Stripping in the Wilderness
z
zeldathemes
Stripping in the Wilderness.

Leon’s number comes up again, but this time he’s the perpetrator. - amayakumiko

The first threat comes on a Tuesday.

Leon’s between scams at the moment, so he’s holding down a regular, ordinary, boring, do-it-in-your-sleep accounting position while keeping an eye out for the next big thing and doing some casual superheroing on the side.

He was serious about what he said to John, in a weird way. Maybe it’s because scamming the scammers is getting pretty hazardous to his health or a little unfulfilling or (this most of all) kinda samey, but he’s just not feeling it like he used to. He liked that thing at the casino, skeevy limo, broken hearts, and all. He liked that he was helping some cool old dude and not just himself for a change. And when they finished up and Leon was still feeling all tingly from the weight of the wealth that Finch just lifted off him, maybe he was just maudlin because John saved his life twice in two days, but Leon thought that maybe he could keep doing that. Because there’s lots of cool people out there, but not all of them have such great luck. Leon can relate. He’s one of them, after all.

So he starts superheroing in his time off. Nothing big, because he’s kinda-semi-broke next to the likes of Finch right now, but just little things. Keeping an eye out for cool people who maybe need a little mysterious cash to suddenly appear in their bank accounts with no explanation. Douchebags who maybe need their lengthy history of embezzlement to get laid out in black and white and anonymously emailed to their boss. That kind of thing.

Sometimes, Leon classifies offering to protect girls with pastel hair from douchebags in clubs as superheroing. Leon is not made of stone.

And he thinks it’s just little secret random acts of kindness with a dash of sleaze mixed in and nobody will ever notice who’s behind them or ever find the connection between them all.

But he guesses someone was watching.

The first threat comes on a Tuesday. It arrives in the form of a brick with a swastika drawn on it that comes crashing through one of his windows. At first Leon’s just annoyed because it’s a loud crashing noise in the wee hours of the morning and some of us have hangovers, but he gets serious after he goes to check it out. Not too serious, though. Probably just kids fucking around. Right? Right.

Right.

***

The second threat comes on the Friday following, and it’s in person.

Leon isn’t an idiot. Not a total idiot. He knows that there are good times to keep quiet and lie low, and Nazi-brick-through-the-window time is time to spend a night in with a Tarantino flick and the shades down. He thinks about calling the cops. That’s probably what he would have done before his life kinda went off the rails, but he’s afraid that cops would want to know what he did to piss off Neo-Nazis besides being Asian. Leon doesn’t know for sure because he’s afraid to look it up, but he’s pretty sure that embezzling from Neo-Nazis instead of calling the cops on Neo-Nazis is some kind of illegal.

Whatever. Leon can wait it out.

He manages to wait until Friday until he gets really super fucking bored and figures he can probably survive one night at that club he likes. Just go out, get some fresh air, buy a few drinks, find a lady-friend for the night, if he’s lucky. Or maybe not. He’s trying to be safe and his heart’s still a little tender from Candy besides.

Well, whatever happens happens.

What happens is, Leon doesn’t have a ton of luck and even though he’s like 99.9% sure the chick at the end of the bar with the purple dreads and the killer smile isn’t a Nazi, she doesn’t seem very into it. It’s still him out of the house, stretching his legs and slightly drunk and not at boring goddamn work, so Leon’s calling it a success.

'Cause it is a success, up until he's leaving the club and tripping over his shoes a little and some big, muscley dude who smells like cigarettes, gym socks, and bad decisions slide-tackles him into a doorway.

"Do I know you?" Leon groans, squirming as the guy’s blocky fist jams up under his chin and drags the collar of his shirt tight around Leon’s neck.

"You sold out our crew," he grunts.

"Probably."

"My brothers are in prison ‘cause of you."

“‘Kay, I’m pretty sure I know what you’re talking about, but I don’t remember you at all, sorry.”

The guy’s knuckles dig in and Leon chokes a little. “Where’s the fuckin’ money?”

"Dog ate it," Leon gags. A thumb deliberately flattens his windpipe and he gurgles and wheezes. "Not kidding. I’m not kidding. Let me ghhhh," and he can’t talk anymore after that, so he settles for pounding his response into the guy’s knee with his stupid, pointy, fashionable, non-asskicker shoes.

All at once the guy drops him, possibly because Leon was starting to turn blue, but he doesn’t let go of the collar of Leon’s shirt so Leon’s just hanging there from this guy’s hand, wheezing and trying to remember how knees work. “A dog seriously did eat your money, though,” he mumbles.

"You got money?" he asks.

"Yeah." Leon fumbles for his wallet. "A little." He takes out three bills, tries to let an innocent little twenty lurk there in the bottom, but the guy takes his wallet off him and empties it. "Aw, come on - " be begins, but then he thinks, no, bad move, shut up, Leon.

He flips through the bills, mutters, “You stole a lot more than this.”

"Yeah." Leon starts trying to edge away from the guy, ease his shirt out of the iron grip. "Well, I don’t really carry that much money on me, so."

"Here’s the deal, you piece of shit," and Leon shuts up again. "And this is just between the two of us, right? ‘Cause I’m nice."

Leon bursts out laughing, high and hysterical, until the guy slaps the crazy out of him.

"You and me are gonna go to an ATM, and you’re gonna withdraw about $500 for me."

"I can do that," Leon says too quickly. "Least I can do, man. ‘Cause of the…that darn dog, you know?" He trails off weakly under the guy’s glare.

"Then," he continues, "I’m gonna give you a week to pay me back for real. Every cent you stole."

"Whoahohoho. Whoa. Wow, fella. Can’t do that. You think I have that kind of money just lying around? You saw my apartment."

"Find it," the guy says. "I don’t care how."

"Yeah, see," Leon rubs the back of his head, "I really can’t do that. It’s not like I ever saw any of that money because I am being completely serious when I say that a dog ate every single one of those bearer bonds. So we’re kind of in the same boat, you and me. Compatriots. Brothers-in-arms…ooh. Don’t like that? That’s cool, man. My point is, I can relate. My money was also stolen from me by capricious fate or whatever. So let’s…let’s not take it out on each other, okay?"

Leon gets punched in the eye.

After he’s done making really embarrassing whining noises and trying not to cry, Leon says, “So what are you going to do if I don’t play? Kill me? Because I have a guy for that.”

"No," he says, very simply. "No, I’m going to walk away. If I can’t get money out of you, I know a few guys who’d pay me pretty well to know who stole our bearer bonds. Whatever they do to you isn’t my problem. Pay up," he says, "or you’re gonna want to get your guy on speed dial."

Leon doesn’t have John on speed dial, insofar as speed dial is still a thing, because John won’t give Leon his number, even though Leon’s pretty sure that it would save both of them a lot of time. Leon’s not going to say that, though, because it makes him seem even more alone than he already is. He gets left in that doorway, propped up like an ugly, forgotten umbrella, and he realizes that he’s already pretty alone.

***

He knows he doesn’t have that instinct in him. When it comes down to fight or flight, it’s flight all the way, baby, every time. He’s never really hit anybody before and had it hurt. The gun he bought at a pawn shop makes him sick to look at.

It’s not like he wanted to buy it. Even sitting a good three feet away in the center of his coffee table with the safety firmly on, he’s still kind of convinced that it’s gonna jump up and take a shot at him somehow. He’s been on the wrong end of them too many times to not be scared shitless of guns.

But he’s just not sure what to do, otherwise. He doesn’t want to go to the cops. He doesn’t know how to get John’s attention and there’s always the possibility that he meant it when he said that next time Leon got into trouble, he’d take a vacation. He can’t get the money in a week.

The gun and the possibilities it represents are strangely inviting. Because Leon might not be the brightest about some things, but he’s got a sharp eye for details. He knows that trick with the lye. He bought a set of Ginsu knives once in a moment of weakness. He’s even got a handsaw lurking in the back of his closet from that time Leon thought he wanted to build his own shelves. He can do this.

Over the week, he half-heartedly raises money. A few thousand here, a few thousand there, a favor here, a secret off-shore account that belongs to somebody Leon doesn’t like there. It’s not nearly enough, but he feels like he has to at least try.

His real job is buying up lye. He makes a list of hardware stores around the city that carry it and buys a pound at each, not a crazy amount, just enough to make it look like he really needs to clean a floor, or maybe he makes soap for a hobby. He buys in cash. Together it makes a lot. He’s heard it only takes about 8 pounds. Leon has 10.

Leon doesn’t want to take chances.

On Thursday morning, he feels confident. On Thursday evening, he feels sick. He sits up drinking in bed, reading a banged-up old Bond novel until the words start to swim and he’s so insensible he almost doesn’t hear the creak of floorboards.

Then it happens again and he’s paralyzed. The breath in his lungs solidifies and he sits up in bed unmoving, not twitching a muscle because if he doesn’t make a sound and he doesn’t hear anything, maybe it’ll all turn out to be in his head somehow, a freak trick of the ear.

Again.

Leon’s heart spasms in his chest and his hand goes groping drunkenly for the gun which he finally got up the courage to put in the drawer of his nightstand. He white-knuckles the grip and scrambles out of bed, cringing and swaying his way through the dark.

Out there in the blackness of the living room, the floorboards go on creaking.

For five minutes, Leon crouches just behind the door frame between his bedroom and the hall, hoping that whatever it is will leave and he can just go back to bed and leave his gun in a dumpster somewhere and never ever be this scared again. There’s no sound coming from the dark anymore, but that only means it caught on.

Finally, a soft voice says “Leon,” and he kind of wants to lie down and die, except he recognizes it.

"John?" he asks. He didn’t expect his voice to come out so thin and shaky. It sounds like a wet, scared baby lamb looks.

"Leon, put the gun down."

He does, really slowly and shakily even though he wants to fling it, but he’s still so scared of it discharging. It hits the floor with a shivery click.

"Okay," John says, slow and soothing. "Now push it toward my voice."

Leon does what he says and the gun goes skittering into the dark. While he’s down there, he sits cross-legged on the floor because he’s scared and he’s tired and his legs are too noodly to stand up the way they’re supposed to.

John turns on a light and crouches down to join him. “Leon, what are you doing?” he asks.

"It’s not my fault."

"Okay," John says. Leon can tell he’s trying to be patient and having trouble. "But what were you doing?"

"I was just…I was trying really hard, okay? Really hard. I had an actual boring job and I was helping people on the side, you know, nothing big but it was a start and I was staying out of trouble, okay? But this guy…"

"This guy," John encourages him.

"I dunno," Leon says. "I didn’t know what to do. He was gonna hurt me and I didn’t want to go to the cops and you said next time you were gonna be on vacation and I kinda panicked, alright?"

"Alright." John sighs deeply, scratches at the back of his head like he’s trying to get at an itch in his brain. "What were you going to do about it?"

"I had the gun. I have, like, a ton of lye. I had knives if I had to…you know. Chop something up. I could’ve done it."

"And what were you going to do when your neighbors heard the gunshot and came to investigate?"

"Oh," Leon says, very small. "I don’t know. I just didn’t think I could stab anybody." He looks up to find John scowling at him. "Don’t be mad, okay?"

Reese shakes his head. “Right,” he says. “I’m taking this,” and he indicates Leon’s gun, tucks it into his pocket, “and I’m taking your lye too. You can keep the knives.”

"Okay."

"The lye would have been enough, by the way. Knives would have just made more work for you."

"You’re a creepy guy, John."

"Yeah." He stands up with a groan. "I think we’re going to have to have a talk about how quickly you jump to murder as a solution to your problems."

"Just one time," Leon mutters.

"One more thing," John says, and he takes a marker out of a jar on Leon’s kitchen counter, scrawls a phone number on Leon’s forearm.

Leon brightens. “You’re giving me your number?”

"No. Never." John slaps the cap on the marker again. "But I think you need some help being constructive. And I think you need a friend."

"I really, really need a friend," Leon mumbles.

John grabs him beneath the armpits and drags him back to bed, steals Leon’s tequila and replaces it with a glass of water.

"So what do I do when he comes back here?" Leon asks.

John says, “He isn’t coming back here, Leon.”

"Oh. Okay." The weight of the world slides off his shoulders like water off the back of a duck. "Thanks, John."

"Go to sleep, Leon." He hits the lightswitch with a decisive click, and suddenly Leon’s alone.

He tries to go to sleep but with the threat of blackmail and murder and having-to-murder gone, Leon’s all giddy and energetic. He’s twitching around in bed with the covers pulled up to his chin and his feet cold and kicking and he’s just too excited to have a normal-ish life again to even think about going to sleep.

Instead, he calls the number Reese gave him. After the first ring, he regrets it. It’s like three in the morning. They’re probably going to be super pissed at him.

The phone picks up on the third ring and a surprisingly cheery guy at the other end of the line says, “‘Sup, bitch?”

You’re a bitch,” Leon responds because, again, sleepy and also high on life.

"Whoa. Excuse you. You called me."

"Yeah. John gave me your number. Sorry."

"John? Scary John? Ninja John? That John?"

"That’s the John."

"No way, dude. Have you seen him?"

"He just broke into my apartment, stole all my murder supplies, and gave me your number."

There’s a short pause and Leon’s just starting to thing that he probably shouldn’t have said that about the murder supplies when the guy is back all “That is classic John. So, why’d he give you my number?”

"He didn’t say. He just told me to be constructive."

"Cool." There’s some clicking. Typing, maybe. "So, are you like a murderer, or?"

"No," Leon admits. "I just had a really tough week."

"I feel that," the other guy says sympathetically. "So, listen, buddy…"

"Leon."

"Leon, I know I just met you like five seconds ago and you’re probably a murderer and I literally just learned your name, but I’m feeling good vibes. Are you feeling good vibes?"

"All kinds of vibes," Leon says, although between being drunk and being adrenaline high, he could be feeling that about anything.

"Do you want to go out for falafel and talk shit about John? Or, like, fight crime with me?"

"Yes, both of those. Oh my god, let’s go do those now."

"Yes. Yes. This is awesome. Hey, I’m kinda stoned right now so if this turns out to be a bad idea later, it’s not my fault."

"Not mine either. I’ve been drinking all night."

"Leon," he says and he can hear the grin spreading across the face he doesn’t know yet, "you are really okay. I can tell."

And Leon, who is drunk and giddy and still a little panicked somewhere deep down and two hours away from a new best friend and a catastrophic barfight, feels really okay for the first time since Candy.

  #amayakumiko    #person of interest    #poi hiatus fics    #leon tao