Hey folks I've had this on my mind for a while so here it is. I dedicate this to BlindLovefreeSpirit for obvious reasons.

Tell me if you still care aka How I joined the Bureau. This story is connected to Untitled and When Doves Cry so read up on them to fully understand it.

- Me.

Nicole unzipped her gym bag and took out the bulging brown envelope. Rivers watched her closely, waiting her signs of weakness and softly stroking his gun with his index finger.

"I don't trade." He told her in advanced, recognising the eight thousand dollar packet from earlier in the day. "If your punk ass boyfriend can't move his goods…"

"He's not my boyfriend." She abruptly cut him off and he thought of ways to make her regret it.

"He should know better to ask me for compensation."

"He didn't send me if that's what you think. I'm here for me. I need protection."

Rivers leaned back in his chair as far as was possible. His eyes did a tilt shot on her body and he wondered how in all those years he never really noticed her; it was because she was never really around. "Why should I protect you?"

"Don't flatter yourself." He gripped the gun in his lap this time, fully aware that if she was male, or worked for him or that if they were in public and not in his grimy private office; she would be choking out words and coughing blood for disrespecting him. "I need something to make a statement."

"A throwdown?"

"So it can jam and blow up my hand? Hell no. Something imported, like the coke that killed Tiffany Pell at Ricochet two months ago."

"What do you know about that?" He asked, whipping out the gun for dramatic effect like a Shakespearian actor in theatre.

"I know it was my club, my life that was snorted up her nose that night and I've got to get away from this sack-of-crap city. I want a Les Baer Premier II Tactical .45 Pistol and I know you can get it for me."

"In return?"

"You can have your money back; this covers the cost at least three times over."

"If I was him; I'd come after you."

"If he does…I'll be ready."

I never should have given her a key to my apartment. I know this because it's noon when she arrives with Chinese takeaway and I'm still in bed; half-hung-over, half-asleep. She says there's nothing I've done or thought of doing that she's not an expert in and I'm forced to believe her when she's pouring a Bloody Mary down my throat and coaxing me out of bed with Chaka Khan and Mary J Blige's 'Disrespectful'. I know she's not going anywhere and thought I usually put up a good fight in the battle of wills; I surrender because she's hurting. I suppose for someone who lived so much of their life without their mother to actually lose her to something traditional like old age must be quite ironic, though, when you factor in the Liver damage, Grandma paid for her ills twice over. This has made Nicole Scott, the female Zeus, think of her own mortality. Maybe because she put her life on the line so often or because she knows that she's not untouchable and the fact that she will one day die is her Achilles heel.

She sits on a cushion across from me, reading my face so I'll admit to something without the need for questions, but she knows the score; I'm a good girl really.

"I spoke to Jess last week." She says with a sigh and I can feel a reminiscent anecdote coming on. It's never the one I want to here, but entertaining nonetheless.

"Field work?"

"No, nothing like that. In fact, she's leaving the Bureau. For good this time."

"I thought it ruined your life." I say with the bitterness of having her shut down any aspirations of joining myself, just a few years ago. "You didn't want to hold me back."

"Maya; you're not me."

"What does that mean?"

"It means you can't make the choices I made because you're not in a position to make them. You have a mother. You have your own apartment, not relying on a man to give you a home and you are not alone."

"If you had never joined, I wouldn't be living in this nice apartment. What are you so afraid of?"

"That you'll walk into a death trap and I won't let you."

"I'm twenty-five, didn't we pass that stage?"

"You are not me. I take the bullets for this family. I'll die before you have to make those sacrifices."

Our emotions hang over our heads, suspended in motion and clogging up the air in the room. We've sparred since the day I was born and like a Scott; I too am consistent. I know I've hurt her because I'm just like her and it's in our truths that we deliver the most hurt. Her resistance to my F.B. I. plans punctured my heart in a way I never thought was possible, at least not from her. She has loved me with reckless abandon, fear and honesty and I've paid her with rebellion, independence and risks; an integral part of her healing process died and I can't help but feel I'm also killing it slowly.

"I hope she's happy." I say to break the ice and she follows my cue.

"Me too."

She plays Al B. Sure's Nite and Day and speaks of sororities and light-skinned guys being en vogue. I let her talk down her defences and ease her into a conversation she has avoided for the last eighteen years of my life. The name Darnell sets my dad on fire at how he hurt her. How? I don't know…yet.

"I wish I knew what she was thinking." She says out of nowhere. It's said casually as though she's not speaking about her own mother at all, like it's a philosophical question with no answer.

"She was glad to be yours. She was ready to die." I don't know what I'm saying or where the words come from but she hears me.

"Did you know she was relieved when her mother died?" Of course I know, as she's asked me this question four times in the last two weeks alone. "How does that happen?"

"I don't know but it does."

"Don't resent me Maya. I want you to live a full life, and you will, so don't resent that."
We're back to a topic we can't get away from because it's the centre of our relationship. It defines who we are. I was born in the Bureau. I don't know anything else. I wish she understood this. "When did it first take over?" Now that's a question she'll rise to because it's a challenge.

"You mean, how did I get started?" I nod, on the brink of decoding the enigma that is the reason why my sister and I exist, my parents met and we are, at the best and worst of times, a family.

New Years Eve 1994

"You don't really know me, you just wanna do what you wanna do. That's not the way it should be, no, you should listen to me…" Nicole watched the short one with the black ringlets singing, from the bar. She was nearly twenty-four and already the manager of Jean Gregory's club Ricochet. They had known each other since she waited and bussed tables at his restaurant as a teen and hired her for her tenacity and business savvy. She made him look good and he gave her enough control over events and entertainment for his appreciation of her legs not to be construed as misogyny. Tonight was one of those nights she had spent two months ignoring his advice and withholding details for; she couldn't wait for the feature to hit the local newspaper about the young, go-getter who put this whole thing together. The man standing next to her, going over his lines mentally, didn't know who she was.

"Yo baby…" And she was gone. Tamika and Latocha were now going to church with their harmonized power vocal, "I don't mean to be demanding but I need some understanding. I wanna be with you…" The club was packed with the right demographic, yuppies, college students, all with disposable incomes, high tops, gym memberships and cars. The revenue from that night alone was enough to earn her a bonus and she was already eyeing a red Ford Taurus to compete. She praised the day she went to college, it gave her an honest job and a future, and it also gave her the courage to finally shake that sick mother off her shoulder. She drank a French Kiss shot in his name and knew if she was going to spend the night alone, at least it was to the tunes of a live, fresh, young group from Atlanta; Xscape.

She woke up with a slight ringing in her ears; the staff's New Years' toast at six a.m. was enthusiastic and overdone. She lost count of what she had and they seemed as wasted as she was. Days later the newspaper came to her apartment in Austin, Chicago and instead of an ego boost, she had a reality check. This was followed by her recognition of the many messages Jean had left on her answer machine. The headline read, "Councillor's Daughter ODs at Nightclub."

The phone was ringing and she got the feeling that something bad was about to happen. She tried to mollify Jean, whose words for her were far from friendly. After the initial yelling was over and he hung up in anger, she buried her head in her hands and in silence, began to cry.