A/N: Dedicated to my wonderful beta, who prompted me to write this story after reading my other Gallagher Girls fic last night. :P I think this is out of my system now, so don't expect any more until the fourth book (or whenever I decide to reread the first three). Enjoy!
"What story do you want to hear tonight?" Zach asked, rolling his storytelling chair over to his daughter's bed as he watched the five-year-old bounce happily beneath her sheets.
"Oh, oh!" she held up her hand, as if they were in a classroom, and said, "I wanna hear the one in London!"
He laughed, "That one again? You're sure?"
She nodded firmly, and he folded his arms on the backrest of his chair, glancing up as he got all the events in order. Finally, he took a deep breath, looking back at his daughter, "All right. Once upon a time, there were two spies…"
Cammie subtly slid her newspaper a fraction lower, peering over it and immediately focusing on the man about twenty feet from her. He stood, dropped some money on his table, and wrapped his overcoat more tightly around himself. Then he cast one more suspicious glance around the café, his eyes sliding over her as he deemed the area safe. He slid out of the restaurant without so much as a goodbye to the hostess.
Cammie counted down from twenty and casually folded up her newspaper, paying for her scone and strolling out with a smile at her waitress.
The outdoor air chilled her, and she wrapped her own coat more tightly around herself as she glanced to the right and started forward. The man was nowhere in sight, but she knew he was around somewhere. Scanning everything and making note of even the tiniest details, she blended with the crowd of London natives, just another young woman headed back to work after her lunch break.
Rain began to fall, but it didn't impede her progress. Cammie kept a constant pace when target got back in sight; she just kept dodging through rainy patches like all the other Londoners.
She passed by a bookstore and slipped inside, perusing the titles as the man in the overcoat doubled back and stalked right by the store. Once she was sure he was gone, she discarded her newspaper and flipped her coat, using the reversible side to change the pattern. She produced a hat and hid her hair, and then went back out in the rain.
This continued for the next two hours as the man in the overcoat used every textbook procedure to get rid of pursuers. She supposed that was logical—James Whitman was a wealthy underground drug dealer, after all, and it was only natural for him to be wary of his accumulated enemies.
Finally, James started to head back towards his apartment in downtown Chelsea, and Cammie spoke softly, "He's coming your way, Hawk."
"Not this story again."
Zach looked up as their daughter jumped, staring with wide eyes at her mother, "Mommy! You scared me!"
"Sorry, sweetie," Cammie smiled, sitting down at the end of the bed. "I guess you weren't paying attention because of the story."
Zach rolled his eyes; he hadn't heard his wife slip in either, and he was a trained professional. Nevertheless, he swiveled his chair to look at her with an amused grin playing on his face, "And why, Gallagher Girl, are you so against this story?"
"You know why," she retorted swiftly. His grin grew. She continued, "Besides, I can't believe you're actually trying to convince her that that was your codename."
"What? 'Hawk'?" Zach looked offended. "That was my codename."
Cammie snorted, "It's so…"
"Powerful? Fast? Deadly?"
"Cool," she finally settled with. "What have you done to earn a codename like that?" He gasped indignantly. Beside him, their daughter let out a giggle, gleeful at her parents' frequent and hilarious bickering.
Zach put a hand to his heart, "You wound me with your words. If you insist that my telling is inaccurate, why don't you pick up?"
"Oh, no," Cammie shook her head. "That's not a story I'd prefer to relive, thank you. It's bad enough that you insist on repeating it so often. I'll be in the kitchen if you need me," she stood, giving her daughter a kiss on the forehead before walking out.
Zach waved her away, "Good riddance. Don't listen to what Mommy says, honey. She's just jealous because her codename isn't as awesome as mine."
Their daughter laughed again and Zach continued with the story.
The comm unit in her ear was silent for a moment, and then, just as softly, Zach responded, "I understand, Chameleon. I'll be out in one minute."
Cammie didn't respond; too busy smiling at an ice cream man trying to sell her his sweets. The target was nearing Chelsea, still oblivious to her presence, though he occasionally cast a glance over his shoulder to scan the crowds. She had to give James credit—he'd spent a good amount of time trying to lose any tails. His mistake was that, by now, he was confident he wasn't being followed.
"He about to turn the corner onto his street…" Cammie murmured. "Are you still in the apartment?"
She nearly cringed when a loud crash erupted in her ear, and Zach's quiet cursing followed. Keeping a smile lingering on her face, she asked, "What was that?"
"Damn; I tripped on a cord and brought a lamp down, along with the table it was sitting on," Zach replied, and she could hear him struggling to set everything back up exactly the way it was. "I'm going to need a minute. Distract him."
Cammie rolled her eyes and darted into an alleyway, taking a quick shortcut to beat the target back to his building. She pulled out her purse and put on a display of searching for her keys, frowning as she hovered by the lobby's locked door. She heard James come up behind her, but made no move to turn around.
After a few minutes, he scoffed and slid where she could see him, "Is there a problem?"
She looked up at him, aware of the fact that her miserable expression was heightened because she was very near drenched, "Oh, it's my key," she muttered. "I can't find it—I might have forgotten to put it in my purse…" she shook her head, angry at herself. "I'm so scatterbrained."
James appraised her for a moment and apparently appreciated what he saw, because he produced his own key and said, "Allow me." The door clicked open a moment later, and he held it for her as she hurried to get out of the rain. Cammie sighed.
"Thank you," she said, meeting his gaze once more. "I have to call my roommate and have her bring a spare key to get into our apartment."
"Oh," the man smiled charmingly at her, "Well, what would you say to a cup of tea at my place while you wait?"
Cammie quickly skimmed through her options. Zach was still in the apartment, so distracting the man for a little longer was the logical choice. Though she didn't necessarily want to have tea with an infamous underground drug dealer, it would seem as if she were out of options. So she laughed and said, "I'd be delighted! I could use something hot after all that rain," she pulled her coat off and folded it up, holding it over her arm as she shivered slightly. "Hold on a moment. I'll call my friend."
She produced her cell phone and dialed Zach's number, hearing it ring through her comm. He laughed and picked up, saying, "Hello?" in the highest pitch he could reach.
"It's me," she said. "I accidentally left my key in the apartment."
"Oh ho ho! You're so scatterbrained!" Zach replied, his voice still high and mocking of her cover's mistake.
Cammie struggled to keep her irritation hidden, "Can you come and unlock the door for me?"
"I guess I can squeeze it in, if you really insist," he said. Then he giggled. Cammie resisted the urge to hit her head against a wall.
"Thanks," she hung up the phone, but still had to endure Zach's snickers through the comm. She turned back to James. "She'll be here as soon as she can."
He smiled at her and motioned for her to go up the stairs first, following just slightly behind as she set a leisurely pace. After a few steps of silence, he said, "I'm surprised I haven't seen you around here before. Surely I'd remember a resident as lovely as yourself."
"You're too kind," Cammie trilled, ignoring Zach as he snorted into his comm. "My friend is letting me stay with her until I can get my own place. I just moved back here from the States."
"Really?" James drew even with her on the second floor landing. "And how was that?"
She shrugged a shoulder, said, "Well, the men there were quite lacking," and met his gaze again with a seductive smile. Zach gagged in his comm. Cammie ignored him with practiced ease. But since he still hadn't said anything about being out of the apartment, she scanned her surroundings for something to distract the man beside her. As they drew even again on the third floor landing, she glanced down and gasped.
"Oh, wow," she slid a fraction closer to him. "Is that a Rolex watch?"
James glanced down at his own wrist and nodded emphatically, "Indeed."
"But those are so expensive!" she looked at him in admiration.
"I like the best," he boasted. "For me… and any woman who catches my eye." His expression clearly stated that she had caught his eye.
Cammie inched closer, latching onto his arm and playing up the act he so obviously wanted, "Ooh… A rich man…"
James stared down at her, lust in his eyes, "I try not to brag..."
Zach paused for a moment, glancing at his daughter, who was hanging off his every word. She smiled up at him, waiting for him to continue, and he cleared his throat, "I'm going to skip a bit here, all right?"
She pouted, "But I want to know what happens!"
"You will," Zach promised. "But when you're older. Mommy flirted a little too much with that man."
Cammie's loud protest was heard from the kitchen, "I did not, Zach, and you know it! There's nothing in that story that our daughter can't hear."
"I can't be so sure," Zach called back. "I wasn't there to see what happened!"
"Nothing happened," Cammie appeared in the doorway again, scowling at her husband. "And even if something did, it was strictly for business. I've seen you kiss women on the job all the time."
He shrugged, "What can I say? They throw themselves on me," he stopped talking when he saw the look in his wife's eye, reminding him that even though their daughter was present now, she could still kill him eighteen different ways once they were in their room. He quickly revised his statement. "But I only ever kiss them when they can give me vital facts to further my mission. You know that, Gallagher Girl."
"When are you going to stop calling me that?" Cammie stared at him curiously, ignoring his excuses. "I'm not even a student there anymore."
Zach stood, strolling over to her, "Ah, but to me, you'll always be my Gallagher Girl." And then he grabbed her and tilted her down, placing a kiss on her lips much like he'd done several years earlier in the foyer of the Gallagher Academy. Their daughter was clapping happily when he'd finished, and she crawled forward on her bed.
"Mommy, you finish the story!"
She appraised her daughter, finally pushing away from Zach to sit on the end of the bed once again, "I suppose I have to, since your father is getting all the details wrong. Get back under the covers first, though."
The child did so, and Zach reclaimed his seat as Cammie closed her eyes and recalled the events of that particular mission, "Finally your father fixed his mistakes and got out of the apartment…"
"I'm out, Chameleon."
At this point, Cammie held back a sigh. They'd already progressed to the man's door, and she was afraid she was going to have to do something drastic to keep him out of his apartment a little longer. Luckily, James's apartment key didn't work as seamlessly as the key downstairs, and he had been struggling with it for a bit. She peered over his shoulder, seamlessly asking, "Did you get it?"
James glanced at her, "Almost. Normally it doesn't give me this much trouble… But I'll get it, sweets." He'd started calling her that somewhere between the third and fourth floor.
At the same time, Zach replied to her question as well, "Yeah. There's no way he can get out of a persecution with this evidence."
"That's brilliant," Cammie replied to both men at once, because at that moment the man's door swung open and he straightened triumphantly, letting her in. She followed him to his rather large kitchen, glancing around the penthouse suite with feigned amazement. "Wow…" she said, putting her purse down and taking off her coat. "This apartment is amazing!"
James smiled at her compliment and began heating up a pot of tea, "The only reason I haven't upgraded to something bigger is because I have no one to share it with."
She met his gaze and blushed slightly, batting her eyelashes as she responded, "The girl that gets you is very lucky."
Zach gagged again, but that was apparently exactly what James wanted to hear, because he walked up to her and took her hand in his, staring into her eyes as he said, "It could be you, sweets."
"If he calls you that one more time…" Zach threatened, knowing full well his statement would go unanswered. Cammie simply swooned a little, but made a show of stepping out of his grasp.
"I'm… sorry," she said softly. "I couldn't, James. There's another man in my life already… Perhaps it's best if we just have tea while my roommate comes."
Cammie straightened, smiling at her daughter, "So I had tea with him, bid him goodbye, and later read his court case while he rotted in jail."
Zach laughed loudly, completely amused as he said, "Now, now, Cammie. You know there was more."
"I know nothing of that," she replied steadily.
"Maybe not," he gestured to their daughter, who was smirking at her mother much in the same way Zach did. "But she knows the story isn't over."
"Tell me more, Mommy!"
Cammie rubbed the bridge of her nose with two fingers, exasperated. Finally, she huffed, "Oh, all right. Let's just say that Mr. Whitman wasn't exactly pleased…"
James shook his head and sighed at Cammie, moving back into the kitchen to check the tea, "That's a shame. But I have another question for you, sweets," he said carefully, glancing over his shoulder at her.
In her ear, Zach could be heard muttering another string of curses, "He never told you his name, Chameleon!"
Cammie froze, realizing her mistake. She'd read his file so many times that she knew everything about him, and his name had been bubbling on the surface. It had completely slipped her mind that he hadn't actually told her—she'd just assumed that by this point, he must have mentioned it somewhere, "And what question is that?"
"How did you know my name?" he demanded, pulling a gun out of his overcoat and aiming it at her. She swallowed, playing her cover until the very last second.
"Y-you introduced yourself earlier!" she stuttered, holding her hands up and edging away. "P-please d-don't kill me!"
The man strode towards her, the gun trained on her chest, "Who are you?"
"Elizabeth! Elizabeth Taylor!" she was crying now, hysterical.
Zach's voice was calm as he said, "I'm on my way."
"No!" she cried, and James stopped advancing. She held out a shaking hand to keep him away. "Don't come closer!"
"I'm coming to get you, Cammie, whether you want my help or not," Zach snarled into her comm.
James stared at her in disbelief, "Drop the act, sweets. You're just making a fool of yourself. Who sent you?"
Cammie knew at that moment that time had run out. Things would go from bad to worse when Zach got there, and right now James appeared to have let his guard down a little. She sniffled and lunged forward, knocking the gun out of his hand in one swift movement.
James's eyes widened as her leg swung up and kicked him in the head. He fell with a loud thump, dazed, sprawled out on his million euro rug. She was a bit surprised—for a drug lord, one would have thought he'd be better in self defense. Nevertheless, she kicked his gun out of his reach and quickly slapped a Napotine patch on his forehead, just in case.
By the time Zach arrived, she was lounging at the kitchen table, drinking her cup of tea. She looked up as he raised his eyebrows at her, "You want some? It's Darjeeling; the Queen's tea."
"Hold on a minute," Zach raised a hand, stopping his wife's depiction before it got any worse. "That is not what happened."
Cammie blinked at him, "It is so."
"No," he said steadily, shaking his head. "You forgot the Napotine patch. So while you were over fixing yourself a cup of tea for my arrival, he was crawling back over to his gun. And when I got there, you were about to be in some serious trouble."
Cammie folded her arms. "I had everything under control."
"Then why do I have a video of him aiming the gun at your head?"
"You don't have a video."
"I do," he grinned. "The camera was in my tie."
She leaned forward, "Oh? Then riddle me this, Hawk: Why were you taking a video if I was in such terrible danger?"
"I…" he scowled. "The video was recording the whole time. I didn't waste a moment taking that guy out a second time."
"Uh-huh," Cammie turned to their daughter. "Kiddo, your daddy's lying. Don't believe a thing he says."
She giggled, glancing back and forth between her parents, "I wanna grow up! I wanna go to the Gallagag-her 'cademy!"
Cammie leaned over and tucked the child in tighter, "You will, kiddo. Until then, we'll tell you a lot more stories to pass the time, okay?" Cammie's eyes flitted to Zach's for a moment, and she smiled maliciously. "Perhaps we'll recount the one from Egypt tomorrow night."
Zach glared at her, "You wouldn't dare."
"You know," she glanced back down at their daughter. "Your father isn't the ideal spy either. And that story's a perfect example…"
"I wanna hear! I wanna hear!"
"Goodnight," Zach said firmly, kissing his daughter on the cheek. "Get some sleep, and we'll discuss what story to tell tomorrow."
Cammie kissed the child as well before walking out of the room with her husband, "There's no need for discussion. We already know what she's going to hear." She murmured as she closed the door behind them.
Zach smirked, "Not if I can help it."
"I dare you to stop me."
"Done. Watch your back, Gallagher Girl."
"Likewise, Blackthorne Boy."
And they kissed right there in the hallway.
A/N: Don't ask me why their daughter never got a name. :P And I couldn't for the life of me think of a good codename for Zach, so I just made one up and it'll be up to you to think of his real one. Have a fantastic day! :)