Part 2

Several months later.

Wiscasett locals wondered about Reva Cheney. Already a semi-recluse, after the rumors of her being seen with a young man during the early part of summer, she grew even worse. She was seen about town only for necessary purposes. On occasion, people would catch a glimpse of her, usually at sunset, wandering alone up and down the beaches, notepad constantly tucked under one arm. Mostly, Reva secluded herself in her home. The computer age being what it was, she maintained constant contact with her publishing company, and Fed Ex trucks were seen fetching and delivering packages to her home. She buried herself in work, doing everything she could to avoid thinking.

In those quiet times when she sat in her drawing room surrounded by rough drafts, inks, pens, and completed drawings, Reva would get an eerie feeling that she was being watched. She'd scan the surrounding trees and beach, searching for anything; a shadow, reflections from binoculars, people where they shouldn't be, boats in the bay anchored for too long. Nothing. Yet she knew somebody watched the house.

Her first hard evidence came as October ended and garden work brought her out of doors. Cleaning, dead-heading, mulching, pruning and other winter preparations kept her grounds in shape. In the garden near her bedroom window a very rare, Japanese Full Moon Maple grew humbly. Its nearly round, chartreuse-green leaves had turned a glorious yellow before dropping. She discovered it was damaged one day when she had gone into to town for groceries. At first she thought a large animal had crashed through the garden, but then she found the edge of a footprint in the recently turned soil next to the tree. She knew right away that it belonged to a foot far larger then hers. A cold dread settled over her like a mantle.

Reva cautiously went inside, turned right into the kitchen, set the grocery bags on the bar, her every sense straining. She moved to stand in the junction of the dining room and living room, her eyes searching. The quirky quality of her photographic memory knew precisely how everything in the room had been left. Anyone from her former job would be aware of that fact and never touch a thing. This wasn't the case.

Drawings from her latest project, 'Ring of Bright Water', were not in the same position they had been when she had been working on them that morning. Several dozen drawings, spread around her dining room table, had been shifted ever so slightly. Knowing she stood in the most exposed part of her home, surrounded by windows, she refrained from glancing at her computer desk. A ghostly voice echoed in her ears... ‘keep calm and don't react.’ How she hated hearing that voice after all these years.

She proceeded to go about putting the groceries away, her eyes locating those things in her home that had been moved and put back. No doubt remained in her mind that someone had gone through her house and that they were not from her previous job.

Late that night, she started up a fire and pulled the curtains closed. Going to the computer desk, she opened up a cabinet and removed its contents. She reached in and poked out the back panel and then drew out a large, thick, leather-bound and locked notebook.

Sitting down on the hearth, she set the strange book on her lap, gently tugging the fire screen open. She thumbed the tab, unlocking the book. Inside was a place for drawing paper; the other side held drawings.

The first few were intricate floor plans and bits and pieces of different handwritings, she barely glanced at them as she tossed them into the fireplace. The increased glow of flames illuminated her face. The other drawings were of one man. She hesitated over one and studied it, her features still and emotionless.

They were of an older man. He had a face that could have been carved out of granite. Long and angular with a prominent brow and short-cropped hair. Square chin, high cheekbones and light colored eyes. Where visible, his hands appeared large and capable. Most of the drawings were of the man bent over his desk, the background full of books. He'd either be propping his head up with one hand, staring at something, or peering directly at the viewer over the top of his glasses with a gaze that could cut a person in two. In one drawing, he was talking with someone not pictured, pointedly using his glasses to get a message across. In most he wore plain shirts, with a sweater vest, and usually with a loosened tie, but there were several in which he had on a bow-tie, looking oddly appropriate on him. In all of the drawings, there was one common thread. The eyes. Something sinister, mysterious, and intimidating gleamed from them, demanding attention and respect. They were the eyes of a very powerful man. A man you most certainly never messed with. One by one, Reva tossed them into the fire, until only a few remained.

Reva's face changed as she looked over the last three drawings. In one, the same man looked transformed as he sat back in his chair, the glasses held in his hand, the earpiece of one side resting lightly on his temple. He smiled, rather warmly, his gaze looking down, contemplating. The second showed him with his fingers steepled together, elbows on his desk, lost in deep thought. The last showed him sitting back in his chair, relaxed, the glasses held down loosely, the tie gone, collar unbuttoned and a soft warm smile on his face. The normal malevolent look was gone. His gaze appeared full of deep and sincere fondness. It was a look of both compassion and care. Reva stared at that drawing as she absently tossed the previous two into the fireplace. Finally, a look of bitterness and anger drifted across her features and, with a scowl, she viciously crumpled the drawing in her hand threw it into the fireplace and watched it burn.

The little tell-tale signs of being watched continued as November came to an end. By then, Reva had postponed the surgery to her throat long enough. She made arrangements for the necessary operation. Reluctantly, as she dearly loved her big Maine Coon cat, she boarded Toby at the vet’s, knowing full well that she'd not be able to care for him properly in the days following.

As she packed her belongings, her eyes fell on the otter Beanie Baby Mickey had given to her. She sighed; it had seemed like ages since he had been there. And she had heard nothing from him since then. She had missed him terribly at first, then became resigned to the idea that he probably would not return. She picked the toy up off her nightstand. Despite Mickey being there such a short time, he had made an impact on her. She had never felt so lonely before in her life. The toy got slipped into her suitcase, along with a leather case holding her gun. Nobody in the hospital would know she had that. She then took Toby to the vet’s.

She remarked in passing to Bonnie, the receptionist, that she felt like someone was watching the house, and would she mind keeping an eye open for strangers? The receptionist gladly agreed, neither noticing Dr. Lasker’s look of alarm.

A few days following surgery, (with a reluctant doctor’s agreement), Reva was released; sick, gaunt, and grey, but mobile. The doctors had forbidden the use of sweaters until the ten-stitch incision could heal. The nausea barely kept under control with medication, Reva loaded herself in her old pickup and began the long drive back to Wiscasett. She didn't fail to notice a car following her at some distance almost all the way back. She tried to bury the paranoia, knowing full well that the highway leading to Wiscasett was the only one to get you there.

As luck, or lack thereof, would have it, her truck began spluttering, then died twenty miles from home.

For several minutes Reva tried in vain to get it started. No matter what she did, all she got was a dull click out of the starter. Just as evening fell, she found herself stranded, as the car behind her came and went. She slapped the steering wheel in frustration, feeling the cold seep into her cab. Not for the first time, she kicked herself for not getting rid of the old truck and buying a new one. She shivered under her long wool coat, wondering if it was from cold or weakness. She sighed in disgust and climbed out of the cab. Her body shook from the effects of the weather and the surgery, as she popped open the hood of her truck.

She propped it open in the typical sign of distress and looked in disgust at the engine. Mechanics was definitely not one of her strong points. A deathly stillness had settled around her in the remote countryside, with the lowering clouds promising snow. Reva looked around her, all too uncomfortably aware she was totally alone. Icy prickles other than from cold raised the hair up on the nape of her neck. She went back into the cab, popped the glove box opened and searched for her gun... and did not find it.

"Damn!" she whispered out loud, actually having a bit more voice now that the scar tissue had been removed. She thought frantically, trying to remember what she had done with the gun. She knew it had to be in the truck. Knowing she'd be down a few days she had moved it to a different location. A search through her suitcase produced nothing. She searched under the seat and felt the familiar leather case. With relief, she then remembered having moved it, just that morning, out of her luggage. As her hand found the grip, her ears caught the sound of feet on gravel. Reva jerked upright, pulled the gun out of its holster and turned to face the back of the truck. That eerie ghostly voice in her head urged her to ‘stay calm, maintain your bearing’. She leveled the gun, double handed and very sure at a shadow that moved her way along the road’s edge.

"Stop right there!" her voice croaked out, sounding pathetically weak. The form stopped.

"Don't think for a minute I won't use this," she hoarsely added. She felt the weakness creeping up her legs. In the gloom she realized the form was a man, dressed head to foot in black, including the full-face mask. Reva stared at him, appalled. He looked like something straight out of the X-files. She thumbed the safety off.

"Get out of here!" she grated. He held his hands out, saying nothing. She took a step towards him. She then heard movement behind her and her reflexes took over.

As she spun around towards the front of her truck, she barely caught sight of a second man reaching out for her, swinging a club. The club connected just as the gun went off, simultaneously. The report echoed loudly through the darkened woods. The second man flew awkwardly backwards, the club flying from his hands, as a blinding flash of light exploded in Reva’s vision. It was the last thing she remembered.

She crumpled to the ground, gun still held in her hand, as the first man vanished. Stillness crashed over the scene. Soon snow began to fall and nothing moved…

New York City

Lazily, Mickey blinked his eyes open. A moment of disorientation washed over him as he stared at the ceiling and walls in some confusion. Half a breath later he realized he was lying in his own bed, in his own apartment; he sighed in relief. With a groan, he sat up, looking about him in the gloom of pre-dawn light. He'd slept too long in one position, his aching body told him. Unsnapping the shoulder holster he had been wearing when he had fallen asleep, he slid out of it, wrapped the straps around the gun and set it on the night table. An ankle holster quickly followed suit. One tug on a stiff sock convinced him it was time to bathe. With typical bachelor disarray, he shed clothes and immersed himself in a long, hot, steamy shower.

He felt a world of difference when he emerged into his living room a short while later. With clean jeans, an off white cable knit sweater and freshly shaved, he finger combed his wet hair out of his face, grateful that it didn't need cutting for a while. He gazed with dismay at the wreck of his apartment. Never having been too orderly in his personal possessions, what now greeted him, however, was depressing. The kitchen needed sanitizing and everything had at least a ½ inch of dust on it. The only order to be visibly seen, lay on the coffee table. A southern antebellum mansion lay under construction, an incredibly detailed piece of architecture that was slowly being built of toothpicks. A bottle of glue, several boxes of toothpicks and a set of his very expensive wire cutters sat neatly to one side. Yet none of it escaped the coating of dust. Mickey sighed.

"My son," he could hear Robert McCall’s ghostly voice echoing in his ear, "you are a slob." He smirked. Too true. He retreated back into the bedroom, somehow locating a pair of clean socks. Upon re-arming himself, he put on his winter gear and fled his apartment, ironically recalling how badly he had wanted to get there the night before. After all, it had only been six months since he had last been home.

Getting dropped off by a cab near Central Park, Mickey began to walk with no particular destination in mind, although, inevitably, he'd end up in Manhattan. The whole city seemed grey and frigid. It would snow anytime, now. Mickey wondered what Wiscasett looked like under snow. During all his time away Reva had never left his thoughts.

As he wandered about the park, he pondered over his latest deep cover operation that had been somewhere in Bulgaria. In the slack moments, his mind had constantly gone back to the summer and the strange, troubled blonde he had met. He hated admitting it to himself, but he found himself lying out in the open fields at night staring at the stars, wondering what she was doing, and missing her. The questions that surrounded her had refused to be resolved. More than anything, when he finally was allowed to return home, he wanted to see her again. Having flown east from Bulgaria to the US, he had landed first at LAX en route to New York. It wasn't hard to locate a post card in the many gift shops, with a grizzled sea otter floating contentedly in a kelp bed. He scrawled a day on it, signed only his first name, and sent it off to Reva's home.

He eventually found his way to Robert's brownstone apartment and now, to his dismay, saw that the windows were darkened, indicating the other wasn't home. He settled himself, leaning, in the doorway of a building across the street, and waited.

Presently, Mickey spotted a familiar Jaguar as it approached the brownstone's separate parking garage and to his relief saw that the other man was alone. He moved out from the doorway, let himself be spotted, and followed the car inside. The Jaguar was parked one level down and an older man climbed out, elegantly dressed in a dark suit, his silver hair combed neatly back. A pair of wire rim glasses eloquently added to the man’s natural dignity. The man was nearly the same height as Mickey, his build more stocky compared to Kostmayer's leanness; however he carried himself very well, shoulders back, head up. A proud, confident man. Intense hazel eyes glanced quickly around as the younger man approached. He wrapped his long, overcoat about him to ward off the garage's chill.

"Mickey." His clear, very British accent greeted him. "Been playing a long while in the Balkans again, I understand?"

Mickey smirked at him. "Jealous?" he cracked back.

McCall snorted, smiling slightly, gently shutting the Jaguar's door. "Not in the slightest. When did you get into town? You look as if you haven't slept in a week."

Mickey smiled wryly, hunching into his army coat. "Only last night."

"And obviously you did not sleep very well," Robert said dryly. Mickey could only shrug in agreement and smirk. Robert smiled slightly, clapped him on the shoulder, and led the way to the garage elevator.

"Come along then, I'm sure I can find something to feed you."

"I didn't come over here to eat!" Mickey protested.

"Of course you didn't," McCall murmured, nodding sagely.

"Does my coming over here always have to do with food?" Mickey protested.

"Not at all, not at all..." Robert replied soothingly, pressing the button for the elevator. He smiled slightly at him. "Scott is far worse about that than you."

Mickey gave him a pained look, as if to say, 'Give me a break!'

The elevator doors whooshed open, Robert held out a gloved hand and tipped his head for Mickey to go first. Mickey entered, grateful that he had found McCall in an amiable mood.

Robert smiled paternally, loneliness, or something he had asked Kostmayer to do, were the usual reasons Mickey came to Manhattan. Kostmayer rarely sought advice, and somehow it touched Robert that he came to him for it. Only around himself had Robert ever seen Mickey relax. Robert noticed Kostmayer looked tired, and he had heard rumors through the grapevine that Mickey had been responsible for several key demolitions at strategic points. Then of course he had to come home to that apartment...

"I take it things went well?" he ventured as they rode up.

"I'm in one piece," Mickey commented, his face looking angelically innocent.

Robert shook his head, knowing full well whoever was on the receiving end of Mickey's "expertise" certainly would not be in one solid piece. The crooked pixyish grin on Mickey’s face spoke volumes to the older agent.

"I guess we should thank Him for that!"

"What are you doing out so early?" Kostmayer asked.

"I was visiting with a client," Robert replied easily. "Works the graveyard shift at one of the textile factories. Turned out I was able to help him solve his problem there on the spot."

"I wondered why you were in such a good mood," Mickey commented, carefully not looking at him.

Robert blinked once, "Are you implying...." he stopped, then smiled. "Kostmayer.…" he warned.

Mickey grinned, "So what's for breakfast?" he asked and glanced at him.

Robert shook his head.

They lightly talked shop on the stroll to Robert's brownstone and continued over their meal. Robert mostly caught him up on his various cases. Many times he had solicited Mickey for help, and as the younger agent owed his very life and freedom to his mentor, he helped without being asked twice. Discounting the fact that he did have a screw or two loose, Robert had seen him change a bit over the years, a gradual healing. And his work as an operative was beyond measure.

Robert noticed, through the meal, that Mickey seemed preoccupied. There were very few people Robert ever trusted and Mickey had been his protege for many years now. McCall was constantly aware of that delicate tightrope Mickey walked between working with him at 'Equalizing the odds' for people and his dedication to the Company. Robert pondered on whether or not that was what troubled him. He itched to ask questions, but waited patiently for Mickey to come around.

"I...uh, met someone," Kostmayer eventually said when they had settled in the living room with coffee. A fire crackled merrily in the fireplace. Robert almost sighed in relief; he didn't want to play mediator between Mickey and his old friend, Control.

"Someone?" Robert asked, raising an eyebrow. He sipped at his drink. Mickey gazed at the fireplace while his expressive lips curled.

"You know what I mean..." he drawled, stretching out on the couch, as Robert elected to sit in his favorite chair.

"Ah... a girl." Robert carefully kept his face neutral. Mickey coming to him for advice on a girl? Especially after the bawling out he'd given him several years back about Sydney? This indeed was novel. "I certainly hope this one isn't anything like what Scott brings home." Robert dryly remarked.

Mickey snorted, clasped his hands behind his head and found a spot to stare at on the ceiling. "I hope you don't think I'd go that low!"

Robert chuckled. "Sometimes..."

"This one is different," he said, his thoughts drifting to his encounter with Reva on the viewpoint of Wiscasett. Mickey smiled, twisting his shoulders a bit.

"They always are." Robert lightly baited, seeing the memory play over Kostmayer’s face.

Mickey's thoughts returned to the living room. "I met her last June. Up in Wiscasett, when I was on vacation. She's an artist," he said.

"Not as in, say, body art or...." Robert egged.

"Commercial art, McCall. Kid's books!" he retorted.

"Well, that's a relief!" Robert sipped his coffee. He could not help the corner of his lips curling impishly at the other man. "This sounds serious," Robert ventured.

Mickey shrugged, blinking his eyes lazily. "Not very. We'd just met. I've only kissed her once."

Robert wisely bit back the teasing jab he sorely wanted to speak. Mickey's debacle with Sydney needed to stay properly buried in the past. Kostmayer had learned that lesson well. Besides, it was a calm, relaxing day, so far.

"Cautious, is she?" Robert asked, watching Mickey's face. Something deep swam under the surface.

"Yep."

"Bright girl." Robert murmured.

Mickey shot him a look.

"So, what is on your mind?" Robert finally asked.

Kostmayer shrugged again. "I'm just thinking, I mean, I've got some time coming to me."

"Will she let you?" Robert pointedly asked.

Mickey looked a little perplexed, his whole mouth shifting left, briefly. Would she? Mickey wondered. "Yeah, I think she will."

"How serious are you about this?" Robert asked gently.

Mickey blinked at his spot on the ceiling. "I don't really know," he replied.

McCall felt a slight chill in the room. Mickey? Not bloody likely, but then Robert had been wrong on these things before.

"Does she know anything about you?"

"Some," the younger man admitted, not wanting to tell Robert what she really knew. Mickey blinked lazily. "I met her at the grocery store... sort of."

"Sort of?"

"She was dropping a bag of cat food."

"Cat food?" Robert's eyebrows rose a notch. "Er... did she say anything to you?" Something about the smile playing across Kostmayer's face piqued Robert's interest.

"Nope."

"She didn't?"

"Not a word."

Robert drank his coffee, gazing at the younger man, who was stretching out comfortably on the couch. Something in Kostmayer’s voice struck a very faint nerve.…

"So, how did you get to know her?"

"Met her at the boat rental place a few days later. Found out she lived next door to where my cabin was at."

"Aha... and you just happened to wander over."

"You could say that..." Mickey replied, stifling a yawn. Careful, Robert noticed; Mickey was being very careful. He hadn't mentioned the girl's name yet. Robert found he actually approved, though he wondered just how far Mickey wanted to go with this.

"I haven't been able to get her off my mind since I met her..." Robert looked curiously at him. This was serious. Mickey had been gone since June. Kostmayer shifted his holster slightly and wrapped his arms across his chest.

"I take it you're wondering if you should take your vacation time and go and visit?" Robert asked cautiously.

Mickey nodded. "You could say that."

Now the older man felt puzzled. Why ask him?

"I don't see why you shouldn't, if she wouldn't mind?"

"That's what I'm wondering about," Mickey mumbled through yet another yawn. "I didn't expect Control to ship me off for six months."

Robert sighed.… The specter of the Company surfaced, again.

"Mickey, just how serious are you about this girl?" he asked somberly. Mickey didn't respond. Robert glanced at him. His eyes were closed. Robert frowned, not quite rolling his eyes. Then he grew solemn as he gazed at him with a look of deep care and friendship, while a few ghosts from his past whispered faintly in his ears.

"Take great care, Mickey," he murmured. "In this line of work, they never last."

"Mmmm?"

He dropped off to sleep.

When he awoke hours later, Mickey was still sprawled on McCall's couch. At some point in time Robert had draped a blanket over him. He yawned, sat up, and listened for the sounds of the other man. Not hearing anything, he got up, looking around. A note sat propped against a centerpiece on the dining room table. Next to it lay the New York Times. Mickey picked up the card as he tugged his holster back into place. It simply told him that Robert had been called out, but would be home soon and to just make sure he locked the door if he left. Mickey glanced at the paper as he set the note down, and idly pulled it over to him. It contained the usual assortment of death, murder, and mayhem, along with football news and holiday shopping plans. The normal assortment of crap. He was about to shove it aside when his eyes caught a small headline.

"Illustrator kills assailant, left for dead."
Story on A6

Frowning, Mickey flipped the paper open and suddenly felt as if somebody had sucker punched him. A small black and white photo of Reva, smiling delightedly, greeted his shocked eyes.

"Illustrator kills assailant in apparent 
car-jacking attempt."

Bath, Maine. 

          Caldecott award-winning illustrator Reva Cheney was in serious but stable condition at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Bath, after apparently killing the man who had tried to attack her on a deserted stretch of Hwy 95 Tuesday night. Dead was an unidentified white male, mid thirties, of a gun shot wound to the face. The apparently attacked Miss Cheney after her car had broken down on a remote stretch of highway. Miss Cheney suffered from lacerations and contusions to the head, and mild hypothermia after lying unconscious for several hours, before being found by State Troopers.  

           Miss Cheney, who won the prestigious Caldecott Award for her illustrations in the Native Am. Children's Novel Raven; the Trickster", recalled no details of the attack and refused comment. 

 

          "She is resting comfortably, but understandably cannot remember details of the events," Lt. Matt Greene reported. "She did have a concealed weapon permit and by all accounts reacted to a life threatening situation with deadly force." 

          The assailant was described as a white male, 30-35, 175-180lbs, 5' 11", with blonde hair and blue eyes. No identification was found on the man who, was dressed in guerilla-style clothing. Investigators are looking for any clues to the man's identity.  "Apparently the assailant attempted to strike Miss Cheney from behind, but was caught unawares when she turned and fired her weapon," Greene reported. No further details will be released until investigators can conclude their case.

Upon his return home, Robert, to his dismay, found his apartment door unlocked. He frowned, cautiously edging the door open.

"Mickey?" he called out. Nothing greeted him, and nothing seemed out of place, until he entered the dining room. Sprawled open was the newspaper, lying where it had been dropped hastily. Robert scanned the headlines and located the article on Reva Cheney. His eyes focused intently on the piece as he read through it rapidly. Mickey had said something about the girl he had met being an illustrator. A cold knot formed in his stomach. He studied the girl's picture. Reva Cheney? Why did that name sound vaguely familiar? Maybe it was the book award. His gaze drifted to the window, where approaching dusk darkened it. He didn't have to be told where Mickey went. Yet a sickening sense of foreboding descended on him. Somehow he knew he'd soon be seeing Reva Cheney.

Bath, Maine

Mickey pulled major strings to get into Bangor International Airport as quickly as he did. Not to mention a lot of rank, which he could do when needed. He even bribed his way onto a Lear jet and touched down shortly after 11:00pm, in Bath, Maine. A quick trip in a cab and he was walking into Sacred Heart Hospital, hunching deep into his army jacket and scarf, trying to ward off the cold.

Following arrows indicating the different wards and elevators, Mickey made his way to the trauma ward. Several things met his eye as he cast a glance at the lobby and hallways. On the ward display board directly behind the nurse’s station, he quickly spotted Reva's name and room number. Two nurses didn't even look up as he walked calmly by them. Several doors were opened to various patients’ rooms, with the occasional blare of television sets, or the low moans of people in pain to be heard. Mickey scanned carefully around him as he searched for the room Reva was in.

He was about to turn the corner where her room was when he spied a lone man in a rumpled business suit, sitting in the lounge, reading a People magazine and yawning in boredom. Mickey pulled back before the guy could see him. He reeked of Fed so strongly Mickey couldn't help but shake his head. He backed up to a through-way section of the hospital that connected parallel hallways, where there was a miniature lunchroom and storage for cleaning supplies.

His face set in grim determination, Mickey pulled open a cupboard, which held snacks and personal food items for individual patients. His eyes developed a strange gleam as he reached and grabbed for a box of tinfoil wrapped Ding-Dongs. He pulled a few out, jerked open a microwave, and put them inside. He purposely left the tinfoil on as he set the microwave for 10 minutes. He turned and grabbed a bedpan from the cupboards below and filled it with water. Carefully he moved the door on the lounge side of the hallway almost shut, then reached up and balanced the bedpan on the door’s upper edge. Mickey searched a second and spotted a stack of towels. He snagged one, turned around, jabbed his thumb on the cook button of the microwave and exited out the other door. With the towel between door and jamb, Mickey effectively wedged it shut. He then went to where he could carefully watch the results, spying both the man in the lounge and a cop sitting near Reva's doorway.

Microwaves, tinfoil and large chunks of sugar, make a particularly smoky, fiery diversion. Mickey’s was no different. Within minutes, the smoke came wafting down the corridor, reeking of carbonized sugar. The man in the lounge smelled it, looked up and immediately spotted the smoke. He was on his feet yelling. The cop, glancing over, saw it also and the two began running. As the Fed hit the doorway, down came the bedpan, soaking him. Mayhem erupted. As they shouted, nurses appeared from some of the rooms, while one rushed up with an extinguisher. With a satisfied smirk, Mickey casually slipped into Reva's room and thanked God she had a private one. Once inside, he shut the door and stopped.

The solitary glow of the florescent light above her bed provided the only illumination. Reva lay on her side, back to him, one arm stretched out towards the window, which carried an IV drip in the back of her hand. A self-administered pain medication unit blinked electronic eyes at him. The cord with the dosage button trailed over Reva and he could see she held the unit itself in her other hand. She was completely out.

Mickey's entire face changed. Usually looking open and boyish, it suddenly developed a grim seriousness, his eyes dark, mouth set in a firm line. Yet his eyes couldn't hide the horror and despair he felt when he walked quietly around her bed.

The first thing he saw were stitches, in a neat line parallel with her neck followed by three, angry, red lines where a broken wine carafe had left its permanent marks. They traveled across and down her throat. It was the first time he had seen the scars Reva carefully hid. Then his eyes caught the second set of stitches, high above her left eye, nearly into her hairline. Purple-black mottling ran into her hair from deep bruising. Strangely, there was only a little puffiness around the eye, the club catching her more across the top of her head than the side of it. Mickey couldn't move.

He just stared, and fought against a rage that built up in him and threatened to engulf him. He spotted the light gauze wrapped around her pinkie and ring finger of her left hand, and remembered that she had been unconscious in freezing weather before being found. Reva looked utterly exhausted, the circles under her eyes appearing like bruises themselves. Her paleness was shocking.

Mickey swallowed hard and forced the knots back down into his stomach. His ears caught the sound of feet. Turning from her, he opened the window, relieved to see that her room was on the same roof level as the hospital ventilation. Several feet away from them was the roof access door. The view might not be great, but for him, it would do just fine. He climbed out the window, pulled it shut after him, and hoped like mad that whoever saw it wouldn't lock the latch. His luck held. He ducked down behind one of the huge vent shafts, grateful for its cover, and waited.

Seconds later, the cop and the fed burst into the room, one turning to the restroom, the other jerking open the closet. Finding nothing, the fed looked out the window, while the cop checked under the bed. Both looked angry and annoyed. Mickey couldn’t have cared less He waited.

Soon the two left the room, leaving the door open. A perturbed nurse soon bustled in, going to Reva. Mickey didn't see her move for several minutes, but eventually the nurse started out of the room. About to leave the door open he watched as she paused, then looked back into the room, apparently listening to something from the patient. She nodded her head yes and, to his relief, shut the door after her. Waiting another few minutes, he let himself back in the way he had come.

Reva had rolled over onto her back, her face towards the door, irritated at being woken up at midnight by yet another nurse. She was drifting back into her drug-induced sleep when she felt the bed shifting next to her. Somebody was sitting on it. She frowned, groaned, and turned her head, hoping she wasn't having morphine generated nightmares. She had started to slip into the blackness of sleep, when she felt a hand pick up her hand by her fingers. Reva flexed a knee and bumped into something very solid. If this was a dream, it felt real. Fighting it, Reva reluctantly opened her eyes.

She struggled to focus her vision and winced at a jab of pain across her skull. Somebody was sitting on her bed. As her eyes focused she still didn't believe what she saw. Somehow, she made a mental note, she had to tell the nurse to remove the pain machine, this was too real.

Reva could have sworn Mickey Kostmayer sat on her bed. That simply wasn't possible, he was long gone. However when he reached out to move her hair from her face, Reva realized it wasn’t a dream. She stared at him so long Mickey began to get worried.

"Reva?" he asked quietly. A look of shock and disbelief appeared in her light grey eyes.

"Mickey?" she whispered thickly as her brows knit together in a frown. He barely smiled, resting his hand against her cheek and carefully clutching her good hand. Her eyes unfocused briefly, then swam back to clarity. She shook her head slightly, still not believing what she saw.

Mickey looked concerned, he had sent her a card warning of his coming, but she seemed to be in shock. Then it dawned on him. She never got it... she thought he had left for good.

"Reeve..." he said softly, "It's me." He lightly stroked her cheekbone with his thumb. She stared at him again. He had done that same move when he had left so long before. She reached up with her other hand and touched his. Mickey gently clutched at her fingers, bent forward and lightly kissed her forehead. She exhaled a soft exclamation of surprise. She slipped her arms under his jacket and wrapped them around his waist, as her hands slid across his back to grip two fistfuls of sweater. Mickey curled her in close, his arms tightly around her, and buried his face in her hair and shoulder.

"Mickey!" she breathed, feeling overwhelmed. That someone would even hold her in their arms was too incredible, that it was Mickey was unthinkable. She began to shake.

"Hey!" he murmured in her ear, as he carefully held her head to his chest. "It's okay. It's me. I'm here." She held on to him for dear life, gasping for air. He rubbed her back. "It's all right..."

When he gently pulled her away, he took her face in his hands, his eyes searching hers. Reva continued to look shocked, as she reached up with her good hand, and lightly touched his chin. It nearly tore him apart to see the tears threatening to spill out of her eyes. Yet Reva refused to cry, her chin only barely trembled. He could feel the unnatural shaking in her, caused no doubt by weakness and drugs. Mickey clenched his teeth, as his eyes took in the bruises and stitching.

"Who did this to you?" he asked in a voice barely louder than her own. Reva could only shake her head.

"I don't know, Mickey, I don't know!"

He saw the fear in her eyes.

"What is it?" he urged.

"They followed me from Portland. The truck broke down. Nobody was there..." she caught herself, swallowing back the tears, refusing to let herself cry. "Nobody was there!" She gasped. Mickey heard the combination of horror, despair and bitterness. She trembled like a leaf.

"They've been watching the house since October. People have been in the house when I'm not there." She looked at him. "The man that I sh..." Her head shook. "I didn't even see him. I just saw the club, all I could do was fire!"

"Who's been watching your house?" he demanded. She shook her head.

"I don't know Mickey," she pleaded. "They're different, I don't know who they are!"

"How different?"

"They're not from before." Her other hand moved to her throat. He didn't need to be told about who was before. He knew she had worked for a government agency.

"I couldn't get the truck to start! They told me the fuel pump is broken and they found metal in it. I saw somebody coming at me from the back of the truck. I had the gun," she rambled.

An alarm sounded somewhere in the back of Mickey's skull. Reva looked at him, appalled.

"That guy was dressed all in black. He... he had on a ... a black facemask... I couldn't see who he was. I told him to leave, that I'd shoot..." She stopped, looking down.

"It's all right Reva!" he said and pulled her back into the circle of his arm, tightening his grip around her shoulders, his mind racing.

"Why the guards?" he asked. She gripped his sweater, in the front this time, and laid her head against his chest.

"I don't know!" she whispered as she closed her eyes. He felt a bit of the tension release.

"They didn't happen to tell you what they found in the gas tank did they?" he asked, stroking her hair.

"Upper drawer," she barely gasped. Mickey frowned as his eyes glanced to the bedside stand. Mickey carefully leaned forward, eased the drawer open and grabbed a ziploc baggie from inside. With a free hand he held it up, his eyes intense as he studied it. All it did was leave him with a cold dread.

Inside the baggie was a flat metal disc, about the size of a button. Hanging off of it was a mouse hair with a tiny bulb no bigger than a pinhead.

"Do you know what this is?" he whispered. Reva pulled back, looking up at him. His whole tone had changed.

"They said it had gotten wedged somehow and blocked the flow of gas to the truck. I told them I wanted to see it."

"Good!" he said, rubbing her back. "Can you walk?" Reva looked confused.

"Yeah...? What is it?" She looked at the disc. Mickey looked grim.

"It's a tracking device. The satellites they have up now can position on these things." If she could have gotten any paler, Reva did as she took in the significance. Mickey stuffed it back into the drawer.

"Have you got clothes?" he asked. She nodded yes. He picked up her hand that had the I.V. in it. "When did you last dose yourself?"

"Eleven o'clock," she whispered. Mickey nodded.

"Get yourself ready. I ‘m taking you out of here." The tone of his voice told her to not even question him. Bracing herself, she let Mickey take the I.V. out.

It took her several minutes to get dressed; being woozy, she needed help with a few things. Mickey helped where he could and when he couldn't he stared out the window, his eyes on the far access door to the roof. Face devoid of expression, only his eyes revealed a cold intensity. When she finished, she sat on the bed a moment as she tried to regain strength. Mickey found her long coat.

"We'll get this on when we get outside," he said quietly, as he opened the window. He turned back and snagged a blanket off the bed. He dropped both out onto the roof and turned back to her.

"Can you follow me out?" he asked. She nodded and got to her feet. Mickey clambered out. Reaching back, he gently protected her head as she ducked through the window.

"Grab my shoulders," he instructed, laying her arm across them. She obeyed, gripping tightly as he drew her completely out onto the roof, holding her in front of him. She gasped at the cold, and reeled. Mickey snatched up her coat, helped her into it while trying to hold her up, then he wrapped her securely in the blanket.

"Listen carefully," he said looking her in the eyes. "From here on out, you do exactly as I tell you. No matter what it sounds like. I'm getting you to a safe place somewhere and get to the bottom of this mess. Do you understand?" Reva nodded her head in acknowledgement, searching his eyes by the dim light of her room. Mickey meant serious business. He drew her close, shutting the window.

Guiding her gently, they made their way across the roof to the access door.

Mickey helped her to sit down, where she leaned against the building and watched him minutely exam the door. He absently patted at his jacket pockets. From inside he withdrew a small, flattish, rolled case. When opened, it revealed an assortment of long, slender, stainless steel implements with various strange tips. It looked like a demented set of dentist's tools. She looked at him, raising an eyebrow.

"Never leave home without 'em," he commented, selecting two. He felt relief that she still showed some interest, she looked a tad grey, even in the dark.

"You gonna be all right?" he asked, deftly slipping the points of the two tools into the lock on the doorknob. He wriggled them experimentally. She nodded yes, huddled into the blanket as her eyes blinked wearily. She leaned her head back against the wall.

"I'm a bit rusty at this," he said twisting the two picks. "Been at least..."

They both heard the loud click of the door latch releasing.

"Two or three months since I've had to pick a lock." She stared at him as he caught the pair of tools in one hand and turned the knob. The door opened, bathing them with light from inside. Mickey glanced at her.

"I'm a bit slow," he added. Reva finally smiled. Sticking his foot in the door, he quickly put the picks away and then helped her to her feet, guiding her inside.

"About time you smiled," he murmured in her ear. Mickey permitted himself a sigh of relief as the door clicked shut behind them. He began leading the way down the cold stairwell.

As they reached the next floor, Mickey checked the door and found it locked. Reva leaned over the stair railing, one hand gripping it, the other the blanket. A sick sweat washed over her. She swallowed and tried not to shake. Mickey looked her way, not liking the color of her skin at all. He took her gently by the arm, steering her down the next flight of stairs.

"If you feel the need to stop, tell me," he said. She nodded, letting him guide her down. He literally could feel her legs trembling as they made the second landing.

"Sit," he ordered gently, easing her down on a step. She leaned against the wall, sighing. Mickey tried the door. It was unlocked.

"Listen," he said crouching before her, tugging up his pant leg. "I'm going to see if we can get to an elevator and get out of here." He pulled a .22 from an ankle holster. Mickey slipped the gun into her hand, then flipped the blanket back to cover it. He squeezed her hand reassuringly.

"Stay with me now, okay?" he urged. She nodded, reluctantly taking the gun. He smiled gently, then disappeared into the hospital…

Quickly scanning up and down the corridor, Mickey spotted no one. He knew he had to be in the research and testing portion of the vast hospital complex. Most of the labs were dark and there was very little going on. Spying the hall markings leading to the elevator he carefully made his way to the junction between halls, checking through each lab window to make sure no one was working late. He had reached the junction when his luck ran out.

A large security guard, near the opposite end, was on his rounds, spotted Mickey as he ducked his head out to see if the coast was clear.

"Hey!" he yelled, instantly breaking into a run. Mickey swore, backed up a step and braced himself.

The guard rushed around the corner expecting Mickey to have taken off at a dead run. Instead he ran smack into him.

"Surprise," Mickey drawled, as he caught him by the lapels of his jacket and swung with the man's momentum. One swift hard head butt put the guard out instantly. As he fell, Mickey slung him over his shoulder. He groaned as he straightened his legs.

"I wish they'd put you guys on a diet!" he growled as he shifted the guard into a fireman's carry. He staggered a moment and then gained momentum as he headed back to the stair well, an idea had formed in his head…

Reva struggled to keep her eyes open, but lost the battle when she discovered how cool the wall felt against her hot, aching, forehead. She closed her eyes wearily, for only a few seconds, or so she thought, before being abruptly jerked awake by a loud thud against the wall outside the door. She gripped Mickey's pistol tighter.

Mickey stuck his head in, glancing at her and then began dragging an unconscious security guard into the stairwell. The door clicked shut.

"He ran into some trouble," Mickey said dryly, nodding at the guard. Reva's shoulders slumped with relief. She put a shaky hand to her head as Mickey proceeded to peel the jacket off the guard.

"I have an idea to get us out of here," he said as he unpinned the badge from the front of the man's shirt. He affixed it to his belt, then took off his own jacket and set it next to her. He snatched the cuffs off the guard’s belt, grabbed his arm and secured him to the stair rail. He flicked the keys down the stairs. Mickey then hauled out the man's service revolver, shucked out the bullets, and stuffed it into his army coat. Ditto to the radio, carefully turning it off. He rolled the coat up around the objects and glanced at Reva with a faint smile. He put the other jacket on, the sleeves a bit long. Mickey shoved the cuffs up to his elbows.

"I need to borrow the blanket," he said. She relinquished it and he began wrapping his bundle into a suspicious looking...

"Okay Mom." He handed over his "baby" to her. Reva looked at him as both eyebrows rose in surprise. Mickey smiled, handing the bundle to her. She took it, gentle as any real mother. Mickey watched her trying to rally her strength. He briefly laid his hands against her cheek, searching her fatigue-smudged eyes.

"You look like hell..." he murmured, smiling gently. Reva said nothing but did managed a wan smile in return. He reached down, helped her to stand and relieved her of the .22, slipping it into the pocket of her long coat.

"Just follow my lead if anything happens. We'll find a place to hole up for the night, let you get some rest. Concussion, right?" he asked, wanting to verify.

Reva nodded, whispering, "And Morphine."

Mickey smiled slightly again. "Lucky you!" he joked, and reached for the door. Docile as a kitten, Reva let him guide her out into the hallway.

They met no one all the way to the elevator. Once inside, Mickey jabbed the button for the lobby, glanced at Reva as she gripped the railing. Her forehead reflected beads of perspiration as she cradled the bundle close, her eyes struggling to focus. Her face began to get alarmingly translucent. The floor swayed under them as the elevator reached their floor. She barely gasped out a sigh as her legs gave way under her just as the elevator doors started to open.

So much for plans...

Mickey moved in one fluid motion. As Reva toppled towards him, he scooped her up into his arms and started to run…

"GET OUTTA MY WAY!" he bellowed at the top of his lungs.

The few people who occupied the lobby and waiting room of the hospital got a real, late night, rude awakening. Two resident doctors, the receptionist, a nurse, visitors and a lone security guard, all scattered as Mickey burst from the elevator, shouting as he came. They began scattering at the urgency in his voice, exclaiming surprise and adding to the confusion as he ran. No one thought twice at the badge on his hip, the security guard’s jacket and the authority in his voice. That was until they noticed he had run in the wrong direction…

Mickey curled his shoulder in and slammed into the first exit door so hard it crashed back against the wall and shattered; the glass dropping like a waterfall. The explosion sounded like gunshot, causing folks to scream and dive for cover.

"Hey wait!" One of the doctors hollered back, "You're going the wrong way!"

Mickey hit the other door, ducking himself protectively over Reva as it too shattered. A shower of glass chunks rained all over his back as he made the pavement outside.

Inside, the doctor, the guard, and a visitor all took off after him, the guard grabbing his radio.

"Hey! STOP!" The doctor shouted. Mickey kept running, straight into the parking lot. Gaining the first row of cars, he slid to a halt behind them, lowering Reva to the ground. Crouching over her, he spun, the .45 in his holster instantly in his hands and firing. His reflexes were like lightning. The gun sounded like automatic fire, as he aimed above his chasers. He took out the main light and stitched a line of bullets across the brick facing so fast it seemed they all exploded at once, causing the three pursuers to throw themselves down on the ground. Shards and sparks flew everywhere.

"Gunfire!" the guard was shouting through his radio, "He's shooting at us!"

Mickey ejected the clip, reloaded, and shoved the gun away with one fast, well-rehearsed move. Carefully he scooped Reva back up and awkwardly ducked in and out of the cars as he wended his way deeper into the parking lot. He searched for an older vehicle. Alarms began ringing madly in the hospital.

The guard, having recovered himself, fired off a wild shot, hitting the underside of a Pinto ahead of Mickey. Reflexively Mickey twisted slightly, attempting to shield Reva as he ducked. The old car’s notoriety not lost on him. In his dash past the vehicle, Mickey saw that the gas tank had been pierced.

He located an older Red Buick, slipped around to the driver’s side and set Reva back down. He kept low as he unfurled the blanket bundle and fumbled around inside his army coat. Several more security guards had arrived and began to fan through the lot. Mickey calmly looked around, his eyes as cold as ice, as his fingers located what he was after. A slim-jim appeared, which he clenched between his teeth as pulled his lighter out. He continued searching around until he found what else he was after.

Far off, he heard sirens. Glancing around, he spied the a group of guards searching for him. A strange gleam lit his eyes as he looked down at what appeared to be a roll of quarters. He looked once at Reva, then quickly dashed back towards the Pinto.

Crouching low, he could smell the gas as he drew nearer to the car. The lighter was in his hand, striking it to life as he raised up the odd roll in his hand. There was a short amount of cord hanging from one end. Mickey smirked as he lit it. The cord sparked instantly to life as he held it in his hand and watched as it began to get shorter and shorter, nearer the charge. He looked up once, located the guards, then flipped the M-80 under the Pinto. He gazed with satisfaction as it rolled into the puddle of gas….

The resulting explosion gave Mickey the time he needed to get back to Reva and rise up alongside the car he had picked. He slid the slim-jim down the inside of the window and snagged the lock. It was open in seconds.

Total chaos reigned in the hospital parking lot as the guards dove for cover. Mickey jerked the door open, flipped the seat forward, and carefully pulled Reva into his arms. He slid her unconscious form into the back seat as he spied a police cruiser careening around the corner. The background began filling with sirens and people shouting above the roar of the burning car. Mickey belted Reva in the back seat, then dropped the blanket over her as he shrugged off the guard’s jacket and cast it aside.

Diving under the dash, he began jerking wires down as he pulled his gun out and set it on the seat next to him. He had the old car hot-wired in seconds. Mickey was upright in the seat and backing up almost at the same time. Abruptly, Mickey slowed. He rolled the window down, then casually slid his gun just under his thigh. Calmly, Mickey began driving towards the exit, glancing carefully in his rear view mirrors as he draped an elbow in the open window.

As police vehicles rushed to the scene, Mickey placidly slowed down, pulling over closer to the parked cars, allowing room for the cruisers to pass. He kept one hand on the steering wheel, in full view with the other gripping the wing window. He looked at the cops with mock curiosity as he crept towards the exit. He knew full well that the police would be looking for someone acting crazy and wild. He nodded as a cop looked him over and he looked worried and concerned back at him. He kept rolling forward and the cop continued on past him. Sedately, Mickey pulled onto the street, turning towards more approaching vehicles, forcing himself to remain calm and steady as he drove the speed limit.

Mickey finally permitted himself a chance to breathe when he calmly gained the main highway leading out of Bath, Maine, and headed south for Portland. He glanced back at Reva, dismayed at the fact she was so out of it, she hung like a rag doll, half over the seat. If not for the fact he had belted her in, she'd have been a crumpled mess on the floor. He began searching for a motel, preferably near a rental agency.

At around two am, Mickey pulled up to the back entrance of a Motel 6. Having requested a quiet place at the back and paying cash for a single room. He registered under an assumed name and hauled out the fake ID to cover it. The clerk didn't even bat an eyelid. Mickey opened up the room door, then went and retrieved Reva from the car. For a moment he left her lying on the bed as he retrieved his belongings, but once inside he focused all his attention on her.

Flipping the covers back, he knelt across the bed and felt the pulse in her neck. Strong and steady, anyway; he sighed in relief as he checked one of her eyes. Reva never responded, she was so profoundly out. He paused a moment, rested his hand against her cheek and grimaced at the two lines of stitches. His thumb lightly stroked her cheek, then he shook himself and began to ease her coat off. Following the removal of her shoes, he laid her out under the covers and gently slid a pillow under her head. He then left, locking the door to the room and went to ditch the car.

A short time later, Mickey quietly let himself back into the room, locking the door. He paused to take stock of his own situation and glanced at Reva, who hadn’t moved. Retrieving his gun, he set it on the table before pulling out his jacket and hauling out the guard’s service revolver and its ammo. He set the radio on the table next to them and turned it on, searching for any news of their escape from the hospital. Something was missing. He turned and picked up Reva's long wool coat, stuck his hand into the pocket and grasped for his .22. He felt something else and pulled it out also.

He stopped and stared. The otter beanie baby gazed back at him with beady black eyes. He blinked, looked over at Reva and slowly sat down, setting the .22 on the table next to him. How long had she been carrying that thing around? Why? He wondered.

Mickey draped her coat over the other chair, looking at the toy in dismay, but felt decidedly shocked. He shook himself as he hauled the phone over to him, setting the toy on the table before him. He idly messed with it, setting it up in different postures as he arranged connections at the Portland airport for a hasty flight to JFK Int. in New York, heading home being the best alternative. Then he phoned Robert.

McCall answered on the second ring.

"Kostmayer," he stated simply.

Mickey smirked. Leave it to Robert to know something was up. "How do you do it?" He asked.

"You left rather suddenly." McCall replied, dryly.

"Mind if I a bum a lift?"

"What time?"

"08:45. Lear jet, JFK, flight 87."

"Anything else?"

"Yep," Mickey drawled. "Someplace to hole up."

He heard Robert sigh. "What is it?" he asked.

"Catch that story on the illustrator killing her assailant?"

"I did."

"That was the girl I met last summer."

"What happened?"

"Near as I can figure, she was broke down when two guys tried to attack her, she killed the one trying to brain her." He heard Robert's faint sigh.

"Is she all right?"

"Out cold," Mickey heaved his own sigh, slumped in the chair, and turned the beanie otter over and over as he lightly drummed the table with it. "Nasty concussion, McCall. Whoever swung the bat tried to split her skull open."

"Is she with you now?" Robert asked, his voice sharp. Mickey looked over at Reva, blissfully unconscious on the bed.

"Uh huh."

"Dare I ask how you two left the hospital?"

"You'll see it in tomorrow's headlines." Mickey's southern origins grew more pronounced with the fatigue he felt.

Robert heard it in his voice. He closed his eyes and knew full well that Mickey no doubt came up with something explosive. "And how is she handling all this?"

"Like I said, she's out cold."

"How bad?" Robert had to ask.

"Passed out on me as we were leaving an elevator." Mickey flipped the toy, still tapping it against the table.

Robert decided he didn't want to hear anymore. "Anything else you need?" he asked.

Mickey smirked. "They found a Global Satellite Positioning device in the fuel pump of her truck. Reva remembered to ask them for it."

Mickey couldn't see the look of surprise on McCall’s face. At both the object found and the astuteness on her part to request it. "It narrows down the list to the Israeli SS, MI5, and the Company."

"A disc?" Robert asked tersely as his mind raced.

"With antennae."

"Who on earth would put that in an illustrator’s gas tank?" Robert snapped out loud.

"That's what I want to know." Mickey replied with eerie calm.

"What's her connection?" Robert asked.

Mickey paused.

"I think that's best left until you see her," he replied.

Robert did not like being left in the dark, but the phone lines were by no means one hundred percent safe. He dropped it. "I'll start things moving on this end."

"Much obliged, Robert." Mickey drawled, softly.

"Just get here in one piece!" Robert snapped, then regretted letting his anger surface. The last thing he wanted to do was mix with the Company again.

"Always have, haven't I?" Mickey replied and hung up.

The dull consistent ache in her head eventually woke Reva up. She groaned and tried to curl into a tighter ball than she was already in. It didn't work. The pounding kept on going.

She blinked her eyes open and tried to focus in the dim light. The first thing to swim into her vision was the otter beanie baby. Reva frowned, totally confused. She stared at it, then the surrounding room, and didn't recognize a thing. She sat bolt upright, gasping out loud in fear, her eyes searching the room.

Mickey, half-awake in the chair next to her, was by her side in a flash.

"It's okay, It's okay…" he reassured, wrapping his arms around her, feeling her heart beating wildly in her chest. He shushed her gently, stroking her hair. "You're safe."

"Where are we?" she whispered in bewilderment, gripping the front of his sweater.

"In a motel," he replied. Reva frowned, looked again at the room and realized he spoke the truth. She closed her eyes in relief and sagged against him. She hated how her hand shook as she rubbed at her eyes.

"Lord, my head hurts!" she sighed. Mickey gently, but firmly pushed her back down on the bed. When she started to protest he raised a warning finger.

"You need to rest, Reeve, you've been unconscious for four hours. We need to leave here in three." He pulled the blankets back up to her chin. "Don't protest," he added. Reva looked at his grim, serious face, and listened. She relaxed and moved the blanket away from her chin and throat.

"Can I at least have some water?" she whispered. Mickey looked at her, and his eyes softened a bit.

"I think that can be arranged," he replied, sliding off the bed. He was back in seconds, carrying a glass and pitcher. As she drained the second glass, she glanced around in the gloom, noticing that Mickey had rigged up the two chairs next to the bed and had been stretched out on them, evidenced by the blanket still hanging haphazardly off one chair. She looked at him in dismay.

"That can't be comfortable," she whispered. Mickey smiled slightly.

"It's better than some places I've been in," he said, and removed the glass from her hand and set it on the night table. Reva frowned as she laid back into the pillow. Mickey tugged the otter out from under her hair.

"How long have you been carrying this around?" he asked quietly.

Reva looked at it, and shrugged, "Months," she whispered.

"You didn't think I was coming back did you?" he asked softly, gazing at her face. Reva slowly met his eyes.

"No. It’s been so long since..." she started to reply. Mickey stopped her.

"I was gone far longer than I ever have been," he explained. "My... uh, boss, didn't tell me that I was going to be gone for six months." He set the beanie between them, so it almost touched her chin. He was leaning over her, propped up with one hand, perched on the edge of the bed.

"I just figured..." she whispered, looking at the toy. She lifted her eyes to his.

"I know what you figured," he said. "You never got my card did you?" Her frown of confusion answered his question. "I got into the States two days ago. I mailed a card from LA."

"I was still in Portland, recovering from this," she whispered, pointing at the stitches in her throat.

"You went in by yourself?" he asked. "You were driving home from this by yourself?"

"It's always been by myself!" she whispered at the slight rise in his voice. She couldn't conceal the bitterness that welled up in her own. "I've gone through this whole stinking thing, by myself!" she caught herself and sighed. "That's the way it is..." she replied.

Mickey hated that tone of resignation in her "voice". Where it came from he didn't quite know... "Not any more," he murmured back.

"What's that supposed to mean?" she whispered, a touch skeptical. Mickey's gaze abruptly left her, looking around a bit uncomfortably. He suddenly appeared that sweet, somewhat shy, thoughtful, man she had met in the summer.

"When I wasn't preoccupied," he said, drawing in air and a bit of courage. He finally looked her in the eyes. "All I thought about was you."

"Someone said something similar to that to me several years ago..." she whispered back. "And I never saw him again." The bitterness lingered.

"That somebody is not me..." he said quietly. Reva's searching eyes tried boring into his soul, again. He let it, his own eyes searching right back. His free hand moved, to rest gently on the top of her head, carefully avoiding the stitches there. His thumb lightly stroked the edge of her hairline. Reva broke their gaze. She swallowed, and looked at the toy between them.

"I did miss you," she whispered so softly he barely heard it. He knew it had taken a lot for her to admit to it. Mickey said nothing, he just leaned forward, their faces inches apart. She looked up at him, her fingers reaching up to touch his cheek, one finger lightly tracing the crook in his upper lip.

He couldn't quite figure out which struck him more, that first tentative, intimate, contact as he gently kissed her upper lip or her slim cool hand reaching around the back of his head to run her fingers into his hair. As he lightly pulled on her lip, her head tilted, allowing him to kiss her again, the tip of his tongue making the briefest, feather light contact. Their kiss became more earnest as she let him explore, sweet, tender and passionate. For that exquisite brief second it seemed to go on forever…

Until a sudden realization doused Mickey with cold water.

"Oh, hell," he breathed huskily, when they broke contact. He leaned his forehead gently against hers, his eyes still closed. Reva, still lingering in their initial contact, frowned slightly.

"McCall'd kill me," he whispered. He felt her suddenly stiffen underneath him. Two different reactions occurred. Mickey pulled his head back, looking down at Reva who had barely hidden a look of shock on her face.

"What?" she whispered shakily, suddenly pushing him back with her hand on his chest.

"I'm sorry, Reeve!" he instantly apologized, gripping her hand tightly, sitting back up. "Robert climbed my case about this once..." He felt acutely embarrassed. "I'm sorry! It's not you!" he quickly added. He looked at her. "Believe me it's not you!"

"Then what?" she whispered thickly, frantically struggling with a terrible realization coursing through her veins.

"You're under my protection.. I can't stay objective if I…" he gazed at her and looked every bit the guilty fool he felt. "I can't stay objective..." he whispered.

Reva searched his face and knew he spoke truthfully, but felt the horrible dread of his words. She struggled ferociously to hide the sudden panic that threatened to engulf her, clinging to the hand holding hers. She also saw the struggle written all over his face.

"Mickey," she whispered. "It's okay..." she hated the lie. "With this thing," she raised her left eyebrow, indicating the stitches on her forehead. "I've got a horrible headache anyhow..."

It sounded funny, but neither laughed, Mickey only looked at her, still clutching her hand. "When this is over..." he whispered with intent. Reva smiled, achingly sad at him. He forced himself to stand up, heaved a sigh, and let go of her hand.

"You've got to get some more sleep. We've got to fly out of here shortly." The serious, professional soldier abruptly appeared. He settled in the chairs, as she glanced at him.

Neither slept. Mickey stared at the wall directly opposite, hearing her breathing even out but not sleeping. He knew he had a lot of explaining to do.

Reva knew she had even more... and a black knowledge engulfed her that this man, who had had shown the first acts of genuine care towards her, would never be allowed to follow through with it. She struggled against the cold realization, the hopelessness, and the well of bitterness surging through her. She had recognized the name of Robert McCall, and she knew who Mickey Kostmayer worked for.

Reva would've given anything to just scream.

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