Disclaimers: All the usual apply. You know, this story is mine, mine, and mine. Please be 18 or older. I have no desire to go to jail. If you want to reach me I'm at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sorry for the delay, but my work schedule was insane this last week and I just had to entertain my nephew Jon…he came in to visit and since it's only the second time I've seen him after his return from Iraq, well, just please kinda forgive me. He's more like my little brother and he takes number one spot in my life sometimes. In fact he busted my chops for not writing more. I wonder about that boy sometimes lol.
For my own sweet playmate, Froglet. Thanks for always being there, you know?
Olivia sorted through the paper work that had gathered on her desk over the last few days. With a semi-tortured sigh she set to work and kept at it for hours. With Linda out of town and testifying in front of congress no less, about the plight of battered women Olivia was the one left in charge and not for the first time she wondered how her boss and friend managed to hold up under the pressure and stress. The paper work alone was enough to drive Olivia mad. The phone rang and she picked it up without thinking about checking the caller ID.
"Olivia Shadow Wolf, how may I help you?" she asked even as her eyes tracked the latest packet of state statistics.
"It's five fifteen and you're late. Your girls are looking at me like I hid you away." Cage's voice purred into the phone. "They don't know me well enough yet to believe me."
Olivia almost laughed. "What did you tell them?"
"I told them that if they wanted you back then I wanted six hundred and thirty pennies, non sequential years, in a brown paper bag at midnight by the old oak tree at the bend of the river. Midnight by the way, did I mention midnight?" Cage answered quickly.
"Yes, and you did not." Olivia laughed.
"Yeah, I mean no I didn't, but I get points for thinking about it." She admitted. "Honestly though, they're getting restless."
"Okay, I'll just shut down here and be there in fifteen. Sorry Cage, but with Linda gone it's just a lot to deal with."
Cage's voice softened over the phone line. "I know. But you're doing a good job Olivia. I'll get the ladies through warm ups and the refresher, but get here as fast as you can, and you are still doing a full warm up. Don't want you straining anything." Cage ordered softly. Then there was only the sound of the dial tone.
Olivia saved the document then shut down the system. It took her five minutes to change into her sweats and another five to walk to the far side of the shelter area where they held the self-defense classes.
As she stretched to warm up her muscles she watched Cage as she walked amid the women, instructing, correcting and trying to joke gently with women who were finally learning to walk among the living again. She could almost not recognize the woman who had burst into her cabin nearly a week ago to save her, again. On the night that Cage had saved her, the woman was controlled fury, tonight the woman was gentle yet demanding of detail, easy soft smiles of encouragement and well placed smirks of amusement seemed to be the pace for the evening. Challenge without rancor. Olivia finished stretching even as she appreciated the sentiment that Cage was building. Push without obviously pushing.
Finally Olivia stepped up next to Cage. They were a subtle contrast. Cage the taller and lankier. Olivia seemingly more fragile but when they started moving they were equal in grace. Quickly Cage recapped the moves she had already taught for Olivia's benefit.
"Okay ladies, you seem to be up to speed and I can see that most of you have been practicing, so today I'm gonna teach you something new. Strong arm out in front of you, good, now bend your arm. What do you see?"
Lindy Feller answered. "An elbow."
Cage grinned. "That's right. You see an elbow. I see a strong, hard weapon. Front of the elbow, nice pointy spear like weapon that when delivered into the face of an enemy can catch him off guard and disable him." She demonstrated a front elbow strike in slow time to Olivia's face. "Back of the elbow a second later in a reverse strike can take the same enemy down to his knees if you hit him in the right place." She demonstrated a back elbow strike to Olivia's temple. "This move will put him down for at least five seconds. That's five seconds you can use to run." Moving away from Olivia she demonstrated the move in real time. Striking air with all her power. Turning back to her students she noticed the open mouthed, slack jaw expressions. "That ladies is what we in the army call a slam ass dunk. So, let's get learning."
"Hey Cage?" Olivia raised her hand.
Cage turned. "Yeah?"
"What in the hell is that on your tee-shirt?" Olivia giggled.
"It's a pub crawl xing sign of course." Cage answered as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
"Xing?" Olivia eyed the green shirt with the diamond shaped yellow sign with what appeared to be a human on hands and knees pushing a bottle of something in front. She looked up at Cage and shook her head. "How many of these pub crawls have you actually been on?"
"I'll tell you after class." Cage answered with a smile.
"I'd like to know too." Lindy Feller said with only a small hint of her usual timid nature.
Cage looked at the women and was struck with an idea. "I tell you what, after class I'll tell you about pub crawls, but then each of you has to tell me a story." She turned her head to look at Olivia. "Even you. Do we have any popcorn in the house?"
"I think we do, and I know I saw some packets of hot chocolate." Olivia answered after a moment. "Sounds like a good idea."
"All right, first we learn, then we snack. A perfect night." Cage grinned and got the women paired up to start working. Slowly she demonstrated the elbow strikes, counting each move as a single number. She repeated the process until the women got comfortable then stepped back to watch as she started the counting again. As was her teaching style she would correct here and there as she walked the lines, adjusting angle or lack of balance, always taking care with how she addressed the women. Unlike soldiers who she could brow beat if needed, with these women she was considerate and spoke in reassuring tones.
Cage stepped up to Lindy who was having a balance problem. She tapped Lindy's partner on the shoulder to get her to move aside then stood in front of the smaller woman. "Lindy, your center of balance is off again."
The woman blew out a frustrated huff of air and looked like she was going to cry. "I'm trying."
Cage nodded. "Yes you are, but you're thinking about it too much. Do me a favor, elbow strike one at me."
The woman executed the first elbow strike in the same half clumsy manner as before and Cage had to wrap her hands around the woman's shoulders to keep her from falling. Once she had her standing steady again she smiled.
"You're going to try again, but this time I want you to close your eyes." Cage whispered.
"Close my eyes?" Lindy's tone indicated that she thought Cage was crazy.
"Yep. Close your eyes." Cage waited until the woman did so. "Okay, elbow strike one."
The smaller woman executed the move smoother than before. Cage guided her back to the starting point and ordered her to do it again keeping her eyes closed. This time it was an even better attempt.
"Open your eyes Lindy."
Lindy opened her eyes and smiled. "I did it?"
"You did it." Cage grinned wide.
"But, how?" Lindy wondered out loud.
"You stopped thinking about it so hard. You let your body take over. When we started learning the moves you were watching me and doing what I was doing. When you had to do it on your own you started thinking too much. Don't second-guess or fight what your body learns the first time."
Lindy nodded for a moment then it struck her. "I did it." She nearly jumped up with excitement.
Cage shook her head as Olivia and the rest of the women gathered around and congratulated Lindy in their own separate ways. "Okay, I don't think we can top that tonight. Stretch out and cool down. Popcorn and hot chocolate in fifteen at the house. Get moving ladies, I hate missing out on snack time." For some reason Cage sounded a little like a drill sergeant.
Cage killed the engine after pulling up close to Olivia's front door. With a sigh she turned in her seat to face her friend. "You're sure…"
"Cage, I've been at your place nearly a week. My house is fixed, the new alarm system is in place and active, and I will not let the likes of them run me out." Olivia answered firmly.
"I know." Cage fidgeted. "I just keep worrying."
Olivia pushed open the car door and looked back at Cage. "Come on in Quinn, and do your over protective thing ‘cause I know you won't be able to sleep until you do the whole walk through my house." She smiled to take the sting out of her words.
"Not fair." Cage mumbled as she exited her car and closed the door. She followed her friend up the steps and waited as the newly replaced door was unlocked and the alarm system was disarmed.
"Maybe not fair but more than true." Olivia challenged. "You want something to drink?"
"No," Cage mumbled. "Had too much hot cocoa. Did you have any idea that Lindy was that funny? My God, can she tell a story."
Olivia laughed and agreed as she led Cage through the house. "Yes she can. I'm glad she and the others are growing out of their shell."
Cage followed, her eyes taking in every new security detail. "So has it always been like this? I mean I just can't imagine it."
"No, from what Linda says it wasn't bad until about six years ago when Jeffery Tamber moved his people into the area. Okay, see this…Tommy put in motion detectors in the back too. Now will you quit worrying so much?"
Cage's expression hardened. "No, I will not."
Olivia caught her friend by the hand before the woman could turn away. "Stop right there, Quinn." Her hold tightened even as she faced Cage. "You will explain this to me."
"Let it go Olivia and just know that I won't quit worrying."
"Bullshit. I think of you as my friend and my friends are not allowed to make statements like that and walk away. Now, start talking or we are done as friends." Olivia's tone was as cold as Cage's expression.
It took Cage all of thirty seconds to cave in. "I quit worrying once. I got lazy and it cost two brave soldiers their lives and me from what they tell me days of being beat on, and now a lot of my short-term memory. This time I will not quit worrying."
"I am not one of your soldiers Cage." Olivia reminded her.
"No, but you are my friend. I have lived a lot of my life pretending to be other people. Pretending to be ‘friend' to those who would be enemies in order to take them down. I'm not pretending with you. My blade and my honor lie at your feet and I will not take your protection lightly." Cage said then looked away, out the back door glass.
"Then trust me to know when to ask for your help, and when to stand on my own two feet. In some ways I'm like the women you are teaching. What happened the other night scared the hell out of me. And I am so very grateful that you came when you did, but understand this about me, I am Comanche and Cherokee…I fight my own battles until I cannot." Olivia answered with total honesty begging with her eyes for her friend to understand.
"I don't have to like it." Cage muttered.
"No, you don't. You just have to honor it, as I honor your little quirks." Olivia smiled a little to lighten the mood.
"Quirks? I have no quirks."
"Pub crawls and the shirts to advertise them. That's a quirk." Olivia pulled away and opened the refrigerator to pull out a bottle of water.
"Those aren't quirks, those are the birthright of the clan Quinn." Cage defended. "You can't be thirsty after five cups of hot cocoa."
"I'm trying to kill the sugar rush Quinn, quit bitching at me." Olivia defended as she took a sip.
Cage let out a dramatic suffering sigh. "If you say so."
"I say so. Now come one, I want to sit down on the porch and watch the stars." Olivia demanded and led the way out to the front porch. "The spirits were kind to us when they created the stars."
Cage leaned against one of the supporting posts and looked up. "Yeah, the Celt gods were kind indeed."
"Spirits." Olivia teased.
"I resemble that remark." Olivia chuckled and sipped on her water again.
"As do I, or so I've been told." Cage laughed lightly. "So, who's this wee feck Tamber? I've never heard the name."
"I know you're changing the subject. But I'll tell you anyway. He started his own little compound about five, six miles due north of here. He acts like the next better version of the modern Messiah. Complete cult like atmosphere according to most law enforcement officials, but they can't bust him on stuff they can't prove.
"He started small, then just grew, buying more land, bringing more people here and not all of them looked happy when they came to town…it's just that no one can prove anything. Things were pretty calm until two women came to us with an underage girl who was entirely pregnant. We got all three out and after that it went down hill from there."
"Don't tell me, his message started to ring true to some of those in town who sympathized with his words and attitude?" It was a question and a statement at the same time.
"Oh yeah." Olivia answered honestly. "And it doesn't help that I'm ‘taking' those confused women away from loving husbands and corrupting them to ‘other heathen' ways."
Cage cocked her head to look at Olivia. "Meanie."
"Mick." Olivia shot back.
"Wish I could argue that one." Cage laughed almost lightly. "You sure you'll be okay here?"
Olivia nodded. "I have to be Cage. If I need you, I'll call you. I know you'll come running, this time though wear shoes."
"Shoes, Quinn or no more dinner sides."
"You are getting way to good at this. Shoes, I promise." Cage whispered harshly.
"Now get going. Tommy will worry."
"He is a hen, isn't he?" Cage teased as she pushed off the post.
"No comment and I'll walk you to your car." Olivia said and led the way down the drive. She waited until Cage was settled in the driver's side and buckled in. She leaned into the window. "Quit walking the journey that is not you Quinn."
Cage quirked a cocky grin "Quit pushing away the warrior who would help you. Sleep well Pocahontas." She turned over the engine and didn't wait for Olivia's outraged reply. She was sure she would hear about it at some later date.
Cage walked through the family cabin her mind working overtime. She fired up her computer and typed in the name Tamber. She sat back and waited, and waited and waited. An hour into her vigil Tommy emerged from the guest room.
"What are you doing?" he rasped.
"Working." She answered shortly even as her eyes traced the answers on her screen.
"This is gonna be a no sleep night, right?" Tommy half smiled.
"I got a name. And then I'm gonna recon." Cage answered evenly.
"Well if you use that search engine you're gonna be here till Ireland is truly free." Tommy sighed then nudged her. "Get your arse over, I'll find your name."
Cage moved then grinned. "You find me a name and I think I know the location. Five or six miles north. You find me that and I'll run recon."
"Recon now?" Tommy gasped.
"He thinks he's the new Messiah. I t'ink I'll disabuse him ‘o that thought." Cage let the accent learned from her granda flow out.
"You get killed and Da and Mom will wear my arse out." Tommy said even as his fingers flew across the board. "Shit."
"What?" Cage asked as she dragged a bag from her mother's former closet out.
"Would you believe me if I said nothing?" Tommy asked out loud.
"Never. You can't lie to me. Hell you could never even lie to our dog. You're bad at it." She laughed even as she checked the firearms that her brother had brought.
Tommy hit the print button and then joined his sister in the master bedroom. Leaning against the doorjamb he looked at her. "Can I talk you out of this?"
Cage looked up, her features were all hard and combat ready. "Is that what you really want to ask dearthair?"
"No, not really but it was the best I could do at the time." He admitted with a half smile.
"Give me the info and I'll do the rest." She offered quietly as she loaded an ammo magazine.
Tommy pushed off the doorjamb. "Feck that. I'm going."
She looked up. "Can you?" There was no rancor in her question, just pure curiosity. She didn't want to push him farther than he could go.
He nodded. "Yeah. For you, anything." It was an honest answer.
"We go in, listen, plant picture and sound and get out…no collateral damage. At least not this time." She promised as she cracked open her combat bag. The HK MP5 was still lightly oiled at the bottom of the bag.
"How many?" He spoke in short hand falling back into old habits.
"We got enough for six each?"
"Roger that, six each side. And just for the record it's five and a half miles north to his compound and you really don't want to read the print outs until later."
"Maybe I should read them now." Cage challenged her little brother.
"Cage, do you want to do this right, or do this pissed?"
"I want to do this right." She answered quietly as she continued to load the magazine.
"Then we recon and after, you read. Give me your word Cage."
"On Quinn honor. You suck by the way." She grinned.
"Yeah well I was taught really good." He grinned back as he finished the last of the listening devices.
"I'm telling dad you cheated." She teased.
"I'll tell mom." He finished knowing he'd won with a little boy smile.
Together they finished getting ready and dragged their kit bags to the car and drove four miles north. Tommy killed the engine near a deserted farm after pulling close to the falling down barn. He turned to his sister. "You ready?"
"Oh yeah." She answered and pulled a battered tin out of her bag. Once she opened the two-sided tin she dipped her fingers into the black and green face paint. "This stuff is new."
Tommy huffed out a breath. "Oh sure, let you go into combat with old paint. Da would tan my backside." He grinned and took out his own tin.
Cage faced the rear view mirror to apply the mask. "Yeah he'd kick your ass. Thanks little bro."
"Anytime big sis." He answered as he painted his face in the old yet familiar pattern. "Actually this feels pretty good ya know. Haven't seen this pattern in a long time."
Cage spared a look at him. "Damn, that's a nice one. Mine's kinda plain."
"I've seen your pattern Cage, that ain't plain, that's death walking."
"Nope, not tonight. Right now it's shadow stalking."
"Cool. Just recon right?"
"Just recon." Cage confirmed with a harsh smile. "Unless they piss me off."
"I'll tell mom."
"Mine magnet." He shot back.
"Harsh one little bro."
"Payback's wench." He grinned without rancor.
"Can't I give you back?"
"Nope, you are stuck with me. Granda's revenge." He chuckled.
"You done?" Cage wasn't talking about teasing and Tommy knew it.
"Yeah. Hand signals from here?"
She nodded. "Yeah. I got lead. I am high you are low," she handed him a cut down M-16. "This is illegal so don't get caught. Not sure I could bail you out if you get snatched by the peelers."
Tommy chuckled at the slang term for Irish cops. "Don't think we have real peelers here."
"Don't get caught with it. Deep six it before you disappear." Cage cut off the joking. "Silent run now." She ordered and took a step. In that one step she became the one thing she had been trained to be.
Tommy followed without a word but he watched his sister. She was as good as anyone as he had ever trained with or been taught by. Damn she's good. He watched her look around their surrounding for the longest time, then tap the side of her head, it was the signal that he should cover her movements. She brought her hand forward twice to let him know that she was moving forward. He tracked her move with his weapon without thinking about it.
She stalked forward with her HK MP5 at the ready, where her eyes tracked the weapon tracked. She found a spot and settled. With a slow low hand move she ordered Tommy forward. He never made a sound even with the dead foliage around. They did this for a more than a mile.
Coming to the compound came as less than a surprise. The surprise was the number of men walking around the perimeter. With hand signals they communicated that they would each follow the guards. After an hour they met up again.
Tommy held up two fingers and then dragged the same fingers down the face of his watch tapping on each quarter hour. Cage nodded and held up three fingers and repeated her brother's actions on her own watch. The supposed watchers were lazy and had fallen into a routine.
Tommy grinned and flashed three fingers down, tapped his upper left arm where he kept his spy toys and then flicked his hand forward.
Cage shook her head and crossed her wrists. Letting him know she didn't think it was safe to plant the spy devices. He shook his head and took a step forward. Cage reached out for him and came up empty. Turning to face her as he walked he brought two fingers to his eyes and tapped his watch. Three fingers up, then an O formed by his hand and three fingers down. He needed her to watch things for thirty minutes and his little listeners would be placed.
Cage raged in silence as he melted into the dark. She had no choice but to watch and stalk. Each minute that passed she fumed. He wasn't in any shape to do this, hell she wasn't in any shape to do this either but at least she knew it. I'm going to kick his fucking arse.
Guards passed her clueless twice before Tommy appeared again. One moment she was alone and the next he was sitting next to her. He grinned against the dark. Nodding his head he slid on his stomach away from her, away from the compound. Cage slung her weapon and followed knowing for the moment when she was beat.
With thoughts of how she was going to kill him without leaving any evidence she was surprised when he tugged her to a stop. They both lay in a thicket being pricked by thorns. Cage would have torn into him except for the voices that filtered in.
"Get rid of them."
"We are trying." The minion tried to appease.
"Try harder. Go after the women in her care. One more or less gone won't hurt."
"It will be done, sir."
"That will teach the unnatural woman to oppose God's will."
Tommy had to hold Cage back. The men wandered away and Tommy and his sister melted into the night. They drifted back to the car and still Cage held the iron hard expression on her face.
"Ease back Cage. She doesn't need you to do this to her right now."
"Bullshit big sister. You are so not good with this right now."
Cage turned on her brother and pushed him over the hood of the car hard. "I will not lose one of my soldiers again." She growled.
"They aren't your soldiers." Tommy reminded.
"Fine, then I won't lose one of my girls. I refuse to."
"Then get your head out of your ass and think." Tommy challenged even though he knew he was pushing his rapidly running out luck. "Be smart, be good, and be better than the bad guys."
"You are pushing it little brother."
"You want to risk Olivia?" he pushed her against the car.
The fight went out of her and she sagged. "NO.'
"Then fucking think and think the way you're supposed to."
Cage took a deep breath. "Okay, I'm good. We need to get outta dodge. We good?"
"Cage you are gaiscioch. We are always good." He smiled and nudged her. "I planted the sight and sound. We are way good."
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