One Up

by Nix
(crimsonquills AT gmail DOT com)

Author's Notes: Somehow, I wrote this fic with no major spoilers at all. The only thing remotely like a spoiler is the name of the bad guy and the destination of the plane, which I don't believe count.

So anyway, last night I went to see Snakes on a Plane with aureliapriscus. It was, by the way, hysterically funny. I had lots of fun. Anyway, as we were walking into the theatre, I said: "Hey, Samuel L. Jackson plays an FBI agent! If they're going to L.A. or if they somehow end up in L.A., I will write a Numb3rs crossover."

Sure enough, ten minutes into the movie, it becomes obvious that the plane will, in fact, end up in L.A. I do a brief facepalm and then immediately start thinking up scenarios. And so I give you sekrit bunny #1:

It wasn't at all unusual for various offices, floors, and departments of L.A.'s FBI field office to be in an uproar. In fact, given the frequency of federal crimes in the area, if the building was entirely quiet at any given moment it tended to make some of the more paranoid agents nervous. Don didn't buy into that particular paranoia, but neither did he blink twice at the sight of agents crashing down stairwells with armfuls of files or shouting across the room at each other and into phones simultaneously.

At least, he normally didn't. This time, there just seemed to be something different about the quality of urgency that was seeping down from the organized crime task force, quartered on the floor above Don's own team. His curiosity finally overwhelmed him when he caught the following snatch of conversation as he passed by the reception desk on his own floor:

"...a what expert?"

"You heard what I said," a frazzled agent replied. "Don't make me say it again."

"I don't think that's our department," the receptionist said skeptically.

"Then tell me whose department it is, for Christ's sake! I've been running all over this building for ten minutes trying to find someone who can cough up a name for me."

"Try Customs, maybe they..."

At which point Don passed out of audible range, despite having slowed his steps. He debated for a moment before his curiosity finally got the better of him and he caught the elevator up to the next floor.

The place was a madhouse, which was to be expected in the middle of a crisis. Don scanned the room with a practiced eye, looking for an agent who wasn't in the middle of an errand whose delay might be the difference between success and failure--or life and death. He found the guy in the corner of the room, wearing a headset and eyeing a couple of video screens. Surveillance, but he wasn't the agent on the spot. Perfect. Don wove his way through the crowd, unnoticed in the chaos.

He pulled a chair over next to the agent and seated himself. There were plenty of spares; no one seemed to have the time to sit down. Don recognized the agent now, though he didn't know the man personally. Bob Robinson. He ran the best surveillance in the state. If Don recalled correctly, the head of the organized crime unit had snapped him up the moment he transferred in a few years ago.

Robinson glanced over at Don as he settled himself and scowled. "What're you doing here, Eppes? Can't you see we've got a crisis on our hands? We don't need tourists cluttering up our unit."

Of course, surveillance guys tended not to be too polished on the social front. "Come on," Don said good-naturedly, "you're monitoring a target you've got years of infrastructure built up on. You could track every report from your teams and still have enough attention left to do a crossword puzzle. Filling me in on the buzz won't take half that."

"What do you care about the buzz?" Robinson said sourly.

That was a little sharp even for Robinson, but Don just shrugged. "It's dead quiet downstairs and you guys have made more noise in the past half hour than in the last four years combined. Surely you expected someone to poke their head in."

Robinson scowled. "You know Flynn is bringing a witness against Eddy Kim to L.A. from Hawaii, right?" Don nodded. The news had been all over the building the day before. "Well, Kim tried--is trying--to take him out before he gets here."

Don frowned. "You just must have worked up hundreds of scenarios to deal with that," he said, "so why the barely restrained panic?" He looked around at the continued furor. "And why for so long? I mean, bullet, bomb, poison, knife, or plane crash, the exciting bit would have been over pretty quickly."

"Don't ask," Robinson said, his mouth screwing up like he'd swallowed something particularly unpleasant.

"Now you're making me really curious." Don grinned and jerked his chin up encouragingly. "C'mon, spill."

"Let's just say Kim thought up a disaster scenario that never even peripherally occurred to us, okay?" Robinson said. There was almost an edge of desperation to his voice.

"Don't give me that," Don chided. "You've got some of the best people in the world dreaming up bizarre attack plots for you. You must have at least thought of something comparable."

Robinson shook his head. "Nope. Nothing. If Eddy Kim wanted to try the insanity plea, this thing he's pulled would count as evidence for the defense."

Don blinked. "It can't be that bad."

"It's worse," Robinson said, shaking his head.

"Now you have to tell me," Don insisted. "You can't say something like that and not tell me the rest."

"I can't say it," Robinson said after a long moment. "I just can't hear those words coming out of my mouth."

Don wasn't about to give up now. Robinson would break any moment, he knew it. "If I guess, will you confirm yes or no?"

Robinson just looked at him. "You'll never guess. Trust me on this."

"Hey, I've caught some odd cases of my own," Don protested.

"Your cases aren't so bad, it's how you solve them that's bizarre," Robinson countered. "And even if that weren't the case, you'd still never guess."

"Let me at least try?"

Robinson gave him a pained look. "Listen, I'll bet you fifty bucks that if I tell you what happened, you'll just sit there and stare at me in disbelief, even having been forewarned."

Don didn't even have to go through a mental debate. At this point, it'd be worth the fifty bucks just to satisfy his curiosity. "Deal."

"Okay." Robinson took a long, deep breath. "Eddy Kim filled the plane with poisonous snakes."

Don stared. Then he pulled his wallet out of his back pocket, retrieved two twenties and a ten, and handed them over.

Don was still shaking his head in disbelief when he got off the elevator on his own floor and return to his cube. Sitting down at his desk, he could only stare at his computer for a moment. Hearing footsteps, Don turned to find David weaving his way through the cubes, coffee cup in hand.

"Hey, David," Don called out.

David looked up as he dropped down into his own desk chair. "Yeah?"

"You know how you were saying that Charlie's help makes even ordinary cases seem really weird?"

"Yeah?" David was looking confused.

Don shook his head again. "I think we're going to have to redefine our idea of a weird case."