Conspiracy of Swords
(See Part 1 for Disclaimers)
Shadowriter can be reached at Shadowriter@kc.rr.com
White shook his head. "Nope. Not saying a thing 'til I get a deal."
"Mr. White, I'm not with the Justice Department, or even the FBI anymore. I cannot, and will not offer you any kind of deal, except this: you talk to us, or I'll let Teren do what the CIA trained her to do."
Teren froze in the act of putting on her seat belt. She glanced at Alex, and then into the mirror at their passenger. "Cool. Can I, really?"
Alex shrugged. "If he's not going to talk, there's no reason not to. Then we can turn him over to your buddies, and they'll make the body disappear, right?"
"Right. Cool. I know a great spot to do it, too." She grinned wickedly, winking in the mirror. "Can't do it here. Wouldn't want to get the car dirty."
She pulled back onto the street, and a minute later they turned onto the highway, heading south, out of DC. As they crossed into Virginia, White started to fidget.
"Hey, you're not serious."
Neither woman answered him.
"You can't do this. You need me."
Alex shook her head. "You have an inflated opinion of yourself, Mr. White. We've survived setups, and ambushes, and effectively shut your operation down. All of it without you." She shrugged. "I'll take my chances that I can also get Treville without you."
"But what about CJ?"
"You said you didn't know anything about him."
"Yeah, but I can identify him," he said smugly. "I've seen him."
"Will you describe him?"
"Not without a lawyer and a deal." The smug look stayed on his face.
"Fine. Teren, let's go to that spot, shall we?"
No one said anything for several more minutes. Then Teren turned the car off the highway, and onto the two lane road that headed out towards the house.
"See, Alex, there's this really neat place, just west of here. Farming country. I know this little spot of forest, right before the fields begin. You drive up to this old hiking trail that's become really overgrown, then follow that 'til you end up in this clearing, where the trees are so thick that you can barely see through them. Oh, it's a great place. The sound gets absorbed by the trees, and even if he screams, no one will hear him."
Alex nodded. "Sounds good. Is that where we're headed?"
White laughed. "Yeah, right, I believe that." But Teren could see a sheen of persperation on his upper lip.
They turned off onto a gravel road, heading toward what was obviously farming country. Alex glanced at Teren, who winked at her. She raised an eyebrow back, wondering just how far they'd have to play this charade.
As they approached a stand of forest, White began to babble.
"Hey, you guys can't do this. You work for the government. You can't just torture a guy, it's against the constitution."
"So's murder and conspiracy, Mr. White. You didn't seem to care about that a few months, or even a few weeks ago." Alex turned and looked at him. "No point complaining about it now."
"But -- you can't -- you were FBI -- you can't just -- they'll find out. They'll find me, and they'll find you, and you'll go to jail."
Alex peered seriously at Teren. "Umm. What are the consequences?"
Teren looked thoughtful. "Well, if you were still FBI, they'd be pretty serious."
"And now that I'm CIA instead?"
Her partner grinned. "They'll suspend you for a day. With pay, of course."
"Of course." She nodded. "I think I can handle that."
Teren pulled the car to the side of the road, and pointed. "There's the foot path. We'll need to get the flashlight from the trunk."
"Anything else we'll need?"
"Nope. Just our entertainment." She turned to White, who was looking decidedly pale. "That would be you, Derek."
Alex got the flashlight, while Teren hauled their prisoner
out of the car.
A while later they were once again pulling up in front of the large white mansion. Graves came out the door and down the steps.
"You're late," he called, as Teren closed the driver's door behind her.
"Yeah, well, we had to make a detour." She nodded at the two men who had followed the older agent. "Got a present for you in the back seat. He's unconscious right now. Had to make sure he didn't know where we were going." She grinned at Graves. "Besides, he really doesn't take torture too well."
He groaned. "Aww, Teren, tell me you didn't."
Alex stepped up beside her partner, and nodded. "We did. But just a little." When Graves raised an eyebrow at her, she shrugged. "Hey, he suddenly didn't want to tell us anything. Teren and I persuaded him that he should."
"And just how persuasive was Teren? Did you hook him up to the car battery, like you did Sandoval?"
Teren winced. "That was Perry's idea, not mine, and no. All I did was threaten him."
Alex smothered a laugh.
"Okay, maybe I hit him once." She paused. "Alright, twice, but that's all."
The three of them watched as Derek White was carried up the stairs and into the house.
Graves wrinkled his nose. "What the hell is that smell?"
Teren shrugged. "Like I said -- he doesn't take torture too well. That's why we had to drive with the car windows open." She winked.
Alex laughed. "Don't worry, Ron, it really wasn't that bad. We took him to this clearing and handcuffed him to a tree. He was already begging when Teren pulled her arm back for a punch. She slapped him a couple times, and he -- umm, kind of lost it."
"Literally," Teren said. The smirk on her face made all of them laugh. "But, when I raised my arm for another swing, he started blathering about how he'd tell us whatever we wanted. Alex asked him questions. He answered. No problem. Then I knocked him out, and we brought him here."
Graves shook his head. "Either you've gotten a lot stronger, Teren, or he's a wimp."
Alex nodded. "Wimp city."
Teren eyed her partner, who grinned at her.
"Well, we're off. Wanna get a little sleep before we find Treville tomorrow."
"Think you'll really be able to get him, Teren? Did the wimp know where he was?"
"No, but we know his next target. And we'll be waiting." She nodded at Alex. "Say goodnight, Ron."
"Goodnight, Ron," Alex said smoothly.
Graves grinned. "Good night, you two. Drive safe." He waved and headed back inside.
Alex turned to Teren. "Keys."
Teren handed them over with a frown.
She awoke to a weight on her chest. Confused at first, Teren looked around, finding herself in Alex's bed, with her blonde and naked partner draped across her body. Teren grinned at the memory of why Alex was naked.
She watched her partner sleep, stroking the blonde head softly. Surprisingly, Teren found she didn't mind how her lover used her as a mattress. Anyone else would have been gently but firmly rolled off of her within moments, but not Alex. The dark woman marveled at how open she felt with her lighter companion.
You'd almost think I loved her or something. She raised an eyebrow at the thought, wondering if she shouldn't explore that idea further.
Then Teren froze as she realized someone was at the front door. And they weren't knocking.
She glanced at Alex to find her blinking the sleep from her eyes.
"Stay here," she whispered.
As quietly as she could, Teren slipped off the bed, and pulled on her jeans from the previous day. She reached for her t-shirt and her weapon at the same time. Behind her, she could sense Alex scrambling to pull some clothes on.
Teren made it out to the living room just as the door began to open. She snuck up to the backside of the door, and waited. As the person stepped into the room, she pressed the muzzle of her gun against their back, and cocked it.
The figure froze.
Alex stepped out of the bedroom, her gun raised as well. When she saw the person frozen in her living room, she sighed, and lowered her arms.
"It's alright, Teren. It's Sarah."
Teren's eyes went wide, and she stepped around the woman.
"Sarah? Jeeze, I'm sorry. I didn't know it was you."
Sarah stayed where she was, looking from Teren to Alex and then back again.
"It's okay, Sarah." Alex flipped the safety on her gun, and slid it back into her holster, which she hung back on the hook in her bedroom. Then she went towards her friend and gave her a hug. "We didn't mean to scare you."
"You're a bit late for that, Alex." Sarah hugged her back, but her face still had a look of shock. "When did you get back?"
"Yesterday morning. But it's been pretty busy, so I didn't get a chance to call." Alex led her friend to the couch. "What are you doing here so early? It can't be past eight, can it?"
"Quarter 'til. I came over to check the mail from yesterday, and get some more food for Appleby. He misses you, you know."
Alex nodded. "Yeah. Listen, can you keep him there for a few more days? Things are still pretty chaotic."
Sarah looked her friend over, noting the circles under her eyes, and the lines on her forehead. "Sure, it's not a problem." She also took in the fact that Alex had only a t-shirt on. There was no evidence of bedding on the couch, and Sarah glanced toward Teren, who had disappeared into the bedroom."Can I ask what's going on, or is that only for certain CIA people to know?"
Alex leaned back and sighed. "Sarah, there's a lot going on. I promise, dinner at your place, just you, me and Maggie. We'll talk 'til dawn if you want. But not yet. Okay?"
"Are you two involved?"
"As in sleeping together? We have, yes. Is there something more? I don't know. I don't think either of us really know yet. We've been too busy running to figure things out." She chuckled. "Not exactly an auspicious beginning for a relationship, eh?"
Sarah had to smile at her friend. "You never pick the easy ones, do you, Alex?"
"Hey, you picked her, even before I did, so I can blame this whole thing on you."
They laughed quietly together.
"So, are you home? Like, for good? Or are you going running off to Europe again with Superspy?"
"Sarah. It wasn't exactly a pleasure trip, you know."
"Alex, I don't know much. All I know is that you were in trouble, and fleeing the country. Ken said he was in touch and you were fine, but nothing else."
"He didn't know anything else," Teren said as she came out of the bedroom. She had done a hurried wash-up job, and put on some fresh clothes. "We had to keep everything pretty quiet."
Sarah inhaled suddenly. "Oh, gods, Teren, what happened to your head? Are you okay?"
"Yeah," Teren replied. Feeling self conscious she reached up and touched the still tender patch of stitches. "Just a nick. No problem."
Alex snorted. "No problem. Right. She gets shot in the head, and scares the hell out of me, but it's no problem."
"Hey, Gerd told you, I have a really hard head."
"And now we have proof." Alex smiled at her friend. "Yeah, I know. But you still scared me."
Sarah noticed there was a difference in both of her friends. She smiled at the camaraderie, which was so very different from the last time she'd seen them together.
She'd been shocked by the phone call from Alex, and even more surprised when it was reported that the agent was considered a fugitive. Maggie had said that everything would be okay, and she had confidence that Alex could handle the situation. But Sarah had worried, more than she let on. Seeing the easy grin on Alex's face helped erase much of the fear in her heart.
But not all of it.
"Alex, are you still in trouble? With the Bureau? They had named you a rogue agent, considered a fugitive. Is that cleared up?"
Her friend shook her head. "No. I've been stripped of my badge, and suspended indefinitely. The Director won't even consider reviewing my case until the task force is finished. Then, and only then, will there be an investigation."
Sarah's mouth fell open. "So, all this that you did, whatever it was, going to Europe or where ever -- that was all for nothing? They're still railroading you?"
"Looks that way, doesn't it."
Alex had to bite her lip. She really wanted to tell her friend the truth, but the only one that could know was Teren. She promised herself that Sarah and Maggie would be the first she called when it was all over.
"Damn, Alex, I'm sorry."
"It's okay, Sarah. I'll work it out somehow."
"Teren? Can't you do anything? You were there, weren't you?"
"Yeah, but I'm CIA, and they'll accuse me of interfering in domestic affairs -- which is a real no-no for spooks." She shook her head. "I think we just need to wait, Sarah. Alex is right. It'll work out somehow."
"Easy for you to say. You can go back to the CIA. They said you were cleared in that Philadelphia shooting."
"Yeah. That means I can help Alex. Maybe we can find a few clues, and get her badge back. Worth a shot, don't you think?"
Alex looked at her friend, who returned the gaze. One blue eye gave her a solemn wink.
Sarah noticed it, and felt better.
"Alright, then. I guess there's nothing to do but wait. Hm, how about I take the two of you to breakfast? I can afford to be late this morning."
"Well," Alex raised her head, "actually, we can't." She glanced at the clock. "We have to be somewhere."
Teren shook her head. "Don't ask, Sarah."
She opened her mouth, but shut it with a snap. "Got it. Not asking." She stood from the couch. "Well, then, I'll get out of here and on my way to work." Sarah turned to Alex, who had stood up with her. "But, you will call me the moment you can tell me what's going on. Right, Alex?"
"You got it, babe."
Teren offered Sarah her hand. "I'm sorry I scared you, Sarah." She grinned sheepishly, remembering an apartment in Germany. "Seems I've been doing that a lot lately."
To her surprise, Sarah ignored the hand and hugged her instead. "I don't know what's going on, Teren, but I'm awfully glad you have a hard head."
Teren turned red. Alex chuckled, then followed her friend to the door, reaching out for her own hug. "Thanks for taking care of Appleby. And my apartment and stuff. I really appreciate it, Sarah."
"Ah, don't worry about it. You're my friend, and my ex. Isn't that what friends and exes do for each other?"
Alex grinned. "Yeah, but I think this morning went above and beyond the call of duty."
They hugged again, and Sarah whispered, "You be sure to bring tall, dark and dangerous with you when you come for dinner, okay? We won't even make you play chess."
A soft smile crossed Alex's face. "I'll do that. Thanks, babe."
Sarah kissed her on the cheek and left.
Alex turned to find Teren watching from the couch.
"That was an interesting start to the morning, eh?"
Teren laughed. "Yeah, I guess so." Then she grew sober. "Dawkin's plane lands at three-thirty, right? Do you want to go see David this morning, before we go to the airport?"
"Yeah. But I kind of want to wait until he's home. Don't think I could handle seeing David in a hospital bed. It was bad enough seeing you in one." She bit her lip, embarrassed by her own words.
She got a smile from Teren. "It wasn't fun from my viewpoint either."
"No, I bet it wasn't." Alex sat down beside her. "Sarah just mentioned something about chess, and it reminded me of something I wanted to talk to you about."
The smile slid away. "Okay."
Alex took a deep breath.
"Do you remember when we were on the train? And we were playing?"
"You remember what you said about the King, and the Queen sacrificing herself?"
Teren swallowed and nodded. "I remember. Why?"
"Am I still your King, Teren?"
Her partner stared at the floor, nodding.
Alex reached down and pulled her chin up, forcing the blue eyes to look at her.
"Well, then, this is a direct order from the King." She took a deep breath. "The Queen is not allowed to sacrifice herself, ever, for any reason, not even to save the King." Alex paused, watching the confusion fill Teren's eyes. "Because the Queen is very important to the King." The confusion began to clear, and Teren's eyes widened in surprise. "Has the King made herself clear?"
Teren nodded again. Alex let go of her chin, and leaned in to kiss her.
They broke apart, both of them breathing hard.
"Do we have to leave just yet?"
Teren pulled the soft lips back to her own.
Alex was just sliding her arms into her coat sleeves when the phone rang. She reached for it, then decided to let the machine get it.
Teren joined her by the front door. "Ready?"
"Yeah, I think --"
"Alex? It's David." The voice from the answering machine froze her for a moment, then Alex practically leapt over the couch to grab the handset.
"I was hoping I'd catch you, but --" The machine buzzed as Alex picked up the phone.
"Alex? Damn, it's good to hear your voice, partner."
"Your's too." Her voice nearly broke, and she felt Teren's arms circle around her in support. "How are you? Are you home yet?"
"Fine, and yeah, I just got home. Ken's here. He told me what happened. " Alex swallowed hard. "I'm sorry, Alex. I don't know what else to say . . . "
"It's okay, Dave. There's nothing you can do. I' m sure things will work out."
"It's not okay." Her partner's voice was angry. "They've got a traitor there, so they freeze you out. Stupid fucks."
"Yeah, well, they have their reasons. Nothing we can do at the moment." She glanced up at Teren. "Hey, Teren and I were thinking of coming over there in a few. Would that be alright, or will you be tired?"
"No, please, I'd love to see you both. Ken said something about Teren getting shot or something? Is she okay?"
"Yeah. Hard headed. She's fine." Teren squeezed her shoulder and grinned.
"Well, good. Yeah, you two are welcome anytime. Miri says she'd love to see you as well."
Alex had to swallow at that. The memory of her phone call to Miri still made her stomach flip. "I'd love to see her, too. We'll be over soon, alright?"
"Great. I've missed you, partner."
"I missed you, too, Dave."
"See you in a bit."
There was a click, and then a dial tone, and for a moment, Alex stared at the phone in her hand. Slowly she put it back down on the base, and took a deep breath.
"He wants both of us to come over. "
"Good. We were headed over there anyway. Now we know he's home."
Teren eyed her blonde friend carefully. Her eyes were glassy, and she looked much younger than Teren had ever seen her.
"Alex? You alright?"
Startled, Alex turned, nodding. "Fine. Just a little left over jet lag. No problem." She smiled at Teren, but it didn't reach her eyes.
Teren raised an eyebrow but didn't argue. She'd find out what was wrong eventually, but right now, she'd give Alex the space she needed.
"Okay, then. Let's get going."
Alex nodded, and led the way out the door.
Teren confronted her in the car. "Alex?"
"Are you worried about seeing David?"
Alex glanced at her partner, and shrugged.
"Still feeling guilty?"
"Mm. Maybe a little."
"Is that the reason you're being so quiet?"
They stopped at a red light, and Alex turned to glare at her. "You know for someone with a reputation for being silent you're asking an awful lot of questions, Teren."
It was Teren's turn to shrug. "Sorry." She paused. "So, is that the reason?"
Her partner sighed, and stepped on the accelerator.
"No, it's not that." She shook her head. "It's Miri. I know you said she forgave me, but I still --"
"No, Alex, she didn't forgive you, because there was nothing for her to forgive. She apologized, because what she said that night was out of line."
"But I promised to prote-"
"And you did the best you could. Besides," Teren smiled gently, "you promised to protect him from me. And I never touched him."
The corners of Alex's mouth twitched upwards. "No, you didn't."
"So, you kept your promise. The rest of it -- well, that's just something else we need to pay CJ back for." Her face was grim. "And we will, pal."
Alex nodded. "Yes, we will."
Alex turned the car into the driveway at David's house, and stared at the front door. Her mind kept going back to the night of the ambush, when she'd used her cell phone to call Miri from the hospital.
"Alex? What's wrong?""Alex?"
"Miri -- I'm sorry. There's been a shooting --"
"A shooting? Are you alright?"
"Is David okay?"
Alex took a deep breath. "He's been shot, Mir. And," she swallowed, "it's bad."
There had been only the static of the phone line for a moment. Then she'd heard a gasp and a sob.
"Miri, I'm sorry. We were ambushed, and Rick was killed -- David and Ken --"
"Is David going to die?"
She squeezed her eyes shut against the tears. "I don't know. I wanted you to hear it from me, first, before Cliff or the doctors called. He was shot in the chest, and last I knew they were taking him into sur-"
The distraught agent stopped. "Why what?"
"Why? Why didn't you protect him?You said you would protect him, you promised!" Miri was sobbing openly, half screaming into the phone. "You promised! You lied, and now he's gonna die. Why didn't you protect him, Alex?"
"No! No, don't even talk to me. He's the one who's been hurt, when you promised he wouldn't be, and you -- you -- it should have been you, Alex! It should have been you."
Alex could hear the agony in the other woman's voice, and it mirrored the pain in her own heart. She was stunned at the accusations, but realized that she did feel responsible -- she had been in charge, and had allowed her team to be slaughtered. Miri's words rang in her ears, even as her sobs cut Alex's heart.
The connection ended, and she stared at her now silent cell phone.
Teren's voice startled her out of her memories, and she glanced up to find her partner looking at her with concern.
She smiled, putting as much cheer into as she could. Alex knew it wouldn't fool Teren, but all she wanted to do was get this over with.
"I'm alright, Ter. Really." She took a deep breath. "Just needed a moment. I'm fine now."
Teren nodded slowly, but reached out with one hand. "Remember. I'm here for you, partner."
Alex raised an eyebrow, knowing what that term meant to Teren. She squeezed the offered hand, and smiled a little wider.
They were just a few steps from the front door when it opened, and Miri held the screen door open.
Teren led the way up the stairs, letting Miri give her a hug. Then she stepped back, and reached a hand toward Alex.
For a moment, the two friends just stared at one another. Then Miri reached for Alex's shoulder and drew her in for a tight hug.
"I've missed you, my friend."
Alex felt a stinging in her eyes, and she pulled away slightly, not wanting to cry on Miri's shoulder. "I've missed you, too, Mir."
They smiled at each other, then Miri seemed to remember Teren standing in the doorway, and she motioned for both of them to go into the house ahead of her.
"Well, don't just stand there, go on in. David's probably ready to come find you himself."
Alex followed Teren, aware of Miri's hand on her own shoulder as the smaller woman walked behind her. "How's he doing? Ken said he was good, but --"
Teren stepped aside to let Alex and Miri pass her. Miri guided Alex into the living room, then stepped away.
Alex stared at her old partner, who was sitting on the couch. He was wearing his pajamas, and wrapped in blankets. As she stood there, he turned from his conversation with Ken, and stared at her.
He was pale, she noticed, and looked much thinner. But the spark in his eyes when he saw her let her know that he was doing very well indeed.
A grin broke across his face, and he reached out with his arms.
"I'm not allowed off the couch, but if you don't come give me a hug, I'll get up anyway."
With a chuckle, Alex walked to him, leaning down to give him a hug. David pulled her down, onto the couch with him. She sat there until her eyes stung, then pulled back.
"You look great, Dave."
"Thanks. You look pretty damn good yourself." He grinned, and looked over at Teren, eyeing the bandage on her head. "You, however, look like shit. Didn't anyone ever teach you to duck?"
She laughed, then leaned over to give him a brief hug as well. His eyes showed his surprise, and delight at the gesture.
"I did duck, Dave. If I hadn't, the bullet would have hit me in a much worse place."
"Like the head isn't a bad place itself?"
Teren grinned at him as she took a seat on an easy chair near Ken. "Not this head." She thumped the top of it for emphasis. "Too hard. Just ask Alex."
The four of them were chuckling, when Miri entered the room. She was carrying Arlea.
"Alex, there's someone else here that wanted to see you." Miri carefully placed the little girl in Alex's lap. "She missed you too, you know."
Arlea immediately threw her arms around her playmate, and began babbling at her. Alex, in shock, wrapped her arms around the child.
The tears refused to be halted this time, and they spilled down her cheeks as she sobbed on Arlea's shoulder.
Continues in Chapter Thirty-nine
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