It was past four o'clock when Alex and David presented themselves at the office of their supervisor, Cliff Jackson. Alex shuddered as they waited in the outer office. In her mind she could still see everything as it had been that morning when she and Teren Mylos had confronted Calvin Bishop.
Bishop had been the Deputy Director of the Washington FBI office. He had used that position to form a conspiracy that had been responsible for the deaths of several left wing activists. The task force organized to investigate the killings had been hampered by Bishop, who was Cliff Jackson's immediate supervisor. He had set up the ambush of Alex and David's team in Philadelphia, making him responsible for the deaths of two FBI agents, as well as the informant they had been meeting with. After the shooting, Bishop had accused Alex of negligence, and the agent had been forced to leave the country in a desperate search for clues to clear her own name. Her companion, Teren Mylos, was a former CIA assassin who was convinced that the case Alex was working on was related to the death of her own partner six months beforehand. Between the two of them, they managed to clear Alex's name, and come up with enough evidence to arrest Bishop for his hand in the conspiracy.
Unfortunately, things hadn't gone as planned. In a scuffle with Bishop, Teren had been injured, losing her gun to the man. When he raised the weapon to fire at Teren, Alex had been forced to shoot the deputy director, killing him instantly.
It was a scene she would never forget.
There had, however, been several good things that had come out of the situation. One had been the commendation Alex received for her work on the case. Plus, Cliff had been promoted, taking the position that Bishop had vacated. His one request was that Agents Alex Reis and David Wu, once back on field duty, would report directly to him. They would be his eyes and ears -- his way to stay in touch with the field agents. Andrew Collins, Director of the FBI, had personally made the assignment.
But it was the change in her private life that Alex liked the most. She and Teren had become lovers, to the delight of most of their friends. Teren, who now worked for both the CIA and FBI as an instructor in hand to hand combat, was in the process of an internal transfer that would remove her from active status with the CIA, and instead make her an employee of the Bureau. At that point, she could either be given status as a field agent, or perhaps teach self defense at the Academy at Quantico. Teren hadn't made that decision yet.
David nudged his partner, and she looked up at him in surprise.
"You okay, Alex?"
"Yeah. I was just thinking, David." She glanced around. "This place still gives me the creeps."
He nodded in understanding. While still convalescing at the time of the incident, David had heard what happened from both Alex and Teren, as well as several others who had been involved in the aftermath of the shooting. He knew that having to kill the man still grated on Alex, who had gone from never shooting anyone to killing four people in less than two weeks. Her smile was still as wide as it used to be, but David could often see a haunted look in her eyes that worried him.
"Well, come on, partner. Cliff's waiting. After this, you can go home and play house with Teren."
Alex snorted. "Are you kidding? After this I'm going
to head for the condo, and sleep with my girlfriend." She winked at him, and
headed for the door to Cliff's inner office. With a shake of his head, David
They were surprised to find Teren in Cliff's office. Alex smiled upon seeing her lover, then became serious.
"You wanted to see us, Cliff?"
"Yes, I did. Teren was just in here telling me about her match with David last night."
"Ah," David said. "Did she tell you about how I got a good punch in on her?"
"Well, no. She said she wiped the floor with you." He grinned at the younger man. "Seriously though, she said you did fine. Gave you a good rating, too. Unless something else happens, you won't have to recert for another six months."
"Great." David beamed at his partner. "Bet I got a higher rating than you will."
"Dream on, Dave. I can wipe the floor with you."
"Well, yeah, but I'll bet Teren kicks your butt, partner. And I got twenty bucks that says I get a higher rating."
Teren chuckled. "Good thing I won't be rating you, then, Alex."
The two agents turned toward the dark haired woman.
"Won't be -- awww, come on. That's not fair," David whined at Cliff. "I had to face Killer McGee here, and Alex won't?"
Cliff grinned back. "Oh, don't worry, David. She'll face Teren. But Teren won't give her the rating. I will." He looked at Alex. "And I'm not known for being soft on my points."
Alex raised an eyebrow. "Let me get this straight -- I still have to face Teren, but she won't be able to pass or fail me?"
"Nope. She came in here to let me know she didn't think she could be completely objective as far as points and rating. As you know, rating decides when you test again, and also can help determine promotions and raises and such. So," Cliff raised a hand, "since she didn't think she could be fair, she asked me to help. You'll fight her, with me as an observer, and then I'll rate you -- with Teren's recommendations in mind, of course."
"Of course." Alex glanced at Teren in time to catch the wink from the blue eyes. She smiled back.
"All right -- on that note, I'm outta here." Teren rose to her full height, and leaned over the desk to shake Cliff's hand. "Nice to see you again, Cliff."
"Same here, Teren. You should come visit more often."
"Oh, I will -- as soon as they put you in another office."
Cliff shrugged. "I'm working on it." He glanced around. "Can't say I like this place much either."
Alex glanced at the floor, and for a moment, she could see Bishop's corpse lying next to her lover's body. The blood had turned the rust colored carpet to a crimson red as it spread in an expanding arc.
She started when a hand touched her shoulder, bringing her out of her memories. She smiled gratefully into Teren's blue eyes.
Teren raised an eyebrow. "You okay?"
"Yeah," Alex nodded, "it's just been a really long day. I'll see you out at the condo tonight, right?"
"Yep. I'll stop by the apartment and pick up Appleby. You're taking a taxi out, right?"
"Right. I'll see you later then." She smiled up at her lover again.
Teren noticed that the smile didn't touch the green eyes she was looking into. But she didn't say anything. There'd be plenty of time later.
Alex watched the tall woman leave the office, and then turned back to Cliff.
"I heard the two of you went to Virginia. Find anything?"
David dropped into one of the chairs in front of Cliff's desk. "Not really, though Alex figured out how the kidnapper got the girl away without being seen."
"And how was that?"
Alex shrugged. "He used the ditch the girl had to cross, and got away through some culverts. We traced his path to an overgrown parking area eight blocks away from where he abducted her. Tracks showed where he climbed out of the ditch, and we found a fresh set of tire tracks behind a stand of trees where there shouldn't have been any car. We couldn't get a good cast of them, but the pictures are clear."
Cliff nodded. "I want you to work closely with Mark and Ben on this. They've been looking over this case, and the one from last week in Georgetown, and they're convinced it's the same guy. If they're right...."
"Then we've got a serial killer who preys on children. What else is new?" Alex sighed. "Anything else you need, Cliff?"
He raised an eyebrow at her, and nodded. "Yeah, there is. David, why don't you take a seat out in the hall for a minute, huh? Let me speak to Alex."
David rose from his chair and glanced at his partner. Alex waited until he closed the door behind him, and then sat down in his empty chair.
"So, what did I do wrong this time?"
"Why do you think you've done something wrong?"
"Because the only time you want to speak to me privately in your office is when I'm about to get lectured about something. Usually, it's a rule of protocol that I ignored." She snapped her fingers. "Let me guess -- you found out we left our jackets in the car."
"Well, yes, I heard about that." He grinned. "But with the temperature as high as it was, I never enforce that rule. Anything above ninety, and wearing a jacket is an invitation for heatstroke."
Alex grinned back at him. "Okay, then why am I here?"
The smile slipped from his face, and he leaned forward over his desk. "Alex, I read the report from the Bureau psychologist."
With a sigh, Alex tipped her head back, nodding slightly. "I figured."
"You know what it says?"
"I can guess." She looked at her boss. "We didn't like each other very much."
"You mean you didn't like him. He had nothing but good things to say about you."
One blond eyebrow rose into her bangs. "Really?"
"Uh-huh." Cliff pulled a folder out from a pile on his desk, and flipped it open. "Says here that 'Agent Reis is exceptionally intelligent, with a unique ability to use both cognitive and intuitive processes in problem solving'." He glanced up at her. "I could have told him that."
"It goes on to say that you have a healthy sense of self, and self worth, and that you display no signs of psychosis or major personality disorders."
"Oh, good. I'm not psychotic. That's nice to know." Alex grinned. "So, it's a good report?"
"For the most part." Cliff reached for a coffee mug on his desk, and took a sip.
Alex waited, knowing what he was about to say.
"The report also says that you are currently suffering from severe guilt over the shootings back in February. It says you are -- what did he call it?" He picked up the sheet again. "Oh yes, 'conflicted over her inability to resolve the situation without the use of violence. Cognitively, she accepts that there was no other possible solution. Unconsciously, however, she is unable to accept her own actions. Due to this inner conflict, Agent Reis shows signs of minor depression, and a dampening of her emotions'." Cliff put the sheet down and looked at his agent. "Anything to say?"
Alex shook her head.
Cliff leaned back, watching her.
"You knew what was in this report, didn't you?"
"Well, yeah, kind of. Or at least I guessed." She tilted her head. "I didn't know the actual diagnosis, though."
"Did you know about the conditions he put on your release?"
Alex hesitated, then nodded.
Cliff blew out a breath. "You knew, and you didn't tell me?"
"You had the file, I figured you knew."
"Yeah, I've had the file for close to two weeks. But I've got so much goddamn paperwork that I only got to look at it this morning. All I knew was that he had released you back to active duty."
"I thought that's all you needed to know."
"You thought wrong." He leaned forward. "Alex, you're one of the best agents I've ever worked with. But you're also someone I respect and care about on a personal level. What this says," he picked up the folder, "is that you need help."
"I don't need a shrink, Cliff."
"Well, you're gonna get one anyway." He slapped the folder back down. "This says your return to field agent status is conditional on two things: one, that your case is re-evaluated in three months. And two, you are to begin therapy immediately."
"I don't need therapy."
"You do if you want to remain a field agent." He glared at her.
Alex glared back.
"Have you started looking for a therapist?"
"Then do it. I want a name from you by the end of the week."
She stared at him. "Cliff, it's already Wednesday."
"Yeah, and that gives you until Friday at five o'clock, so you better get busy."
"But David and I --"
"Alex, if you don't have a name for me by Friday at five, I'll pull you from active status, and assign David a new partner."
There was silence in the office, as the two agents stared at each other.
"You wouldn't do that," Alex said. Her teeth were clenched so tightly that her jaws ached.
"I have to. He put a time limit on this thing, and it's up on Monday. Regulations say if you're not following his conditions, he can suspend you." He shrugged. "If you're suspended, it'll take you months to get back into the field. I can't wait that long. So, this is your ultimatum. Find somebody by Friday, or I'll chain you to your desk again."
He waited, keeping his eyes steady on her. "Are we clear on this?"
She nodded, her jaw still clenched. "Yes, sir."
"Dismissed, Agent Reis."
Alex stood stiffly, and moved to the door.
"You're a good agent. One of the best. I don't want to lose you."
She nodded once more and opened the door.
Cliff winced as she slammed it behind her.
David looked up as his partner came out of the office, and winced at the look on her face.
"Are we in trouble?"
"No. I am." She stalked past him and out the door, heading for the elevators. David followed behind her.
"Just you? Why? Did you do something I don't know about?"
Alex stabbed at the elevator button. "Never mind, David."
"Hell, we've only been back one day, you couldn't --"
"I said, drop it. It doesn't concern you." Alex moved into the elevator, and punched the button for her floor.
David stood staring at his partner, and had to stop the doors from closing. As they slid back open, he stepped inside, next to his partner.
He didn't say anything, merely watched her until she started fidgeting.
"Sorry, Dave. I didn't mean that." Alex sighed and leaned against the wall of the car.
Her partner remained silent.
They got off on their floor, and headed towards the set of cubicles that held their respective offices. Alex tried to take the turn to her own door, but David stopped her. She turned to face him, and he leaned close to her ear.
"You need to remember something, Alex. We're partners. Everything that affects you, affects me. Seeing that kid sucked, and it bothered you as much as me, which is why I'm not gonna grill you tonight. But you and I are gonna have a long talk sometime soon, Alex, and you're going to tell me what's going on with you. Because we're partners. Got it?"
Alex nodded, her eyes dropping.
"I'm sorry, Dave."
"Don't be sorry, partner. Just be ready on Saturday. You and Teren are coming to a barbeque at my place. Three o'clock. Okay?"
Another nod. David patted her shoulder, giving it a light squeeze. Then he moved past her in the hall on his way to his own cubicle.
Alex stood there for another moment and watched him. Then she sighed, and turned the corner.
She found Teren sitting behind her desk. The tall woman was leaning back in the chair, her hands behind her head, on leg crossed over the other at the ankle. She looked completely relaxed.
"I thought you were headed out already."
Teren shrugged. "Had something to do first." She leaned forward as Alex dropped into the other chair. "Had a phone call to make, actually."
"And you couldn't make it from the condo? You had to use my office?"
"Well, since you were the topic of conversation, I thought I'd better do it from here."
Alex raised an eyebrow. "And just why was I the topic of conversation? Who were you talking with?"
Teren took a breath, and slid a paper over to Alex. It had the name Nina Sinopa on it, along with an address, and a time.
"This is the therapist that I was sent to after Perry was killed. She's really good."
The other eyebrow went up. "And you're giving this to me, why?"
"Because I called her. You have an appointment with her. Tonight, at six."
Alex stared at Teren, her eyes wide. Suddenly her eyebrows dropped down, and she glared at her lover. "Cliff told you?"
"Yes. He asked me first if I knew of the conditions of your release back to field duty. I told him I didn't know there were conditions, and he said he didn't know either. When he told me what they were, I thought of Nina. She's really excellent."
"I don't need a goddamn shrink, Teren."
Teren shook her head. "Never said you did, Alex. Just thought I could save you the trouble of looking for one." She shrugged. "Hey, if you don't like her, you can find someone else, but at least this way you can tell Cliff that you followed the condition. Right?"
The blond head nodded slowly. "I still don't like it."
"Well, I think you'll like Nina. She's not this stuffy 'you on the couch, me behind the desk' type person."
Alex snorted. "With you as a client, I wouldn't think so." Then she turned serious. "How long did you see her?"
"Well, I still call her occasionally, just to talk. The last time I had an official appointment, though, was the day after you and I met."
"Really. So, how come you never told me this?"
"I did tell you that I had been in therapy after Perry's death. I just didn't tell you how long it lasted, or who it was with."
"Oh." Alex was turning the paper over and over in her hands. "I don't really need a therapist, Ter."
Teren grinned. "Neither did I, Alex." She stood up, stretching as she did so.
Alex eyed the tall frame, and wished the two of them could just walk out the door together, right then. She sighed. There was still work to be done.
She smiled. "Will you have dinner ready for me when I get home?"
Teren leaned over and whispered, "Of course. Which would you like, Italian or Chinese?"
"Chinese, I think."
The blue eyes twinkled. "Great. Xong's Chinese Restaurant delivers. And they have a really good Mu Shu chicken."
Alex laughed as Teren sauntered towards the door. One blue eye winked at her, and then her lover was gone.
She looked down at the paper in her hand and sighed.
"I don't need a shrink." She stood up and jammed the paper in her pocket. Then she gathered her notebook and headed out the door to join David.
They still had a killer to catch.
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