Disclaimer #2: Taz belongs to the folks at Warner Brothers Studios. Scooby Doo belongs to Hanna-Barberra. The X-Files belongs to somebody other than me, anything you recognize isn't mine folks, I got tired of looking this stuff up.
Warning: This story contains explicit consensual sex between adult women. If you're under legal age in your neck of the woods, go away. If you live in a place that frowns upon that sort of behavior, tell'em to kiss your derrière then talk to your Congressman, or move, or both.
Warning: This story contains violence. We are talking about a certain warrior's descendant, you know.
Note: The quote at the end of chapter one is from Shakespeare's 'Romeo and Juliet'.
Feedback is most welcome as long as it's constructive. Remember, you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, although I've always wondered why anyone would want a bunch of flies! I can be contacted at XWPScribe@aol.com. Thanks for reading.
The woman turned the corner and continued down the long, conspicuously empty, hallway towards the briefing room, the drab grey walls and slate colored floor the same as she remembered them. Even though she walked in silence down the corridor, people peeked out of doorways, just after she passed them. 'Well not completely empty.' She noticed. 'Just avoiding me.' She ignored the eyes watching her and let the whispered comments, barely heard as she walked by, go in one ear and out the other. It was to be expected since this was her first time back after the disastrous mission three months before.
"Captain Chandler." The voice called to her from behind.
She stopped and turned around. "Yes?" She prompted, when a man that she didn't recognize, caught up to her but could only stare at the almost legend standing before him.
Captain Raven Frances Chandler, six feet tall, piercing blue eyes, just past the shoulder black-as-night hair and at the age of 26, already in charge of one of The Divisions elite squads.
A raised eyebrow from the Captain broke the man's enamored trance. He cleared his throat nervously. "I?um?just wanted to say, welcome back and that I'd be honored to work on your team."
"Thank you, Sergeant?Hardly." She glanced at his nametag. The man was a few inches shorter than her and a little on the skinny side. He had mousy brown colored, straight hair that just brushed the top of his collar and large brown eyes that stared at her in wonderment like a puppy dog waiting for some kind of praise from it's owner. He stepped back and snapped a crisp salute, which she returned with slightly less enthusiasm. She smiled and shook her head as she watched the Sergeant practically march back down the hall. 'Definitely new and eager to please.' She thought as she continued to the briefing room.
Officially, the Division is a government anti-terrorist agency that tracks terrorist groups and their activities and is associated with the CIA. Unofficially, it is a private organization constructed to combat terrorism with any means possible. The Division has quietly assassinated terrorist leaders, bombed their bases of operations, rescued hostages, assisted small counties when their governments were in danger of military take over attempts and generally been a thorn in the side of anything that resembled terrorist activity.
While being financially backed by many democratic governments and by large corporations, most of which have interests in the Middle East, Central and South America, they are acknowledged by none. Their actions and their people don't exist. It is a very dangerous occupation, but on the up side, it did pay extremely well.
Raven sat on the far side of the oval conference table, the only position in the small room that placed her back against a solid wall. The other three 'walls', were windows that looked out over the communications center to her right, the hallway to her left and facing her, the computer center. She leaned back, crossed her ankles under the table and closed her eyes. She concentrated on quelling her nerves that had started this morning when she left her apartment. She was anxious to prove to herself and her colleagues that she had recovered completely from her ordeal and was fully capable of leading her team again. Physically she was almost one hundred percent and the doctor had cleared her for active duty. The psychiatrist, on-the-other-hand, was more reluctant. She had to convince him that if her mind were occupied with work, it wouldn't have time to dwell in the past. 'And if the nightmares would stop, I might even convince myself.' She mused. Raven pushed back the dark thoughts and smiled as she recognized the familiar tread of her friend's walk as he made his way down the hall and into the room.
"You're here early." John took a seat to her right. He knew better than to ask how she was feeling. He had asked that question last night even though he knew she was sick of it and she had threatened to throw him out of her apartment, by way of the window, which happened to be five floors up. He knew she was joking, but still vowed not to tempt fate. There were times when he thought even he had pushed her legendary temper to the breaking point.
"Traffic was light." She answered without opening her eyes.
John Logan was her Lieutenant and her best friend. A light-skinned African-American with a neatly trimmed mustache and full beard but a clean-shaven head. He was a couple of inches taller than his Captain and had a slender, but muscular build. Even though he was six years Raven's senior, they had signed on with The Division and finished their training at the same time.
John had met Raven twelve years ago when he was a rookie cop assigned to the White Center area of Seattle. He and his partner had brought a feisty juvenile girl in on a drunk and disorderly charge that had quickly turned into an additional charge of resisting arrest when the hotheaded youth had bitten John's arm. He still had the scar to prove it. It was the first of several meetings for Raven and John over the next couple of years.
Colonel Albright and Major Otis entered the room and handed the other two occupants their assignment dossier. No pleasantries passed between them, no hello how are you or glad you're back. There was no love lost between the Captain and the Major and the Colonel had been in contact with her during her absence.
Colonel Samuel Albright is six and a half feet tall, sporting collar length salt and pepper hair, a bushy mustache that was just starting to show a few white hairs, but still didn't look anywhere near his fifty plus years. The only things that did show his age were his 'John Lennon glasses' and the Colonel's insistence on still using '60's' expressions, some of which were beginning to make a comeback. He had a medium build that was just starting to show the signs of a lack of effort in the exercise department and a little overindulgence in the jar of M & M's that he kept on his desk supposedly to offer visitors to his office.
Major Bernard Otis is a short man at five seven. He tried to compensate by building muscle, but took it to the extreme. The end result was a body that looked as thick and wide as it was tall. Light red hair in a military crew cut and a square jaw didn't help his appearance either. Raven always said that if you put him in clothes with different colored checks, that he would look like the Rubik's Cube puzzle thing, which Albright also kept on his desk.
"This mission is a little out of the norm for us." Albright stated as he took his seat at the opposite end of the table from his Captain. He laced his fingers together and placed his hands, palms down, on top of the folder in front of him. "It's more of a preventive assignment than a quick strike or clean-up." He explained.
Which meant it wasn't an assassination or bombing or rooting out gorilla resistance groups. Raven, still leaning back with her long legs stretched out under the table, was the picture of calm. She had worn black jeans, hiking boots and a black and red checked flannel shirt instead of the fatigues that usually made up The Division's preferred dress. Whereas, John was leaning forward, arms resting on the table, feet flat on the floor with one leg bouncing up and down with nervous energy. He was dressed in olive drab fatigues like the Colonel and the Major. Raven had never been one for bright, cheery colors, but between the paint scheme and the clothing of choice, she thought it depressing enough to drive 'Mary Sunshine' to commit hara-kiri.
The Colonel cleared his throat to continue, which brought Raven out of her contemplation. "This is Ambassador Andrew Whitfield," Albright flipped open his folder and was referring to the first photo in the dossier, "the instigator of the latest round of peace talks in the Middle East and he is also the chief negotiator for the talks. Right now he's the US Ambassador assigned to the consulate in Istanbul."
Otis picked up the briefing. "Our sources have heard rumblings from several known terrorist groups that would rather these talks not take place. Everyone from the almost non-existent 'PLO' to the new and very active 'Mohammed's Quest' and every group in-between, may try to stop the negotiations by trying to take or kill the Ambassador or use his family to gain his cooperation."
Raven knew where this was heading, they would be providing security for this guy and his family, which basically put, meant babysitting. She also knew she would get an ear full from John after the meeting, he hated these kinds of missions. She wasn't going to complain though; at least she'd be doing something other than sitting around her apartment, thinking.
Raven tried to tune out the Major's voice as she read though the file. It wasn't that she didn't appreciate the importance of the briefing, she did. It was just the person doing it that she couldn't stand to listen to. His voice made her think of the old cartoon cat sitting on a fence outside a bedroom window, yowling. Needless to say, it rubbed her the wrong way.
Albright continued when Otis stopped. "As the Major explained, the team will be going in as a military security force, assigned to the embassy as an extra precaution because of the up-coming talks. The Ambassador and his family know nothing of the possible threats, nor does the embassy staff. The Lieutenant in charge of the normal embassy security has been informed of the situation and that additional security is in route. Lieutenant Logan will be in command of all the security personnel." The Colonel paused to allow the question he knew was coming.
"And the reason for this is?" Asked without a threatening tone but one that none-the-less stated that she demanded an answer.
The Colonel stopped the reprimand from Otis. The Major always assumed the Captain showed a lack of regard for a senior officer, but Albright knew she meant no disrespect, she was just being her usual blunt self. "Not what you're thinking, Captain." He leaned back and sighed. "Our friend the Ambassador is, shall we say, an old fashioned kind of guy. Not so much as to say he doesn't think women shouldn't work, but if they do, it should definitely be for a man." Albright knew this wasn't going over well when he saw the tensed jaw muscles, the grinding teeth and the steely gaze of those blue eyes. He sighed and continued. "Whitfield was also one of the biggest and loudest protesters against women in the military. And since we're going in as military, you'll be running the operation from under the table, so-to-speak. You'll go in separate from the rest of the team." The Colonel was wondering what really, really bad thing he had done in a previous life to be the one having to answer her next question.
"So I'll be undercover." Raven expected the worst. "As what?" She was still leaning back in her chair trying to maintain a casual attitude.
"As a companion slash counselor for the eldest daughter." Albright answered with as much authority as he could muster and waited for the explosion. When it didn't come, he braved a glance at his Captain.
"What kind of counselor?" She asked as she now sat up in her chair. 'Come on, Chandler, you can do this. Stay calm. It's not the people here that are doubting your abilities, it's one pig-headed, asinine, political dignitary that probably has to have an aid wipe his ass for him because he can't manage it himself.' Her teeth were grinding together harder with each thought. Her dentist had warned her about this particular habit and she knew next time she saw her, she would be yelled at.
"Well, it seems the daughter?" The Colonel paused, flipping through his folder.
"Kristen." Raven supplied from memory while she was trying to get her mind off an irate dentist, which had all kinds of implements of torture at her disposal. 'Please don't tell me that I've got to deal with a teenager.'
"Yes, that's the one." The Colonel again laced his fingers together on top of his file and continued. "Seems she has been her father's speech writer for a few years now and the Ambassador wishes her to have some instruction in the backroom goings-on of Capitol Hill. So we've set you up as an aid to a recently retired congressman. From reading the file, I think he wants to discourage her from wanting to do any form of political writing for a living. It seems he wants to discourage her, I believe the quote was, 'It's too cut-throat for my daughter.'"
"Problem, I know absolutely nothing about Capitol Hill or politics or congress." Raven informed them.
Major Otis' expression was one of superiority. "We took that into consideration and put together a list of people the Ambassador knows that are currently on the hill, along with enough background information on them to keep him from suspecting that you're not who you say you are." He passed down a separate folder. "Also, there is a kind of 'typical day in the life of an aid' narrative in the file that should be enough to answer any questions the girl might have. You just have to memorize it." His tone meant that his research department had to do all the work for her.
Raven ignored the Major's attitude as she always did and looked at Albright with a lost and forlorn expression. "You're sure there's not someone who needs to be assassinated?" The Colonel just shook his head. "Nothing to blow-up either I suppose?"
"Sorry, Captain, this is it." He cleared his throat to hide the chuckle that wanted to escape. "I'll need your team members names by tomorrow morning. That's all."
Later that night, after they had gone over the mission twice, decided on their team and each members assignment, finished off two medium mushroom, beef with extra cheese pizzas and a bottle of wine from one of the local vineyards, John decided it was time for some major teasing.
"You want me to go shopping with you tomorrow?" He had to bite the inside of his cheek to keep the smile off his face.
Raven raised her eyebrow. "Why would I want to go shopping, you know I hate it." She paused to glare at the man sitting across from her. "What are you up to?"
"I don't think your usual, 'hiking boots, bluejeans, flannel shirt if it's cold, t-shirt if it's hot' wardrobe is going to pass muster in an embassy." He finally let the smile that he had been holding back, spread across his face. The panicked expression his statement caused was priceless. "You know, I hear formal dinners are quite popular with the political crowd. I assume you don't already have evening wear." He laughed and batted away the couch pillow that sailed his way. "Should I take that as a no?"
"John, I think the terrorist might be the least of your worries." Raven announced menacingly when he finally stopped laughing.
"What makes you say that?" He asked, wondering if she was serious.
"Because I just might kill that son of a bitch myself." She ran her fingers through her hair, pulling it back and away from her face. "By the gods, John, I wasn't going to complain, but just how am I supposed to pull this off and what do I know about being a 'companion' to a snobbish politician's teenage daughter?" 'Or anyone else for that matter?' She commented to herself.
"Actually these photos are, where did I read that? Here it is, six years old. So, that would make her twenty-one." He explained.
"Mmmph!" Was the only response.
They were sitting in the Captain's office. The room was about two-dozen square feet. It contained a small brown leather couch, an oak coffee table and two brown leather chairs in front of her oak desk. The desk only contained a computer, a phone and a coffee cup with a Seattle Thunderbirds logo on it, the local minor league hockey team.
Logan leaned back in his chair that was facing the couch and steepled his fingers together under his chin. "Can I ask you something?" He was fully aware of her extreme private nature. "You don't have to answer if you don't want to."
She sat up from her relaxed position on the couch and gave him her full attention. "Go ahead, ask."
John had never considered himself an overly religious person, but he had never deliberately tried to piss the big guy off either. He had always thought of Raven's references to mythological beings as strange. And after her capture during their last mission, which would have been enough to turn even the staunchest atheist into a believer, he wondered if she really believed in 'the gods'. "I was just curious, do you actually think that there's more than one god?"
'Do I?' Raven considered. She hadn't thought about any religion since she quit going to confirmation classes after her younger brother had been killed. Her mother had raised all her children to be what Raven used to call, 'good little Catholics'. "Honestly, John, I don't know if I believe in much of anything, anymore. Mythology has always been something that I was interested in. But the expressions I use are more of a habit now than anything else. I started using them a long time ago basically just to piss my mother off. It was around the same time we met and you know what a bitch I was then." Her expression turned distant.
"What do you mean 'was'?" He asked with his brow furrowed. The faraway look disappeared from Raven's face and he knew he had broken through the tension his question had caused.
Both eyebrows shot up, and then she started chuckling. "There's one thing you need to remember, my friend." Raven started to explain but was interrupted.
"I know, I know. You can beat my butt anytime you want to." He threw his hands up in mock surrender.
"Yes I can, but that's not what I was going to say." She rested her forearms on her thighs and leaned over the coffee table between them. "I know where all your ticklish spots are." She kept the devilish look on her face for a long minute before she erupted into a full-throated laugh at the bug-eyed expression on his face.
It took another minute before John realized she wasn't going to carry out her threat, then he joined in the merriment. "You know." He paused to wipe the tears from his eyes. "That is something I'll never tire of hearing."
"What? That I can beat you up or that I can tickle you senseless?" She asked.
"Neither, smart ass. I'm talking about the sound of your laughter." He winked at her when she didn't readily have a comeback and stood up. "It's not often I can catch you totally unaware. And on that note I think I'll take my leave and head home. What about you?"
"Sounds like a plan. I'll just clean off my desk and drop this off for the Colonel." She stood and stretched.
He stopped at the door and bowed deeply, sweeping his arm out to the side with a flourish. "Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night till it be morrow."
Raven rolled her eyes. "Don't give up your day job." She yelled after he had shut the door to her office. She smiled and thanked whoever was listening, that she had a friend like John.
Kris took the stairs two at a time and made it halfway to the top before she stopped and sighed at the voice that called out from the open doorway she tried to sneak past.
"Kristen? Is that you, dear?"
"Yes mother." She reversed her direction and headed towards her mother's study.
Kristen Michelle Whitfield had short, wavy blonde hair; emerald green eyes and stood at an average five-five height. Her frame held muscle tone but was a little softer than she would like since she had to hide the fact that she worked out from her parents, who didn't believe that women should be physically strong.
"Don't forget that Miss Chandler will be arriving today." Regina Whitfield stated when her daughter entered the room. She was an inch or two shorter that her eldest offspring. Her eyes were green and her hair blonde with a slight reddish tint; she was very slim and pale, almost to the point of looking anemic. She took in her daughter's appearance with a critical eye. "I want you to go change into something appropriate. That navy blue skirt and blazer would do nicely and put your hair up, young lady. I don't want the woman to think I'm raising an uncivilized vagabond."
Kris looked at her khaki shorts, forest green button-up cotton shirt and Reeboks, and rolled her eyes. 'I can't believe I've got to dress to greet this 'companion'. She's probably a middle aged frumpy spinster that wears glasses as thick as coke bottle bottoms and has a whiny voice and disposition. It's just my luck that they actually found someone dumb enough to take this job.'
"Oh and don't forget that we're having a small celebration for Parker tonight." Her mother continued, never realizing her daughter's irritation. "Just family and embassy staff and we must remember to tell Miss Chandler, it would be a good way to introduce her to everyone."
A buzz from the intercom interrupted. "Yes?" Kris sat on the arm of the couch, waiting for her mother to finish. "Thank you, Stephanie, we'll be right down." She stood and moved in front of her daughter. "She's here, her flight was early. Oh dear, well this will have to do." She sighed as she buttoned her daughter's collar closed and straightened her shirt.
The embassy building consisted of three floors. The bottom one was used for official business and the top two for private use for the embassy staff and their families. Regina Whitfield's study was on the middle floor, just off the balcony that led to the main staircase and overlooked the reception area of the main lobby.
The balcony on the second floor drew Raven's attention. Her eyes settled on a woman with blonde hair that she recognized as an older and much improved version of the seemingly sly, freckled faced teenager that had stared back at her from the photo in her mission folder. 'Sweet Aphrodite, she's beautiful.'
Kris took in the sight of her 'companion' and she almost stumbled. Her eyes flowed over black hair that looked as much like silk as the red blazer and pants the woman wore. A black silk blouse open at the neck displayed a thin braided leather cord that held an oval bone pendant that had the cartoon character Taz painted on it. Kris wasn't sure how she made it down the staircase without falling flat on her face, but she obviously had, because now she was standing in front of this tall magnificent creature. Her eyes tracked upwards from the pendant to take in slightly moist lips, high cheekbones and came to rest on the bluest eyes that Kris had ever gazed into. 'She is the most stunning woman I have ever seen.'
"Miss Chandler? I'm Regina Whitfield and this is my daughter Kristen."
Raven blinked to break away from the green eyes holding her captive. "I'm sorry, I must be a little worn out from my flight." She said to cover-up the fact that she was entranced by the lovely vision in front of her. "What were you saying, Mrs. Whitfield?"
"That's all right dear, not all of us travel well." She stated in a condescending manner as she patted Raven's arm.
Her mothers gibe brought Kris out of her trance. "Ms. Chandler, why don't I show you to your room so you can rest? Or if you're hungry, lunch will be ready in about an hour." Kris' feet had started to move towards the stairs without conscious thought. "Or if you can't wait, I know how bad airline food is, I'm sure I could find something to hold you over until then." Kris knew she was rambling but she couldn't help it. 'What's wrong with me? The only time I chatter away like this is when I'm nervous or embarrassed.' She had guided the tall woman to the third floor and pushed open a door. "This is it. You can let me know if you ever need anything, I'm next door." She pointed to the next door down the hall.
"Thanks, Kristen." Raven noticed her luggage had already been brought up. She let her gaze travel around the room. A double bed with the headboard against the wall that she shared with Kris. Double French doors directly opposite the room door, led out to a small balcony that overlooked the inside courtyard and the pool. A chest of drawers sat opposite the end of the bed and shared a wall with a dresser and mirror. The color scheme was pale rose and ivory.
"Actually, I prefer Kris, if you don't mind." She could feel herself blushing and lowered her gaze to the floor. 'This is ridiculous. Why do I feel like an inadequate, bumbling nitwit in front of her?'
Raven smiled. 'Gods, she seems really shy.' "Okay, Kris. Let me unpack and then why don't you show me around before lunch?" 'Might as well get this farce started and see if I pass the test. Otherwise Mister 'women should be barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen' will just have to get his knickers in a knot.'
Raven threw herself down on her bed and rubbed her eyes. Lunch had been?different. She had been introduced to everyone. She had, of course, already known them. The Division's research department had supplied the team with names, photos and backgrounds. Meeting her 'assignments' face to face was something Raven hadn't had to do in a very long time. And she vowed that it would be even longer before she would do it again.
She had entered the informal dinning room, an elongated room that held a table large enough to seat probably twenty people. 'And this is just for the family. It's nice to know all that tax money isn't wasted.' She thought sarcastically. She had put a non-threatening expression on her face and waited to be introduced to the other occupants.
Andrew Whitfield was very surprised when Raven was introduced to him and he had to look up in order to meet her eyes. The man was probably five-eight and that was in shoes. Brown eyes and dusty brown hair, that had started receding and he was only forty-six. He looked like he followed a mild workout program, he wasn't overweight but she could tell his body was not accustomed to physically taxing exercise.
Kris' younger siblings, Martin and Vivian, were twins but not identical. Seventeen years old and seniors in high school, which meant they were with the tutor most of the day. Vivian had hazel eyes, short light brown hair and was short like her mother, while Martin was a little taller than his father, with light brown hair and brown eyes and a boyish face. Both had grown up since the photos she was given had been taken.
Raven knew Martin was going to be a problem. A teenage boy with raging hormones that spent the entire lunch undressing her with his eyes. But then, so did Mrs. Whitfield's secretary, Stephanie Knox. As far as Raven was concerned, that was as far as Stephanie would get. The secretary was in her 40's with dark brown hair with a little grey starting to show. Her eyes were light, washed-out grey. Her medium height and her large boned structure made her look a little over-weight. 'I wonder if I could throw them both in the Bosphorus? Um, probably not, with my luck neither of them would know how to swim and I'd have to jump in after 'em.' She sighed and continued her mental assessment of her housemates as she continued her lunch.
Ismail Ahmet the Ambassador's secretary was born and raised in Istanbul but had been educated in England. Dark skin and hair, six feet tall, almond colored eyes and a mustache and goatee. A refined gentleman, with all the correct mannerisms befitting his position. He smiled and laughed at all the appropriate times, made one feel like the most important person in the room with his compliments but could also vanish into the background without moving a muscle. People that possessed that ability made her suspicious. He would bear watching.
Then there was Parker Lewis the newly promoted aid to the Ambassador. A little taller than his employer, with short, above the collar, dark brown hair, dark brown and what she would call, cruel eyes and even at his young age of 26 years, he was just as arrogant and opinionated as his boss. Raven immediately disliked the man when she had been told that he was Kris' fiancé. That had not been in the background checks and it had surprised her and she loathed being surprised. But she managed to smile at her tablemates until she couldn't stand it and excused herself from the table, pleading jetlag.
'Get a grip, Raven, you're here to protect these people not seduce some poor innocent young woman. Even if she is an attractive, charming, wonderful and incredibly hot one. Ugh, maybe I'd better take a long, cold shower before I dress for dinner and that stupid party. I think my hormones have digressed to adolescent lusting.' She sighed. 'And besides, she's obviously not interested in women.' She reminded herself and forced her body to her feet and headed toward the bathroom, suddenly depressed.
Raven checked herself in the mirror one last time. She was wearing a blood red oriental style silk dress with small black images in the form of Chinese dragons that decorated the material in a sporadic design. The hem of the dress fell to just below the knees with a slit up the front that stopped at mid-thigh. The sleeves were three quarter lengths. She tugged on the short, upright collar and twitched her body; she hated dresses and was horribly uncomfortable. She decided against wearing jewelry, except her ever-present necklace. And since she was running late, she didn't take the time to put on make-up and she decided to leave her hair down, she never wasted time with make-up and her hair anyway. "Why should I start now?" She mumbled as she studied her reflection. "Not bad. It seems to hide the scars as long as I don't cross my legs, that is." She sternly reminded herself, since she had done just that when she sat down to put on her black pumps and noticed the prominent three inch long scar on the inside of her right knee. She took a deep breath and answered the door on the second knock.
"Oh, my." Kris stood in the hallway running her eyes up and down the tall figure.
Raven started to think that something was wrong with her appearance since the young woman's eyes continued to rake over her body. "Do I look okay?" She asked tentatively.
"Oh yes, I'm, uh, sorry for staring. I think you might have a problem though." She couldn't seem to draw her eyes away from the woman in front of her.
Raven's brow furrowed. "What kind of problem?"
"Finding a way to keep my brother from drooling over you all evening." 'And me too for that matter.' Kris blushed at that thought. 'Damn, where did that come from? I've never thought about women that way, much less, been attracted to one before.' She continued talking, afraid of where her thoughts might lead. "In case you didn't notice at lunch, Martin was?well?staring at you with?well?his expression was?"
Raven took pity on her. "Yes, I noticed." She saw the relief on Kris' face when she was saved from explaining. 'Mm, I wonder? Let's see how she reacts to this.' "He wasn't the only one."
"You mean, Mr. Ahmet? I've never known him to be ungentlemanly before. I'll say something to father about it."
"Uh, no, not him. I mean your mother's secretary, Ms. Knox." She watched Kris' expression change from confusion to comprehension to amusement. The confusion and comprehension Raven could understand, but the amusement threw her.
Kris grinned. "Are you sure?" Raven nodded. "It's a good thing she keeps it to herself. Mother would fire her on the spot. Although, mother is kind of clueless when it comes to anything that's the least outside the 'norm', she'd probably have to have someone draw her a picture with explanations before she'd understand." 'Why am I relieved that she's not bothered by the thought of another women's attentions?' "We better go before they send out a search party."
The two women started down the hall toward the stairs. "You look very nice, by the way." Raven noticed the shy grin before Kris looked away. She was wearing an unadorned emerald green satin dress, which matched her eyes perfectly, and fell to her knees. A thin gold belt showed off a trim waist, a slightly open collar showed a gold herringbone necklace. Long sleeves completed the simple yet elegant dress. "And you wouldn't want to keep your fiancé waiting." Kris' smile disappeared but before Raven could question it, they arrived in the dining room.
Raven was a little surprised when Kris took the chair next to her instead of Parker. And so was he by the look on his face. 'Huh, maybe there's trouble in paradise.' A grin spread across her face before she could clamp down on it.
"Miss Chandler, you have a very unusual first name. Is it a family name by any chance?" Stephanie eagerly tried to draw Raven's attention away from Kris.
"No, my father was an avid fan of Edgar Allen Poe and the poem 'The Raven' was his favorite, so when I was born and he saw a head full of dark hair, he badgered my mother until she gave in." She explained.
"You're from Seattle originally?" At Raven's nod, Andrew continued. "Do you still have family living there?"
'Shit, I didn't think about them asking personal questions. Should I make something up or tell them the truth?' She swallowed and wiped her mouth with her napkin to gain a little time. "My mother, older brother and younger sister still live in the Seattle area." The truth, just not the sordid details.
"I thought your background information said you have a younger brother? And it didn't mention your father, is he deceased, dear?" Regina knew that the information they had been sent said that the Chandler family was catholic and she would not stand for a divorce in a catholic family, being a 'good catholic' herself.
'Hell if I know, toots'. She wanted to say. The long flight and unpleasant circumstances had begun to take their toll on Raven, not to mention the fact that she couldn't concentrate on anything but the incredible aroma that was coming from the young woman sitting to her right. Raven wasn't sure if it was perfume or shampoo or just the intoxicating scent of Kris' body, but it was very distracting. Raven took a deep breath and collected her thoughts. "Had a younger brother, Mrs. Whitfield. Derek died when he was eight. As for my father, I have no idea if he's living or dead, he left us when I was four."
The silence that followed was deafening; it stretched out for several heartbeats. It seemed that no one wanted to deal with the unpleasantness of the situation until Kris placed her hand on Raven's forearm and gave it a gentle squeeze. "I'm sorry about Derek. It must have been hard to lose someone you cared about."
Raven made it through the rest of the evening without too many questions directed at her. And although Stephanie's eyes stayed glued to Raven most of the night, the secretary left the tall beauty alone. However, she had not been so lucky with Martin. He had followed her around all evening like it was his rutting season.
All through his teenage years, his parents had basically programmed Martin. Comments like, 'My baby is so cute, he'll have women fighting over him' and 'Son, you're going to be a heartbreaker' and 'You'll be able to have any woman you want', had inflated his ego to the extreme. So, when the object of his desire avoided him all night, he couldn't understand it. He had tried to engage her in conversation several times and received short, clipped responses before she had moved away. He had also felt the tension in her arm when he had escorted her into the lounge after dinner. 'Maybe she's shy or maybe she's not used to the attention. No that's ridiculous; she's stunning, I'm sure she's had men waiting in line. Maybe she had a bad experience with a past boyfriend? I bet that's it. I wonder if some old fashioned courting would bring her out of her shell?' Martin decided to start first thing tomorrow.
Around 11 p.m., Raven had had enough and headed for her room. If everything was on schedule, Logan and the team would have landed at the Izmir Air Station by now. It was a Turkish base, but the US had a squadron assigned to the airbase and would ferry the team to the embassy by chopper, about an hour's flight.
Raven dialed out by way of her cell-phone instead of the embassy's phone. She hadn't been able to check for listening devices within the embassy and if someone were using a microwave device from outside the walls, she wouldn't have any way to detect them either. The call was answered on the second ring. "Hello, John."
"How was your trip?" Logan knew his Captain was just letting him know she was in position and checking to see that the team had arrived at the airbase. The conversation was friendly, as if she was letting family or friends know that she had arrived safely.
After the brief conversation ended, Raven changed from her dress into a t-shirt, shut off the light and crawled into bed. She was exhausted and just starting to doze when her incredible hearing registered a noise, which in turn alerted her sleepy brain, which in turn jumpstarted her body into motion, all before she opened her eyes. By the time she reached her balcony doors, she had located and identified the strange noise. Metal scraping against concrete, outside and a little to the left, which meant it was coming from Kris' balcony.
Raven knew that Kris' room was empty, since she hadn't heard the young woman come up stairs yet; at least she was hoping she hadn't. She eased the door to her balcony open just enough for her to squeeze through and slipped out. The breeze was cool against her lightly clothed body and the cold tiles made her wish she had put on her shoes. The balcony was about ten feet by six feet with a four-foot high concrete railing around the front and sides. Hers contained a small metal table and two metal chairs and she was willing to bet Kris' did too, which would account for the noise she heard. She stood behind a tall potted plant with her back to the building and observed a figure dressed in dark clothes and kneeling down trying to pick the lock on the door leading to the young woman's room.
How to stop him without revealing what she is. Raven's mind processed her choices, one, she could scream to alert security, speaking of which, she wondered how this guy got in here in the first place? Two, she could surprise him and hope they didn't draw anyone's attention until after she could subdue and question him or three, she could toss him over the railing, removing the threat and let the so called security patrols find him. 'I'm damn sure not going to let this guy get anywhere near Kris.' She made her decision, took a few steps running start and jumped the eight feet between balconies. She chose to subdue and question.
The intruder saw movement out of the corner of his eye and tried to flee by jumping to the next balcony. There happened to be several more feet of open space between them than the one Raven had negotiated and before she could grab him, he fell the three stories onto the courtyard below.
Raven heard the shout of alert from the patrol and the sound of running feet. She returned to her room, by way of her balcony and barely got back into bed before someone was pounding on her door. No, she had not heard anything or seen anything, she patiently explained. Then she had to repeatedly assure them that she was all right. She noticed Kris, leaning against the wall watching her from across the hall, with a curious expression, as Raven ushered the security people out of her room.
Kris bid Raven a good night and went to her room. The fact that 'her companion' didn't seem the least bit bothered or scared that someone tried to break in, was very puzzling. Kris walked into the shared bathroom that separated her room from Raven's and leaned against the sink. She started brushing her teeth. "Wait a minute. Thief?" She mumbled with a mouth full of toothpaste. She rinsed her mouth and stared at her reflection. "Nobody in their right mind risks breaking into an embassy that's guarded by Military Police?unless it's for a political reason?which could possibly mean they're a?terrorist. But why?why would a terrorist be interested in us?" She paced the length of the bathroom and back. "The peace talks come to mind." She continued to mutter. She paced back to stand facing the closed door that lead to the room containing the object of her curiosity. "Is it just a coincidence that you show up now? I don't think so; mother sent that request for a companion over three months ago. So, who are you Ms. Raven Chandler? I believe I'll stick to you like stink on shit! As my granddad says." Kris went back to her room, changed into her nightshirt and crawled into bed. She curled up under the covers thinking that a little adventure and excitement might not be a bad thing. She fell asleep with a satisfied grin on her face.
Raven felt the comfortable mattress underneath her body and stretched her long frame before she opened her eyes. It only took her a second to remember where she was; there was always that momentary confusion the first morning after traveling. She threw a robe over her shoulders and walked out to the balcony. Her room faced east and the sky was just starting to lighten. She could see the sparse cloud cover and knew that the forecast for cloudy skies with scattered rain showers throughout the day was going to be incorrect. She could always deliver a more accurate weather prediction for cold or rain than the forecasters could, since her knee always gave her at least a days warning about those particular conditions. She leaned over the railing and noticed that not a trace of their late night visitor remained.
She reentered her room and decided that she would go see if the embassy had a gym. That should give John enough time to get the team settled and find out about their 'burglar', which was how the Sergeant from last night referred to their guest. She had almost laughed out-loud at his 'don't scare the womenfolk' attitude or maybe that was how the ambassador had instructed him to handle the situation. She changed into sweat paints, baggy long sleeve t-shirt and running shoes, she would have preferred her normal, shorts and sports bra but that would be making a statement she wasn't sure this crew was ready for. She ran her fingers through her hair before she pulled it back into a ponytail and headed for the kitchen.
Raven was surprised to find Vivian sitting at the table eating breakfast and reading the USA Today paper when she pushed open the swinging door. "Morning."
Vivian put down her paper. "You're up early. Thought you might sleep in after the long day you had yesterday and all the excitement last night. You want some breakfast?" She asked cheerfully. "And please call me Viv."
"I'm usually up about this time. And I'll just have some coffee right now." She noticed the girl looking at her attire as she accepted a mug from one of the kitchen staff. "Viv, I was wondering if there might be a gym or at least somewhere to jog?" She asked as she sipped her caffeine.
"Martin has a treadmill, a stationary bike and some kind of weight machine thingy that he never uses, so I'm sure he wouldn't care, father's the only one that ever uses them and then it's usually only on weekends. And there's a pool in the courtyard but the water would be a little on the chilly side unless your used to it. I'll show you where the stuff is when you're ready." She cheerfully offered.
"Are we the only one's that get up before the sun?" Raven sat down across from the girl at the small kitchen table that was probably meant more for the staff than for the employers.
"Yeah, pretty much. Father, Parker and Mr. Ahmet will be down in about an hour, then Stephanie, then mother, then Martin. If you want Kris out of bed before ten, you'll have to go drag her out." Viv explained.
Raven chuckled. "Not a morning person, I take it."
Viv grinned and nodded her head in agreement. "Nobody talks to her until she's had her coffee either."
After her workout and shower, Raven dressed in grey slacks and matching cotton turtleneck. She headed down the back staircase to the first floor. She gave a slight nod of her head in acknowledgement when she passed members of her team, as she headed for the pre-assigned meeting place she and John had agreed upon. Her mind was focused on the thoughts and concerns she had mulled over during her morning exercise and didn't notice the person intent on following her.
"Hear you had some commotion last night." John greeted his Captain when he opened the door for her. She filled him in on the past night's activities, then he filled her in on what he had learned. "There was a delivery truck parked about half a block down from the side gate that took off when the alarm was raised. Got a description from one of the video cameras but the image wasn't close enough to pick up the registration. But there's no record on the dead guy. No id, nothing on the fingerprints they sent through Interpol's computer. We'll run them through ours, but I wouldn't hold my breath. What?" He asked when he saw her lost in thought.
Raven was leaning back in a folding metal chair with her fingers laced together resting on top of her head and her long legs stretched out in front of her. "I find it interesting that which ever group this is, sent in a lone assassin or kidnapper, the night before we were suppose to get here." She leaned forward, resting her forearms on her thighs. Raven had changed her flight to a commercial airline when she was told that Mrs. Whitfield would send a car for her at the airport. She originally had been set to fly into Izmir with the rest of the team and take a puddle jumper into Istanbul. Raven thought it better if the driver was told to meet a British Airways International flight from London instead of a local flight. And a day earlier was the only reservation she could get on such short notice.
"Who knew of the change in plans?" He sat down in the chair facing his Captain and handed her a cup of coffee.
"You, me, the team, Mrs. Whitfield, her secretary and anybody they told." She took a sip from the steaming cup. "I've been thinking about last night and it seems funny. This guy acted as if he had all the time in the world and made noise like he knew that no one in the embassy was going to be expecting trouble. I surprised him completely and I don't think he knew who I was. I think it was a reaction to being caught off guard that made him run instead of trying to subdue me." She finished her coffee.
"You think someone here is passing along info? That whichever group this is, didn't think we would be here until today?" He went to refill his cup and pointed to hers asking a silent question. "But no one here knows who we are. And only Lieutenant Marks knew that we were coming."
She declined the offer of more coffee with a shake of her head as she answered his other question. "I think someone somewhere is either a traitor or a profiteer, whether it be from here or?elsewhere." Which meant that someone from The Division or from D.C. where the original request for protection came from, could be the culprit.
John jerked his head around at the statement and almost ran his mug over. "Uh?okay. How do you want to proceed?" He knew that if they were being sold out from headquarters, they and their 'assignments' could be in for a very bumpy ride.
Raven stood and walked to the window, staring out at the overcast day. "Anyone leaving the embassy gets a double guard. We've got enough personnel to cover it with the MP's and us. Schedule more patrols around the building and the grounds and randomize the patterns, I don't want to make it easy for them."
"I'll take care of it." He moved to stand beside her. "You'll probably hit me for asking, but how are you doing?" He glanced sideways at his Captain and friend.
She raised an eyebrow and glared. "I'd be a lot better if I didn't have a teenage boy sniffing after me. When I went back to my room to change after working out this morning, I found an arrangement of orchids and hyacinths."
"I'm assuming you mean the Whitfield boy. How do you know he left them?" She pulled a card out of her back pocket and handed it to him. He started chuckling as he read.
'Beautiful flowers for an even more beautiful lady. It would be my honor to be your escort to dinner tomorrow night. Martin'
"Ah, that's sweet."
"You find this amusing?" She drummed her fingers on the windowsill.
He grimaced at the look he was getting then cleared his throat. "Uh, no, of course not."
She decided to let him off the hook. "Damn, if it wasn't happening to me, I'd find it hysterical." They shared a laugh that eased the tension that was radiating from John.
He shook his head. "Any?uh?thing else I should know about?" He was trying hard not to laugh at his Captain's misfortune.
"One thing that I might be able to use to our advantage. Mrs. Whitfield's secretary, Stephanie, gave me an unmistakable invitation to play the 'get to know you better' game."
His expression turned sad. "You're the one that has to face yourself in the mirror each morning." He stuck his hands in his pockets. "Raven, don't do it." He turned sad eyes in her direction.
She looked at the despondent expression on his face. "John, I have no intention of sleeping with the woman. I just thought that I might be able to exchange a little flirting for information if I need to." She furrowed her brow at his peculiar behavior. "What's up with you anyway?"
"Nothing." He answered quickly. "I just hate to see you lower yourself to that level, is all. You happened to be better than that." He walked to the corner of the room and picked up a small backpack that was sitting on top of a small table and handed it to her before she could question him further. "Here's your stuff."
Raven opened the flap. Her 'stuff' consisted of a Beretta 9mm with several extra 15-round clips, a Smith & Wesson .45 caliber automatic with several extra eight round magazines, several throwing knives and two 'hunting knives' as the Captain called them. She grinned from ear to ear. "Felt naked without these." She opened the door a crack and peaked out to see a deserted hallway. "Later."
Kris had gotten out of bed early, at least it was for her, and been looking for Raven ever since. She finally spied her coming down the stairs and heading towards the back of the building, where the military personnel stayed, and followed her. She entered the room next to the one Raven had disappeared into, which fortunately was empty, and pressed her ear to the wall.
"Darn this noisy ventilation system, picks up noise from this entire end of the building." She grumbled and moved her position down the wall away from the vent. She heard two voices, one she thought to be Raven's and the other sounded male, but she could only understand a word here and there. 'Their talking about last night, I think.' She waited for the heat to cut off. 'Lieutenant Marks? Who's he? Oh yeah, he's in charge of the MP's.' Kris moved in the direction of the window when the voices in the other room seemed to move that way also. 'Martin you idiot. Like you've really got a chance with her.' Several conversations mixed together and she couldn't hear anything clearly until she heard the door of the other room open and close. She waited several minutes before she stuck her head out to see if the coast was clear then headed for her own room.
Kris paced the length of her bedroom trying to make heads or tails out of what she overheard. She finally sighed in disgust when all she could come up with were more questions. She had heard Raven leave her room and decided that her original plan of sticking to the tall woman was her best bet. She was about to start down the main staircase to the second floor when she heard voices. Kris looked down from the third floor balcony. It sat back further from the one on the second floor, so if you stood at the railing you could look down on anyone standing on the balcony below you.
"Raven. You don't mind if I call you that do you?" Stephanie didn't wait for an answer. "I have some papers I need you to read over and sign, also there's some personal info that I don't have in your file." She placed her right hand around Raven's upper arm and started to guide her into her office that was located next to Mrs. Whitfield's study.
"Oh sure, I can do that now." Raven smiled at the woman.
Kris clinched her fists, her first instinct was to charge down and punch the obviously flirting secretary. That response and the intensity of it shocked her. She took a deep breath. "Stephanie?" She called out as she descended the stairs. "I thought I heard your voice. I believe mother was looking for you. Something to do with a guest list for tomorrow night." She smiled sweetly at the frowning woman.
"I should go see what the problem is." She said, but didn't let go of Raven's arm.
"I'll come by later to sign those papers." Raven offered.
Stephanie brightened a little at that and detached herself from Raven's arm. "I should be in my office most of the afternoon and if I'm not there?" She paused and moistened her lips. "I'll be in my room." She winked and moved off in search of her employer.
Raven saw the furious look Kris directed at Stephanie, on her behalf. 'What is with everybody today? First John and now Kris, maybe I ought to explain to them that protecting my virtue is about like locking the barn door after the horse has been stolen. Definite waste of time trying to protect something that's not there.' She wiped the grin off her face when her would be defender turned towards her. "So, what do you usually do during the day?"
Kris tried to control herself. After what Raven had said about Stephanie last night and from the way the secretary was acting just now, she knew that Stephanie was after Raven. 'Lusting after my?my what? Raven is not MY anything.' She realized she'd been asked a question. "Oh, swim, read, write, play on the Internet. The usual, nothing cloak and dagger." It slipped out before she realized it, but when she saw the brief astonishment that crossed the tall one's face, she was glad it had. 'Well, that was interesting.'
Raven cleared her throat. "Well, reading and writing are pretty much individual activities. I only use the Internet if I'm looking for something specific. That leaves swimming and the water will be too cold for that."
"Pardon me?" She crossed her arms over her chest and raised a questioning eyebrow. 'She's turning into a feisty little thing.'
"It's not that cold and besides they blew the forecast again, the suns out." She playfully challenged her companion. When she received no reply, she sighed. "Come on, wimp. You can at least keep me company." Kris knew the water would not have warmed up from last night's lower temperatures but she also knew that Stephanie or anyone else wouldn't bother them if they were in the courtyard. She headed upstairs to change with her companion following.
Raven was more than content to go along with the young woman. 'Kris, bathing suit, Hades, that sure beats playing cozy with 'Madam Butch' this afternoon.' She smiled. 'And besides, I need to find out about this party tomorrow night. It sounds like it could turn into a nightmare, strictly from a security standpoint of course.' She rolled her eyes, wondering why she was trying to fool herself.
Raven had to push her long sleeves up above her elbows after they had been outside awhile, the sun was actually kind of warm. The pool was about the standard size that a family would have installed. Raven noticed the prominently painted, 3 feet at the shallow end with steps leading down into the water and 9 feet at the deepest part. There was no diving board, just two ladders that descended into the chlorinated water. "What's this party for tomorrow night?" The two women were lying back in lounge chairs beside the deep end of the pool. Raven had to shade her eyes from the glare of the sun when she turned towards her companion.
"Huh?" Kris was caught daydreaming about her companion and speculating on the real reason she was here. "Oh, it's one of the 'Everybody Who's Anybody' parties. I think the embassies trade off monthly gatherings. Last month it was at the Swiss Consulate, this month happens to be mother's turn."
"What's the purpose of having them?" Raven was confused.
"Well, that would be so everyone there could talk about anyone who didn't show up. Or if everybody happens to come, which is usually what happens, they talk about the person that actually had the gall to wear a gown that they had worn before, or whatever the weekly gossip happens to be." She noticed the skeptical expression on Raven's face. "Hey, I'm not making this up. Don't tell me that you've never had to deal with this type of thing? After all, you're a congressional aid for crying out loud." Kris challenged, hoping her companion would slip up.
"Uh, no, I've never been to one of these shindigs. I guess I'm not 'Politically Correct' enough." Raven was wondering what kind of turmoil canceling one of these things would cause. 'I really hate to change the routines, but this seems like an unnecessary risk. John will have to check into the details since I can't.' She spied John heading towards the side gate. "Excuse me a minute." Raven said as she left her companion.
"Ms. Chandler not joining us for lunch?" Viv asked as she sat down in the chair beside her sister that Raven had just vacated.
"Kris has probably bored the poor woman to death by now." Martin stood beside the pool, watching the object of the conversation walk away.
Both his sisters ignored him as they usually did. Kris' eyes were also glued to Raven. 'God, the way she moves. It's like a predator stalking its victim. A panther, that's what she reminds me of, a sleek dark powerful jungle cat, prowling after it's young tender prey.' She blushed. She wasn't sure where the image of herself as the prey had come from.
Viv was watching Kris watch her companion. 'Well I'll be. It looks like something, or should I say someone, has finally snared my sister's attention, if that sudden redness is any indication.'
"Can you imagine the envious looks I'll get tomorrow night when I walk into dinner with her on my arm." Martin's egotistical snicker broke the other's musings.
Kris wondered if she could get away with pushing her brother into the pool. Then had a better thought. "I think I'll cool off before we go in for lunch." And proceeded to jump into the water beside where Martin was standing, causing a very big splash and managing to douse her brother.
"Oh man, Kris! You did that on purpose!" Martin yelled at his sister. He hunched over trying to keep his cold wet shirt away from his skin and grabbed her towel to dry off.
Kris broke the surface of the water with her teeth chattering. She had definitely underestimated the temperature of the water, it was like ice, and it had caused the muscles in her legs to start cramping. She called out for help as her head disappeared beneath the surface.
"Quit joking around, Kris, I'm not jumping in there. You just want me to get completely soaked." Martin complained as he continued to dry off.
"Martin, I don't think she's kidding." Viv explained as she watched her sister go under again and started to stand, but before she could get to her feet a blur flew by.
Raven had been on her way back to the courtyard when she felt her heart start beating double-time. Before she had a chance to question the sudden feeling of panic, she heard the cry for help and reacted. She dove into the pool and surfaced with her arms around Kris' waist. "You ok?"
"I?am?now." She coughed up water between words.
"Put your arms around my neck." Raven instructed as she used her arms and legs to propel her body backwards, pulling the young woman with her.
Kris didn't need to be told twice and held on tighter than she needed to. At the edge of the pool, she broke her gaze with the blue eyes that held her mesmerized and noticed her brother's envious expression and wanted to laugh. She wished she could stick out her tongue and tell him to go find someone else, that Raven was hers. That startling admission, even though it was just to herself, along with the cold, caused Kris to start physically shaking.
Raven, after letting Martin and Vivian pull their sister into the tiles surrounding the pool, lifted herself up and out of the water and knelt down beside Kris as she started trembling. "Go get a blanket." She directed Martin. "Now!" She ordered when he was slow to move. "What happened?" Raven asked, as she sat behind Kris and wrapped the shivering young woman into a cocoon of her body trying to warm her.
"Lllegg cccrammps." Kris stuttered and grimaced when she tried to stretch the aforementioned appendages out.
"Wimp, huh?" Raven reminded Kris of the friendly name calling from earlier. "Can I say I told you so?" She asked as she massaged the young woman's lower legs with one hand while her other arm stayed wrapped around Kris' waist.
"Nnnnoo." She answered through still chattering teeth, but managed to smile at the playful look on her companion's face.
Martin returned with the blanket and an entourage, made up of their parents, Parker, and several security people. "Kristen Michelle Whitfield." Her father intoned with his fists on his hips. "Of all the irresponsible, reckless things to do." His expression was a cross between irritation and concern.
Raven had wrapped the blanket around Kris' shoulders. "It was an accident, Mr. Whitfield." The look that accompanied the statement dared the man to argue. She was beginning to think that the primary consideration in this 'family' was the image that was presented to their colleagues and to the public. Concern seemed to come in a poor second.
Kris tried to stand, but her right leg cramped up again. With a sharp intake of breath and a pained expression, she quickly sat back down. "I guess I'm gonna need some help." She looked up apologetically.
Two MP's started forward at Parker's signal but Raven's glare brought them to sudden stop. She knelt down on one knee and placed one arm behind Kris' back and the other one under her knees and stood up cradling the girl in her arms.
Kris knew she should stop her but couldn't bring herself to protest. Instead she wrapped her arm around Raven's neck and placed her head on an inviting shoulder as her rescuer headed back into the embassy. Raven heard the muttered comments but chose to ignore them.
"Oh my, she's very strong." Said by Regina as she stood between Andrew and Parker.
"I bet she's one of 'those women'." Said with disgust.
"What do you mean, son?" The Ambassador had been calling Parker by that endearment since he and his wife had decided that the young man was going to be their son-in-law.
"Just that she probably works out, lifts weights, that sort of 'manly' thing. Probably also thinks she can compete with men." He explained with a scandalous expression. "It might not be a good idea for Kristen to associate with someone like her."
Andrew Whitfield propped one hand on his hip and rubbed his chin thoughtfully with the other. "I certainly don't want her filling our Kristen's head with those silly notions. She'll bare watching." He decided as the group watched the two women disappear into the embassy.
Raven had slowed her stride when she heard the comment 'those women'. She rolled her eyes and almost laughed at the moron's explanation and at Andrew's response. "Hades take me. These people are living in the dark ages." She mumbled as she entered the building and headed for the back stairs.
"Goodness, Miss Kristen, what's wrong?" The cook asked with a definite southern accent. She had been with the family when they still lived in the Washington D.C. area and had decided to take Mrs. Whitfield up on her offer to stay with them when the Ambassador received his first post, 12 years ago. She was a short, round dark skinned woman with hair that had turned white many year's ago. She had been a friend and confidant to Kris since the girl was old enough to wobble into the kitchen on baby legs and beg for cookies or brownies or whatever Issy had decided to bake that day.
Kris had raised her head and looked at her rescuer with a quizzical expression after the mumbled remark and was about to question it, but turned her attention to the cook instead. "I'm fine Issy. I was just swimming and got a cramp." She stated, trying not to make it sound as embarrassing as it was.
"Good lord, child, you're all wet. Go get into some dry things before you catch your death. Hurry up now." Issy muttered about foolish young 'uns and shooed them out of her kitchen.
Kris was astonished when she realized that the cook was talking to Raven and not her. "You've certainly made an impression with Issy. I've never seen her take to anyone that quickly before."
Raven shrugged her shoulders after she placed her burden on the bed. "She and I had a long talk over breakfast this morning." She shrugged. "She seems to like me okay."
After her early workout, Raven had gone back down to find something to munch on and had been cornered in the kitchen by a very suspicious cook with a very large knife.
"You ain't no political aid. Who are you and what do you want with my Kris?
Raven had taken a chance and explained everything to the protective cook. It seemed they had a common goal, to look after Kris.
"Uh huh." Kris knew there was something else that had happened between them that morning but didn't push to find out. Instead she asked about Raven's earlier comment.
It was easy enough to explain about her love of anything ancient and Greek, but she had to be careful about the other. As much as she hated the Whitfield's and Parker's feelings about 'a woman's place', these people were still Kris' family and soon to be family. She repeated what she had over heard, to distract herself more than anything, while she helped Kris change out of her suit and into shorts and a plain, long sleeve cotton pullover shirt. "I'm sorry, but I just don't agree with their beliefs. Women can be strong and independent. They don't need a man to provide a home or security for them. And in this day and age, we don't even need them to provide a family, at least not personally anyway." She had started massaging the girl's calf to ease the still slightly contorted muscle and she rambled on to take her mind off the soft skin under her hands. And the fact that the young woman was in bed, laying on her back and that Raven was on her knees straddling Kris' legs and hovering over the prone, inviting body.
Kris had closed her eyes and was very much enjoying the feeling of strong fingers and hands moving over her legs. Her imagination and libido kicked in as she pictured those hands moving up her thighs and over her stomach and coming to rest on her breasts. She let out an almost inaudible sigh, but it was enough to bring both women back to their senses.
Raven jumped off the bed. "I'd, uh, better go change. Sorry I got the bed wet." She hurried back to her room through the connecting bathroom. 'Oh yeah, I'd really like to be the reason she and her bed got wet.' She recalled the glimpse she had gotten of Kris' body when the swimsuit was removed. Now she was wet and not because she had jumped in the pool. She took a cold shower and changed into a pair of white cotton slacks and matching shirt. She had just finished tucking her shirt in when she heard a knock on the bathroom door. "Come."
Kris entered with only a slight limp. "In all the commotion earlier, I forgot to thank you." She leaned against the post at the foot of the bed. "It actually took this long for me to realize that you saved my life." She leaned down to Raven, who was sitting on the end of the bed putting on shoes, and kissed her on the cheek. She saw the flush on the older woman's face and wondered if it was from embarrassment or if it might have something to do with the heavier breathing and what Kris hoped might be desire shining in those blue eyes.
The move had taken Raven by surprise. She felt her skin tingle from the contact of Kris' lips. She tried to regain control of her feelings before she did something she wouldn't be able to stop, but her body betrayed her. She placed her fingertips lightly against Kris' cheek and slowly closed the small distance between their lips. As she was tilting her head, Raven heard the voice coming from Kris' room through the open doors of the bathroom. She jumped up and moved away. 'Gods, Raven. Of all the stupid, dumb, idiotic, unprofessional things to do. She was just thanking you and you had to go and try to take advantage of her.' She stood in front of the mirror and ran her hands through her almost dry hair. 'Maybe I ought to bed Stephanie, it might get my lust under control.' As soon as the thought came to her, she knew she wouldn't be able to follow it through. She glanced at Kris' reflection in the mirror and felt a warmth flow through her body. 'Gods help me, I think I'm in love with the girl.' She shook her head, wondering what she was going to do about this new revelation when Vivian walked into the room.
"Here you two are. Mother says to come down to lunch, now." She saw the expression she was getting from her sister and knew that if looks could kill, she'd be dead and wondered what she had done wrong.
Kris couldn't believe it; Raven was going to kiss her. Her heart was pounding in her chest and she thought she was going to die before the short space that was between them, dissolved. The next thing she knew was Raven's lips and hand had moved away and Viv was speaking to her. She was about to explode when a hand gently squeezed her shoulder.
"We were just on our way down." Raven said as she opened her door and motioned for them to precede her. 'She's off limits. She's engaged. She's got a cute little butt. Stop it, Raven.' But her eyes still followed the gentle sway of hips all the way to the dining room.
Raven was both relieved and perturbed that she didn't see Kris again that day until dinner. Regina had ordered her daughter to spend the afternoon with her in her study, 'So you can recuperate from your ordeal'.
Raven and John did, however, use the time to slip out of the embassy to meet one of The Division's contacts that John had been told might have some useful information. They had waited on the guy for several hours but he never showed, which made Raven late for dinner. Which meant she had to endure snide comments from Mrs. Whitfield about being on time. Needless to say, Raven spent the entire time apologizing through gritted teeth.
Raven had excused herself shortly after the meal. She thought she might strangle the woman if she stayed much longer. She changed and headed for the gym. About halfway through her routine, she felt eyes watching and turned around to find Kris leaning against the door. 'Damn, must have really been pissed off not to hear her come in.' "Hey."
"My mother seems to have this kind of effect on most people." She pushed off her perch and walked towards Raven. "Sorry about her remarks earlier." She handed the sweating woman a towel.
"Not your fault." She wiped her face and neck. "Mothers can be?how should I put this?hard to train sometimes." They both started laughing.
"How about your mother?" Kris suddenly wanted to know everything about the person she loved. 'Yes, loved. I knew it the moment I first laid eyes on her and tried to tell myself I was crazy. Now if I could just find the courage to admit that to her.'
Raven suddenly seemed to be distant and sad. "I've spoken to my mother once in the last ten years and that was an argument." She stated when she drew her attention back to her companion.
"I'm sorry. You don't have to tell me if you don't want to. I didn't mean to bring up bad memories." 'God, that would mean she's been on her own since she was sixteen. How do kids survive like that?' She shuddered just thinking about the documentaries she had seen about life on the streets.
'I guess I'd better explain the rest now that I've started. It really doesn't matter as far as my cover story goes.' She saw the young woman shiver. "It's not that I don't want to, it's just that I've never felt comfortable telling anyone about myself before. Come on, let's go upstairs before someone catches me in here doing 'manly' things." That broke the stress of unpleasant thoughts and memories. Kris smiled and nodded her head in agreement. 'I'd kill to be able to see that smile everyday for the rest of my life.' Raven thought as they headed for her bedroom. 'Ah, Captain Chandler.' She addressed herself. 'You fooled around and fell in love, just like the song says. Now what in Tartarus do you plan to do about it?' She had no answer and turned her attention back to her companion.
"Why don't you get a shower and I'll go get us something to snack on while we talk?" Kris suggested.
Raven pulled the tie loose that held her hair back. "Do you ever get full?" She grinned. Kris' stomach chose that moment to announce itself. "Guess that would be a no." They both laughed and Kris turned red.
Kris sat the tray down in the middle of the bed and put the wine bottle and glasses on the nightstand. She was lucky no one but Issy had been in the kitchen, otherwise, no wine. Her parents were strict when it came to their children and alcohol. Even though Kris was twenty-one, they didn't consider her an adult until she was married. 'As long as you're living under my roof, you'll do as I say.' Was one of her father's favorite sayings. And her mother was hell bent on keeping Kris under their roof until that time, 'It's not proper for a young lady of your social class to be living on her own. It gives people the wrong idea.' She had really never argued with her parents, it was just easier to let them have their way.
Raven entered the room to find Kris lost in thought. "Hey, quarter for your thoughts."
"I thought it was a penny?" She sat up and swallowed hard at the vision that greeted her eyes. 'She has got to be the most beautiful creature God ever created.' Raven's black hair was towel dried so it wasn't dripping but was still wet enough to be slicked back away from her face, which was still glowing from the hot water. She wore a silk robe that was barely held together by the sash around her waist, the color was a vivid blue that matched her eyes perfectly.
Raven saw the reaction and made a mental note to thank Sharon, John's fiancée, for making her buy the robe. "Yeah it use to be, but you ought to know about inflation and all that. Didn't you study economics and all those equations the government uses just to get more taxes out of us?"
Kris grinned and answered the initial question. "I was just thinking about growing up and wondering how much your childhood effects what you become. Not just your profession, but your personality, your thoughts, your beliefs and how you treat your friends and family and even strangers." She explained to Raven about her parent's beliefs, how she and her siblings were raised and how she had not questioned her parents or voiced her own opinions. "You know the funny thing is, that they don't come from 'old money' like they lead everyone to believe. My father's family is middle class. My mother's parents owned a family restaurant in Baltimore when my mother was born, so they were basically working stiffs too. My grandpa, mother's father, happened to luck out in the stock market. He decided to do something different for my grandma's birthday one year and bought this relatively new stock that happened to have the same initials as hers and in the next several years, made a fortune."
Raven was intrigued. "You gonna tell me or make me guess?" She handed the grinning young woman the glass of wine she had poured for her and sat down on the bed facing her.
"Umm, this is good." She took another sip, prolonging the suspense. She smiled at her companion that was now impatiently drumming her fingers on the tray of food. "Ok, ok. Her name is Irene Bernice McKenzie."
Two eyebrows shot up. "IBM." She chuckled. "You're pulling my leg."
"Nope." Kris took a cracker and piece of cheese from the tray. "So don't let my mother and her high and mighty ways fool you." She gestured with the hand that held her food. "My grandparents say she's just a spoiled brat that forgets her beginnings." She popped the treat in her mouth. She finished chewing and swallowed. "So, tell me about you. That is if you still want to." She reached for an olive. She didn't want to seem over anxious but she desperately wanted Raven to trust her enough to be able to tell her anything.
Raven swallowed the grapes she was munching on and took a deep breath. "As I told your mother, my father left when I was four. I've got one older brother, Philip; he's three years older. Derek was two years younger and Lisa was a year younger than he was. My mother managed a restaurant in downtown Seattle, still does as far as I know, and was at work most of the time while we grew up. Philip and I were responsible for Derek and Lisa when mom was at work, but when Philip turned thirteen, he fell in with what I know now was a bad crowd at school. They would come over to the house when mom wasn't home and bring beer. I also found out later that they were gang members and they were also bringing drugs." Raven paused to take a sip of wine.
"Did you tell your mom about it?" Kris asked after the silence grew.
"Yeah, she wouldn't believe me. Philip was her pride and joy. I was?well, I reminded her of dad and she hated him for leaving her. When she was mad, she would tell me I looked and acted just like him. After he left, she always called me by my middle name; she refused to call me Raven because he had insisted on naming me that." She saw the questioning look. "Frances or Fran if she wasn't mad at me." She answered.
"Raven Frances. I like that, it's pretty." She spread some peanut butter over a cracker and offered it to Raven. "She never remarried?"
She shook her head at the offered tidbit. "How can you eat that with wine?" She cringed at the combination.
"I like to eat really hot and spicy foods and I think somewhere along the way, I fried my taste buds. Either that or I just like really strange combinations of foods." She grinned.
"No, to answer your question. Mom's a devout Catholic, so no divorce, no remarriage and no men in her life. I think that's why she threw herself into work. So, between the two of us, she took Philip's word over mine. I tried to keep Derek and Lisa away from Philip and his friends, but Derek looked up to his big brother and wanted Philip to include him in all their fun. At first they were good to him, but then they started giving him beer. I confronted Philip but he said if I told mom he would tell her it was me giving the stuff to Derek, and I knew she would believe him, so I kept my mouth shut. After awhile, I started to notice Derek acting stranger than he did when they got him drunk but I still didn't go to mom." She poured more wine and took a healthy swallow.
"Oh god, they started giving him drugs." Kris guessed.
"Yeah, although I didn't know it at the time. I only found out by accident a few years later. They must have given him too much or had a bad batch one day, because Derek started going into convulsions. Philip's 'friends' took him into the kitchen while Philip held me back in the doorway. I really think Philip thought they were going to help Derek and that's why he kept me from going to him. But they just wanted to cover their own asses." Raven clutched the comforter so tightly in her fists that her knuckles turned white. It was like she was there in the kitchen again; everything was so clear and vivid. She felt herself shaking and felt the tears flow down her cheeks. She couldn't go through this again, she wouldn't. She was about to bolt from the room when she felt a warm hand close over hers and she slowly returned to the present.
The hurt and anger she saw on her friend's face scared Kris. She wasn't sure what she should do, but she had to try and help to ease the pain. "Raven, I'm here, it's over now." She rubbed her hands over the clinched fists and squeezed firmly.
Raven looked into sincere green eyes and took several deep breaths to slow her heart rate. "Sorry, I didn't mean to go away on you like that." She let go of the bedcover and held Kris' hands. "It felt like I was standing in that kitchen again. It's still so vivid."
"It's ok, you don't need to finish, it's too hard on you." Kris' eyes were filled with sorrow.
Part of her was reluctant to go on with the story. She didn't want to have to tell this innocent young woman that she stood by and let her brother die. Her rational adult mind knew that a ten-year-old child was not responsible but her heart still felt like she was. "No, I started and now I feel that I need to finish telling you."
Kris had leaned forward when she covered Raven's hands and had to let go as she straightened her back and sat up. She saw the flash of disappointment cross Raven's face when she removed her hands and quickly moved closer to Raven and brought one of her friend's hands into her lap. "This ok?" Kris held up the joined appendages.
"Yeah, thanks." Raven cleared her throat and looked down to cover her embarrassment at needing the contact. She regained her composure before starting her story again. "Instead of trying to help Derek they wanted to make it look like it was an accident I guess. They grabbed some kind of cleaning solution and poured it down his throat. I just stood there, frozen to the spot. The next thing I notice, is them standing in front of us, threatening us if we said anything. Then they ran out of the house and I called 911. I held his head in my lap, I didn't know what else to do, he died before they got there."
"How could they, he was just a little boy?" Kris now had tears running down her face. "And you were just a little girl, how did you get through something so horrible?"
Raven stared at the pattern in the comforter without really seeing it. "It was my fault. I should've said something to mom when it started but I didn't want her mad at me. Then when they dragged him into the kitchen I just stood there and watched while they killed him, I didn't try to stop them."
"Look at me." Kris gently took Raven's face between her hands and looked into eyes that were haunted by guilt and self-incrimination. "You were TEN-YEARS-OLD." She raised her voice, commanding attention. "How could you stop them? They would have KILLED you, too."
Raven wanted so badly to believe that someone else thought of her as innocent. "Philip ran out of the house before anyone got there. I told the police that Philip knew that his friends were responsible but he lied and said he had been gone to the mall all afternoon and had left me in charge. Mom believed him, of course, and blamed me for Derek's death. Told me if I had watched him better, been more careful, that he would still be alive."
"I'm so sorry." Kris didn't know what else to say so she drew Raven's head down to rest on her shoulder and just held her for awhile. "Did you run away?" She knew that she had helped to lessen Raven's guilt when she had not blamed her and wanted to see if there might be more weight she could ease from the woman's broad shoulders.
"No." She took the tissue Kris offered her and wiped her eyes, but never removed her head from the comfort of her friend's shoulder. "I withdrew into myself. For about two years, I did everything that mom wanted, when she wanted it. I went to mass, I attended confirmation classes and I continued to do well in school. I had always been a straight A student." She sighed deeply.
Kris realized that she was slowly rubbing her hand up and down Raven's back in a soothing motion and wondered if she should stop. 'Oh well, she doesn't seem to mind.' So she continued. "What happened then?"
She took a deep breath trying to control her emotions. "That, my friend, is a story for another time. It's late and you've had a tiring day, with trying to drown yourself and all." That and she wasn't sure she could take much more reminiscing. Raven hugged the young woman tightly. "Thank you for listening and thank you for believing that it wasn't my fault." She drudged up a smile for her companion.
"You're welcome. And I meant it, it wasn't your fault." She stood by the bed, leaned down and placed a kiss on Raven's forehead. She picked up the tray, her glass and the wine bottle. "I'll leave you your glass so you can finish. Good night."
"Night." Raven said. As she watched Kris leave her room she wondered how the young woman would feel about her after she told her the rest of the story. 'If I tell her, she'll probably be so terrified that she runs in the other direction when she sees me coming. But I seem to be compelled to be honest with her.'
Raven's senses feel an intruder near her and her body reacts without thought. She grabs the arm reaching for her, flips the attached body over hers onto the bed, pins the person with her body and with an iron grip, wraps her hand around a slender throat. When the intruder offers no resistance, Raven reaches over and turns on the bedside lamp. The low wattage bulb casts a soft light over the two prone figures on the bed. "Oh gods, I'm sorry." She quickly removed her hand. "I should have told you never to try and wake me up. Did I hurt you?"
Kris was having mixed feeling. Her body was reacting in a very positive way to having Raven's body in contact with hers. But the choking part was making her a little light headed and she really, really wanted to remain conscious just on the off chance that Raven continued the stimulating part of her attack.
Raven raised herself to her knees, straddling her companion's stomach. She placed her hands on Kris' shoulders and gently shook her when she didn't immediately receive an answer. "Kris?"
She sighed when Raven sat up, on one hand, she missed the bodily contact but on the other hand her eyes got to feast on a body clad only in a short black tee shirt and black cotton boxers with Scooby Doo on them. Kris regained her composure, by the hardest, and cleared her throat. "I always heard that politics was cut-throat, but this is ridiculous." She chuckled. "Let me go out on a limb here and guess that you're not really a congressional aid."
"I'm going to go out on a limb also and assume, that since you're joking, you're not hurt." Raven moved off of Kris' stomach and lay down on her side facing the young woman when Kris nodded that she was indeed okay. "No, I'm not." The Captain admitted knowing that she was taking more of a risk, both personally and professionally with this young woman. More than she had every done with any one before, but it felt right to confide in her. "What are you doing sneaking in here anyway?"
Kris turned on her side to face her friend. "I got up to go to the bathroom, I should know better than to drink that much liquid before going to bed, and heard you cry out. I was just going to look in on you, but you looked like you were having a nightmare, and I figured that by making you tell me about your family probably caused it so I felt bad and I didn't want you to suffer all night. So, I was going to wake you and here we are. I guess it's a good thing that I had already used the bathroom or we'd be changing your sheets about now." She returned the grin she was getting from Raven. "So, Ms. Chandler, who are you? Should I be worried that I'm sharing a bed with an imposter? Or should I be grateful that you aren't who you say you are because if you were, you would have more-than-likely lived up to my expectations of you?"
"And just what kind of person were you expecting?" Raven asked after she got past the 'sharing a bed' part. Kris explained what she had envisioned her companion to look like. "Frumpy spinster, huh." Raven raised an eyebrow.
"Not to change the subject or anything, but you going tell me who you are?" Kris asked hopefully.
"Can you keep a secret?" Raven knew it didn't matter too much about her cover story. It was just supposed to make it easier to deal with the Ambassador, it wasn't life and death. After getting Kris' assurance, she started her explanation. "Did you see the new security team that arrived the day after I did?" The girl nodded. "They're my people."
"You're in the Marines?"
"Not exactly." She gave the official version of what The Division was. And to her surprise she also told Kris what they really were. "You can get me in a tremendous amount of trouble by repeating any of this." She held up her hand to stop the obvious question. "I don't know why I told you, except to say that I trust you. And there's only been one other person I've ever trusted this much and that's John Logan."
"I won't betray that trust." She reassured her companion. "How did you get recruited, or should I say hired by this group? And how did you find out about them in the first place?"
"It's a long story." She warned.
"I'm not sleepy." She said as she sat up and crossed her legs, propping her elbows on her knees and her chin in her hands. "Talk to me, Captain. Or should I say, vee have vays of making you talk."
Raven also sat up and leaned back against the headboard. "I need to start the story where we stopped earlier." She crossed her ankles and prayed to whatever god or goddess that might be listening that her young companion wouldn't hate her too badly.
"We lived in an area that was not the greatest place to grow up, it wasn't the roughest but it was far from being considered good. I had stayed late at school one day and had to take a Metro bus home instead of the school bus and as I was walking from the bus stop, I saw one of the bastards that killed Derek and I followed him into an alley. I hid behind a pile of trash and overheard him talking to another guy that must have been from the same gang. Another young kid had died the same way Derek had. The leader of this gang was getting kids hooked young so that he would have them under his thumb. Then he would use their habit to control them so they would sell his drugs in their schools. I decided that I had a new purpose in life and that was to stop them and make them pay for what they did to my brother.
So I went behind mom's back and started taking every defense and martial arts class that I could find. I would work off the lessons by doing odd jobs in the afternoon for the instructors and take their early evening classes. Philip had a job after school by then and Mom was always at work and she kept Lisa with her. I had to lie to our priest though, I told him that mom needed help at work so he wouldn't question why I missed the confirmation classes, and then I was pretty much on my own. Right before my fifteenth birthday, I had a second-degree black belt in several different disciplines, Karate, Tae kwon do, Jujitsu and Kendo. My instructors said that they had never seen anyone advance so fast. Of course I didn't tell them what my incentive was.
Then I started hanging around the places the gang did, trying to find their leader and the others that were at the house that day. I thought that if I could get enough evidence the police would put them in jail. Well I finally did and they were. But little did I know that justice and the law sometimes are two separate things. It never even went to court; the judge threw it out. He said that the evidence was obtained illegally or something along those lines."
"So they let them go? Did they know it was you that went to the police?" Kris saw that same haunted look enter Raven's eyes that she had seen earlier. She couldn't imagine being fifteen and infiltrating a gang.
"Yes and no not at first." Raven really didn't want to tell Kris the rest of the story, but if the girl wanted Raven to be her friend, she owed her the complete truth. "I was so enraged when I found out that they were free, I went off the deep end. I started staying out on the streets at night drinking, but I never would do drugs. I'm not sure why, because looking back on it, I was really set on self-destruction." She got up and poured herself a glass of water then resumed her place on the bed. "I was arrested a few times for drunk and disorderly, resisting arrest, shoplifting, minor stuff really. That's how I met John."
"He'd been arrested too?"
Raven laughed. "Oh, I've got to tell him that. No, he's the cop that kept hauling my butt in." She offered Kris the water glass, then turned serious again. "A couple of days before my sixteenth birthday, I heard that another kid had died the same way that Derek had and the that the gang members had been questioned, but not held. By that time my family had pretty much disowned me and I didn't care what happened to me, so I went after the gang members that were responsible for Derek's death and just hoped that they were the same ones that had killed the other kids too." She cleared her throat and looked at the innocent girl that she could have been if things had turned out differently. 'That's water under the bridge though.'
Kris sensed Raven's reluctance and held one of her companion's hands in both of hers. "I know that this isn't going to be pleasant to relive, but I think it will do you some good to talk about it." She sincerely hoped it would.
Raven looked into unwavering green eyes and took a deep breath. "I've never even told John this." She admitted. "Although I think he probably guessed what happened."
"Take you're time, I'm not going anywhere." Kris promised.
Raven took another swallow of water and placed the glass back on the nightstand as she started to remember the past. "I lured the five that I knew were responsible for killing my brother to an old abandoned store by telling them that I would bring them the person that had turned them in to the police the year before. They thought I had tricked them when I showed up alone and started telling me what they were going to do to me and how much I was going to act like I enjoyed it, for making them look like fools."
Kris gasped. "They didn't?you weren't?" She couldn't finish the thought.
Raven understood what she was trying to ask. "No, Kris, they didn't get near me much less hurt me. Don't forget the kind of training I had. They were nothing but bullies with guns and knives." She noticed the relief on her companion's face. "I was able to disarm them quickly. I don't think they were used to having someone fight back." Raven glanced down; she knew she couldn't look Kris in the eye.
Raven had relived those moments in that abandoned store so many times in her nightmares that she remembered every last detail of that fateful night down to the smell of fear that saturate the building.
She stood across from the gang members and reminded them of what happened almost six years before. It took them awhile to remember and that drove Raven to the breaking point. Not a day passed for her without thoughts of Derek and they couldn't even remember him. A vicious maniacal expression settled on her face and they started pleading for their worthless lives. She remembered grinning at their useless pleas; it must have been fairly sadistic because she saw the fear in their eyes. The more she stared, the more afraid they became. The more afraid they became the stronger and more empowered she felt. She fed off the incredible rush of holding that kind of power over someone. One guy made a run for the door but she hit him so hard in the nose with the heel of my hand she pushed the bones into his brain, he died a few seconds after he hit the floor. Another one, pleading for his life, tried to convince her that he was just doing what their leader told him to do. He walked slowly towards her, thinking she would let him go. She grabbed him and turned him to face his friends while she stood behind him, putting her arms around him quickly and snapping his neck. One of the others pulled a knife that he had hidden in his boot and charged her. Stepping to the side at the last minute and grabbing his wrist, she spun him around and used his own knife to slit his throat. As he fell she threw the knife into the chest of another one that tried to run past her to the exit. That left the leader. He was terrified, she could see him shaking and could smell the odor of urine since he at some point wet himself. She didn't realize until later, but all of her senses were heightened. She remembered the sound of their breathing and could tell the exact point when each man's heart stopped beating. Raven laughed when he started begging again. When she moved towards him, he tried to turn and run but she caught him from behind by his collar and belt. She never knew how she did it, but she lifted him up above her head and held his struggling body there long enough to tell him that they would meet again in hell. She let his body fall as she dropped to her knee, he fell across her bent leg and let his own weight break his back. The sound of his spine snapping was what always woke her up from her nightmare.
"That night I murdered five people." Tears were running down her cheeks and she tried to remove her hand from Kris' but the young woman wouldn't let go. "How can you still want to touch me?" Her voice was a combination of pain, anguish, fear and guilt.
'Oh my god, what do I say to her. She hates herself and expects me to hate her too.' "Quit, I'm not letting go." When the struggling stopped she did let go with one hand, placed her fingers under Raven's chin and lifted until green met blue. "I don't blame you for what you did. You tried to do it the right way the first time and it got you nowhere. It's not up to me to judge you or what you did. But ask yourself how you would have felt if another innocent kid had died." Kris watched hope flicker in the eyes that were locked onto hers.
"You don't?hate me?" She couldn't believe that this sweet, untainted soul could not be sickened by what she had just admitted to.
"No. How could I hate someone that stopped those monsters from hurting children? The way I see it, you didn't murder five people, you stopped five bastards from killing again." She rested her forehead against Raven's. "You went through so much at such a young age. I wish I could have been there for you."
Raven noticed the tears that had run down Kris' face and realized that they had been tears of sympathy for Raven's innocence that had died that night, not for the men that she had killed. "Thank you. But I'm glad you weren't. I wasn't the kind of person then that you should have been around or that you would have wanted to know." They held on to each other for several silent minutes.
"So, we've known each other for two days and you think you can pick and choose my friends for me, huh?" The twinkle in her green eyes and the warmth in her voice let Raven know she was joking. "I'll tell you one thing, Captain Chandler, as long as you're one of them it's alright with me." She knew she caught her off guard because Raven sat there with her mouth hanging open. "You better shut that or you're gonna catch flies. Now, finish your story because you still haven't told me how you came to work for The Division." Kris knew that this was probably just the first of many steps Raven's soul would need to take for the healing process to be complete and she hoped that she would be there to help her new friend take the rest.
Raven closed her mouth with an audible snap. "You know, you're something else?Sagira."
"Sagira? Where did that come from? What does it mean?" She noticed the sly smile on her companion's face. "You're not making fun of me are you? You know, if you are, I just might have to hurt you." Kris feigned anger and waggled her finger in Raven's face.
"No, no, definitely not." Raven was quick to reassure her. "I meant it as a complement, honest." She captured Kris' hand that was waving under her nose and held it in both of hers. "It's an Egyptian name, meaning little one." She watched Kris take a deep breath and knew she'd better explain in a hurry. "I'm not commenting on you're stature." She assured her companion. "You just remind me of one of those cute little sprites." 'Besides, you must have a magic wand hidden somewhere, because you've made me feel something other than anger and pain.'
'Yes, she thinks I'm cute.' The thought brought a dazzling smile to Kris' face. "You know of course this means I'll have to come up with a nickname for you." They settled back onto the bed with both leaning against the headboard and still holding hands.
'I wonder if I should worry about that?' Raven thought before she picked up her story from where she had stopped. "Well, to make an already long story a little longer." She explained that she had ended up in Juvenile Hall, but not for the killings. She and several others had been tested and recruited by The Division. She had gone through two years of training and graduated at the top of her class in both the physical testing and in the classroom. "After I finished the training I went back to see mom, to explain everything to her, but she wouldn't listen. She told me she never wanted to see me again. So, I haven't talked to anyone in my family for the past eight years." She felt Kris squeeze her hand and she smiled. "Anyway, I owed The Division four years of work in return for the training and for getting me out of trouble, so I started out at a low rank, worked my way up and now I have a team that I command."
"I have a feeling you're making that sound a lot more simple than it really is." Kris yawned, looked at the clock and groaned. "Tell me it's not 3 o'clock in the morning, please."
"Ok, I won't." She chuckled at the indignant expression she was receiving. "Come on, Sagira, its time for bed."
"Can I just stay here?" She realized how that might sound and held her breath. Not that she was opposed to a loving, physical relationship, in fact she was almost sure she wanted that with Raven, she just didn't mean at this particular moment.
Raven smiled and let her companion panic for a few minutes. "What would happen if I over slept in the morning and someone came in to wake me, I don't think we would be able to explain the situation to anyone's satisfaction."
"Uh yeah, I see what you mean." Kris imagined having to explain that to her parents. 'Ugh, don't want to go there.'
'And besides, I'm sleepy not dead. I don't think I could lay here without being able to hold you or touch you.' A grin slowly formed on Raven's face at the thought of holding Kris all night.
Kris had gotten up and started back to her own room when she remember that neither of them had made any move to complete the kiss that had almost happened before dinner. She quickly moved to stand beside Raven and when she looked up questioningly at her, Kris leaned down and covered Raven's lips with her own before she lost her nerve. The kiss was not meant to be passionate or erotic, it was a confirmation of trust and friendship and maybe a promise of things to come. "Goodnight, Raven."
Raven felt her lips tingle from the contact. "Goodnight, Sagira." She whispered as she watched the young woman who had captured her heart in such a short time, return to her own room. 'I think I'm in big trouble here, very big trouble. But you know what? I really don't give a damn. I've discovered that I can feel again and she's made me want to live again, not just exist.' Raven laid her head down on her pillow and smiled at the door that led to the woman that changed her life in less than two days time.
Continued in Part 2.