'New record,' Jodi thought blearily as she finally finished trying to rocket her brains out through her nose. She sniffled, rubbing her eyes. She wanted nothing more than to crawl back into bed and sleep, but she couldn't. Tyler was having a special on his tour today: 2 for the price of 1. He had five day tours lined up and another one for his Moonlight Monster tour, which he was finally able to start after battling his way through all of Twitchell's paper work and snippy comments. Which meant Jodi would be in the store all day, cooking and selling. She couldn't complain; it was bringing in much needed money. A little cold wasn't going to stop her.
With one last heavy sigh, exhaling as much of her sleepiness and mental fogginess as she could, Jodi finally shuffled herself into her clothes and downstairs to start preparing for the busy day.
Jodi had been behind the counter for all of two minutes when Larry pushed his way into the store. He was flipping through a worn looking magazine-one of the replacements he had purchased after the destruction of his old ones. "Hey, Jodster!" he greeted, enthusiastic but a little distracted.
"Morning," Jodi replied, the last half of her greeting getting lost in a yawn.
Larry looked up, confused by her hoarse and rather unusual response. A bit of worry crossed his face when he saw her tired, drained appearance. "Hey, you feeling okay, Jodi?"
"Hm? Oh," she offered him a reassuring smile, though it came off as more weary than anything. "I'm fine. Just a bit tired. Didn't sleep well last night."
Larry looked doubtful. "Are you sure? You don't look too good. Sick, I mean. Do you have a cold?" he asked.
"It's nothing, just a little sniffle. What do you want for breakfast? Oh, and could you go and make sure Tyler's up? If he sleeps in late again today, I'll kill him."
"Okay. And I'll have eggs and toast I guess..." Larry said, standing back up but still unconvinced. "You know, if you want to go back to bed I could handle breakfast for you, too," he offered after a moment.
Jodi snorted. "And let you near my stove? I don't think so, bucko," she threw him a reassuring smile. "Now go on, I'll be fine after I've had my coffee. Promise."
Larry returned her smile, even though he wasn't entirely convinced, and headed out to check on Tyler.
For once, the tour guide seemed to have had no problems getting up early, and was already checking his jeep when Larry walked in, waist deep beneath the vehicle.
"Mornin', Larry," he said, his voice muffled.
Larry stopped near the jeep, close to Tyler's legs, kneeling down to peer under the faded orange vehicle. "Hey, Tyler. What you up to? Jodi wanted me to make sure you were awake."
"I'm sleeping, obviously," Tyler deadpanned. "What's it look like I'm doing?"
"Not sure," Larry shrugged as if not picking up on his sarcasm. "Wait a sec, how did you know it was me?"
"Because you're the only one in this entire valley who owns a pair of Batman & Robin sneakers," Tyler rolled out from under the engine, giving Larry a slightly bemused look. "And wears them."
"Only because I can't find my Marvel ones!" the sci-fi and comic fan replied, almost defensively.
Tyler laughed. "Whatever, man. It suits you anyway." He got up and wiped his hands off on a dirty rag. "I'm pretty much done settin' things up on my end. You guys want any help getting the store ready?"
"Yeah, Jodi could use a couple hands," Larry said. "I think she's got a cold or something."
Tyler frowned. "A cold, huh?"
"Yeah," he nodded. "She says she's okay though."
Before Larry could say more, the local survivalist's power wagon pulled up in front of the store. Burt exited the automobile. "Morning Tyler, Larry," he greeted with a nod to each man as he walked over.
Tyler blatantly ignored the man, barely even glancing at him, his attention still on Larry. "That's good. Probably a lie, but good." He smirked slightly. Everyone in Perfection was good at that. Even if they didn't feel well, they'd bluff their way through. It was when they didacknowledge it that one began to truly worry.
Burt scowled, aware of the fact he was being pointedly ignored.
"Um, hi, Burt," Larry responded, confused as he looked between the two older men. "But, yeah, I'm going to go help her out." He started back towards the store.
"I'll be over after I've washed up," Tyler called after him, turning to head to the back of his garage that served as a house.
"Tyler!" Burt called after him. The man gave no sign that he had heard him.
Burt sighed, rolling his eyes, and walked into the store.
When Twitchell entered the store, the sun was just starting to set over the far-off mountains/graboid barricades. Tyler was sitting at the counter, Nancy cooking behind it, and Burt was sitting at one of the various tables with Larry and Jodi. Which was odd, seeing as Jodi was the one who did most if the cooking in the store.
"Burt! Tyler! Got an assignment for ya."
"Well good day to you too, Twitch," Tyler remarked dryly.
"What is it this time, Twitchell?" Burt asked, not bothering to hide his annoyance.
"A.B.s in a town here in Nevada. Jaquilen," he reported.
"Assblasters?" Jodi looked up with a frown. "How did they get so far along, hasn't anyone seen them yet? Or noticed the bodies going missing, at least?"
"They are in an isolated area," Twitchell informed. "Local police thought they were dealing with a serial killer."
Tyler groaned. "This isn't another Toluca, is it?"
Twitchell rolled his eyes. "They just aren't totally one hundred percent convinced they are A.B.s. But there were a few sightings of 'giant chickens' in the area so the DOI thinks it's a safe bet."
"You up for it, Tyler?" Burt asked purposefully.
Tyler gave no reply, turning back to his fries. Nancy hid a snicker behind her spatula.
Burt let out an indignant huff at once again being ignored. "Fine. We'll do it. When do we head out?"
"Whoa! What? No!" Tyler sat up so fast he nearly fell off his stool. "Dude, tonight is the first night of the Moonlight Monster Tour! Why can't we leave in the morning?"
At the mention of 'we' Burt looked ever-so-slightly satisfied.
"Because they seemtokillonapatternand they don't want anyone else being killed," Twitchell explained, the middle part rather rushed and mumbled.
Nancy turned away from the grill, her eyes narrowed suspiciously. "What was that?"
"The blasters tend to kind of hunt on a little bit of a vague... ish pattern," Twitch said in an attempt at casualness.
"You mean like...a serial killer?" Jodi clarified, raising her eyebrows. "Locals don't sound so crazy anymore."
"Certainly sounds like one," Larry added. "Like, in The Digger episode of-" he started, but was quickly cut off by a sharp glare from, well, everyone.
Twitchell grumbled. "Look, it's not your place to ask questions. It's your job to get in there, kill the turkeys, and get out."
"And what am I supposed to tell my customers?" Tyler demanded angrily.
"That you put on your super suit to go save the world. I don't care."
The glare the agent received probably would've lesser men sweat through their suits. But he wasn't one of those lesser men and so ignored it.
Jodi sighed, which quickly turned into a cough. She ignored Larry's worried look and cleared her throat. "I can reschedule for next week, Tyler, it's fine. They haven't arrived yet, hopefully I can reach them before they come. I think they all live relatively close."
Burt slumped in his chair slightly before getting up. "Since that's settled, might as well get a move on Tyler." Tyler simply slumped against the counter and glared down at his plate.
Without another word, Burt stormed out to his power wagon.
Twitchell looked, confused, between the two men. "What in the world is up with you two?"
Nancy smirked. "Burt tried to shoot Tyler's new pet, Squirtle."
"Squirtle?" Twitchell asked.
"It's his Squouse," Larry clarified.
"Oh, that reminds me. Nancy, can you watch him while I'm gone?" Tyler asked. The potter nodded with a smile. "Thanks."
With one last sigh, casting his unfinished meal a longing look, Tyler got up and left to pack.
"See ya later, bro!" Larry called after him.
It was nearly two in the morning when Jodi suddenly lurched out of her bed, racing for the bathroom and practically falling against the side of the tub, heaving. After several minutes she leaned back, sitting on the cold floor and resting her cheek on the side. She crinkled her nose up at the smell, closing her eyes so she wouldn't look. She really wasn't looking forward to cleaning that up and mentally berated her half-asleep mind for not using the toilet.
Having refused to let her stay home sick alone for the night, Larry had camped out on her couch. He was jolted from his sleep at the sound of the door slamming shut behind her, and the tiredness in his head was instantly replaced with worry. He pushed the comforter off of him and headed over to the bathroom door, knocking softly.
"You okay, Jode?" he asked through the door.
A faint groan of discomfort and mental death was all he received in reply, Jodi too tired to exert energy into coherent words.
"Is it okay if I come in?" he asked.
Jodi gave a small grunt of agreement. Or rather, a grunt of, "I don't care what the hell you do, I'm busy puking my guts out."
Larry pushed through, kneeling down next to her with a very anxious look on his face. "So much for you being fine," he frowned. "You shouldn't have been up at all today."
Jodi sent him a half-hearted glare before coughing up into the tub again.
The science fiction fan held back her black hair, rubbing small circles on her back. "You're staying in bed tomor- I mean today. I'll take care if the store and everything but you are way too sick," he said.
For a moment it seemed as though the store owner was going to protest, but another convulsion left her too tired to even try grumbling. Her mind was having a hard time focusing and she felt way too hot. She just wanted to sleep for a few years.
After a while the vomiting had subsided, but the fever emanated heat off of her and she looked completely exhausted. "You feeling a bit better? Good enough to get back to bed?"
Jodi nodded weakly.
"Come on," Larry urged her to get up, offering her a hand.
She took it and let him lead her back to her room where she promptly collapsed onto her bed, burying her head in the pillows. Larry sat down a bit on the edge, reaching behind her nightstand and unplugging her alarm clock to make sure it didn't wake her in the morning. He glanced at the Asian woman out of the corner of his eye, secretly feeling bad that there wasn't more he could do to make her feel better.
Within moments, Jodi was asleep again, looking more restful than she had in the bathroom. Larry considered going back to sleep himself, but now that he was up he wouldn't be able to fall asleep again. He was too worried as well, so he left momentarily and returned with a cold cloth that he placed on her forehead. He made a mental note to ask Nancy for some advice on how to make her more comfortable in the morning.
Nancy ended up being the one finding Larry the next morning, instead of the other way round. She knew Larry had most likely spent the night with Jodi, judging by his constant hovering yesterday, and she definitely knew that he would need help. As nice as he'd been when she'd caught a cold after the invasion of the bugs, he hadn't been able to actually help much. Simple medical knowledge didn't seem to be his forte.
The usually rather childish man was sitting at the counter when Nancy walked in, looking tired and drawn.
"Oh, hi, Nancy," he greeted without his usual excitement.
"Jodi not feeling better?" she guessed, sitting next to him.
Larry shook his head. "She got really stomach sick early this morning," he said. "And her fever is higher I think, but she's sleeping okay. Been up the whole time and I'm gunna take care of the store for her."
Nancy couldn't help laugh at his determined resolve. "I'm sure she'll appreciate that."
"I just hope she feels better soon," he said sadly. "I don't like seeing her so sick."
"No one ever likes seeing their loved ones sick," Nancy agreed.
Larry bit his bottom lip, face growing slightly pink. "L-loved one?" he stuttered at the implication. "I, um, care about Jodi a lot, but, I, uh-"
Nancy just looked at him pointedly. "I'm a mother, Larry. I've had this conversation several times before. Save your energy."
He crossed his arms on the counter in front of him, burying his face in them. "I feel like everyone figured it out even faster than I did."
"Oh, honey, that's not true!" Nancy said, rubbing his back comfortingly. "I'm pretty sure Burt's still oblivious...but then he is Burt, so..."
Larry managed a bit of a laugh at that. "Yeah. I just wish... well, I could tell her," he said, looking up.
Nancy chewed her lip for a moment, thinking. Finally, she spoke, leaning her head on her hand. "Did you know Jodi was jealous of Skyler?"
"What? She was?" Larry asked. "How come?"
"Oh, I dunno," Nancy rolled her eyes as if trying to remember. "Maybe because you became such good friends with so quickly, and would sit there and talk for hours about all your favourite stuff?" She threw him a teasing smile.
"But I thought Jodi just found a lot of the stuff I talk about annoying," he said thoughtfully.
"Well of course she does!" Nancy chided. "But that doesn't mean she want other girls to enjoy it."
Larry fell silent for a second, thinking. "Was she really jealous?" he asked, remembering how he felt when Randall Lewis was flirting with Jodi. Doesn't that mean she kind of likes him back?
The potter sat and watched the man as he stared into nothing. She could practically see the gears in his head turning as he slowly figured out what exactly that meant, and she couldn't help but smile. A small but excited grin crept onto Larry's face even as his face grew a little redder.
Nancy giggled. "Got it now?"
Larry nodded with a happy laugh. "I never thought she might, you know, like me like that. Thanks, Nancy," he said with a bit of a goofy smile.
She grinned back. "Okay, now go to bed," she ordered, shoving him off the stool gently. "I'll take care of Jodi for a few hours, but you need your sleep too, or you'll be useless later." Her tone held no room for argument.
Larry nodded reluctantly, heading to the back room to collapse on the couch.
"Jodi? You awake?" Nancy asked quietly as she entered the room, holding a tray of chicken noodle soup and crackers and a glass of water. She placed the dinner on the table and sat down on the edge of the bed, feeling the woman's forehead.
The store owner's eyes blinked open at the older woman's cool hand on her head. "Hm? Where's Larry?" was the first thing she asked, confused.
Nancy chuckled softly. "He's attending to a small group of tourists in the store," she replied. "He'll be back once they're gone and he closes up."
"Oh," she responded in a puff of air, closing her eyes. "Uhg, I feel awful. I think somebody rubbed my throat with sandpaper."
Nancy gave her a sympathetic smile, lowering her hand. "Well, your fever's gone down some at least. It was worse this morning." She stood up and reached for the tray of food. "Think you can handle some homemade chicken noodle soup?"
Jodi crinkled her nose at the thought of getting sick early that morning, but her stomach felt much better than then. "Yeah, I think so."
"Good," Nancy set the tray down on the bed as Jodi sat up, making sure nothing would spill before sitting down again.
Jodi carefully slowly swallowed some of the noodles, wincing slightly. Nancy rubbed her back comfortingly. "We're all out of lozenges here, but I'll see about running to Bixby in the morning to get some. Might help."
Jodi nodded slightly. "How's Larry handling the store?" she asked between another spoonful of soup.
"Okay. Not as well as he usually does, but it's understandable."
"Huh? Why?" Jodi asked. "What's the matter?"
For a moment, the older woman just stared at her as if the answer were completely obvious. "You're the matter, Jodi. What else did you think? I mean really."
She let out a puff of air. "He's still worried about me? It's just a bug."
"Oh, honestly!" Nancy cried, throwing her hands into the air. "I swear, you two are completely hopeless sometimes! Have you still not figured it out?"
"No, enlighten me," the sick woman shot back, slightly annoyed.
"He loves you," Nancy said, enunciating each word clearly so as to leave no doubt or confusion. "And you love him."
Jodi glared into her soup as she felt her cheeks grow hot, even compared to her fever.
"Don't deny it," Nancy chided. "I've already had this conversation with both of you before. I know everything."
"I won't," Jodi sighed. "You just love making things awkward for the two of us," she joked.
Nancy shook her head. "I do nothing but state the facts. It'll happen eventually, everyone knows it. Except you two, for some reason," she added, giving the younger woman an odd look.
Jodi looked up at Nancy for a second before returning her eyes to the soup. "Did he... Really say he loved me?" she asked, internally blaming the crack in her voice on her sore throat.
"Uh...Well...not exactly..." Nancy replied, frowning in thought. "I think the only L word he's used so far is 'like'."
"Why doesn't that surprise me?"
Nancy just rolled her eyes, shaking her head. "Just eat your soup. And drink your water slowly, we don't need you throwing up again in the middle of the night."
Jodi just nodded idly, sipping slowly at her soup. Nancy had certainly got her mind going.
Jaquilen was a fair-sized town on the other side of the state near the Oregon border, and they had a several hours ahead of them. Tyler was resting his head on his arm on the door, watching the road fly past beneath the tires. The wind was cold, and his cheeks were rosy from the chill but he was too tired to sit up behind the cover of the windshield. Twitchell had wanted them to be there by morning, not seeming to care that they'd had a busy day and were pretty much running on empty, but after half an hour of driving Burt had muttered something about "finding a damn hotel and Twitchell could just suck it up." They hadn't had any luck so far, and Tyler was fairly sure that if they didn't find one soon Burt would just pull off the shoulder and they'd sleep in the car.
They'd been driving for about an hour now, riding in complete silence. Although at the moment, it was due to both of them being tired and not because Tyler was still giving the older man the silent treatment. That had been going on for about two weeks now, but by the end of the first Tyler had stopped doing it for punishment and instead just to mess with Burt. He found the annoyed grumbles and aggravated eye rolling amusing, and Burt's chipmunk impression would never stop being funny.
Burt was in fact getting to the point where he was just going to pull over. He pushed on a bit longer, which he was incredibly thankful for doing when a small motel came into view down a small road. He pulled down it without a second thought. Tyler glanced up at the small, slightly run-down building as they neared it. A single streetlamp lit the area, casting a yellow glow on everything and doing nothing to enhance the appearance. He doubted the inside looked any better. Probably covered in peeling paint and bedbug infested cots.
"We're stopping here for the night," Burt mumbled, parking the power wagon and pushing open the door. Tyler just dropped his head back onto his arm with a faint grunt of acknowledgement but didn't bother getting out of the car.
Too tired to go acknowledged his reaction, Burt headed into the motel to check in. A small bell above the door jingled as he walked into the empty office While what sounded like a TV played in a back room. Seconds later a gruff voice called out, "Coming!" as the TV was shut off and a dog came bounding down the hallway and up to Burt, wagging its tail and jumping up to put its paws on his leg.
"Down, Fido," the voice growled again as an elder man shuffled into the room and behind the counter, sporting a scruffy beard and unkempt hair. He glared at the customer irritably, casting a glance outside to see Tyler in the truck before ringing up the cost, not bothering to wait for Burt to speak. "Name?"
"Burt Gummer and Tyler Reed," he responded.
The man grunted and threw a key onto the counter. "Room 17. Pay in the morning. Check out's at 10. I got places to be tomorrow." With that, he left, disappearing into the back again with his dog following behind.
Burt watched the man walk away for a moment, slightly suspicious of his odd behavior. When he was gone, he turned around and left the office. Tyler hadn't moved from his position, and it took a few moments before Burt realized the man had fallen asleep.
Burt sighed, feeling a bit bad for the younger man despite the silent treatment he had been giving him lately. "Tyler," he said, nudging him slightly to wake him.
"Mmmmmm," Tyler cracked open an eye to look at him, his expression demanding a damn good reason as to why he was being woken up, but the look disappeared as he realized where he was.
"We got a room," Burt informed, holding up the key.
The first thing Tyler could coherently think when they walked into the room was, 'At least it's not a cot.' Although he honestly wasn't sure if the...thing...on the floor was better or worse. For the most part, it looked like a giant, dirty marshmallow had been flattened and covered in a couple blankets. No headboard, no bed rails; just a giant pillow thing on the ground that apparently served as a mattress. And 'giant' wasn't exaggerating, the thing was literally about seven feet all around. The rest of the room consisted of a crummy looking bathroom and a desk with a lamp.
Tyler cast his partner a rather quizzical look. Burt rolled his eyes. "I said that there was two people and he gives us some room that has something that barely even passes for a bed." He would have preferred his own cot.
Tyler stared at the room for a little longer before deciding that he was way too tired to deal with the confusing thought process of whoever built this place, dropped his stuff on the floor, kicked off his shoes, and collapsed on the "bed". He'd deal with the weirdness in the morning.
Gummer stole some blankets and camped out on floor without another thought. Para-military-paranoids could deal with things like that.
They left early the next morning much to the annoyance of the owner who apparently didn't like being woken up at six a.m. The motel offered a measly breakfast that the men doubted was even edible, so they skipped the meal and headed on towards Jaquilen, snacking on MREs. It wasn't until they were about thirty minutes away that Tyler finally spoke, although it was more of a surprised statement as he read one of the highway signs announcing the closest towns.
"I thought I recognized that name."
Burt looked between the man and the road a few times, honestly surprised by the fact he decided to choose then to speak. "What do you mean?"
Tyler motioned back towards the sign. "Jaquilen. I thought it sounded familiar when Twitch mentioned it, but I couldn't place it 'til now. My parents live in the town right next to it, 'bout half an hour away."
"You've never mentioned your parents before," Burt pointed out. "Neither did Skylar when she visited."
"Dad's a little overprotective and harsh sometimes," Tyler shrugged. "He's an Air-force colonel and has made a few enemies in his time. We love him, but it's nice getting away sometimes where he's not nit-picking every detail of our lives, afraid we're gonna get kidnapped or something. Ma's the complete opposite though. Kind of..." he trailed off for a moment, thinking. "She's actually kinda hard to explain. She's just...mom."
"At least you're on good terms," Burt nodded. "We could stop by for a visit when we finish this assignment if you want," he offered.
"Sure," Tyler shrugged again, stealing the canteen for a drink. "Dad probably won't be there though. Think he's working on some new aircraft at the yard."
A moment passed in silence between them. "So, you ever been to Jaquilen?" Burt asked, hoping to keep Tyler talking to avoid more of the man's silent treatment.
Tyler chuckled lightly at it. "No. They only moved here a couple years ago. We helped them move in but never stayed long enough to see the other towns."
Burt nodded as they neared what seemed to be the main section of the town. It took them about fifteen minutes to find the place where they were supposed to meet Twitchell. It was a small police station- why the agent choose there, Burt could only guess- and Twitch was luckily there. However, he didn't look happy. At all.
"Where the hell have you two been?!" he shouted before they could even park.
"Sleeping," Tyler retorted as he climbed out of the truck. "Our superpowers are aim and speed, not going long periods without rest."
"Well that's just a shame," Twitch responded, voice dripping with sarcasm, "Because in the time it took you two to get here the Assblasters gotanother woman."
Tyler's face dropped at the news, exchanging a glance with Burt. He knew they probably wouldn't have been able to hunt it properly last night anyway, but the fact didn't make them feel any better.
Burt frowned as well. "Sorry, Twitchell, but we wouldn't have been much use to you if I had fallen asleep at the wheel," he shot back.
"Whatever," Twitch mumbled. "You two need to get a move on NOW."
"Alright, alright," Tyler grumbled, rolling his eyes. "So why'd we have to meet here at the police station?"
"The deputy wanted to meet you two," Twitchell informed. "Wanted to inform you about what's been going on. I think he might know you, Tyler. Name's Reed, too."
Tyler looked at him blankly, mentally running through his family for a cop. "Really?"
Twitch nodded as a cop car began to pull up behind them. "Yeah, here he is now. Hey! Jedadiah!" he called with a wave as the man got out of his vehicle. "These are the two monster hunters."
The name was hardly out of the agents' mouth when Tyler froze, eyes widened in a strange mix of what looked like fear and hatred before the emotion disappeared as quickly as it had come, replaced with a look of blank hostility.
Burt gave his partner a confused look at the man approached. He was a tall guy, with about two inches on the survivalist and thick sandy hair. He had an amiable grin that seemed ever-so-slightly off to Burt.
"Tyler! So, it is you. I thought so, but had no idea you had moved out here," he greeted. "Last I heard you were on your way to NASCAR."
"And last I heard you were-"
"And you must be Burt Gummer," the deputy interrupted, walking up to him and shaking his hand.
Burt nodded, glancing quickly at Tyler. "How do you two know each other? Are you related?" he questioned. There was a definite resemblance between the two, sharing similar eye shape and nearly identical hair.
"No," Tyler said bluntly before Jedadiah could reply. "We're not."
The man just chuckled and Burt looked at Tyler, doubtful of that.
"Right..." Twitchell cleared his throat awkwardly, glancing at the cop. "Anyway, why we're here..."
"There have been a lot of disappearances lately," the man informed, "All women in their mid-to-late forties with dark or black hair. Doesn't sound like any animal to us."
"But there has been sightings of unusual creatures?" Burt asked, though he found it odd as well. A.B.s could be picky, sure, just look a Messerschmitt. But not when choosing people.
"Yeah, sure. But there have been Bigfoot claims and chupacabra sightings here for as long as I can remember," the guy shrugged. "Doesn't mean anything in these parts."
"Most of the bodies -or what's left of them- have been found near the cliffs just west of the town," Twitchell added. "Figure you guys can check there first, do whatever it is you do."
"Sounds like the best place to start," Burt nodded. "Got a map, Twitchell?" The agent nodded, pulling one from his pocket and handing it over. Taking the folded up paper, Burt motioned to his friend. "Come on, Tyler," he said, moving back to the power wagon.
They had to pass through town to get to the cliffs. Tyler had fallen into a stony silence, glaring out the window.
"How did you know him?" Burt asked, urging the tour guide to talk to him again.
"Just drop it, Burt," Tyler replied quietly, a hard edge to his voice saying he wasn't discussing it further.
Burt looked at him out of the corner of his eye with a sigh. "You think these really are A.B.s?" he tried instead. "Certainly sounds like Twitchell is out of the loop on this one."
Tyler shrugged. It seemed to becoming a thing for him lately. "Maybe."
Burt slumped a bit further in his seat as they approached the cliff. He wasn't used to getting such little interaction from his usually talkative partner and it made him more edgy than usual. And the fact that his trademark, cheery attitude was gone as well didn't help any. He parked the power wagon not far from the steep drop-off, getting out.
They walked along the base for several minutes before they found anything. Tyler crinkled his nose at the sudden sharp smell of sulfur. "You smell that?"
Burt hesitated for a moment before nodding curtly. "Rotten eggs-"
"-Marinated in bad beer."
Burt and Tyler, the heroes of Gotham.
Chapter by TekeoMiona
I have never actually seen The Titanic. Or SGU, that one I was just going off what I've heard a lot of others say. So don't blame me.
"Don't let go, Jack!"
Jodi stared at the TV screen blankly. 'There is so totally enough room for two on that thing,' she thought. 'This doesn't even make sense.'
Larry watched the last of the tourists leave for the day before heading to the back to check on the store owner. He poked his head through the door to her small living room. "Hey, Jodi, what'cha up to?" he asked.
"Decided I'd finally watch Titanic," Jodi replied hoarsely.
"Enjoying it?" he asked.
The Trekkie looked thoughtful for a second before grinning. "I'll be back in a second. Hang tight."
Jodi looked up as he raced from the room and rolled her eyes. Larry returned quickly with a moderately sized case. He sat down on the couch next to her and set the case on the coffee table in front of them. He opened the top to reveal his DVD collection. "Choose something," he offered with a smile.
"Hmmm..." she leaned over and sorted through it. Not many captured her interest and she was about to give up when she suddenly gasped and grabbed one of the cases. "You have StarGate SG-1?!"
"The whole series," Larry nodded. "You like StarGate?"
Jodi blushed as she realized how she'd reacted. "Yeah...I like SGA better though, but SG-1 is a close second. I hate SGU though. Too soap opera-y."
Larry grinned. "I can see what you mean. Wanna watch it?" he offered.
"Sure," Jodi replied, toning down her excitement to a mere 'whatever' attitude.
Larry ejected the Titanic DVD, replacing it with the first SG-1 disk. About an hour or so of the show passed in relative silence (Larry usually liked to talk during things he had seen before but he had learned the hard way that Jodi didn't). He kept watching her out of the corner of his eye, still not able to stop worrying about the store owner. She looked tired and was rubbing her arms like she was cold, but refused to accept a blanket he offered.
Larry was finally able to distract himself for a bit of time near the end of the pilot episode as O'Neill teamed up with Teal'c to rescue the prisoners, one of his favourite parts of the entire season. However, his concentration was broken when he felt Jodi's head lean on his shoulder. He hadn't noticed that she had fallen asleep and slowly inched closer to him until she was near enough that he could feel the feverish heat radiating off of her.
The sci-fi fan bit his lip nervously, face flushing red when the Asian woman snuggled closer in her sleep. Not really sure what to so, he wrapped an arm around her and stroked her dark hair gently, embarrassed but glad she seemed so relaxed.
It was some time later when Jodi woke up to gun fire and phasers. She blinked her eyes open slowly to see the show still playing, now on what looked like the third episode. How long had she slept?
A small murmur just above her head startled her, and she suddenly took in the warm body she was snuggled into. She sat up quickly, her face blushing deeply beneath the fever. Larry stirred slightly in his sleep but didn't wake up and Jodi was left to silently freak out in peace. She'd been snuggling with Larry!
'Okay Jodi, calm down. You're sick. You were tired. You're supposed to keep warm when you have a fever, it was probably just a survival instinct. Burt's always talking about that stuff. Right? Right. That's all it was. Not-...that.'
As Jodi internally rationalized the situation, Larry stirred again, starting to wake up. Jodi's eyes widened and she stumbled as quickly and quietly to her feet as possible, fleeing to the bathroom before he fully came to his senses.
By the time Larry was actually awake enough to take in his surroundings, Jodi was already gone. Self-conscious that he had not only fallen asleep too, but long enough that Jodi woke before him and left, he quickly turned off the TV and began to put his things away. Clutching his large DVD case, Larry pushed through the door and into the hall. He caught a glimpse of Jodi in her kitchenette, acting like nothing happened. His mind raced trying to figure out what she thought of what happened, but instead of asking, he left the store. He figured she would prefer him to stay at his own place tonight.
Jodi didn't sleep much that night, whether because of her unintended nap or because of who she'd napped with, she didn't know. At 5 AM, she gave up and started cooking. Pancakes, bacon, eggs, omelets, breakfast burritos; the others had better be hungry when they got up.
Nancy was up early that morning because she had skipped dinner. She didn't know why, but it always kept her from sleeping in past five thirty. So, she headed over to the store to see if anyone else was up or she could make herself something to eat. She found Jodi up and about.
"Skip dinner again?" Jodi asked, glancing up briefly as she skillfully flipped another omelet on the grill.
"Against my better judgment," the potter rolled her eyes. "What's your excuse? Shouldn't you be sleeping?"
"I had a restful nap yesterday evening."
Something in the younger woman's tone made Nancy quirk an eyebrow. "Why do you say that like it's a bad thing?"
Jodi blushed deeply, mentally cursing her fevered sensitive cheeks. "I didn't."
"Oh?" Nancy let the single, disbelieving syllable hang in the air, her well-practiced mom stare demanding an honest answer. Much like her daughter Mindy used to do, Jodi stubbornly focused on her cooking, determined not to give in but caving little by little as each second passed.
"I slept with Larry," she muttered finally.
Nancy wasn't sure what kind of answer she was expecting, but it was definitely nothing along those lines. "I- well, didn't think you guys would get together that quickly," she stuttered.
"What?" Jodi turned to look at her, dropping her spatula as she realized how she had worded her sentence. "Not like that!" she shrieked, reaching a pitch that surprised even her.
"Then what do you mean?" Nancy responded, flustered.
Jodi fiddled with the omelet for a moment, before turning off the grill and sitting on the stool next to Nancy. "I fell asleep watching StarGate with him...and woke up to find myself snuggled into his side."
Nancy grinned. "That's adorable," she cooed.
"No, it was embarrassing! I don't even know if he knew I was cuddling him...I left before he could wake up."
"Is he still asleep?" Nancy asked pointedly.
Jodi shook her head. "He woke up shortly after I escaped and left. Didn't ask why or where."
"Then he probably knew," Nancy responded. "I don't think he would have left unless he was just as embarrassed as you. I'm sorry, you guys really are adorable. I just wish you would stop being so stubborn, Jodi!"
"Oh like you're not," Jodi snapped back, crossing her arms and slumping dejectedly in her seat. "We live in Perfection, it comes with the territory...'least that's what Tyler always says about us women."
"I'm as stubborn as the day is long," Nancy admitted. "Speaking of Tyler, I wonder how those two are doing," she added. "It sounded like this is the weirdest case Twitch has sent them on."
"Yeah, what was it? Human-picky assblasters?"
"Yep," Nancy nodded. "Sounds more like a serial killer to me."
Jodi nodded, getting up to continue her cooking. "I really hope it isn't. Do you have any idea how sick a person copying assblasters has to be?" she shuddered. "Doing that to a body..."
"Doing what to a body? Wow, what's with all the food? It's like you're preparing for a funeral or something." Rosalita let the screen door close behind her as she followed Harlow to the counter, taking in the edgy mood and plates of pancakes.
"The assignment Twitchell sent Burt and Tyler on is really unusual," Nancy explained, answering Rosalita's first question. "And Jodi is getting breakfast done early."
"Oh yeah, I heard something about it from Larry," the rancher furrowed her brow. "Something about...assblasters methodically kidnapping people?"
"That's what Twitchell told us," Nancy replied.
"What do you mean by kidnapping?" Harlow asked.
"Well, apparently there might be a pattern they hunt in," the woman explained. "More like a person than an A.B."
"Yeah, the locals seem to think it's a serial killer," Jodi added, setting several empty plates on the counter along with whatever food she had already cooked so the others could dig in. "And to be honest, the way Twitch was so hesitant to say it makes me think he agrees with them. Which really has me worried."
Harlow took a plate and a little bit of everything Jodi put out. "Either way, I think those two can handle whatever gets thrown at them."
"Well, yeah, but they're not exactly prepared for something like that," Rosalita protested, waving a piece of bacon in the air. "I mean, think about. They're used to hunting creatures, animals. Not people."
"Humans are much less predictable than animals," Nancy backed her up. "An animal's behavior is based on instinct. A human's is based on rational thought and predicting other's responses."
"Except serial killers don't think like normal people," Harlow pointed out. "They are all patterns and needs like animals. Plus, this is Burt we are talking about. That guy was prepared for World War III. I think he can handle people."
"I don't think I'd fit soldiers and psychos in the same group," Jodi said, wrinkling her nose. "As for acting more like animals, I agree, but they still act on human emotions and interactions. You get someone poking around their business, they won't react on instinct like an animal. They'll either freak because their pattern is in danger of being broken and start acting out of character, or they'll calmly plan around them, usually in a way that leads them on a goose hunt that ends up being their demise. Either way, they're more dangerous than animals or people."
"I have to agree with you, Jodi," Nancy nodded. "Though Harlow has a point that those boys haven't found a single thing they can't handle yet."
The Native American man shrugged with a smile at that.
"There's a first time for everything," Rosalita mumbled quietly, looking down at her breakfast with a far-away gaze.
Harlow patted her gently on the shoulder. "Don't worry about them, Rosalita. They'll be fine. You know, there is still a chance they really are just after some weird assblasters."
"Yeah, this is just a random psychological debate we're having at six o'clock in the morning. I wouldn't hold much stock in it," Jodi gave her a languid smile. "I'm sure they're probably having target practice with giant chickens right about now."
Burt and Tyler were back at the small-town station. The survivalist leaned back against the wall, arms crossed, as they reported back to Twitchell. "There's no doubt. There are definitely assblasters out there," he informed.
"From what we saw, we guess there's about 7 or so," Tyler added. "I'm actually surprised there aren't more people missing. They're the easiest prey around for miles, and the biggest."
"Seven?" Twitchell repeated.
Burt nodded. "I've handled that many before. This shouldn't be a problem."
The agent sighed in a mix of annoyance and relief. "So what's the plan? Did you find their...nest or whatever?"
"Yeah, but we won't hunt them there," Burt explained. "Unfortunately, I didn't bring any explosives to take them out all at the same time, and it's too dangerous to go after them all at once. A.B.s are the smartest creatures in the cycle. We draw them out, take out one or two at a time."
"And how long is this going to take?"
"Two days," Burt said. "Possibly three."
"If you let us do our jobs and don't hire on wannabes lookin' to get famous in the hunting world," Tyler gave the plump man a pointed look. "We don't need anyone screwin' up our plans again."
Twitchell narrowed his eyes angrily. "McClain wasn't my idea. Now just hurry up and get the damn job done, alright?" He turned and stomped out of the room only to abruptly push past a rather large man in the doorway, making his intentionally angry exit turn out rather awkward and flustered. Jed looked after him, vaguely confused but uninterested, before turning to Tyler and Burt without unblocking the doorway.
"Couldn't help but overhear. So it really is creatures threatenin' this town?" he asked.
Tyler's body stiffened but he remained otherwise impassive. "Yes."
"And we are certain of this fact," Burt added, unable to tell if Jedadiah was skeptical or not. With the absence of Twitchell, the man had lost his welcoming and helpful air. "I've dealt with these things more than I would like, and would know the signs of them anywhere."
Jed grinned, but it came off slightly more like a smirk, as if that amused him for some reason. "I trust your judgment."
"I'm sure you do."
Burt stared momentarily at Jed before glancing at his partner. "Let's go, Tyler," he said, nodding towards the door. He started towards it, followed by the tense tour owner.
Jed moved just enough to let the survivalist past. Tyler hesitated for a moment before trying to pass the deputy, but when he attempted to get by, he felt a firm grip catch his arm. Jedadiah pushed him back into the room slightly, with a nasty grin. "It has been a while, hasn't it, kid?"
Tyler glared at him and yanked his arm free of the crushing grasp. "Not long enough," he snapped, shoving past to catch up with Burt. Jed just laughed without turning around, continuing into the room Tyler and Burt had been occupying and shutting the door behind him.
Burt quickly cleared the desk at the thankfully normal hotel. He snapped out the map Twitchell had provided them, spreading it out in from to him. The locations of the womens' remains were already shown -there were seven to date- marked in blue pen. The survivalist pulled out a red permanent marker, boxing off the general area, which encompassed a little under a mile of the stretch of cliff.
"It's clear that the nest is somewhere within this perimeter," Burt started, in the military-like tone he always took on when he was coming up with a plan. Tyler grunted in acknowledgement as he moved about the room, unpacking their things and putting them away.
Burt looked over his shoulder from where he leaned over the map to glance at the tour guide momentarily. He turned back to the paper, adding an 'x' where they had discovered the Assblasters' unmistakable scent. He added another circle around that.
"And we know that there was one in this vicinity in the last twenty-four hours," he added.
"How spread out do you think they are?" Tyler asked.
"Probably not much," Burt responded. "A.B.s tend to congregate together."
"I meant their territory, Burt," Tyler said with a sigh, and Burt could almost hear the small eye-roll in his voice.
Burt's brow furrowed at Tyler's short patience. "I imagine their territory is large," he informed, scanning the map for the last known whereabouts of the women. They were spread out around the town, but none outside of it.
"But wouldn't more people be missing if it were? I mean, I know they've been being picky, but only seven women have gone missing since the graboid showed up? Unless there's a big farm nearby or something they've been raiding. You got to admit, it doesn't make a lot of sense."
Burt turned the swivel chair around to face his partner. "The quality of the ground in this area isn't conducive to the living conditions a graboid requires," he explained. "Chances are greater that they went through their life cycle elsewhere and settled here to lay their eggs."
Tyler frowned at him. "Then why haven't we gotten any reports of them? There's not that much free country left these days, I find it hard to believe they managed to go through a graboid and shriekers without running into a town or a farm at least. And Twitch wouldn't have missed it, you know how closely his department follows this kind of thing."
"I'm not clairvoyant," Burt mumbled, again turning back to his planning.
"Coulda fooled me."
Burt puffed out his cheeks in annoyance at his friend's attitude. "You're supposed to be helping me, Tyler."
"Thought I was," Tyler replied shortly, slamming the drawer of the dresser shut.
"Knowing how they got past the radar here won't help us get rid of them!" Burt sighed. "We need to focus on the task at hand."
"I wasn't talking about how they escaped the radar, I was talking about their territory!" Tyler snapped, displaying an anger Burt had never seen in the man before. "The fact that they managed to go unnoticed for so long in such a crowded area shows they can't have been hunting in a large area. Which means it's a smaller area, which does help! Fat lot of good it'll do having a battle plan if we don't know where to strike."
Tyler's out-of-character behavior had Burt turning around once again. He nearly argued back, but instead raised an eyebrow at him. Burt looked more skeptical, even worried, as he looked over the younger man. "What is going on with you, Tyler? You've never acted like this before."
The younger man just stared at him for a moment, eyes swimming with an unexpected hatred, before turning back to his task. "I'm fine."
"I find that hard to believe," Burt responded in a clipped tone.
"Tyler," Burt pushed. "You can't just brush this off."
"Burt..." Tyler's voice was full of warning, but the survivalist ignored it.
"Does it have to do with that deputy?" Burt asked.
"I said drop it!" Tyler exploded, making Burt jump. He had never seen him lose his temper like this.
Several seconds dragged by at an agonizing pace as the room just seemed to freeze. Then Tyler was grabbing his jacket and slamming the motel door behind him, not giving his partner a chance to protest.
Burt gaped after him for another few seconds before awkwardly returning to scribbling on his map. Part of him wanted to chase after the other man and find out what the hell was going on with him. Another part was a little nervous to. Tyler Reed was an easy-going man, it took a lot to get him rightly mad. Even those Vegas guys hadn't bothered him this much. Something was definitely going on with him, and Burt was determined to figure out what it was. But for now, he'd let Tyler cool down; it wouldn't do him a lot of good to get punched in the face.
Burt was occupying himself with marking various important locations on the paper in front of him when a sudden noise startled him out of his planning. He immediately recognized it as Tyler's cellphone, and the short glance at the secondary screen told him it was coming from Chang's.
The survivalist hesitated, wondering for a moment if he should answer his partner's phone. Deciding it was probably important -nobody from town regularly called them while on assignment- he picked the cell up off the dresser and answered.
"Hey, do you guys have a better idea of when you'll be back?" Jodi's voice -sounding both better and worse than Burt had last heard it- came through the phone, not bothering with any pleasantries.
"Er..." Burt mumbled to himself, "Two, three days tops. We have roughly seven Assblasters to deal with before we can leave," he answered.
"Oh, hi Burt! What're you doing with Tyler's phone?"
"Tyler... Stepped out of the hotel," Burt explained awkwardly.
The woman immediately picked up on his underlying tone and sighed in exasperation. "Are you guys fighting again?"
"We had a disagreement."
Another sigh, longer this time. "What'd you do this time, Burt?"
"It's not me!" he defended. "He's acting strange. Something's bothering him but he won't tell me what. I have a distinct feeling it has something to do with the deputy of Jaquilen."
There was a pause on the other end of the line. "What do you mean?"
"Ever since we met the guy- Jedadiah Reed, I think they are related but Tyler denies it- well," he hesitated, "I've never seen Tyler act this way before," he finished, a bit of worry tinting his usually stoic voice.
"Act what way, exactly?"
"So angry," Burt sighed. "You would never believe he would ever act the way he has been the last few hours. He stormed out about thirty minutes ago just because I was asking him what was wrong."
"Wow. That definitely doesn't sound like him," another voice sounded in the background and Jodi sighed for the third time that night. "I gotta go, Larry said I could only use the phone long enough to call Tyler, then I had to go back to bed. Anyway, the reason I called was because those tourists coming for his Moonlight Tour said they can only wait five days, then they have to go on. Let Tyler know for me, will ya?"
"Will do, Jodi," Burt nodded to himself. "Hope you feel better," he added.
Tyler kicked the large pebble on the sidewalk for the millionth time. He'd been walking around aimlessly for several hours now and the sun had just gone down. There was still a faint glow on the horizon. A faint chill was in the air as well, hinting at the low temperatures that were on their way and he found himself wishing he had grabbed a warmer jacket. It was fall now, and the cold desert nights were becoming colder as winter slowly set in. Tyler briefly wondered if they would get as much rain this year as they did last.
Kicking his way down yet another block, he finally allowed his thoughts to turn back to the motel, and Burt. He felt bad for reacting the way he had, he knew Burt hadn't meant any harm in his questions. He was Tyler, mellow, calm, and in control. Acting like a hot-headed teen who needed an attitude adjustment was bound to cause worry and confusion.
Still, Tyler just couldn't bring himself to talk about that-….that abomination that shared his family name. He didn't want Burt to know the truth. And if he could just get through this stupid assignment without having to talk to that thing, then he never would. They would go home and everything would be normal. Jodi would ask if they managed to save in parts even though she knew it would be useless, Twitchell would grumble about overpaying them, Larry would demand details, and it would be normal. Funny, thinking of life in the valley as "normal". But when you have lived in Perfection for a while- 'Oh my God.'
Tyler stumbled as a horrifying realization suddenly invaded his mind. Jed knew about Burt now. He knew Tyler worked with him. It was no secret to the world where the famous Burt Gummer lived; and it wouldn't take a genius to figure out his partner no doubt lived there too.
'No. No no no!' The tour guide collapsed against the side of the towns' bank, pulling his knees up and buried his face in his arms. All this time…all this time he'd managed to forget his existence, and now the man knew where he lived. There was no doubt he would "drop by" at some point; and when he did, Tyler's life would be ruined. Again.
Tyler hugged himself tighter as he shivered from more than just the cold. His very core was shaking and he struggled to keep his breathing under control, to keep himself from slipping into another panic attack. He hadn't had one in over a decade -unless he counted the one he'd had in Perfection earlier that year, but he mostly blamed that one on Shadow for poking at his brain. Plus, to be perfectly honest, he never even really remembered it, just what the others had told him.
Leave it to that creep to unravel everything again, so easily.
'Why can't he just rot away already?'
Chapter by TekeoMiona
This is the last full Jo/La chapter, because we're running out of stuff fer them to do and their big moment don't happen 'til the end, so it's more BuTy from now on, with intermittent JoLa
Larry leaned against the wall outside the store, about a foot from the door. He gnawed nervously at his bottom lip, listening to the other residents talk inside. He had been standing there for a few minutes, wondering what to do. He was worried about Jodi- from the conversation he heard, she had been up for way too long- but he was very embarrassed.
Taking a deep breath, the sci-fi fan shrugged to himself as if to say, "now or never" and forced himself to push the door to the store open and step inside.
"Morning Larry!" Nancy greets him cheerfully but the strange sparkle in her eye makes him think there's more behind the greeting than wishing him a good day. Jodi throws her annoyed look.
"Morning," he piped back in his usual manner, hoping she didn't know what had happened last night. Though he had a bad feeling she did. "Morning, Jodi. How are you feeling?" he asked, straining to keep his voice normal, deciding to just pretend it didn't happen.
"Better," Jodi replied. "Breakfast?"
Larry nodded, sitting down at the remaining seat along the counter. He took some of the wide array of food, occupying himself with it.
"Well, I suppose we should get going, Harlow," Rosalita finished her own breakfast plate and stood up. "We're going to Bixby to see about some new fencing that's supposed to be sturdy enough so El Blanco can't knock it down. Hopefully. We'll see you later."
"Bye. I'll let you know if the boys call," Jodi added as they left. She turned to Nancy. "So what do you have planned today?"
"You making any new figurines?" Larry asked between bites, looking curious.
The potter nodded with a smile. "I've finally gotten the right plaster to make my Graboid Take-Apart Dolls. I'm gonna make just a few in the first batch, see how well they do."
"Those are going to be sooo cool," Larry grinned excitedly. "But, Jodster," he added, "How long have you been up?"
"Since two. Couldn't sleep. I think that nap knocked my inner clock out of whack."
His brow creased a bit worriedly at that. "You really need to rest or it'll take you forever to get better."
Jodi huffed in exasperation. "Larry, I'm fine. I don't even have a fever today."
"But I still think you should take it easy," Larry responded, giving her a pleading look.
"I made food," Jodi deadpanned.
Larry just looked back down at his plate, embarrassed again. He knew he was too anxious about this, but he couldn't help it. He had a mildly obsessive personality to begin with, and he...loved…Jodi. Those two things didn't add up well.
The store fell silent as Jodi started cleaning up and putting away the leftovers and Larry dug into his breakfast. Nancy looked back and forth between them for several minutes before suddenly letting out a loud, aggravated groan and stomping out of the store and gritting out the word, "Children," like it was a curse.
Larry looked after the potter for a moment before grinning. "My mom used to do that all the time to me and Dad."
"For doing what?" Jodi asked.
"He used to tease me all the time," he explained, "So I would pull pranks on him. It drove her crazy," he laughed.
"I can imagine," Jodi said dryly before returning to her task. "I wonder why Nancy did it."
Larry leaned his head on his hand, checking his Star Wars watch for the umpteenth time. It was past noon, but they had only had two tourists who hadn't stayed very long when they found out there was no tour or survival school. On top of that, Jodi didn't seem very interested in talking to him.
So Larry was bored. More than that, he was bored of being bored.
Jodi was tidying up the store -despite his protests- while Larry sat at the counter. He wracked his brain for something interesting enough to get her to talk about and settled on something he had been wondering about for quite some time.
"So why did you move here?"
Jodi stopped what she was doing to give him a confused look. "Huh?" she responded, puzzled by the out-of-the-blue question.
"Why did you move here?" Larry repeated. "You told me yourself everyone here wants some form of privacy from the big city life, but you can find that in any small town. Why here? Was it because of your uncle?"
She hesitated for so long, even turning back to her work, that it seemed like she might not even answer. "Partially," she finally said, not looking at him as she dusted off figurines.
Larry bit his lip before probing further. "Because you missed his funeral? Or something else?"
Jodi froze again. "A little. But I've also wanted this place since I was little. My parents didn't want me to come out here though."
"They had my whole life planned out for me," she answered with a sigh. "I didn't find out until after I graduated that they paid for my college expecting me to stay in Los Angeles and work for them. But I wanted to come here."
"Wow...how'd you get out of it?"
"It wasn't easy," she shook her head. "My sister had to act as a mediator. It came down to the fact Walter left Chang's to me, so I got final say. And it's a challenge here, not just all computer stuff like my dad wanted, which I didn't actually focus on in college."
"So you actually inherited it?" Larry looked surprised. "I knew it was in the family but I thought you just, I dunno, took it or something."
Jodi nodded. "He left it to me because he saw how much I liked the store whenever I visited when I was young."
"Were you here for the first graboid attack?"
"No," Jodi shook her head. "I never even saw a real graboid until a few years ago when they came back."
"Mm," Larry looked a little disappointed at that, as if he'd gotten his hopes up that he could talk to someone who'd seen the attack first-hand. Burt was never much for storytelling and Nancy could only stand his questioning babbling for so long.
"What about you, Larry?" Jodi huffed, giving up on her dusting. "I met your dad, so I seriously doubt that your parents kicked you out. Why didyou come back here, hm?"
"You mean Nancy didn't tell you?"
Larry puffed out a lung full of air. "Well, mostly, it was for the adventure. You know me. But also because my parents kinda did kick me out. They wanted me out of their basement."
"Well, I'm glad they did," Jodi said, not realizing it had slipped out as more than a thought until it was too late. Larry's face split into a wide grin. Face bright red, the store owner turned away to work on something. "I mean, who else could I trust to know I like StarGate?" she added.
Larry laughed. "True."
Jedadiah Reed waited outside the small restaurant calmly. Pedestrians passed by with a small wave and smile since they knew him, and he would reply with a short nod. That was one of the perks of living in a large small town. Everyone knew you, but it wasn't so small that they knew every detail of your life. It made it easier to "hide", as it were.
A young, black haired woman with a sexy smile and sparking brown eyes approached him. He greeted her with a kiss before leading her inside. They sat down at a booth and she almost immediately began talking about her day. Jed simply nodded, barely listening, as he admired her beautiful skin.
Jed let his mind wander, only tuning into the woman's droning voice when she asked a question. That was the major problem with these ladies; they were poor substitutes for the woman he wanted, wanted his entire life. None of them could achieve the sweetness of her voice. But they would have to do until he could find her.
Yet there was always that kid standing in his way. Jedadiah was sickened by the sight of him, him and his sister a constant reminder of everything he couldn't have. A part of him was furious he was here, threatening to throw off all he had set up for himself. But another delighted in the chance to make him pay, for everything.
It had been fourteen years since he had been separated from his love, forced to keep his distance because of his horrible brother. It was he who had tricked the judge into issuing a restraining order, he who had taken everyone and hidden them, hidden his beloved Annie. Jed had hunted for them for years, but if there was one thing his little brother was good at, it was disappearing.
Although….Jedadiah gave a sly smile that his date happily mistook for a silent promise. He let her. His mood was much improved now, now that he had remembered.
Tyler was here. Alone.
And Tyler was easily broken.
Burt positioned a corner of a net over the opening to a small canyon. He glanced down over the edge to find Tyler at the bottom a short ways down, beginning to set up the bait in the same silence he had been in since he had arrived back at the hotel late the previous night. The survivalist had had the distinct feeling he was forgiven, but he knew pushing for Tyler to talk was going to get him nowhere. So the two worked quietly to complete the first trap in an effort to kill the first assblaster. It was a fairly simple plan, one to attract the A.B. to the food below and tangle itself in the net. Then they could shoot it without all the usual hassle and reset the trap.
They were just about finished. Burt was dragging the other half of the net to the other side to lay down, when the first assblaster showed up. It appeared almost out of blue, and Burt barely had enough time to turn around at the sound of it soaring before it knocked into him.
He cried out in surprise as he tumbled over the edge. The breath was knocked out of him when he hit the hard ground, so it took him a moment to realize his predicament. The A.B. had gotten tangled in the net, as planned, but so was Burt's arm. Before he could try to free himself, the giant glider started trying to take off again. It couldn't though, and instead began awkwardly hopping, trying to escape the net. Burt was jerked along the ground with every little jump, even as he struggled to free his arm.
The entire experience was quickly getting annoying and Burt was shouting at the stupid beast to stop when he heard something else. He turned his head to see Tyler, still standing next to the pile of bait. The tour guide wasn't reaching for a gun, or running over to help. Instead, he was laughing.
Burt honestly could not figure out what was so humorous about the situation, but Tyler apparently found it completely hilarious. With each jerky hop and curse from Burt, he only laughed harder.
After another unceremonious tug through the dirt, Burt glared at his partner. "I'm glad you find this so amusing," he grumbled, "But would you mind- UFF- helping me!"
Fighting back his chuckles, Tyler grabbed the rifle and quickly did away with the odd bird.
Finally managing to untangle his arm, Burt stood, looking rather messy and rather unpleased. "I'm glad you are finally enjoying yourself," he ground out sarcastically. "And at my expense none-the-less!"
"I'm just sorry I didn't get it on tape for Jodi," Tyler replied. His eyes twinkled in merriment, and for the first time since they had arrived, he honestly looked happy.
Rolling his eyes behind his sunglasses, the older monster hunter decided to let this slide, just this once. He simply mumbled something about not telling anyone and dusted himself off, hoping the tour guide would keep his better mood up.
"So what do you want for dinner?" Burt asked as they headed back towards town. After resetting the trap, they had managed to get two more assblasters. It had been a long day, and they were both tired, but it had been rather pleasant since Tyler had managed to keep his good mood. Burt suspected it was because they hadn't seen Jed, and he had been careful never to bring him up.
Tyler shrugged. "I'm kinda in the mood for tacos."
Burt nodded. "There is a Taco Bell near the hotel," he said. "How about I drop you off and stop over?"
"Why can't I go with you?"
"I don't trust you in that restaurant," Burt responded, quirking an eyebrow at the man. "You always change my order."
"Well, it's not my fault you order wrong!"
"I order what I want to eat."
"And what you want to eat is disgusting," Tyler deemed matter-of-factly.
Burt stopped in front of the hotel and gave him a pointed look. "Out."
"You haven't even asked what I want."
"You always order the same thing," Burt said flatly.
Tyler made a face at the true statement. He got out reluctantly, and Burt road off. It didn't take him long to get to the fast-food joint. Once there, he got out of his power wagon and went inside.
He regretted it the second he stepped through the door. The entire place was packed with screaming kids, and Burt finally took notice of the two school buses parked in the parking lot. For a moment he considered going elsewhere, but then realized he was familiar with none of the surrounding restaurants and he didn't feel like guessing on what Tyler would want. Taking a deep breath, he readied himself for battle.
Tyler wasn't the only one not paying attention to his surroundings as well as he should. The hotel door was cracked ever so slightly as he walked in, not taking notice. He shut the door behind him before turning around and freezing.
Jedadiah leaned against the wall opposite the door and smirked, a sinister look sending chills down Tyler's spine. "Come on in kid, I think we need to talk."
"I don't think so," Tyler spat.
The man took a few steps toward him, covering the distance of the room quickly. He got in Tyler's face, slamming his hand against the door next to the tour guide's head. "I think you have something I want," he snarled.
Tyler had to struggle not to visibly flinch. "And what would that be?"
"You know where she is," the deputy said, narrowing his eyes at the younger man.
That seemed to ignite a visible hatred in Jed's eyes. He grabbed Tyler's shoulders, ripping him away from the door and slamming him, hard, against the wall besides a bed. "Where is your mother, boy?" he hissed.
"Why the hell would I tell you?" Tyler snarled back.
Jed pulled one hand away, balling it into a fist at his side. "I didn't think it would be easy."
A flicker of fear passed over Tyler's face before the wind was knocked out of him as Jed's heavy fist collided with his stomach. Tyler buckled over in pain, his eyes watering, but Jed forced him to stand back up with a hand held uncomfortably tight around his neck. "Do you need more convincing?" he growled threateningly.
"Go…to hell," Tyler gasped through the hurt and restricted air.
Jed's face contorted in anger, but just as he pulled back for another punch, a familiar car door slammed outside. He shot an annoyed look at the door. Tightening his hand on Tyler's neck, he leaned forward to hiss in his ear, "I don't need to remind you what'll happen if you tell."
By the time Burt walked in, Jed was already next to the door. He grinned pleasantly at the graboid hunter. "Hey, Mr. Gummer. I was just getting an update from the kid here on your progress with the assblasters."
Burt gave a questioning look to Tyler at that, mouthing his partner a confused, "Kid?" Tyler purposefully avoided his eyes though, and Burt knew the good mood of the day was over. With a sigh, he looked back at the deputy. "We'll get the last four in the next day or two," he nodded.
"I'll check in with you later, then," Jed replied shortly, quickly leaving the room with one last cold look at Tyler before shutting the door.
Burt hesitated in the tense silence before raising the bag in his hand. "I got the tacos ."
Tyler said nothing, sitting down carefully on the bed.
Starting to grow annoyed at Tyler's constantly changing mood, but also increasingly worried, Burt set the bag on the desk. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," Tyler mumbled. He sat up, as if trying to act like nothing was different, and looked towards the bag. "What'd you get?"
"My usual, and your usual," he responded, reaching into the bag and pulling out Tyler's taco and handing it to him, not missing the slight wince Tyler did when he stretched forward to take it.
They ate in silence. Burt finished his meal first, watching his friend carefully for a moment. "Can you just tell me what happened?" he finally asked.
"Do you honestly expect me to believe that?" Burt responded. "You were acting completely normal up until you got back here."
Tyler took another bite, chewing slowly. Burt's eyes were drawn to his hands, which had a barely noticeable shake to them.
"What is the matter, Tyler?" he demanded, moving to sit next him.
Tyler tensed. "I said it's nothing."
"And I'm saying I don't believe you."
Burt sighed at his attitude. "I'm just trying to help you!"
"Well, maybe I don't want you to!" Tyler snapped.
Burt stood abruptly. "If that's the case, then maybe you should stop acting like a moody teenager."
The room fell into another silence, more tense and awkward than before, as Burt went to sit at the desk. He looked through the case folder again to distract himself, more hurt by Tyler's claim than he cared to admit. It wasn't just the fact that he was pushing him away, but by pushing him away, Burt felt like maybe Tyler didn't trust him. And in a partnership like theirs, especially with where they lived and what they did, trust was everything.
It was half an hour before Tyler finally finished his meal. He got up to throw it away, mumbling something about going to take a shower. Burt glanced up to acknowledge him, but he froze instead when he saw Tyler taking off his jacket. Tyler didn't notice until he turned to toss it on his bed. He followed Burt's line of sight to his arm and the blood drained from his face.
"That's what this is about?" Burt said tightly, beginning to put the pieces together. "He did that to you? Is that what he was doing here?" His suspicion of the deputy was rapidly changing into anger.
Tyler covered the hand-shaped bruise with his hand. "No…it's not why he was here."
"It certainly wasn't for an update on the A.B.s!" Burt responded, standing from the desk.
"He didn't hurt my arm today!" As soon as the sentence left his mouth, he froze.
Burt's eyes widened at the revelation. "When did he do it then? What did he do today?"
Tyler said nothing, his mouth pressed closed tightly. Burt stepped over. "I am not letting this go Tyler. What? Happened?"
"I-..." Tyler suddenly found himself unable to speak. One of his worst nightmares was coming true and his mouth refused to work properly to stop it.
Burt watched him expectantly, slightly worried. Tyler looked honestly terrified at his discovery. "Tyler…" he stepped forward slowly, taking Tyler's arm gently and leading him to the bed. He sat down next to him. "I promise, I can help. Just please. You have to tell me who he is. What did he do?"
Tyler stared down at his lap, his body rigid and his arms crossed tightly, hugging himself. Burt stayed silent, waiting, one arm on his friend's shoulder in comfort. After several long, silent minutes, Tyler finally relaxed against him, slumped in defeat. He kept his arms crossed, taking a deep, shaky breath.
"He's my uncle."
Chapter by TekeoMiona
WARNINGS WARNINGS WARNINGS
This chapter is mostly flashback as Tyler tells his story, and involves the mention of attempted sexual assault. It's not graphic, and comes off mostly as physical assault, the sexual just intended to happen. But it could be triggering for survivours, so be careful soldiers.
It was barely mid spring but the summer heat was already kicked into full-gear and the sun hung almost directly overhead when the rather small high school let out early. The year was 1990 and a pair of teenagers started down the road as opposed to taking one of the buses pulling up. The boy and girl were so identical that it was obvious they were siblings.
The boy picked up three rocks and started to try and juggle them. He could only throw them two times before he missed and dropped one. His sister watched him curiously.
"Ty, what on earth are you doing?"
She snorted. "I'd hardly call that juggling. But why are you doing it?"
"'Cause we started learning in P.E. today," Tyler replied, focusing on keeping the pebbles in the air. "This was so much easier with beanbags."
He continued for a while as they walked until one flew through the air towards the girl. "Okay, enough! You are not doing that the whole way home. You'll kill me."
"Sorry, Sky," he apologized with a weak grin.
She shoved him gently. "Yeah, yeah," she responded with a smirk. They walked along silently past a row of houses before stopping in front of one. "Hey, whose car is that?"
The vehicle in question was a sleek, blue sedan, a common car in their town but still eerily familiar. The siblings shared an uneasy glance at each other before heading inside their house. Ty pushed the door open hesitantly and found the living room they stepped into empty. Sky gave a small, nervous laugh at their paranoia, although they both remained tense. The further they stepped into the silent house, the more relaxed they became, but it didn't last long.
"Hello, kids. How was school today?" A tall, sandy haired man stepped through a doorway that lead off into the kitchen. "It's been a long time since I've seen the two of you."
The twins froze, staring at the man in fear. "Uh...hi...Uncle Jed," Tyler stuttered quietly.
Skyler's face set hard, refusing to show how uncomfortable she was.
"How you two been?" Jedidiah questioned casually, as if unaware of the tense air around the young teens.
Tyler adopted his sister's look of indifference and shrugged. "Fine."
A smirk twitched on the man's lips. "You know where your mom is?"
"No," the twins replied together.
Jed's face contorted slightly. "Yes you do."
"Uh, NO, we don't," Skyler snapped nervously.
In a flash, Skyler was against the wall, a large hand holding her there by her throat. "You really shouldn't lie to your uncle, sweetheart," he said lowly.
"Let her go!" Tyler yelled, yanking on the man's arm.
Jed shoved the teen away, the distraction giving Skyler just enough time to try and slip from her uncle's grip. Tyler stumbled back and Jedidiah rounded back on the girl. When she attempted to dash for the door, he snatched her sandy hair into his fist, throwing her to the ground.
"Skyler!" Tyler grabbed for his uncle again as his sister screamed in terror. Jed went to push him away again, but Tyler snatched a handful of his hair and he only succeeded in having his scalp yanked painfully. Yelling angrily, he rounded on the boy, twisting his arm before throwing him hard across the room.
Satisfied with that, Jed turned back once again to Skyler where the girl was trying to inch towards the door. He grabbed her shirt, bending down low over her.
"Get off of me!" she shrieked.
"If I can't have your mom, I'll settle for you," he snarled darkly into her ear.
Skylar kicked and bit and scratched for what felt like an eternity, but in reality was little more than a minute, and it was just enough to keep her and Jed at a stalemate. But Jed was predictably quickly gaining the upper hand.
On the other side of the room, Tyler shakily got to his feet, his head spinning after being knocked against the wall. He looked across to his sister, pinned to the floor by their uncle and losing the battle. Grabbing a track trophy from the bookshelf he'd landed near, he ran over and smashed it over the man's head as hard as he could. Suddenly disoriented and nearly blacking out completely, it gave his sister the chance to scramble out from underneath her attacker. Jed managed to stumble to his feet regardless, howling obscenities at the twins.
His anger turned towards Tyler and the young boy dropped his weapon in fear.
"You!" Jed snarled, rounding on the boy and curling a large hand around Tyler's throat. He lifted him clear off the ground and pressed him against the wall. Other hand balled in a fist, he brought it hard against the kid's stomach.
Tyler's face contorted in pain as he let out a choked cry, Jed's hand cutting off his air. Dark spots danced in front of his eyes. He struggled to free himself, kicking his legs weakly.
Then he was on the ground, oxygen flooding his brain and angry shouts assaulting his ears. He looked up to see a pair of safe, familiar legs standing in front of him, yelling at Skyler to grab her brother and run.
"You tell me where she is!" came Jed's enraged demand as he threw another punch at the new target of his anger.
Skyler grabbed her brother's arm and pulled him to his feet and towards the kitchen doorway. Tyler stopped her as soon as they were through.
"Ty, come on! Dad said to run!" Skyler hissed.
"To where?" Tyler protested. "We can't go to Ms. Stockley's house, she's not here! And all the other neighbors are at work still!"
A crash came from the living room, making them cringe. "Call the cops! Hurry!" Tyler ordered, pushing his sister towards the phone. He peered around the doorway to see what had happened.
Tyler could see the air rush out of his father's lungs, but it didn't stop him from grabbing Jed's leg and attempting to roll out from underneath him. It threw the already injured man off balance. Jed grabbed a wall to keep from falling and his eyes looked in the direction of the kitchen. Tyler gasped and jumped backwards, hoping he hadn't been seen. He glanced to his sister, who was jabbering on the phone, sounding just as terrified as he felt. Over the sounds of the continued fight in the living room, he could just hear someone on the other line telling her to calm down.
Tyler once again risked looking back into the adjoining room when he heard a clattering. The twins' dad had gotten back to his feet and was tearing through drawers in a nearby end table.
He looked up suddenly when he was interrupted by a dark chuckle. "You really think I would leave this lying around for you, John?" Jed asked, pulling a black-barreled pistol from his pocket and holding it level at his brother.
Tyler's eyes widened in horror as Jed pulled the trigger, but John had already moved out of the way, grabbing Jed's hand and knocking the gun out before he could shoot again. He kicked it away quickly before aiming another fist at Jed's face.
At the gunshot, Skyler had begun frantically shouting into the phone. Seconds later, Tyler could hear the sound of sirens blaring down the road to their house. After that, everything seemed to fly by to the twins. The front door flew open and several police officers rushed in, guns drawn. The situation was quickly defused and Jedidiah was taken out in handcuffs. Statements were taken, questions were asked, and then they were alone in the living room, the twins curled up under each of their father's arms.
For a long moment Burt was silent as he mulled over what Tyler had just told him. "What happened? Why is your uncle free after that?"
"He was never convicted."
The survivalist's brow furrowed at that bit of information. "How could he not be?"
Tyler shrugged wearily. "He had friends. They always managed to swing it so he came out as the victim, or near enough. It wasn't the first time he'd caused trouble for us. That time, the court ruled it as a simple domestic dispute between brothers. Me and Sky just..."imagined" everything else."
Burt was fuming and it was plain on his face. He had always been the more hotheaded of the two, but he knew that wouldn't help Tyler and it took a lot for him not to resort to his usual raving. Clenching his fist, he took a few calming breathes before speaking. "He never bothered you guys since?"
"No." Tyler moved out from under Burt's arm and laid back on the bed, resting his head on his hands to stare at the ceiling. "Dad filed a restraining order against him and moved us to a new town. No warning, no planning, we didn't even pack anything. Just a few clothes and important stuff. We stayed in a hotel for a week before he found us a house to live in and bought all new furniture and wardrobes. Enrolled us in our new school. Which sucked, 'cause the second the kids found out why we'd moved, they treated us like special cases. Tiptoed around us, always asking how we were. Drove us nuts and we didn't get on with anyone very well. Dad took us out after a couple months and we were homeschooled for the rest of the year. By the time we went back, most everyone had forgotten, and we had gotten used to pretending it never happened."
Burt stood and paced back and forth for a moment through the room. "Listen," he said finally, "he's not going to touch you again as long as I'm around. So just stick with me- like partners should- until we get those last couple A.B.s taken care of, and then we'll get out of town ASAP."
For a moment, Tyler looked like he was about to say something. However, he was suddenly interrupted by the ring of the hotel phone, which Burt picked up immediately with a very annoyed look on his face. "Yes? Twitchell, this isn't exactly a great ti-" He fell silent for a minute. "I see... We'll get onto it."
"What is it?" Tyler questioned, noticing all emotion fall out of Burt's face.
"They just found another woman's remains."
The store was filled with the sound of sizzling oil and cheerful humming as Jodi poured more pancake batter into her skillet. She was in a particularly good mood today. Her cold had finally gone away, the weather outside was a pleasant cool, they'd gone an entire week without mixmaster rearing its ugly head, and she had woken up with an overall jovial disposition that morning.
The pancake started to bubble, popping out a code that it was ready to be flipped. Feeling playful, Jodi picked up the skillet and shook it, loosening the round crepe. Balancing everything carefully, she threw it up in the air. The pancake soared slightly higher than she'd meant to, and her mouth opened in a not-so-silent 'o' as it nearly slapped against the ceiling. It fell short by mere inches, plummeting back to earth, and she quickly whirled, catching it perfectly in the skillet. She beamed at herself, ignoring the fact that she had pancake batter splattered on her shirt from the impact.
Loud clapping started up behind her, and she turned to see Larry standing in the middle of the door, applauding the act. "NICE, Jodster! Although you know, people usually do that after the pancake's been at least somewhat cooked on both sides."
She stuck her tongue out at him in defiance as she put the skillet back on the stove to finish cooking. With a slightly exaggerated flourish, she deposited a stack of flapjacks, syrup, and a tall glass of chocolate milk on the counter. "Hungry?"
The sci-fi geek nodded eagerly, walking over to sit at the counter. "So, you're feeling better?" he asked between bites.
"All cured," she replied cheerfully.
"So, uh, Jodi," he started, almost hesitantly.
"Yeah?" she replied absently as she hurried back to the stove to prevent the pancake from burning.
Larry bit his lip. "Any tourists planned to come today?" he asked quickly as if that wasn't what he was initially planning to say.
Jodi shrugged. "The only 'planned' tourists are for the school and tour. So no, there's none of them, if that's what you mean. I dunno about normal ones though."
"Oh, okay," he responded distractedly. After a moment he looked back up from his plate. "Could I, um, tell you something?" he finally asked nervously.
Sensing the slight urgency and nervousness to his tone, Jodi turned off the stove and faced him, looking him curiously in the eyes. "What is it?"
"Well, uh, it's something I've wanted to tell you for a while," he began awkwardly, rubbing the back of his neck. "And, you know, we've been friends for a while..."
"Yeah?" Jodi said after a moment, prodding him to continue.
"Um, it's just..." he looked down, suddenly finding his hands very interesting, "I guess I figured this out when that Randall guy came but I still don't know how to say it."
"Say what?" Jodi asked, becoming slightly annoyed at how long it was taking for the sci-fi geek to say whatever it was he was trying to say. Honestly, he could be such a pain sometimes. Not a bad pain, but a pain.
"To... To say how I, uh, feel about you?" Larry said, slightly wincing at his own words. Jodi just stared at him, not getting his point. He tangled his fingers into his hair so his arms covered his face. "Why does it have to be so hard to tell you I love you?" he mumbled almost under his breath, more to himself than Jodi.
She still heard him though, faintly, and she suddenly grinned even though he couldn't see it. "To tell me you what?" she asked again, leaning against the counter closer to him.
Larry looked up, slightly started that he had said it out loud. "That I, well... um... I..." he stuttered. She raised an eyebrow at him, waiting. "I," he looked away for a second, taking a breath, "I've been trying to tell you that I, uh, well, I m-mean I…"
Jodi watched him for a few moments as he repeated the same sentence about seven times, both her amusement and annoyance growing. Finally, tired of his babbling, she reached forward, grabbed his head, pulled him close, and kissed him. Hard. It effectively shut him up. He was completely caught off guard, freezing for a moment before his brain caught up with what was happening. Jodi was kissing him. She was kissing him. Once he got that through his head, he couldn't help but kiss her back.
After a moment, she pulled away, her hands still on his head. "Was that basically it?" she asked.
Still thoroughly shocked, he nodded slightly. "Uh... yeah," he replied finally, unsure what else to say.
She smiled. "Good." And then they were kissing again.
Larry lost track of how much time passed- what felt like only a few seconds to him was more like five minutes- when the sound of a car door slamming outside interrupted them. He decided he would rather ignore it, but Jodi didn't. By the time Roger walked in through the door, she was already by the stove cooking another pancake.
Larry busied himself finishing what was left of his meal as the scientist approached the counter. "Morning," he greeted, sitting down.
"Morning," Jodi returned, smiling at him over her shoulder. "Pancakes?"
"Sure," he nodded. "Glad to see you're doin' better."
"Glad to be feeling better," she said happily.
Roger grinned at the particularly cheerful store owner when she turned around to give him his plate of food a few minutes later. He noticed Larry begin to say something to her out of the corner of his eye, only to have Jodi respond with a stern look and a quick, "Later."
At the science fiction fan's slightly disappointed nod, Roger realized he was probably missing something important. After a few seconds of trying to figure out what, he shrugged to himself and continued with his breakfast.
The crime scene was crawling with cops by the time they got there. Tyler followed Burt closely, his hands shoved in his pockets and his head down. He was still reeling from having spilt his family's closest kept secret and the thought of inevitably running into Jed again had him teetering on the edge of a panic attack. He trusted Burt though, and if Burt said he'd keep him safe, Tyler knew he would.
The scene wasn't terribly remarkable, a small roped off area of some trees and brush. There were two cops there, luckily neither of which were Jed. Burt could tell, even from a distance, that this was the work of the ABs, with much of the body torn to shreds and little recognizable. The cops barely glanced up when they came over, continuing with their work. Tyler knelt to look a little closer.
"This is creepy. She looks kinda like ma."
Burt couldn't hold back a glance that seemed to say, 'You're such a redneck.' "You've just got her on your mind," he said instead, joining him next to the body.
Tyler hadn't caught the look but he'd heard it in Burt's voice and threw a half-hearted glare at him. "How long has she been dead?" he asked the cops.
"Only about an hour."
"A.B. might still be in the neighborhood then," he said, looking up at the horizon where the canyon was. "We're about three miles east of where we killed the others. They may be hidden away in a cave near here."
Burt gave him a small nod. "Let's go."
The drive to the canyon was short and a couple minutes later Burt and Tyler were standing at the edge. Burt looked up at the sky. "We'll have to make this quick, it'll be dark in a couple hours. Just look for areas that might accommodate an assblaster for the night and we can finish 'em off in the morning."
Somewhere behind him, Burt heard Tyler take a quick, startled breath. "I don't think that'll be necessary."
"I think I found 'em."
Burt turned to look at Tyler quizzically, but Tyler was facing away from him, staring at a basin not far away. Burt followed his gaze and was met with the sight of all four remaining assblasters sitting together in a group, somewhat sheltered beneath an overhanging corner. He eyed it carefully. Their usual plan was to take them out one by one since it was safer, but in that spot the creatures were somewhat trapped. A couple simultaneous well-aimed explosions...
He glanced back at Tyler to voice the idea forming but his partner was already on the same page.
Burt smiled. "Bombs."
Half an hour later they were pulling up to the police station to meet Twitchell. The agent stood on the front steps, looking happy but vaguely annoyed. He crossed his arms as they came up.
"What's the catch?"
The partners exchanged puzzled looks. "Catch?" Tyler repeated.
"Yes, catch, as in the big giant 'but'!"
Burt peered at him carefully. "You okay, Twitchell?"
Twitchell glared at him. "I'm fine, Gummer. But when was the last time you took care of an assignment so easily, with no complications getting in your way?"
The confusion lifted from their faces in a silent, collective "Ah."
"Even Deputy Reed was surprised," Twitchell continued, frowning. "Dropped coffee all over my trousers."
Burt and Tyler glanced down, having not noticed the mess before. Tyler smirked slightly at the placement.
"Well, there's a first time for everything, Twitchell," Burt replied, patting him on the shoulder. He didn't bother bringing up the "uncle" complication. It hadn't affected the job itself anyway.
The agent stared at them suspiciously for a moment before thrusting their check at them. "Whatever. Take it and go before I find out that's a lie."
He left them standing on the stoop and they watched him jump in his car and drive off, as if he really was scared of it all being jinxed. Burt chuckled and turned to Tyler. "You still wanna swing over to the next town and see your mom?"
Before Tyler had a chance to reply, Jed's voice sounded behind them. "Leaving so soon?"
Tyler flinched and Burt struggled to keep his voice even and civil. "Yes. Job's done, no reason to hang around."
Jed smiled, almost sardonically. "So I heard. It was nice work. The county thanks you."
"Glad to help," Burt said, nodding curtly. He herded Tyler towards the truck before Jed could continue talking. "Goodbye."
Jed watched them go, the smile still on his face. "So," he murmured to himself. "My dear little Annie lives nearby. How wonderful."
Chapter by TekeoMiona
YES, Tyler's mother is French. Honest to goodness French. Well, French-Canadian, but she grew up speaking French before learning English. So yes, there's some French in here. And because I have not yet begun learning that language, it's all cruddy GoogleTranslate stuff. So any French speakers, DO NOT HESITATE to hand over the correct words. I tried to get them before doing GT, but no such luck, so it's all I could do.
Non-Frenchies, the translations aren't all that important, so don't blow a gasket thinking you've missed something big. It's pretty cut-and-go.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Tyler's mother and father lived not even half an hour from Jaquilen, in a humble abode in a humble town a short drive away from a small military base. Tyler was pretty silent on the way there, but it was less of a loaded silence then it had been before, which made Burt feel a bit better. He sent a silent prayer that this would be an assignment they could quickly put behind them.
The house sat on the very edge of town, only a few blocks from the highway. Burt pulled up in front of it, catching a glance of the gas gauge as he did so. "Oh damn."
"I forgot to fill up the tank before we left Jaquilen. Listen, I'll do that now, get some sandwiches for the road, and then come back. That way we can just head straight on out. Where's the nearest gas station?"
Tyler nodded his head to the street in front of them. "Turn left and follow it for a few blocks. Downtown's not far."
"Alright. Won't be long."
Tyler climbed out and headed up to the porch as Burt disappeared around the corner. He raised his fist to knock on the door before freezing. Something felt wrong. Very wrong. Suddenly wishing he hadn't agreed to Burt's plan, Tyler reached for the doorknob instead. It was unlocked. Not that that was a bad sign; growing up, the only time his parents had ever locked the doors was when they were going on a long trip.
Tyler opened the door slowly. He was immediately met with a harsh, horrifyingly familiar voice from the kitchen.
"Oh, Annie, if you only knew how hard it was for me to track you down," Jed's voice came with a sickening lilt to it. "I've heard of playing hard to get but this, this is," a crack sounded, like someone being violently slapped, "Is downright punishable."
Tyler's blood ran cold, then hot, then cold again as terror and anger coursed through him. Settling on anger, he hurried into the kitchen. Jed had his mother by the throat, shoved against a wall, trying to kiss her. Annie was small, a couple inches taller than Jodi, but what she lacked in height and strength, she made up for in fiery stubbornness. Bruised and bleeding from a cut on her lip, she didn't stop struggling, biting Jed's lip in the process just as Tyler grabbed his uncle from behind and yanked him backwards.
Jed let out a barrage of curses as he hit the floor, twisting to see who had interrupted him. It was then Tyler noticed the others; three equally muscle-bound men who had been sitting at the table on the other side of the kitchen. Two of them grabbed Tyler, pulling his arms tightly behind his back. Annie cried out in French, grabbing for one of the men, but the third kept her back.
"I figured you would try to be the hero again, kid," Jed snarled, grabbing the collar of Tyler's shirt into his fist. "That's gunna be the death of you."
Tyler spit in his eye. It did nothing but anger Jed even more and earn him several punches to the stomach from the men holding him, but it was still oddly satisfying.
Jed grabbed his nephew's chin, jerking his head up to look at him. "You are really asking for it," he growled, throwing a punch across his face.
"Leave him alone!" Annie screamed.
"Shut up!" he barked over his shoulder. "I ain't going to let anything stand in my way anymore," he continued. "I can't take being separated from my lovely Annie for one more day; I've lived with that long enough. Finding replacements for a woman like her ain't easy and they are never good enough. 'Bout time I get what I wanted."
"Replacements…" Tyler repeated quietly. He stared at Jed in shock. "Those women…"
"You're pretty slow on the uptake, aren't you?" Jed smirked.
Tyler shook his head as everything fell into place. "You knew about the graboid from the beginning, didn't you? That's why nobody knew about it 'til now. You kept it hidden."
"Yep!" Jed grinned proudly. "It was born in a closed canyon, couldn't get out. Would've died if I hadn't found it. Which happened by pure luck when I was dumping the first body. No one ever ventures in there. I figured it'd be a good enough spot. Turns out it was the perfect spot!"
Annie exchanged glance with her son. She hadn't heard about the rash of killings in the neighboring town. Tyler just shook his head ever so slightly. Jed took no notice of the exchange, too caught up with his classic retelling of "This is how I did my evil plan and I'm a genius."
"I had to throw it stray animals as well to keep it sufficiently fed, but nobody ever missed them. Didn't even notice. Worked well up until they morphed into assblasters. Then they could fly! Thankfully, by then, they were so used to being fed that they didn't have much interest in hunting themselves. Still, giant flying turkeys are bound to be noticed." Jed sighed, looking back at Tyler. His fist tightened in his shirt. "And then you showed up. I was fine with it at first. Happy even. Nice to see family once in a while and I didn't believe you would find anything. Seems I underestimated you and Gummer."
"We get that a lot, actually," Tyler muttered.
"Yeah, well, you won't have to worry about that anymore," Jed sneered, releasing Tyler's collar and stepping back. "Have fun, boys."
A hard fist instantly slammed into Tyler's chest, knocking the breath out of him. He doubled over but the men yanked him back up to hit him again. Black spots swam in front of his eyes as his ribcage was relentlessly pummeled before they finally let him fall to the floor. Jed watched for a while but then turned back to Annie, who was struggling in the third man's arms, crying for her son. Jed yanked her toward him and into a bruising kiss.
Tyler caught a glimpse of them as the third man joined his friends, pinning Tyler to the ground. An angry bellow from his uncle and a pained scream from his mother sent a fresh wave of adrenaline through him. Jerking his knee up, he managed to hit one of them in the crotch, making him keel over into another. Tyler punched the last guy with his free arm and scrambled to his feet, grabbing Jed again and slamming his fist in his nose.
"Terme!" Tyler yelled at his mother.
"No!" Jed, his nose crooked and gushing blood, gripped Tyler's arm and threw him against the counter. Annie screamed as Tyler's head connected with the edge and he crumpled to the floor again. He didn't move. Jed shot her a look as she took a step forward but didn't follow her as she turned around and ran out of the house, crying for help.
A few of her neighbors were already outside or poking their heads from their doors, having heard the yelling and screaming and wondering what was going on. Burt had just returned, walking up the sidewalk when Annie ran into him.
"Help, please!" the woman cried.
Burt started, a slightly worried expression behind his dark sunglasses. "What's the matter, ma'am?"
One of her neighbors was already over to them as well, looking shocked at her bruised and battered appearance. "My God, Annie, are you okay? What happened?" the woman asked.
Annie looked between the two people, tears of pain and fear streaming down her face as she rambled an explanation in French that neither could catch. Her neighbor grabbed her shoulders gently. "Annie, English!"
"My husband's….Jed...he... My son! He's hurt! In the house!" she stuttered, struggling to remember the language in her panic.
"Your son? Tyler?" Burt demanded, and Annie nodded slightly. He turned to the other woman. "Take her and go get help," he ordered before rushing into the home.
The survivalist ran through the living room towards the sounds of a struggle, bursting into kitchen in time to see three men run out a back door. He caught sight of none other than Jed, sending a kick into the side of a disturbingly limp Tyler.
"Hey!" Burt barked, clearing the space between himself and Jed and grabbing him, pulling him away from his partner.
The deputy tried to throw a punch but Burt dodged out of the way. "What are you doing here, Gummer?" he snarled before Burt caught him under the chin.
Jed was a bit taller than him, but the man was already hurt so he and Burt struggled back and forth, neither causing much damage until Jed knocked Burt to the floor with a solid hit to the chest. Burt went down but brought him with him.
The wind was knocked out of both of them, Jed ending up on his stomach, but Burt managed to grab his Eagle and roll over onto him, cracking the butt of his gun against the back of the man's sandy-colored head.
He stayed down.
Sucking in a sharp breath, Burt struggled back to his feet. He stepped over to Tyler, kneeling next to his partner and looking him over, vaguely aware of the sound of sirens in the distance. He took care not to move him, having no doubt he probably had broken ribs. He turned Tyler's head carefully to look at the long, deep gash stretching from the bottom tip of his left ear to his temple. Definitely bad, but at least he was breathing. Burt took off his top shirt and pressed it against the cut and tried not to think about how heavily it was bleeding.
Everything felt numb and his head felt light and breezy. Tyler never thought he could feel breezy, but he did. There was annoying hum coming from somewhere next to him, but he couldn't get his eyes open to look. He wanted the noise to stop though, so he kept trying until he finally convinced his eyelids to move out of the way. He blinked a few times, clearing the fuzziness and light glare until he could focus on the splash of green and brown in front of him. A moment later he recognized it as Burt, leaning back in a chair and working on a crossword. He was also humming.
Tyler grumbled incoherently and Burt looked up in surprise. He sat forward with the smallest hint if a smile. "You're finally up," he commented.
Tyler just huffed, his mouth throat too dry to say anything. A second later a straw was in front of him. He sipped eagerly and leaned back with a faint, "Thanks." Burt nodded, setting the cup back on the small table. Tyler took the moment to look around. "Where...?"
"The hospital," Burt answered quickly. "You've been out a couple of days. Jed caused quite a bit of damage, luckily none of it life threatening."
"Broken ribs, cut on your head, and a bad concussion," he added.
Tyler made no reply and for a moment Burt thought he'd fallen asleep. "Where's Ma?"
Burt motioned towards the mostly-closed door. "She's fine. On the phone with your father," he explained. "Nice woman, though I wish we could have met under better circumstances."
Tyler hummed quietly in agreement as Annie herself walked in. She hurried over to the bed when she saw Tyler awake. "Ty! Êtes-vous d'accord? Comment va votre tête?"
Burt smiled as the woman continued fussing over her son. He didn't need to speak French to know what she was asking as Tyler feebly waved a hand in protest. "Je vais bien, Ma, Je vais bien. Can't feel a thing. Promise."
"Do you need some water?"
"I already had some."
Annie huffed at his interruption but stopped her pestering. Burt got to his feet and stretched. "I'll leave you two to it. I'm gonna go get something to eat. Mrs. Reed, I'll be back in half an hour to sit with Tyler. You need to eat something too, and rest."
"Of course. Thank you, Burt," Annie replied. She turned back to her son as Burt left. She sighed, leaning forward to brush his hair out of his face. "Je suis tellement désolé, miel," she murmured. She shook her head when he frowned. "Mr. Gummer told me what happened in Jaquilen. We had no idea he was so close. That was our fault. We should have been more careful."
Her French accent got heavier with each word as she struggled to keep her calm. Tyler reached up to wipe a tear from her cheek. She leaned into his touch. "It's okay, Ma. We all forgot about him."
She let out a small laugh. "I know. Still...it's our job to protect you two. I can't help but worry." She gripped his hand in hers. "It's nice to see someone has your back, though. I like that man."
Tyler chuckled wincing slightly at the pain it caused in his chest. "He has his moments."
Annie smiled. "I'm not the only one who needs rest. Get some sleep, sweetie."
Tyler mumbled faint agreement as he let his tired eyes close. He was asleep almost instantly.
Tyler's eyes opened again, fortunately much easier this time. He turned his head, expecting to see his mom, but once again Burt was at his side.
"Oh, you. How long was I out this time?" the tour guide asked.
"A little more than an hour," Burt responded.
"How do you feel?"
"Little more awake. Head hurts though," Tyler admitted.
"As can be expected," Burt nodded, leaning back in his seat. "You've been through a lot. Good news is, once you're back on your feet we can head back home."
Tyler's face shadowed with fear and sorrow and he looked away. Burt frowned. "What's wrong?"
"He knows where I live." The words were barely more than a whisper and the older man had to strain to hear them.
"Who? Jed?" At Tyler's small nod, Burt forced a small smile. "Well, seeing as he has about 90 years in prison, I don't think you have to worry about him."
The look on Tyler's face could only be described as downright shock. "Prison?"
Burt nodded, looking at him with a bit of confusion. "You didn't know he was arrested? I know you were unconscious, but I thought your mother might have told you."
"We didn't talk very long before I fell asleep." Tyler stared at him almost warily. "He's really going to jail?"
"He killed at least eight women and assaulted you and Annie, and there was plenty of evidence tying him to it all," Burt reminded him.
"Well, yeah, but..." Tyler couldn't finish. The very idea that Jed hadn't and couldn't weasel his way out of trouble for once was just too foreign.
Burt caught the meaning and patted Tyler's arm comfortingly. "He's really gone, Tyler. I promise."
Tyler nodded but said nothing, staring at the ceiling. After a moment Burt spoke again, "I need to call Jodi. Told her earlier we'd be a little late, but I guess I should let them know what's goin' on and when we'll be leaving."
He stood and started to leave but stopped when Tyler grabbed his hand. "You didn't...you didn't tell them? What happened?"
"Could you...not?" Tyler asked. "Tell them it- it was an assblaster or something. Whatever. Just nothing about..."
Burt squeezed his partner's hand and nodded. "I won't."
Next time on MMR...
LGF 8: In the Dark
- The explosion knocked Burt off his chair - A piercing shriek tore through the air. "Duck!" Larry screamed - Tyler paced the hospital room uneasily - "Is it permanent?" "I don't know." - Casey shook her head. "There's just no way to see these things coming." - "Where'd it go?!" -