dragon challenge header

not real, made up, purely intended for entertainment

No, seriously

by Chalcopyrite

"Fine, if you want to be all secretive. I'm here now; see you when I get out."

Chris slaps the cellphone shut and waves the teacher's free-admission card at the woman behind the ticket desk. She looks a little dubious -- yeah, Chris wouldn't buy himself as a teacher either, maybe it's the beard -- but stamps his hand anyway.

He sidles around the tour group oohing and aahing over the penguins and makes for the stairs down. Joey is right where he's been the last two days, parked on a bench in the dark, staring into the underwater of the dolphin tanks like he can actually see anything beyond ten feet.

Chris stands behind the bench for a few seconds, then asks the dumb question. "Any news?"

Joey doesn't even look around. "I'd let you know if there was."

They keep watching the glass. After a few minutes, the dolphin with the odd dark stripe on its chin comes over and races in circles in front of the glass before dashing off again. It looks like it's having the time of its life. Joey's shoulders slump a little further when it whisks out of sight.

Chris fidgets, fidgets, then can't stand it any more. He claps Joey on the nearer shoulder. "We'll keep working on it, man. I'll let you know as soon as we find anything."

Joey doesn't even nod, waiting for the stripy dolphin to come back. "Yeah."

Chris fidgets another second or two, then gets the hell out of there, back to where he can see where he's going. In the gift shop, he flips through a glossy book on the habits of the Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, but he's not quite ready to admit he's that stumped.

Nick is waiting for him outside the aquarium, leaning against the wall at the edge of the crowd with his face tipped up to the spring sun.

Chris takes a moment to admire the view, then shoves around and through the line for admission to join him. Nick greets him with a nod and a smile, but seeing as he's already backed up against the wall, Chris really kind of has to lean up and kiss him. Can't have him getting shy, after all. Nick tastes like sunshine and Lifesavers, and Chris has to remind himself that there's a courtyard full of impressionable youth behind him, who'll probably be scarred for life if they witness blindingly hot man-love and then have to go look at sharks.

Nick gives him a much better kind of smile after that. Chris is waiting for a declaration of eternal love, or at least a suggestion they take the rest of the afternoon off, but all Nick says is, "Are you ever going to shave that thing off?"

"Hey, hey!" Chris glares and cups his chin protectively. "Do not mock my manly horn-beard!"

"It kinda mocks itself, Chris." Chris is mustering a reply that will be crushing -- crushing! -- but Nick distracts him by waving a sheaf of printouts in front of him. "Anyway, this is what I wanted to talk to you about."

Chris takes the papers and leafs through them. He looks back up at Nick. "You're kidding."

Nick shakes his head.

Chris looks back down at the pages, back up at Nick. "Seriously, weredolphins?"

"This is why I couldn't say it over the phone."

"No, seriously, weredolphins?"

"Seriously, Chris, weredolphins."

Chris stares at Nick for a minute, but he's not cracking a smile. "So, weredolphins. Are you sure?" Are you nuts?

Nick shrugs. "It's mostly rumors, no substantiated cases, but it's the best I've found so far and it was a full moon last night. I guess we'll find out if Mr. Chasez turns back tomorrow."

Chris looks back at the pages. "At least it's a possibility. I gotta admit, when Fatone called me I wondered if he was, maybe, kinda..." He trails off.

"Crazy?" Nick suggest.

"Yeah. Or making it up, but no way he could have kept a straight face this long. Hey, what do we do if Chasez doesn't turn back?"

Nick rolls his eyes so hard they almost stick. "Then we try something else. I have the computer running a search on curses, just in case." He looks at his watch. "Hey, lunch?"

"Sure, sounds good."

Nick starts walking, towing Chris after him by an elbow. He's heading for Ollie's Seafood Shack but Chris digs in his heels. "Nick, no."

Nick looks back questioningly, and Chris points up the street, away from the water. "Please, anything but fish."


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