Fandom:  Ultraviolet with just a touch of X-Files.
Pairing:  Michael/Pendrell
Author:  The Lopsided Weevil
Rating:  R?


Helen convinced me to try my hand at an Ultraviolet story for the Comic
Relief challenge... two months later, I'm just about done.  Take it
easy on me, I have two strikes against me, 1)being an american and
2)having only ever written X-Files stories.

As always, I live for feedback, good or bad, tell me what the heck
you think of this epic.

Thanks & Enjoy!

the lopsided weevil
http://lopsided.dyndns.org/~lopsided/
Email:  lopsided@flashmail.com

 


 

First Impressions and Second Chances

by The Lopsided Weevil



"Gross."  The word reverberated in his skull.  It was the word he most
wanted to say, but could not bring himself to utter.  He didn't speak
the word or any of the others that presented themselves, not "gross,"
not "sick," not, "disgusting," none of them.  No, he said nothing, did
nothing, he just stood there motionless, as if he himself were the
headstone for the grave that was being dug up just a few steps in front
of him. 

He was getting good at his job, and he hated it.

Detective Michael Colefield had stood there like this for nearly an
hour, first while the men had cleared muck and debris from the site,
then silent still while the workers in their drab overalls had dug
the few feet down to the shallow grave.

The dead man had been buried primatively, his body wrapped in plastic
sheeting and dumped into a hole dug in a small clearing in the woods.
The mound had been covered over with dried leaves and twigs, but
beneath the layer of plant material had been a pile of rocks arranged
in an odd, circular pattern not unlike that of the larger stone
formations found in the area.  Clearly this homeless man's death
had meaning.

It was a shock to everyone when they finally unearthed the body,
everyone that is except for Colefield, he knew exactly what would
be found there.  Even if the man had been wrapped only in the thin
plastic sheets, it was incomprehensible that his body would have
disintegrated in the few days since he and been buried. But that
was Michael's job, dealing with the incomprehensible, embracing
facts that other people preferred to think of as pure fiction,
nonsense for tabloids and bad television programs.

Still, he didn't react.  His lips stayed closed, not releasing the
adjectives swirling in his head.  Nor did he react to the sight or
the smell of a body that seemed to have been eaten away from the
inside out.  Only the slightest pinching at the corners of his eyes
gave away the thoughts that were pounding in his skull.

"Sorry, I'm late, looks like you started without me."

He turned his head to find a slightly out of breath man standing
beside him, a clear trail of footprints marking the 50 or so yards
he had dashed from his car to the isolated crime scene.  His American
accent was an pleasantly unexpected surprise in an otherwise bleak
and dreary day.  He wondered when the organization had begun
recruiting Yanks of all people.

The American was zipping up a white jump suit - regulation attire for
such occasions.  From the equipment he had with him, Michael surmised
that his must be his designated scientific advisor.  He was only glad
that it wasn't Angie preparing to dig around in a pile of human remains.
He was having enough trouble with this case and didn't need her
condescending attitude adding to his load.  Raising an eyebrow, he did
his best to show this new guy who was in charge. It was a subtle
movement, but effective.  No need for words, just a little facial
gesture to indicate what was what and who was who.

"Well, guess I should just jump in and get started."

He observed the scientist guardedly.  This was his case and he didn't
want anyone fucking it up.  The man had light reddish brown hair and
a soft round face that seemed friendly and inviting.  It wasn't what
Michael was expecting, not from a fellow member of the organization
and certainly not from some out of place American.  He had learned
quickly that the official face of the department fit somewhere between
shale and granite on the sedimentary scale - but this guy showed no
such signs of stoniness.

The white of the man's protective suit stood in stark contrast to the
nearly black charcoal color of Mike's own raincoat.  The pure white
seemed totally out of place on a grey, drizzly, grey English spring
morning.  The sun had not fully burned off the mist that hung to the
low corners of the randomly wooded countryside.  It was ironic that
he wanted nothing more than to fade into the grey haze, while his
new associate came dressed to scream, "out of place." But then that
was the point, the jump suit was meant to stand out, not blend in with
its surroundings. 

His new scientist colleague took a deep breath and jumped in the hole.
The man was either brave or foolhardy; he'd know soon enough which was
the correct classification.

Mike stood there for what seemed like another half an hour while the
man went about his business.  He watched the scene for the first
few minutes, but couldn't take the sight of someone poking around in
such a disgusting mess, so he lifted his eyes and stared into the
distance looking at nothing in particular.  He had passed Stonehenge
on his way to the crime scene, but could find no indications of it along
the far hillsides.  His eyes took in the rustling of a line of barren
trees and he noted a few cars and trucks moving along the highway that
ran across the horizon.  From this distance, they looked like tiny
matchbox cars, the kind he played with as a boy.  But this was no game
he was playing at today, this was serious business.

"You sure he's only been dead two days?"

Apparently the chap had managed to pull himself out of the hole while he
had been studying the finer points of rural Salisbury's roadway system.

"Positive," was his succinct reply.  It was the first word he'd spoken
in over an hour.  The three syllables had nearly gotten tripped up by
the knot in his throat, but with some effort they managed to make it
past his lips and out into the moist spring air.

"Well then, it looks like I'm going to have to take this whole lot back
to the lab and do some more tests.  I reckon this is gonna to take
some time."

Reckon? Who used words like that?  Gawd, next he'd be asking where to
find the local Walmart so he could buy some of that crap Yank beer.  The
idea of cold, tasteless beer poured out of some garishly painted aluminum
can gave him a shudder.

"Fine, I'll give you 24 hours."

"Gee, thanks.  The name's Pendrell by the way."

"Just get me the report in the morning. I want this case wrapped up as
soon as possible."  He turned to walk away and was quickly followed by
the guy in the white jump suit, bouncing behind him like some freakish
bunny rabbit. 

"Hey, wait a minute, you expect me to turn this bag of muck into a
report by tomorrow?"

"Exactly."  He'd learned from the Priest the strength of minimalism.
The fewer words the better.  There was more power in a single word
than there was in any ten minute dissertation.  Never say too much,
always keep them guessing.

"Wait a minute..."

This Pendrell fellow had placed a hand on his shoulder in an effort
to stop his forward movement.  Michael turned to address the concerned
scientist, but anxious to be on his way.

"Is Dr. March leading this case?  I'll consult with her if that would
help matters."

The guy reminded him of an over-hyper puppy dog, nipping at the heels
of its master.  It was time to put a leash on this mutt.

"No."  Bad puppy.

There was a long pause as Pendrell obviously waited for a further
explanation.  None would be forthcoming.  Then a change seemed to
come over the man's face.  It went from a look of confusion to one
of searching, as if he were trying to remember something.  Americans
were never known for being subtle.

"I know we've never met, and I'm new around here and all, but there's
something familiar about you."

Pendrell tapped his finger on his bottom lip in what Michael observed
to be a cute, brainy sort of way.  "I know you from somewhere!" the
American declared.

Michael pulled his head back for a moment, taken off-guard by the
scientist's simple, direct statement.  Surprized by the man's
non-sequitur, Michael decided to use it to his advantage, or maybe
to his own defense; he had no time to judge which.

"Nice try mate, but I stopped falling for that line ages ago.  Better
luck next time."  Michael glared at the man and resisted the urge to
smirk.

Pendrell stood there looking even more confused.  He seemed to take
a moment to try and interpret Michael's words, but somehow their
meaning was beyond him.  With a little more practice, Michael
decided, he'd be a perfect candidate for a Three Stooges look-alike
contest.

"Just do the report, Pendrell." There's a good puppy.

He turned and walked away, leaving Pendrell to get on with his work.
In the war against the Code 5's, everyone had a job to do and there
was precious little thanks for any of it.  There would be none for
Michael, nor would there be any for the odd little American.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Michael decided to spend the rest of the day hiding out in the
office.  He'd pulled all the necessary files down to his laptop
and had a nice neat stack of papers to go through.  With any
luck he'd avoid any run-ins or unpleasant questions from Angie
or any of the others.  He wanted, at least for now, to run this
case on his own, if only for the reward of silence.

This business was unpleasant enough as it was without having to
constantly *talk* about it.  Didn't these people have any other
interests?  Weren't there any Man United fans in the building or
even someone who wanted to talk about how bad the Italian entry
in the European Song Contest was?

So he found himself a dark corner to hide in and read his reports.
His case was paper-thin, but so far all his leads were pointing
in the same unbelievable direction.  He'd first discovered the
unusual investments that lead to notes of suspicious activities at
the companies involved.  Within a matter of days he'd linked up
all the loose connections into a strange but plausible scenario.
Now all he needed was some hard evidence to turn it into a real
case.

And where would he get his hard evidence?  From a two day old
dead man, a bottle of tequila and a scientist named Pendrell.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


He entered with heavy steps past the front door and stumbled his way
through the dark house.  Having just moved into the new flat only a
few weeks ago, he was still learning his way around, but as a matter
of honor he refused to turn the lights on.  Just as he turned to walk
down the hallway to his bedroom, he tripped over a still unemptied
box and managed to run straight into the jutting corner of the wall.
The pain was almost instantaneous as he reached up instinctively
to grab his quickly reddening nose.

"Brilliant," he whispered to himself, the perfect end to another
perfect day.

After reassuring himself that the nose wasn't broken, he continued on
his path into the bedroom, taking extra caution by running his hand
along the wall.  Even at the simple task of finding his bed in the
dark, he had failed.

Pausing for a few moments, he stripped the clothing from his aching
body and threw the well-worn garments into a clump on  the old chair
next to the wardrobe.  He stood there in the  dark wearing nothing
more than his own skin and wondered if it were possible to sleep
standing up.  Mustering up one more burst of energy, he took the
five necessary steps to the bed and collapsed face first into the
soft covers. 

"Fuck," he yelped into the bed sheets as he was painfully reminded of
the injury to his nose.  God, all he wanted was to sleep.  Was that
too much to ask?

But there was a problem, a nagging problem that wouldn't go away.  It
was all so unfair, most people who'd had too much to drink would be
blissfully asleep by now, but not Michael Colefield, no not him.  He
was dog-tired after a long day at work and a wasted night at the local
pub trying to "mingle" with what amounted to the work crowd.  Fuck
mingling, none of them wanted to talk to him anyway.  He had hoped
that the American fellow Pendrell would be there, and at one point he
was even certain that he had spotted him in the dark recesses of one
of the pubs, but then had lost him in the crowd. He had wanted in some
small way to apologize for his gruff behavior earlier in the day.
Unfortunately he never did catch up with the puppy dog scientist.  He
could have used a friend at work and feared that he may have pissed
away his lone chance at finding one.  God, he thought to himself, why
did he even try?

He was tired, every bone in his body cried out for sleep and the peace
of simple dreams.  The pleasure of sleeping dreams was what he desired,
not the agony of the waking nightmares that were found at work.  But
there he was, reviewing what a piss of a day he'd had, going over every
painstaking detail in his mind as if filing one of his old police reports.

He turned his head the few required degrees to see the digital alarm
clock on the nightstand and noted the time.  In only five minutes it
would be one in the morning.  And in only six hours it would be time
to get up again.  Get up.  Again.  For work, fucking work, the thing
that had put him in this condition in the first place.

Work.  It was full of people who he disliked.  People like Angela March
and Vaughan Rice and just about everyone else in the building he could
name.  And it wasn't bad enough to be the outsider, the reluctant
recruit, he had the misfortune of still not being fully trusted.  After
all, wasn't it he who had been partners with a Code 5?  Wasn't it he
who had nearly let Jack escape?

Jack Beresford.  His partner.  His undead partner.  Jack Baresford, the
man who had gotten him into this mess in the first place.  He was doing
all of this because of Jack.  Because of what Jack had meant to him and
because of what he still meant.  He missed his partner, missed their
talks and missed having someone to fill up the empty spaces.

Michael's body stirred in the bed.

His mind replayed a blur of memories, little slices of time with Jack.
There was the wry smile, the quick wink out of the corner of his eye
and all that those looks meant.  If only things were back to the way
they used to be.  He could have his life back and his friend back and
maybe then he could get some sleep.

He shifted his hips slightly to the left, pushing against a soft
clump in the bed sheets.

It wasn't difficult in his intoxicated state to imagine what it
would be like if Jack was Jack again, and not just a pile of dust
locked up in some fancy tin can.  If Jack wanted some place safe,
then there was no safer place than in Mike's bed and no better
way to be held than in his arms.

Mike shifted again in the bed, trying to make room for the growing
hardness between his legs.

Even if he couldn't get to sleep, at least he could dream, dream
about Jack Baresford.  Even better, he could dream about a naked
Jack Beresford, dream about his naked partner laying beneath him
surrounded by the soft cotton bed covers.  He could imagine his
hands wrapped around Jacks's powerful biceps and his chest rubbing
up against the smooth skin of the man's back.  He could feel his
legs pushing alongside Jacks's, the little hairs of each man's legs
tickling the other's.  And better still, he could feel his growing
manhood wedged comfortably between his partner's firm, round
buttocks.  His cock fit perfectly there, it was as if they were
two pieces of a puzzle, each one seeking the other.

Slowly, quietly, he began thrusting into the mattress.

Having a vivid imagination had its rewards.  Sure, it kept him up
at night, but then again, it kept him *up* at night.  He let his
imagination flow and create a reality all its own.  He was here in
his bed alone, but he could still feel Jack laying beneath him,
every muscle of his partner's body tensing and easing with the
motions of his own.  He wanted to take it slow, building up to
it.  He'd savour every imaginary stroke, every subtle touch of
skin against skin.

His rhythm increased, matching the beating of his heart.

Jack's body was hot, burning with the shared intensity of desire.
He wanted to consume him, become part of the man he was fucking.
Lifting himself up, he traced his hands along Jack's shoulder
blades gripping him firmly with his hands.

He was close, very close.

It only took a few more thrusts before he exploded and collapsed,
falling with all his weight onto Jack, but the thrusts continued,
as he refused to allow the pleasure to leave him.  He rode the
wave and savored every second of it. But pleasure was a momentary
gift, and without warning it was gone and Jack was gone, and his
life was gone, all of it replaced with an unhappy emptiness.

He lay in the bed, covered in sweat and semen.  Turning his head,
Michael looked at the clock.  After a few seconds, his brain
registered the shapes of the digits.  His lips silently mouthed
the time: 1:57 a.m.  Just five hours to get the sleep his body so
desperately needed.  He closed his eyes and invited the night to
take him.

It was Michael's misfortune to run into Angie just as he arrived
for work the next morning.  She had said something to him on the
way in the door, though with the throbbing in his head, he wasn't
quite sure what. 

"Michael?" she repeated as he continued down the hallway.

He chose to act aloof rather than deal with her in his current condition.
It was an act he was getting good at, having studied the way Pearse
carried himself and recognized how people reacted to the barrier of
silence he'd built around himself.  If only they would all go away and
leave him alone, but with his luck they'd decide to throw him a surprize
party with silly hats and party poppers to celebrate his one year
anniversary with the agency.  It would all be such an ironic twist
after they so thoroughly ignored him the previous evening.

As he stumbled into his office he could hear her footsteps pounding
behind him, like the clomping of an old workhorse, but he continued to
ignore her.  He tossed his trench coat in the general direction of the
coatrack in the corner of his office and poured himself into his chair.
Sitting at the desk, he braced himself for her inevitable speech by
gripping the corners of the sleek metal surface, it was a vain attempt
to keep his head from vibrating off his shoulders.

"Michael, are you alright, you don't look well."  Each word sent a
sharp pain shooting through his cranium.

"Go away."  He kept his words to a minimum so as to avoid causing any
further damage.

"If you need medical attention..."

"No."  He kept his head down, so as to avoid revealing his bloodshot
eyes and still-red nose.

"Suit yourself then."  She turned and walked towards the hall.

"Wait."  The word nearly choked in his throat.  He needed her help,
and as much as he hated the idea, she was the only one he could trust.

She turned, hesitating a moment as if contemplating his request and
then finally answering him with a simple but firm, "yes?"

"The American."

She stood there saying nothing, damn her, she going to make this difficult.

He loosened his grip on the desk and marshalled all his strength to
control his rebellious body.   He let out a deep breath through his
nostrils and lifted his gaze to look at her directly.  "Well?"

She sat down in the side chair just in front of the desk before
answering his question.  "He joined us about a month ago.  Technically
astute, if a bit odd.  Likes to prattle on a bit."

"Where did he come from?"

"Oh, Michael, surely you've heard of the birds and the bees!"  She
smirked at him in a way that made him want to give her a nice hard
slap up the backside.  Raising an eyebrow, he did his best to
communicate his displeasure with her answer.  He was getting good
at the eyebrow thing, he'd have to work on the head tilt manuever
next or maybe the all-important nostril flair.

"He's a former FBI agent.  Apparently he did a bit of undercover stuff
for them, some mumbo jumbo about space aliens if you can believe it,
before he was recruited to join us."

"And?"

"Well, conveniently, the Americans made sure his identity was erased,
so he was a perfect candidate.  Well-trained, scientific background,
and from what I hear highly recommended."

"Can I trust him?"

She seemed a bit surprised by his question.  Maybe he was being too
honest with her.  He observed her face carefully for any signs of
doubt.  If she squinted her eyes, it would be a dead giveaway.  He
could almost see the neurons firing in her brain.  After a few moments
she seemed to come to a realization.

"Yes, I think so."  She seemed quiet satisfied with her answer, and
if she was satisfied, then he would have to be as well.

"Good."

He paused for a moment and tried to remember all the questions
that he had tucked away in some less-clouded corner of his brain.

"Just one more thing."

"Yes?"

"Does he have a first name?"

He could see the gears turning in her head again which was odd,
since he had asked such a simple question.  Was she trying to
decipher why he had asked such a personal question, or had he
finally stumped his learned colleague?

She grimaced and bit her lower lip before reluctantly answering,
"I haven't a clue."

Finally, some good news.  He'd have to write that down and save it
for a rainy day.  Dr. Angela March had admitted she didn't know
something!  Excellent!

"Is that all, Michael?"

"Yes, I think so."

She stood and turned, retracing her steps to the door.  Finally, he
could relax and refocus his energy on dealing with his hangover.
Just as he was reaching into the drawer to find a bottle of aspirin,
his task was interrupted.

"I just wanted to say,"  with the return of her razor-sharp voice his
hand froze just as it was gripping the bottle of much needed medicine,
"how impressed we all were with your performance last night.  You
really do know how to put them away.  And here you are all bright
and cheery so early in the morning.  I really don't know how you do
it, Mike."

"Oh ha-ah!" He threw the bottle of pills at her but she scurried
away before they had time to reach their intended target.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Well, you're not going to believe this."

Despite the lack of greeting, Michael quickly identified the
voice on his phone as belonging to his funny little American
scientist.  "Try me."

"Hipopta Agavis."

"What?"

"Hipopta Agavis, or gusano worm, or more accurately a butterfly
caterpillar that is native to Mexico and lives in the heart of
the agave plant."

"Okay, somewhere in that little report of yours I heard the
word 'worm.'"

"Right."

"Does this have anything to do with Tequila?"

"Sorry, wrong answer, would you like to go for the bonus
round where prizes double?"

"What?"

"Close but no cigar."

"Will you can the Americanisms and just get on with it?"

"You're confusing Tequila with Mezcal.  Mezcal and the more
popular Tequila are alcoholic beverages made in the arid
highlands of central Mexico."

"You don't say..." his voice was dripping with sarcasm.  If
he ever hoped to get anything out of Pendrell he knew he was
going to have to play along and listen to every last boring
detail the man had to report.

"They are made from the fermented and distilled sap of the agave,
also called a maguey.  This is an indigenous plant that many
people think is a cactus but that in reality is a succulent related
to the lily and amaryllis plants.  There are in fact 136 species of
agave in Mexico of which the agave tequilana weber azul - commonly
known as the blue agave - is the only one legally permitted to be used
for Tequila production.  The government allows the use of several
species of agave in the production of Mezcal, including the rare
wild species, tobala."

"Riveting..."

"The plant has been cultivated for at least 9,000 years.  It was the
Spanish Conquistadors who originally distilled a native drink called
"pulque" into a stronger spirit.  In the 400 years since the
conquest of the region it has evolved into these two internationally
known drinks."

"Pendrell?"  The man sounded like a textbook, or worse a god-damned
web site.  If only there was a "stop load" button for the chap.

"Yeah?"

"Will you shut up and get to the point?"

"Oh, yeah, sorry, I'm being a doof again.  Now where was I?"

"Worms."

"Hipopta Agavis."

"Whatever."

"Okay, worms then.  You know the ones that they put in bottles
of Mezcal, and remember that's Mezcal by the way, not Tequila.
The whole worm in the tequila bottle is an American myth started
as a marketing campaign in the early 1940's."

"Pendrell, you're doing it again."

"Oh, right, sorry.  Let me get to the point."

"That would be lovely."  The man was annoying, but his attention
to detail had to be admired.  Michael wondered if he was as
dedicated in other areas.

"Tequila and Mezcal are made from the fermented and distilled
sap taken from the pina, or heart of the agave plant.  It's
made in a series of small factories clustered in the Jalisco
and Oaxaca states of Mexico."

Abandoning all hope of wrapping up the phone conversation
quickly, Michael tuned the American out, perking up only
when certain key words piqued his interest.

"You remember I mentioned that rare wild agave species togala?
Michael?  Michael?"

"Yeah, togala, right."

"Well, it turns out your corpse had ingested a large quantity
of togala-based Mezcal before he died.  We found three of those
worms in what was left of his body."

"Now we're getting somewhere."

"You aren't kidding, partner."

Partner?  Partner?  Who had made them partners?  And where was the
ring and flowers?  Random images popped into his head: Batman and
Robin, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker, Avon and Tarrant, before he was
able to shake the vivid meanings implied by the word and return his
train of thought to the true topic at hand.

"Are you ready for this?"  the excitement in Pendrell's voice
was palpable.

"No."

"The worms, the worms..."

"Yes?"

"They're Code 5, Michael, Code 5, can you believe it!"


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It wasn't easy going home after work.  He'd had such an amazingly
successful day, despite Angie's stupid taunts about his condition.
In fact, by the time he'd gotten off the phone with Pendrell he'd
completely forgotten about the headache and had breezed through
the rest of his day.  With any luck, he'd be ready to present his
case to the group in the morning.

But now he was coming home, if you could call it that.  This was his
third flat in less than a year and it felt like anything but home.
When you go home, you don't just go to a place, you go to a person,
a family.  For Michael, a home was supposed to be a place of memories
and mementos.  He had none of that, he merely had an empty apartment
with a few half-opened boxes and some meaningless, mass-produced
furniture scattered about.  What remnants of a life he had were packed
away or thrown away, relegated to a past to which he could never return.

He'd stayed out late again, taking care of supper and wandering around
town looking for nothing in particular.  He wanted so much to visit the
old haunts, places he'd been with friends, but he resisted the urge.
Going back would only invite risk and bring back painful memories of
what was and what could have been.

So now it was nearly quarter passed eleven and he was stumbling his way
in the dark again to the back bedroom and the empty bed that awaited him.
He cast off his clothes as usual and grabbed a pair of faded old flannel
boxer shorts from the wardrobe and then slipped himself into bed.

It wasn't too difficult to bring on sleep this time, he merely followed
a ritual that he'd begun nearly a year ago.  Laying flat on his back, he
wriggled in the bed until he found the comfortable sunken center and
curled the bed sheets loosely around his body.  Next he closed his eyes
and brought his hand up to his chest so that he could feel his own
heartbeat.  Lacking a bed partner, it was the closest thing he could
get to having someone there with him.  Someone like Jack.  He counted
the beats and slowly fell into a deep, restful sleep.

Michael took one more look around the conference room, tapping the
stack of papers he was holding on the table and slipping them into
the appropriate folder before neatly placing it at the optimal angle
next to his seat.  His laptop was placed strategically in just the
right position for him to control the complex media system and still
communicate a receptive, open attitude.  And then Pendrell walked in.

"Yo, partner, ready to rumble?"

"Oh lord, what have you got there?"

"Just a few visual aids.  Dear old Mom always said it wasn't a party
without a nice spread on the table."

"Pendrell, this isn't a party.  We're here to submit our case for
review, not compare bean dip recipes."

Ignoring Michael completely, Pendrell proceeded to unload the items
he brought with him to the meeting.  He began by placing a large
bottle of Mezcal strategically in the center of the conference
table along with some sort of container, mysteriously covered by
a small white cloth.  Next, he took a small bottle out of his suit
coat pocket and placed it near the covered container.  The bottle
appeared to contain dark liquid and was topped off by an eyedropper
style cap.  Finally he reached into his shirt pocket and removed a
brightly colored sliver of what appeared to be wood and carefully
placed it next to the covered container.

"What the fuck is that?" Michael asked, in not the least pleasant
of tones.

"A toothpick!" Pendrell declared proudly.

"Oh." How could any presentation be complete without that uniquely
American hygiene instrument - the toothpick?  Before Michael had time
to alter his partner's little display, the others walked in.  First
through the doorway was Vaughan, followed by Pearse and finally
Angie.

As the team assembled around the conference room table, Angie took a
long glance at the items displayed in the center and then looked
back at Michael.  With a questioning look she commented, "Isn't it a
bit early there, Mike?"

He tried his best to ignore her comment and invited everyone to sit
down so that they could begin the meeting.  After a few preliminaries,
he managed to transition to the meat of the report.  He used all his
skills to present his case in a compelling and intelligent manner.

"In the larger image  we have diagrams of a normal worm while in the
inset we've documented one of the worms taken from our corpse."

Angie questioned, "These illustrations are rather generic, don't you
think, Mike, why not show us photographs?"

"We'll explain that in a moment, but what we're trying to show here
is that from initial appearances they look the same, but..."

Pausing for dramatic effect, he hoped to draw the group's attention
to his findings.  However, before he could begin again, he was
interrupted by odd sounds coming from the other end of the table.

"One if these things is not like the other, one of these things is
not the same!"  Pendrell was absent-mindedly whispering in a
sing-song voice.

"What?!?"

"Pardon?"

"You were singing," Michael stated matter-of-factly.

"Oh, sorry," Pendrell replied, sheepishly.

"Well?"

"It's from Sesame Street."

"Sesame Street?"  Michael marveled at Pendrell's amazing ability to bring
intelligent discussion to a screeching halt merely by injecting random
bits of American culture into the conversation, but then again, that
seemed to be the main purpose of the breed, to bring the median global
IQ down as low as humanly possible.

"It's like Teletubbies..." Pendrell mumbled, "...you know, Big Bird,
Snuffleupagus - he's the purple elephant - and the Cookie Monster."

"And what precisely does a 'cookie monster' have to do with the topic
at hand?"  Michael tried to regain control of the conversation.

"Sorry," his partner said, sheepishly.

"Now, back to the subject of worms."

"Hipopta Agavis."

"Whatever..."

"Can I do my bit now?"

"Oh, by all means, please do," Michael said, exasperated.

Pendrell adjusted his tie and cleared his throat before continuing
the briefing.  "With the naked eye these creatures look absolutely
normal, but further tests reveal a startling difference."

"You're not saying..." Angie interjected.

"You can see in this next slide exactly what we're saying."

The room was lit brightly by the stark white light of the nearly
empty presentation slide.  Mike continued for his partner, "On this
slide is a photo of one of the worms found in the corpse."

"Hipopta Agavis, or caterpillar if you prefer," Pendrell again
corrected.

"Whatever.  And on this next slide is a photo from the blood sample
taken from the," Michael paused, "caterpillar."

"So what you're saying," Vaughan paused, "is that these creatures
are Code 5."

"Precisely."

"But they're worms."

"Hipota Agavis." Pendrell corrected.

"Whatever," Michael and Vaughan replied, both men glaring at the
American.

"Let me get to the point," Michael began, hoping to re-establish order
in the meeting.  "What we have uncovered here is a global conspiracy
to systematically alter the biology of the planet."

"Are you sure about this, gentlemen?"  For the first time Pearse
spoke, bringing the weight and importance of his presence to bare
on the assembled team.

"Allow me to demonstrate!" Pendrell declared.  With a flourish, he lifted
the cover off the box in the center of the table revealing a small plastic
tray containing a single caterpillar.  Motioning with his hand, he drew
emphasis on the slow moving creature.  Next, he picked up the bottle
of dark liquid and extracted a small amount of it's contents using the
eyedropper.  After tapping the end of the dropper on the lip of the
bottle, he slowly lifted it until it was just inches away from the
caterpillar.  The group watched with fascination as he cautiously
released a single drop of the liquid a few inches in front of the
passive caterpillar.  Almost instantly the creature stirred, moving as
swiftly as it could to reach the droplet.  All eyes watched as the
liquid slowly disappeared.

"Human blood!" Pendrell proudly declared.

The assembled group sat back in their chairs, stunned at the simple
demonstration. The two agents now had all the proof that they needed.

"Now  for the best part!" Pendrell said excitedly.  "I haven't actually
tried this yet, so you'll all be a witness to the first demonstration.
Buckle up, this should be amazing!"

He reached over to the brightly colored sliver of wood and grasped it
firmly between his thumb and forefinger.  He brought it closer to his
face and studied it closely.   "A toothpick?" Angie enquired, while
Pendrell nodded yes in answer.

His hand moved ever so slowly towards the unsuspecting creature.  He
hesitated for a moment when the pick rested just above the caterpillar's
midsection, then suddenly he drove it down and into the flesh of the
helpless animal.  They all watched guardedly as it twitched violently
for a few seconds and then exploded into a cloud of dust that
mushroomed up from the small container.  Slowly, the ashes drifted
down and created a circle of grey powder in the center of the conference
room table.

"Cool!" Pendrell commented, while the others remained silent, their
jaws hanging open.  "My first kill!"

"I think Pendrell's little demonstration speaks for itself, now
we can get down to business."  Michael's words refocused the group
on the matter of dealing with the possibility of a planet overrun
with such creatures.  Clicking on the next slide in the presentation,
he continued his remarks.

"We have managed to document the businesses that they're using
to manufacture and distribute the contaminated products and have
ample evidence to move against them here in this country."  Michael
quickly clicked through a series of slides detailing the front
companies, banks, shipping operations and other aspects of the
complex international conspiracy.

Pendrell added, "And I've made contact with operatives based in
San Diego that can strike at the Mexican operations.  We should be
able to have this whole thing wrapped up in two days and nobody
will be the wiser."

"Excellent work," Pearse commented, "it looks like you've done your
homework."  Pearse's words brought the meeting to a close.  The
group quickly dispersed, with the priest leading a still stunned
Angie and Vaughan to the door.

Busying himself with files and papers on the conference table,
Michael nodded to the others as they left, while Pendrell remained
standing quietly across the table from him.  As the two men exited
the conference room, Mike took the opportunity to complement his
partner.  "A tad on the dramatic side, but good job, Pendrell."

"Hey buddy, call me Pen, all my friends do."

"Sure, Pen, will do."  All in all, Michael was pleased with the
results.  desite the handicap of having a slightly odd-ball
partner, he'd managed to impress the entire group and score
major points with Pearse.  Maybe now they'd consider him more of
an equal and less of an outsider.  Looking over at his partner on
the case, he had to admit that Pen's dramatics had actually played
a big part in their success in presenting the case.  He sure was
eccentric, but this time it actually worked.  Maybe he could get
along with this chap after all.  As they walked down the hall, he
smiled at Pen and patted him on the back.

"Bert and Ernie."

"Sorry, what?"  The two men paused half-way down the hall.

"Our presentation today on the case, it reminded of me of
Bert and Ernie."

"And who are Bert and Ernie?"  Some highly regarded and over-paid
American dolts, he presumed, but in too good of a mood to worry
about the significance of the latest quirky comment.  He was certain
that an explanation, no matter how outrageous would be forthcoming.
He noticed for the first time the slight dimple in the man's chin.

"Oh, they're the ambiguously gay puppets on that TV show I mentioned,
Sesame Street."

Michael froze in his tracks, halting just a few steps from the safety
and comfort of his office.  Pendrell turned and leaned up against the
door frame, giving him a sly wink.  If only Michael could manage the
few necessary steps into his office and close the door, he could
be home free and not have to deal with the potential significance of
this latest off the wall comment.  Feeling trapped, he chose the
reckless path of continuing their conversation.

"You cheeky bastard," he wanted to say, but didn't.  The words were in
his head, ready to be spoken, but they remained there, along with words
like crazy, demented and perverted.  What actually came out of his mouth
was something entirely different.

"Dinner," he said matter-of-factly, not so much as a question but more
as a statement, as if the fact of it had already been decided.  Michael
wasn't sure why he'd said the word, or what it had to do with anything.
If he was a less sane man, he would have been convinced that Pendrell
was playing some sort of complex game of psychological warfare on him,
disorienting him with those damn-confusing non-sequiturs and idiotic
American pop culture references.

And now even he was doing it.  How on earth he had gotten from a
challenging  discourse on Code 5 infected worms to puppets on a children's
program and then finally to what amounted to a date he'd never know, but
there was one thing he was certain of: it was all Jacks's fault. If only
Jack hadn't been a Code 5, none of this would be happening and he wouldn't
have to be dealing with secret agencies, genetically engineer caterpillars
or crazy Americans with a puppet fetish.  There had to be a way out of
this situation, a way to restore some logic and order to his life.

"We can get something to eat and wrap up the case," he said meekly,
as if any of this had anything to do with what was really going on.

"Sure, where?" Pendrell smiled at him self-assuredly and adjusted his
tie in what Mike assumed was meant as a blatant phallic reference.

"Paddington's Pub, on..."

"How does a quarter to eight sound?" Pendrell proposed before Michael
could complete his offer.

"Fine."  He paused and prepared to enter his office when he hesitated,
unable to let the conversation go.  "Don't you want to know where it is?"

"Oh I know where it is, Mike, you don't have worry about me."

But he did have to worry about Pendrell.  And he was grinning again,
damn him.  He'd never met a man so full of strange contradictions and
seemingly innocent flirtations.  If he didn't know better, he would
have sworn that he was being seduced, or worse, courted.  This just
wasn't acceptable.

Losing a partner had been painful, but not an unexpected event for
someone who'd chosen a law enforcement career.  It was something he
was dealing with and no matter how much he missed Jack, he would
go on.  And joining some freakish organization dedicated to hunting down
"Code 5's" may have sounded a bit fantastic, but he was managing just
fine, after all, it wasn't all that different from his police work.
But then there was this infernal American.  Nothing in his life
experience had prepared him for this, this, whatever it was.

Retreating to the security of his office, he reviewed their arrangements.
Why he'd chosen that particular place he wasn't quite sure.  Maybe it
was because it wasn't far from his flat and would be an easy spot to
meet, or maybe it was because it was quiet and they wouldn't be
disturbed , or maybe... maybe there was another reason in the back
of his mind that had triggered the choice.  Whatever it was, he didn't
want to think about it.  He closed the door and quietly pounded his
head into the wall.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Michael sat himself at a secluded table near the back of the small,
hopelessly trendy neighborhood pub.  It was the kind of place that
for all the world wanted to look 600 years old, but was more likely
to be gone in six months, only to be replaced by a MacDonald's or a
Baby Gap.  He'd had all afternoon to review the events of the day
and his odd interaction with the American.  Perhaps he would have
an opportunity to work things out with him after all.  Yeah, that was
it, he told himself.  This was all about building a friendship,
finding a compatriot at work, nothing more.  Nothing more, he
repeated to himself.

There was one way to deal with the situation: control.  He was in charge
of this case and it was up to him to stay focused.  He was here to go
over the final details and nothing more.  No chit-chat, no buddy-buddy
stuff and certainly no talk of cookie monsters or purple elephants.
Maybe he was just over reacting.  It had been so long since he'd had
a partner and getting along without Jack was proving difficult.

Holding on to the first pint of the evening, he closed his eyes
and repeated silently, "Hipopta Agavis, Hipopta Agavis," but all
he could think about was two puppets named Bert and Ernie.  What
the fuck did a bent puppet look like, anyway?
 
When he opened his eyes he was greeted with the image of Pendrell
standing in front of him.  There wasn't any surprise in seeing him
there, just a warm feeling - Pendrell's image felt good on his
eyes.  Maybe it was the poorly fitting suit or the off kilter tie,
or maybe it was the round friendly face with soft cheeks that was
getting to him, or maybe it was just...  He caught himself and
silently mouthed the word "business."  He rose from his seat and
invited his partner to join him at the small table.  Waving to the
bartender, he motioned for another pint.

"Lager okay? It's mild."  he asked.

"Sure."

Trying to re-establish his authority over the situation, Michael
gave Pendrell a thorough looking over and began, "there are one
or two things I'd like to clear up."

"Oh, if I only had a camera!" Pendrell enthused.

"What?"

"I love that look, when you raise that eyebrow of yours, can
you do it again?"

"You are the odd American, aren't you?"

"You're wrong, by the way."

"Wrong?" It had only been a few minutes and he had already managed
to lose control of the situation.  So much for his plan.

"I'm not who you think I am."

"What?"

"It happens all the time, actually we like it that way."

"Pen, what the hell are you talking about."

"I'm not a damn-Yank as you people like to call me, I'm Canadian."

"Canadian?"

"Yes.  You see, I was part of the team assigned to infiltrate the
FBI and represent Canadian interests there.  When there was a risk
of my cover being blown, they arranged for me to be erased."

"Pen, what the fuck are you talking about?"  It was all a load of
jibberish that the man was offering up, but he was utterly fascinated,
and the way his eyes twinkled, there was no getting away from them.

"We've nearly completed the infiltration of the U.S. system.  Hollywood
was easy to infiltrate and we've made strong inroads into the snack
foods industry.  Though we are very concerned about the recent Australian
moves in the U.S.  Damn Rupert Murdock, he's not very subtle, but he's
very effective."

"Rupert Murdock?"

"Yes, we Canadians hate the Aussies, they're our arch rivals. All that
"g'day" stuff is bullshit, if you'll pardon my French.  That's why I've
been reassigned here to the U.K."

"Reassigned?"  He could do little but parrot back the other man's
statements in one and two syllable chunks.

"Yes, I've been assigned to London to try and undermine the Aussie's
strong presence here.  I'm part of the next wave."

"The next wave?  You've got to be fucking joking."

"No, I'm completely serious."

"So, you've come here as a Canadian Secret Agent to undermine the British
government?"  Finally he was regaining his footing, but he had to remain
on his guard.  This crazy American or Canadian or whoever he was certainly
knew how to spin a good tale.

"Oh, no, we don't want to take over the government, we're Canadians, we
don't do that sort of thing."

"And what is your first move?"

"To seduce you."

"Excuse me?"

"To seduce you."

"Okay." That did it, he was officially and certifiably shocked.

"I'm quite good you know.  I got straight A's, if you'll pardon the
expression, in seduction."  This time Pendrell really was being a
cheeky bastard. 

"So why don't you pay the check and you can take me home and we can
get started."

"Started?"  Michael sat there, stunned, unsure of how to react.

Pendrell rose from the table and leaned over towards Michael,
cautiously looking around to make sure no one was observing them.
"Pay the bill, I'll meet you outside," he said in a hushed,
suggestive voice.

Michael did as he was told.   After paying the tab, he exited the pub
and caught up with his companion a few steps up the cobblestone walkway.
As the two men progressed up the street Michael came to the realization
that they were heading towards his flat.  Nervous and uncomfortable,
he said nothing until they reached his front door.

"How did you know?" he mumbled.

"Remember when we first met I told you I knew you from somewhere?
I live just around the corner," Pendrell explained as he reached
into his pocket and took out a set of keys.  Inserting a key into
the lock he tilted his head and smiled at Michael.

"You have a key? To my flat!?!"

"Yeah, I swiped your keys one day when you weren't looking and had
a duplicate set made.  We Canadians pride ourselves on being thorough.
So are you coming in or what?"

Pausing to close the front door, Michael quickly caught up with his
companion in the living room, though no lights were on in the house,
the moonlight streaming in through the large front bay window
illuminated the space with haunting criss-crossing shadows.  "Jesus,
Mike, are you ever going to finish unpacking?" He just shrugged in
reply to Pendrell's question.  "Actually, my place isn't much better.
I know!  We can call up Changing Rooms and have them do up our
front rooms.  But you'll have to wrestle me for dibs on Laurence
Lowelyn Bowen!"

Michael followed Pendrell silently down the dark narrow hallway and
into his bedroom.  He was thankful for the peace; much more of the man's
overwhelming banter and his head was going to explode.  As they passed
through the doorway to Michael's bed chamber, Pendrell turned on the
wall switch and illuminated the cozy space, its neatness and understated
decoration stood in stark contrast to the rest of the house.

"Nice," Pendrell said, flouncing himself on the bed and patting the
covers next, inviting Michael to join him on the large mattress.

"You know, I don't believe a word of this, but you're certainly
putting on a good show."  It was a bullshit line, but he had to say
something.

"Oh, it doesn't matter."  Pendrell smiled and drew his hand along Michael's
arm.  "So, you wanna play prisoner and interrogator?"

"Excuse me?"

"That's where I torture you with pleasure until you tell me
everything I want to know.  Krycek used to love that game..."

"Who? What?"  He was shaking his head at the outrageousness of it all.

"Or, you could torture me, if you prefer."

"N-no," he said nervously, "by all means, you're the expert."

"Okay, stand up and strip to your underwear and I'll go get ready."

Again Michael did as he was told, standing nervously in the center of
the room until his companion returned.  Pendrell had several items in
his hands: a towel, a half-dozen neckties, a candle, a bowl of ice and
several other objects sticking out of his pockets.  All the objects were
familiar everyday things Pen must have collected from around his flat,
but now they had a new, more provocative meaning.  He arranged them
carefully on the bed and nightstand before returning to the corner next
to the door.   "Now, no matter what I do,  you must do your best to
resist my methods of persuasion.  Remember, you're doing this for Queen
and country."

"Yes," Michael said in a hushed tone.

"Are you certain?"

"Even if you tie me up?

"Yes, even if I tie you up."

"Even if you," Michael paused, overwhelmed by the thoughts running
through his head, "suck my cock?"

"Yes, even if I slip a finger in your ass and bite your earlobe, you
must have the strength and willpower to see this through."

"I understand."

"Now, I'm going to turn out the lights so you won't see what's coming
next.  You must be brave."

"What's coming next?  Oh my!" Michael declared, resisting the urge to
giggle.  He couldn't remember the last time he had been so blissfully
happy.  It had been a long time, so long ago that it felt like years.
A brief image of Jack flashed in his head, but faded, just out of his
view.  Things could never be the way they were, but that wasn't
necessarily all bad, sometimes it was better not to look back, but to
look forward.

He looked over at Pen.  He was standing by the wardrobe slowly removing
his clothes, following a ritual that Michael himself performed nearly
every night.  Was he mimicking him?  First Pen removed his jacket and
tossed it into the chair in the corner, next he kicked off his old
black loafers.  Slowly but surely each item of clothing ended up in
a pile in the chair.  His body was nothing special, toned without being
defined, average, and yet there was something about him that just
looked good.  He watched as Pen reached into the wardrobe and pulled
out a pair of faded old flannel boxer shorts and slipped them on.
He was doing it, doing exactly what Michael did every night!  Turning
around, Pendrell noted that Mike was observing him and smiled knowingly.

"So, you ready partner?"  He reached around and turned off the lights.

the end.

 

 


 

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