Where Your Book Begins

Fandom: 9-1-1
Warnings: Permanent injury to main character. Mentions of natural disaster. Beta read by Grammarly.
Word count: 5272
Relationship: Gen (no pairing)

Summary: Buck’s leg will never be the same again after being crushed by a firetruck. While struggling with his injury and losing his job as a firefighter, Buck throws himself into a project for Christopher. The project will take his life in a direction he never could have dreamed off.

Author’s note: Part of the Big Moxie 2022 challenge. This is my entry for quarter 1 – canon divergence.
I am aware that Buck’s journey to his new career might be a bit too easy compared to the real world. However, I think it fits with the normal TV procedural world where DNA evidence comes back in a day and huge injuries have no consequences other than a few weeks of healing time.
Also, a few hours after posting this, I did a tiny edit to fix a minor mistake. So if you read it again and think there’s something a little bit different in one sentence, you would be correct.

Buck cursed as his leg buckled beneath him, making him fall. He barely managed to control the fall enough to land back on the bed he’d just gotten up from. After taking a moment to breathe through the pain, he tried standing up for a second time, using his cane this time. He hated using it, but he needed to pee badly enough that he didn’t have a choice. He made it to the bathroom without any incident this time.

Just as he was contemplating if he’d take a shower as well now that he was in the bathroom, or if he’d skip it and go back to bed as he’d done the last two days, he heard his front door open.

“Buck, you here?”


A few quick footsteps up the stairs and his best friend appeared in the open bathroom door.

“Hey, you’re up already, good. Look, Christopher’s downstairs, settling in on the couch. I figured, once you’re ready and had breakfast, the two of you could do something fun. And don’t let him con you into feeding him breakfast again, he’s had some already.”

“Wait, what? I can’t watch him, Eddie!”

“Sure you can. You have before. And you’re healed enough. It’s time to quit moping and start living again. Let Chris cheer you up.”

“I am not moping.”

 “When’s the last time you left your apartment? Or even took a shower?” Eddie sighed. “Look, I get it, okay. You’re in pain, and that’s not going to go away, ever. You lost your job because of it. It sucks, I get that. But there’s a boy downstairs who misses you. Spend some time with him, please?”

“Using your kid like that should be illegal,” Buck groused, but he already knew he’d give in the moment Eddie mentioned Christopher missing him.

Eddie, seeing he’d won, graciously retreated while he was ahead. He bounced back down the stairs, said goodbye to Chris, and shouted up to Buck that he would pick Christopher up after dinner before he was out the door. Buck was glad Chris wouldn’t spend the night yet, he still had nightmares about being stuck under the firetruck that woke him up screaming. Not every night, but he didn’t want to run the risk of Chris overhearing one of them.

“Chris, I have to take a shower first, you okay to watch tv until I’m done?” Buck shouted down.


A quick shower and a slow descent down the stairs later, Buck had an excited Christopher in his arms.

“I missed you Bucky,” he said.

“I missed you too, buddy.”

“Can we have pancakes?”

“I thought you had breakfast already,” Buck said with a grin.

“Yeah…but that doesn’t mean I can’t have some pancakes for second breakfast.”

Buck laughed. “I see you’ve watched the Lord of the Rings movies again.”

And then, just because it went exactly against what Eddie had said, he agreed to make pancakes for both of them.


Buck had managed to divert Christopher’s attention away from his wish to go to the pier without too much trouble by citing Eddie would be sad to be left out of such an adventure. In truth, Buck wasn’t too sure about his own ability to walk the distances required on the pier and was loathe to try it with Chris by his side. Not only did he not want the boy to see him in pain, but he also didn’t want to get stuck on the pier either because he couldn’t make it a step further or because Chris couldn’t. Before his injury, Buck would just plan to carry Chris if need be, but those days were over.

Instead, the two had spent the morning at the mall, having fun at the arcade. Buck managed to get several breaks where he could sit down while Chris played a game and was, for once, diligent in using his cane. He hated to admit it, but his doctor, physical therapist, sister and Eddie had been right that using the cane helped a lot.

“So, what do you want to do after lunch?” Buck asked, while studiously ignoring Christopher stealing one of his fries.

“Can we go to the bookstore?”


Buck knew he’d get conned into buying Chris a new book, but he didn’t mind. Once they were done with lunch, they made their way over to the bookstore. From the twinges in his leg, Buck knew it’d be the last stop before they’d have to make their way home.

Inside the store, Buck left Christ to browse by himself. He positioned himself in such a way he could still keep an eye on the boy without giving him the idea he was being watched over. He aimlessly leafed through a book without really taking in what it was about, as Chris looked through the children’s section with a distinct bounce to his step. Buck smiled, loving the way Chris was so into books. Both Eddie and he were all too willing to indulge the boy in his love for books, and with the rate Chris went through books, it was a good thing for their wallets that he also had a library card.

Buck’s phone buzzed with an incoming text message. He grabbed his phone and saw it was from Eddie. With a smile he opened it, expecting it to be a message to check in with him. Instead, it had two terse sentences. Working the tsunami, don’t know when we’ll be off shift. Can you keep Christopher longer? Buck automatically texted back an agreement, before he went and looked online for news on a tsunami. It didn’t take long, as it was making headlines. A feeling of dread swept over him as he read about the tsunami that had hit LA without any warning. He clicked on one of the articles.

He dropped his phone as he had to grab the shelf next to him quickly as a wave of panic washed over him halfway through the first paragraph. The place where the tsunami had hit land was the pier Chris had wanted to go to. Buck’s other hand clenched around his cane, as he kept his left grasping the shelf. That could have been us, was all that was going through his head. He knew how little chance there’d be for him – even when he was completely healthy and at the top of his fitness level – to survive a tsunami. Let alone Christopher and him, with a bum leg. Yet his leg was also the reason they hadn’t been on that pier. It was the first time ever he was grateful to be injured.

He took a few deep breaths and pulled himself together. He grabbed his phone from the floor and had to use the shelves to pull himself up this time. Pain shot through his leg, but he was used to ignoring it until it died down a bit. His gaze sought out Christopher, who was still browsing through the books. He needed to tell him his father wouldn’t be back before dinner. In fact, Eddie might not even make it back before breakfast. It would mean explaining at least a little bit about the tsunami, and Buck wasn’t sure how Chris would react to that. He decided that since the bookstore was their last stop anyway, he’d wait until they were back at his apartment before telling Christopher.

Buck tried to go back to his browsing but found himself watching Christopher more closely than usual. He noticed that while Christopher looked through the books, nothing seemed to really grab him. Or at least, he didn’t have his normal small stack of maybe-books, which he’d then go through again to pick the one he’d want to take home with him. The bounce he’d started out with had slowly disappeared as well.

Buck made his way over to where Christopher was now looking through the young adult novels.

“Hey buddy, nothing catching your eyes?”


“I’m sure there’s at least one interesting book here in the store,” Buck said.

Christopher let out a dejected sigh. “Yeah, but not what I’m looking for.”

“Well, what are you looking for? Maybe we can find it together.”

“I want a book with someone like me in it. There’s a couple of books with kids in a wheelchair, but nothing with someone like me.”

The earnest wish, coupled with Chris looking at Buck like he could magic up such a book out of nowhere, tore at Buck’s heart.

“That’s a fairly specific type of book. I think we’d be better off looking online for something like that. Why don’t you pick out something else in the meantime, and I’ll take a look online once we’re back home.”

With the assurance that Buck would help, Chris perked up and soon had a book picked out. It was another non-fiction book about space, which looked to be an obsession that was here to stay for a while, unlike ancient Egypt, polar bears and medieval knights. Those had all been the main source of interest for a few weeks at most, while space had been Christopher’s go-to topic for months now.

Back in Buck’s apartment, he sat down next to Christopher on the couch.

“Hey, buddy, your dad texted me earlier. He’s going to be caught up at work until really late, so what do you say about having a slumber party here?”

Chris looked at Buck, weighing his words.

“Did dad get hurt?” he asked.

“No, he didn’t,” Buck immediately reassured him. “There was a tsunami, which is a really, really big wave, and it means a lot of people need help. So, your dad and the rest of the 118 are out there, helping as many people as they can. But there are so many people that need help that your dad won’t be done until way after your bedtime.”

“Oh, that’s all right then,” Chris said. “Dad needs to be out there helping people.”

“Yeah, he’s good at that.”

“Does that mean we can eat pizza for dinner?” Chris asked.

Buck laughed. “Nice try, buddy. But you already got a second breakfast of pancakes. We’ll go with the lasagna I’ve got in the freezer.”

Chris pouted a little bit, but he soon forgot it as Buck diverted him to his new book. While Chris dived into his book about Mars, Buck grabbed his laptop to look for the type of book Chris wanted. He found a few, though most of them were for a younger audience than Chris. Still, he saved all the results, and when even his Google skills, honed by years of research spirals, couldn’t find any new books, he showed his results to Christopher. Chris leaned into Buck’s side and gave a deep sigh when he saw the results.

“All right, I know it’s not all great,” Buck said, “but it’s not all bad either. Sure, these three are for kids way younger than you. But these two are pretty good.”

“Yeah, but they’re about a kid with CP.”

“Now you’re confusing me, I thought that’s what you were looking for?”

Christopher shook his head. “No, I want a regular book, just with someone with CP in it. Not a book that’s about the CP. These books are all about learning to live with the limits of CP. My grandparents even read me that one.” Chris pointed at one of the picture books Buck had found. “But I know what it’s like to live with CP. I just…sometimes want to see someone like me in a book or a movie.”

Buck sighed and hugged Chris. “I get it, superman. I’m sorry I couldn’t find something like that for you.”

“Not your fault,” Chris said.

It still felt like a failure to Buck.


Eddie used his key to come in at four in the morning. He was being quiet, but Buck was still up. Buck was sitting in a small circle of light made by a lamp he had moved from the side table to the kitchen table.

“Jesus, Buck, you didn’t have to give him your bed. He’d have been fine on the couch for an evening. Besides, don’t you have an air mattress?”

“I couldn’t sleep,” Buck said.

“Too much pain?” Eddie asked, looking concerned.

Buck shook his head. “No, I…Eddie, he wanted to go to the pier today. I told him we had to wait for you to come with us. If I hadn’t…we could have been on that pier today.”

Eddie’s face paled. A feat, considering how pale and drawn the man had already looked.


“I know,” he sighed. “I mean, it didn’t happen, obviously, but just the thought of it…” He shook his head in a vain attempt to get rid of the thought. “How are you doing? It can’t have been easy out there.”

Eddie shrugged. “I just did my job.”

“I’m not buying what you’re selling, man,” Buck said. “I know what the job can be like after a big disaster.”

Eddie slumped against the counter. Buck went to stand next to him and bumped his shoulder against Eddie’s.

“It was horrible,” Eddie whispered. “I saw more bodies than live victims, and I know that many more people washed out to sea when the wave retreated. I just…felt so helpless. And lately, I’ve been feeling like I’m drowning, in everything. I just…don’t know anymore.”

Buck suspected the only reason he was getting so much out of Eddie right now was that he was so tired. Tomorrow morning, when the sun came up, Eddie would have retreated back inside the walls he’d put up after Shannon died. Buck had been trying to be there for Eddie, but his own injury not long after that made it impossible to focus on anything other than his own recovery. And maybe, if Buck was honest, he’d retreated behind his own walls instead of facing the fear that had become a reality – never being able to return to the 118.

“I, uh, I get what you mean about feeling like you’re drowning. Every day, there’s pain – and I know my stubbornness about using the cane and not resting enough is making it worse. My recovery is at a standstill, has been for a while. I just didn’t want to face it.”

“We make a sorry couple, don’t we?” Eddie asked.

“I’m going to start therapy,” Buck blurted out, as the idea came to him. “I mean, there’s been so much going on, one thing after another. I can’t find my way out alone and let’s be honest, you can’t keep throwing Christopher at me to get me out of bed.”

“Well, I could, but I agree that therapy might be a better solution in the long term,” Eddie said.

“Maybe you should consider it too.”

Eddie scrunched up his nose. “Therapy isn’t for me.”

“Have you ever tried?”

“They send someone to talk to me after I got injured in the army, but that guy was a dick.”

Buck snorted. “Well, you can’t dismiss therapy just because of one guy. I mean, my first foray didn’t go so well either, but I’m willing to take another shot at it. Unless, of course, you’re too chicken to try therapy for real?”

“I see what you’re doing there,” Eddie said.

“Is it working?”

With a sigh, Eddie capitulated. “Fine, but only if you go through with it as well.”

“I will,” Buck said softly. “I need to figure out my life.”

“Yeah, so do I.”


For the first time in a few weeks, Buck felt productive. With Eddie taking some extra shifts due to the tsunami, he’d looked after Christopher a few more times. Both Eddie and he had looked for a therapist. Buck had gone with Dr. Copeland, who he’d met with once already, while Eddie had found a former army member who was now working as a therapist to go to. Buck knew he’d have to find a job soon, but he wasn’t quite ready for that yet. What he had done, was started to write a story for Christopher about a kid with CP, which wasn’t about the CP. It was supposed to be a fun, little story, but it was quickly turning into a huge project. Buck had decided that if he was going to do this, he was going to do it well, which is what brought him to Karen’s door.

Buck and Karen were sitting at the kitchen table, Buck’s laptop in between them, when Hen returned from her grocery run. Buck knew that if she was off-shift on a Friday, she did the grocery shopping for that weekend after lunch. He had deliberately chosen to stop by when she would be out.

“Buck, how are you?” she asked, pulling him into a hug.

“I’m doing okay,” he said. “Working on a project I needed Karen’s help with.”

Buck could see the curiosity on Hen’s face, but he just shrugged with a smile. He wasn’t quite ready to share what he was planning. While he trusted Karen to keep his secret for now, even from Hen, he knew that if Hen knew, there was a good chance Chimney would know too. Once Chimney knew, everyone knew. Then, if this story didn’t work out, if he couldn’t get it on paper the way he wanted to, it would feel like he’d be letting everyone down.

“Oh, come on, don’t leave me in suspense.”

“Don’t be getting nosy now,” Karen admonished, as she closed the laptop. “You’ll find out eventually.”

Hen rolled her eyes. “Fine, I’ll leave it alone.”

The next hour was filled by catching up with Hen, and when Buck said goodbye Hen pulled him close in another hug.

“Don’t be a stranger,” she said.

He left with a smile on his face, a renewed hope that maybe losing his job didn’t mean losing most of his family, and a document filled with Karen’s knowledge as well as several names and email addresses of people that could help him answer questions she couldn’t.

Back home, Buck went back to the draft of his story. He had a good starting scene. Everything after that was very bare-bones, mostly events lined out in quick, short paragraphs that read more like summaries than a good story because he’d figured out he needed more details than he had. Which had led to a research binge and a facts file that was about fifty pages. But now, after talking through some things with Karen, the story was flowing again.

Over the next three weeks, he brought Sean, a pre-teen with CP who was the son of a single father who worked for the Space Rescue Force, SRF for short, to life with his writing. The boy and his father lived in a Mars colony, in one of the five huge domed cities on the surface of the red planet. A female, pansexual governor ruled the colony. A little café on the main street was the favorite spot of Sean and his father for a lazy breakfast or an indulgent lunch when his dad was free. It had a boisterous, gentle-hearted proprietor who flirted shamelessly with Sean’s dad but became flustered when the man flirted back. He had a best friend in Belina, a young, female Zerovonian, which was a reptilian species, because if Buck was going to set a story in space, there was going to be different species. Together, Sean and Belina were on a mission to convince Sean’s dad to get a dog, which suddenly became much more urgent when they found a stray puppy hiding in one of the cargo bays. The stakes were upped when the puppy turned out to be a Samoyed, a nearly extinct and expensive breed of dog, which had escaped from animal smugglers that had docked their spaceship for repairs. When the smugglers caught up with the puppy – named Ace by Sean and Belina – they unfortunately also caught up with Sean and Belina. They took the children, afraid of leaving witnesses but not wanting to kill them, as well as the puppy. It ended with the children managing to send a message to Sean’s dad, and the SRF – a combination between police, EMS and firefighters, but in space – came out in force to rescue the kids. And of course, Sean got the keep the puppy in the end.

After he’d finished the story, Buck felt empty, like he’d poured his all in the story and now there was nothing left. He was pretty sure he was supposed to feel proud, but he was just too wrung out for that.

Buck ended up on Eddie’s couch. Christopher had long since gone to bed by the time he arrived, so it was just the two of them.

“I haven’t seen you around much, lately,” Eddie said.

“What do you mean? I was here three days ago for pizza and a movie.”

“Yeah, you’re there when it’s Christopher asking you to come over. But this, just the two of us, that’s been a while.”

Buck grimaced because now that he thought about it, Eddie was right. “Sorry, I’ve been working on a project for Christopher’s birthday.”

“That’s still six weeks from now,” Eddie said with a snort. Then, after a pause, he groaned. “Please promise me you’re not going to give him some insanely expensive gift, please?”

“I promise, Eddie. I’d never go above the budget you set for his birthday presents without discussing it with you. It didn’t cost much at all, except for some time putting it together.”

“Now you’ve got me curious.”

Buck just grinned and took another sip of his coffee. Eddie rolled his eyes.

“Fine, be mysterious. I’ll find out eventually.”

“Yup, just after Christopher unpacks his present.”


Buck had arrived early to help Eddie set up the party for Christopher, and had brought the story he’d written – printed by the local copy shop on nice paper and bound with a harder cover that had the title, a copyright-free picture of Mars and his name as the author on it. Editing the story had taken more time than Buck had expected, and doing any kind of self-published book would have taken too long. So simple it was. Buck wasn’t worried about that, as it was the story itself that was the gift. That didn’t mean he didn’t have a nice Lego set in his car as a backup gift if Christopher ended up hating it.

“Hey, do you mind if I give Christopher his gift before everyone gets here?” Buck asked Eddie.

“You can,” Eddie said, “if you’re that impatient to give it.”

Buck scrunched his nose. “More like worried that he won’t like it.”

“Whatever it is, I’m sure he’ll love it because it’s from you.”

Buck hoped so. Either way, Eddie didn’t give him time to second guess himself more, as he called out to Christopher to join them in the living room.

Once the boy had made himself comfortable on the couch between Buck and Eddie, Buck gave him the wrapped package. With an approving nod from Eddie, Christopher started tearing the paper off. Eddie leaned in as well, clearly curious.

“The Puppy Mission, a Sean’s Space Adventure novel, by Evan Buckley,” Christopher read from the cover page, awe in his voice. “You wrote me a book?”

“Yes, I did. Remember that you were looking for a book that had someone with CP as the main character, but with a story that wasn’t about the CP? When we couldn’t find one, I decided to write one for you.”

With an excited gasp, Christopher opened up the book and started reading the first page.

“Look, Dad, Sean’s got something to help him walk, just like me. But he doesn’t have crutches, but robotic braces on his legs. And he lives on Mars! This is so cool.”

Suddenly, Buck was squeezed in a tight hug by Christopher. Over Christopher’s head, Buck could see Eddie stroking his fingers over the page with a reverence usually only reserved for things Christopher had made him.

“Can you read to me?” Christopher asked as he pulled back slightly from the hug.

“Only until the first guest arrives,” Buck said, glad Christopher seemed to like it.

“And after they leave, right?”

“I’m sure I can manage to read to you a bit before bedtime,” Buck said.

Christopher cheered and pressed the book in Buck’s hands.

By the time Hen and Karen arrived with Denny, Christopher wasn’t the only one hooked on the story, but so was Eddie.

“Damn, Buck, you wrote an amazing story,” Eddie said, once the party was well underway. “I can’t believe you put so much work into this for Christopher.”

Just as he had when everyone else had found out and exclaimed about the story, Buck blushed.

“It was a good distraction,” Buck said. “Starting at the call center was a good move for me, taking 9-1-1 calls still allows me to help people, but you know it’s not exactly been an easy transition for me. It’s not exactly my dream job like firefighting was and learning how to work with Maddie without letting our relationship as siblings interfere was also a challenge. This story, though, was both an escape and something I enjoyed doing a lot.”

“You know Christopher is probably going to be through this book before the week is out, right? And then go straight into asking for a new story about Sean.”

“Yeah, I might have created a bit of a monster with this,” Buck said with a grin. “Good thing I’ve got a couple more ideas then.”

Eddie raised one brow. “You started another story already, didn’t you?”

Buck could feel his cheeks heat with another blush. “Guilty as charged. Sean and Belina’s quest for a secret clubhouse gets them on the trail of election sabotage. I’m struggling a little bit, though, because I want the adventure to feel authentic for a pair of ten-year-olds, without making the adults utterly incompetent or worse.”

“You thought about getting the book published?” Eddie asked.

“Nah, it’s not that good.”

“Buck, what you’ve read to Christopher so far has been amazing. It is that good. Besides, Christopher can’t be the only kid out there that wants a story like this, where he can see himself in the main character and still have a good story with adventure.”

“You actually think I could get it published?” Buck asked.

“Can’t hurt to try, right? Worst they can do is say no.”

“I guess.”

A war cry from Harry had both Eddie and Buck, and every other parent in the yard, turn towards where the kids were playing. Both men relaxed when it became clear it was just a war reenactment with toy soldiers and not an actual fight. Still, Eddie made his way over to the boys to temper their excitement a bit.

The conversation was pushed to the back of Buck’s mind until a week later. Christopher had finished the book and written a string of lengthy text to Buck on his father’s phone. There were many exclamation marks in it, underscoring how awesome he thought it was. What hit Buck the most was the last text, in which Christopher said he wished other kids with CP had their own Buck to write such stories for them. Later that evening, Buck sent the book to an agent.


 “Can you believe Christopher is turning eleven already in a week? Ugh, where did the time go?”

“You don’t have to tell me,” Eddie said. “The other day, he decided to read to me at bedtime, instead of the other way around.”

Buck laughed. “Oh, please tell me it was one of my books.”

“Of course it was,” Eddie said. “He’s restarted the series again, in anticipation of your latest release.”

Buck still felt the flush of pride, even after almost two and a half years since officially publishing his first book. Melinda, the agent he’d sent his first Sean’s Space Adventure book to had loved it. Their working relationship was still going strong, with four books in the series published now and a fifth one in the final editing stages.

“He’ll probably read any book you publish, even when he’s a teenager and beyond.”

“Or, you know, he could read a young adult book. Like, a book about the deaf daughter of a Space Rescue Force member and her friends, who all happen to have parents in the SRF.”

It took a moment for the quarter to drop, but then Eddie gasped. “You’re writing a non-Sean book?”

Buck nodded. “I wanted to branch out into the young adult genre. Kids at that age need some more diverse reading than there usually is too. It’s going to be set in a different Mars city than the one Sean lives in. I wanted to set it in the same universe because I’ve developed it so much, but the themes I’m going to be exploring will be a bit more mature, and therefore slightly darker. I just…couldn’t bear to think about them touching Sean or the place he lives in. So, a different city it was.”

“Did you already discuss it with Melinda?”

“Yeah, I pitched the idea before starting to write it, and she was all for it. Though she did warn me she was far too busy to be answering author questions about her experiences as a deaf person. I promised her I’m not going to bug her about that, Alissa already promised to help.”

Buck had moved apartments over two years ago, to somewhere without stairs. His neighbor, Alissa, was twenty years older and deaf, but an amazing baker and an absolute hoot to talk to. They’d become fast friends and she’d been very enthusiastic about answering all the questions Buck had had so far.

“Where are you going to get the time to write it? Are you going to stop writing new Sean books?”

“No, I’ve already talked to Sue. I’m going to be cutting back my working hours from four days to two days a week at the call center. I don’t want to quit entirely, because I do like helping people, but writing is where my passion lies.”

“Is that going to be financially doable?” Eddie asked. “I mean, I know your books sell well, but authors usually don’t make big money. Are they doing that well?”

“Ah, well, you can’t tell Christopher, or anyone else for that matter. It would ruin his birthday surprise,” Buck said, leaning closer to Eddie. He waited until Eddie had promised, then, after a final check Christopher hadn’t somehow woken up and walked into the living room, he whispered, “A big movie studio just got the green light to make a Sean’s Space Adventure movie from my first book. They bought the option earlier this year, but I didn’t want to jinx anything. That money, plus the royalties from my books, could tidy me over without the need for a job at all.”

“That’s amazing,” Eddie breathed, excitement in his voice.

“Yeah, it is,” Buck said, matching his grin to the big one on Eddie’s face. His life had taken an interesting, and at times difficult, turn. He’d never thought he’d find anything he’d love as much as firefighting, and that being content with his life was the highest thing he could achieve after losing it. But writing easily matched his love for firefighting these days, he still had his friends from the 118 in his life, and he was happy. Life truly was amazing.

EAD: Kindness and Compassion 2

Fandom: The Witcher
Warnings: Canon-typical dark backstory. Mention of attempted genocide. Mentions OC character deaths, due to monsters, including children.
Word count: 1311
Relationship(s): no pairing in this bit, but overall story will be probably be Eskel/Jaskier

Author’s Note: This scene is set directly after EAD: Kindness and Compassion.

About this AU: This is a major AU that was inspired by inexplicifics’s The Accidental Warlord and His Pack series. In this series, the Witchers united under Geralt’s banner to fight against human monsters too. But even in this series, even though attitudes are getting better, many people still regard Witchers as monsters. In canon, there were pogroms that decimated Witcher schools. I asked myself the question, what would happen if, in response to an attempted pogrom, the Witcher schools recalled all witchers and closed their gates. No more hunting monsters for you unless you treat us well and pay us even better. This fic shows a world where the Witchers did just that, hundreds of years ago.

Note: This is part of EAD (see here for more info). All of these snippets and scenes are read at your own risk. Please don’t ask for more or bug me about them.

Eskel had installed Jaskier next to Aubry at one of the long tables in the dining hall for breakfast. It was a fairly informal affair, with food set up on several long tables against one of the walls. Witchers were walking in and out, grabbing food, eating it – sometimes in the hall, sometimes they took it with them – and Jaskier could find no pattern to who sat where. In the light of day and with a truly marvelous night’s sleep behind him, Jaskier could see that there were Witchers from different schools present in the hall. Aside from Aubry and Eskel’s wolf medallion, he’d also spotted witchers with cat medallions, viper medallions and one with a bear medallion. Jaskier suspected that if he stayed long enough, he’d be able to see witchers from every school here. The rumors that the witcher schools had all converged in Kaer Morhen was true then. He wondered if the other witcher keeps were as mixed as Kaer Morhen or if it was because the Witcher Council was housed here.

Eskel came to get him once Jaskier had finished his breakfast.

“I’ll take you to the Council,” Eskel said. “You can tell them what you came here for.”

Just as the night before, Eskel led Jaskier through the halls of the keep. It was not as far a walk as the night before, and awake and in the daylight Jaskier gets the chance to look around. The keep was mostly bare, none of the ostentatiousness Jaskier was used to seeing in the homes of the powerful and wealthy. There were some tapestries hung on the walls, but Jaskier suspected it was more to keep drafts out than it was to show off wealth.

Eskel showed Jasper into a room that was clearly a meeting room. The legendary White Wolf, Geralt of Rivia, current head of the Council, was there, seated in the middle of a longer table. Yennefer of Vengerberg, one of the most famous sorceresses of all times and arguably the most powerful one alive these days, was at his left. There were three other witchers, all of them gone grey with age, and Jaskier wondered how old a witcher needed to be to start going grey. All three of them had different medallions, one a bear, another a griffin and the last one wore a cat medallion. Two sat on the left of Yennefer, filling out that part of the table. On the White Wolf’s right there was an empty chair, then the cat witcher, and on the far end was another sorceress that Jaskier couldn’t put a name to.

Eskel, much to Jaskier’s surprise, left him standing alone before the table as he took the empty seat to the White Wolf’s right. Jaskier swallowed, realizing that as genial as Eskel had been, it had probably been, as least in part, a ploy to get information out of him. It probably would have worked too, Jaskier wasn’t as guarded with his tongue when he was tired as he had learned he should be.

“Jaskier the bard, why have you come to Kaer Morhen?” the White Wolf asked.

“Right, well, I should probably properly introduce myself first,” Jaskier said. “Fifteen years ago, I was known as Jaskier, the travelling bard. These days I am more commonly known as Julian Alfred Pankratz, Viscount de Lettenhove. I am here to humbly beg for your aid.”

Jaskier felt the mood of room shift as he introduced himself as a nobleman. The White Wolf narrowed his eyes and Eskel glowered at him.

“You’ve sent us five requests already, Viscount,” Yennefer of Vengerberg sneered. “What makes you think we’d be any more inclined to give you a positive answer if you ask us again?”

Jaskier lifted his head high and looked her straight in the eye. “It is easy to write down a negative answer on a piece of parchment. Can you still refuse my request to help if I stand here, if you have to look me in the eye, while I list off all the names of the victims of whatever monster is terrorizing my people?”

“I’ll assure you, I have no trouble doing that,” she said coldly.

Jaskier shifted his eyes to the White Wolf. “The first victim was Amelia, she was ten years old. The second victim was Hanna, she was also ten years old. The two girls were killed at the same time, while playing in a field near the village they lived in. The third victim was Hugo Cieplak, a trader. The fourth victim was Ludwik, a three-year-old boy, and his mother Renata, who was pregnant at the time, was the fifth victim.”

The White Wold held up his hand and Jaskier stopped reciting names. He was fully prepared to keep going at the first sign of a negative answer to his request, though.

“How many?” the White Wolf asked. “How many victims in total?”

“When I first wrote to you, a year ago, forty-five. When I left six weeks ago, seventy-eight. About half of the victims are children. My monster-hunter squad is certain it’s the same monster, but it’s nothing they have encountered before and no one has any idea what it could be.”

Geralts eyes closed, but Jaskier thought he’d seen a flash of regret in his eyes. He then turned his head towards the witcher with the griffin medallion.

“Why haven’t we agreed to take this job?” the White Wolf asked.

“We don’t even read the requests from Kerack,” the witcher admitted, causing Jaskier’s heart to lurch in his chest. “The whole kingdom is on the black list, has been since king Radomir. They get an automatic refusal.”

“That was a hundred and fifty years ago!” Jaskier blurted out. “No one alive today was alive back then. But my people are dying now!”

“But it was your king that tried to kill an entire people. We witchers vowed never to help anyone from that kingdom as punishment,” the witcher with the cat medallion said.

“I understand that what happened was terrible. But none of my people deserve to suffer because of the actions of a man that was dead before they were ever born,” Jaskier said. “Please, I beg of you, help my people. I have tried everything. My monster-hunter squads tried to find and defeat it. I hired mercenaries from all over. I had scholars comb the libraries of five different countries in hopes of finding at least an answer to what kind of creature is doing this. None of it has even brough me closer to a solution. You are my last hope.”

The White Wolf looked at his advisors. Eskel shrugged, as did Yennefer of Vengerberg. The three older witchers all shook their heads. Jaskier held his breath, hoping against all hope that the answer would be positive, but he wasn’t surprised when the White Wolf also shook his head.

“I understand your plight and you have my sympathies. But if I were to make an exception for you, where would it stop? How many victims would be enough for us to make an exception next time? We cannot waver in this, for our refusal to help any in that kingdom protect all others in all kingdoms. We cannot endanger them by deviating from our punishment.”

Jaskier closed his eyes in defeat, willing the tears burning in his eyes not to fall.

“We will send you down the mountain with an escort,” the White Wolf said.

Was that a courtesy, so he wouldn’t fall to his death on the way down? Or was it to make sure he left? Either way, the result was the same. He was going back home empty-handed.

“I’ll escort him down,” Eskel said.

From the looks the council send him, they were as surprised by the offer as Jaskier was.

EAD: Unconditional

Fandom: Harry Potter
Warnings: Parent losing custody of a child (for no good reason). Major & minor character death (off-screen). Non-con potion use, including love potions (before the story starts, only briefly referenced). General assholery from the British wizarding world.
Word count: 2810
Relationship(s): no pairing in this bit, but overall story will be Harry/Draco

Author’s Note: This is an AU set after HP and the Deathly Hallows, where Harry never married Ginny and Hermione never married Ron. I took a bit of inspiration from the premise of the Cursed Child (and the basic premise is all I know and wish to know about it). I also took a bit of inspiration from the movie Mrs. Doubtfire and the series The Nanny. Make of that combination what you will.

This scene is the start of the story.

Note: This is part of EAD (see here for more info). All of these snippets and scenes are read at your own risk. Please don’t ask for more or bug me about them.

Harry entered the Wizengamot chambers for the November session. It was only his second Wizengamot session, as he had taken his place on the Wizengamot in the September session, after claiming his Lordship the day he turned twenty-five. Family magic didn’t allow the claiming of the title by anyone under the age of twenty-five, which was why he was the first Lord Potter since the death of his grandfather. His own father hadn’t made it to twenty-five and thus had never been able to claim the Lordship. That still stung, because it meant that he had gotten an impression of every Potter Lord that had come before him, but no impression of the kind of man his father had been.

He took his seat amongst the rest of the Lords and Ladies of the Wizengamot, along with several of the so-called lower seats, reserved for elected officials. It was the British wizarding world’s nod towards equality, while it was still a very aristocratically ruled world. They were, in fact, still beholden to the queen in a way their Muggle counterparts weren’t, because they had split off from the Muggle world before the Magna Carta had been signed. Personally, Harry found it all very backwards, and he’d just as soon had been content to leave the title unclaimed and keep working for the ICW.

He had no real friends left in Britain, not after the souring of his relationship with the Weasleys after the whole potions plot thought up by Ginny and Percy had come to light. Hermione had left the British shores as well, first going to Australia to find her parents and when she’d restored their memories – much to their horror and anger – she’d fled to where Harry was training to become a War Mage for the ICW in Rome. She’s settled down there, happy to study at the International Academy of Higher Magics, if still a bit broken up over the ending of her relationship with Ron and permanent break from her parents. But when she’d heard Harry had no intentions of claiming his lordship, she’d found some of her old spark. She’d spent a week trying to convince him to take up the Potter Lordship – and the political power he could then wield in Britain – to pull “that backwards country into this century”. Truthfully, Harry had been convinced after their first conversation, when he’d seen the sparkle in Hermione’s eyes, the bright fire he remembered his best friend having in her youth rekindled with the idea of how she could reform Great Britain’s wizarding world with Harry’s help. But he’d held out for a bit, because he liked seeing her so passionate about it.

Last Wizengamot had centred on him taking up his mantle as Lord Potter, and after that he’d mostly watched and analysed everyone’s positions. And now Harry planned to join a few of the debates the Wizengamot would hold, to get a feeling of how his fellow members would react to him. Hermione was busy writing several laws and once he’d gotten his footing, they’d start with introducing the least controversial of them. Hermione had a whole time path mapped out for his political career and Harry was happy for her to do that. But he also knew, better than anyone, that something would come along to disrupt the plans. That was the story of his life, after all.

A few seats down from Harry, Neville had sat down. The two men nodded towards each other. Neville and Harry had reconnected after the last Wizengamot meeting where they’d both been first-timers. Harry thought he might actually have found someone who could be a real friend in Neville, who had done a brief stint as an auror after the war, but had retired to start his own herbology company after his marriage to Hannah Abbott. The two of them were expecting their first child.

The session started with Lord Tiberius Ogden calling everyone to order, having taken over the Chief Warlock duties that had once been Dumbledore’s. The first few points on the agenda were the normal, rather boring legislation cases. Then, Lord Ogden announced the next case.

“Next up, a custody hearing,” Lord Ogden said.

Harry sat up. The only custody cases that ever came before the full Wizengamot were those of the nobility. He looked around the room, trying to see if he could spot anyone missing that had kids. The Wizengamot meetings, while always well attended, usually had about a ten to twenty percent absent rate. Illness, other obligations, or sometimes just plain laziness kept Lords and Ladies from attending. On the top of his head, Harry counted about five missing Lords who had a minor child and three Ladies with a minor child. Still, he was shocked when a very pale Draco Malfoy stepped into the room, accompanied by his Law Wizard.

“The Ministry has requested the Wizengamot rule that Lord Draco Malfoy is relieved of all of his guardianship rights of his minor son, Scorpius Malfoy,” Lord Ogden read out, causing more than a few whispered conversations to break out in the Wizengamot. Lord Ogden banged his gavel to restore order. “We will hear from Miss Mulberry, the Undersecretary to the Minister, first.”

“Thank you, Chief Warlock,” Miss Mulberry said.

She was a small woman, the top of her head perhaps coming only to Harry’s chin if he were to stand next to her. Her ash-blond hair was done up in a tight, simple knot at the back of her head and she was wearing a subdued pale pink robe. She radiated sweetness and girlishness, for all that she was older than Harry. But Harry didn’t let her appearance fool him. No one made it to Undersecretary of the Ministry without a spine of steel and a lot of political cunning.

“I know this is an extraordinary case, but then the circumstances surrounding our request are extraordinary as well,” Miss Mulberry began. “Lucius Malfoy and his wife Narcissa were found to have tried to bring You-Know-Who back to life half a year ago using an illegally made, experimental time-turner. They died in the attempt.”

Harry remembered that, as he’d actually been banned by the ICW from the investigation. In his opinion, Lucius had been extremely stupid to try and bring that madman back, especially after he’d gotten off mostly scot-free. But then, he’d never understood why anyone would follow Voldemort.

“Six months before that, Astoria Malfoy died giving birth to her son, Scorpius. Although we are not entirely sure that story is true, as they might have killed her after she’d given her husband an heir and used her death to further their plans.”

Harry saw Draco try to react to that, only to be held back by his Law Wizard, who was whispering furiously in Draco’s ear.

“Although we could not prove Draco Malfoy’s role in this attempt to bring back a Dark Lord who terrorised our society twice over the last half-century, we do not feel that leaving poor little Scorpius to grow up in such a dark environment is the best for a child. The Malfoy family has almost irredeemably fallen into the dark, but we can still save this innocent little boy. Let him grow up in the light, so he can lift the Malfoy family up again after his dark predecessors are gone.”

Harry had to hand it to her, she’d played all sides remarkably well. Those who wanted to save a child from growing up in a dark environment and those who were all for the old traditions, who were reassured that Scorpius could pick up the mantle of Lord Malfoy after Draco’s death despite not growing up with him. Draco’s Law Wizard had now taken the floor, trying to convince the people in the audience that Draco had absolutely nothing to do with his parent’s plans, nor was he involved in anything dark. Unfortunately, Draco’s own past as a Death Eater and then his reclusiveness afterwards was now working against him. Harry honestly believed Draco had not known anything about his parent’s plans, especially since his Law Wizard offered to have Draco testify under veritaserum. But the mood in the Wizengamot had already turned against Draco, despite him being a Lord in his own right now that Lucius was dead. In fact, the debate, though there still needed to be a vote, was more about where to place Scorpion than if they should take him away. Draco, slumped in his chair, seemed to realize this as well. He looked like a defeated man and Harry felt a twinge of sympathy. This was not his childhood nemesis, or even the disillusioned, desperate Draco of the war. This was a man who had lost his wife and parents all within a year and was now faced with losing his son as well.

Before Harry had even consciously decided to interfere, he was already on his feet and being given the floor by the Chief Warlock.

“I am hearing a lot of debate as to where to place Scorpius Malfoy. However, I think, before we discuss that, we should hold a vote to see if we are indeed revoking Draco Malfoy’s rights as a parent.”

The Chief Warlock agreed and soon everyone cast their vote. Harry was glad the vote was anonymous, for he didn’t want anyone seeing him voting against revoking Draco’s rights. He knew his vote probably wouldn’t matter, but his conscience wouldn’t allow him to vote any other way. But that vote could work against the plan that was beginning to form in his mind. Harry wasn’t surprised when the vote was overwhelmingly in favour of removing Scorpius from Draco’s parental authority.

Harry immediately stood again after the vote and was once again granted the floor.

“Now that we have officially decided to remove Scorpius Malfoy from his father’s authority, I claim guardianship over him.”

That had Draco, who’d slumped down in his chair with his pureblood mask on, cracking though it was as the grief was visible on his face despite the stiff upper lip he was keeping, sit up straight and stare at Harry. His intense look was filled with hatred. Many in the Wizengamot were tittering over Harry’s claim.

“On what grounds are you claiming guardianship?” the Chief Warlock asked him.

“My grandmother was a Black, so was Scorpius’ grandmother. My godfather, in addition, was also a Black. On top of that, I am a Lord in my own right. So, I posit that I am the best person to teach Scorpius about his duties and family heritage. After all, the Blacks and Malfoys have produced plenty of upstanding witches and wizards, several members of the most recent generations notwithstanding. Furthermore, I dare anyone to find a lighter household than my own.” Harry knew no one would be able to, as his status as an icon for the Light was well cemented here in Britain. Not that he was as light as they believed him to be, he never had been, but that was neither here nor there. “As for anyone that wants a female influence, I can assure you that Hermione Granger, one of the most celebrated scholars ever to graduate from the International Academy of Magic, is my best friend and will be a huge presence in Scorpius’ life.”

Harry knew he had them. Every single point they could raise he’d already addressed. He was therefore not surprised that when it came to a vote on his proposal, the majority – even more than had voted for removing Scorpius from Draco’s custody – voted in favour of Harry being granted custody of Scorpius Malfoy. Draco left the room dejectedly, after another glance at Harry which were equal parts hatred and despair.

The rest of the Wizengamot meeting was a bit of a blur for Harry. It was a good thing he had an auto-quill set-up, or Hermione would skin him alive for not knowing what had been discussed.

After the meeting, Miss Mulberry pointed Harry towards an office where a social welfare worker was with Scorpius. As Harry approached the office, he found Draco pleading with the social worker to get inside and say goodbye to his son.

“Absolutely not, Lord Malfoy. You no longer have any rights to Scorpius, and as such I will not let you see him,” the woman said. “I can’t without approval of his new guardian.”

Harry suspected it had more to do with not trusting Draco not to grab Scorpius and make a break for it, than it had anything to do with not being able to give permission. Still, he could help with this.

“Mrs. Elms?” Harry asked, causing both Draco and the woman to look at him.

Draco clenched his fists and for a moment Harry worried that the man would actually try and hit him. But it seemed Draco had a lot more self-control than Harry would have had in this situation.

“Lord Potter, please come in and meet your new son,” Mrs. Elms said.

Harry saw Draco flinch at the way Mrs. Elms rubbed his loss in. Harry said nothing, just stepped inside with Mrs. Elms, who shut the door in Draco’s face from where the man was trying to get a glimpse of Scorpius. She led Harry over to the crib that held a cute, blond little boy who was keeping himself entertained with a cuddly dragon toy. Harry took him out of the crib and into his arms.

“Hello Scorpius, I’m Harry and I’ll be taking care of you from now on.”

“I’m so happy he will be going to a good home,” Mrs. Elms tittered. “There’s a small bag over there with the necessities for the first few days. You can also shrink the crib and take it with you. To make sure you don’t have to wade through the press, since we suspected they’d come after hearing Malfoy lost custody of his son, no matter who got custody instead, we made sure you can Floo home from here.”

“Thank you,” Harry said, although he didn’t mean a word of it. He found the woman cruel beyond belief in her attitude towards Draco. “When you leave, could you ask Lord Malfoy to come in. I want to ask him a few questions about Scorpius before I take the boy home with me.”

Mrs. Elms pursed her lips in obvious disapproval, but didn’t protest. She left and almost immediately after, Draco came in. He looked at Scorpius in Harry’s arms with absolute heartbreak in his eyes.

“Thank you for allowing me to say goodbye, Lord Potter,” Draco said, sounding like it pained him to say the words.

“I’m sorry, Draco,” Harry said, causing Draco to look shocked. “I did vote against this, but even then, I already knew it was useless. This was the best I could come up with.”

Draco stepped closer and ran a trembling hand through Scorpius’ hair, who reached out to his father and babbled at him, obviously happy to see him. The love Draco obviously had for his son made the situation even more cruel.

“I’m glad it’s you,” Draco said after a moment. “At least I know you’ll treat him right and won’t hold his parentage against him.”

“No, I would never,” Harry agreed. “But you know, I’m quite busy these days. Trying to get my estate in order, my political career, and I am still working for the ICW as well. I’m going to have to hire a permanent caregiver for him. Interested in the job?”

Draco’s head shot up from where he was gazing at Scorpius to Harry’s face so fast Harry’s neck ached from it. His eyes were wide and it took him three tries to get words out of his mouth.

“You’re serious? Potter, please, don’t joke about this,” he whispered hoarsely.

“Not kidding,” Harry said. “Come round later today and we’ll hash things out. Just, give it an hour or so. I need to explain this to Hermione first.”

Drao winced. “She’s probably not going to want me around.”

“Are you kidding me? She’s probably going to want to go to war with the Wizengamot for you. She’s going to hate this prejudiced decision even more than I do. Hell, the only reason she’s not going to skin me alive for stopping it someway is the fact that you’ll still be taking care of him.”

Draco blinked at him in surprise. “I will never understand that girl.”

Harry chuckled. “You and me both.”

“I should probably get going, to avoid anyone asking questions.”

Despite that, Draco stayed rooted to the spot. Harry, understanding Draco’s reluctance, didn’t push him. After another minute of Draco just staring at his son, he abruptly turned around and walked out of the room without looking back.

EAD: Coming Home 3

Fandom: The Hobbit
Warnings: Canon-typical violence.
Word count: 751
Pairing: no pairing in this bit, but overall story will be Thorin/Belladonna

Author’s Note: This is a scene from a story where Bilbo Baggins never existed, instead, Bungo Baggins and Belladonna Took had a daughter: Belladonna Baggins.

This scene is set after (though not directly after) EAD: Coming Home 2. Don’t read if it will bother you to skip some of the story. I’m only posting selected snippets, not whole parts of the story. Where EAD: Coming Home 2 takes place in chapter 2, this is currently the start of chapter 3.

Note: This is part of EAD (see here for more info). All of these snippets and scenes are read at your own risk. Please don’t ask for more or bug me about them.

Bella walked over the marketplace of Ered Luin, as she’d learned was the name of the Blue Mountain the dwarrow preferred. It was nothing like the marketplace of Hobbiton. While both marketplaces were bustling with people, Ered Luin’s marketplace was deep underground instead of out in the sun. Aside from that, there were far fewer wares displayed and no food was sold. Bella should know, she’d looked. The dwarves gave her far too few meals a day, but she didn’t dare ask for more. Buying some food herself seemed to be a hopeless endeavor, though. The closest thing she could find to a food stand was a stall selling tea. Something so ordinary, yet Bella needed to consider it a luxury right now. She had no idea how long she’d be able to enjoy the hospitality of the dwarrow, nor if the elves of Rivendell would welcome her to stay indefinitely. No, her coin should be spent on food, and food alone.

“Excuse me,” she said, drawing the attention of the dwarf behind the tea stall.

“Well, hello there,” the dwarf said. “Can I help you with anything?”

“I was wondering, is there a different part of the mountain where the food stalls are? Or perhaps a different market day for them?”

The dwarf behind the stall looked at her as if she was some mythical creature from times long past.

“There’s no food for sale,” the dwarf said slowly, as if he was chewing over his words three times before spitting them out. “That’s all taken care of centrally. But you should be getting a weekly allotment, even as a guest.”

The last came out sounding concerned, and Bella was quick to reassure the dwarf she was getting fed. “I’d just hoped to do some cooking myself,” she added.

“Well, you could talk to Lady Dís to change your allotment over from cooked dishes to raw materials. Not many single people choose that, though, as it’s harder to cook with a few items than get meals from the kitchen where they have a larger allotment to mix and match.”

Bella thanked the dwarf for his advice, though she didn’t see how she would ever approach this Lady Dís without sounding ungrateful. With nothing else to do here, Bella returned to her rooms. Perhaps she could write a letter to Lord Elrond asking if she could stay with him. If he said no, she’d have time to think of another option before travelling all the way to Rivendell.

She opened the door to her rooms and gasped. Her belongings were strewn around and the mattrass had been cut open, its stuffing ripped out. The jug of water that had been on the dresser had been overturned and Bella cried out in alarm as she saw her father’s book lying in a puddle of water. She raced towards it and pulled it out, but the damage had been done already. Part of the book was soaking wet.

Several guards, probably alerted by her cry, came barging into her room. It wasn’t long before Dwalin was there. The last time she’d seen him was when he’d introduced Ori to her, only two days ago. As Captain of the Guard, he was apparently in charge of the investigation.

“Are you allright?” he asked as he stepped into the room.

Bella, still on her knees and cradling her father’s book in her hands, looked up at him and burst out in tears.

“Get Oin!” Dwaling barked at one of the guards. He then knelt by Bella’s side. “Lass, are you bleeding?”

Bella shook her head as she tried to stem her tears. “No, I’m not hurt.”

“Then why are you crying?”

“This was one of the few things I had left of my father.”

She held out the book and Dwalin gently took it from her hands. “My brother’s a master scribe. I’ll ask him to copy it.”

Bella shook her head. “Thank you, but my father wrote that with his own hands, to record my mother’s travels. A copy won’t…” She let out another sob. First the house her father had built, as well as the furniture he’d lovingly created. Now this book, which combined the best of her father and her mother? Would this nightmare never end?

“Ah, lass, I’m sorry,” Dwalin whispered. “I promise, I’ll have the scribe guild look at it straight away. Perhaps they will be able to salvage it. It might not be as bad as it looks.”

EAD: Coming Home 2

Fandom: The Hobbit
Warnings: Canon-typical violence. Talk of possible famine.
Word count: 569
Relationship(s): no pairing in this bit, but overall story will be Thorin/Belladonna

Author’s Note: This is a scene from a story where Bilbo Baggins never existed, instead, Bungo Baggins and Belladonna Took had a daughter: Belladonna Baggins.

This scene is set after (though not directly after) EAD: Coming Home. Don’t read if it will bother you to skip some of the story. I’m only posting selected snippets, not whole parts of the story. Where EAD: Coming Home takes place in chapter 1, this is set in what is currently chapter 2.

Note: This is part of EAD (see here for more info). All of these snippets and scenes are read at your own risk. Please don’t ask for more or bug me about them.

Thorin was accosted by his nephews the moment he stepped into the royal apartments.

“Is it true, uncle?” Kili asked.

“Is a halfling really staying in the mountain?” Fili added.

Thorin frowned at them as he walked further into the room. “It’s Hobbit, boys, not halfling. That’s an insult and I won’t have you use it. But yes, miss Baggins, who is a Hobbit, is indeed staying in the mountain for now.”

Dís, who had come in with dinner, snorted.

“I’d heard that rumor, but since it didn’t sound like you at all, dismissed it. What on Earth possessed you to let an outsider stay here?”

Thorin frowned. “She was banished from her homeland, possibly due to the actions of a dwarf living here. I could not in good conscience let her wander around without investigating.”

Dís’ lips pursed, but she nodded. It was clear she still didn’t quite agree with his decision, but she would abide by his ruling. The four of them ate dinner, with Fili and Kili doing most of the talking. It didn’t escape Thorin’s notice that while both of the boys had full plates of dinner, Dís and his plates had far less food on them. It worried him, that his sister was already starting to ration their food, with winter still some time away.

It wasn’t until his nephews were in bed that Thorin sat Dís down for a talk.

“How bad is it?”

“Whatever are you talking about, Thorin?”

“Don’t try an deflect, namadith, I am not a fool. I saw that we had smaller portions than the boys.”

Dís squeezed her eyes shut and turned her head away. Thorin let her have this moment to get her emotions under control; she never did like for anyone to see her lose her composure. When she turned back to him, she looked like her usual calm self again.

“We are already having to decrease the allotted food each person gets weekly. The summer harvest was poor and the price for our goods in the cities of men has dropped. It’s a bad combination, Thorin. With our current food stores, I fear we won’t last throughout the winter, not even if we start harsher rationing now.”

Thorin knew harsher rationing wasn’t possible right now. Too many men needed all of their strength to work the mines. The rest of the men were working in the forges or at other crafts, frantically trying to make enough coin so their people would survive. They were caught between a mountain and a ravine, with nowhere to go.

“I’ll increase my hours in the forge,” he said. “Put everyone who is not working a physically tasking job on harsher rationing now – except for the children.”

“And the Hobbit?” Dís asked.

Thorin now understood Dís’ reluctance at housing the Hobbit. As a guest, Belladonna should be given plenty. But the reality was that they couldn’t afford to feed another mouth.

“Put me on harsher rations, let her keep a full allotment,” Thorin said.

“No, nadad, you need your strength. Especially if you’re going to be working in the forge more.”

Thorin gently headbutted his sister. “I will be fine, I promise. But she is my guest and as such, it is my responsibility to care for her. Once the investigation is done, she will be on her way. With any luck, that will be well before winter sets in.”

Part 7: Aliens Ahoy

Summary: Tony heads to New Mexico for a bit of lighthearted, alien fun.
Word count: 1,187

See series page for full information about pairings/warnings/etc.

Roswell was full of weird alien stuff. They really went all in with the whole Roswell alien myth and making plenty of money from the tourists by doing so. Many of them were walking around dressed like aliens. Some were pretty cool-looking, but most of them had on costumes Tony wouldn’t want to be seen in even for a bet.

The pinnacle of weirdness for Tony was the UFO McDonalds. He was faintly horrified, but that didn’t stop him from eating there and sending Abby lots of pictures of his visit. The cheesier the better. It made Abby laugh and Tony himself felt more cheerful as well. Coming to Roswell had definitely been a good idea after the trouble in Texas.

While Tony hadn’t originally planned to visit New Mexico, he figured he might as well see if there was anything nearby he wanted to see. It wasn’t as if he didn’t have all the time in the world for his trip. He decided that Albuquerque sounded like a good next stop. At least it would give a slightly less crazy look at New Mexico than Roswell did.

Albuquerque was a lot more peaceful than Roswell, as there were definitely less tourists. While Tony had loved the cheesiness of Roswell and its aliens, he decided that this was definitely more his style. He made a mental note to try and avoid tourist traps in the future, unless there was something he really, desperately wanted to see.

On his second day in Albuquerque, Tony was just leaving his hotel when he was approached by a man. He was a rough-looking man, stocky but well-muscled, and the look in his eyes was piercing as he took in Tony from top to bottom. Tony tensed up, wishing he had his gun.

“Anthony DiNozzo?” the man asked.

“Who is asking?”

“I’m agent Billy Cooper, with the fugitive recovery department of the FBI. I’d like to ask you some questions about your encounters with the Winchesters.”

“I’d like to see your badge and identification, please.”

The man before him produced his badge and identification, and Tony spend some time studying them. He could tell they were real, but didn’t want to make it easy on the guy.

“All right, fine, what do you want to know?”

“As you might have heard, we lost track of the Winchesters around Austin. I’m mainly interested in hearing if you might have noticed any clues as to where the Winchester could be heading now,” Cooper said. “I’ve read through the reports filed on your encounters with the Winchesters, but we both know not everything gets written down. Anything you can give me to help me find them would be appreciated.”

“Well, I know Dean Winchester really loves his car, so I doubt he’ll leave it behind if he doesn’t have to,” Tony said after thinking about it for a bit. “There’s a love of pies and fast food there, so roadside diners are a good location to spread their picture. Other than that, I don’t know. It’s not like I had much interaction with them.”

Cooper sighed, but accepted Tony’s answer. “Thanks for your time.”

“I’d say you’re welcome, but really, this whole thing is just ruining my road-trip,” Tony said. “I came here to get away from the shitshow that was Texas, not have it follow me around.”

“Well, I’ll leave you alone now,” Cooper said. “Have fun playing tourist.”

Tony was practically glued to the window of the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway cart as it rose up far above the ground, giving a glorious panoramic view of the area just outside of Albuquerque. After Cooper’s comment to have fun being a tourist, Tony had decided he was going to do just that. The Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway was one of the biggest tourist attractions in the area. It was also the best way for Tony to see the Sandia Mountains. He’d have loved to take some hikes, but his lungs and condition – while much better than they were at the beginning of his road trip – wouldn’t allow him to do that yet.

After fifteen minutes of enjoying the view of majestic rocky outcrops interspersed with green carpets of pine trees, they reached the top. Tony stepped out of the cart and was glad he’d pulled on his jacket before they reached the top, as it was a lot chillier up here. Tony spent some time on the viewing platform, but the wind that was blowing soon chilled him enough that he retreated to the restaurant. He’d never had dinner 10,300 feet above sea level before, but with the view he had it was definitely one of the more memorable experiences this road trip.

Tony had always had a weakness for zoos, so when his route had taken him through Colorado Springs, he’d stopped in town to visit the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. There he’d learned about the founder of the zoo, Spencer Penrose. That had brought him to the Penrose Heritage Museum, where the history of the region was told through the personal belongings of Spencer Penrose and his wife Julie.

The carriages were interesting, he guessed, but Tony didn’t see why they had to display so many of them. A couple would certainly have been enough for Tony. He looked at a few of them, but didn’t linger long. On the other hand, the fifteen racecars that competed on Pike’s Peak held his interest a whole lot more. Tony was looking at oldest race car when he saw a fairly unusual couple inspecting the newest race car. There was a blond woman explaining the working of the car to her companion. She was clearly passionate and knowledgeable about engines.

“I still do not understand why anyone would race in these cars, Major Carter.”

The man that had spoken was an interesting character to say the least. Large, dark skinned, with a fighter’s build that the beanie hat on his head did nothing to detract from. Considering he’d called his companion a major, the logical conclusion would be to assume he was a member of the military as well. But his speech pattern was too stilted, he was clearly not a native English speaker, and his honest confusion over something most Americans understood – though some didn’t see the appeal – made it much less likely.

Major Carter was now explaining Nascar racing to the man, who, from his questions, seemed like he’d never heard of them before. Tony let his imagination run wild for a moment, that this was a man from some warrior tribe in some far-off place that was helping the US military with some top-secret project. He almost snorted out loud at the ridiculousness of his own imagination. It was far more likely that the man was working as some sort of scientist or IT-specialist for a private company that was working for the DoD, and had met the Major through that. It was more plausible that this was a date than what Tony’s imagination had come up with. Shaking his head at his own silliness, Tony walked on, leaving the couple behind.

Prompts used:

53. #860 (word) Bet
54. #690 (character) Any fandom character not listed – Billy Cooper (Numb3rs)
55. #906 (object) Badge
56. #1187 (song title) The Tourist ~ Radiohead
57. #606 (character) Sam Carter 58. #607 (character) T’ealc


Fandom: Harry Potter
Warnings: Major Character Death, Rape by Potion, Dark Themes, Hate Speech (against non-purebloods), Kidnapping, Reference to canon child abuse
Word count: 46,750
Relationship(s): Gen, Pre-Severus Snape/OMC

Summary: Harry Potter is over a hundred years old when he discovers he’s been manipulated and controlled all of his life. He sends a message back in time to Severus Snape, the only person who might be able to change the future. Severus, freed from Dumbledore’s influence and finally able to make his own choices, is now the one who must defeat the powerful and popular wizard to protect Lily’s ten-year-old son.

Author Note:

Thanks to Jilly James for being my alpha reader. Thanks to Vanessawolfie for all the beta reading help. And thanks to Keira Marcos for introducing the concept of dvergers to fandom. It is now firmly my headcanon!

Read the story on Quantum Bang

Part 6: Trouble in Texas

Summary: Tony proves he is still a trouble magnet while visiting Texas.
Word count: 2,610

See series page for full information about pairings/warnings/etc.

The Abby gossip channel was in full effect. Tony had exchanged several emails with her already and he’d told her his next destination was Houston, Texas. Surprisingly, the day after he’d told Abby he was going to Texas, he’d received an email from McGee. Probie had sent him a recommendation for a great restaurant.

The Italian restaurant in Houston McGee had advised had indeed been amazing, and Tony readily admitted to being a snob when it came to Italian cuisine. As a thank you, Tony had bought him a Bullet Space Pen, which could write basically everywhere, when he’d visited the Space Center. It had opened up communications between them that mostly involved Probie sending him recommendations to eat and Tony trying them out. So far, McGee had been right on the mark.

Tony had moved on from Houston to Austin. The city felt more laid-back to Tony than Houston had, but it was still very much Texas. It was hot, but Tony had always liked the heat better than the cold. Still, the air-conditioning in his car did get quite a bit of a workout.

Around lunchtime, Tony decided to check out one of the places on McGee’s list for Austin. There were five recommendations, each for a different cuisine. He’d already tried two of them, both just as great as the Italian place in Houston. The Mexican option sounded good right now, the idea of a quick but tasty taco for lunch was making Tony’s mouth water. Putting in the address in his GPS, it wasn’t even very far from where he was. That cinched it; he was having Mexican for lunch.

The Mexican place turned out to be a food truck with plenty of outdoor seating, thankfully most of it was in the shade this time of day. Tony had a hard time deciding what to choose and ended up ordering a barbacoa taco. As he made his way to one of the empty tables with his order, he took note of the people at the other tables. He considered it a point in the food truck’s favor that there were a lot of people in uniform. With just a quick look, Tony had spotted several cops, two EMTs and a firefighter, spread out over different tables. They would definitely be locals and if they thought this was a good place to eat, McGee had probably nailed it again.

Tony took a bite of his taco and nearly moaned. Flavor burst over his tongue and Tony was seriously contemplating replacing Italian with Mexican as his favorite food. The crazy thought that McGee and he could write a foodie travel guide together popped into his mind. McGee could do the recommendations, whether that was from very good use of the internet or personal experience Tony hadn’t figured out yet. Tony could travel around the country trying them all out and writing reviews. The idea amused him, but he also knew it would feel too frivolous to hold his attention too long.

The first half of his taco had been devoured quickly, and Tony deliberately slowed down for the second half to savor it a bit more. He took the time to indulge in people-watching while enjoying his food. His attention was caught by the cop and the firefighter a few tables over. At first glance, it looked like two professionals having lunch together. But there was something in the way they looked together that made Tony think it was more than that.

He kept watching, making sure to glance away often enough that it didn’t become creepy. Eventually, Tony saw it. That small, tiny moment that showed the two were far more to each other than just friends. The cop had a small smear of sauce on the corner of his mouth and the firefighter reached out and wiped it away with his thumb, lingering just a little bit. He got a warm look in return and a shared smile that showed without words how much love there was between the two. The moment was over in less than a minute, but it was powerful all the same. Tony vaguely felt like he’d seen something intensely private and focused back on his food. Any further moments between the couple would be their own.

Tony was distracted from his food by a loud shout from a man one table over. Tony wasn’t quite sure how, but the man had managed to set his lap on fire. He’d tried to give himself more room, but since it was a picnic table with a bench attached to it, all he’d done was sent himself falling backwards. He was on his back on the ground, his legs awkwardly stuck between the bench and the table.

Tony jumped up and in two big steps was next to the man. He grabbed the large coke from the table and dumped it on the man’s lap, dousing the fire. It didn’t stop the man’s shouts, as panic had definitely taken over.

“Sir, it’s all right, the fire’s out. Calm down.”

It was the firefighter that Tony had just watched, his cop partner keeping the crowd back.

With the arrival of the firefighter, Tony stepped back from the scene, not quite knowing what to do with himself. Clearly, the man had things under control. It wasn’t long before the EMTs that had been having lunch had given the victim first aid. He had been taken away by an ambulance, but it had looked like minimal damage. The crowd dispersed, going back to their own tables. Tony had as well, but where he’d been relaxed before, he was now feeling restless.

“Quick thinking, thanks for the assist.”

Tony looked up to see the firefighter.

“Just did what seemed logical,” he said.

“Yeah, well, most people find fires a bit too hot to handle,” the firefighter said, which made Tony laugh. “Anyway, you did well. You’d make a good firefighter.”

Tony’s humor disappeared fast, the comment feeling like getting dunked in ice water.

“Ah, shit, sorry. Don’t know what it was I said, but I didn’t mean to drag up anything.”

Tony shook his head. “No, it’s fine.”

The firefighter looked ready to argue that, but Tony was saved by the cop calling out.

“TK, we’ve got to go. I need to drop you off at the station before going back on duty.”

TK looked over at Tony, clearly debating if he should just leave. Tony waved him off.

“Go, save lives.”

With a last look that made him think TK saw much more than Tony was comfortable with, the firefighter left. Tony, good mood ruined for the moment, didn’t linger long. He’d planned to go to a museum that afternoon, but he wasn’t feeling it anymore. Maybe he’d go and see if he could catch a good movie in one of the movie theaters.

Tony had seen and done a lot. You never knew what kind of situation you’d end up in as a street cop, and later on in his career he’d been undercover with the mob. His NCIS career had only upped the crazy, culminating in catching the plague. But today’s experience was new and Tony wished he could skip it altogether.

The tornado warning had come in the early hours of the morning. The storm had come in yesterday and Tony had spent most of the day lounging on his hotel bed, watching tv. He’d only braved the weather to go to the nearest restaurant for food. But he hadn’t expected the tornado warning, even though Austin was known for being in a tornado area.

He’d been roused by the hotel staff and told to head to the basement, where the tornado protocol – and why did he want to visit a place that had an actual tornado protocol again? – dictated everyone took shelter. Tony wasn’t panicking, but there were plenty of people around him who were. Still, if given the choice, Tony would pick going undercover with the mob over this. At least then he’d have a hell of a lot more control of the situation.

The basement room Tony was in was fairly large and he estimated there were about fifty people inside, about forty of them guests and the rest hotel staff. Everyone was anxious. Though the sounds of the storm didn’t penetrate down here, everyone was aware of the incoming tornado. Would it hit the hotel or would its path take it to a different part of the city?

The lights flickered and one woman let out a scream. One of the hotel staff immediately went over to calm her down, but it was no use. Several people started crying. Tony, usually able to deal with people in all sorts of emotional states – theirs and his own – couldn’t find his usual humor. He could only wait for the storm to pass and hope they’d all be standing at the end of it.

They ended up being lucky. The tornado didn’t come close to the hotel – though close really was relative here – and all the hotel guests could safely return to their rooms when the danger had passed. Tony, not quite comfortable with how he’d sort of frozen down in the basement, didn’t go back to his room. Instead, he went out on the streets, seeing if he could help. He had the knowledge to be of use, between knowing how to keep order and his first aid knowledge, and he was going to use it.

Out on the streets, the damage of the storm was evident. It hadn’t cleared up yet, so even though the danger of the tornado has passed, the storm was still causing trouble. Tony had asked the hotel staff about the area the tornado had ravaged, and it was not that far from where they were. Only a few streets over, Tony found the site of a car accident.

The drivers of the cars in the accident had extricated themselves and already called for help, but since they were both mobile and in no immediate danger, they weren’t at the top of the list of people to help. Tony sat both of them down on the sidewalk under an awning to keep them out of the rain and started assessing them for injuries.

Aside from bruises, the drivers seemed fine. Tony, despite his first aid training that he kept up religiously, wasn’t qualified to truly clear them. Both drivers were still slightly in shock from seeing the tornado land practically in front of them – hence the sudden breaking and crash – and Tony’s help had calmed them down.

A cop car stopped and the officer got out. Tony approached him

“Sir, are you all right? How is everyone else?”

Tony recognized the cop as the one who’d been with the firefighter the day before. “I wasn’t in the crash. The two drivers are fine, as far as I can tell. I’d feel better when a medical professional takes a look at them, though,” he said.

He saw the recognition on the cop, but the man ignored him for the moment to check on the two drivers. He gently reassured them an ambulance was coming. It wasn’t until the ambulance arrived to check them over that he turned to Tony.

“Why?” he asked Tony.

“Why what?”

“Why are you out here, helping?”

Tony shrugged. “I was a cop. I’ve got first aid training. It felt like the thing to do.”

“Well, thank you. But maybe get inside somewhere? I wouldn’t want you to need help yourself because you’re out here without the right gear and back-up.”

Tony appreciated he wasn’t called a civilian, but he realized the cop was right. With a sigh, he nodded and turned back towards his hotel.

Tony had waited until the storm had passed, then set out for Dallas. The setting of both the 1950 movie with Gary Cooper as well as of the iconic series that were both named after the city. Tony couldn’t wait to explore some of it.

In his haste to get out of Austin, where he’d attracted way too much trouble, Tony had skipped breakfast. So, he stopped in a small town on the road to Dallas for breakfast in a diner. It wasn’t anything special, but it was filling and the coffee was good. Good coffee made up for a lot, in Tony’s opinion.

Tony walked out of the diner with another cup of coffee in a to-go mug. It really was excellent coffee. Out on the parking lot, Tony spotted a beautiful black 1967 Chevrolet Impala. He’d always been a lover of classic cars and couldn’t help but go over to take a closer look.

“Don’t touch my baby!”

Tony was glad he was facing away from the man who was apparently the owner of the car because it gave him a little bit of time to get his facial expression under control. By the time he turned around, he gave no sign at all of having recognized Dean Winchester’s voice. He stood next to his brother, who looked slightly apologetic for Dean’s barked warning. Both men had to-go mugs in their hand as well. It seemed like the coffee really was amazing here.

“Just admiring,” Tony said. He gave the men a friendly nod of his head, then made his way to his own car. Only the racing of his heart gave evidence of the danger he knew himself to be in.

It was getting ridiculous to the point of making him feel stupid. How could he run into the Winchesters yet again? Was he really that much of a trouble magnet? Whatever the reason may be, Tony needed to get out of here before the Winchesters remembered him from the diner in Florida.

Without any rush, Tony pulled out of the parking lot. Instead of turning back onto the highway, he went deeper into the town, but not before he’d noted that the Winchester pulled onto the highway in the direction of Austin. He knew he’d made a good call getting away from that place.

Once he was no longer visible from the highway Tony pulled the car to the side of the road. It was time to call Gibbs again.

“Gibbs, I’ve got another sighting of the Winchesters. They’re in a black 1967 Chevrolet Impala heading in the direction of Austin on the I-35.”

“How sure are you?” Gibbs asked.

“Gibbs, listen. I know seeing is not always believing, but I swear I just saw the Winchesters again. I even talked to Dean, just a few sentences, mind, but still.”

“I’ll call in the cavalry,” Gibbs said with a sigh.

Tony snorted. “Do you think they’ll be able to catch them and hold them this time?”

“Who knows,” Gibbs said. “But at least we did our job.”

He hung up. Tony shook his head with a sigh. Gibbs would never change.

By the time Tony drove into Dallas close to two hours later, he was feeling decidedly moody. He’d gotten a text message from Gibbs telling him the Winchesters had escaped the police, again. It was just one more thing to add on top of the pile of crap from the last few days. Tony had originally planned to stop in Dallas and spend some time here, but all of a sudden, he was just completely done with this state. Instead of stopping, Tony kept driving. He turned towards the New Mexico state line. He wasn’t quite sure where to go next, but Roswell was an option. At the very least, a visit there would be entertaining, which was exactly what he needed right now.

Prompts used:

38. #895 (object) Pen/Pencil/Marker/Colored Pencil
39. #969 (food) Mexican
40. #57 (fandom) Any fandom (9-1-1 Lone Star)
41. #297 (pairing) Any pairing from any fandom including cross fandom pairings (Carlos/TK from 9-1-1 Lone Star)
42. #1082 (theme/scenario) Dumping food onto someone’s lap/head
43. #1163 (phrase) Too hot to handle
44. #1383 (natural disaster) Tornado
45. #1390 (feelings/emotions) Anxious
46. #776 (word) Knowledge
47. #1462 (dialogue) “Why?” // “Why what?”
48. #1011 (location) Texas
49. #954 (drink) Coffee
50. #742 (word) Stupid/Stupidity
51. #1309 (quote) Seeing is not always believing. ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.
52. #1393 (feelings/emotions) Moody

Part 5: Loving Louisiana

Summary: Tony has fun in Louisiana.
Word count: 1,710

See series page for full information about pairings/warnings/etc.

Tony had known visiting New Orleans wouldn’t be without obligations. He’d been right about it too. Abby had given him a shopping list with the request to mail everything to her in one go to save on shipping costs, and of course she’d pay him back for it. It included the addresses where he could get everything, which had a disturbing number of places with the words voodoo or black magic in them. Another obligation was the invitation from Dwayne Pride. Of course, Tony could say no. But knowing Dwayne, he’d probably seek Tony out then. Better to give in graciously.

Tony had agreed to meet Dwayne at his bar, which was decently busy for a Wednesday evening at eight. Dwayne was behind the bar and waved when he saw him. He spoke briefly with the other man behind the bar, before gesturing Tony to a table for two that had a handwritten reserved sign on it.

Tony reached the table before Dwayne and sat down. Dwayne joined him with two glasses and a very good bottle of Scotch.

“If I recall correctly, this is your preferred drink,” Dwayne said. “Unless you want something else?”

Tony smiled, appreciating the subtle way of asking if he was on any medicines that didn’t mix well with alcohol. Thankfully, he was medication-free, because Dwayne had indeed remembered his preferred Scotch.

“Nope, I’m good,” he said.

The two toasted with their scotch. Tony took a sip and smiled, enjoying the slight peppery taste that gave it a bit of a bite. He leaned back in his chair, appreciating the easy-going ambiance of the bar. Dwayne seemed content to sit together in silence, for now at least, and Tony felt a slight tension he’d carried with him into the bar drain away.

Tony decided that meeting Dwayne here had been a good idea. The original invitation had been for him to stop by the NCIS office, but Tony had immediately recoiled from that idea. He wasn’t an agent anymore and dwelling could only make him bitter about it. Tony refused to let that happen when he lost his career in sports before it could get started and he refused to let it happen now.

“How long are you here for?”

Tony shrugged. “I haven’t made any solid plans. Abby’s shopping list alone will take me most of a day, she’s sending me all over town. Other than that, I want to do the tourist thing. Both times I’ve been here before were for work.”

Dwayne grinned. “Oh, you’re in for a treat. New Orleans has so much to offer. But while doing the tourist thing is nice, I can give you some insider tips for the authentic New Orleans experience.”

“I’m all ears.”

“If you’re going to do the haunted house thing, forget about all the tourist attractions. Sure, some have real history, but all of them are so busy it ruins the atmosphere completely. Go to Belia’s Herb & Candle, she sells a walking route she compiled herself. It goes past lesser-known haunted sites and she didn’t just put houses in there. She included summaries of the legends.”

“How long’s the route, do you know?”

“I think it’s about 2 miles, but it takes you through the historical parts of New Orleans. Plenty of places to stop and rest, grab a drink, and enjoy some music on the streets.”

Tony put down Dwayne’s tip in the list he was making on his phone. To get through it he would need at least a week here, but since he was in no hurry to go anywhere else, Tony didn’t mind. Aside from that, Dwayne loved New Orleans, and his pleasure in making sure Tony experienced it was infectious. And if it kept the conversation away from Tony and his change in circumstances, all the better.

Dwayne Pride had missed his calling. Forget being an NCIS agent, he should’ve been a tour operator in New Orleans. The man’s suggestions were impeccable. So far this was Tony’s favorite stop on his road trip and it would be hard to top. New Orleans had something special that Tony doubted many other places had.

Yesterday Tony had done his shopping for Abby, which coincidentally included Bela’s Herb & Candle store, where he’d picked up the haunted sites walking route. It was probably the best five dollars he’d ever spent. The route had taken him past mansions and bars, a church and a hotel, and now he was taken to a cemetery to see if he could spot a ghost dog. So far, he hadn’t had any luck yet seeing a ghost, but he’d seen enough weird things in his time as a cop not to discount the possibility.

As Tony was wandering through the cemetery, he admired the artwork on the old tombs. As he walked more towards the back of the cemetery, the quiet was broken by voices and what sounded like metal hitting stone.

“Come on, Sammy, put your back into it.”

“What do you think I’m doing? It’s not easy getting one of these things open, you know.”

Recognizing the voices, much to his horror, Tony ducked behind the closest tomb. Carefully he made his way closer to where the voices were coming from, still bickering and making enough noise to cover Tony’s footsteps. Once he was close enough to get a visual, Tony crouched low to the ground and peeked around the tomb he was hiding behind. There, in broad daylight, the two Winchester brothers were breaking into one of the tombs.

Quickly but quietly, Tony backed up to the point where he felt free to risk walking normally, instead of hiding behind every tomb. He walked at a brisk pace to the exit of the cemetery. It was only at that point that he felt safe enough to call Gibbs.

“Gibbs, you won’t believe this, but I just saw the Winchesters again.”

It seemed that for once, he’d shocked Gibbs into silence because it took a few moments more than he was used to before Gibbs replied.


Tony gave the name of the cemetery, then heard Gibbs bark at Kate to send the FBI there to arrest the Winchesters.

“You somewhere safe?”

“I got a visual confirmation then got out of there. I’m at the entrance.”

“Is there somewhere you can keep an eye on the place without being seen if they leave?”

“Yeah, I can hide in an alley across the street.”

“Do it. I’m sure the FBI can use your information but do not get involved, you hear me?”

“I hear you.”

The local FBI here did not spare any manpower to arrest the Winchesters. Tony counted twelve agents just at the front of the cemetery and he was pretty sure they had the place surrounded. They seemed determined to make up for losing the Winchesters from custody earlier. One of the agents came running up to his location.

“Special agent DiNozzo?”

“Just Mr. DiNozzo these days,” Tony said.

The FBI agent seemed surprised but apparently decided to ignore it in favor of more important things, as he asked about the location of the Winchesters.

“They were in the back of the cemetery, north-west corner. That was eight minutes ago, and they were busy breaking into one of the tombs.”

“Thanks for the intel. I would ask that you not involve yourself in the operation, however.”

Tony held up his hands. “No worries. I’m here strictly as a civilian. Do you need me to stay or am I free to leave?”

“You’re free to leave.”

Tony nodded but didn’t leave as the FBI agent left him to join his colleagues. Tony watched as half of the agents went in, while the other half stayed to guard the entrance. He stayed hidden in the shadows of the alley until he saw the Winchesters being led out in cuffs. He waited until the Winchesters had been taken from the scene. Only then did he leave to continue on his way.

It had felt strange, staying out of the action, but Tony found he wasn’t as upset about it as he’d expected. He was able to enjoy the rest of the afternoon without dwelling on it. Progress, he supposed, although he still had no clue what to do with the rest of his life.

Tony honestly wouldn’t be able to say where the best views in New Orleans were. It was like every street he walked through had something else to draw his attention. The colorful houses in Bywater were amazing. But at the edge of Bywater was Crescent Park, a green oasis with a gorgeous view of the city skyline at the other end of the Mississippi River.

Tony was enjoying the view while sitting on a bench, giving himself a break from all the walking he was doing in this city when he received a text. It was from Gibbs, a rarity in and of itself, as the man wasn’t fond of texting. It was short and to the point. Winchesters escaped again.

He texted Gibbs back, nearly demanding more information. He wasn’t surprised the reaction was his phone ringing, instead of another text.

“Tony, it’s not your concern,” Gibbs said.

“You have got to be kidding me!” Tony said. “How in the hell is it not my concern? I practically hand them to the FBI on silver platters and they can’t even keep them in jail for more than a day?”

“It was two this time,” Gibbs said, as if that made any difference. “I just wanted you to be aware. Don’t look for them, don’t worry about it. It’s not our problem, and it’s definitely not yours.”

Tony sighed. He knew Gibbs was right. It still stung, especially since whatever small contribution he’d made – though through sheer dumb luck, admittedly – was flushed down the drain through the incompetence of the FBI.

Gibbs sighed. “Tony, just enjoy your road trip. Find yourself, or whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish. And try not to get into too much trouble.”

“Not don’t get into trouble?” Tony asked jokingly.

“I know better than to ask the impossible of you.”

Tony laughed out loud, even as Gibbs broke the connection by unceremoniously hanging up.

Prompts used:

29. #5 (fandom) NCIS – NCIS Los Angeles – NCIS New Orleans
30. #962 (drink) Scotch/Whiskey/Rum/Mixed drink
31. #864 (word) Bitter
32. #367 (character) Dwayne Pride – NCIS N.O
33. #1251 (song title) Haunted ~ Evanescence
34. #845 (word) Behind
35. #851 (word) Believe/Believed/Believing
36. #1129 (genre) Action
37. 1142 (phrase) You have got to be kidding me!

Part 4: Sunshine State

Summary: Tony’s road trip truly starts with a visit to Florida. Trouble finds him.
Word count: 2,537

See series page for full information about pairings/warnings/etc.

Tony woke up to a quick rapping on the door of his motel room.

“Miami PD, open up please.”

He pulled on a shirt before opening the door. There was a balding man in a light camel suit with a frankly horrifying orange tie holding up his badge.

“I’m Detective Tripp, Miami PD. I’d like to ask you some questions.”

“What’s this about, detective?” Tony asked.

“A body was found three rooms down. Did you hear or see anything last night?”

Tony shook his head. “No, but I didn’t arrive until nearly midnight. I checked in and went straight to sleep.”

“What’s your reason for staying here?”

“I’m on a road trip.” Tony hesitated for a moment before volunteering some more information, because he could see the scepsis. “I was an agent of NCIS, but due to an injury, I can’t be a field agent anymore. I’m mostly healed and decided on the road trip to figure out my next move.”

There was more sympathy in the detective’s face now. “How long were you planning on staying here?”

“In Miami? At least a week. In this motel? After this, I’m thinking of looking for slightly better accommodations.”

Thankfully, the detective understood. After giving his phone number, the detective moved on to the next room. Tony closed the door, determined to shower and look for a different motel.

When Tony left his motel room, he saw a familiar scene. One of the motel rooms and part of the parking lot had been blocked off with crime scene tape. There were uniformed cops keeping the looky-loos at bay while several crime scene technicians were combing the scene for evidence. Tony also spotted a coroner van and couldn’t help but think about Ducky. He made a mental note to send the man a postcard, he’d appreciate the physical memento of Tony’s trip.

Tony walked to his car. When he got there, he fumbled with his keys, his mind more on the crime scene than on what he was doing. He dropped his keys and with a sigh kneeled down to get them. From that angle, he could see a briefcase behind one of the bushes, as if it had been hastily tossed there. It was outside of the current search area of the cops and Tony had no reason to suspect the briefcase was connected to the case. But his gut told him it was. With a sigh, he grabbed his keys, tossed his bag in the car, and after locking it again walked back to the crime scene.

Tony walked up to the crime scene tape and waved at the red-haired man who seemed to be in charge of the scene. The man stepped towards him, though was careful to stay out of grabbing range. He took his sunglasses off and pinned Tony with a penetrating look Gibbs would have been proud of.

“I’m Lieutenant Cain. Can I help you, sir?”

“Actually, I might be able to help you. My name’s Tony DiNozzo and I was over at my car and dropped my keys. When I picked them up, I spotted a briefcase that was tossed into the bushes, as if to quickly hide it. It might be nothing, but…”

Tony shrugged his shoulders. He’d been a cop long enough not to discard any possible evidence. Not mentioning the briefcase hadn’t sat well with him, despite the very real possibility they would have probably found it on their own.

“Where was this exactly?”

Tony pointed out his car in the parking lot. “It was the bushes by the driver’s side.”

“Erik, please go to the bushes on the driver’s side of that Audi in the parking lot. There’s a briefcase there. Record it, then bag and tag it.”

“You spot that?” Erik asked Tony as he grabbed what he needed.

“Yes, I did.”

“Did you know the victim?”

“Are you shitting me?” Tony exclaimed. “I try to help and you try to mark me as a suspect?”

“Erik, please just go grab that briefcase. I highly doubt Mr. DiNozzo has anything to do with this case.”

Erik, clearly not happy, did as he was told.

“You seem pretty sure I didn’t have anything to do with this,” Tony said.

“I can recognize a fellow cop when I meet one.”

After his rather disastrous start to his stay in Miami, Tony had wanted to let loose and have some fun. He’d decided to go to a nightclub to dance, something he hadn’t done in months. The last time had been with Abby, but that club hadn’t been his thing. Too much heavy metal for his tastes. Despite that, he’d had fun dancing and enjoyed Abby’s more outrageous friends.

Unfortunately, picking a club to go to in an unfamiliar city was always risky and it looked like he’d picked wrong this time. He’d only been in the club half an hour and although it was a good club for dancing, he’d already seen at least a dozen crimes take place. There were several drug dealers moving around the club and the bouncers were turning a deliberate blind eye.

Looking around, Tony saw a guy in the VIP section that set off his gut. The guy was slick, lounging on his couch as if it was a throne. A beautiful brunette was plastered to his side, while several cronies took up another couch. Two burly men, definitely bodyguards, were standing nearby. One kept an eye on the crowd, the other on the people near Mr. Slick.

“Who’s that?” Tony asked the bartender, tilting his head towards the VIP section.

“That’s Mr. Verone. He’s the owner.”

Ah, well that explained a lot. If the owner of the club was the guy running the drug business – and who knew what else – it was no wonder the bouncers looked the other way.

Tony could see the moment the atmosphere in the VIP section changed. Verone went from laid-back tiger to attacking viper. He shot forward and grabbed one of the cronies by his wrist. There was no way Tony would be able to hear what was said over the thumping beat of the music, even if he’d been closer to the VIP section. Whatever it was, it couldn’t be good, as the guy paled. At the same time, a look of horror flashed over the brunette’s face, before she replaced it with a ruthless agreement.

She was lucky that she was seated next to Verone, where he couldn’t quite see her from his position leaning forward, and everyone else was focused on Verone himself. Tony had seen enough undercover operatives blow their cover in this way to recognize it. A brief moment of true emotion, or at least a kind of emotion the situation couldn’t use. Tony had been planning on going to the cops about this place, but apparently, they were on it already. He did hope the agent, once again plastered against Verone’s side now that he’d sat back against the couch, would get herself under control a bit more. If she kept going like this, she’d get herself killed.

Tony had spent the day in Fort Lauderdale, taking advantage of its close location to Miami. He’d spent the morning ambling along the river on the Riverwalk. In the afternoon he’d visited some of the cliché tourist attractions, including Stranahan House. Some of the pictures he’d taken there were sent to Ducky, knowing the man would appreciate the history of the house. When he’d exerted his body enough, he’d decided to drive back to his hotel in Miami. Unfortunately, only fifteen minutes after he’d left Fort Lauderdale there’d been an accident and he’d ended up in a traffic jam.

Looking back on it, he should’ve just decided to keep on going once the traffic started moving again. It wasn’t like it was a very long drive. But he was getting hungry and the diner he’d spotted when driving to Fort Lauderdale that morning was advertising the best burgers in Florida. Remembering that, he’d gone off the highway to stop there and eat. Something Tony was sorely regretting now.

The burgers had indeed been great and Tony had been lured into eating dessert by the smell of fresh apple pie. Just as he was served a piece of pie, two men walked in. They were bickering in a companionable way Tony recognized as sibling rivalry. They slid into a booth at the back of the diner and ordered their own burgers. One of them was arguing the case of starting with pie in case he wouldn’t have room for dessert. Something about the two was niggling at Tony like he should know who they were.

“Oh, please, Dean, like you’d ever not have room for pie.”

The counterargument was accompanied by a long-suffering sigh. Tony took a bite of his pie to stop himself from cursing his luck out loud because the use of the name had crystallized the vague familiarity into a picture he really didn’t like. 

He grabbed his phone and pressed speed dial one. By the time he had Gibbs on the other end of the line, he’d was silently cursing his lack of a gun.


“Hi, honey, how’re the kids?”

“What kind of trouble are you in, DiNozzo?”

“That’s great to hear, honey,” Tony said, and it was. He was lucky Gibbs was so quick on the uptake and used to deciphering Tony’s sometimes out-of-the-box thinking. “So, I had a little time after my meeting and I wandered into an antique store. Remember we were struggling with what to buy your dad for his birthday? I saw this gorgeous Winchester rifle, and it was on sale for a reasonable price too. I bet I could get it for like a thousand.”

“Big trouble, but you have some time. I need more details if you can give them.”

“I know it’s a lot, but I was thinking since uncle Sam is getting us a tax refund this year, we could do it. And maybe your brother wants in on it?”

Tony knew exactly when Gibbs cottoned on to what Tony tried to tell him, as the man started cursing on the other end of the line.

Tony heard Gibbs’ voice vaguely on the other end of the line, indicating that the man was calling someone from his landline. Sometimes it was extremely helpful that Gibbs was so old-fashioned. Tony hadn’t had a landline since he’d moved to D.C. To keep up the pretense of having an actual conversation, Tony hummed here and there as if he was listening to a longer story while eating his pie. It didn’t take long before Gibbs was back on the line with him.

“I called Fornell and he’s dispatched a local FBI team to arrest them. Is there any way you can leave without drawing undue attention to yourself?”

“I’m just finishing dinner before going to the hotel. I’ll drive by the antique shop tomorrow morning before my meeting, that way I can drive home straight afterward.”

“Just don’t do anything stupid, Tony. The Winchester brothers are extremely dangerous and unpredictable.”

“I know. Love you too, honey.”

“Stay safe.”

Tony put his phone away and continued eating his pie in the same leisure manner as before. It wouldn’t do to seem rushed. Unfortunately, while he was polishing off his plate, the Winchesters were already getting up to leave. They’d mainlined their food and pie and seemed to be in a hurry. They walked past Tony’s table without so much as a look, Dean Winchester too busy flirting with the waitress and Sam Winchester too busy chivvying his brother along.

The moment they were gone, Tony texted Gibbs that they’d left the building. Gibbs actually deigned to text back that he shouldn’t follow them, showing just how worried the man was. Tony texted a promise that he wouldn’t. Still, he wished he was bulletproof so he could catch these guys. Not for the glory, but simply to get them off the street. But he wasn’t even law enforcement anymore, so with a sigh, Tony forced himself to let it go.

Tony was exploring Coconut Grove, loving the bohemian atmosphere of the neighborhood when his phone rang. Surprised to see it was Gibbs, he picked up.

“The Winchesters escaped,” Gibbs said.

“Well hello to you too, Gibbs,” Tony said, though trying to get basic phone manners installed in Gibbs was clearly a lost cause. Then Gibbs’ message registered. “What do you mean, the Winchesters escaped? You told me last night they’d been arrested.”

“They were. They’ve escaped custody. I wanted to warn you, just in case.”

Tony was confused. How the hell did the FBI manage to lose the Winchesters, known break-out risks, in less than a day? Good thing it wasn’t his arrest, or he’d be spitting mad about it.

“Well, I doubt they’ve connected me with their arrest, especially since they were arrested on the highway half an hour after leaving the diner. And besides, I doubt they’re going to come back to Miami to find me wandering around Coconut Grove.”

“I know, but I also know your brand of luck, DiNozzo.”

“I promise to be careful and call you if I see the Winchesters again.” Tony had to bite back the almost automatic addition of Boss at the end of that sentence, and it hurt a little.

“Don’t forget to visit the Everglades before you move on,” Gibbs said, then unceremoniously hung up.

Tony shook his head. Gibbs would never stop confusing him, he was sure. It had probably been that puzzle that had seen Tony stay past his regular two years at NCIS. The man wavered between hard-ass lone wolf and caring team-player without any rhyme or reason. He’d thought his days of trying to figure out Gibbs were over, but Tony knew the man well enough to recognize the Everglades tip for the overture of friendship it was. It felt good that despite no longer being an NCIS agent, he wasn’t cut off from everything he’d built up there.

Tony normally wasn’t one for nature. But the tip had come from Gibbs and he wanted to get out of his comfort zone a little, so Tony had decided to go to the Everglades. He’d gone the easy route and booked a full tour in a small group, with a pick-up from his hotel. Now they were boarding a hovercraft, which Tony had to admit was fairly cool.

“Now, listen up people. Simple rules. Stay seated, keep your hands inside the craft, and above all, don’t fall overboard,” their guide said. “Considering we’ve got gators here, I don’t recommend going for a swim.”

“You don’t say,” Tony said.

The guide pinned him with an unamused look. “Yes, I do say.”

Tony just shot her a charming grin, which didn’t soften her look at all. He sat down, trying to look meek, but she wasn’t buying it. Ah well, what did she expect, saying something so obvious? He did, however, decide to keep any future smart-ass comments to himself. Just to be polite, of course. It had nothing to do with the fact that she kind of intimidated him. Nope, not at all.

Prompts used:

20. #544 (character) Any CSI Miami character (Frank Tripp)
21. #8 (fandom) CSI – CSI Miami – CSI New York
22. #1143 (phrase) Are you shitting me?
23. #53 (fandom) Fast & The Furious – Any of them (2 Fast 2 Furious)
24. #689 (character) Any fandom character not listed (Monica Fuentes (2 Fast 2 Furious))
25. #425 (character) Dean Winchester – Supernatural
26. #1185 (song title) Bullet Proof… I Wish I Was ~ Radiohead
27. #1388 (feelings/emotions) Confused
28. #1463 (dialogue) “You don’t say?” // “Yes, I do say”