Warnings: None.... except that this is moving into the world of a serious AU crossover. And it ain't done yet! Spell checked, unbetaed.
Spoilers: TSbyBS, Storms, Conversations in the Station, Missing, Moving Day... etc.
Series: well, I guess its official... there are parts to this darn thing.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Borrowed. Returned. Made no profit from them. ;-( This is a piece of fiction using borrowed characters (The Sentinel, X-Files, and Man from U.N.C.L.E) without permission, but there was no profit made from their participation and it was meant in the theory that borrowing them only show this author's sincere apprectiation for the talents that created them.
on with the story.
you step into my office for a moment?" Simon spoke quietly. The entire
bullpen went silent. Everyone remembered the last time Captain Simon Banks
had called the young detective into his office vividly. The department
as a whole was still recovering from the incident, treading warily around
the subject. Rafe's undercover role had quickly turned nasty and for a
long time they had thought they had lost the quiet man. He was quieter
than ever now.
the file he was working on and stood, handing it to his partner. He never
left anything undone on his desk, not since coming back from his stint
working for the FBI. Henri Brown was silent as he accepted the file, his
eyes worriedly remaining on his partner. Rafe didn't seem to notice as
he straightened his jacket and walked into the captain's office.
As soon as the office door shut, all eyes turned to Jim Ellison. The sentinel flushed under their regard, knowing that everyone expected him to listen in on the conversation. They didn't need to say anything, their eyes speaking for them. In the months since his abilities had been revealed, the Major Crimes unit had ignored all the rumors and whispers, closing ranks to protect
frowned. His senses were enhanced, allowing him to listen in on Simon and
Rafe's conversation, if he chose to focus on the sound inside the office.
It was a genetic advantage he had never asked for and it came with a high
price. But he was not about to use it to spy on his friends.
"Look, it is a private conversation." Jim spoke softly. Behind him, his guide snorted. If it had been something involving Blair Sandburg, all bets, rules, regulations, and societal mores would have been trashed and they both knew it. The sentinel would be listening in on the conversation if he hadn't simply walked into the office to support his partner. "I don't use my senses on
Slowly, the other detectives nodded. They could understand that. They needed to trust him on this one. If they thought they were under constant surveillance by the enhanced senses of the sentinel in their midst, they wouldn't be able to do their jobs. He wasn't about to tell them that most of the time he simply ignored the information that his senses gave him about them. The fact
-- get out to Fisherman's Wharf. Murphy is waiting for you. And gentlemen?"
Simon's voice barked at them, "handle this with kid gloves. I want every
clue double checked." The big man turned to the rest of the office, his
voice softening, "Henri, Joel? I need you in my office."
Lee Brackett swam swiftly. He hated the chilly harbour water but he had little choice if he wanted to reach their boat. This mission was a disaster and he was not happy about the latest kink that had developed. Behind him, his partner and watcher, Alexei Krycek swam a bit slower, held back by the body he was towing. A sudden curse made Lee turn.
Krycek was floundering, trying to keep his captive afloat. His captive fought viciously, ducking her chin to latch strong teeth on the man's arm while her hand raked at his face. Krycek released her, still cursing in both Russian and English. The captive began to slowly pull away, barely able to dog paddle, much less swim against the surging waves of the harbour.
"Where do you
think you are going?" Krycek growled, quickly swimming to her side. The
woman ignored him, doggedly struggling to remain afloat. Above, the pier
hid them from view. "You are going to drown."
"So be it." She choked out as a wave went over her head.
Krycek grabbed her. The woman broke his hold, kicking off the slim man's chest. She misjudged the distances and slammed into one of the wooden posts that supported the pier. Reflexively, Krycek dived after her.
Bracket watched long enough to see Krycek resurface, the woman pinned securely. Then he turned and swam the distance to the boat. The police would soon have divers looking for her. They needed to get out of the area.
"Murphy." Jim greeted the uniformed officer with a nod. Around them, the throngs of people -- shoppers, sightseers, and gawkers eddied around knots of uniformed police officers. "What happened?"
"A young woman started running from two men up on 4th. They caught up to her in front of Mario's. According to the witnesses the fight was pretty rough. She lost her bag here." the officer's brown eyes looked pained as he held out an ID card. "As soon as we saw the name we called Major Crimes."
"Oh, man." Blair's voice was barely a whisper as he read the name on the laminated plastic. "No wonder Simon called Rafe into his office."
"What happened after that?" Jim asked, eyes scanning the area.
"She got away -- they chased her down to the dock and ... she jumped."
"AJ can't swim." Sandburg's softly spoken words made the other officers wince. Their eyes turned to look out over the harbour. "Rafe mentioned he was teaching her to swim just last week."
"Did she get pulled out?" Megan asked.
Murphy shook his head, face pale as he considered the new information. He licked his lips and continued his report. "Both of the men dove in after her. None of them was seen again. We've got divers searching under the pier, but the undertow is pretty strong. If she doesn't know how to swim..." He let the words die, everyone knew their chance to find the woman had just been
"No." Rafe's voice was flat. He glared at the two men standing over him. "I'll let Jim and Blair head the investigation. I'll stay out of the way. But I will be part of the team."
Captain Banks sighed. He looked at his detective, trying to figure out a good way to explain the situation to him. There was a good reason for the regulations that barred officers from working on cases involving their... friends. "Look, son," he began.
"Eeh don' tdhink you underrstud me, keptein." Rafe's accent was pronounced as he forced his way past Joel Taggart's tall frame. "She niver gaf up on me. I won gif up on hir."
"Henri, stay with him." Joel's words were all that were needed. As soon as they were out of his mouth, the jovial detective, his face grim, was racing after his partner. "You know, Simon," Joel's words turned thoughtful, "when you paired Henri with Rafe I thought you were crazy. Damn if it didn't work, though."
"I just hope Brown can keep him under control." Simon glanced at the phone, daring it to remain silent.
"If Rafe could get rid of the chip on Henri's shoulder... well, I bet the boy learned how to control his partner too."
"Well?" Alexei asked impatiently as Lee closed the door.
"She's still unconscious." The ex-CIA operative replied, glaring at his dark clad partner. "What did you hit her with?"
"Nothing. She can barely swim and current pulled her under. What I want to know is why she panicked the moment she saw me." Alex rubbed a towel over his wet hair as he spoke. His expression was curious as he thought over the incident. "I've never met the woman, but she knew my name."
Lee Brackett slowly turned around, his face paling as he rapidly thought over the afternoon's events. He knew Fortaleza, in fact, he'd known her for years. If she panicked upon seeing Alexei... but the other man said he didn't know her. "Are you sure you never met her before? When she was in South America very few people knew who or what she really was. You might
Krychek's head came up and his eyes bored into Bracket's. "I never met her before this afternoon. I would have remembered her eyes if nothing else."
Lee nodded. "Your boss is not going to be happy about this."
"You said she was important to catch alive. If she's going to be a problem," Alexei drew a pistol and began threading a silencer onto it. "I can easily remedy the situation."
"Only if you want Ellison to hunt you down." He answered grimly, watching Krychek's easy movements as he readied the weapon. He didn't like working this closely with an assassin, especially one this cold blooded about his work. When the younger man froze at the name, the tension in Bracket's shoulders eased.
Carefully setting the pistol on the side table, Alexei growled. Their instructions were etched in stone. DO NOT DISTURB THE SENTINEL. Even he didn't go too far outside some rules. "She's involved with Ellison?"
Bracket shrugged, turning away from his partner, hiding his relief. "Or something. I haven't been able to get much information on her relationship with either Ellison or Sandburg. There is a definite connection there... she worked with Sandburg on an anthropology display for the local museum when she first got to Cascade. Got involved in some cases that belonged to Ellison.
Alexei Krycek kept his eyes on Bracket's back, trying to read what the other man was saying. He could tell something was out of place... but was it something he'd missed or something his partner was hiding? He strode over to a laptop computer and turned it on. He kept his voice soft as he ordered, "get me the information on her." After all, he knew that raising his voice
Lee didn't argue. His IQ was among the top 10% of the nation, and he knew Alexei wasn't about to let it go. Not tonight. Not after the scene AJ had caused on the pier. He pulled up the official file first.
"Not much information." The frown marring his face didn't hide the confusion Krycek felt. "Why is she so important? Show me your files."
In his mind, Lee Bracket fought a brief battle with himself and lost. He accessed his personal files and notes, perusing them until he found the correct one. He regretted doing this, but if he didn't Krycek would kill her now and him later when he found out the whole story. Unless he was feeling truly evil... and Bracket shuddered. The night he had been introduced to Alexei Krycek would never go away, it, more than anything else he'd seen, convinced him that he'd been right to go rogue. In silence, he typed in a password.
Information filled the screen. The small font stretched from one edge of the screen to the other with little breaks. As Krycek scrolled down, reading and memorizing the text, his eyes narrowed thoughtfully. "I'd better call this in."
The man sat in the dim room, listening to his agent's quiet explanation. A grim smile crossed his face as he stubbed out his cigarette. He began giving orders as he lit another cigarette.
"I've got the security tapes from the lobby where she first ran into the men and the one from the store where they fought." Henri Brown announced as he entered the bull pen. Behind him, Rafe manhandled a TV cart through the doorway.
Instantly the men and women of the Major Crimes Unit crowded around them. It only took a few minutes for the group to settle onto the nearest available surfaces while their colleagues set up the TV/VCR. As the lights were dimmed, the detectives waited impatiently for the tape to start.
They all watched silently as a young woman stepped out of an elevator and into the lobby. Her expression was distracted as she began walking toward the camera over the office building's main entrance. Her hand fiddled with the hem of her oversized shirt as she read a pamphlet. Unnoticed in her distraction, she approached a pair of men, bumping into one of them.
"Bracket." Jim's whispered the identity of the man as he looked up, steadying AJ. "She just bumped into Lee Bracket."
Several member of the Major Crimes group stiffened at the name. They all remembered the last time Lee Bracket had visited Cascade, and all the events that he'd engineered -- bombs, threats, Ebola, and stolen airplanes. They also remembered the events this past August, when Bracket had chased Sandburg and Brown across the country. Both times Major Crimes had barely kept ahead of the ex-CIA operative before Ellison managed to thwart his plans.
Rafe growled under his breath as he watched AJ smile apologetically to Bracket for running into him. Bracket spoke briefly, making the young woman laugh. Then his companion stepped forward.
The smile immediately disappeared as AJ registered the young man in the leather jacket. She spoke, backing away from him and shaking her head. Whatever she said surprised the man. His hand shot out and latched onto her arm. AJ tried to shake free, but failed. Bracked grabbed his companion, saying something. As the dark haired man turned to Bracket, AJ's free hand darted out, striking sharply at the hand holding her prisoner. The moment she was free, she turned, racing toward the door. Behind her, a pamphlet fluttered to the floor and was ground under Bracket's feet as he followed AJ and his companion.
"Do you recognize him?" Blair's voice was strained as it broke the silence that followed the video.
"Bracket's friend?" Henri Brown's voice was thick as he answered. He glanced over at his partner. "Yeah, it's Alexei."
Ellison's curse at the name rang through the room.
Alexei Krycek smiled as he watched the men enter the office. As they closed the door, he picked up his cell phone and dialed.
"Hello, Shaman." He spoke softly into the receiver. Alexei fought laughter as he watched Ellison's attention snap over onto Sandburg. This was going to be fun. "I propose a trade."
"You need to wake up. Come on, kid, we don't have much time." Bracket whispered to the unconscious woman. He glanced out towards the main room uneasily. He wasn't sure about his employers -- somehow he had the feeling he had taken the wrong turn when he accepted their offer. Life in prison versus life servitude. Some choice, he thought bitterly. He shook the woman's shoulder.
The whispered question was all the warning he got. There was a soft inhalation and then the prone figure burst into movement. Bracket barely blocked her first punch, straight to his throat. Cursing his own inattention, he threw his entire attention on the problem at hand.
"Bratling!" He gasped as a blow slipped past his guard, tagging him painfully in the ribs. "ALESSANDRE! Stop!"
Wide eyed she froze. "Lee? What? Where?" Her words slurred as she slumped back onto the bed. "Whas happen'?"
"We need to get out of here and fast. My partner will be back soon." Lee regretted the words the moment they were spoken. AJ's eyes shuttered and turned away from him, pulling herself slowly to her feet. "Kid? What's the problem?"
"You walk beside death's right hand, Lee. You are a part of the evil you once fought." The words were spoken tonelessly. "I no longer know you. You are no longer the Lee Bracket we once knew."
Lee froze at the cold words, eyes widening in understanding. "You do know them." He closed his eyes. "I did what I had to do to survive. I've never lied to you, never broken my word. Not to you or yours. Don't write me off so quickly, you've known me a long time. You owe me that much."
Pale green and silver eyes looked up at him -- haunted by something he didn't recognize. And Lee shuddered, suddenly knowing he didn't want to know exactly what ran through her thoughts. She stared at him, eyes thoughtful before nodding slowly. That movement was enough to make her groan.
"We don't have time for this now. You can explain what you know about them later." Bracket spoke quickly as he turned to a dresser. He pulled out a set of dry sweats. Tossing them onto the bed, he stepped to the door. "Get these on and we can go. I'll wait for you outside."
"Mr. Bracket." The softly spoken voice made him freeze. Lee stared at the man who stood in the doorway. "I don't think that would be a good idea. Ms. Fortaleza will be staying with us indefinitely." The craggy faced man inhaled deeply of his cigarette, yellowed skin forming a sinister smile as he continued, "You aren't going to be a problem are you?"
"No, sir. I'm not." Lee Bracket had learned years ago how to survive -- even when survival meant turning his back on old loyalties. It didn't make it any easier as he stepped back, allowing the cigarette smoking man into the room.
"Good afternoon, my dear." The man said as he approached the woman huddled on the bed. "It's been a long time, hasn't it?"
"What does he want, gentlemen?" Simon watched as his best detectives paled. Sandburg's fingers were clenched so tightly around his cell phone that the captain was afraid it would crack. From the expression on his face and that of Ellison, he knew it wasn't going to be good news.
"I can't do that!" Blair's voice was strained. The young man flushed as he continued. "Listen, Krycek, I want to talk to AJ. We want to know that she's okay."
"She's awake and furious." Rafe's flat voice made everyone in the room turn to face him. The dapper detective stood at the window, staring out over the city. He ran his hand through his hair restlessly before turning to face the other detectives. His eyes were unfocused as he thought about what he was saying. "The only other time she's felt this furious was when my uncle James tried to shoot us both."
Blair nodded at him, turning his attention back to the caller. He listened closely and then disconnected the phone. "Krycek will call back in two hours. We'll be able to talk to AJ then."
"North." Rafe seemed haunted as he whispered the word. He didn't notice the odd looks he was receiving from the rest of the men in the office. "She's north."
"Rafe? How long have you been able to track her?" Jim's voice was gentle. With a deft move he tossed a pen to his partner, knowing Blair was trying to find one. "You couldn't track her last summer."
"No." The hazel eyes were still unfocused. When they lit on the sentinel, the older man shivered. "She almost died because of it. So we practiced. A lot. That's how she found me when I was undercover. It's stronger now."
"Why is it stronger now?" Blair whispered.
Rafe shook his head, his eyes focusing on Blair. The detective shrugged, all of the oddness leaving his stance. He crossed to the door of the office and paused, "It just is."
"Are you okay, bro?" Henri asked, his eyes wide. He had teased Jim and Blair the hardest about the sentinel's abilities. For his partner to be exhibiting strange abilities... it was hard for him to swallow, but for Rafe's sake, he would accept now and question later.
"I just need to find my wife, H." Rafe's words lingered in the air as he quickly stepped out the door.
"When the hell did that happen?" Henri's bewildered words just made
them all shake their heads.
Lee Bracket watched, face expressionless, as Fortaleza was escorted to the van. Neither of the men at her sides was anything he cared to tackle. The massive muscle bound men dwarfed her completely. The way they each kept a hand on her arm and the other on her back only emphasized the unequal contest. Not that she was protesting. Far from it. From the moment his boss arrived, AJ had gone silent and obedient. It was enough to make him worry. If she would risk drowning to escape Alex Krycek, what would she do to get away from his boss? Lee shook himself. He was not in the business of rescuing damsels in distress. He was no knight errant. He was a rogue agent, a free lance arms dealer, information gatherer, and ... he owed her.
He headed over to the van, a folded blanket in his arms. He stopped at the van door, waiting for them to seat her. Lee forced himself to remain calm, relaxed. He wasn't about to betray himself. He had a little too much to live for.
"You'd better wrap her in this." He handed the blanket to the guard. "It's a long drive and she's still a bit shocky."
The dead black eyes looked him over, judging him and his offer. The blanket was shaken out, given a cursory once over, and then tucked around the captive. AJ's eyes flew to him, rapidly changing from confusion to understanding. The nod of her head was faint, but it was enough. She knew. Lee turned his back and headed for the cabin to pack. It was definitely time to get out of the area.
"I want to know exactly what they wanted." Simon stepped into the doorway, blocking their exit from his office. He didn't like the way the two men had ignored his earlier question. Whenever they tried to hide promised to give him an even bigger headache than the one he had. "Gentlemen?"
Blair glanced at his partner, refusing to answer the question. It was all the captain could do to keep from groaning. The signs were easily recognizable to him. It was worse than bad news.
"Jim?" His detective looked him, face a blank, except for the twitching on his jaw. "Which of you does Bracket want this time."
"It's not Bracket." Blair spoke up finally. "Krycek wants to know where Naomi is."
The words didn't make sense. Simon knew his face reflected his confusion. "Naomi Sandburg? But why would they want your mother?"
"I don't know." The pain in the younger man's voice was obvious. The despair in his eyes was even worse. "Even if I knew where Mom was, I ... I couldn't just hand her over to them, Simon. How do I tell Rafe?"
"He wouldn't expect you to trade your mother for AJ, Chief." Ellison's eyes met Simon's, warnings dancing in them. "No one would."
"Jim's right, Sandburg. No one would expect that. And everyone here knows Naomi is missing." Simon added his reassurances to Jim's. They didn't need any more stress in the department than was already present. He turned, leading the way into the bullpen.
"Sir?" Megan called.
"Connor?" Simon led the group heading for her desk. He looked at the map she had spread out. Beside her, Rafe was studying it thoughtfully. "What do you have?"
"Well, the area where Rafe thinks she might be is pretty big." Megan indicated the map. "Krycek said he'd call in two hours. If he has to go to where he stashed her, well that limits how far from Cascade they can be."
Jim nodded thoughtfully, studying the map. Then he tapped the Cascade Harbor area and smiled. "Actually, we can limit it even farther. Thanks to Murphy's quick radio call, there were units all along the harbor area. They would have noticed someone pulling AJ out of the water. They must have gotten away by boat."
"That limits the area even more." Rafe's voice picked up the thought. His finger quickly began tracing the waterways that led from Cascade into the mountains. As his finger traced it, he shifted from one tributary to another. One seemed to intrigue him the most. "There are docks and marinas along this one."
"Why that one, Rafe?" Blair asked, curiosity making him rock from one foot to the other. Behind him, Jim hid a grin.
He turned a confused look to the younger detective and shrugged. He wasn't sure how to explain how he "knew" that he was on the right path. Rafe caught the wide-eyed look his partner shot at him. He knew Henri was very skeptical about everything paranormal. Even if he feared his actions would hurt the rapport he shared with the older man, how could he not let himself use every advantage he had?
"Don't let it bother you, mate." Megan's quick words broke the measuring look Rafe shot his partner. "We don't have to understand. We'll help find her anyway."
"She's right, bro." Henri added, shoving all of his questions away. Now was not the time or the place for a long talk to his partner. He thought that by now he had cured the younger detective of his reticence. Looked like he was wrong. "I'll drive. You navigate, okay?"
Krycek ruthlessly dragged open the door to the van. He stared in growing horror at the two bodies in the front seats. He reached out, grabbing the driver's cooling flesh and turning the corpse's body to face him. The glazed eyes were wide, pupils dilated and fixed.
The words streaming from his lips were as vile the thoughts crossing his mind. He stared at the nearly empty cargo area. A set of manacles were fastened to the floorboard, still locked in place. The rear and side door to the cargo area were closed, child locks activated. The only way out was past the two dead men and he could have sworn they had been undisturbed when he arrived.
Finally, he had no choice but to accept the evidence before him. She was gone and he was clueless how she had done it. Closing his eyes in defeat, Alexei pulled out his cell phone.
"I need the trackers and I need them now." He kept his voice emotionless as he spoke to the operative on the other end. Wanting to waste as time little time as possible, he opened his eyes and walked back to his car. Opening his trunk, he began sorting through a duffel bag.
Rafe stiffened, catching his partner's attention.
"What's wrong, Bri?" Henri's voice was rough. When there was no answer, he pulled the car over to the side of the road. Behind them a blue and white pickup and a gray Taurus followed suite.
"She's escaped... I think." Rafe sounded confused as he spoke, eyes slightly glazed. He got out of the car and began staring out into the forest that surrounded them. The other members of Major Crimes quickly joined him. "She knows we're on our way."
"Rafe? Is she heading our way?" Henri asked, waving the others to silence.
The younger man nodded. "Yeah. But she's not on the road, she's heading straight this way."
"Cross country?" Jim asked, frowning as he stared out into the forest. Even though they were just outside of the Cascade city limits, the area was fairly rough. Between them and the missing woman was some very rough territory. "Which side of the river is she on?"
There was a long pause as Rafe contemplated the answer. Finally he shook his head. "We don't know."
"We?" Blair's voice was stunned. "She can answer you?"
"No... I just kind of know where she is, how she is." He shuddered, shaking himself free of odd sensation of being in two places at once. He looked up to see concerned eyes watching him. "We need to keep going north. She'll meet us soon."
Lee Bracket looked over the group of men who were quickly checking their equipment. Krycek was already on the fleeing woman's trail. His group was to meet the other man soon. The plan called for them to trap AJ between Lee's group and Krycek. He stared out over the chasm made by the river below them.
"Are you sure she'll cross here?" One of the men asked another, making Lee look up.
"Boss says she doesn't like water." The other answered, slipping a tranq dart into his pistol.
Lee motioned to the five men, grabbing their attention. "She has to be captured alive. We have to get her before she reaches the bridge. If she gets knocked over the edge, you go in after her."
They all nodded, eyes on Bracket and the forest behind him. He was the only one with a view of the steel bridge. He kept their attention as he showed them where to position themselves. None of the hunters noticed the blanket wrapped figure gliding across the girders below the bridge's tarmac.
As soon as they were in place, he slipped to the edge of the bridge. Checking the edge of the forest again, he pulled out his cell phone.
"Ellison. Don't use the radio, we're listening." Lee didn't give the sentinel a chance to speak. He looked back over the river, noting that the figure was gone. "She's across the river. Alexei is tracking her so move fast. I'll --" The loud click of a round being chambered made him freeze. A hand reached over his shoulder and took the cell phone from him.
"You'll do nothing." Glittering eyes stared at him as Alexei Krycek carefully turned off the phone. "Not right now. Later," a small deadly smile graced the thin face, "you'll tell me every single detail."
Jim cursed and pressed the speed dial for Henri's cell phone. "Tell Rafe we have to speed this up. Bracket says Krycek is tracking AJ." He ignored the startled sound from Henri as well as the shocked gasp from his partner. Hitting another number, he cursed as a drizzle began to fall.
When the other phone was answered, he began speaking again. "Simon, Bracket called. He's broken from Krycek. I think he helped AJ escape." He listened to Simon's disbelieving comments. "Yeah, I know. The last thing I heard was Krycek chambering a round and taking the phone from Bracket. Knowing his reputation, Bracket's out of the picture. No, I don't think it's a trap. Bracket was telling the truth while he was talking to me. We're racing against Krycek now."
All three vehicles turned on their flashing lights and increased their speed.
Green, wet, cold. That was life in a nutshell. Fire raced from nerves to brain, trying to express the pain and damage already done by the rapid flight through the Cascade forest. Bare feet were no protection from the rocks and broken tree limbs that covered the forest floor, especially when those feet had gotten used to being protected from the concrete of Cascade city streets.
The rain was obscuring what little sunlight remained for the afternoon. The dimming light and the shadows of the forest were hiding the trail. If wishes were free, she'd have sentinel sight. Or be close enough to be use someone else's sight. She tripped, and groggily leaned against a tall tree. It was too dark to take to the trees, but she could hear Krycek and his men. They were gaining on her. Gaining faster than she had expected. She was out of shape.
AJ let herself relax, forcing tired muscles to unclench. She had four darts left. Each and every one a quick, silent death. Why Lee Bracket had given only one type of dart was beyond her understanding. Unless she had missed a dart in her haste to escape the van.
Eyes closed, she pulled the heavy wool blanket from her shoulders. She kept her touch light as she ran her fingers along the tightly rolled edging. Carefully, she touched each dart as she came across it, one, two, three, four... all nestled in the black stripe along one side. She kept searching, her fingers barely touching the wool. She found a lone dart, small and skillfully woven into the edging. Opening her eyes, she brought the blanket to her nose, noting the blue wool stripe. If Lee kept to the pattern... the sharp, distinctive scent of yaje hit her. Not something she wanted to play with.
A twig snapped and she whirled. Focus, she reminded herself. The sound of a safety being removed was all the warning she needed. AJ burst into movement, the wool blanket forming a flag behind her.
Sharp pain blossomed in shoulder as the metal tip of the tranquilizer dart knocked her to the ground. A smaller pain flared in her hand as her grip on the dart sent it into her skin.
The sight of the panther racing in front of his truck shocked Jim. It's appearance made a shiver run up his spine. Something had happened. Unnoticed, his foot press harder on the accelerator. The truck fishtailed through a sharp turn.
"Jim?" Blair's voice cut into his thoughts. "Slow down, man."
"We're running out of time." He growled.
"What do you mean?"
"Panther's running with us. I'm trying to keep up with it." Jim nearly hit the brakes as both a wolf and a lynx joined the panther. All three animals raced down the road. He swallowed thickly. "Your wolf too!"
"Oh." Blair's quiet response made him shoot a look over at his partner. The younger man was staring out the windshield, eyes squinting as he tried to see the creatures the sentinel saw. "That's not good, is it?"
"No, it's not Chief."
The radio hissed and then Rafe's voice came through the static. The naked pain in the man's voice made them both wince. "Jim, they caught her."
She growled, a low throaty sound that made the hair on the back of his neck stand on end. Krycek watched silently as she fought the ropes holding her prisoner. Two guards stood nearby, eyes watching her warily.
"Alexei, stay away from her." Lee Bracket whispered, his voice barely a sound. But it was enough to catch the woman's attention. Silvery green eyes turned their angry sight on him and the growl grew deeper. "You're making her worse."
"She should be sleeping like a baby." Alex commented softly, noting that AJ instantly turned towards him. "Instead, she's even more vicious than I am."
Lee shook his head. "You should have let her go. Ellison and his friends are going to kill us both."
"Call Sandburg. I promised he could talk to her." Alex kept his eyes on the woman. She froze at the names and then began struggling even harder. "Well, she recognized their names."
Lee pulled out his cell phone and dialed a number from memory. When it was answered, he handed it to his partner.
"Hello, little Shaman." Alex grinned as he heard Sandburg gasp. "I promised you could talk to Fortaleza. Start talking."
A movement made him turn, and he saw a guard go down as Fortaleza leapt on him, ropes falling to the ground. A sharp brittle snap sounded as a bone broke and then she was gone. The guard lay, groaning softly as he tried to sit.
"SHIT!" Alex couldn't stop the curse as he quickly hung up on Sandburg.
Behind him, Bracket shook his head, grinning to himself. He had warned the other man. He could have predicted this as soon as Alex brought out the tranquilizers. He'd seen it before. Realizing that no one was watching him as the trackers raced back into the forest, Lee sauntered over to an unattended vehicle. He quickly and efficiently hot wired the SuV and headed north. He figured it would be a bit hot for him in Washington for a while. He was glad he liked Canada. It was a nice place to visit.
Blair chuckled at the phone. "I think she turned the tables on Krycekagain."
"What makes you say that?"
"The growls? The cursing? The abrupt way he hung up?" Blair smiled grimly as he dialed another number. "Rafe?"
"Close... real close." Rafe answered the unspoken question. "She's moving but the connection's... messed up. Something's wrong."
Blair looked over at Jim. The sentinel nodded, having caught the conversation. "Tell him we're going to get her back safely."
Blair quickly passed on the information and disconnected. "I hope so, Jim." He whispered, fighting off his exhaustion.
Three miles farther down the road the three guides vanished. The suddenness of their disappearance, had Jim slamming on the brakes. The truck skidded on the wet asphalt as Jim fought to stay on the road. Behind him, the cars following him barely kept from slamming into the truck. Regaining control, Jim pulled over and turned off the lights.
"What the ??" Blair's voice died as a figure darted out of forest and onto the road. Behind the first figure came two others. "AJ?"
Jim reached up and pulled the dome light loose. Then he silently slid out of the truck, his hearing catching the sound of his friends doing the same. They couldn't let the runners see them, not if they wanted to capture Krycek.
He focused his sight on the first figure. AJ's eyes were blank, her pupils locked into pinpoints. The dead calm of her features told their tale. She was on something. Something that had her locked into flight. The wrong move and she would turn to fight and Jim knew first hand how she fought. When necessary, she fought as dirty as anyone he'd ever known. The way she moved told of injuries that she could not ignore even if she could ignore the pain from them. He felt his hackles rise. Between the drugs and the pain she was in, he wasn't sure she'd recognize them.
More men poured out of the woods. Jim counted five armed, dangerous looking men. He recognized only Krycek. The others were all unknown.They all moved with the silent precision that came of good training. Seeing AJ racing down the asphalt, the men grinned and went from jogging to running, certain they would catch her.
As she drew closer, Jim cursed. AJ was slowing, distracted by the men closing in on her. Even from here, Jim could easily hear her gasping for breath.
"AJ?" Rafe's whisper was rough.
The response to Rafe's voice was exactly what they needed. Instantly, AJ sped up her pace. She didn't look at Jim or Blair as she ran past them. She veered off the road and into Rafe. Jim could hear the other detective as he whispered to her, calming her.
The other runners were close. Thankful for the cloudy night that hid their positions by the road, the detectives prepared themselves. With AJ off the road, they had a clear field of fire, if needed.
"Cascade PD. Freeze." Simon's voice brought Krycek to a halt. Behind him the next man turned heading for the forest.
Jim aimed carefully, letting his bullets stitch the road in front of the fleeing man. "Next shot is not in the road."
The man stopped, raising his hands into the air. Slowly, the other men did the same. When they did not drop their weapons fast enough, Joel and Megan stepped out of the trees flanking the men. One by one the weapons were placed on the ground and the men were handcuffed.
"Read them their rights, gentlemen." Simon's relieved voice froze as Krycek moved, grabbing Megan.
The Australian inspector's struggles stopped as a knife ghosted down her check.
"I think you need to release my friends." Krychek's voice was calm as he watched the police officers freeze, contemplating his words. "You don't want her hurt, do you?"
"Mine." The softly whispered word was spoken at his side. Krycek turned his head to see green eyes glaring furiously at him. "My friend. Mine. Not yours."
"Back off," he growled at the woman standing beside him. Her head tilted, almost as if she was listening to someone else. Alex instinctively stepped back, pulling Megan with him. Fortaleza growled at him. "I'll kill her if you make a single move."
Fortaleza wasn't quite looking at him. It took Alex a moment to realize that she was watching his captive. As he tightened his grip, the Australian threw her head back, smashing into his face. The arm he had around her waist was twisted painfully and he found himself hitting the ground hard. A foot caught him in the ribs, making him double over painfully. Another blow by the Australian and he was on his back staring up at the clouds, trying to breathe. Fortaleza's drugged eyes swam into view and for a moment he saw something else in the sky behind her. Then he saw the wet looking dart in her hand as it descended.
"Nightmares, Alexei Krycek. Nightmares. Black death coming for you. Sinking in slowly." Her whisper reached his ears as the pain from the dart raced from his neck to his brain. The sky turned black... a liquid, oozing black. One that he remembered so very, horribly well. Alex heard his voice break as he screamed.
"What did she give him?" Simon asked quietly as he watched the paramedics carefully strapping Alex Krycek to the gurney.
"Yaje." Jim's answer was short, clipped. "Same thing that has her so focused."
"Well, that's to be expected." Blair shook his head and turned to face his coworkers. "It's not the first time she's been exposed to it. Since she was focused on getting to Rafe, the yaje helped her focus her senses on him. I guess the only thing that could have stopped her would have been..."
"So why did Krycek lose it?"
"She got his attention before she hit him with the dart. Shaman in South America use yaje to coax the spirits, to ask for visions, to expand their senses." Jim answered, eyes on the ambulance as it's strobe lights came on. He vaguely noticed that the man in the passenger side was smoking a cigarette and frowned. "AJ told Krycek he'd see a nightmare. Something about black death coming for him slowly. Until he comes down from the yaje, he'll see what she told him."
Simon looked uncomfortable at the thought. "I'm glad she's my friend and not my enemy."
"Hey, guys?" Rafe's voice brought them all around. The detective had his arm around AJ's waist, half supporting her. "Kyrie says she'll take the real ambulance back to the hospital."
"Real ambulance?" The words were whispered by all three. As one, Simon, Jim, and Blair turned to look at the ambulance. Lee Bracket waved as he carefully maneuvered the heavy vehicle onto the road. "Bracket!"
AJ waved back to him, ignoring the shocked looks her friends gave her. As a new ambulance pulled up, she let Rafe guide her over to it.
After a long quiet pause, Jim turned to Simon. "Sir, could you keep an eye on Sandburg tomorrow? I have some reading to do. We need to know why they want Naomi."
"I can take care of myself." Blair spluttered indignantly even though he understood what his sentinel meant. "Besides, I think I want to know what's in that file after all."
"So do I." Simon added his vote to the others. He looked around the area. Henri had joined Rafe, both grinning as they said something to AJ. On the other side of the road, Joel and Megan were helping state troopers load prisoners into a van. "It looks like everything is under control for now. We can get back to the station and finish up the paperwork for this fiasco. Then tomorrow we can spend the day reading those files."
The sentinel nodded. He reached out a hand and ruffled Blair's hair. "Let's get moving, Chief. Paperwork calls."
"Fine, but you get to do your own."
scene for Cascade Escapades because of too many requests for answers.
Epilogue: Cascade Escapades
Rafe sat in the uncomfortable hospital chair, waiting. God how he hated waiting. How long were the doctors going to take? He
reached out and grabbed him, steadying him as he bounced off of Henri Brown's
chest. "Take it easy, bro."
grinned. "I noticed. They have you waiting long?"
"Long enough." Rafe looked up as Megan and Joel joined his partner. "What's going on?"
Megan looked at Joel and Henri, raising her eyebrow quizzically. Then she smiled. "I'm going to sneak in there and keep AJ
Henri and Joel nodded before turning their eyes on Rafe. The younger man swallowed nervously. From their expressions,
"We need to talk, homeboy." Henri's voice was soft, soft the way he kept it when he was trying not to loose his temper. Rafe
"Sit down, Rafe." Joel's voice was gentle. Almost as gentle as when he passed on bad news to family members. Rafe shook his
"You mentioned something in Simon's office." Henri kept his eyes locked with Rafe's. He licked his lips, trying to phrase it just
Rafe shook his head, sinking into the chair he had vacated moments before. "You don't believe in that kind of stuff. I asked you
Joel smiled, his eyes laughing as he fought back a chuckle. Henri looked almost as confused as Rafe did. "He's talking about the
looking from one pair of brown eyes to the other. His voice was plaintive
as he asked, "What else did I say?"
"You told me you had to find your wife, bro." Henri's voice was soft as he answered. "Why didn't you tell me you two got
"Oh." Rafe watched his partner's face as the older detective struggled for words. He could see the conflicting emotions that
"What's so hard about telling your partner that you got married?" Anger harshened Henri's voice as he clenched his fists in
"Henri." Rafe closed his eyes, fighting off his guilt at causing his partner so much pain. "It's not that I didn't want to tell you, it's
your mouth and letting the words come out." Henri growled.
"Calm down," Joel rested his hand on Brown's shoulder, gently pushing him into one of the chairs. "Let's take it a step at a
"When I took AJ home last year, the elders asked me what my intentions were." Rafe had to smile at the shocked looks on his
waiting for the State Department's decision?" Joel's voice was stunned.
"That's a long wait."
"Yeah, I know. It's been hard, but with her having dual citizenship, my being a naturalized, and the fact that we had to wait for
Joel nodded thoughtfully, running his fingers over his jaw. "I think I should call a couple of old friends I have from my days in
"You do that, Joel. I went to school with our esteemed Congressman Paul MacPherson. I'll call his office in the morning, see if
AJ's friends in suits?" Joel asked, his eyes meeting Rafe's.
"They always attach strings to any help they give." AJ's voice brought all three men to their feet. The young woman leaned
"Miss Fortaleza!" A strident voice called from the ER doors. A harried looking doctor hurried over to join them. "We aren't
"Damn, I thought
we'd gotten away from that pest." Megan murmured.
"I am not giving them blood. I just want to go home." AJ closed her eyes, letting her head fall forward. She whispered, "Get me
"Sshh, love. " Rafe moved swiftly to her side. Megan transferred the tired woman into his arms and stepped forward to block
As soon as they stepped outside of the hospital, Megan turned to her two friends. "So, what did he say?"
"He needs some help, Megs." Henri grinned and ducked at the Australian woman punched at him. "The State department is
rush, Henri?" Joel asked curiously.
Henri pulled an evidence bag from his jacket pocket. Inside it was a slightly crumpled pamphlet. "I didn't log it because I meant
"Well, that means we need to start making some phone calls." Joel grinned, eyes dancing merrily. "I just wonder how long it'll
Does that satisfy
y'all? Does that answer all your questions about AJ and Rafe?
The ones about
the X-Files folk will be answered later. ;-)