Warning: detailed description of explicit heterosexual encounter. Please read or not accordingly.

Chapter 1: Handler's Handler

Casey sat on a stool in his kitchen, a cup of coffee within reach. He smiled to himself and gazed at the calendar page on the countertop in front of him. The squares for the upcoming week were a pristine white.

Planning his free time was something he had always enjoyed since there usually seemed to be so little of it. Lately, though, baby-sitting the Intersect, Casey found he was very close to having more free time on his hands than he knew what to do with. For the first time in more years than he cared to remember, the NSA assassin, in his role as undercover handler, was almost living like a normal person.

He had his job at the Buy More and had become a top salesman. He chuckled to himself at the thought that he was always a more effective salesman when he could use a gun to help people arrive at the correct decision, but trying to convince some reluctant doofus to spend three or four hundred more dollars than they had intended on something they didn't need just by the power of his words and body language was a rush. It made all those boring hours in the NSA psych classroom seem worthwhile and not just more time stolen from the firing range and hand-to-hand combat.

Picking up a pen, he began to write. Under Sunday: marketing, dinner at CB's, do apple-bake dessert. Monday: barber shop, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday –

Just then, he heard a knock on the apartment door. Cursing softly to himself, he put the pen down and got up, thinking of two or three ways he could hurt the person at the door if it was somebody selling insurance or encyclopedias or something.

Casey opened the door and, with lowered brows, growled out, "Waddaya want?"

The young woman standing there didn't appear intimidated at all. In fact, she seemed completely at ease as she looked him straight in the eye and said, "This isn't what the weatherman said on the news."

Casey, not missing a beat, replied, "They should get their facts straight, don't you think?"

The code sequence was properly completed by the woman with the words, "It would save time."

Stepping aside and holding the door open wider, Casey allowed the woman to slip under his arm and into the apartment. Taking a brief look around to assure himself that nobody was lurking in the courtyard to see her enter, he closed the door and locked it securely.

Turning to face him as Casey came back into the living room, the woman set her purse and a small nylon carryall on the floor. She then slipped off her jacket and slung it over the back of the big La-Z-Boy chair that held pride of place in the room. Casey gave her an appraising look, taking in her trim figure and understated, tasteful clothing, the soft cashmere sweater and hip-skimming A-line skirt outlining her shape just the way Casey liked it best.

"They sure don't spring for any extras, do they?" she commented, looking around the apartment as Casey picked up her jacket and went over to the small closet near the apartment door to hang it up neatly.

"Don't need much," said Casey, going straight through to the kitchen. "I was just having a coffee. Want one?"

"You don't happen to have anything stronger, do you?" the woman asked, sitting down on the sofa and making herself at home.

"Whiskey all right? I have a bottle of Jack Daniels," Casey called out from the kitchen, pulling the bottle and two cocktail glasses out of a cupboard.

"Please. On the rocks."

Casey smiled as he poured out two healthy shots, both over ice, and carried them back into the living room. He handed one glass to the woman and reached down with his glass to clink the side of hers.

"Skål," he said, and they each raised the glasses to their lips. Casey lowered his glass, looking straight at her face as he felt the cool sting of the whiskey going down his throat. He saw the challenge in her eyes as she did the same, and they slowly smiled at one another.

Casey sat down in the big chair across from the woman and leaned forwards. She crossed her legs slowly, and he knew she had waited until he had had a completely unobstructed view before she had done so. Casey recognized immediately that she was trying to soften him up and, frankly, it was beginning to work.

They sat in silence for another minute, coolly appraising one other. Finally, Casey broke the silence with a question.

"I've been on this assignment for several months. Why hasn't a handler made contact before now?"

"We didn't see a need to," the woman replied. "You seemed to be dealing with the situation pretty well. You're in regular contact with Headquarters, so the general has been monitoring your progress as far as that goes. And you're working with a partner. Even though she's CIA, she's a stabilizing influence."

"Stabilizing?" Casey inquired. "This is a psychological protocol? Forgive me for saying, Doctor, but you don't look like the last guy the NSA set me up with for a couch trip."

"You're right, it is a psych protocol. It's something new," the woman explained. "You'll be happy to know you're one of the guinea pigs, so to speak."

Casey grinned. "My nose is twitching with curiosity," he joked, draining the last of his whiskey.

The woman looked down for a moment, her brow furrowed in concentration. When she looked up again, she was all business.

"Agent attrition is at its highest rate since the end of the Cold War and recruitment hasn't made up for the shortfall. Recent international terrorism threats have meant that we need more agents than ever out in the field, and since the enemy has now brought the fight past our doorstep and onto home soil, the NSA is starting to feel the manpower crunch as well."

She paused for a moment, giving the introductory information a bit of time to sink in before she continued.

"Contrary to what the movies depict, the biggest threat to agent longevity isn't a hostile bullet, it's the agent's own mind. It's tough out there. I'm sure you remember, Major Casey. After all, you were in deep cover for a long time during the '80s."

Of course she would have read his file, and Casey nodded his head slowly in agreement with her assessment.

"Go on," he prompted.

"For the post-Cold War generation, agents my age and even younger, this type of intelligence work is totally new, and they're not coping well at all. The analysts had to come up with an effective and, frankly, cost-effective way of keeping agents from going off the deep end while on assignment."

"And?" asked Casey, raising his eyebrows.

"They decided that the isolation – the lack of unguarded human contact and interaction – was the problem. As you know, an agent on a cover assignment can't risk too much of that sort of thing, so they're in danger of becoming lonely and more than a little stir-crazy."

When the woman paused again, Casey merely looked at her patiently until she resumed speaking.

"I'm here as your secure companion," she stated, a smile appearing on her face once again.

"But I'm not crazy," Casey returned, also smiling again. "At least I'm pretty sure I'm not."

"That's the point, Major Casey, it's to keep you from going crazy. I'll be here overnight. You can say anything to me. I have even been told to use my discretion about what I put in my follow-up report so you'll feel comfortable. And what I do put in my report will be eyes-only, highest level."

Placing her now-empty glass on the table near Casey's, the woman stood and approached his chair. She stopped in front of him, and he had to look up to see her face. Since this angle caused her breasts to appear fuller and more shapely under the clinging fabric, Casey didn't mind at all. It didn't even bother him that she was most likely standing exactly where she was for just that reason.

"I've studied your psych profile carefully," she purred, reaching down to lightly brush the edge of his jaw with the backs of her fingers, sending a frisson of sensation down his spine. "You're capable of surviving a long time on your own, John. That's why you've been in this business as long as you have. You're one of our best. But everyone has at least one weak spot."

She turned and lowered her bottom onto Casey's lap, placing her palms flat on his chest as he opened his arms to receive her and circled them lightly around her hips. Clasping his hands together and resting them on her thigh, he smiled at her warmly.

"You can manage with pictures from magazines and a little, shall we say, manual labor, but you prefer a live woman from time to time, and we can't risk having you form a liaison with non-secure personnel," she continued.

"I'm assuming you mean prostitutes," Casey said.

"Yes, prostitutes," she said, "but not only prostitutes. Any woman who hasn't been cleared by the agency, actually. And since you're not often in contact with anyone suitable, well, they sent me."

"And I'm glad they did," Casey stated firmly.

There wasn't much else he could say at that moment, however. Those shrinks were onto something. As soon as the female agent had finished explaining the situation, Casey felt as if a dam had broken inside of him. He had held all aspects of his inner self in check for so long it had become second nature, but he had just, in effect, received permission to let go, and he gasped aloud as the realization hit him.

"See, it's working already," said the woman, and she kissed him gently on his lower lip. "That's it, let it all out, you're safe now," she continued.

When she saw the panic in his eyes at the unaccustomed loss of control, she waited for a moment, then drew his head towards herself and rested it on her breasts, all the while crooning, "Let it out, let it go."

Casey's body trembled violently for a few seconds and he was surprised to realize that the low groan he could hear was actually his own. He held the woman tightly and pressed his eyelids closed as wave after wave of emotion crashed through him and he gasped for breath with great gulping sounds.

Like a film running on fast forward, images of the people Casey had killed raced through his memory. The frightened looks just before he pulled the trigger. Their lifeblood coursing out of their bodies. Their insides, now on the outside, glistening in the headlights of the black car Casey had arrived in or the rain-distorted light of a streetlamp that he had stepped into, silently, from the shadows.

Perhaps the most disturbing images were those seen through a high-powered rifle sight. The look of incomprehension and bewilderment before Casey's target slumped to the floor, unaware that a bullet sent speeding on its way a moment before from a source too far distant to make out with the naked eye had just entered the place where they thought they were safe and ended their life with cold efficiency and very little fanfare.

All the stored-up memories, locked away for so long and actively ignored, jostled for attention and demanded a human reaction. The kind of reaction that Casey had been so carefully trained not to display. Not even to himself.

Finally, as the progression of images began to trickle away, Casey's breathing slowed and he opened his eyes, blinking to clear the moisture from his vision and, taking a final deep breath, he became still and aware of his surroundings again.

Casey's tears had wet the woman's sweater and his first impulse was to apologize, but as he tried to pull his head away she held it in place, stroking his hair, and he relaxed and sighed, giving himself up to the kind of healing comfort he hadn't allowed himself to feel in many, many years.

"There, that's better," the woman declared brightly.

She released the pressure on Casey's head and he gazed up at her face, more than a little in awe of her.

"How did you know?" he asked. "I wouldn't have broken nearly that fast under torture. How can you do that so quickly?"

"I told you, I studied your file," she replied.

Standing again and smoothing her skirt, she added with a self-satisfied grin, "And you're not the only one who's a good agent. Come with me."

She grasped his hand and pulled him to his feet. Completely docile now, Casey felt as though he were in a trance as the woman stooped to pick up the bag and her purse and, still holding onto his hand, led him upstairs to his bedroom.

"Now," she directed, "you sit here and wait for just a few minutes. Don't do anything and I'll be back in two shakes of a lamb's tail."

She turned away to go into the ensuite bathroom and Casey smiled at the old saying. He hadn't heard that one for a long time, and the image of a lamb's tail twitching to and fro morphed into the woman's shapely backside as he watched her walk across the bedroom and close the door of the bathroom behind her.

While Casey waited, he wondered what was in store for him. What had his personality profile told her was appropriate? He had just decided to give himself up to the experience and was starting to feel a sense of anticipation when he heard the sound of the light switch in the bathroom followed by that of the doorknob turning.

Of course, when the door opened, the sight that met his eyes was absolutely perfect. By this point, he expected nothing less.

She walked to the middle of the room, barefoot. She was wearing a pale jade-colored Japanese happy coat made of fine silk. Underneath, he could see a white satin camisole, long enough to reach the middle of her thighs. Neither garment was embellished by embroidery, just the simple, supple fabric that gave her a fresh and refreshing appearance.

"Come here, John," she said, a smile playing at the corners of her mouth.

Casey didn't hesitate for a moment. He stood and walked over to her, going around to stand behind her back. As if reading his mind, she waited quietly and allowed him to take the lead.

First off, he found the pin in her hair that was keeping it all up in a roll on the back of her head. He drew it out and threw it to the floor, enjoying the sight of her hair as it slid out of the confining style and flipped loosely down her back. Then he pushed her hair out of the way and stooped to kiss her neck under one ear, his breathing already starting to speed up as he smelled her skin. He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply through his nose to get the full effect.

Grasping her by the shoulders and turning her around to face him, Casey smiled and grunted in appreciation as he slid the coat from her shoulders and immediately saw that her hardened nipples had raised the white fabric covering them. He lowered his hands to the hem of the garment and slid them underneath, cupping her bare buttocks and kneading them slowly.

The woman let out a brief sound like the cry of a small kitten and bent her knees slightly so she could spring into the air. Wrapping her legs around Casey's hips and her arms around his neck, she kissed him eagerly, first on his lips, then his cheeks and neck, and the pressure of her kisses matched the pressure around his lower abdomen. Casey became aware of certain logistical problems with this scenario and cleared his throat.

"Unless you want to do my laundry, I think we'd better slow down a bit," he said, his voice husky with desire.

The woman laughed lightly and put her feet back on the floor. She began to unbutton Casey's shirt from the top, completing the job by touch when he claimed her mouth for an urgent kiss.

He had to let her go for a moment to tug his arms out of the sleeves of his shirt and pull his undershirt over his head, but his hands and lips were back on her as soon as they were free, his hands once again searching under her camisole and moving up and over the soft curve of her belly, finally cupping the undersides of her breasts.

This allowed enough space between them for the woman to undo his belt and pants, and she pulled them away from his waist and down over his thighs quickly as he stepped out of his shoes and pulled his socks off one by one, using the toes of the opposite foot.

"Impressive," she observed, laughing again. "Quite the technique."

"I'm a man of many talents," Casey boasted, pausing in his kissing for a moment to step out of his pants and kick them to one side.

"Yes, you certainly are," remarked the female agent, as she lowered his boxer shorts, revealing Casey's erection, which was stimulated even more when the air hit it.

"I'm sorry, I can't wait. You're just too good," he said, bringing his hands out from under her camisole and grasping the lower edge.

She raised her arms into the air and he drew the fabric upwards and off, tossing it aside. They turned and hurried over to the bed, and as the woman sat down on the edge, Casey opened the drawer of the bedside table and pulled out a box of condoms.

He fumbled with the opening of the box in his haste and swore in frustration.

"Here," the woman said, holding out her hand. "Sit down."

Casey gave her the box and meekly sat down beside her, his member standing at the finest military attention and jerking occasionally as tiny muscle spasms hit him.

Opening the box and pulling out a plastic packet, the woman expertly tore open one end and drew out the latex device. Checking to see which way it was rolled up, she placed the closed end over the head of Casey's penis and unrolled it down the shaft, using both hands to smooth it quickly into place. This sensation did not improve the situation for Casey, however, and he hurriedly stood, pushed the woman gently down onto the bed, and joined her, lying on his side so they were facing one another.

He found her mouth again and they relaxed into a deep kiss. His tongue slid into her mouth to find her tongue as his fingers slipped slowly into her vagina and out again. They felt quite wet and Casey grinned as he looked at her face and asked, "Okay? Now?"

She looked at him and nodded emphatically, saying, "You're damn right, now," and turned over onto her back, spreading her knees apart and moving his weight over top of her with her hands on his hips.

Casey placed himself in what he judged to be the correct location and was rewarded for that judgment when he felt her hand guiding him in. He pushed slowly, groaning deep in his chest, and his breaths started to come out in short pants. Pulling back out slightly, he heard the woman groan too, and he began with a slow, rhythmic thrust, pulling out more each time until the full length of his hard penis was almost falling out before he pushed his hips back towards her again.

When he got to this point, the woman, whose hips were moving in rhythm with his, grabbed his ears with both hands, pulled his head closer to hers, and ground out between clenched teeth, "More, harder," and Casey complied, using the strong muscles of his buttocks and thighs to power the motion.

He knew his control was slipping, however, when he began to feel the ripple of the female agent's vaginal walls, and he gave himself up to the sensation, adding an extra little pelvic thrust at the end of each push that caused the woman to moan loudly.

Finally, he could hold back no longer, and with one final thrust, he ejaculated, stopping to feel the wave of pulses through his whole body. When the sensation had diminished, he held his weight in the air over the woman for a moment longer until she forcefully pulled him down onto herself, and he kissed her tenderly once more, slipping his now-flaccid member out of her.

She moaned softly at the movement and twitched her hips under him in a last spasm of enjoyment, her body finally coming to rest on the bed.

Casey rolled off of her and said, "Just a minute," and he swung his legs around until he was once again sitting on the side of the bed. He carefully removed the condom, tied the open end into a knot, and dropped it into the waste basket beside the night table.

Lying back down beside the woman, he put his arms around her and drew her to him once again, skin to skin, the soothing warmth making him smile and sigh with contentment. He kissed her forehead lightly and rolled onto his back, plumping up the pillows slightly behind his shoulders and head. The woman rolled onto her side and laid her head on his shoulder while drawing her leg up so it rested across his thighs and, one hand caressing the hair on his chest, also sighed. They didn't speak for a couple of minutes, and when Casey realized he had been wearing an idiot grin the whole time, he raised a hand to his mouth and cleared his throat, hoping she hadn't seen it.

"I asked to be assigned to you, you know," the woman said, looking up into Casey's downturned face.

"Is that so?" he replied, amused. "What's the verdict?"

"Passed with flying colors," she answered, and they laughed.

"If you give me a few more minutes, then it's your turn for a test," he said. "And I've got very high standards."

"Well, I'll have to try really hard, then," the woman said, running a hand down Casey's stomach and twining her fingers into the hair at the base of his abdomen.

"Speaking of hard..." Casey commented, and he groaned and wondered how she was able to affect him so easily.

They made love through the night three more times. It was the best Casey had done since he was a teenager. The woman was agile and versatile, and Casey pretty much never knew what was going to happen next, which he found incredibly exciting.

When they were resting, they talked and he felt completely at ease doing so. For the first time in his life, including the time before he had become an agent, Casey really opened up to another person. It was very cathartic and he cried again, the woman comforting him as before and allowing him the release he so desperately needed.

Finally, Casey fell asleep, and when he awoke, sunlight was streaming through the holes between the slats of the Venetian blinds, making him blink at its brightness. The woman was gone, and Casey felt a sense of loss for a moment until his nose registered the smell of fresh coffee coming from the kitchen.

He got up and went to the bathroom, relieved himself, and jumped into the shower for a quick refreshing wash. He got out, dried himself off, then brushed his teeth, stopping every once in a while to look in the mirror and admire the grin on his face that didn't seem to want to go away.

Just as he was getting back into bed and pulling up the covers, the woman, once again wearing the green robe, came into the room carrying a tray holding coffee and a large platter of pancakes. Casey cleared a spot on the bedside table and, when she had put the tray down, Casey, gazing hungrily at the tray and licking his lips, said, "I think I love you."

Breakfast was over. After they had both dressed and tidied up the bedroom, they came downstairs and stood in the middle of the room looking at each other, exchanging a last friendly and knowing smile.

"I saw your calendar in the kitchen. Mark me down for two weeks from yesterday," she remarked.

Casey pouted playfully and said, "Two weeks? How am I going to last two weeks?"

"I left a copy of Lady Soldier of Fortune for you in the bathroom," she quipped, and he laughed as she picked up her bags and turned to the door.

Casey went with her, undid the locks and released the security system, opening the door for her so she could step outside.

"Wait, am I allowed to know your name?" Casey asked hurriedly before she got too far away from the door.

The woman half-turned and, with just the hint of a sly smile, replied, "Melody. Melody Beckman."