Go to notes and disclaimers

by Rina

Part One: First Contact

Good afternoon, children."

The Director's husky greeting was punctuated by the slap of the red leather portfolio on the table in front of two of her favorite agents. "As Li Ann is still recovering from her bout with the flu, I have a gem of an assignment for the pair of you."

Victor Mansfield and Mac Ramsey both swallowed a groan and gave each other a side-long glance before turning their attention to their instructions—and wondering just how bad this one was going to be.

"Relax boys," the Director chuckled, leaning in between them and using the tip on one elegantly manicured fingernail to flip open the padded cover, revealing a photo of a man in his mid to late thirties. Dirty blond hair, eyes of an indiscriminate color, medium height, medium build, nothing about the picture's subject drew attention to him, but he had to be somewhat out of the ordinary otherwise why were they being briefed about him?

"This is Charles Kirkdon, computer expert, extortionist and overall unbalanced individual. We've been asked to look into his whereabouts due to a string of murders that have occurred over the past six months."

Vic picked up the folder and leafed through the background materials, noting the dates and causes of death for Kirkdon's alleged victims. "It looks as if he's been in operation a long time. Who'd he piss off enough to make us go after him?"

"My dear Victor," the Director smiled benignly, "it's not a matter of who, but a matter of why. It seems that Mr. Kirkdon enjoys spending his free time on the internet—in chat rooms to be precise. He has developed the habit of picking up strangers while online, seducing them and, after arranging to meet them in person, killing them. Unfortunately for him, the last victim he chose was an Agency employee, one I was rather fond of."

Eight murders in the past six months, all men, all killed by a single shot to the head. Eight men who's only connection was that they were lonely and chose to talk to the wrong person on the internet.

"But why?" Mac blurted, snatching the papers from Vic's hands and scanning down the neatly typed pages. The ex-cop growled a threat, but Mac was too engrossed in what he was reading to reply in kind. "What's the point in him killing them? It's not like those people could give out any information on him."

"It's not about information, it's about power. But then sex usually is about power in one form or another." As she spoke, the Director walked to the head of the table, her shapely legs flashing against the thigh-high slit in her tight black skirt. Placing her palms on the highly polished ebony, she leaned in, skewering the two men with her stare. "I want him stopped gentlemen, and this is how you're going to do it... "


"I do not fucking believe this," Vic groused, pulling off his black leather jacket and tossing it over the back of the chair next to the gunmetal gray desk. "How the hell am I supposed to find this guy online and talk him into coming on to me?"

"Just think of it like a big bar, Mansfield," Mac offered, giving the older man a lazy grin as he flipped open the laptop on the other desk and booted it up. "Unless you think you'll strike out in the cyber world as much as you do in the real one."

Victor threw himself into the chair and slapped the on button of his own laptop, scowling at the screen as the computer ran through its self-diagnostics. "Since you're such an expert on this, why don't you handle the trolling and I'll check out the records. Considering that the people you talk to won't get to see you I bet you might con one or two of them into liking you—and if you want to be alone I can always leave the room."

Mac chuckled and shook his head, watching Vic's agitated movements out of the corner of his eye while pretending to be immersed in the program he had accessed. "Nope. She gave you the search and seduce job. I wouldn't feel right taking away your one chance to get laid this year."

"Mind telling me why you're so concerned about my sex life, Ramsey?" As he spoke, Vic half-turned in his seat and looked at his partner. At the best of times, Mac was irritating as hell but they got along. Lately the other man turned everything into a comment on his sex life—or lack there of. Okay, so maybe since his breakup with Li Ann he hadn't had much of one but it wasn't any of Ramsey's fucking business.

"Just don't want you getting all jittery on us, Vic," the younger man smiled, pulling a small device out of his coat and plugging it into the back of the computer. "I mean, come on, you're high strung enough as it is and to go as long as you have... It can't be good for the nerves."

The former cop's face twisted into an expression of disgust and his emerald eyes narrowed to thin slits as he struggled to rein in his temper. Letting Mac get to him would only give the younger man what he wanted and Vic wasn't about to allow that happen. "Grow up, Ramsey. Keeping score of who got what, when went out with high school. Oh, I forgot, that's where you should be considering your mentality." As he turned back to his own work, Vic couldn't resist one more comment. "And if she catches you spending your time downloading music instead of doing your work, you may be spending the rest of the evening pulling that little gadget out of your ass."

Mac waved one hand loftily in Vic's direction. "Tend to your own assignment and I'll deal with mine. If you want any pointers, give a yell and I'll lend a hand."

"Figures that you would be the king of cyber-sex."

"Keeps the fingers agile, Victor, and you never know when a bit of creative writing will come in handy."

"Always knew you were a sick bastard, Ramsey."

"Coming from you, Mansfield, I take that as a real complement."


"Bastard. Now that we've gotten that out of the way can we get to work?"

"That is what I was trying to do. Now will you shut up!"

"I will if you will." That rejoinder earned Mac a killer glare from the ex-cop and he laughed silently to himself before shifting in his chair to start digging up more information on the victims.


Two hours later Victor leaned back in his seat with a nearly inaudible groan and rubbed at his eyes. He was on his fifth site and had nothing to show for his efforts except the beginnings of a headache. His shoulders and neck hurt from the tense way he'd been sitting and his wrists were sore. This was such a fucking waste of time...

Apparently there was more to this cyber-chatting then met the eye. Conversations were typed faster then he could follow between people entering and leaving the room almost before he could tell who had been there to begin with. This was so much more Mac's bag than it was his. I'm a grunt and I admit it. Legwork, groundwork, those were his strengths and he knew it, but this, this skulking around in sleazy chatrooms... Oh yeah, much more Ramsey's style.

The ex-cop rubbed at his eyes again, hoping to ease the strain caused by staring at the computer monitor. In the brief moment he wasn't watching, a message box popped up in the upper corner of his screen.

CJiles? I don't know any CJiles. It wasn't one of the screen names they had listed for Kirkdon, he favored aliases that always contained some reference to color. 'Bluemrng' was the last one if Vic remembered correctly.

Wondering if it was Ramsey yanking his chain, Vic snuck a look over his shoulder but the younger man seemed immersed in the music clips he was downloading and the chat records he was supposed to be screening.

Oh well, he was here to mingle so replying couldn't hurt.

CJiles: Hi [g] You the silent type or just like to watch the insanity in these places?

TrueBlue: No, just a bit overwhelmed. I'm sort of new at all this.

CJiles: [chuckle] We all were that way once. Anything I can help you with?

TrueBlue: No!

TrueBlue: I umm meant...

CJiles: Relax TB, I meant do you need any help deciphering the shorthand, not anything personal.

TB, what is he talking about? It took Vic a second before it hit him that he'd been given a nickname. Damn the Director for picking these stupid screen names anyway. Though it could be worse, he could be stuck with...

LghtFngrs: Hey Mansfield, you asleep over here? I've called your name three times!

"What? Finally tear yourself away from Eurotrash or whatever flash in the pan band you're listening to now?"

"Man, striking out puts you in a foul mood," Mac laughed. "Here's a summary of the last victim's chat sessions, the account has been closed down now of course, but the server has backups—if you know where to look." He dropped a disc on the desk beside Vic, angling to get a look at the screen at the same time. "Having fun?"

Vic slammed the lid of the laptop closed, almost catching his fingers in the process. "Yeah, sitting here watching a bunch of horny what-ever-they-ares getting off with each other is really my idea of a good time. I'm going to pack it in here in a few too. If he's out there tonight, it's not where I'm looking."

Mac's gaze cut from the cover of the computer to the flush that stained the back of his partner's neck and he struggled to hide a smirk. "You want sick? Try reading some of those logs I just gave you, it'll ruin your appetite for a month." The ex-thief grabbed his jacket from the back of his chair and shrugged into it, giving a small shake to settle the lightweight fabric on his shoulders. "Must be why I have a craving for octopus all of a sudden... "

"Just get out of here Ramsey!" Vic bellowed, hunching his shoulders and staring fixedly at the computer until he heard the door close and was sure his partner was gone. "Damn idiot, can't take this crap any more... " He was still muttering when he opened the laptop again and read the new messages that had popped up.

CJiles: TB? You there?

CJiles: Sorry, didn't mean to offend you, feel free to thwap me any time.

"Shit." Wondering why he felt bad about ignoring the other person, Vic keyed the touchpad and started to type.

TrueBlue: Sorry, something came up. Didn't mean to leave you hanging.

There was a pause of about five minutes and Vic began wondering if the other person was now ignoring him. When the soft tone announcing another message sounded, he couldn't help a smile of relief.

CJiles: Now it's my turn to apologize, was getting something to eat.

TrueBlue: You know, if we keep this up, we're going to be apologizing to each other all night.

CJiles: LOL! You're right, and there are better things to talk about then that.

TrueBlue: LOL?

CJiles: Man, you are fresh! That means laughing out loud. How did a newbie like you get in this chatroom anyway?

TrueBlue: Luck I guess. What about you? This your normal hangout?

CJiles: Not really. I was bored tonight and if nothing else, these rooms are always entertaining.

TrueBlue: I guess it might be if I could understand half of what was going on.

CJiles: My friend, it sounds as if you are in dire need of CJ's crash course in netiquette. If you have a spare hour or so I'd be glad to clear up some of the mysteries scrolling before your eyes.

Vic checked his watch. Nine o'clock. What the hell, an hour more wouldn't hurt and maybe this would help with the investigation.


CJiles: Hey TB, exactly what time is it where you are?

TrueBlue: Shit! 2 am. God, I'm going to be dead for work tomorrow—today.

CJiles: [chuckle] It's that time here too so I know the feeling.

TrueBlue: You should have said something instead of letting me rattle off my stupid questions all night long.

CJiles: Nah, they weren't stupid questions. Everybody was a newbie one upon a time and at least you have the sense to ask instead of jumping in and ending up pissing half the net off.

TrueBlue: Yeah, that's me, Mr. Considerate.

CJiles: [g]

CJiles: Well, I'd better get going. My boss is a serious bitch. She'll fry me if I doze off in her meeting in the morning.

TrueBlue: Something else we have in common. I wonder if your boss knows mine?

CJiles: Somehow I doubt it. Anyway, it was good talking to you, TB. Get some rest.

TrueBlue: Wait!

CJiles: ?

TrueBlue: I've got to be online a lot this week and...

CJiles: If you need any pointers just drop me an email or IM me, I'm usually on most nights after eight.

TrueBlue: Thanks, CJ. You have no idea how much I appreciate this.

CJiles: It's nothing, I'm glad I could help. :)

TrueBlue: Hey, it's more than a lot of people would have done, believe me.

CJiles: Whatever you say. Now go get some rest so I can too or both our bosses will really ream us come morning.

TrueBlue: You have no idea how true that is. [g] Night.

Cjiles: Night, sleep well.

As Vic signed off and shut down the computer, he couldn't help but grin. Okay, maybe he'd had the wrong idea about the type of people who hung out online at all hours of the day and night. CJ had been genuinely interesting to talk to and, in between question and answer sessions, they'd discovered they had a lot in common.

Geeze, Mansfield you are so fucked up, he sighed to himself. You don't even know this guy's real name—or even if it is a guy or a girl or whatever! People can be anyone they want out there, that's how Kirkdon gets to his victims, by being who they want to see.

He stood and slung his jacket over his shoulder, then headed out the door, whistling softly as he walked down the silent hallway toward the exit. Maybe it all had been an act or a come on, but for the first time in longer then he cared to admit, Victor Mansfield had spent an enjoyable evening talking with an intelligent, witty companion. No arguing, no snide remarks, no waiting for the past to be thrown up in his face, just simply talking.

And he found that he liked it.


Connections II: See Ya Later


Fandom/Pairing: Once a Thief, Vic/Mac
Rating: R for language
Series: Connections
Website: http://thesleepydragon.com/nesting/rina.html
Disclaimer: Since John Woo and Alliance stopped playing with them, I suppose it's okay for me to grab the boys and have some fun.
Summary: While on a case, Vic makes a new friend.
Feedback: Is always welcome and kicks the muses in the rear :)
Notes: This one's for Angel who dragged me kicking and screaming into a new fandom (well, don't you kick and scream when you see Nick too?) and for the beta as well, thanks sweetie!

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