I own nothing but the plot. Everything else belongs to Universal, and god help me I wish I worked there, but I don't. If anyone wants to sue me go ahead, you'll only receive a bucket of lard.
To combine two different people from two different worlds is a very unpredictable event. It could blow up in your face if not handled correctly, yet there is the hope that in the end everything will turn out right. To work together and save the world one stunt at a time is their mission. Now if they don't kill each other in the process.
I have crawled out from the rock I was hiding under. A bit more of a filler chapter here and probably the next one to follow will be too, and a bit shorter then I'd like... But still enjoy!
"C'mon Eden, let's go!"
"I'm hurrying," she muttered under her breath, slamming the car door closed behind herself. Everyone was in a goddamn rush today for some reason. Which, there really wasn't a reason for it. It was early, anybody who was anybody, or not, wouldn't be here for at least another half hour. The sun was just barely done with surfacing entirely over the horizon, everything still tinted in the all too familiar scheme of blue.
However, few people were already there, but not even going near the surf, yet, just sitting on the beach with their boards, admiring what she assumed was the view of the ocean in the early hours of the morning. Wrinkling her nose a little in distaste at their slack, she turned her attention back to the car as she pulled on the waist of her shorts, which crept down from sitting in the car.
Picking her surfboard off the holder on the top, she pulled it free as the others quickly took their own and started off before she could even open her mouth to offer some remark. What the fuck was with the rush? She continued to think, frowning some as she swung it underneath her arm. She reached through the window to make a grab for their beach bag pulling it from the backseat and onto her shoulder.
By the time she went to look over at the two blonds, they were out of the parking lot already. They hadn't paused one bit, not even stopping for her like they usually did. "Fine don't wait for me." Annoyed wasn't a word for really how she felt. Eden wasn't necessarily annoyed, but they could have at least stopped for a moment, or was that not courtesy anymore? It suddenly seemed as though going off the rock now changed everything between the trio.
Nothing was as it was before.
Licking her lip, Eden took off after Lena and Annemarie, after in the direction of where they jogged off to, across the street and onto the beach. She had to stop though, waiting for a car to pass, which really only made the distance bigger between them, before she too crossed the damn street. Again, they didn't wait for her, the only sight of them to her were of their backsides, and their boards, as they continued on with their journey. No faces, no glancing back at her. Fine let them single her out then.
The girls were a few good yards ahead of her still, by the time she tried speeding up, and she briefly wondered how they got so far ahead of her so quickly, then as she took notice of it. It baffled her, it was almost as if the sand wasn't holding them down as they jogged, as she battled it with each step. But she pushed the thought away as they stopped in their usual spot on the beach, dumping their things off on the sand, their ankle-belts fastened to their ankles before eve Eden made it down there to them.
And even sooner were they heading off into the surf.
Reaching the spot where their sandals and bags were thrown carelessly onto the sand, she looked up not very amused that they still hadn't stopped for her. On top of that, they went out without even stretching. It was a surfing ritual they always partook in, only no one was partaking in it now. "Where you guys goin'?" she called after them, but they didn't hear her or ignored her. What the fuck was goin' on with them today? Really…
The frown that was already firmly planted on her brow just seemed to deepen as she put her stuff with the others. Fastening her leash to her ankle as the two had done, she straightened up, shielding her eyes with her hand as she tried to catch a glimpse at the two before she hoisted the surfboard under her armpit and took off to them. They were already in the surf, battling the crap waves that crashed up close to the shore.
Her pace was quick as she jogged, unhampered on the wet sand as she made it to the water, managing to make up a little distance as they tried paddling off to get through to the good waves. The surf brushed against her, cooling and caressing her feet as she met the shore. continuing to run out until the water reached her knees, Eden lay on her board, kicking off and paddling her arms out on either side, feeling the salty air and water around her. The feel was almost in intoxicating.
Pushing both her and the board underneath the water, she avoided a lesser wave as it threatened to brake over her, ducking to get out of it's destructive path. She sucked in breath, holding it as she felt the water around her, feeling it's current, but not being disrupted by it. Instead, she poked up out of the water like buoy, floating back up to the surface on her board.
As the water peeled down her face, not longer obstructing her vision, not too far away she caught the sight of the other two stooges, doing the same as another wave came closer. They ducked in sync, surfacing at almost the same time as it passed and came nearer.
"C'mon!" she heard them call again, this time they actually looked back at her. She was coming.... she mentally grumbled, trying to push further. Yet, she continued to paddle out, keeping her eyes on the two as she squinted as a little salty water splashed up in her face. But it's affect was nulled a moment later. All she needed was to get past the incoming wave and she'd be even with them.
Taking a breath as it got near enough, she dived down into the water, missing it's power yet again. It seemed like almost an eternity though she dove farther then she should have, her lungs not burning, but giving warnings of so. Coming up once again, her face breaking the surface, she shook her head, trying to dispel the water that was obstructing her vision before looking around.
But something was terribly wrong.
"Guys?" she called out, sitting up on her board as she looked around the water, it's face glistening with the sunrays like diamonds. And that was all there was. Her, the waves, the water.
Nobody else. So surfboards, no Lena... no Annemarie.
"Yo, this ain't funny. Where are you?" she called out, looking around, trying to find them, a feeling forming in her gut. But there was nothing but the silence. Not even the sound of the waves crashing as they did before her, as she saw them, knocking the preoccupied woman over and off her board.
The water surrounded her, instead of it's warmness, against her skin like a thousand knives. Hot or cold, she couldn't tell, it didn't matter. It paralyzed her with the fear, letting the wave pull her underneath the water's grasp, twisting, pulling, spewing her around like a ballerina. Only it wasn't a dance, it was something else. Something completely wrong.
Trying to regain some sense of self, she kicked, trying to push herself towards the surface. This time it really felt like an eternity. But her will to survive pushed her on. She didn't want to die. She wouldn't. She would reach the surface.
Which she break after another long moment. Taking a lung full of air she breathed in life, her lungs calling breath to them as she looked around, seeing her board hover very close to her. Reaching out, she tried to pull herself to get on it, or at the very least steady herself somewhat instead of choking on the sea as she tried to breathe.
Her hand caught it, but all too soon a wave splashing over her before she could realize, pulling her under. The last sight she caught was of the beach. Empty. No one standing on it as she could have sworn they were before. No people. No one was there.
She was alone.
At the sound of the ring that emitted out through the room, the woman's eyes jerked open, as her body went ridged beneath the layers of sheets that enshrouded around her. Her veins frosted over with ice, pouring through every cell and pore of her being as her heart sped beneath her flesh, as her eyes quickly darted around the room. At the unfamiliarity of it all. Of where she was.
The world was no longer that of grainy, sandy beaches, water as clear as glass filtering underneath an even bluer sky. Nor was the comforting feel of the friends that were always near to beckon her, instead that was replaced with the sheet lain with sweat that caked itself on her skin.
And then it hit her faster then a douse of ice water on her waking form.
With a sigh, Eden collapsed back into the comfort of her bed, her hand reaching up to pinch the bridge of her nose as she closed her eyes. She tried to force the effects of the dream from her head. It was just that, a dream. Nothing more. But telling that to her brain wasn't working. As most dreams, it felt real.
But it was only a dream, she continued to remind herself. She wasn't in the water about to drown, half way across the world from where she was supposed to be, where everyone was glued to. Instead, she was in a place where the only sounds were that of passing cars and sirens of any police patrol vehicle seemed to whiz past the apartment complex. No longer did the echo of nature seem to reach her eardrums.
No, but even that couldn't compare to the sound of lightly beep that bounced around the walls of the very empty apartment, the quiet subtleness magnifying it louder. It nearly startled her, until she registered what exactly it was. Rolling onto her side, she looked over at the cellphone that set perched on top of the small nightstand next to her bed. The usual amount of messages noted on the tiny, thumb-sized screen were usually none, yet instead of seeing the time dancing on the small indicator screen, it was illuminated with the words '1 missed call'.
Someone had called while she was sleeping.
It was probably Gibbons. The man always liked to rain on her parade when it was time for her to go back home. Whatever he was interested in this time, she didn't care. It was time for her to go on her 'vacation', if it could be considered that, telling the whole world to fuck off for the next two months because she didn't care. No doubt he'd call back however, no use trying to be eager to hear what he wanted to say when she wasn't.
Shoving the white cotton sheets off of herself, she swung her legs over the side of the bed, grabbing it off the night table. Pausing and checking her clock, which read almost exactly ten o'clock, before standing, however, she stretched a moment, trying to loosen and wake up her still laggard body before getting up and off the bed.
The floorboards creaked under her weight as she walked, heading over to the dresser where they were a few shirts neatly folded and lain out on the top. But she wasn't interested in one of those. Instead, her dark eyes settled on the one that was tossed disheveled next to the others, a dark, over-sized sweater that was crumpled all but in a ball. Gingerly, it was picked up and thrown over her small frame, engulfing her like the night from neck just about all the way down to her knees. It was big on her, way too big, but she liked that, she didn't like feeling of be constricted. Besides that, it was way to cold for her liking in the small apartment, even with the heat on.
Turning the handle on the door, she scuttled through into the hallway, getting hit with another draft of cold air. Unconsciously, she shivered, rubbing at her arms as she went down the corridor, trying to fight back the goosebumps that broke out across her flesh. She felt chilled, almost to the bone, while it wasn't all that much cold to warrant so, but with the draft that seemed to flutter through the house like a ghost, against her clammy skin it nearly felt like knives.
The source, she realized, was one of the windows in the dimly lit living room, darkened by the blinds that were pulled all the way down, casting shadows across everything within it's reach. Her hands tugged at the blinds string, pulling it down as the blinds went up. For a moment she squinted as the bright light of day reached her eyes, taking a moment to adjust to see what lingered outside.
Beneath was the late morning traffic, faint beeps of horns and engines rising from down below, where a land of snow and ice also littered the ground. Like little toy cars it seemed as she watched for a moment, passing the apartment complex and disappearing into the city, before she reached to pushed down the half-open window closed, the sleeves of her shirt pulled up just to the cuticles of her nails as she lent over and pushed it all the way down.
She sighed a bit, rubbing tiredly at her face as she turned the knob to the heater up a few more degrees. She'd slept longer then she had for the past week, but it still felt as though she'd gotten only a few hours.
None-the-less, she strayed away from the inviting bed that seemed to taunt her as she glanced towards the doorway and instead moved through the living room. It was bare for the most part. Simple. That would have been a better description for it, it was very simple. There was nothing personal about it, nothing that would have given life to the fact that it was a place she'd been living in when she wasn't off else where. In fact, it looked more like hotel then an apartment.
White-washed walls, white sofa, a cherry wood coffee table sitting in front of that, a lamp stand to match, but other then a few surf magazines, some DVDs and a vogue, there was nothing else of hers. No picture frames lining the walls, no shelves filled with books, candles. It was plain, much like the rest of her apartment that was fitted in the same hues.
Scratching behind her ear, she filtered into the kitchen, her attention solely concentrated for the moment on one of the finer points of her home. Pulling open the refrigerator door, the light went on inside the contraption, showering food products with dim light as she shuffled the contents around. Which in all, wasn't a lot. A carton of milk, a carton of orange juice, some beer, bread, a few condiments, there wasn't much in the way of food. Then again, she hadn't had much time to buy much outside of the essentials, which she'd ran out of by then.
She reached out to grab at the carton of orange when the cellphone began to buzz again, vibrating in her hand while the James Bond theme began playing in high pitch. It nearly made her jump, some concentrate in her task, as she used her foot to kick the fridge door closed. She moved, coming to then stand in front of the counter, setting the carton down on top of it. Glancing at the little screen, she watched as it came to life to display the one name she was learning to despise. Gibbons.
The name was ceasing to surprise her whenever someone called, because usual it was him. Not anyone else, that was for sure. The geek called her once in a while, but that was just him being a pain in the ass about mission shit, nothing to be bothered with about now, thankfully.
However, she paused a moment, her hand stilled in motion from flipping it open. Part of her was tempted to just let it ring, ignore him. He really never brought anything good to the table when he reared his head. But she couldn't just turn her back either, the other more righteous side seemed to perk then, besides the fact he would just keep calling until she picked it up anyway. The man was mad reciliant, she thought.
"Yeah?" she spoke into the receiver, raspilly..
"Do you always answer your phone so courteously, Agent Masters?" Gibbon's voice rang out on the other end, smugly. She didn't have to see him to know he was amused. One way or another, even if she was bitching at him, he took it like sugar. And quite honestly, she didn't know what he was so amused about. But then she supposed if she had people at her beckoning called, twenty four hours, seven days a week, ready to do whatever she wanted, she probably would have been just as smug as the bastard.
Hefting the phone into the crook of her neck to free up her hand, she unscrewed the cap. "Only when it's you," Eden replied, taking a swig straight from the carton, letting the sweet tang dance around her tongue. Swallowing, she smacked her lips, loud enough that she was sure that he heard it over the phone.
"I trust you're awake," he said smoothly, as if he wasn't trying to get under her skin, which he was. The words made her lip curl in annoyance.
"I am now, thank you very much," Eden told him with mock-appreciation, her words ringing true with sarcasm, thick and heavy. If he had been in the room, the look that she gave the wall instead of him would have put him six feet below, and then some.
Sliding one of the magazines that was lain on the counter, she slid it in front of her as she took another sip of her orange juice. It was as if she could distract her away from the fact that she was talking to him on the phone. However, that was literally impossible, but she continued to read the outdated by seven months reading material. "Yeah... 'Good'. Somehow I doubt this is a social call, so what do you want?"
She could instantly feel the grin in his face over the phone. "What gives you the impression that this isn't?"
Turning one of the pages in the book, more like flopping the pages, she pursed her lips. "Oh, I don't know... Maybe the fact you conveniently like to leave those for when I'm awake," she told him matter-of-flatly. "Mind enlightening me?"
"Very well," Gibbon said with the utmost calmness. "There's some things that need to be attended to-"
"No. Hell, no," Eden interjected before he could say another word. She knew where this was going. It was going someplace where it wasn't welcome.
"It is not thought very highly of to interrupt someone before they complete their sentence, Agent Masters."
"And it's not very fucking polite to call me up now. Whatever shit you're sellin' Gibbons, I'm not buying. My vacation officially started two days ago. You know our arrangement. This is my time off. I'm getting on a plane tomorrow and I'm. Going. Home," she droned, pronouncing each syllable as if she were talking to a small child. And Gibbons sure not a child, he was a smart man, a very smart man. But that didn't mean that she didn't feel like she was explaining herself to one... Or rather how she used to talk to her mother when she didn't get what she wanted.
"Yes, you will be."
The words halted all her thoughts. For a moment, Eden's hand paused as she looked away from the magazine, her face scrunched up slightly, while her tongue ran over the front of her bottom teeth. He was back to not making sense again. "You just said-"
"I didn't get to finish because you keep interrupting me," he told her, doing the interrupting this time. However, his demeanor remained ever passive. "If you would kindly let me explain. I have more important dealings to attend to," Gibbons told her then, this time a tiny bit of warning lacing his words.
Gritting her teeth, she resisted the urge to raise her eyes to the ceiling. She was silent, not saying anything, trying to come up with a better course of action. Yet, none turned up. There was no way of getting out of this. Briefly, she wondered why she joined up with this organization in the first place.
After another long moment of silence, the Latina sighed. "I'm listening." Though, she was not at all pleased.
"Are you now?"
"You want me to hang up?"
A huff of a snort echoed through the receiver and into her ear. "Let's just say, you'll be going on your vacation as planned. However," Gibbons trailed of as Eden went to open her mouth, as though he sensed it even with the couple of hundred miles between them, the question of what he was getting at, dying on her lips. "I need you do some surveillance for me."
"Gather intell," Eden mused aloud, seeing exactly where this was going. Bringing her mouth away from the carton again, she swallowed the last remains of the orange juice. "Who the hell in O'ahu are you after, Gibbs?"
The nickname did not phase him. "At the moment I am not a liberty to say. You'll be further briefed once you reach your home," came the prompt reply. Oh, yeah, she'd heard that line a few too many times before.
"What else you got up your sleeve?" Eden couldn't help but ask then, running her fingers through her messy mop of hair, absently noting to take a shower. Fingering the long, curly ends, she twirled it ever so slightly, her mind no so entire into the task as she waited for his answer.
He told her to check her mail.
Shuffling her long legs across the floor, she scuttled towards the door to the apartment. Moving into the small opening hallway, she noticed something small and almost orangey gleaming underneath, wedged between the bottom of the door and the floor. An envelope, she noted, reaching down to the scoop the piece of parchment between her fingers. A plain, simple envelope, there was no writing on it to say who'd left it or what was inside, no return address on it either, the paper was literally untouched except from the creases of her picking it up.
Gibbons was written all over it.
"This isn't just an recon job is it?"
The reply was the same: 'I am not at liberty to say.' And there was nothing more that she liked to hear then hearing a broken record before he warned her that her plane left in an hour, that she better hurry. A sound of the phone being hung up and she was already on her way to her room to pack.
Los Angeles, California
The shrill sound cut through the air like a hot knife through butter. It traveled along, it's sound ricocheting off the un-plastered, brick-bared walls. Muffled ever so slightly it was, yet it still managed to make it destination to the figure laying in the bed.
Stomach to the mattress, the figure's large limbs hung over the edges, shifting ever so slightly as the sound ceased, a soft grunt emitted in his chest, reverberating through the pillow that his face was buried in. Like a great lion, he stirred a little more before he stilled once again, whatever consciousness slipping from his form again, his body going slack with fatigue.
But it was to be disturbed again as the sound went off a second time, becoming insistent against the sleeping brain that was starting to wake, resistant to do nothing more then to sleep over the previous night's events. He pulled the pillow out from under his head tiredly before covering his ears with it, trying to block out the explosion inside his skull that flamed to life with every ring, though he did his best to ignore it, block it out.
However, what ever the sound was, it didn't agree to him laying in bed, and instantly became more nagging as pushed sleep further and further away. Who ever the fuck was calling was going to pay dearly.
Trying to not move from his comfortable position, his arm reached out to find where the contraption was that contained the disturbance, swatting blindly at the night table that sat next to the bed. Knocking over some items in the process, he pushed around those that didn't feel like the one he wanted. Something slipped off, 'clunking' noisily to the floor. That wasn't the damn phone either. Coming up empty, the sound just continued to reign out, attacking his all two sensitive, hangover brain.
Yet after another moment, it finally ceased.
Hefting a groan of relief, Xander dropped his arm down away from the stand, moving his body into the middle of the bed to get more comfortable. Just as he settled himself again, the phone went off again.
"Mother-," Xander began, muttering obscenities under his breath as he opened his bleary eyes, blinking a few times before the world came into focus. Apparently, some sleep was too much to ask.
Another a small pause, he pushed himself up to sit, rubbing the back of his neck where the infamous tattoo rested. Along with the others that were forever imprinted into his flesh. He could care less about them at that moment, however, the throbbing in his head just continued, making him feel like he had a mariachi band playing inside his skull, even worse with the light shining in his head. Just sitting there he looked over his shoulder, staring thankfully at the empty space, thankful the bimbo he'd shared his bed with the night before was gone. As so many had before.
One less person to be awoken by his damn fucking phone, he reminded himself.
Mentally shrugging it off, he reached for his boxers, putting them on easily enough before he went treading through his home. Stepping outside the door, he froze as he took in the sight of the world outside his bedroom.
That was one way of putting it. It looked as though a tornado of beer cans and food came barreling threw. Posters were knocked off the walls, toilet paper was thrown over the ceiling fan which was still spinning around, some of his shelves were knocked off the walls, and all his chairs were knocked over. In all, it looked as though everything was thrown into a blender and turned to the highest speed before being dumped out.
Could have been worse though, he reminded himself.
Not sparing it much more thought, he kicked cans out of his path as he went deeper into the Unknown, better known as his living room. The sound became louder then, not heaping his throbbing head in the least. He tried to listen still, pin point where the fucking contraption of hell was, which with all the shit lying on the floor and furniture, made it as always, nearly impossible.
Though, after another minute of listening, he finally found the culprit in the back pocket of his pants. Which so happened, that it was among all the garbage on the floor, thrown carelessly as it had when he'd been so eager to take them off.
Without another moment's hesitation, Xander flipped the Sat-com open, the familiar face popping up on the screen. This was definitely not the face that he wanted to wake up to see in the morning. If at all.
"This better be good," Xander mumbled a bit,
"I hope I didn't disturb you, Xander," Gibbons said promptly, calmly, no edge to his voice at all. If anything, there was only a slight tilt to his head as he looked expectantly at the other man.
"That's a bunch of bullshit 'n we both know it." No, if you asked him, Gibbons purposely liked to call at the wrong times. But then, there was never a good time for him to call. "But for the record, yeah. You did. Was in the middle of sipping a Corona on an island, far, far away...from you," he told him, looking down at the Sat-com in his hands, as he moved his feet through the piles of garbage. Taking a seat, he pushed all the junk that was on the couch cushion to the floor, not helping the mess one bit.
"Funny you should mention that."
"Yeah?" Xander in turn replied, as if he was interested in what he had to say. Unfortunately for the man on the other hand, he wasn't. Setting it down on a clean spot of coffee table, he hunched over some, one elbow resting on top of his thigh. "Well, what the hell do ya want, Scarface? I got two women on that island waiting for me to get back to 'em."
"Have you checked you're mail today?" The suave reply just came rolling out of his mouth easily. Too easily.
Though, the question made him quirk his brow.
"What do you think?" the ever smart-assed retort came, face frowning then along with it.
"I think you should check your mailbox," Gibbons told him, hinting along. But Xander knew. He knew Gibbons a long enough time that he knew when something was fishy. And he had more then a vivid idea of what exactly, what the damn bastard wanted when he came knocking. But that didn't stop him from trying to see if he drive other man's patience.
"Mail don't come till afternoon," Xander told him then, relaxing back into the chair, ignoring something semi-sharp that was sticking him in the back. His arms stretched out above him, curling back before his hands rested behind his head. He gauged his reaction, face remaining stoic, while inside, he was smirking.
"I believe you know I'm not talking about just regular mail."
Yes, there was no such thing as regular mail in the NSA's eyes. No, they were personally delivery parchments. Of course, he never saw them being dropped off either. No trucks pulling up, no people dropping them off... He didn't know how they did it either, considering he'd never seen, or anyone drop it off. Probably with their reach of hand they had some sort of... ninja United States Postal worker that would drop it off without making a ruckus. Though, as much as it was entertaining to think, he didn't think gibbons would be as creative to do so.
But he still didn't make a move to get up, just looked intently at the other man. "And I believe you know that no mail comes inside this house till afternoon, when I like to check my mail."
"Well, I think you should," the other man told him, voice just hitching a bit. He didn't seem to show it just yet, but he knew he was starting to hit the right buttons. Even though the other man would never blow his top, he was too full of himself in Xander's eyes to.
"And if I don't feel like checking it," he pressed further, darting his eyes away from the screen, picking up a beer bottle that had yet to be opened off the floor, twisting the cap off with a quick jerk of the hand. Didn't matter it was warm like bath water, beer was beer in his eyes.
"You know the alternative."
Xander snorted loudly as he took a sip. "Yeah, and you still owe me for the last windows you busted. Can't you guys use cleanlier ways of entrance? Like I don't know… Maybe using a door? Or is that too sophisticated for you crack jobs?"
"I mean... you don't see me comin' around your house, busting your windows in when I want you do to do something for me," he told him, pointing his index finger at his chest in emphasis, still holding the beer bottle in his other fingers. Not that he'd bother to even do it, however. Though, entertaining the thought nearly brought a grin to his lips, just his.
A faint eyebrow raise and Gibbons was on him again. "Keep pushing it, Xander... you might not like where you'll be waking up next."
There was the warning again. But he still was unfazed. Been around it enough to know when to push and when not. When he was crossing the line of Gibbons's patience. He really didn't need to have the crew coming in again. He didn't feel like calling the cleaning bunch again. Though, JJ would surely bitch to no end at him if he just left it.
Finishing his beer bottle, he sat it atop the stand next to the couch. Waving a hand at him at him dismissively, he stood from the couch. "Yeah, yeah... keep throwing around your idle threats, " he muttered, crossing around the couch and towards the building's side door. Still, however he was in the line of sight of the Sat-com, he'd made sure that he'd placed it so.
Mumbling something incoherent as the stark cold splashed against all the bare skin, he chided himself mentally that he didn't put something else on besides his boxers.
Not stepping outside fully, he opened the door just enough that he could reach his hand into the metal mailbox. Being nailed in the brick right next to the door, Xander didn't have to step fully into the cold as he reached to lift up the black lid, dipping his hand inside to collect the bounty.
No surprise was to see the manilla folder rearing its head as he brought it out, the shiny clasp holding it closed. Pulling away the lid closed again, a scrap of metal on metal emitting as he turned and shut the door closed after him.
"So, I take this as a sign that my resignation didn't go through again?" Xander asked this time, looking at the contraption that was sitting arrogantly on the table. Digging his nail under the clasp, he lifted the flimsy holder, one and then the other.
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