If Alec Hardison and Castiel dueled over A Matter Of Honor …
"Nah, man - no way." Hardison shook his head firmly. "You put that down, right there.”
He pointed steadily at the side table until, with a faintly bemused expression, the crazy man in the trench coat put down the knife (knife? Freaking Crocodile Dundee-looking thing).
Hardison nodded approvingly and drew himself up. “We going to do this, we going to do it properly. We are going to do this like men. I got what we need."
Trench coat looked at his friend in the leather jacket.
Leather jacket shrugged. "Don't look at me, dude. Ask Chuck."
Hardison shuffled backwards, towards the bedroom door. "So you just, you wait there and I'm going to get the - the knives or the guns or the bat'leth or whatever we need for this prophecy you got going on."
Trench coat frowned and reached for the knife again; Hardison threw himself back the last couple of feet, landed hard on the carpet and kicked the door closed just as the crazy men started forward. He rolled quickly to his feet, shoved the dresser in front of the door, added the bed for good measure, and then stepped back.
Panic room. That was what he needed. Panic room, and motion sensitive lasers. And big dogs.
-- What weapons would they choose? And if they cheated, who would get the drop on whom, and how? --
He kept an eye on the now-shaking door and yelled, "Eliot, you better be listening to this, because I got a guy out there who says he's going to kill me - kill me again - and, you know what?" He yelled louder - loud enough that the men trying to break down his door could hear. "I've never even been to Wyoming. Why would I want to go to Wyoming? You know what's in Wyoming? Crazy people who kill other people: that's what's in Wyoming."
-- Who would be their seconds? --
"Har- Hardison," Eliot finally managed to get in edgeways. "I'm a couple blocks out, just stay calm."
Right then, right there, Hardison promised himself and whichever deity was watching down on him that he would never, ever make fun of the man again.
"Keep them talking," Eliot continued, smirk entirely audible down the line. "Ask if they've read the Watchtower."
Oh. Oh it was on now.
When the door didn't give, Castiel stepped back. "I'm beginning to believe that The Prophet's words may have been subject to some … misinterpretation," he said thoughtfully.
Dean looked around the room - he wasn't sure what a sign of the apocalypse's pad would normally look like, but he was pretty sure it wasn't some kind of tricked out Radio Shack. "You think?"
"Don't know who you boys are," a man growled from the open front door behind them, "but you're about to have a really bad day."
-- Who would mediate their duel? --
"Whoa!" Dean held his hands up and tried a placating smile. This was going south and he really didn't want to get into a fight with an innocent man.
Particularly not one who was smiling like that.
"Hold up, there may have been a slight misunderstanding.”
Eliot stalked forward as Hardison yelled through the door. "You tried to stab me - we are way past 'my bad', and you're going to get your ass kicked."
"Okay!" Dean said and skipped back a couple of steps as Eliot advanced. "Here's the thing. Your friend in there? Looks a lot like this guy who … did some pretty bad stuff to a lot of people. Cas got a little upset …"
"No, I didn't," Castiel said. "The Prophet's own words say the one named Jake rises, and his heart must be-"
"Ix-nay on the eart-hay, dude," Dean hissed.
Eliot stopped and crossed his arms. "His name's Hardison. Alec Hardison. He's got some aliases, but none of them's Jake. So you want to be leaving, right now."
Dean nodded and edged around the other man, tugging Castiel behind him. "And here we are. Leaving. Sorry about the … sorry."
When they'd left the apartment, Eliot knocked on the still-closed bedroom door. "They're gone."
After a few seconds of scraping furniture, the door opened and Hardison peered and then sidled out. "The Watchtower?" He scowled. "Seriously?"
Dean Winchester and Sam Axe are locked in a truck…
"Say what you like about the S8, but man, this is one roomy trunk. I mean, you're -- what? Six foot, six-one? I'm six-one and we don't even have to coordinate breathing in and out. And the carpet! I'm telling you, this carpet is better than my -"
"Okay, seriously." Dean craned his head up to look at the old guy who'd been thrown in next to him. "Enough with the sales pitch."
The man snorted. "Well excuse me for finding a ray of sunshine. When you've been locked in as many trunks as I have, you appreciate the real estate a little more, is all I'm saying."
"This happens to you a lot?" Dean asked.
"I went for a while there, didn't get kidnapped at all." The man moved a little closer and then rolled away with a sharp, jerking motion. "Then my buddy rolls back into town and it's Trunksville all over again. You?"
"First time." Dean shuffled himself back a little and tried to roll off his arm before it numbed completely. "I got stuck in a meat locker once,” he volunteered after a second.
"Been there, brother." The man was silent for a beat and then, "Sam. Sam Axe."
"Dean Winchester. Pleased to meet you." Dean squirmed again. "Maybe would have preferred to do it in a bar, though."
Sam gave heartfelt sigh. "Man, I could go for a Mojito right now."
"Got some whiskey, but I can't reach it and I kinda get the feeling, if you tried, you wouldn't respect me in the morning."
"Hey, I'm a perfect gentleman." Sam inched his way back until he was wedged uncomfortably into the metal, giving Dean a lot more room to work with. "Can you get it now?"
-- Do they even want to get out? --
"No-no-no, it's Uriel, dude. URIEL."
"You're real, you're real, that's what I said!" Sam laughed loudly and the car shook. "They need the Angel Bob, is what they need. Bob came down from the heavens and smote."
"There's a Prophet Chuck," Dean grinned and drank a little more of the whiskey, then pressed the flask into Sam's hand.
"Oh, I gotta tell Mikey that. Chuck Finley's got a new gig, brother."
"You'd do it better, I swear to God. My friend and me, Chuck sends us up to Portland looking for this guy who's meant to be some kind of Harbinger of the Apocalypse and it turns out he's just a hacker with this frien- with five, six bodyguards."
"Okay, here's my prophecy: we're going to be out of booze soon, we’ve got to get out of this car." Sam handed the flask back.
Dean shook the flask and it makes a depressingly empty sound. "Amen. Okay. Here." He slid Sam a short punch dagger. "Try working that under the lock."
"You couldn't have given me this earlier?" Sam grumbled, but he took the knife and began to work his way through the molding.
"Hey, you could have been a psycho or something. Humans, man. You never know what crazy things they'll do next."
Sam paused for a moment, and then resumed cutting. "That's fair."
He was half way through when the trunk opened wide and left them squinting in the bright sunlight.
-- What will they do when they find out Parker put them there? --
"You tried to kill my friend," said an indistinct shape above them. "Well, you didn't. Wrong Sam." A finger poked Sam's shoulder. "You and your Hawaiian shirt can go."
Sam blinked. "I get hit 'round the back of the head and stuffed in a trunk - that hurt, by the way - and you're telling me I was just collateral damage? Lady, that is no way to win friends or influence people."
"I didn't try and kill anyone," Dean said firmly, and he was pretty sure it was true. He'd killed sure, but he couldn't remember any that got away.
Except. Ah, crap.
"Look," he said as he climbed out of the trunk after Sam. "I told your friend, that was a misunderstanding. We're sorry, okay?"
"Sorry doesn't cut it." The blonde woman leaned forward and Dean leaned back. Something about her smile just wasn't quite right. "But I can tell you what will."
"Oh good," Dean said weakly, and couldn't help but notice Sam was nowhere to be seen. Well that was great, just great.
Jesse Flores and Castiel get arrested…
Castiel rattled the cuff on his wrist against the metal arm of the chair he was tethered to. Interesting. He tugged experimentally and then let his hand drop
"I'm going to kill you," said the woman cuffed next to him - not unkindly, he felt. "I'm going to wait twenty years, until we get the really good guns? And then I'm going to kill you. And then? I'm going to go back a few minutes and I'm going to do it again."
"While I admire your commitment to a proportional response," Castiel said earnestly, "I suspect that my murder - or murders - isn't something we should be discussing here." He nodded towards the uniformed officers standing across from them.
A couple were shooting the woman wary looks and she smiled almost viciously back. For some reason, that failed to reassure them.
"I am sorry, Jesse," Castiel said once the policemen's attention had moved on. "I couldn't let you do it."
Jesse tensed and inched back as far as the cuff and the chair, bolted to the floor, would allow. "How do you know my name?"
A sudden fear shadowed her expression and Castiel shook his head quickly. He tried to reach forward to reassure her, but the cuff brought him up short. "I'm not what you think. And I'm not … from where you're from either. I'm an angel."
"An angel," she said flatly. "Like, gives you wings?"
"I believe that's Red Bull. I don't give anyone wings. Or have them. In this form."
-- What did they do? --
"You're sick in the head," Jesse said dismissively, rather than judgmentally. "Take a pill or something."
"Despite the evidence, Alec Hardison does not cause what you call Judgment Day. I also believed that he did, and he does have a great many computers, but we were both mistaken."
-- How would Fiona Glenanne break them out? --
Jesse opened her mouth to reply, but paused as she stared at the vent on the other side of the bullpen. "Is something on fire?"
The room filled rapidly with a greasy, noxious smelling smoke, which thickened so much Castiel had difficulty seeing his hand just inches from his face. With his eyes, anyway.
A blurred figure swam up before them and two sharp sounds later, the cuffs were cut from his wrist and - he assumed - Jesse's. "Come on," hissed their rescuer, muffled behind her breathing apparatus. "Move your arses."
Castiel was disinclined to ask questions and, from Jesse's absence at his side, he assumed she was too. A mask was shoved into his hands and, at the tug on his arm, he followed quickly.
If Neal Caffrey had to steal something from Parker, how would they go about taking it?
"Parker," Neal nodded and backed up, and tried to pretend he hadn't screamed a little when she'd pretty much dropped on his head: thief from above. "You're in New York, huh? Just visiting - taking in a show?"
"Caffrey." Parker glared, narrow eyed, and swung gently on her rig. "It's mine."
"Actually, I think you'll find it's the Museum of Art's, but we can discuss the finer points of ownership later." He smiled disarmingly. "Perhaps over dinner?"
"No." She scowled. "And the smile won't work. I still owe you for Vienna."
"Vienna? I don't … " Neal shook his head slightly in confusion, and then his eyes widened with sudden clarity. "Oh, Vienna." He held up a hand, forefinger extended. "… that wasn't my fault."
"You tried to get me arrested," she hissed.
"Well, in fairness, you were committing a robbery." He jumped back as she kicked out at him and then teetered for a moment as he tried to avoid stepping on an alarmed floor panel.
When he was fairly confident he hadn't set off an alarm, he composed himself and said, "You know, I took a bath on that one. The fence couldn't shift the painting for months, and when she did it was less than five percent of the worth. I think it actually cost me more than it made."
"Good." Parker adjusted the ropes and drew closer to the statue.
"That's unkind." Neal jammed his hands into his pockets. "But you know what? To apologize, I'll walk away. The statue's yours. Have fun with it."
With exaggerated care, he picked his way back over the floor and, with a final wave, ducked out of the open fire exit.
Parker pursed her lips. "That was way too easy."
"He's working for the Feds now," Hardison's voice said over the ear bud. "He couldn't have taken it anyway."
"For the Feds? The ones watching the museum so no one steals the statue?" Parker picked the statue up, uncaring of the red light that began to blink the setting where it had sat, and turned the it upside down. "Dammit!"
"What? We got guards? What?" In the background, Hardison was tapping at keys. "I got nothing out there."
"It's a fake, Hardison. He let me have it because he'd already switched the real one out." She squirreled her way up the rig and into the ceiling, promising herself vengeance. Creative vengeance. Maybe with sharks.
Fiona Glenanne, Sam Winchester and Alec Hardison are on a road trip…
"Whatever freaky thing you think I did? I did not do. I didn't cause any kind of Biblical apocalypse (whatever Sister Perpetua said in fourth grade) I didn't make some killer AI, and I don't even know what burn notices are!
"No, okay -- I know what they are. I wouldn't know how to make one, though. Except I could probably find a real one and copy it." Hardison gasped for breath and then rushed on. "But I didn't, is the point I'm making.
"Don't get me wrong, I'm flattered. I am a little flattered. I know no one ever thought Chaos could destroy the whole world. Twice. But, and both y'all need to listen real close, you got the wrong guy."
"We heard you the first eight times," the woman in the front seat said with a distracted air, and then flipped another page in her magazine.
"Then you need to be listening better," Hardison grouched.
"Look," said the man driving, in a slightly more conciliatory tone. "We're sure you're right. It's just some weird coincidence or someone is setting you up or … or whatever. Just humor us, okay?"
"I'm cuffed in the back seat of a stolen police car," said Hardison flatly.
"So … that's a no?" The driver hazarded.
"That's a no," Hardison confirmed, and shifted into a more comfortable position. As comfortable as cuffed in the back seat of a stolen police car was going to get, anyway.
-- Where are they going? --
After an hour or so of staring morosely out at fields of nothing but green stuff going by (would it kill someone to get a cow in there or something?), Hardison asked, "Where are we going, anyway?" He leaned forward until his forehead was pressed against the mesh separating the front of the car from the back. "Are we nearly there yet?"
"Seriously?" The driver's harried eyes rose meet his in the rearview mirror. What Hardison could see of his eyes, anyhow.
Stupid, floppy haired, emo kidnappers.
"I need to go to the little abductee's room," Hardison said. "So either we get where we're going or we stop at the next gas station."
"You should have gone before we left," the woman said, mouth curved in a teasing smile.
"Funny. That's funny." He sat back again and tried to look dark and brooding.
"Are you sulking?" The woman asked with a wider smile.
"I hate you both."
-- And why is Alec Hardison secretly unhappy to be along for the ride? --
And hour after that, Hardison said, "I'm not sure if I made myself clear, so I'm just going to lay this out for you both, okay? You're crazy. Straight up. There are drugs and therapy and little orange pills that can help you out, and you need to look into that. What you're doing here is not good, and I am not happy."
"We hadn't noticed, you played it so close to the chest," the woman said dryly, and then her tone took on a cloying sweetness. "You shouldn't keep these things in, Hardison."
He ignored her. "And you know who else won't be happy? My team. They'll take you apart. And I don't just mean physically - although that too - I mean your lives. I mean, whatever you think your problems are right now? They are the last good days you're ever going to have."
"Yeah, actually, you may be right there," said the driver with a crooked grin. "I'm Sam, by the way. Sam Winchester. It's my real name, so when we let you go, you can do whatever it is you think you've got to do. But for now, just bear with us, okay?"
Hardison glared at the alleged Sam, but he couldn't sustain it for long. "Fine, as long as we understand each other." He looked at the woman. "You got a name?"
"Yes, of course I do," she smiled in a far more friendly fashion.
"Are you going to give it to me?"
She snorted genteelly. "God no, how stupid do you think I am?"
If Damon Salvatore and Castiel had to depend on each other for survival, who would end up eating whom first?
Damon had tried. He had really, honestly tried.
Well, he'd tried a little.
Fine, he'd been waiting for his chance from the moment Stefan had looked at him, all brooding in the face, and practically begged him not to eat the dork in the trench coat because of some apocalyptical blah-blah-blah.
"Wait," Damon said, as the bloodless corpse at his feet sat up. "I'm … confused."
"That was unnecessary," Castiel said with a mildly irritated expression, and then climbed to his feet.
Damon removed the remnants of blood from his lower lip with a swipe of his tongue and then crossed his arms. "Can we try that again?" He asked pensively. "I was here, and you were-"
"No." Castiel raised his hand and Damon found himself flying backwards through the air; he impacted solidly against the wooden paneling of the room. He tried pulling his arm away from the wall, and then shrugged as much as he was able when it failed to move more than an inch.
"Okay, then," he agreed amicably. "No do-overs. Neat trick. What are you?" He asked, intrigued.
"I'm an angel." The man - angel, then, whatever - looked faintly uncomfortable. "And I have nothing to do with Red Bull."
"That's … good to know. Hey, you want to let me down now?" Damon pointed at the floor, a finger was about all he could move. "Big misunderstanding."
"No," Castiel said again. "Where is the Urn?"
"Urn?" Damon looked at him with complete incomprehension. "There's one on the fireplace. Great-aunt Gerta. Well, not my great-aunt. Quite the looker. Quite the looker about eighty years ago, anyway, so she's probably -"
Damon watched Castiel hunting around the room for a while and then spoke conversationally. "So what does an angel want with Great-aunt Gerta?"
"I do not want Great-aunt Gerta," Castiel said firmly. "Under any circumstances."
"Really? I hear she was great in the …" Damon widened his grin wickedly. "… kitchen."
"Here." Castiel pulled a small clay bowl from the shelf, where it had been tucked behind a housekeeping ledger from 1911.
Then, he vanished.
Damon dropped five feet, but landed smoothly. The best thing, he suspected, was to pretend it never happened. And make Stefan pay. Because whatever hadn't happened was clearly entirely his brother's fault.
Michael Westen is getting married. Dean Winchester, Sam Axe and Peter Burke are on the guest-list -- possibly even in the wedding party ...
Sam tugged at his collar and looked around warily. Weddings made him nervous. Very nervous. Even when he wasn't the one getting married and the whole thing was a set-up, he couldn't shake the feeling he'd accidentally say 'I do' within earshot of some opportunistic priest. Because, you know, it wouldn't be the first time.
A hand tapped his shoulder and he turned, "Mikey, the bar's nearly out of -" He drew up short. Not Mikey. He took in the scowling features of the younger man standing before him, sorted through his recent memories and came up with a locked trunk and flask of whiskey. "Dean, right?"
"Good memory," Dean's scowled deepened. "Does it run to remembering you abandoned me?"
"Hey, look, I'm sorry about getting out of there, but I was on a deadline." Sam grinned. "I figured you could get around one little girl. I mean, she was tiny."
Dean, in Sam's considered estimation, was a guy who could handle himself, but there was a slightly crazed look around the kid's eyes as he leaned forward and hissed, "That's what she wants you to think."
"O-Kay." Sam was more familiar with that look on guys coming off high stress missions, but he knew exactly what to do. He laid a friendly hand on Dean's shoulder and steered them both towards the open bar. "Strong liquor for you, my friend. And a little something for me."
They were intercepted half way across the grounds. Sam thought Mike looked pretty good - the whole spy/tux/martini thing - except, now Sam looked closely, there was a little tension around his eyes too. Sam guessed he wasn't the only one who was nervous about their surroundings. Still, Mike smiled easily enough. "Hey, Sam. This your plus one?"
Sam snorted and then looked around; Michael was minus one client in a frilly dress. "Shouldn't you be watching the bride?"
"Ma's got it covered. Really, really covered. But it turns out your friend here is on the guest list. Pretty impressive, given we wrote it this morning." Michael studied Dean, slight smile still in place. "Pleased to meet you, Mr. Richards. Mr. Keith Richards. Did you have a little work around the … everything?"
Dean grinned sunnily. "Hey, the parents were Stones fans, what can you do? Although I do feel kinda sorry for my sister, Brian."
Sam rolled his eyes. "He's a buddy of mine, Mike. You remember I told you I was kidnapped? When I was late to that meeting?"
Michael's eyebrows rose with genuine surprise. "You were serious? I thought you were just getting creative with the happy hour metaphors."
"I'm wounded, Mike. Wounded." Sam flattened a palm over his heart and aimed for an expression of deep, deep hurt.
Michael stared at him a moment and then hazarded, "Sorry?"
"Eh, never mind." Sam sighed. "I could never stay mad at you."
Michael followed Sam's softly affectionate gaze. "That would be more touching if you weren't staring at my drink."
Sam raised a hand to continue the theatrics, but Dean spoke quickly while he had the chance. "I just need to borrow Sam, here. I'll have him back by midnight."
-- What manner of hijinks ensue? --
Marianne Sue sat in the cheap, thrift store wedding dress (that Madeline had sweetly told her she looked fantastic in) and stared up at the man claiming to be Special Agent Peter Burke.
"But I don't understand," she gasped tearfully. "Why would anyone possibly want to hurt me? I'm just a incredibly talented artist of outstanding intelligence and beauty!"
The man's jaw worked as he doubtlessly sought for the best possible way to put it to her - and not, for instance, because he was grinding his teeth. "We can't imagine," he finally managed. "But Mr. Westen contacted us because he believed we were in the best position to protect you. And we're pretty sure it's not payback." Peter's mouth twisted as he tried to convince himself. "Pretty sure."
Suddenly, a man in chef's hat appeared. "Hi. The groom? He'd really like to talk to you. Something about a bomb?" The chef laughed a little and smiled nervously. "I guess he means … the music or something?"
Peter smiled reassuringly as he sidled around the man. "The music. Right. Everything's fine."
When he'd left in something of a hurry, Eliot nodded to the bride and spoke to thin air. "Got her."
Who'd rather participate in a bikini contest, Neal Caffrey, Damon Salvatore or Sarah Connor?
"Okay," Neal said, and sat back in his chair. "I know why I'm here, because I set this up. And I know why he's here," Neal nodded towards a dark haired man surrounded by a gaggle of contestants, "although I really wish he wasn't. But I'm pretty sure you weren't on the list of judges, because I made it."
"So add me." The woman said calmly. She glanced down at her chest, leather jacket half-zipped over a tight white vest. "Or don't you think I'm qualified?"
"More than, I'm sure," Neal said, and didn't let his eyes drop. Something, possibly a vestigial survival instinct, told him it wouldn't be healthy in any way whatsoever; Peter would be so proud. "Thing is," he went on with a perfectly pitched note of regret, "this is a closed competition. It's all sponsorship and PR and honestly, you could find practically anything better to do with your time."
The woman took a seat next to him and spoke quietly. "I know why you set this up and since your Agent Cruz had that accident with the ring binder, I've got something you don't." Her smiled thinned and sharpened. "I've got an inside … man."
Neal tried to school his features into something less horrified than he felt. "Tell me that's just a turn of phrase?"
She shrugged and pulled her jacket off, then dropped it at her feet. "If you like."
Damon abandoned his admirers to their costume changes and dropped into his chair with an easy sprawl. "This? Is one of the best plans anyone's had in the last century." He pointed a finger at Neal. "And I know what I'm talking about, and I'm including the sixties."
Neal grinned a little despite himself. "Thanks."
"Who's this?" Damon turned his attention to the woman who'd invited herself onto the panel, looking her frankly up and down. "If I'd know the scenery over here was so beautiful, I'd have-"
"Sarah Baum," the woman said shortly, and held up a small pouch with some kind of herb in it.
As threats went, Neal couldn't say he rated it particularly highly, but whatever it was Damon drew back looking disgruntled. That worked for Neal. "So…" he began, in the quiet of the now empty room. "We're all here for the same thing, right?"
"No," Sarah said. "You're here because someone claiming to be an angel is stealing items with apocalyptic legends, myths or prophecies attached to them. They got a clay cup from Mystic Falls … " She glanced at Damon. "Mystic Falls? You don't think that's asking for it?"
"Don't look at me, lady." Damon held his hands up. "The Salvatores voted for 'Fell's Church', blame the Smallwoods."
She waited a beat and then went on. "They stole a statue from a vault protected by the FBI, and they kidnapped a hacker called Alec Hardison. And all your sources turned up was, whoever it is, they have a thing for appearing in bikini contests." She looked sideways at them. "That didn't seem a little odd to you?"
Neal and Damon glanced at each other a touch sheepishly before Neal rolled his eyes. "Of course it did, but we hoped whoever was trying to play us would show up just to laugh."
"And you wanted to run a bikini contest," Sarah added levelly.
"And we wanted to run a bikini contest," Neal admitted. "I mean, come on - wouldn't you want to have that on an approved FBI budget request?"
Her lips twitched a little and Neal suspect, for her, this was a wide smile. "Okay, you know what we're here for - what are you here for?"
The audience began to file into the room and the announcer took the stage. Sarah dug in the pocket of her leather pants and extracted what looked like a large computer chip. "I don't know if they'll show up to laugh, but they may show up for this."
Why is Sophie Devereux really, really mad at Sam Winchester and what could Gemma Teller Morrow do to help?
"Oh, I could kill them!" Sophie threw the remains of the thrift store wedding dress across the room, for lack of anything more lethal to hand.
"I have a gun," Gemma said generously. "It's clean, you can borrow it."
"Thank you." Sophie smiled and shook her head. "But, no. British."
Gemma's nonplussed expression suggested she didn't have a clue what relevance Sophie's excuse had, but she accepted it with good grace. "Well. If you change your mind, you know where I am."
"Yes," Sophie said. "You're in my suite … why is that again? Not that I don't love having you here - you're welcome to stay as long as you like - but I thought you and Clay were doing well?"
"Clay and I are fine, thank you" Gemma said, her smile tolerant, but thinning in warning. "I just needed to get out of town for a while."
"Oh, God." Sophie sat quickly. "Who did you kill? Was it that doctor? Because leaving your son to go to medical school is not a shooting offence!"
"No, I didn't kill Tara!" Gemma looked away evasively. "Did you know I'm a grandmother?"
Sophie would not be distracted, even by emerging baby pictures. "Who did you- Oh, he's beautiful," she cooed. "What's his name?"
Maybe a little bit distracted.
"Abel Teller." Gemma's expression softened. "And he looks just like Jax did when he was that age. He's a fighter, too."
"You must be so proud." Sophie beamed, then dropped the smile and narrowed her eyes, "Who did you kill?!"
"No one. Barely anyone." Gemma waved a hand dismissively. "She got off easy." Gemma's eyes darkened and Sophie reached for her shoulder in concern, but Gemma pulled away and raised her chin. "Then this ATF bitch, Stahl, tried to put another body on me and I figured I'd come see Florida. It's nice. Unser says he can feel the heat doing him good."
"Unser? Who's - no, wait, never mind." Sophie held up a hand. "Don't tell me, just in case."
"Damn, you're jumpy." Gemma frowned and shifted on the couch. "What happened?"
"Oh, well, you know." Sophie blew an errant lock of hair out of her eye. "The usual."
Gemma leaned back and crossed her arms, raised one elegantly shaped eyebrow. "Your usual and my usual are a little different - tell me about it, maybe I can help."
For a moment Sophie was silent, and then the dam burst. "First, these serial killers tried to kill my friend, then some women shot at him, and then he gets death threats from this Irish gunrunner. She wasn't very clear what her problem was, frankly."
Gemma stared at her. "Go on."
Sophie waved her hands, "Then he was abducted by one of the serial killers and the gun runner. We followed him down here and the found the other serial killer, who claims he isn't a serial killer at all! And he talks to his," she air quoted, "buddy, who talked to the gun runner and it turns out she kidnapped Hardison for getting her boyfriend fired. Which he didn't!"
Sophie's chest heaved as she gasped in in air.
"You have a much more interesting 'usual' than I do," Gemma said dryly into the pause. "And one hell of an exposition. So you tracked him to Miami, what's the problem? You need some help busting him out?"
Sophie sighed heavily. "I wish. It turned out not … exactly. We're helping the serial killers and gunrunner now. Sort of. Either they're our clients or we're theirs, no one's very clear on that.
“Apparently, my friend is suffering from a case of cosmic mistaken identity, but it can be sorted out if the serial killers get their hands on some bits and bobs. We tried to nick a statue they needed, but the FBI had already gotten their hands on it. I played the part of the delicate artiste in need of protection from her art thief fiancé to get into the offices where they were keeping it …"
"At least that explains the wedding dress," Gemma looked relieved. "You had me a little worried."
"Nothing explains the wedding dress." Sophie said shortly. "No one is taking any responsibility for that plan at all, we think one of our teams misread a memo. Anyway," her hands danced as they illustrated the complex curves of the past. "I located the statue in the building and I have no idea how they did it, but the other team got it out. Then I left. Quickly.
"Except in the meantime, the crazy religious serial killers went after a new target on their own at a bikini contest of all things, and one of them got caught -"
"You're going to kill him," Gemma finished for her. "That's where I came in. What's his name?"
"Sam Winchester. Hardison won't tell me anything else about him, but he keeps typing the name into his laptop and giggling. It's a bit off-putting."
Parker and Jesse Flores walk into a bar …
Frank watched the two women as they glared unblinkingly at each other from each side of the booth and really, really wished he hadn't traded tables.
One of the women was entirely in black, blonde hair tucked messily under a cap, and she was smiling in a way that wasn't … wasn't quite right. The other woman was wearing torn cargo pants and a gray vest, and her dark hair was held back in a loose ponytail. She wasn't smiling. At all.
Both had one hand under the table and, yeah, it was possible he'd seen one too many Tarantino movies, but it was also possible they were about to bust out some crazy Ninja moves and start shooting and the waiter? The waiter always got it first.
He considered the pad in his hand and then glanced side to side, in case there was a new guy he could coerce into taking their order instead.
He stepped forward with his brightest, most harmless smile. "Ladies, what can I-"
"Go away," they said flatly, in unnerving unison.
Frank retreated gratefully away from the booth and took up a nervous post behind the dessert cart.
"Talk," Jesse said shortly, when the waiter had fled.
"The serial killer wants his brother back," Parker replied, just as clipped. "And we need the chip too. For burning in weird smoke."
"We want the hacker."
"You can't have him."
They both shifted very slightly and someone listening - someone hiding behind the dessert cart, hearing attuned to Radio Terror - may have heard two double clicks, not unlike safeties becoming … unsafe.
The trifle on the cart wobbled.
"Then we have nothing to talk about," Jesse said and her mouth curled in a lazy half smile. "Pity."
"There's always something to talk about," Sophie said in Parker's ear. "Tell her Hardison isn't who they think he is, but he strongly supports their ideology - whatever on Earth it is - and has another target for their visionary cause."
"The hacker isn't your problem," Parker translated. "You want to blow something up?"
Jesse stared at her for a long moment. "I'm listening."
Jesse smiled back.
Frank bit through his pen.
"There's a secret project in some offices Downtown," Parker said, relaying Sophie's words again. More or less. The important parts. "Computer junk."
"Mm-hm," Jesse murmured noncommittally. "What's the company?"
"Fuzzby Toys, a wholly owned subsidiary of Kaliba Group." Parker let her smile stretch across her face; she knew it sometimes unnerved people, but it wasn't her fault if no one enjoyed their work quite as much as she did.
Except maybe Jesse found her own fun too, because the woman's smile grew to match her own.
"Deal," Jesse said. "But we don't want to blow it up right away - we want in, information retrieval, and you people are going to help us."
Two more muted clicks signaled to Radio Terror that, perhaps, the safeties were on once more.
Jesse smiled back.
Neal Caffrey and Michael Westen are obliged by Jesse Flores to perform a service …
"Your first time in a bikini contest? Really? Well, I would have given you full marks if the shooting hadn't started," Neal assured Jesse sincerely, and then looked speculative. "I'd love to know how you hid the gun, though." His gaze turned inward with fascinated contemplation. "I'd love to know where you hid the gun."
Jesse smirked. "Guess."
"Stuck to her back with fashion tape, under her hair." Michael muttered as he cut through selected wires in the security box. "Under-weave for extra cover, then a can of hairspray - maybe some glue - to keep it all in place."
Jesse's smirk became slightly acidic. "I bet you look great in heels, too."
"We're in Miami," Michael explained patiently, ignoring the wisecrack. "It's only a matter of time before the women here start carrying their cell phones and loose change that way." He slid the cover back on the box and stepped back. "And, we're in."
Neal whistled appreciatively. "Three minutes. Nice. Where did you route the tertiary alarm?"
"Let's just say that the third and fifth floor bathrooms are really secure." Michael looked up - and up - at the eight-story office building, and then lowered his gaze to Jesse. "Have fun and turn the lights out when you leave - even terrorists need to be considerate of their carbon footprint."
Jesse shifted her grip on her gun and said, "You're coming with me. Both of you."
"No." Michael shook his head firmly and crossed his arms. "That wasn't the deal. He gets you the blueprints and I get you in - that was the deal."
Neal wasn't sure he'd be that patronizing to someone with a gun that big, but given the lack of change in her expression, Jesse didn't take it personally. Or maybe she was just waiting until she didn't need them anymore before she shot them.
Well, there was a charming thought.
-- What would that service be? --
Neal looked at the gun, then to the building, then back to the gun. "It's a toy company," he told it. "They sell children's toys," he added, in case his point was in some way unclear. "I'm not sure what targeting them will do for your long-term goals, but I'm pretty sure you don't need our help to do it."
"They're a front for something a hell of a lot nastier than some hamster-dolphin robot," Jesse said with a deep scowl.
After a beat Neal said, "Dolphin? I thought it was an owl."
Michael stared at him. "Owl? It's clearly a bottle-nose."
"Fuzzby!" Neal defended. "It has fuzz. You know. Fur. Dolphins don't have fur."
"And owls do?"
"That's the hamster and, you know what? We're getting a little off track," Neal said as a gun barrel jabbed him in the ribs.
Jesse prodded him again. "Move."
-- Why are Neal Caffrey and Michael Westen resistant to performing said service? --
Neal resisted the shove and crossed his arms. "No. I am many things, but a mad bomber isn't one of them. And I'm wearing the wrong shoes."
When Jesse looked at him, Michael shrugged. "Yeah - I actually do blow things up sometimes, but I think I'm going to have to sit this one out. Thanks for asking, though."
-- How does Jesse Flores make them do it anyway? --
Jesse hesitated. "What if I told you I don't want to blow anything up?"
"Then I'd ask what kind of person habitually takes a bag full of C4 with them when they leave the house," Neal replied, looking meaningfully at the bag of explosive death hanging from her shoulder.
"Someone who knows what's coming, and how to fight it," she said levelly.
Michael raised an eyebrow. "That was … cryptic."
Abruptly, Jesse lost patience. "Look, you help me or the kid dies."
Michael smiled thinly. "There's no end to how much you don't want to go that route with me - it never ends well. Besides, your partner isn't going to kill Winchester."
Her head tilted back warily. "How do you know that?"
A finger came up. "First, because you're the killer - not her - and that's why she made sure she was the one with him tonight. And second," Michael continued, looking down at his watch, "around about now, the garage where you had him stashed is being assaulted by a possible serial killer, a really pissed off gun dealer, an ex-SEAL and a team of con-artists who I can only describe as 'vengefully motivated.'"
Blank-faced, Jesse processed this for a few seconds and then said, "Okay."
"Okay?" Michael looked at her as if this really hadn't been in his top five of expected responses, which Neal had to admit he found a little disconcerting.
Jesse nodded, unfazed and apparently unconcerned about the wellbeing of her partner. In fairness, having seen Sarah in action, Neal had to admit he probably wouldn't be that worried either.
"You got the kid," she said impassively, "but I still have you two, and you know what? I don't think you'd like me to shoot this guy either. Am I wrong?"
Michael shrugged, equally unperturbed. "I don't even know his name."
"Caffrey," Neal volunteered quickly, and leaned forward with his hand slightly extended. "Neal Caffrey. I'm thirty, I have some great friends - I enjoy art and music, and not being shot in the head. I have an extensive collection of-"
"Thank you, Neal," Jesse said too sweetly. "I think that should do it."
At Michael's glare, Neal glared right back and hissed, "Do not let her shoot me in the head!"
"She isn't going to shoot you in the head," Michael said, looking back to Jesse and speaking with flat confidence.
"No," Jesse agreed with a slight nod. "I'll probably aim for a lung - it will take a little longer, but your friend will get to listen to you die."
"He's really not my friend," Neal pointed out. "But I suddenly find myself deeply interested in helping you - threaten him instead."
Michael rolled his eyes. "Look, fine. Can we just get this over with, please?"
"You like me," Neal sniped. "You really like me."
"No, but sucking chest wounds ruin everyone's day," Michael returned with a humourless smile.
Jesse poked Neal in the ribs with the gun barrel again. "After you."
-- After it's done, do Neal Caffrey and Michael Westen take revenge on Jesse Flores? --
"The worst part was the eyes," Neal said, staring straight ahead, turning his rumpled tie over and over in his hands. "The way they … blinked."
Jesse leaned closer to Michael as she finished tying the bandage around his arm and murmured, "Do you think he'll be okay?"
Michael shrugged a little, dead-eyed. "No, probably not. But he'll deal."
She began to apply the burn salve to his ear. "I'm … I'm sorry I had to take you in there. I wouldn't have, if-"
"No," Michael cut her off. "I get it."
"And those little flippers," Neal whispered. "The flippers and the way it screamed."
Sam Winchester, Damon Salvatore and Parker go on a shopping trip ...
"This is ridiculous." Damon poked amongst the CDs in the bargain bin. "Glen Miller and Whitesnake? How does that make sense?"
"You sound like my brother," Sam replied absently, while he squinted under the harsh store lights and tried to figure out where to start looking in the wilderness of piled high consumerism. (Or 'T-Mart', whatever).
Damon raised an eyebrow and sauntered over. "Your brother: the serial killer? I'm not sure whether to be flattered, or really flattered."
"He isn't a serial killer," Sam growled. "No one is a serial killer, okay?"
"Right." Damon agreed soberly, and then widened his eyes with unsettling amusement. "No serial killers here."
Sam grimaced and tried to count calmly to ten. He and Dean had decided on a "don't ask, don't stake" policy pretty early in the game, but this was pushing it. At five, he snapped, "Who are you? Why are you even here?"
"Your angel stole a clay cup or urn or something - I didn't get a good look." Damon assumed a smugly righteous expression. "Whatever it was, it has huge sentimental value and I want it back. Or at least to see what happens to it. A witch tracked him down for me - they can be so useful, don't you think?"
"No, not really." Sam thought longingly of the vision headaches, which were so much better than the Damon headache gathering directly between his eyes. "Can we just get what we came for?"
-- What are they shopping for? --
Damon started walking, looking with fascination along the unfamiliar territory of T-Mart's aisles. "What are we here for? Is it a leaf blower? Because they have a leaf blower."
Sam ignored him and pulled out a list. "Okay, we need something that will double as a ritual mat … where's the computer peripherals?" He looked around and was struck by a thought. "And where's Parker?"
"She went that way," Damon answered, and pointed.
Sam looked up. "This store doesn't have a second story."
Sam stared up at the false ceiling. "Why?"
Damon shrugged again. "She's Parker."
-- Who buys the most? --
In retrospect, Sam thought, suggesting that he and Damon split up to get the items they were shopping for may have been the worst idea he'd ever had. Including the demon blood. "We came for a ritual mat and a rod of cleansing." Sam held up the mouse mat and toothbrush up demonstratively. "What the hell is this?"
From somewhere behind the precariously balanced contents of his cart, Damon said, "Did you know you can get packs of soap? Like, eight bars of soap in one big pack?"
"Leaf blower? Shoe polish? Batteries?" Sam crouched to get a look under a strata of cheap electronics. "Is that a toilet brush?"
"Fine." Damon huffed, and pushed the cart carelessly away; it flew down the aisle and Sam resolutely did not turn around at the startled squawk, clatter and thud.
When the commotion behind him had died away - and Damon's expression had finished its run from predatory anticipation to gleeful delight - Sam whispered, "Who did you hit?"
Damon picked a box of Kleenex off the shelf next to him and studied it curiously. "Some woman with a walker. She was pretty old anyway - I think it's how she would have wanted to go."
"Uh huh." Sam nodded stiffly. "Where did you say you lived again?"
"Mystic Falls. Come try it. Any time." Damon smiled sharply. "I could use the exercise."
-- Do any of them upset the security guards? --
"We need to go," Parker said from the vent above them.
If Neal Caffrey and Peter Burke double dated, where would they go?
"Are you going to introduce us to your date, Neal?" Elizabeth looked expectant and then bypassed him when awkward silence rather than an answer was forthcoming. She held her hand out to the woman. "Hi, I'm Elizabeth - Peter's wife."
"Parker." The woman shook Elizabeth's hand as if she'd practiced the action, but never quite perfected it. "Just Parker."
Elizabeth smiled. "Okay, well, why don't we go find a table and let the men hunter gather at the bar?"
"Yes." Parker nodded, and asked apparently seriously, "Why don't we?"
Elizabeth whisked her away, chattering brightly and - now Peter thought about it - just a little bit too energetically. She was acting like she had on his fortieth - right before the surprise party.
He knew it wasn't anything so (relatively) benign this time. First because it wasn't his birthday, and second because Neal's date was an internationally wanted thief.
"Neal?" Peter began mildly, and then went on when he had the man's full, if wary, attention. "Why is your date an internationally wanted thief?"
Neal pursed his lips as he considered. "Excellent sense of balance? A refined appreciation for expensive items?" He struck out blindly. "Bad … childhood?"
"That's really not what I meant." Peter crooked his finger and beckoned Neal closer.
Neal stayed exactly where he was - he hoped Peter hadn't brought his cuffs to a dinner date, but he really wasn't going to chance it. "I can explain," he said with a reassuring smile.
Peter crossed his arms. "Oh, I can't wait to hear this."
"Well, when I suggested the double date, it's more a …" Neal's eyes darted around them at the half-full restaurant. "Septuple date."
Peter looked slowly around, not bothering to try and make it subtle. In the booth opposite to the one Parker and Elizabeth had taken, he saw Westen and his two friends.
Dark foreboding got significantly darker.
Further along, he recognized the world's most irritating bride, the chef and another man he didn't know. He looked back the other way and saw three men, one of whom he was sure he'd seen on wanted posters. Along from them, an older woman was glaring at him and in a booth right at the back, a dark haired man smiled lazily and waved. To finish it off, he saw two women he knew were wanted - their faces were on the damn terrorist watch lists.
He put his hands on his hips and stared at the floor for a long moment before he raised his head. "Okay," he said, loudly enough to be heard over the piped music. "Is anyone in here not in some way wanted by the FBI or any other law enforcement agency?"
Neal half-raised his hand and then lowered it again. "Never mind."
The dark-haired man sat on his own raised a hand and spoke sardonically. "Oh, oh, me. But if you give me five minutes, I can totally fix that." He smiled and teeth glinted. "I'm a joiner."
"I am also not wanted under the current statutes of your laws," said the trench-coated man sat with the serial killers. Peter really couldn't say he liked the emphasis the man put on 'your'.
"I have that parking ticket," Elizabeth volunteered.
"Please don't shoot me, it's my first day," the man behind the bar whimpered.
Parker looked up from her unconcerned perusal of the menu. "No one shoot Frank," she instructed.
While Caffrey and the FBI guy argued in hushed whispers that weren't quite as hushed as they thought, almost everyone else pushed a few tables together and tried not to look anyone in the eye.
In the eye, or anywhere else remotely incriminating.
"Did I miss the part where genius crossed right over into madness? Was 'The Greatest Cake' some kind of cry for help?"
"Look, they need to get into the building for ten minutes, tops. And it's not even the main building! It's the foyer, at most. How important to national security could a foyer possibly be? … Genius? Really? Thank you, Peter - that's sweet"
"I hate you."
Sam Axe coughed and shifted uncomfortably in his seat, then smiled broadly. "Hey, how 'bout them Dolphins?" He winced, but more or less held the smile.
Gemma shot Sam a disdainful look and then stood gracefully. She sauntered over to the bar, patted Frank kindly on the arm, and stole three bottles of tequila, a bowl of lime slices and some salt.
"Look," Hardison slurred at the angel - all two of him - "you can tell your boy Burke any reason you want why we need into that building, all he's going to hear is 'arrest me, I love it like cake.'" He leaned forward and lowered his voice conspiratorially. "And the cake? Is a lie."
"Hardison's right, you know," Sophie said morosely. "Not about the cake," she amended quickly. "He says that all the time - honestly, I think he's just going to the wrong shops. I mean, ask those people for something perfectly reasonable and they'll laugh in your face."
Hardison stared at her in disbelief. "Since when did you ask anyone for anything?"
"Well I didn't, obviously." She shrugged nonchalantly and failed to focus on anything at all. "But you hear stories. And I think I saw a film once." She turned her somewhat blurred attention back to Castiel. "Look, the point is: telling Burke you need to work some kind of ritual in the Miami field office just isn't going to do it. We should have approached this in a completely different way. We could have planned it, come up with covers, forged credentials, tiaras …"
The eldest serial killer - Dean or something - looked at her doubtfully. "Hey, I'm all for a bright smile and a forged ID, but how did you see us getting the gear inside? Little hard to fit a six foot stone tablet in a briefcase."
“Look at it this way: if they're right, you get to save … everything, I think - they weren't entirely clear. And if they're wrong, you have a whole bunch of criminally insane people next to some holding cells and really great story to tell the medals committee."
Gemma nodded and poured herself a shot with a steady hand. "I say we wait 'til dark, bring the Fed as a hostage - go in there and get it done." She smiled thinly. "The direct approach, darlin'. Try it - you might like it."
"You hit a woman in the face with a skateboard," Sophie said flatly, and sucked absent-mindedly at a slice of lime. "And then," she managed around it, "you were arrested."
"It worked," Gemma pointed out smugly. "We just need a bigger skateboard."
Damon smiled brilliantly. "I vote for the bigger skateboard."
"I really, really don't want to sound like I agree with Damon," the younger serial killer (Sam again?) said, expression pained. "Ever. But this is too important to leave on this Burke guy just deciding to help us. And it really doesn't sound like he's deciding to help us."
“They want to burn what?"
Jesse glanced almost hopefully at the woman next to her; Sophie couldn't see a single shift in Baum's expression, which had remained at a fairly constant faint amusement, but Jesse looked suddenly disappointed. "Guess we're playing nice," she muttered, and consoled herself with a handful of peanuts.
"Well, I like bigger skateboards," Fi said brightly as she finished slicing a few lemons, knife flashing disconcertingly. "They go faster."
Michael looked up at her. "Fi …"
"Don't 'Fi' me, Michael. I like this plan - it's fun. You remember fun?" She scowled and pointedly jabbed the knife a few inches from his face; Sophie wasn't sure to be impressed or faintly worried that the man didn't lean back. Trust was wonderful of course (well, other people's trust in her, specifically), but it generally wasn't worth much when it was swimming at the bottom of a bottle of tequila.
Michael carefully turned the blade away from his nose. "First, this isn't a plan - at best it's a sporting analogy. And it's not even a good sporting analogy. Second, everyone else here gets to leave town. I have to live with the consequences."
Sam nodded with a disgruntled expression. "Me too - you think I'm leaving Miami, you got another think coming, sister."
"Look," Sophie said decisively. "There's no skateboard! We'll persuade him, it's what we do."
"Peter, it's a very small stone tablet, a statue that frankly is not worth all that attention - did you see the inlay work? Ham fisted. It was physically painful to copy it. And some kind of chip from a killer robot from the future. it's not like I'm asking to borrow the Mona Lisa for an evening."
She tried not to lean back as Damon leaned closer. "I can be very persuasive." He smiled almost intimately and despite two decades of hard-earned self-control, and thick layer of evening foundation, Sophie felt herself beginning to blush.
And then she giggled.
Her hand flew to her mouth in horror and Eliot growled at Damon. "You do that again and-"
"Threat, threat, posture, threat." Damon interrupted dismissively. "Got anything new?"
Eliot smiled pleasantly; Hardison edged away. "You do that again and I'll cram a vervain bush down your throat and set it on fire." Eliot's smile remained exactly the same. "That original enough?"
Damon seemed to tally in his head for a few moments before he nodded. "Not so much original, but points for imagery. You win a prize."
Sophie saw a blur and then her vision just gave up and filled the next half-second with black nothing.
When the world righted itself, Damon's hand was around Eliot's throat, Eliot had a steak knife half an inch from Damon's - well, somewhere painfully lower - and the man who thought he was an angel had a firm grip on the back of Damon's neck as he held him a few inches off the floor.
"Wait, a killer robot from the what?"
"There will be no skateboard," the angel said, and dropped Damon back into his chair. "Or fire. Or caffeine drinks of any kind."
The safeties of an uncomfortably large number of firearms - or possibly an uncomfortable number of large firearms - were slowly eased back into place.
"So, how about those Dolphins?" Sophie said brightly into the silence.
“Is that a yes?"
Elizabeth patted Frank on the hand as Parker poured him another whiskey. "If it helps, you could think of it this way: there may actually be no safer place in the entire city right now."
Frank stared at her and then shifted his gaze along the bar to the heavily armed people slamming tequila shots.
Her smile deflated. "Never mind."
Anyway, it all went surprisingly smoothly (except for the terrible curse and its far reaching consequences for temporal causality and Hardison's eyebrows - plus that whole thing with the rocket launcher) … but that's another story.
After a series of unfortunately chosen jobs in Mystic Falls, Los Angeles, Portland and Charming, California, Frank eventually found work behind the gun counter at S-Mart.