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:~: Saturday, June 02, 2007 :~:

The Basement - Part Two

Three guns. Three sets of squinty eyes. A whole helluva lot of male posturing Pete seriously didn't need.

This went beyond revision hell. This ranked right up there with buckin' hay in 120 degree temps and bathing in a pool of baby vomit.

"You guys got the wrong idea here," Pete says, careful not to move too quickly so he doesn't end up with a chest full of lead. That'd seriously put a dent in his HEA. "I'm not the bad guy in this little scenario."

"Villain," The Alex Rodriguez look-alike says with a nod, business end of a Glock still aimed dead center at Pete's chest. "We call you MF's villain's."

Shock ripples through Pete. "Villain?" he sputters. "Are you out of your ever-lovin' mind? I've just spent the last twenty-four hours being drugged, kidnapped, shot at, nearly incinerated and knocked on my ass by the best damn sex in the world until She," he nods up to the ceiling, "put a halt to it, then tossed in here with you yahoos, and now you're accusing me of being a villain? Do I look like a friggin' villain to you?"

"Some villains come wrapped in neat little packages," Hollywood mutters.

Fish sits up on the couch and darts a look at the trio over his shoulder, all still unmoving with guns aimed at each other like it's the shoot-out at the OK Corral. "Hey, villain-boy. I like your style. Tell ya what, you pop choir-boy over there for me and I'll give ya a month's salary."

Hollywood's jaw tightens. "Fish, you sorry piece of--"

Fish chuckles.

Rodriguez rolls his eyes. "Look, are we gonna do this or not. Because my arm's getting tired and I'm seriously losing my patience with all of you. Villain or not, I need to shoot someone."

Weird-guy steps out of the shadows again. "I sense trouble."

"Oh, for the love of God." Hollywood drops his weapon and throws his arms out. "Can't ya tell we're having a moment here?"

Just then, three pagers go off. Pete, Rodriguez and Hollywood all look down at the cell phones clipped to their waistbands.

"Crap, that's Cassie," Rodriguez says in a suddenly concerned voice.

"And Cait," Hollywood mumbles, glancing down at his belt.

They both look toward Pete.

Pete nods, confusion drawing his brows together. "Kat, too." He hesitates, figures that's gotta be some kind of sign and slowly lowers his weapon. Hollywood and Rodriguez exchange a look, then Rodriguez does the same.

Pete turns toward Weird-guy. "How in the hell do you do that?"

Fish chuckles, flops back on the couch and turns the volume up. On the screen, Gene Simmons is extolling the virtues of his tongue.

"Who the hell cares," Rodriguez grumbles. "All three of them paging us at the same time can't be good, can it?"

***

Tick flips his phone open. "What the hell?"

Rio peers over his shoulder and reads aloud. "T -- revised through p. 70. Complete timeline worked out. No worries -- we get to keep the cuffs." He grins and quirks an eyebrow at Tick. "The cuffs?"

A deep flush colors Tick's cheekbones. "Yeah." He frowns over the screen. "The sunrises here are great. Hopefully u won't be there long. Love, C. Sunrises? Oh, crap."

Pete is scowling at his phone. "Kat's talking about sunrises, too. What does that mean?"

Rio pulls his phone from his belt. "So is Cassie."

"They're taunting us. A sunrise is some girly drink with vodka, orange juice and cranberry juice." Tick's expression darkens. "They're having a damn luncheon, probably sitting on the porch, talking it up, while my ass is stuck down here, having to start over again. And I don't have any freakin' cigarettes."

His phone chimes again. He glares at the screen. "Tick, this is a good time to quit. C."

Fish chuckles again. "You're whipped."

"At least my HEA is talking to me. I've seen that last scene She wrote. You just got kicked to the curb, Army-boy."

Fish gives him the finger again.

Rio and Pete exchange a look. "You really think they're all together."

Christian appears from the shadows. "Paige as well?"

"I'm sure of it." Tick clips his phone on his belt, returns his 10mm to its holster. "And it looks like we're going to be here a while. Who's up for a little game of five-card stud?"

***

Rio watches as the bars on his cell phone fluctuate. Seems there are spots in this cellar where his Altel does work.

He types out a message to Carlos first. Where the hell are you? When the screen flashes message sent successfully, he punches Cassie's speed dial and texts, What's happening with her?

"Though you didn't get service, ICEman," Tick says from his seat at the poker table. He collects the cards and shuffles.

Creature-man shoves his hands in the front pockets of his jeans and hunches his shoulders. "There are...pockets...of good air in here. The demons can't block his signal if he's standing in a pocket of good air."

Tick stops shuffling. "Pockets?"

Rio looks up from his phone. "Good air?"

Pete edges a little closer toward the door. "Demons?"

The three men exchange a look then Rio's phone vibrates. He punches the buttons to read a text from Cassie.

She's caught up in some "brilliant" blogging idea Her CP's had. Hasn't written a word of revision all weekend. From what I can tell, She hasn't even thought about straightening out that CIA plot issue that's bugging Her. She spent all morning at a rowing class of all things, and Her DH is finally home after being gone for weeks. Might as well get comfortable, handsome. I'll enjoy a sunset for you.

Rio growls. "For the love of God. Hey, demolition-boy, got any supplies on you? I could make an explosive out of a few key ingredients."

"Don't be an idiot," Fish says without taking his eyes off the television where Gene Simmons' bandages are about to come off after plastic surgery. He pops another stale cheese puff in his mouth and crunches. "After that...episode...my first time here, She confiscates all my toys before She locks the door behind me."

This is bullshit. This might even be worth declining hero status for.

Okay. Maybe not.

Rio snaps his phone closed and glares at The Darkone. "Any magical pockets in here with a transporter capability like on Star Trek?"

As Christian mulls the question over seriously, those crazy eyes of his scan the concrete like a metal detector.

Tick scoffs and shakes his head. "Let me share a piece of advice, boys. The harder you try to get out of here, the longer her revisions will take. You're just draining her creative energy." He gestures to the table where he's dealt five hands. "What shall we wager?"

***

Pete eyes Hollywood. Glances at the Army dude, over to the Rodriguez look-alike, then pauses on Weird-guy. What a group of rag-tag misfits. How in the love of all things holy had he ended up locked in here with these guys?

"Well?" Hollwood asks again. "Any of you manning up?"

Rodriguez shrugs, pulls out a chair at the table. "What the hell else do we have to do in here? If I can't shoot anyone, count me in."

Fish rockets off the couch. "Yeah, man. I'm in. Prepare to lose some green, choir boy." He plops down next to Rodriguez.

Hollwood looks toward Weird-guy. "What about you?"

Weird-guy's eyes narrow with suspicion, but he slowly moves out of the shadows and takes an empty chair on the other side of Rodriguez.

"What's up with the freaky eyes, dude?" Fish asks, tipping back a cold bottle of beer as Weird-guy sits. "Are those contacts or what?" Without waiting for an answer, he leans over Rodriguez to get a better look. "Where the hell did you get them? And can you you get me a pair for Halloween? Man, I bet my CO would drop a load if I had those puppies in."

Weird-guy only shakes his head and mutters under his breath, "I am surrounded by the waste remnants from the evolutionary superhighway."

Pete chuckles and decides he might just like Weird-guy after all.

"What about you, meat?" Hollwood nods at Pete. "You in or out?"

"You're a regular ol' Jay Leno-wanna be, aren't you? Your heroine laugh at those stupid jokes? Oh wait, I bet she gets enough laughs just looking at that dumb-ass mug of yours." Smiling, Pete pulls out a chair and sits.

"Laugh it up, hotshot," Hollywood says. "You won't be laughing in a few minutes when I take all your money."

Pete eyes him. "You're a cop, right?

Hollywood pops his elbow on the green felt tabletop, twirls a chip between his fingers. "Yeah, you could say that. What of it?"

Pete grins.

"What's so funny?"

Pete shakes his head. "My Porsche costs more than you make in a year. I'm gonna truly enjoy taking your money, cop."

Hollywood studies him, narrows his eyes and smiles himself as he picks up his cards. "Well alrighty then." He glances around the table with a twinkle in his eye. "Hotshot here's feelin' pretty cocky. What do you guys say we up the stakes?"

"What do you have in mind?" Rodriguez asks.

Hollywood winks, stands up, goes to a cupboard across the room and returns with a bottle of Wild Turkey. He sets the bottle in the middle of the table. "Oh, just a friendly little game of Truth or Drink?"

"Yeah, baby," Fish says with a huge shit-eating grin. "I'm in."

Hollywood rolls his eyes, ignores Fish's comments. "Here's how it works. Loser gets to choose. Do a shot or answer a question. Simple as that, boys. So what'ya say. Game?"

***

A dozen hands later, no one still wants to fold. The men lay their cards on the table.

"I sense trouble." Christian's voice is soft, a little slurred.

"Dude, you've gotta get a new tagline." Fish studies the hands displayed and crows with laughter. The three shots he'd taken to avoid any questions have him good and loose. He slaps a hand on the table, and it rocks dangerously sideways.

Pete steadies it and shakes his head. He's managed to avoid losing yet and he's stone-sober. He eyes Tick and Rio, tension snaking into his gut. The only thing worse than a room full of cops has to be a room full of tipsy cops.

Well, two tipsy cops, one half-wasted Army guy, and . . . he wasn't sure what Weird-guy was yet.

He looks down at the table, realizes why Fish is so amused and a grin quirks at his lips. Tick's lost again, with yet another pair of twos.

He nudges the bottle toward him. "Go ahead. Wimp out again."

Tick's eyes narrow, bad humor darkening his face. "Go for it, thief-boy. Ask me something."

Rio brightens, stacking his chips with fingers that are slightly unsteady. "Ask him about the cuffs."

"Some back-up you are." Tick muffles a hiccup with his fist. "We're supposed to stick together, that whole Fed brick wall. Wait . . . I forgot. You're in immigration."

Offense flares in Rio's dark eyes. "You-"

"I really sense trouble." Christian scoots his chair back a couple of inches. His eyes flicker.

"Ignore 'im." Fish waves a hand in Tick's direction. "He's not even a real Fed anymore. Goddamn county mounty with a one-pony department. His HEA makes three times what he does."

Tick smirks, lifts his beer. "Advantages to being a kept man."

Pete narrows his eyes, drums his fingers on the table. "Quit stalling. What's the answer?"

A frown pulls Tick's eyebrows downward. "What was the question again?"

"The cuffs, genius." Fish rolls his gaze toward the ceiling. "Jeezus H. What about the cuffs?"

"Oh. Those." A wide grin splits Tick's face and he spins his beer in a slow circle. Caitlin would kill him for telling this story, but what the hell? She wasn't here and what she didn't know wouldn't hurt him. Besides, she'd spilled it to that damn psychologist, psychiatrist, whatever, from Oregon. "Holy hell, that's a story."

"Out with it, farmboy." Fish folds his arms over his chest and leans back dangerously far in his chair. Christian eyes him warily and shakes his head.

A smile plays around Tick's mouth. "Cait likes . . . control. It's a big part of her makeup."

Rio chuckles. Intrigued, Pete leans forward.

"We were working together, one of those twenty-four-seven investigations, and being around her like that . . . I was about to come out of my skin."

"That's understandable. She is hot. A little on the bitchy side, but hot." Fish lifts his bottle, squints at the level of beer in it, tilts it back for a swallow. Tick glares at him and considers swiping at his chairlegs.

"Focus." Christian gives him a stern look.

Tick runs a hand over his already disheveled hair. "Anyway, we get hot and heavy in my living room floor, and I end up with my ass handcuffed to the coffee table."

Rio laughs again. "This the same one you said would kick your ass?"

Tick shrugs. "Ever heard the term 'kick-ass heroine'? It don't always mean physically, buddy."

He reaches for the cards, swipes them into a pile and begins shuffling. "Another hand?"

***

A round of grunts signal tacit agreement, although Rio is seriously ready to go AWOL.

He hopes he loses the next ten hands because he wants to get drunk off his ass. This halfway point only made him miss Cassie. And alcohol always made him horny as hell.

His cell vibrates. "This had better be Carlos saying he's comin' to bust me out or I'm going to rip his head off and shit in his neck."

Fish hoots. Tick chuckles. Pete scoffs. The Darkone looked scandalized. "I sense--"

Rio waves him off as he flips his phone open. "Yeah, yeah. We know--trouble."

The screen bursts to life with color--a pix message. Of Cassie. Lounging by a crystal aqua pool. In a string--make that dental floss--bikini. Skin slicked up with suntan oil, face tilted up to the sky. The caption reads, Wish you were here.

Rio's already sensitized groin fills with heat. "Oh, good God."

The words came out in a low groan that has every man's head turning toward him. Tick pauses in his deal, alert for trouble.

Throat dry, blood draining from his head to his dick, Rio snaps the phone closed. "Nothing."

Fish's hand snakes out to snatch the phone from Rio's hand. "Lemme see that."

He fumbles to get it back, but his reflexes aren't working quite right--half a dozen shots of tequila will do that--and Fish twists away. He opens the phone and punches buttons.

"Hey, asshole," Rio pushes from his chair and rounds Fish. "Give that back."

Army-man maneuvers the phone out of his reach, but Rio can see Cassie in all her gorgeous glory filling the screen. Fish lets out a wolf whistle that bounces off the cinderblock walls. "Wowza. That's some... Those are seriously fine..." He shakes his head as if to clear it. "What the fuck did you ever do to earn a HEA like that?"

While Fish is distracted, Rio lunges, grips his wrist and twists.

Fish howls and swears, but drops the phone. "What the fuck is wrong with you?"

With blurred vision and fingers not following instructions from his brain, Rio taps a text to Carlos. Get your ass over here and get me OUT!

Within seconds both Tick's and Pete's phones ring.

***

As the only remaining sober guy in the place, Pete watches the brawl on the floor with minimal interest and a whole lotta disgust. Army-boy'd been shootin' his mouth off for the last hour, so Pete figures it's about time someone rips him a new one. But considering the flare in Rodriguez's eyes and the fact the SOB still has that loaded Glock on him, Pete's rooting for the Army brat to take him out.

When his phone beeps, he glances down at his belt and eyes the message.

Oh, crap. Not good.

He looks at Hollywood, drunk off his ass and struggling to decipher his own message. Eyeing the cop's phone over his shoulder, Pete confirms what he'd thought upon reading his own cell's screen.

Aw, shit. This was bad.

With a frown, Pete pushes back from the table. "Yo, creature-man. Now would be the time for that famous tag line of yours."

Weird-guy tears his wobbly gaze away from the action, brow lifting in confusion. "I sense . . . trouble?"

With a capital T.

"Alex Rodriguez look-alike. You're gonna have to choke the Army brat some other time. We got problems."

Rodriguez hesitates, looks Pete's way with his hands still clamped over Army-dude's neck, but can't seem to zero in on anything. His dark eyes aren't tracking.

Pete holds up a hand. "Woohoo? Over here, Rodriguez."

Rodriguez's brow lowers, his brain in serious slow-mo and trying to catch up. "Name's not Rodriguez. It's . . ." He hesitates. Looks down at the floor. Back up again. Still can't focus. "Sanchez. No. Wait. Santana. Yeah. That's it. Santana." He lets go of Fish and drops hard onto his butt. "Man. I'm shit-faced."

Pete rolls his eyes heaven-ward. Rafe had better be figuring out a way to get him outta here. Knowing the POS though, he's probably kicked back laughing his ass off at what's happening down in this hell hole.

Shaking off the thought, Pete looks back at a confused Santana. "Like the guitarist? Oh, that's even better. You're just given me fuel to work with."

Santana stares at him like he's grown a second head.

Pete shakes his head and decides to take pity on the plowed sap. As long as the guy doesn't have his gun out, they're cool. Sort of.

"Look, guys," Pete says. "We got a problem. She just messaged me. And him too." He points at Hollywood, still sitting at the poker table, brow creased as he tries to read his own message. Okay, Rhode scholar he isn't. Maybe Fish wasn't far off on the county mounty bit.

"You're HEA's texting choir-boy?" Fish asks as he sits up and wipes the grime from the cement floor off his face.

"No, you dumbass. She. The Supreme Being. The Ruler. The Alpha and Omego and everything in between." When Fish only stares at him like he's speaking in tongues, Pete adds, "The Muse? Ring a bell, Einstein?"

Fish's brow lowers. "I know I'm wasted, but She's different for all of us, isn't She?"

Weird-guy stands, wobbles a bit, grips the table and takes a step forward. "Her texting you can't be good. What did She say?"

"That She's watching. They're all friggin' watching us make asses out of ourselves down here. That little .jpg Santana got? We're each gonna get one if we don't shape up. And our women aren't up there in thongs all alone. She - They've - got hunky secondary characters up there serving drinks to our girls."

The all stare at him, still too drunk to make connections.

"Oh for the love of God." Pete thwacks Fish on the forehead.

Fish jumps and yelps.

"Our women are getting wasted and most likely propositioned by the Chippendale dancers!," Pete says emphatically. "How many of you idiots left your HEA's sexually frustrated and horny as hell?"

Silence decends as reality sinks in. Four sets of wide eyes slowly jump from face to face.

Hollywood is the first to speak. "Holy Hell. We got serious trouble."

***

Tick pushes his chair back and it topples over. He paces, dragging one hand through his hair. Pete watches him, a little surprised at how quick the guy snapped to, even with all the alcohol.

"This is not good." Tick pinches the bridge of his nose.

Rio eyes him, still a little blurry. "What?"

Tick narrows his eyes, staring at the basement door. "Technically, none of us have a HEA."

"Like hell." Rio bursts into laughter. "Do you know how many times I've been through revisions. Believe me, I have a HEA."

"That's just it, buddy. Revisions." Tick glares at Pete and Fish. "Or drafting. Meaning, not finished."

"Oh, shit," Pete mumbles.

Still sitting on the floor, Fish puts his back against the couch and dangles his hands between his knees. "Oh, well. All I'm used to is Angie kicking my teeth in. Not like she was gonna text me with a photo."

Tick shoots him a look. "What is the IQ requirement for entrance into the Army, anyway?"

"Probably about what it is for the FBI," Pete deadpans. Rio chuckles.

"You don't get it, do you?" Tick throws his hands up.

"There is no end or beginning," Christian intones, although the words slur together a tad.

Tick points at him. "Exactly."

"Oh, ceee-rist." Pete shoots a glance at the door, then the ceiling. The realization is sinking in.

"This means . . ." Rio struggles to his feet. "Our girls are all single."

"Oh, yeah." Tick glares at Pete. "Got that one, hotshot? No ending, no commitment, no HEA."

"I sense . . ."

"Don't say it!" The other four men roar at Christian. He blinks and scowls.

Tick does the hand through his hair again, dark strands sticking out at all angles. "I'd bet my next pack of smokes that I know exactly whose up there. And when I finally get out of here, I'm going to kick his sorry ass."

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Blogger Laurie said...

You gals are brilliant! ROFLMAO!! :)

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