." I pause, searching for a suitably scathing point to make and coming up reasonably blank. "At least we don't dress up in white and smack a red ball around a field in the middle of summer!"
"No, you don't," Sam agrees tolerantly. "And I suspect that would because you wouldn't have the patience required for cricket. Not enough opportunities for executing rather silly looking backflips, I would imagine. Oh, and let's not forget the lack of poncy shoulder pads as well."
Choosing to ignore that I've been partnered with a heretic, I change tack. "We don't labour under the delusion that a good cup of tea is going to cure everything from a headache to world famine."
"Yet you're responsible for inflicting Dr Pepper on the world at large," Sam muses. "Sorry. Give me a cup of tea any day. Now, seeing as you've raised the subject of food, what's with this disgusting fetish for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? *Please*! Even thinking about it makes my stomach churn."
"So says the man who thinks it's perfectly acceptable to *face*, not to mention actually consume, kippers and baked beans for breakfast!"
"You'd rather a bowl of brightly coloured sugar puff things that, should you manage not to choke on the pathetic little plastic toy the makers feel compelled to place in the box, taste like sugar coated cardboard?"
"You betcha! It's the only way to start the day."
"Suppose that explains a lot," Sam smirks. "Give it up Chris, you're fighting a losing battle."
"Like hell," I sulk, miffed that Sam dare pick on Fruit Loops. I've been eating them for as long as I can remember and they've never done me any harm. "Our weather's better," I mutter petulantly.
"If you like the added bonus of the odd twister or raging bushfire to liven up your outlook on life, then yeah, if you say so."
"It rains too much in Britain!"
"So buy an umbrella."
"Our cars are better!"
Oooops. Oh shit. I blundered straight into that one.
Sam raises an eyebrow. "You think?" he murmurs drily.
"I was referring more to Mustangs and Pontiacs, not..."
"Not this crate on wheels?" Sam interrupts, nodding towards the dash, a scowl on his face.
"No, not the Ford Taurus," I admit reluctantly. "You have me there."
"This is an *ugly* car," Sam complains. "No wonder we keep getting them as hire cars. No one wants to buy them. Oh, and let's not for a moment forget that America is the land of the wood-panelled car, something, I hope you realise, that nowhere in the world has felt inclined to copy."
While I agree with Sam on both points, I'd rather have teeth extracted than fully back him up. "It's no uglier than that Ford Ka... 'Kar'... 'Kah'... however the hell you pronounce it, that's roaming the streets back..."
"Come on Chris, say it."
"Home... You were going to refer to the Ka filled streets of Britain as home," Sam smirks triumphantly.
"Was not!" I mutter defensively. "America's my home and God knows I don't want to change that."
"Whatever," Sam retorts, pausing before idly adding, "Me think he doth protest too much."
"Ah... If in doubt resort back to crass Americanisms... How positively imaginative."
Snorting, I clamp my mouth shut -- surprised at how close I came to shouting 'bollocks', a word that six months ago was not part of my vocabulary -- and revert to staring out the window. This way I don't have to look at Sam and suffer seeing the smug expression of self-perceived victory on his face. He hasn't won. To hell with that. I'm merely taking time out to regroup. That's all.
Give or take a few brief moments here or there to discuss the case, we've been having this debate, Britain versus America, for days now. It started in Atlanta where, not to put a too fine a point on it or anything, Sam lost the plot. And this, I hasten to add, had next to nothing to do with me. It wasn't my fault that a) he had a headache, b) we'd had a bad day and had been bawled out by Malone for losing our target, c) not used to it, he can't hold American beer (also charmingly known as 'cats piss' by my esteemed partner), and d) we were booked into a motel that was playing host to two conventions. Elvis impersonators and Trekkies in the one place. It was as scary as it was fascinating.
Sam, I think, was managing to keep it together until, hung over as hell and already in a dodgy mood, we met for breakfast in the motel's restaurant. Well, to be exact, we, along with all the convention goers met for breakfast. Words can not express what seeing an Elvis impersonator, resplendent in a white, rhinestone studded jumpsuit, with Spock ears can do for one's stomach that early in the morning. Especially seeing as said lunatic felt compelled to leap onto the buffet and regale the patrons, complete with totally appetite quashing hip gyrations, with a decidedly dire version of 'Blue Suede Shoes'. It was excruciating. Worse than that though, the performance managed to locate and firmly push Sam's deeply hidden button.
Talk about launching into a rant of never before imagined proportions. Anyone overhearing him, as he chewed my ear off, could have been forgiven for thinking that America was Satan's own nation and, never in a million years, could anything as dreadful happen in Mother England. I took this diatribe for, oh, all of thirty seconds before I started to give as good as I got. In all honesty it's reached the point where we're only arguing because neither of us want to admit defeat. It's not what you'd exactly call an argument of friendship killing importance. When the time comes I *might* -- no guarantees though -- confess that I don't mind living in London at all and that, yeah, okay, Americans can be a little strange. For now though I've perfectly happy with things continuing as they have been. If nothing else it's making the time pass really quickly and it gives us something other to think about than how we're going to find our target before Malone has us polishing guns in the bowels of CI5 for the rest of our sad and sorry careers. All being well, if we are to believe -- fingers crossed -- what intelligence have told us, he's holed up in Sunnydale.
It goes without saying, I feel, that I hope Basil -- two timing piece of shit who never in a million years is going to get away with screwing CI5 over -- Mantzioris is indeed in Sunnydale. If he isn't, or we fail to catch up with him, then I don't even want to begin imagining what Malone's reaction will be. Losing Mantzioris in the first place was bad enough without it coming to light that he was actually playing us off with the FBI while doing a runner with the both the drugs and the information we were after. Malone, whilst busily wiping the egg off his face and throwing it at us plebs in the field, is livid. No reason on earth is good enough for losing him. Especially not one so mundane and insignificant as the irresponsible residents of Atlanta daring to have a bumper to bumper RTA in front of us and stopping us from dropping in unexpectedly on Mantzioris. By the time we'd got to his place, after three hours spent failing in my attempt to get Sam to play 'I Spy', he was long gone. What he's doing in Sunnydale isn't something I really care about. All I want to do is bring him in and forget all about the mess.
Thinking about Mantzioris, not to mention having to constantly keep on my toes in respect to my free-flowing argument with Sam, is taking up too much of my time. It's not good enough. I'd rather be thinking about Sam, full stop, than dwelling on how to keep ahead of his verbal prowess. So sue me. I fancy my partner. I like being partnered with him, I like having his friendship and, well, I'm really quite fond of looking at him as well. I'm even somewhat prone to... ah... fantasising about him. It helps that sometimes I get an inkling that maybe, just maybe, he might feel the same way about me. Nothing concrete but, oh, I don't know, I just sense that there's a possibility of something happening. The way I catch him looking at me. The way we immediately clicked and, perhaps against the odds, get on really well together. I can say with complete confidence that I've never once felt uncomfortable around him. Not only that but I really enjoy the time we spend together. Christ, whether this is a sign that I've got it bad or what, but I'm even enjoying this running argument.
Speaking of which... Sam had the last word and God knows I can't allow that.
"We're all entitled to our delusions," I murmur, turning around and patting Sam lightly on the arm. "There, there dear. It's okay," I continue softly, inwardly jumping for joy at the way Sam's mouth gapes open and his eyes widen in surprise. Not for the first time, or I very much suspect the last, I wonder what his lips would feel like beneath mine.
Making no move to shift his arm away from my hand, Sam sighs. "You know Chris, I have no idea where I'd be without you constantly sharing these oh-so-off-the-mark theories in respect to my life with me," he retorts, snickering.
"That's easy," I reply, reluctantly retracting my hand, "You'd be about to enter not-so-sunny Sunnydale by yourself and, let's face it, would most likely be bored out of your mind."
"Oh I'm sure I'd have been able to find a radio station that would have adequately filled the silence like your inane chatter has," Sam replies sweetly, grinning at me. "Now, come on, admit it, what sort of name is Sunnydale? It sounds like a retirement village for arthritic cheerleaders."
"Don't go there Sam," I warn, "as there is no way known you can sit there looking smug while discussing place names. I mean, Britain would win hands down in regards to having the stupidest town names."
"You think?" Sam, queries mildly.
"I *know*. Take Sows-in-the-World or whatever it's called. Tradition be damned, it's a dumb ass name."
A puzzled expression crosses Sam's face. "I hope you know I have no idea what..." Trailing off, Sam looks blank for a second before bursting into laughter. "Oh my God!" he guffaws, "I think you mean Stow-on-the-Wold."
I do? Oh well, whatever. "It's still a stupid name," I pout.
"Whilst it pains me, I concede your point," Sam smirks, still laughing.
Not exactly liking that I'm the cause of such merriment, I decide that the time has come to change the topic. Looking out the window I find the perfect thing to comment on. "Looks like we're in for some fun and games in this place," I mutter, pointing out the window towards the 'Welcome To Sunnydale' sign. The sign itself is nothing special. In fact you could replace 'Sunnydale' for any other place name in America and the sign could be anywhere. It's more the sign that's attached to the main sign that grabs my attention. Home made, it reads 'Enter At Your Own Risk'. To back this up there's even a grinning skull and crossbones emblazoned above the wording. Unlike the sign placed there by the highways department, it isn't riddled with bullet holes.
Sam rolls his eyes. "Mmm... And what were you saying again about America being a perfectly normal place," he murmurs.
I'm no closer to knowing how to respond to this latest slur when suddenly up ahead of us a brilliant bolt of lightning lights up the twilight sky. A brilliant bolt of *blue* lightning. It's quickly followed, in swift succession, by five or six more flashes before disappearing completely. I've never seen anything like it. It would have been beautiful if it hadn't been so unnatural.
"Did you see that?" I whisper in amazement.
"How could I have missed it," Sam replies slowly. "It seemed to emanate from the centre of town."
"Perhaps it was some sort of pyro-technics display," I offer, still staring intently through the windscreen on the off chance there might be some more.
"Maybe," Sam murmurs, shrugging. "Or maybe it was just a science experiment that went wrong."
"It was kinda spectacular."
"Indeed it was."
No more flashes of blue light forthcoming, I sigh. "Okay oh-great-chauffer, now what? Do we go straight to the motel or do we try and find that asshole Mantzioris tonight?"
"I thought that I might go to the local police station, you know, alert them to our presence, while you go and book us in," my ever sensible partner replies smoothly. "They were, after all, the ones to notify CI5 that they'd seen Mantzioris and, all being well, they might have a few more leads to pass on."
"Sounds good," I agree. "Are you sure you don't want me to stay with you? I'm sure you won't be long."
"After the way you antagonised Deputy Clueless in Atlanta? Thanks but no thanks Chris, I think I can manage to liaise with the local constabulary all on my lonesome."
"He was a prize wanker," I grumble, "He deserved everything I gave him."
"He looked as though he was going to shoot you."
"Not my fault he didn't have a sense of humour."
"No," Sam smiles, "I suppose it wasn't." Parking the car outside the Sunnydale Police Station, Sam switches off the ignition and opens his door. Clambering out of the car, he stretches before poking his head back in the door. "Go on Chris, go book us in. You don't want to talk to these cops anymore than I do and this way we can save time... Time that can then be spent in the bar," he murmurs, dangling the bait.
Falling hook, line *and* sinker, I bound out of the car and walk around to the driver's side. "I like your way of thinking," I reply, flashing a smile at Sam as I get back in the car. "If I haven't heard from you in an hour then I'll come back here, yeah?"
"You're on," Sam nods, straightening his jacket and starting to walk towards the station. "Don't do anything I wouldn't," he adds over his shoulder.
Not quite knowing how to reply to that, I merely grunt noncommittally as I pull the car door closed. Grabbing the map and itinerary off the backseat, I quickly familiarise myself with Sunnydale's street plan and make a note of where the 'Twilight Nights' Holiday Inn is. Once I think I know where I'm going I start the car and pull out into the traffic. No. That's not entirely the truth. While I pull away from the kerb, there's *no* traffic to pull into. It's as though the town is all but deserted. Windows are lit up, but other than that there's next to no sign of life.
Putting this vague peculiarity down to the fact that I must be missing something *really* good on television, I start to fiddle with the radio dials in the hope of finding some halfway decent music to listen to. I've just settled on what I assume to be the local college station ('cos they're playing The Pixies) when I happen to glance out through the windscreen and only just manage to slam the brakes on in time. What *looks* to be a dog lopes in front of the car. Only... Well... It's just that it looks kinda on the large size to be of any dog breed that I know. And, while I'm sure it has to be a reflection of the full moon or something perfectly explainable like that, it seemed to have glowing yellow eyes. Oh, and it also sort of happened to be man size. Maybe. Not that I'd stake my life on it or anything like that.
My mind has barely registered this peculiarity when a man, wearing a business suit and a trench coat, comes flying over the bonnet of the car in chase of the dog-creature. Both dog-creature and man disappear down a dark and dingy looking alley. I'm in the process of deciding to simply pretend that I didn't see anything when, over the top of the radio, I hear the telltale sound of shots being fired.
Instinct overriding shock, I'm out of the car, gun in hand, running towards the alley before I've even really had time to think. I have absolutely no fucking idea what I could be getting myself into, yet still I run. By the time my eyes are accustomed to the darkness, and I've reached the end off the alley, the dog-creature is long gone. The man, on the other hand, is lying, an exceptionally stunned looking expression on his flushed face, in a crumpled heap next to some rank smelling trash cans. His once pristine white shirt is ripped to shreds and bright red blood is flowing from what looks to be deep scratches on his torso. If I wasn't so sure I knew better I'd say the dog-creature had attacked him.
Nah. I'm just being silly.
The short lived adrenaline rush being swiftly relegated to the realms of history, I stand flat-footed, my gun feeling like a touch of overkill in my hand, and stare down at the decrepit looking man. Surreptitiously returning my gun to my shoulder holster, I crouch down and hesitantly touch the man on the shoulder. Wide hazel coloured eyes blink at me in complete surprise and the man gasps in shock. It's almost as though he didn't even know I was there.
"Did you see it?" he suddenly exclaims excitedly, making a failed attempt to get off the ground and crashing right back down again. "Did you see it?" he repeats, his eyes glazing over. "Wasn't it beautiful..."
No. No it wasn't. It was big, ugly, feral and nasty looking. But, hey, to each their own. "I saw you chasing a big dog," I murmur cautiously, resigning myself to the fact that I'll have to get this guy to a hospital.
"Werewolf," he interjects firmly. "It was a werewolf."
"Yeah, *right*," I snort, shaking my head. "You'll be telling me vampires really exist next."
"You sound like Scully," he mutters dejectedly. "You saw it for yourself. How can you deny what you saw?" Pausing, he fixes a baleful glare at me before starting to ferret through his pockets like a man possessed. Eventually, after he's gone through every other pocket, he finds what he's looking for in the back pocket of his suit trousers. A mobile phone. Unfortunately, due to landing on it, and subsequently squashing it, said mobile phone now resembles little more than some small pieces of black plastic being tenuously held together by some thin coloured wire. Cradling it in his hand like a tiny kitten, the man's face falls. I don't think I've ever seen such a distraught expression before. I swear you could be forgiven for thinking that he'd just received the worst possible news to befall a person... His parents had been killed in a car accident, his wife was pregnant - but not to him, his girlfriend was having an affair with his sister, his boyfriend had dumped him for a younger prettier model, his team had just been relegated and, on top of it all, he'd just learnt that neither the tooth fairy nor Father Christmas really exist... *That's* how upset he looks. For a second I honestly believe he's going to cry.
"Fuck," he swears, "I've killed my phone."
Ten points for observation... I'm glad to see that having his chest sliced open by some sort of wild creature isn't affecting his mental capacity. "Um... I think I'd better get you to a hospital," I offer, hesitantly putting my arms around his shoulders and pulling him slowly to his feet.
"My phone..." the man murmurs dully, slumping against me and causing me to stumble under his weight. "How am I going to contact Scully?"
Sheesh. Of all the cars this fool had to run out in front of he just *had* to choose mine. While he looks reasonably normal I can't help but be rapidly forming the opinion that he's not really all there. First werewolves and now a mournful obsession with a mobile fun, what next? No. On second thoughts. Scratch that question. Somehow I don't think I want to know. "Tell you what," I mutter, slowly moving towards the car. "When I get you in the car I'll lend you my phone and you can call... Scully... on that. How does that sound?"
"You've got a phone," he whispers, his expression brightening.
"I do..." And if you're a good boy I'll let you use it. If, however, you keep treading on the backs of my shoes then you can damn well whistle for it.
Cheered by the thought of getting his paws on a phone, the man smiles. "Mulder," he states, trying to offer me his hand.
Mulder? Mulder what? "Excuse me?" I reply, well and truly wishing I'd stayed with Sam at the police station.
"Special Agent Fox Mulder, FBI, at your service," he clarifies, having the nerve to look at me as though I was the one with a problem.
"Oh." Fox. What a name. Being lumbered with that moniker probably explains a lot. Ignoring the proffered hand, I'm more than relieved to see that the car is still where I left it and try to speed him along a bit. "Chris Keel, CI5," I add, curious as to why the Feds are in town and why, more to the point, they appear to be chasing dog-creatures through town.
"Keel," Fox nods.
"*Chris*," I repeat firmly, somehow managing the balancing act of keeping Fox upright and opening the car door at the same time.
Fox looks strangely puzzled. "Keel..."
"Chris." Although my name only has one syllable, I stretch it out as long as possible hoping to impress on the idiot FBI agent that that, unlike Keel, is what I prefer to be called by. I swear to God if he repeats himself one more time then I'm really going to let him have it. The mental image is already in my mind. "Me *Chris*, you *Fox*..." How fucking difficult is that to come to terms with.
"Chris..." Fox murmurs hesitantly as I shove him into the car.
Yee-ha! Perhaps the Fed isn't that dim witted after all. "Bullseye," I reply, shutting the door on him without bothering stuffing around with the seatbelt. Taking a deep breath to calm myself down, I stalk around to the driver's side and get into the car. Fox looks at me out of the corner of his eye as I start the car and I brace myself in preparation for the next great insight to issue forth from his mouth.
"Chris..." Why he finds Christian names so unpalatable truly escapes me.
"Um... You said I could use your phone..."
"I did, didn't I," I sigh, grabbing my phone out from under my jacket and handing it to him. Fox sighs with what can only be described as heartfelt relief as he takes it from me. "Thank you..."
"Think nothing of it," I murmur, hoping I remember enough from my cursory glance at the map to find the hospital. Not, mind you, that my patient seems to much care about getting medical treatment. Somewhere, in whatever passes for his grand scheme of things, treatment rates a few miles lower than getting hold of a mobile phone and the existence of werewolves.
As hard as I try not to, I can't help but listen in to most of his conversation with the mysterious 'Scully'. After blithering on enthusiastically for a good minute or two about his run in with the 'werewolf' his mood notably dulls and, looking miserable, he sinks down in his seat. "Mmmm... ah... Did you have any luck getting the silver bullets?... You just need to see the creature for yourself Scully, then you'll have all the truth you need... No... No it wasn't a rabid dog. Yes... I've had my rabies shot recently, okay? You don't have to worry. No... Really Scully... You don't have to come to the hospital... I'll be fine. Trust me... Okay. I'll see you shortly."
Ending the call, Fox won't meet my inquiring glance and stares directly out the windscreen. Nor does he offer me back my phone, preferring instead to keep a grip on it as though it was some sort of security blanket. "My partner," he finally mutters morosely, "She doesn't believe..."
In werewolves? Silly girl. Whatever is the world coming to. There not really being a lot I can say to that, I merely grunt and concentrate on my driving. No doubt lost in the fact that no one understands him, Fox remains silent. He doesn't even comment as I pull up in front of the emergency entrance to the hospital (which, wonders will never cease, I found with ease). Muttering, "I'll be right back with help," under my breath, I leave the car and stride into the emergency department. It, seemingly like Sunnydale in general, is as quiet as a church mouse. A decidedly bored looking nurse, who I interrupt flicking aimlessly through a Harpers Bazaar, reluctantly deigns to grace me with her attention and even manages to call for an orderly without losing her place in her magazine.
After directing the orderly to the car, I hover around the waiting room wondering just what the hell I'm going to say when asked what's happened. I'm no closer to knowing how I'm going to approach this when Fox, being wheeled along by the orderly, takes the matter out of my hands.
"I was attacked by a werewolf," he proclaims to the harried looking doctor who's drawn the short straw of dealing with him.
The doctor sighs. "Not another one!" he exclaims. "God I hate full moons."
My jaw nearly hits the floor in stunned amazement. The doctor believes him? Nah. Surely not. Perhaps he thinks Fox is delusional and is merely playing along with him to gain his confidence. It's about the only halfway viable explanation I can come up with.
Not exactly knowing what else to do with my time, and besides he's still got my phone, I take a seat in the waiting room as Fox is wheeled into an examination cubicle. Burying my head in my hands, I rub my temples with my fingers as I can feel the beginnings of a headache forming. There's something not right with Fox Mulder and there's something not right with this town. Again I wish I'd never left Sam. He'd set me straight in regards to what's happening. In fact, he's right. I *do* have an overactive imagination.
"Mulder! I'm here to see Mulder. Where is he?"
The sound of a loud female voice thudding in my ears, I look up and encounter a diminutive woman with red hair looking around anxiously for Fox. I assume she has to be the mysterious, and apparently Christian nameless, Scully. She, like Fox, is wearing a trench coat. She, however unlike Fox, seems to be sane. Brushing off the orderly, Scully barges into the examination cubicle they took Fox into and slams the door shut behind her.
Forgetting all about my phone, I stand up and stretch. To hell with waiting. I've done my good deed for the night and, now that Fox is reunited with his partner, decide to leave. It's not like there's anything I can do here anyway. And, well, the less I hear come out of Fox's mouth the better I think. I've barely made it to the doors into the car park when I hear my name -- my *surname* -- being called and come to an extremely reluctant stop.
While it's Scully, I still don't turn around and acknowledge that she's calling me.
Nope. Don't care. I got enough of having to respond to my surname being barked in the navy.
Much better. Taking my hand off the door, I turn towards Scully, plastering a suitably blank expression on my face and pretending that I hadn't heard her. "Mmm? Sorry, you were calling me?" I murmur.
"You've got a call," she replies, looking at me strangely and shoving my phone towards me. "Here. I'd better get back to Mulder and give him mine before he goes into withdrawals," she adds, spinning on her heels and leaving me to it.
Putting the phone to my ear, I mutter, "Yeah, Chris."
"Who answered the phone?"
Yeah. And hello to you too Sam. "Fox."
"And who is Fox?"
"Um... Just some guy I picked up..."
Stunned silence greets my response. "Er... Sam? Are you still there?"
"Just some guy you *picked* up... Oh... Like that is it..."
Sam sounds mortified.
Hang on... He also sounds oddly hurt...
Oh my God!! Picked up! He thinks I *picked* Fox up! He sounds *miffed* that he thinks I picked some guy up! I *knew* there was a chance of something happening between us. My mood lifting, I grin inanely at a man who roughly pushes through the door. Catching me off balance, he steadies me what looks to be a fake hand and scowls. If he didn't look like he chewed nails for breakfast he's be quite attractive. Very nice, if somewhat guarded, green eyes glower at me for a second before he literally disappears into the shadows.
"His name is Special Agent Fox Mulder," I interrupt, still feeling incredibly cheerful, the hard looking man already forgotten. "He's with the FBI and I picked him up to take him to the hospital after he'd been attacked by some sort of wild animal."
"Trust me Sam. That's all that happened." Not to mention, although easy on the eye, I like my men sane and without fetishes for mobile phones.
"Mmmm... What are the Feds doing in town?"
"I've got no idea."
"This is getting strange Chris."
"Mmmm?" Tell me about it.
"There's another agency in Sunnydale as well."
"Who?" Yep. This keeps getting better and better.
"They say they're from GAC."
"GAC? What exactly is GAC when it's at home?"
"Apparently the Government Advisory Council..."
"They're based in Canada."
"Oh... And what are they doing in Sunnydale?"
"Hunting a John Smith."
"Good for them. I'm happy for them."
"It seems that this Smith character is going to meet up with Mantzioris in order exchange merchandise..."
"Merchandise? What sort of merchandise? I thought Mantzioris only had the heroin."
"He does. And Smith's going to swap him a small fortune in stolen jewels for it."
"And that's what the GAC people are here for?"
"You've got it. They think we should pool resources and... ah... Chris... I'm too tired to argue with them."
"What do you mean too tired?" I demand, immediately suspicious.
"Spend ten minutes with Mac and your head will hurt too," Sam whispers resignedly. "He could even out talk you Chris."
"Great," I sigh. "You said there were two of them?"
"Victor's better... But don't worry, you'll get to meet them for yourself shortly."
"Where and when?"
"The Bronze. Apparently it's the local hang out. No, before you ask, it was not my suggestion. Mac wants a drink and this is the only place we know of that's open."
"See you there then," I mutter without any enthusiasm.
"Mmmm... Bye Chris."
Ending the call, I shove the phone in my pocket and walk back to the car. Call it a sixth sense or whatever, but I'm already confident I'd rather simply be going to bed than going to The Bronze... In fact, why stop at bed? Truth be told, I think I just want to put as much distance between Sunnydale and myself as is possible.
Getting in the car, I start it up and drive out of the car park. The Smashing Pumpkins are playing on the radio. 'The world is a vampire, sent to drain,' the singer manages to whine before I turn it off. Vampires? No thank you. Not tonight, dear, I've got a headache. Driving along, I don't see a single soul as I get helplessly lost trying to find my way to The Bronze. There being no-one around to ask, I eventually have to admit defeat and pull over while I read the map. Discovering that I'd actually driven past the damn place at least six times does nothing to improve my health and temper.
Finally, twenty or so minutes after I hung up from Sam, I'm standing outside the glorified warehouse that doubles for alleged nightlife in Sunnydale. No fucking wonder I kept driving past it. One grotty neon sign, reading 'The Bronze', over a decrepit looking door leading into an equally as decrepit looking warehouse that happens to be situated at the end of a dank and dirty alleyway does not, in my opinion anyway, make a night club. If it wasn't for the noise emanating from inside I'd still be apt to believe I was in the wrong place.
I don't want to think it. Honest I don't. But... Oh, fuck it. I have a bad feeling about this.
Firmly pushing my misgivings aside, I straighten my back, take a deep breath, and enter The Bronze. On second thoughts, make that 'Teenage Hell'. Fuck. Teenagers to the right of me, teenagers to the left of me. Even more teenagers in front of me. Help. I don't care that I was one once. I don't like teenagers. I especially don't like being surrounded by them. They... Yeah, okay, they make me feel old. Looking at them laughing and dancing and drinking and kissing and groping makes me feel as though I should be using a Zimmer frame to keep myself upright. Youth. Pah. Who needs it.
Searching the sea of seething hormones in front of me for Sam, my gaze falls on a prime example of why inter-breeding is a *bad* thing dancing up a storm on the dance floor. That is I *think* he's dancing. I hope it's not an epileptic fit of some kind. Idiot Dancing Boy holds my attention and I stare at him as though transfixed. As if his... *moves*... weren't bad enough he's resplendent in a pair of mushy pea (Oh God! I'm turning into a Brit!) coloured cargo pants that are two sizes too big, a horrendous lime, orange and yellow coloured Hawaiian shirt and bright blue Converse trainers. The *canvas* ones. He looks as though he's stuck in some time warp circa 'The Breakfast Club'. It wouldn't surprise me to learn he still had posters of Molly Ringwald on his walls. I know it's mean, but... What a loser.
Idiot Dancing Boy, in his own little world and oblivious to the contemptuous smirks of the jocks propping up the speaker stack, appears, I think, to be blissfully happy.
No. Oooops. Let's change that to *had* -- past tense -- been blissfully happy. Then, in time with him bumbling his way through a clique of what I imagine has to be cheerleaders, his world comes crashing down around his somewhat protruding ears. The leader of the pack, Little Miss Snooty, shoves him off her Prada clad foot and shares a few choice facts about his suspect parentage with him. I don't have to be able to hear her over the music to in order to know that whatever her exact words are as they have the desired effect and Idiot Dancing Boy slinks off the dance floor.
I track him with my gaze until he meets up with one of the dorkiest looking girls I've seen since high school. Talk about looking as though they were made for each other. She's wearing, unless my eyes are playing tricks on me, grey ribbed tights, red suede Puma trainers, a pink floral mini skirt and a multi-coloured knitted jumper. The whole ensemble actually defies adequate description. I wonder if she's blind. I then wonder why, if she isn't, that her mother let her out of the house looking like that. I'm about to continue my search for Sam when another girl joins them. A *normal*, in a blonde and blandly perfect looking way, girl. Nice clothes, tight black pants, flimsy looking silver top, long line white jacket, and all. What she's doing hanging around with the Geek Squad escapes me.
Sighing, and feeling all of my twenty-nine years, I resume looking around for my partner. To my relief, once a tall, pale and brooding (read completely expressionless) man wearing a black trench coat over black pants and a black sweater, mooches out of the way, I spot him standing at the bar. Joy! Sanity at last. Pushing through the crowd, I make a beeline for Sam. As I get closer I note the presence of what I assume is another adult standing next to him and wriggling his backside in time to the music. I say 'adult' simply because they seem to be something of a scarcity inside The Bronze. The man is tall and gangly. Well dressed, his dark grey suit looks like, if my memory serves me correctly, Armani and his bright blue linen shirt is of a good cut. Attractive, in an uninteresting way, he seems to be enjoying himself. I decide that he must be one of the 'GAC' agents.
Reaching the bar, without having been asked whether I'd escaped from my nursing home, I tap Sam on the shoulder just as the man, his drinks obtained, lopes away. 'GAC?" I query.
Sam nods. "Mac," he replies.
Mac... Which rhymes with... I start to snicker.
"Don't go there Chris," Sam warns, reading my mind.
"I don't know what you're talking about," I retort innocently.
"Mmm... And the Queen Mother is going to be the Playmate of the year."
Ack. Nothing like an icky mental image to kill one's good humour. "Thanks for that," I mutter drily.
"The pleasure's all mine," Sam replies, smiling. "Now, on the off chance the barman here deigns to serve anyone who's actually over the legal drinking age, would you like a drink?"
"Oooooh!" An exited sounding female voice suddenly coos. "Love your accent! Are you from England, Britain?"
Peering around Sam, I encounter Little Miss Snooty, eyeing my partner up with blatant intent. Batting her eyelashes, she wraps her hand possessively around his arm and, basically, gives the impression that she'd quite like to eat him alive. I'm incensed by such wanton behaviour in one so young. What ever happened to curfews? Shouldn't she be safely tucked up under her Barbie duvet cover, dreaming of hair clips and ponies. Slut.
Sam, to his credit, looks remarkably nonplussed. Gently extricating his arm from her grip, he favours her with a fleeting smile. "I'm from England, yes. Now, if you'll excuse..."
"Are you from the Watchers Council?" Little Miss Snooty interrupts. "Please say you've come to relieve Giles of his duties! You're *way* better looking than he is and your jacket doesn't have those lame vinyl patches on the elbows."
"I'm sorry..." Sam surreptitiously inches closer to me. "I really have no idea what you're talking about."
"Now, now Cordy, leave the nice adult alone," a new voice interjects.
Fuck me. It's Idiot Dancing Boy to the rescue. I'd laugh only I can't cope with multi-tasking when I'm in the middle of a mind melt.
"Run along Xander," Little Miss Snooty sneers. "I hear they're hiring at Burger King. If you hurry you might be able to make a career of flipping dead cow over a hot plate."
"Laugh it up Cordelia. My time will come," Idiot Dancing Boy, apparently otherwise known as Xander, replies.
"Will that be before or after Madonna makes a movie that doesn't suck?"
"You underestimate my greatness."
"And you overestimate the fact that I couldn't care less about your sad and pathetic existence Xander Harris," Cordelia states before spinning on her heels and, with a breathy, "Hope to see more of you," to Sam, stalking back to her coven of cheerleaders.
Xander shrugs. "Deep down the scheming ice queen loves me," he mutters to us before -- praise the Lord for small mercies -- the pull of Garbage blaring across the club lures him back to the dance floor.
"Ever get the feeling that we're at least twice the average age of the clientele?" Sam queries blandly, shaking his head and blinking.
"Only twice?" I sigh. "Personally I'm feeling as though I should be looking in to arthritis medication and whether or not there's a special sort of glass I should keep my false teeth in."
"The sooner we get out here the better," Sam replies, returning his attention to the bar. "Want a beer?"
Having come to the realisation that the beer here comes in red plastic cups, I reply in the negative. "No thank you. I've got a headache so I think I'll just have a coffee. All the better to take Nurofen with."
"Sounds good to me," Sam states, a degree of exasperation entering his voice. "Assuming of course I ever get served."
As if he sensed my partner's deteriorating patience, the barman glides over and asks Sam what he'd like.
"Two coffees," Sam responds, "thanks."
"Is that latté, black, cappuccino, mocha, vanilla, espresso or hazelnut," the barman asks.
"Er... Just two coffees," Sam snaps, narrowing his eyes. It's late, we're not exactly in our element here and I can well and truly see that Sam's not in the mood for pleasantries.
The barman looks blank, his pen poised over his order pad. "I don't..."
"Two flat whites," Sam grinds out, "Is that better? Am I speaking English yet?"
"Two flat whites coming up sir! I'll just get them for you." A-ha. The barman's seen the light.
"Was that really so difficult to comprehend," Sam sighs, glancing across at me.
"Apparently so," I reply, shrugging. "Perhaps teenagers don't drink normal old everyday coffee."
"Great... Now I feel even older."
I watch the barman as he prepares our coffees as opposed to the dance floor as I wait. There's only so much bad dancing I can take and I think I've already suffered my quota of it for the night. Returning with our drinks, the barman places them reverently on the counter and actually takes a step back as Sam reaches for his wallet. "I hope these are suitable sir," he murmurs politely.
"Coffee is coffee," Sam mutters, adding, "Oh, and I'll have muffin as well."
"Blueberry, chocolate chip, apple and cinnamon, rasp..."
"I. Don't. Care."
"I hear that the blueberry is good tonight," the barman replies hurriedly, "I'll just get you one of them."
Eventually, after what seems like a lifetime has passed, we finally find ourselves able to walk away from the bar. "Here," Sam states, pushing the muffin towards me, "This is for you."
"For me?" Good one. I doubt I could sound any more pathetically surprised if I tried.
"Mmm... You shouldn't take Nurofen on an empty stomach, so I thought you'd better eat something," Sam murmurs dismissively.
"Thanks," I grin, oddly touched by his gesture.
"Nothing to thank me for," Sam replies, looking embarrassed. "I just want you to be in a congenial mood and not decide to pick a fight with either Mac or Victor."
Summary: Humourous cross-over of New Professionals / The X Files / Once A Thief / Buffy The Vampire Slayer / Highlander.