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Monty Green, Private Eye

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“Fell asleep at your desk again, huh?” Harper says, sticking her head around his door. “Dude, your mattress is right there.”

She dumps a mug of coffee by his head, and Monty can’t quite make words happen this early in the morning, but he knows she understands the vague noise of gratitude he makes in response. He does manage to lift his head off the files he was using as a pillow, and she presses a quick kiss to his temple.

She goes to leave for work, but she’s back in the doorway a minute later, frowning. “I thought Monday was your day off.”

Monty gulps down some coffee and says, “It is.”

“There’s someone out front asking to see you,” she says, “should I tell him to leave?”

Monty shoves the last slice of toast into his mouth whole and shakes his head. An actual day off would be nice, but rent money would be nicer.

He starts draining his cup of coffee so that he’ll be in a fit state to interact with a client by the time Harper returns, but he’s not entirely successful. He gets the client’s name – Lincoln – and a vague sketch of the story – typical small local business being trod on by corporate giant with shitty business practices and ethically questionable dealings – but gets a bit lost in the finer details.

“Okay,” Monty says, rubbing his aching temples. He feels very film noir, which would have thrilled him back when he started this private investigator thing, but now just makes him want to take the world’s longest shower. “What do you need from me, exactly?”

Lincoln, who has the soulful eyes and perfectly chiselled features of a femme fatale but basically nothing else, sighs.

“Mountain & Sons are going to take us over if we don’t do something,” he explains, but patiently, like he hasn’t said this at least three times already. “We can’t let that happen. Not just for us, but for the whole community here. We can’t prove anything, but-” Lincoln breaks off, grimacing. “There are stories. Trigadekru don’t have the money or resources to fight them on their territory. That’s where you come in.”

“You want me to put together a case for you,” Monty surmises, and Lincoln nods.

“It shouldn’t be too much trouble,” he says. “Some light surveillance, maybe photographic evidence of wrongdoing, anything we can use to discredit them.”

“I can do that,” Monty says, and he doesn’t want to, he really doesn’t want to, but he adds, “You don’t have a lot of money.”

“We can pay you,” Lincoln says, and Monty nods, relieved. Recently he’s taken on a few too many people who couldn't, and helping to right the wrongs of the world feels good, but working gas and electricity feels better.

“Excellent,” he says. “Let’s do this.”

*

Monty kind of does need an actual day off, so the first thing he does after Lincoln leaves is run a bath, throw in a bath bomb and fall asleep amongst the bubbles for, like, an hour.

The second thing he does is research Mountain and Sons.

Lincoln was right to be suspicious of them; Monty’s never heard the name before, but a superficial search throws up connections to a bunch of cases he has heard of. Missing persons, poisoned water supplies, health code violations, workplace abuse and harassment; nothing seemed to stick. It could mean they're innocent, but more probably it means they're very clever and very well connected.

Still. He needs more information.

Monty leaves his computer running, collecting results from a couple of deeper searches, and wanders into the kitchen to make lunch. As he’s rifling in the uncomfortably bare fridge/freezer in search of something edible, his phone buzzes.

Come down to the shop, Raven says, brisk as ever. Bring food and I’ll tell you what I know.

Monty rolls his eyes. I’m not new, he sends back. I’ll pick up your favourite pizza on the way.

Don’t skimp on the cheese, she says, and he says, aloud, “I would never,” but he just slips his phone back in his pocket without replying.

Raven’s working on a car when Monty gets down to her autoshop, but Sinclair directs him to the back office and says he’ll send her in when she’s done. He takes Raven’s pizza with him and helps himself to a slice while he waits. As he’s eyeing up a second, the door swings open behind him and Raven says, “I fucking see you, Monty.”

She stalks around him to sit behind the desk, but the scowl she’s schooled her features into drops off as soon as it meets Monty’s winning smile.

“Please tell me that’s not all you’ve eaten today,” Raven says, and Monty shrugs.

“I thought we were always gonna be honest with each other.”

Raven puts her head in her hands. “Have another goddamn slice of pizza,” she says, muffled, “and take on some actual paying cases once in awhile, yeah?”

“I’ll have you know I got a paying client in just this morning,” Monty tells her, and Raven lifts her head up.

“Oh yeah?” she says. “Anyone I’d know?”

“Trigadekru?” Monty tries, but Raven’s face stays blank. “They’re a local horticultural business, small-time, focus on sustainable development and that jazz. They’ve got me looking into Mountain & Sons.”

Raven shrugs. “Doesn’t ring a bell. I’ll keep an ear out, though.”

“Much obliged,” Monty says, smiling at her. “So what can you tell me about these cars?”

They finish the pizza between them as Raven explains, and Monty’s gonna have to figure out some way to pay her properly, in a way she can’t just sneakily return to him. As he gets up to leave, she comes around the desk to hug him.

“Last Thursday of the month, yeah?” she says, not really a question, more a reminder. Monty nods anyway, and she grips his arm, brief and warm.

By the time he gets home, his searches have returned a string of results, and Monty sits down at his desk to scroll through them. He whistles, low through his teeth, then sits back from his computer screen.

“Well, shit,” he says.

*

Monty likes a good cliché, okay.

He meets Detective Nate Miller in the park between Monty’s apartment and the police station. He’s sat on one end of their usual bench, and he doesn’t look up as Miller takes the other end.

“What's this about, Monty?”

“Just wanted to catch up with my favourite cop,” Monty says, and Miller rolls his eyes. “What, I can't just wanna say hi? It's been a long fucking time, Miller. How's your dad doing?”

“I'm only on break for another half hour,” Miller says, “so whatever it is, make it quick.”

“Mountain & Sons,” Monty says, “you're investigating them, right?”

Miller’s narrow look gets even narrower. Monty smiles winningly at him.

“We might be,” Miller says. “You know I can't tell you any more than that.”

“I know that doesn't mean you won't,” Monty counters. They've come a long way in the years they've known each other. This wouldn't even have been a possibility way back when, but back then Miller was booking Monty for breaking and entering every other month and generally trying to warn him off this whole PI thing. Now, they're sort of friends. Maybe not as friendly as Monty might like them to be, but that's how things go, sometimes. “What do I have to do to get a look at their file?”

“Does the word misfeasance mean nothing to you?” Miller asks.

“The wrongful exercise of lawful authority,” Monty recites, and Miller scowls at him. Monty can be patient, though. Miller always relents in the end.

“Look,” Miller says. “You're smart, and you're good at what you do, so I know you already know you're into some deep shit here.”

Monty huffs a breath. “If you're going to tell me to leave this to the cops-”

“Trust me, I know better,” Miller says wryly. He looks down, licks his lips, looks back up again. “Just- be careful, okay?”

Monty smiles. “Always,” he says, and Miller just rolls his eyes.

“My dad’s doing great, by the way,” he says, “not that you care.”

“Of course I care,” Monty protests, and if it comes out a little more sincere than Monty meant it to, well. It makes Miller smile, the soft, fond one it took Monty a whole year to earn, and Monty would do a lot for the sake of that smile.

*

It takes Monty a simple Google search to discover that Cage Wallace, the Son in Mountain & Sons, is pretty much in charge of the whole operation, what with his father Dante’s imminent retirement. It takes an only slightly more complicated search to be comfortably certain of his skeeviness. It takes an entire week of routine surveillance for Monty to find out anything interesting.

Monty’s followed him to what appears to be an entirely innocent lunch date at a bistro with one of his associates, Dr Lorelai Tsing. Monty’s taking pictures of them from his car, anyway. He’s learnt two things from doing what he does: one, all humans ever are literal garbage; two, nothing is ever what it seems. He’s got his suspicions about Tsing, anyway. She's not involved with the business as far as Monty can tell, but she did her PhD on the influence of human genetics on plant development. Just looking at the abstract, Monty could tell it was pseudoscientific nonsense. He's always suspicious about pseudoscience.

His suspicion pays off about twenty minutes into the meeting. He’s been practising his lipreading, so he knows they’ve been exchanging pleasantries; Dante’s been poorly recently, and Cage has convinced him to push his retirement forward. What’s said next isn’t entirely clear, but it’s impossible for Monty to miss Wallace’s answering smirk.

“Easier than getting him on board with our little side venture,” he says. “He’s always been a bit squeamish about kidnapping.”

Monty snaps a picture instinctively, even though it’s useless. It’s not exactly a confession, and it’s not like Monty would’ve been able to capture it even if it were. But this is his first concrete lead, beyond the whisperings he found on the deep net. He can work with it. He’ll have to ignore the way his stomach drops, the way his skin starts to crawl, his immediate need to shower, but he’s well used to that part of the process.

He watches the rest of the meeting intently, but Tsing only smiles and swiftly changes the subject, offering Monty no further clues. She picks up the cheque, and they get in separate cars to drive away, and Monty follows Wallace halfway to his country house on the edge of town before turning off to head back to his own apartment.

He’s just hit traffic coming back into town when he glances at his wing mirror and spots the same dark sedan that was parked behind him outside Wallace and Tsing’s bistro. His heartbeat spikes, but he writes it off as coincidence until the traffic eases up and he signals left. The sedan signals left, too.

“Still could be a coincidence,” Monty tells himself, and then, in a gruff voice, “I don’t believe in coincidences.” His knuckles are still white on the steering wheel, but the next breath he takes comes a little easier.

Whoever it is, they’re good; Monty takes the long route home, turning unnecessarily into densely populated areas, but the sedan stays at least three cars behind him the entire time.

“I’m impressed,” Monty continues, “but this ain’t my first rodeo.”

At the next light, he texts Raven the plate number, promises her more free pizza if she'll run it for him. He's figuring out the best way to give the sedan the slip when his phone buzzes.

No need, that's Bellamy’s car. What kind of trouble is he in now?

Monty’s eyebrows go up. Don't know yet, he sends back. Thanks anyway.

MONTY, he gets back immediately, but Monty has bigger problems.

He turns into the nearest car park – a classic move – and watches the sedan follow him. He doesn't see where Bellamy parks, but it doesn't take Monty long to check the obvious spots, and then the more subtle ones. Bellamy’s got on a hat and dark glasses, face buried in a magazine, but Monty would recognise those freckles anywhere.

He taps on the driver window. Bellamy jumps. He clocks Monty, watching him patiently, arms folded, and gives a guilty sort of jump.

“It's not what it looks like,” he begins, once he's rolled down the window.

“Is that really what you're gonna go with?” Monty shakes his head. “You're a lot of things, Bellamy, but a man of tired clichés you are not. Have you been following me all day?”

“All week,” Bellamy admits, and Monty swears. Clearly he's been getting sloppy. “I was gonna say something if you didn't notice soon.”

Monty shrugs like it doesn't matter, like he wasn't on the verge of a panic attack in the car. “Raven wants to know what kind of trouble you're in. How do you know Raven, anyway?”

Bellamy’s cheeks get a bit pink and, oh, okay, that's interesting. The last Monty heard, Bellamy had a thing with Miller that Monty was determinedly not jealous of.

“I’m not in any kind of trouble, okay? I wasn't hired by anyone, and I'm definitely not back in the game,” Bellamy says, then takes a deep breath. “Miller asked me to keep an eye on you.”

*

Harper’s home by the time Monty gets in, eating microwave fries in her underwear on the sofa that doubles as her bed. She makes a vague grunt of greeting, not looking up from her phone, and sticks out her free arm to wrap around Monty’s waist when he collapses next to her.

“Shitty day?” she asks. It’s barely a question. Monty drops his head to her shoulder, and she feeds him a couple of fries. All humans ever are literal garbage, he reminds himself, except for Harper. Harper is an angel.

“What does it mean,” he asks, “if someone asks their ex to keep tabs on you for them?”

“That they’re a creepy stalker,” Harper says, after some thought, “but that they don’t like to get their hands dirty, but also that they’re trying to make you jealous. Is this a hypothetical question?”

“Totally,” Monty lies, and Harper nods solemnly.

“Is the someone in this hypothetical a cop, by any chance?” she asks.

“They’re just a someone,” Monty says quickly. “But you can pretend they’re a cop if you want.”

Harper nods. “In that case, they’re probably genuinely worried about a case you’re working on. Do they have reason to be worried?”

“No,” Monty says, then, “Maybe. I don’t know,” because he doesn’t lie to Harper. He tells Harper what he thinks he’s been able to piece together about Mountain & Sons, what he suspects, what Wallace basically admitted to today.

“Shit,” Harper says, when he’s done, and then, “Miller’s definitely trying to make you jealous.”

“I know you’re trying to make me feel better about how fucking grim this case is, and I appreciate it, but just-” He exhales, deep. “Not today, okay?”

Harper nods, instantly serious, and feeds him another handful of fries. An angel, seriously.

“Their whole business is, like, plants, right?” she says, and Monty nods. “What would they be kidnapping people for?”

Monty pretends to think, then says, “They’re turning them into pesticides.”

“They’re turning them into plants,” Harper says, her eyes lighting up, and Monty smiles.

“Wanna look over blueprints of their premises with me to try and figure out where they could be stashing the bodies?” Monty asks, and he’s only half-joking.

“Your job is the worst,” Harper tells him, rubbing his back.

“Yeah,” Monty sighs. “I know.”

“Is there a creepy attic? A creepier basement?” Harper asks.

“No, but their building is round the back of the graveyard,” Monty says, and Harper makes a face.

“Wow,” she says. “They're definitely turning people into plants, comic book villain style.”

“Wrong genre,” Monty says.

“They're not mutually exclusive genres,” Harper says, “fuck you, John Constantine exists,” and Monty smiles for the second time that day.

*

Miller’s already sat on their bench when Monty gets to the park. He’s wearing aviators and a beanie, and he somehow manages to not look like a giant douche. Sometimes Monty hates him.

“You don’t have to say anything,” Monty says. “Just nod or shake your head. Human trafficking?”

There’s a beat, and then Miller shakes his head. Monty exhales just a bit.

“Good,” he says, with false cheer. “That’s nowhere near top of the list of things I can deal with today. Why did you get Bellamy to follow me?”

He looks right into Miller’s eyes. Miller swallows, hard, then shakes his head.

“Asshole,” Monty says, but somehow it comes out exasperated instead of annoyed. “Are you gonna let me look at those files yet?” Another head shake. “Are you just gonna shake your head at everything I say?”

“See, that’s a trick question,” Miller begins. “If I shake my head, then I should’ve nodded, but if I nod, then I should’ve shaken my head.”

“Asshole,” Monty repeats. “You should’ve been a lawyer, man.”

“I’m offended,” Miller deadpans. There’s a beat of silence, strangely companionable, then he says, “Missing persons?”

Monty nods. “I can’t be certain yet,” he says, “but I’m pretty sure. What were you investigating them for?”

He expects another head shake, more dry mocking, but Miller says, “Tax evasion, actually.” Monty puts his head down and laughs.

When he looks up, Miller’s got a strange look on his face. He licks his lips, glances up at the clear blue sky, and Monty’s heart starts to pound for no reason at all.

“So I’ve got the rest of the day off,” Miller says. “Do you maybe wanna-”

Monty’s phone goes off in his pocket, one long, continuous buzz. He fishes it out, then swipes across the screen to accept the call. “Lincoln, hi. I was actually going to call you later to give you a progress report.”

“No need,” Lincoln says cheerily. “We won’t be needing your services any more.”

Monty frowns. “I’m sorry?”

“We’ll of course compensate you for the time you’ve already spent, and we sincerely apologise for wasting your time,” Lincoln says. It sounds like he’s reading off a cue card. He’s also hiding his panic well, but Monty can hear it bleeding out the edges of his words.

“I see,” Monty says, because anything else suddenly feels incredibly unsafe. “Apology unnecessary. I’ll send you an invoice later today.”

“Thank you,” Lincoln says, and hangs up.

“What was that about?” Miller asks, when Monty puts his phone away. He looks up, shaking his head, and sees it in Miller’s eyes when he understands.

“I’m off the case, so I’ve just wasted the past couple weeks,” Monty says. “Fucking figures. If you don’t have work, do you wanna hang out at mine?”

“Sure,” Miller says. “Do you, uh, want a lift home?”

“That’d be great, Harper has the car today,” Monty says, which isn’t even a lie. Miller nods, and Monty follows him to his car.

*

They sweep the apartment for bugs as soon as they get in, but their respective searches, both equally extensive, turn up nothing. Monty doesn’t regret taking precautions, though. He collapses on his mattress, exhaling deeply.

“I can’t believe you have a mattress in your office,” Miller says, shaking his head.

“I can’t believe this is what you’re choosing to focus on right now,” Monty retorts. “Anyway, it’s more like I have an office in my bedroom.”

“That doesn’t make it better,” Miller says, but comes to sit somewhat gingerly on the mattress next to Monty. “They got to the guy who hired you, then?”

“Lincoln,” Monty says. “Seems like it. Seems like they weren’t worried about me, though.”

“That’s good,” Miller says, and Monty makes a face.

“It’s shit,” he says. “It means I’ve got fuck all on them.”

“It means they’re not gonna come after you,” Miller says, suddenly serious, too serious for how little space there is between their bodies. “It means you’re safe.”

“I’m a PI,” Monty says, twisting away from him, “I’m never safe. Are you gonna let me see their file yet?”

“You’re not dropping the case,” Miller says slowly.

“Of course I’m not dropping the case,” Monty says, rolling his eyes. “Have you met me?”

“Unfortunately,” Miller says, wry smile on his lips. “It's still a no, but I will help you look through missing persons files.”

“Good compromise,” Monty says. “I'll just go make some coffee.”

When he gets back with two mugs, Miller’s started to clear a space on Monty’s desk. Monty whistles.

“I think that's the cleanest that desk has been since I moved in,” he says, handing Miller one of the mugs. “Congratulations.”

“You have a lot of case files,” Miller says, and Monty shrugs.

“I take on a lot of cases,” he says.

Miller nods. “You have a lot of missing persons cases.”

Monty’s smile turns brittle. “I take on a lot of missing persons cases.”

“Grim,” Miller says.

“That's my job,” Monty says, still smiling. “Someone's gotta do it.”

Miller looks, for a moment, like he's going to say something, and Monty feels the bitterness rise in his throat. Don't psychoanalyse me, he thinks, vicious, do you really want to start that shit? But the moment passes, and Miller just nods.

They split the pile of files between them. Even sharing the load, it's slow, boring, heart-shredding work, and Monty’s emotionally exhausted only a couple of cases in. Most of these people Monty couldn't find, and will never be found.

“So the current prevailing theory is that they're turning the kidnappees into plants,” Monty says, conversational. From the other side of the room where he's sat at Monty’s desk, Miller huffs a laugh. “Thoughts?”

Miller hums. “Plausible, but I'm leaning towards a plant-based zombie virus.”

“Genius,” Monty says flatly, because it is, and he's mad he didn't think of it first.

Miller smiles at him like he realises this, and Monty glances away, back at his current case file. Echo Eishold, white brunette, aged twenty two at the time of disappearance. Still missing. The case is no more or less grim than any other, but Monty lingers on it, staring into the unflattering, unsmiling picture her family had given him. He remembers her face. He remembers all their faces.

God, Miller was right. This is grim. He gets to his feet, grabbing for his half-empty mug. “I’m just gonna- coffee,” he says, and Miller looks up and nods.

He dumps his mug in the sink and puts his hands on either side of it, shoulders heaving. It takes him a few minutes to get his breathing under control, eyes shut, counting back from one thousand, and when he opens his eyes, he fetches himself a new mug.

*

Thursday comes, and Monty meets Raven by the gates of the church. She’s got two bundles of flowers with her, which is good because Monty slept through his alarm and didn’t have time to stop off on his way here. She hands him a bundle silently, and Monty nods his gratitude. Together, they walk through to the graveyard.

Monty’s parents are buried next to Raven’s childhood best friend. It’s a coincidence Monty is willing to believe in, just this once. He lays down his borrowed set of flowers, sees Raven do the same out of the corner of his eye. He never knew what to do, before, but having Raven here next to him takes the shards out of his lungs, unfurls the knots in his arms, his fists.

“I miss you,” he says. Sometimes he has more to say, but not today. That's all he has in him.

Raven’s talking quietly to Finn’s grave, but Monty isn't listening to what she's saying, same as she isn't listening to him. He tidies around the three graves, picking up rubbish and dead flowers, and when he returns from the bin, Raven's standing.

“So how do you know Bellamy?” Monty asks as they make their way back to the gates, and Raven huffs a laugh.

“I told him to stay the fuck home today,” she says, which isn't an answer, but Monty appreciates it anyway.

He's about to press it when something catches his eye, makes him frown.

“Eishold,” he reads off of one of the headstones, and Raven glances at him, curious. “I had a missing persons case by that name, is all.”

“Spooky,” Raven says, because she knows better than to call it a coincidence.

“Yeah,” Monty agrees. It nags at him, loose threads that need to be sewn together; a missing person, a likely relative in a graveyard, a likely kidnapper who shares ground with that same graveyard. But none of it makes sense. Or Monty isn't as brilliant as he likes to think he is. Either way, it works out the same.

“Seriously, though,” Monty says, “Bellamy,” but he never gets to finish the question. There's a dull thud, a sharp pain blooming in the back of his head, and then everything goes black.

*

Monty comes to in a cramped, darkened box which could probably charitably be called a cage. Someone's taken his clothes, replaced them with a greying shift. His head is throbbing.

“Well, shit,” he says.

“Monty?” comes Raven's voice from beside him. Monty’s heart does a weird flop from trying to rise and fall all at once; he's not alone, but he got Raven into this mess, too.

“Raven,” Monty says, when nothing more useful immediately springs to mind. He suppresses a hysterical laugh. “Bet you regret telling Bellamy to stay the fuck home, am I right?”

He hears her faint laughter in response, which is how he knows they're fucked.

“Monty,” she says softly, “they took my fucking brace. Even if we find a way out, I can't walk out of here.”

Monty swallows. “We're still gonna find a way out of here. Wherever here is.”

“So you don't know, huh?” she says. “I figured it was to do with your big case.”

Monty’s throat catches. “Raven, I'm-”

“Don't,” she says, firm as iron. “That's not helpful right now. Do you have any idea where we could be?”

Monty forces himself to breathe. “I'm pretty sure Mountain & Sons took us,” he says. “I just don't know where. Me and Harper checked the blueprints. There's nowhere they could be hiding people. We must be somewhere off site.”

“Which means we could be anywhere,” Raven says steadily.

Monty takes another breath, another. “I think I might know why, though.”

“They're gonna turn us into plants?” Raven laughs. “Harper told me about your theory.”

“Actually,” Monty says, “I don't think that's far off. I think they're implementing Dr Tsing's research."

There's a beat, then Raven says, "Which is?"

Monty sighs. "I was hoping that would be enough to cue Wallace's entry, but it looks like I'm gonna have to do the exposition dump myself.

"There were other headstones with the same surname as missing people. I didn't put it together before, but I'm willing to bet a good chunk of the cases have relatives in the graveyard. The soil Mountain & Sons plant in is the same soil in the graveyard. With that connection, and the genetic link, I think they took us so they could recreate the soil conditions.”

“Well done,” says Cage Wallace, withdrawing out of the darkness. “I mean, it's quite mediocre of you, even Lincoln managed to figure it out before you did, but effort must be commended.”

Monty flinches. “I mean,” he echoes, “it's a shitty plan, pseudoscientific at best, but it was the best explanation of the evidence.”

Wallace smiles smoothly. “Oh, but you're wrong, and we have the test results to prove it.”

Monty highly doubts they have anything. That isn't how this works, he wants to scream, but he keeps that inside of him for now. “Whatever,” he says. “You fucked up. Raven isn't related to Finn, so she can't help your twisted science experiment.” Monty clenches his teeth. “So you can just. Let her go.”

Wallace’s smile turns patronising. Monty wants to punch him in the teeth.

“Didn't she tell you? Finn’s not the only member of her family buried in that graveyard.”

“My mother,” Raven says, and Monty has never heard her sound so hollow. Monty wants to punch him everywhere.

“Mediocre,” Wallace repeats, still smiling.

“Fuck you,” Raven says. “If you're gonna kill us, just do it. The whole basking in your own impressiveness thing is kind of tired.”

“Trust me, you're far more valuable to me alive,” Wallace says. “But if you're so keen to get it over with, fine. You can go first.”

“No,” Monty says, but white-jacketed men have already appeared, one of them holding a set of crutches. “You can't do this, you can't, just fucking-”

Everything lights up bright, brilliant white, and for a moment, Monty sees cages and cages of gaunt, familiar faces. It's still for just a moment, and then it's abruptly chaos, sirens and shouting and more sirens and more shouting, and then, slammed up against Monty’s cage, Wallace’s face, Miller's voice saying, “You have the right to remain silent.”

Monty’s entire body surges with relief, which seems to be a bit too much of a strain for his beleaguered body, because he passes out again.

*

The next time Monty wakes, it’s still not his shitty mattress, but it’s not a dark, dank cage, either, so Monty’s okay with it. It takes him a few moments to realise he’s in a hospital, and a few moments more to identify Harper sitting at the foot of his bed.

“Harper?” Monty says, or tries to, because his throat has been replaced with sandpaper.

Harper jumps, and then immediately she’s at his side, holding his hand. “Oh sweetheart,” she says, in a voice that’s at least an octave higher than her usual, “I’ve been so worried about you.” Out of the corner of her mouth, she adds, “I told them we’re engaged. They’re only letting family visit, which is bullshit. Miller was ready to- it doesn’t matter. How are you feeling?”

“Shit,” Monty manages, and Harper smiles.

“Good,” she says. “You were missing for hours. We all thought you were dead, or worse. I’m never forgiving you.”

Monty smiles back at her. “Understandable.”

“I have to ask,” Harper says, “purely because I’m worried about you and stuff and not at all because I staked money on the answer, but what bothers you more: the fact that you were kidnapped, or the fact that you were kidnapped for pseudoscience?”

“Definitely the pseudoscience,” Monty says. “Come on.”

Harper does a little cheer, and then seems to remember the role she’s assumed, and gives Monty’s hand a sort of squeeze. “I take back what I said before,” she says solemnly. “You’re totally forgiven. Just- never get yourself kidnapped again, okay?”

“Wasn’t planning on it,” Monty says. “How’s Raven?”

“She’s great,” Harper says. “She says to pull yourself out of your self-pity party before she comes over here and does it for you. Also hi. Also she hopes you’re okay too.”

Monty grins. “Tell her hi back,” he says. “If you’re ever allowed in to see her.”

“I’ll just pass it onto Bellamy,” Harper says. “Fucker stole my idea, and they believed him without asking a million questions about Raven’s life history. Oh,” she adds, “Miller also says hi, and that he hopes you’re okay.”

Monty feels his face go soft, but it’s not like he can help it at the best of times. “Tell him hi too,” he says. “And also thanks, I guess, for the whole rescuing thing.”

“It was a joint effort,” Harper protests. “I was like, sort of involved. I made coffee and was the voice of calm and reason.”

“Wow,” Monty says, and Harper squeezes his hand again, her face going steely.

“Enough of that cheek, sweetpickle,” she says. “Honestly, it was mostly Miller. Bellamy got worried when Raven didn’t come home when she said she would, and told Miller where you guys where, and Miller figured out it was the Mountain Men, and then he put like, the whole of his precinct on finding you guys.”

“And you made coffee and were the voice of calm and reason,” Monty says.

“Like I said,” Harper says cheerfully, “a joint effort.”

Monty smiles, fond. “Thanks, I guess,” he says, “for the whole rescuing thing.”

Harper bends to brush a kiss over his forehead. “Any time.”

*

Monty is discharged from the hospital on the grounds that he'll stay in bed for the next week, which is of course why he calls Lincoln into the office the very next day. It's a Monday, but this is important.

"I am so sorry," Lincoln begins, as soon as Monty has opened the door to him, and Monty waves a hand.

"Not your fault," he assures Lincoln. "It's negatively your fault, since you did your best to warn me and I stubbornly kept on anyway. It's fine."

"Still," Lincoln says, and presents Monty with a gift basket of small succulents. "Harper said these were your favourites."

Monty takes the basket and the hug that comes with it, says, "Thank you, seriously."

"Thank you," Lincoln says, wide-eyed and earnest, not a femme fatale in the slightest.

As Monty is surveying the apartment to try and ascertain where he can possibly put twenty potted plants, the doorbell rings again.

"It's Monday," Monty says, "I was kidnapped," but when he opens the door, it's not a client, or even a potential client. It's Miller.

"You look a lot better than the last time I saw you," he says. "Hi."

"Hi," Monty says. "Thanks, I guess for that whole-" He gestures vaguely between them. "Thing."

"It was a joint effort," Miller says, and Monty says, "That's what Harper said," and they both sort of grin at each other for a moment.

"Have you come here to berate me for getting myself kidnapped?" Monty says. "Because really you should be berating Raven too. Joint efforts and all."

"I didn't come here to berate you," Miller says. "Though I am glad you weren't turned into a plant. That's- that's good."

"Thanks," Monty says, smile creeping back onto his face. "I'm glad too."

Miller exhales slowly. "So I took the whole day off," he says, "do you wanna go get coffee? No shop talk allowed. Just coffee."

The smile bursts out in full force. "Yeah," Monty says. "I'd love that."