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13 July 2010 @ 11:59 pm
Numb3rs Fic: Sin - Parts 3 and 4  
Written for numb3rs_bigbang Big Bang 2010
Crossposted to numb3rs_notice and numb3rs_fic



Title: Sin - Parts 3 and 4
Series/Universe: Sin/Vice
Pairing/Characters: See Series Post
Rating: NC17
Spoilers: Seasons 1, 2 and 3
Summary: Taking over as CEO of a business is hard as a woman, but harder when it's a front for a major crime syndicate (AU)
Notes/Warnings: Read the disclaimer on my LJ



Saturday, 10/13/07 - Day

"No, no." Megan waved off the proffered platter of pastries for a second time. As delectable as they looked she found she had no appetite, stress tying her stomach in knots. "Just more coffee. Thanks." He turned her attention back to the conference call she was on. "It just doesn't make any sense."

"I agree," Howard echoed. "Thursday it's all out war and Friday, what? Tuttle takes the day off?"

"Are we sure nothing minor happened at any of the satellite locations that our partners haven't reported yet?" Terry asked.

"I had at least one of our guys at every satellite facility," Megan explained. "If anything happened they were instructed to call me immediately."

"So we had a slow day," Howard said. "Perhaps this is part of his illogical plan to keep us guessing. I mean, if we have a break between attacks we might lower our guard."

"Or get exhausted from never being able to lower our guard," Terry tossed in. "Speaking of? I think you should go to your event tonight, Megan."

"I agree," Howard piped up. "Few things send a message of 'you're not getting to us' than the CEO attending a party."

"It's not a party, it's a charity event."

"It's a party," Howard drawled. "It's just one where they expect you to pay for it, so bring your checkbook."

"I've already made a sizable donation." Megan nodded her thanks as a servant refilled her coffee cup. "Thanks." She doctored it quickly as she continued. "Youth Arts is going to be my philanthropy platform so wooing the head of the LA Youth Arts Council? Kind of important."

"Can I say again how glad I am you picked a field Tuttle has no traction in already?" There was a soft popping noise and Howard exclaimed, "Ow!"

"What is it?" Megan asked worriedly, trying to fight down the adrenaline response that had been so easily triggered as of late.

"Stupid..." he grumbled. "I'm making bacon and the grease popped up at me."

"You should use a grease spatter shield," Terry piped up.

"I'll get right on that Ms. Chef's Wife," Howard parried back playfully. "I'm making Cinda breakfast in bed so I can't talk much longer. The pancakes are ready to flip and the bacon's just about crispy enough."

"Oh, now I want some of Marco's pork bellies," Terry bemoaned. "And I've already had breakfast."

"Anyway," Howard's voice was stern but kind, "Go to the party, do your CEO schmooze thing and trust Terry and David to keep things under control while you're there."

"I promise I'll text or call you with any news," Terry told her. "And, if you want, I'll even text you on the hour to let you know everything's just fine."

Megan, let out a breath, chuckling around her coffee cup. "You know me too well. Okay, I'll go."

"Good. And on that note..." Howard's voice had a lightened tone to it. "I've got a wife to make happy. Talk to you two later."

"Bye," she heard Terry say.

"Talk to you later," Megan echoed. Hanging up she picked up her coffee to take it with her to her suite to get dressed. She'd stayed in the mansion yet again and was starting to miss her penthouse apartment with its lovely view of the ocean.

As she passed out of the room she saw the rejected pastries sitting on the sideboard, lonely looking without a breakfast spread to accompany them.

She missed the family style meals she'd had when Don and Charlie were still around. The mansion wasn't a home anymore, just an office building with a wing set aside for sleeping quarters and Megan missed that feeling of family.

It occurred to her instead of offering Tim and Robin an apartment in the building she should have offered them quarters in the mansion. Tim was part of Don's family for real now and this was still, in a sense, his home.

Then she wouldn't have to feel so alone here with only silent staff to keep her company.

She picked up a pastry to take with her and, on second thought, grabbed another.

At least the chef would be happy.

+

"Are you sure it doesn't hurt? It looks like it hurts."

Gabriel's fingers were hovering over the bruises on Colby's arm and shoulder where he'd impacted the dashboard.

"I'm a little sore, that's all."

Colby sat on the edge of the bed with his head hanging down, usually the sign he didn't want to talk about something, but Gabriel was the talking type and he usually could get Colby out of his shell - even if sometimes that meant prying him out of it.

He shifted to sit behind Colby, wrapping his arms around him as he laid his head on his lover's broad back.

"They could have killed you," he murmured. "You could have died trying to protect me."

Silence.

"Cole, please," Gabriel whispered, pressing a soft kiss into his skin. "I'm scared. Talk to me."

Colby put his hands over Gabriel's and tugged him in closer. "What do you want me to say? This is what I do. I work in Security and sometimes it gets dangerous. And I'd gladly face that danger to keep you safe."

Gabriel closed his eyes and just listened to the heart beating strong under his ear.

"What if this just keeps going? What if Tuttle never stops coming after us?" A horrific vision of death and grief flashed unbidden behind his eyes. "What if he succeeds?"

"He won't." Colby's voice was firm, strong, adamant. "Megan will make sure of that. If she has to kill Tuttle with her own hands to make it stop? That's what she'll do. She'll do what it takes to protect us, but she's trying to do the smart thing right now. Antagonizing your enemy doesn't make sense. Ignoring them weakens them. So she's focusing her efforts on protection right now rather than dividing us into offense and defense where both will be too weak to be successful." He patted Gabriel's hand consolingly. "She's a good leader. Like Don was."

"I wish I had your faith in her," Gabriel said.

Colby turned in his arms to face him, making him look up. "Then have faith in me. And while you're at it? Ask Maintenance if they can move those cool custom showerheads in your bathroom to my place. If we're moving in together I'm not giving them up."

A rush of joy made Gabriel suddenly kiss Colby, setting aside all his fear.

"Thank you..." His lips hovered over his lover's, their breath mingling intimately as they held each other close. "Thank you for making me happy."

+

"The extra security detail staff will be positioned here, here and here."

David pointed at the points on the map showing the building E was in and the surrounding neighborhood. He tapped his finger denoting extra staff behind and to the sides of the building - areas they normally didn't have to worry about since cameras covered them.

"And what about further out?" Megan inquired.

"We have spotters on the second floor of this building..." David tapped one that was at the corner about a half a block down from E. "So they have a really good view both ways and at the cross street. And here..." He tapped a building on the other side, but further away.

"Isn't that kind of far?"

"They're on the eighth floor with high powered binoculars and a zoom lens video camera," David explained. "That's the height from which they can see the whole area at once and pinpoint where to focus if anything looks out of place. The camera will be on the environs around E and monitored by staff back at the mansion. The spotter's job will be to keep the wide view and inspect anything that comes close and looks like it might be an issue."

"Remember, they might be going after our patrons as they arrive and leave," Megan started to say, but David put up his hand to halt her.

"Already covered. I have a system in place with the security staff and the valets to alert as each priority client leaves. They'll watch to make sure their cars get out of the area unaccosted." He shrugged a little. "I hate to say it, but once they get a half mile or so away from us we're not to blame if something happens to them - in their minds at least. They'll chalk it up to random violence, not us."

"Not a happy thought, but probably true," Megan agreed soberly. "Good job. Keep me in the loop on any on the spot changes you decide to make during the night. Saturdays are big for us. We can't afford to take a hit at our main locations."

She headed away from the table and settled down on one of her sofas, David joining her on the opposite one.

"I have this party tonight?" she began. "I both don't want to go and I totally want to, you know? I've been amped for this since before I took over from Don, but with all that's going on..."

"Go." David's tone was unequivocal. "Go, have a great time, do your charity thing. Don't let Tuttle take that away from you. If he does? He's already won."

"So you're my social director now too?" Megan teased, nudging him playfully with her toe.

"Ha! No." David huffed out a chuckle. "I so wouldn't want that job. I've seen how much Don had to schmooze people in the past. You're on your own." He fell silent for a moment before starting back up again, more thoughtful this time. "On the same topic, or kind of, can I ask you for some advice on a personal/social issue?"

"Sure, shoot," Megan said. "What's up? No, let me guess: the question of Claudia versus Olivia."

David let out a long sigh. "I'm taking a leap of faith there, but I just can't stop thinking that with Claudia is where I'm meant to be even if she doesn't know about all this." He waved his hand around, denoting the mansion and the activities spawned there. "But Olivia... Since she owns the Platinum Rail she's a part of this organization and I don't want to risk pissing her off. I need advice from the female and business side of things. How do I end things with Olivia and keep her on our good side?"

"Well, knowing Olivia?" Megan gave him an encouraging look. "You don't. She's the kind of woman who has to end things. The good news? I can advise you on how to get her to end things with you and..." Her eyes lit up. "I think I know the perfect distraction to get her to leave you behind..."

"Gee, thanks," David told her, only partly sarcastic.

Megan huffed out a laugh. "You know Olivia - all about the energy. So you? Be as boring as you can, talk about marriage - in general terms - a lot and show too much concern for her safety. She'll feel smothered and want to escape the cling. And I... I know the ideal man for her to find as an appealing alternative. So leave it to me. I'll introduce them as soon as I get a chance, but for now?"

"Be boring, clingy and talk about how important marriage is to me?" David supplied. "Wow, I think I just got Doctor Phil-ed!"

"I prefer Oprah," Megan said playfully. "And thank you for caring about the business side of things. It means a lot that you put the organization up there with your own happiness."

"You're welcome." David sat back against the couch. "Now I just need to figure out some way to get Claudia on our side."

+

"I hate all this waiting. It's dumb."

"Both feint and lunge are necessary to win at fencing," Marshall intoned, not even looking at Ivy as he continued working, head down over his files. "Keeping your opponent on their toes is key."

Ivy was pacing a path through the antique hand-knotted Persian rug in front of Marshall's desk, aimlessly zipping and unzipping her leather jacket pockets shut in a blatant show of bundled energy with no outlet.

"Yeah, well while you are all tiptoeing around each other I'm getting bored," she complained. "I need something to do."

"How are your sniper skills coming along?" Marshall inquired from his desk where he was reviewing statistical models. At least this time Ivy hadn't put her motorcycle helmet on his blotter. "You said you've been working at it."

"Pretty damn good," she bragged. "I'm a natural."

"Well, Natural," Marshall used the word with more than a hint of sarcasm. "I can put you into play as Plan B at some of our planned attacks if you're out for a little action, though we hope you won't have to be activated."

"What's Plan B?"

"Where you listen in secretly to our Plan A operatives, who don't know they've been bugged, and if they get caught and show signs of flipping? You take them out before they can talk to the cops."

"Damn," Ivy muttered. "That's cold."

"Did you forget where you work?" Marshall's eyebrow rose. "If you want snuggly family love maybe you should have done to work for the Eppes Brothers back in the day instead of here."

"Heh, no thanks. I don't go for all that tree hugger lovey dovey 'drugs are the enemy' shit. If a rich dude wants to get fucked up on cocaine for kicks? Why shouldn't we be making bank off his vice just like any other vices?"

"And so we are," Marshall agreed. "Do you want the slot or not? We've got other people with sniper skills..."

"I want it." Ivy snatched up her helmet in preparation to head out. "Besides, once you get a taste for sniping?" She leaned over Marshall's desk, lowering her voice into an almost seductive register. "It kind of gets into your blood."

+

Saturday, 10/13/07 - Night

"Megan! How delightful to see you!" Amanda Bering was effervescent and energetic despite her sixty plus years and she greeted Megan enthusiastically with an air kiss on the cheek as she entered the charity ball. "And you look stunning in that gown."

"Thank you, Amanda." Megan returned the proper greeting, her best smile on. "As do you! I love that Armani on you. It's perfect!"

"Thank you! And you my dear..." She lowered her voice a touch. "I wish I had the body for Hervé Léger's designs. So dashing!" She took Megan by the arm and led her forward. "I have so many people for you to meet tonight! We're all very excited about having the younger guard come take up the cause of Youth Arts."

"I can't believe more people don't support it," Megan said as they made their way through the throngs, nodding to those she recognized in passing. "The arts is the best way to engage young people, to keep them from becoming apathetic."

"It is!" Amanda enthused. "We keep showing our donors studies on how young people into the arts tend to finish high school in greater numbers, tend to go to college and a large percentage of them finish college even without special scholarships!" She shook her head in dismay. "Sadly so many of the older patrons seem to think artists are dreamers who just want to sit around and sketch and not get an education."

"Well, we'll work to disavow them of that archaic notion. Gone are the days of running away to Paris to live on stale baguettes and cheap wine just to paint. Now kids just get online and post their digital works to Deviant Art!"

"Oh, I wish that site had a better name," Amanda scowled. "They're really not helping our P.R." She paused in the middle of the room. "Now should we start with the highest donors first or the key gallery owners?" She tapped her manicured fingernail just below her expertly made up lips. "So many people to make sure you meet tonight. I hope you wore your dancing shoes because most of them are men you'll need to charm."

Megan made a mental note to call her favorite spa to ask them to send over a masseur the next day, one that could spend extra time on her feet seeing as how she was wearing three and a half inch heels.

"I'm all set," she told Amanda. "And let's start with the gallery owners. I'd like to hear them tell me how they'd like to expand their Youth Arts programs before I start going after money to make it happen."

"A pragmatic approach," Amanda stated approvingly. "Oh and just so you know?" She squeezed Megan's arm. "If I do that when I introduce you to someone?" She gave Megan a conspiratorial wink. "It means they're single and available. You have to be careful - a lot of the married men are shameless flirts when their wives aren't around."

Megan laughed out loud. "Amanda, I'm not on the market for husband shopping."

"My dear girl, this is Los Angeles!" she scoffed. "If you wait too long all the good ones are taken!"

+

"Excuse me, I'd like to see the most beautiful woman here, please."

Robin turned around after escorting a client to the VIP elevator to E's private second floor to find Tim in his chauffeur's uniform grinning madly at her.

"Oh wait, she's right here in front of me," he continued, beaming.

"Tim! What are you doing here? I thought you were working tonight!" She accepted his kiss on the cheek, both aware she was on the clock and on display.

"I am. The guy I've got in my limo tonight wanted to hang out here so I get to chill while he gets down on the dance floor." Tim made playful motions of silly boogieing, making Robin giggle.

"Well, I get a break in about a half hour so if you're still around..."

"I should be."

Robin bit her lip, unable to contain her glee. "I have big news!"

"They'll let you wear your ring at work?" Tim took her hand and rubbed his finger over the space where she wore her engagement ring when she wasn't working.

"No, sorry." Robin ran her finger down the long chain she had tucked down the cleavage of her gown then patted over her chest where the ring lay beneath her clothes - an idea she got from Kim. "But I keep it close to my heart."

"So what's the big to do?" he asked.

Robin tugged him off to the side where the music wasn't quite so loud.

"They had a meeting, well without me but essentially about me - Megan, Terry, Millie, Alex and Liz, who came to tell me about it. It seems with all the clubs they're planning on opening up they want to start to plan for people to manage them. Millie says they want me to go into management training so I can get promoted from hostess to manager!"

"That's awesome, babe!" Tim embraced her, clearly not caring how it looked. "You'd totally rock running the joint."

"Well, they'd probably start me out at Code since it's small and settled," she admitted, "which is fine. But the cool part is that both Terry and Megan are encouraging me to consider going back to school and getting an MBA! They'd let me work part time and help pay for it! I know we wouldn't be making as much money..."

"Don't care," Tim said without hesitation. "If it's what you want? Go for it. I'd totally support you - whatever you want to do."

This time it was Robin not caring who saw her hug her fiancé.

"I want to... I want the job, I want the degree... I want it all. Oh!" She pulled away abruptly. "I forgot the best part!"

"What's that?" Tim asked.

"They gave me permission to come off the roster - permanently."

"So no more... With anyone else?" Tim asked, looking hopeful.

"No more, no one else, not ever." She looked around quickly and decided it was worth the risk, wrapping her arms around his neck and pulling him in for a kiss. "No one but you."

+

An hour or so of introductions were taken care of and Megan had finished about half of her promised dance card. As Amanda had warned many of the men who wanted to take her out for a whirl on the dance floor were married. Still, she charmed a single accountant into agreeing to volunteer his time as her project's CPA and got a tentative yes from a wildly successful grantwriter to review her proposal. If he was involved she was sure to get not just the government funding she was looking for, but the credibility that came along with it.

Don had shown her that philanthropy wasn't just a great way to give back to the community and help make up for the vices they encouraged, it was also the primary way to keep the organization looking legitimate in the eye of the public and media.

People tended to believe criminals liked to hide, keeping their activities in the shadows. Don's very visible history as a teenager before he left - and his smiling face at the charity events after he returned - ensured he was revered as a local boy made good as businessman, not as a crime magnate. Megan felt it was her duty to uphold that image even as she, ironically, expanded the business into more legitimate directions.

"Megan, dear..."

Amanda was seeking her out again, probably to hand her off to another fifty-something CEO who just might be willing to write her a check someday.

Megan put on her game face, smiling pleasantly, as she turned around to spy Amanda leading someone through the crowd to reach her.

"Amanda!"

"I've someone I wanted you to meet," Amanda told her. "The naughty boy got here late and tried to sneak in without me seeing him."

"For which I apologized profusely," the man behind her said, his tone amazingly sincere. When Megan shifted her gaze to him her eyes had to adjust to how much taller he was than petite Amanda.

Her gaze took in a broad chest in an impeccable Armani tuxedo - this year's model and tailored perfectly, not a rental - topped by a stunningly handsome face, equipped with a wry quirk of a smile.

"As well you should," Amanda mock scolded before turning back to Megan. "This one seems to think business is more important than my event."

"Well, we can't have that, can we?" Megan joined in the taunting. She held out her hand. "Megan Reeves, CEO of Luxe International."

"James Grace..." The man took her hand, kissing the back of it with an air of grace Megan definitely wasn't used to - certainly befitting his name. "Owner of Grace Worldwide."

"The import/export company?" she asked.

"It's part of what we do," he explained. "We got so good at shipping from foreign countries and dealing with customs that we expanded into logistics as well. Now we handle importing and exporting for dozens of major manufacturers."

James' voice was warm and soothing, but Megan didn't react with calm inside. Her heart was beating faster, she couldn't take her eyes off James even though she knew she should be acknowledging Amanda as well; this was clearly her body's way of telling her if her brain wasn't smart enough to respond, it certainly was interested in the man in front of her.

And then it hit her: Amanda hadn't squeezed her arm to let her know he was single.

The disappointment was unexpectedly crushing. All the humming energy that had built up in the last few seconds, the anticipation, the excitement... It all came to a painful crashing halt, causing an almost physical jolt.

She'd told Amanda she wasn't looking, but that didn't mean some part of her wasn't hoping to finally meet someone. Things had ended badly with Stephen during the summer and having lost Billy... She'd taken time off, throwing herself into work, but going to bed alone every night was taking its toll on her. She missed having someone to talk to in the quiet after, to share her secrets with, to be herself with and not the strong woman everyone needed her to be in public.

"Major Grace..."

"Former Major," he corrected Amanda politely.

"...has decided to leave his Army wanderlust behind and headquarter his company in Los Angeles," Amanda told her. "So it's our duty to make sure he's fully indoctrinated into the party circuit, I mean the charity circuit," she corrected her fake faux pas.

"Most definitely. There's a wide variety of social occasions to choose from here," Megan told him. "All with extremely enjoyable ways to part you from your money."

"Sounds expensive," he teased back, "yet entirely delightful. So?" He turned to Amanda. "Does one pay per dance here or are terpsichorean delights part of the package deal offered for our donations?"

"The music is free, my dear," she told him. "Though I can't say for sure if you'll come out of dancing with the fair Ms. Reeves without promising her a check for her cause."

"What do you say? A dance for a chance?" James held out his hand to Megan.

"It's hard work," she said playfully, accepting it and trying to ignore the little spark that flared inside her at first contact. "But someone's got to do it."

"Have fun you two!"

As Megan passed Amanda the older woman reached out and gave her a firm squeeze of her arm. Megan's eyes went wide and she turned back to gaze at Amanda in disbelief.

Amanda just nodded in approval, grinning madly, then shooed her off to the dance floor with a gesture looking rather pleased with herself.

"So..." James drew her up as they stepped out onto the dance floor. "Do you tango?"

He pulled her in close and Megan could barely contain the flush of interest that ran through her. Their eyes met and Megan only dimly recognized the music playing.

"I do tango," she finally managed.

"I hope you're not just saying that," he said, shifting their joined hands into position as his hand went to the small of her back. "So many women say they can tango, but what they mean is they'll let me drag them around the floor to do whatever I want."

"Fair warning," Megan spoke up, her confidence finally taking over. "Two important facts to note. One: I prefer original Argentinian style tango."

"Duly noted." James shifted their position slightly to denote that he really got the difference. "And the second?"

Megan looked down at her skin baring Hervé Léger gown. "I'm pretty sure this dress won't stand up under deep dipping."

James joined her gaze, the feel of his eyes over her flushing Megan hot.

Without warning he dipped her, but only halfway.

They both looked down at her dress which had stayed completely in place.

"Looks like we're good." With a chuckle on both their lips, James righted her and pulled her into the dancing fray. "And off we go!"

He led her as if she already knew where he was going next and if he thought she was psychic or something she wasn't sure, but Megan felt like it had to be because she felt light as a feather smiling happily in his arms.

+

"Youth Arts? Who the hell funds Youth Arts?"

Marshall sat relaxed in the guest chair in front of Everett's desk as his employer paced angrily behind it.

"Apparently a lot of people and now, her."

"I spent thousands competing with those damn Eppes Brothers, made commitments to people in an attempt to keep up with them and now she," he spat out the word bitterly, "expects me to fund something entirely new just to keep up with her?"

"No, I'm fairly sure she expects you to ignore Youth Arts and leave it to her." Marshall inspected his nails and decided he should fire his manicurist and find a better one. His nails were starting to look a little too pretty when they should just be professional and polished in appearance even if there was no actual polish involved. "Which you could do. Essentially it's a wash. She wins if you stay away or join in and you win if you don't take the bait or if you show her up."

"There's a flaw in your logic, my dear Dr. Penfield," Everett taunted. "There's an option in which I join in but don't show her up."

"I dismissed that option," Marshall stated flatly. "Because the only impetus needed to show her up is your desire to do so. You would not make the attempt only to be unsuccessful. Logically I'm correct in my assumption of your behavior, am I not?"

"True," Everett huffed, no humor in his chortle. "What I go after, I get." He settled down into his chair. "Still, I'm not happy about this. She's cementing herself in the LA philanthropy circles without entering into competition with me. I don't like that."

"I expect you're not meant to like it." Marshall finished his inspection of his nails and finally looked up at his boss. "I do think, however, that it's moot in the near term. We're in the middle of a major offensive. Let the charity-mongers wait a while. We've got business to attend to right now."

"I'm surprised we're not hitting any of their locations tonight. You stand behind your strategy that says lay low this evening?" Everett asked.

"I do." Marshall shifted forward in his chair, pleased about his efforts. "We don't want clients to be afraid to go out Saturday night so we don't want to dissuade them even if they're going to our competition's locations. Plus, this is the busiest night of the week. The other side will be on tenterhooks the whole time expecting an attack. We run them down by doing nothing at all! I call that a win."

"And I rather enjoy the idea that the charitable Ms. Reeves can't enjoy her party tonight because she's too worried about her precious family. I bet she's running off to check her cell phone every five minutes. I bet she leaves early. In fact, she's probably heading home disappointed right now."

"Or better yet," Marshall added. "Heading back to the office."

Everett smiled, content. "That would be nice wouldn't it? Few things please me more than knowing I'm making those I oppose lose sleep."

+

Wednesday, 10/17/07 - Day

"Well, tell the follow car to meet me on the way! They can track my GPS." Liz's ponytail swung behind her as she walked briskly out to her Mercedes. "I'm tired of being stuck indoors. I've got work to do. Just get your guys to show the hell up. I'll be on the 10 eastbound in like five minutes."

She pressed her remote to unlock the doors even though she was a fair distance away and then halted when a dark shadow appeared from behind one of the parking garage supports. She froze in place, waiting, listening.

"Who's there?" she called out, a tone of worry in her voice. "Is anyone there?"

The click of a gun cocking hit her ears just as a burly bald headed man stepped out of the shadows, pointing a gun at her. A split second later a second and third gun cocked, then a fourth and the man halted.

David was behind him with his gun pressed behind the man's ear and Carlos and Rodolpho had popped up from behind parked cars, pointing guns at him as well.

Colby pulled her down behind the Mercedes.

"Best to get out of the line of fire," he told her. "Good job by the way."

"Playing helpless?" she snarked. "I guess I've seen enough bad movies to pull it off." She peeked around the fender to see David disarming the gunman.

"I'll just take that," David said, superiority in his voice. "Now we're going for a little ride down to the police station where you're going to get a sweetheart deal instead of the death penalty in exchange for giving up your boss, Tuttle."

"Eat me," the man spat out, but he didn't move from the spot, given all the guns still pointed at him.

"Oh, you'll get chewed up and spit out all right," David taunted. "If you try to lawyer up on us. See, we've already worked out a deal for you. You give us your boss' head on a platter? And you get a nice new identity to screw up somewhere else."

"Or we could shoot you in self-defense," Carlos added helpfully, aiming at the man's knee then raising his aim to the man's crotch. "I mean you did have a gun on me. It's only fair."

David pulled out a set of zip tie handcuffs and bound the man's hands.

"Come on," he ordered, tugging at the man to come along. "We've got a nice limo waiting out front. You'll ride to jail in style."

+

Carlos opened the back door of the limousine ahead of David as he and Rodolpho brought out the shooter with his hands tied behind his back.

They were steps from the car when a single shot rang out and the gunman fell to the ground.

David scrambled for the cover of the limousine as Carlos dived inside, calling in the attack on his phone.

"We're under fire! Send backup now!"

He looked back to check on Rodolpho to find he'd retreated into the safety of the garage, holding his gun at the ready and squinting up across the street.

"Sniper?" David asked.

"Think so," Rodolpho answered. "But I'm not sure where. The question is, do they want us? Or were they just after him?" He gestured to the gunman on the ground with one neat red blotch over his heart: dead.

"They couldn't risk him talking. Damn it!" David cursed. "I bet they had him bugged and were listening in. This is their backup plan if someone might talk. Silence him before he gets a chance."

"That bug might still be transmitting," Rodolpho reminded him.

"Good," David said. "Because we can track who's listening and bring them a little present of our own in return."

A small puff of smoke and an acrid smell came from the gunman's front pocket.

"Self-destruct..." Rodolpho nodded, almost respectfully. "Pretty damn cool."

"Ha," David scoffed. "I guess they didn't realize I was bluffing about tracing them."

Three black SUVs appeared, screeching to a halt nearby.

"Cavalry's here," Carlos called out to them.

"Good," David said. "Now we need them to help us find that damn sniper."

"There's an awful lot of buildings to choose from," Rodolpho said. "They could have done that shot from just about anywhere."

"Not anywhere." David skimmed the skyline, gun still at the ready. "Snipers are logical, prepared, ready for just about any situation. They would have picked very carefully."

"Great, know any snipers we can grill?" Carlos scoffed. "Because I don't think like a sniper."

"No," David mused. "But you don't have to think like a sniper. Just think like you think a sniper might think and you've got it."

+

"I thought I'd find you here."

Ivy hadn't finished dismantling the sniper rifle yet when Darby walked out onto the rooftop to confront her. With a smug grin, she went ahead and continued putting the pieces away in her case as if she had all the time in the world.

"You know I'd never have gotten into sniping if it wasn't for you. It's just Edgerton? He was kind of hot, you know? And after he went AWOL I figured I'd give his thing a try. See if it was as sexy as Ian was... See if I could be as good at it." She zipped up the duffle bag she'd brought her gear in and cocked her head towards the street below. "Pretty good shot, eh?

"Beginner's luck," Darby said dismissively. "Oh wait. For you to be lucky? You'd have to have gotten away afterwards too." She clucked her tongue. "Guess your luck already ran out."

"How's that leg? I hear it got messed up good in an accident." Ivy pronounced the final word syllable by syllable, ending with a little self-satisfied chuckle. "People say you never ride the same after a bad crash."

"Is that so?" Darby took a step forward, ensuring she was fully between Ivy and any sort of exit from the rooftop. "I hear they don't let you ride motorcycles... in prison."

"Or in the hospital," Ivy tossed back.

"Or in the cemetery."

"Well, that's just not true," Ivy pointed out, stepping forward as well. "I've ridden my bike across a cemetery so you can ride bikes there."

"No if you're dead," Darby countered.

They were only a few steps apart, but Ivy lunged at her so fast only her brisk reflexes kept her safe from the onslaught. She dodged each blow, shielded her face from Ivy's slashing nails and still managed to kick her knee out from under her, forcing Ivy to roll away to avoid her.

Ivy popped to her feet by the old building's fire escape, bouncing on her toes like a boxer.

"Is that all you've got, Morris? Seriously, I thought you were supposed to be the other guy's version of me."

"Nah," Darby scoffed, positioning herself for the second clash. "I'm actually a field operative, not a skanky ho who fucks mental snipers for fun."

"Field operative? That's what they call you?" Ivy laughed. "Hon, you need a better agent. My business cards say I'm in charge of market research."

"If by market you mean the skeevy convenience stores where you fuel up that sorry excuse for a bike? Yeah, my kind of research is more informative than ketchup or mustard on microwaved hot dogs." Darby cocked her head. "And I've never been a business card kind of girl. I'm more..."

Ivy lunged again and this time she got a good hold, dragging both of them down to the asphalt surface of the roof.

Darby had trained in both striking and grappling techniques, but apparently so had Ivy.

They rolled so far to the side they hit the fire escape, the old metal clanging in complaint at the impact.

Darby's back was against the rooftop and her legs were keeping Ivy off her to some extent.

Her fingers peeled Ivy's hands from her throat one by one.

"It's just a matter of time, baby," Ivy teased. "You know I'm always going to beat you."

"You know what your problem is?" Darby rasped out.

"What?" Ivy was struggling to try to get her hands back on Darby, but almost every finger was freed.

"You just can't shut the fuck up."

The last finger came free and Darby used the position she'd wormed her legs into to get her feet on Ivy's stomach.

With one powerful push Darby shoved with both arms and legs, pushing Ivy back off of her.

Tiny as she was, Ivy went flying. Darby watched as she hit the edge of the roof, hovered for a second - arms waving in the air finding no purchase - then flipped backwards with the continued momentum and over the edge.

Darby was on her feet in a snap, looking over.

Ivy lay sprawled half on and half off the fire escape about fifteen feet below, not moving.

Darby pulled out her cell phone, coughing a bit still from being choked, and dialed.

"Reeves."

"Uh, Megan? It's Darby. I know you don't like us to get extracurricular? But I kind of might have just, um, killed Ivy."

+

"Intensive care?" Tuttle let out a sound that was just shy of a laugh. "They almost kill her and then they take her to the hospital? That's amusing."

Dennis looked over from where Marshall had arrived with the news and turned back to Everett. "Are there some legal steps you want me to take? A civil case perhaps?"

Everett waved him off. "We have plausible deniability when it comes to Ivy. Our records show she was a consultant briefly on a minor job for one of my shell companies, but officially we've never met and besides she was fired ages ago."

"So you're cutting ties with her?" Marshall asked.

"From what you said she might not ever wake up with that head injury." Everett shrugged, unconcerned. "Besides, Ivy knew how this business worked. She was always on her own. We just paid her well for what she did for us."

"But the opportunity..."

Everett cut Dennis off.

"Matthews, you think like a lawyer far too much. Think like a criminal once in a while, like I do, like Marshall here does." He gestured to Marshall proudly. "It was Marshall's idea to have a backup sniper just in case our shooter failed."

He clapped Marshall on the back and Marshall looked smug.

"I don't think anyone could have anticipated Morris figuring out exactly where our sniper might be."

Everett waved his hand. "It's moot now. We lost Ivy, just promote someone to take her place and move on."

"Yes, Sir."

Everett settled behind his desk.

"Although I'm troubled that the first official loss is on our side. We'll have do do something about that."

"Don't you think killing one of their own will just make them fight us harder?" Dennis asked.

"I'm not thinking of killing one of them," Everett said, sitting back in his chair. "I've been planning for a while to exploit one of their weak links, someone who's in a position to help you and Brickle build a really nice court case against their organization."

"Should I ask?" Dennis inquired.

"Not necessary at this point. I have to make my decision. I mean, it's not every day you decide to eliminate a former police officer."

"Police!" Dennis recoiled, stunned. "You shoot a police officer and you bring down the entire LAPD on our heads!"

"I said eliminate, not shoot," Everett clarified. "And she's a former police officer." He flipped open a folder on his desk, putting aside two pictures of middle-aged women in uniform and stopping on a third. "A former sergeant in fact." He picked up the picture revealing a fourth photograph of someone in uniform, that one marked Lieutenant Gary Walker. "It's her ex-husband who's still on the force."

+

Wednesday, 10/17/07 - Night

"Are we cleared to leave yet?"

David asked the question knowing the answer was no, but the last place he wanted to be tied up was a police station when Tuttle was after his people. But having a handcuffed suspect shot right in front of him was a police matter, no matter how good Gary was at keeping them out of trouble.

Darby almost killing the sniper responsible? Really hadn't helped matters any.

"Almost," Gary said apologetically. "I've put a rush on fingerprints and ballistics. Once we match the prints on the sniper rifle to Ivy Kirk and the bullet from that rifle to the slug we pulled out of..." He glanced at his paperwork. "This Jose Salazar fellow... Then we can release Ms. Morris and let all of you folks go home."

"Fine." David's phone rang and he answered without even looking, feeling both exhausted and frustrated. "Sinclair."

"David? It's Claudia."

A rush of different emotions ran through him, but David kept his head.

"Hey... I'm sorry I haven't had time to call..."

"My assistant said he saw you in the squad room when he was up there dropping off some files. Are you here?"

"I am," David admitted. "Someone tried to shoot one of my co-workers today."

"Oh my goodness!" David could hear the genuine alarm in Claudia's voice and he felt bad for it. "Are they okay?"

"She's fine, but whoever hired the guy? Wasn't happy with him failing. He's dead."

There was a pause on the other end of the line. "What was his name?"

"Claudia..."

"Was it Jose Salazar? They just had me pull a bullet from his chest for ballistics tonight - a rush job."

"I'm so sorry," David told her. "I really am."

"Were you there?" Her voice wasn't much more than a whisper.

"Yes," he admitted, not sure why he kept telling her the truth instead of putting her off with vague reassurances. "He was right next to me when he got shot."

A sharp intake of breath.

"Are you sure they weren't aiming for you?" she asked, panic in her voice.

"Claudia, honey, it's okay. I'm fine. Not a scratch. They even caught the sniper. So don't worry."

"David, you could have been killed! How am I supposed to not worry?" A little sniffle now. "I keep thinking about you and whenever I don't hear from you for a long time I... I think the worst."

"Don't say that," David admonished gently. "I can take care of myself."

"But your job just seems so dangerous! Keeping other people from being shot at? It means you could get shot instead!"

"I'm good at what I do. No one's going to shoot me. And besides, I'm being careful. My staff and I wear Kevlar when we go out on assignment."

"David..." There was so much pain in her voice, so much concern, it floored him. He closed his eyes against it, but couldn't wish it away.

"Claudia... I'm sorry. I have to go."

He hung up the phone as an officer walked in, handing a sheaf of papers to Gary.

"We're set!" Gary exclaimed, flipping through them. "Ballistics and fingerprints match! You're good to go." He signed one of the documents and handed it back to the waiting officer. "Please escort Ms. Morris here so Mr. Sinclair can take her home. Thank you."

Home. That was the last place either he or Darby wanted to go. They both knew the night was far from over and Tuttle was nowhere near done with them.

+

"Sandra!" Howard called out to his fellow lawyer as she wandered the parking garage holding out her remote. "I thought I was taking you home."

"I remembered I left my car here," she said, pressing the button on her remote entry key fob. "Millie came and picked me up like a week ago and I've been letting David's people chauffeur me since then. I just kind of forgot where I left it, but I figured with all that's going on I shouldn't leave it out. I should park it at home."

"We can have David's people look for it tomorrow," Howard assured her. Sandra was a brilliant lawyer with a top notch memory so if she'd forgotten something as simple as where she parked her car - even if it was quite a ways back - it was a sign the stress was starting to take its toll.

"I pretty much only park on four or five, but it wasn't there. Then I remembered that I came in late and there were plenty of spots empty on three so I just took one." She walked further away, randomly pressing her key fob. "I figure if I hear it it's got to be nearby."

"Let me just drive you home. My driver's already waiting downstairs and I don't like to leave you alone even if the building is secured." When she kept walking Howard let out a sigh and followed. "Sandra, please..."

The explosion was deafening, the fireball so violent the heat hit Howard like a blow, staggering him.

Sandra righted herself, staring at the remains of where her car had once been, hand still outstretched with the device in her hand.

"Oh my god..."

Howard pulled her away, tugging hard against her stunned paralysis to get her to safety as he dialed 911 with his other hand.

"This is Howard Meeks. We need fire and police at 10723 Wilshire Boulevard parking structure - a car bomb just went off!"

Eschewing the elevator, he managed to get Sandra down the stairs to where his driver and bodyguard were bolting up the stairs towards him.

"Are you all right?"

"Take her, get her inside," Howard ordered, opening up his phone anew as he followed them, dialing. "Megan?" he said as soon as his call was answered. "Tuttle went after us this time."

+

"Millie says Sandra's fine or she will be."

Megan plopped on her sofa, holding the phone to her ear as Howard replied.

"Sandra's tough. She just got a bad shock, that's all."

"My guess is Millie gave her brandy and a sleeping pill," Megan said. "And yeah, I'm sure she'll recover. It's just really intense when you realize you could have died."

"Honestly?" Howard's voice revealed a hint of insecurity. "I wasn't entirely sure they weren't after me when it went off."

"Well, Sandra's car was apparently there long enough for them to sneak past security and rig it. Good thing they picked a remote entry detonator and not like a seat cushion pressure sensor."

"Do me a favor, don't mention that in front of Sandra or Millie for that matter," Howard told her. "I'm already going to have to do damage control with my staff to assure them they're safe."

"If you want we can hire out additional security," Megan offered. "I've been considering this firm in Colorado. It's run by an old associate of mine and since he has no political reasons to worry about LA he'll be on our side one hundred percent."

"Normally I'd say we don't need it? But we've been on red alert for so long now David and his people have to be about burned out. So yeah, call your friend. Ship in some hired guns. I wouldn't mind a few more troops in our corner even if they're not as loyal as people from our organization are."

Megan smiled. "You said our, not your. You never used to say that."

"Well, I was never officially part of the CEO succession plan before. Now I am. I have a vested interest."

"It's not just that," Megan chided fondly.

"No, it's not. But I'd very much prefer if I had to take over it's because someone retired, not because they're dead. So do me a favor? Don't get dead."

Megan sobered. "You either. That bastard Tuttle isn't getting you or Sandra or any of my people. I don't care what it takes, if I end up with no profits at all my first three years, I am not letting him win."

"That's what I like to hear," Howard told her. "When you're tough? You're smart." His voice softened. "I'll take care of Sandra and the rest of my people. You? You go get that bastard."

"Oh, I will. Most definitely. But for now? We need to figure out how to get through the grand opening without letting him ruin it for us."

"Do you think he has a plan?"

"No, I know he has a plan, even if his plan is to be illogical. I don't care." Megan took a deep breath. "Whatever it is, I'm going to be ready for him."

+

It hadn't taken much thought at all to decide where to spend their lockdown if you will. Matt had packed a couple of bags and used his spare key to show up at Kit's.

Kit, to his credit, had just assumed it was to be close to Megan and went about life as normal, making them a plate of nachos as a snack as if the co-worker and neighbor who lived just one floor down hadn't just had her car blown up before her eyes, as if Liz on the second floor hadn't been held at gunpoint, as if David - just down the hall - hadn't been just inches from a sniper's bullet.

And that was just today.

They'd gone to bed early, more out of mental exhaustion than anything. Matt had been hoping to start cutting back his hours to spend more time with Kit, but not like this, not hiding in the apartment building trying to stay alive. Kit had been through too much trauma when he first joined the organization and Matt was determined to make his work life as relatively boring as possible in the aftermath.

Curled up in bed, Kit's warmth soothed him, his regular breathing calming. He was remarkably resilient and not for the first time did Matt consider how lucky he'd been to find him.

"Kit?" he whispered, unsure if he was asleep yet. "I have a favor to ask."

"Yes, you can read my comic books," Kit droned sleepily. "Just make sure you wash the nachos off your hands first."

Matt chuckled. "That's not what I wanted."

Kit rolled over to face him, twining their legs cozily as he nestled close. "What then?"

Matt took a breath. "The grand opening of Luxe's new offices this Saturday? I want you to skip it. Just stay home. Okay?"

Kit stiffened for a second then propped himself up on his elbow to look down at Matt's head on the pillow. "Dude, you're like high, right? That's our big shebang! Everyone on the management team's going to be there! There's no way I'm skipping out on it!"

"Don't you get it?" Matt urged. "Since everyone is going to be there it's a prime time and place for Tuttle to attack us! He gets to ruin our public reputation and take as many of us out at once as possible!"

Kit huffed out a noise of complaint. "Well, I'll be sure to tell David just how much faith you have in his security!"

Matt groaned. "You know what I mean! Hell, despite all the security they got to Sandra, Liz, Gabriel... They messed up Giuseppe's place and the Platinum Rail... We couldn't stop any of that!" When Kit rolled his eyes, Matt tugged his chin over so Kit would meet his eyes. "Hey, I don't want anything to happen to you."

"Matt," Kit told him, looking older than his scant twenty-odd years. "I've been tortured by a psycho sniper for this company. I think I can face going to a party where something might happen for it."

"You can face it..." Matt was surprised himself at the emotions coming up in him. "But I don't think I could."

Kit just looked at him intently as if trying to read behind his eyes.

"I'll think about it," he said finally, settling back down into Matt's arms. After a moment he spoke again. "You're going I assume."

"I have to go," Matt told him, wrapping his arms around him tight. "Megan is relying on me."

+

Part 5
 
 
 
Emma DeMaraisemmademarais on July 14th, 2010 07:47 am (UTC)
Confession
Please see Part 1 for Confession post.

Thanks,

Emma DeMarais
t_vo0810t_vo0810 on July 22nd, 2010 01:43 am (UTC)
holy hell woman! this is even better than the first draft. except that u r not reading it to me. it's not as fun reading it to myself, but holy hell! i don't know if it's the small changes you've made or if i just don't remember all of it. but daaayummm. it's so freaking good. all of it. i just. there is so much that i love. megan's loneliness in the mansion. david's struggle over olivia. colby and gabriel moving in together. marshall's snipes to ivy. darby kicking ivy's ass. i am hanging on by my fingernails and i already know how it ends!

i don't know how u weave the spell u weave but how i love it when u do <3