A/N: Hi! This is a one-shot of Nate's POV of when he meets Burns. It is a companion piece to my story Gone Native, but it doesn't have to be read with Gone Native to be understood. This is ch. 3 & 4 of that story.
I wasn't really paying attention to where I was going. My mind was on other things—a new offensive drill I wanted to try; the Brad Paisley concert I had attended last week at Red Rocks, I could not get those songs out of my head; the latest episode of SNL, I had a new impression I was working on to make the guys laugh; and my plans for the weekend, which consisted mostly of football on my big screen TV and beer. I was following two other University of Colorado assistant football coaches, Stan and Doug, through the maze of concrete hallways below Folsom stadium toward the conference room. I had the place memorized, not only from my time as an assistant coach, but from my time as a player. The walk was long and boring, so I slowed up until I was a few paces behind Stan and Doug. I pulled a rubber band off of my wrist, I kept them there at all times for just these purposes, and quickly shot one at the back of Doug's big, bald head. My aim was true—I didn't have a death wish, and Stan didn't have a sense of humor—and it hit Doug square in the back of the head. He winced and turned around to give me a stern look, but I could see the laughter in his eyes.
"Grow up, Boog." Doug used the nickname the whole team used for me, short for Booger. I was quite proud of it.
"Never!" I shamelessly replied. I was thirty-three years young, and I was never planning on getting old. Maybe in body, but never in spirit.
We continued walking, nearly to the room designated for the meeting, but I still lagged behind. I had no idea why Coach Garrett had called this meeting. It was late, I was tired, we had an early practice in the morning, and there was nothing I could think of that needed talking about. He was Texan, however, and sometimes he just liked to yell about nothing in particular. He reminded me of a woman in that respect.
I rounded the last corner, taking a deep breath as I did so, preparing myself for whatever he decided to do or say.
Nothing could have prepared me for what I saw, however.
Stan and Doug were stopped dead in front of me, and their huge height and width completely hiding me from view—but I caught a glimpse. I saw Coach Garrett, my mentor and friend, the man who was practically my father, pressing a scalpel into Josh's neck. I quickly eased back down the hall and around the corner, my back against the wall, unsure of what was happening, needing to reassemble my thoughts.
Stan was never one to think before he spoke, so he exclaimed, "What the hell is going on!"
A fight broke loose. I peeked around the corner to see Doug pulling Stan off of Terry, one of our Trainers, while Coach Garrett crouched terrified in the corner, his hands covering his eyes.
Something was not right here.
And then Terry pulled out a gun.
But Doug and Stan were both linebackers from the South, and a tiny little pistol didn't scare them at all. Terry, on the other hand, was shaking from head to toe. Stan reached out with one enormous paw and flicked the gun from Terry's hands. Doug followed him by punching Terry so hard that his whole body lifted off the floor and travelled back a few feet before crumpling to the floor. The two of them turned as one and began to run in giant, pounding strides down the hall. I was way ahead of them.
I had no idea what was going on, but I knew that I needed to get out of here. I was built for speed, and in no time I left Stan and Doug in the dust. I tore out of the stadium and made my way around one of the side buildings. I could hear people pursuing us, yelling at us to stop, but I had no intention of listening to them. I could feel my whole world collapsing around me, and my body filled with panic.
Run or hide? Run or hide? Run or hide?
I was looking around for somewhere to hide when all of a sudden, smack!
I should have seen that coming, considering I was running for my life, but the door just opened and there he was. I was moving so fast there was no way to avoid him. While I was getting up, I was distracted. This was slowing me down, and now the best option seemed to be to hide, but there simply were no good place. My eyes rested on the man that I had knocked to the ground. He was talking, apologizing I think, but I wasn't listening. I sized him up in one instantaneous glance.
He was tall, well over six feet, and every inch traditional ginger. Red hair, pale skin covered in freckles, and what appeared to be blue eyes. He was covered in dirt, probably a groundskeeper since he was wearing a CU uniform, and he was looking at me with concern and understanding.
I don't even remember making the decision to trust him, the words just came out of my mouth in a panicked rush, "Please, please, help me, hide me, please, please."
Ginger hesitated for only a moment before pulling open the door he had just come out of and whisper-shouting a single word: "Hide!"
It was the door to the Grounds and Service Center. I didn't even look back, just ran straight inside, found a tool cabinet with enough room to hold me, and jumped inside.
My pounding heart sounded loud enough in my own ears to attract the attention of every person in a one-mile radius, so I tried to calm myself as I strained to hear what was going on outside.
I didn't have to wait long. The sound of the door crashing open reached my ears and just after that a male voice said, "Good evening. We have two escaped humans on the loose. It is imperative that we capture them as they accidentally walked in on an insertion. Have you seen anyone suspicious?" Two? That mean they hadn't seen me! And if they're talking about humans like they're not human, then what are they?
I held my breath as I waited for Ginger's answer. I could hear the doors to the cabinets being opened near me, and I knew that I could be discovered at any moment. I reached around in the dark and grasped a long handle, hoping it was attached to something sharp like a rake. The door outside crashed again, I tensed, were they leaving or were more coming in?
"We got them. On the other side of the stadium. Come on, we need to be present for the insertions." What the hell are insertions?
My breath escaped me in a silent gasp, my mind didn't even try to figure out what it all meant. My muscles were tense as I gripped my weapon; I was determined not to be caught off guard if this was a trick.
"Thank you for your help, it seems we have found them. Have a pleasant evening."
The door closed, and I heard it lock. My breathing got quicker, my muscles more tense, and the cabinet door opened slowly, just a few inches. I pushed it open the rest of the way and leaped out. The ginger-haired man skittered back a few feet, alarm on his face, while I, still afraid for my life, raised my hoe above my head and charged. He did the oddest thing, though. He just put his head down, like he was disappointed. I stopped my attack and waited. He looked up after a moment.
He took the opportunity to talk. His voice was soft and kind, as he said "My name is Burns Living Flowers," he seemed to run out of words at that point, which was fine with me. I would never get over Boulder and their weird Hippie Flower Power names. If I were him, I would have changed it the day I turned eighteen. "We need to get out of here in case they come back. Come back to my house with me and I will explain everything. We will be safe there"
This I found hard to believe. "You'll explain everything? What do you know about it?" Unless he is one of them?
The look in his eyes confirmed what I suspected, but for some reason, I knew that though Ginger was one of them, he disagreed with what they were doing. He motioned for me to follow him, and I did so with reservations.
When we got to the door, I stopped and whispered, "I can't go out there. They'll do the same thing to me that they did to my colleagues. To my friends." I was terrified, and ashamed of being terrified, but Josh had been one of my closest friends, and clearly Coach Garrett wasn't right in the head either.
"Don't worry, they won't suspect you if you're with me," he encouraged, still moving. This solidified my belief that he was one of them. He unlocked and opened the door up and stuck his head out. The coast was clear, and the two of us began walking toward the parking lot. Ginger was totally chill, seemingly without a worry in the world, but I was bouncing all over the place, about to make a run for it, and turning my head back and forth so quickly I was going to give myself whiplash. Ginger put his hand on my arm, trying to calm me down.
"You need to act like nothing is wrong. You need to be calm and pleasant," he whispered urgently, "act like me."
I tried, I really did, but I'm pretty sure my smile looked like Sheldon Cooper's. Once we got in his truck, I gave up pretenses and just worked on not puking. I went back over every detail of the past half hour, adding up everything I knew, which wasn't much, and then repeated the process. I could not make any sense of it. We got to his house eventually, though I couldn't have told you where it was for the life of me. He ushered me inside and asked me if I wanted anything to drink or eat.
I almost laughed, knowing if I ate anything right now it'd come right back up, but managed to keep the sarcastic edge out of my voice while I declined and commanded, "No. I want to know what is going on, and I want to know now. You seem to know. Tell me."
"Sit down. It's a long story." He took a deep breath, and sat down on the leather sofa, motioning me to sit in the matching lazy-boy across the room. He gave me a furtive glance and I got the feeling he was remembering me attacking him with the hoe. I sighed, wishing he would get on with it already.
"My name is Burns Living Flowers," Again with the Hippie name, we were going to have to do something about that, "and I am a Soul."
This time I did laugh. I thought gingers didn't have souls?
A/N: So there you have it. If you're not familiar with Boulder, CO, well... it's 25 sq mi surrounded by reality. Some of them are in their own little world (I say that with love, I have many friends that are Boulderites).
Don't forget to review (I respond to every single one) and go read Gone Native if you haven't already!
Finally, I believe this is the 1000th story in The Host category! We all know this category is going to explode once the movie comes out, but we can say we were here at the beginning :D) Kudos to all the writers (and readers/reviewers!) who have contributed so far! I love reading what you guys write!