|Old City Bar
Author: Kaylin Tesla PM
Christmas spent with the Red Cell team never has a dull moment. Last chapter is up!Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Hurt/Comfort - Gina L. & Mick R. - Chapters: 10 - Words: 61,964 - Reviews: 29 - Favs: 5 - Follows: 4 - Updated: 01-09-12 - Published: 12-18-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7648700
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Criminal Minds Suspect Behavior Fanfiction Number Seven
Old City Bar
First summary- Christmas spent with the Red Cell team never has a dull moment.
Rated Teen for cursing and mild violence.
Pairings- Mick/Gina, but not quite together yet.
Some spoilers for the first season. Definite spoilers for Siblings, Evil Angels, One Thousand, Monster, Demolition Lovers, and Walk Away From The Sun. This is the seventh story in my series of the show, so you might want to read the previous works first. It takes place a few weeks after the end of Walk Away From The Sun.
I own nothing involving Criminal Minds Suspect Behavior. The only things I do own are my creations such as personal characters. Nor do I own any rights to the music that may be mentioned in future chapters. I am simply borrowing these character for my own entertainment.
This story won't have a case in it, unlike the previous stories, so it won't be very long. It's kind of like a bridge between the end of this story arc and the beginning of next year's. This is the first time I've written a one-shot in a while, so I hope it's decent. I'm switching back to Gina's perspective because it's easier to write in hers than anyone else. Any grammar mistakes are my own. Please don't verbally kill me for a typo. The idea for this came from a Trans Siberian Orchestra song. It's tradition in my family to listen and watch them play every year for Christmas. Normally I never listen to Christmas songs, but I think the upcoming holidays deserve an exception.
Anyways, onto the story!
Chapter 10 Night Of All Nights
Christmas morning was supposed to be exciting. Waking up in a nice warm bed, knowing that the tree located in a living room was stuffed with presents, anticipating what the infamous 'Santa Clause' brought for young children and adults alike. All of that was to be expected. It was childish to even think of 'Santa' now. Adults, myself included, and older teenagers knew the truth behind the international white lie. But for the sake of youthful sanity and holiday tradition, no one had the heart to be cenacle about it. At least, I didn't think I could until Christmas morning actually came.
I didn't sleep well the night before. Something was troubling my thoughts, mulling in the back of my mind and depriving me of any true rest. Hours were spent just tossing and turning in my warm blankets. My winter green pajamas seemed to be protesting the movements, tangling around my limbs and generally being a nuisance. That was the first sign of a bad morning. When my mind was too caught up in trying to remember something so blatantly obvious and important, I couldn't find the need for sleep. I had to remember or it was going to ruin Christmas day. At that moment, I was jealous of Mick's photographic memory.
My bedroom door was still open from the night before, cracked a few inches from the door frame to allow some familiar Christmas rock orchestra music inside. It pulled me from the restless slumber at the sound of a metal electric guitar solo. Sunlight flooded through the half drawn curtains, brightened by the snow piled on the window sills and distant streets surrounding the building. An intoxicating smell of fresh coffee and cinnamon breakfast pastries followed the music. I could almost picture Mick in the kitchen, hobbling with his cane to make a meaningful breakfast for just the two of us. The thought brought a smile to my face.
I turned to one side and tried to fall back to sleep. When several uncomfortable minutes passed without success, I cursed to myself and sat up. A muffled squeak from the quilt tied around my feet drew my attention. I pulled my hand from trying to straighten my tangled hair and moved the blanket aside. Nikola crawled out of his small blanket-cave, stretching his furry limbs and arching his back. Then clawed the blankets and settled back down to clean his paws. His short stub of a tail swatted the bed in time with his tongue, padding a rhythmic beat that was drowned by the echoing music.
He was a reminder of what I was trying to remember. It felt like I had been slapped in the face with cold, hard reality. Why I didn't realize it until I actually saw the kitten was beyond me. Some part of me rationalized that I had been too busy over the past few days. That I had too many things on my mind and the forgetfulness was justifiable. But I knew that was just an excuse. It was a stupid idea, brought by the desperate desire to fix what I had unintentionally screwed up.
Mick would forgive me, though, right? He would understand that I had been solely focused on other things to remember his Christmas gifts, wouldn't he? I felt like slapping myself for being so reckless. How the hell could I forget about his gifts? He had gotten me a kitten for Christmas, something we could watch grow and take care of for the unforeseeable future together, and I hadn't gotten him anything. That made me look like such an ass. I was close to panicking when I thought about it. My stomach churned into knots with worry and my hand shot up to the rim of my shirt, subconsciously fumbling with it as if it were my necklace. Mick wasn't one for material possessions, I knew, but that fact didn't help. I had to find a way to get him something before he realized that I had forgotten. Maybe I could sneak away sometime during the day and find a local music store that was open.
"Gina, time to get up, love. Can I come in?" Mick's voice rang through the music, coming from the closed portion of the door. I spun around to face it, temporarily lost for a response. Nikola perked up at the sound of his Welsh-English accent, wagging his tail harder in excitement.
I grabbed a nearby clothed rubber band from the top of my dresser and pulled my hair back tightly. At the same time I tried to compose the expression of guilt and worry on my features. There was no point in hiding it though. Mick was skilled at reading people, including me. But I had to try. He couldn't know that I had screwed up so drastically yet. Hopefully I could bide more time until I could think of a better excuse. "Yeah, come in!" I shouted in response once I thought it was safe. My voice cracked slightly, just enough for me to know that this wasn't going to work.
Nikola jumped up as soon as the door opened completely. He hopped off the bed like a rabbit, making a short galloped run for Mick's gray sock covered feet. Mick grinned in bemusement as the kitten squeaked at him and started sniffing his socks. The cane in hand he leaned against became the next curiosity, causing the kitten to bat at the end. He looked well rested, just like the previous morning. Apparently having Nikola sleeping on him on the couch gave him some small comfort for rest. He didn't bother brushing his hair, obvious by the way the dark strands stood on end as if they had a mind of their own. The jeans were his standard torn at the knees favorites, matching the frayed gray long sleeve sweater. Flour dusted the front in a pattern that suggested he was making something in the kitchen, but didn't bother with an apron. He grinned at me in greeting as he slid his hidden hand from behind his back, holding out a small gift wrapped rectangular box and shaking it lightly.
"Morning darling. Hope you slept well. This little bugger wasn't too much trouble, was he?" The sniper gave a pointed nod to Nikola, who decided to try to sharpen his teeth on the cane. I forced a smile and shook my head. The flirting smirk was welcomed as a form of normalcy. In the past I would have rolled my eyes and pretended to be annoyed. But I couldn't bring myself to do that now. Not after everything we had been through. "Something wrong?" He asked, suddenly frowning at my lack of response.
"No. Why would there be anything wrong?" I answered a little too quickly.
He shifted on the cane and dropped the box into his jeans pocket. Nikola jumped away from the wooden stick and rushed out of the room, seemingly heading for the kitchen. "Gina, I'm not blind. What's wrong?" He questioned, voice quickly turning more demanding.
I tried to suppress a sigh, but had no means of doing so. "I just didn't sleep well last night. You made breakfast, right?" I replied, hoping the partial lie and change of subject was good enough.
He furrowed his brow as he studied me for a long moment. Then nodded slowly and answered, "Scones, my grandmother's recipe. It's a family tradition for Jenna and I since we were kids. I thought you would like to try it." The mention of his grandmother brought a smile to my face. He had never mentioned her before and to be honest, it made me curious to learn more. I followed hesitantly as he waved for me to accompany him from the room. Sliding my slippers on my feet and my robe over my shoulders for the time being, I let him lead the way towards the kitchen.
The living room was different compared to when I had last seen it. My Christmas tree in the corner was finally decorated appropriately with old ornaments, bright blinking lights, faded garland, and a lighted star at the top. Several presents were half hidden underneath, though I had a feeling that some weren't addressed to just both of us.. The couch and coffee table had been cleaned up. Mick's frayed tan bag containing stolen classified case files was undoubtedly locked in the spare bedroom. His box of presents from his overseas family was the only thing on the coffee table, placed on one corner neatly with a worn paperback book on the top.
As we entered the kitchen, he turned down the music from the small speakers and CD player on the counter near the coffee maker. The counters themselves were a mess of flour, containers of ingredients, and dirty utensils. One section next to the stove was dusted with pieces of dough and flour, as if he had been using it for a cutting board. Two pans were piled in the sink along with a handful of messy bowls. On the opposite side of the oven sat a long metal cooling rack. It was lined with about a dozen lightly tan round pastries, dusted with powdered sugar and waiting for us. Mick had been busy with setting the dinning table. Two glass plates and matching mugs occupied the top of a seasonal table cloth I recognized as one of the things my parents gave me with the decorations. It had been cleaned and dusted well before use, making the room seem more festive. He fumbled with something in the refrigerator for a few moments while I filled Nikola's food dish by the door way. Then placed two glass jars of jam and the butter dish on the table as well.
"You've been busy." I exclaimed, smiling in thanks as he pulled the chair out for me.
"Nikola and Jenna woke me up at six. He wanted food and she wanted to chat for an hour. She mentioned something about sending a surprise stateside, but she was rambling and I had a hard time understanding her. It sounded like she was at some kind of store and it was horribly busy." He paused to bring the food to the table, grinning in triumph. "Before you ask, yes, these are edible. I followed Granny Sophia's recipe exactly."
"This is the first time I've heard of Granny Sophia…"
He looked up from the plate and nodded in agreement. "Jenna mentioned her this morning. Said that I should make you her famous scones now that we're living together. Ya know, as a new tradition. Well, it's an old tradition. But it's new for us." I couldn't hide the slight blush at his words. We weren't together, not like that. But it seemed like the rest of the world, his sister included, didn't believe that. They all thought we were a couple. If situations were different, I probably wouldn't have protested the idea. The problem with that was my own self conscience. If Jenna Rawson finally agreed that Mick and I should be together, then what else could I do to deny it? She was his sister and therefore knew him better than anyone else in the entire world. I had to trust her judgment when it came to him.
"Did you tell your sister that we're not actually a couple? I mean, I know what it looks like since we're living together…"
"I did. Stubborn little thing doesn't quite believe me though. She even threatened to come here and force us together if she has to. Can you believe that? I mean, the little squirt honestly thinks she can do that." He interrupted with a fake pout. "I have to give her credit for guts. Who knows, maybe she could be right…"
I paused in spreading jam on the scone to hold up the sticky knife in warning. A flick of my wrist, threatening to fling a large scoop, silenced him with a laugh. He was flirting with me like he always did. Well, like he used to do. I couldn't deny that I missed it. "And our teammates?"
"Prophet called about an hour ago. He and Beth are coming over with presents from the office. Somehow they managed to sneak inside without setting off the alarm Fickler activated. Remind me to ask them how they did that when they get here."
"I take it Cooper's planning a big Christmas dinner like last year."
Mick shrugged, swallowing his mouthful of cinnamon chipped pastry and frowning heavily. "I don't know. He hasn't called or answered his mobile. Maybe there's something wrong."
I copied his expression of worry without meaning to. It wasn't hard considering the fact that I was still pondering over the predicament of his gift. "I can stop by his place after breakfast, see if he's okay." I responded. The desperation in my tone was hidden well enough that he didn't appear to hear it. My true motives was to use this as an excuse. It wasn't necessarily a lie, but it did leave out the key part of me spending half an hour in a store to search for something he would like. He didn't need to know that.
He seemed to mull that over for a moment longer, keeping his eyes on the door way. "I'll try to call again in a bit. If he doesn't answer then we'll go out…"
"I can do it myself." I interrupted sharper than intended. He raised an brow in curiosity and confusion, trying to see why I was acting so strangely. I was silently kicking myself for being so indiscreet. Of course he would realize what was wrong. How could I possibly think he wouldn't? The way his dark eyes scanned my features, reading between the lines like he was involved in one of his favorite novels, said that he wasn't fooled.
"You do realize that I never asked for anything on purpose?" He asked, leaning forward to rest his elbows on the table. "Material possessions are just a convenience. I don't need them."
I dropped my eyes to the pastry on my plate. Of course he would say that he didn't need them. They were just something to carry around, another thing to add to the wooden boxes locked in his room. Years of being alone, lost in the streets of London with nothing but a backpack and his siblings between homes, enforced the idea that possessions were unnecessary and sometimes a burden. "But you like your books, and the music on your player, and the boxes in your room…" I protested feebly.
He sank back into the chair and crossed his arms over his chest. "Yeah, I do. But I can live without them. You don't have to get me anything because I don't want it. I'm happy with just being here." He replied sincerely.
I looked up from the plate in uncertainty. It felt like a weight had lifted in my chest. Like I could somehow accept what he was saying. He didn't need me to get him a new CD or book to make him happy. All I needed to do was offer a comfortable home and my attention. Someplace he could come back to after a long case. Or someone to talk to when the world became too much. If that was all he was asking for, then I had already given it months ago. I smiled warmly, genuinely, and sipped the cup of coffee in front of me to hide the rising blush. "You really are a man of many mysteries." I whispered more to myself than to him.
Mick smirked flirtingly as he rose from his seat and started to clear his plate. "I try, darling. It keeps things interesting for everyone."
Rising from my seat, I collected my plate and started for the sink. He paused next to the stove, then started to fumble with bowels and lids in the next cupboard to save the extra pastries. I crept up beside him and wrapped my arm around his own, minding his cane, and pulled him to face me. The younger man gave me a curious expression as I placed the glass on the counter. His eyes widened in shock as I leaned forward and planted a quick kiss on his cheek. I pulled away quickly, distancing us so the notion of 'one time only' was clear. The blush was impossible to hide at that point. I could feel it reddening my face, making me look like some teenager that had just kissed her first boyfriend. It was somewhat embarrassing when I thought about it like that. We both have had previous temporary spouses, but nothing like the relationship we tried to deny. Even he couldn't fake the surprise and shock on his face. For all of his boasting about being able to fool the world, he couldn't fool what was right in front of him at that moment.
"Merry Christmas, Mick." I said kindly, watching him grin like a love-struck teenager. He fumbled with the box in his jeans pocket, trying to advert attention to anything else in the room. Being the center of attention was making him uncomfortable. While I thought that was odd, I found it humorous. The infamous Mick Rawson, FBI bachelor and notorious emotional recluse, was left speechless and blushing by a kiss on the cheek.
He opened his mouth to respond, but didn't get the chance as the music in the room was interrupted by a loud echoing series of knocks at the front door. We shared a silent look for a moment longer. Listening to the knocks, rhythmic and impatient, told us that it was probably Beth or Prophet. Mick couldn't seem to find the right commands to make his feet move. He just leaned against the counter and continued to stutter for words. I took a deep breath in an attempt to push the red from my face and spun on my heels.
The door was shaken with every pound of a fist. Prophet's own tone was muffled through the wood, urging Beth to stop before she woke up the entire building and got kicked out. I tied my robe shut and pulled the door open, stopping the older woman in mid knock with a welcoming grin. That grin didn't last when I saw who was behind them.
Beth and Prophet each carried a large cloth bag in hand. Prophet's was thrown behind his shoulder, making him look like a thinner and balding version of 'Santa Clause' with the dark jeans and red sweater under the open coat and scarf. The red Christmas hat on his head really completed the attire. Beth was wrapped in her own coat with a seasonal red and green scarf draped over her neck and a warm matching hat barely covering the mess of black hair. The slightest glaze in her eyes confirmed what I feared the night before. She was slightly hung over from the wine. That was going to be fun. Even Cooper seemed to be enjoying the holiday. He carried three suitcases and a single small bag over his usually coat, but the dark green sweater underneath showed the faintest signs of festiveness. Beside him stood a cheerful Flores. She was obviously trying to compete with Penelope, though I doubted she even realized it. The brilliant gold jewelry, vivid blue and green coat and slacks printed with happy reindeer's and dazzling snowflakes, and short round flat shoes seemed to make her appear as a very kind grandmother. Not a retired FBI profiler who was in charge of making sure Mick didn't go off the deep end up like his brother.
What really drew my attention and faltered my excited mood was the sight of Jenna Rawson behind them all. The young woman was clearly excited to see her brother again. She carried a large black gym bag over her shoulder, still holding the airport's luggage tag on the end, and quickly pushed her way past Prophet and Beth to stand in front of me. Her own long coat was a sleek and warm black material that matched her gloves and silk scarf. A long green and red peppermint striped ribbon held her dark hair back stylishly to leave the front down over her shoulders and ears. Winter boots were a clothed red, contrasting with the rest of the attire in a strangely fashionable way.
"Miss Gina! It's been ages!" She exclaimed cheerfully as she grasped my hand and shook it lightly, then pulled me into a quick hug.
I was rendered speechless by the younger woman. When, how, why; all of that ran through my head at a million miles an hour. How could she be in the US? Why? I honestly had no idea at that moment. It didn't make any sense. She was supposed to be in London, spending the holidays with her foster parents before going back school after the new year. That's what Mick told me just a day ago. But, just like the rest of the events over the past three days, nothing has seemed to go as planned.
Jenna quickly filed into the apartment as I stepped aside to let everyone in. Cooper lagged behind for a moment, watching our teammates place the bags in the living room and start opening them. He smiled and mumbled a 'Merry Christmas' as Jenna dropped her bag on the couch and jogged in the kitchen. I was tempted to follow, but knew that giving her a few minutes with her brother to explain things was critical. After all, the last time she was in the states their foster sister was killed and she was kidnapped. I didn't want to see Mick's reaction to her away from the safety of London.
"Hey, you alright?" Cooper asked as he set Jenna's bags in a corner of the living room.
I watched Flores assist our teammates in pulling out the Christmas gifts and nodded quickly. "Yeah… Why…"
"It was her idea. Jenna called me last week and asked me to help her schedule the plane tickets. But I couldn't tell anyone because it was supposed to be a surprise. I picked her up at the airport this morning with Wendy, which is why I didn't answer Mick's calls. That would have ruined it." He answered my unsaid, stuttering question.
"Miss Rawson is quite an interesting woman." Flores piped up, stopping for a moment in helping Prophet and Beth to look towards the kitchen door way. "She is a spitting image of her brother."
"What the bloody hell!" Mick's thick accent shouted over us from the kitchen, pulling the smile from our faces and dragging us to the door way.
Jenna was leaning against the sink, arms folded across her chest and a heavy from on her face. She watched Mick pace the floor, limping with the cane, and pierced her lip. A momentary lapse of fear fell on the sniper's face. He wasn't taking her arrival well, that much was obvious by the hand pulling at his hair in stress. "Mickey, it's not like that. I've just come for a visit. A week at the most, I promise. You should be glad to see me." She stated, accent thick with emotion. "Aren't you glad to see me?"
Mick stopped pacing and spun around to face her. "Of course I am. But it isn't safe here. I told you not to come back!"
The younger Rawson rolled her eyes. "I'm almost twenty four years old. I think I can take care of myself. That includes choosing when to visit my brother in another country."
"Damn it, Jenna. What if something happens again? Did you even think…"
"Oh course I did. That's why I'm staying with Beth. She's letting me use her spare room for the next week."
"And what did you have to con her with to get that deal? Blackmail information on me to use in the future?" Mick shot back in frustration.
"No…" She muttered, pausing as Mick rubbed a hand over his face. The blush he was trying to hide didn't give way easily. It was still noticeable to anyone who could pay attention. "Are you blushing? Did we interrupt something?" She asked with a bemused smirk and a glare towards me.
He stiffened sharply, gaping at her for a long moment. "No, why the bloody hell would you think that? We were just having breakfast…"
"I see that. You didn't burn the scones this time. Granny would be so proud." Jenna quipped.
"Alright, that's enough." Cooper intervened as Mick started to mutter a curse. He took one look between the sniper and I before turning back to the younger woman. "Jenna, how about you go get those presents from your bags set out. We'll open them in a minute."
She nodded in agreement and pushed herself off the counter edge. On her way out she stopped in front of Mick and pulled him into a tight embrace. He breathed a sigh in defeat and rested his chin on her shoulder. She rubbed his back comfortingly and smiled as she pulled away. "You worry too much, Mickey."
He forced a smirk in agreement. "You give me good reason to."
"And before the guy knew what was happening, Mickey had him by the rim of his skivvies and made him scream like a little girl. True story, I swear."
Jenna Rawson was not drunk. That's what she kept telling us anyways. Whether we believed her after the fifth shot of sweet alcohol remained to be seen. She was adamant about it, claiming that American shots and English shots were two completely different things. Even her brother couldn't argue that fact. But he wasn't the one drinking himself into a migraine for the next morning in the bar across from Cooper's apartment. The same bar my teammates and I frequent after cases. He didn't approve of her Christmas night binge at all. Nor did he approve of the humiliating childhood stories she had been sharing involving her, Mick, and Liam. However, he sat beside her and faked a laugh with the rest of us. When she ordered more rounds for the rest of us and continued the stories, he played along like the responsible brother I had rarely seen him be.
The reason for why we were at the bar in the first place was simple. We all needed to unwind. The previous hours were spent with presents from each other and an early dinner at Coop's apartment. Gifts consisted of a Playstation 3 from Cooper for all of us to share at the office during our down time, although it was installed in my apartment for the time being, and several other small things such as jewelry for Beth and I and a new baseball cap for Prophet. It was Mick's idea to get him two tickets to his favorite baseball team for the next big game. Prophet gave him a new CD to one of his favorite bands in return, earning a wide grin because he had been trying to find the CD local for the past two weeks. Even Jenna pitched in with the presents from her home country. Several new Doctor Who books for her brother made him giddy like a child, and a few other traditional trinkets from England for the rest of us were greatly appreciated.
As I fingered my new necklace, a beautiful long gold chain with a single diamond pendent in the middle from Mick, I watched the two siblings in amusement. The bar lighting was soft and welcoming, illuminating the long bar we were sitting at. People came and went from the freezing snow outside. A bell at the front of the building barely sounded over the roar of holiday music from overhead. Windows were fogged, but gave us a decent view of the street lamps outside. Decorations were few and far between, hidden in the corners and along frameworks. The owner was a very cautious man and didn't like to play one side of religion, or lack of for that matter. I could respect that. The smell of alcohol was potent and suffocating as it pulled drinkers into a blissful stupor. Laughs from my teammates mingled with other friends and spouses in the room.
"I can't believe you did that. You were only what, twelve?" Beth turned to Mick two seats away with a grin in amusement. The sniper nodded and forced a laugh. Apparently Jenna wasn't supposed to tell anyone about the time he got in a fight with a high school student and only won because he was scrawny and scrappy.
Flores watched us from the end of the bar next to Cooper. She whispered something to him, then stood from her stool and excused herself to the bathroom. The bartender refilled her drink while she was gone along with our own. Having Jenna with Mick gave her an opportunity to see how he reacted. It allowed her to see just how protective he was over her, just how overbearing he tended to be because he feared for her safety. Getting drunk certainly didn't help his worry. If anything, it made things worse. But Flores knew that. That was why she watched the two with hawk-like eyes.
Mick had only refilled his glass once. Jenna made some quip about him not liking the American alcohol, which he didn't argue with, and that was why he refused to get drunk like he would normally do if they were back in London. She didn't know what almost happened in November. Obviously he hadn't told her and wasn't intending to either. So he let her believe what she wanted, but kept to her side and shot defensive glares at any man that approached her. I sat on his other side, nursing my own third drink and laughing as his sister shoved him sideways on the stool jokingly.
"Yeah, Mickey here was and still is a scrappy little thing." Jenna's own accent held the familiar slur I had heard so many times in Mick's. It wasn't as severe, but if she didn't stop soon she was going to have a painful hangover the next morning. "Then there was the time we met Liam." She grinned at Mick, who shook his head in silent warning. "He was about nine and I was around four. We lived with this bloke in a flat building full of crack heads and dealers. Eventually the place got busted by the police and shut down, but several kids were shuffled through because the system sucks there just as bad as the states, no offense…" She rambled for a moment, offering a quick smile at Prophet and Coop in apology. They nodded in agreement, signaling her to continue. "Christmas eve was spent with the bloke under a tree with a needle in his arm. Story goes that he left the door to the outside open and Mickey took me and ran. He somehow saw us leaving and managed to chase us into an abandoned shed behind the building, kind of like an outside cellar. We didn't know that Liam was hiding inside from his own foster parent who he stabbed to get away from. So we hid in there and wound up bringing the guy to him. He was going to kill us all because he was high as a kite, but Liam stopped him…"
"Liam stabbed him in the arm and scared him away. If it wasn't for him, we would be dead. He didn't know who we were so we fought for a few minutes. I busted his lip, he broke my nose. We've been best mates since." Mick finished with a slight smile.
"Wow, that's one hell of a story. So when do we get to meet this Liam? I'd like to meet the guy who outranks me…" Prophet asked with a smirk in admiration.
The Rawson siblings exchanged a sad expression, sipping their drinks to hopefully pass the time in unison. Jenna was the first to break the awkwardness between us, nudging her brother in the side lightly. They held a silent conversation in just eye contact alone. Something I found fascinating to watch. Mick swallowed thickly, taking the last of his alcohol in one long swig and ordering a second. Jenna turned back to Prophet and Beth and forced a fading smile. Flores chose that moment to retake her seat next to Cooper and leaned forward to listen to the conversation in curiosity. "Someday, hopefully. I wouldn't get your hopes up though. It's been years since he lost it. For all we know it could years before he comes out of it."
Prophet followed Beth's lead and frowned at the innuendos. They watched Mick and Jenna for a few seconds before Prophet spoke up sincerely. "I'm sorry…"
Mick sipped his new drink for a moment before shaking his head in dismissal. "There's nothing to be sorry about. He didn't handle war well and lost it because he was weak. Plain and simple."
Jenna shot him a harsh glare at his callous words, shoving him roughly in the arm. He slid on the stood and nearly fell. The cane against his leg clattered to the floor loudly. I bent down to retrieve it as she added, "It's not that simple. But those details are for another time. I hardly think Christmas is the time for such a horrid thing." One last glare to Mick sent the clear message.
The sniper nodded in agreement and raised his glass a few inches. "A toast, then. To family, past and present." He said, holding his glass out for the rest of us to join in.
Glasses clinked against each other as we recited his words. I couldn't help but grin as Jenna wrapped an arm around his shoulder and hugged him tightly, wishing him a mumbled 'Merry Christmas'. They may have been in disagreement about coming to the states, and even the current lines of embarrassing conversation, but they loved each other like any siblings should. Through thick and thin, they were there to pick up the pieces. It was truly one of the most heart-warming things I had ever seen.
Minutes passed with more humorous conversation. Jenna wasn't doing all of the talking this time. She and Mick kept quiet as Prophet and Beth started talking about funny office mishaps. Pranks they've pulled, take-downs that had gone amiss in some clever way, and even the embarrassing newer events of the mistletoe in the office door way that Mick and I was tricked into standing under. Some of them were not something I wanted to be told again. Others were too funny to pass up. By the time Prophet got to the take-down involving a basement filled with spiders that decided to swarm Mick and scared him into screaming curses in French, Jenna was nearly doubled over.
I broke away from the laughter for a moment to down my last glass, or at least I kept telling myself it was my last, and spun around in the stool to rest by elbows on the counter behind me. The windows drew my attention. Past the joyous people, beyond the chairs and tables that blocked them, through the snow and ice encrusting the old glass, was a figure looking inside. It was a human figure and judging by size, a child no more than mid-teen. They were wrapped in thick clothing that did little to keep them warm against newly falling snow and freezing temperatures. I squinted through the dimmed lighting in the room and pushed off the counter to try to look at it better. But the figure was eluding me. It stayed in the shadows like a ghost, swift and efficient in staying hidden from the world at large.
"What's wrong?" Mick asked as he spun around to inspect the same area I was. He furrowed his brow as he looked at me, watching me finger my necklace in uncertainty. "Gina…" He started to ask again, but stopped when the bar door bell rang again.
Both of us found ourselves staring at the young boy entering, shivering against the snow covering his tethered cap and loose coat. Boots were mismatched on his feet, one clearly smaller than the other with missing strings, and appeared just as dirty as his holey black sweatpants. He was certainly a runaway, no more than sixteen at the most and probably accustomed to the bar in some way. His staunch features were flushed with the cold and his thin boney hands were stuffed in his pockets in an attempt to stay warm. He walked up to an open stool and sat down, smiling at the bartender with a dirty tooth grin. They talked in a hush tone for a few moments. The boy pulled his cap off to reveal a mess of dirty blond hair in desperate need of a trim. Why anyone would allow a teenager in a bar was beyond me. It wasn't just illegal, but immoral. Well, it was to me anyways.
The bartender shook his head sharply, frowning and pointing to the door quickly. Whatever the boy said didn't convince him entirely. It wasn't until the boy pulled his cap back on and wiped tears from his eyes that the bartender decided to change his mind. He mumbled something under his breath and went to the register. A few moments later he was counting bills in one hand whilst keeping a keen eye on his unwelcome customer. He signaled to one of the waitresses as he rounded the counter and started to follow the boy towards the door. The register door had been closed silently, but he stuffed a small handful of bills in his pocket as he grabbed his coat from the nearby rack.
Mick and I didn't need to be told what to do. We knew that the bartender was giving the money to the boy and possibly whoever else the boy brought along. It was Christmas so the sudden generosity was a fresh sight compared to what we had seen before. But there was something wrong about the scene. Something I couldn't place. It sent a ping of fear through my spine, jerking me to my feet and focusing my eyes on the window I had seen the figure in. Something was so wrong. I could feel it with every breath I took. It was an indescribable change in atmosphere that had my mind reeling. Every worrisome fiber of my mind told me that I shouldn't be in the bar. That I should have been outside with my gun.
"Something's wrong." Mick voiced my concerns aloud, accent thick with unease as he rose from his seat and grasped his cane. Jenna was the first to notice our change in posture, quickly followed by the rest of our teammates. She frowned as she saw the nervousness in Mick's dark eyes. They reflected her own in so many ways, this just proved it. She tried to question us, but Mick offered a quick reassuring smile and excused himself for a few minutes.
I followed him towards the door, around the small crowd of people and away from our teammate's pressing questions. The bell rang again as the door creaked open. I stood aside as the bartender reentered and tried to avoid eye contact with us. He rounded the counter once again and hung his coat, then retook his post of serving alcohol and placing the a palatable mask on his face. Whatever happened out there only lasted for less than two minutes.
By the time Mick and I stepped out into the bitter winter streets and zipped out coats, the boy was gone. There was no ghosted figure in the line sight of the windows. As far as we could see, the only people we saw were the few people trying to get through the snow to make it home for some remains of a decent Christmas. Street lights were hazy through the flurry of snow, blurred and distraught, leaving the overcastted sky above to aid us. Pale moonlight poured through clouds and shined roof tops.
Pulling my scarf closed around my neck, I trailed behind Mick as he tracked the disheveled footprints on the streets before us. It didn't take long for Mick to see that his attempts were futile. There were too many people around, too many variables, to assess which prints belonged to whom. He stopped, spun on his heels, and started limping back towards the bar without a word. There was no need for conversation though. I read the confusion and nervousness on his face like he were an open book. It was so strange to see him that open. Maybe it was the alcohol, I had lost count of how many either of us had, or maybe it was the gut wrenching dread pulling my insides into knots. There was something that was going to happen. We both could feel it, but didn't know how to describe or react to it.
"You're a hard man to track down, Mister Rawson." A young teenage girl stated smartly from behind us. We turned towards her immediately, our hands going for the backup knives we carried in our boots out of paranoia. It was pointless to draw them when we saw who the girl was. Josephine Blair. The same fourteen year old pick pocket that should have been with witness protection agents. She should have been in a safe house for the time being until her new life officially began. Until the terrorist cell that was after her and her foster father was found, she shouldn't have been on the streets. It was too dangerous, too suicidal. Why the hell would she risk such a thing?
"What the bloody hell are you doing here?" Mick asked harshly, advancing on her to force her back towards the alley between the bar and the neighboring building she had been hiding in. He scanned her up and down once, biting his lip nervously. The girl was still wearing the same coat and clothing as when we first saw her. Her red hair was pulled up and tied into the cap. The scarf around her neck was lined with snow on the back, dripping from the hat and onto her shoulders. It was pulled back slightly, revealing long bangs that were pushed aside of her forehead. "Where are the agents you were assigned with?"
Jo shrugged, stuffing her hands in her pockets. "I had to get away to tell you guys something important. That boy you saw in the bar a few minutes ago, he's not a street kid from around here. I've seen him once before a few years ago. His sister worked with Welkin in some way. I don't know how, exactly, I just know that it was dangerous. She threatened him a few times and that boy was always with her when she did." She replied, shuffling the snow with her boots uneasily.
"That's what you came to tell us? That the boy has some connection to your foster father? Did you have to run away again to tell us that?" I questioned, standing behind Mick.
"No, that wasn't the important thing." She responded, rummaging through her pockets for a moment. When she couldn't find what she was looking for in the barely lit alley entrance, she shoved past Mick and stood under the nearest light post.
We followed, Mick crouching down so her was looking up at her by a few inches. He sighed loudly and rubbed a fingerless gloved hand over his face. "Look, Jo, ya can't stay out here. It's too dangerous…" He stated sincerely, gripping the cane tighter as he rocked on his toes.
"I know it is. But you have to see this." Jo pulled out a small frayed blue leathered book from her coat pocket and held it out for him to take. "I've been having dreams about the guy who attacked me all those years ago since it happened. I know I lied to you about not remembering. That wasn't entirely a lie. There's a lot I still don't remember. But this is everything I do. Every little detail I've ever dreamed about is in that book. Hopefully it'll help find the men who are after me."
Mick glanced up at me as if asking my opinion. When I didn't give any because I was just as shocked as he was, he ground his teeth together and forced a smile. "You didn't have to run away to give this to us…"
"I wanted to see you two one last time. They told me that I can't have any connections to my old life. Colette will be adopted by some other person and I'll never see her again. I'll never see either of you again." She interrupted, voice suddenly changing into a sincere tone. It was a harsh reminder that she was just a child at heart. A teenager, only fourteen years of age, foreseen into so many daunting situations that could turn hardened men into sobbing messes. How she managed to stay sane through it all was a miracle.
The sniper's expression seemed to soften at her words. He looked up at me once more and smiled kindly, then grasped the edge of the book. She didn't release it immediately, keeping her eyes locked on his own. "Thank you. We'll find them, I promise."
Jo released the book and stuffed her hands in her pockets, nodding quickly before spinning her boots in the snow and taking a step forward.
That was her last mistake.
A crack echoed through the air, breaking the sound barrier in the length of a heartbeat. I could hear the buzz of the bullet cutting through snow, deafening my eardrums, yanking my heart from my chest with such force that I actually feared I had been hit. For the briefest moment I thought I could hear the snowfall around me. Beyond the bullet cracking through bone and flesh, it seemed too loud. The world felt like it had stopped completely. We were in shock, I knew. Mick and I couldn't find any way to move. Our brains fought to catch up with reality.
We fought to understand what was happening. Why Jo was falling into the snow sideways, knees crumbling underneath her weight, a slow dribble of blood staining the back of her scarf, the hole slightly larger than my thumb protruding from the cloth material. How she managed to only take one step away from Mick, leaving him breathless and face splattered with her blood, before being shot by an unknown sniper. Why we had to watch her die and not be able to so much as move a muscle or form a sensible thought. How the only trace evidence of the kill was a bullet lodged in the cement sidewalk, inches from Mick's left boot, staining the snow in a nauseating red that left me queasy and sick to my stomach.
The only thought my mind could conceive at that moment was she was dead. Josephine Blair was dead.
Note- Ta-da! Hello again people! Here's the last chapter of this story. Yes, it is probably the longest chapter I've written so far. I think my muse ran away from me again.
There is so much information in this chapter that will be use later. The first part is pure Mick/Gina because it plays into the ending really well. Gina did forget to get Mick a present because she had been too busy. It really bothered her, so I had to figure out a way to resolve that. Mick knows that material possessions are just a commodity and not necessary for happiness, so I used that to solve it. That entire scene worked out really well. The part where she kisses him on the cheek was really cute to write. I personally thought it was one of my best scenes. Then, of course, there's Jenna. She decide to visit for the holidays because she needed to. That plays into the next story beginning. The second part is team centric towards the beginning. Jenna gets a little drunk and starts sharing childhood stories, much to Mick's dismay, which turned out really good. The small insight into how they met Liam also showed what the general Christmas's were like for them. Don't worry, that will be explored in more detail in a future story that involves Liam. Little hints are more interesting, in my opinion, than the full detail. It leaves a lot of room for speculation that is fun. Lastly, the ending. What can I say about that other than 'wow'? It even shocked me and I wrote it. The boy who walked into the bar plays into the next story. As well as Jo's murder and the book. I think it's one of the most intense scenes I have ever put together. When I told me dad the idea a few days ago, he was just as shocked as I was. He was kind of freaked out that I was going to kill a child in the story. To be honest, I have to agree. It has to be this way though because it's a clue to the terrorists, but it was still hard to write. Not hard as is in physically uneasy, but hard as in mentally taxing. The way I pictured it was the source of a nightmare two nights ago. But I don't think I could change it now. There's just too much that ties into it from one story plot to the next.
So, I think that's it. This entire story has been fun and I've enjoyed thoroughly. I hope you all have too. Please leave a review to let me know your thoughts. Good or bad, it doesn't matter. (Although I do love good reviews more than bad…) Thank you to everyone who has read, reviewed, and subscribed to my work so far. I'm glad you all have enjoyed it.