daydreamerexpress: Yin & Yang (two fish in a bowl)
[personal profile] daydreamerexpress
"A man who trusts nobody is apt to be the kind of man nobody trusts."

~ Harold MacMillan



He lies awkwardly on the seat of his vehicle, his PAL held tightly in his right hand. He tries not to focus on any discomfort brought on by his current position. His back is protesting, but it's his own fault: he'd been doing some heavy lifting earlier in the day, knowing he'd be sitting in a car later, monitoring the drop, back-up for his partner. Hindsight. Holding his breath isn't going to make him less noticeable to the passing car, but he does it anyway, like a child trying to avoid being caught reading when he should be asleep, a flashlight under his bedsheet.

If I can't see me, you can't see me…

He knows that doesn't work in real life. He's seen action, fire and blood and children running, women screaming. Bodies stacked like so much meat at the slaughter house and the smell --

There is no hiding from something like that.

The car continues down the road. He wonders if this is the man they've been waiting for. Wonders how soon he can get his hands on the anticipated flash drive.

Wonders what he was about to say to Ms. Showalter.

"Looks like this is our guy," she says, her voice muted through the ear bud. He can picture her, poised on the roof of the old office building two blocks away, black leather heartbeat in a dead part of town. She sounds all business now. He pulls himself upright again with the help of the steering wheel and checks for messages. No word from the Wire.

"Positive ID?" Levi asks, dragging his thumb slowly along one edge of His PAL as he holds the device, but doesn't look at it. It curves slightly at the corners.

"One moment."

He knows she's using her geneticly-gifted eyes -- able to see in the dark, for long distances, at will -- to zoom in on the man. He tries not to think about her eyes. The poet he allows to surface for only brief intervals compares them with umber and chocolate, mixed on a palate with a sharp knife and applied with a delicate brush.

"That's either him or his twin brother. Matches the photo you've got."

"Good." He wishes he were there, beside her, getting ready for the moment she'll force the lock on the door from the roof and descend into the darkness. A team. Together.

The darkness…

What would he have said if they hadn't been interrupted? Did she know what he was trying to say? Did he even know? What compelled him to even attempt to flirt with the beautiful woman who entered his life due to random recruitment and even more random assignments? He flirts with the other females in their group, but she's different and not just because of her heritage. Why?

Shit.

"He's entered the building. Had a key for the padlock." She grunts softly as her attention is directed elsewhere. "Surprised he made it here. What a piece of junk."

Levi hadn't been able to see the condition of the car, but it did sound like it needed a new muffler. Considering the state of the economy and the rarity of parts? Not unusual. Noise pollution. Did they still hand out tickets for that? Not that he really gives a shit about the rules of the road or the rules of the current government. He isn't part of that world and he has bigger fish to fry.

This drop-off is the last piece of a long investigation. There are documents and photos on this flash drive that will seal the fate of at least six of the major players, adding to the evidence that's already been acquired. Various councilors are patting one another on the back and signing bills as favours for future decisions about Ottawa's fate, about the fate of the country. Banking their support. A normal day at the office. This is politics, after all, and these are difficult times. What does he expect?

When money is diverted away from health programs and people die, he expects accountability. When veterans and the elderly are permitted to slip through the cracks and children go without a meal, he expects those involved to suffer the consequences. He frowns and tries not to work himself to a state where he'll be a poor companion for the drive back to the motel, but when the money goes into restructuring projects that will never happen, he expects Justice.

And so does the Wire.

Levi checks his messages again, to be certain nothing has alerted the prey to their activities, then sticks his PAL to the dashboard with it's handy adhesion application: 'Sticks to damn-near anything!'. This way, both hands are free and he can still monitor the Net. The building two blocks away has no security, as far as he can determine, beyond the padlock on the front door. The back door is sealed with hastily erected cinder blocks. He guesses it's been there since just after the war started. The door on the roof just needs a key. After all, who would be interested in a derelict building? And who would bother climbing to the roof on the outside? Just the desperate people who can't afford to live anywhere else.

Or a talented woman with a lock pick set.

He allows a smile of satisfaction to curl the corners of his lips. In, out, done, dinner. Levi knows it's cold with the engine off, but doesn't want to attract any attention and doesn't really care about a little mild discomfort. This is nothing compared to some of his previous experiences. The neighbourhood is abandoned by businesses, but not by squatters. They could emerge in search of money, hubcaps, a stereo, his tech, his organs. He rubs his hands together, ignoring the gloves, which have slipped to the floor of the car.

He strains to hear her breathing. More often than not, when they aren't speaking on these missions, he isn't sure if he is connected to anyone at all.

Somewhere, a siren is wailing as an ambulance struggles through the check points to reach the injured.

"So, now we wait again." Her voice is smiling, returning to the easy banter they were enjoying earlier. "What a big surprise. I should get a reward for patience."

He takes a deep breath and lets it out slowly. Why is he doing this? Games are for children --

"That will be dinner," he says.

"I'm counting on it."

"Any preference?"

"Not unless you know a good place for schnitzel."

"I'll see what I can do." Though he currently has no intelligence on a local restaurant that meets with her request. "Still not interested in 'I-Spy', though, I take it?"

"No. How about...'Truth or Dare'?"

Levi knows that tapping his ear bud won't change what he just heard, but he's tempted.

"Excuse me?"

Ms. Showalter laughs and there is no more beautiful sound. It shakes the man he has become, the one who might make a good case for the role of the Tin Man. He isn't heartless, on the contrary, but he keeps it close, hidden. It used to be on his sleeve, but that location proved to be too vulnerable.

"You heard me. You need to relax, Levi, or are you too old for harmless games?"

Harmless. Right. The gauntlet has been thrown at his feet. He knows he can ignore it, but he chooses not to. When has he ever declined to rise to a challenge? He adjusts his position in the seat and checks his wrist: the cuff reads 10:45 PM.

"Not too old," he murmurs. "Just not sure if you want to do this."

"Nothing else to do," she says. "Waiting, remember? Boredom, remember? C'mon, it's going be fun, Levi. Trust me."

He checks the ear bud anyway, just in case it's broken or this is a dream and he'll snap back to reality. He considers looking in the back seat to see if he's missed the candid camera, but he refrains. Ridiculous. Allen Funt has been dead for decades.

"What's it going to be?"

Her voice is seductive, amused, and curious. He reminds himself he's only human. Levi glances in the rear-view mirror, sunglasses in place despite the darkness. Who will he be tonight? Soldier or man?

"We don't have an umpire," he says, remembering some of the rules from when he was a kid. "Or a six-sided die."

"So we improvise."

"Difficult to do the dares," he points out, not trying to be awkward, just establishing the options.

He can hear leather slide against leather: a shrug. "We'll think of something. We're adults, Levi. Go with it."

Is she being coy? He isn't sure.

"Play fair. Play hard. Nobody hurt."

"Deal."

How does he get himself into these situations? He looks at his wrist again. Maybe the time will pass more quickly if he isn't thinking about it. He wishes he'd grabbed something from the mess of take-out before they'd left his motel room so he could eat in the car.

Not that there was much left after Ms. Showalter raided it…

"Who goes first?"

"I thought of it, so I go first."

He notes the emphasis on 'I' and wonders: What is this all about? "Oh-kay…"

"Okay." Ms. Showalter hesitates. Is this making her nervous? "'Truth or Dare', Levi?"

"Truth." Easy. One word. Done. Her turn.

"Boxers or briefs?"

His brain seizes briefly, not anticipating such an intimate, yet fairly mundane, question. He actually needs a few seconds to find his voice and answer. "Boxers."

He can imagine her nodding. "Thought so. Your turn."

She thought so? She's actually wondered what type of underwear he uses? Could this day get any stranger? Then he realizes he needs to ask her something and he isn't ready. Damn. "Uh…"

"Are you telling me you don't have anything you want to know?"

There are plenty of things he'd like to know about Charlotte Showalter, including who decided to give her such a tongue-twisting name. He purses his lips in thought and visualizes the gauntlet. "'Truth or Dare', Ms. Showalter?" He doesn't use her first name. That's an option for people who know her better than he does.

"Dare."

Figures. In the middle of a job, his partner has given him permission to tell her to do something potentially outrageous. He sighs. Wonders if they'd even be having this conversation if they weren't two city blocks and five stories apart.

He'll think about that one later.

"Dare?" he asks.

"Fine with me."

She sounds pleased with herself. I'll get you…

"Sing."

She makes a noise that could be a poorly stifled laugh or a cry of despair. That or she's choking. "What?"

He smiles. "Sing, Ms. Showalter. You know what that means, right?" She doesn't interrupt him so he presses onward. "Sing anything you want."

"Anything I want, right," she mutters. What irks her the most -- having to sing or having to sing for him? He may never know.

"Whenever you're ready."

Silence. "Are you sure you don't want to pick something else?"

"Like what?"

"Anything."

"I doubt you can remove your bra while still wearing your leather top," he says, surprised to have spoken those words, but they're out now: how very high school. He'll brood about that later, too. "And I wouldn't be able to see that you've done it even if you could, so you'd better sing."

After about thirty seconds, he checks his ear bud again to make certain it's working. Have his words stunned her into silence?

Then she clears her throat and starts to sing, very quietly.

She isn't designed for this and it shows. Genetically-engineered humans could easily possess a natural talent for singing -- but she doesn't. She isn't awful, but she'll never make it on Continental Idol. The melody is familiar, but the words are in German. He only knows a few words in German and none of them are used in polite company or when not in a fire fight.

"And don't ask me to do that again," she says firmly when the last note is complete.

"This is 'Truth or Dare', Ms. Showalter." Levi hopes his voice doesn't betray his pleasure: even off key, she still sang for him. "Anything goes."

He immediately knows he'll regret saying that.

"Real-ly?" She draws the word out, like it's coated in sin and twice as addictive. "Well, then. I think it's your turn again."

Levi swallows and wonders how much this is going to hurt.

"Truth or Dare, Levi?"
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