Willie passed close to Tyler, who glanced up with a warning scowl, only to have it turn into a quizzical frown when he saw who it was.
"Sunrise cocktail, Mr Ham?" Willie offered, holding a tray placatingly in front of him.
"No," Tyler said shortly. "Thank you."
He re-applied himself to his task, and Willie moved on.
From across the room, Julie Parrish watched the brief exchange through slightly alcohol-tinged eyes, and grinned. They had an uneasy friendship, those two. She stared in their general direction for a few moments, ignoring Mike Donovan, Kyle Bates and Elizabeth, who sat with her at the table. On sudden impulse, she got to her feet and moved unsteadily over to Tyler's corner. She ignored the glare. Setting down her drink, she seated herself without invitation.
Tyler sighed to himself, but a social situation seemed inevitable.
"What do you want, Julie?"
Julie shrugged. "Thought you might like some company."
Tyler heard the very slight slur in her voice and looked up briefly, giving her a swift appraisal before turning back to his gun.
"Why don'tcha relax sometime, Tyler?" she demanded, waving an arm at the mini-arsenal before him. "All these guns an' stuff - don't you ever get sick of it?"
"No." He levelled a stare at the biochemist. "And I am relaxing."
For some reason, this struck Julie as incredibly funny and she dissolved in peals of laughter, almost spilling her drink and causing Tyler to look both alarmed and guilty as he glanced around at the attention they were attracting. He was about to scoop together his gun and leave when Julie put out a hand, trying gamely to stifle her laughter.
"I'm sorry," she said at last, and downed the rest of her cocktail to prove it. "C'mon, wanna get me a refill?"
Tyler gave her a "who-me?-you've-got-to-be-kidding" look, but took the glass anyway. As he hastened off to find Willie, Julie smothered more infectious giggles, visualising the effect she was having on Tyler's precious dignity. After a few moments on her own, Julie went in search of her quarry, thinking it all too likely that Tyler might have chickened out to his room. However, they almost bumped into each other rounding a corner, Tyler with not one but two glasses in his hands.
"How thoughtful!" Julie cried, relieving him of both.
"They weren't for you," he told her.
"Since when did you drink, Tyler? A sober is more judge than you." Tyler lifted an amused eyebrow at her, but Julie seemed unaware that she'd said anything wrong, and ploughed on with the tenacity of a person on their sixth glass. "Whassa matter? Can't hold y'liquor?"
Tyler grinned, a hard expression but not without humour. "I'll have you know," he said, first checking that the corridor was empty, "that I could drink your pretty head under the table any time."
Julie looked positively shocked. "Tyler..?" She banged the side of her head, as if to make sure she'd heard correctly. Tyler waited with the ghost of a smile on his face, making him look almost lupine. Again, an eyebrow lifted in challenge. "Nahhh," she decided, examining his face closely. "I must be drunk."
"Yes. Come on."
Tyler took her elbow and steered her in the direction of the sleeping quarters.
"Where're we going?"
"You're going to bed."
Tyler nodded firmly.
Julie let herself be led along the corridor for a while, considering this, then stopped still, shaking herself free of Tyler's grip. "You afraid I might beat you?"
"You know..." She emptied an imaginary bottle down her throat. "Glug, glug .. under the table."
"No, I'm not."
"Then what's you're problem, mister?"
Tyler strolled back to face her, smelling alcohol already heavy on the petite Resistance leader's breath. "Because," he said slowly, his tone mocking, "I wouldn't want to take advantage of you."
Julie snorted. "Is that all?" She
grabbed his arm. "C'mon, mister, you need a lesson in humility."
He caught sign of Donovan in one corner, nursing a glass and bottle, shook his head and made his way over.
"That's my 1953 Dom Perignon, Donovan! Where the hell did ...?"
Elias snatched up the priceless bottle, but it was already more than half gone. He stared at it in dismay, then down at Donovan, who didn't seem to care or even notice. Elias thought of how he'd obtained the bottle in the first place and decided he really couldn't complain. He shrugged philosophically, removed a glass from the tray he'd set down, polished it automatically and poured himself a generous glass of his favourite champagne. He sat down opposite Donovan.
"Do you at least mind telling me why?"
Elias correctly surmised that his revered Dom Perignon wasn't the only alcohol the man had managed to snaffle that night, and it piqued his curiosity to find Donovan so out of character. He would be the first to indulge in a drink or two, but only with friends and getting drunk was usually a happy and communal - if noisy - affair.
"Donovan... Mike." It was impossible to be angry with him. He downed the champagne and reached for a refill. "You wanna talk about it?" he asked in the manner of all bartenders.
At first, Donovan shook his head, but his tongue was already loosened with a very expensive lubricant and the tale of 'his' Julie and Tyler - of all people! - eventually unfolded. Elias listened with some sympathy, but more amusement, as he learned of the drinking contest between an unlikely couple, and how Donovan had been dumped for a bottle of Scotch and a mercenary.
"Tell you what," he said at length, his mind
already working along the deviant lines it was famous for. "I've
got an idea that I think you're gonna love..."
It was 9.15am when Julie Parrish regained what she wished wasn't consciousness. Oblivion was far nicer, and it didn't have a large, heavy shape numbing her legs.
She rolled this thought around in a fuzzy sort of way, and eventually raised her head ten centimetres from the pillow to see a near-naked Ham Tyler draped solidly across the end of her bed. Julie fell back with a groan.
"Oh no," she muttered, testing out her mouth at the same time, "Not him. Why him? Woman, have you no taste?!"
From the end of the bed, gentle snores interrupted her monologue. She managed to extract her feet, eased herself up in the bed and began massaging life back into them.
Parrish, she told herself, struggling to get out of the bed, Never Again!
It struck her then, judging by past experiences with alcohol, that she was at a total loss for what had gone on the night before. Her last clear memory was sitting down in front of Tyler, who was then oiling his gun. The circumstances under which the latter had fallen asleep across her feet in her room were fuzzy at best , and she shuddered to think what they might have been. All she could think at the most was: Ham Tyler??
With a sudden rush of energy, she slid deftly
out of the bed and, finding herself still fully clothed, escaped out the
door to the bathroom, muttering something about needing major reconstructive
surgery to her head, tongue and eyes, in that order. None seemed
to fit in their proper places.
The man in question awoke not long after, and was now to be found moving with extreme care down the corridor to the kitchen, looking for all intents and purposes like a corpse that had recently been robbed from its grave. Which would not have bothered him, if only he didn't feel like one.
Coffee. He needed coffee.
Just in time, he pulled himself upright as he rounded a corner to bump squarely into Mike Donovan.
"Why don't you look where you're going, Donovan," he growled, but the bigger man was not to be fooled.
Tyler glared at him, and shoved past with an unintelligible grunt. Coffee....
When he finally made it to the coffee pot, which sat permanently on a warmer in the kitchen's dining area, Julie Parrish was to be found tucking brightly into a huge breakfast of bacon, eggs, sausages, toast and coffee. Tyler stared in disbelief. It didn't help that he couldn't remember who had actually won the drinking contest. Up until that point, he had magnanimously decided to call it a draw if the subject ever came up. Now he hoped it never did.
"Hi, Ham!" Julie greeted cheerfully. "Wanna sausage? Elias cooks great sausages..."
She waved a greasy example in his direction, and the mercenary paled even further.
"No. Thank you," he said, stone-like. He caught the knowing twinkle in Julie's eyes and steeled himself for what he had to do. "But that bacon looks great. Do you mind?"
Before Julie's amazed eyes, Tyler lifted a rasher off her plate and downed it with apparent relish. "Mm, you're right. That.. really hits the spot. Want some more coffee?"
"Yeah. That's be nice. Thanks."
Tyler moved easily over to the coffee, pouring two generous mugs. He banged Julie's down in front of her and asked,
"I take it black."
Tyler grunted. "Me too."
In the silence that followed, Julie continued to devour her breakfast, while Tyler tried to scrutinise her out of the corner of his eye.
"More bacon?" she offered.
"Why not? I could eat a horse."
"Elias!" Julie bellowed, and his head appeared around the door. "Any more bacon out there?"
"Sure, Julie, no problems."
"And three eggs," Tyler added manfully. Elias nodded and disappeared inside the kitchen, whistling cheerfully.
The look of absolute revulsion when he'd laid the huge breakfast down in front of Julie had been an excellent reaction, just what he'd hoped for. Mike had then entered with a hearty 'good morning' to ensure that Julie's well-known pride made her start in on the breakfast as if nothing had been wrong. He'd hung around for a few minutes, then took pity on her and left. But a bonus had come their way in the form of Ham Tyler...
In the dining room, Julie regarded him uncertainly as he took a large gulp of his coffee. He caught her stare and lifted a challenging eyebrow. Julie half-smiled, and put knife and fork together on her plate.
"Well, I've got to go. I'll be late for work."
"On a Saturday morning?"
"Overtime," she said smoothly.
Tyler watched her retreat gracefully, and shook his head in amazement. She was full of surprises, that woman. Perhaps it was because she was so .. diminutive and so unassuming that he kept underestimating her. Well, never again.
Elias kicked open the swinging door and, still whistling, set down a huge plate of bacon and eggs in front of Tyler. The mercenary gave Elias his best scowl, but Elias merely pointed down.
"Hey, don't look at me, you're the one who ordered it. And you'd better finish it, too. Do you know how expensive eggs are these days?"
Tyler took one look at the plate, where the
eggs swam peacefully in the bacon grease, and shoved back his chair with
a snarl. A hand flew to his mouth and Tyler made a very undignified
escape to the ringing sound of Elias' laughter.
Julie emerged shakily from the bathroom, regretting the day she was ever born. What had she hoped to prove, anyway? A stupid drinking bout with Ham Tyler, of all people, and all she had to show for it was a thumping headache and a stomach with an identity problem for food.
What bothered her most, though, was that he didn't seem to be showing any signs of discomfort. It merely doubled her suspicions that he must've won the contest.
Julie headed for her room to do a little repair work on her face before heading off to Science Frontiers. Quite by accident, she came across Tyler emerging from the second bathroom in the basement complex. He looked pale, but otherwise his usual, impassive self. Something in his demeanour, however, made her slow and stop. He was eyeing her with that penetrating stare of his, as if seeing her for the first time: cautious, yet assessing. She lifted an inquiring eyebrow.
Tyler had been doing some thinking while occupied in the bathroom, and had come to some pretty startling conclusions. He was planning something dire and retributive (although he didn't know what yet), but as he caught sight of Julie, a new appreciation of her prompted him to speak,
"You know they planned this."
Julie nodded slowly. She didn't like being the butt of a joke, especially when it meant other people knew of their little drinking bout, but she could appreciate the dig at their stubborn prides which had forced them to consume huge breakfasts and then throw them up again. And she was not above a little harmless revenge when it was called for..
"They did, didn't they?" she grinned, and Tyler couldn't help responding to her frankly admiring (and also scheming) expression. He folded his arms and tried to stop the smile he felt forming on his lips.
"I suggest a counter attack."
"Just what I was thinking." She glanced up at him. "Joint attack? What do you think?"
"I think we'll do pretty good."
Tyler's sudden, broad smile was not his usual,
guarded one. Julie felt like she'd just been admitted to a private
club, and returned the grin in kind. It was a hell of a way, she
reflected, to get to know a person.
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