Author: Sunhawk
see part 1 for warnings, notes, disclaimer

Connections (cont)

It made me glance up at him, unsure of his reasoning. Was there something about the way I looked? The way I was acting? 'I'm all right,' I assured him, but the confusion must have been plain in my voice, because he shrugged.

'You just had a pretty rough couple of weeks.'

I snorted and shook my head, bending back to the task at hand. 'I'm hoping this will be a better year.'

He chuckled and seemed to drop the subject, giving me a once over where I sat on the fender and shook his head. 'Never understood how you could work like that,' he grumbled and straightened.

I gave him a wide grin. 'I'm still young, old man.'

He didn't take the bait, only laughing as he turned to go back to work.

The rest of the morning sped by, only because I didn't want it to.

When lunch time rolled around, I washed up a little more than normal before heading out, wishing I could have gotten rid of the butterflies in my stomach along with the grease. It was weird going around to get the car instead of just walking over to Andover like normal. I wondered if anybody noticed, but wasn't about to try explaining anything. If everything went the way Aleyah had said, I'd be back at work with time to spare. And I had little doubt that anything Aleyah Winner planned went off without a hitch. It wouldn't dare not.

The photographer's wasn't hard to find, probably less then ten minutes from the office, but in a neighborhood that positively made me cringe. Dear Lord, I felt funny even driving my little Chevy anywhere near the place.

I'm guessing the area was considered one of those 'historic' places. The damn streets were even brick instead of pavement, for a stretch of about five blocks. There were ornamental trees everywhere and flower boxes which would be overflowing in the spring. The Christmas lights and wreaths were still in place at this time of year though, and as I carefully parked on a side street, out of sight of anything, the word that came to mind was 'trendy'.

It fairly screamed Aleyah Winner's name.

The place was easy to find, right in the center of the cobbled area, and I wondered if Aleyah had picked it because of the location, or if she'd made the guy move here. The tasteful sign above the door simply said Jacques' in a script that somehow even felt French. I quailed as I pushed the door open and wondered what kind of impression it would make if I threw up in the middle of the guy's lobby.

It was probably the shock of looking around and finding myself not in a lobby that stifled the urge. For about ten seconds, I was convinced that I'd accidentally walked into somebody's living room, and I froze, preparing to retreat as fast as my legs would carry me.

But then Aleyah appeared and all thought fled. Not just thoughts of being in the wrong place, but all thought. The woman is just a freakin' force of nature. And she had that damn dog with her, following at her heel like its nose was tied to her shoe.

'There you are, darling!' she called as she came sailing into the room, waving me to follow her without preamble. 'We don't want to keep Jacques waiting!'

She chattered at me as we went down the hall, questions I wasn't meant to answer, comments I wasn't meant to have an opinion about. Just Aleyah filling the place with noise until we entered into the afore-mentioned Jacques' domain. She segued right from asking if I'd had trouble finding the place to introductions. Introductions of the Aleyah type. 'Jacques, this is Duo. Now tell me... the red or the black?'

The man in question glanced up at us from making some adjustment to his camera, seeming totally nonplussed with the woman. He gave me a smile of greeting and then a once over that was more like twice, and left me feeling like he'd stripped me and felt me up. 'Oh, the black, Cherie,' he said with a heavy French accent. 'With the leather.'

'Pardon me?' I managed, remembering my resolve to not just stutter at the woman; she enjoyed it too damn much.

They shared an amused little laugh and Aleyah took my arm as Jacques went back to his adjustments. 'I can't possibly have your portrait done in that,' she informed me, dismissing my clothes with a disdainful little sniff, and led me off in an entirely new direction, dog still in tow.

I followed her into a room that was obviously supposed to be a dressing room, but was bigger than Heero's and my guest room. It had better décor too. There was a bench with several sacks sitting on it, and Aleyah went straight to them, obviously searching for something. Leaving me standing in the middle of the room to gawk around like a tourist in the big city for the first time. It was a beautiful room, but left me feeling like I shouldn't touch anything. I had a hunch that there wasn't a piece of furniture in the place that I could have paid for with less than a half dozen pay checks.

Cocotte and I shared a look and I couldn't help thinking that the dog seemed more at home in place than I did.

'Ah!' Aleyah finally declared in triumph and turned toward me with several articles of clothing, all black, draped over her arm. 'Hold still, pet,' I was instructed and I had a horrible moment of fearing that she intended to dress me herself. But she only held up first one and then another shirt to my chest, cocking her head and humming to herself as she decided just how she wanted me dressed.

My butterflies had morphed into something with a bit more attitude, and I'm sure the look on my face made it quite plain to her what I was starting to fear. Not that she tried to reassure me in any way; I think she was enjoying having me so far off kilter that I couldn't even think how to inquire just what in the hell she was doing. There were just too damn many questions running around in my head to settle on just one. Where the hell had these clothes come from, how had she determined what size I wore, had she actually bought the damn things just for me, she wasn't expecting me to keep the things after this photography thing was done, was she, and mostly? please God, she was planning on leaving the room before I actually had to change... wasn't she?

I was starting to feel like a nonentity. More like a doll, than a person, and maybe she sensed some of that, because she finally took pity on me, patting my arm and telling me, 'Don't fret, dear; you're going to do just fine.'

'This is just...' I managed. 'A bit more than I was expecting.'

'Just leave everything to Aleyah,' she told me with a strange little wink, and suddenly seemed to have made her choices, because she handed me several articles of clothing, returning the rest to the bench. 'Now then, pet,' she told me airily. 'Put that on and just open the door when you're finished. Dorleen will be right in.'

'Dorleen?' I parroted, and got my cheek patted for the effort.

'Make-up, dear,' I was told, and then Aleyah breezed out before I could sputter a reply to that. I suppose it was just as well, the best I could come up with was the rather overused, 'What?!' and it probably would have made her laugh at me again.

I was getting a little tired of being the woman's personal entertainment committee.

I looked at the clothes dangling from my arm, looked around the room, and couldn't find a place that I felt like I could sit my mechanic's ass down, so I changed just standing there. The new clothes I laid across a chair, and my own dirty clothes I piled on the floor on one of the empty sacks.

It was a pair of tailored black slacks that fit me like someone had measured me six ways to Sunday without my knowing it, and a black turtleneck that was made out of some sort of material I'd never felt before. Kind of like silk, only not, and it clung to me in a way that made me uncomfortable. Aleyah had not produced a pair of shoes, and the only thing I had were my grungy steel-toed work boots, which looked worse than ridiculous since they were tan, so I simply went in my stocking-feet. I assumed that the picture wasn't going to be full length. I had to prod myself with the reminder that I had to get back to work, before I was able to go open the damn door. I wanted nothing so much as I wanted to throw my own clothes back on and go running for the hills.

Not for the first time and not for the last, it crossed my mind to wonder just what in the hell I'd gotten myself into.

I'd barely touched the doorknob, when a petite little dark-haired woman, presumably the expected 'Dorleen' was upon me, Aleyah in tow.

'Oh, darling,' Aleyah gushed in her refined way, 'you look exquisite.'

'Just look at his bone structure!' the assumed Dorleen exclaimed and they both laughed in delight as my face turned beet red. Even the stupid dog looked amused.

Dorleen ushered me toward a side-door that proved to hide an elaborate bathroom roughly the size of Houston. There were more lights than used on the average Broadway stage and enough sinks that all three of us could have washed our hands at the same time without even touching elbows. I had always considered Quatre's bathrooms to be rather opulent, but I decided that day that the poor guy was actually pretty sedate in his décor.

There was also the biggest damn make-up case I'd ever seen and that was where I finally balked. 'Ok Aleyah, this is going just a little bit too far...'

It got me the strangest little smile I'd seen on her face yet. It was one I found a little scary. Dorleen just looked as though I'd insulted her professionally. Something was exchanged between the two of them in what I took to be rapid fire French, and they shared a laugh. The smattering of French that I know is better suited to back alleys and bars. I didn't understand a word of what was said.

I was back to feeling like that doll, because Dorleen proceeded to open her case just as though I'd never spoken.

'Don't fuss so, darling,' Aleyah soothed. 'You are so uptight! We just need to take a bit of the shine off that freshly scrubbed face.'

It threw me, that she had been able to tell that, and it bought them the two seconds it took for Dorleen to begin dusting powder across my skin. And at that point it didn't seem to be worth the effort of arguing further. Though I couldn't contain the heavy sigh.

In that moment I suspect that there wasn't a man alive who had ever gone head to head with Aleyah Winner and come out on top. Trying to go against what the woman wanted was akin to standing in front of an avalanche and screaming 'stop'. It just wasn't going to happen. I simply set my goal to getting back to work on time and let the rest of it go. Just went with the flow.

They didn't over do it, I don't think, or else Dorleen just worked very fast. I didn't bother trying to follow it. I was just suddenly very tired and beyond fighting them. What the hell difference was it going to make? Let them have their fucking picture and be damned to all of it. While Dorleen worked and Aleyah kibitzed, I pulled up a mental image of Allison's painting back in my studio and reminded myself why I was even there.

It had nothing to do with Aleyah, it had nothing to do with Jacques, it had nothing to do with Dorleen, and it certainly had nothing to do with me.

When they were done, Dorleen disappeared and I followed Aleyah back out to Jacques' studio, Cocotte dancing along at our heels. Lights had been turned on and the man in question was waiting with an air that made me feel like he didn't normally have to stand around that long. He gave me the once over again, running his eyes over me in a way that I suspect would have made Heero step between us. Maybe would even have made him growl.

Oddly... I would have liked that just then.

'Black was the perfect choice, Cherie,' he told Aleyah, just as though it had been her call, and she preened under his praise.

'What now?' I asked, cutting across their mutual admiration society and Jacques turned to look at me with a faint little frown.

'Now you do as I say and let Jacques make you beautiful,' he told me, his accent thick enough to cut with a knife.

I refrained from rolling my eyes, and just went to stand where he indicated with a flick of manicured fingers.

Dorleen reappeared, carrying something that Aleyah had obviously asked for and I found myself being handed a black leather jacket. It was covered in silver snaps and zippers and it made me blink. For a moment, the thing reminded me so much of the one I'd bought myself right after the war that I almost turned it over to check the lining, but as my fingers really registered what I was feeling, I knew from the quality of the leather that it was probably ten times as expensive as the one I'd owned back then.

But it still made me remember.

I shrugged into it with a vague, twisted sense of deja vu that really wasn't helping with my mood.

Jacques made a tsking sound at that point and gestured my way with those long fingers of his again. 'There is a... lump, my sweet,' he said to Aleyah. 'It will show.'

I looked to see where he was pointing and realized it was my cross under the turtleneck. The damn sweater clung so damn much, that the necklace was showing. I fumbled it out, ready to offer to take it off for the duration, when Jacques smiled widely.

'Perfect!' he crowed, and Dorleen, whose job description must be official fusser, came and arranged the thing on my chest just as though I wouldn't know how to do it myself.

After that it was something of a haze. I was posed like a damn mannequin; sitting, leaning, standing. Behind me, I heard backdrops come down and retract. All I could think about was getting out of the damn hot jacket and getting the hell back to work.

I might have known that Aleyah had told me whatever she'd needed to to get me to meet the appointment. Getting back to work in 'plenty of time' was hopeless before Jacques was half done.

I was to the point of telling them that I was damn well leaving, when Jacques informed the room in general that we only had 'one more' shot to take.

I was parked on a stool and it was fairly obvious that he was going for a close-up where most of the rest of the pictures had been half body shots. They sat me down, fussed with the jacket, the braid and the cross and then I was told to bring my right hand up to my face.

I balked. Ok, I'd balked before, but this time I flat refused. It was like I'd just reached my limit of things I could deal with. Kick me. Punch me. Spit on me. I'll roll with it. But apparently asking to photograph my scars was too much.

Aleyah looked annoyed, her face taking on that set that spoke to me of bodies of uncooperative people buried in her backyard. But Jacques, accent suddenly not so damn thick, quietly said, 'Cherie,' in a gently warning tone, and she backed down. Just like that.

I have to admit I was surprised to see it.

He turned back to me then and calmly gave me another set of instructions that had my hands where they belonged; out of frame. When that last shot was taken, he gave me a smile that seemed more genuine than the ones I'd been getting, and dismissed me.

I didn't wait to be shown back to the dressing room, fairly jogging there on my own. I left the new clothes lying folded on the bench and struggled back into my own clothes as fast as I could. I did take the time to use the well appointed bathroom to wash my face until 'well scrubbed' was an under-statement.

Like I'm going to walk into a garage full of mechanics with fucking make-up on my face.

I didn't wait to be shown the way out either, I knew the route now, and while I felt a little bit like a damn rabbit running for its bolt-hole, I really didn't care.

Aleyah caught me just as I hit the front door, and stopped me about the only way I think she could have at that point.

'Duo?'

Not 'dear', not 'darling', not 'pet'. My name. I had not been entirely convinced she knew it.

I stopped; hand on the knob to the front door.

'Yes?' I said quietly.

The fact that I didn't just run on out must have been enough for her, because the slight hesitation in her voice was gone before I was even sure I'd heard it, and she was all her usual airy self. 'The pictures are going to be wonderful, dear! Jacques was so pleased to work with you. I'm sure I'm going to have quite the time deciding which one to use.'

'Do you?' I asked, level-head trying to reassert itself over the rabbit, 'need me to do anything else?'

She laughed lightly, making me feel stupid somehow, though she seemed genuinely pleased with me and not really mocking. 'Just come up with my paintings, darling.'

I sighed, and fought the urge to run a hand through my hair. I was still feeling a bit touchy about those hands, and the one not engaged in trying to open the door, was currently stuffed in my jacket pocket. 'I've actually got something,' I told her. 'But I'm not sure...'

'Wonderful!' she said, cutting me off before I could finish. 'Shall we come out to your studio to collect them?'

It took me a moment to figure out she meant herself and the dog.

'Well... I'm not quite done with one of them,' I stammered, cursing myself, and lost to that need I seemed to have to fiddle with something. My hand came out of hiding and rubbed over the back of my neck.

'Something fresh for the opening?' she questioned, though her voice was suddenly distracted, and before I quite knew what she was doing, she'd caught my hand in hers, before I could get it tucked away again.

I blushed darkly, but made myself hold still while she looked.

'You have strong hands,' she suddenly told me, looking up at me, but not immediately letting go. 'I see no reason to hide them.'

My brain registered that in the conversational court, it was my turn twice over, but I couldn't think what to say to either remark and just stared at her. She dropped my hand with an enigmatic little smile and said, 'I should like to see these paintings of yours. I'll be out on Friday,' and she smiled a bit more. 'After work... of course.'

'O-of course,' I said and she turned and walked away, so I did too.

If a leprechaun had popped up at that point and offered me the chance to go back in time, undoing that phone call to Trowa that had started the art ball rolling somewhat out of control down my hill, and had only asked my right arm in exchange for this favor? I'm not at all sure I would have said no.

I am not overly fond of humiliation. I have never dealt with it well, and this whole situation was just one damn bit of embarrassment after another. I don't like not having a clear path. I don't like not knowing exactly what is expected of me, or what I should be doing. It smacks of being out of control, which rather pushes a great deal of my buttons.

I spent the drive back to work wondering if I would ever get it all figured out. Wondering if I would ever lose the feeling that I was being highly entertaining to a whole lot of people. Not to even mention the dog.

I was late, of course, and despite my fervent prayers, that fact did not go unnoticed by Griff who informed the majority of the northern hemisphere, at his usual volume, 'Maxwell! You're late!'

'Sorry!' I called, heading for my tool box and trying not to make eye contact. 'I'll work over to make it up!'

Griff has been a little more... attentive to his mechanics since the day he'd damn near lost one under an engine block, and I'd passed out on him. He gets twitchy when things aren't going exactly by the numbers, so I got to see God ignore the second part of my plea, as my boss made his way across the bay toward me.

I managed to stop with just the heavy sigh, keeping the curse words behind my teeth.

'Don't huff at me, kid,' he grumbled as he drew near, making me cringe. I will never get used to the man's uncanny sense of hearing. 'You don't have to make up a lousy half an hour... you never take a whole damn lunch hour anyway.'

I blinked at him and said, 'Thanks, boss-man. I was just trying to run some errands and wasn't counting on how long it would take.'

He shrugged, the subject obviously already forgotten, but continued to stand there looking at me. 'You doin' ok?'

'Huh?' I said brightly, wondering what in the hell had brought this on.

'You look...' he told me, cocking his head and looking me over. 'A hell of a lot like you did the day you tried to give me a heart attack.'

Somewhere behind me, somebody snickered and Griff cast a glare that way that only made a second voice laugh at the plight of the first offender.

'I'm ok,' I told him while he wasn't actually looking at me.

It was pretty damned uncomfortable while we just stared at each other for a minute and then he growled, 'See you don't do anything that'll give me more gray hairs.'

'I'll, uh, do my best,' I managed and he finally turned and walked away.

I'm pretty sure the guy deliberately never does what you think he's going to, just to make people crazy.

I turned back to my tool box, only to find that the first snickerer had been Giles and he was still there, grinning at me widely.

'What the hell was that all about?' I asked him, since he obviously wasn't going to go away.

'Who knows?' he grinned. 'Maybe he just figured that with your run of luck lately, you'd gone and got hit by a truck or something.'

I snorted, leafing through my work orders, looking for something interesting enough to keep my mind occupied through the afternoon. 'I've been told my luck has become 'legendarily bad'.'

He laughed, planting a hand on his hip and shaking his head at me. 'Well, you've managed to give the whole garage something to talk about once or twice now.'

I glanced up from the papers in my hand and gave him a look that was supposed to quail his humor, but only ended up making him grin. 'I'm so glad I'm able to entertain you guys,' I drawled, and he laughed again. I went back to my work orders, but he just kept standing there. Like he wanted something, but couldn't quite figure out how to ask.

'Hey Duo,' he suddenly blurted. 'You know... Yuy's a pretty good guy.'

I forgot all about work orders, and looked up at him, totally baffled about what he was going on about. 'What?' I asked, blinking stupidly.

Giles ducked his head and rubbed at the back of his neck. Looking at the floor, I suspect, to hide the color rising to his face. I wondered suddenly if it was a nervous habit he'd unconsciously picked up from me, if it was the other way around, or if we'd developed it independently. 'I just... well, he's pretty well liked around here... I mean...' I thought the guy was going to rupture something, and it suddenly dawned on me what in the hell we were talking about.

The rumor mill had finally gotten around to knocking right the fuck on my door.

'Chang's a pretty good guy, too,' I told him, a little colder than I'd intended, but it served to let him know I knew exactly what we were discussing.

'Oh,' he said, and the blush escalated. Too late, I realized what that had sounded like, and I out-did his damn blush by a couple hundred watts.

'Look, Giles,' I told him, struggling to keep my bad mood from sliding over into 'pissed off'. 'Not that my home life is anybody's God damn business, but Wufei did not get his black eye from Heero. It had nothing to do with my relationship. Wufei is Heero's partner and a good friend of mine... I'd appreciate it if he stopped getting the cold shoulder for something he didn't fucking do in the first place.'

I don't get irritated enough to get in people's faces very often. I'd be willing to bet it hadn't happened on the job more than twice. So I'll be honest and admit that I fully expected Giles to tuck-tail and get out of my vicinity.

I didn't expect him to give me a lop-sided grin and ask, 'So just how did he get the black eye?'

You may insert my stupid carp imitation at that point, because I indulged in it right up until blurting, 'It was my fault.'

Well shit.

Giles' lop-sided grin grew until it lopped both ways. 'You did it?' he asked, sounding rather incredulous.

I took two deep breaths and put my work orders down to fumble the bottle of aspirin out of my tool box. 'Yeah,' I growled. 'We had a... misunderstanding and I lost my damn temper, ok?'

He snickered and I gaped at him. 'Hey,' he shrugged. 'It's just kinda funny; hot-shot elite agent getting cold-cocked by a mechanic.'

I stared at him for a second and had to wonder if I'd just made things better or worse. 'You have a seriously screwed up sense of humor,' I told him and he chuckled again, but finally turned and went back to work, curiosity apparently satisfied. I dry swallowed two aspirin and put the bottle back.

I could not get my head around the fact that one of my co-workers had just... that Giles had apparently...

I think I had just narrowly escaped a lecture about cheating on my boy-friend from a fellow mechanic. How totally screwed up was that?

I was so flustered, I just grabbed the top work order and ended up spending the next couple of hours trouble-shooting an electrical problem that ended up being a bad processor chip. Damn thing shouldn't have taken me half as long as it did, but I couldn't seem to concentrate for shit.

I couldn't decide if I wanted to think about my paintings, worry about Jock's wake, be embarrassed about the trip to the photographers, mortified about the conversation with Giles, or just freakin' miss Heero.

I couldn't get the memory of Aleyah holding my hand and looking at my scars out of my head. The woman was... damn hard to understand. Not as flighty as she pretended to be, but still irritating, none the less. There were a lot of layers there, and I wondered if anybody had ever gotten all the way to the bottom. I wondered if I'd even scratched the surface.

I looked ahead at my week and had to sigh thinking about it. I had Jock's funeral to deal with on Thursday. Aleyah was coming to my damn house on Friday to pick up paintings that didn't entirely exist yet. That only left me three days free to come up with everything she'd asked me for, and I hadn't even taken the time to think about the more current sketches she'd insisted on.

It made for a damn long afternoon, and I was beat by the time quitting time rolled around. I was pleased with myself that I had enough brain cells left to remember that I was low on soda and I stopped at the store on the way home. I had one for dinner, in company of a ration bar, and it felt like the good old days.

The phone rang while I was still eating and I frowned at it, it was a bit early for Heero, so I assumed it was Quatre or Trowa checking up on me. Teach me to get all needy in front of the Winner-hen.

I reluctantly went to answer it and was surprised to hear Heero's voice.

'Hello, love,' he said after I'd picked up, and managed to make it almost a caress.

'Hey!' I responded, and I'm sure he could hear the relief in my voice. 'You're early? is everything all right?'

'Just fine,' he assured me. 'In fact... I was calling to let you know we're going to be wrapping up here probably sometime tomorrow, and we're planning on coming home. We can do some of the paperwork from there before we have to go back out for... well, we'll talk about that when I get home.'

'God!' I blurted. 'You mean it? When do you think you'll be in?'

'Probably sometime Wednesday,' he said, and I could tell he'd caught the edge to my voice. 'Is... everything all right, Duo?'

I hesitated on asking what I wanted to know, afraid that he'd change his plans to accommodate me. The case, and what he was doing, were far too important for me to muck with it for the sake of a little moral support. 'How long do you think you'll be home?' I asked instead, hedging around the issue.

'A few days, at least,' he said, starting to sound a little concerned. 'What is it, love? What's wrong?'

I sighed and regretted it; it always sounds so loud over the phone. 'I... have something I have to do Thursday night, and it would be... nice if you could maybe go with me...'

'Anything you want,' he told me. 'You know that. What is it... something to do with the gallery?'

'Uh, no,' I had to say, sounding a bit wan even to my own ears. 'A funeral... sort of thing.'

There was a moment's silence on the line while he digested that, and he finally asked, pushing past all the obvious questions, 'Duo... are you all right?'

I answered the obvious question to avoid the one he'd actually asked. 'Do you remember that guy from McMurphy's? The one with the gun?'

He managed not to snort at me, but it was there in the tone of his voice. 'Of course.'

'Well,' I sighed and thought about taking the phone to the living room where I could sit down, but was afraid of losing another night falling asleep there. 'He... passed away. There's going to be a kind of... wake, and I probably ought to go.'

God, hadn't that sounded pathetic. Could I have been any more obvious about the fact that I didn't want to go? Made me feel like a real shit; Jock hadn't called a lot of people 'friend', but I was probably on that short list. And here I didn't even want to go to his send off.

'I'll be there,' he promised, and there was a quality to his voice that told me how much he wanted to come and hold me. It helped at the same time it made me feel guilty for worrying him.

I took a firmer grip on my mood and my voice and told him warmly. 'Only if it doesn't interfere with the investigation. If you're going to be here anyway, I'd love to have you go with me, but if not... don't worry about it. It's not that big a deal. I mean...'

'I know,' he said, and really did know somehow, what I was trying to say.

'Enough of that then,' I replied, making a serious effort to lighten up. 'Tell me what you can about your super secret investigation. Tease me with just enough information to drive me crazy.'

The chuckle he gave me was... very forced. 'More interviews tomorrow, followed by an afternoon of digging through old files. We're... going up to the records center at the Romefeller archives. I want a look at Gray and Hill's military history.'

'But,' I stammered, blinking at the kitchen wall. 'Those records were sealed after the war. You can't...'

'I can now,' he said, his voice an almost feral growl, and I had to wonder what strings he'd pulled, what favors he'd called in to get that kind of clearance.

It took me a second to think past the part where Heero wasn't within a hundred miles of where I'd thought he was, to the other part. 'Heero... you shouldn't be telling me this kind of stuff over the phone.'


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