Conspiracy of Swords
(See Part 1 for Disclaimers)
Shadowriter can be reached at Shadowriter@kc.rr.com
For once, Alex was grateful that she had a cab driver that didn't speak English.
After a short, but tense, conversation with Teren, it was agreed that the taxi would drop Teren off two blocks away from the station. Alex would continue on to the front of the Hauptbahnhof.
The CIA operative didn't like the idea of leaving her partner alone, but recognized that not only was Alex a capable agent in her own right, she was also correct in her assessment of the situation. Making sure that the driver knew exactly where to go, Teren climbed out of the taxi, pulling her own duffel bags, along with one of Alex's, with her. She leaned back in and gave Alex a glare.
The taxi dropped Alex in front of the brick building which housed the Zurich Hauptbahnhof, or Main Station. From this place, a person could catch three different kinds of trains: the Swiss Regional, that serviced all of Switzerland; the EuroCity, which connected many of the largest cities in Europe; and the InterCity Express. The ICE was the fastest way, on the ground, to get from Zurich to Munich, Germany. Only flying was faster.
Alex tightened her grip on her briefcase and slipped the strap of her remaining suitcase over her shoulder. She made her way to the ticket counter, and stood for a moment, referring to her English-German dictionary.
"Miss? May I help you?"
She looked up at a young man with a smile on his face. He beckoned her forward.
"I take it you speak English."
"Yes. I take it you do not speak German."
"I know Danke and Bitte. That's it."
He laughed. "So, where are you going?"
"Well, I need two tickets to Geneva."
After taking a few moments to conduct the transaction, he handed her a folded envelope. "Your tickets are here. Go down this hall, and past the restaurant. Then go the left, and you can take the stairs to the platform where you can wait for your train. Be careful to note which side of the platform you need to be on; there are two trains that pull up on each platform. They are well marked, but you should check carefully, just the same."
"Your ticket will be punched after you have boarded, so be sure to keep it with you."
Alex nodded. "Thanks very much. I appreciate your help."
"You are welcome. What is the English phrase? Have a nice day."
She smiled at him. "You, too." Then she hoisted her bags again, and followed his directions.
Teren made her way to the platform, keeping an eye out for her partner. She spotted Alex leaning against a post, next to a bulletin board. The train they needed to be on was already in the station. With a final glance at Alex, Teren boarded.
Alex watched her from the corner of her eye. She kept track of the darker woman's progress, waiting until her partner actually climbed the stairs onto the train. Then, she ran a hand through her hair, and walked toward the opposite platform, toward where the train to Geneva would soon be pulling in.
She stopped a man in a porter's uniform.
"Excuse me, do you speak English?"
He smiled, and nodded. "My pronunsation izt very bad, but I vill try to help?"
"Great. I just wanted to make sure, this is the side of the platform for the train to Geneva?"
"Ja --I mean yes. Zis next train vill go to Geneva."
Alex smiled at him. "Thank you. Oh, by the way, is there anywhere here where I can get a newspaper or magazine?"
He looked confused for a moment, and Alex pointed to a woman who was reading the Swiss edition of TIME.
"Ah, yes, magazine. Izt shop. Come, I show you, yes?"
Alex followed the eager porter to a newstand at one end of the waiting area.She thanked him.
"Do not forget vizt train is yours," he said. He motioned to the train next to where they were standing. "Zis vun iz going to Munchen."
She nodded and smiled at him. "I won't forget, thanks."
The blonde agent wandered along the side of the stand, perusing the titles. With a glance around her, she saw that the conductor for the boarding train was indeed near the car closest to the newstand, just as Teren had said he would be.
Doors up and down the train began to close. Alex waited until only the conductor's door was still open, then she stepped towards it, offering a sheepish grin and an apology to the man who stood in front of her. The conductor, who had been reaching for his flashlight, smiled at her, and waved her onto the train, just before he blew his whistle.Then the train began to move, and the conductor stepped onboard, closing the door behind him.
"Thanks," Alex told the man.
"Well, you just made it."
"I know. I thought I had a minute or two more." Alex tapped her watch. "I think it's losing time."
"Well, it is obviously not a Swiss time piece. They are the best watches in the world."
Alex laughed with the conductor.
"Do you have your ticket?"
"Actually, my friend should have it. I'm supposed to meet her in the dining car."
The man nodded. "Well, then, you had better meet your friend. I will find you later to punch your ticket."
"Thanks. Which way should I go?"
He pointed, his ticket punch in his hand. "Two cars up."
She found Teren in the dining car as they had agreed. Without a word Alex followed the darker woman into the cars with first class compartments.
Teren opened her compartment door, and ushered Alex inside quickly.
"We got lucky," Teren said as she closed the door. "This is the only car with sleeper compartments. It's unusual for an express to have them, and it's really just being transferred back to Germany, so I had to pay extra to get it. I figured a nap would be good, though, so I took it." She held a hand out. "What do you think?"
Alex nodded, and sat on the bed. "Not bad. Even our own tiny sink. Is there a bathroom?"
Teren pointed to a door.
"Oh. Thought that was a closet."
"It is," Teren grinned. "A water closet."
Another nod. "Got it."
"Did you have any problems?"
"Not really. I might have been followed, but I don't think so. I didn't see any faces I knew."
"Yes." She looked at Teren. "Were you followed?"
The dark agent shook her head. "I didn't feel anybody, and I can normally tell. I think your idea of using my beret and glasses again really helped."
"That, and us separating."
"That, too. I didn't like the idea, but I have to admit you pulled it off. Even if they did follow, all they'll know is that we're headed for Munich, but not how to find us when we get there."
"Unless they call ahead and have someone ready to meet us at the station."
"Of course. But we've got five hours to think of ways to outsmart them."
"And how do you suggest we do that?"
Teren grinned. "Ever want to dye your hair, Alex?" She watched the green eyes widen.
Actually, the dye job wasn't as bad as Alex had feared. Teren had insisted on a trim for her, and had used a rinse that turned her hair a reddish blonde. It reminded Alex of how her hair looked when she was a teenager.
She had to admit, Teren had at least kept her bangs even. They were shorter than she usually wore them, but they were cut in a straight line across her forehead.
"Okay, so this," she ran a hand across the back of her neck, which was now bare, "is my disguise."
"Yeah. It's not much, but it should make them overlook you at first glance. Add the beret, and no one will know it's you."
"And what about you? I doubt you can cut your hair anymore."
Teren grinned. "Yeah. But we can make it a little less black, you know?"
Half an hour later, Teren pulled the towel from her damp hair and looked at Alex. "Well?"
Alex tilted her head back and forth, then shut one eye, and used her hands like a picture frame.
"Oh, thanks." Teren threw the towel at her.
"Hey, sorry. I'm just not sure how I feel about blonde streaks in your hair."
Teren got up and looked in the small mirror. "Yeah, I know. At least this frosting stuff that will wash out fairly quick."
"Yeah." Alex stood behind the taller woman, leaning slightly around her to see the reflection. "Gotta say, we don't look like ourselves."
"That's the general idea."
"I know. It's just strange. I should take a picture, just to show David. He'd never believe it."
Alex's smile dimmed for a moment, and she sent a silent prayer off for her partner's safety. Then she sighed, and leaned against the wall.
"So, how long till Munich?"
Teren picked up her watch from the bed where she'd left it. "Another four and a half hours. Plenty of time to go over those papers from Meinhard."
Alex shook her head. "I'd rather not. I locked them in the bottom of my new bag. Thought they'd be safer there."
"You don't think we should pull them out?"
"Well, look, it's past two o'clock, which means it'll be six or later when we get into the station. By the time we get to the hotel, it'll be too late to do anything, and we could spend this night kind of backtracking, and examining what we've learned." She put a hand to the back of her neck, and rubbed it. "Besides, I think we need just a tiny bit of a break, don't you?"
Teren reached over and moved Alex's hand, replacing it with her own. She gently kneaded the muscles at the base of Alex's skull, only letting go when she felt them finally begin to relax.
"Yeah, I think you're right. We could do with a little R and R." Teren sat down on the bed and propped herself up against the pillow. "Did you have something in mind?"
"Yeah, I did." Alex dug into one of her bags, and withdrew a small package. She tossed it to Teren, then climbed onto the bed next to her.
Teren quirked an eyebrow at her friend, but began to pull the wrapping off. Inside was a travel size chess set.
"Cool. Is this the surprise you got for me?"
"Yeah. I thought it might keep us occupied on the plane flight home, if we ever go home."
Alex tried hard to keep the tinge of wistfulness out of her voice, but knew she failed when Teren's hand touched her knee.
"We'll get there, Alex. I promise. A couple days in Munich, and we'll fly home."
"Right. And if we can't clear ourselves?"
"We will." Teren put as much force in her voice as she could. She wanted so much for Alex to believe her. She sighed with relief when the blonde head nodded, and her friend looked back at her with clear eyes.
"Okay. Now, how about we christen this chess set?"
Alex smiled. "Fine. Bet I can beat you this time."
"Oh, you think? What's the bet?"
"If I win, you have to keep your hair like that till we get home, and David sees it."
"Because laughter is the best medicine, and he'll laugh his ass off." That earned her a pillow in the face.
"Okay. But just remember that mine washes out in two washes." Teren grinned wickedly. "Yours doesn't."
Alex held her hands up. "You got me. I won't say a word." She motioned to the chess set in between them. "Shall we?"
"By all means."
The two of them had been quietly playing for twenty or thirty minutes. To Alex, things seemed to be going her way, and she had to smile as she took one more of Teren's pawns.
Teren raised her head and looked at her friend.
"You took my pawn."
There were no other words, but Alex could feel the blue eyes still on her. She looked up at Teren, whose face seemed to have aged, suddenly.
"Teren, you alright?"
Teren nodded. She glanced down at the pieces she'd taken from Alex. Picking up a pawn, she held it out to Alex.
"Know what this is?"
Alex would have laughed, but Teren's face was deadly serious. "It's a pawn."
"Right. And his name is Kyle Brogan."
Teren picked up another pawn, and said, "This is one of the guys I shot in Philadelphia." She pointed to Alex's rook that she had taken several turns before. "That's David. And that," she switched and pointed to the pawn Alex had just nabbed, "that, is Otto Keppelmann."
She dropped her hands, and the pawns in them, back to the bed in front of her.
Alex sat very still. "This whole thing is a game to you?"
"No." Teren shook her head. "No. A chess match. Never a game."
"What's the difference?"
"The difference is life and death. This," Teren swept her hand over the small board between them, "is a game. It has nothing to do with life. But, it deals with strategy, like I told you the night we played at Sarah's. It's a combination of defense and attack. The strategy within this game makes you think. Thinking is the only way to win at chess, whether it's at the game," she looked into Alex's eyes, "or a real life chess match. In either one, you have to be willing to sacrifice your pawns, to protect your King."
Alex dropped her eyes. She had no idea how to respond.
"So, we're all just pawns in a great match?"
Teren gave a wry chuckle. "Hardly. There are other pieces besides pawns on a chess board, right?"
"Right. How do you know which piece you're playing?"
Teren shrugged. "The way I figure it, each person that can recognize the match being played around them, is their own King. Their main goal is to stay alive. After that, the people around them are ranked in importance. If they're expendable, they're pawns."
Alex nodded. "And Keppelmann was expendable?"
"To me, he was."
Another nod. "And David?"
"David was a pawn according to the other side. To us, he wasn't expendable. He was more important, especially to you. But he's out of the match for the moment. As are Ken, and Cliff, and all the people we both left behind in the states." Teren swept an arm across most of her side of the chess board, knocking her pieces off. She picked up her King and Queen and set them in their places. "In this match, it's you and me, against all the others." She waited until Alex's green eyes locked on her blue ones. "And I'll sacrifice any other pawns I find to get us safely home."
Teren leaned back, and didn't say anything more. Alex sat numbly for a moment, fingering a chess piece.
Alex's voice was very soft. "If you're the King, then I'm the Queen." She waited, but the dark figure opposite her didn't say anything. "I've seen people sacrifice their Queens to win a match." She heard Teren draw in a breath, and hold it. "Is that what you'll do, if you have to?"
For a minute, she didn't think Teren would answer. Then her friend leaned forward, and picked up the two pieces.
"No. I can't. Not anymore." She hesitated. "Wanna know why?"
Alex just waited.
"Because, in this match, I'm not the King anymore. You are." She met Alex's eyes once more. "And the Queen will sacrifice herself for the King."
Alex's head rose slowly, looking for Teren's eyes. The dark head was bowed, and she couldn't see the blue she wanted. Reaching forward, she pulled Teren's chin forward, raising her head until their gazes locked once more.
She saw the honesty in Teren's eyes, and took a deep breath when she realized what the other woman was saying to her. She held the gaze a moment longer, then leaned forward to meet Teren's dark lips.
The kiss was soft, and slow, with neither of them confident enough to go deeper. Alex noticed, however, that neither of them pulled away.
Finally, after what seemed like forever, Teren pulled back. Alex opened her eyes to see a grimace on her friend's face.
"Teren? Are you alright?"
Teren nodded. "Yeah. 'Member I told you I ducked at first?"
"I forgot to duck the second time. Guy kicked me in the ribs." She leaned back against the wall, her eyes still closed, a hand to her side.
Alex cleared the chess set from in front of them, and scooted forward on the small bed.
"Let me see." Teren shook her head, but Alex gently pulled the hand away from the injured ribs. "Come on, Teren."
Slowly, she raised the shirt, until she could see the underside of Teren's sports bra.
"Oh, Teren. Damn. Why didn't you say anything?"
"What was I going to say? Hey, Alex, I know you can't do anything about it, but I thought you oughta know I bruised the hell out of my ribs. Yeah, that would have been a great thing to say while the two of us were trying to get out of Zurich. Right."
Alex shook her head. "You brat. Did you get hit anywhere else?"
"Umm," Teren bit her lip.
"Where?" No answer. "Teren, where? Show me."
After another deep breath, Teren sat up and pulled her shirt over her head. Once it was off, Alex could see the full outline of the massive bruise across the her ribcage, as well as another that covered the front part of Teren's right shoulder.
"Shit. Goddamnit, Teren."
"You should be. You should have told me."
"You couldn't do anything abou--"
"I don't fucking care. You should have fucking told me." Teren's eyes widened slightly.
Alex got up and pulled the first aid pack from one of her bags. She found the ibuprofen, then popped the top on a soda bottle.
"Here, take this." She waited until Teren had downed the medicine. "Would a wrap help those ribs?"
Teren shook her head. "They're just bruised. They'll be fine, really."
The green eyes looked anything but reassured.
She handed the soda back to Alex, and stretched out fully on the bed. Alex just watched for a moment, then sat next to Teren, shaking her head.
"You yelled at me for not getting looked at by a doctor, and then you don't tell me when you're hurt?"
"There's a difference, Alex. I'm not leaving a trail of blood everywhere."
Indignation flared in Alex's eyes. "You think that matters to me? Injured is injured, Teren. I don't care if it's a goddamned stubbed toe, you tell me next time, understand?"
Alex sat beside her, stroking lightly up and down her arm. They were quiet for a while, each lost in their own thoughts.
Teren looked at her watch. "Well, we've still got three hours. Shall we play another game of chess?"
Alex shook her head.
Another shake no. Alex's hand never stopped its movement, and Teren finally shivered from the sensation.
"What do you want to do, Alex?"
The hand left Teren's arm, landing gently on her cheek. After several moments it started a journey, crossing over the hill of her chin, into the valley of her neck, stroking lightly, leaving a brush fire behind it. It continued on, through the hollow at the base of her throat, then following the fabric border where it clung to her skin. When the hand had gone as far to one side as it could, it went back to the small vale between her breasts, and journeyed to the other side. Teren was breathing hard before it reached the end of its trip.
Alex's eyes had deepened in color, and to Teren they looked like two gemstones shining in the shadows of the small bunk. The smaller woman was totally focused on her task, stroking the soft skin above Teren's bra, occasionally dipping under it slightly. Teren, as much as she wanted the hand to find its way to a lower region, did nothing to break the spell that Alex seemed to have sunk into. Instead, Teren embraced it, letting the glow in Alex's eyes hypnotize her, even as the woman's touch aroused her.
With a sudden glance toward her hand, Alex began to pull away.
"Sorry, I didn't realize --"
"Don't."Teren trapped Alex's hand where it was, and reached for her at the same time. With a gentle tug to the back of Alex's neck, Teren brought her down, until their lips were just inches apart. They stayed still, frozen momentarily.
Electric blue. Alex closed her eyes and felt the distance between them melt away.
This was no gentle kiss. Alex opened for Teren's exploration. Slowly she shifted position, never pulling away from Teren's mouth, finally coming to rest half on the bed, with one leg thrown across Teren's.
For her part, Teren was finding it hard to breathe, but she didn't want to stop the kiss even for the moment it would take to draw air. Finally, she had to gently separate from the soft lips. Alex pulled back a touch, her own breathing fast and shallow. Then she was gasping, as Teren's mouth found purchase on her throat.
Part of her wanted to stay right where she was, nestled in the soft skin of Alex's throat. But another part of Teren was crying out for attention. Gently, she pushed Alex back, careful not to roll her off the small bed. Then she sat up and pulled her sportsbra over her head. Her shoulder and ribs protested, and she hissed. The sound of it brought Alex's lips to the bruise, where she placed gentle kisses on the mottled skin. Teren's hiss turned to a gasp.
"Alex." Heavily lidded green eyes looked up at her. "Sit up, babe."
Alex obliged, and Teren pulled her shirt from her jeans. She ignored the buttons, and yanked the garment over the pale head. Reaching for Alex's bra, she got her fingers underneath it, but almost forgot her aim when she felt Alex pinch her nipple.
"Oh, yes." Teren's hands clenched the material of the bra, tightening against the smooth skin of Alex's sides. She felt the pleasant ache in the tip of her breast, and nearly cried out when Alex pulled away. "Alex --"
"Shhh. I'm not going anywhere." Alex raised her hands over her head, and Teren pulled the bra off her partner. Seconds later, Alex was moaning in Teren's ear as her own nipples were pleasantly tortured. Her hands brushed though the tinted hair, urging Teren in her work.
Alex had sunk back on the bed in a gentle haze of sensation when she felt Teren's hand release the first button on her jeans. She smiled, and placed a kiss at the dark temple. "Yes, Teren," she whispered, and the second button popped. Teren finally pulled her mouth from Alex's breast, but immediately claimed her lips. The third and fourth buttons opened.
Alex's jeans were open, and Teren pulled them down as far as she could. Alex first kicked her shoes off, then the jeans. She reached for her lover, gathering in a handful of the dark hair to gently pull her back for another kiss. Even with her mouth occupied, Alex's hands were busy with their own explorations. Not content to just remain on Teren's back, they slowly traced their own route down to, and under, the waist of Teren's jeans. Stretching out her arms as far as she could, she squeezed the flesh she could reach, feeling muscles clench under her fingers.
Teren couldn't stop the moans coming from her throat. Alex's hands had stretched her jeans, pulling the front tight against her overheated skin. The seam of the material was pressing in just the right spot, and every time Alex flexed her arms, Teren felt a small tingle spread out from her center. She wanted more of those tingles, and she slipped one of Alex's legs between hers, while scooting up to give her better access.
But she didn't neglect her other goals. With Alex's jeans gone, Teren was able to search for the silken warmth she knew was there. When she found it, she stroked it, building the fire in Alex's body. She could feel Alex tighten her grip, and she moaned encouragement.
They worked each other into a sweat. Teren could feel the dampness that coated her back, and every time she pulled slightly away from Alex's lips, she could see the beads of moisture that gathered on the smaller woman's brow. Words had become unnecessary; whispers of encouragement had given way to moans of pleasure and anticipation. Alex's breath came in gasps, and Teren was panting with her efforts. Each of them reached for the final spark that would send her partner, and herself, into that final flare.
Moments later, Alex pulled her head away from Teren, crying her name and pushing forward with her hips. She stiffened, but managed somehow to hold on to the flesh in her hands. Her fingers clenched hard enough to leave bruises, but Teren never noticed. She was too busy falling into the same flames that had just claimed her lover.
As they relaxed, letting the flames turn to embers, Alex finally let go of Teren's backside. Her hands felt stiff from gripping so tightly. Teren withdrew her hand and turned her head, looking up to catch the green eyes watching her.
"Are you okay?" Teren's voice cracked as she voiced the question.
Alex gave a soft chuckle. "I'm good," she whispered. "How about you?"
Teren nodded. "Good." She slowly pulled herself off of Alex, stretching out next to her. Alex rolled onto her side and snuggled into the crook of Teren's arm.
"Are your ribs still hurting?"
Teren smiled. "No. I'm not feeling much of anything at the moment. How about you?"
"You mean other than completely relaxed?"
They shared a quiet laugh. Teren was glad there was no awkwardness between them.
"Alex, close your eyes. We've got plenty of time 'til we reach Munich."
"Oh? You mean that didn't take the full three hours?"
Teren coughed. "Um. No. Why, did you want it to?"
"Felt like it did. Felt like it took forever."
A dark eyebrow rose. "Is that good or bad?"
Alex kissed her cheek. "It's good. Very good."
Teren blushed. "Well, okay." She reached over to the edge of the bed. "Here. Let's pull this cover up. Don't want you catching a chill."
Alex did as she was instructed, climbing under the cover and reclaiming her position at Teren's side. Teren leaned down to place a kiss upon her forehead, and stroked her hair.
"Close your eyes, babe. I'll wake you in an hour or so."
She nodded, a yawn keeping her from replying. Alex wrapped her arm around her partner's torso, and sighed.
Teren waited to hear Alex's breathing even out into sleep. Even as it did, she felt her own breathing deepen, and a lethargy passed over her. Without her permission, her eyes closed, and Teren slipped into the land of dreams only heartbeats after her lover.
Continues in Chapter Twenty-eight
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