"How's your headache?" Savard asked quietly.
Stark was leaning against the breakfast bar in the dining alcove, a radio transmitter in one hand and the telephone receiver in the other. She glanced across the room to where Savard sat at a small desk, her personal computer in her left hand.
"What headache?" Stark grunted, trying to carry on three conversations at once.
"The one you're pretending you don't have," Savard noted absently without looking up, punching information into her handheld.
"Feels like my eyeballs are going to fall out," Stark responded flatly.
"Thought so," Savard said off-handedly, making a note in her daily log. "You're going to need a CAT scan."
"Yeah, sure. Next month maybe." Stark was listening to Mac relay the status of the investigation in Central Park while juggling equipment and trying to jot notes. She'd gotten the all-clear call just a minute before. At least this location was felt to be secure and they could stay put for a while. She was glad because she thought she might vomit if she had to ride in the car again. She closed her radio transmission, simultaneously hung up the receiver, and crossed her arms over her chest, trying to stave off another wave of nausea. "Where's Doyle?"
Savard looked up in surprise, noting immediately that Stark's color was lousy. "Don't know. Haven't heard from him. I'm assuming he's going to want me to stay with the team, so all I'm trying to do is organize my field notes from today. We need to review the preliminary psych profile on this guy ASAP, too. I don't think anyone expected a bomb."
"That's an understatement, Agent Savard," Stark grumbled, her expression grim and beneath the anger in her tone, a hollow note of pain. "At least I hope no one did. Because if anybody had any idea of this and didn't tell us about it, there'll be hell to pay. We lost an agent today."
A sharp gasp from the doorway caused them both to turn quickly in that direction. Blair Powell, stood there, white as a sheet, and for a second, Stark thought she might fall.
"Are you all right, Ms. Powell?" Stark asked in genuine concern.
"Who?" Blair steadied herself with one hand on the back of a dining room chair and waited until she was quite sure her voice was steady. "You said you lost an agent," she heard herself say in a surprisingly calm voice that couldn't possibly be her own, because she was quite certain she was screaming. "Who?"
Stark looked uncomfortable and a little uncertain. "I'm sorry, that information - "
"Jeremy Finch," Renee Savard said immediately. She ignored the quick look of surprise and uncharacteristic anger from Stark, her gaze returning to Blair's face. "He was in the lead car."
"I'm sorry," Blair said softly. She recognized the quick rush of relief that accompanied the sound of his name, but she couldn't bring herself to feel guilty. This time it wasn't Cam. It wasn't Cam.
"There's no reason for you to be sorry," Stark said, gently now, too. "You are not responsible for what this maniac does. It has nothing to do with you."
Blair shook her head, appreciating Stark's kindness, but unable to accept it. "It does have something to do with me. Agent Finch was assigned to me. His job was to protect me."
"It's still doesn't mean that what happened to him was your fault," Stark persisted.
Blair smiled, a sad smile. "That's a very fine distinction you're making, Agent Stark."
"It's the fine distinctions that make all the difference," Savard responded in a firm but compassionate tone.
"I wish I could accept that," Blair said, almost to herself. She regarded them both and asked one last time, "Have you talked to Commander Roberts?"
"Not yet, ma'am," Stark answered, and Blair believed her.
"I'll be in the other room. Could you please let me know when you have more information?" She was more emotionally exhausted than physically tired. There was nothing she could do and she couldn't bear the conversation another moment. She knew that she wasn't a prisoner, but in many ways she felt like one. She didn't know where she was and she didn't know how long she would be there. She had no one to call, or at least no one she would be allowed to call. She assumed that her father had been informed that she was safe, and that his security chief and the director of the Secret Service and the FBI and all the other agencies entrusted with her protection would be doing whatever it was they did. She was the one player in all of this who apparently had no role to play. "And please advise me when I can call my father."
"Yes, ma'am," Stark said crisply.
When Blair left them, Stark looked at Savard in annoyance. "It's not exactly procedure to discuss classified information with her."
Savard regarded Stark thoughtfully, choosing her words carefully. She didn't know her all that well, and she knew the others on the team even less. "Can I speak to you off the record here?" she said, surprising Stark even more.
Stark glanced over her shoulder and saw that Grant was posted by the front entrance, and Blair was curled up on the couch staring blankly into space. They were alone. "I'm not going to report anything you say to me, Savard. I'm not the spy here."
Renee let that jibe go, appreciating that not only was Stark injured, she had lost a colleague. "I just meant that I have no desire to offend you by talking about your Commander."
As she expected, Stark's shoulders stiffened and the compact, dark-haired agent looked like she was ready to go to battle despite the fact that she seemed in danger of falling down at any second. It amazed Savard that every one of the Secret Service agents in Egret's detail was totally dedicated to their reserved, formidable Commander. She admired and respected the sentiment. "Blair Powell is in love with her."
Stark's mouth dropped open. It was some seconds before she managed to close it.
She still hadn't found her voice when Savard continued, "And I think the feeling is mutual."
Stark was silent, staring at the floor, trying to think, but her thoughts were racing in circles. She thought about the five days that Blair had spent in Diane Bleeker's apartment not quite two months before. She had been in the car that sat outside that apartment building for a large part of that week. She and everyone else knew that there was no way that Blair Powell was up there alone that entire time. They hadn't spoken of it, even amongst themselves, but she had wondered privately.
She was sitting there with a cold cup of coffee in her hand, staring up at the darkened windows in the oddly foreboding building, working hard not to wonder what was happening upstairs. She struggled not to replay the night she had ended up in Blair Powell's bed as a result of a very ill advised wave of pure, mindless lust. She had been so damn scared that night, and so damn naïve, and so damn crazy for her - and Blair had been kind, if not tender. She recalled, blushing in the dark and hoping that Fielding couldn't see it, that tenderness had not been high on her list of requirements at that point, not when she had been frantic to get Blair's hands on her burning skin. She had never done anything like that before, and she hoped to God she never did again. She hadn't expected it, hadn't even considered it, but then she rarely thought about things like that. She thought about passing her firearms recertification, or her next shift assignment, or what she would have done if she had been the one to look up and see the sun glint off a rifle barrel pointed at the President's daughter.
She sipped the acid dregs in the mushy paper cup and remembered what it felt like to be touched the way Blair Powell had touched her. Even though she managed to put the memory from her mind most of the time, every now and then she would look at the President's daughter and remember her kiss. Then her blood would race and she'd long to feel that way again.
Stark realized that her mind was wandering down very inappropriate avenues and, ignoring her pounding headache and the faint disconcerting stirrings elsewhere, considered the facts. She knew the Commander was in town during those five days, because she has seen her briefly in a bar with Blair Powell. The timing certainly fit. It was more than that, though. It was a hundred little things that she had noticed since then but never quite 'seen'. It was the way they looked at each other, and the way they walked together - not touching, but connected just the same. Neither of them had been obvious, but when she considered everything as a whole, she thought that Savard might be right.
"How can you say that after only a week of being around them?" Stark asked somewhat argumentatively. It bothered her that the FBI agent had seen something she hadn't.
Savard smiled. "I know what women look like when they're in love."
Stark blushed and immediately cursed herself mentally for the reaction. It wasn't quite the answer she'd expected, and she hated the fact that her heart began to race in a very unprofessional manner. She was in the middle of a crisis situation and had responsibility for Egret's security until such time as Mac or the Commander arrived on scene, and here she was discussing something very improper with an FBI agent who might be reporting every word back to her dickhead of a superior. To make matters even worse, she was having very unprofessional thoughts about her FBI counterpart.
"Well," she began, and then stuttered to a stop when she realized that Savard was softly laughing. "What?" she asked belligerently.
"I apologize if I've upset you," Savard said, the lilt in her voice playful.
"I'm not upset," Stark said, definitely defensive now. She squared her shoulders and reached for the telephone. "I'm just busy, that's all."
Savard simply smiled again and returned to her report. She had been right about Stark the first day she had met her. She was cute.
Hours had passed in silence, it seemed, with Stark or Savard or Grant standing guard duty at the door. Finally, Paula Stark stepped into the room and said quietly, "Ms. Powell, if you would pick up the phone on the table next to you please."
For a moment, Blair hesitated, staring at the phone with a mixture of apprehension and wonder. Such a simple thing - contact with the outside world. Exhilarating, and somehow frightening. Then she reached for it and said, "Yes?"
For a moment all she heard was strange static, and then a faintly metallic version of the only voice she wanted to hear.
"I'm sorry. I couldn't get away before and I just now found a scrambled line. I can only talk a minute. Are you all right?"
Suddenly, Blair didn't care where she was or how long she would have to be there. This was the one thing she needed. "I'm fine. Are you hurt?"
The answer came too quickly, and even with the electronic interference, Blair heard that tone in Cam's voice that she always got when she was being official and avoiding a question. If she hadn't been so relieved to hear from her, she would have been pissed. There would be time for that later. "Cam? What's happening?"
"I'm sorry. I can't talk now, but I'll be there as soon as I can."
Then there was only silence on the line. Nevertheless, for the first time since the explosion rocked her world, Blair was able to draw a full breath without feeling a hard ball of pain in her chest. Cam was safe - she was safe - and she had found the time in the midst of what must have been pandemonium to call her.
She replaced the receiver and looked across the room to where Stark stood next to the front door, glancing out the window. It was already close to ten p.m. "What are Mac and Cam doing back there?"
Stark turned from the window, satisfied that the two new FBI agents who had arrived an hour earlier were well positioned outside. She welcomed the additional surveillance assistance, because she and Savard and Grant were tired and stressed, and, even rotating shifts they couldn't adequately cover both the grounds and the interior. Even with the fibbies they were still under-manned, but that would get better once the Commander and the rest of the team arrived.
Blair watched her, waiting for an answer.
Stark's automatic response was a non-response, but when she looked into Blair's face, she caught an unguarded glimpse of her worry. Then she thought about what Savard had said about the Commander and her, and answered, "I imagine they're meeting with the ATF bomb unit, trying to get a profile on the bomb and the bomber. The first walk-through is always the most important. The Commander wouldn't leave that to anyone else."
Blair had an uneasy feeling she knew what that meant. "The walk-through?"
Stark hesitated. It wasn't exactly a pretty picture.
"The epicenter of the explosion was the lead vehicle," Savard said, walking in from the kitchen with yet more coffee. "Depending upon the nature of the accelerant, and the amount, and the exact placement of the device on the car, the blast radius could be anywhere from ten feet to a hundred yards. Anything and everything remaining in that area is potential evidence."
"Aren't there specialists to take care of that kind of thing?" Blair asked, her throat dry. 'Everything' included people too, she supposed.
Stark nodded. "Of course, from the ATF and the Bureau and most likely the NYPD and the State Police, too. It's probably a real jurisdictional snafu down there right now."
Savard snorted derisively. "That's putting it mildly." She was quite sure that's why she hadn't heard from her own chief. Doyle was undoubtedly trying to direct the activities by claiming that Federal interests had priority.
"So Cam isn't needed there, is she?" Blair persisted. God, why couldn't Cam just let someone else do this part? She couldn't imagine the horror of sifting through the debris that had claimed the life of someone she knew.
Stark stared at her, incredulous. "There's no way she's going to walk away until there's nothing else to find. Not when you were the target."
Stark was so certain, and there was an unmistakable edge of pride in her tone. Blair began to see why it was so hard for Cam to relinquish her position on the team. She was so clearly the leader.
"It could be a long time before they're done, then, couldn't it?"
Stark regarded her seriously for a moment, then smiled quickly. "If she said she'll be here, Ms. Powell, you can count on it."
She wasn't sleeping, just lying quietly in the dark. The soft tap on the door brought her upright, her heart pounding and her pulse racing. She glanced at the red digits on the bedside clock. Three twenty-two a.m.
"Yes," she called.
"Ms. Powell, it's-"
"Come in," she said urgently, fumbling on the bed for the terrycloth robe someone had considerately thought to stock in the bathroom. She was tightening the sashes on the garment when the door opened softly and then closed again. She hadn't turned on the bedside lamp yet, but the glow from the security lights cleverly hidden in the nearby trees was enough to illuminate Cam's unmistakable form.
"Are you hurt?" Blair asked immediately.
"No," Cam responded, her voice raspy.
They were six feet apart, each of them leaning forward slightly, and the silence hung heavily between them.
"Are you?" Cam whispered finally.
Cam took one step forward, hesitated, and then another. When she spoke, her tone held none of its usual reserve. Softly she asked, "Would you mind very much if I touched you - just to be sure?"
Something that had lain cold and frightened in Blair's heart began to warm. She trembled faintly with the kind of anticipation she barely remembered, from a time before she had learned to expect disappointment from a lover's promise. "No, I wouldn't mind that at all."
Blair took one step to meet her, and then Cam's arms closed very gently around her. Blair scarcely dared breathe, afraid that she might suddenly awaken and find it all a dream. Awaken and discover herself alone in the dark yet again, waiting for a woman to come and touch her. Waiting for a lover's touch to set her free. She held very still and willed the moment not to end.
Cam sighed, contenting herself with absorbing the warmth of Blair's body. As she held her, Blair's energy began to penetrate the numbness. She still hurt - everywhere. But being close to Blair - feeling her heart beat, listening to her quiet breathing, leaning on her strength - being with her, was soothing the edges of her pain.
Eventually Blair ran her hands up and down Cam's back slowly, tentatively, assuring herself that she was real. When she lifted her arms to encircle Cam's shoulders, pressing closer to her, Cam gasped sharply.
"You are hurt!" Blair exclaimed.
"It's nothing," Cam murmured, resting her cheek against Blair's hair and closing her eyes. God, it was so good just to be near her. She hadn't realized how tired she was. There'd been so much to do. They'd had to cordon off the park in the immediate vicinity of Sheep Meadow, an impossible task in itself, and then there was the evidence collection, and the interviews. And she'd had to call Jeremy Finch's sister in Omaha. And then report on a secure line to DC and brief the deputy Security advisor and her own chief, assuring them that there was no imminent threat to Blair. And then make decisions about where to move her, how deeply to seclude her. Goddamned Doyle arguing with her every step of the way. And every minute wondering if Blair was hurt, even though Stark had reported no injury. And worrying that Blair might still be in danger or simply just frightened, and alone. Twelve hours apart from her had felt like a year. She tightened her hold on Blair and gasped again at the sudden surge of pain down her arm.
"Tell me," Blair whispered.
"Just a few burns," Cam answered, nearly asleep on her feet. It really didn't hurt so very much just at that moment. She lifted her uninjured hand to stroke Blair's face. "You're sure you're all right?"
"I am now," Blair responded softly. She could feel Cam shaking, and as much as she didn't want to let her go, she knew she needed to. "Cam, you need to lie down."
"Let me just stand here a minute," Cam replied, her voice eerily flat and her words forced and slow. "I'll be fine if I just don't move for a minute. Doesn't really hurt if I don't move. Just a little tired is all."
"I know," Blair said. She began to move them both toward the bed, one careful step at a time. It worried her that Cam followed without protest. That wasn't like her. This wasn't just fatigue. "Cam?"
"Hmm?" Cam asked dimly, trying to remember what she needed to do next. "Stark. Stark's report. Need that."
"Did they give you anything, for the pain?"
Cam felt her legs hit something unyielding and she sat down. Bed. "No. I told them no. I have to talk - to - Mac."
"Are you in pain now?" Blair asked, guiding her back against the pillows.
"Not so much, really," Cam muttered. There was the strangest tingling in her right hand. Then, she was aware of Blair lifting her legs onto the mattress, removing her shoes. "I shouldn't be in here," she remarked suddenly, as if just realizing where she was.
"You're safe for the moment," Blair said gently, staring at the gauze bandage wrapped around Cam's hand and arm. She hadn't seen that before. She swallowed around the lump in her throat and stroked Cam's cheek lightly. "I don't think you're in any condition to break any rules tonight."
"This is definitely against regulations," Cam remarked drowsily, reaching for Blair's hand but only managing to brush her fingers over Blair's palm.
"Yes," Blair whispered, leaning down to kiss her very softly on the mouth. "I know that, Commander."
Then Blair pulled the covers over the sleeping woman, and quietly left the room.
Blair pulled the bedroom door closed behind her and came face-to-face with John Fielding, who was standing in the hallway three feet from the room. She looked at him questioningly, and he said quietly, "Mac would like to speak to the Commander."
"She's asleep. Not now."
If he was surprised by her response, he gave no sign of it. He merely nodded and walked to the far end of the hall, taking a position where he could see out the window as well as back along the hallway, past the closed door of Blair's room, and into the rest of the house.
In the living room Blair immediately noted an unfamiliar man standing next to the front door in the place generally occupied by Stark. Savard was on the couch, leaning back with her eyes closed. As Blair approached, Savard opened her eyes. She looked worn but her smile was still electric.
"Couldn't sleep?" Savard asked, surprised to see her. It hadn't escaped her notice that when Cameron Roberts walked through the door the first person she asked for was Blair Powell. After issuing a few curt orders, Roberts had disappeared down the hallway to Blair's room. Savard didn't know exactly what she thought might happen next, but she hadn't expected to see Blair again so soon. "Anything I can get you?"
Ignoring the question, Blair said quietly, "You should go to bed, Agent Savard. Even the FBI can't require that you work twenty-four hour shifts."
"I was just thinking about that," Savard admitted with a faint smile. "I thought I'd wait until Grant came back from the hospital. She took Stark to be checked out about half an hour ago. I just wanted to -- hear how she was."
"How did she seem?" Blair heard the edge of worry in Savard's voice.
Renee laughed. "Cranky. Fussing about leaving her post. She wouldn't have gone if the Commander hadn't ordered her to either be examined or be relieved." She smiled, a smile soft with feeling. "Stark's a regular Boy Scout."
Blair recognized the undercurrent of affection in her voice. Interesting. "Where's Mac?"
Savard indicated the room opposite them. "The dining room is apparently our new command center. I think he's waiting for the Commander in there."
"Then he'll have to wait," Blair said flatly. "She's exhausted."
Savard studied her, curious. There was a surprisingly proprietary tone in her voice. The two women's eyes met in a moment of silent understanding.
"Right, then." Savard moved as if to get up. "I'll go tell him."
Blair stopped her with a raised hand. "Never mind. I'll tell him myself."
Mac looked up from the notebook computer he was using as Blair Powell walked into the room. He was relieved to see that other than a weariness she couldn't quite disguise she looked thankfully uninjured. He couldn't even think about what might have happened if she had been fifteen feet closer to the vehicle when it exploded. He started to stand, and Blair said quickly, "For god's sake, Mac, sit down. "
"How are you, Ms. Powell?" he asked politely.
Blair laughed grimly. "I have no idea how to answer that question, Mac," she said with utter honesty. "Other than the fact that I feel like I've been dropped into the middle of some awful B-movie, I'm basically fine."
He smiled sympathetically. "It's been a hell of a day. And tomorrow will be hectic, too." He moved some file folders off the chair next to him. "You're welcome to sit down. The Commander will want to fill you in herself, I'm sure."
"In the morning, Mac," Blair said quietly.
He stared, surprised and clearly confused. "I'm sorry?"
"Have you looked at her, Mac?" Blair asked, unable to keep the irritation from her voice. What was wrong with these people? "She's falling down on her feet, and she's hurt. She's asleep right now and no one is going to wake her up."
This time, Mac's incredulous expression was followed very quickly by an unmistakable look of respect. He nodded. "Of course. There's nothing that won't keep a few hours."
"She couldn't tell me very much," Blair sighed, finally sitting down on the straight-backed dining room chair across from Mac. "Just how badly is she hurt?"
Mac looked away, uncomfortable talking about something that he knew Cam wouldn't want discussed. Her. He'd rather Blair asked him to reveal top secrets.
For a few seconds, Blair thought he wouldn't answer. "Mac?"
Then he met her gaze and responded quietly, "As far as I can gather, she has some moderately severe burns on her right arm, shoulder, and neck. A State Trooper who was near the blast site grabbed her and dragged her away from the car before she could be more seriously injured."
He wasn't about to tell her how damn scared he'd been watching helplessly from the van. First he had seen Jeremy's car burst into flames and people being thrown to the ground for fifty feet around. When he had looked to the spot where he had last seen Blair's group approaching, all he could see was a cloud of smoke. For a minute he had been paralyzed with the fear that they were all dead. Fortunately, Grant was cool in a crisis and she had already started the backup car and was racing toward Egret's last known location.
Almost the instant the air had begun to clear, he had seen the Commander running straight into the raging inferno as if she didn't even notice the fire. Then Stark's voice had clamored in his ear that Egret was secure and while he was frantically trying to clear the lines of communication and direct the evacuation, he had seen a burly State Trooper dive into the flames and tackle Cameron Roberts. While Grant sped from the scene, the trooper had dragged the Commander away from the car. Mac had an eerie sensation that if that officer hadn't grabbed her, she might not have moved.
He took a steadying breath, banishing that disquieting image, and said, "It took me the better part of two hours to get her to let the EMTs near her. But they checked her out and cleared her. They said she'll be okay."
"Was anyone other than Agent Finch seriously injured?" Blair asked quietly. "I had a friend with me. Dr. Coleman?"
"I don't have the figures yet," Mac said solemnly. "There were a number of bystanders with bumps and bruises and assorted fractures, but as far as I know, Jeremy was the only casualty."
Blair heard the slight waver in his voice and realized that Mac had lost a friend as well as a colleague that day. "I'm so sorry."
Mac nodded mutely. There really wasn't anything to say, especially to Blair Powell. He supposed he shouldn't even be briefing her, but over the six months that he had served as the head of her security team, he had gotten to know her better then he might have otherwise. He didn't presume to think that they were friends, but he understood her isolation a little bit better now. It wasn't right to keep her in the dark, especially when the events so clearly involved her.
"You should get some rest, Ms. Powell," he said. "It's relatively quiet now, but I doubt that it will be tomorrow when the FBI shows up in force."
Blair realized she was exhausted. She had been running on pure adrenaline for hours, and now that Cam had arrived and she had finally seen her, she could allow her fatigue to surface. What she really wanted to do was go back to her room and stretch out on the bed next to Cam. She supposed that wasn't a very good idea, considering that the house was filled with Secret Service agents, not to mention the FBI. If she returned to her bedroom, they were not likely to be able to ignore the fact that she was sleeping with Cameron Roberts. She almost smiled at the sheer absurdity of the situation.
"I'd say that's good advice, Mac, and you should probably take it as well."
"I think I will," he said with a smile. As Blair rose, he added, "This is a very large house, and other than this room, the living room, and the kitchen, all the other rooms are bedrooms."
She studied him thoughtfully, but she couldn't read anything in his clear blue eyes. "Thank you, Mac. I think I'll go find an empty one."
He watched her leave the room, thinking once more how glad he was that he did not carry the ultimate responsibility for safeguarding her life.
At just past seven the next morning, Blair walked into the small galley-style kitchen. Cam was in the process of pouring a cup of coffee, juggling the pot somewhat awkwardly with her left hand. She was wearing blue jeans that were an inch too long, a loose fitting pale blue button-down collar shirt that looked suspiciously like police issue, and running shoes. The shoes, at least, were hers. Remarkably, when she glanced at Blair and smiled, her eyes looked clear and rested.
"How in the hell do you do that," Blair grumbled, stumbling in the direction of the coffee cup Cam held out to her.
The corner of Cam's mouth lifted again in an irritatingly knowing grin. "Do what?"
"Look so damn good after no sleep?"
Cam thought Blair looked just fine in her gray sweatpants and navy blue T-shirt, although both were a little too large for her. She was happy to see that Blair's primary mood appeared to be grumpy, rather than frightened. She knew from experience that the fear must be there somewhere, and that eventually it would surface, but for now, they could let it rest. "I don't need very much sleep."
Ignoring her, Blair leaned against the counter and gratefully sipped the steaming brew. After the first few scalding swallows she asked, "What happened to your own clothes?"
Cam hesitated for a second, then said lightly, "I had to throw them out. I borrowed these from the trunk of an NYPD patrol car. The officer assured me they were clean."
Blair didn't smile; she was staring at the white gauze wrapped around the palm of Cam's right hand and disappearing under the unbuttoned sleeve of her blue shirt. Cam seemed fine now, but Blair remembered her exhaustion and pain of just a few hours before. "How bad is that?"
Cam shrugged and started to speak, but Blair interrupted impatiently. "And don't say 'it's nothing' one more time or I swear to God I'll forget that you're sore and take you down right here." As she spoke, she lifted a hand and turned back the unbuttoned collar of Cam's shirt, drawing a sharp breath when she saw the angry swatch of blistered skin that extended along the lower side of Cam's neck onto her shoulder. "Jesus, Cam."
Cam set her coffee down and met Blair's eyes. "It's been looked at," she assured her quietly. "It's just superficial - nothing too serious. It should be a lot better in a few days."
"What were you thinking?" Blair demanded. She was rapidly accumulating memories of Cam in danger, or hurt, or literally dying, and the images didn't get any easier to take with reviewing. Her fear fueled her anger, and she added sharply, "Damn it, don't you care if you get hurt? Don't you think I care?"
Cam looked away. It had happened so quickly, and then, after, there had been so much to do - so many things to check and organize and confirm. She had put it from her mind. "I wasn't thinking," she said softly.
Blair stared at her, surprised. "You're always thinking. What happened this time?"
"I - " Cam stopped, suddenly uncomfortable. Doyle was likely to show up at any minute, and she needed to brief the team and discuss strategy before that. "We should talk about this some other time."
"There will never be 'some other time'," Blair said flatly. "Or a better time. Not for us, Cam. What happened?"
"It was the engine stuttering that reminded me," Cam murmured.
An uneasy feeling fluttered through Blair's chest. Cam looked pale. Blair stepped a little closer, resting her fingers lightly on the top of Cam's hand where it lay along the edge of the counter. "Go ahead. It's okay."
Cam drew her mind from the past and focused on Blair's face, smiling gratefully, her eyes clearing. Blair's touch steadied her, anchored her in the present. "I was late for school and my father said I could ride with him. He went out ahead of me to tell the driver about the change in plans. When I came down the steps I could hear the car engine coughing like it was going to stall." She hesitated, running a hand quickly over her face. She was sweating, the cold sweat of fear and dark memories.
Blair forced herself to breathe, but it was difficult around the choking dread as she began to understand what Cam was saying. They had never talked about it. They had had so little time to talk at all. Not about what mattered, she realized. "You were right there?"
Cam nodded. "About twenty feet away, I guess, when the bomb exploded. It knocked me down." She was clutching the counter and made a conscious effort to relax her grip, to keep her voice even. "When I got up the flames were so high, and it was so hot - and I, I couldn't get close." She looked at Blair, her eyes shadowed with old misery. "I was too scared."
"Cam," Blair whispered, lifting her hand to caress her cheek. "Even if you could have - you know -"
"I know," Cam said. "But I should have tried."
"You were a child then," Blair argued gently. "And yesterday you weren't, and you still couldn't have saved either of them."
Cam closed her eyes briefly and nodded. "I know."
Blair shook her head in frustration and sympathy, hearing the guilt still heavy in Cam's voice. Knowing and believing were two very different things. She was torn between wanting to shake her and wanting desperately to hold her. "Do you have any idea how crazy you make me when you do things like you did yesterday?"
"Some," Cam admitted softly, turning her palm so that their fingers met briefly.
"That's progress, I suppose," Blair sighed.
"I don't want you to worry about me," Cam began before Blair cut her off.
"Please! Don't push your luck, Roberts," Blair snapped. She withdrew her hand and pointed to Cam's arm. "What about changing the bandages?"
"I'll have Stark or Savard give me a hand," Cam said with a shrug. "I was just about to go shower. I still smell like smoke."
"The hell you will," Blair said sharply. "I might just trust Stark, but I have no intention of letting Renee Savard put her hands on you for any reason, under any circumstances."
"I can assure you, Ms. Powell, you have no need to worry," Cam said, her voice dark and intimate. Don't you know that?
Somehow as they had talked, they had moved slowly closer, until now Blair's hand rested on Cam's hip, and Cam's fingers brushed softly up and down Blair's arm. There was space between them, but those few inches shimmered with heat.
"Thank you for coming to my room last night," Blair said quietly, her lips inches from Cam's. "I don't think I could have stood waiting much longer."
"I'm sorry it took me so long," Cam answered, her eyes unable to leave Blair's. She shuddered faintly as Blair moved near enough for their thighs to touch. "I didn't mean to hurt you, Blair," Cam said, her voice heavy and thick. "I never meant that. I don't know any other way to do this."
"You really piss me off, Commander," Blair murmured, moving her hand upward to rest her palm against Cam's chest. "And I'm not saying I like any of this, and I don't intend to change my mind any time soon. But still -- " She slipped her hand under the collar and caressed the uninjured side of Cam's neck. "You make me crazy."
Cam answered the call in Blair's deep blue eyes and lowered her head to kiss her.
"Good morning, Commander, Ms. Powell," Renee Savard said smoothly as she walked through the door and headed directly toward the coffee machine. She'd always thought that the best way to handle an awkward moment was to move through it. And since her presence would have been obvious in another second, retreat was not possible.
Cam straightened and stepped back from Blair. "Agent Savard," she said easily.
Blair watched Cam's transition, more in fascination than anger. A second before, Cam's body had been about to meld with hers. She had felt the heat and the urgency rippling under her fingers. Now, Cam stood coolly, not a hint of disturbance or discomfort on her face. Blair had no doubt that Renee Savard suspected what had been about to happen between them, but suspecting and observing were two different things. Somehow, she did not think it would matter to Savard, but she had to admit that if it had been Patrick Doyle who had walked through that doorway, it would have been difficult for both Cam and herself. It was an acknowledgment she had been forced to make many times in her life. She had been forced to be cautious, and sometimes she had been forced to hide. She hated it; she had never accepted it; but there had been more than her personal integrity at stake. She had long recognized that she would need a very good reason to fight. Watching Cam slip effortlessly into her professional persona, she thought that perhaps she might finally have found that reason.
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