This story starts, as many of the greatest stories in history do, with a talking frog.
You could argue that it starts sometime before that, with a vampire that's been turned into a puppet. According to Eliot, the word again should be tagged onto the end of that sentence.
Or you could argue that it starts with that said puppet walking into a bar.
...no, there isn't a punchline.
The fact that Eliot bursts out laughing when the puppet walks into the bar is a disconnected matter entirely.
"You," says the puppet after it leaps up onto the bar and heads towards Eliot, "you're supposed to be dead!"
Sophie doesn't know where to look. At the puppet – who is inconsiderately walking and apparently talking and in the process doing irreparable damage to her sanity – or at Eliot, who doesn't look surprised in the least.
She stares mostly at the puppet, because it doesn't have strings, and Sophie thinks she is possibly, very possibly, dead.
And in hell.
Sophie shakes herself. If she manages to get a message to anyone living from the afterlife, she is not telling Nate that hell is McRory's Bar, because the man is damaged and twisted enough.
"I've told you before, Angel. Don't send a flunky to kill people. Lorne couldn't aim for toffee." Eliot sounds calm, until the puppet – (did Eliot call him an angel? There's no freaking way Sophie is dead and in heaven. Is Sophie still asleep and dreaming? Just how much vodka exactly did Nate and she drink after their last con?) – reaches where Eliot is, and then Eliot can't help it.
He bursts out into laughter. Again.
"It's not funny," the puppet growls in this grumpy, low tone. Sophie thinks abstractly if the puppet is, well, a real boy, then he probably has brooding listed as an activity on his Facebook profile.
"He wouldn’t be laughing if it wasn’t," Parker says. She doesn't sound flustered that she's talking to a puppet, but then it's Parker. Sophie has heard her hold a full unflinching conversation with a cabbage before.
"Angel, dude, what are you doing here?"
The puppet - his name is Angel - stilled for a moment, statue-like. Then he groaned. "You can't tell, but this is my serious expression."
"All your expressions look like constipation to me, even when you're not a puppet," Eliot offers. "But carry on."
Angel plonks himself down on the bar, ignoring Eliot. "You think I haven't heard of what you've been up to, Mr. McDonald?"
Eliot’s immediate expression is completely readable – panic.
"I'm here to make a deal," Angel says, very quickly. "In return for me not telling your crew your real name, you have to help me."
Sophie turns in unison with Hardison, Nate and Parker to stare at Eliot. Eliot turns pink faster than he can knock a person out.
"Deal," Eliot squeaks, before they can stop him.
Sophie has to get Eliot to summarise the caper, because Sophie stopped paying attention when the other puppets came in.
Puppets. Plural puppets. If anyone asks Sophie what the worst kind of puppet in the future is, plural is going to be her appalled answer.
The first puppet – whose name is Angel, or Mr. Angel, or Liam if you wanted to risk death by biting and what kind of threat is that, anyway – just wants to rescue one of his acquaintances who has been
kidnapped puppetnapped. Along with the totem that caused them to be made into puppets.
kidpuppetnapper has seen Angel and the totem needs to be touched by Angel and the other puppet to reverse the spell.
So Angel has amassed some other puppets so that he can sneak in amongst them unnoticed and touch the totem and rescue his acquaintance.
It feels like a lot of effort to go to rescue an acquaintance. When Sophie voices that, Eliot explains delicately that Angel is like Nate, and does a ton of good saving-the-world type things, and whereas Angel would dearly love to leave Spike marinating as a puppet in Paris until the end of ages, he’s a decent guy and does not want puppet Spike inflicted on anyone for any longer than strictly necessary.
“Like we wouldn’t inflict Parker on anyone for longer than a day,” Eliot explains.
Sophie had, at that point, slightly thought she was getting the hang of it, but that was the moment the other puppets came in. The plural ones.
There's a talking frog and a melodramatic pig, and a bear which is apparently the frog’s twin, and a blue furry critter with a hooked nose, and a dog who instantly pulls a piano out from behind the bar which Sophie hadn’t even known existed, and a yellow thing with orange hair in a tiny lab coat, and this red furry thing that’s carrying around drumsticks in its paws.
Not a single one of them has strings, or a hand up their rear, and Sophie knows one thing for sure: she is not drunk enough for this.
And then the puppets start singing.
And possibly also pancakes.
Everyone human and not them has cleared out, including Cora.
Sophie watches longingly as the last sane human disappears as Eliot introduces her to all of the Muppets (apparently calling them puppets is an insult) in turn – apparently he’s worked with them before. He mutters something about a Wolf and a Ram and his heart and summoning and spelling, and Sophie does what it is she does when Eliot starts rambling about the differences between a Beretta 9FS and a Ruger LC9: she smiles and she nods and tunes the hell out.
Kermit is their leader. Miss. Piggy his love interest. Fozzie Bear is a freaking bear and not Kermit’s twin, except he puts his hat on and Parker instantly declares them identical. The blue furry guy is Gonzo, the dog Rowlf, the tiny lab coat one Beeker and the red furry thing...
Eliot fistbumps it, mutters something about an animal, and slings his arms around it and walks off, chatting delightedly – and one sided, with the other making these grunts in return – about music.
Sophie sinks to the nearest chair, and finds herself at eye level with the pig. Sophie has never thought a pig could look condescending until now. Miss. Piggy, trussed up in an evening dress, feather boa and pearls, eyeballs Sophie in return.
“The one with the curly hair says you’re taking point on this shindig,” Miss. Piggy says, sounding decidedly unimpressed.
“You mean Nate,” Sophie corrects.
Miss. Piggy shrugs, like Sophie hasn’t said anything. “We’ll be working together and you’re clearly not suitable.”
"Your hair," Miss. Piggy says, waving her feather boa around like she's having some sort of fit, "it's so lacklustre, and brown. No, we need to cover it up. Immediately!"
"Whu-" is all Sophie can manage as Miss. Piggy turns to where Fozzie is staring in Parker’s direction. Miss. Piggy yanks Fozzie's hat from his head and shoves it unceremoniously on Sophie's head.
"Hey!" Kermit says brightly, tottering up and looking between Miss. Piggy and Sophie with a- what is that expression? Oh, god, Sophie wants to wither, to wither and die, because the frog has added leering to his repertoire on top of the talking and the moving and the singing. "Are you two twins, too?"
Sophie smacks the hat from her head instantly.
Kermit blinks. "Oh, guess not. My mistake."
“C’mon, Kermie. Let’s go talk plans. This one’s not smart enough, not on my level.” Miss. Piggy sticks her snout in the air and hops off the chair, sashaying off. Kermit wrinkles his mouth in an apologetic expression and scurries after her, long green legs slapping against the tiles.
Sophie returns Fozzie’s hat to him, and he doesn’t notice. He’s still staring at Parker. Sophie doesn’t understand until she notices Parker’s talking to the one called Beeker. Who apparently only knows one word – meep.
“Meep meep meep,” Beeker says, indistinctly.
“I know, I’ve told them that,” Parker says. “It’s not fair. Just because I’m the smallest and the most talented and agile and flexible doesn’t mean every airshaft belongs to me.”
“Meep meep meep,” Beeker says, patting her consolingly on the hand.
“I knew you’d understand.”
Sophie shakes herself, and listens in on the conversation Gonzo, Nate and Hardison are holding, hashing out the details of the caper.
"Flight 972. It goes directly above Paris on its way to Finland, it's halfway through the journey, so they should chuck us out there." Gonzo flickers a look at the Leverage crew. "The hot blonde one will fall all right, the others are a bit... weighty. They might splatter. Can we get them mended before we go? Everyone looks better in felt. I'm thinking Mr. Hardison would look amazing in blue."
Nate looks like he’s considering it. Then again, he’s always a step ahead – he’s drunk. Instead of wanting to reprimand him, Sophie just feels jealous.
Hardison gags when Gonzo yanks out a sewing machine from his impossibly small rucksack. "I'm thinking Mr. Hardison is going to hack the plane so we get a flight direct to Paris," Hardison says, pulling out his laptop.
"The quicker, the better,” Sophie mutters.
Hardison steals the plane. Check.
The air hostesses don’t even bat an eyelid at the puppets getting on the plane. Urgh, so wrong, but check.
The puppets descending on Paris with no diversions to the plan: No check.
The plan somehow working regardless: Somehow... check?
It goes somewhat like this:
- Nate explains the plan, and all the back-up plans, A through Z.
- The Muppets decide to start singing again, about the joys of the letter A.
- When they stop, Sophie sighs in relief so loud that Miss. Piggy actually apologises and says she didn’t realise Sophie was just suffering from jealousy at not being able to sing and dance and perform like Miss. Piggy could.
- Nate compliments Sophie’s acting – the particularly complimented role being not turning Miss. Piggy into ham sandwiches.
- The Muppets then start singing about the joys of the letter B.
- Sophie realises they’re going to be there the whole goddamned day, and stuffs Mr. Angel into her handbag, strides into the apartment of the puppetnapper, and thrusts Mr. Angel into the box with the puppet called Spike.
- There’s a flash and a bang, and Sophie comes outside into the darkness with two really hot guys.
- Nate looks at them, sour and jealous.
- The local police then come over and start a fight during “The Joys of the Letter P” because they’re frightening the locals.
- Spike and Angel are apparently vampires, and they go “vamp faced” and the police run away.
- Sophie faints and wakes up again in Boston.
- She’s relieved it’s all a dream until she realises the Muppets are still there.
- Nate explains she passed out and they brought her home.
- Sophie explodes about the fact that why didn’t they just do what she did in the first place and not involve the crazy puppets.
- Miss. Piggy suggests vicodin.
- Sophie slaps her.
- Miss. Piggy karate chops her so hard...
- ...Sophie passes out again.
Sophie wakes up to the dulcet tones of Nate talking to the frog, which is urgh, just like him.
"So,” Nate says, “what are you going to do now this is all over?"
"Not sure," Kermit admits. "This caper lifestyle seems to suit our myriad range of skills. We were thinking of maybe... taking Manhattan?"
"No, no, no."
"...Miss. Piggy said we should take Queens, but I thought Manhattan was classier."
"I mean you've got to be more dramatic," Nate says, earnestly. "Not all this namby-pamby weak, maybe, um, take Manhattan. You've got to have power in your voice! An enigmatic presence! And say it as melodramatically as you can."
"Um. Perhaps our next meandering misadventure will involve Muppets taking Manhattan or Queens depending on if Miss Piggy refuses to be intimate with me in the intervening period." Kermit looks up at Nate expectantly.
"No, no. Like this! Let's go steal Manhattan!" Nate strides off with an expansive hand gesture, and stops a few paces away.
"That would be easier for us to take it if you stole it, we could just take it from you," Kermit says, staring up at him unblinking, because of his whole general lack of eyelids thing.
Nate returns the stare, complete with lack of blinking. But mostly that’s due to the fact he is possibly having a stroke or something.
Sophie empathises. Thoroughly.
She gets up and nudges Eliot, who is chatting to Spike and Angel and seriously, what were their mothers thinking? Who named their sons Spike and Angel and Sophie’s brain is only on this track because vampires. Eliot’s getting a smack down forever for not leading with the vampire thing.
“Sun’s coming up soon,” Sophie says, “maybe your vampire friends want to go? Maybe they want to take the puppets with them?”
Eliot winces at her emphasis. Angel and Spike look a little scared too, so maybe, yeah, maybe Sophie’s not at her most attractive when she’s pissed off.
“Thanks for your help,” Angel says quickly, manhandling Spike up to the front door. Sophie feels a little disappointed – Spike’s hot! – until Spike winks at Miss. Piggy and Sophie realises what bad taste Spike obviously has.
Angel pauses at the door, fingers on the handle, turns his head and smirks. "Hope it's not an insult to say I'd rather not see you later, Lindsey."
Eliot turns wholly, instantly purple.
Hardison howls delightedly as Mr. Angel leaves the bar, the Muppets (singing again) in tow. "Lindsey. Your name is Lindsey. You have a girl's name."
"Shut up," Eliot whines, his voice thin and reedy.
"Seriously?" Hardison says, looking like Microsoft has announced a new Operating System. He's already brought up his laptop, presumably to find new dirt on him. "Man, that's awesome."
"I'll save you the time." Eliot does that super creepy sneak up to Hardison's side, like he's floating over the floor. "My name is Lindsey McDonald and I am a fully trained lawyer."
Hardison stares at Eliot, wide-eyed. "You are scarier than I even knew."
Eliot folds his arms and smiles smugly, and then there's a knock on the door.
"Finally," Sophie gasps, "maybe this is a proper client."
She rushes to the door, coming face to face with an enormous, yellow puppet bird.
"I was wondering," says the very big bird, "if you could tell me how to get to-" The bird looks down at a note in his wing. "How to get to Sesame Street?"
Sophie just cries and cries and cries. It seems like the thing to do.