Title: Handling

Author: tarotgal

Fandom: The Handler

Rating: G

Disclaimer: The Handler is a series owned by CBS and Viacom Productions, Inc., created and produced by Chris Haddock (i.e. not me!). And Joey Pants is just adorable and then some, but married so I don't own him or his character on the show either. This is just a silly little fanfic is all.

Summary: Not surprisingly, Joe's very dedicated to his job, even when he's a little under the weather

Notes: Second in my attempts at writing a small fic every Friday. This one happens to be 2,000 words out of coincidence. Just an interesting fact.





     The night was cool and dark for California. A sudden burst of rain in the late evening had brought with it a cold front. It was even darker and colder inside the car, though at least he was out of the wind and any future downpours. With nothing to look at apart from the dark houses of supposedly law-abiding neighbors, and after nearly thirty-two hours without going home to sleep, his eyes ached with fatigue and his head pounded. Maybe he could get just a few minutes of sleep here before--


     The phone rand in his hand, and he rubbed his eyes with the thumb and forefinger, then glanced at the number before answering. "Yeah? What've you got for me?" He directed a yawn into his shoulder and rubbed his hand over his whole face. He listened to the man talk for a moment, then broke into a smile. "Eighty-six. That's just great. Thanks, I owe you one." He flipped the phone closed and threw his head back against the headrest with a sigh. His hat was damp from the rain earlier, and it made him shiver as a few raindrops were squished out and slid down his neck. As he unlocked the car doors with his left hand, he reached over and opened the glove compartment with his right. He glanced briefly at his watch, then fished around in the glove compartment. Apart from the gun, three pairs of glasses, a spare hat, a couple of back-up phones, the usual registration and manual, there was a small pack of tissues. He pulled one out and closed the compartment afterwards. He clutched the tissue in his hand as his nostrils twitched, then snapped forward in his seat, sneezing freely. "Yihhshhhh!" As he made to blow his nose, he was interrupted again.


     The passenger door opened and Darnell slipped in. "Okay, Joe," he said, shutting the door behind him. "I've got an update on the widow's story."


     Joe Renato nodded and rubbed the tissue discretely against his nose. He sniffled and cleared his throat, sitting up straighter in his seat.


     Darnell raised an eyebrow. "You okay?"


     With another nod, "Yeah. Wasn't expecting you for another few seconds is all." His last few words were rough, with something in his throat obscuring his voice. He forced a cough and cleared his throat again. "So what's she saying now?"


     Rubbing his hands together to warm them, and slouching relaxingly in his seat, Darnell answered, "She says now that he wasn't as sick as he seemed, that she thought he was getting better, and that they'd be able to- and get this- go on a cruise together when he recovered."


     Joe chuckled. "A cruise on his supposed income? You've got to be kidding me. No way she could have figured on that unless she knew about his deals."


     With a laugh, Darnell shrugged. The covered his mouth for a yawn.


     "Hey," Joe patted his leg. "It's late. Go get a couple of hours of sleep. Good work tonight."


     "Oh, jee, thanks for the break for a change." Darnell had recently been complaining about too few weeks off between gigs and too little time to prepare for the role. The job was hard enough already, especially when he'd been trusted to work twenty-four hour gigs without a wire and regular check-ins.


     Joe continued to chuckle as he shook his head. "If you didn't want to work hard, you shouldn't have joined the FBI." His hand clenched the tissue more tightly, and this time he raised it to his nose. "Ehhh... yihshh! ihshh!" Hoe snuffled and cleared his throat.


     "Joe? Hey, maybe you should get some rest, too? You look like Hell."


     "Oh, thanks," he said, the sarcasm seeping through his light Jersey accent. "I'll be fine. Can't rest. I've got three other agents in the field and several people doing some investigating, scoping out a future case." He tensed again, much more quickly than he would have liked, but managed to cover his nose and mouth anyway. "ihhh... h'yishh!" He coughed and patted Darnell's arm this time. "Now get out of here and get some rest. And give me a call if the case breaks. We want a quick turnaround between the time she confesses to the murder and getting her to the bar for the arrest."


     "I know," Darnell said, rolling his eyes. "Besides, I don't have anything against the long hours and the work, I was the one who wanted more responsibility, remember?" His hand flipped the handle and the passenger side door popped open.


     "Yeah, well, if you don't lay off me I'll start rethinking that. Now, go off and do a good job like you always do." Once he'd finished watching in the side mirror as Darnell walked down the sidewalk and turned the corner to the house, he locked the doors and turned the key in the ignition. The heater turned on, blaring, but as the engine had not been run in over an hour, it was shot out cold air at first. He sniffled and rubbed a bent finger beneath his nose, then tossed the used tissue towards the trash bag behind his seat.


     He got to the office a half an hour later. Even the California highways weren't very busy after two in the morning on a weekday. The office was virtually deserted, too, but this time he didn't mind so much. Tossing his hat off onto his desk, he ran his hand through his thinning hair. He sat down behind his desk and propped his legs up on the top of it. No sooner had he picked up a case file to make notes than he had to toss it aside and sneeze into his shoulder. "ehhh-YIHShhhhh! ihchhh!" Joe fished a tissue out from his pocket, accidentally tearing it as he did. After tossing it into the trash and sniffling, he looked up to see the night secretary standing at his door, holding out a box of tissues. Joe was in the middle of waving her away, then thought better and held his hands up. She laughed and tossed the box over. He pulled out a few tissues and blew his nose with a sigh of great relief. When he looked up again, his boss was standing there, arms crossed over his chest. "Who called you? Heather or Darnell?"


     She grinned slyly, "Both, actually. And Lily left a message on my desk. Seems like they're handling you more than you are them right now. What do you think you're doing here this late when you're ill?"


     "First off," he waved an arm for effect. "I'm not really ill. It's just a little cold. And second, what I thought I was doing was work... working..." Quickly he pulled out another tissue, tensing up. "h'YIHShhh! ihhhShuhhh! Sniff!" He wiped his nose. "At least I would be if I could stop sneezing."


     She came around the desk and put her hands on his shoulders. "Joey, you need to be on the top of your game. You're no good to us sick as a handler, just like you weren't good sick when you were working the field. I told you to go home then, and I'll do the same now." She picked up the pile of folders. "Now, give me your notebook and your cell phone, and go home and get some rest tonight. Then you can come to work tomorrow morning feeling better and I'll catch you up if anything's going on."


     Joe cleared his throat, looking up into the black woman's eyes. They were strong, commanding, unyielding, and, yet, kind. And instead of fighting her, he reached into his pocket and pulled out his notebook and cellular phone. She was well aware of who was working and on what. "Call me at home the moment anything happens?" He stood, tissue box tucked under his arm, and put his hat on. Somehow, it was still wet, and it still made him shiver at the touch. He lifted a fist to his nose and mouth. "ehhshh! ihShhh!" As he pulled out another tissue and walked back down the hall blowing his nose, he had to admit it was a little silly to force himself to stay up another ten or eleven hours until the big bust on south street was supposed to go down.


     It started raining again on the drive home, and the heater was going in and out the whole time. It made his nose run so much that he ended up just turning it off and enduring its absence the whole way home. All the parking spots nearby were taken, so he was forced to walk further to get to his apartment building. Soaking wet, he walked up the stairs to his place. His cat looked up from the armchair as he entered and locked the door behind him. It gave a soft meow, then closed its eyes and fell back to sleep. From the not-so-spare bedroom, he heard his brother grunt and turn over in his sleep.


     Joe slithered out of his wet, black pleather jacket and tossed it onto a hook beside the door along with his hat. He slipped off his shoes and hoped not to find a puddle of water still on the floor by the door in the morning. By the time he got to his bedroom he was in a tank top and boxers, and his bed had never looked so welcoming, nor did the box of tissues still under his arm. The first few were still wet from the rain, but beneath that soggy mess there was nearly a box full of good ones. "ihhshhh!" His sneezes were wet, fast, and now he didn't have to worry about covering his nose or blowing it. He was more exhausted than he'd thought, barely bothering to blow his nose before falling asleep.


     He could have sworn by it, but no sooner had he closed his eyes and breathed a heavy sigh into his pillow, than the phone rang. He rubbed a finger under his nose and picked up the phone beside his bed before it could ring again and wake his brother. "Yeah? This better be important. Someone dead or... oh." He pulled himself up off the pillow. "Oh, so then they need a written confession... oh... well then send someone over to the station in the morning but make sure she gets charged properly so the others see her. Thanks for callin'." He hung up the phone and his strength gave out. He fell into his pillows, smothering a small fit of sneezes. "yihshh! hihchhh! ihhShhh!"


     "Joe, you all right?"


     Joe nodded into his pillow, and raised his head, sniffling. "Fine, Lou. Go back to... to bed... YIHShhhh!"


     Joe's brother chuckled from the doorway. "Ah, so the wise, old FBI handler who's usually on top of everything has some weakness after all, does he?"


     Joe rolled his eyes and coughed, then spent the next minute trying to clear his voice. Lou settled down on the bed beside him at the end of it, handing over a glass of water. Joe took it gratefully and gulped down nearly all of it. "Well, you don't have to break the trend of the last forty years and be considerate for a change." He coughed and drained the glass. "It's just a cold. I can handle it."


     Lou yawned and nodded. "Well, call me if you need me." He headed back to his own room.


     Chuckling, Joe rolled over, pulling the covers up over himself. He sighed deeply and relaxed into his bed. After a few seconds of sniffling, he opened an eye to stare at the phone just to be sure it wasn't going to ring again. After counting slowly to ten and only hearing the wind and rain against his bedroom window, he closed his eyes and allowed himself to go to sleep, at least for a few hours until the phone rang again.