Colonel Ryan Mitchell jogged up the steps to the office building

"Conflict"

I don't own the characters (only Lucy and Ali are my own creations), so don't sue.

Notes:

Ryan Mitchell is a character played by Costas in the movie Stealth Fighter (Ice played Owen Turner). This was not exactly their finest hour, however, I couldn't resist the imaginative possibilities of the two storylines merging.

If while reading, you come across certain situations which seem familiar, that's cos I've included nods to a variety of my favourite books and movies, if you are interested in such things, I will give you a list.

The action takes place in New York, somewhere in Louisiana and Los Angeles. It picks up approximately where the series left our heroes…………..

Sassy

April, 2001

Colonel Ryan Mitchell jogged up the steps to the office building. God, I really hate this part of the job. He wasn't looking forward to the meeting at all. The various civilian offices he was forced to work with on this project were all at odds, which made Mitchell's life doubly difficult. For a brief instant the memory of his former life sneaked in, flying, the F-111s, the Stealth, combat ready, every nerve on edge – Mitchell slammed the door on those memories, unaware of the longing that showed itself in his expression. He squared his shoulders and picked up the pace, choosing the stairs over the lift. He worked hard to stay in shape, or as much shape as a desk job allowed him.

He never noticed the man on the sidewalk outside. Cool watchful eyes noted his movements, the man jotted something down on a pad and moved on.

&

Erin Mitchell straightened the couch with unnecessary violence. You have what you want, a husband who comes home every night to supper. A father who shows up at every minute of his daughter's life, just to be there. So why are you so dissatisfied. Erin had left Ryan, scared that he might be killed in action, or just simply flying. She'd disliked the closeness of the pilots, rightly assuming that this place was somewhere that she could never enter or be a part of. So, Ryan had taken the desk job. He'd turned himself inside out to be what she wanted. The bold confident cocky fighter pilot she'd loved and married was turning into someone else, someone he obviously wasn't comfortable with. Erin herself wasn't happy. She'd been so certain that this was what they all needed. JP was delighted to have her father around all the time, but even she could sense he wasn't happy. Sometimes Erin would catch her daughter looking at her with a faintly accusing expression.

Erin had tried to broach the subject, but it was difficult. Ryan neatly sidestepped any attempt to bring it up and she was still reluctant to admit that she'd got it wrong. Sometimes the hurt and longing in her husband's eyes would tear her apart. Any reference to his feelings would bring down a shutter through which neither Erin nor JP could penetrate. Flying was Ryan's world, and he was floundering without it. One attempt to suggest that he might like to join a local club had met with such an agonised response that the subject was closed for good.

In desperation, Erin had phoned her mother. Her mother had listened to Erin's troubles and then told her exactly what she knew already, but wasn't ready to admit to. It was not a happy phone call. So, what do I do now? I'm gonna lose him. The thought depressed her.

&

"FBI, you're under arrest!!!"

Alphonse Royo obediently put his hands up and backed away from the packing case. He was searched, then his hands were swiftly and efficiently cuffed behind his back. Too efficiently for Alphonse.

"Did you have to cuff me so tight!" he hissed as Chrissy tugged on his bound arms and moved him towards the cars.

"It has to look real!" she hissed back.

"It's real, believe me, it's real."

They were concentrating so hard on their little private war, they didn't notice the man on the edge of the crowd. The cool eyes watched Alphonse. The brain calculated and another note was made on the pad.

&

Charlie was steaming. Once again, Alphonse had embroidered on the plan, and once again their mark had slipped through their fingers. He lit into Alphonse the instant the big man walked through the door with Chrissy.

"Just once, 'Phonse. Just once, you follow the plan, we make the arrest and another bum is off the streets." The computer expert's voice rose in fury.

Alphonse calmly presented his back to Chrissy, his hands were still cuffed behind him. She unlocked the cuffs and he rubbed his wrists.

"That was a plan?" the question in his voice calculated to annoy.

It had the desired effect. Charlie's already smoldering temper burst into life.

"YEAH! THAT WAS A PLAN, THE PLAN YOU SCREWED UP. AGAIN!!" he bellowed. Ice stepped in before the computer expert could punch his much larger friend.

"Charlie, chill!" Ice put his hand on Charlie's shoulder and stepped between his partners. They were real close, but sometimes their disparate and fiery temperaments caused explosions. Neither man would ever intentionally hurt the other, but sometimes Alphonse's freewheeling style and lack of planning drove his obsessive partner crazy. Equally Charlie's uptight, plan-every-move-a-dozen-different-ways, double-check-everything habits dragged heavily on the impulsive Latin's more reactive nature.

What Charlie lacked in inches, he more than made up for in toughness. The height and build difference between him and his partner would never have occurred to Charlie. His eagerness to take Alphonse on was definitely a bad idea. Ice warily made sure he stayed between them. The big Latin had the kind of punch that would have stopped La Motta and the smooth assured leader had no intention of letting this spat get to that stage.

He needn't have worried. The hurt in Alphonse's expression said it all, he'd made a mistake and now as usual everyone was on his case. Even Chrissy had that look on her face.

"Enough, I'm out of here." The big man dumped the wire he'd been wearing on the desk, grabbed the keys in one smooth motion and left the office before anyone had time to move or speak. Concerned, Chrissy started to go after him. Ice shook his head.

"Nah! Leave him, give him time to cool down." He looked sideways at Charlie.

"You want to tell me what that was all about!"

Charlie looked back at him, bland shuttered expression. "I don't know what you mean!"

Ice sighed. "You do! But I guess it can wait!"

&

Sheer temper carried Alphonse down five flights of stairs without pausing. He hadn't even paused to re-button his shirt, which swung open and untucked over the waistband of his pants. He crossed the garage. Barely registering the man washing the car in the parking bay opposite.

Something pricked the back of his neck, his hand flew up to slap at it and encountered a strange foreign object, there was a rushing noise in his head, the world started to lose focus and spin round, his knees buckled and he collapsed. Two pairs of hands lifted him smoothly into the boot of a car and he was driven away.

In less than a minute Alphonse had disappeared from the FBI Car Park. The only evidence he'd ever been there, a set of car keys on the ground next to the Explorer.

&

By half past eight, Ice and Charlie had started to worry. Charlie was feeling guilty and he paced up and down, driving Ice crazy.

&

Ryan Mitchell drew up at the lights, saw an opening and turned into the dark of the underground garage to his apartment block. He parked and got out of the car, never even noticing the man in the shadows.

A minute later, a car drew out of the garage and disappeared down the road.

&

Ten o'clock and all was far from well, O'Connor, Cornfield and half the FBI office were now involved. Someone had found the car keys in the garage, and the Explorer still in the parking space. Chrissy tried to keep the lid on the boys' increasing panic. Methodically they began to go through all the places Alphonse might be. Twenty minutes later, having rung round, panic was spreading.

"He's gone off mad and met up with some accident. An' it's all my fault."

"Charlie get a grip. Alphonse is impulsive but he's not stupid." Chrissy calmed her anxious computer expert.

"Yeah, well, he's never disappeared off the face of the planet before, either."

Chrissy frowned at Ice, that's not helping!

By midnight, higher echelons of the FBI were involved. The FBI was not keen on misplacing its agents, even sort of unconventional half-agents like Alphonse and they took care of their own. Ranks began to close. Every precinct in the city was rung, desk sergeants were badgered and Alphonse's picture was put out over the airwaves.

&

About the same time, Erin Mitchell was making frantic phone calls throughout the possible places her husband could be. Ryan was not particularly happy, but no he wasn't depressed and it was extremely unlikely he was with another woman. Erin was furious. Ryan was many things, but he would never cheat on her and she told his superior officer as much.

&

Five am, no sign of Alphonse………….or Colonel Ryan Mitchell. Military Intelligence had noticed something peculiar. The disappearance of one Alphonse Royo; one charming, smooth talking criminal more or less was hardly worthy of the Military's notice. But this criminal had two remarkable characteristics; one, he worked for the FBI and two, he was Ryan Mitchell's double.

&

Mitchell groaned. His skull felt like malevolent trolls had taken up residence in there and were working away noisily with hammers and pick-axes. He forced his eyes open, and slammed them shut again. Light. Too much light. He cautiously peeked through his lashes, and realised he was lying on a bed, reasonably comfortable. His left wrist was handcuffed to the metal frame. He could move around a bit, reach the water on the bedside table and get comfortable, but he couldn't walk out of the room. What the hell! His brain struggled to unscramble the last few hours. He remembered driving into the garage, a sound to his right, a sting below his ear and then………….nothing.

Mitchell put his hand up and felt his neck. There was a tender spot just below his ear and blood on his fingers when he took them away.

&

Alphonse came to slowly. He was lying on a cold concrete floor. A brilliant white light flooded the room, which was square and unforgivingly concrete, no window and a small grey cell door in one corner. Back in prison? When did that happen? And what the hell kind of prison is this? He looked down at himself, he was dressed in khaki fatigues. Alphonse frowned, what's going on. He was just about to get to his feet, when the door opened and three big goons walked in, and hauled him to his feet. They were dressed in some kind of uniform. A fourth man followed.

"Colonel Mitchell, I'm sure you understand we have a few questions for you. How you managed to violate our air space undetected, that sort of thing." The fourth man began in a conversational kind of way.

"Colonel Mitchell??? I'm not Colonel Mitchell, my name's Alphonse Royo. What air space??" Alphonse was totally confused. "What the hell is going on here. I want to see my lawyer?!"

Two of the goons grabbed his arms, and slammed him into the wall, the third held him there. Alphonse's head was turned sideways, his cheek pressed against the rough concrete. The fourth man stepped closer.

"No answers for us." He shrugged. "It is of little consequence, you will tell us all we need to know in the end?!" his hand came up, hyperdermic primed and ready, Alphonse watched in terror as the needle was plunged into his exposed neck.

The pain was excruciating. Alphonse screamed. The goons let go and he collapsed to the floor. His body convulsed as a firestorm ripped through his veins. He lost consciousness.

The man with the needle shrugged and stepped over the prone body on the floor.

&

Colonel Grey was irritable. Dragged from his bed in the small hours, he was less than pleased at having to co-operate with the FBI. But, if we don't want them tramping all over the place, spoiling the scent; gonna have to bring them in on this.

He picked up the phone.

&

O'Connor put the phone down. He was having trouble getting the conversation sorted out in his head. The caller had identified himself as a Colonel Grey, then proceeded to utterly confound O'Connor. Impossible. It's all impossible. Royo's gone off, got himself drunk and will re-surface in a drunk tank somewhere. Somewhere deep inside, he knew that was not going to happen; but the espionage rigmarole that he'd just been taken through was too far fetched. O'Connor was not a fanciful man, he believed quite earnestly in black and white, a thing was or it was not. The imaginative stuff he was more than happy to leave to his colourful and devious team. The team………this is gonna be a difficult one to explain!!

Sometimes, the good old days, when criminals were criminals and the good guys were men in grey beckoned welcomingly. O'Connor sighed and picked up the phone. Tell'em now and get it over with.

&

He came to. He was lying on the floor again. Only this time, they'd taken his boots, and his shirt. He was cold. Every now and then the back of his neck went into spasm.

He curled up. God, make the pain go away.

"Colonel Mitchell! We want our answers now."

"What answers? I don't have any answers. Who are you people?" He pushed himself to his feet in an awkward attempt to get away. The goons slammed him into the wall again. The hand came in, needle in his neck again. The pain was indescribable, then, mercifully, lights went out again.

&

O'Connor faced the impassive Colonel Grey. The over-wrought team surrounded them.

O'Connor glared at the man in front of him. Grey. The perfect name for a faceless bureaucrat.

"Colonel Grey. Are you telling me that Alphonse Royo has been snatched as part of some heinous plot, simply because he resembles this Colonel Ryan Mitchell. That's preposterous. Why would they possibly want Royo?"

"Alphonse Royo more than resembles Ryan Mitchell; they could be identical twins. Whilst your man may not have any particular skills, Mitchell is a combat pilot trained to the highest levels. We feel Royo's kidnap is a smokescreen, he will be used as an expendable decoy to whatever they plan to coerce Mitchell into doing. And, if you don't believe me, take a look at this….." Grey flipped open a file. Alphonse's face stared back at O'Connor from the file. Only it wasn't Alphonse, it was Colonel Ryan Mitchell.

O'Connor swallowed. This was serious trouble. While he was prepared for the boys to risk their lives in pursuit of the criminals they took down, nothing had prepared him for something like this. He looked round and found it hard to meet the terrified eyes of Ice and Charlie, the pleading look from Chrissy was more than he could handle too.

"However," Grey was speaking again. O'Connor forced himself to concentrate. "The military does not take kindly to its officers being kidnapped. So we have commissioned a team to find Mitchell and Royo, bring them back and terminate the perpetrators with extreme prejudice."

Grey looked almost apologetic. "O'Bannon and McBride are not the most orthodox, but they are the most successful at what they do. If anyone can find your man and Colonel Mitchell, they are the team to do it." He paused, how to explain some of their more………"creative"………methods. "You may find their techniques a little………." He hunted for the least inflammatory word "excessive! But I assure you, they will get the job done. All of it."

He noticed that the entire room had fallen silent. The stocky dark haired young man who had been introduced as Charlie staring at him with an intensity that bordered on the fanatical. Grey was puzzled, then he looked closer, something about the man had struck a note of recognition.

"O'Bannon! You said, O'Bannon." The dark haired man was speaking.

"Yes, what of it." Grey rose to his feet, as the door behind them opened.

"Hello,……….Charles!" the voice was cool, accent pure Bronx and the resemblance frightening.

Charlie turned and looked straight into the face of a ghost from his past.

"Lucille!" his voice felt tight and strained, colour drained from his cheeks.

Two pairs of sharp blue eyes bored into each other. Shut out the world around them. Flew back in time more than twenty years.

The collective gasp failed to penetrate. No one even noticed the woman's partner.

Ice and Chrissy stared, Charlie and Lucille looked like twins. Lucille had a slight height advantage on her………what,……cousin?….brother?…., her figure scaled to femininity. She moved with the calm assurance of a street fighter, confident, bold and challenging. A flicker of something like panic then Charlie's expression assumed the bland neutrality it always did when he felt threatened.

"Alistair McBride" the silence was broken. The big hefty Scot held out his hand to O'Connor.

Grey marshalled his thoughts and stepped into the breach, giving everyone time to get themselves together.

"Lucille O'Bannon and Alistair McBride. The team I was telling you about!" he made the introductions. Faltering when he came to Charlie.

Ice broke in on the silent challenge between this girl and his partner. "You gonna have a problem working together?" He didn't question the girl's identity, figuring Charlie would tell him all they needed to know later. Prying wasn't Ice's style, but the curiosity was eating at him.

"Nah! No problem." The voice was ice cool and sounded so startingly like Charlie that for a moment Ice was thrown. The blue eyes met his, a vague sense of disquiet spread through Ice.

Lucy settled herself into an available seat. She had known her past was going to be slapped in her face again, still it was quite a shock. Instead of less, they'd grown more alike. The gambler in Lucy's nature rose to the surface, but the anger and confusion bubbled under. She tamped hard down on her churning emotions, painted the cool disdainful smile ever broader on her face and waited for Grey's next move.

Grey launched into his intelligence report, Lucy half tuned him out, concentrating instead on the rest of the group with Charlie. Malcolm O'Connor, career FBI, no real surprises there, looks unsettled by what's going on, as though he can't quite believe it. Isaac Gregory, career what………criminal, like Charlie, close friend obviously, thinks on his feet, obviously useful in a tight corner, then we come to Miss Christine Kowalski, a little too much heart for this job, she's not gonna like the business we move in, or the ways we get results. And, finally, Charlie, my dear brother, cousin, whatever. Lucy's eyes sought Ali across the room. The big Scot was leaning against the wall, relaxed. Typical Ali, like the iceberg, nine tenths below the surface. His chin lifted slightly, courage Lucy, backbone. She owed Ali big, and loved him every bit as much, it wasn't a sexual thing; Ali preferred his women more yielding than Lucy could ever be or Ali would want her to be, but they were closer than blood could dictate.

Ali watched his partner, his little sister. He knew she was churned up, and cool and fighting her past every inch of the way. That's ma Lucy, fighter to the last. He knew who Charlie was, and what it was costing Lucy to stand there and pretend indifference. He studied his "sister's" blood brother, mildly gratified to see that the turmoil was not one sided. Charlie looked every bit as strung up as Lucy. Ali was a very even handed sort of guy, he knew there were always two sides to every question, something he'd betted heavily on sometimes in the past. His loyalty would always be to Lucy, but that loyalty might be to coerce her into doing things she didn't want to do, for her own sake. Ali coolly plotted a course, while keeping half an ear on what Grey was saying; they would need all the information they could get. Just may be this was the way to give Lucy her real family back. Ali knew all about real family and what having one meant.

Grey was droning on. Lucy tuned out. Grey became aware that she'd tuned out and was annoyed.

"Mz O'Bannon are we boring you? Are you clear what is going on here?"

Lucy turned to him, her smile widened, step on him now, "Oh, I think so. Some asshole terrorist has snatched one of your officers, and an FBI agent. You don't want the clean up job, so we do what we can. Clean up! Regular little janitors, that's us."

"Clean up?" Ice didn't like the tone of that.

"Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative." Lucy played with him, but her meaning was clear. Ice's instincts went into hyperdrive.

&

He lost track of time, and where he was. They kept calling him Colonel Mitchell. That wasn't right, but his brain couldn't work out why. The needle kept coming. Agony, followed by blackness, followed by more agony. Cold, always cold.

He came to again. Was this the tenth time, or the twentieth or ……………..he couldn't count any more. This time was different. His hands were tied behind him, not cruelly tight, but efficient. Wrists crossed in the small of his back so he couldn't reach the knots to free himself. Footsteps sounded. The door opened, he was hauled to his feet again. The cold penetrated into his bones.

"Colonel Mitchell, we are disappointed."

He could no longer answer, the name was wrong. But he had nothing left to fight with. A hand pushed him against the wall. His blurring vision focussed on the needle. It came towards him, he could see the point, the wide bore, then it plunged past his vision and into his vulnerable, painful neck. This was worse then any of the other times. He blacked out before the scream had time to force itself from his lungs.

&

Lucy and Ali led the FBI team through the back alleys of New York, murky bars deep in ghetto land, unpleasant lower class dives. Charlie and Ice were amazed, they knew the underbelly of New York well, but this was something they'd hesitate to penetrate. But it was turning up several sources.

&

Mitchell woke up. He was no longer alone.

"Colonel, I see you have decided to rejoin us." He looked up at the speaker. Columbian, obviously, the voice was a give away. Evil, flat black eyes like stones.

Mitchell felt a quiver of fear. This man was utterly ruthless. He tried defiance anyway.

"What do you want with me?"

"Your flying skills!" The man was strangely direct.

In spite of his fear, Mitchell laughed. "Me, fly for you!? You must be mad!"

"Colonel Mitchell, I am not mad. And assuredly you will fly for me. You have no choice." A hand gestured to his minions. Two big goons pulled Mitchell upright, freeing him from the bed, and swiftly cuffing his hands behind his back. He was pushed down a corridor. Then down several flights of stairs.

They paused outside a door. A harsh scream penetrated, and was abruptly cut off. The door opened and another man joined them. Mitchell peered round the door, trying to see the source of the scream, poor devil. He was ushered in, a rough hand reached down to the limp body at his feet, the man was shoved onto his back.

Reality exploded into tiny fragments as Ryan Mitchell looked down at his own face. Whoever he was, the man been brutally treated, a line of evil dark bruises, with little trickles of blood, covered the side and back of his neck, even unconscious the agony he'd been through was obvious. What the…… Mitchell gathered his scattered thoughts, his training kicked in. Whatever the hell was going on, he could only save himself and the other man if he stayed sharp.

Hands dragged him away, turning him to face his tormentor.

"You see, it is all extremely simple. The perfect decoy, he will destroy your reputation with your Military. Then, if you wish your wife and child to survive unmolested, you will do exactly as I say!" Mocking features swam before Ryan Mitchell's darkening gaze. A intense rage surged through him, followed by a cold calculating hatred. If it takes a lifetime, I'll get you, you bastard! Holding on to his temper with everything he had left, Mitchell forced his features into an expression of neutrality.

Calderone caught the flare of something in his prisoner's eyes, before it was masked. Satisfaction swam through his veins. This was better than anything! Power, the ultimate high.

&

An unpleasant little greasy ferret rejoicing in the name of Willie the Twig had appeared the most promising and the most scared. O'Connor and Chrissy had spent a frustrating twenty minutes interviewing him.

Lucy snapped. "Enough of this crap." She bounced Willie's head off the wall, then shook him hard.

A startled and disapproving chorus broke out around her. Willie seemed well used to it however. He started to spill the beans. The intensity of Lucy's grip in his shirt front and the ice cold of her stare convinced him that co-operation was a good idea.

So intense was her stare, that Willie found himself confessing to things that had nothing to do with this.

Yeah sure, he'd heard about the Columbian. He'd moved in when Menendez had been x'd out. Calderone was smart and cold. He'd liked Menendez' style and paid particular interest to his plan to use the Military against themselves. Survivors of the raid which had wiped out his operation had dished up Mitchell's name and they'd been following the Colonel for months, Alphonse was a coincidence. Somebody had seen him, noted the amazing resemblance and the possibilities.

Chrissy and the boys were beside themselves. God only knew what the Columbian was doing to Alphonse.

O'Connor pinned Lucy with a glare.

"Have you never heard of Miranda!"

She flicked him a hard glance, and set her jaw.

"Och, yes, nice wee actress, Miss Richardson!" Ali's calm voice cut through. O'Connor froze.

"It's not a joke, McBride!"

"Funny, ah thought it was!" the cocky Scot turned away, finishing the conversation. O'Connor followed, fuming. This was definitely not his idea.

&

A grey film covered his vision, blanketing everything in an indistinct murkiness that he couldn't penetrate. Focus was gone, everything seemed close by and far away at the same time. He staggered upright on unsteady feet, put his hand out to try and find the door, his hand seemed disconnected from his body somehow.

His whole world had become a dream. Voices came and went in and out of the fog. Periodically, convulsions tore through his body. Pain ebbed and flowed.

&

Calderone was not pleased, he looked at the doctor he employed, the menace in his expression left the man unmoved; which pleased Calderone even less, I will have to deal with him.

"Look at him, he's barely conscious. How are we going to pass him off as Mitchell in that condition. I need him active, not half dead."

The man shrugged. "He proved stronger and more resistant than I would have thought possible. Unfortunately, we had to change the dosage, even now I am not certain of the outcome. Your plan is good, but these things are always dependent on other factors, in this case…." He trailed off.

Two pairs of calculating eyes stared at the swaying figure before them.

&

The team piled into the large battered four wheel drive. The vehicle was so dirty on the outside, that its exact make and colour was hard to determine. Revulsion crossed several faces.

"It wouldn't hurt to wash it once in a while!" Ice stared at the filthy vehicle, wondering if his street cred could stand such a blow.

Ali managed a hurt expression. "Its no a thing of beauty, but it will get us there." He sounded miffed.

Charlie pushed Ice in the back, "While we're hanging around, they're killing 'Phonse, get in will ya!"

Ali drove, fast and competent. They headed upstate.

Ice looked sideways at him. Ice's instincts told him that this time the powers that be had got it right, these two were more than capable of getting the job done.

"How come you're so sure Willie didn't lie about the address?" he wanted things straight in his mind, Alphonse's life depended on them.

"Because he knows that Lucy would blow his kneecaps off if he did. Most of these little weasels are more scared of Lucy than they are of the lowlife drug dealers." The confidence in Ali's voice did much to lift the spirits of Alphonse's friends.

Lucy said nothing. She calmly checked her weapons, mentally rehearsed her moves. Piece of cake!

&

They'd given Mitchell something to keep him quiet. He'd struggled against them, but four men holding him had been too much.

Now he lay still, trying to tear through the cobwebs clouding his mind. He rolled over, and pulled at his left wrist in frustration, they weren't taking any chances, they'd re-cuffed him to the bed.

Mitchell turned the possibilities over, checking through plans. Only his mind was all over the place, and the effort of concentration was sapping his strength.

&

Ali pulled the truck into some convenient woods, ensuring it was concealed from the road. He and Lucy moved into action mode. So well attuned, they kept communication to a minimum.

They'd firmly outlined what they were going to do, making it clear to the FBI to stay out of the way. Now they moved off. The anxious team followed.

The property was walled as Willie had said.

Lucy checked for possible hidden cameras. And smiled grimly to herself, trees lined the outside and inside of the wall. Piece of cake, and good cover to boot. She jumped for a low branch and swung easily onto the wall. A sentry strolled past, he was off guard and leisurely in his movements. The last thing he registered was a blur somewhere above his head.

Lucy dropped like a jungle cat. In full hunter mode, she swept the area nothing. Moving more cautiously now she worked her way closer to the house. Not pausing to see if Ali was with her, she knew he was, Lucy moved up into the shadows of the building.

Ali moved up to join her, and they carefully broke in. An alarm sounded and they spread out, working their way swiftly through the building. Guards were running, but the two bounty hunters, backed up by the team, kept up a steady barrage of fire and confusion.

&

Mitchell could hear the sounds of gunfire and shouts coming from outside the room. The door burst open, and a young woman stood there, she turned back to yell at someone.

"I've found Mitchell!"

Then a black man pushed past her into the room, followed by a slightly younger white guy who looked incredibly like the girl in the doorway. Her attention turned away from the room and she vanished out of Mitchell's sight.

The black man knelt down by the bed, fishing in his pocket for something. He came up with what looked like a small bunch of keys. Mitchell clocked him properly for the first time, his befuddled brain went into overdrive.

"Don't I know you!"

The black guy looked at him. "No!"

Mitchell's brain was doing strange things, or his eyes were. Memory searched and found Owen Turner. Impossible. Mitchell had blown Turner straight to hell over a year before. It was too much. He closed his eyes. "Just get me outta here!" he mumbled and passed out.

Ice picked the lock on the handcuffs, Charlie fidgeted behind him.

"Ice, hurry will ya, we have to find 'Phonse." He moved to the door and peered out. Moved back to the bed, "Hurry!!"

"Charlie, chill out," Ice snapped, "You're not helping!!"

He finished, and they dragged Mitchell up between them, which was quite an effort, and looked around for the others.

&

O'Connor and Chrissy followed Ali into a small room. The Senior Agent was shocked at the speed and brutality of the two bounty hunters. He'd known their commission wasn't going to be a Sunday School picnic, but the ruthless way they'd taken out every possible threat was frightening. The orderly side of O'Connor's mind appreciated the efficiency, ………but the other stuff. The older man mentally revised his opinions, his first thoughts had been that these were two amateurs making their living retrieving bail jumpers. These two were way beyond that, once again, nothing in O'Connor's experience had quite prepared him for what had just happened.

Lucy had rounded up two possibilities. Having first assured herself that Calderone and his other victim were nowhere in the building. She'd easily overtaken the doctor and an unpleasant ferrety type.

O'Connor went into law officer mode. He started to question the men. This time, Lucy and Ali didn't wait.

"Ali, do something non-fatal to him and fast." Lucy stared straight at Calderone's creepy physician. The man seemed unconcerned, and that bothered her. O'Connor spluttered, and she faced him down, the ice-cold, near feral look in her eyes totally unnerved him.

Ali looked the doctor over, the man was slightly built and soft. Easy for someone Ali's size to intimidate, but the big Scot wanted fast answers not intimidation. Ali decided on the oblique approach. He slung a matey arm around the man's shoulders and led him away.

"You see, they need to find their friend and fast. Now you look like a reasonable man, and I'm sure you will understand that they're Americans, so they're unlikely to do anything to you so you'll hang on in the hopes that salvation's gonna come." The easy conversational tone of Ali's voice did nothing to ease the doctor's fears, he could sense something under the surface. "Now, I on the other hand," Ali's hand flashed out with shocking speed, he spun the smaller man and slammed him back against the wall, there was a collective gasp of fright, which almost drowned out the dying shriek of pain. The doctor stared at the huge hunting knife buried in the jacket of his suit, he could feel the edge of the blade a hair's breadth above his shoulder. The sharp edge had nicked his skin, and the blood started to drip down.

Ali didn't bother to check the shocked expressions. He concentrated on the fear in the doctor's face.

The team stared. It was so fast, they'd never seen anything quite like it. One minute the man was standing in the middle of the room, the next he was pinned against the wall with a knife the size of machete holding him upright.

The ferrety type squealed in fright, which for him, was a big mistake. Lucy's icy attention was drawn to him. She leaned in, the point of her knife dimpling his chin. The ferret's eyes bulged, he whimpered. Lucy leaned a little harder. He spilled his guts.

"Mr Calderone, he take the other with him and they go north. They gonna hit the airforce base tonight." He stood on tip toe as the knife pressed harder. "Please!!" Eyes wet with tears sought O'Connor, "Please, do not kill me!" The knife was removed.

"There you have it!" Lucy turned away, the ferret forgotten. She looked up at O'Connor.

"Get in touch with Grey, warn the base, and then when they go, we'll be waiting for them."

She paused by Ice and Charlie, still holding Mitchell up between them. "We need to get him to hospital." She walked on.

Ice looked incredulously at his partner, "She's all heart, ain't she!"

Charlie's eyes followed his half-sister. "You don't know the half of it!"

&

Later, grabbing a few minutes by themselves, Ice and Chrissy closed in on Charlie.

"Okay, what's the story, man!" Ice started in.

"I don't know what you mean!" Charlie avoided meeting their eyes.

"Charlie!" Chrissy exasperated. "Who is Lucy?……..And don't tell me you don't know, because that's no coincidence." She gestured in the general direction which the two bounty hunters had taken. "What's going on, you can cut the atmosphere in there with a knife."

Charlie twisted, trying desperately for an out. He was not over keen to dredge up painful memories, being presented with his half-sister and all the implications of that had scared the living daylights out of him. He looked up at his partner and his boss, realised that half-truths and fairy stories would get him nowhere and decided on the truth.

"Lucy's my sister………..and my cousin!"

"You touched by the sun, man. No way can she be your sister and your cousin at the same time!"

"Her mother is my mother's sister. We have the same father." There, it was out. He looked up and checked the reaction. Shock! …… surprise, surprise! "I told you my old man fooled around, but you never thought he kept it in the family!" Charlie couldn't hide the bitterness, but he could hide the personal facts, how his mother had had him to keep his father from straying off the reservation, how she'd blamed him for not ever being enough to keep his father at home. Funny really, when you think about it. She got pregnant to keep him and so did her sister.

Ice checked out his partner's withdrawn expression. Bland, shuttered, only the agonised spark in the sharp blue eyes a clue to his real feelings.

He was just about to say something suitably neutral when Charlie cut across.

"Anyways, it don't matter. All I care about now is getting 'Phonse back, before he jumps into the driving seat of an F-111 and finds out the hard way that he ain't Ryan Mitchell." They'd gleaned enough from the real Mitchell to know that their impulsive partner wasn't exactly firing on all cylinders.

&

The team deployed, back up in position and settled down to wait. Darkness fell, the hours crept past. Tempers flared.

&

Calderone watched the base from the safety of his car. His men deployed, their unfortunate decoy with them. Calderone would kill him afterwards and dispose of the body over the Atlantic somewhere.

&

Dark figures neared the hangar. The teams and back ups moved in.

Charlie rounded a corner and ran slap into one of Calderone's goons. Shit. For a moment they both froze, the creep's gun began to come up as a solid weight hit Charlie from behind, arms wrapped round him and he was spun out of the line of fire, something punched into the body behind him and they were thrown forward, rolling to one side. Then a single shot. Charlie opened his eyes. Lucy glared at him.

"Smart move, bro!" She disentangled herself and stood up. Jerked her thumb over her shoulder, "Try that way and watch yourself."

Charlie stepped nervously round the corpse of the gunman and continued down the hangar wall. He could hear something on the other side of the wall, coming to an open door, he dived through it and stared down the barrel of a gun. Ice relaxed.

"Dammit, watch out, man, I nearly shot you."

"Hey, y'not so smart y'self." Charlie holstered his gun.

Ice stiffened. "Look" He pointed across the hangar. Charlie peered into the dark. Then all caution was forgotten. They ran towards their friend.

Alphonse was moving under his own steam, just. As they got closer, he backed away. They paused, confused. Both men were near enough to take in his condition.

They saw the dulled eyes, the bruising on his neck, the dried blood on the collar of the shirt he was wearing. He reeled on unsteady legs. They moved closer and he backed away, stumbling away from them further into the darkness.

O'Connor and Chrissy arrived, followed by the bounty hunters.

Charlie turned on O'Connor. "Shit, look at him! He don't even know us."

Ali seized his chance. "Lucy, talk to him. You can do it." Lucy was about to protest, then she caught Ali's eye, okay, but what do you think I can do. She slowly picked her way towards him. The big man stumbled and then sagged back against the wall. His knees were buckling, he reached an unsteady hand up, pressing against his forehead.

Lucy tuned everything out, concentrating on the man in front of her. The dulled blue eyes opened, the hopeless pleading in their glassy stare nearly stopped her in her tracks. Terrifying memories clawed their way to the surface, she faltered. Then clamped down, that was then, this is now, an' I'm his only hope. She smiled to herself, it was not a nice smile. Now that's really funny!

"Please!" the voice was thick and strained, and sounded worn out with pain.

She moved closer taking it very, very slowly. He no longer had the strength to fight, his knees started to buckle again. Lucy reached his side. Holding her breath, she gently placed her hand on his arm. Muttered soothing nonsense.

"Ssssshhhh! It's alright, we've come to take you home."

Somewhere in a tiny corner of Alphonse's chemically fogged mind, a chord was struck, the gentle hand on his arm promised sanctuary. He collapsed to the safety and security of Lucy's arms; she was dragged down by his sudden fall. She looked back over her shoulder.

"PARAMEDICS, NOW!!"

She turned back to the man in her arms, unpleasant memories rose to the surface again from a place long ago, and she hung on to him, offering a silent promise that she would stay with him.

&

Air ambulance lifted them to hospital, Lucy had refused to leave his side and the team had left her to it. They faced the two to three hour drive to the hospital with weary resignation.

&

"Who's here for Alphonse Royo?" The doctor scarcely got the question out before being mobbed by the anxious watchers.

"How is he?……Can we see him?" questions flooded over the man. He held up a hand.

"Mr Royo is in critical condition. We had to restrain him during examination. And then for his own safety." Ignoring the shocked gasps and protests, the doctor pulled O'Connor to one side. "We are not equipped to deal with this. I have papers prepared, and a place for Mr Royo in a secure mental facility where he can get treatment."

O'Connor put out his hand for the papers. His heart closed with dread, but if it was the only way. Do it and get it over with.

A vicious hiss sounded in his ear.

"Do that, and you'll never get him back!" Lucy snarled, "You want that, have him die in some stinking nut house." Several protests broke out around her, but she ignored them all. Her concentration centred solely on O'Connor and the doctor. A feral look in her eyes, she laid into them both, her words mainly for the doctor but she took in O'Connor too.

"Sure he fought you. He's stoned out of his mind, he's been beaten, stabbed in the neck, had everything he's understood and relied on ripped out from under him. What's the best you can do!" the hiss grew even more evil, the barely suppressed rage and bitterness personal "You tie him to a bed, and then want to lock him away. Lock him away from everything he can get a handle on."

Lucy broke off, working on pushing her own bad memories away again. "Why don't you just put a gun to his head and shoot him. It'd be quicker!!" her voice lowered, cracking with strain.

She turned her back. Stalked down the corridor towards ICU. Not heeding the total frozen silence behind her. Every nerve now centred on the man she'd rescued in the hangar all those hours ago.

&

Alphonse lay on his back. Eyes open, he stared at nothing as tears pooled and ran down into his hairline. He was tied down securely, straps across his chest and waist, wrists bound then fastened down by his sides, movement was impossible. Terror swamped him.

He could see someone out of the corner of his eye. He was too scared to move his head to look. Hands reached out, and undid the straps, freeing his hands, yanking off the straps holding his body down, the same gentle hands that reached out to him in the hangar. One small coherent thought penetrated, he turned on his side and sought sanctuary again.

Lucy kicked off her boots, slipped up onto the bed next to him and cradled him in her arms. She carefully worked herself into a comfortable position, easing his weight across her knees and pulling the covers up, both to keep him warm and shield him from the eyes of the curious. Still wearing her webbing belt, she reached into the small of her back and withdrew one of her enormous handguns; laying the weapon down on the pillow beside them, the threat obvious. Then centred her whole concentration on Alphonse.

&

Despite their fears and desire to be with Alphonse, neither Charlie nor Ice was particularly keen to go in there. The handgun pointing so ominously in the general direction of the door did nothing to encourage any intrusion.

The doctor was outraged. He made fierce representations to O'Connor. O'Connor was torn between outrage and a weird relief. It was not up to him to sign Alphonse's life away any more. He had no control over Lucy, and while what she had done was not exactly legal, she hadn't actually threatened any one with the gun.

The voice of reason came from Ali.

"We need to get him out of here, well away from New York. He needs to have somewhere he can go to get his life back together again."

Ice spoke for all of them. "We'll go back to LA."

Charlie never thought he'd want to leave New York, but the thought of what his friend was going through made him eager to go.

&

Two floors above them, another decision was being made. Erin Mitchell sat next to her sleeping husband and vowed to herself that she would break through his reserve. It was an uncomfortable feeling that she'd got it so wrong. Leaving JP with her father Erin had slipped down to see the other man caught up in this crisis.

The team had dispersed themselves to catch sleep where they could. Erin walked towards ICU. Ice stood at the window watching Lucy with Alphonse. The gun had finally been put away, its point made. Ice still felt like an intruder.

He turned, suddenly feeling a vague sense of shame, why he wasn't sure. He stopped when he saw the attractive blonde watching too, Mitchell's wife. She looked up at him.

"It's funny, they're so alike they could be twins." She paused, "I feel like this is mostly my fault, I made Ryan take a desk job. An innocent man gets caught up in something like this."

Ice cleared his throat. "Well, that's the first time anyone ever called Alphonse an innocent man." He smiled at her, trying to lighten her sombre mood. "Nobody's fault, just the wrong place at the wrong time."

"I don't think he would see it that way." Erin watched Lucy and Alphonse through the window, "and I'm certain she wouldn't." catching a glimpse of Lucy's fierce expression.

"Don't mind her!"

"I don't, but she's got a point!"

She smiled gratefully and walked away, lost in thought.

&

Ali worked out the details. Ice and Charlie packed up everything.

O'Connor was going to fly back to LA with as much of their stuff as he could take. The rest of them were heading south to some place Ali and Lucy retreated to. Ice was a little weirded out over that one. It all sounded very far fetched to him when Ali had explained it.

They had two weeks leave. Time to get 'Phonse on the road to recovery if Lucy and Ali were to be believed and time for the rest of them to come to terms with what had happened. Everyone was feeling a little fragile and worried over the speed with which things had spiralled out of control.

&

At Lucy's insistence they were going by train. It would take a couple of days to get down to Baton Rouge.

Three adjoining cabins on the train. Chrissy in one, Alphonse and Lucy in the next and the three men sharing. Charlie was less than impressed. Ali and Ice had commandeered the lower bunks, leaving the computer expert the uncomfortable upper bunk above the sink.

Lucy didn't bother with the second bunk. She stayed close. Alphonse was having nightmares and he was still suffering from spasms and convulsions as his system cleared itself of the chemicals forced into it. He only seemed to have any peace when she was near. Lucy dredged up the old memories, it was like poking a nearly healed cut, you know its gonna hurt, but you do it anyway.

Alphonse wasn't so far out of it that he hadn't realised the comforting arms that held him close and the body that pressed against him belonged to a young and attractive woman. Easily tired out and subdued by his experiences, he clung to her as a source of comfort with a growing awareness of her charms. An awareness that he stored away for future reference.

&

Three o'clock in the morning, Alphonse's nightmares reappeared. He slid down under the covers, wrapping his arms round Lucy's waist and burrowing against her, shudders coursed through him. Lucy's fingers gently stroked through his hair, finding that spot at the base of his skull which knotted tight, she massaged the place. Gradually the tension dispersed, his death grip on her relaxed and he drifted off into a doze.

Alphonse's head rested against her rib cage. One hand resting on her waist, her vest top had slipped up slightly, and he found the smooth tanned skin irresistible. Lucy's eyes opened wide as his hand began to stroke her belly, fingers slid beneath her top and trailed up her torso. Kisses planted on her warm flesh, her shocked gasp and the involuntary arching of her back as his tongue flicked into her navel. She pulled the covers onto the floor, as he eased back up, nuzzling her bare shoulder, pushing the thin strap of her top aside to explore her skin. She put her hand beneath his jaw and tilted his head back gently, so that she could look into his eyes, what she saw gave her a serious jolt, his eyes were clear and lucid for the first time in many days. He desired her, every bit as much as she wanted him.

Lucy frowned, now was not the moment to explore their mutual desires. The pleading look held a devilish twinkle, and her resolve weakened, her traitorous body responding to his touch.

She shook her head, trying very hard not to give in to the rather childish pout her refusal caused. He was still sick, and she didn't want to there to be any recriminations. Her body was not so scrupulous, responding to every little movement he made. A fact of which he was well aware.

Alphonse accepted the refusal, particularly as everything he knew about women sensed postponement rather than outright rejection. His head still ached, and the back of his neck was stiff and went into spasm at the slightest exertion. Desire had outweighed caution and he'd moved on pure instinct.

&

Ali was having a bad day. Josefa had been surprised when they'd turned up on her doorstep the week before, but welcomed them. Life had slipped into a lazy pattern of not doing very much. Alphonse was definitely on the mend. Now they had a whole new set of problems to contend with. The physical attraction between Alphonse and Lucy was obvious, and they did nothing to conceal their feelings, to the great annoyance of Charlie. Ice just took it in his stride. Chrissy did what she could to keep the lid on things, but there was an explosion coming. Ali sighed, up to their arrival at Josefa's place things were going according to his plan. Lucy and Charlie had warmed up a bit, the computer expert clearly grateful for what his sister had done for Alphonse, now…………..

&

The cool of the late afternoon, Lucy made her way down to the summerhouse by the small boat dock. She'd left her shoes by the house, and the grass seemed cool and lush beneath her feet. Anticipation made her breathe faster.

No one bothered very much with the summerhouse, which is why they'd chosen it for some privacy. She slipped inside, he was waiting for her.

Alphonse pulled her close, slipping his fingers under the straps of her top he slowly peeled them down, fingers exploring her skin. Lucy reached up, carefully avoiding putting pressure on his bruised neck she urged him closer. They leaned into the kiss and subsided onto the large pile of bedding that Lucy had arranged earlier. Clothes melted away and they settled down the serious business of examining each other's bodies.

Alphonse's hand edged downwards and Lucy opened herself to him, holding his gaze with a smouldering one of her own, she took his other hand, placing a kiss in the centre of the palm she settled it over her breast, enjoying the sensations that spread through her. Heat surged, and she pulled back slightly, "not without you" a dying gasp into his ear she pushed him to his back and eased over him, sliding down his body. Her fingers traced a pattern over his nipples, wove downwards across his chest and torso, her lips followed kissing and caressing. Sure fingers stirred his manhood, followed by her mouth; she kissed and teased, tongue flicked over the tip, his shocked gasp and the arch of his body. He reared up, urging her to meet him.

Lucy straddled his thighs and took him inside her with one swift thrust, and they moved together.

&

Ali strolled idly on the verandah in the cool of the evening. He had no particular desire to go into dinner. He caught sight of the abandoned shoes on the grass, and instinctively looked towards the summerhouse. Shit, gonna be hard to keep the lid on this one!

&

Lucy calmly helped herself to breakfast on the verandah. Ali was just behind her, she purposely avoided his meaningful glance.

He moved closer.

"Lucy, we came down here to find closure and recuperation, not the end of the rainbow!"

She gave him her best wide-eyed gaze, "I don't know what you mean."

"I mean the fact that you two are wearing the same clothes today that you were wearing yesterday, the hot meaningful glances, and that smile on your face!"

"What smile!" she tried a confused frown, but it came out as a smirk.

"The smile that Lady Chatterley wore on her way back from the woodshed."

"Funny, didn't think of Alphonse as a gamekeeper." Lucy bit into a piece of melon, pausing in mid bite to send her lover the hottest look of promise Ali had ever intercepted in his life, her tongue flickered round the cut edge of the slice of fruit. The expression on Alphonse's face said it all, he wanted to take her then and there.

"LUCY!" Ali snapped under his breath, having just intercepted the coldest look of fury coming from Charlie.

She diverted her attention from inflaming her lover for the merest instant. "You were saying?" deliberately provocative.

Ali gave up.

Ice took over, he poked Alphonse in the back, trying to get his attention. "'Phonse!" Not a flicker, all the big Latin's attention was focussed on burning up the ten feet between himself and Lucy. If looks were anything to go by, they were going to roger each other senseless in the middle of the verandah. Ice could almost see steam pouring out of Charlie's ears. The computer expert was ready to explode. Ice couldn't actually figure what he was so upset about, Lucy and Alphonse were consenting adults, okay they weren't exactly subtle about it. Neither one had appeared at dinner. And they made no secret of where they'd been all night.

Alphonse knew Charlie was doing a slow burn, and he could sense something else which the computer expert seemed determined to hide. The big man didn't want to hurt his partner, but he couldn't understand what the fuss was about. Dismissing a vague sense of guilt, Alphonse concentrated on the lovely, entrancing figure in front of him.

Lucy moved closer; she retained enough sanity to damp down the fires a bit. Reaching up, she gently touched his neck, "we need to look at that." Eyes met and promised all sorts of things. They disappeared into the house.

Charlie stared after them. Then turned and walked away.

"Charlie!" Ice called after him, Charlie raised a hand in negative reply and kept going.

Ice turned to Chrissy. "Something's eating him!"

"I know! But what. Ever since we got here he's been on edge. And that….." she gestured behind them, "that's made everything worse. I don't understand it."

&

Charlie didn't understand it himself. Whichever way he turned, jealousy reared up and bit him. The past was a closed book. At least that's the way Charlie told himself he wanted it, no messy relationships. Now he was faced with something he had no control over. Alphonse was his closest friend, and Lucy………. Nah! He slammed the door firmly on that thought. She was one of the causes of his miserable childhood.

&

Lucy carefully stripped the dressings away from Alphonse's neck. He leaned against her, head flopped down on her shoulder. He's hamming it up for all it's worth. She studied the damage, the bruising was dark purple and clearly still painful to the touch, Lucy frowned, revising her opinion. Alphonse's neck was obviously bothering him a lot. Josefa had given her some kind of potion to cover the wounds with, the Cajun woman had a knowledge of herbs and things, which was one of the main reasons they'd come to her place.

Very gently, Lucy anointed the bruises with one of Josefa's strange potions. Pausing when Alphonse flinched at her touch. She redressed the damage and rebandaged his neck. He slipped down in her arms and cuddled up, drifting off to sleep.

Lucy stayed still, Alphonse lay across her knees, arms wrapped loosely round her waist, head buried against her, she combed her fingers through his hair finding that spot at the base of his skull which inevitably became knotted and tense.

So concentrated was she on her lover, it was a while before she detected she was being watched. Reluctantly she looked up; her half-brother leant against the door frame. The look on his face was not pleasant. An unconscious defensive gesture, she pulled the bed covers closer round Alphonse, shielding him from Charlie's gaze.

The slight curl in his lip told her that he'd noted her involuntary action. The look in his eyes gave her pause, the slightly contemptuous expression belied by the hurt and confusion she could see in the blue depths.

Lucy decided on a non-confrontational approach, which surprised her. It had never occurred to her to care about her "family". She packed up and sneaked out of the house at sixteen and never gone back. Almost twenty years away, had changed her out of all recognition. Now she found herself wondering what twenty years had done to Charlie. A month apart in age, they should have been close, but there was a lot of bitterness caused by her parentage, and on my side too. Not big on self analysis, Lucy admitted that she'd hardly tried to meet him halfway.

"How come you know so damn much about that!" Charlie's question was hardly warm or friendly.

Lucy kept the lid on her lightning temper. "Age, experience, the army. Take your pick!" Alphonse moved in his sleep. "Keep your voice down." She stroked his hair and he settled back.

"So where you been for the last twenty years." Less cold.

"Lots of different places." Non-committal, awkward.

A strange silence stretched between them, expressions said more than words could. A whimper from the sleeping man broke the spell. Lucy pulled him closer, it had no effect, he started to thrash in the grip of a horrible nightmare. She hung on, and soothed him, locking her arms tight around him so he'd couldn't thrash too much, absorbing his pain.

Charlie moved in to try and help. Gradually the tremors eased. He looked up at his half sister.

"Shit, I thought that was all done with!"

"What,………. you thought one night of great sex would wipe out beatings, brutality, and a lethal cocktail of drugs forced into his system. This will take time; months and months of time, one step forward, ten steps back. Nightmares, confusion, waking up in the night in a sweat because you think you're back there." Lucy was almost talking to herself. "Just when you think you've got it licked, something rips it straight out of you again."

Charlie looked at her as though seeing her for the first time. "It ain't age or the army, but it is experience. You know because you've been there yourself." He held his breath, uncertain of what he was saying and unsure of why he wanted to know that much.

A long silence stretched out between them. Lucy seemed to make up her mind, "Yes, I've been there." She stopped; seeing Alphonse go through the nightmares brought it back, this is one place I really don't want to go. She stared into space. "The worst part, it never goes away. It's always with you. You learn to deal with it, cope with the after effects. Then one day, you lose it, punch someone out because he's there, he's convenient. So you half-kill someone just because you're the one in control, only you ain't in control, the thing's in control of you."

She watched her half-brother, closely, searching for his reactions. "That's why I did what I did back there." She turned back to Alphonse. "He's gonna need you and Ice like never before. And the life he had before this happened."

Charlie looked down at his partner. "He's got us. Whatever it takes." A sudden blaze of insight, "Like you had Ali?" He knew the answer but he still asked the question. It seemed terribly important that he understood her now. As if by understanding, he could wipe out the past.

Lucy struggled with her own confusion, part of her desperately wanted to reach out to her half brother. The other part was wary, and was having a very hard time overcoming instinctively protective reactions.

"Yeah!" she finally managed.

Charlie was disappointed, which really confused him. What the hell's the matter with me, like I care about her…… He ignored the little voice that whispered in his head. Nah! No way! Whatever. He got up to go.

"Luce,……..I…."

She looked at him expectantly, and he faltered, uncertain of what he was going to say.

"Nothing. Forget it." He turned and walked out before he could dig himself in any deeper. He could almost feel himself starting to blush, and he really hated that.

&

Lucy pulled a couple of pillows further behind her and slid down, taking a firmer grip on Alphonse. She took the opportunity to study him, while he was sleeping. He's getting to me, and I never let anyone get to me.

"Great sex, huh!" His eyes were still closed.

"You heard that!" super-cool.

Sleepy blue eyes opened; "Yeah!" he smiled lazily. She smiled back involuntarily, drawn in by the strength of their attraction. She leaned in to kiss him.

They parted slowly. A shadow crossed his face.

"I heard quite a lot of other stuff too."

Lucy sighed, not even pretending to misunderstand or mislead him. "'Phonse, what happened to me was a long time ago. It takes time, you don't just pick up the threads of everything instantly. You need to give yourself a chance to recover."

&

"What do you mean, they missed Calderone?" Chrissy looked round at Ice. Desperation in her eyes. Ice stared at her in disbelief. How can they have screwed up this badly.

Chrissy put the phone down. "They missed Calderone." She began.

"Yeah, I heard. I didn't believe, but I heard!" Ice's chilly expression wasn't directed at Chrissy, but she felt the condemnation all the same.

"It was a difficult bust, somehow he slipped through!" Defensively. "But there's no way he can track us down here or to LA. How can he possibly know!"

Scepticism. Ice gave her the look.

"You need me to explain that to you? After the last four years!?"

Chrissy scowled, there were times when Ice's sense of humour, if you could call it that, was totally misplaced. "This is not about us. He lost Mitchell, he didn't need Alphonse any more, so why would he come after us?"

"Revenge!" Ice's tone was dry. "We screwed him and his plans. It cost him money. Now, he'll want revenge."

&

Chrissy was caught between a rock and a hard place. Alphonse needed to know about Calderone, but Chrissy wasn't sure of the effect knowing would have on his recovery, and she was certain that she didn't want Charlie's aggressive sister to go off the deep end. The young woman decided on the sisterhood approach. It wasn't working.

"How can you have missed Calderone?"

Chrissy sighed, even if she hadn't known Lucy's relationship to Charlie, she would have guessed, the sarcasm……………the endless sarcasm.

"It was a difficult bust. In the confusion he got away."

"Okay, so now he's after us." Lucy thought hard. "We'll make a run for it. Get back to LA, then he'll be coming to us on our terms."

Chrissy was slightly heartened by the 'we', it meant the bounty hunters would see this thing through to the end. The question still nagged at her.

"What are you going to tell Alphonse."

"The truth." Lucy looked her straight in the eye. "Half truths, lies and evasions will only do more damage in the long run." The bounty hunter drew in a deep breath, then continued. "It's not going to be easy. He will take it badly…..Oh, you won't see him suddenly panicking, he'll lock it all inside, but his nightmares will probably get worse."

&

Lucy lay next to Alphonse, awake in the dark. She could tell that the nightmares were beginning, he was shifting restlessly. Lucy slipped her arms around him and pulled him closer, trying to calm him. He was in that place halfway between asleep and awake, the very worst time.

"Ssssshhhhh!" she whispered gently in his ear, "Take it easy."

He wasn't responding, the grip of the nightmare too powerful. He moaned and started to thrash, Lucy held him as tightly as she could and tried to bring him fully awake.

It was a long time before he calmed down.

Damn them, why did this have to happen………just once they couldn't have got it right.

&

They boarded a plane for Los Angeles and fled west. Five hours later they were back in the smog of the city.

Chrissy and O'Connor held a hurried consultation. Calderone had not been seen, but there was no reason to suppose that he had given up.

Chrissy broke the news to the others. Lucy was grimly sarcastic.

"Sure, now all we have to do is wait. He can sneak up any time and pick us off one by one."

"What do you propose!" O'Connor's expression was the picture of inflexibility.

"I don't know yet, but I'm sure of one thing………..I ain't waiting around for him to come get us."

Ice was more philosophical. Yelling and screaming wasn't gonna get'em anywhere. Cool planning on the other hand. He replayed several moves in his head.

"What if, we set him up with the thing he missed out on?"

"USE ALPHONSE AS A DECOY, NO WAY!" Lucy leapt in before he had a chance to finish.

"Luce, chill willya." Alphonse grasped her wrist and tugged her back against him, wrapping an arm round her waist before she could take Ice out.

"No, I meant an arms deal. That's what he wants. Then he comes to the deal, and we nail him."

"Oh sure, you want to wash him up and bag him too!"

&

Ice laid out the plan and they ran with it, waiting for Calderone to take the bait.

Some of Ice's street contacts started to pay off. Calderone was sniffing around. Hunting for an opening.

&

"I can smell a trap!"

"Lucy, shuddup!"

"Y'might want to stay awake, or Calderone's gonna smoke y'sorry ass."

Charlie glared at his half-sister.

They were prowling through the abandoned factory site the FBI had chosen for the exchange. Ice had set himself up as an arms dealer with weapons to sell, Calderone had finally taken the bait and the deal was going down that afternoon.

A little advance recon never hurt. Charlie checked the surroundings carefully, don't want any unpleasant surprises. He caught a fleeting glimpse of someone moving in the dim recesses of one of the buildings. He looked around, realised that Lucy had moved on and he was on his own. Taking a deep breath, he moved into the building.

&

Lucy could sense she wasn't alone. Great, Calderone's here before us. She slipped cautiously round the corner of the abandoned building and stopped. Shit.

She faced four men, moving in, surrounding her. Lucy smiled to herself, payback time. She smoothly assumed a fighting stance.

The goons moved in, a woman, alone, no sweat. Lucy concentrated all her anger and hatred into her movements. She easily sidestepped the first to get close to her, bringing her hand round in a rigid karate chop to his throat, he fell back clutching at his throat, as the next stepped up, she dropped, sweeping his legs out from under him and springing back upright in time to slam her elbow back into another's face. Between them they managed to get a few blows in, but Lucy had the upper hand and was concentrated on inflicting as much damage as she could.

She became aware that the others had found her. Nobody moved to help, as she punched out the last of the weakening group. She paused to draw breath.

"It wouldn't have killed you to give me hand back there." Sarcasm dripped.

"Lucy, y'do it with such style." Ice offered his appreciation of her performance.

"Anytime!" She couldn't keep the irony out of her voice. Looking around, "Where's Charlie."

As if on cue, Charlie reappeared. It wasn't a joyous reunion, Calderone held him with an arm round his neck, gun pressed to his head.

"BACK OFF, OR I KILL HIM." Calderone screamed, he was losing it. Charlie relaxed, only his eyes betrayed his terror.

Everyone seemed incapable of movement, except Lucy; a gun was in her hand, aimed steadily at Calderone.

"Think again, shithead." Her eyes were cold and hard. "Ain't no way you're gonna get out of here."

Calderone's arm tightened round Charlie's throat, the gun pressed harder. "He's gonna die."

Lucy's focus shifted. "Trust me?"

Charlie's terrified eyes looked into hers. "Trust me?" more insistent this time.

"Yeah" he gasped as two bullets smacked into Calderone. The first hitting him in the shoulder, the second right between the eyes as he fell back away from his victim.

Charlie just stood there. Staring in disbelief at his half-sister. For once in his life, utterly speechless.

"There, told ya, y'could trust me."

&

The FBI mopped up. Not that there was much left to mop up. Calderone was dead, his henchmen were inoperative.

The relief that it was all over swept round the team.

&

Alphonse waited on the roof. Night had long since fallen, most of the rest of the team had hurriedly found urgent appointments, or hot dates elsewhere, sensing that Alphonse wanted to be alone with Lucy.

He heard a sound and turned to face her. She had found a dress from somewhere, it was brilliant red, in some soft clinging material that swept round and flattered her curves, made a man think very impure thoughts.

She held his gaze and walked towards him slowly, promise in every movement of her well toned body.

Alphonse had all these plans about wining and dining her, which flew straight out the window. He wasn't proof against the hot sexy smile, or the way her arms slid round him, hands pulling his shirt out of his waistband, fingers exploring his back as their lips met. Without breaking the kiss, her hands moved to his shirt front and dragged it open, fingernails slid over his chest leaving little trails of fire in their wake.

He stripped the dress off her in one smooth movement, to discover that she had no underwear.

Alphonse scooped her up into his arms and they laid a trail of discarded clothing all the way to the bedroom.

&

Ice walked into the loft. The day had taken its toll on him and he was very tired. They'd stayed out to give Alphonse and Lucy time alone, something he had to work very hard to convince Charlie to do.

Man, he was tired. Ice slumped down on the couch. Just a few minutes. He thought hard about what had happened in the last four weeks. Alphonse nearly killed just because he happened to look like someone else, Charlie meeting up with his "sister", us on the run again and winding up back here in LA. Ice sighed, just never know where life takes us; who wouldha bet on LA. He yawned and drifted off to sleep.

The End