So, I know I have a few unfinished fics up, but I'm really having fun writing this one, and the words for the others just aren't coming at the moment :(

Anyway, it's focused on yet another original character - this one is Australian, so I've tried to get the accent down in writing, which is actually kinda hard because I've never really thought about how I talk...I've had a few weird looks from my housemate when I randomly say a word out loud a few times, then go back to typing. I've left a lot, out because it would've got too hard to read and too annoying to write - like I COULD have put cahn't instead of can't, and all that, but...nah. All you really need to know is we're kinda lazy when we talk, heh heh, so missing T's and other letters are normal :P

Another thing - if you're a fan of Duke and Scarlett, you probably won't like this. I'll always be a Scarlett and Snake Eyes girl :D

Last of all, MASSIVE thanks to theonewhowrotetatertots for putting up with all my emails full of possible ideas, random questions and other stuff! It's much appreciated! :D

Also, I've never been to LAX or JFK, so I was making it up as I went :)

The big blonde man was finding it hard to stretch out his long legs. As he shifted in his seat again, tugging at his tie, Mel Cobb raised an eyebrow. "An' that's whatcha get for wearin' a monkey suit on a plane," she said with a self-satisfied smirk.

He glanced sideways at her, no doubt wondering how much more comfortable her holey, frayed jeans and cut off singlet were. Probably not much - would anything be comfortable on a flight this long? And under these circumstances?

This was why she hated flying; she could never seem to get comfortable in plane seats. That, and she usually got stuck near a screaming kid. Or beside somebody who didn't understand that headphones in ears means, 'Don't talk to me'.

Well…at least he'd loosened her cuffs a little. And when the flight attendants had brought the dodgy in-flight breakfast, he'd even unlocked one side to let her eat. Granted, he'd cuffed the free end to his own wrist until she was done, but hey…it'd felt good to stretch that one arm.

Maybe she could convince him to let her stretch the other one. He seemed like a pretty reasonable guy. She rolled her shoulders and tipped her head from side to side, cracking her neck loudly.

Hauser was giving her a suspicious look, his cool blue eyes narrowed at her as if he expected her to try something.

Mel rolled her own hazel eyes and sighed in exasperation, rattling the cuffs pointedly. "Don't reckon you could gimme a break, could ya?" She spoke in a low murmur, just like Hauser had told her to. She didn't know why; as it was, they had the whole row of seats to themselves. Apparently, not many people wanted to fly from Melbourne to LAX at 0330 hours, even though it was a cheap flight. Mel didn't blame them - it'd only been three hours since takeoff, and she was already over it…and there were still thirteen bloody hours to go.

And that wasn't including the flight from LAX to JFK.


The big man paused for a moment.

"C'mon, Connie, I needa pee, anyway," Mel insisted bluntly. "Unless ya want me to just go 'ere? Or didja bring one o' those doggy mat things for me?"

Special Agent Conrad Hauser shifted again. "Alright," he said quietly. He reached over her and grabbed his jacket from the empty window seat beside her - she sat in the middle of the row of three seats, while he'd taken the aisle. Mel raised her hands and Hauser, with a quick glance around, unlocked the cuffs.

Damn, it felt good to have those metal bracelets off…even if it was only one side at a time. She wanted to stretch her arms wide right there, but that wouldn't go down too well. She was a convicted criminal, after all…it wouldn't do to have the flight attendants freaking out if they saw her unrestrained.

Hauser draped his jacket over her arms, hiding the fact that the cuffs were undone. "Come on."

His knees popped as he stood to let her out. Mel arched her back before shuffling into the aisle ahead of him, and they both headed toward the bathroom. He kept one hand on her shoulder, his fingers hooking into her collarbone. It didn't hurt…but it still wasn't a pleasant feeling.

They squeezed past a flight attendant on the way. The woman glanced at Mel before hurrying onwards. It didn't bother Mel; she was used to getting looks like that. Mostly, it was the torn clothes, and maybe the tattoos; four stars - red, green, blue and pink - curving across the swell of her breasts on both sides just above her bra line. Those tattoos were real attention grabbers - not that that was why she'd got them. She just liked stars. They weren't usually on display like they were today - she normally didn't show as much skin as she was now.

Hauser took his jacket, then stood discreetly with his back to the door as she went in and closed it behind her. Inside - nasty and cramped and gross as it was - Mel grinned and laced her fingers together, cracking her knuckles as she stretched her arms high. She didn't really need to pee…she'd just wanted an excuse to get out of that damn uncomfortable seat. She stretched her back and rolled her ankle - the right one, the one that tended to seize whenever she sat down for a long time - from side to side, enjoying the sound and the feel of her joints loosening up.

After a few minutes, there were three sharp raps on the door. She scowled at it, picturing Hauser on the other side, imagining the uncompromising expression that he probably wore on his attractive face.

Yes, she thought he was kind of cute. Square jaw, bright blue eyes, broad shoulders, a great arse…and she'd always had a thing for blondes. It really was too bad he'd arrested her. Otherwise, she might've asked if she could buy him a beer sometime.

"Alright. Alright already! Jeez!" She yanked the door open, glaring. Hauser glared right back and threw his jacket at her. His eyes flicked sideways; Mel also noticed the flight attendant watching them carefully. "Get back to your seat."

She didn't move, briefly thinking of trying to escape, but what was the point? There was nowhere to go, and she didn't exactly feel like crashing the whole damn plane.

Hauser grabbed her shoulder again, frogmarched her back down the aisle and shoved her into her seat.

Mel rolled her eyes as he fastened the cuffs around her wrists again. "D'you really think that's necessary?" she complained.

Hauser shot her a look, but said nothing.

"Fine then, be like that," she said sullenly. "I'm watchin' a frickin' movie."

"Go ahead. If it'll shut you up for a couple of hours, all the better," Hauser retorted.

"Ah, stick it up your arse."

Before he could answer, Mel jammed her cheap airplane headphones in her ears and turned the volume up loud, jabbing at the touch screen mounted into the headrest of the seat in front of her. It was too bad there was nobody sitting in it - that could've been amusing.

With a final glare at Special Agent Hauser, Mel reclined her seat back as far as it would go and tried to get comfy.

"Wake up."

Mel groaned and went to slap at the hand that was roughly shaking her, but a tug on her opposite wrist reminded her that she was still cuffed. "We there yet?"

Hauser nodded.

"Good. 'S about frickin' time," she grumbled, shaking her choppy, chin-length, chocolate-coloured hair from her eyes. She stretched, then realised that she was taking up more space than she had been - she'd ended up curled awkwardly on the two remaining seats in their row, her head wedged in the corner of the wall and the back of the window seat, her butt right up against the armrest separating her from Hauser.

Mel sat up, yawning. Looking around, she saw that she and Hauser were the only two left in the cabin. She'd slept through the entire landing sequence.

Great. She was going to be so jetlagged…

Hauser leaned over her, his hand still on her shoulder. "Come on," he ordered gruffly.

Muttering curses to herself, Mel allowed him to adjust the jacket over her cuffs - because that wouldn't make it obvious she was under arrest - and walk her through the plane to the exit. He thanked the flight attendants on the way out. Still a little fuzzy-headed, all Mel could be bothered doing was scowling petulantly. She kept pace beside Hauser as they headed into the Tom Bradley International Terminal.

Compared to Tullamarine Airport in Melbourne - which only had four terminals - this place was huge. People bustled everywhere, hurrying to the carousels to claim their luggage, jostling for good positions right by the edge of the belt.

It was too perfect. She couldn't pass it up.

Mel stopped, looking up, pretending to be peering around the airport curiously. Hauser turned to hurry her up - and she slammed both her clenched fists into his gut.

Special Agent Hauser doubled over - Mel thought it was more surprise than anything, because the guy's abs were iron-hard - but he made a grab for her anyway. Mel ducked away, only to be yanked around as he caught hold of his jacket, still draped over her cuffs. The sleeve caught on the links - she pulled away, and couldn't stop herself grinning smugly as she heard the expensive jacket rip at the seam. Hauser was left holding most of it, while the sleeve slithered to the floor.

Served him right, wearing something that fancy on the job.

People shouted irritably as Mel took off - of course, the first thing they noticed was a tattooed woman of average height, wearing jeans so torn they might as well have been shorts, big black biker boots and a blue singlet raggedly cut across the midriff bolting at them.

The next thing they noticed was the silver glint of the handcuffs, and when they saw that, the shouts turned into screams.

"Stop!" Hauser roared behind her.

Mel shoved her way through the crowd by one of the carousels, ignoring the indignant protests - which again turned to screams - and leaped onto the belt. Her feet almost went from under her, but she regained her balance quickly, scrambling over the carpeted island in the middle.

"Move! FBI, get outta the way!"

She risked a brief glance over her shoulder - Hauser was hot on her tail, running toward her. He'd have a gun somewhere, she was sure of it. Maybe it was strapped to his ankle. Wherever it was, he hadn't reached for it. He didn't want to shoot her - he had to take her in alive.

Which meant she still had a chance. A slim one, but hey…she'd never been one to pass up an opportunity.

Although…wasn't that what'd gotten her into this in the first place?

Mel danced along the top of the island, then, when she spotted a space on the conveyor belt that was clear of luggage, she dropped down onto it. Behind her, she heard the big FBI agent's thudding footfalls as he, too, jumped onto the belt. "Stop!" he shouted again.

Like hell. Mel ran along the black rubber belt as fast as she could, nimbly dodging the suitcases and carry bags dotted along it, making for the only exit she could think of - the small gap in the wall, covered by black plastic flaps, where the luggage disappeared. She didn't know what was beyond there, but hey…ever since she was a kid, she'd always wanted to just sit on a carousel and ride it all the way around. Now she had her chance.

She was almost there. She was just a few steps away from the wall when, without warning, something crashed into her from behind. She went down hard, landing painfully on the corner of a large suitcase, her cuffed hands outstretched but not doing much to prevent her fall.

Strong hands shoved the suitcase off the carousel and flipped her onto her back. She caught a glimpse of the black half-sphere covering a surveillance camera before Hauser leaned into her line of sight, reaching for her arm.

Mel brought her wrists down on his hand. The handcuffs glanced off his flashy gold watch and bit into her own skin, but she'd knocked him aside. Without hesitation, she swung both arms up again, this time catching him across the face. With a grunt of surprise, Hauser rolled right off the conveyor belt - just as Mel went headfirst underneath the plastic flaps.

It was loud out here. Men and women in fluorescent safety vests and earmuffs looked up in surprise as Mel rolled to her feet, still riding the belt, the rumble of machinery assaulting her ears and drowning out her own rapid heartbeat.

Not for very long, though. Suddenly, an alarm sounded and the conveyor belt lurched to a stop, pitching Mel forward flat onto her face.

"Ow," she mumbled, rubbing her nose.

"FBI!" Hauser's voice boomed behind her. "Everyone down!"

The airport workers hit the ground quickly. Mel glanced behind her, hearing the plastic flaps slapping together as Hauser stood.

"Give it up," he said. "Stop running. There's nowhere for you to go." He approached slowly, hands out, as if she was a flighty horse that needed calming.

She didn't waste her breath answering. Her fingers locked around the handle of a small briefcase on the belt in front of her and she lunged to her feet, swinging. The case smacked him square in the jaw. Without waiting to see if Hauser went down, Mel chucked the briefcase, jumped off the carousel and bolted. She hurdled the workers still lying on the floor and weaved her way through the trucks ferrying luggage from terminal to plane - or the other way around.

Suddenly, a loud bang echoed through the large, warehouse-like area. There was a ping from a steel shipping container beside her, and sparks flew. Dammit, Hauser was shooting at her!

Well…there were fewer people out here than there were in the terminal. Less chance of hitting someone other than her.

Mel ducked behind a forklift and crawled along its length, catching her breath for a moment as she peered around the end, back in the direction she'd just come from. Hauser slowed to a halt, his keen blue eyes searching. There was blood trickling from his mouth - looked like she'd split his lip when she whacked him with the briefcase. Nice.

One of the workers glanced up…and looked right at her. "There! Behind the forklift!"

"Shit," Mel spat. She launched herself to her feet.

"I don't think so."

She literally bounced off Special Agent Hauser - it was almost like she'd smacked face first into a brick wall. He loomed over her, his face hard.

Mel gulped and went to back away. Hauser snatched the handcuff links and yanked her forward again. "Enough. Cooperate, or…"

He left the threat unfinished, spinning her around and forcing her to walk.

"Or what?" Mel pressed obstinately, trying to shrug his hand off her upper arm. It didn't work - his grip was like a vice, on the verge of hurting.

"Or," he said, and he surreptitiously pressed the barrel of the gun he held to her back.

Mel swallowed, for the first time feeling a twinge of nervousness. It was a big gun - a Desert Eagle. It'd make a fair-sized hole. "You wouldn't."

"No, I probably wouldn't," he admitted. "But I would hit you with it. It'd be just as easy for me to carry you around as it is to walk."

One of the workers showed them to a door. As they strode through it, applause rang out through the terminal; the passengers congratulating Hauser for apprehending his ward. Mel felt her face go red, so she lowered her head and scowled at her feet. Well...this was going to be on the news.

After what seemed like a long parade through the airport, Hauser pushed her into a small room. It looked like one of the rooms she'd seen on those TV shows about airports - where the customs officials interrogated suspicious people.

She supposed it was fitting.

"You thirsty?" Hauser asked as she sat on one of the two chairs at the small table.

Mel nodded, looking past him out the window into the hallway she'd just been marched down. Two security guards stood watch out there - they'd accompanied her and Hauser through the airport. One of them gave her a foul look in return.

"I'll get some water. If you move, those guys out there have permission to do whatever they have to do to stop you."

Mel scoffed, and Hauser left the room. Nevertheless - even though she probably could've taken the two guards out, handcuffed and all - Mel didn't move an inch until he returned with a plastic cup of water.

"What, ya don' trust me with a glass?" she asked, raising an eyebrow.

"No. I don't," he answered bluntly.

They settled into an awkward silence, Hauser watching her every move.

Glancing up at the clock on the wall, Mel sighed. Another forty five minutes until they caught their connecting flight to JFK, and that was another few hours in the air.

Maybe she could sleep through most of that one, too.

Sleep? Yeah. Right.

The plane was full. Hauser and Mel sat right at the back of their section. At least this time Mel had the window seat, and it wasn't dark outside, so she could look out at something. The aisle seat beside Hauser had been kept empty, and they were right near the bathroom, so they were able to get up and stretch without drawing too much attention to themselves. There was a young guy across the aisle in the middle row of seats; he kept looking over at them curiously.

One of the security guards had returned the remains of Hauser's jacket to him. Mel had it draped over her like a blanket. It was big enough - Hauser was a big guy. At five feet six, Mel's head just reached his shoulders.

She snuck a glance at him from the corner of her eye. Yeah…he was definitely cute.

Well, she supposed the more correct term would be 'handsome'. Cute was too…soft...for his square jaw and sharp cheekbones.

"What are you looking at?"

Crap. Sprung. "Just the cut on ya lip," she said, allowing a note of smugness into her voice. "'S a good look."

Hauser shifted and glanced at his watch. "Twenty minutes to landing," he said, tactfully ignoring her taunt.

"Good. Me bloody arse's gone numb from all this sittin' down."

"Charming. If you need to go to the bathroom, now's the time - we go straight to the car when we land."

Mel rolled her eyes. "I can't pee on command," she muttered. Nevertheless, she held her hands out.

Hauser unlocked one side of the cuffs and stood, gesturing for her to get up. The guy across the aisle glanced over and gave her a hopeful smile.

In your dreams, mate, Mel thought. Then, as an afterthought, she smiled sweetly at him - and 'accidentally' let the cuffs slip into view.

The guy's eyes went wide and he looked away quickly. Mel let her smile turn into a smirk.

"What's so funny?" Hauser asked suspiciously.

"Oh, nuthin'."

Hauser narrowed his eyes. It took all Mel's self-control not to snigger; she averted her eyes, her lips pressed into a tight, twitching line, and squeezed past him, heading for the bathroom.

Again, they were the last ones to get off the plane. The guy across the aisle hurried off as quickly as he could, climbing over the seats all the way across to the other aisle with a nervous glance behind him.

Hauser frowned. "That was weird."

"What was weird?" Mel asked, even though she'd watched - and smiled wickedly at - the guy as he left.

Her tone must've been a little too innocent. Hauser glared. "What did you do?"

"Nuthin'!" she protested.


"Well, it's not nice ta gawk at people. I mighta let the cuffs slip inta view when I went past 'im before. Maybe."

Was that a slight smile on the special agent's face?

Nope. He grabbed her arm, hauled her out of her seat and off the plane.

Now that the boring part was over, time seemed to speed up. Hauser walked her quickly through JFK, not letting go of her arm once - not giving her the chance to bolt like she had at LAX. There was no escaping that grip; Mel followed along readily, looking around, this time in earnest. They didn't need to line up along the carousels to wait for luggage; all Hauser had needed to bring was Mel, and she hadn't been allowed to bring anything with her.

Of course, where she was going, she didn't need anything.

They strode quickly through the terminals and to the entrance. Just before they continued on through another door marked 'Staff Only', Mel's attention was caught by a red-faced man gesturing wildly at one of the ticket counters and complaining about only being five minutes late for his flight while the woman behind the desk looked on, clearly unimpressed. Mel couldn't quite suppress her malicious snort - stupid man. Maybe now he'd learn get to the airport on time. Idiot.

"This way," Hauser said shortly, pulling her down a long corridor and to another set of doors that led outside to a private carpark. A car was waiting, parked illegally right in front of the doors - an inconspicuous dark blue sedan with, of course, tinted windows. Mel could just make out the driver's shadow through the windscreen, but didn't have time for much else. Hauser opened the back door and urged her in quickly, a hand on the top of her head, pushing her down onto the seat. He shut the door after her, hurried around the front of the car and got in.

Mel tried the door. It didn't open…but it wasn't locked, either. "Really? You child-locked me in? Seriously?"

The driver's head turned to Hauser, then he twisted in his seat and studied Mel curiously. He looked her up and down, then grinned broadly. "You must be Mel."

She met his blue eyes, taking in the dark hair and at least three days of stubble growth on his chin. "I'm sorry, were ya expectin' someone else?"

Hauser sighed. "Just drive, Steinberg."

"Just hang on a sec," Steinberg answered, waving dismissively. "Can you just say one thing for me? Please?" he asked Mel.

She stared at him.

Hauser cleared his throat impatiently.

"Okay, okay. Yeesh. Your panties all bunched up, or what?"

Mel snorted. Hauser ignored her, fixing the driver with an even, deadly glare.

"Right. Sorry, man. Drivin' now." The scruffy-looking man turned the key. The car started quietly, and they pulled out of the carpark and joined the flow of traffic heading out to the freeway.

An hour later, Steinberg parked the car out the front of a tall, fancy-looking building - a hotel. Mel gazed out the window, waiting for Special Agent Hauser to open the door for her.

"Everything's already set up?" Hauser asked Steinberg.

The driver nodded.

"Good." Hauser nodded and clapped Steinberg on the shoulder before getting out.

Steinberg turned to her as soon as the other man had closed his door. "You know, I really like Australian accents," he hinted.

She smiled sweetly at him. "That's nice," she answered, and got out without hesitating as Hauser opened her door.

"So…I'll talk to ya later, huh?" Steinberg called after her.

Mel adjusted the jacket over her cuffs as she and Hauser walked through the doors of the big building and straight across the foyer to the elevators opposite.

They didn't have to wait for one - the doors pinged open immediately after Hauser jabbed the call button. Once inside, he let go of her arm and pressed the button for the thirty-first floor.

They didn't speak. Mel leaned casually against the wall, inspecting herself in the mirrored back wall of the lift…and maybe checking out Hauser's reflection a little, too. He stood with his weight even on both feet, his broad shoulders squared. It looked like he expected her to make another break for freedom.

Yeah. Because she could get the emergency hatch open, pull herself up through it and climb the elevator shaft, all while handcuffed. She snorted quietly, shaking her head.

The cheerful ping of the doors broke the silence. Hauser held one arm out, indicating for her to go first.

Wow. Handsome and a gentleman, she thought. She allowed herself a small smile when she had her back to him.

Hauser guided her along the corridors until, finally, they stopped at a room at the very end of a short hall branching off the main one. He knocked three times quickly, then another two, slowly. There was a short pause, and then the door opened.

He gave Mel a gentle push into the room. It was the biggest hotel room Mel had ever seen - hell, it was practically an apartment. The first thing she saw was the large living room - with a huge, squishy-looking couch in front of a massive TV - separated from the kitchen and dining area by a single step. A hallway off to the right must have led to the bathroom and bedrooms.

Hauser stepped inside after her. As soon as the door closed, he grabbed his jacket, tossed it over the back of the couch and undid her cuffs - both of them. He pocketed them - she wouldn't be wearing them for another few days, hopefully.

Mel rubbed her wrists. While the cuffs hadn't been too tight, they definitely hadn't been comfortable. She'd been wearing them for pretty much a whole day straight - almost the entire time it'd taken to get here. There were red marks around her bony wrists, and in one spot on her right wrist the skin was rubbed raw.

Not that she was about to complain. It was all part of the job; she'd known that from the start.

"Well…we made it."

She turned to see Hauser grinning at her - it was the first time she'd seen him grin since he'd found her.

Mel grinned back. "Eventually," she agreed. Wow…he was even more attractive when he smiled. Maybe she'd offer him that beer after all…

"Welcome to the team, Mel."

"Ta. 'S good ta finally be officially on board, Duke."