...

A/N: Oh look. I'm on a roll now. I fell into another YouTube hole and now it's the middle of the night, but I'm trying here.

Anyone who gets this chapter's song title gets Internet cookies. No googling. I want to see how old my readership actually is. There is a hint in the chapter somewhere. See if you can find it.

I stole some lines from 'Rescue Me', because their portrayal of a firehouse is pretty hilarious, and I'm not that funny.
...

Chapter Thirty-Two - He beat a very brave retreat

...

Maggie walked into her kitchen and immediately knew there was going to be trouble. She'd seen Jeff's Jeep in the driveway, and had rushed in the door, leaving her purchases in her car.

What she found inside was even crazier than her overactive imagination could have come up with.

Boromir was in underwear and a t-shirt, sitting under her kitchen table, rubbing his head. Jeff was sprawled on the floor with a very confused look on his face, and Herman was glowering at all of them from the top of the fridge.

"Uh," Maggie said.

"Why is there a man under your kitchen table?" Jeff asked, somewhat tensely. "...In his underwear?"

"I'm not entirely sure," Maggie replied, entirely too cheerfully. "He is actually supposed to be in my kitchen. He isn't a stranger, at least."

"Well, that clears that up," Jeff arched an eyebrow sarcastically. Maggie held out her hand and pulled him to his feet, then walked over to the table and had a silent conversation with Boromir, involving several eyebrow motions and bizarre facial expressions. He came out from under the table, rubbing the bump on his head.

"Jeff, this is Brandon," she smiled. "Brandon, this is my colleague Jeff."

"Charmed," Jeff said, waving a bit.

"Hello," Boromir said, looking down at his feet.

"Right," Maggie interjected, after a suitably awkward pause. "Why don't you go get dressed? I'll make coffee."

"Yes," Boromir replied, pushing past Jeff and jogging up the stairs.

"Sooo," Maggie scratched her head, as she headed over to the coffee maker and started preparing a pot. "Now you know what I've been up to lately."

"I had an idea when I saw the clothes all over the living room," Jeff gave her a grin that distinctly told her she would eat shit for this for a long time. "He's a pretty piece of man meat. Where'd you find him?"

"Internet," Maggie replied, flicking the switch, which lit up orange. The coffee maker hissed, and began to sputter.

"Mail-order Englishman?" Jeff asked.

"Pretty much," Maggie replied, without skipping a beat.

"Any idea why the fuck he was under your table?"

"I have no clue. He probably kind of panicked when he saw you at the window and he was sitting there in his skivvies. He's a bit shy."

"I gathered," Jeff hopped up on the counter, his long legs dangling over the edge. "I suppose you'll be deflecting any further questions in your usual manner?"

"Yep," Maggie replied, pulling mugs out of the cupboard. Jeff folded his arms, and drummed his fingers on his sleeve. "So, what's the scuttlebutt around the house?"

"Chief's on the rampage again. City council cut the budget again and he's like a bull in a fucking china shop. You should see it."

"Nose getting red and dripping?"

"And how," he said gleefully.

"Of course, you delight in the politicking, so I'm willing to bet this is just a comedy of farces for you."

"Like a Monty Python sketch," he smirked. "He got so mad he came in and kicked in the recycling thing. You know the cardboard one in the kitchen? And then his foot got stuck." Jeff's shoulders began to shake.

"Oh my god," Maggie choked on a laugh. "What did he say?"

In a perfect impersonation of their middle-aged, somewhat stooping and overweight chief, he lit into a streak of ridiculous cursing.

"Blessed screaming Jesus on a whole-wheat goddamned cracker. Who in the sweet chocolate Christ makes a fucking cardboard bin?" he screamed, waving his arms. They collapsed, laughing hysterically. When they subsided, Jeff wiping tears of mirth from his face, he grinned at her. "There's a new guy, too."

"A probie? Been a while since we had one of those. How is he?"

"Retarded."

"Like Rainman retarded or Paris Hilton retarded?"

"Little of both," Jeff replied. "And he's tiny. I've taken bigger shits than this guy. I have no idea how he carries his kit."

"Brilliant," Maggie said. "Been busy?"

"Naw, quiet as hell. We had a small kitchen fire from someone's grandma falling asleep while making soup. And a heart attack. That's pretty much it for two weeks."

"Well, now we know why they slashed the budget again," Maggie pulled a tin of Danish Butter cookies off the shelf, and opened it, shoving one in her mouth, before offering it to Jeff. "You guys just fuck around all the time."

"There's actual cookies in these?" Jeff asked incredulously, taking one. "Mom has like eight of those tins around the house, all they have in them is thread or batteries or shit."

"Disappointment," she shook her head. "Eat one."

"That ain't no breakfast," he raised an eyebrow at her, and took one.

"More breakfast than my usual breakfast of coffee and a smoke," she shrugged, munching. The coffee maker steamed and gurgled, and she took the carafe and poured three cups, handing one to Jeff, black.

"Point," Jeff said. "So where's your boyfriend gone? Upstairs standing around with his dick in his hand?"

"Ask yourself this, Jeff: If a tree falls in the forest and there is no one to see it or hear it, would you still be such an asshole?"

"Suck it," Jeff responded, as Boromir finally came down the stairs, dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, his feet still bare. His hair was wet. "Well, hello there, handsome."

Boromir gave him a weird look, and took the cup of coffee proffered by Maggie.

"Ignore him, he's in full blown asshole mode," Maggie said. She turned to Jeff. "Be nice, or I'll kick you out."

"I brought you flowers!" he replied, gesturing at the table. "See, because I know how to treat a woman."

"You wouldn't know a woman if she sat on your face," Maggie replied crassly. Boromir, sitting back down at the table, had to think about that one for a moment.

"Bitch, I bought that bouquet," he replied.

"Hey!" Boromir snapped suddenly.

"Don't worry 'bout it," Maggie told him. "All of the guys at the firehouse talk like that, and they're worse to me because I'm a girl. But I give it back as good as I get."

"I still shocked the fuck out of you on the first day," Jeff pointed out. "What did I tell you, again?"

"I think you told me that a woman serves two purposes in a firehouse, giving you a blowjob or making you a sandwich."

"Oh yeah," he grinned. "Good times."

"I got you back for that, though."

"What did you do?" Boromir piped in.

"Put hot sauce in his underwear," Maggie said smugly. Jeff winced.

"Ugh, that was a great day to be running up the stairs wearing fifty pounds of gear. But you got mad respect from the guys for not taking my shit. Which is why we all love you now."

"Aww, you're sweet," Maggie took a sip of her coffee. "And oh so full of shit."

They continued their back and forth banter, as Boromir watched in fascination.

"So, Brandon," Jeff broke off from their little feud, and addressed him. "You're getting a bit left out here. Where are you from? And what do you do?"

"Yorkshire," he replied, surprisingly quickly. "And I'm... er..."

"Unemployed?" Jeff asked, quirking an eyebrow.

"He's a military captain, you asshole," she told him.

"Bullshit," Jeff said. "He doesn't have the hair for it."

"Retired," Boromir added. "Now I'm..."

"...an administrator." Maggie added quickly.

"Oh, cute, you're finishing each other's sentences," Jeff teased. "So you're like those asshats down at city hall who cut off our money?"

"I look after local lands," Boromir said easily, squaring his shoulders and looking Jeff in the eyes.

"And he has a title," Maggie smirked, as Jeff looked at her incredulously. "He's being modest. Yeah, he's an administrator, because he owns a lot of land."

"Lord of the manor, eh?" Jeff took a swig of coffee.

"Something like that," Maggie told him. "His Dad just died not too long ago, so him and his brother have to take over. The land has to provide employment and be self-sustaining. Or else it isn't worth much to anyone."

"That's right," Boromir interjected, smiling at her. "We must make sure that it is productive. There are a few farms to oversee, and some tenants as well."

"Ooh, kind of like Downton Abbey?"

"I don't know why you watch those girly soap operas," Maggie rolled her eyes. "But yeah, on a smaller scale."

"Shut up, my wife watches them. Like I have a choice," he shook his head. "She loves that shit. And you kind of get into it after a while."

"Ahuh," Maggie eyed him. "Sure."

"So, do you have servants? Like a butler and stuff?" Jeff was suddenly curious.

"Some," Boromir said warily.

"Great, now I feel all inferior. Even though I caught you hiding a table in your underwear. How did that happen?" Jeff wrinkled his nose.

"I'm good at picking men, what can I say?"

"The guys at the house are all gonna want to drop by to meet your duke or whatever. They're gonna ream you when you get back."

"They're just jealous I've got a real man instead of a hard-on in a hard hat."

Jeff chuckled.

"Serious, though. If you could keep me on the downlow for now, I'd appreciate it," Maggie told him. "I'm still not feeling good. And he's been really helpful to me here." Jeff's sharp gaze softened a bit.

"Yeah, helpful, sure," he grinned. "At getting into your pants."

Maggie threw a spoon at him. "Animal. I mean it."

Jeff caught it. "Okay, okay. I won't say anything. But you know what a bunch of catty old ladies the boys are. Like a bunch of grandmas in a sewing circle. I'm surprised they don't take up knitting and bake each other pies."

"You do it too," Maggie pointed out.

"So do you," Jeff shot back.

"Ah, but I actually AM a catty old lady. There's the difference."

"I see," Jeff smiled, downing the rest of his coffee. "Okay, Mags, Lord Brandon. I got a shift at the house to pick up, unlike this lazy bum," he hip-bumped Maggie. "Thanks for the coffee. Good to meet you. Even in the bizarre circumstances."

"Likewise," Boromir replied smoothly, smiling slightly. Maggie could tell he still felt uncomfortable and completely out of his element. Jeff put his mug in the sink, and headed out the door.

"Later, Mags."

"Bye, Jeff," she said, shutting the door behind him. "Bye, Jeff," she repeated softly at the closed door, and shook her head.

She turned to Boromir, who raised an eyebrow at her.

"Strange man?"

"Says the guy hiding under the table in his underpants."

Boromir frowned, and Maggie held up her hands in surrender.

"Okay, I won't ask. Or mention it again. Ever."

...

The eclipse crept up even faster than Maggie expected. The evening was fast approaching, and she was still frantically stuffing as many things as she could into bags.

"Do you need any help?" Boromir asked, watching her fold a hoodie into a tiny little package.

"I don't think so. What do you want to bring back? Anything? The suit's coming, but I don't know if you want anything else."

"The jeans," he said. "And the shoes. They are comfortable. And maybe some coffee."

"I promised Haldir I'd bring him coffee, anyway."

"Pfft," Boromir scoffed. "Too strong a drink for Elvish tastes."

"You're probably right," Maggie chuckled. "But do remember that they can drink any of us under the table without even twitching one of their pretty little eyelids."

"True," he conceded. "Are we ready?"

"If we can figure out how to get the piano outside, yeah."

"I think we will manage," he smiled. "It has wheels, yes? Do you have a board?"

"Oh, yeah. In the garage. Wanna go set that up?"

He nodded, and headed outside.

...

An hour and a half later, they were standing in the middle of a circle of salt and candles, and Maggie was burying the piece of paper that Boromir had written Gandalf's instructed words on in his flowing, elegant hand. She had her new medical bag slung across her chest, a backpack over her other shoulder, and was holding the handle of a rolling suitcase. Boromir had her guitar case, which she'd stocked with picks and extra strings, and another backpack with his clothing in it. He was dressed in the Middle Earth garb he'd arrived in. The piano was pushed just beside where Maggie was burying the paper, and as she brushed the earth back into place and wiped her hands on her pants, he pushed it into place.

Maggie?

Gandalf's voice rang through her head. She closed her eyes.

"Loud and clear, Gandalf."

It is almost time. Are you prepared?

"As ready as we're going to get," Maggie replied. "I've got everything you asked for. The neighbours might be a bit curious about what's going on, but not for long."

I want you to listen carefully. A second voice chimed in. You will feel pain, Maggie. Much pain. Your soul has been split, and we will try to force it back into one body. I need you to focus very, very intently on the very fabric of who you are, and as soon as you see yourself in Middle Earth, let go of everything from your home. Just relax, and let go.

"Yes, Lord Elrond," she murmured. "I will. Any instructions for Boromir? He can't hear you, remember?"

For him it will be similar to the trip to your world. The real difficulty will be bringing you here permanently. Gandalf's voice rang in her head.

We are all here to support you. Another voice to the mix. Aragorn. Maggie smiled.

"I'm ready when you are," she said, looking up as the shadow moved across the moon.

...

A/N: Leaving there for now. :) Finally, going home.

Last chapter's song: Dancing in the Dark by the Boss, Bruce Springsteen.

...