Great Thatch Island, BVI
Saturday, January 17th, 1998
Dana drifted in and out over the next few days as her body responded to both the reagent Jerry had developed and the quill sap. She’d been so weakened, it was clear that regardless of how long it took the cancer to be cleared up, it was still going to take time to bring Dana back to good health.
Nicole didn’t care how long it took; she was going to take care of Dana as long as necessary. And she was not going to let the Consortium get away with hurting Dana ever again. Even if she hadn’t been ordered to take care of the Consortium she would have anyway. This was just one of those times that her personal feelings just happened to align perfectly with that of her duties.
Ian was worried about his friend.
Friend. It was a concept he was not really used to. He wasn’t very popular as a human, and as vampire… well, he wasn’t called Ian the Terrible for nothing. And even though he did occasionally help the Council they merely tolerated him. But Nicole was truly his friend. When he’d made the choice to redeem himself, the blonde was the only person he could think of who might be able to help him. Fortunately, she had seen his sincere desire and told him what he needed to do, albeit with the warning he would indeed be put through hell to get what he was seeking. However, she also told him that her door would be open to him anytime – if he succeeded. To his great surprise, Nicole kept her word. Thus their friendship began and Ian would do anything for the first and best friend he’d ever known.
So when he watched her hour after hour, staring at the sleeping redhead, or staring into nothing, or working out, or running until she collapsed instead of sleeping, his concern grew.
After the sun went down he ventured outside and found his friend sitting the porch steps. He handed her a tall glass of ice water. “Here.”
“You can’t let it eat you up, you know.”
“She was sick before you met her – it’s not your fault. If it’s anyone’s fault it’s that Moldy guy you told me about.”
“Whatever. What matters is that you’re here to help her – and you are.”
“Going after the people who did this to her is also on my agenda.”
His eyes went wide – Nicole wasn’t about revenge. “Revenge, luv? That’s not like you.”
“Not revenge, Ian. Part of my assignment.”
“What? You’re hunting humans now?”
“Evil comes in many forms, including human… but I won’t deny a particular amount of satisfaction at their demise.”
“What do you want me to do?”
She looked at him a little confused.
“What? You don’t think I’m going to just sit back and do nothing, do you? Of course I’m going to help you. That’s what friends do.” He was quite pleased to receive a small smile at his last statement. He held his hand out to her and pulled her up when she took it. “Come on then, let’s get you inside and into the shower.”
She quirked an eyebrow at him. “Are you implying that I smell bad?”
“Well you are the one who just finished a… how far did you run?”
“20 miles, give or take.”
“Right. You did just finish a 20-mile run after spending several hours working out inside.”
“Yeah, well… there’s nothing to hunt here… except you,” she finished with smirk and wry arch of her eyebrow.
“True. But I’m one of the good guys now. You don’t have to dust me.”
“Right. So I’ve been working out and running.”
Nicole used the bathroom in the master bedroom to shower and change clothes. When she came back out Ian was waiting for her. As she walked by to check on Dana he snagged her arm and pulled her down onto the window seat with him.
“She’s okay, I just checked her.” He paused. “But you’re not. You’ve got it real bad, pet,” he added.
“Don’t play dumb with me. I’ve been around the block couple of times in the last hundred years or so. And it was love that brought me to your door that night, begging for your help. So I recognize it in you – you’re in love with her,” he said gently.
She let out a sigh. “Perhaps. But what I may, or may not, feel for her is irrelevant. First off, I wasn’t assigned to work with her to get involved with her. It was to save her life and take down the people who did this to her. And secondly, Dana takes pride in her professionalism. So even if she’d be open to a relationship, which I don’t know if she would be, getting involved with her partner would be crossing an ethical and professional line she definitely would have a problem with.”
He gave her a skeptical look.
“Besides, we’re friends and I don’t want to jeopardize that. Dana very seldom lets people get close to her. It’s a rare gift that I’m not about to throw away.”
He nodded and handed Nicole a mug of fresh tea. He wasn’t done with her yet – he knew she was hurting and from personal experience, he knew she needed to let some of it out. Working out and running could do only so much. He tried a different tactic.
“Do you ever hear from her?”
“No, but I hear she’s doing alright. She got a promotion at work a while ago. Joining Scotland Yard was a good move for her. What about you? Do you hear from her?”
“No. To her I’ll always be a monster.”
Nicole reached up and palmed his cheek. “I’m sorry things didn’t work the way you wanted them to,” she said softly.
He shrugged his shoulders. “Couldn’t force her to love me, no matter how much I loved her. But thanks to you I got a second chance in life. I owe you so much; I’ll never be able to repay you.”
“You’ve already paid me back.” She continued after seeing confusion in his eyes, “You turned your life around and became my friend.”
He smiled. “You’re the first real friend I’ve ever had. You’ve been there for me and understand me better than anyone, and you’ve never pitied or patronized me.” He gave her a small smirk. “I pitied myself enough when Erin didn’t appreciate what I did for her… it hurt… a lot.” He let out a sigh. “Even if I didn’t tell her.”
Nicole nodded. “I know.” The pain was unmistakable in her voice, as her eyes subconsciously went to the still form in the bed a few feet away.
Little did either of them know, Dana had woken up enough to hear the tears in her partner’s voice. She just didn’t have the strength to do or say anything. Her partner was in distress and needed her, and she couldn’t help. Then she heard another voice – male, with a Scottish accent.
Ian wrapped his arms around Nicole and pulled her close as tears finally spilled down her face. “I’ve got you, pet. Who would have ever thought that I’d get to hold an angel like you in my arms?”
The blonde gave in and let herself lean on her friend, let herself actually cry, silently.
Ian understood that what Nicole was feeling about Dana wasn’t the only thing she was crying about – it was just the last straw. “How do you do it, luv?”
“You do what you have to.”
“You don’t have to do it alone. I’m here for you and you can count on me.”
“I know, Ian.”
He continued to hold his friend until she actually fell asleep in his arms. Taking great care, he slipped one arm under her legs so he could pick her up. He then carried her out of the room and took her into his room rather than putting her on the couch.
“Rest well, pet.” He placed a kiss on her forehead then covered her with the sheet.
Dana had listened to her partner and Ian, and she’d seen him carry the blonde out of the room in his arms. It was obvious that whoever he was, he cared about Nicole. From the sound of things it was likely that Ian was Nicole’s… boyfriend. Nicole deserves to be happy and to have someone outside of work, a life outside of work.
Sunday, January, 18th, 1998
They were on the island almost a week before Dana managed to fully wake and be cognizant of her surroundings – at least for more than a few minutes at a time. On Saturday Nicole had summoned Ariel to check Dana out again and to remove the catheter.
Dana didn’t really remember Ariel being there, but she was infinitely grateful for the absence of the catheter when she woke up. She lay in the bed for several minutes, taking an inventory of her condition. She worked her way up from her feet – no injuries. That was good. But she had an IV and she was weak.
Then she remembered.
She remembered the cancer; she remembered the bleeding that wouldn’t stop; she remembered the hospital. And finally, she remembered Nicole coming to her in the hospital, telling her she could help her, make her well… if only Dana made the choice to fight to live and trusted her.
Then her body demanded attention – she had to go to the bathroom. She carefully got herself into a sitting position. Once she was sitting up she removed the IV. Then she managed to get to the bathroom by steadying herself against the wall. After finishing in the bathroom she went to the bedroom doorway to see what was going on outside the room that apparently had been her world for a little while.
Dana could hear noises that sounded like people fighting, but it wasn’t in the living room she saw from her bedroom doorway. She saw the door leading outside – it was open. The sounds were coming through the open door. She carefully, if unsteadily, made her way to the front door. She stood in the doorway leaning against the doorjamb. It was after sundown, but flood lights lit the clearing in front of the house.
Dana was confused by what she saw – her partner and a blue-haired man fighting. And they were not pulling any of their punches or kicks. They were even using impromptu weapons such as broken tree branches. It looked as if they were trying to kill each other, or at least beat the crap out of each other – except they both seemed to be enjoying themselves?
She watched them, or more accurately, she watched her partner. She had no idea that the blonde could move that way, or that she had so much physical power. She was already quite familiar with the power of Nicole’s personality, but to see her exhibit such physical power was mesmerizing. Dana flinched when Ian landed a hard punch to her partner’s face and Nicole’s nose immediately sprayed blood. Undoubtedly a broken nose. In turn Nicole landed a particularly hard kick to his ribs, which knocked him back several feet and doubled him over. Broken ribs, Dana thought. But it wasn’t enough to keep him from defending himself from Nicole’s advance as she tried to press her momentary advantage.
A few minutes passed before things came to an end – with the blonde besting Ian. He ended up on his back with Nicole leaning over him on her knees and hands. She had his wrists clamped in her hands and pinned to the ground.
“So now what do you have to say?” she demanded.
“Alright, alright! You haven’t lost your touch. You can still kick my ass, luv.” He smiled up at her.
“That’s more like it,” she replied with satisfied grin. She let go of his wrists and sat back on her heels, straddling his waist. “Unless of course you took a dive on me,” she commented with raised eyebrow.
“A dive?! When have I ever taken a dive?” he retorted, none too happy about the inference.
“That’s different and you know it!” he cut her off.
She nodded. “Yeah, I know.” She reached down, ripped his t-shirt, and pulled it off him.
“Bloody hell! What’s that for?”
Nicole wiped her bloody nose with the tattered shirt. “Bloody is right.”
“Use your own shirt.”
“But you lost,” she quipped with an amused smile.
Nicole whipped her head around at the sound of Dana’s quiet and hoarse voice. “Dana!” She practically flew from where she’d been sitting on top of Ian to the redhead’s side in the doorway. “You shouldn’t be up. Let me help you.”
The redhead didn’t protest, because what little strength she’d had was already gone. She allowed her partner to take her weight as she leaned into the blonde.
“Do you need to use the bathroom?” she asked as they approached the bedroom.
Dana shook her head. “Already did,” she replied.
Nicole helped her partner into bed and covered her up. She then sat on the side of the bed facing Dana. “I see you removed your IV,” she said in a light tone of voice. She gave Dana an affectionate smile. “You really shouldn’t do that, but I’m not surprised – you doctors make such terrible patients.”
Ian arrived at the bedroom doorway. “Everything alright?”
“Would you please get me what I need for a new IV from the medical supplies?”
“Alright.” Ian left to get said supplies.
“Where are we?” Dana asked.
“Someplace safe – I promise you.”
“Almost a week.”
Ian came back with the supplies. He also brought a cup of ice water and a straw. With a look and a nod Nicole and Ian communicated. He went to the opposite side of the bed and took a seat. He held the glass so Dana could sip some water.
“Slowly, and not too much,” he said gently.
After a couple of sips Dana settled back.
“I’m Ian, by the way,” he said with a gentle smile.
“I’m Dana,” she replied.
“Pleased to meet you, Dana. Any friend of Nicole’s is a friend of mine,” he said smiling.
“Thank you. It’s nice to meet you too, Ian.”
“Okay, all done,” Nicole announced.
Dana turned her head as fast as she dared and was surprised to find that Nicole had inserted and started a new IV already. She hadn’t even felt it.
Nicole looked at Ian and with a small motion of her head he again understood. He stood up and walked around the bed. “If you need anything, just yell,” he said with his hand on Nicole’s shoulder. He made eye contact with Dana. “I’m glad to see you doing better, Dana.”
Ian gave Nicole’s shoulder a squeeze and he bent down just enough to drop a kiss on the top her head. “I’ll heat up some broth, luv,” he said softly.
“Thank you,” she replied.
He left, leaving the two women alone.
Dana looked at the IV in her arm again and then at her partner. “Since when did you get so good at starting IVs?”
The blonde gave her a small smirk. “You’d be surprised what handy skills I’ve picked up along the way.”
“I’ll bet. That was quite the fight I saw out front.”
“That was just some fun. I haven’t had anyone to spar with in quite a while.”
Dana’s eyes widened and she started to reach up towards Nicole’s nose. “Some fun. You broke your nose.”
“Nah, just a little blood, but no damage,” she replied as she caught the redhead’s hand in her own. “But enough about me. How do you feel?”
She let out a slow breath. “Tired, worn out, and weak.”
“I’m not surprised. Do you want to try some broth, or stick with the IV?”
“Alright.” Nicole turned her head to look over her shoulder at the doorway. “Ian? Bring some broth in please,” she said in a slightly raised voice.
“You said we’ve been here almost a week?” Dana asked.
“Well I can tell from the temperature we’re nowhere near DC. Where are we?”
“A privately owned island in the British Virgin Islands. We’re the only people here. There’s no way for the Consortium or the FBI to know we’re here.”
Dana nodded. Then she was struck with a sudden thought. “My mom! She’s got to be worried sick.”
“It okay, Dana. I spoke to her before we left. She doesn’t know where we are, but she knows you’re safe. Considering everything you’ve both been through, I wasn’t about to whisk you away and not let your mother know what was going on – I couldn’t do that to her.”
Ian entered with a bowl of broth. “Here you go,” he said as he handed it to Nicole. “Just yell if you need anything else.”
He left them alone again.
“What about Skinner?” Dana asked.
“He has no idea. He’s trustworthy, but this way he has complete deniability and he doesn’t have to lie about anything.”
“What about you? It’s going to look awfully suspicious that you’ve gone missing, too. It’s not going to take a genius to figure out you had something to do with my disappearance from the hospital.”
The blonde smiled. “Maybe. But I received a temporary assignment sending me back undercover on a previous case before you went missing.”
Before the conversation went off on another tangent Nicole handed the redhead the bowl of broth. She left Dana by herself for a while so it didn’t seem like she was hovering. When she came back she had another syringe of quill sap prepared. She took hold of the IV line and inserted the needle. As she pushed the plunger Dana asked her about it.
“What is that?”
Nicole smiled. “House special. It’s what’s helping you get better.”
“Is it what put me out for so long?”
“No. You’ve been sleeping so much, because it’s what you need. That’s your own body’s doing. Now, is there anything else you need?”
She shook her head as she yawned.
“Alright.” She gave the redhead a smile. “If you’re good I’ll fix you some tea when you’re up to it.”
Dana was asleep before she could reply.
Monday, January 19th, 1998
Thea flew back to the island the next day. While she had been stateside she had been keeping a discreet eye on Margaret Scully and the FBI’s search for Dana. They had, in fact, brought Thea in to do any possible tweaking to her software that might aid in their search for Agent Scully. With her assistance they were running searches of all possible morgues, hospitals, clinics, etc. for anyone close to her physical description.
“If I didn’t know better, I’d swear Mrs. Scully had no idea. She’s been raising quite a ruckus and demanding that the Bureau find her daughter. She’s completely believable.”
Nicole nodded. “That’s because she’s been through it before – for real.”
“Oh, God. I can’t imagine.”
“Neither can I. That’s why I had to let her know ahead of time. While she doesn’t know where we are, she does know it was me that took Dana and that I did so to keep her safe and make her better. I also told her we wouldn’t be able to contact her.”
“There was some speculation that you might have something to do with what’s going on, especially since you disappeared as well, but the Director verified you were on assignment undercover elsewhere, so that put a stop to that line of investigation.”
Thea set up some laptops with some special software for encrypting communications. While she was working on them Ian entered the living room and sat across from her.
“Can I talk to you?”
“What do you want?”
“Have you talked to Nicole?”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m worried about her.”
His earnestness struck Thea and she looked up from the programming she was doing, giving him her surprised but undivided attention. “Why do you say that?”
“She’s not herself. She’s having trouble sleeping, and when she does sleep she’s been having nightmares.”
“Well, I can’t say I know her well enough on an intimate level to know whether that’s normal for her or not, but considering what she’s seen, what she does, I can’t imagine she’s any different than anyone else – she has plenty of nightmare material.”
“I understand that, but how many times have you seen her cry? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve held her while she’s broken down and cried since we’ve been here.”
Thea’s eyes widened. “Nicole is the one that always comforts whoever is down.”
Ian nodded. “I know. When she’s not sitting with Dana, she’s working out, or running marathons, or sparring with me. And when we do spar, her speed and power aren’t what they should be.”
Thea’s brow furrowed as she frowned.
“Now you see why I’m worried about her.”
“Have you asked her about it?” she asked.
“Anytime I try to talk to her about it she says something about it just being part of what she does.”
Thea thought for a moment. She then looked at Ian. “You really are worried about her, aren’t you? You really care about her.”
“Of course I do. She’s my friend – my best friend.”
Thea nodded. “I don’t know if she’ll be any more inclined to talk to me, but I can try. We can’t force her to talk.”
“I appreciate you trying, Thea. Thank you.”
She stared after Ian as he walked away. She was surprised by his obvious and sincere concern about their mutual friend. There was none of the irreverence or biting sarcasm she knew from the past. She began to concede that perhaps Nicole was right about him. He was a different person than he had been.
Tuesday, January 20th, 1998
After injecting Dana’s IV with another dose of quill sap Nicole came out of the bedroom. She let out a heavy sigh.
“Nicole, come here,” Thea said waving her over to the couch. “I’ve got these laptops programmed with the encryption software.”
The blonde picked one of the laptops up. “Damn, this is light.”
Thea grinned. “I know. They’re hot off the prototype bench. I’ve got an arrangement with the manufacturer.” She brought Nicole up to speed on the hardware and software. When she was done she leaned back and gave her friend a hard look. “Are you okay, Nicole? You don’t seem quite yourself.”
Nicole let out a sigh. She got up and went to a window. She felt Thea’s eyes on her as she stared out at nothing for a couple of minutes. Thea knew sometimes it was best to remain silent when trying to get an answer from a certain kind person – like a Malakim.
“No,” came the soft reply. “You know the kind work I normally do. I’ve been on this assignment almost eight months and except for a handful of vampires I ran across during a case in New Orleans and one demon in Florida, all I’ve had to deal with are humans – human perps, human victims, and human survivors.”
“And that’s a bad thing?”
“It’s… a difficult thing. Humans, their pain and such… affect me in a way that other things don’t,” she explained softly. “There’s a reason I hunt monsters,” she added.
“Is there anything I can do to help?” Thea asked.
After a few moments of silence Nicole turned to look at her. “Yes, there is.”
“I need a soul cleansing. As a holy person you can do it for me.”
Thea was taken aback. “Nicole, I’m a witch not a priest.”
Nicole gave her a small smile. “Haven’t you figured it out yet, Thea? It doesn’t matter what name it’s called by or what religion it’s packaged in. It’s all the same source. Good is good, and evil is evil. And it doesn’t matter if you’re a Pagan priestess, a Muslim imam, a Buddhist monk, a Jewish rabbi, or a Catholic priest. You’re a holy person serving good… and I need your help.”
“Okay, I’ll help.”
Great Thatch Island, BVI
Tuesday, January 20th, 1998
When Dana woke up again it was late afternoon. She weakly made her way to the bedroom doorway after having used the bathroom.
“Hey now, I don’t think you should be up yet,” Ian said, quickly moving to her side as he entered the living room. “And I know for sure Nicole won’t be happy about you taking out your IV again.”
Ian gave her a very pointed look that was loud and clear. They both knew she wasn’t fine, but Dana was hardheaded as a patient, and Ian saw that arguing with her wasn’t the way to go. She had to discover for herself what her limits were. However, that didn’t mean he was going to let anything happen to the redhead. For one, he rather admired her determination. He could tell she had a will of steel, and despite her current physical condition she was a force to be reckoned with. Secondly, and most importantly, the little spitfire was important to Nicole. His unswerving loyalty to Nicole translated into loyalty to and protection of, with his own life if necessary, Dana.
Dana took about four unsteady steps into the living room before she started to go down.
Ian effortlessly caught her. “Easy does it, I’ve got you.” He very gently set her down on the couch and kneeled in front of her. “Alright then?” he asked her.
She took a breath and nodded before opening her eyes. It really burned her up to feel so weak and dependent on others. It went against her very nature. After counting to ten more than once she opened her eyes. “Thank you. I guess I’m… not so fine after all.”
“Quite alright. You’ll be right as rain again. It’s just going to take a little bit of time.”
“Are you a doctor?”
“Me? No. But I know Nicole, and if she says you’re going to be alright then you’re going to be alright.”
“Where is she?” Dana asked looking around.
“She and Thea are out right now, but they’ll be back. Well, now that you’ve ventured out of bed, would you care for something to eat?”
“Right then. Be right back.” He was back rather quickly with some soup and crackers.
Dana ate what she could, which wasn’t that much. “So how long have you known Nicole?” she asked.
“A few years.”
“You seem to have a lot of confidence in her.”
He cocked his head and looked at her. “Don’t you? I mean, you’re her partner, you trust her to have your back. And you trusted your life to her when you left the hospital with her. Right?”
“I didn’t have anything to lose, I’m dying.”
Ian’s eyes flared with anger. He stood up and turned away, trying to calm his ire. “No. You were dying.”
Dana could tell he was angry, but she was a doctor, and despite her willingness to trust in Nicole and let her partner remove her from the hospital, she found it impossible to ignore the facts as she knew them.
“Ian, you said you aren’t a doctor.”
He consciously relaxed his rigid muscles and turned back to look at her.
“Well, I am. I have an inoperable tumor in front of my brain, here,” she said pointing to the correct area. “The cancer has metastasized through my blood. The cancer has spread throughout my body. I’ve been through the conventional treatments and some experimental ones. There’s nothing more that can be done. The truth is I should already be dead. I’m lucky to have lived this long.”
Ian took a breath and let it out. He went back to where she was sitting and sat on the coffee table facing the redhead. With elbows on his knees so he was eye-to-eye with her, he took both her hands in his. “Look, I obviously don’t know you very well, but I have no doubt your will, your strength, and your determination have more to do with you still being alive than any amount of luck.”
Dana eyes dropped. She didn’t feel very strong at the moment. In fact she couldn’t remember ever feeling so weak.
Ian leaned down until he met her eyes with his again. “As I said, I don’t know you very well, but I do know Nicole. She doesn’t make promises she can’t keep. You’ll never find a more loyal, more selfless, more giving person. You won’t find a bigger heart or purer soul in this world. She’ll go to the ends of the earth for those she cares about. If you hurt her she won’t let on; if you hurt someone she loves, she’s as fierce as a mama bear; and if she’s your friend, she’s your friend for life.” He gave her hands a gentle squeeze. “Nicole said you’ll get better.” He gave her a small smile. “That means you will get better.”
Dana swallowed around the lump that had formed in her throat. She didn’t know this man, but the unwavering faith and confidence he had her partner touched her. It reminded her of what she saw in Nicole’s eyes in the hospital. “You certainly have a lot of faith in her,” she said as lightly as she could with a lump in her throat and tears stinging behind her eyes.
Ian let go of her hands, letting her have some space to regroup. He nodded. “Yes, I do. I wouldn’t be the man I am today if not for her. Nicole stood by me when no one else would. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for her. I also know if I ever need anything, all I have to do is ask and she’ll be there. It’s obvious she counts you among those she cares about.” He paused. “Please don’t diminish that gift… or abuse it.”
Dana couldn’t keep from smiling at his soft spoken loyalty. “I have no intention of doing so.” She let her own loyalty show in her eyes. “I’m loyal to my friends as well.”
He gave her a nod of understanding.
Nicole and Thea were out in a small clearing on the island. They had set up a circle of candles in which Nicole would stand. The blonde also counted off a number of paces from the circle and marked the spot with a twig.
Once the candles were set she handed Thea a sheet of paper. “I’ve written out the ritual for you. All you have to do is read this and stay at the place I marked.”
Thea, still feeling a bit inadequate for the task, took a breath. “Are you sure about this, Nicole? I’m just a witch.”
Nicole noticed something pass behind her friend’s eyes. “What is it, Thea? What are you worried about?”
Thea lowered her eyes. “What if…” she took a deep breath, “… what if something goes wrong? I mean, this is your soul we’re talking about.”
She gave the brunette an affectionate smile. “It’s good to be vigilant with magic, but there’s no need for you to doubt your heart and soul. You know your path; stay on it and you’ll always do well.”
“Do you really think I would ask this of you if you didn’t have such a bright and good soul?”
She lowered her eyes and blushed. “Thank you.”
They hugged. Nicole moved inside the circle of candles and Thea moved to the spot that had marked.
Nicole undressed and fully shifted into her Malakim form. Her wings stretched out to their fullest length for a few moments then settled back into a more relaxed position. Thea couldn’t help letting out a quiet gasp at the sight before her. It wasn’t that she was seeing her female friend naked. It was more feeling the presence of the Malakim before her. Her face, her eyes, her wings… even the air about her seem to take on an aura of power, knowledge; an aura of… more.
“Ready,” rumbled Nicole in answer.
Thea had to force her eyes to the paper in her hand. She looked at the writing on the paper, the writing that was in a language she’d never even seen or heard before. The blonde had assured her that when the time came she would be able to read the writing on the paper. She blinked and the words on the paper became known to her. She felt an energy flow through her as she recited the ritual, calling for the cleansing of Nicole’s soul, the lifting of her burden, so that she may continue in her service to the source of all that is good.
The brunette didn’t know what happened when she finished reading the text, because a bright flash that encompassed the blonde from above blinded her. Nicole was on her knees, sitting on her feet, leaning forward on her hands. Her head was hanging and her wings were swept upward.
Thea slowly approached and knelt in front of her. She reached out and gently laid a hand on the blonde’s shoulder. “Are you alright?”
Nicole lifted her head and looked at her friend. There were tears in her eyes, but Thea somehow knew they weren’t tears of sorrow or pain. Nicole simply nodded. They both stood. The blonde didn’t appear any different, but she felt different to Thea.
“It worked, didn’t it?”
She nodded again. “Yes,” she answered quietly though her voice still resonated. She took a couple of deep breaths and slowly let them out. She stretched her arms and back as well as her wings. With her head tilted back and eyes closed she drew in yet another deep breath and smiled to the heavens as she exhaled with a peaceful sigh. “I haven’t felt this… light in quite some time. Thank you, Thea.”
Nicole looked at her friend. The brunette had a rather stunned look on her face. “Thea? What’s wrong?”
Thea snapped out of it. She shook her head and smiled. “Nothing. Nothing’s wrong. I’m just… you… I’ve never seen you… like this.”
Nicole looked down at herself. “Oh. I guess I should put my clothes back on, instead of walking around naked as a jay bird,” she said with a smile.
Nicole cocked an eyebrow at Thea in question as she reached for her clothes.
“I mean yes. I mean…” She stopped and regrouped. “I wasn’t referring to you being naked. What I meant was that I’ve never seen you like you are right now. So…” She paused to find the right words.
“But you have seen me like this before,” Nicole said, ruffling her wings.
“I know. I don’t mean that either. It’s not actually a physical thing.” She took a step closer to Nicole and gazed into her eyes. “I feel calmness and serenity and strength just rolling off of you in waves.” She closed her eyes as she continued. “It’s not like you’re projecting it, like turning on a faucet full blast. It’s more like a bubbling brook, just naturally flowing from a wellspring, from the source within you.” She opened her eyes. “It’s incredible.”
Nicole shifted back and quickly dressed. She smiled. “You are indeed a sensitive and an exceptional soul, Thea.” Nicole continued, cutting off Thea’s objection. “Normally a human can’t sense even a fraction of that unless I deliberately make contact with their soul. Let your sensitivity and intuitiveness be your guides, and you’ll never stray far from your path.” They hugged. “Again, thank you for your help – for everything, not just the ritual.”
“You’re more than welcome.”
They walked back to the house arm in arm.
Thea and Nicole entered the house only a few moments after Ian and Dana had finished their talk. Ian stood up and smiled. He looked at the blonde questioningly because he could tell something was different.
“And just what have you two been up to?” he asked.
They both smiled.
“Have you been out for a snog?” he asked jokingly.
That question earned him a punch in each shoulder as Nicole moved around him on one side to the couch and Thea passed him on the other side to head into the kitchen.
“Don’t be such a wanker,” Thea said with a smirk as her punch landed.
“Ow!” he exclaimed as both punches landed.
“Wuss,” Nicole chuckled.
“Hey! What is it? Pick on Ian day?”
“Every day is ‘Pick on Ian’ day,” Thea said with a big grin.
“Thanks a lot.”
Dana couldn’t keep from smiling at the comfortable banter between the friends. She also noticed a difference in Nicole as soon as she had entered the house. She seemed… lighter, more at ease, serene.
Nicole sat on the couch with her. “You really shouldn’t keep taking your IV out. You’re a doctor, Dana, you know better,” she said lightly and with an affectionate smile.
The redhead just smirked and shrugged her shoulders, knowing her partner was right. She knew she was a lousy patient.
“Would you like something to eat, or have you already had something?”
“Ian already fixed me some soup and crackers.”
“Good. How do you feel?”
“The same – worn out and weak.”
“It’ll get better, I promise. It’s just going to take some time.” Nicole saw the doubt in her partner’s eyes, but she didn’t blame Dana for it. It was understandable considering her medical knowledge and her condition. After all, they both knew she was lucky to still be alive at this point. Only Dana didn’t know that the ‘luck’ was actually Nicole’s intervention.
The blonde put her hand over Dana’s and gave it a squeeze. “I’m going to fix us some tea. If you’re not going to leave the IV alone,” she said smiling, “I’ll just have to make sure you drink lots and lots of my tea.” She got up.
“So no chance I could get a cup of coffee, help me feel more awake?” Dana asked with small smile, already knowing the answer.
Nicole smiled mischievously. “Hell no. Just be glad you won the IV battle. I could have put the IV back in and added a sedative to make sure you left it alone.” She headed into the kitchen to prepare the tea.
In the kitchen she spoke to both Thea and Ian about the next step of her plans. Thea and Ian would fly back that evening and begin surveillance on the members of the Consortium. Ian suggested just letting him take them out, but Nicole had other plans. The laptops Thea brought would be their mode of contact with each other. They had webcams built in and with the programming Thea did they were secure.
Normally Nicole would do her own surveillance and legwork, but she was not going to leave Dana until she was much better. Ian and Thea were trustworthy and experienced; between them they could handle round the clock coverage of a subject.
Although the blonde had asked for their help, neither of them considered their contributions a favor for Nicole. They were outraged that anyone would bioengineer and infect someone with cancer. It’s true they initially agreed to help simply because Nicole had asked, but they were really helping because they were going after truly evil men who had to be stopped.
Once Nicole finished with the tea she headed back into the living room and joined Dana on the couch again. “Here you go.”
The redhead gazed into her mug without drinking. A small smile curled her lips.
“Something wrong with your tea?”
“Just wondering if you spiked it.”
“Spiked it? With what?”
“Sedative,” she said with a side glance.
Nicole shrugged. “Guess you’ll just have to risk it,” she replied with a smirk.
Thea and Ian came back into the living room. They said their goodbyes and left.
The men in business suits were once again gathered around the large circular table in the middle of the abandoned warehouse. However, unknown to them, there was another in attendance. Ian moved silently among the dark recesses of the warehouse, committing the face and smell of each target to memory. While he listened in, Thea was outside planting tracking devices on each of their cars.
The short, round man who was the apparent leader demanded everyone’s attention. “Now, who can tell me what the fuck happened to Special Agent Dana Scully?”
His question was met with a very uncomfortable silence as the others shifted in their seats nervously.
“Who took her and where is she?!” he demanded.
No one had an answer.
After a few seconds he continued. “Then can anyone tell me where Special Agent Nicole Logan is, and if her disappearance has anything to do with Scully’s?”
The Cigarette Smoking Man spoke up. “Agent Logan is on a temporary undercover assignment related to one of her previous cases. She left on assignment the afternoon before Scully went missing.”
“Are you sure? The timing is suspicious.”
“I verified through both Blevins and Kersh – her orders were generated through the Director’s office, and inquiries have indicated she’s most likely back in Europe.”
The Leader seemed satisfied with the answer. But that only took care of only one problem. They still needed to find out what had happened to Scully. They discussed what to do about that situation and then moved on to other matters of business.
Great Thatch Island, BVI
Tuesday, January 27th, 1998
Nicole kept a close eye on Dana in the following days. She still slept most of the time, but the blonde started to see some improvement in her partner’s health.
They would sometimes watch TV together, either on the couch in the living room or on the bed in the master bedroom. Inevitably, Dana would end up lying down with her head on Nicole’s lap. She would then quickly fall asleep while the blonde gently carded her fingers through her hair and lightly massaged her scalp. It wasn’t something either had planned and neither of them spoke about it. Eventually, Dana didn’t even bother to sit next to Nicole when they watched TV – she’d simply lay down with her head in Nicole’s lap as soon as the TV was turned on.
After Ian and Thea had left, Nicole did not take the guest bedroom, opting instead to sleep on the living room couch, in case Dana needed her during the night. Even that didn’t last.
One particular night Dana had fallen asleep on the couch. Nicole had spoken with both Thea and Ian, getting updated by them. She spent some time going over data received from them and formulating her plans. It was then time for bed. Instead of waking her partner up she carefully slipped her arms under the redhead’s sleeping form, gently picked her up, carried her into the bedroom, and set her down on the bed. When she pulled the covers up and started to leave Dana’s hand caught hers.
“Don’t go… stay…” she mumbled quietly.
Nicole knew Dana had been having some bad dreams – she’d woken more than once during the night to go into the bedroom to calm her partner down both before and after she woke from them. She also soothed her partner a number of times when Dana slept with her head in her lap, whispering softly to her, reassuring her she wasn’t alone. So, the blonde agreed to stay.
“Alright, I’ll stay,” she replied softly. She moved to the other side of the bed and slipped between the sheets. “I’m right here if you need me,” she whispered quietly.
It wasn’t long before the redhead, though asleep, had inched her way towards Nicole. She didn’t fully settle down until her back was up against the blonde. Nicole simply put her arm around Dana’s waist and held her most of the night. It was the most peaceful night’s sleep either had had in quite some time.
After that night Nicole stopped sleeping on the couch. Again, it wasn’t something either had planned… neither did they discuss it.
As the redhead slowly regained some of her strength, Nicole got her out of the house for walks. A daily walk became part of their routine. Eventually a second walk at sunset did as well. They spent their time together talking about many things. Both women enjoyed the time together.
Dana was more relaxed and open than she could ever remember being as an adult. She liked seeing her partner relaxed and open as well. She felt she got to know more about the blonde in two weeks than she did in almost eight months of working with her. And she really liked what she got to know. Even though they had spent off time together before, this was different, they were different. They were more open, more personal. The redhead had never felt so comfortable with another person in her life.
Dana was amazed at how well she slept at night while sharing a bed with her partner. Rather than the blonde’s presence prompting a night of tossing and turning, she slept more peacefully than she could ever remember. Nicole’s presence also apparently turned the redhead into a cuddler – something she had never been in bed… or out of bed, for that matter. After the first few times she gave up being embarrassed and just accepted it – especially since it didn’t seem to bother her partner at all.
Friday, January 30th, 1998
Nicole knew that if she were going to execute any kind of plan against the leaders of the Consortium she was going to need a base of operations closer to DC than the island. Under normal circumstances she would have simply operated out of her house. After all, that was the reason she purchased it and made the modifications she had. But she wasn’t about to leave her partner for any length of time while she was still recovering. So, the blonde placed a call.
“Thea, it’s me.”
“Hey, Nicole. How is Dana doing?”
“Glad to hear it. What can I do for you?”
“I’m going to need a base of operations.”
“I thought that’s what the house was for.”
“I know,” she sighed. “But I need something mobile. Any ideas?”
“Oh! Yeah. Let me make a couple of phone calls and get back to you.”
It was only ten minutes later when Thea called Nicole back.
“That was fast.”
“I just had to contact the Council. One of the yachts is in the area and is being assigned for your use – the Hashmalim. It should be there within three or four days.”
“That’s perfect. Who’s the captain?”
Nicole smiled. She couldn’t have asked for a better man than Captain Tully. She knew she could count on him.
Sunday, February 1st, 1998
Nicole and Dana were walking side by side along the edge of the surf after having finished a picnic. They’d left their shoes on the blanket.
“I know it wasn’t the dinner I had planned for tonight, but I hope you enjoyed it. I’ll make it up to you on your birthday though, I promise,” Nicole said in a light tone.
“Of course I enjoyed it. It was delicious. And it’s absolutely beautiful here. Thank you.” She gave Nicole a smile. “And as far as my birthday goes… I wouldn’t be having another birthday if you hadn’t done what you’d done.”
Nicole cocked her head a little as she looked at the redhead. “So you’re beginning to trust me and believe you’re going to live?” Nicole’s mouth was tilted in a half smile.
“It was never a question of trusting you, Nicole, I did – I do.” Dana stopped walking and turned to her partner.
Nicole stopped and waited, seeing that her partner needed a moment to gather herself. She saw a maelstrom of emotion behind those captivating blue eyes before they turned to the surf.
“I think it’s been more fear than anything. I’ve been afraid… to hope. When you asked me to make a choice… it would have been so easy to just… let go…” Unshed tears colored her voice and stung the backs of her eyes.
“But you didn’t; you chose to fight,” Nicole replied gently.
“Fighting is all I’ve done for so long… it’s my default mode,” she said with a rueful half smile. She took a deep breath and let it out. “Just because I trusted you and I chose to fight, didn’t mean I was ready to hope I could actually get better. I’ve been through so much, lost so much these last few years…” Her tears finally spilled.
The blonde didn’t hesitate; she wrapped her arms around her partner and gently held Dana as she cried. “I’m still afraid, Nicole… I’m afraid to get my hopes up.”
“I know.” Nicole tightened her arms around the redhead. “Tell you what, you just take each day as it comes, and leave the rest up to me – at least for right now.” She felt Dana’s head nod against her shoulder.
Dana was a very independent person and very self-contained with her emotions. But the blonde had so successfully gotten past her barriers in the last few months, and especially in the last couple of weeks, that she didn’t even bother to hide behind them. She let herself accept and enjoy the comfort of her partner’s embrace… as well as the catharsis of her own confession and tears. She also found comfort in Nicole’s assurance that it was okay to not get her hopes up. Despite her fiercely independent nature, she was surprisingly willing to ‘leave the rest’ up to her partner. Dana knew that Nicole was in no way implying she was incapable, she was simply offering to lighten the load for a while.
After a few short minutes she pulled back and wiped her eyes. “Sorry.”
“I think you know by now you don’t have to apologize,” Nicole said with an affectionate smile. With her arm around Dana’s waist she turned to continue their walk.
Arm in arm they walked in the surf. They returned to the blanket and sat, comfortably quietly in each other’s company, and watched the spectacular sunset.
Great Thatch Island, BVI
Sunday, February 1st, 1998
Dana, as usual, was worn out when they returned to the house after the sunset. Part of her was just happy to see another sunset, but the rest of her was getting impatient with herself, angry at her weakness. Nicole disappeared into the kitchen only long enough to fix them some tea.
“Don’t be so hard on yourself, Dana,” the blonde said gently as she handed Dana her mug of tea and joined her on the couch.
She gave her partner a surprised look – wondering how the blonde knew what she was thinking.
Nicole gave her a small smile. “You aren’t guarding your expression to hide your thoughts.”
“Too tired, I guess,” she said with half a smile. She knew it was true; she wasn’t using her usual bag of tricks to guard herself and keep people at arm’s length. Of course, Nicole was the only ‘people’ around, and she no longer wanted to keep her walls up around her partner.
“Of course knowing how independent you are, not to mention your iron will and determined mindset, I know you must be chafing at not being able to get your body to do what you want it to.”
Dana swallowed some of the tea and arched and eyebrow at Nicole. “Are you saying I’m stubborn?”
“I didn’t say it was a bad thing. After all, look how far it’s gotten you,” the blonde replied, smiling. “Only two weeks ago you couldn’t walk to the front door without support. Now you’re up and about and taking long walks twice a day. I’d say that’s pretty damn impressive considering what your body’s going through.”
“I know you’re right…”
“But you don’t have to like it,” Nicole finished for her with smile.
Dana returned her smile and nodded.
They spent the rest of the evening watching an old movie on TV. As usual, Dana fell asleep with her head on Nicole’s lap.
Nicole’s phone ringing startled her and woke Dana. “Logan… Sounds good… No, not here. We’ll be mobile tomorrow… Okay, I understand… Ian? Be careful, please… Yes, I do love you… Bye.”
Dana sat up when she heard Nicole tell Ian she loved him, withdrawing emotionally as well as physically. She had come to enjoy the level of intimacy she and her partner had over the past couple of weeks. And even though there had been absolutely no indication from Nicole that it was anything other than platonic, Dana’s heart was starting to make some of its secret wishes invade her thoughts.
Once upright she looked at the blonde. “We’ll be mobile tomorrow?”
Nicole nodded. “Yeah. We’ll be leaving the island tomorrow. Even though the Consortium and FBI don’t know where we are, too many flights in and out here would eventually catch someone’s attention.”
“Don’t worry, accommodations will be quite comfortable,” she said with a smile.
“How about the sunsets? I think I’m going to miss the sunsets here.” She didn’t know why, but Dana felt a little embarrassed for some reason.
Nicole gave her partner a smile, one that lit up her eyes. “I think some beautiful sunsets can be arranged.”
Jost Van Dyke, BVI
Monday, February 2nd, 1998
The next morning Nicole and Dana packed up what few things they had and headed to the beach at the appropriate time. Waiting for them was a boat and two men.
“Agent Logan?” one of them asked.
Nicole nodded. “Hello.”
“Captain Tully sends his regards. I’m Tommy and this is Les,” he indicated the second man. “Do you have everything you need?” he asked looking at what little they were bringing.
“Then allow us to transport you to your home away from home, the Hashmalim,” he said with a smile.
The men politely helped the women into the boat and then headed out.
“Where is the Hashmalim?” Nicole asked.
“Captain Tully thought it best not to draw attention to the island, so the Hashmalim is waiting in the bay at Jost Van Dyke. It’s less than four miles from here so we’ll be there shortly,” Tommy answered.
There were, of course, several boats at anchor in the bay of the island a little over three and a half miles north of Grand Thatch Island. Dana’s eyes grew large as the small boat they were riding in zeroed in on the largest boat in the bay. The men tied the sleek motor boat to the water platform and helped the women onto the platform. Les led them up the steps to the deck. Waiting for them on the aft deck was Captain Tully.
“Tully! It’s good to see you.”
“The pleasure is all mine. Welcome aboard the Hashmalim, Miss Dana.”
He led them into the salon. “Would either of you care for something to drink or to eat?”
Both women declined. Dana indicated she was a little tired.
A uniformed woman who had been checking the stocks behind the wet bar replied. “Yes, Captain?”
“Would you please show Miss Dana to her cabin?”
Nicole gave her partner’s arm a light squeeze. “It’s alright. I’ll come check on you in a bit. I need to discuss a couple of things with Tully.”
Dana nodded. She followed the steward out of the salon. “Your name is Max?”
“Well, it’s Sara Lomax, but I go by Max, have for years.”
Dana nodded. “I’m Dana.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Dana.”
“How big is this boat?” Dana was a bit in awe of the size and the luxuriousness of the interior.
“The Hashmalim has a length of 140 feet and a beam of 25 feet.” Max noticed Dana taking in the details around them. “Would you like the tour?”
Max gave Dana a quick tour of Hashmalim. She pointed out many of the ship’s features such as rich woods, marble counters, plasma screens, advanced sound system, TV, radio, internet, and phone service via satellite, sauna and steam rooms, library, exercise room, and finally the master suite.
Dana had been impressed with everything Max showed her and told her about the boat, but when they entered the master cabin she was blown away. The sheer size was one thing, but the spectacular view provided by the bow-facing rows of windows along the entire width of the cabin was incredible. Because the cabin was the foremost cabin on the upper deck, the forward bulkhead was inclined and curved, with two rows of large windows. The upper row of windows offered a view that would include any starry night sky. Below the windows were a small writing desk, some dresser drawers, and a small sofa. Directly center of the bulkhead the lower window was replaced with a hatch leading out to a private veranda overseeing a sunning area on the main deck bow.
The marble master bath was just as impressive as the cabin. There was a deep oversized marble tub and a double-sized glass and marble shower with multiple shower heads and a marble bench.
“I could spend hours just in this bathroom,” Dana said with a smirk.
Max smiled. “Hashmalim has my favorite master cabin of the fleet.”
“Hashmalim is one of seven yachts the owners have available.”
“Are they all like this?”
“They vary from 120 feet to 200 feet. Each one has a distinctive personality and features. Unlike some, the owners continuously maintain and improve each to the highest standards with the best of everything; from linens to audio/visual systems, to state of the art navigation and safety equipment. Even the Absinthe which was built in 1973 is one of the most luxurious and modernized yachts around.”
“I can’t imagine owning one yacht, much less seven!”
“They usually buy a new ship to add to the fleet every two to five years.”
“How can anyone need so many yachts?”
Max smiled. “Usually, all but one or two are at sea under charter at any given time.”
“Is there anything I can do or get for you at this time?”
“No, thank you. I’m just going to relax for a bit.”
Max showed Dana how to use the electronic concierge system and then left.
While Max showed Dana around and took her to her quarters, Nicole had some things to attend to. She and Tully walked together on the way to the pilothouse.
“You know, I was glad to hear it was you that was coming, Tully.”
“I gathered from my orders that you have important things to attend to, and that they wish to ensure the safety of your guest.”
Nicole nodded. “Yeah. This one’s different. It’s not the usual group of suspects. They’re human.” She took a breath and let it out. “So I can’t exactly go in guns blazing. It’s more complicated.”
They entered the pilothouse where they went over the charts. The Hashmalim would head southwest into the Caribbean. Then it would turn northwest and continue through the Caribbean, making a brief stop in the Caymans for some supplies. From there they would continue northwest until they entered the Gulf of Mexico and change course to the northeast to visit the Florida Keys. Beyond that, they would sail up and down the east coast as dictated by the needs of Nicole’s mission.
She gave Tully a smile. “I’m afraid it’s a rather boring cruise you were brought in for.”
He gave her a single nod. “Which is not a bad thing,” he said with a smile.
Nicole nodded, “Agreed.”
They then discussed the crew assignments. The deckhands were Tommy Burdett and Les Warwick. Tommy was former SAS and Royal Guard; Les was former Scotland Yard. Sara ‘Max’ Lomax was also former Scotland Yard. The engineer, Douglas Newell was retired Royal Navy, just as Captain Richard Tully was. And the chef, Geoffrey Whitten, was a world class chef and able to cook or bake just about anything a person could want.
The Hashmalim had weighed anchor and was getting underway by the time Nicole left the pilothouse.
Nicole knocked on the open door.
The blonde walked in and smiled at Dana where she was sprawled out on the king size bed. “Comfortable?”
“So are your accommodations sufficient?”
“Are you kidding? I think this cabin is bigger than my apartment.”
She sat on the side of the bed. “I realize staying here, on the ship, might feel a bit limiting compared to being on the island. After all, there’s not nearly so much room to go for walks. But hopefully the Hashmalim provides enough diversions to help pass the time quickly. There’s a library full of books, an extensive video collection, satellite TV, and an exercise room when you’re a little stronger.”
Dana gave her partner a wry smile. “I’m not complaining, Nicole. I just wish I had a swim suit.”
The blonde nodded. “Didn’t exactly have a lot of clothes to bring with us when we left the hospital.” She smiled, “But I think I may be able to expand your current wardrobe a bit.” She stood and held her hand out to the redhead. “Come on.”
Dana sat up, took Nicole’s hand and was pulled up from the bed. The blonde took her to a door to reveal a walk-in closet. “Unless Thea’s totally lost her touch, you should find just about anything you’ll need in here.”
She was stunned. There was a complete recreational wardrobe – pants, shorts, tanks, tees, shirts, swim suits, and shoes. “Nicole?”
The blonde smiled. “I take it Thea did alright?”
“Yeah, you could say that.”
Nicole left Dana to rest and headed to the office which was off the master stateroom. She turned on her computer and called Thea to get an update.
The blonde was pouring over files she printed out that had been sent to her by Thea when Dana found her in the office. She closed a folder and tossed it onto the desk with some irritation. She then pinched the bridge of her nose and closed her eyes.
“That good, huh?” Dana’s voice came from the doorway.
Nicole let out a sigh. “Just a lot of research… giving me a headache.” She dropped her chin to her chest and slid her hand to the back of her neck to squeeze the muscles there.
Dana walked over to stand behind the blonde’s chair. She moved Nicole’s hand away and started to massage her neck.
“Mmmm, that feels good.
“You’re in knots.”
“I know.” After a couple of minutes Nicole straightened her head back up. She reached back and grabbed one of Dana’s hands. She held it as she swiveled her seat around. Nicole looked up into beautiful blue eyes. “What about you? How are you feeling?” she asked still holding her partner’s hand.
She took a breath and let it out. “Better since I took a nap. I am getting a little hungry though.”
Nicole smiled. “That’s not surprising, considering it’s about time for dinner. And it’s easily taken care of. What are you in the mood for? What would you like?”
That night, after Dana went to bed, Nicole was again in the office studying the intel Ian and Thea had provided. Max entered the office with a salver. She set it down on the corner of the desk. Nicole barely glanced over but picked up the large mug of hot tea.
“Mmmm, thank you,” she said after taking a large sip.
Max then picked up the syringe she had also placed on the tray. “Hip, please.”
“Hmm?” she responded absently as she concentrated on the computer screen.
“Drop trou, ma’am.”
Surprised, Nicole turned to look at the woman.
Max held the syringe at the ready. “To treat your migraine,” she stated.
The blonde rolled her eyes. “Let me guess – Thea called you.”
“I’m just following orders, ma’am.”
Nicole let out a sigh as she stood up and lowered her shorts enough to allow Max to give her the shot in her hip.
“You’ve been studying that screen for hours. You really ought to call it a night. Get some rest and let the medication work.”
“I will shortly. I just want to get through this file.”
Max left. Nicole didn’t actually get through the file before her migraine made her give up. She lay down on the couch in the office, telling herself she’d get back to work once the medication knocked back her migraine.
Tuesday, February 3rd, 1998
It was a cry clearly announcing terror that woke Nicole. She knew in an instant it was her partner. She raced from the office into the master suite. She sat on the bed and took a still mostly asleep redhead into her arms.
“It’s okay, Dana… it’s only a dream… shhh… I’ve got you…” She cradled Dana’s head against her shoulder and she kissed her forehead without thinking.
The redhead instinctively put an arm up around Nicole’s neck and pulled her close, clinging to her as her tears flowed uncontrolled.
The blonde tightened her arms around Dana. “Shhh… I’ve got you… it’s okay, Dana…”
The redhead was no stranger to nightmares. No one could go through the things she’d been through and not have nightmares, but she seldom let them get the best of her. On bad nights she would stay awake to avoid falling back into the nightmares. Giving in to the fear created by her own mind felt like weakness to Dana. She was used to be being in control of her emotions… not being controlled by them. And she certainly didn’t let others see how deeply the fear and sadness within ran. However, the walls she used to keep things in and people out just didn’t work with the blonde. She could no sooner keep her partner outside her walls than she could stop breathing. Nicole knew her, saw her, understood her, accepted her. And Nicole was the one she trusted.
Nicole held the redhead, absorbing her tears in her cotton t-shirt, and absorbing her fears in her heart.
Dana eventually got her tears under control. She ducked her head as she pulled back and wiped her face. “Sorry,” she whispered.
“There’s nothing to apologize for. You want to talk about it?”
She shook her head. It was then she noticed what the blonde was wearing. “What time is it?”
“About 3:30 in the morning.”
“And you’re still up?”
Nicole gave a one shouldered shrug. “Research.”
“It’s just case prep.”
“Case prep? What case?”
“My temporary reassignment undercover.”
Dana frowned, “I thought that was just a cover story to explain your absence.”
“It’s both actually. I’ll be coming and going from the ship periodically.” She gave Dana’s arm a light squeeze. “So, are you okay to go back to sleep now?”
She nodded. “Yeah, I’m fine. Thanks.”
“If you need anything, I’m just in the office there,” she said, inclining her head toward the office doorway.
Monday, February 9th, 1998
Once the Hashmalim reached the Caymans they stopped long enough to pick up a few supplies. As planned, they continued on from there to the Keys, dropping anchor off Key West.
Dana continued to make small gains daily in her health. And she was finally starting to put on some of the weight that the cancer had deprived her of. Of course, having a world class chef preparing fantastic (and healthy) meals helped. She even started to get some sun, though slathered with sun block to prevent burning.
Under other circumstances, the redhead thought time on the Hashmalim would have been a dream vacation. But she was not recuperating as quickly as she’d like… and her partner was suddenly otherwise occupied almost constantly. Nicole was either holed up in the office pouring over files, or on the phone.
Dana missed the time, the intimacy, they shared on the island – talking, watching TV, sunset walks. She could see, and feel, Nicole growing more solemn and determined with each day that passed.
The Hashmalim headed north up the coast after a couple of days spent in Key West. Two days later they were in much colder waters off the Delaware coast. That evening Nicole seemed even quieter and more introspective than ever during dinner.
“Is everything okay?”
She looked up at Dana. “What do you mean?”
“You seem distracted.”
The blonde gave her partner a small rueful smile. “Sorry. I just have some things on my mind.” She let out a sigh. “I have to leave tonight. I’ll probably be gone two or three days.”
“Your case?” It really wasn’t a question. Dana knew her partner had been doing some major preparation during the last week, but she was suddenly overcome with deep concern about Nicole’s safety. “You’re going undercover alone, aren’t you?”
The blonde took a deep breath and let it out as she nodded.
Dana placed her hand over the blonde’s. “Nicole?”
“I don’t like the idea of you being out there alone. Promise me you’ll be careful. I don’t want to lose you.”
Nicole turned her hand underneath Dana’s and gave it a gentle squeeze. “This is far from the first time I’ve gone into the field alone – I’m used to it. I’ll be alright.”
“You better be. I don’t think I can deal with breaking in another partner,” Dana replied, trying to lighten the mood… to lighten her own mood.
That night, after Dana went to sleep, Tully met with Nicole on the sundeck.
“I shouldn’t be gone more than two or three days, four at the most.”
“Do you have everything you need?”
She nodded. “Yes.”
“Forgive me, but you don’t sound particularly eager to handle the situation.”
Nicole let out a sigh. “I’m… conflicted about this one.”
“I don’t usually go after humans… at least not like this.”
“With ‘monsters’ you know exactly what to do – vanquish them. Humans are different – they have souls, and rarely are all bad. You wouldn’t be who and what you are if you didn’t recognize that and it didn’t give you pause. You can’t exactly go around killing humans.”
“That’s just it – I’d like nothing more than to do just that! I’ve never wanted to kill a human as much as I do right now. These men purposefully bioengineered a way to give Dana cancer! How does someone even think about doing that? They don’t just want her dead, they want her to suffer. And she has.” Nicole stopped and let out a sigh. “Well, I need to go.” She released her wings. She plucked a few feathers and gave them to Tully. “Have Max make sure Dana continues with the tea, and lookout for her – don’t let her push herself too hard too soon.”
“As you wish.”
With that she took off up into the night sky.
Nicole flew into the night sky, unobserved by anyone. She flew about 100 miles until she arrived at the very affluent Ferry Landing subdivision of Alexandria. She landed on a private pier of a five-acre estate. She paused and centered herself. She knew she couldn’t let personal animosity overrule her judgment.
She was in full hunter mode and in her usual hunting attire – black top and cap, black leather boots, pants, and duster. Despite the boots she wore her steps were light and silent. Every sense she had was on alert. She flew up to the roof of the mansion. Her quarry was in the master bedroom with his wife. Normally she would have felt sympathy for the wife, but her investigation (with the help of Ian and Thea) revealed that the wife was no more an innocent than her husband. However, she wasn’t a threat to Dana, and Nicole was there to deal with that threat.
The blonde entered the house through a third story window and silently entered the bedroom. To avoid waking the wife she took out a cloth impregnated with something akin to chloroform and placed it over the man’s mouth and nose. He was unconscious before he even had a chance to waken and react to her presence. She silently hefted his body and left.
Ian was waiting for her when she arrived at the empty warehouse he’d scouted out for her use. He led her inside and down into the subbasement. He didn’t know exactly what Nicole had in mind for the bastard, but he saw the fire in her eyes. He’d fought at her side before and knew she was in full battle mode. There would be no second chances offered this time. He offered to stay and help her, but she declined as he expected her to. Ian left, knowing the man was soon to discover the meaning of ‘hell of earth’.
Nicole held the man for three days. For those three days she pulled things out of his soul and made him ‘experience’ the consequences of his actions – from his victims’ perspective. She took him through the emotional, mental, and physical things he had subjected others to.
She never laid a hand on him, but pulling things from his soul and putting him through what she did, was far more difficult and more draining than any kind physical activity. During those days she also interrogated him. She’d gotten everything she needed from him. By the time she finished he was blubbering like a baby. His mind had turned inward on itself and fractured. He was forever beyond any help – an empty shell.
Nicole felt sick in her heart. She felt more soiled than she could ever remember being. As tempted as she was to just leave him where he lay in a fetal position on the grimy floor, she knew that would be the same as killing him… and she wasn’t a murderer.
She once again hefted his body. She dropped him at the nearest hospital’s emergency room, slipping in and out without anyone noticing her. It was still night, but if she was going to fly back to the yacht before dawn, and unnoticed, she needed to leave immediately.
Friday, February 13th, 1998
Nicole no sooner touched down on the sundeck of the boat and Tully and Max seemed to appear out of nowhere with a large, steaming mug of tea. She accepted the offering with a nod of thanks. As she took a grateful swallow of the tea she allowed Max to help her out of her duster.
“Have you eaten?” Tully asked.
She shook her head. “No. And before you ask, no – I don’t want to eat. I haven’t the stomach for anything right now. What I need more than anything is a shower.”
She started undressing as she headed to the day head on the sundeck, dropping the last piece just outside the door of the head. Max collected her things and left to put them away, as well as obtain a robe for the blonde to wear once she completed her shower.
Nicole stood under the steaming water, trying to sluice away the dirty feeling that went far deeper than her pores. After finishing her shower she dried off and slipped on the robe Max had provided. Out on the sundeck she could see the sky just starting to lighten from the coming sunrise, but the beauty was lost on her. She’d been going for the past three days without sleep, was heartsick, and needed more than just a mug of tea and a hot shower to pull her from the depression she was currently in. She took a deep breath of the cold, dawning, sea air and then headed inside.
Friday, February 13th, 1998
Dana found Nicole in the fitness room running on the treadmill, music playing. The redhead had slept in and then ate her breakfast in the privacy of the master cabin.
She took a seat so she could watch the blonde and still have a view outside the windows. Nicole took no notice of Dana’s presence and it was clear she was in another place altogether. Dana didn’t have to be an empath or a psychic to sense the melancholy radiating from her partner. It was far worse than when she’d found Nicole in the hotel fitness room in Chattanooga. Dana could tell that the melancholy was running much deeper.
Max entered after about half an hour with a mug of hot tea for Dana. She accepted it without complaint. It seemed Max was just as pushy as Nicole, even more so actually, about getting her to drink a number of cups of it each day. She was sure it was spiked with something, especially since Nicole gave up on her IV so easily on the island three and half weeks before. She was sure the increased daily cups of tea were now the source of her ‘medicine’… whatever it was. She gave a mental smile to herself at her very uncharacteristic lack of curiosity about what Nicole was putting in her tea. It was a testament to her trust in her partner. That thought brought her back around to her current concern.
“Max?” she spoke quietly.
“How long has she been working out?”
“Several hours – since just after dawn.” She paused. “Some burdens must be carried by one,” she said softly before leaving the room.
Dana wondered at the parting statement, but she did sense that attempting to talk to Nicole before she was ready was not a good idea. She felt a pang of sorrow at her inability to help her partner through whatever she was dealing with.
The redhead dozed off but woke up to find herself the only one in the room. She sat up and looked around for Nicole. She got up and headed through the boat towards the master stateroom. She saw Max in the passageway.
“Max, do you know where Nicole is?”
“She was in the office when I took her a bottle of wine an hour ago.”
Dana headed to the office in hope of being able to talk to her partner. However, when she entered, she found Nicole asleep on the couch. She was relieved to see that the blonde didn’t drink the whole bottle of wine. From what was left in the bottle Nicole couldn’t have had more than a glass. She decided not to disturb her sleeping partner.
Max was just bringing out Dana’s salad at dinner when Nicole walked into the dining room.
Dana greeted her with a smile, “Hey, stranger.”
The blonde returned her smile. “Hi.” She took her seat.
Max quickly disappeared back to the galley to get Nicole’s salad. “Would you care for some wine with your dinner?” Max asked when she returned.
“No, thank you. Water is fine.”
The two partners didn’t talk about anything of import during dinner. They simply enjoyed the meal and relaxed. After dinner they relaxed in the salon and watched some TV.
Later, after turning off the television, they enjoyed a few minutes of silence. Dana was lying down with her head in Nicole’s lap. She’d missed Nicole the previous days and now that she was feeling better she was also feeling kind of isolated on the ship.
The redhead was the one to break the silence. “Are you okay?”
“You seemed upset this morning.”
Nicole took a deep breath and slowly let it out. “I just needed to… decompress.”
Dana sat up and moved to sit next to Nicole. “Do you want to talk about it?”
“It’s just some things about the case I’m working.”
“You know you can talk to me.”
The blonde gave her a small smile. “Thanks. But I don’t really feel like talking about work.”
As if on cue, Max appeared bearing two mugs of hot tea. She handed one to Dana and the other to Nicole.
“Thank you, Max.”
With a nod she was gone.
“Time for my medicine,” Dana said with a small smirk.
Nicole raised an eyebrow at her comment.
“I may not know what you’ve added to the tea, but it’s obviously the mode of medication, especially since you let me forego the IV so easily.” The look in Dana’s eyes dared the blonde to dispute her conclusion. Nicole’s smile was confirmation. “Are you ever going to tell me what it is?”
“It’s a substance that has been used for medicinal purposes since ancient times. However, it’s rare to come by.”
“So it’s expensive,” Dana concluded.
“On the contrary. It costs nothing. It’s a gift to those who receive it.”
“What’s it called? And why hasn’t the medical community published anything about it?”
The blonde gave her partner a small smile. “It has no name. And the medical community hasn’t published anything about it because it doesn’t know about it.”
“As I said, it’s a gift to those who receive it. No source would ever gift it for research. However, to ease your mind, when we return, a sample can be provided to you, for your personal and private analysis.”
Dana was surprised. “Even though I’m a doctor? What’s to prevent me from reporting anything about it?”
Nicole gave her a small smirk. “Report what? A nameless substance that you don’t even know its source?”
“I see your point. But why would I be allowed to analyze it?”
“Because of who you are.”
“Strong minded, principled, a good soul… pick one, or all of the above.” She paused and gave the redhead a smile. “Or come up with your own.” They both took a swallow of the tea. “I’m actually surprised it’s taken you this long to ask about it.”
“So am I, but I trust you,” she replied. She took a deep breath and let it out. “And I can’t deny that I’m feeling better and stronger every day.”
Nicole put her hand over Dana’s. “And that’s what matters,” she said softly.
Dana nodded. “And now I’m starting to get impatient. Considering everything, I should be happy just to be getting better, instead of getting upset with myself for not getting better faster.”
“You’ve come further than you realize, but I understand – I’m not exactly patient when I’m a patient.” They both smiled at her wording. “You’d be a little further along the road of recovery if you’d kept the IV, but fighting the point was less helpful to you than having you comfortable, and it didn’t change the results.” She took a drink from her tea. “But I do have something I think will help with your frustration.”
“The boat will be heading south again tomorrow. It’ll arrive in the Caicos Islands in two days. There you’ll leave the boat and check into the Parrot Cay Spa, where you’ll receive some holistic therapy specifically designed to help you improve your fitness, regain your strength and energy, as well as speed your complete recovery,” Nicole said with a smile. “If you let yourself fully cooperate and participate with the therapy I guarantee you’ll not only feel good, but you’ll be surprised at how quickly you recover completely.”
The blonde was particularly pleased with the arrangements that had made for her partner’s treatment. Dana would have complete individual care around the clock at a private cottage. Her treatment plan was specifically designed for her. The redhead was in for a real treat.
“You said I will leave the boat. Where will you be?” Dana asked.
Nicole let out a quiet sigh. “I’m still working a case. I’m afraid I’ll be leaving the boat again. I’ll meet up with you when I can.”
Dana looked forward to regaining her strength and feeling better, but she was disappointed that her partner was leaving again. And judging from the look in her eyes, the blonde wasn’t thrilled about it either. “I see.”
The blonde squeezed the hand her own was still covering. “Max will go with you to the retreat, and the rest of the crew will still be here on the Hashmalim, anchored just off-shore. I want you to know that you can trust all of them. They’re a handpicked crew. You’ll be completely safe – they’ll make sure of it.”
“But will you?” Dana asked. “You’re still working a case alone.”
She took a deep breath and let out sigh. “There’s more distastefulness than danger.”
Dana cocked an eyebrow in question.
“The people involved,” explained Nicole. “Believe me, I’m looking forward to the end of this case.”
The Hashmalim had sailed north for about three hours to bring it closer to New York. From there, Nicole flew the 75 miles to the city. Her next quarry was in residence in the prestigious Central Park neighborhood. He was just one of a number of Consortium members that needed to be neutralized.
Once she left the ship, Tully turned the boat south and made for the Caicos Islands. They would arrive two days later.
Nicole worked her way through the list she’d made during the interrogation of the Leader and by the time she finished, a week had passed.
Home of Margaret Scully
Saturday, February 21st, 1998
Nicole made arrangements for a charter flight from the BWI airport to the Caicos islands. However, before she left, she wanted to make a visit to a special person. She of course waited until dark and made certain she wasn’t seen.
She melted into the shadows and knocked on the back door of the house. When the door was opened, she immediately moved inside to minimize the chance she’d be seen before the woman really had a chance to react. She also reached over and flipped the light off so no one could see into the kitchen.
“Hi, Maggie,” she replied with a smile as they hugged.
“What are you doing here?”
“I was passing through the area and I wanted to stop by.”
“Well come in. Have a cup of coffee, or something to eat.”
“I can’t stay. I just came to let you know about Dana.”
“How is she?” her mother asked with some trepidation.
“She’s doing just fine. She’s getting better and stronger every day.”
Maggie’s eye watered. “She’s really getting better?”
“Yes, she is. She’s going to be alright, Maggie.”
They hugged again. “I’ve been praying…”
When they let go of each other she reached up and cupped Nicole’s cheek. “I’ll never be able to thank you.”
The blonde reached up and took Maggie’s hand on her cheek into her hand. “You just did,” she said softly. She squeezed her hand. “I took a risk coming to see you – I need to go.”
“Wait! I have something for Dana.”
Maggie left and came back with a small wrapped package. “The day after tomorrow is Dana’s birthday. Will you give this to her for me?”
“I’ll be happy to,” she said taking the small package held out to her.
“This one is for you,” Maggie said holding out a second package.
Nicole was surprised and very touched. “You didn’t have t–”
Maggie put her hands on the blonde’s shoulders. “Nicole, you’re a special person and I’m glad to have gotten to know you. I’m thankful you’re Dana’s partner – you’ve been good for her, and I’m not just referring to her health.”
“Thank you,” she replied softly.
Maggie leaned in and kissed Nicole’s cheek. “Now go. Stay safe – both of you.”
With that Nicole silently slipped out of the house and took to wing. She had to get to the BWI airport for her flight.
Sunday, February 22nd, 1998
Despite it being the middle of the night, Tommy Burdette was waiting for Nicole when her plane landed at the airport. He drove her to the beach where the launch was waiting, and then took her to the Hashmalim.
Captain Tully was waiting for her when she boarded. “Welcome back.”
“Thank you, Tully. How are things here?”
“Quiet. Max has checked in each day. Miss Dana is safe and well. She appears to be responding very well to the care she’s been receiving. There’s a doctor’s report waiting for you in the office.”
“Good. I have some things I want to go over with you. Geoffrey as well. But first I need a quick shower. Meet me in the salon in 20 minutes with Geoffrey.”
Nicole took a shower and changed into some comfortable clothes. She then went to the salon. She told the men that the next day was Dana’s birthday and that she wanted to celebrate it. They assured her they’d take care of things.
With that done she retired to the office and called both Thea and Ian, checking in with them about their parts of the plan and also bringing them up to date on her part. Fortunately, from all appearances, the rest of the top echelons, below the council of the Consortium, would soon be removed from the picture as threats. Nicole’s actions in taking out the council had already started in-fighting among the seconds. A couple had already been killed following the power vacuum at the top. According to Thea, an influx of documents and communications sent to the authorities had jumpstarted some major investigations, crackdowns, and arrests. Nicole hoped that she could return Dana home in a couple of weeks or so.
Finally, after working until that evening, she logged off the computer and went to bed, falling asleep out of sheer exhaustion.
Parrot Cay Spa
Monday, February 23rd, 1998
After sleeping in late, Nicole got up in the morning and dressed. Les took her ashore and she went to the cottage her partner had been staying in. The redhead was out on a beach with her personal yoga instructor for a session, so Nicole spoke with the doctor and then started doing some Tai Chi. A couple of the staff joined her.
That was how Dana found the blonde when she got back from the beach. She just stopped and watched for a few moments since she hadn’t been spotted yet. She was struck with how graceful her partner was… and how much she’d missed her.
Dana was amazed by how much better she was feeling after five days at the spa, and by how much she’d enjoyed certain aspects of her care. She’d found the meditation sessions calming and the yoga rejuvenating. She, of course, enjoying the massages, but she was amazed by how much she allowed herself to relax. She felt good and strong, the best she’d felt in a long time. She also felt… at ease.
Suddenly Nicole spotted her, and gave her a beautiful smile. The blonde stepped out of her form and walked over to her partner. “Hey there. You look like you’re feeling pretty good,” she said with a smile.
Dana returned her smile. “I am. I feel better than I have for a long time.”
“Glad to hear it. What’s next on your schedule this morning?”
Dana glanced at one of the staff, who answered. “Massage.”
The blonde grinned. “Sounds good. Think I’ll join you.”
Both women changed out of their clothes and into a robe. Max came in and spoke to Nicole briefly. She released Max from guard duty and let her go back to the yacht. The partners were led to two massage tables that were set up. They shed their robes and lay down. Both women relaxed as massage therapists worked their muscles.
After their massage a light lunch was brought in. After that they dressed and went for a walk.
As they walked along the beach Dana broke the silence. “So how is your case going?”
Nicole nodded. “Good. In fact, I’m done.”
The redhead wasn’t sure how she felt about that. “So does that mean you’ll be going home?” she asked tentatively.
The blonde gave her a smirk. “Why? Trying to get rid of me?”
“No, of course not!”
Nicole smiled. “No, I’m not going back. At least not yet. In fact, if you think you can put up with my presence for a little while, Captain Tully has a list of places we can go to for a little vacation.”
She raised an eyebrow in question.
“When we get back to the yacht you can take a look and pick one. It’s your choice. It’s not safe to go back home yet.”
At that Dana let out a rude noise. “It’ll be a cold day in hell before I’ll ever be safe,” she snapped.
“Not true, Dana.”
She gave Nicole a look.
“Beyond the normal dangers of the job, you will be safe. The Consortium will no longer be of concern. For you, or anyone – I promise,” the blonde finished solemnly.
The redhead was taken aback by the quiet declaration. She stopped in her tracks and just looked at her partner. Nicole took a couple more steps before she stopped. She turned back and met Dana’s look.
“What are you saying, Nicole?” she asked quietly. She saw a shadow pass behind her partner’s eyes – a shadow of disquiet and unease and… pain?
The blonde didn’t avoid her partner’s scrutiny. She simply took a breath and answered. “What case do you think I’ve been working on?” she replied evenly.
Dana felt gut-punched. Her thoughts raced out of control. Suddenly Nicole was next to her, hands on her shoulders, holding her steady.
“Easy, Dana, breathe easy.”
Breathe, yes… She’d forgotten to breathe. She took a couple of deep breaths and slowly let them out. Nicole eased her down to sit in the white sand. The dizziness let up as she continued to concentrate on breathing and the warmth of her partner’s hand gently rubbing her back.
Dana’s color came back into her face and Nicole could tell her heart rate was approaching a more normal rhythm, as was her breathing. Finally the redhead opened her eyes, though her gaze was on the horizon where the blue sky met the even bluer water.
“Sorry about that,” she whispered.
Nicole shook her head. “You have nothing to apologize for.” She sat with her hands in her lap, also looking out over the gentle waves. She remained silent, giving her partner time to digest and formulate.
Finally, Dana spoke. “So all this time you’ve been trying to take on the Consortium? All on your own? Without backup? You could have gotten yourself killed! Going off on your own like that is just what Mulder used to do, and then I’d have to save his ass!” She was definitely angry, but Dana realized it wasn’t for the same reason she used to get pissed at Mulder. With him it was because she always had to compromise herself, lie for him, just so they could keep their job – so she could keep her job! And Mulder never cared that his actions put her in peril – physically or professionally. No, she was pissed at Nicole for a completely different reason – she was angry with Nicole because she could have gotten herself killed, and she did not want to lose her.
Nicole took a breath before responding. “If by ‘all this time’, you mean since you left the hospital, then yes, I have been going after Consortium. All on my own? Not exactly. I’ve had backup, granted it hasn’t been FBI backup, but I’ve had it. And I didn’t just go off halfcocked or on a whim, Dana. A lot of preparation and planning went into the operation, and not just by me. I’ve had help – from friends with some unique talents and gifts. Friends, by the way, who helped me figure out how the Consortium gave you cancer.”
Nicole’s even and quiet response took the fire out of Dana’s anger. “I already know – it was the chip that was implanted in the back of my neck. Removing it is what caused the cancer. I’m not the only one. There was a group of them, of women… who had the same thing. All were abducted, all had the same chip implanted in the same place, all removed the chip, all got cancer… all of them died…”
“Dana.” Nicole waited until her partner looked at her before she continued. “Dana, I don’t know what did or didn’t cause the cancer in those other women, but I do know what caused it in you. That chip had absolutely nothing to do with it. I have the hard science to prove it. When it’s safe to take you back home, you can go through the research, even duplicate the results yourself.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“What? That you’ll be safe?”
“Because all the principle players have already been neutralized – including the infamous Cancer Man – Mr. Spender.”
Blue eyes widened. “You…”
Hurt showed in the blonde’s eyes only a moment before she hid it. “No, Dana, I’m not an assassin. But I will admit part of me wouldn’t have minded killing the sick bastard who thought up the bioengineered, DNA-specific agent that gave you cancer. However, his death was by his own hand.” She paused and looked away. “I just didn’t feel compelled to try to stop him,” she whispered softly. Nicole took a couple of breaths and finally looked at her partner again. “Look, I know this is a lot to get hit with. I didn’t mean to do this today. I know you have questions, and I will answer them. There is a lot to tell you, but we don’t have to do all this right now.” She paused and smiled at the redhead. “It’s your birthday today; I wanted today to be a celebration.”
Dana actually looked surprised. “It is?”
“Yeah. It’s the 23rd. And as I recall, I did promise you a great dinner on your birthday.”
“That you did,” she replied with a smile.
“So what do you say we head to the boat and spend today celebrating your birthday? I may even have a surprise or two for you,” she said with a mischievous smile.
Despite wanting answers to a number of questions she had, Dana found herself wanting to do as her partner suggested. She wanted to celebrate her birthday. She was alive, healthy… and alive! Just a few weeks ago she didn’t think she’d live to see another birthday. Nicole was right; they didn’t have to get into all the Consortium crap today. It could wait until tomorrow. Today was her birthday and, for the first time in years, she really did feel like celebrating it. Not only that, she was with someone she wanted to celebrate it with. She returned her partner’s smile. “Sounds good to me.”
Tommy was waiting for the women at the pier with the launch. He took them back to the Hashmalim. They walked up the steps from the water platform on the stern and entered the salon. Dana was surprised by all the balloons, streamers, and the Happy Birthday banner.
Geoffrey approached and asked what they would like for dinner.
“That’s completely up to Dana, Geoffrey. I promised her a special dinner for her birthday a few weeks ago,” Nicole said with a smile.
He looked at Dana. “Italian, French, Polynesian, you name it – the sky’s the limit, Miss Dana. Whatever you can imagine.”
She let him know what she wanted. Geoffrey left to prepare dinner and Max handed them both a flute of champagne.
Captain Tully entered and informed the blonde she had a phone call.
“I’ll take it in the office. Tully, why don’t you go over the possible locations with Dana while I take this call?” She looked at her partner. “You can pick out where you’d like to go. And I think a dip in the hot tub sounds good, so if you’d like, I can meet up with you there after I get off the phone. Okay?”
“That does sound good.”
“Great. I won’t be long.” Nicole left to take her phone call.
Dana looked at a list of locations the captain handed her. “What exactly is this?” she asked.
“These are the locations of vacation villas. Arrangements were made for you and Miss Nicole to have the use of one, your choice, until it is time for you to return home.”
“They’re all over the world!”
“Indeed. Summer climates, moderate climates, and winter climates. There are a few villas that are in a more urban setting which would require a heavier security presence, and those with more privacy, which would not require security personnel. The villas range in size from two bedroom to nine bedroom.”
“How do I choose, there are so many?”
“Well, do you want to have a security team with you?”
“No,” she answered without hesitation.
The captain removed a pen from his pocket and crossed off some off the list. “Now, would you like a winter climate?”
He crossed off a few more. A few more questions and the list was pared down to only a handful. “If I may make a suggestion, Miss Dana?”
“Certainly,” she said with a smile.
“If you enjoy it so much here in the Caicos, there is the villa on Providenciales not 20 miles from here. It’s a two bedroom villa on the beach, and the yacht could anchor nearby so that if you wanted to go jet-skiing, sailing, diving, or fishing, the equipment would be at your disposal.”
She smiled. “I think that sounds great.”
“Very well, I shall take care of it,” he said with a nod and a small smile.
Dana then went to the master cabin and changed into a swimsuit. She grabbed a towel and headed up to the jacuzzi. She found her partner already in the hot tub and sitting back with her head resting on the edge with her eyes closed.
“I was beginning to wonder if you were going to join me,” Nicole said without opening her eyes.
The redhead dropped her towel and eased herself down into the jacuzzi. “Mmmm… this feels so good.”
“So did you and Tully get things worked out?”