Title: Something About You (I Want To Rescue)
Pairing: Z Berg/Ryan Ross (pre-het)
Rating: gen / pg-13
Warnings: None (maybe very mild threat).
A/N: title from Bon Jovi's Superman Tonight. Again.
Something About You (I Want To Rescue)
Z is half way home, fifteen minutes from her apartment and her TV and her sofa and all the things she’s been dreaming about during another endless shift at work, when someone barrels into her from behind, grabs her arm and drags her sideways down the dark alleyway that she was just passing.
She cries out, but if there’s anyone around to hear, no one comes, so Z reacts instinctively, kicking out backwards. She doesn’t manage to kick anyone’s balls, which is disappointing, but she’s pretty sure she gets a kneecap from the clack-slide feel of her heel connecting with something hard.
The person who grabbed her swears and loosens their grip enough that Z can twist around, ready to shove them in the chest and get the fuck away from this situation.
It’s a guy, tall and skinny, young. He doesn’t seem to have a gun or a knife but that’s not particularly reassuring since he’s between her and the end of the alleyway.
His face is pale and his eyes are wide and his voice is scratchy when he says, “Give me your purse and I’ll let you go.”
“What? No.” Z worked hard for the money in her wallet and she’s not just going to hand it over.
He reaches out, grabs her arm. It hurts and hurts more when she wrenches away from him, scrabbling through her bag and pulling out her mace.
“What the fuck?” she snaps, waving the can to make sure he knows she’s serious. “That was totally uncool.”
The guy backs up - as he should; she’s feeling cornered and she will mace him into next week if he pushes her - and wraps his arms around his chest. His mouth is twisted up like he’s in pain and she wonders if he’s on anything.
“I’m sorry,” he says softly. “I’m really-.”
Behind him somewhere, a baby starts to cry. The guy’s expression goes from pained to agonised and Z feels her eyes go wide.
“Whose baby is that?” she asks, taking a step forward even though it brings them almost within touching distance again.
The guy steps sideways, blocking her path. He swallows, lifts his chin. “That’s none of your business,” he says. “Look, I’m sorry, I said I was sorry. Can you just go away?”
“Uhuh, no way.” Z shakes her head. Keeping her back pressed to the wall, she sidles around him and tries to see down the alleyway to where the kid must be.
“Don’t,” he guy snaps, suddenly way less scared-sounding and he reaches out to touch her.
Z maces him in the face.
He makes a choking noise and doubles over, hands going to his face. Z leaves him where he is and goes looking for the baby.
It’s not hard to find. There’s a heavy-duty rucksack tucked safely between two dumpsters.
Z checks behind herself that the guy’s still out then bends over, tentatively pulling apart the sides of the bag.
She looks inside and stares because wow, no, that really is an actual baby. She’s not sure what she was expecting, but it wasn’t a tiny pink person wrapped up tight in a thick, slightly grubby white blanket, a fleecy hat pulled down over its ears and its mouth wide open and miserable as it cries.
“Oh my god,” Z breathes. She’s held a baby once, maybe twice, in her entire life but she can’t just leave it here so she reaches into the rucksack and carefully pulls it out. It’s warm and surprisingly heavy.
“Don’t,” the guy croaks behind her and Z spins around, automatically clutching the baby to her chest. His face is flushed, his eyes screwed tightly closed and watering badly but he somehow knows where she is well enough to take a stumbling step closer.
“I’ll mace you again,” Z says firmly, though she’s not sure what that would do the baby. “Don’t come any closer.”
He stops. “Please.” He blinks once, twice, tries to open his eyes but swears and closes them again, rubbing the heels of his hands over his face. He’s swaying where he stands.
The baby is still screaming in Z’s arms and she really has no idea what to do. She’d been looking forward to going home, ordering some takeout, maybe calling up Tennessee and seeing if she wanted to come over, now she’s in the middle of what might be a kidnapping and, worse than that, right now she’s in control of it.
“Whose kid is this?” Z demands. She tries to jiggle it a bit, making vague, stupid-sounding hushing noises. Her shoulder is soaking through from the force of this kid’s tears and she just wants it to stop crying.
The guy holds his hands out, palms open like he thinks Z is just going to lay the kid into them. “Mine,” he says. “I swear.”
Right, Z thinks. That’s likely. Way more likely, he’s planning to sell it to the highest bidder. She tries to balance the baby on one arm so she can reach her cell phone and call the police.
“No!” the guys says. “God, please don’t call the police. He’s mine.” There’s something desperate in his voice but Z is way more interested in how he knew what she was planning when he can’t even see her.
“You often bring your kid out with you when you’re planning to mug people?” she asks, not that she believes him. “Does his mom know?”
The guy has finally managed to unglue his eyes. They’re swollen and wet and the whites are an angry red.
“His mom’s not around,” he says flatly. He takes one cautious step toward Z, stopping before she can mace him again. “Look, please. I’m really sorry I tried to mug you. I’ve never done it before and I clearly suck at it, but I was- we were desperate.” His mouth twists a little and it’s not charming, Z’s too mad to be charmed, but it’s not threatening either.
Z shakes her head. “I should call the police,” she says. They’d be able to sort out if this kid really did belong to this guy. Or she could call Laena and get her to find out. Z’s not sure what it says about her that she’s more inclined to do that second one.
“Not the police,” the guy says quickly. “You could call La-. Don’t you know anyone who could hack into birth records?”
Okay, now Z is officially freaked out. “How the hell did you know that’s what I was thinking?”
The guy sighs. He takes another step closer, seeming to relax just a little when he sees the baby’s screwed-up little face. “I’ll tell you,” he says. “Just please. My kid.”
Z is so far out of her depth here. She shifts the baby against one shoulder and digs out her cell. “What’s your name?” she asks, pressing speed-dial 4 for Laena’s desk at the paper.
“Ryan-. George Ryan Ross,” he tells her. “Ryan. The baby is Charlie.”
“Z?” Laena answers the phone and Z presses it closer to her ear, keeping both eyes on George Ryan Ross.
“Hey,” Z says, “I need you to do me a favour and I don’t have time to explain. Is that okay?”
“Hm? What? Sure.” Laena sounds distracted, the way she always gets when she’s got a story coming up on a deadline. With any luck, she won’t even remember that Z’s asked her for this.
“I need you to check a birth certificate for me,” Z says, marvelling at the strangeness of this evening. “For a baby born-.” She looks up at Ryan.
“January Seventh,” Ryan tells her.
“January Seventh this year,” Z tells Laena, thinking wow, this baby is four months old; that’s so little.
“Mmhmm,” Laena hums. “Hang on.” Z’s given up asking how Laena can find out everything, and do it so quickly; it’s just one of the many things that makes her one of Z’s favourites. “Name?”
Z tells her. Ryan’s biting his bottom lip like he’s worried. That doesn’t fill Z with much confidence.
“Got it,” Laena says. “Want me to fax it to you?”
“No,” Z says slowly, “That’s okay. So it’s really-. It says Ryan Ross for the dad?” She can’t believe that a father would really store his kid between two dumpsters while he tried to mug innocent girls of their purses.
“And Keltie Colleen for the mother.” Laena’s quiet for a second then, “Are you going to tell me what this is about?”
“Yes,” Z says although it’ll probably be a very edited version. “Not yet though. Thank you, darling, you’ve been great. Talk to you soon.” She hangs up before Laena can ask anything else.
“So?” Ryan says, hands drifting toward the baby again. “Can I have my kid?”
“No,” Z says and watches as his expression flickers between desperate and furious. “You’ve got mace all over your hands; you can’t touch him.” She jerks her chin toward the end of the alleyway. “Come on, there’s a McDonald’s down the block. You can wash your hands there.”
Ryan looks at her carefully. “Why?” he asks.
Because I think you love your kid, Z thinks. Because I don’t know what else to do.
“Thank you,” Ryan says, like she’s actually answered him.
“Whatever,” Z snaps. The baby is still crying and she’s starting to remember that her arm hurts where Ryan grabbed it earlier. “What’s the matter with him?”
“He’s hungry,” Ryan says, looking miserable all over again. He really needs to quit with that. “That’s why I was-.” He waves a hand like he’s trying to say making a really shitty job of robbing you without using the words.
Z sighs. She should be backing so far away from this situation; she doesn’t know why she isn’t.
“Does McDonald’s sell anything babies can eat?” she hears herself ask.
“I... don't know,” Ryan says slowly. He’s looking at Z like she’s the second coming of Jesus or something. She wishes he wouldn’t; she’s not getting any more involved than she already is.
Well, she’ll go with them to McDonald’s, and she’ll pay for something for Charlie to eat if they can find anything, but that’s it. Seriously.
Ryan hasn’t stopped staring at her. “You’re amazing,” he says. “Thank you so much.”
Z makes a face at him. “I’m not doing anything,” she says. She shifts the baby in her arms and jerks her chin at Ryan’s rucksack. “Don’t forget that.”
Z waits for Ryan to pick up the bag then leads the way out of the alleyway. Charlie calms down as soon as they start walking, tucking his damp little face under her chin and making soft, sad little noises that somehow make her feel worse than the crying did.
So much for a quiet evening, she thinks. Although hopefully she’ll be able to dump them in McDonald’s and be home for the second half of American Idol.
“I like Jordan Sparks,” Ryan volunteers quietly from just beside her.
Z turns to stare at him. Okay, she decides, she’s buying him dinner too, but only so he’ll tell her how he keeps doing that.
After that, though, she’s definitely walking away.
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