A/N: This is set early on in Jacob and Rachel's association. It is post Agro and Containment, as Rachel and Jacob both reference incidents from those episodes. This piece also contains a bit of a shout-out to two short, short pieces by Obsidian Jade.

Disclaimer: I don't own them. I play with them for fun, not profit.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Special Agent Rachel Young tentatively approached the table in the rear of the ballroom. This was the first time she had accompanied Dr. Jacob Hood to one of his speaking engagements. She knew he hated them, he only agreed when the Director pressured him into them. In retaliation, he would insist that the Director accompany him. Since he would be under the Director's security umbrella, Rachel had always had the evening free. But this time was different

Hood was scheduled to testify as an expert witness in a criminal trial in two weeks. The case was one that pre-dated her assignment to his detail. He had been instrumental in proving that an agribusiness had deliberately used one of its subsidiaries to test genetically altered wheat that hadn't been approved for human consumption by the FDA. Several people who had eaten products made from the wheat had died. An ambitious Assistant United States Attorney, with Hood's enthusiastic cooperation, had charged the corporate executives with murder. If the prosecution was successful, they were looking at not just massive fines, but serious time in a federal penitentiary. Word had leaked out on the street that those execs would do anything to prevent that from happening.

The FBI had interpreted that as a threat to Hood's life. So in addition to extra security for this event, it was decided that Hood's personal bodyguard should also attend. Rachel's only consolation was that no one had gotten the bright idea of sending her in undercover. She would have hated to have to pose as Hood's date.

Rachel's nervousness had nothing to do with her assignment tonight or her general working relationship with Hood. They had come to an understanding in the few short months they had worked together. He would do exactly what she said, at all times, and she wouldn't shoot him. Her job had become remarkably easier once she had made it clear to Hood that, unlike his former handlers, she was not about to let him cause a blot to appear in her flawless FBI record. Her nervousness was due to the fact that tonight, for the first time since she started this detail, she had to work alongside other members of the EPD. And those other members included not only her boss but one of Hood's former handlers.

Rachel knew about, and resented, the gossip that had swirled around the EPD when it became obvious that she was going to last more than a few weeks with Hood. She had a sneaky feeling that it was this gossip that made Tyler C. McGruder, Detail Chief of the EPD, decide to personally head up security for this event. That he wanted to evaluate her and Hood's relationship. Rachel snorted at the very idea of having a "relationship" with Hood. Although she had to admit, he was growing on her. While he could be a pain in the ass, the work he did was important. To his credit, Rachel admitted grudgingly to herself, while he took his work seriously, he didn't take himself seriously. He wasn't arrogant or self-important as she had been led to believe. Plus she was beginning to discover that he had a wicked sense of humor.

Security for this event was tight. Aside from herself and McGruder, there were the bodyguards for the Director and Deputy Director, and four agents assigned to general security. And that was only inside the hotel. McGruder had arranged for web cams to be installed in both the foyer outside the ballroom and in the ballroom where the dinner was being held. A van was parked outside monitoring the video feed for suspicious activity.

"Young," McGruder grunted. "About time you got here." He waved to a nearby waiter who hurried over to serve Rachel. For a variety of reasons, McGruder had wanted to keep the security as unobtrusive as possible. He hadn't wanted his 'inside' agents to stand out. But it was hard to camouflage eight black suited agents hovering in the background. McGruder's solution had been to institute shifts. Two agents would patrol the foyer and ballroom for 30 minutes while the others sat at the table reserved for them. McGruder had carefully selected the table. It not only had an unobstructed view of the head table and podium but also the two main doors as well as the service entrance. Rachel had been on the last patrol and she had taken 35 minutes before returning to the table.

Rachel nodded to the other agents at the table. She suppressed a grimace as she realized that, hoping to stay as far away from McGruder as possible, she had inadvertently taken a seat beside Robert Murphy. Murphy was currently assigned to the protection detail for the Deputy Director; previously he had been assigned to Hood. Until Rachel, he had held the record as the handler to last the longest. He had survived three weeks. She suspected that he was the primary source for the gossip.

"So, Young," Murphy smirked. "Still hanging in there with Hood I see. You're gonna have to tell us your secret to keeping him under control."

Rachel flushed slightly at the muffled snickers from some of the other agents. A quick look at McGruder showed him looking blandly across the table at her. He either didn't hear, or was pretending not to hear, Murphy's comment. Rachel kept her temper in check with difficulty. This wasn't the first time, and it wouldn't be the last, that Rachel had to prove her worth to some man; usually a man not nearly as competent as herself.

Rachel cocked an eyebrow and smiled at Murphy coolly. "Secret? I don't know what you're talking about. I still find it hard to believe the EPD had problems finding a suitable handler for Hood. I mean, this has to be the easiest detail I've ever had." Rachel thought ruefully to herself that she would probably burn in hell for that lie. But these morons didn't need to know about the headaches Hood had given her. She still shuddered as she recalled having to explain to the Director why Hood had thought it necessary to purchase a fifteen hundred dollar bottle of wine.

Before Murphy could respond, Rachel's worst nightmare came true. The current bane of her existence, Dr. Jacob Hood, plopped himself down in the empty seat beside her.

"Ty," Jacob nodded to McGruder before turning his attention to Rachel. "Rachel, you need to take me home. I think I'm coming down with something." He looked at her earnestly. "Really, you should feel my forehead; I think I have a fever."

Rachel looked at Hood blankly for a few seconds. If he had tried, he couldn't have come up with a better way to undermine her position with the other agents at the table. She could already imagine what they were thinking. A quick glance to her side showed that Murphy was looking positively gleeful.

"I'm not feeling your forehead," Rachel ground out. "In the first place, I'm not your mother. In the second place, there's nothing wrong with you. You can't weasel out of speaking after dinner that easy."

Jacob grimaced and sat back in his chair. "I don't see why not. Half of the people here wouldn't care if I spoke or not. They don't give a damn about the work the Society is doing, they only came here to see and be seen."

"Actually, all of the people here would most likely be thrilled not to have to listen to you speak." Rachel responded deadpan. "God knows I would. "

A dead silence descended on the table. The agents present gaped at Rachel. Surely she hadn't spoken to her assignment so disrespectfully? McGruder for his part suppressed a smile.

Jacob's lips twitched. "You're probably right, so why can't we leave?"

Rachel looked at Hood suspiciously. "Why are you really here? And don't give me any shit about not wanting to speak. What's going on? Why are you so anxious to get out of here?"

Jacob suddenly looked uncomfortable. "That woman over there, she said her name is Natalie. She's been pursuing me all evening. For some reason she won't take no for an answer. It's getting embarrassing."

Rachel looked in the direction Hood indicated. The woman Hood was trying to avoid was stunning. She was tall and voluptuous; her skin was the color of warm honey and her long curly black hair hung half-way down her back. Her dress was fabulous. It wasn't overtly revealing, but the cut and fabric left nothing to the imagination. Rachel thought she wouldn't mind owing that dress herself.

She turned back to Hood impatiently. "Oh for god's sake. If you're not interested, just tell her. You're probably just being too polite."

"I have, I thought that maybe you…"

"No." Rachel had a hard time keeping a straight face. "My brief is to protect you against threats to your life, not your virtue. You're on your own."

Jacob opened his mouth to protest, but before he could get a word out, he was interrupted by Frank Fuller, Director of the FBI. "Damn it Jacob, what are you doing back here? I need you to speak to Senator Goodwin. He's nuts about anything to do with science. I need you to put him in a good mood before I tackle him about my budget." He hauled Jacob out of his seat; Rachel and the others could hear the two men bickering good naturedly as they made their way from the table.

One of the agents at the table said to Rachel, "Do you always talk to him like that? I mean," He glanced sideways at McGruder, "it seems, uh, kind of disrespectful? And, well, you saw him with the Director. Aren't they old friends or something?"

"Oh please," Rachel rolled her eyes. "You're talking about a man who walks in front of moving cars unless told specifically not to do so. I have to be very direct in my communications with Hood."

"Rachel, huh, you two on a first name basis? I don't think Hood called me anything for the whole three weeks I was assigned to him." Murphy smiled at her maliciously.

Rachel gave the man a genuine grin. "That? Yeah, he's stuck with it. I introduced myself to him as Special Agent Young. It took him two weeks to find out my first name. He only started calling me Rachel to piss me off. But I refused to rise to the bait, so he has to keep calling me "Rachel" or admit the truth."

McGruder smiled to himself. Assigning Young to Hood's detail was probably the best move he could have made. Unlike the other agents, she wasn't overly impressed with his connections nor intimidated by his intelligence. The soundness of that decision was confirmed a few minutes later.

Rachel had been keeping an eye on the woman Hood had pointed out. The evening had reached the point where dinner was mostly over but there was still time before the speeches were scheduled to begin. People had begun to table hop. She was mildly surprised to see the woman join in the conversation Hood was having with Senator Goodwin. She was very surprised to see how adroitly he managed to extricate himself from the conversation. But what truly intrigued her was the expression on the woman's face as Hood excused himself and disappeared into the crowd. She was pissed.

She sat back and considered the matter dispassionately. Why would a woman go to so much trouble to pursue a man who obviously wasn't interested? She thought about Hood, the man, objectively. Yes, he was good looking. Actually, he was very good looking. And he cleaned up good, looked great in his tux. But still, he wasn't the best looking, or the best known, man in the room. And that woman, there was something wrong about her; Rachel sat chewing her lip trying to think what about the woman was setting off her alarm.

McGruder noticed her abstraction and intruded on her thoughts. "Got a problem Young?"

Rachel considered the matter, yes; maybe she should say something to McGruder. She may be going on nothing more than a gut feeling, but what the hell?

"It's that woman, sir, the one Hood was complaining about. She just doesn't add up."

"What; don't like someone flirting with your guy?" Murphy snickered.

Rachel shot him a dirty look before returning her attention to McGruder. "It's just, well, she doesn't fit here"

"What do you mean?" McGruder was puzzled.

"Well, look at her." Rachel gestured around her. "She's not with anyone, not someone's date or wife or daughter. Most of the guests who are on their own are like Hood, here for official reasons or they're politicians. It doesn't make a sense, an attractive, single woman at an affair like this."

"Oh come on," Murphy protested. "Maybe she had a relative die from cancer. Why shouldn't she be at a party put on by the Cancer Society?" He shrugged. "And she's bored, so she decided to pick up your guy."

"No," Rachel shook her head decidedly. "She's not here out of a sense of duty. Look at that dress."

Every man at the table looked the woman over closely and came to the same conclusion. That was one damn fine dress.

"Uh," McGruder cleared his throat. "What's wrong with the dress?"

"There are dresses you wear to duty functions," Rachel explained. "And then there are dresses you wear when you're out to have a good time. That dress is definitely the second kind."

McGruder smiled. "I'll have to take your word for it. Ok, so she's out of place. What else is bothering you?"

"It's the way she keeps going after Hood,"

"Oh? And why does that bother you?" McGruder wanted to know.

"It just doesn't make sense." Rachel was so intent on her thoughts she missed the quizzical expression on McGruder's face, the smirks on the faces of her fellow agents. "Hood said that he had made it clear to her he wasn't interested. I didn't believe him, but then he cut out pretty quickly when she approached him while he was talking to Senator Goodwin."

"So?" McGruder was getting impatient.

Rachel mentally shrugged. This was close to giving her boss to much personal information, but what the hell; she had to make him understand. "Look, sir. If it was me, if I was at a party and decided to cut some guy out of the herd, why would I waste my time on one who wasn't interested? Risk having to go home alone?"

McGruder's lips began to twitch, "I don't know, Hood seems like a good pick to me." He smiled at Rachel provocatively. "He's a good looking guy, don't you think?"

"Yeah, ok, he's a good first choice," Rachel conceded. "But once he says no, why not move on? There are other good looking, famous, unattached guys here. Hell, Congressman Landry's here and he has a reputation for going for anything in a skirt.

Then there's the expression on her face when Hood left her with Goodwin." Rachel looked thoughtful. "She was pissed. Why would she be ticked off because one guy turned her down? Hood wouldn't have been rude about it, so why would she be pissed off?"

"What do you mean, Hood wouldn't have been rude?" Murphy protested. "That man has a tongue like an adder. He was rude, she got pissed, case closed."

"No," Rachel shook her head. "He's rude to people who are lying to him or impeding his investigations." She smirked at Murphy, "And yeah, he gets impatient with stupidity, but otherwise he's, uh, polite."

What Rachel really wanted to say was that Hood was kind. She had been impressed during their time together by how he would go out of his way to help, to reassure, people who were innocently caught up in their investigations. He was one of the most compassionate men she had ever met. There was no way he would be rude to that woman, he would assume that her behavior was inadvertent. He would hate to distress her; he would think that she would be mortified to realize that she was embarrassing him. 'Shit,' Rachel thought to herself, that's why he needs me.' But she wasn't sure the other agents, or McGruder would understand.

McGruder looked at Rachel with approval. She was observant and willing to go with her gut, two qualities he prized highly. "Well, easy enough to see if you're right. Reyes," he turned to the agent sitting beside him. "Go out to the van; find a clear picture of that woman's face on the security feed. Have the people in intelligence run it against the facial recognition software. See if they come up with a hit. And." McGruder cocked his head at Rachel. "You damn sure you know where she was sitting?"

"Yes sir," Rachel was adamant. "I noted her position when Hood was here complaining about her."

McGruder waved over the waiter. "We need you to retrieve a glass for us, and we need you to do it discreetly and without smearing any prints."

The waiter's eyes widened. Carefully following the directions Rachel gave him, he soon returned with a wine glass carefully held by the stem. He passed it over to McGruder, who handed it to the waiting Agent Reyes. "See if you can get a match on any prints off that thing." Reyes nodded and left the room.

Just as he left, the lights dimmed and the chairman of the Society introduced the after-dinner program. Aside from Hood's speech, the Society was using the dinner as an opportunity to recognize a Congressman who was influential in securing federal funding for the Society. After the speeches, dessert and coffee would be served in the foyer.

A few minutes into the Congressman's speech, Reyes hurried into the room his face shining with excitement. He whispered into McGruder's ear. McGruder looked surprised and glanced in Rachel's direction. Catching her eye, he jerked his head, indicating she should follow him from the room.

"Give us the full report." McGruder said to Reyes.

"Sir, Young was right. We didn't get a match on the facial recognition software or her prints. Then I ran her prints in the Interpol database. She's a Turkish citizen named Natalie Younan. She's listed as a person of interest in at least three murders for hire in Europe."

Reyes looked at McGruder eagerly. "Should we pull her in for questioning?"

"About what?" Rachel asked. "Last time I looked flirting wasn't a federal offense. She hasn't done a damn thing."

"Like hell," Reyes argued. "She's…"

"Young's right," McGruder interrupted. "She hasn't done a damn thing. We pick her up now; whoever hired her just gets themselves a new gun. We need the people behind her." He narrowed his eyes, thinking. "We need a plan. Reyes, get Murphy, Balift, and Hagner out here. She can't do much with Hood up on the podium, but have Vancaro keep her under surveillance."

McGruder assembled his team in an alcove off the foyer of the ballroom. He quickly outlined the information that Reyes had run down and asked for suggestions. How to best keep Hood safe and neutralize the probable hired assassin. The four men eagerly offered suggestions; Rachel sat with an abstracted expression on her face. McGruder watched her rather than listen to the others.

"It doesn't make sense." Rachel finally spoke up.

The other agents looked at her in disbelief. McGruder looked interested. "Why not? You're the one who nailed her as being out of place, so what's wrong now? What doesn't make sense?"

"Her approaching Hood here, trying to pick him up." Rachel spoke slowly, "I mean, she knows who he is, she knows, she has to know, that he's under our protection. So there's no way she's going to be getting him alone. I mean, shit, she can't be stupid enough to think that his bodyguard would let him hook up with a strange woman when there's a credible threat to his life. So, why approach him here? Damn," Rachel mused. "I wish I had taken Hood more seriously, asked him about her, found out what she did say to him."

"That's a total load of crap." Murphy snapped. "She's been checking him out all night. She can see that he doesn't have a bodyguard glued to his side. All she needs to do is to convince him to slip out into a deserted hallway for a minute and the deed's done." He scoffed, "that's probably why she looked pissed earlier. He wasn't making it easy for her to get him alone." The other agents muttered their agreement.

"Hood may not have someone glued to his side, but you can damn well bet that she's made the lot of us. Yeah, we've tried to be unobtrusive, but face it, she's a hired killer, she's looking for security." Rachel argued. "She knows if Hood tries to leave that room, one of us will show up quick." She appealed to McGruder. "It's too chancy a set-up for a pro. It's not like she's some scorned lover. She doesn't just want him dead, she wants him dead and her with an easy escape route."

McGruder once again congratulated himself on snatching Young from Counter-Terrorism. She was confirming all of his hunches about her. She wasn't just smart; all of his agents were smart. She had that something extra, imagination, curiosity, whatever you wanted to call it. She had the ability analyze a situation from different perspectives. Put herself in the other guys place. She was quick to see connections and to act on her instincts. No wonder Hood had finally found a handler he could tolerate.

"So, what did you want to ask Hood?" The rest of the agents gaped at McGruder, he was taking Young seriously.

Rachel squared her shoulders. "Hood said she was pursuing him. I'd like to know exactly what he meant by that. Maybe something she said would give us a clue as to what she has in mind."

The agents were briefly startled as the doors to the ballroom opened and the guest began streaming out, heading to the dessert buffet that had been set up in the foyer. Rachel swore softly to herself. Obviously Hood had cut his speech short, hoping to duck out before the woman could corner him again.

"Sir," Rachel spoke to McGruder urgently. "Why don't I get Hood, maybe we can find out something…?"

"Go." McGruder interrupted. "We don't have much time before this shindig ends. We can't afford to blow this lead."

Rachel nodded and vanished into the crowd. She returned shortly with a bewildered Hood in tow. "Guess who was talking to him." Rachel grimly informed McGruder.

"You make her suspicious?" McGruder raised his eyebrows.

"No, I said that there was a phone call for Hood." Rachel smiled faintly. "I even promised to bring him right back."

"Ty, what's going on here?" Jacob demanded. "That woman's been a pain in the ass all night, and I'm just getting to the point where I can escape when she," he pointed to Rachel accusingly, "all but promises to deliver me up gift wrapped."

McGruder looked thoughtful. Normally, he didn't hold with unnecessarily alarming a protectee. But in his experience, Hood was a lot more cooperative when he had full information. "Well, Hood, it's like this. Young thought the woman's behavior was off. We checked into her, her name is Natalie Younan and it seems she may be a hired killer."

Jacob's mouth dropped open. "Then why don't you arrest her? Christ Ty, I know you find me annoying, but I think letting me be stalked by a killer is a little much."

"Oh get a grip," Rachel snapped. "This is important, I, we, need to know what that woman's plans are. How exactly has she been pursuing you? Suggesting a tryst in a secluded hallway? What?"

Jacob looked uncomfortable. "Not exactly. Why does it matter? She wants to kill me, isn't that enough? Can't you just arrest her?"

Rachel rolled her eyes. "Look, wanting to kill you isn't a crime." She glared at Hood, "half the time I want to kill you. We can't arrest her for a bad intent, we need a bad act."

Jacob was immediately distracted by this irrelevant, but interesting, statement of Rachel's. "Really, you want to kill me sometimes? How would you do it?"

"I had thought of shooting you and claiming it was a mistake." Rachel replied through gritted teeth.

Jacob considered the matter thoughtfully. "Not really a good idea. You'd never get away with it."

McGruder shook his head. He could see how the other handlers had found Hood exasperating. His mind didn't exactly work as you might expect. "Why wouldn't she get away with it?"

"Rachel's an excellent shot." Jacob explained. "I've seen her on the shooting range. She always hits what she's aiming at. No, if she shoots me, it's because she intended to." He cocked his head. "Now, if she really wanted to kill me and get away with it…." He trailed off with a thoughtful, abstracted look on his face.

Rachel smiled. She was beginning to appreciate that look. It meant that Hood was using that brain of his and was connecting dots. "What would I do? What's going on in that head of yours?"

"A lab accident. That's a good way to kill a scientist without arousing suspicion." Jacob considered the matter. "Ah, I think that may be what Natalie had, has in mind."

"What the hell do you mean?" McGruder asked sharply.

"Well, she, uh, was asking about my work…asking if I did research, experiments for the FBI. She was pressing me for a tour of my lab, tonight. Said she was leaving town tomorrow." He shrugged. "I just thought it was a novel way of trying to get me alone."

"I think Hood should oblige the lady." Rachel said. The other agents looked appalled. Young wanted to put her assignment in direct peril?

"What are you thinking Young?" McGruder wanted to know.

"It'll work." Rachel was thinking aloud. "She doesn't want to kill him tonight; she wouldn't have approached so directly if she did. Plus, she'd have to be an idiot to try something in the middle of the Hoover Building. We can send someone on ahead, set up some web cams for surveillance, mike the place up. Hood takes her to the lab, gives her a tour, we see what she tries."

McGruder considered the matter thoughtfully. It was a good plan. "I'm leaving it up to you Hood; there is a slim chance that she might try something tonight. But I think Young's plan has a lot of merit.

Jacob was doubtful. "Won't she think it's odd, my changing my mind like that? I mean, I've already told her it wasn't possible."

"The phone call." Rachel spoke up. "He can say that he's been called back to the Hoover Building to check on something in the lab. Offer to let her tag along."

Jacob starred at Rachel. She had been, so far, vastly superior to the idiots Ty had previously assigned to him. She not only knew her job, she, unlike the others, appreciated his job. She also, unlike the others, assumed that part of her job as his handler was to actively assist in his investigations. The others had been content to drive him around, arrange his schedule, and harass anyone who approached him. Yes, they would follow orders and obtain information from the Bureau at his request, but unlike Rachel, they never volunteered, never had ideas of their own. He was slowly learning he could trust her and her instincts. He mentally shrugged. If she thought this was a good idea, he would go along with it.

"Fine," Jacob said abruptly. "Tell me what to do, say."

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

A half hour later saw Hood and Natalie in the back seat of Rachel's SUV, en route to the Hoover Building. So far, everything had gone like clockwork. Agents had left the banquet immediately to wire up Hood's lab. Hood himself had preformed his part admirably. He had explained to Natalie that he had been called back to the Hoover Building to double check on some lab results. He offered to take her along, apologized for his previous rudeness. He explained that he had been pre-occupied because of his speech. The only bad spot was when Hood had automatically headed for the front passenger seat of the SUV. Rachel had discreetly shoved him to the back with Natalie.

They quickly reached Hood's small lab. "I tried to warn you, it's not much." Jacob shrugged. "Most of my work takes place in the field. I only do some consulting work for the FBI, other agencies here. Please, feel free to look around. I need to check some files here." He went to a small desk in the corner, the desk Rachel normally used when they were in town.

Rachel, for her part, was slumped against the wall next to the door. Her eyes were half-closed; she was the picture of boredom. Natalie shot her a quick look and was reassured by the total lack of interest in Rachel's face. She began prowling the lab, calling out questions to Hood, pleased to see that Hood was too preoccupied to answer, to notice what she was doing.

In reality, both Rachel and Hood were keyed up; totally aware of each move Natalie made. Both had comm links tucked in their ears. They were receiving updates on Natalie's actions from Ty McGruder in the next room.

Natalie looked around. She smiled; the other occupants of the lab were oblivious to her actions. "Oops," she announced. "I dropped my bag." She stooped beside the workbench Hood normally used and attached a small device to the underside. She straightened up and gaped. A grim faced Agent Young was facing her with weapon drawn and pointed straight at her heart.

"Put your hands on your head, slowly, or I shoot."

"I'd do what she says," Jacob offered mildly. "Believe me, she will shoot. I've seen her do it."

McGruder and Murphy came into the lab. "Good work Young. Murphy, cuff her, take her down to an interrogation room. I'll be right there." He bent to examine what Natalie had attached to the bench. He swore. "Damn, we're gonna need the boys from the bomb squad on this one."

Jacob crouched down beside him. "Why, what is it?"

Rachel sighed and dragged her charge out of harm's way. "It's a bomb. Probably on some kind of timer. You do not need to be fooling with this, leave it to the experts." She glanced at McGruder, "We should go question her."

Her tone was more question than statement. She hoped that McGruder would allow her to participate in the interrogation. Technically, it wasn't her job. Her job was looking after Hood. She should be either sitting in a secure room with him or escorting him home. Still, Rachel felt that since she was the one to identify the threat, she should be the one to see the case through to the end. She was gratified, when after looking at her thoughtfully, McGruder grunted in agreement.

Rachel was disappointed when McGruder led her and Hood into the observation room. It looked like she wasn't going to participate as she had hoped. A grim faced Frank Fuller was there along with a man Rachel didn't recognize. The interrogation had already begun; Murphy was standing guard while another man questioned Natalie.

Frank Fuller leaned forward and switched off the intercom. "Ty, Jacob, this is the U.S. Attorney for the District, Ron Machen. That's" he indicated the man questioning Natalie, "his assistant, John Douglas. I called them to see if we could work a deal with this woman, get her to roll on whoever hired her." He grimaced. "So far it's not going well." He turned the intercom back on.

To say that the interrogation was not going well was an understatement. Natalie obviously had the upper hand. When the AUSA claimed that they had her on tape planting the bomb, she denied it calmly. She claimed that she had dropped her bag. She noticed something under the bench and was about to bring it to Jacob's attention when 'that awful woman pointed a gun at me.' When he countered that they had her fingerprints on the bomb, she laughed. 'Yes, she had touched the box when she had seen it.' Natalie smiled broadly at the look on the young attorney's face. She knew she had flustered him. At that point she refused to answer any more questions until they provided her with a lawyer.

"Damn it," swore Machen. "That tears it. We won't get anything out of her now. "

Rachel decided she was tired of being ignored. "Sir," she laid a hand on McGruder's arm. "Let me have a crack at her, I know I can break her."

"Who the hell are you?" demanded Machen. "Douglas is my best AUSA's. If he can't broker a deal with her, no one can."

Frank was looking at Rachel quizzically. "You think you can break her?"

Before Rachel could reply, McGruder spoke up. "Agent Young is the reason we're here right now. She's the one who identified the threat. If she wants to try questioning Younan, I say we let her."

"Thank you, sir." Rachel was out of the door before anyone could object. Frank raised his eyebrows at McGruder, questioningly. McGruder shrugged, but with a smile.

A minute or two later, Rachel entered the interrogation room; a file folder in her hand. Rachel smiled dismissively at the AUSA. "You're wanted in the next room. I'm taking over here."

Douglas opened his mouth to object, but stopped at the look on Rachel's face. "Fine, but you should know she asked for a lawyer."

Rachel sat across the table from Natalie Younan, calmly reading the file in front of her. After a few minutes of silence, Natalie spoke.

"You know you can't ask me questions. I asked for a lawyer, that means you can't talk to me." Natalie smirked. "I know my rights under your system."

"Hmmm?" Rachel looked up from the file she was reading. She shrugged. "You're partly right. I can't ask you any questions about the attempted murder of Dr. Hood. But that's not why I'm here." She went back to her file folder.

"What do you mean?" Natalie was suspicious.

Rachel put down the file folder. "The attempted murder charge? Yeah, the U.S. Attorney's office is hot on that one. Afraid that you're gonna screw up their case by killing their primary witness. " She shrugged again. "But the FBI? Nah, we've got other concerns. "She threw a grin in Murphy's direction. "Hell, there're people in the Bureau who would give you a medal if you eliminated Hood." Murphy snickered.

In the observation room, McGruder shared in Murphy's amusement. "Oh, come on," protested Jacob, "Surely she's exaggerating." Frank and Machen were puzzled. Wondered what Young was up to.

"Then why are you here? What do you want?" Natalie shared their puzzlement.

"Younan, that's a Turkish name isn't it? According to Interpol, you're a Turkish citizen." Rachel pursed her lips thoughfully. "Turkey is kind of strange, isn't it? Not really in Europe, not really in Asia. Kinda in the middle."

"So? What of it?"

"I've looked into those murders you're linked to, seems to me that they all have political connections."

Natalie was beginning to get nervous. "I don't know anything about any murders. What are you getting at?"

"Like I said, the Bureau doesn't give a damn about any attempted murder charge. What we do care about is a terrorist, with Middle Eastern connections, who planted a bomb in a federal building. And not just any federal building, but our federal building." Rachel looked at Natalie pityingly. "Did you really think we'd let you get away with that?"

Natalie's jaw dropped. "A terrorist? I'm not a terrorist. I want a lawyer to deal with these charges also. I'm not talking to you!"

Natalie's jaw wasn't the only one to drop. So did Machen's and his assistant's. Frank looked at McGruder. "What the hell?" McGruder smiled. "Let the girl be."

Rachel looked at Natalie with amusement. "A lawyer? You're not entitled to a lawyer. "

"Yes, yes, I am. I know my rights in this country."

"You are a terrorist, an enemy combatant on foreign soil. You aren't entitled to anything. "Rachel smiled coldly. "Since you seem to know so much about our legal system, surely you're familiar with the concept of extraordinary rendition?"

"No, you can't do that." Natalie was shrill, fear showed on her face.

"You're right," Rachel shook her head regretfully. "The FBI can't render anyone." She smiled brightly. "Luckily the CIA can."

In the observation room, McGruder had to bodily prevent Machen from hitting the intercom button and stopping Rachel's interrogation.

"You asked me why I was here. It's simple. I'm the babysitter." Rachel checked her watch. "I've already called my contacts in the CIA. They should be here in a half hour. After that," Rachel shrugged, "who knows? If you're lucky they'll take you to Gitmo. Wherever, though, you'll never see the light of day again."

"Wait." Natalie was panicking. "I'll do the deal, tell you about who hired me to kill Hood."

"No, no, no," Rachel held up her hand. "I can't talk to you about any of that. Remember? You asked for a lawyer."

"I don't care; I want to do the deal."

"No, you have to say the magic words first." Rachel was adamant. "You have to say that you revoke your request for counsel."

Smiles began spreading over the faces of the lawyers in the observation room. "What, what is Rachel doing? Why are they smiling?" Jacob was confused. McGruder considered explaining, but decided to let Young have that pleasure.

"Fine, I revoke my request for counsel." Natalie was frantic. "Now get that man back in here. Tell him I'll take his deal. In exchange for the names of the people who hired me, you only prosecute me for immigration violations."

Rachel burst out laughing. "Honey, that deal is long gone." She leaned across the table. "Here's the new deal, you plead guilty to attempted murder, you give us the names of your employers, and we don't turn you over to the CIA. So, what's it to be? A federal penitentiary or an unnamed detention center in a country where they may or may not practice torture?"

The men in the interrogation room collectively held their breath.

Natalie slumped down in her seat. "Fine."

"Good choice." Rachel said approvingly. "I'll get the AUSA in here to finalize the deal." She picked up her file folder and moved toward the door. As she passed Murphy he winked at her and mouthed "Good job Young." Rachel resisted the urge to grin.

Rachel was welcomed back into the observation room. "Excellent work, Agent Young." Machen was ecstatic. He was getting valuable testimony without having to do a deal with an admitted killer. Frank Fuller looked at her approvingly. "Agreed, very good work Young." He and McGruder followed Machen from the room. Only Jacob held back, a disturbed look on his face.

"Rachel," he began hesitantly. "Would they, you really have let the CIA take that woman? Let them take her somewhere and torture her?"

"Honestly!" Rachel blew out her breath in exasperation. "That was never going to happen. The CIA would have laughed their asses off if they could have heard me in there. They wouldn't have any interest in her. She's no terrorist." She shrugged. "Besides, the new administration doesn't let the CIA send people to countries that use torture. They even closed the secret prisons, limited who can be sent to Gitmo."

"But you said…"

"I said a lot of things in there. Mostly I was trying to scare the crap out of her, get her to take a deal. I never thought I'd do as well as I did."

"You mean you lied to her? Are you allowed to do that?"

"I can." Rachel nodded in the direction of the interrogation room. They could see Douglas taking Natalie's statement. "He can't. I may have a law degree, but I'm not a lawyer. We're allowed to lie, to trick, suspects in interrogation. But the prosecutors? They deal strictly with the truth."

Rachel shook her head. "That's why it was so stupid of them to send Douglas in to question Natalie in the first place. Once she asked for a lawyer, our hands were pretty much tied. I had to scare her into revoking her request, make talking to us an attractive option."

Jacob's lips began to twitch. "So, everything was a lie? Even the part about giving her a medal?"

Rachel laughed outright. "Even that part." She looked at Hood thoughtfully. "No, you may be exasperating and a royal pain in the ass. But none of us wishes you ill." She considered the matter carefully. "Not even Schenck."

"Well I should hope not!" Jacob was indignant. "It's not my fault he ended up in the hospital. I told him not to touch…"

Rachel interrupted him. "I know, he's a moron. He was in my class at Quantico. I was amazed he didn't wash out."

Jacob smiled faintly. "Ty told me how you figured everything out. That was very good work Rachel, an excellent piece of deductive reasoning. "

Rachel felt absurdly pleased by Hood's compliment. She knew that in his world being told you think well was the ultimate accolade.

"Come on, let's get you home. It's been a busy night for both of us."

They walked companionably from the Hoover Building, hashing over the events of the evening. Thinking to themselves that this assignment, this growing partnership, was working out much better than they had anticipated. And they both took a great deal of pleasure in that thought.