Author: Jordanna Morgan
Archive Rights: Please request the author's consent.
Rating/Warnings: Mild PG for captivity/threats.
Characters: Leo, Zapp, Klaus.
Summary: A neglected piece of information leaves Leo hanging.
Disclaimer: They belong to Yasuhiro Nightow. I'm just playing with them.
Notes: Written for a small-fandoms amnesty challenge at Hurt/Comfort Bingo, to fill the prompts of "alien abduction" and "falsely imprisoned". I decided to incorporate the mistaken-identity element from BBB's first episode, while combining it with the trope of Leo's frequent capture by non-human bad guys.
"I swear I don't know what you're talking about! I've never seen you creeps before today! Come on, please let me down… I need to go to the bathroom!"
Leonardo Watch was still trying to figure out how he'd gotten into this fix. One minute he was minding his own business, stopped at a red light while out on a pizza delivery. The next, he was sailing through the air, dragged into the back of a truck by a red tentacle wrapped around his leg. Now he found himself imprisoned who-knows-where in the slimy bowels of some alterworlder hideout, cut and bruised, surrounded by half a dozen very angry squid-men.
Not to mention that he was hanging upside-down—shackled to the wall by his ankles.
…All of which, honestly, painted the picture of what was fast becoming a fairly normal day for Leo.
"Enough with your lies, traitor!" the leading squid-man snarled in a resonating voice. "We know you were the one who tipped off Libra to our shipment. Their raid cost us a fortune in profit, and two good enforcers. Now we're going to take those losses out of your hide, Landis!"
Leo's breath caught. His brain might not have exactly been functioning at full speed, with all his blood rushing into his pounding head, but the name did dredge up the memory of his rather rocky first meeting with his now-compatriots in Libra.
He remembered how Zapp and the others initially mistook him for someone named Landis—until Chain finally set them straight that Landis was, in fact, deceased. And while he'd never really caught on to the reason, or seen the picture Chain was passing around (you know, what with the bisected demon-creature that popped up moments later to slice the top of the building off), Klaus had referred to him as "upside-down Johnny Landis" before he introduced himself properly.
…Okay, so maybe that explained why these felonious squid-men had hung him up by his heels. It did not, however, resolve the trifling issue of his not being the person they thought he was. He had assumed Landis was another Libra operative, but with the squid-men talking as if Landis betrayed them… was he an undercover agent? Or just some kind of tipster who might even have been a criminal himself?
The lead squid-man was reaching for something that looked like the unloved-as-a-child illegitimate offspring of an egg beater and a cattle prod. Leo yelped and redoubled his protests.
"No, wait! I'm telling you, you've got the wrong guy! Landis is dead!"
"Do you actually think we're stupid enough to fall for that? You knew the price of being a snitch from the beginning, Landis. Now take what's coming to you."
The business end of the beater-prod torture device sparked with a menacing purple glow…
And the wall Leo was suspended from suddenly imploded.
Fortunately, the implosion did not occur at the exact spot where he was hanging. It must have missed him by a good seven inches at least. The next thing he knew, he was on the floor, choking on concrete dust and some kind of noxious vapor from the pulped… well, whatever the oozing and fibrous tissue was that coated the inner wall. It had been a long time since he'd smelled anything that bad.
His left ribs felt like they were on fire, but at least he was free of those shackles. Rolling upright, he hastily dragged himself into the sheltering corner formed by the partially-collapsed wall, to duck and cover as razor-wire blood strands cut the rest of the room into small pieces.
"So… yeah. I'm sorry about that, kid."
Sitting on a chunk of cement outside the hole in the building, Leo sullenly hunched deeper into the blanket that was draped over his shoulders. He was in pain, decidedly annoyed—and altogether in no mood to hear what his lunatic of a "mentor" Zapp Renfro had to say.
"I don't know how much of this you got from those plankton-eaters in there, but yeah. Johnny Landis was no Libra agent. He was just a small-time crook playing both sides of whatever law there is here in Hellsalem's Lot. Half the time he was hip-deep in any alterworlder crime he could get in on, and the other half, he was snitching out the vermin for a reward. …That's what got him killed, obviously. Libra had used him as an informant a few times. I was supposed to meet him for a tip-off the day you turned up. Never saw him before, and didn't know he'd already run into somebody he double-crossed—so I think my mistake was kinda understandable."
Leo scowled without looking up at Zapp, and spoke tersely after a long moment.
"I'm not blaming you for confusing me with him when we met. If you hadn't… I probably never would have had any hope of contacting Libra." He marveled briefly that he was calling his recruitment into the organization a good thing, considering his medical records of late. However, they were still the only hope he had of finding the answers he was seeking, and—well, there were other reasons too.
That didn't excuse what had happened today, though. He clenched his fists and continued.
"What I'm blaming you for was that you didn't tell me that guy Landis was a criminal! Knowing I could be mistaken for him, how could you not warn me the city is full of lowlifes that wanted to see him dead?"
"Hey, I said I was sorry, didn't I?" Zapp folded his arms and turned away slightly, letting out a huff. "With all the things that happened, it kind of slipped my mind—"
"It slipped your mind?"
"—And anyway, Landis was dead. Knowing how fast the underground grapevine is in Hellsalem's Lot, I figured word would get around soon enough." Zapp's voice softened a fraction. "Besides, with those coveted eyes of yours, it's not like you needed anything else to be paranoid about. In hindsight, it was a bad call—and you're right. It's on me. But now you know… and it's not going to happen again."
With the final words, Zapp's tone hardened once more, acquiring a taut, steely note Leo had never heard in it before. The younger man darted a glance up through his habitually narrowed eyelids, but Zapp turned at that moment, footsteps crunching as he stiffly strode away through the debris.
For a few minutes Leo sat still, too aching and exhausted to think much. Behind him, Libra's response team was performing their mopping-up work inside the ruins of the criminals' hideout, but he was aware of them only as a vague noise. He didn't believe any of those squid-guys were actually dead, but… after the glimpse he'd gotten of the devastation left in Zapp's wake, he really didn't want to see any more.
There was something to think about in that, too. At least, when enough of his blood had circulated back out of his brain to let him think.
A very large shadow fell over Leo, and he looked up to see Klaus von Reinherz standing in front of him.
"I'm glad you're safe. You aren't injured too badly?"
Leo shrugged one shoulder. "Just banged up a little. Hoping my rib is only bruised, and not cracked—from when Zapp knocked down the wall I was shackled to."
Klaus tilted his head. Then he bent forward, bracing his hands on his knees, as his thoughtful green eyes studied Leo's face.
"Don't judge him too harshly, Leonardo. It's unfortunately true that an error in judgment on his part contributed to causing this incident. But if you could have seen him when the report reached us of your abduction…"
The big man's lips curled slightly around his pseudo-tusks. He straightened, clapped Leo gently on the shoulder… and without another word, he moved off to consult with the other agents.
Bemused, Leo shifted sideways on the concrete slab. He looked at the gaping hole in the wall, and then dared to glance farther into the space beyond, fully taking in the evidence of the carnage Zapp had inflicted upon his captors.
Leo thought he understood then—and he smiled.
2016 Jordanna Morgan