A/N: This spawned from a LJ community challenge in which we were given a list of real movie titles to choose from. We had to use that title as a prompt to create a whole new story, M7 style. Naturally I went with my usual humor mixed with a little fluff, lol. This is an ATF story. :)
A frantic banging on his door startled Vin into full wakefulness. "What the hell?" he murmured as he climbed out of bed. He made it halfway across the living room of his small apartment before the door flung open and a very frazzled-looking Ezra Standish rushed in, turning around to slam and lock the door behind him.
"Ezra? What's goin' on?" Vin asked, on full alert now. If the undercover agent came to him in the middle of the night in Purgatorio, something bad must've happened. The answer he got, though, was not what he expected.
"St. Claws. He's after me," Ezra spat out before dashing over to make certain the windows were secured.
Vin squinted at the Southerner, perplexed. "Did you just say Santa's after you?"
Standish shook his head as he continued his check of the security of Vin's apartment. "Not Santa Clause, St. Claws. Claws - C.L.A.W.S."
Vin watched his friend's scrutiny of the safety of his home for a few more seconds before finally speaking. "Ezra, you know I keep this place locked up tight. I live in Purgatorio,"
"Why do you think I came here?" Ezra shot back, then seeming just slightly less jumpy than he had when he came in, moved over to sit on the very edge of the reclining chair. Vin raised his eyebrows at the way the Southerner stared at the front door as if able to see right through it, and shrugged as he sat on the end of the couch closest to the fidgety man.
"Who's St. Claws?" he asked.
Lightening flashed outside the window, causing Ezra to nearly fall off his perch. "This was a bad idea. I should have gone somewhere else. He'll look for me here." He stood up, but couldn't seem to move his feet towards the exit.
"It's okay, Ez, you can stay here. I'll make sure he won't get you." Vin watched the nervous man as he continued to struggle in making a get-away. Standish only succeeded in taking one step forward before another bolt of lightening flashed outside, sending him scrambling backwards only to trip over the corner of the recliner he had just vacated. Vin jumped up and leaned over the normally unshakable agent, noting the near-wild look in his eyes.
"Ezra, just tell me what's going on," Tanner said gently as he helped his friend to his feet. Ezra's hand was shaking in the sharpshooter's grip.
"It's just like he said… Exactly six months to the day from Christmas. A silent storm with no rain, no wind, just lightening." Another flash lit up the room and Vin had to hold tight to the hand he still gripped just to keep Ezra from bolting away.
"Just like what who said, Ezra?" The Southerner's erratic behavior was really starting to scare Vin, now. He thought about giving Nathan a call, but remembered he left his cell on the bedstand, and he sure as hell wasn't going to leave his friend alone in his almost panicked state.
"The man…I don't remember." Ezra shook his head. "I just…he said it would happen and it's happening just like he said, and now St. Claws will come for me." His eyes shifted towards the door and then back to his friend's concerned visage. "Oh lord, he'll get you, too. What have I done? I have to leave. I can't let him get you, too."
He tried to pull away but Vin reached up and gripped his arm with his free hand. "Ezra!" he nearly shouted, hoping it would snap Standish back to himself at least a little bit. The effect worked. Somewhat. "Who. Is. Claws?"
For the first time since Ezra stormed in, Vin realized that when the smaller man looked around, his eyes never really seemed to focus on anything. The pupils weren't wide as they should have been given the adrenaline pumping through the Southerner's body; they were tiny, near pin-pricked sized, and Vin wondered at Ezra's ability to even see with the miniscule amount of light that was being allowed to filter through them.
"Doppelganger," Ezra whispered. "St. Nick's evil doppelganger, and this one doesn't leave presents. He takes them. He's coming to take them from me… and now you…"
Vin would have laughed if not for the seriousness of the situation. He looked closer at his friend, searching for any other signs of opiate use that the constricted pupils were usually a dead giveaway for. The issue was that there were no other symptoms. Ezra was far too energetic, his speech clear, his movements sharp and mostly coordinated (aside from the accidental stumble over the chair, but that was more fear-related and not due to lack of proper motor function). No, Ezra was definitely not on drugs of any form.
"He'll do it slow," Ezra murmured, his face paling as he reached up to brush a hand against his stomach. "He uses his claws to dig them out one at a time…"
Another flash of light actually made Standish squeak and he involuntarily threw himself closer into his friend's protection. Vin didn't push him away, instead wrapped an arm around the rigid shoulder and ushered Ezra towards the bedroom; he needed to get to his phone to call Nathan.
Ezra was the definition of tense within Vin's hold as the sharpshooter closed the bedroom door behind them, locking it at Ezra's desperate request.
"It's alright, he can't get us in here," Vin said softly as he steered his friend towards the bed and sat him down. Keeping one eye on the trembling man, he picked up his phone and dialed Nathan.
"Hey, Nathan, sorry to wake you. …Yeah, I know, but I've got a problem. …No, it's Ez. …Um…he's kind of…hell, I don't even know, Nathan. He's terrified, and rambling nonsense about a Santa doppelganger coming to take his insides out or something. His pupils are pinned. …I thought so, too, but he's not showin' any other symptoms. …No, he's definitely alert…I think. …Are you serious? …Hold on." He looked at Ezra. "Hey, Ez, can you tell me what time it is?"
Standish turned towards the bedside clock and squinted at it for a few seconds. His face scrunched up in confusion as he turned his unfocused eyes up to Vin. "I…I can't tell. The numbers aren't right…"
"Shit," Vin groaned, patting Ezra's shoulder in reassurance as he turned his attention back to the phone. "I think you're right, Nathan. How the hell did he get himself all the way to my- Ezra, did you drive here?"
"Well, I didn't walk," the Southerner snapped. "Didn't I already tell you that St. Claws is out there waiting for me?"
Vin cursed again. "Lucky he made it here in one piece. So, should I try to wake him up? …What? …So I just gotta deal with him like this until he comes out of it? …Well, hell, Nate, can't I just drug him myself, then? I've got sleeping pills around here somewhere. …Why not? ...Fine, then can't you just come over here? I don't know how to deal- …Shit, you're right, he's so jumpy anyone coming through that door might give him a heart attack. …Yeah. …How long do you think it'll take? …But I got work tomorrow! …Fine. …Yes. …Alright. …Yeah, thanks, Nathan. …I will. …See ya tomorrow."
He hung up the phone and looked towards his sleepwalking/talking/and apparently capable of driving friend. Ezra hadn't seemed to be very aware of the entire phone conversation; he was too busy shifting his nervous stare between the window and the door.
"Hey, Ez, why don't you lay down, try to get some sleep. I'll make sure no one gets in here," he offered.
"Do you have your gun?" Ezra quickly asked.
"You know I always have one close by," Vin smiled. The expression fell off his face as Ezra shook his head.
"Fantastic." The tone couldn't possibly be more full of sarcasm. "Guns won't kill St. Claws, Vin. Nothing will." The anger fizzled away and the terror returned to the green orbs. "He'll kill us both tonight."
A sudden idea struck Vin. "No he won't," he said confidently. "I know what'll kill him. It's a trick I learned from the tribe I stayed with for a little while out on the reservation."
Ezra's interest was peaked. "What's it do?"
"Destroys evil spirits, including doppelgangers." Vin smiled as Ezra gave him an eager look. Apparently dreaming Ezra was incredibly easy to manipulate.
A half hour later had them both stripped of their shirts, shoes, and socks, and sitting across from each other with a set of candles burning between them. Vin had used ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise as "spiritual paint." Ezra bought into it without question; so engrossed was he in participating in Vin's little made-up Native ritual that he no longer even jumped at the lightening flashes that lit the room around them. Instead, he just focused on the sharpshooter's rhythmic chanting, his mouth softly forming the repeated phrases as he began to learn them. An hour passed like that, an hour that Vin hoped would lull the Southerner deeper into a more normal sleep. It wasn't working, though it was good to see his friend looking far less terrified of some creepy, evil, organ-stealing Santa.
"Keep chanting, Ezra," he said softly, trying to think of some impressive way to end the made-up ritual. "I can feel Claws weakening. Can you feel it?" He waited until he saw a slight nod from the Southerner. "Good. I need to get one more thing, and it'll be over. Just keep chanting." He left and came back with a large pot, a bottle of lighter fluid, and a pitcher of water. Carefully, he placed each of the small candles into the pot. "Alright, Ez, when you reach the end of the chant, instead of starting over again I want you to scream 'I banish you, Claws!' as loud as you can, okay? It's gotta be you. That way you know you killed him."
Ezra looked nervous, but nodded. Vin readied the lighter fluid, and the moment Ezra let out his shout, he doused the candles in the liquid. The fire flared up out of the pot brilliantly for a few seconds until Vin poured the water in, sending a plume of smoke into the room. He quickly put the lid on the pot to contain it, then cursed as he jumped up to take the battery out of the smoke alarm before it started going off.
"Is it over?" Ezra asked, his voice shaky.
"Yeah, Ez, ya did it. He's dead. He can't kill anyone, anymore. Ya did good, pard."
Ezra nodded slowly. "I'm tired, Vin. Can I sleep, now?"
Vin sighed in relief. Finally. "Yeah, you can. You can sleep in my bed if-" He stopped talking as Ezra simply slumped over onto the floor right where he sat. With another sigh, Vin grabbed an extra sheet and a pillow and simply settled Ezra into a more comfortable position before getting ready to go back to bed, himself.
"What the hell?" a very irritated southern accent greeted him first thing the next morning.
Vin chuckled as he looked at the condiments smeared all over his friend's face and body, some of it migrating up into his tossled hair.
"Welcome back, sleeping beauty. I'll explain everything, but first you gotta tell me who the hell is St. Claws?"
Ezra frowned. "Something my idiot older cousin told me about when I spent one winter with his family. I had a bad fever, and it enhanced my resulting nightmares. Martin thought it was funny. …Why?"
"Because last night we killed him," Vin said, his smile turning a little sad. "You won't ever have nightmares about St. Claws, again, Ezra. That's a promise."
Ezra sat confused, but smiled nonetheless. Apparently another of his childhood demons had died at the hands of his friends.