Reputation

For the lj user="100_tales" prompt #050. Comfort.

Summary: Chance temporarily leaves a distressed client with Guerrero – who doesn't have the best reputation in comforting people. At least Carmine is there too.


"Guerrero!"

Guerrero looked up, chopsticks in hand, as Chance pounded up the stairs.

"Dude," he said in response.

"I was going to eat that," Chance complained, gesturing at the carton of takeout in Guerrero's other hand. Guerrero merely shrugged. There was a woman with Chance, twenty-something, pale and shaking.

"Who's the girl?"

"Lexa," Chance said. "One of the clients I told you about?"

Guerrero frowned, fished around in the takeout some more. "I thought the dude was Lex and the girl was Myka."

"No! The dude is Mike and the girl is Lexa." Chance sighed. "I'm sorry I didn't ask you to get involved sooner. Happy now?"

"Who said I was unhappy? Don't mistake my lack of interest for hurt feelings."

Lexa pointed one accusing finger at Carmine, who was lying near Guerrero's feet in the – so far, unrealised – hope of a morsel of food falling on the floor for him to eat. "Is that a Rottweiler?"

"That's Carmine," Chance said dismissively. "He's harmless. Aren't you, boy?"

Carmine lifted his head, regarded his master and their guest for a moment, decided the newcomers didn't have any food, and lay back down with a sigh of resignation.

"Look, I have to go and get Mike," Chance said. "Watch Lexa for me."

Guerrero hesitated, noodles halfway to his mouth. "What happened to never taking your eyes off the client?" It was his motto or something. It would be printed on his business cards, if he had business cards – come to think of it, Winston had some sort of business cards. Guerrero only stopped his internal musing when Chance began speaking again.

"I don't usually have two clients at once," Chance said. "And if Mike's where I think he is, it'll be very dangerous to take Lexa there. Besides, I'm not taking my eyes off her so much as putting yours on – and Winston will be here in ten minutes, plus I'll be back within thirty minutes. Forty, tops. Forty-five and all three of you, Lexa included, best arm yourselves to the teeth and come look for me. Bring grenades."

He turned to leave and Lexa grabbed at his elbow. "You're not leaving me here?" she hissed, with a horrified glance at Guerrero, implying though not actually adding, "with him".

Guerrero hid a grin and gulped down the noodles.

"You'll be fine," Chance said soothingly. "Thirty minutes, Winston will be here soon, and Guerrero – well, he's more dangerous than he looks."

Probably not the best way to reassure her, Guerrero thought, well aware of what Chance was apparently oblivious to. Lexa had already pegged him as dangerous, and maybe creepy. He did sometimes have that affect on people.

Feeling vaguely amused and rather charitable, Guerrero said, "I'll watch her, dude. Go."

Chance gave one Lexa of his dazzling smiles which still did nothing to calm her, and dashed off. Lexa turned to face Guerrero, looking like she was on her way to the guillotine.

"I'd offer you something to eat," he said. "But this was pretty much the only edible thing left in Chance's fridge. There's beer, though."

Lexa shook her head and sank to the floor. "I'm not hungry anyway," she said and dissolved into tears. Fantastic. Thank you very much, Guerrero thought, for leaving me with the weepy client. Where the hell was Winston?

Guerrero stood and disposed of the empty carton. He rooted around in the cupboards, returning to the lounge area with a bottle of whiskey and a couple of shot glasses.

Lexa had apparently now decided Carmine wasn't dangerous, for she'd moved to sit by the docile dog and had one arm outstretched. She petted his head and, when he barely acknowledged the contact, leant forward and wrapped her arms around him, sobbing into his fur. Carmine gave a low, sympathetic, grumble and licked at one of her hands. Guerrero sat on the sofa and poured two shots of the whiskey.

"Here," he said, as gently as he could manage. "It's the best stuff Chance has." Or at least the best he'd found during his routine snooping.

She lifted her tear stained face and nodded, taking one of the glasses and draining it in one go. She replaced it on the table and he refilled it.

"They blew up my office building," she said.

"Better than your house," Guerrero said.

She stared at him as if the thought had never crossed her mind. "But what if someone was hurt? Killed?"

"Not your fault." Guerrero was hazy on the details since Chance hadn't bothered to ask for his help until he was already knee deep in bad guys, but it was a fairly safe bet that Lexa wasn't to blame for the trouble she was in. Maybe she'd seen something she shouldn't, gained access to some information that someone didn't want her to have, maybe she'd just pissed off the wrong people; it didn't matter. If Chance was protecting her, she and this Mike were, if not the good guys, not the worst guys in this picture. Guerrero could relate.

Lexa drank her second whisky. Guerrero filled the glass again, though decided a third would have to be her last; he had no idea of her tolerance for alcohol and Chance would not be happy if he had to drag a drunken client around with him.

"I just want this to be over," Lexa said.

"Chance will end it, one way or another," he told her, knowing this to be the truth, and hoping Lexa would focus on the positive outcomes he was implying.

She nodded, stroking at Carmine's head, toying with his ears. "Have you known him long?"

"Long enough."

All three of them were on alert at the sound of a downstairs door opening and closing. Guerrero held up one finger, motioning for Lexa to be silent. She nodded fearfully, one hand still on Carmine's head. The dog hadn't moved, which Guerrero took to be a good sign, though as far as he could make out the mutt was so damn lazy it might just be he couldn't be bothered to play attack dog.

"Guerrero? You here?"

Winston. "Up here, dude."

Winston hurried up the stairs. Guerrero gestured and made introductions.

"Lexa, Winston. Winston, Lexa. Did you bring any food?"

Winston glared at him. "No, I did not bring food. Do I look like a pizza delivery boy?"

"Sexism, dude. Not cool." Guerrero hated to miss any opportunity to irritate Winston.

"Pizza delivery person, then!" Winston shook his head in frustration. "Where's Chance?"

"Picking up Lexa's friend Mike. Be back in about twenty minutes or he needs the cavalry. Either way we can then move to my part of the plan. Explosives." Guerrero drained his own whisky. "First, I'm going to go get more food. Later."

Lexa watched him go then turned worried eyes to Winston. "He scares me almost as much as the guys who are after me."

Winston nodded. "Yeah, but he's mostly on our side. And if Chance told him to look out for you, he'll do that, no matter what."

Guerrero, just on the edge of hearing at the front door, rolled his eyes. He had a reputation to preserve, and Winston was not helping. Not cool, dude. Not cool at all.