WRITTEN: 02/18/99

DISCLAIMER: I did not create, nor do I have any rights to these characters or the material; they were all borrowed by me, sans permission of their rightful owners. This is merely 'an homage' to some characters I've come to love inviting into my home each week...and as the Pythons once said, "It's only a bit of fun." :-)

SPOILERS: For 'Judgment'.....*big time*. You've been warned.

FYI: Anything bracketed by double colons (::"yadda, yadda"::) indicates what that character is thinking.

Repercussion (01/01) by AnnieM

It should have been an easy case for them. Fun, even.

An employee of a major toy manufacturer was seeking retribution against the co-worker who had stolen one of his designs that went on to make millions for the company. The thief was given an executive vice-presidential position; and Chapel and KC's client was one of the first people he fired. The client sought to have the man's wrongdoings exposed, and to recieve rightful credit for his creation.

As far as KC could see, this particular case was neither dangerous nor complicated. Why, then, she wondered, was Chapel having such a difficult time becoming focused?

They were in one of their usual suites at the Paladin; Chapel sat at the table, going through the motions of tapping something into the laptop in front of him. KC was draped sideways across the overstuffed chair, perusing the case file; or, more accurately, was *trying* to peruse the case file. Mostly, her gaze kept wandering across the room to fall on her partner. He'd been rather solemn, almost melancholy, these past few weeks, and she was becoming concerned.

Boredom? No. Not likely. Chapel loved his work, especially cases like this - one where nobody's life was in danger, and very likely wouldn't be.

No, it was something else entirely. Try as she might to avoid it, KC knew that the events of last month were still weighing heavily on Chapel's mind...his getting shot, and the death of Stan Garkos, who was sent by the corrupt Judge Wabash to eliminate him. In the end, Garkos had taken a bullet for Chapel, and wound up in a pine box for his trouble. And then, there was...well, what she'd steered way clear of mentioning to Chapel up until this point.

As if sensing KC's thoughts, Chapel looked up from the computer screen to find her staring at him.

"What?"

*Busted*. Sheepishly, KC shook her head and quickly looked away.

"Nothing."

"All righty, then." He turned his attentions back to the laptop.

KC sat there and nibbled at one of her cuticles, her eyes darting from the file in her lap to Chapel and back again, as if in silent debate.

This movement was not lost on Chapel's peripheral vision; a bit more firmly, with just a touch of weariness in his voice, he asked again...

"*What*?"

Flinching slightly, KC composed herself, and closed the folder.

"All right," she began, as she crossed the room and slid into the seat opposite Chapel.

"We need to have a talk."

Tilting his head just shy of a nod, Chapel closed the lid on the computer, and leaned back in his seat.

"Okay...let's talk. About...?"

"You. You've been acting really weird lately. Even for *you*."

"Weird."

"Yes. I mean, no-" She waved a hand in front of her face. "I mean, distracted. Preoccupied. Even *I* can see that this is a relatively easy case, yet you can't seem to get it together, like your mind's a million miles away or something. Chapel, I know Stan Garkos' death shook your foundation somewhat, but there's more going on here than you're letting me know."

"Is there, now?"

KC pressed her lips together, and took a quick breath.

"Don't be flippant; when the work is affected, I have a right to ask. And hey, *news-flash*! I'm also your *friend*, like it or not, and I care."

"Well, I'm..._touched_ by your concern, but I'm fine."

Chapel moved to open the laptop again, when KC reached out, gently grabbing his arm to stop him. Chapel's eyes traveled from her hand up to her face, causing KC to jerk her arm back, as if burned. With a slight shudder of intimidation, she continued.

"No...you're *not* fine. I hesitated to bring this up, but something- ...something *happened* when you got shot-"

"Yeah; I bled a lot."

KC ignored his interruption. "When we were waiting for the vet to arrive, you were drifting in and out of consciousness, of delirium..."

"And..?"

KC bit her lip. "You kept calling out to somebody named Laura."

Chapel froze, his face becoming a mask of stone. Silently, he rose and walked over to the window, his back to KC.

:: "*Now* I've done it..." :: KC thought nervously to herself.

"Chapel...?"

He looked up, but did not turn.

"Laura Baker...she was my wife."

KC squeezed her eyes shut, folding her lips in tightly over her teeth; a look of extreme regret crossed her face. When she finally dared to open her eyes again, she found Chapel staring at her. His face was still devoid of expression, but the pain in his eyes shone clearly. And it broke her heart.

"I'm sorry," she mumbled quietly, lowering her head.

Chapel took a deep breath; letting it out slowly, he ran a hand across his jawline. He returned to the table, leaning against the edge on his knuckles.

"No...don't be. This was a risk I took when I let you on as my partner; I knew it couldn't be avoided forever; hell, I've trusted you with my life; the least I can do is trust you with my past..." His gaze wandered over to the window and back to her.

"KC, what I'm about to tell you, I've never discussed with anyone else. *Ever*. It does not leave this room, and it never gets brought up again...understood?"

Chapel's eyes were like blue steel as they bored into hers, punctuating the question that wasn't really a question at all; she nodded her assent, unable to speak. He began to pace, occasionally turning toward her as he continued.

"Not so many years ago, I was in a very different line of work...the kind where the phrase 'search and destroy' pretty much sums up the job description."

KC gulped. No wonder he'd been so cavalier about Stan trying to kill him...he'd worn Stan's shoes before.

Her reaction was not lost on him. "Yeah. Well, it wasn't mob stuff - nothing like that - most of what I did, I did for our government....anyway, there was this science project the Feds had that went awry; it got pissed, and flew the coop-"

" 'Science project'? "

"You don't want to know."

"Okay. Sorry."

He nodded once. "As I was saying, this science project... I was part of the team brought in to 'take care of' the problem," he said, hooking his fingers like quotation marks for emphasis. "Laura was a molecular biologist, also assigned to the team; that's how we met."

"She was smart, gutsy, beautiful...completely unintimidated by my line of work..." Chapel looked away, as if his gaze allowed him to see back in time...

::"Whaddya do for kicks out there in Simi Valley?":: ::"Oh...*pine* for guys like you..."::

::"Wanna dance?":: ::"Who...me?":: ::"Yeah, *you*."::

::"Well, I know what you do, and it doesn't scare me.":: ::"Oh really?":: ::"No.":: ::"Well...it does most people."::

Chapel came out of his reverie with a barely audible breath to find KC waiting patiently for his return to the present.

"The attraction was mutual...we got involved; the mission ended, and we stayed involved. Three months later, we got married." He glanced down briefly at his left hand, rubbing absently at the bare ring finger with his thumb.

KC sat back, trying to picture Chapel as somebody's husband. Strange as it seemed, it wasn't all that difficult for her to imagine. Still, considering the effect that Chapel had on most people...well, Laura Baker must have been quite a woman. She listened intently as he continued, saddened by the knowledge that this story would not end happily.

"We'd been married almost a year when I took an assignment that kept me away for over a month; on it's completion, I called Laura to let her know I was done and was about to board a plane for home...I could practically see her smile over the phone. She made me promise her I'd wake her when I arrived if she was asleep, since she had some great news that couldn't wait until morning." At this point, Chapel paused, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath.

"When I got home, everything looked normal, but something didn't feel right; Laura had left a light on for me, but wasn't downstairs. I went up to our bedroom, and found her curled up on the bed; I didn't wanna turn on the bright light and hurt her eyes, so I opened the curtains to let the moonlight in...that's when I saw the blood..."

KC closed a hand over her mouth, bracing herself for what would come next.

Chapel visibly steeled himself before going on. "I turned on the light; she'd been shot, back of the head, execution style...there were no signs of struggle...she'd never even seen it coming..." He turned his gaze away from her then, as if it might hide the emotions playing across his face.

KC had seen the mist that began to cloud the blue of Chapel's eyes; ever stoic, he pushed it back. She wanted so badly to embrace him then, to touch his hand...something, *anything*, but she knew better; so she sat there, gnawing on her thumbnail, trying desperately to hold in her own tears, silently grateful that Chapel was no longer looking at her as he spoke.

"She'd been dead for a couple of hours when I found her; it was a professional hit...in, *boom*, out, without a trace... completely clean, and utterly generic...the only clues left behind were a photo of the two of us smeared with Laura's blood, and a typed note that said, 'You destroyed my life, now I've destroyed yours.'"

Chapel closed his eyes, inhaling sharply. "The shooter could have been any one of a hundred people; in my line of work, you didn't make many friends, but you made a lot of enemies. The police investigation turned up nothing, of course; I called in a friend from the FBI's violent crimes unit - still nothing. The crime scene was so clean, there was virtually no way of finding out who was responsible; I knew it, and *they* knew it...they only cared about having it done; my knowing the who and the why was immaterial to them. The only thing I found out was what Laura's great news had been...she'd been seven weeks pregnant."

KC lowered her head; "Oh, God...," she whispered.

"Well...that was it...I quit. The day I buried Laura, I walked away from my old life, and never looked back. Preston Lennox ceased to exist."

"P-Preston...Lennox..?" asked KC, in a tiny voice.

Chapel nodded. "Yeah...you were expecting Rumpelstiltskin, maybe?", he asked, without missing a beat.

"I...uh..."

Tilting his head, Chapel raised his eyebrows at her to convey that the remark had been rhetorical; a hint of scarlet flushed her cheeks.

"I took the name 'Chapel', since that's where I was when I said my final goodbyes...to my wife...to a child I'd never know...and to the life that cost me what mattered the most; ...from that day on, I decided to use what I had left in me to help people...people who had nowhere else to turn...like me;...and, here we are..."

He stood beside her, spreading his hands palms up, in a 'that's it'-type gesture; reaching back behind him, Chapel leaned his large frame against the edge of the table, giving his partner a moment to process everything she'd just heard.

At a loss for words, KC inhaled deeply, her eyes wide as she let it out, shaking her head slowly.

"Chapel, I...I'm so sorry...I...I don't-"

"Then don't."

Taking a step away from the table, Chapel gently placed a hand on KC's shoulder as he turned to face the window yet again.

"KC...have I ever told you how much I appreciate having you here? As a partner...and a friend? I never have, have I? Well, I do...I want you to know that."

Blinking back a tear or two, KC quickly swiped at her eyes with her shirtcuff and slid her hand over Chapel's, giving it a squeeze.

::"I know...":: she thought to herself, nodding once as their eyes met. She gave him a tentative smile, which he returned full-on, bringing the blush back to her cheeks; she dipped her head.

Mostly to stave off her embarassment, and maybe a little of his own, too, Chapel circled the table and sat back down opposite KC; rubbing his palms together, he opened up the laptop, and with a cocked eyebrow, asked...

"Back to work?"

She nodded vigorously. "Back to work."

"Well...all righty, then."

~Fin~

ENDNOTES: Yep. In my version of the VUniverse, the events of 'Species II' never took place...they never should have in *our* universe, either, but that's a whole 'nother kettle of fish. ;-) And, yes, that was actual dialogue from the first film that I borrowed for Chapel's flashback. Anyway, after rewatching 'Species' not too long ago, I found that Pres reminded me a lot of Chapel...which led to the tale presented here.

Thank You All for reading. If you liked it, hated it, whatever, feedback is always appreciated. Thanks again. :-)

AnnieM *~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~* "Everybody goes inside when it rains. I guess that's why I like to go out."
-- Michael Madsen