DISCLAIMER: These characters and the world they live in belong to the
immensely-more-talented-than-I Angela Robinson and the understanding and
non-litigious people at Screen Gems. I'm just happy to be playing in their
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
I Love Lucy
The devil was, in Lucy Diamond's estimation, indeed always in the details. Choosing a lookout who resembled one of the guards, making the hostage pen his own ransom note, putting the laser tripwires in innocuous parts of the lair to divert the good guys' attention: the small things were all that stood between the successful supervillain and that hallowed American institution known as 'life without parole.'
Take now, for example, Lucy mused as she worked. Too much acid or base, heat the mix too long, contaminate the prep areaand things would get very, very messy. If, on the other hand, you got the ratios just right, the result would be
"Shit!" Lucy tore her way across the kitchenette when the foam erupting from the saucepan began to spill over onto the stovetop. "Shit, shit, shit, no, don't " She reached out reflexively for the handle, then flinched back wildly; she hadn't even thought about how hot it would be. The overbalanced pot spun through the air for a moment, then rung against hardwood as half-cooked pasta and scalding water splattered across the floor.
Lucy stared forlornly down at the mess, burnt fingertips pressed between her lips. "Great."
Her head snapped up at the sound of the door. "Lucy, I'm home!" The voice spurred Lucy to action, scrambling to right the pot and clean up as much as possible before
"And I feel like " Amy's words died off as she rounded the corner of the kitchen. "Um "
Lucy bolted up, guilt on her face. "You you're home early."
Amy shrugged, eyes wide, surveying the chaos. "I, uh I was going to surprise you."
The supervillain's hand strayed to the back of her neck as she smiled sheepishly. "Me too. I mean, I " she gestured at the dinner-that-might-have-been strewn around her feet, "it was gonna be incredibly romantic. There were gonna be candles and everything."
Amy had to bite her lip to fight against the smile that was slowly spreading across her face.
"No, I just " The blonde lost the battle, and a toothy grin curled her lips. "It's just you're an evil genius and you had trouble boiling water."
The brunette scowled, and Amy nearly doubled over with laughter. Lucy's eyes narrowed. "You are so dead."
Amy shrieked, vaulting over the half-wall that separated the kitchenette from the main room of a tiny Barcelona apartment. Salt and pepper shakers scattered as Lucy followed, bearing down on the blonde in the enclosed space. Amy was only a few seconds from the bedroom door when she felt a strong hand around her waist, spinning her down to the sofa. By the time she regained her bearings, she was pinned, arms above her head, the supervillain straddling her stomach as the two women shook with laughter and exertion.
"Well, it looks like I've been captured by an evil criminal mastermind." Amy rotated her hips up into Lucy's, the brunette's look of shock and pleasure contributing to the slowly spreading warmth throughout her body. "I wonder what horrible fate she has in store for me."
Lucy grinned as she leaned down, her body slowly melting against her lover's and her lips stealing an impish, electric kiss before pulling back, still smiling. "Well, first I think I might have to undertake a very thorough interrogation session "
"Three weeks, Mr. Phipps. Do you have any idea the kind of fallout I've had to deal with?" Ms. Petrie paced authoritatively across the length of her office, somehow managing to dwarf the large black man standing, head down, in front of her. "My best agent runs off with the most wanted criminal in the country, and not only do her former squadmates fail to bring her back, the NSA drops the ball as soon as they make the Canadian border! I can't take much more of this."
The redhead pinched the bridge of her nose, a literal headache threatening to add itself to the pile of metaphorical ones. "Tell me you at least have some good news."
Phipps shuffled nervously. "I'm sorry, ma'am, but my squad's not making any progress. Am the fugitive knows our investigation techniques as well as anyone, and Diamond's managed to disappear like this before." He sighed. "Truthfully, I don't think the girls' hearts are in this. She's not just another criminal. She's a friend."
"She is not a friend, Mr. Phipps! She is a traitor." Ms. Petrie fell wearily back into the massive leather chair that loomed over her desk. "Still, perhaps you're right. I don't see it doing any good to keep her old squad on her case. Or anyone at the Academy, for that matter. Too much conflict of interest.
"You've got a squad briefing to go to. I'm putting you back on regular assignments while I drum up an alternative plan, tell your girls."
Phipps nodded, but stayed anchored to the spot. "If I may ask, ma'am? What sort of alternative did you have in mind?"
Something vaguely resembling a smile cracked the corner of her mouth as the Academy's director thumbed through the dossier Phipps had brought her for the meeting. "I'm going to enlist someone who does want her to be found."
Amy's eyelids fluttered open as the world began to shrink.
First, she felt hot fingertips against her stomach, pushing under the hem of her t-shirtand the sound of traffic drifting up to the window faded away.
Then, her own hands found purchase on the brunette's back, sliding under her top until Lucy took the hint and sat up, peeling the material slowly up over tan skin and black silk and flinging it away carelesslyand the walls of the apartment, bathed in waning Spanish sunlight, disappeared.
Then, she felt a thigh press between hers, rubbing against the rough texture of her cords and sending a bolt of electricity up her spineand she could no longer feel the couch buttons digging into her back.
Then a gentle groan as soft lips met hers, pulling her head away from the couch, a tickling thumb circling around her navel as she arched upwardand there was only Lucy.
"Good morning, Mr. P."
"Hi, Mr. P!"
"Bonjour, Mr. P."
Even after all this time, it still took Phipps a moment of silence before he realized that a fourth salutation wasn't coming. He sighed. "Good morning, D.E.B.S." With a click of his remote, the air in front of the booth leapt to life. "This is the town of San Mateo, Mexico, only twenty miles from the US border. The DEA has reason to believe that notorious drug dealer Hans Hasselbek is using it as a waypoint for any number of"
"Wait." The others turned to Janet expectantly. "Weren't we going to go over the list of plane tickets from Quebec?"
Phipps put down the control pen and sighed. Max's eyes narrowed. "Sir?"
"The decision's been made to take the three of you off the Bradshaw investigation."
"I had nothing to do with it, ladies. Ms. Petrie's going to take it outside the Academy." He reactivated the hologram. "But that doesn't mean I don't agree with her decision." None of his squad responded, and Phipps exhaled slowly. "You know it's the right thing to do, girls."
Janet crossed her arms and a pout spread across her lips.
"I can't believe this! I mean, this is totally"
"Just let it go, all right, Janet?"
"But what if whoever she sends actually finds them? And what if they're the shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later type?" Janet stopped in the middle of the hallway, a hand flitting up to cover her mouth. "Oh, God, what if they already got shot, or Amy got shot and since Lucy doesn't have any way to get in contact with us"
"Janet!" The eyes of a few passing students turned toward her, and Max gritted her teeth and lowered her voice. "I don't know about you, but I've actually been working these last few weeks and, thankfully, we've got nothing. So what are the odds that someone who doesn't know the way Amy thinks will be able to do any better than we did?"
"Besides, Lucy's a supervillain, and they're real good at covering their tracks." Max let a smile twist the corner of her mouth. "You should know that as well as anybody."
"Wh Scud is not a supervillain!"
"Minion," Dominique muttered.
"He is not a minion!" Janet folded her arms over her chest. "He's a sidekick."
Max shook her head and resumed walking. "My point is, Amy's safe for now, and the trail is getting colder every day. Who's really going to want to find them that badly?"
"Sit down, Agent." Ms. Petrie settled down in the chair across from his. "I apologize for interrupting the mission you were currently assigned, but I understand you were finished with the active phase."
"It's not a problem, ma'am."
"You know why I wanted your help specifically for this assignment?"
"I've got a pretty good idea."
"I want to be clearAmy Bradshaw is to be recovered for debriefing and psychological evaluation if at all possible; I want to salvage any good PR we can from this debacle. Diamond, on the other hand, is expendable. I'm authorizing all necessary force, and the full budgetary resources of my department." Ms. Petrie slid a manilla folder across the polished wood. "All the research we have so far is there. Do you understand what you have to do?"
He flipped through the pages of the dossier, eventually landing on a surveillance photograph taken at a convenience store in Vancouver, the fugitives both plainly visible. Not that he needed it; her image was seared on his heart. "Oh, don't worry, ma'am." Bobby Matthews smirked bitterly.
"I'll bring her back."
Amy's eyes came back into focus on the ceiling, chest quaking with the effort of breathing, sweat and fatigue practically holding her limbs to the bed they'd somehow made it too before
She suddenly felt the soft scratch of Lucy's hair against her skin, and the other woman's body slid up next to hers, skin just as soaked, breath just as heavy.
"I mean wow."
Amy could feel Lucy grin against her shoulder. "Yeah?"
"I mean, it's always you've always but I'm still kind of "
Lucy propped herself up on her elbow, looking down into fluttering blue eyes that still made her heart skip a beat, and smiled tentatively. "I thought you said you'd you know."
Amy tried to shrug without moving her throbbing muscles any more than necessary. "One boyfriend I had in high school, but I I mean, he I mean wow."
"Oh." Lucy's hand traced down Amy's collar bone, eliciting a quiet shudder from the blonde. "I just thought that you know, you and Bobby "
Amy heard the twinge of fear creep into her lover's voice as it trailed off, and she turned around to face Lucy. They'd never really talked about this. "No. Never with Bobby." She didn't sound defensive, or regretful just stating the facts. "I mean, he wanted to, but "
Lucy smiled meekly. "You wanted to be in love."
Amy's fingertips crawled up to brush against Lucy's cheek. "I wanted to be in love."
Lucy closed her eyes and nodded. "I'm being an idiot."
The corner of Amy's mouth tugged upward. "Just a little."
Lucy smiled and leaned back, but left her arm draped across Amy's chest; she was still afraid that if she let go, this woman who was too good to be true would vanish before her eyes. "So, summer semester's starting soon."
"Yeah. I'm looking forward to it."
Lucy looked back across the bed at Amy's fading smile. "I thought this is what you wanted. Barcelona. Art school. Remember?"
"No, it is. I just " The blonde shook her head. "This whole thing's just still a little overwhelming, I guess."
"Come here." Amy settled into the curve of Lucy's arms and inhaled deeply, head swimming with the brunette's scent. Lucy's fingers brushed a trace of honey blonde away from Amy's eyes.
"You think all of this will ever just feel ordinary?"
Lucy grinned. "Jesus, I hope not."
"Innkeeper, more vodka."
The bartender looked the scowling blonde up and down; the fur coat and too-heavy makeup immediately made him think some socialite had fallen out of the 1920's and onto hard times, to say nothing of the accent. "I think maybe it's about time you headed home, lady. Come back at happy hour." He muttered, "If you can still walk."
Before he understood what was happening, the woman had him by the throat, the smell on her breath more than confirming his suspicionsnot to mention coming close to knocking him out cold.
"Leesin, you pathetic leetle scab I trained vith KGB. I could pop your eyeballs vith cocktail stirrer. I could "
"Sounds to me like you better get her another drink."
As soon as he nodded his frantic agreement, she released the bartender and turned to the new face. The young man smiled, and the Russian couldn't help but think he looked vaguely familiar. "My treat."
"You vaste your time, boy. I not looking for man."
"Oh, trust me, Miss Kaprova, I know." Bobby dropped onto the stool next to hers, the stack of surveillance photos sliding across the waterfront dive's warped bar.
"I'm here to talk business."
"So then Scud cracks the passcode, opens the chest, and you know what we find? Comic books."
"What?" Amy chuckled.
"No, no, it turns out the guy's like a collector, he has them all in little bags and that whole security system was just to " Lucy grinned at the memory.
"So then what happened?"
"Well, Scud starts sorting out which ones are the most valuable because I figure, hey, we might as well get something out of it, and that's when his guards come in. They haul us up to his office, he's sitting in his big power chair gracias." The waiter who had refilled Lucy's wine glass nodded. "He goes into this rant, you know, 'you've picked the wrong man to cross,' 'my evil's bigger than your evil,' blah blah blah."
"Yeah, I've heard it."
"Well, long story short, I manage to strike a deal; he lets us go and I don't let the greater villain community know about the well-used superhero tights I found at the bottom of that chest."
Amy's eyes bulged, and she practically fell out of her chair laughing. As they managed to straighten themselves out, she could sense the people at the other sidewalk tables staring at them; once upon a time, she realized somewhere in the back of her mind, that would have bothered her.
Amy smiled. "I'm really glad I met you."
The blonde's smile turned her to jelly, but some part of Lucy's mind managed to struggle back toward the surface, and along with it the feeling that she was forgetting something import
"Oh!" She reached into the pocket of her coat. "I was gonna give you this at home, after dinner " Lucy slid the oblong box across the table to the curious blonde and wetted her lips apprehensively. "Happy anniversary, Amy."
Amy edged the box open, and her jaw dropped at the sight of the pendantone of Lucy's signature uncut diamonds on a braided cord that reminded her of a friendship bracelet. "Oh, God, it's beautiful, Lucy " The blonde's eyes swiveled up. "But it's been less than three weeks since Endgame."
"Yeah, well, I'm counting from the first the bank robbery. One month today since the first time we kissed."
Amy felt herself blush. The memory was all too clear: feeling afraid, frustrated, trying to push Lucy away because the stupid government-trained part of her brain told her it would be better for both of them. Then feeling an entirely different kind of fear when the brunette had finally called her bluff and turned to leave. Grabbing her arm, not even thinking, just frantic to stop her from walking away, and then Amy cleared her throat. "I wish I had something special for you."
Lucy's hand slipped across the table, delicately intertwining her fingers with Amy's. "You are."
A deafening crack tore into the silence and, before she knew what was happening, Amy felt herself pressed flat under Lucy's weight. She could see the brunette fumbling with her ankle holster, gaze whipping around to try to pinpoint the shooter, free hand holding Amy down protectively.
The sound of the report settled into Amy's mind and she cursed silently to herself. "Lucy!"
Lucy had almost wrenched her gun free when Amy's hand touched hers. Lucy looked down, and the blonde was gazing up at her sadly. "Car backfire."
Lucy froze for a moment, then, agonizingly, rolled back on her knees, head buried in her hands. "Oh Jesus Christ, Amy, I'm so sorry I don't know what "
Amy scrambled to her feet and wrapped her arms around Lucy as she hyperventilated, unaware of the crowd of diners gawking at the spectacle. "Shh, shh, it's okay."
"No, I shouldn't have I just can't stop feeling like "
"It's all right. We're safe here." Amy stroked Lucy's hair as she lovingly guided the brunette to her feet. "We're safe. No one knows where we are."
"I know where they are."
That caught Ninotchka's attention. "Da? Vere?"
"Just sign on the dotted line and we can start talking about specifics, all right?"
Ninotchka scowled down at the pen he offered. "You vant me to do your dirty verk."
Bobby's glare tightenedthis drunk had better be worth it. "I can kill Lucy Diamond all by myself. What I need from you is your skill at tracking a target and your contacts. You must know some people who wouldn't mind signing on.
"We're going up against a criminal mastermind and the 'Perfect Score'," Bobby spat the phrase out acerbically, "I won't be able to do this alone, and neither would you."
Ninotchka stared down at the non-disclosure agreement. The money he was offering aside, she wouldn't mind finding out exactly what the little girl in the pictures could have given the great Lucy Diamond that she couldn't. Ninotchka smiled; maybe she could ask her in person. "Fine. Ve play your vay."
Bobby glanced at the signature, tucked the forms away, and turned toward the assassin. "The United States government thanks you for your cooperation, Miss Kaprova."
"Da, da. So vere are dey?"
"Back when we were back when she was still working for the D.E.B.S., Amy always used to talk about going to art school." Unbidden, the look in Amy's eyes when she'd talked about that dream swept into his mind. She'd always looked so beautiful when she was distracted Bobby shook his head.
"Her old squad never did follow up on the lead, since they figured she wouldn't be stupid enough to do anything that obvious."
"Except I think it's too obvious. I think she went exactly where she said she would because she knew that no one would look for her there because she said she'd be there."
Ninotchka blinked slowly. "You talk too much, boy. Like Frenchman."
Bobby had to fight the growing urge to just slap the assassin in cuffs and get a nice commendation for his troubles. But he needed her, as much as it killed him to admit it. So the Homeland Security agent settled for a grimace. "Who do you know in Barcelona?"
Max brushed a lock of hair from her eyes as she booted up her computer. The routine, carried out even on weekends when she should have been getting some extra sleep, made her comfortable: work out, shower, check national security bulletins, breakfast. Usually with being forced to yell at Janet or Dominique somewhere along the way.
Max frowned as Janet's words from the previous day came back to her uninvited. As much as she wished Amy were still there, more of her hoped they never had to see each other again. Because if they did, Max would have to arrest her.
Or even worse, someone who wasn't her would run into them and do exactly what Janet was afraid of. And as much as it bugged Max's bad-ass self to admit it, that scared her a little. So she logged onto the D.E.B.S. newsflag database and, just like every morning, she read.
Reclusive billionaire Dirk Russo found murdered in his chalet in the Italian Alps...Brazilian drug ring introduces new hallucinogen...memorial service for dead South African police attacked...
Max's eyes stopped on the second-to-last bulletin on the screen. She blinked. Then she read it again.
Known assassin Ninotchka Kaprova cooperates with DHS mission.
No, Max thought, it was just a coincidence. There was no way but just to put her fears to rest, she clicked 'More'.
And she almost choked. Ex-KGB assassin...Department of Homeland Security-led manhunt...double agent Amy Bradshaw...
"Please, please, don't even tell me " Max scrolled, panicked, through the rest of the report, trying to find the name of the agent on the case. And her eyes bulged.
Filed by: DHS Agent Matthews, Robert, 120605.
Dominique threw open the front door and glared, bleary-eyed, at the blond standing in the doorway. Scud shifted nervously, a single chrysanthemum pressing back and forth between his fidgeting hands. She might almost have thought it was cute, if it hadn't woken her up so early on a Saturday.
"Janet, your minion is ere."
The shorter girl spared her a sour look as she came down the stairs, then practically jumped into Scud's arms. He shyly proffered the flower, and the next few seconds were occupied by the two standing in the doorway and blushing at each other. It was so adorable, Dominique thought she might vomit. Instead, as the happy couple headed out toward the gate, the Frenchwoman lit her first cigarette of the day.
"So, you still haven't told me where we're going."
"Well, I do know this little secret lair down by the beach "
Dominique slammed the door, took a long drag, and turned to the sound of combat boots on the stairs.
"Was that Janet?"
"Damn." Max cleared the stairs. "We need to talk."
Max shoved the printout to Dominique with significantly more force than was strictly necessary. The Frenchwoman scanned the page with disinterest, the way she tried to do everything. Then the day's first cigarette dropped out of her gaping mouth.
"We have to do something, get a message to Amy or something."
"But ow can we? We do not know where zey are."
"Yes we do." Max took back the printout and began to pace the safehouse livingroom. "Because we know something that we couldn't bring up in the investigation without blowing our cover story. Amy told us where they were going."
Dominique blinked halfway through lighting her second cigarette. "Barcelona? Zey would not really go zere if zere was a chance we might use it to track zem."
"Dominique, Amy trusts us. She trusted me to lie to the federal government to let the two of them get away. And so I trust her to tell us the truth."
"Zo what are we to do, eh?"
"You call Janet, get her back here. I'll call Phipps."
"I have call some of my favors. Dey vill meet us on site."
"Good, I've got us on a supersonic to Spain this afternoon. If you have anything left to take care of Stateside, do it now." Bobby tested the safety on his service pistol and, seemingly satisfied, laid it in the padded carrying case. "And bring a couple of your favorite guns, because you're not using mine."
When Ninotchka peered over his shoulder at the impressive assortment of firearms, she immediately admitted that her first impression about the boy might have been mistaken. "Vy you vant to keel Lucy Diamond so badly, eh?"
Bobby slammed the case closed without looking at ithis gaze seemed to be somewhere far beyond the wall of the Los Angeles safehouse.
"She stole something from me."
I'm sorry, Max.
Max tossed the backpack on the bed with a snort. I'm sorry your best friend's chauvinistic ex has hired a Soviet assassin to hunt her down, Max, thus jeopardizing not only her life but the potentially career-ending house of cards you've built up concerning her 'escape.' I'm sorry you're going to lose your best friend and your life's work just because Bobby Matthews has entitlement issues. She threw a box of ammunition and an extra pair of socks in, just in case.
My hands are tied, Phipps had said. Now there was an idea
Something in the back of her mind said that what she was about to do would probably cost her her job anyway. And something else acknowledged that just a month ago she would have given a shit. Max stopped packing.
"Why am I doing this?"
When the bedroom didn't answer, Max sighed and shouldered the backpack.
Max was practically famous for disappearing on weekendsshe had enough military and civilian contacts to get a fast, covert flight to Barcelona, track down Amy and Lucy, give them a heads-up, and get back to the States before anyone noticed she was gone.
"I can't believe I'm gonna go through with this."
The room still didn't answer. Max closed the door behind her.
Lucy felt like she was flying. She tilted her head back, the stars wheeling through the heavens around her, and inhaled. She had been given the keys to a massive criminal empire, owned (well, stolen) property on every continent, and been known by name throughout the civilized world. She had commanded the respect and fear of countless millions. She had held the world in the palm of her hand.
But she had never felt free before.
Now, leaning back into warm arms and staring up at the midnight sky, Mediterranean breeze moving over her face and the gentle sound of passing traffic wafting from somewhere down the avenue, she felt free. She leaned back further, relishing the subtle suggestion of Amy's breasts pressing into her back, then smiled as Amy's chin dropped into the crook of her shoulder.
"This is nice."
Lucy grinned. "Yeah, but it's backwards. Usually I'm the one holding you."
"Oh, I know," the blonde hummed against her ear, "I plan it that way."
"Vixen." As the comfortable silence settled around them again, Lucy sighed. "Look, about last night, at the cafe I'm really sorry "
Amy shook her head, soft hair rubbing against Lucy's cheek. "I told you, it's okay."
"I just when I think about who's out there I mean, the good guys would just love to lock us both up, and as for the bad guys " Lucy slid aside to look her lover in the eye. "Amy, I've made a lot of enemies. If they found out Lucy Diamond wasn't a bigtime bad-ass anymore "
Amy shook her head as she brushed a lock of the brunette's hair from her face. "Everything's going to be fine. I know it."
Amy smiledthe one that made Lucy feel like the stupidest person in the world for ever doubting her. "Because I'm in love with you."
Lucy sniffedit wouldn't do for the Queen of International Evil to start crying, now would it? "I'm in love with you too."
In a flash, the lopsided smirk had reasserted itself, and Lucy's hand was trailing down to Amy's, tugging her gently toward the balcony door back to the bedroom. "Do I have to prove it?"
Amy grinned. "Vixen."
Phipps ran his finger over the squad's latest mission report, the formal, military tone in which Max always wrote her paperwork starting to give him a headache.
The thought of his squad leader brought a frownshe'd seemed so passionate when she'd talked to him earlier that afternoon, practically insisting that the squad be allowed to track down Bobby Matthews like he was the one with the outstanding warrant. She'd come close to openly flouting his orders; she'd never done that before.
But then, he had to admit, Amy was worth it.
Even though his professionalism and the chain of command would never let him say it, he wished he could just let them go. Just so he could know his best pupil was all right. That Amy Bradshaw, who he had seen go through so much under the weight of her 'Perfect Score,' was happy.
Phipps took off his reading glasses, rubbed his temples, and sighed. He was never going to get any work done at this rate.
"We're in the air. ETA, about six hours, sir."
Bobby nodded and stepped out of the cramped cockpit. Ninotchka sat in the slim passenger compartment, arms folded, watching him smugly. "What?"
"Vy you hire me, boy?"
"We know you're the one who tipped off the D.E.B.S. as to Lucy Diamond's whereabouts. I really don't think you did it just for the warm glow of having done the right thing."
Ninotchka stared for a moment, then smiled; the look in his eyes finally connected. "Dis is about de blonde for you, da?" Bobby's glare froze, but the Russian just grinned. "You take it personally."
"You handle rejection just like I do get jealous. Get angry."
Jaded as she was, the assassin couldn't help but flinch a little as Bobby's hands slammed into the bulkhead on either side of her head. "Never. Ever. Compare yourself to me again."
As the fed pulled back and stormed across the cabin, Ninotchka shook her head. "But at least I get over it."
Janet set the ace of clubs on top of a pile and smiled triumphantly. Scud wagged his finger, slapped down the eight of spades, and pulled the hefty pile of cards to his side of the kitchen table. Janet's nose wrinkled. "Didn't I win that one?"
Scud shook his head. "Nope. Double black, dealer always wins."
"You just made that up right now."
Scud smiled. "It's my game, I can make up new rules whenever I want."
"But that's cheating!"
"Well you're too good for me to beat you at anything!" Janet blushed at the compliment. "Besides," the blond added with a smirk, "I am a bad guy."
When the silence settled over them, Janet took a breath. This was it. She was just going to do it. "Scud " Janet's head jerked to the side. "Down."
Janet managed to push the confused villain under the table just as the static electricity she'd felt dissipated and Mr. Phipps beamed into the room.
"Hey, Mr. P!" she chuckled, a little too loudly. Fortunately, Phipps seemed too distracted to notice.
"Hello, Janet. Is Max around?"
"No, I haven't seen her since Sc since I got back from shopping. 'Cause, you know, I like shopping."
Phipps blinked. "All right. Well, if you see her, would you please"
"Janet! Max, she has"
Dominique skidded to a halt as she turned into the kitchen, the shouting quickly becoming a squeak. Phipps put on his game face, but sighed inwardlythis couldn't be good.
"Max has what?"
Dominique blanched. "Eh well, you zee "
"Answer me, soldier!"
Dominique gulped. "She is how you say 'flown zee coop'?"
When the explosion didn't come, the Frenchwoman squinted her eyes open as if the firing squad in front of her had just reached 'one' and nothing had happened.
Phipps' jaw was set, and she could practically hear his teeth grinding, but when he finally spoke he almost managed to sound in control. "Are you sure, Dominique?"
The wide-eyed girl nodded. "Her favoreet gun ees gone."
Phipps looked between his two remaining squad members; they'd both been at the meeting Max had called. So they both knew just as well as he did where she was going.
"We have to do zometing "
Phipps sighed. "I don't want anyone else in my squad to break the rules over this."
There was almost a minute of silence before Janet shrieked. "Wait, wait " The D.E.B. began to hop, as if trying to dislodge a vitally important thought that couldn't quite make it from her mind to her mouth. "Oh! Sir, Mr, Phipps, request permission for the squad to undertake a sensitive personnel retrieval as per D.E.B.S. Code Section 4 Article 1, sir!"
Phipps tried not to smile. "I can have you on a superjet inside an hour."
Janet looked at Dominique, and the brunette nodded. "I'll start packing."
"Wait." Dominique turned back toward the kitchen as Phipps met first her eyes, then Janet's. "I'm required to remind you two that your primary mission is to bring Max back to face disciplinary action." The D.E.B.S. nodded solemnly.
"That being said with the confusion that's bound to occur, I don't think anyone would hold you responsible if the introduction of so many rogue factors into the equation somehow resulted in Amy and Lucy Diamond escaping Agent Matthews' net."
Janet was speechless for a moment. Was he saying what she thought he was saying?
Dominique recovered first. "We understand, monsieur."
"Good. I'll send directions straight to the car as soon as I have transportation set up. And D.E.B.S. be careful."
As Phipps beamed out to make the arrangements, he let himself smile. He'd wondered how long it would take for one of them to remember that particular reg.
Janet let out a very, very deep breath.
"Did I hear that right?" Janet almost jumped as the voice floated up from the table.
Scud's face popped out from under the tablecloth with a confused look on it. "Did your commanding officer just give you tacit permission to help two known fugitives escape from someone else's investigation?"
Janet shrugged. "Yeah, pretty much."
"Wow, the US government's cooler than I gave it credit for."
Janet caught the backpack Dominique tossed in her direction. "Thanks. My gun's in here?"
"And zome spare clips of ammunition."
Scud nodded. "Just let me get some things together, I'll be back here by the time your flight's ready."
Dominique stopped her frantic preparations. "You are not coming."
"Why not?" Again, the way they both said it at the same time was too much cute for Dominique to handle, especially considering the circumstances.
"Ee ees a criminal!"
Scud stiffened. "Hey! You're not the only one with a friend in the line of fire over there, you know! Besides, I like Amy too, and Max well, she never really kicked me as hard as she could have, which I think is a sign of friendship."
Dominique frowned, and Janet rolled her eyes. "Look, he can help. He knows Lucy and Ninotchka, he might pick up something we miss. Besides, if Bobby can team up with a bloodthirsty villain, so can we. No offense."
Dominique growled. "Fine! Let's just go!"
"Comme l'enfer, you are!"
Scud sighed and followed the squabbling D.E.B.S. from the kitchen.
She loved the way Lucy said her name. It had never seemed to her like the kind of name that could roll off anyone's tongue sensually, but there was something in the way Lucy whispered it. Like everything they'd gone through, and everything she felt, could be contained in nothing more than those two syllables. Amy smiled.
"Amy." This time, Lucy shook her shoulder. Amy groaned.
"Amy, someone's at the door." And Amy heard it; a strong, urgent knock intruding from the main room. The blonde looked silently at her lover, and Lucy nodded; they hadn't given their address to anyone, much less anyone who'd call this early in the morning. Amy slid from the bed and slowly opened the drawer of the nightstand, the familiar feel of her favorite gun sliding into her hand. She looked across the lightening bedroom at Lucy. Gripping the gun she had taken from Bobby what seemed like an eternity ago, the brunette nodded.
As the two entered the main room, the knocking stopped; judging from the shuffling outside, the invader was probably getting ready to charge the door. Off Lucy's nod, Amy whipped the door open and took aim.
When she saw the blonde's old squad leader, Lucy whipped around, gun waving, fully expecting the other D.E.B.S. and a handful of feds to crash through the picture windows. But there was only the ragged sound of three anxious women breathing in the dawn.
Finally Amy spoke, voice quivering. "I don't want to fight you, Max."
Max blinked. "Good, I don't want to fight you either "
"Just give us a head start. We'll disappear. I promise."
Max's eyebrows knitted in confusion. "Amy "
Lucy glanced around nervously. "Let's go, before her backup shows."
"Please, just don't "
"I'm not here to arrest you!" Max yelled.
Silence. Both sets of eyes turned to stare at her in overt disbelief.
"I'm here to help you."
"Thanks." Max smiled politely as Lucy handed her the mug, then watched in silence for a moment as the brunette slid back down to the couch next to Amy, their fingers entwining almost automatically. Max still didn't understand it. But at least Amy was happy.
"I'm lucky I managed to get here ahead of them. They're probably still in the air, but I'm sure they'll be here in no time. I don't know how long it'll take them to track you down."
Lucy's eyes narrowed in curiosity. "How did you?"
The corner of Max's mouth quirked. "I called that art school of yours. Knew your address before I even got off the plane."
"You're losing your touch." Amy glowered at the jest and batted Lucy's arm playfully, then turned back to her former squad-mate.
"So what do we do?"
Max avoided her eyes. "I don't know. I mean I just came here 'cause I wanted to warn you, I mean I can't " As if it was the first time it had occurred to her, Max's head snapped up. "I could have ruined my career just by coming here."
"Max." When she felt Amy's hand on hers, Max looked up and the blonde's eyes met hers. "Thank you. For everything." Amy's gaze strayed guiltily toward an obviously uncomfortable Lucy. "We never should have put you in this position."
Deep inside her, Max's armor plating managed to slip itself back into place, and she sniffed. "You didn't. I did."
Lucy's gaze flicked nervously back and forth between the two D.E.B.S.she didn't like awkward silences. She was about to say somethinganythingwhen Amy intervened. "So how is everybody?"
Max smiled in spite of herself. "Janet and Scud are coming along nicely." The D.E.B. yawned. "I think Domnique's actually a little jealous." Max met Amy's eyes. "Phipps misses you. He never says anything, but I can tell."
Amy bit her lip and nodded.
Max cleared her throat, eyelids fluttering. "I should probably I gotta get back before anyone notices I'm hm "
Lucy smiled a question at Amy as the black D.E.B. began to snore peacefully. Amy shrugged. "Jet lag and stress. She'll be up soonalways was a light sleeper." The blonde smiled wryly. "Which means we can't run just yet."
Lucy stood and took a deep breath. "Is that what you want to do?"
"I don't know." Amy sighed. "Part of me thinks that we have to keep running, that it's the only thing that makes sense, but " The blonde looked into Lucy's loving brown eyes, trying to steel herself with the warmth there. "But another part is telling me that if we run now, we'll never be able to stop. Maybe, we "
Amy began to choke on her sobs, and Lucy's arms swept forward to circle around her. "Shh. I'm sorry."
Amy bit back the tears. "I'm okay. We can we can decide when Max wakes up." The former spy stared out at the artful swell of the Catalonian skyline bathed in morning sun, wondering if she'd ever see it again.
"Just hold me for a while."
She pulled Lucy's arms tighter and the velvet curtain of certainty descended over her. As long as they were here, like this, nothing could hurt them.
"These are the best you could get?"
As Bobby paced along the row of colorful mercenaries crossing the warehouse floor, Ninotchka shrugged. "You didn't exactly give me lot of time to plan. Dey do deir jobs."
Bobby nodded and sighed. "Tell them to get ready to deploydiscreetlywhen they hear back from us."
"You and I are gonna go find our target."
"You sure about this?"
Amy nodded emphatically. "Lucy and I'll decide what to do when the time comes, but you've already put yourself at too much risk."
Max frowned slightly, but nodded. "Listen, Amy "
Max cast a glance back at Lucy; the woman who had once been the most notorious criminal in the United Statesperhaps the worldwas standing against the brick wall, fidgeting, obviously uneasy about intruding upon the old friends. The D.E.B. smiled.
"I'm glad you're happy."
"Thank you, Max."
Max cleared her throat, forcing her game face over the emotion that threatened to spill out at having to say goodbye to her best friend all over again. "Well, better get going."
Amy nodded, but the three women stayed in place. Eventually, Lucy clucked her tongue. "Listen if you want, we can walk with you up to the bus stop."
"Oh, yeah! I mean, okay, if you want "
Bobby couldn't believe what he was seeing. Part of him couldn't quite grasp a logical explanation, even as the fugitives began walking the D.E.B. along the street, laughing. Then, somewhere in the back of his head, everything clicked. And Bobby began to see red. "Kaprova, call the men out. Here. Now. To hell with discreet. We're going in."
As Ninotchka radioed their location to Mayo, the Spaniard explosives expert who'd kept trying to leer down her shirt during the briefing, she caught the look in Bobby's eyes. The assassin had seen that look before. And she didn't like it.
It meant someone was about to do something stupid.
And she usually had to be the one to clean up afterwards.
"You could at least promise to" Lucy stopped. The D.E.B.S. continued walking to either side of her, and she spread her hands to stop them.
"Lucy, what?" Then Amy noticed what the brunette had. "Max "
"I see them." The men were arrayed in strategic locations around the bus station, doing their best to blend in with the thin crowdbut to someone who knew what to look for, their sweeping glances and the bulges under their jackets made it obvious exactly what they were.
"They're not ours." Lucy gave Max a curious glance, and the D.E.B. shrugged apologetically. "I mean, they're not feds. Probably freelance."
"Makes sense," the former supervillain mused, "the government probably wants to be able to pretend this never happened. That's a lot easier with rentals."
"They've got the exits covered." Even as Amy spoke, the dozen or so gunmen had begun to move forward what they probably thought of as inconspicuously. "Think they'll hold back 'til we leave the crowd?"
"Somehow I seriously doubt it."
The D.E.B.'s eyes flicked between the approaching mercenaries, her tactical mind working overtime. "Engagement Delta Phi." Amy nodded.
"Just follow our lead."
As soon as she saw the closest man's submachine gun peek out from under his track jacket, Amy started to run.
From his position near the doors, Bobby cursed.
The mercenaries' first warning shots sent the crowd scattering, making it almost impossible to line up a shot on any of the targets, who were now sprinting away in three different directions. By the time the crowd had begun to stampede toward the doors, the three women had already taken cover. Fed up, Mayo began to fire.
Max leaned away from the pillar she had hidden behind as a section of the stone splintered away, then leveled her revolver at their attackers as she dashed to the next column. Lucy was now only one away. "Where's Amy?"
Lucy swung her gun hand aroundMax was about to duck when the brunette fired.
The man who had tried to come around the side of the columns doubled over, clutching his knee in pain.
"Don't mention it. She's behind the ticket counter."
Max peeked out from behind the pillarthe blonde was pinned down. "Cover me, then follow in five seconds."
Before Lucy could answer, Max dashed out from behind the column. Lucy's pot shots made the three men between her and Amy dive for cover, and as Max neared the blonde's position Lucy launched herself out of hiding. The first shooter recovered just as Lucy slid down behind the massive help desk.
The first thing she did was scramble over to Amy, her free hand rushing up to touch the blonde's face. "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine." Amy cupped her hand reassuringly. "We're trapped, though."
"They're already setting up to flank us. We're gonna have to move soon."
"Can we get to the doors?"
"They're probably covering the building from outside."
"There's always the back way," Lucy jerked her head toward the unobtrusive door on the opposite wall.
Amy smiled. "Cover me."
When Amy made a mad dash for the far wall, mercenaries scattering under the other fugitives' cover fire, Bobby cursed and held up his radio. "Ninotchka, circle your team around. They're breaking for the loading docks."
Max slammed the door closed as Lucy tore into the loading bay, bullets streaming behind her, and barely pushed the massive deadbolt closed before a meaty thud sounded against the outside.
"All right, let's try to"
Amy pushed the others behind the nearest available crate as the high windows surrounding the room crashed in. When no hail of bullets accompanied the sound of feet landing, the blonde nodded and, as one, the fugitives spun around to fire.
Lucy groaned. Janet didn't seem to notice.
"What are you doing here?"
"Mr. Phipps sent us. We're here to help!" Janet shifted nervously. "And also, you're, you know, technically under arrest, technically. Hi, Amy. Hi, Lucy."
The two nodded sheepishly, but Max waved them off. "Wait. I'm under arrest?"
Janet cleared her throat, and she suddenly couldn't make eye contact with her squad leader. "Um yeah. You know, dereliction of duty, aiding and abetting. Like that."
Dominique shook her head. "Look, we can worry about thees later. We have to get Amy and Lucy out of ere."
Scud nodded. "I checked the prints. There's a stairwell on the far side of the loading bays."
"Wait!" The motley group stopped in mid step to look back at Amy and Lucy, still standing amidst the confusion. Amy inhaled sharply and, before they knew it, Janet and Dominique were wrapped up in her arms. As the three friends hugged, Scud sidled up to Lucy.
"So how's things?"
"Oh, you know. Pretty much like this. You?"
"Pretty much the same."
"Find work yet?"
Amy let go and looked slowly around at the assembled group, two thirds of which she'd honestly never expected to see again. "Okay. Now we can go."
As they worked their way through the maze of stacked palettes, Janet explained what she could.
"I can't believe your Academy's really going to all this trouble. It seems like it would be less of a big deal to just deny any of this ever happened."
"I don't think it's that easy."
"Oh, please, you're telling me the United States government isn't good at covering things up, now?"
The crash of the door behind them falling off its hinges made them pick up their pace, guns raised in every direction.
"We've got company!" But Scud was looking ahead, as more mercenaries streamed through one of the open loading docks.
Max looked back and forth between the two gangs for only a second. "Split up! Amy, Lucy, get out of here! We'll try to distract them."
Before they could respond, the rest of the group had moved headlong into a running battle with the mercenaries. Lucy grabbed Amy's hand and, with a silent goodbye, Amy let the brunette pull her toward the stairway.
Watching the spectacle, Ninotchka stumbled to keep up with Bobby as he tore away from the men he was supposed to be commanding. "Fine. I'll do this myself."
They'd had to split up after they cleared the stairs. Lucy could hear boots behind her, and could only pray that she'd managed to draw the heat off of Amy. She clambered onto the stack of boxes threading through the basement just as the door burst open behind her.
Amy ducked down behind one of the fluttering tarps that seemed to cover the bus station's second floorshe thought she remembered reading an article in the paper about how they were planning to renovate it. "Don't move, girl." Of course she always had these thoughts at exactly the wrong time
Before Ninotchka could react, Amy spun around and the gun was out of her grasp. The assassin reached for Amy's wrist, but the younger blonde swept her leg out, knocking Ninotchka to the ground with a cloud of long-settled dust. Amy rolled back and landed on her feet, fists ready.
"Why are you doing this? You only went on one date!"
Ninotchka dusted herself off, and began to circle the former D.E.B. wearily. "Is just business. Unlike your boyfriend downstairs, I don't keep grudge."
Bobby stepped between the walls of cargo carefully, gun raised. He knew she was there. "Lucy, you've got some 'splaining to do "
"Oh, I bet you've been waiting your whole career to use that one." Bobby darted toward the source of the sound, but she was already gone.
"Come out and fight me, damn it!"
"Why the hell can't you just leave us alone?"
Bobby fired blindly at the direction of her voice, but hit only air. "You seduced her! You turned her into we were happy until you came along!"
As Lucy glided across the top of the crates, she almost felt like gagging. "You were. She wasn't."
Amy rolled as Ninotchka pushed, and sprang back to her feet. "We just want to be together. You of all people should understand that."
The Russian straightened herself out as they circled. "I don't envy Lucy vat dat boy vill do to her."
"Ninotchka, please." Both words immediately got her attention. "I can't lose her."
Amy relaxed her guard slightlythe assassin was smiling.
"I tink I finally know vat she sees in you."
Lucy was starting to enjoy this. "You know, Amy told me all about you." She hopped the avenue between rows of crates, flying practically over Bobby's head.
"She told me about what happened at the restaurant. I should thank you for that, by the way. If you hadn't shot at me that first time, Amy and I probably never would have met!"
A rage-filled growl wafted up from the floor as Bobby fired three more shots into the shadows. "Come down here, God damn you!"
"See, just like at that restaurant. Just like Endgame!" Lucy pushed her back against the wood. "You always let your emotions get in the way of doing your job!"
Bobby barely dodged the hail of crates in time. Lucy was jarred from the impact, but staggered to her feet and broke into a run.
He was too fast.
Whatever breath Lucy had left was knocked out of her by the grapple, and Bobby loomed over her, gun hand shaking, eyes on fire. "I'm going to give you one chance to go into custody alive." Bobby's words, high-pitched with exertion and hysteria, echoed down the corridors. "I know she doesn't love you. She can't. So admit you tricked her into coming here. Admit that you stole her from me."
Bobby slid back the hammer on his pistol with a click. "Say you don't love her."
Lucy's eyes went wide. Bobby scowled.
"Do you love her?!?" he screamed.
Lucy's smile just made him more furious.
"Like you can't even imagine."
Lucy flinched when she heard the bang, even though she knew it wasn't the gun.
As Bobby dropped to the ground, Amy let the plastic pipe slip from her hands. She looked down at the slumped Homeland Security agent and shook her head. Then she looked at Lucy as the brunette stood up, and bit her lip with a smile.
"Do you think this qualifies as closure?"
And then Lucy was kissing her.
The battle had migrated outside; Max was just glad that the civilians had made themselves scarce by now, and that Bobby's connections seemed to have kept the police from intervening. She spun the chamber open, reloaded, snapped the gun shut with a well-practiced flick, and fired two shots over the low wall. "They should be here by now!"
Dominique just nodded.
"There they are!" She followed Scud's finger just in time to see the couple dash from the stairwell doorway toward a sleek, black, unlicensed van thatjudging from the number of mercenaries shouting about itbelonged to Ninotchka's hired help.
The van screeched out of the station parking lot just as Ninotchka pushed through the door. Bobby limped out behind her, clutching his head. "They're going to get away! Call the local cops, tell them to "
"Do not vorry, boy. Our vehicles are taken care of."
The explosion sent everyone but Ninotchka diving to the asphalt.
"No!" Max tried to stop Janet from running to what was left of the van, but luckily it seemed that the remaining mercenaries were too terrified to care.
As the D.E.B.S. dove toward the wreckage, Bobby grabbed Ninotchka's collar. "What have you done?"
The Russian batted his hands away, face resolute, and let the detonator drop to the sidewalk. "Vat you vould not."
As Bobby fell to his knees, the D.E.B.S. surveyed the wreck. Janet was in tears, and Scud wasn't far behind. Dominique was shaking her head in horror. Max was willing herself not to cry in front of her squad.
Then something caught her eye.
A glimmer of light from the pavement twinkled in the glow of the fire. Max bent down carefully and picked up the raw diamond, about as big as one joint of her finger.
She looked upward to the roof of the apartment building across from the bus station, and smiled.
Dominique smiled in spite of herself. Convincing Bobby that it might be in his best interest not to admit to their presence was too easy; once he calmed down, he was none too enthusiastic about reporting to Ms. Petrie that the people he'd hired had spent most of their time shooting at her favorite squad. In fact, he didn't seem to be too enthusiastic about anything once they got back to Los Angeles. But he'd get over it. As long as he kept thinking that Amy was dead.
Dominique didn't understand it herself, but she trusted Max. Amy was alive. Amy was safe. And Amy was happy. "Bonjour, Mr. P."
Phipps straightened up from the kitchen table as the D.E.B.S. entered. "Ladies." He noticed Max wasn't looking at him. "How was the mission?"
Max stepped forward painfully. "Sir. I I just want to say let me "
"Please, D.E.B.S. I want to hear about Hasselbek."
Max blinked. "Hasselbek?"
Phipps smiled knowingly. "Yes, my mission schedule shows you on special assignment in San Mateo, Mexico."
Max was speechless. Dominique stepped forward. "Monsieur, I am afraid to report that ee got away."
The ghost of a relieved smile tugged at Phipps' mouth. "Are you sure?"
"Yes, sir." Janet nodded. "Safe and sound."
Phipps grinned. "All right then. I expect to see you all tomorrow morning for a full debriefing."
Max finally snapped out of her shock. "Yes, sir."
"Oh, and Max?"
Phipps smiled as his image began to crackle and fade. "Good job."
As soon as Phipps disappeared, Janet was back out through the door, Max and Dominique staring after her. Scud was still waiting, leaning casually against the car. He smiled as she approached.
"So, what did you want to talk to me about?"
"Um, okay." Janet took a deep breath. "I mean, we've been having a lot of fun." Scud nodded. "And, I think you're really nice, I mean you're certainly way nicer than most of the guys I meet, especially for a bad guy not that you're bad and I'm not really saying what I originally meant to say but I just feel like I need to get this out and the thing is Ireallywantyoutokissme."
Scud blinked. "Well, I mean I really too, uh " A blush was creeping slowly up his face as it moved closer to Janet's. Without warning, Janet surged toward him.
And slammed hard against his forehead.
"Oh, ah "
"No, I'm so sorry "
"Are you o"
" I hurt you?"
Without any conscious effort, the apologies devolved into chuckling. Janet rubbed the sore spot on her forehead and smiled. "But there's no hurry."
Amy took the cup of coffee that Lucy offered gratefully and patted the seat beside hers. "We're really safe."
Lucy smiled. "Yeah. Something tells me that the fugitives dying in a huge fireball with dozens of witnesses usually translates as 'case closed.'" Amy snuggled closer, her eyes fixed on the languidly rising Spanish sun. "You know, you never did tell me how you got Ninotchka to help us out with that."
Amy smiled mysteriously, eyes never leaving the horizon. "I am the Perfect Score."
Lucy wrapped her arm tighter around the shoulder of the only woman she would ever love, and grinned.
"Yes, you certainly are."
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