Author's Note: Just a little bit of fluff that wouldn't be ignored. (I like fluff!) From the episode Duet for Two Wind Instruments – an epilogue just before the epilogue. I tried to make it longer – but I guess like me, some things are meant to be short. This is for Owl – a small repayment on a debt owed. :-) The characters aren't mine, and no money is being made.


by Jaz

Hardcastle shoved his hands into the pockets of his white jacket as he and McCormick made their way back towards the bus terminal. He observed the young man at his side out of the corner of his eye and cleared his throat. "You parked on the curb, you know."

McCormick looked over at the judge. He should have known this was coming. The ex-jurist had just said something bordering on nice - no time like the present for him to negate that. Mark knew better by now than to let it get to him. He shook his head. "It's not all that easy driving a bus, Judge. You try it sometime."

Milt raised his eyebrows and looked down his nose at the young man. "Oh," he said with enlightenment, "and I thought you were supposed to be able to drive anything with four wheels."

"That's like saying you can drive anything with four legs."

"Ride. I can ride anything with four legs. And I can."

"Yeah? Well, there's a nice Doberman over there. Climb on and we'll see how it goes." McCormick increased his pace slightly, moving ahead of the older man, hoping that was the end of the discussion.

Hardcastle had other ideas, matching his steps and rejoining the ex-con. "You parked on the curb, you know," he baited him again.

Mark stopped walking and turned in exasperation. "Yeah, I know. And yes, no doubt you can ride anything on four legs, in between your stints walking on water. Equally true is the fact that I probably can drive anything with four wheels. But take a look over there, Hardcase." He gestured toward the abandoned bus, which even now had a small, confused gathering of people outside its open door. "How many wheels are on a bus?"

Hardcastle frowned, knowing he'd been trumped, but unwilling to abandon the argument completely. They resumed walking in silence for a moment or two before he chimed in again. "They go 'round and 'round, you know."

At this, Mark barked out a laugh. "You're a donkey, you know that?" He looked over, catching the judge's eye. "I know what you're doing. But this isn't necessary. We're fine, Hardcase. Argument over. Done. I conceded, remember? You're the great white hero, riding the stallion of justice. I'm just the guy tagging along and covering your butt. But for the record, you didn't have to do that."

"Do what?" Hardcastle asked in confusion.

"Point out that the bus is on the curb. Put me back in my place. Knock me down again."

"I wasn't tryin' to do that!" the judge sputtered in indignation.

"Sure you were. You just paid me a compliment, or as close to a compliment as you can get on Planet Hardcastle, and so you felt like you had to cancel it out by pointing out one of my innumerable errors. I'm just saying, it's not something you need to worry about. I'm not likely to get a big head hanging around with you."

Hardcastle sniffed. "With all that hair, who could tell?"

Mark shook his head in bemusement and chuckled. "You're a donkey, Hardcase, no doubt about it. But lucky for you, I've learned to like donkeys."

Hardcastle smiled. "Hee-haw."