1. "Betty and Me," Jonathan Coulton
"Human cloning? You're not serious."
The Middleman just gives Wendy a look. "Have I ever not been?"
"Barring your sudden spate of comedy in the Underworld, not that I can remember." Wendy rolls her eyes. "So. Evil clone army? We gonna go all Sith on their asses?"
"Evil clone baby army."
"Now I know you're kidding."
He smiles just a bit. "A little. I highly doubt they've organized themselves into anything resembling a military organization yet. Possibly after naptime."
2. "I've Seen That Movie Too," Elton John
He can tell by the way she's leaning on the banister that it's already hit her. "You really think you can push me around like this, babe?" There's a drawl in her voice, an accent that's never been part of it before, and he has no idea where that hat came from.
"Dubby," he says gently, "nobody's pushing you around. I wasn't even talking about you, and—Mother of mercy, where did you get that thing?!" It probably says something about him that the cigarette shocks him more than the sudden anger from his sidekick.
She sneers as she takes a drag. "I just bet it bothers you. It reminds you of her, doesn't it? That…that tramp! Don't think I don't know about her!"
The Middleman sighs. Of all the settings the film ray could have gotten flipped to during the fight, why did it always end up stuck on film noir?
3. "Flesh 'N' Blood," Oingo Boingo
"I'm only human, Dubby." He says it like it's something to be ashamed of, like admitting that he has his limits is something he should never have to do.
It's the first time she's heard him say it, at least. It's weird: He seems so honest about himself most of the time, never too embarrassed to admit that he's jealous, or worried, or possibly even not perfect. But now that the fate of some dimension he's never even heard of rests on his shoulders, suddenly something is too much for him. Wendy finds herself standing closer to him, leaning her shoulder warmly against his. "Yeah, you are," she says with a grin. "But you're also not alone."
He returns that grin, standing up a little straighter at the sight of her. "That's true. And don't let me forget it."
4. "Déjà Vu," Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young
"Hope you've got your game face on," he says as she walks through the door. The same way he did yesterday. He spins in the desk chair, flinging a softball at her head. The same way he did yesterday.
She catches it easily. The same way she did yesterday. "You know, you lose the element of surprise when you do that two days in a row."
His brow furrows in a way she does not like. "I didn't do that yesterday. Yesterday I was under the Middlemobile's hood when you arrived."
"No, that was Tuesday."
"Yesterday was Tuesday." He pauses. "Unless…" A button pressed on the desk. "Ida, I need you to do a scan for chronological flux in the area." He raises a hand to calm Wendy, just worrying her further. "Don't worry, Dubby. It looks like you may have fallen afoul of a time loop. Just stay calm, keep your wits about you, and don't do anything that only seems like a good idea if this entire day gets erased."
5. "Ever Fallen In Love," Pete Yorn
It's probably the worst thing that's ever happened to him in this job, and that's including the thing with the goats and the transtemporal antimatter explosion. The antimatter didn't make him stutter.
"You okay, Boss?" Wendy raises an eyebrow. An adorable eyebrow.
He's grinning like an idiot. He can tell by the way she's looking at him. "Wendy, you are the most beautiful creature I have ever lain eyes on. Now please tell me the label on that love potion you just dropped says 'temporary.'"
6. "Valentine's Day," Linkin Park
She leans on the window without even sighing. She can't muster up the energy to express what she's feeling, just slumps against the sill, staring out at the street.
Even Ida is silent for once. Or not snarky, at least. "You knew this was what it was all leading up to," she says quietly.
"I know." Ida stands next to her, so subdued it's eerie. "But him being gone doesn't stop the world from needing saving, Boss."
She winces. "Don't call me that. Not yet." Someday she'll have to answer to it. But for God's sake, please not today.
7. "My First Born For A Song," Bell X1
He notices the way she's fidgeting with the pencil, the same one she's been fidgeting with all morning. She would have discreetly sharpened it at least three times by now on a normal day, and probably gone on to her third or fourth sheet of paper. "Are you even listening to me?"
She looks up in surprise that says she hasn't been. "'Course. Alien mummies, underground pirates, centuries-old feud. I'm right on top of it."
"So you've heard, but you don't seem to be listening at all." He pulls the notepad gently out of her hands. It's completely blank. "I see."
"More like you don't see," she mutters unhappily. A sigh. "I haven't drawn a thing in days. I've never had artist's block this bad!"
"Certainly not since I've known you," he agrees. A pause for thought, then a smile. "And I know just the thing for it." He gestures for her to stand. "Come with me."
She falls into step behind him before she starts asking questions. "Where?"
"To the Middle Archives." He turns to her with a grin. "We're heading for the really bizarre section."
8. "Hammer To Fall," Queen
"The end of the world." Somehow, she's not surprised. It had to happen at least once while she was on the job, right?
He doesn't look any more shocked than she does. Jeez, he looks gleeful. "Assuming we don't do something to stop it," he agrees. He's more than ready do so, judging by the amount of obscure weaponry he's packing. "There's nothing quite like a good apocalypse aversion."
Wendy checks her own gun, and the backup she doesn't think he noticed her slipping under her belt. "How many does this make for you?"
9. "Steady As She Goes," The Raconteurs
This is it. This is everything he wished for in the darkest hours, everything he walked away from without a second glance all those years ago. The house, the yard, the picket fence, and there in the doorway…
It's not the woman he was expecting. Wendy's smiling at him, but sadly. "Had a feeling it would look something like this," she says. "Your wildest dream is the kind of life most people spend their lives trying to escape."
He doesn't understand. What's she talking about? Why is she here?
"I don't know why," she admits without him saying a word aloud. "But apparently I'm in your head, and it's probably a good thing." She cups his face gently, making him focus on her. "Look at me, Boss. This isn't real. This isn't what you are."
He understands it when she says it, knows the illusion for what it is. But if he could just stay…
"I know. But look at it this way: You see this place you want so bad? This is the place you're making safe for everyone else. The greater good, right? And in exchange for never getting the life you could have had, you get to understand just how precious and fragile it really is." Her hands are firm, holding him in place, not letting him look past her at the scene he's begging to play a part in. "Come back to me. Boss. For the sake of this world." A smile, starting to look a little watery. "I'd hate to have to keep it safe without you."
10. "It's Good To Be In Love," Frou Frou
She doesn't say anything, just lets him brood for a while. He does it so rarely, she can put up with it for a bit. They're sitting together, pretending to work, neither of them really looking at anything.
He's the one to break the silence. "I'm happy for Lacey. For both of them" She makes a neutral sound. "Mr. Noser is a fine man," he continues. "They're a good pair."
"I was going to tell you, I swear."
He puts a hand on her shoulder. "You may be my best resource on the job, but it's not your job to shield me from the world." A rueful look. "Although sometimes I'm allowed to wish you had."