Collateral Damage

Challenge Response on Raising Hell March/April, Scene: "Two characters are changing a tire", Words: (use 2 of these 6 in a fic): "earpiece, blender, anti-stress, instruction, reactive, metallic"

Setting: post season 2 'Some Assembly Required', probably AU (just to be on the safe side), White POV

A/N: My gratitude goes out to my awesome beta twinchaosblade who makes sense of my stuff, even if I don't.

oOo

Ames White is sitting in the car, drumming his fingers on the steering wheel impatiently. Every once in a while he pulls his cell from his jacket pocket and checks for missed calls. Nothing. Of course.

In his frustration he considers smashing the device into a million tiny pieces but for one, it wouldn't get the useless bum of an assistant back here any sooner and second, he'd cut himself off any help if necessary.

"Some days are just not worth getting out of bed for," he sighs angrily.

Why Otto would take forever getting a jack from town when it's only seven miles down the road is beyond him. One thing Ames is sure of though, Otto is going to live to regret this.

Becoming antsy from merely sitting around, he finally opens the door of his black Land Rover and steps out onto the dirt-covered, vacant highway – or what's left of it after the Pulse. Irritably he loosens his tie; the sun is still high on the horizon and there's not a cloud in sight. Brilliant.

As he fishes for his anti-stress pills in the pocket of his pants and comes up with an empty container, White's mood takes another dent. Sighing, he spins around and starts kicking the flat tire as if it were responsible for his all-out misery, which isn't all too far off, truth be told.

"Two and a half hours!" he rants dangerously, kicking again and again. "It's not like I don't have more important things to do than wait for my lazy excuse for an assistant." Another kick. "The one who should have checked for a proper jack in the trunk in the first place." Ames stops short of another kick. Great, now I'm already talking to myself.

Just when he's ready to resume lashing out, a cloud of dust announces another vehicle approaching from the distant city. Otto! Finally. For just one second White entertains himself with the idea of how he might get back at his no-good subordinate for the long delay.

It only takes a few more minutes for Ames to realize that the rusty Pick-Up moving towards him certainly isn't his assistant returning. White checks his cell phone once more. Nothing. Maybe Otto should contemplate not returning at all…

A short time later, the beat-up truck slowly comes to a stop next to the seething agent, its corroded exterior in stark contrast to the Land Rover's metallic polish. The young man behind the wheel measures White up cautiously before so much as opening the window.

"Flat tire," the man nods. "You happen to have connections to a garage I can get for you?"

White regards the blond driver with the same guarded scrutiny he received before, his right hand never far from his weapon. There's no such thing as being too careful nowadays. Most hapless punks will cut your throat within the blink of an eye for a tank full of gas, not to mention a top-act car…

"No, thanks. I've got a spare wheel, just no jack to change it." Ames squints his eyes against the sun and silently curses Otto for the millionth time.

After hesitating for an instant, the young man slowly opens the driver's door and gets out of his truck. "I've got a jack on the flat bed. Nothing fancy but it should do."

Now that the man in his faded overall is walking to the back of his discoloured Pick-Up, White gets a good look at him. He's tall and well-built, moving calmly and in balance like a trained fighter. Although his blond fringe seems to obscure his view, he never leaves the agent out of his sight entirely. A smart man, that's for sure. Even though White can't put his finger to it, there's something about the stranger that rings a warning bell deep down within him.

"You could get that spare tire of yours while I dig up the jack." The other man calls over, the smallest hint of irritation in his voice.

"Right," Ames answers, trying to cover his displeasure and shrugs out of his suit jacket and tie, stowing them on the driver's seat lest they get greasy. As long as the blond is helpful, there's no point in losing his temper. Rolling up his sleeves, he walks around the Land Rover and retrieves the spare wheel from the trunk. While rolling the tire up to the front of his car, White takes a moment to subtlety memorize the truck's registration, just to be safe.

The young man is already crossing the street, smiling triumphantly with a brittle-looking jack in one hand and a large spanner in the other. He pauses almost imperceptibly when he spots the gun in White's belt holster.

"You a cop?" The blond asks casually.

"No. Someone who knows how to defend what is his." Ames leans the wheel against the Land Rover's front door and gives the other man his most reassuring smile; something he doesn't get to use all that often.

Apparently it's enough since the blond crouches down and pushes the jack into the right spot, pumping the lever with an impressive show of strength and lifting up the front progressively. Once the tire comes clear, he takes the spanner and loosens the screws gradually one by one with enormous effort.

Next, the young man pulls the flat wheel off and gives it a good shove to have room for White to hand over the spare one. Together they push it onto the screws and Ames wheels the flat tire back to the trunk while the blond fastens the nuts again. When the agent returns to the driver's side, the other man is already done with lowering the Land Rover and collecting his tools. He swipes his hands on the legs of his overall even though he hardly broke a sweat.

"That's it," he says. "You should have the screws checked properly once you're back in town, though."

Ames nods and offers his hand in gratitude. "Thank you, –"

"Adam." The blond provides reactively and takes the offered hand.

"Thank you, Adam."

"Don't mention it."

"They say, you always meet twice in life," White calls after him when Adam turns to leave.

The blond nods, frowning at the enigmatic statement, throws his tools onto the flat bed unceremoniously and gets behind the wheel.

Ames is already in the driver's seat again and pulling his laptop out when, after a last honk of his horn and a short wave from White, Adam starts his truck and disappears into the distance.

First thing, the agent saves the Pick-Up's registration and type in a file, together with the young man's name. Better safe than sorry. A good fifteen minutes later, after skipping anxiously through his data at random, he finally recognizes the blond on a photo. Impossible! He double-checks disbelievingly and comes to the same result again.

"X5-599," he mutters to himself. "Who would have thought?" White closes his laptop, his bad temper all but gone. Guess people are right after all. You always meet twice in life.

The End