Part 4...
by Emily Mills

Comments welcome at: batgirl@agog.net

Reese pulled the Buick into the gravel driveway in front of the house and wished her brother and his girlfriend a good night. As Andy and Ione walked up the front steps, another car pulled up by the curb and a man got out of the back seat before it drove away. Reese froze. Her father must have just gotten off from work, judging by the police uniform he still wore, and he paused for a moment, eyeing the figure that stood just outside his son's car.

"What are you doin' here?" he asked, more confused than anything. Andrew and Ione had stopped and were standing now on the front porch, watching the scene unfold with nervous eyes.

"Dad. Hi. I was...just..." she faltered, searching for an explanation she hadn't thought she would need. "...visiting. I'm going now."

The older man stood still for a moment, his hazel eyes narrowed and searching the face of his troublesome daughter. He ran a large, work-worn hand through the thinning strands of light brown hair that crowned his head and then started to move across the barren lawn towards Reese.

"I didn't know you were plannin' on payin' us a visit."

"I was in the area. It was a last minute sort of thing. I'm sorry I didn't tell you," she half-whispered, eyes focused on the ground. The man grunted then and took notice of the other two bodies that stood on the porch.

"What's the whore doin' here?" he grumbled when he saw who was with Andrew. Both son and girlfriend flinched at this.

"Please don't call her that." Andrew said, trying to muster up a self-confidence he didn't quite feel.

"That's what she is, so I can call her that if I want," their father growled. Reese could tell he was carefully working himself into a fit of rage. It wasn't uncommon, though it was probably a record for even him in how quickly it would come to this.

"Dad, please..." she started, reaching out a hand to his arm but having the effort thwarted when he jerked it away.

"You will address me as sir, or so-help-me I will tan your hide. Jist because you aint livin' in my house no more, ungrateful little bitch, doesn't mean that you aint my daughter. You show me some respect!" At this he raised his now fisted hand and made to strike Reese. Anticipating the move, however, Reese ducked out of the way and took a few steps back.

"Da--sir, please...just--" she began but her father scowled, red-faced, and moved towards her again.

"I want that whore away from this house RIGHT NOW!" he screamed to Andy. "And you," this being directed at Reese again. "I'm gonna take you inside and TEACH you some respect! All those years of supporting you, feeding you, and you repay me by running off to the God-damnded city!"

Reese turned and motioned for Ione to come off the porch.

"You can come with me, but we need to get out of here," the blonde whispered frantically into Ione's ear. As her father made a move to grab her, Andy shouted to his sister,

"Go! I'll stay here and meet you later. Just go!"

Reese ducked out of the way again and pushed Ione into a run. They bolted into the alleyway and were soon far enough away to slow down and breathe.

"I can't believe...he's still...I'm so sorry Ione," Reese managed to gasp out as she tried to catch her breath. The other girl shook her head.

"Don't apologize, it's not your fault. There was nothing else to do but get out of there, I just wish Andy would have come with."

"I know, but he's always been just as stubborn as me about facing dad when he gets like this," she paused here and gazed sadly at the ground. "It always resulted in us getting a pretty good beating, but we did it anyway. Thought maybe we could talk some sense into him. I see he's still in the habit."

"I offer to let him stay at my house, but he always insists on sticking around. I just wanna scream every time when the next day he's got a black eye or something," Ione half-whispered. Reese pulled her into a hug and smiled sadly.

"I used to be the same way. I just hope Andy gets out like I did." The blonde paused and looked around. "You can come stay with me at the motel tonight if you want, and tomorrow morning we'll go pick up Andy and go to your appointment."

Ione nodded and grinned weakly. The two continued on down the alleyway in the direction of the motel, silent as they lost themselves in their own thoughts.

The next morning, as Ione was taking a shower and Reese was poking restlessly around the room, the writer decided to make a quick phone call. With everything that had happened, she'd almost forgotten to check and make sure everything was OK with Auset. Of course, she had never really forgotten so much as she'd just been distracted. The image of the dark-haired hacker always seemed to be rooted in her mind somehow. At this point, when she gave it some thought, all Reese really wanted to do was curl up next to Auset like they had done those few times before and get some much-needed rest. She wondered briefly if Auset could possibly be thinking the same thing.

In any case, she picked up the phone and dialed the number for Auset's cell phone.

"Hello?" the distinctive, low and smooth voice came over the line. Reese was suddenly made aware of how much she'd missed that sound.

"Auset, it's Reese."

"Yeah, I know that." The smile was evident in her tone. Reese chuckled.

"I, ah, wanted to call and make sure everything was OK with you. And to let you know that I'll be back at ou--your apartment late tonight."

"All right. Everything's...fine...here. I should be done by tomorrow if all goes according to plan. Is everything kosher with you?"

"Yeah, well...mostly. Things are..." she blew air through her bangs. "...complicated. I'll tell you about it when we're both back if ya want."

"All right. Sounds good."

"I'll see you soon then? Um...g'bye. Be well," Reese got out awkwardly.

"You too. See ya."

Auset closed her phone and looked back up at the smiling figure of Mary, who was leaning elegantly against the counter in the small kitchen area.

"Who was that?" she inquired curiously.

"A friend. Any juice around?" As Mary reached inside the small refrigerator that was on her left and produced a bottle of orange juice, Auset's previous train of thought was suddenly derailed by the woman who had called. She had the sudden and rather disconcerting desire to get home and snuggle up with Reese. Just thinking about it made her more comfortable. But there are games afoot, she forced herself to consider, and I need to concentrate. There will be plenty of time later to think about the attractive blonde who will be waiting for you back home and...damnit! "Thanks," Auset offered as she accepted that drink and took a healthy swig. Mary's eyes followed the movement as Auset brought the tip of the bottle to her lips and drank thirstily from it, throat muscles contracting with each swallow and showing off the fine toning to the hacker's sleek neck. Auset placed the now half-empty bottle on the counter and wiped her mouth clean of any left over liquid with her tongue.

"Making progress?" The executive asked, trying desperately to keep her voice level. She was supposed to be in control of this particular situation. Sera had warned her that Auset was very intelligent, sharp and slick--not one to be played with absently. She needed to focus, keep her eye open for any sign that the woman had caught on to what she was actually doing and for what company. Sera wanted Auset to go nuts, though who knew why, when she discovered what this company did. He'd said that it had something to do with "testing" the woman, but frankly Mary did not care. She was carrying out orders and was bound and determined to have fun doing it.

"Yes, I should be finished soon. Wasn't that tricky," Auset deadpanned. Her cool blue eyes casually picked up the tiny signals the other woman was unconsciously giving off. The subtle twitch of her fingers against the fabric of her pants, the way her eyes flicked from one spot on the hacker's own body to another, the way Mary bit her lip a little when trying to affect a relaxed pose. It was not lost on Auset and she smiled inwardly. She was winning this fight already.

The tall, dark-haired hacker moved with casual grace and closed the distance between her and the other woman. Mary swallowed hard and kept her face as unemotional as was possible in a last-ditch effort to stay in relative control of the situation. Auset was having none of it. The taller woman stood not five inches from the executive and as she spoke, lowered her voice to a velvety rumble for maximum effect.

"Want to take a look at my work?"

Mary blinked and her throat went dry. She flicked her equally as dry tongue across parched lips to try and bring moisture back to them.

"I would...love...to," she managed to half-whisper. Auset flashed a seductive half-grin and made to close the remaining distance between their faces when she made a sudden detour and walked back towards the door. When Mary failed to follow her immediately, the hacker turned and regarded her with an amused expression.

"Coming?" Auset inquired nonchalantly.

"God yes," the other woman muttered absently and forced her body to follow the taller woman who was leading the way back to her work area. Auset had, in fact, nearly finished the work as she was supposed to. There were only a few small details yet that needed attending to, but those would wait until this business was finished first. When Auset closed the door to the room behind them, Mary was having difficulty forcing herself to keep from jumping the hacker right then. Auset merely motioned with a small twitch of her head toward the computer's monitor, where all of the information regarding what progress she had made was displayed. Mary tried to shake the distraction from her mind and concentrated on reviewing the stats. She had to make sure the woman hadn't done anything to botch their operations on purpose. From the looks of it, however, Auset had done what she was supposed to do, and had done it quite well. Perhaps, Mary considered, the woman was as hard as everyone made her out to be and what this company did would no longer bother her. Maybe Sera was wrong....

"Everything looks up to par," Mary addressed the hacker over her shoulder as she continued to scan the display. Auset stood with her arms crossed over her chest and watched with cool satisfaction as Mary leaned over to examine the monitor. How could she go about this? Have to consider the best tactics that would truly mess with this woman's mind, Auset mused. She strode forward until there was only a foot of space between the two women and leaned forward over Mary's shoulder a little.

"I still have some odds and ends to take care of." The smooth contralto vibrated right in Mary's ear and she nearly fell over from the sensations it caused. "I should be leaving by tonight."

Mary spun around at the comment so that she now stood face-to-face with the tall hacker.

"Surely you'll at least stay until tomorrow," she said without thinking and then winced when realization hit.

"No. I need to get back, and the work will be finished soon." Here Auset paused and let their close proximity to one another truly sink in for the other woman. Mary swallowed hard again and her nostrils flared.

"Perhaps I could persuade you to stick around for a little while," the executive practically whispered. Auset raised a sardonic eyebrow at her and grinned ever-so slightly.

"Perhaps," she growled. Mary began to move her face forward, thinking to kiss the taller woman, but Auset put her hand out and thrust a forefinger into the woman's chest, effectively shoving her backwards a step. Mary blinked in surprise but managed only to make a quiet grunting noise. Before she could form a coherent word, the hacker acted again and roughly pushed Mary back onto the desk, next to the computer, so that she was practically lying down. Auset lowered herself a little so that she hovered just above the other woman's prone form, using her arms to prop herself up. Her blue eyes took on a feral glint, mouth bending into a predatory smile. Mary opened her mouth to speak again, but Auset laid a finger across her lips and silenced her. Mary was overwhelmed by the intense, primal energy being radiated by the woman who held her, pinned to the desk's surface. She closed her eyes briefly before braving the savage glare of the sapphire pools that seemed to bore into her skull.

Auset tilted her head slightly then, as if considering whether to kiss the woman or to bite her head off. The two emotions that each action entailed seemed so close....

But suddenly, as the dark-haired woman was ready to pounce, a new emotion washed through her tense body. It came around a blind corner really, and succeeded in completely derailing Auset's train of thought. It was...panic? accompanied with fear...that crashed over her like a tidal wave, knocking her senses to the floor and then rushing back out to sea to leave her off balanced and ready to topple over in its wake.

She backed off an inch from the woman beneath her, who was still staring wide-eyed at her with a look of lust mingled with fear. What the hell had happened? Auset wondered. The hacker stood upright then and took a few unsteady steps back. Mary finally realized that something had gone wrong and she sat up, frustrated and eyeing Auset with uncertainty.

"Auset?" she questioned, totally baffled by the turn of events. Auset just brought a hand to her forehead and rubbed her temples. The rush of emotion had left her feeling drained almost, and anxious...for what she didn't know yet. At the second utterance of her name, she looked back to the woman still perched on the desk.

"I...uh...I'm sorry, what did you say?" she managed.

"I said, are you all right? You just went pale as ghost."

"Yeah, yeah," Auset muttered, trying to shake the unsettling feelings from her head. "I'm fine." An image came to mind then, one of Reese, and though it was certainly not unwelcome, she wasn't rightly sure where it had come from. But quite abruptly she felt as though she needed to see her again. Right then. Quickly. "I just need to finished this up, then I'll be going," she finished dumbly. Mary left the desk and stood again, leveling a confused stare at the dark-haired hacker before her. This was definitely not what she had expected. It had come so close....

"O...K," she said, unsure. "I'll be in my office, if you...need anything."

And then Mary exited the small room, feeling confused and not a little bit frustrated. Auset just stared at the wall for a moment, the muscles of her forehead bunching in thought.

What is wrong with you? she scolded herself. It's not exactly like you to get cold feet with something like this. Seduce and destroy, you know the drill. So what in the world happened? Get it together, Auset, get it together.

She straightened herself and then went back to the computer and punched in some lines of code. Auset had made everything look as though she'd done exactly what she was supposed to do and then tacked on a special surprise at the end that was untraceable. The nit-wits wouldn't notice it until the shit had hit the proverbial fan. She smiled, quite pleased with herself, and relished the thought of all the really nasty things that would happen to this company now. And then she pondered how nice it would be to personally take care of some of that nasty stuff. To take out physically on those responsible what she was picturing in her mind. The image of Reese made its presence known again, however, and Auset decided that it was time to get home. She wasn't sure why, but always having been one to trust her gut instincts and knowing them to be mostly accurate, who was she to question?

Auset moved with casual grace out of the room and down the long, narrow hallway that lead to the front foyer of the building. She turned before hitting the main doors and entered Mary's office, where the woman, caught off guard, snapped her head up and to attention from its previous position in her hands.

"What is it?" she grumbled.

"I'm done. I'm leaving," Auset stated flatly. Mary, taken aback for a moment, paused briefly before soaking up the hacker's words and replying to them with all she could think of to say.


Before the executive could think to do anything else, Auset's body disappeared from her doorway as quickly as it had materialized. Mary slumped back in her chair and shook her head in bemusement.

"Sera's gonna be pissed," she said aloud to herself. The man in question appeared then at her door, leaning casually against the jam and leveling a steely glare at her. His eyes were darker than usual, betraying the rage the boiled just beneath the surface. His voice when he spoke, however, was calm and cool.

"Well, that went splendidly, now didn't it?" he asked sarcastically and moved further into the room. "Thanks for sticking to the plan."

"I tried," Mary sputtered, growing more nervous by the moment. "It was going fine, but all of the sudden she just sort of stopped and insisted on leaving."

"I noticed. And since you failed to do your job properly, I'll just go take care of this myself." Here Sera turned and made to walk out of the room, but just before doing so he half-looked over his shoulder and went on. "Don't think there won't be consequences for you too." And then he was gone as well, leaving only the faint smell of power lingering in the air around a very befuddled Mary.

Auset was packing her things when the door to the room she was staying in opened. She didn't even have to turn around to know who it was.

"Hello, Sera."

"I swear...." he chuckled. "Leaving so soon?"

"Yes. I'm finished with the job, so now I go," she answered and continued packing up laptop supplies and depositing them in her carrying case. Sera walked up behind her and placed a large, warm hand on one of her shoulders. She stopped, back rigid, and narrowed her eyes.

"I don't think you're quite finished." Auset turned then and faced Sera. Their eyes locked in a battle of wills, each unwilling to step down first. "You're not stupid, Auset, you must know what this job was about by now." Still Auset said nothing, only continued to glare maliciously at him. "You must have found out what it is that this company does! And I'm sure it rung a few bells for you too," he said happily.

"You fuck," was all she growled.

"Certainly. But I must say I'm disappointed in you. The Auset I know would already by carrying out plans to disembowel half the execs of that company." He drew a rough finger across her jawbone. "I see that fire in your eyes, but there's no follow-through. What happened, you going soft?"

Auset laughed at that; a deep, throaty chuckle filled with angry amusement. Then, in one quick movement, Auset brought her hand up and gripped Sera's wandering finger in an iron grip. He flinched slightly but continued smiling.

"Didn't think so," he finished. Auset let go of his finger then and tossed his hand away from her.

"I need to go, Sera. Don't get in my way," the hacker growled. Sera pursed his lips and narrowed his eyes.

"This isn't finished."

"What isn't finished?" Auset snapped, tossing a hapless t-shirt into her suitcase. "You make this sound like some epic battle."

"Well," he started, chuckling, and then went on. "I'm not finished with you, with your training. You can be the best, Auset. You're already my best pupil."

"And how does setting me up to help out a company that you know is just like the one that killed my brother help in my 'training'? Tell me that!"

"I just wanted to make sure you could stay focused. Whether it be focused on getting the job done or on killing every one of those sons-a-bitches," he said, his voice low and deep. He positioned himself so that they were standing with their faces all of an inch apart.

"How does that work?" she asked, unwilling to back down from his attempt at intimidation.

"You've got the fire, Auset. I just wanted to see it in action again."

She stared into his deep brown eyes for a long minute then, trying to figure out what exactly this man was really about. When he'd first started teaching her, when he'd taken her in after everything had gone so terribly, she had thought the world of him. Revered him, respected him, wanted nothing more than to make him proud. Now he'd turned her insane ex-girlfriend on her, and Reese...God, the woman's apartment had been burned down because of it...and he had set her up to help out a corrupt pharmaceutical company. That he had put her life in danger more than once was small compared to the fact that it had severely endangered Reese's safety. No, that was going to far.

"It's over Sera. As soon as my contract is up, I'm done. Done with you," she stated and then zipped up her suitcases and hefted them on her shoulders. Sera clenched his jaw and continued staring hard at her. But as she moved around him and out the door, he did not move. He just remained fixed to the spot and stared unseeing at the far wall.

"It is far from over," he said in a low rumble. "Far from it."


Continued in Part 5...

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