They don't talk much on the plane ride back to Paris, Straffer and SPYGOD.
There's not much either of them can say at this point. There's not much that can be said, really. What just happened at the White House can speak for itself.
And as for what's going to happen next, well, they're in no hurry to hear it.
So they hold hands, instead. They take turns sleeping, or pretending to sleep. They eat the amazingly-prepared food that's served halfway and wish to God it'd been anything but turkey and stuffing.
And every once in a while, when they look at each other, Straffer tries to smile and SPYGOD tries to return it. But each time it fails to do more than make them not want to smile. There's not a lot to smile about, right now.
Not after what SPYGOD's just had to do.
* * *
Thankfully, they're the only passengers on this plane.
It's a small supersonic the TU's loaned out as a courtesy to those heroes who've come over to participate in the Trial of the Imago. It can make the DC-Paris journey in a little over five hours, provided they aren't loaded down with people and luggage -- which they aren't.
Maybe it was luck, and maybe no one wanted to be on the plane with them, but SPYGOD and Straffer have it almost all to themselves. All they have for company are the two pilots, who haven't left the cockpit, and two stewards, who seem terrified when they bring them meals and drinks. And that's it -- not even some harried, TU official who had to jump from one continent to the other at the last minute.
As such, the pair are in a perfect bubble. No one's turned on the entertainment system, so they haven't been stunned with the news. All the magazines are old and in French, on topics that neither of them care to read, anyway. And this morning's DC paper was thankfully left behind at the airport, so they don't have another, nasty reminded of what happened staring them in the face.
There's just the engines, the flight, the occasional interruption from whichever steward lost the bet this time, and each other.
And, after the last few days, that's a major relief.
* * *
Once they get to Paris, any hoped they had of just sneaking into the country are dashed.
The plan was for the airplane to disembark on the tarmac, rather than a terminal. They could then take a small car out of the airport, before anyone knew they were there, and get back to their hotel. That was the plan, anyway.
But as soon as the stairway is driven up, they see the vehicles of a dozen news agencies come following after it, each trying to race it way to the head of the pack. And that means that either someone leaked the details of their arrival, or the Paris press corps is !@#$ing psychic. Maybe both.
"Reporters, " SPYGOD spits, looking out the window at the fresh cup of !@#$ that life's decided to serve: "Ought to be a law saying we can shoot them on general !@#$ing principle."
"There is," Straffer offers.
"Yeah, but only in season."
"When does it end?"
SPYGOD looks at his lover, and they snicker at the joke. It's the first laugh Straffer's gotten out of him in days, and for that he is amazingly grateful.
"We'll be disembarking in a few moments," the overly-gracious steward says as he comes by: "I see you didn't fill out any customs forms? Do you have anything to declare?"
"I !@#$ing hate flying non-military transport," SPYGOD says.
"Is there anything I can do to help?" the man asks, trying to rebound.
"Is there a back door on this plane?" Straffer asks, smiling: "We really could do without the reception committee."
The steward turns white, and then red, and then, sheepishly, shakes his head. Straffer nods and waves him away, turning back to his lover (who clearly wishes he had a very large gun, right about now)
"You gonna be okay?"
"I really !@#$ing wish I had a big !@#$ing gun, right about now."
"Listen to me, (REDACTED)," he says, pointing out the window: "That's not the enemy, out there."
"You !@#$ing sure about that?"
"I am, love. That's the price we pay for doing what we get to do. When something goes good, they love us, and when it goes bad, they hate us. But the fact that they're free to hate means that, even we screw up, we're still doing the right thing."
SPYGOD looks at Straffer: "You're not really !@#$ing selling me on the concept of not !@#$ing shooting them all."
Straffer shrugs: "If it helps any, let me do the talking. I've got some sway with some of them-"
"Let me," SPYGOD says, putting his finger on his lover's mouth: "I know you want to help, and I know you'd take it all for me if you !@#$ing could."
"I would. Over and over again forever and ever. You know that."
"I do. And I !@#$ing love you for it. But this is my !@#$ mess, and I have to clean it up. This is where it starts."
"Do you have a plan?"
"Do I ever not have a plan?"
"Okay. Do you have a good plan?"
SPYGOD looks out the window, and then at his lover, and shrugs: "Good, bad, I'm the guy without the gun."
* * *
The hate coming up the stairs is total. Visceral, even. It's like the two men were ugly spiders, discovered cavorting on top of one's pillow at bedtime, and all too close to a handy slipper.
Before either of them can so much as set a foot down, they're peppered with pointed questions in stilted English. Questions about what SPYGOD said at the trial, about the children. Clarifications about Mr. USA, and what he did and didn't do.
And, of course, questions about the White House. What happened over the course of the Thanksgiving celebration. How long he'd been planning this. Why he'd done it then and there.
Why a member of the First Family of the United States of America was dead by his hand.
SPYGOD holds up his hands as an answer until they get all the way down the stairs. Then, stopping at the bottom, he puts them down and looks around at each reporter, one after one.
"What happened during the Revolution is a matter of state record," he says: "You've heard what I said under oath. You've heard why I did what I did, and what I didn't do what everyone wishes I could have done. That's life, that's war. You don't have to like it, but that's the way it is."
"But what about what happened at the White House?" A fairly unfriendly-looking reporter asks, sticking his microphone in SPYGOD's face: "Is this the kind of justice we are to expect from you? To kill-"
SPYGOD grabs the microphone out of the man's hand. He looks like he's going to say something, but then he bites down on it like it was an ice cream cone. It sparks, and there's a horrible feedback noise that makes everyone there wince and put their hands to their ears.
And then SPYGOD drops the microphone, and spits out what was in his mouth.
"I don't care to make a statement about that at this time," he says, once his teeth are clean and clear: "And that's because I am not allowed to make a statement about that at this time. And I plan to follow my instructions on that quite closely.
"What happened, happened. Exactly why this happened is a classified matter that you don't need to know about. The fact that you do shows that something has gone seriously wrong, and may require some corrective steps.
"But yes, there will be a statement, but I won't be making it. I suggest you talk with my superiors if you want more answers than that, as they'll be the ones who decide what they want you to know. \
"Until then, get the !@#$ out of my face."
With that, they head for the waiting car the hotel sent. The reporters stay with them all the way there, almost not letting them shut the doors and drive away. But while they keep repeating the same questions, they don't seem to have the same fury and ferocity they did before.
It's almost as if they've given up on this avenue to get answers, and are already thinking of going elsewhere for them.
"Nice," Straffer says as they drive away: "You gave them so many other things to chew on that they left the bone alone."
SPYGOD shrugs: "Sad thing is, all that was just the !@#$ing truth."
"Really?" Straffer says, looking at his lover, who's looking out the window looking very dejected, right now: "You mean he's going to..."
SPYGOD turns to look at him, ever so slowly: "The President told me that he is going to !@#$ing crucify me the first chance he gets. This was the last !@#$ing straw for him. He's !@#$ing done with me, and that means I'm !@#$ing done, too."
"Doesn't he understand that-"
"Oh, he understands. I made !@#$ing sure of that. I explained what happened, and why, and what's been !@#$ing going on. And what that could have meant if it had !@#$ing kept going on."
"And then... he listened, he nodded, he cried, he got himself back together. And when I was done, he looked me in the !@#$ eyes and told me that as soon as he could !@#$ing fix it, my loose end was being tied up for good."
SPYGOD looks away, and then back. And then he grits his teeth and slams his fist into the seat in front of him. Thankfully, it's not the drivers' seat, but the man almost swerves the car off the road from the shock of seeing a fist come through the heavily-padded seat right next to him.
"!@#$ it!" SPYGOD screams: "!@#$ it to !@#$!
"Everything we did together! Everything we worked on! Everything we !@#$ing accomplished! It's all that's gone, now. Like it never !@#$ing existed. We're right back to !@#$ing square one with him wanting to !@#$ing fire me.
"And it's my fault," SPYGOD continues, putting his hand to his face to try and keep back the sobs: "If I'd just !@#$ing trusted him, in spite of what happened in China. If I'd just !@#$ing trusted him to make the right !@#$ing decision. To let me make the right !@#$ing decision..."
He cries. It's all he can do. And Straffer can only put his arms around him and let him cry, one man to another.
* * *
They drive the rest of the way in silence, through a city that clearly wishes they were not there.
Every television they pass is on the news channel. Every headline ticker reads the charges. Every paper that someone's reading has the front page story.
Everything a reminder that this is now enemy territory.
Thankfully, they are both alone and anonymous as they they travel deeper behind the lines. They pass by TU guards who wave them through barricades and roadblocks, leading up to the courthouse. They pass gaggles of reporters who wait at those barriers, who have no idea that the story of the day was just closeby.
By the time they're back to the hotel, they have passed all the paparazzi behind. This is a good thing: by that point, Straffer would have taken back everything he said and killed them with his bare hands if they tried to ask any questions. The broken man he loves deserves no less.
And as the night drags on -- and SPYGOD cries less and less -- Straffer holds that man tight in the hopes that he can shelter him long enough to put himself back together, yet again.