AN: You're probably thinking...wait, isn't this series supposed to be done now? That's what I diddly darn thought too! I finished Curtain Call and went, "oh, how nice. My series tied up in a neat little bow and finally done."
No! NO! The muse has taken me hostage and demands more stories, so here we are. I heard one (1) particular line of dialogue from Dean Parker in a later episode and this whole thing was born.
"You're sure he'll really come here first?"
Greg takes another serene sip from his mug. "Mhmm."
"He's not taking it well, that's for sure."
"It's today, right?" Marina asks.
"About to kick off in a few minutes, to be exact."
Oh boy is right, though neither Marina nor Greg wear even the slightest inkling of this on their faces, especially since it's not even seven in the morning yet.
They're dressed, but it is a peaceful Thursday breakfast at the table. Marina butters another piece of toast. Greg is engrossed in a newspaper article on the latest drama coming out of City Hall and the administration shuffle it may herald. Steam curls off their matching cups of rooibos tea, shafted by a spritz of March morning light through the patio blinds. It's easy. It's benign and normal.
Greg even dares to reach over and squeeze his wife's hand, not looking at her. She, likewise, is reading an email on her phone. They both still spy each other's smiles.
"Just office work for you?"
Marina nods in response to Greg's question. "I'm working on the reports from this quarter's earnings."
"Bosses upstairs still aren't satisfied?"
"Are they ever?"
"Tell me about it," Greg grumbles.
Marina takes her hand away to swat his arm. "You have the most lenient supervisors I've ever met! Old Travers lets you come and go willy nilly, whenever you want!"
Greg can't argue with that, and so he just grins again with an angelic look that Marina doesn't buy for a second. She snorts, chewing her way through the sourdough slice.
"Nice try, mister," she says, mouth full.
There's a ping-pong fast exchange of rumbled laughter, both of their mouths closed but their expressions playful.
Another sound joins the peaceful moment—
The slam of a car door.
"Right on time," says Greg.
Marina shakes her head, surprised despite being warned of this days ago. Eyebrows up in amazement. She continues to eat her toast. Now she's muttering about bad mutual fund investments and how high risk is always the way to go.
Greg can picture the scene, and how it will inevitably play out inside, without even glancing away from the paper. He holds up his fingers and ticks them down: "In three…two…"
The door flings open. "Greg! This was a terrible idea!"
Greg smiles wider. "One."
There's the Tasmanian devil spin of feet, though—not as expected—the intruder doesn't even take his shoes off at the door like their little family always does.
In fact, Spike doesn't bother removing his coat or mittens or hat either, despite the fact he's sweating like a runner in July.
Greg suspects this has little to do with charging into the Parker house sans so much as a knock and more to do with the absolutely wild heartbeat Greg sees pattering away in Spike's neck, always more visible against his burn scar.
He just blinks for a moment, at a standstill in the kitchen doorway, before he resumes the flurry of motion.
The tech's eyes are huge, blown massive, and his red face is complemented by the frazzle of waved hands and a back and forth around the kitchen that can't even rightly be called pacing. It's more like a drunken loop circling the table and back to the fridge. His gaze darts so fast that it's dizzying just to watch.
Spike has one hand on his toque-covered forehead now. "This is insane. What were we thinking? Huh? How could we be so stupid?"
Greg sips again, calm and fighting to keep that grin from becoming a laugh. "Spike…"
"We're negligent people!" Spike looks genuinely horrified. "We're the worst people in the history of people. We should be locked up. Positive role models—that's what Ed called us—are you kidding me?"
Spike flaps at his shirt, overheated with stress, and wheezes some more. "This is it. I've reached my limit. How could we be responsible for such a heinous crime?"
"It's not a crime. Quite the opposite, if you think about it."
"I'm freaking out, paparino."
Greg gives in, his laugh a sharp retort. "I can see that."
Marina holds up her half eaten toast while simultaneously typing out an email. Spike grabs it with a garbled thank you on his way by and declaration of greeting, half in Italian and so slurred that Greg can't totally make it out. After taking off his mittens, Spike wolfs the bread down in three chomping bites and Greg worries for split second if the tech is about to choke.
"How are you not freaking out? That's the real mystery here."
"He's gonna die, Greg! I'm going to die!"
"Whoa, whoa." This, of all things, snaps both Greg and Marina's heads up. Greg stands and places both hands on Spike's shoulders. It's a sneaky way of stopping the frantic cycle, for Greg knows that Spike knows Greg will fall over if Spike keeps moving and the tech would sooner take a bullet than let him drop. It works, and Spike's feet halt at once so Greg can use him to stay standing. Even still, he buzzes with caged energy. "First off: stop tracking mud across my floors."
Spike toes off his boots and obediently shoves them onto a rubber mat. "Greg, we—"
"And second of all…nobody is dying today. It's going to be fine. Can you repeat that with me? Fiiine."
"No." Spike pales this time around. Greg knew his boy would see through the obvious tactic but he had to try. "It's not fine. He's not ready for this!"
Greg pins him with a canted head, married with a sharp pair of knowing eyes. "You mean you aren't ready for this."
"Exactly! They're both true."
"Do you not appreciate the irony," says Greg, "That I was losing my mind over this a few years ago and now you're the one having a coronary?"
Spike covers his face with his hands and groans into them. "I can't do it Greg. I just can't. How did I ever encourage this as a good idea? Does that make it my fault?"
After a generous ten whole seconds, Greg puts an end to the misery party, tugging Spike's hands down. This puts them mostly at eye level and exposes dark puffs of insomnia under the tech's eyes, not to mention the jitter in his hands, now shiny with butter and remnants of the toast.
"Hey." Greg is stable enough, when he's standing still like this, that he can put one hand on Spike's cheek instead. "You encouraged him because you love him. That same love is giving you a borderline anxiety attack so take some deep breaths, okay?"
Spike follows these particular instructions better than the first. He sucks in air through his nose and out through his mouth on blatant instinct, the motions every single one of them has practiced a million times for life and death situations on the job, to keep adrenaline responses under control.
Marina watches with fascination, at how smoothly Spike does it, and no small amount of warmth.
Sufficiently calmed, Spike's brain has caught up. A light bulb goes on in his face, lifted eyebrows and all. "Maybe I can hack the car's security camera to keep an eye on—"
"Spike, be smart here."
Spike turns sullen with a pinch around his lips.
Greg pushes further. "What do you think he would want in this situation? Hmm?"
It's a glaring testament of how worked up Spike is that he actually has to think about the answer to this. Logic says it should be obvious. But love is often not so straightforward, and nothing about what's happening here is logical.
"He'd want me to trust him," says Spike, cringing like the words cost him his life savings just to push out of his mouth. "The problem, Greg, is that it isn't him I don't trust—it's everyone else."
Okay…that one hits a little closer to home.
Greg tactfully leaves out the fact that he himself secretly did background checks on everyone in the building before anything went through. Ed knows, mostly because it was his idea in the first place.
"Aren't you scared?" Spike asks. His voice is small, plaintive, like the pressure cooker of Spike's fear suddenly popped a leak and now his steam is hissing out, inch by scalding inch. "Hasn't it haunted you too?"
It would be very easy to yell, from the rooftops: Yes! Every single day since this all started, in fact! I barely slept a wink last night either.
But Greg sees something other than just desperate mania in Spike's eyes. It's harder to identify, which is surprising enough with the easy-to-read tech that it catches Greg's attention.
"Do you remember your first day at the SRU?" he asks suddenly.
Spike blinks, thoughts derailed. He huffs a laugh that doesn't reach his eyes. "If I forget that particular day, I either have amnesia or I'm dead."
Greg's heart gives a protesting flutter over the words, so glibly spoken—he can't even imagine a world where's he's alive and Spike is no longer with them—but he maintains that cool expression. "And…?"
"Yeah," Marina pipes up for the first time. "And what happened?"
Glancing between them, Spike flicks his chin in a move picked up from Sam. "And an escaped kangaroo triggered a training camp's bomb wire."
Marina splutters on her tea and her eyes bug. She's spilled it all over her sleeve but she hardly notices, eyes glued on Spike. "A kangaroo? Did I just hear that right?"
"From the Toronto Zoo," says Greg. "It escaped during a routine system reset and then flounced off into the woods. Some soldiers were doing drills in a restricted area and guess where it hopped over to."
Spike nods, eyes sparking at the memory. "Then, when it got all tangled up in guy wires and threatened to blow us all up, guess who had to defuse a bomb with a marsupial kicking at his head? They tranquilized her, but that hardly helped in time."
This last part gets lost under Marina's shocked and delighted giggles. "And it didn't blow?"
"Of course not." Spike makes a face. "Those soldiers failed their traps course and I gave them some remedial pointers before we left."
The image of it all, kangaroo in an angry twist, writhing dangerously close to Spike's knees and chest while he crouched down to snip the correct sequence of wires, makes Greg laugh too. It's earned a spot in the SRU legend pool, retold at least once a year all the way down to Academy classes.
Spike shakes himself. "Is there a convenient lesson you intended to bring up with that story?"
Greg shrugs, patting Spike's cheek. "Why don't you stay relaxed, go to work, and find out at the end of the day? You'll catch on, I promise."
"That's completely unhelpful. Marina gave me toast, which was much more productive seeing as I didn't eat breakfast."
She fist bumps him, still laughing so hard that she can't type. "Ohhhh." She wipes her eyes, mascara a write off. "I need pictures. Greg—I need pictures stat."
"Oh, don't worry. I have a laminated photo set to match Ed's."
Greg makes the mistake of showing her a few of those pictures, their rookie kid, hair everywhere, fighting off a kangaroo in the urban woods of Toronto just to disarm a bomb, before they go to work.
They both end up being over half an hour late. When Spike leaves, they're still doubled over.
Jules has had this day on her calendar for over three months.
It's essential. It's kind of bizarre that this day, imagined in their minds for years, is actually real. She feels a deep sense of pride about it.
Spike feels…well, nervous wreck is generous term.
Spike has been surprisingly hush-hush about his stress levels as it approaches, but there's no faking it today. She almost wishes there was a call just so they could get out of the barn—and get Spike out of his head. Even Ed is late for work, a monumental fact that's only been true maybe three times in his whole career.
They're all in the work out room. Which might help said stress levels if Spike was, you know, actually working out.
He's on the stationary bike, and his legs stopped moving over five minutes ago. Eyes blinking slow, he stares off at the wall near Leah, where she's deadlifting. Every few minutes he frowns and murmurs to himself.
Jules sighs and hops off the tread mill. She stops at his side, flicking the messy hair, other hand on her hip. "Spike, you've had months, years to prepare for this. It's just like any other day."
"But it's not. I didn't think it would be this scary," says Spike in a dreamy, absent voice. "I should be there and I'm not. Is this how you all felt when I was a rookie?"
"Yes." Jules says it, deadpan, in unison with Peter at the desk and Holleran walking by. A perfect three part chorus.
The phone rings and Peter picks it up while throwing her a droll, conspirator's look. Oh what an adventure those days had been, for every last one of them.
"And no," Jules adds. "You're having far less chill about this than I expected. We were much calmer than you are right now."
Leah glances over, brow wrinkled. "What's so special about today?"
Before Jules can answer—and roast Spike to death—Peter stands from the dispatch desk to wave an urgent hand. His eyes are huge, whites of his eyes visible from ten feet away. The landline is muted into his shoulder. "Spike, get over here! The call's for you!"
Spike darts off the bike, looking as confused as Jules feels. It can't be a hot call or the siren would be wailing away too.
"Is it Ed?" she asks. "It's not like him to be a no-show without letting us in on the reason."
Peter shakes his head. "This isn't technically our jurisdiction, but…"
Spike wears the vertigo of extreme confusion on his face—
Right up until he puts the phone to his ear. His whole body jolts.
"Whoa, slow down." Spike holds up a hand as if the person on the other end of the line can see him. "What do you mean, behind a dumpster?"
Jules remembers the first time she ever set a can of shaving cream on an open bonfire. She'd been six years old, and she only did it because she watched her brothers do the exact same thing when their father went inside the house. It had started so slow: the bulging of the can under extreme heat, spider web veins of orange, the sudden bloating of the sides that led to a graceful peeling away until the sparks flew and she'd been forced to dive for cover.
Spike's face looks a little bit like the can. Okay, a lot like that can, widening and going slack with horror and cracked with molten panic.
"No," he mutters. "No, no, no, no…"
Then whoever is speaking seems to rattle Spike's nerves enough that he straightens. "Tell me the time of observation. Yes, this is important! What time did you spot it?"
It's the tone that gives him away. He only talks like that, with that particular just so tone, to one person in his life.
Jules goes sheet white. "Oh, Spike, no. Is it actually…?"
Spike nods absently.
Swearing, Jules does a spin and rakes her hands through her hair.
"What?" asks Leah, glancing between them. "What's going on? What's important about today and why is Spike losing his mind about it?"
Jules finds, oddly, that she can't answer. She swallows. "It's…today is finally the day that…"
"Are you hurt?" Spike barks. "Don't lie to me."
A pause. Then Spike starts shaking, a purposeful trembling that's a mixture of fear, utter fury, and determination. "Just hang on—we're coming. You hear me? We're on our way!"
"This isn't our case," Peter argues.
Spike scoffs while hanging up. "It is now."
And he reaches right over Peter's desk to smack the alarm button. It shrills through the SRU lobby and the rest of Team One races off to get geared up. Peter types furiously to start researching…something, whatever the threat du jour seems to be.
Sam, just ending the night shift and looking bleary eyed, pokes his head out of the locker room to frown. He looks startled to see Leah, Jules, and Spike just standing there. "What's going on?"
Spike is ashen now too. He stares at the three of them with terrified eyes. "Dean and his patrolling officer just found a bomb."