the soup opera


1 June 2001


There have been coming in reports all over the town of lawns turning inexplicably blue. This
reporter went to investigate, and can confirm that the lawns are indeed in a beautiful shade of
sky blue. Gardeners asked to comment this case, have no explaination. One tentatively said
that it might be the work of parasites. While no explaination to this phenomena appears to be
forth coming, tourists are enjoying the sight immensly.
                                                                        A. Fletcher


w e s l e y


"Orlando," he says, again, patiently. "It's in Florida."

It is a week after Cordelia has taken off with her new boyfriend, both rich *and* worthy of her for once, for a vacation in the French Riviera, glaring at them in a manner challenging them all to say a word all the way. It is a week after Gunn had said he would take the opportunity to 'Get gone' for a bit, as he said so, and 'kick some local ass' in his neighborhood. It is a week after Wesley, unwilling to be left alone with Angel quite so soon, has announced he was leaving for England for a while, and ended up not going.

"I know it's in Florida," Cordelia scorns through the phone line. "Wes, I think you're a little too old for Disneyworld."

"You can never be too old for Disneyworld," He deadpans back.

"Well, not if you're planning your future carrer with Mickey Mouse ears on," she says, "And by the way, this is the scariest mental image I've had in a real long while, and I'm the one getting the flesh eating demons pictures transferred in live. What --"

"There's been some trouble there," he says, "My cousin suggested I come look at things."

"You have a cousin?"

He sighs. "I did just say."

"You have a cousin in *Orlando?"

This time he just waits. Surely enough, she doesn't wait for a response. "Trouble, like what?"

"Ah -- plant... things, I understand." It sounds as vague out loud as it does in his head, but quite honestly, Daphne has never been a very clear reporter.

"Plants?" The raised eyebrow transfers itself incredibly well over the phone line. "No flesh eating demons?"

"None. At least, I don't think so." He flips his notebook open distractedly, looking for the notes he took during Daphne's phone call. Actually, wasn't there something..?

"Then what are you going there for, Mister not-a-plantologist?"

He winces at the phone, just a little. "Plantologist?"


"No, no, I really am interested, here. What is it exactly that a plantologist does, then?"

The silence on the other end is frosty in just the right amount, and dangerous even over however-many hundreds of kilometers.

He grins to himself.

"So, Mister Renegade Demon Hunter," she finally says, best Queen C voice carefully at place, which he considers feeling honored about just to irritate her further, "Why are you going over to Florida just to watch, like, *trees*?"

He sits up, grins to himself a little again. "It is, after all, a renegade demon hunter's duty."

She huffs, but in a very elaborate manner.

"And besides," He says, quirking an eyebrow at the random page in which his notebook has finally opened, "I gather it has to do less with trees and more with, among else - uh, decorative grass, or something similar."

"Decorative grass."

"So it would appear."

"And no -- I just wanna make sure, you understand -- no flesh eating demons."

"Perhaps those will show up later." *Wasn't* there something about that?...

"Alrighty, then," she says, very brightly. "I can see my vacation'll be kiddie stuff compared to yours."

He grins into the telephone. "Oh, don't worry, Cordelia. I'm sure you'll find a flesh eating demon if you look hard enough."



8 June 2001


Starting three nights ago, on the evening of the fifth, Orlando police department phones have been flooded with calls reporting sightings, or, perhaps, hearings, of what the many callers claimed to be talking bushes. Police department sources say the department was certain at first the calls were elaboate pranks, but as five police officers and the mayor's wife have also become witnesses in the three recent days an investigation has been started. Gardening enthusiasts will be interested to learn the reports indicate only sightings during the hours of darkness, and seem to be focusing mainly on hibiscus bushes, although roses are also a leading majority.
                                                                        A. Fletcher


r e m y

Jake looked at him. There was no need for telepathy to know what he was thinking. Remy was fairly certain it went in the lines of; "Dude's lost his mind completely. Where's the nearest insane asylum?"

 Remy tried beaming at him.

 Jake kept staring.

 "So," Remy said. "Time to fire up the ol' corporate jet, yes?"

Jake blinked and finally said something for the first time since Remy had explained what he wanted to drag him into this time. "Let me get this straight. You're going to investigate blue lawns and talking bushes in Orlando because that professor of yours figures it could be the sign of mutant activity? Are you _sure_ he -- or you -- haven't been eating LSD laced brownies recently?"

Remy couldn't speak for the professor, but he could speak for himself. "Yes, absolutely sure. Look, it's even in the newspaper."

 "...Right. The National Equirer then, I suppose."

 Remy paused. "Um. Well, yes, there too, actually."

 "Thought so."

 "But!" Remy leaned over the desk and handed him the papers he'd been holding. "The Orlando Herald! It's legit, I swear."

 Jake flipped through the newspaper. "Okay, maybe it is. But you said the trip to Latveria was legit too. And that time I ended up in 1891." He looked up from the newspaper to glare at him. "Also, I ended up stuck in female form. Don't think I've forgiven you for that yet."

No, Remy thought no such thing. After all, Jake grabbed every possible opportunity presented to him to let him know that he still hadn't been forgiven. Remy had given up on ever being forgiven. He leaned back in his chair and watched Jake reading through the paper. Jake's long black hair was constantly falling into his eyes, but he didn't appear to notice. Nice hair, Remy thought. Very nice.

"You got to be kidding me." Jake snickered helplessly. "This isn't a case, this is... This is an angeldust induced illusion. You sure there's not something in the water down there?"

"No. But that's why we're going to investigate." Remy tried beaming again.

Jake put the paper down and pressed the tips of his fingers together thoughtfully. "Are you going to shut up anytime soon if I don't go with you?"


 "Figured. All right, all right, I'm in."

 "Great! Now where's that jet of yours..." Remy jumped on his feet and rubbed his hands together eagerly. "You think we could have the same stewardess?"




15 June 2001


Following the peculiar sightings of the last two weeks, there's been several reports of walking
lawn leprachauns. At first it was believed that the walking leprachauns were simply toys that
had for some reason been switched with the original leprachauns, but after thorough investigation, the police and the experts they have consulted have come to the conclusion that if they are indeed toys, they are operating on an unknown power source. Those interested might be able to buy the leprachauns directly from those who have them in their gardens as most people are not too fond of them. Warning! They tend to walk directly into the flowers and stomp them to the ground.
                                                                        A. Fletcher


s c u l l y

The clicks of her heels on the floor echoed in the empty corridors.

 Click, click, click. Clickity.

 The whine of the door when she pushed it open was an unpleasant contrast. Screeeeech.

 A man gave her a startled look, then seemed torn between looking reproachful and looking worried and scrambled away.

Click, click, click, she glided over to the narrow door. The echo was even better here.

 "Mulder, get out of there."

 There was no answer.

"Mulder, I can see your shoes." She couldn't really, but she had no patience for bending and checking.

"I don't want to."

She rolled her eyes at the locked door. "Mulder."

"No." He sounded stubborn. "Go away."

"Look, Mulder, I know you want to go dig out Alex Krycek --"

Now he sounded annoyed. "Which I thought you wanted, too --"

Shut up, Mulder. "But you need to go investigate on this accontant firm. And I need to go check the situation in Orlando."

His head popped up above the stall door. "The *situation*. Leprechans running around. Honestly, Scully, I'd think you of all people --"

She sighed. "I don't think it's anything unnatural, Mulder. But it *is* spreading mayhem and public distress, and I think it's part of our job to stop it."

"Our *job*! Our *job* isn't busting blue grass overnight cases or intimidating accountants who, let me assure you, have never in their lives been through any *real* voodoo ritual! This is *bullshit*."

"Our job also isn't chasing international spies around the country, Mulder." And when did her life start sounding like a cartoon series, anyway?

He whipped open the door and stepped off the toilet seat, lending a step before her. "It is when it's Alex Krycek."

She sighed. "Mulder, this obsession of yours --"

Her partner glared daggers at her general direction and stormed off.

She looked at his retreating back and thought dirty thoughts very loudly.

The stall door swung screechily in the background.

"Fine," Agent Scully told the empty air. "See if I bring *you* any Mickey Mouse ears. Or," She added after some thought, "Any walking garden elves."



21 June 2001


Read in our paper this Friday! Exclusive: An interview with world-famous botanists Arnold Drawnham, Isabella Bessini and Sergei Tripolski, who have been asked by the Orlando PD for some expert opinions on the recent mysterious sightings, nicknamed the 'Orlando Freak Growings'. The latest of those inexplicable occurences is the report of numerous trees around the city growing, in previously unheard of speeds, not upwards, but sideways. The growings, which at first result in attractive and unusual T-shaped forms, have caused windown broken by branches, younger trees tipping over after their trunks have caved in before the unusual weight, and in one particularly fast-growing tree, a head injury of Mr. Abe Goldman, whose fir tree grew a branch which had 'attacked him from the back and knocked him over', by his wife's recount, when he stood by it. Readers are advised to take caution and keep a distance of six to seven feet from their trees at all times. Windows in any vicinity of trees should be barricaded. Beware especially of firs, oaks and orange trees. The public, says Police Department spokesperson, is advised to avoid walking into or nearby any public parks.
                                                                        A. Fletcher


m i s s p a r k e r

"But... Daddy!" she said, horrified. "You can not be serious."

Her father patted her on the head. "Of course I am, angel. This thing in Florida has Jarod written all over it according to Angelo. So be a dear and go check it out. You can bring... what's his name? That computer person of yours."

She blinked. "But..."

"Now, don't object." He walked past her, heading for the glass doors heading into his office. "It'll be fun. You may get to visit Disneyworld. Remember how you always wanted to go there?" He disappeared out of the room, leaving her standing in the middle of the office, still blinking.

"...When I was ten," she muttered after a few minutes had passed. Then she narrowed her eyes. "Wonder what Sidney is up to..."

 She walked quickly after her father.

She rode the elevator down to her office, then walked in while lighting a smoke. "Broots."

 The computer expert jumped. "Miss Parker!"

"Yes, that's right. Me. Miss Parker. You. Broots." She glanced around. "Where is Sidney?"

 "On...On...On vacation. Don't you remember? He mentioned it to... to you..." he trailled off when she waved impatienly with her arm.

"Oh yes, that's right. Well. Sadle up," her lips curled into a wry grin. "We're going to Orlando."

 Broots blinked a few times. "Orlando, Miss Parker?"

"That's what I said." She turned and started to walk out again. "Meet me on the roof in half an hour."

 "Uh... Miss Parker!"

She paused. "What?"

 Broots tried to meet her eyes and did an admirable job for a while, then he shyed off. He clasped his hands together nervously. "I was wondering... Could Debbie come with us? Only. DisneyWorld."

She stared at him, arching an eyebrow.

 "You won't even notice she's there, I promise," Broots said hurriedly.

 She considered it for a moment, then shrugged. She liked Broots daughter. Not that she would ever admit it, but she did. "All right. But we're still leaving in half an hour."

He gave her a beatific and relieved grin. "Oh yes! We'll be there on time, I promise. Thank you so much, Miss Parker."

 "Hm." Miss Parker said, and walked rapidly out of the office, heels clicking and cigarette smoke circling it's way slowly up towards the ceiling.



27 June 2001


The mysterious happenings related to gardens all around Orlando this month, have now reached an all new high with the appearance of foot tall, orchid-like flowers... that snacks on various pets. Puddles and shi tzus are particularly at risk, but also certain cats seem to be a favorite. The Orlando PD and various experts consulted are all utterly bewildered. Exterminators have been called in to take care of the problem, but in the mean time, do take care and keep your pet in leash at all times.
                                                                        A. Fletcher


"I can't *believe* he slept with her. She's such a hussy."

 "Yeah, well, so is he."

She shook her head, still sporting an Expression Of Disbelief. "Yeah, well. Maybe they're soulmates or something."

 He smirked. "Oh. Yeah. Right. Sure."

 She shrugged and sipped in her coke. "Well. It is possible."

Methos gave her an incredulous look. "The hell."

"Oh, you know." She waved her hand dismissively. The car swerved a bit. "What's a little wandering eye when it's true love?"

"Watch the *road*!" The oldest Immortal threw his hand out to stabilize the wheel. Amanda slapped it away. "Ow! Anyway, it's less wandering eye than wandering --"

"Don't be rude."

Methos looked as innocent as he could be bothered to look at the moment. "Rude? Moi?"

 Amanda, who for the occasion was sporting a new red mane, didn't even look at him. She sipped more coke, hit the gass and by passed some people in an old VW. Methos hugged the dashboard.

"Amanda!" he whined. "Do you *know* what you're doing to my beer? If any of the bottles are broken, it's going to be your head, I swear to a wide array to gods."

"Oh, shush." Gripping the wheel with the three free fingers of her can hand, she used the other one to switch gears and then ruffle his hair. He was watching the road and was too late trying to duck. "I do think you take Duncan's sex life far too seriously."

Methos, momentarily distracted from his beer fretting, turned an amusedly raised eyebrow on her. "Well, you know how I like to take my cue from the experts, *darling*. And you were so very inspiring, the way you found every possible way to mark your territory shy of actually peeing on the man."

"Pee on --? Christ, Methos." He couldn't tell if she was secretly amused or honestly taken off balance. It would be lovely to think she was actually shocked, certainly, but he supposed that it might be stretching the facts a little this early in the game. "Once a barbarian, always a Barbarian, I suppose," She muttered to herself.

"I'll let you know I was _never_ a Barbarian. I always did appreciate the virtue of taking a bath, not talking with my mouth full... and a good mjoed, of course," he added as an after thought.

Amanda rolled her eyes and switched on the radio. The news was on, blabbering about weird garden incidents. Methos listened to it for a while. No, that had to be some sort of radio play or something.

"Anyway," he said. "She _is_ a hussy. Everybody can see that. Everybody knows that. I just can't believe Mac can really be that stupid. ...No, wait. I can."

Amanda shook her head, looking somewhere between disgusted and amused. Amused won out. "Have you ever noticed how, every time we come near the man, our lives suddenly turn into a soap opera?"

"*Your* life is always a soap opera."

She laughed. "No, my life is a fun-filled Mission Impossible episode, or possibly one of those wonderfully stupid cop shows from the seventies. Anyway, we're free now -- for a while, at least. This is going to be a smooth ride from here on."

Methos winced and fatalistically prepared for the 'smooth ride' of Amanda's to turn into a hellish version of a seventies sitcom. Why must people always jinx him?

 "I want a beer," he said.

 "I want Frost's necklace," Amanda retorted. "All in it's own time." She offered him her coke. "You can have the rest of this though."

He looked at her in moderately genuine horror. "Are you trying to poison me, woman?"

She smirked at him. "Fine. Suffer quietly, then."

"Fat chance," he muttered to himself. "How long until we get there, anyway?"

"I don't know. Couple of hours." She glanced over at him and the car swiveled dangerously over in the other lane again. Methos whimpered. "We could've been there sooner if you hadn't insisted on stopping at 'Fat Betty's Blues Bar'."

 He sank deeply into the carseat, folded his arms over his chest, clasping his hands around his elbows and looked darkly out of the window. "...I was doing Joe a favour."


He shut up, effectively letting the subject drop, leaning his elbow on the window frame so her could drum his fingers on the roof outside.

After a few minutes of mutual silence, Methos sighed. "This smooth ride of yours, I trust you actually have a plan?"

Amanda grinned at him cheerfully. The car swivelled over to the white line and stayed there until she turned back to the road. "Of course not. We'll just show up and do our best, won't we? I have no doubt in our abilities as a team."

Methos froze. Turned his head slowly towards the insane thief immortal at the wheels. "...We're... winging it?"

 Amanda continued to look cheerful. "In a manner of speaking."

"Lord have mercy..."

"Oh, come on, Methos." She tsked, again far too cheerfully. "I bet you weren't any fun to brutally pillage villages with, either."

 He glared.

 The car swivelled again.


The blue lawns really did light up in the landscape, he had to admit that. He nudged his companion and nodded towards the front lawn they were walking past. "You know, I kinda like it."

"You would."

He narrowed his eyes. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Mean?" The other man grinned, surveying the view around them. "These people's front lawns, lying by their carefully-decorated, white-fenced, red-roofed suburban houses, are painted bright peacock blue. I'm just saying, I'm not surprised, this is right up your alley."

Mike Kellerman's blond hair lit up in golden highlights when he tossed it back in a sneer. "My alley? I don't have an alley. Not a *color* alley. And anyway, if this is *paint*, somebody spent one hell of a shitload of money pouring it over, what? Thirty lawns that we've seen today alone?"

Tim laughed, laying an easy arm around the shorter man's shoulders. "Well, you know what they say, there's no holding back when it comes to art." He looked around them. "I suppose it *is* kind of... pretty."

"...That's going a bit far."

Tim considered it, glancing over a nearby hedge to see an exasperated woman chasing a tiny lawn leprachaun marching determindedly towards the flowers. He gave a startled laugh.

"What?" Mike gave him a curious look, then craned his neck to try and see over the hedge as well. "What is it?"

"Oh, nothing." The woman was an irratable silhouette around the far corner of the house. "Just someone chasing a walking garden statue off their ground."

"Uh huh." Mike gave him an incredulous look. "Sure. You haven't had anything to drink, have you, Tim? Because it's lunch time and I'm supposed to be the one with the liquor-before-noon past."

Tim frowned a little, then shook his head, dismissing it. "Nope. Haven't you been reading the gardening section of the local paper?" He grinned at the other man.

"Musta slipped my mind."



1 July 2001


Special Agent Dana Scully of the FBI's special X-File unit has been called in to investigate on the mysterious garden happenings in our beautiful city the last month. When asked for her preliminary throughts on what might have caused these strange happenings (Have you read the Garden section lately?), Agent Scully said; "No comment."

                                                                        I.M. Fletcher


Don't ask so many questions, he says. The Golden Boy. Thomas Eugene Paris used to be the Golden Boy of the Army. Until he went on a permanent AWOL he used to be my commanding officer as well. Now he's... my partner in crime, I suppose. But old habits break hard.

I make a face at him. "I left the army to get away from that sort of phrases, you know."

Tom shrugs, giving me a blinding smile. "You'll find out when we get there, honest."

"Yeah, I guess." I go back to looking out the window. There's something just a little bit unsetteling about Tom's smile. "Where are we going then?"

Tom changes gears and makes the car almost literally fly down the highway. He transfered from the marines. I wonder if he misses flying. Being high, high up in the sky. Above everybody else. "Florida."

"Because Florida is filled with demons and such," I nod sagely. "Seriously, where?"

He looks amused. "Really, it is Florida. Orlando to be precise. You'll figure out why when we get there. Unless my informer is off, but I don't think so."

No, Tom's informers are rarely off.

My informers... Well, I don't have any really. Tom says it'll come with time. There's Giles. He sometimes sends me messages of demonic activity somewhere in Montana or Wyoming or Texas, but I'm not sure he counts as an informer. Tom's main informer seems to be a tiny (about Buffy's hight unless I'm mistaking), raven haired woman with a thing for clothes in blood red. I'm not supposed to know that. I just followed him one night and saw them. Whether it was curiousity or paranoia that made me follow him, I don't know. But I did.

Tom knows, probably, but he hasn't commented on it, so I'm assuming he either doesn't care or doesn't mind. He's never asked me to go with him though.

I give him a skeptical look anyway. "I haven't heard any rumours of anything going on in Florida."

"Sometimes," Tom says, as though he's imparting the whereabouts of the City of Gold. "You've gotta look for the obvious."

I blink at him.

"Read the papers lately?"

"Yeah, of course," I nod.

"Then you know." He grins, teasingly. "You just don't know that you know yet."

"I really hate it when you're like this."

He changes gears again, smirking. "I know."

We're driving a blue metallic mustang convertible. Handstolen by yours truly. Well, you don't get rich doing what we do, all right? We call her Voyager. Tom's idea. It seems oddly apt.

Tom is wearing black leather again. He must be sweating to death, but he's still wearing the stuff. What that man won't do for vanity's sake...

I am wearing sensible jeans and a green t-shirt. I know I don't exactly look like the hunchback of Notre Dame, but next to Tom it's no use even trying, so I don't. Tom thinks I'm a moron for it. "Look, Riley, you've got this whole tortured past thing going on. Women _senses_ these things. _Use_ it, you idiot."

What he can't seem to understand, is that I don't want to dwell on my past. I want to look forwards, into the future. Forget, if I can.

I dig through the backseat, looking for a decent CD. Ricky Martin, Britney Spears, nsync. No, no and no. Where does he _find_ that crap? Oh yes. Here we go. I triumphantly grab a hold of REM - Californication and put it on.

//Scar tissue that I wish you saw, sarcasm is to know it all//

I glance over at Tom, grinning. Much, much better than his teeny-boppers. He looks away from the road long enough to roll his eyes at me. "I'm shotgun," I say. "I choose the music."

He mutters something under his breath. "If I let you play Coldplay, are you going to let me play Nsync?"

I waver.


"No," I say finally after thoroughly weighing my options.

"Worth a try."

He knows I'll only let him play bubblegum music to scare away demons. Bubblegum music and Mozart, two surefire ways to getting rid of demons. Strangely, punk tends to attract them. Same goes for weird 70's glam rock music.


Or it could be just Spike.

I shake my head and lean back in the carseat, intending to sleep for a bit.

Tom choose that moment to get chatty. "Hey, Riley, did you get those vials you wanted?"

 I open one eye and look bemused at him. "Vials? ...Oh. The green slimy ones. Yeah, I got them. Got you that Preshnk knife you wanted too. Cost me an arm and a leg -- nearly literally -- so if you lose this one, I swear you're gonna have to settle for the mundane ones."

 "I didn't exactly 'lose' it," he points out drily.

I snort. "You left it in the stomach of a Javeni demon. You _could_ have gone back and picked it up."

 "Their blood is acidic."

 "Your point?"



Interviewers: Remy LeBeau and Jaqueline Gavin

Interview object: Cecily Montpelier-Gugenheimer-Charles, 34 Leaf Road, Ciderheim, Orlando, Florida

REMY: Mrs. Montpelier-Gugenheimer-Charles, may I ask you some questions in connection to the recent garden happenings?

CECILY: *suspicious look* Are you two reporters?

JAKE: *whipping out fake CIA ID-cards* No, ma'am. We're the CIA. Any help you might be able to give us, would be awfully appreciated.

CECILY: *peering intently at the IDs*

REMY: *mouthing 'CIA?' at Jake*

JAKE: *shrugs*



 "Look, Kal, I didn't..." Marty rounded the corner of the garage and slowed down. Okay. Not Kal. Platina blond lighting a smoke. Definitely not Kal in any sort of incarnation. Marty worried his lip for a moment, then headed over to the blond.

 The boy looked up when Marty's shadow fell over him, tossing his head back in an attempt to get the hair out of his eyes. It didn't work. They looked at each other for a moment.

"You seen a darkhaired guy storm past here, looking like he wanted to murder someone?" Me, Marty added silently. Kal had expressed an interest in that before he took off.

 "Yeah," the boy said after a moments thought, tilting his head.

"You did? Where did he go?"

Pale blue eyes regarded him, then the boy nodded towards the front of the garage. "He got into one of the cars and drove off."

 "Fuck!" Marty exclaimed and hit his fist against the wall.

"I take it he was your ride?" The boy grinned wryly, exhaling smoke slowly in Marty's direction.

"Yeah," Marty sighed. He brooded for a moment, then turned so he was leaning against the wall next to the boy. "Hit ya for a fag?"

The blond's hand automaticaly went to his pocket, then he paused. "Um. Just for clarification purposes..."

"A cigarette," Marty grinned.

The boy nodded. "Thought so. But your accent's a bit all over the place so." He shrugged and handed Marty a cigarette. "Been here too long, I suppose."

Marty gratefully took the smoke and clapped himself down, searching for his lighter. Which he appeared to have left in his other jeans. Wonderful. "Eh. Could you?" He jerked his face towards the boy, presenting the cigarette to him.

The boy nodded and lit his cigarette for him.

They stood there, smoking, in a sort of amicable silence for a while.

 "Anyway. 'M Marty," Marty said, dropping the cigarette butt on the ground. "Lemme buy you a coffee?"

 The boy took another drag of his smoke then dropped it to the ground. He nodded. "Yeah, all right."

Marty tore himself off the wall and started walking towards the diner a few blocks down. "You got a name?"

 The pale blue eyes gleamed. "Yes." Then he didn't say anything more.

 Marty grinned. "Gonna tell me what it is?"

 "Only had to ask, man. Only had to ask," the boy grinned back at him. "It's Draco."

"Draco, eh?" Marty rolled the name about in his head. "Unusual name."

Draco shrugged. "'ve an unusual family. Father's name is Lucius."

 Marty blinked. "I see." They entered the diner, stopped for a moment, then Draco headed for an available table by the window. Marty followed him. They sat down on opposite sides. "'Spose I'm not one to talk. Me full name is Martinius."

 Draco regarded him. "You don't look like a Martinius."

"You look like a Draco, though," Marty said. He already knew he didn't look like a Martinius. With a name like that, you'd expect him to be wandering around with a priestly habit and be a wee bit on the tubby side. Marty wasn't going near a priestly habit anytime soon, and not even Kal could call him tubby.

Draco nodded, looking faintly amused. "Yes, my family do tend to pick appropriate names." He changed the subject. "Coffee?"

 "Right." Marty looked around after a waitress. He caught the eye of a girl with white bangs and she came over to them.

"What'll ya have?"

 "Two coffees and...Something. Foodlike. I don't care what, just give me something." Marty smiled.

She looked at him consideringly. "Bagel?"

"Yeah, sure."

 "It'll be right there."

 She smiled and walked off. Marty turned back to Draco, who seemed very

captivated by the scenery. Marty followed his look and blinked in surprise.

"Eh. Blue lawns?"

Draco turned his head towards him, frowning -- annoyed? "Yeah."

"Huh." Marty blinked a few times. "You know, I've never seen that before."

 "...It's a new fashion...thing."

"Ah. Americans."

"Uh. Yeah. Americans." Draco showed his pearly-white teeth.

 "So," Marty said after a bit of an awkward silence. He had never been very good at keeping his mouth shut. "What are you doing here? In Orlando, I mean."

 "Studying abroad," Draco replied and stopped fumbling with his coat. Marty blinked. Was that a stick protruding out of the boy's coat?

 "What are you studying, then?"

 "Uh. It's. Eh. Botanic. Yeah. Botanic."

 Marty stared at him. "You're a gardener?" Now _that_ was a surprise. Marty would've guessed pilot or something incredibly clever like.

 Draco squirmed. "Uh. Yeah. Kinda."

 Marty narrowed his eyes then looked from Draco to the blue lawns and back. "You wouldn't happen to have anything to--"

 "No! Absolutely not." Draco shook his head, eyes widening. "No."

 "U-huh," Marty said, smirking. "Tell me another one."

 "Really, I don't." Draco was starting to sound slightly more convincing. Marty wasn't buying it, however.

 "Sure you don't. How did you do it, anyway?"

"Well, it's actually a very compl-- I didn't do anything." Draco was really squirming now. "Look, could we change the subject?"

Marty grinned at him. "No. This is really quite interesting."

Draco pouted at him.

Marty lost his train of thought.

The waitress placed their coffees and Marty's bagel on the table, said, "That'll be two-fifty," accepted Marty's money, smiled and left again.

 Food. Marty's eyes lit up and he quickly picked up the bagel and sat his teeth in it.

Draco wrapped long, thin fingers around one of the cups and looked amused. "Hungry?"

"Lahk yu wo'unt be'ive," Marty said.

Draco took a moment to translate, then he grinned. "You haven't told me what you are doing here?"

Marty swallowed. "Work. My partner and I are trying to close a particulary difficult deal."

"What kind of business?"

Marty took another bite of the bagel to give himself some time to think. "We're consultants. Deal with interpersonal conflicts."

 "I see." Draco was clearly lost, but it didn't appear to bother him. "Your partner... The one who left?"

Marty scowled. "Yes. Touchy bastard, he is."

 Draco tilted his head. "How so?"

 Marty shook his head. "Would take far too long to explain, trust me."

 "Will he be back for you?"

Marty finished the bagel and considered it. "No. Probably not. He knows I'll be able to get back to the hotel on my own."

Draco smiled slowly at him over his coffeecup. "Hotel room?"

"Yeah. Hotel Sapphire. Room 403." Marty's brown eyes met Draco's pale blue and they smiled.

Draco put down his coffeecup, and stood up.

Marty smiled at himself for a moment, then finished his coffee and followed the blond outside.

"You know the way?"

Draco nodded. "Yeah." He showed his hands in the pockets of his coat and started walking.

Marty looked after him. "Eh. I was thinking a cab, but if you want to walk some twenty-thirty blocks, I could do that, I guess."

 Draco stopped, flushing faintly. "Oh." He walked back, face adopting a mask Marty was uncomfortably familiar with.

 "Oi," Marty nudged him gently, touching him for the first time. "Lose that face, yeah?"

Draco looked puzzled for a moment, then looked down, flushing again. "Sorry."

Marty grinned. "Nah, it's just. You look like Kal."

Draco laughed. "Your partner, right? That's a bad thing, then?"

"Well, yeah. He, well, he doesn't like me much." Marty shrugged lightly. "Oi! Taxi!"


Taxi. Back seat. Cars are still a strange notion; Muggles never seem to realize how bad they have it, what silly solutions the have to come up with to compensate for their natural... disadvantages.

 Thinking about this can only save you for so long, though. You can't concentrate.

 Just got in, and you almost gave in to the temptation to go to the front seat, ride shotgun, but that seemed just a little too weird. And chickenshit, and if there's anything you haven't been since you were fifteen at the latest, it's a coward.

Now, though, you're stiff with tension and awkwardness and, let's face it, panic. You don't know what to do with yourself, and that's a sensation you've become far too accustumed to and very disgusted with in recent months. Just sitting there and staring out the window, each of you in his own corner, feels decidedly weird. You don't think you're really up to kissing in front of the driver's rear view mirror, though. And that *is* cowardly, and that annoys you; you're a Malfoy. You're not going to worry about what some *Muggle* thinks.

Face it, though, you're scared. Irrationally, irrellevantly, and out of your mind. You're pretty sure you want this, certainly, but -- well. Hell. It's not like you've made a habit out of picking up red headed strangers who look as though they have a few good years on you, who move as though they have far more than that as an advantage. Muggle, muggle, muggle, you tell yourself, fiercely. Muggle, you twat. He hasn't got anything you haven't seen before.

That one is so far out of the realm of truth you feel like hitting yourself over the head. Now you're a little more panicked. Great. Twat.

So this is the great Draco Malfoy, is it, cowering like a little kid in the back seat of some machine made for people who can't apparate. If you didn't want this, you wouldn't have started it, and that's that. You're a Malfoy. You're man enough to stand by your decisions.

There's a hand on your knee and you think you're probably about three milimeters from a girly scream.

Marty's looking at you, all worried-like. There's a little frown there, which is actually quite a good look on him. "Hey, kid. You alright?"

You smile. Put up a front and *believe* it, Ethan says. That's the only way to make other people believe you for long. Keep a small corner of your brain in control for emergencies, and with the rest of it, believe. This is one of the few things he hadn't had too much to say about. You're, apparently, a natural.

Right, then; believe you aren't nervous as all hell, and you won't be. You stretch a hand over the back of the seat, trail it over Marty's nape, a little ways down his back. Grin at him again. "Oh, perfectly fine."

Something flashes in his eyes, and you wonder if you've left yourself open again. One of the things Ethan did have something to say about -- one of the 'fine tunings' needing to get done -- is the way you, sometimes, put on a new face too fast, lets the change be too obvious. "Ease into it," Ethan says. And, also, "Distract them."

It's too late to ease into anything much right now, but distraction, you can do.

Bollocks to the driver. You lean in, slowly, let your grin change, watch his eyes go to your mouth without your even having to do something as trite as licking your lips.

That's right, Marty-boy. Forget about trying to read anything into this. Just... go... with the music.

His lips on your feel odd and familiar, and you wonder how many months it's been since you've done even this. three, maybe four. A lifetime.

There's a hand on your back underneath your blending-in stupid I Love Orlando tshirt, climbing slowly over your vertabrae. You wonder about the chances of your skin shivering itsef free from your spine.

The driver may be staring at you in the mirror, but you don't really care enough to look. Evidently neither does he. And then there are lips on your neck, just fluttering by, and in your mind you send Ethan the finger and sink into this strange heat.



The part of his brain looking in on it all -- keep a clear corner, Ethan had said, you'll be surprised how easy it is to sink into what you're pretending, it comes with practice -- noted to itself the unbelievable *newness* of it all. Draco's main, sensation-drowned hormones-soaked mind nodded.

He had kissed before, obviously. He was seventeen; you didn't become seventeen without kissing a few girls, not if you didn't want people to start speculating, or at least thinking you didn't have it.

 He was a Malfoy. He had it.

But only twice a boy, before; once a Hufflepuff, once someone of summer vacation, when his father sent him away so he wouldn't irritate him too much. He had lived in a boarding school since he was eleven; not only that, he lived in Hogswarts, where it was a danger to wank off in the privacy of your own bathroom in case someone's miscalculated spell would turn the door into a pumpkin just as Professor McGonagall went by, where every time you went off to read something *unseemly* it was with the knowledge that, any minute, Potter and his little friends could crush in and stumble over you on their way to save something or other --

There was absolutely no way he was goin to think about Harry Potter right now. If the urge to be fucked up became that strong, he could always think about Ethan Rayne or something.

It was -- strange, here in this new land where nobody knew him, where the only person who could find out was someone who would never admit to his father that he allowed Draco to slip the leash long enough to get into Trouble... here where the only person who could find out was Ethan Rayne, whose opinion didn't count for anything much even though it *felt* like it did -- it was strange, here, finally, how natural this felt.

 A hand skimmed over his hip, dipped for an instant under the waistband of his jeans where they took a little detour from his body at the back -- ah, jeans, what a marvelous invention -- and went on to make the nerve endings in his back do things they had never before imagined again.


Marty laughed a bit breathlessly, steadying himself against the wall of the corridor. "That wasn't very nice."

Draco gave a haughty toss of head. "I'm a --" and he broke off, looking slightly lost briefly before getting himself together again. The hesitation was nearly unnoticable, but Marty was a very good observer. He noticed. "I never said I was a nice person."

Marty gave after an impulse and let his fingers run softly over Draco's lips, causing the boy's eyes to widen. When a wet tongue came out to touch his fingertips, he was almost, almost surprised. But not quite. He wasn't sure how old Draco was, but guessed on something inbetween 16 and 19. Younger than him, certainly. Old enough to know perfectly well what he's doing.

"No," Marty whispered, eyes smiling. "I don't believe you did."

"This way, is it?" Draco nodded his head in direction further down the hallway.

"Yesss." Marty grinned, grabbed Draco's hand and started half way running, half way skipping down the hallway. "Come!"

When Draco laughed, it sounded as though it wasn't something he did very often.

"Did you see the look on his face?" Draco said suddenly, turning to look at him.

"Well, I was a bit busy right then..."

Draco smirked, a faint, nearly invisible flush high up on his chin. "Not then, later. With the man at the desk."

Marty thought back, slowing down.

The man behind the front desk had been giving him a bit of an odd look when he picked up his key, yes... No, not odd. Marty grinned. Scandalised. Yes, that's the buggar. The man had looked completely scandalised.

"I don't think he's used to people like us," Marty commented, stopping outside his hotelroom.

Draco grinned, an evil little grin that made Marty a bit wary. "No. But I doubt he'll be forgetting us anytime soon."

Flashback... Kisses, tongue, nibble, kiss... No, he probably wouldn't.

Marty grinned back to the kid.

The door neighboring to Marty was opened and a spiky dark head poked out of it and dark eyes was set on Marty. "I thought I heard you -- What is he doing here?"

 "Kal. Hey." Marty beamed at his partner. "None of your business, is it?"

Kal stepped into the corridor, frowning. "If you do anything to fuck up this assignment, I swear to god, I don't care what Lillith says, I'm definitely quitting."

"Wonderful!" Marty beamed brighter.

Kal glared. "Be done by six or I'm coming to get you. And," he glanced over at Draco. "Is he even legal? ...No. Wait. I don't want to know. Just. Six o'clock. Remember. I'm going for a walk."

And he brushed past Marty and Draco, muttering about evil employers and nutcase partners. Marty snickered after him and Draco looked mildly bemused.

"Hey. C'mon," said Marty and opened the door, waving his hand in a 'come in, dear sir' sort of way.

Draco walked in in front of him, and Marty happily ogled what was visible of Draco's arse beneath the black coat he was wearing.

Stopping in front of the bed, Draco turned and looked at him, hands going to his coat.

Marty grinned and leaned against a convenient piece of wall. He crossed his ankles and nodded encuragingly. "Yeah, go on, then." He'd always been fond of a bit of a show on beforehand.

Draco bent his head so his bangs fell into his face, as he shrugged out of the coat, letting it fall. It gave off weird klunk-ing sounds as it hit the floor. Draco didn't appear to notice. Without the coat on, his thin, pale arms stood in an odd contrast with the orange I [heart] Orlando t-shirt he had on. Marty decided that someone with Draco's coloring definitely should never wear orange.

Long, elegant fingers went to the hem of the orange t-shirt, and Marty promptly forgot his critisism of the kid's taste in colors.

Draco pulled the shirt over his head, revealing a smooth, lean torso. He definitely wasn't on steroids, Marty noted, but the kid looked like he'd been working out lately. The muscles of a swimmer, not a weight-lifter. Marty wanted very much to touch, but...

The 'show' wasn't over yet.

There were no sounds in the room save from the sound of their breaths - Draco's quick, nervous, Marty's slower, deliberate - and the sound of cloth brushing skin.

Draco's hands went to his jeans, then he paused, looking up from beneath his bangs.

Marty tilted his head at him questioningly. Why'd he stop?

"Aren't you gonna..." he trailed off, bangs covering his eyes again.

Marty blinked in surprise. He'd figured the kid for a bit of an exhibitionist, but he'd never been with one who'd actually give the floor show to someone else before. So to speak. "Yeah. 'Course. Thought I'd watch you first."

That wasn't so much a squirm as a hitch in the kid's movements and he looked up again. He looked as though he was wondering whether to say anything or not.


Draco made a face. "Just. Could you not? I mean. I'd rather you got your kit off as well, you know?"

Marty who'd rather enjoyed watching, hesitated a second, watching the kid tense slightly in that almost unnoticable way again, then he shrugged and shucked the trenchcoat. "Sure."

And there was definitely a smile on the kid's face when he looked down again.


I was still fuming thirty minutes after I'd stormed back into the room and locked the door behind me.

Marty is a shithead. We all know that, even if Lillith pretends -- well, she doesn't really pretend anything. She knows he's a shithead, she just likes him that way.

I get that, I suppose, I used to feel like that myself. Only, see, there's general shithead, where the man irritates you and occassionally finishes all the ice cream in the hideout and goes off on other people in an amusing way, and there's up-and-close shithead, where you find yourself wanting to bash his head in every minute of the day for nearly a whole year, and after that it's just reflex to look for your favorite gun every time you open the fridge and find all your double chocolate fudge gone.

This one was a Marty speciality, though, or maybe I just wasn't used to working with him anymore. Shields down, systems smoking, homicidal tendencies at full speed. It'd all make a depressingly good Star Trek episode.

Not that I watch Star Trek. Star Trek is for geeks and nerds. Marty loves it.

So, anyway, I was pacing around, inhaling the Pistachio ice cream someone just happened to leave in our fridge, and working on more interesting things to call him. I was down to octopus-haired, gun-psycho [I had to tell the sniggering part of my brain to shut up at this point] workaholic, unproffessional, head up his ass so high his ponytail touched his balls, spotty-faced, moronic-shirted asshole.

It's been a bad day and I was tired and most of the really good stuff has been recycled too much in the last half hour to sound really poisonous.

At thirty five minutes Marty's voice was back, on the other side of the door, and I opened it to see what he got himself on that he was talking to himself, and maybe, just maybe, bite his head off and chew it and find a convenient place to spit it in the meantime.

He was out there with a pretty, blond kid, who looked like he was closer to twelve than twenty. Alright, I exaggerate, but not by much.

Marty looked smug. The kid's mouth was a little swollen. They both looked a little lightheaded. It wasn't such a big leap of thought, you know, you learn to observe people when you're in my profession.

Also, the kid's coat was buttoned two holes wrong, but that wasn't the point.

I threatened Marty with my quitting, instead of with finding out if the theory about bullets shot up the ass from The Usual Suspects was true. I've always wanted to find that one out. He wouldn't have bought it anyway, though.

I got the feeling he didn't buy that one either, though. Or maybe he just didn't care. Humph. Not that I would have, if it were the other way around, but still; shithead.

I gave vague threats concerning them being done by the time I got back and left, fuming a little more all the way about being tricked out of my rightful hotelroom. Usually, I wouldn't have given it up if Marty stood on his head and juggled baby seals with his feet. Besides, I was going to get some sleep, once I got off the annoyance rush enough to actually lie down. But it wasn't like I was going to sit there and watch him fucking some kid; instead, I was going to go into a bar and get smashingly drunk and, hopefully, puke all over him when I got back. There was no call for him to get laid before I did, really there wasn't. Or, actually, any time at all.



Marty wasn't sure when he twigged on it, but he was pretty sure it took a while. By the time the kid was straddling him, caressing his chest with an intend expression on his face, Marty was sure though.

"Hey," he said, stilling his own movements. He tried to catch Draco's pale blue eyes. "Look. Have you done this before?"

Draco's hands slowed down their explorations. "Yes. Of course I have."

He was convincing too, Marty had to give him that.


 Draco smirked at him. "What? I'm that bad?"

"No." Marty frowned up at him. There was something... but. He gave a mental shrug. "Never mind."

Draco nodded. "Okay."

Marty grabbed Draco's shoulders and with a quick movement had switched places with him. He bent down and captured Draco's lips in a kiss.

Eyes wide in surprise by the abrupt change, it took Draco a moment to respond. He responded very enthusiastically once he did, though. He might seem a wee bit hesitantive about everything else, but he really threw his soul into snogging, Marty had to give him that.

He broke the kiss after a bit, and made his way down to Draco's cock. Without much preamble, he wrapped his lips around it, laughing silently to himself at Draco's gasp and arched back.

This was fun.


"God, this is disgusting."

Blond Man A is picking at his hamburger, looking thoroughtly disgusted.

Blond Man B peers at his own burger a little, cautiously, then picks it up again and makes a show out of enjoying it just as thoroughtly. "Oh, it's not bad. I'd be extra happy myself if we found a Burger King, but --"

She's tired, and it's been a bad day, full of hard memories she doesn't completely understand, and on her best moments she couldn't really be made to care whether people like the food if the Alabama Cup outcome depended on it. But it's downtime, and the diner is incredibly boring, although she's happy to be bored a little instead of headache-y and worn out. Besides, both man A and man B are very blond and very handsome, and completely unaware -- or uncaring -- of the chance of being heard by the few clients left in this unlikely-for-lunch hour. Or the tired waitress slouching against the counter, gloved hands cradling her head.

 "Burger King." Blond Man A snorts in disdain. "Big improvement, that. The things you people consider food --"

 "You're an American, Tom. Get over it."

Man B is looking vaguely amused, in a resigned sort of way, like someone humoring a toddler who'd refused to touch his spinach for the hundredth time. She wonders if he's going to shred the other man's burger for him in a moment, and hold it up to him and say "Go on, it's good for you."

It's been a long day.

Tom pokes at his french fries in an absent way. "Right. And being an American means eating crap daily. I don't know how I coulda forgotten that. My bad."

"No," Man B says, chewing happily on a slice of tomato that used to decorate his plate. "Being on the roads means eating crap daily, unless you have more spending money than I realized, in which case I'll need to look into the way we share the dough a little more thoroughtly."

"Finn," Tom says, and samples a french fry, "I think we need to find a new job. Settle down a little. Find a nice office. Something with a kitchenette." He looks down at his plate and waves the remaining, bitten half of the fry around. "You know, this isn't bad."

 "No, it's not," Finn agrees, leaning over to steal a fry from Tom.

 She smiles a little at the look on Tom's face. It's like he can't believe his friend just did that.

"Hey. My fries. You have your own." Tom possessivly curls his arm around the plate. "But, back to steady income and all that. What do you think? Paris and Finn, Pet Detectives?"

 "First of all, we're not pet detectives," Finn points out, picking at the pickles left on his plate.

 "Details, details." Tom waves his hand dismissingly.

"Pretty big detail, I'd think."

"What? And Paranormal Occourences and Phenomena Investigators sounds better?"

 "...POPI?" Finn blinks.

She hides a grin behind her hand.

 "Yes. We could call us Puppies." Tom deepens his voice. "Freeze! Puppies in the building! Take me to your ghost!"

"Let's not and say we did, eh?"

 "You have a better idea?" Tom leans foreward and sips in his soda, making a disgusted face.

"I can, without trying very hard, come up with half a dozen ideas that are better than that one. Two of them includes you being rather scantily clad and going 'Hey there, sailor'..."

 Tom throws french fries at him.

 Finn ducks, laughing. "What? We'd make a fortune, surely!"

"You mean, I'd be working my arse off..." Tom paused. "Literally, and you'd be spending all of my money and going around looking butch and threatening to beat me up if I don't bring in the dough."

 Finn tilts his head. "Well..."

"Bad idea," Tom says firmly. "Give me another one."

"You go back to being a pilot in some dodgy South American connected airline, I become a nazi-health instructor somewhere," Finn says immidiately.

She decides he must have thought about this before. She wonders briefly what their current professions actually are.

 Tom straightens. "Now, that idea I like."

 "I'm not surprised." Finn grins.

Tom smiles back. For a moment, she just watches them -- two gorgeous men, handsome in a way that doesn't blend at all with the diner and its uninteresting colors and its clients, grinning at each other with eyes that have this kind of secret twinkle, secret vibe, you can sometimes find in two people who spend a lot of time together, if you look hard enough -- and then Finn raises an eyebrow, and the image breaks a little, just enough to make them two more clients, more fun to look at then most, who remind her a little of the mansion, for whatever reason.

"So," he says, and she spends a moment admiring the way the accent sounds so striking, here, the way it never did back home, "If you're not gonna take care of my future prosperity and general well being, are you at least going to *finally* tell me what the fuck we're here for?"

There's a special grin to answer that, teasing and with just this extra bit of evil; she marvels at the way Finn remains cool and composed with all of this trained right on him, point blank. She would have been able to rent out her face as tomato substitue by now, in his place. "Language, Riley, language."

Finn only snorts, in answer, and drums his fingers on the tabletop. "I'm starting to feel like a red shirt like you wouldn't believe."

The eyebrow inches up a little higher. "Red shirt?"

Finn nods. "Didn't you ever watch Star Trek when you were a kid?"


He looks incredulous, bordering on scandalized. "I take it back, man, maybe you really aren't an American."

Tom shakes his head again, picks up his discarded burger. It's quiet, so she can't swear she lip-reads it right, but she's pretty sure he mutters, "Geek."

She's certain when Finn looks offended and says, "Am not."

 Tom takes a bite of his burger, chews, swallows, then replies. "Oh but you are. You really are."

"Just because I had a _normal_ American childhood--"

 Tom breaks in, snickering madly. "Normal, yeah, right." He points his burger at Finn. "Tell me. Were you, or were you not, at West Point for four years?"


 "And haven't you been training self-defence and handeling a gun since you were about knee high?"

"Well," Finn says again.

She has to admit that the idea that they might be military, really haven't crossed her mind. But now she sees things she hasn't noticed before. The way they sit, their postures... But she's not sure if it's actually _her_ noticing those things. She shakes her head, a bit uneasy, and goes back to watching the blonds.

"It's not like you're any better," Finn comments, folding his arms over his chest.

 "No," Tom says cheerfully. "I'm not. But I never said I was either. Besides, _I_ didn't have a choice."

They're quiet for a bit. Not embarrassed, she doesn't think. Just done with the topic.

"Why _are_ we here?" Finn asks, when he's finished his pickles and Tom's finished his burger.

 "Strange, supernatural occourences," Tom replies distractedly, looking around the diner for something.

 "Strange, supernatural occourences," Finn immitates. "Why didn't I guess? What, a rabid Mickey Mouse went off and bit Daffy Duck?"

Tom, having left nothing but crumbs of his meal, sits back and stretches, looking smug. "At least I can always trust you to dish out the pop culture reference stuff. I told them you're more than just a pretty face."

Finn's pretty face do an eyeroll. She almost giggles.

"Of course," Tom says, "It'd help if you could hit a flying elephant with an M16 every once in a while --"

Scowl. "It was a bloody 9mm, and it was just the once. And I was drunk out of my mind. And it was thirty feet overhead."

That eyebrow raises again, and Tom not exactly smiles, looks Finn over with some mild, half-amused interest. "Was it bloody that, then?"

Finn scowls deeper, a little more genuinely. "Oh, shut up."

"Spending a little too much time around Brits in leather, are we," Tom says, to the air, apparently, in a cheerful kind of way.

Finn nods, once, and gives him a steady look. "Leave it alone, huh?"

Tom looks around, spots her -- she looks away quickly, although, maybe, not quick enough -- and raises a hand, signaling for the bill. She peels herself from the counter and goes to the back room to ring it up slowly enough that she can hear him say, cheerfully, "Sure thing, mate."


He's on the prowl.

Well. Sort of. Not really. But he's bored. What's the point of following people around when they're not _doing_ anything?

He should've gone after Mulder. At least he can always be counted on for entertainment. The man has a gift for ending up in deep shit. Which was why I didn't go after him this time, he reminds himself. That, and he is not that... welcome... in Philadelphia anymore.

He feels the weirdest urge to start whistling.

He doesn't, but he does allow an extra glide to his steps.

They're in the Blue Oyster bar which has him thinking that the owner has a very twisted sense of humor. It is a gay bar, and for a moment, he'd been happily entertaining blackmailing notions. Of course it turned out that Scully was meeting a witness to the weirdness going on around here lately.

He doesn't know what's causing the 'Freak Garden Growings' and isn't entirely sure he wants to know either. It's possibly just someone with the same weird sense of humor as the owner of this bar, but he's getting this... vibe. And it's not pleasant. Not necessarily malvolent 'I am evil incarnate, bow down before me as I torture you horribly and drive you insane' evil, but definitely unpleasant.

After some stealthy lurking around Scully and her contact -- Some man. Not that bad looking. Blue eyed. Probably a cop, Alex decides, a cynical snarl to his thoughts. -- he decides that he's had enough for one night. If Scully should decide to do something particulary interesting (table dance, for instance), surely he'd see it even if he was loitering about at the other side of the room?

So he walks off to loiter at the bar and order bizzare drinks. He is particulary fond of 'Fibbie inna tie...just a tie', but that tends to leave him somewhat delusional and is maybe not a good idea on what is technically a stake-out.

Ordering a demure, but rather inventivly titled drink, he leans up against the bar and looks around.

Sitting by one of the nearest tables, is a pale, darkhaired woman with a funky patch-tattoo over her left eye who looks tough as nails. She is talking to a woman in a white suit with long white hair who has Ice Queen written all over her. Both of them looks familiar in a 'haven't I seen you in the newspaper?' kind of way.

His gaze slids further to the next tables, which has been put together to accommodate to the laughing foursome benched around it, a veritable tower of drinks in front of them. Two blonds, a redhead and a darkhaired woman. At least he is fairly certain the darkhaired one is a woman. He has to admit it can be hard to tell at times. All four are beautiful. The blondest of the blonds oozes sex, even as he sits there laughing at something the redhead says. The redhead has some of the same, with a hint of Bad Bad Boy for extra spice. The woman is simply gorgeous. The last one, the other blond, is less striking than the other three, but Alex finds himself unable to tear his eyes away when he smiles.

"Hey! Move it, or lose it!" the darkhaired one squeaks indignantly, causing another bout of laughter as the other blond jerks back guiltily, removing his hand from where'er it had gone.

Alex moves on to the others standing, or sitting by the bar. At the end, in the corner, sits a man who looks a bit like Mulder (if you squint a lot, and the light hits correctly), chugging down leathal looking drinks and giving off violent vibes so determindedly that there are three seats between him and the next person at the bar.

Said next person is a non-descript office-worker type of the kind there are thirteen to the dozen of, and Alex gaze slides on to the next one. They are a group of three giggling teens with big eyes, and for a moment he finds himself surprised that they have even gained access to this place. Dismissing them as uninteresting, he moves on to the man standing next to himself, looking half exasperated with the teens, half jumpy, like he expects that anytime now, something's gonna silde out of the shadows and pounce on him.

Giving the man a closer look, Alex gives himself a feral mental grin. Not bad. Not bad at all. He won't be bored for much longer.

He continues looking at the man, until he feels it and turns, puzzled, it seems, towards Alex. "Yes?"

"But I haven't even asked yet," Alex grins.

The man blinks.

Alex nods towards the glass in the man's hand. "Buy you another one?" He deftly picks the pocket of a passer-by when he realises he's dead broke. He does have a steady income of sorts, but the money just seem to be magically disappearing moments after he gets them, so he...adds to it. A little.

Hm. Now there's an X-File for you...

The man looks startled. "Beg your pardon?"

"Can I buy you another drink?" Alex repeats, grinning.

Alex wonders if the direct approach would pay off, whether he should go slow and not -- and damn if he doesn't *still* have to fight down the corners of his mouth, wanting desperately to twitch -- spook him. But it's been a long day, and he isn't in the mood for taking the long way, and something around the man's eyes, in the middle of this quiet, serious, let's face it, geeky face, suggests that he can take it.

He keeps the smile, nods. "So. How about it?"

The man follows his gaze the glass sitting in front of him, seems startled to find it empty. "Oh. I supp -- yes. Thank you."

The voice is charmingly British, and the quickness of the flicker of the eyes over Alex is flattering. Nothing too overt, of course. He signs the barman over.

The barman turns out to be, on a closer look, a woman -- young enough to be a girl still, maybe, but certainly older than the group of teens laughing quietly in the corner, maybe even old enough to be legal in a place like this -- he tries to remember whether you have to be able to drink before they let you sell it. No idea, really, except the owners of this bar must not really care about appearances.

Not that her appearanrence is bad. Sweet, young face under brown hair tied back in a bun, a few strands curling down, a startling white. Kids today. He can almost swear he has seen her before somewhere, but he has a good memory for faces, and he can't place her anywhere. Just another face in the crowd.

She smiles, and he thinks that maybe he would have tried her first if he's seen her before. But then he puts his hand on the counter and her own hand, gloved -- *seriously* kids today -- move away, just casually enough the innocent observer wouldn't have thought anything of it. It's been a while since he's even had a conversation with an innocent observer, though, and he doesn't regret sitting by this man.

If he still had curiousity, he would have wondered about a girl who shies away when a man seperated from her by a solid counter puts his hand a good distance from her hand, a girl who works in a gay bar that must be for women too but seems the kind of place mostly men go into. But he's seen it all before, he has no curiousity, and he can bet a pretty good guess. "Another of whatever my friend here was having, please? And a beer for me." Technically a stake out. Oh yeah.

His 'friend' turns to give him a small, not-yet-promising-anything smile when the girl nods and says two minutes and moves away. Alex tries to guess what he looks like naked, comes up with what looks like a pretty likely picture. No, no regrets there.

"Along with the alcohol," the man says, "could I have your name?" He doesn't make it sound a challenge, only mild curiousity, maybe some wariness just under the surface. Etiquette R us. The accent is still charming to ridiculous degrees.

"John," he says, beause it's the first thing that accent makes him think of, and because he's still Alex in any town Scully's in -- wouldn't do to waste one of his carefully structured identities -- but he doesn't want an overheard word to draw attention to himself. He smiles again, the way he knows to be a weapon and a road sign, toned down a little for the innocence he can read in this man's face, the cautiousness still lurking around his eyes.

The man smiles a little fuller, and doesn't try to shake his hand, something Alex is half-expecting. "Wesley. Are you, uh, from around here?" And Alex wonders if he can read into the twinkling of those eyes a recognition of how ridiculous this mating dance is.

"No," he admits. "I'm guessing you aren't either."

The man's eyes twinkle some more. Definitely recognition.

"Tell me something," Alex says, amiably. "Do you think, if I guarantee I'm not a crazed killer out to torture young puppies and horribly molest unsuspecting young men, you could, maybe, guarantee the same thing and then we could drink our booze and get out of here?" It's a fifty-fifty chance, really, that the man won't lean back and claim to have an urgent dinner at his dying mother's. But it's been a long day, and he's pretty willing to write the Scully off for the night as a waste, and that twinkle.

The man looks a little surprised, either at Alex or himself, when he says, "Do I have to promise about the molestation, as well?"


The appartment is small, and tastefully lit, and they startle a young woman just in the last stages of prepearing to go out. She babbles some in the same charming accent and gets out of Alex's night.

Wesley gives the closed door a thoughtful, fond look. "My cousin."

Alex nods, looks around him. There's a sofa, which looks comfortable enough, but Wesley is making no move to sit down and he doesn't really feel like distrupting the height balance.

"Would you like some wine?" the other man says, just as Alex ponders taking a step towards him.

Coincidence or cold feet? "Sure," he agrees, easily, and sits on the hard back of the sofa to watch Wesley walk away into the kitchen.

 Nice view. He revises his Naked mental sketch some. Not a lot, though, and in decidedly good ways.

The wine takes a while. Cold feet after all, possibly.

There's something annoying about that. It's been a while since he has misjudged a person on something so decisive, and ever since they got out of the club he hadn't doubted this man would go through, probably with some quirky British remarks thrown in for good measure.

He wonders around a bit in the meantime, looks around at the pictures on long shelves. There are plenty that have to be family pictures, some people smiling and relaxed, some staring sternly at the camera. He thinks he spots Wesley in one or two of them. Might just be the family resemblance, though.

In another corner there's a bigger picture of a white-haired man holding a small dog and beaming at the camera while holding two fingers behind a younger man's head. Alex looks at it dubiously. How unBritish.

There's also three, four, five of various young men in various states of dishevelness and undress with their arms around cousin girl. Three of them have their hair in their eyes. One has a leather jacket just like the one he lost in Russia.

He decides the apartment is screaming Woman too loudly to tell him anything interesting, or amusing, or, favoritely, kinky about the newest kid on his block. Goes into the kitchen.

"I thought you might be needing some help with squeezing the grapes."

Wesley, who's staring down at the phone in his hands with a pensive expression and not watching the door, jumps.

Alex grins. 'one day the mice decided to tie a bell around the cat's neck' was his favorite fairy tale beginning.

It's good to know you never lose some things.

Wesley grins back, a bit abashedly. "I'm sorry. I got... distracted."

Alex wonders aloud, "I shouldn't get offended by that, should I?"

Wesley looks momentarily horrified, in a way that couldn't have been more British if he was wearing a private school jacket. Alex decides he had really spent too much time around Mulder.

"Sorry. Bad joke."

The other man raises an eyebrow, and on that cleancut face it looks inconcievably wry. "Ah."

Alex grins.

 They seem to be at a standstill now, though. Alex wonders whether to go for tension-dispensing flirting or tension-using action, if there's really enough tension for either, when Wesley takes a few steps forward and simply latches on with all the straight forwardness a kiss can convey.

He decides there was probably enough tension there after all.

Jaw, smooth and distractingly angular under his hand; his other hand is busy searching around for more interesting fields. Then Wesley seems to hit his stride and the hand abandons the idea of interest hastily and just looks for something to hang on to.

Somehow that something seems to be hiding under Wesley's sweater, and he's always had a taste for lean, not-quite-slender men, and all this skin is definitely doing good things for his palm.

Oooh. Shoulder blade. There's something to hang on to.

Wesley's fingers seems to be sneaking under his waist band. He's not sure about the sneaking, since he thinks at this point it's pretty obvious they'd be greeted as lost brothers and given cold drinks and their weight in diamonds. But there seem to be sneaking going on.

He moves a little closer and grinds his hips, gently, to stress the message.

Friendly territory. Friennnnnndly. All friendly here.

The fingers seem to be hearing loud and clear. They move lower, slowly, and he's as happy as could be that he didn't opt for leather, tonight. Just good ol' fashioned inherent evil in ratty jeans, officer, nothing to see here.

There seem to be less a question of grinding, now, and more of smoothing his body against skin and heat as fully as he can and moving in closer. Touching; touching is seriously underrated. Kissing, too.

Moves a bit closer, thighs leading the way.

The phone, forgotten and discarded on the table besides them, rings.

Alex jerks back, forcibly stops himself from going into a fighting stance, absently notes that Wesley didn't manage to stop in time. Then not so absently. Funny, he didn't think of this man as a fighter. Anything but, really.

Too many inconsistencies behind that easy, pleasant face for his personal comfort, really. And none of them really leading anywhere, but....

Well. The company he's been keeping for these last few years has been good for a few things, at least.

Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you, bringing their anal probing machines and arm cutting machetes with them.

The fingers have disappeared. Alex ponders offering up those cold drinks in a bid to make them go back. Maybe the diamonds too.

Two panting breaths, and the cold air hits his brain and all the now-exposed parts of his skin where cloth is no match for the warmth of other skin and movements. Regains some of the sense he still tends to lose in this situation, after all these years, and kind of regrets that.

The phone is still ringing.

"I really need to answer that," Wesley says. His voice is a little hoarse. Lips just this side of swollen, hair absolutely out of control; Alex dimly recalls raking his hand through it on his way to somewhere more important.

"Yeah," he tells him, and reaches out to straighten the other man's buttondown. Smirks a little, because he knows he's looking completely unruffled, even if every hair is out of place and his face is flushed he's looking composed and like he knows what he's doing. He does. There aren't all that many people who can beat him at that game, not many who ever realize what the rules are.

Wesley doesn't even see the game board. He gives that half-abashed smile again. What's the British etiquette for telling the stranger in your cousin's kitchen to please back off a bit now because you need to talk to people who may not be on immidiate need to know basis about your just having had your lips trailing down somebody's neck?

Apparently there's nothing appropriate. Or maybe he just can't concentrate enough to remember. He takes a step back, raises a hand already clutching the phone.

"Hello?" clears his throat, and Alex grins again, privately. "Yes?"

His eyes change at once, from the expectant half-impatience to another impatience altogether, a little fond and amused, resembling just a bit the look he had given the door behind his cousin's exiting back earlier. "Cordelia, I really --"

Pause, waits. Raised eyebrow. "Cordelia, you couldn't possibly."

 Pause again, and when he speaks again his voice holds mock injury, familiar and comfortable. His accent seems exaggerated, somehow. "I find that not being so goddamned British is a bit of a hard spot, really."

The strangely-named probable woman on the other end of the line apparently says something. There's a low, genuine laugh. Alex decides he likes the sound of it. Must make him laugh when he's in a position to make those sound vibrations count.

 "I find that very hard to believe, Cordy."

"No, really hard. I've never heard of a..." and the eyes flick up, a half-wary glance over Alex and back to the fridge. "...person who would be able to do that. Or even want to."


"No, I'm not." Another glance at Alex, and this time it's rather obvious what he means.

Alex raises an eyebrow, grins, looks to the fridge just in case there's really anything all that interesting there. His attention snaps back again at the abrupt sound of a bark of laughter. Wesley's face is looking shocked and, possibly, just that bit more shocked than it did a moment ago. He's looking amused despite himself, and possibly mortified.

His voice is definitely mortified, anyway. "Cordelia, you are *not* having visions about my sex life."

Alex is suddenly very interested in the other end of this conversation.

What was there again... anything interesting, amusing or kinky? Three for the price of one had always been his kind of a deal.

Wesley is making faces, in a very adult, British sort of way, or at least in the way of an adult Brit imagining he's an American kid who had just gotten noogied in the cafeteria. "Cordy, stop it right there."

Alex can just hear the faint echoes of a voice rattling on. It doesn't even pause.

"Cordelia," Wesley says slowly and with great patience, "I'm going to close the phone now."


"Do that and we'll see what happens the next time you need somebody to explain to Dennis about the importance of privacy while one is attempting to shag."

The faint voice squeaks higher and, if Alex is right, even more quickly. He grins to himself in bemusement.

"Cordelia," Wesley says, "if I hear one word about this from him, or from Angel, for that matter, there is going to be hell on earth."


"Yes, very literally."


Sigh. "Yes, I'll look into it."


"Yes, really. Have a good --"


 "Believe me when I say you don't want to finish that sentence."

The faint echoey voice may be laughing. It's hard to tell.

"Yes. No. Good day."

He clicks the phone shut and looks down at it for a moment. Alex waits patiently.

Wesley finally looks up to give him a fully bemused grin. "A friend of mine. Somewhat... eccentric."

"Ah," Alex says, and nods, instead of inquiring about visions and sex life details, which may be less productive to his immidiate sex life of this evening. This is other people's intimacy, and intruding tends to bring awkwardness.

He's not being told everything, he can tell that easily -- not everything not in that he's been given barely a sentence, but in that something is being held back carefully, force of habit as well as caution. That's okay, though; he's just the one night stand. And he certainly isn't planning on disvulging information, although he had never in his life cared much about the equality of sharing secrets.

Nothing to do with him, though. Collecting other people's secrets is always a good investments, but if you don't know where to draw the line you'll end up staying up at two am to hear dissatisfied house wives confessing to sexy-voiced young hosts on the radio, and never get -- what was that word? Shagged any.

Crazy Brits.

"So," he says, easily, stepping forward again so that Wesley is left trapped between his body and the table, with about half an inch to move in each direction. Wesley doesn't show signs of objection. "Where were we?"


He's on his knees, digging in the dirt, and somehow isn't the least bit surprised he ended up like this. Of course he's on his knees. Of course he's trying to dig up the roots of a rather malvolet orchid-like thing. And of course Tom isn't doing a damn thing.

All right, he's charming the owner of the garden, but Riley is hard pressed to see how that compares to having thick, brown, muddy dirt all over his hands and underneath his fingernails. He glares over at Tom.

Tom waves cheerfully back and continues talking with Mrs. Cecily something-something-Gugenheim.

He digs deeper into the dirt and finally encounters something that at least feels root-like. Up til now, he'd been fairly certain orchids didn't have roots. He'd also been fairly certain they didn't snack on Shi Tzus, so what did he know?

He pulls at the root, cursing when it appears to be really, really stuck. He braces his feet against the dirt and pulls harder. He falls down on his arse when the root suddenly lets go.

Riley is somehow not the least bit surprised.

He holds up the root and studies it. It's got red veins. And it's bleeding red all over his hands. Lovely.

Tom appears beside him with a small plastic bag. "Cool. You got it. Put it in here, and try to not let anything get on my clothes, yeah?"

He's very tempted to throw the root at his partner, but then he'd be forced to listen to hours of him moaning about his clothes, so he doesn't. And takes care to put the root into the plastic bag without it dripping on anything.

I'm whipped, Riley thinks as he gets back on his feet. Whipped, whipped, whippash.

 He follows Tom up to the house, where Tom flirts with Mrs. something-something-Gugenheim and makes her promise not to tell anyone they've been here.

The mustang is parked in the driveway, and Riley paces quickly in front of Tom and gets into the driver's seat. Tom hesitates only a little while before getting into the shotgun seat. Riley holds his hand out for the carkeys.

"Oh shit," Tom says, mostly to himself, and holds on for dear life as Riley backs onto the street and somehow manages to shift the gear from one to four in what seems like seconds. Riley grins. Widely. A certain not-to-be-mentioned blond brit in leather has been a very good teacher in the art of seemingly reckless driving.

"Bus. There's a bus in front of us. A bus. Riley. Riley!"

Riley elegantly drives past said bus, getting in front of it just as a car goes in the opposite direction.

"Jesus, Mary, mother of."

Riley steps on the gas.

 "I get the point! I get the point! Honest!"

He looks over at Tom, who looks desperately back at him. "Do you?"

"Yes! You'll never have to dig anything else ever again. Swear to whatever god you want." Tom looks earnestly at him.


Tom blinks. "What?"

Riley distractedly drives past a jeep.

"What? What? Whatever it is I'll never do it again!"

He beams. "Wonderful! So the next time you decide to go anywhere to investigate strange garden happenings, you're _tell_ me about it beforehand?"

"Oh yeah," Tom nods. "Definitely."

Riley slows down and Tom looks relieved. He knows as well as Tom does that Tom doesn't mean a thing he's saying, but that's hardly the point. The point is that sometimes Riley just needs to show himself that he's his own man now. That he can walk away without a second look if he chooses to. That he doesn't _have_ to listen to Tom.

He's been listening to him so far because they actually appear to be doing at least some good. And while he's lost his faith in kingdom and country a long time ago (and Tom's even more desillusioned), they both still believe in humanity. In helping people that are, in essence, helpless against demons and such like.

Yeah, sometimes the 'helping' is more a cover for straight out mercenary jobs, but they have to live too, right? Food, gas, clothing... All of that costs, and helping helpless people doesn't pay much. If anything.

This job is... He's not quite clear on what this is. He can't picture them getting any money out of this botanical disaster, but Tom's shown some surprising enterpenural spirit before, so who knows?

"Where are we going?" he asks when he realises that he's driving without a goal in sight.

"Oh right." Tom looks down at his hand. "I got us some lab time at this lab down at 16 Philosopher's Drive. It's... down to the left here, I think."


"No, Mulder. No. I said no. Go be nice to the voodoo priest. I'm sure he could be one even if he's got a degree in accounting, Mulder. I'm not taking with me any leprachauns if you keep on -- For god's sake, Mulder! Just because he's only got one arm, it doesn't mean he's Krycek in disguise! Mulder. Mulder. Mulder!"

The phone is dead and she sighs annoyedly, flipping it shut. She presses her way past the other passengers of the NW 736 headed to Orlando and looks for her seat.

 It is, of course, in the middle, and the man with the aisle seat has already gotten in.

 "Excuse me. Do you mind?"

"Hm?" the man looks up. He's got a very prominent nose, she notes. "Oh right."

The man (Italian, surely) gets up, and she squeezes past him and sits down in her seat with a relieved sigh. Her briefcase is in her lap and she opens it, intending to get some paper work done.

She looks at Mulder's raport of the 'Wolfman' case and shakes her head. No, no, this will never do. AD Skinner would go medieval on their arses. She pulls out her red pen, and starts editing the raport.

'Then we observed a homo sapien sapien with clearly lupine features' is turned into 'Then we saw a deformed and hairy man'.

'As the transformations occour during the part of the month wherein the moon is full, I conclude that this is obviously a form of lycanthropy' is turned into 'subject showed a tendency to go insane during the full moon'.

Skinner is far more likely to accept it if Mulder doesn't sound blindingly brilliant in his raports.

"Eh. Lady?"

She looks bemused towards the man in the aisle seat.

He jerks his head up, nodding towards the impatient looking man standing beside him. She makes a gigantic leap of assumption and gets up so he can get into his seat. The man is short, just a little bit taller than herself, and looks very close to her mental image of Puck.

He drops down in his seat and digs through his sack. He comes up with a walkman and a CD case, and Scully gives a mental sigh, convinced that she's about to get subjected to eardrum-brustingly high punk rock. She returns to the report.

'Mrs. Claudia O'Hara, dr. James Terrence, mr. Sean Drake and Mrs. Felicity Drake all bear witness to the ravagings of the lycanthrope' is changed to 'mass hallusination is the probable cause of the witnesses accounts of sightings of a werewolf'.

Out of the corner of her eye she can see 'Puck' putting on the CD and she holds her breath a little in expectation.

When strands of music that are definitely boyband created floats through the air, she blinks in surprise, and the Italian in the aisle seat makes a face and mutters something under his breath.

'Puck' is oblivious to his co-passengers' reactions.

After listening to music she can't quite make out for 45 minutes, she's had enough. She taps him on the shoulder. He makes a 'what?' face at her, and she motions for him to remove the headphones. He does. "Yes?"

"Would you mind turning down the volume somewhat?" She tries to make it sound more like a polite request than a command, but has a feeling she fails miserably.

 "Oh, sorry." He hits the stop button. "Not your kind of music, is it?"

"You can say that again," the Italian mutters.

"I... No, it's not, actually," she says honestly.

'Puck' regards her for a moment, then grins. "I bet you're the Rachmaninov and Chopin type, aren't you?"

She's briefly surprised that he even knows the names, then she nods.

 "I knew it." He shifts in the seat, getting more comfortable. He laces his fingers together. "Bet you're some sort of government official with a lot of traveling days, as well."

She blinks at him. Something is oddly familiar about that position...

"Probably single, no children, and your work is your life. How am I doing so far?" He grins at her.

And it clicks into place.

"You're a psychologist?"

The grin widens. "Sort of. Hey. I'm Chris. You are?"

 "Dana. Dana Scully."

Chris raises his voice. "Dude! Name?"

The Italian looks up from his paper, a puzzled look on his face. "'Scuse me?"

"We're introducing ourselves here. I'm Chris, she's Dana, and you are?"

Scully shrugs helplessly when the Italian glances over at her.

"Ray," he says finally. "Ray Vecchio."

Chris beams at him. Ray rolls his eyes and returns to his paper.


She doesn't particularly like road trips, never has, and too many trips in too many unexpected directions have not brought up her opinion.

This particular road trip is making her think of Nathan, for reasons she can't quite find, and doesn't really want to think hard enough to look for. It's been long since she's done this for a living, and the next time she did, he was with her, and that's that.

She thinks this might be the reason why she picked up the girl, but really, that doesn't matter. She doesn't usually take hitch hikers with her, but the girl said Orlando, and Florida is still two states over, and she could use some company right now, especially if said company is quiet.

The girl is quiet. She's spent the two hours since Dom has picked her up looking out the window, chewing a wisp of hair occassionally. The road outside is dark and even more silent, and Domino wonders, distractedly, what the girl is seeing out there.

It's too dark to notice now, but she's wearing clothes just the wrong side of trashy, and wearing them with an attitude just the right side of in-your-face confidence that it doesn't look pathetic, or even fake, just -- natural. She hadn't said anything much, but Domino has learned to read body language long enough ago and well enough for this, and even the way this girl stands on the side of the road will tell you enough about who she is.


site recreated june 2002, cc productions, owned by Sascha. pictures from all over the web. email Sascha if you're having problems. update: 12.06.02