An: This isn't beta'd so please excuse the errors. I need a new beta if anyone is interested. I promise I'm not hard to work with.

FGB for SassyKathy


Sighing, I closed the last manila folder on our expense reports and leaned back in my chair. I stretched and looked up at Swan who was looking down at her own stack of receipts and expenditures. She had her hair pulled back into a very proper twist but through the day it had loosened and some strands now hung down low over her forehead and around her face. I chuckled as she wrote a note next to something and then shut the folder quickly before pushing it away from her as if it were diseased.

"I quit. I'm leaving the Bureau and permanently vacationing on a beach somewhere."

My chuckled morphed into a soft laugh as I stood up and piled all the folders up and moved them into my outbox.

"Let me know when that day really gets here and I'll book us two one way tickets."

God how I wished she would. How I wished that she knew that she was everything to me. But the feelings I had for Bella…Agent Swan were bad for inter bureau relations. Partners were only together in one capacity and that was platonic. We traveled together, ate together, solved crimes together and that was that.

"Alright. It's Friday, you know what that means."

Swan rolled her eyes and packed away files into her briefcase before slinging the strap to her shoulder and sighing.

"Can't I skip it just this once? I'm not in the mood tonight."

"You say that every week and every week you still go and I know you have a great time. C'mon Angela and Ben will be going and I already told them we'd catch up with them."

"Making plans on my behalf now Masen? You sound like my boyfriend not my partner."

She was teasing so I smiled tightly and pushed open the door to the bullpen. She walked out in front of me and I shut my eyes tightly at the sight of her skirt hugging her hips and the way those pumps made her calves look amazing.

"Swan, someone has to look after you. I make sure you have a good time at least once a week and in turn I gather priceless blackmail information for later use. You are hilarious when you've had a few drinks."

She made a sour face at me as we reached the elevators and I offered to drive us. Bella usually took a cab or a bus home and I hated that. I usually conned her into letting me take her home but some days she would skip out and make her own way. Bella had a car but she hated driving it so she preferred to take the more difficult way to and from work.

We reached the parking garage and I opened her door for her before tossing our stuff in the drunk. My silver Audi TTS roadster was my baby. Behind the shitty paychecks I made with the Bureau I had a hefty amount in my trust fund. My grandparents started the funds for me when I was born. That combined with what my parents added to it gave me the option to quit my job and do whatever the hell I wanted with the rest of my life. Only problem with that option was, while I hated some of the aspects of being an FBI agent I loved my job. I also wanted a family one day and that money was going to keep me and my family afloat if anything happened and I couldn't work.

I peeled out of the underground garage and glanced at Bella as she sat next to me imagining what our kids might look like. For the past five years I had never called her anything but Swan. There were a few times that I had broken out her first name. Times that called for something a little more personal. In my head however she was Bella. Her father called her that and so did her friends. Hell, I was the only person who continued to call her Swan. Even AD Cullen called her Bella on occasion.

Five years. Five years ago, Bella and I had graduated Quantico together. We had known each other as acquaintances and I had to admit that I was impressed by her strength and ballsy attitude while we trained. On the outside you saw a mousy girl with a thin body covered up with power suits and no nonsense hairstyles. She rarely wore makeup and she was the epitome of control. While she seemed like the kind of girl a stiff wind would knock over I knew otherwise. I'd watched her hundred and twenty pound body take down a two hundred and fifty pound man and make him cry. She had speed and agility that was amazing when she was fighting hand to hand and honestly her marksmanship on the range and in the field was frightening. Being the only daughter of a police chief will do that to you I guess.

Bella's mother died of cancer when she was just nine. Her father raised her like he would have raised a boy. Bella fished and hunted and while she didn't really have the skills many other women had, Bella was perfect in every way. She didn't know how to flirt and she wasn't frivolous at all. She was low maintenance.

In the field she was easy to get up in the mornings and took only thirty minutes to be ready to go. She'd wake up, shower, dress, and be packed up in half and hour and I always appreciated the way she never tried to hold her sex against me.

She still did but she didn't know it. I hadn't wanted a partner. I liked working on my own. That's why after over a year of working at ViCAP I was pretty pissed to find out I was being assigned a partner. I was also surprised as all fuck when I realized it was Bella. Her clean fresh face captured me as she walked straight up to me in the Bullpen and I had no choice but to push aside my irritation and be stupefied at how I could have overlooked her at Quantico.

I had known her then yeah, we had been around each other in classes and at the local bars or hang outs we'd run in to one another but I hadn't really noticed her. Not like I did that first day we were partners.

Something subtle about Bella sneaks up on you and just traps you. I think I realized it about two years ago when we were stuck doing a hostage situation together. Our negotiator was an ignorant asshole who wouldn't do shit but sit on his ass behind a telephone and eat donuts. Bella had calmed me down and she had told me that no matter what happened we would handle it together. When I was almost censured for my behavior that day (I honestly saw no problem with telling that fuck face how to do his job) Bella stood behind me and defended me to my review board.

She had somehow creeped into my life and into my heart to the point where I found myself obsessed with her. But the rules were in place and I had no way around them. We could not be romantically involved. Bella loved her job and I loved mine. We were an amazing team. Hell, I didn't even know if she felt the same way about me as I did about her. I had no idea what would happen if I told her how I felt. I could lose her and my job in one fell swoop. So, I basically sat back and watched a part of myself slowly slip away.

There had been moments when I thought she might feel the same way I did. There were flashes in her eyes that I thought I could identify but I chalked it up to hopeful wishing and not enough sleep.

I pulled up across the street to Sean's Pub and walked around to get Bella's door. I saw Ben and Angie's car down the block and noticed while the place wasn't packed it was pretty busy. Bella stepped out of the car and pulled the pin holding her hair out. Her brown locks swished down past her shoulder blades in wavy lush locks. I sighed, my arm jolted as I controlled the urge to reach up and thread my fingers through it. Instead we walked across the street and into the pub.

The atmosphere was smokey as I looked out over the crowd of people. The pub was decorated with antiques on shelves and old portraits on the walls. The old wooden bar was lacquered and a brass rail lined it. Right behind the barstools were four old wrought iron fences lined up that separated the bar area from the tables. There was a small stage for live performances and an old juke box hooked up to speakers around the place. Lamps hung over the booths in the back with cracked green stain glass around them. More tables were crowded in the center and I always wondered what this building's capacity level was and had to bet that it was being pushed to its max.

It was loud and despite the somber atmosphere of the pub people were happy and laughing.

I spotted Ben and Angela sitting close to the iron fencing near the back of the pub. Ben waved us over and I made sure to walk a step behind Bella as my hand ghosted over the small of her back. To her it was a friendly gesture I had done since we were paired up together. To me, it was a way of showing every male in the room that she belonged to me. My head craned around to take in the faces around us and assess the situation of the pub. I knew all the exits and was confident that if anything happened I could get us out quickly. I shook my head at that thought. I was always looking for trouble. The paranoia that I felt on a daily basis was insane. We were perfectly safe here in this pub surrounded by people who were just happy the weekend had ended.

"Hey! Oh Bella, you cut your hair! It looks so good!"

Bella blushed at Angela's observation. She plopped down in the seat beside Ben and I took the chair across from him. The girls started talking about places to get their hair cut while Ben and I looked on in amusement. Angie worked up in forensics and Ben was an accountant who crunched numbers for the Bureau. They were in completely separate departments so no one said anything when they started to see one another.

I sighed at their displays of affection and my hands itched to show Bella something of the same. Instead I casually draped my arm around the back of her chair and leaned back with an air of nonchalance.

I had taken my jacket off and rolled the sleeves of my suit up to my elbows, loosening my tie and relaxing into the atmosphere of the pub. Bella laughed and ran a hand through her hair causing the tips to brush against my arm. I shivered and felt goose bumps erupt over the heated flesh up to my shoulder, chest, and neck. I looked down at the beer that a waitress placed in front of me and gripped the handle tightly before taking a healthy gulp.

"Don't drink it too fast Edward, I hate driving your car."

Bella's eyes twinkled at me in the dim lighting and I chuckled, remembering the last time she had driven my car. Her fear of wrecking the car was priceless. Silly woman should know that I could give a shit about the car. She almost had a panic attack parallel parking.

The conversation began to dull in my mind as I watched Bella interact with Angela. Bella had a drink in front of her that she was nursing. I knew before we got here that she probably wouldn't even drink the whole thing but it gave her an excuse to be out of her apartment. I hated the way she stayed inside all the time but I had no room to criticize. I never really went anywhere anyway. I was a hermit. I ran in the mornings and sometimes I would go to the local YMCA and play some baseball with the other guys there but that was about it. I visited my mother once a month and I played the piano when insomnia claimed me. I was two shakes away from becoming a recluse. The only truly happy moments in my life were when I was in the field and when I was with Bella.

The bar swelled with people around seven and I could feel Bella tuckering out. I stretched and made my way to the bathrooms. A man came shooting out of the men's room and bumped into my shoulder, his head down and covered by a navy blue baseball cap. I couldn't see his face but something about him stuck out to me. He seemed familiar. I shrugged it off and went to relieve my aching bladder. As I reached the table again, I was pulling out my chair when I heard a woman scream. The whole bar hushed and not a second later two shots rang off. There were two seconds of frantic silence as everyone in the bar looked around to find the source of the noise and then pandemonium as those closest to the door bolted before another series of shots rang out.

"Everyone stop where you are!"

The same man that rushed out of the bathroom was now standing on the bar, a gun in his hand and a black duffel bag lying on the bar at his feet. He waved the gun around the bar and the entire pub went quiet again. I drew my sidearm at the same time Bella did and we both aimed it at the man at the bar. He saw us immediately almost as if he knew who we were and where we were sitting. He crouched low and grabbed a woman who was unfortunate enough to have been sitting close by. He had her in a headlock, the gun aimed at her temple.

"Drop them or I repaint this bar in brain matter gray."

The occasional hysterical sob would ring out but he had everyone's undivided attention. I grit my teeth but knew he had us. Bella's eyes shuffled to my face in silent question. I put my hands up and dropped the gun down. A few seconds later Bella followed suit.

"Kick them over."

I did as he said my gun skittering until it hit the base of the bar and bounced back a little. Bella's joined it a foot away.

"Now, I have two bombs rigged in here! One at the door and the other at the back door. There are charges located all over this place and if anyone so much as breaths wrong I will detonate them!"

If there was anyone in this room who thought they had a chance of leaving those words demolished them.

He released the woman and unzipped his jacket showing off an impressive device and a wireless trigger that he brandished to everyone in the room.

Systematically he rounded up ten men and placed them behind the bar. He told them to sit down low and once he got to our table he pushed Bella and I against the wrought iron fencing so we could only see his actions through the mirror hanging behind the bar.

"Everyone else can leave."

A stamped erupted and the bar emptied out. I was suddenly confused by this turn of events usually the point was to have as many hostages as possible. He had another agenda besides ransom money or demands.

"Both of you too. Get out."

Angela and Ben slowly stood up and gave the deranged man a wide berth as they slowly walked out. I could see Ben giving me an anguished look as he gripped Angela's arm tightly and led her to the exit. I understood what he was trying to say. He hated leaving me and Bella behind but he had to get Angela to safety. In his position I would do the same thing.

The man followed them out and dead bolted the doors. He slipped the blinds shut and then unzipped the bag on the bar pulling out three sets of cuffs. He tossed a pair to Bella who caught them just before they would have hit her in the face.

"Cuff his hands behind his back against that pole."

The words were spoken cool and evenly. I studied his face, knowing that I knew him from somewhere but unable to place his face. Once I was secured to the pole he walked behind me to check the cuffs.

"Now, sweet thing, go stand by the bar."

I felt my pulse quicken as I realized that he was separating us. He was setting Bella away from me, highlighting her in a way. He called her 'sweet thing'.

"Now I want you to sit right here on this stool and grip the brass poles on the bar. Wider, spread your arms out wider. Perfect."

He attached a set of handcuffs to each wrist and secured the other end to the pole running around the bar's top. They were screwed into the wood in sections and because of this he used a section on either side to hold her arms apart and away from her body. She sat up on the stool her back pressed back against the bar and her chest jutting out slightly from the awkward position her arms were held in.

I grit my teeth and felt the anger and panic rising up in me. I was going to kill this mother fucker if it was the last thing I did.

"Well now, this is nice. Just how I'd pictured it. Eddie, it's wonderful to see you again."

"Who the fuck are you?"

He laughed and pulled the gun out of his waist before waving it around and then scratching his head.

"I guess it makes sense. You've been a busy boy. James Buchanan. You arrested me four years ago. Ring any bells Agent Masen?"

I remembered him. I remembered James Buchanan all too well now. His hair was much shorter when we apprehended him, almost a crew cut, now it was well past his shoulders. While I wasn't very familiar with his face I knew his background and I knew that case like the back of my hand. I lived that case. I ate, slept, and breathed those files for over five months. In the beginning the unsub chose his victims carefully. He would target women in the grocery store. We had no idea at the time if he was an employee or if he just frequented the stores in order to find his prey. He made an error twice of dropping photo's outside the victim's residence of them at the store shopping. They were innocent photo's focusing mostly on the face but some on the body. All had the same build and height. The same hair color and complexion. White female's ages twenty five to thirty; all with long blonde hair and blue or green eyes and pale skin. He never deviated from these attributes. All of the women lived alone and only one had a significant other.

I drove myself crazy on that case. It was my first big shot at anything and I wanted to nail that bastard between the eyes. We never had anything to go on except for Abigale Henderson. Age twenty six, tall, blonde, athletic. He forgot to wear a condom with her. We had his DNA and fingerprints on the nightstand as well as a few pubic hairs but DNA was only useful if compared to the perps.

His fatal flaw was walking right in the front door of his next victim's apartment. The lobby's camera that was pointed toward the mail boxes and rent box caught him clearly entering at 5:47 AM and leaving at 7:46 AM. He raped her, tortured her, cut her wrists and left her there to die. Two of the seven women he chose died from blood loss. Five were lucky to be left alive but with scars that would remind them for the rest of their life of what happened.

We brought in James Buchanan and got him on resisting arrest making the DNA easy to obtain. However later on during his trial he was served a lesser sentencing due to a mishap on our end. Somehow the shit bag had the money to buy a decent lawyer who actually knew where his head was compared to his ass. They nailed us on misuse of a warrant and insufficient evidence. Poor Ms. Henderson had to relive that night for nothing. At the end the lawyer had the jury believing that she had consensual sex with Buchanan and then tried to kill herself when he left her in an attempt at copycatting the other murders. Had any of the other women come forward and testified I was sure he would have gotten life. While I did impress some people in the bureau on that case I also tasted the disappointment of having to label a case 'cold'. Without definitive proof that James was the unsub raping and killing these women the only solace I had was that no more murders were committed after he was sent to prison.

Later I had found out about Buchanan's family. He had a wife and daughter living on the other side of town from his listed address. She was where he had gotten the lawyer apparently. I wasn't so sure about her involvement with the whole thing but it wasn't my problem anymore. Buchanan got five years in jail with a chance of parol. Looks like his parol went through.

"I remember you. You're that limp dick who tortured women. How was prison? Make any friends?"

I felt the blow before my brain could process anything else. My head swam with black spots but I forced myself not to wince or show weakness. I spit out the blood collecting in my mouth. I had bitten the inside of my cheek and it stung like a bitch.

"I guess that's a no huh?"

"Such a smart ass fucker aren't you? You know this is all your fault. You brought this on yourself. My life is over because of you…I lost everything! Everything! All because of you!"

I looked at him with dread. He'd lost his fucking mind.

"Yeah, so now I'm going to give it all back to you Eddie. Wanna know how I've been? Vicky left me. She took Laurie and left! She wont even speak to me. The courts, fuck, they gave her full custody! I can't be within two hundred yards of them! If I do see them, I have to leave! You fucked everything up!"

"What do want from me James? I did my job. You raped and tortured those women, you got exactly what you deserve!"

He shook his head, his jaw clenching as he ran his hands through his long hair. Agitation showed through all his movements. Taking a deep breath he whirled around to face me again.

"I've come to serve you some justice Agent –"

"That's Special Agent…"

"What the fuck ever. I'm here to ruin your life, just like you ruined mine. You see I've been watching you. I've been waiting for the right moment and how perfect it was that you decided to come in here today. I had figured that you might make me wait til next week but this is even better."

I felt myself going cold at the realization that while he was clearly insane he was also a lot smarter than I gave him credit for. If he was telling the truth that means he had been watching me and I never had a clue. It took a lot to get by me. My constant paranoia was always watching for anything unusual.

At that moment a series of shrill wails began to get louder. Everyone in the pub hushed as they listened. The sirens grew piercing and James stormed over to the blinds to peek outside. I could only imagine what was going on out there. I knew when Ben took Angela out that they would call 911 immediately and get help. Two federal agents being held hostage was a huge deal to the Bureau. We would have SWAT here any second if they weren't already outside making a perimeter. AD Cullen would be on his way with agents of his own. I only hoped that the hostage negotiator they had was a good one.

"Fuck fuck fuck, that was a lot faster than I had planned."

James backed away from the windows and turned on me.

"No matter, my plan's airtight. Now Eddie, can I call you Eddie? Eddie, I think it's time we played a game. I'm sure you've played it before once in your life. It's called twenty questions. The way this game works is, I'm going to ask you a question and you're going to answer it. If you don't answer it to my satisfaction…well Agent Swan here…is going to pay for it."

I lunged toward him my wrists cutting against the steel around my wrists as he gripped Bella's face in his sweaty hand.

"Don't you fucking touch her!"

He laughed loudly and moved his hand away as he came forward. I was prepared this time and tensed before the blow but still almost had the wind knocked out of me. I felt my body double over as his fist buried itself into my stomach. That was going to hurt tomorrow.

"Now now, let's not get snappy. This is my time for fun. I just want to give you a basic rundown of your situation. I know you'll be able to appreciate all the time and effort I put into this. Let me see, where to begin, oh yes I know.

"I was released a year and half ago. I had plenty of time to think about how this was going to work out you see. I started right away. What little money I had left saved up I withdrew. I liquidated everything I owned and I sold the house Vicky and I bought together. I was really upset to have to do that Eddie. I love that house.

Anyway, I sold everything and began my plan. It was really easy actually. I've been renting an apartment on fifth. That almost exactly half way between where you life and where Agent Swan here lives. I spend most of my time watching the two of you. Where you go when your not at work. Where you spend your extra time and you know what I've learned about the both of you Eddie? Neither one of you go anywhere. You run in the morning usually about six miles to the park and then back. You visit your mommy once a month…Elizabeth, now that's an amazing woman. If her hair was just shade lighter I think I might be into her."

I grunted as my fists tightened and the steel bit into my wrists. He was trying to bait me again. Laughing he hopped over the iron fence and sat down on the stool beside Bella.

"Anyway, I sat back, took notes and formed a plan. You both usually get drinks here every other Friday. I figured since you'd been here last week you'd wait until next week and just go to that stupid coffee shop on Post St. That place was really insufficient for what I have planned. This place however…this place was golden.

"Imagine my luck when you pulled up across the street! You see last week, the owner, called in for some repairs on the bathrooms and wanted the locks replaced. Apparently someone who worked here previously had threatened to vandalize the place. So, I came in, fixed the plumbing in the bathrooms and the kitchen and then replaced his locks. It was very convenient that I made an extra key for myself. After that it was a piece of cake.

"There's ten pounds of C4 wired under the sinks in the bathrooms and ten pounds wired to the doors. I have here on my chest twenty stick of dynamite and under the bar there's a pound of C4 strapped to every stool. Which means that Agent Swan here is in a very precarious situation, well…honestly, we all are. These detonators I have here trigger the bathroom and door charges. Everything else, well, that just adds to the show! Now, how serious do you think I am about my game Eddie?"

"If I play your game, you'll let these people go? They have nothing to do with this James. They're innocent people who just wanted to relax after a long day. Let them go and I'll play your game."

Again with the evil laugh. Jesus did this guy have any other mode besides evil and whacked out? Bella's face was impassive to everyone else but me. Her eyes were telling me to play along and stop antagonizing him. She was telling me to stop being an arrogant prick and do whatever I had to do to keep this running smoothly until someone on the outside could get us out of here.

"You don't have a choice Eddie. I can do whatever I fucking want and no one is going to stop me."

"Alright James. Let's play."

James clapped with glee and leaned back against the stool beside Bella.

"Alright Eddie, Question number one: When was the last time you were intimate with a woman?"

I furrowed my brows at this question. What was the point of talking about my sexual history?

"Tick tock Eddie, take too much time and Swany here will start losing some things."

I felt myself rage on the inside. If he kept fucking touching her I was going to rip his goddamn head off.

"Fuck, I don't know…Um, three maybe four years ago? Stop fucking touching her!"

James hand trailed up and down Bella's blazer his fingers passing over her buttons. Slowly he ubuttoned them and opened it up to show the pearl white silk shirt she wore underneath.

"Question number two: Do you think her panties and bra are a matching set?"

James eyes glinted with amusement. I snarled and grit my teeth.

Before I could answer James gripped the lapels of her blazer and yanked the garment off her shoulders and ripped her shirt open. I saw Bella's face heat up with anger and embarrassment. Her breasts were clad in a sheer white bra, her dark nipples visible right beneath the material. The cups of the bra were low showing off the tops of breasts. I watched as her nipples hardened and her blush spread down her chest. Bella turned her head to the side to avoid looking at either me or James.

James whistled in appreciation and turned to look at me.

"Nice…Question number three: Do you want to fuck her Eddie? Be honest, I'll know if you're lying."

I spit out more blood and watched as his smile grew. With murder in my eyes I answered him.

"Yes." I answered lowly.

"What was that? Yes? Speak up or I'll have to get my knife out."

"Yes! I want to make love to her!"

"Ooooh, 'make love'…this brings me to question number four: Are you in love with Agent Swan? Remember Eddie, honesty is the best policy."

I watched as his hand gripped her chin and turned her to look at me. I saw the tears in her eyes and felt my own clouding up.

"Yes. I love her."


I gripped the cell phone in my hand as I shouted to a pile of local PD to get their asses in gear and move their cars out of the way for SWAT. My body was ready to coil and attack if I didn't get my way soon. I slapped the phone shut and hoisted myself into the back of the surveillance van. I look to McCarty first.

"Give me something good."

McCarty's face was grim as he bent over the blue prints to the pub. Hale stood beside him, her blonde hair pulled back into a low bun, the stance of an Amazon about to battle. Various monitors were on around us as well as techs tapping away at keyboards.

"We have a camera in right here, and another is going live in a few minutes here. This gives us the front, around the doors and windows. This second one will be positioned against the far wall and is our best bet at getting a good idea of what we're dealing with. The two rooms we can't drill into are the bathrooms and the kitchen in the back. From what eye witnesses say though the front of the pub is all we need. We believe he has between ten and fifteen in there besides Masen and Swan. Webber and Cheney said that it was like he knew them."

I looked over at the monitor as it flickered to life and I cursed lowly at what I saw. A man was waving around a gun while Masen was cuffed to a pole and Swan was cuffed to the bar like some goddamn sacrifice. A pile of people were sitting huddled behind the bar, only their heads visible from the angle of the camera.

"I want his name, his history, shit I want everything on this guy. I wanna know what he ate for breakfast and the name of his first grade teacher. Now!"

Several Agents scattered as my eyes stayed riveted to the screen.

luck when you pulled up across the street! You see last week, the owner, called in for some repairs on the bathrooms and wanted the locks replaced. Apparently someone who worked here previously had threatened to vandalize the place. So, I came in, fixed the plumbing in the bathrooms and the kitchen and then replaced his locks. It was very convenient that I made an extra key for myself. After that it was a piece of cake.

"There's ten pounds of C4 wired under the sinks in the bathrooms and ten pounds wired to the doors. I have here on my chest twenty stick of dynamite and under the bar there's a pound of C4 strapped to every stool. Which means that Agent Swan here is in a very precarious situation, well…honestly, we all are. These detonators I have here trigger the bathroom and door charges. Everything else, well, that just adds to the show! Now, how serious do you think I am about my game Eddie?"

McCarty cursed loudly and I grit my teeth.

"Find me the owner. I wanna know if his story checks out. Get him in here now."

I felt sick now. This guy, if telling the truth had enough explosives to level four blocks easily. He could take this place off the fucking map if he wanted to.

"Where's SWAT? And I want a bomb squad here! Fuck, get as many specialists as you can."

Hale took off and I thanked my lucky stars that she was here with McCarty. I could trust them to get shit done right and on time.

"AD Cullen? I'm Jasper Whitlock. I'm the hostage negotiator called in by the Bureau."

I turned and looked a man in his early thirties with sandy blond hair. He looked more suited for the beach but his suit fit well and the wire rimmed glasses showcased a set of wise blue eyes. The set of his jaw indicated that he was already putting his head in the game.

"Alright, his name is James Buchanan. We're working on getting a full history on him as we speak. We have two feeds going into the room and we're working on getting a way of communicating with him now. He doesn't seem to have any interest in making a call to us first –"

"Excuse me Sir, but if it's not in his interest to make demands then what is his interest?"

"Ooooh, 'make love'…this brings me to question number four: Are you in love with Agent Swan? Remember Eddie, honest is the best policy."

I watched as his hand gripped her chin and turned her to look at me. I saw the tears in her eyes and felt my own clouding up.

"Yes. I love her."

I looked at the screen with horror and fear gripped my stomach into knots. This wasn't about money or demands; this was about something else, something personal.

"This is going to get ugly."

I looked at Whitlock with a grim frown before I started bellowing for an update on the explosive charges.


I spoke the words evenly and firmly. I watched as her eyes got round and her tears spilled over her cheeks.

James whooped and yanked a long bowie knife from his boot before yanking Bella forward and ripping her shirt and blazer down the back letting the material pool around her hands.

"I fucking answered you! Stop fucking touching her!"

I writhed against the cuffs my body jerking to get free and shield her body from him.

James leapt over the railing and punched me in the gut and when I twisted away from him I felt another blow against my kidneys. I fell to my knees and breathed in deeply, afraid I might throw up.

When I looked up James had already moved back around to Bella and was stroking her face with the long knife's blade.

"Question number five, this is for Agent Swan: Do you love Eddie here?"

Bella's mouth quivered as she locked eyes with me.

"Yes." Her response was a breathy whisper and I prayed he wouldn't make her repeat it any louder.

"You are both so fucking stupid. I mean honestly, how can two investigators work together and not know they fucking love one another. I mean I could see it through a set of binnies! Answer me this Swanny, how long have you loved our dear dear Eddie here?"

I kept an eye on James' wandering hands but focused most of my attention on Bella's wide brown eyes. She stuttered for a moment and squeaked when he ran his hand over her bare stomach.

I tried to give her the most comforting look I could manage and silently urged her to play the game. Say whatever she had to say and I wouldn't hold it against her.

"Um, I think, it was a few years ago."

"Oh, c'mon! You've got to give me more than that! Was there any specific moment that you realized you felt more than just friendship for our boy here? Okay, let me make this easier on you, tell me when and I won't take the skirt off…"

Bella's eye twitched and I saw her blush flare up again.

"Um, we were in Montana on a field assignment. We'd been sent in to investigate something stupid, something about the amount of fertilizer that some farmer had bought being over the legal limit, I cant remember but we were standing there talking to this guy and Edw- Masen he um, he just looked at me and made this face, he was trying to get me to smile even though I was in a really bad mood and… worked. I smiled at him and I just knew that no one else was going to ever have that effect on me. No one else would ever know what I needed and he…I mean Edward is just so, he's just I mean, I can't explain it."

James had sobered and his hands hung limply at his sides by the time Bella had finished.

"That's exactly how I feel about Vicky. She was just, perfect for me. She understood who I was. She understood everything about me and she knew how to make it all better. And you took it from me. You ruined everything for me."

The fire was back in his eyes and for a moment I thought he was just going hit the charges and blow us into oblivion. But he took a few deep breaths and that sick smile was back on his face. He watched my face as he slowly reached around behind Bella and unzipped her skirt letting it fall to the floor.

"Nice Swanny. Nothing like some lace to get the heart pumping. She looks amazing doesn't she Eddie? Look at that nice flat stomach and ohhh I bet you're shaved aren't you sweetie?"

I snapped when I watched his fingers slide around the top of Bella's panties. James laughed and took a few steps away from Bella and toward me. My eyes frantically flickered between him and Bella trying to see a way out of this. A way to get us out of here alive.

Bella stood there wearing just her white lacy bra and a pair of flesh colored panties with black lace trim. Her stockings ended half a foot above her knees and they were sheer colored. There was nothing overtly sexual about her undergarments but I felt myself hardening slightly at the sight of her. I felt disgusted with myself.

"You want to stop me? I wish you would Eddie. See the difference between me and you now, I got nothing to lose. You have everything. At least I had time with the woman I love. I had a happy marriage, a child. I had it all and you took it from me. So now, I'm going to cut you down but before I do that I'm going to make sure you know all about what you could have had. I'm going to show you what you missed out on and I'm not going to kill you I'm going to make sure you live a very long time Masen. You're going to live to regret ever fucking with me. You're going to feel what I've felt ever since the day you took my life from me."

I shook my head, dread falling over me. He didn't intend to kill me but he said nothing about Bella.

"James, you made your own bed. How do you expect to sell a story of a wonderful marriage when you went out hunting women every night and then raping and killing them. First of all, even if you didn't rape them, you still cheated on your wife. You're a sick person James. You need help. I can get you help and maybe once you've put your life back in order Victoria will take you back but doing this to me…I was doing my job James. If it wasn't me it would have been someone else…"

"But it was you! And you don't know shit about me and Vicky. You don't know shit about what I did!"

"Oh I do know James. I know all to well. I saw the photo's, I read the reports, I spoke to your victims! I was there James. This…what do you expect to accomplish with all this? You know as well as I do that you have no way out of here a free man. Fuck, if you don't play your cards right they'll put a bullet through your head before you take a step out the doors."

"It's not about living for me anymore. It's about getting my due. The only thing I feel kinda bad about is doing this poor old Swanny. You know if you were a blonde I'd be all over that…"

James' hands gripped her hips as he ground himself against her and I roared, warm trickles of blood sliding down my palms as I fought against the cuffs holding me back. I screamed every profane name at him I knew and then some. James turned calmly to look into my eyes, humor dancing in his face as he slowly moved the tip of his index finger beneath the waist of Bella's panties.

"I'll fucking kill you before this is over. With my bare fucking hands I'll kill you for this."

"What's a matter Agent Masen? Don't like me touching your woman? I like it. I like it a lot. She's so soft. God damn I feel dirty just touching her. I wonder what she feels like under these? I bet she's even softer where it matter's most. I bet she's sweet and pink like a fucking flower."

His fingers slowly slid down, drawing out my tortured as I locked eyes with Bella again. I begged her with my eyes to forgive me, to be strong, and I promised her that I would avenge her. I would make James pay for this.

"I love you Bella. I love you and it's going to be okay, okay? We're gonna get through this."

James turned a dark expression on me and hopped over the railing once more to ram his foot into my stomach. I wheezed and hunched over. I coughed roughly as my eyes watered up and my head swam. The pain was shooting everywhere as I tried to clear my mind and focus.

"You do not get to speak unless I say so!"

He reared his foot back to kick me again when a shrill ring cut the moment. James' head whipped to the bar where a black phone hung against the wall. Red lights blinked on the panel indicating it was making the offending noise. Stomping around the bar he yanked the receiver off the set and turned to look at me.


I kept my ears on the conversation but my eyes were on Bella. We looked at one another with a mix of emotions. I was angry. I was beyond angry. I was furious and out for blood. Bella's fear was clearly written all over her face. I saw her body shaking and added it to the list of reasons why James was going to die before he made it out of here. If he physically hurt her, I would probably break a hand getting out of these cuffs just so I could shove the other one down James' throat.


"James Buchanan? This is Jasper Whitlock. I'd like to talk to you about what's going on inside the pub right now."

I felt my chest hammering away as I tried to calm my voice into a controlling, confident sound. I had to give off the impression that I was safe and in charge. The pressure I felt during these moments was enough to make me double over in pain but I had to get through to this man if I was going to save those people's lives. Failure was not an option.

"You wanna talk? Well aint that rich. No one wanted to hear what I had to say when I was arrested. No one cared about my side of the story then. No, I don't want shit from you. I got this place wired to fire. Anyone comes near here and I'll blow this join sky high."

I already knew about the explosives but he didn't need to know about that. That would let him know that we had eyes in the pub.

"No one is going near the pub right now. Is there any way we could speak to either Edward Masen or Isabella Swan?"

I waited for his questions. They were inevitable. From his file and what I had gathered by his game inside, he was crazed and very intelligent. He needed to be played very carefully.

"How the hell did you know…

I cut him off.

"The people who were sitting with Masen and Swan are friends of theirs. They alerted us of their presence in the bar.'

"Ahhh okay, well then, no you can't speak to either one of them. You see they're both indisposed at the moment. Agent Swan is trying to fight off my charms and Masen here is brooding like a little girl because I'm playing with his toys."

My eyes scanned the scene on the monitor. That was an apt description. I saw as James looked around and focused more and more on the drawn shades of the front windows. It was almost like he could see right through them and at me sitting here inside this van.

"But they're alive?"

In keeping with the game, he had to feel as if he were superior to a superior person. I could tell by his speech and tone that he knew I was an intelligent man, but by asking him questions and showing a modicum of fear I had given him a smidge of power over me. I had to keep convincing myself this was intentional and that without my permission it wouldn't have come out at all.

"Yes. They're both alive still. I also have ten men sitting behind the bar right now. I've got explosives rigged all over this bar so don't test me. I've got nothing to lose at this point. I'll blow this shit heap into oblivion if you push me you fucker."

"Alright James, well all you have to do is pick up this phone and you will get me personally alright. Anything you want I'll bring to you okay? I want to tell you right now however, that if you want we can make a deal. If you let those people go and come out now we can make sure that you're sentencing isn't so harsh."

Lying through my goddamn teethe.

"I know you're lying. You know you're lying. We both know that that's a lie. So lets not lie Mr. Whitlock. I detest liars. If I need anything I'll call you but I seriously doubt that will happen."

The line went dead and I cringed. Not a good way to end that, not good at all. I licked my lips and put the phone down, staring at it with regret and a sinking feeling in my stomach.

I had to find a way to bargain with James. He said he had nothing to lose. That nothing tied him to living. It was time to find something to weigh his ass down.


That was the negotiator. And it sounded like it didn't go so well. I swore silently and began looking around for an escape route.

"Well, they know that the amazing Masen and Swan are inside. They want to speak to you, I hope you don't mind that I informed them that you're a little busy."

James walked around the bar and stood looking between me and Bella. He was planning his next move. He was flying blind now. His plan had run out of predetermined moves and I wasn't quite sure if that was a good or bad thing. He was looking a little crazier, a littler more desperate and wild. His hair was coming loose from its tie and his eyebrow was twitching as sweat beaded his forehead.

"What to do now…" The mantra was a muted mumble and I was seriously going to snap if he repeated it one more time.

He stopped on a dime and pivoted to look at Bella.

"Let's keep up our game shall we. I have so many more questions for you."

He stood casually beside her, his hip resting on the stool beside her, his elbow propped on the bar top. James' face was one of interest, smiling and friendly.

"So Isabella, can I call you Isabella? Isabella, I have a few more questions for you. What number were we on? Oh fuck it, that's not important anyway. Did you know that Eddie here was in love with you?"

Bella shook her head sharply, her eyes pressed closed. I knew that she had issues with her body. She was shy about herself when it came to things like that. I had no doubt that being exposed like this, on top of everything else going on right now, was freaking her the fuck out.

I could only convey a little amount of assurance to her with my eyes. What I really wanted was to kill James, get her home, eat, talk about what happened and then go to sleep. Preferably in that order but I wasn't being picky on when the food or bed thing happened. I should have been reasoning with a higher being, or praying for the eternal salvation of my soul but I had this feeling that this wasn't it for us. This wasn't going to be the end of my life and I would be damned if it was the end of Bella's.

James grasped a buck knife from the bar top and trailed the tip from Bella's shoulder down to her stomach. The blood in my body was hammering away and I was two seconds away from screaming at him to stop. If I did my hope was that his attention would slide to me and he would leave her alone. It turned out I didn't need to. He let the knife fall to his side, his fingers limp around the handle.

"Not yet lovely."

He turned and dug around in the bag for a moment before stomping around the bar and swiping his arm quickly over the back ledge, sending glasses flying in every direction. Bella cringed into herself, unable to see what was happening behind her. I watched his ever move as he went on a tantrum, overturning tables around the pub, breaking chairs, throwing bottles and glasses around. A few bowls and silverware went flying past my head a time or two. It went on for about an hour and half. He tired out finally and sat with a dejected look on his face as everyone left in the pub held their breath. When he was throwing things at least he was distracted now he could turn on any of us.

After about an hour of staring into space, my legs were going numb with pins and needles at sitting on the concrete floor. James sat at the bar, drinking from a bottle of whisky and staring into space.

Hours went by, how many I couldn't be sure because there wasn't a clock on the wall and I couldn't read my watch and the blinds kept me from seeing how much daylight was left outside if any at all. I couldn't tell if the street lights had come on yet or not.

Through the silence cut a shrill ring. The lights on the phone across the bar light up and everyone held their breath for what James would do next.

With exaggerated aggravation he stomped behind the bar and yanked the phone off the hook. For a moment his face was carefully blank and then it was like a tidal wave crashed over him.



"Alright Mrs. Buchanan-"

"Westler. It's Westler now, I went back to my maiden name."

I nodded and felt my gut constrict with tension. I was praying that this would work despite Victoria's obvious hate for her ex husband.

"Okay Ms. Westler, we need to get him to let these people go. In order to do that we need you to talk to him, get him to come out and if that's not possible we need you to try to convince him into letting some of the hostages go. From what we understand he won't under any circumstances let Agents Swan and Masen go but if we can get those men behind the bar there out then this isn't a wasted trip on your part okay? We need you to make this as convincing as possible…"

She stared at the computer monitor, her face betraying her previously calm and callous image. She was appalled at what her ex husband was doing and it showed. I wondered if she was feeling as much pressure to succeed as I was. I could only hope.

"Look, I know you must hate him and you don't want to be talking to him or doing this but these people's lives are at stake here so please just try to get him to come out okay?"

Victoria nodded and took in a deep breath before giving me a small smile.

I took a deep breath as well before picking up the phone and dialing the pubs number. It rang three times before he answered.

Nodding at Victoria I motioned for her to start.


There was a static filled pause before he answered and the way his voice quivered when he did made me want to jump in relief. This might work. Jesus, this just might work.


I gave Victoria a reassuring nod and tried to will her into speaking again with my eyes. S

Stay calm, gain his trust, get him out.

"Yeah, it's me. What are you doing Jamie? What's happening?"

James' breathing picked up and I could see on the monitor he was having a hard time with this. A dark thought that we might be pushing him too hard too fast crossed my mind but the negotiator in me smelled the weakness and knew we were getting close.

"Baby, I…I've tried to talk to you for months, I…what are you doing, where are you?"

"I'm outside Jamie, they called me and told me what was going on but honey I don't understand what you're doing."

That term of endearment was a nice touch I had to admit. She was doing superbly at the moment.

"I'm doing this for us Vicky. I'm doing this because of what they did. They took you from me, you and Laurie, they took you both from me and now I'm paying them back for everything. Oh Vicky babe, I've missed you so much, is Laurie there? Can I talk to her?"

Vicky's face blanched at the mention of their daughter and she started to panic. I hit the mute button on the phone and quickly reassured her.

"He can't touch you or your daughter. When he gets out he's going to jail for life. Just help us get him there okay?"

She was panting a little at the weight of her fear but licked her lips and nodded to continue. I hit the mute button again and sat back quietly.

"Laurie's with my parents right now. I didn't want to bring her here with all these people. You know how she's always trying to run off on her own. Jamie, I talked to these men here and they said that if you come out here now, they'll let you come back home with me. They said that we'd have to pay a fine and you'd be doing community service with your parole office and stuff but that you could come home and we'd be a family again. You'd have to go to therapy and stuff but Jamie we could be a family again."

The pregnant pause that passed was insanely tense. I felt my insides coiling. Would he go ape shit and tell her to fuck off. Would his paranoia group her in with the rest of us? Or would he buy it and come out?

"Are you lying to me Vicky? Are you lying to me right now? I'm doing this for us Vicky don't you dare tell me you believe their lies!"

"Jamie they're not lying! They got it all here in writing. They got a judge to sign it and everything! Jamie, God, I just want my family back! Maybe now the courts will let you come live with us. Jamie, you gotta know I never wanted to leave you but they were gonna take Laurie away if I didn't leave you! They said they'd take her away and I had to take care of our daughter!"

She was a born liar. I almost wanted to look around for the court docs she was talking about and call about this judge. She was that good.

"I…I need to think Vicky. I need to figure this out. I'll…I'll call you in a minute okay sweetheart?"

"Alright Jamie, I'll be here waiting for you okay? Just please, come back out and come home to us okay? They'll only let you go if you come out without hurting anyone okay?"

"Alright, I'm going to think about it okay? I love you Vicky."

Victoria's face twisted into one of despair and disgust but she sucked it up rather quickly. Her voice shook as she answered him.

"I love you too Jamie."

The phone clicked and she wailed out, sobbing and clutching at her stomach.

"I fucking hate him so fucking much! He ruined our lives! He ruined everything!"

I wrapped my arms around her and rocked her gently as we waited for the phone to ring, hopefully for the last time.


"Is this a trick? Are you behind this?"

James tore out from behind the bar and stomped toward me, his hands raised in the air and his eyes looking feral. He stopped in front of me, breathing hard and looking maniacally insane.

"James you need to calm down. I don't know what you're talking about, tell me what it is you think I've done."

"They're using her! She's there! How the hell did you…how did they…"

"Who? James who are you talking about?"

"Vicky! My wife! She's out there now! The fuck did you do?"

Bella was near hyperventilating at the bar and I was panicking as well. This was bad, this was really really bad. He was close to snapping and with the way he was gripping the detonator in his hand he could very easily set those charges off accidentally right now.

"James! I was right here the whole time! You've been watching me! I've been right here James. Right here. Right where you left me!"

That seemed to calm him down some as he took a step back and thought for a moment. Without warning his arm cocked back and flew towards my face. I tried to duck around it out of instinct but he still connected with my shoulder. Wincing and biting my lip from the pain I hissed in a breath, unwilling to show him how much that hurt.

"You did this! I know you did! It's a trick! They'll take her from me again! I know it!"

James' behavior was frighteningly close to crossing over into a territory it would never come back from. My mind was going into overdrive thinking about what was happening on the outside right now.

Standard protocol told me that there were at least two teams of SWAT out there in addition to city police, FBI, and most definitely a bomb squad. Visual on the situation was imperative so they had to have a way of looking in on us. I fought the urge to scrutinize the walls for holes. If I saw a camera in the walls then James would no doubt be able to see what I was looking at and catch it as well.

"What did they say James? What is going on right now?"

"They're trying to cut a deal with Vicky and me. If I come out there now then they'll drop all charges against me and I'll only have to deal with parole and community service. She says they have signed documents from a judge…is this a trick? So help me God Eddie, if this is a trick I just might kill you after all!"

My mind was spinning. Of course it was a trick. There was no judge in their right mind who would sign those papers freely. Not even if James had asked for those papers would they have been drawn up and signed. Community service? James would be lucky to get yard time where he was going. Forget about parole and community service, he was looking at life for this. Not only was he holding two federal agents hostage, there were tons of other charges he was looking at. Destruction of property, endangerment, illegal explosives, Jesus, and that was just the tip of the iceberg.

"I don't know James, maybe you should let me talk to an agent on the outside. I can figure out which Judge signed the orders. I can figure out if this is legit or not. I don't know how else to find out if it's a trap or not. I mean, it's possible but I have no idea until I talk to someone."

If I could get on the lines and figure out what the hell was happening then we have a very good chance of getting out of here much faster.

"Okay but I want to hear everything they say!"

"Well James they'll probably know that you're listening and then they'll just say whatever they have to say to get you to give up you know? If it's a ploy to get you out of here and still send you away then of course they'll say the same thing to me."

He thought over that for a moment and nodded his head. He unhooked the whole phone from the wall and yanked it over the bar towards me. My initial hope that he would take me to the phone was dashed on that one. I could have overpowered him if he'd taken the cuffs off.

He picked up the phone and held it to his ear.

"I wanna talk to that guy I spoke to the first time. Yeah him. Okay."

James put the phone up to my ear and leaned away still staring at me and giving me a hard look.

"Whitlock here, Mr. Buchanan what's going on?"

I rolled my eyes petulantly.

"This is Special Agent Edward Masen, Badge number JTT047101111. I'm secured on this line. What measures are being taken to ensure the safety of Agent Swan and myself?"

Whitlock hesitated and then began talking. I was assured by the way he kept up the pretense. That meant that he had eyes on the inside right now. He could see that James was sitting right next to me.

"We've managed to secure a court order from Judge Fugazi. He's agreed to minimize the charges on Buchanan and release him to house arrest with his wife Victoria with the conditions that he goes see's a psychologist and performs a thousand hours of community service. Also there will be random checks on their living conditions from social workers for their daughter Laurie. All he has to do is come out here and sign the documents."

Red flags were littered throughout what he had told me. First of all Fugazi was not a judge I had ever heard of. Fugazi was a slang Italian term for 'fake'. Whitlock had done his homework where Bella and I were concerned. He had to know that I took Italian and French in college and that I was fluent in both languages. He must have been expecting to hear from us. That wasn't something a person thought up on the fly. Secondly, house arrest would definitely be out of the question for James. No sane judge would let him within a mile of a child. He was faking this whole thing. How, I had no idea. I couldn't help but wonder who was out there giving him the go ahead to lie like this. All of it could come back to bite them in the ass.

"Are you sure those are the only terms? And this is on the level?"

"I have authorization from AD Cullen as well as VCU's Section Chief Blevins to undertake whatever means necessary to assure the safety and well being of Agent's Masen and Swan. I am to utilize any and all tools at my disposal to ensure the peaceable release of all hostages."

He was quoting that shit verbatim. I had no doubt that AD Cullen would want his agents out alive and unharmed. I was however unsure of what Blevins was doing giving this much authority to Whitlock. I didn't have the time to ponder Bureau democracy at the moment though so I went with the flow. The important thing now was getting Bella out of here alive and in one piece.

"Alright I'll relay that information to James and I'm sure he'll want to call and speak to Victoria again once he's gotten all this information."

James yanked the phone away from my ear and looked at me wearily.

"I want Vicky in here. I want to talk to her and see her face. I want her to tell me eye to eye about this deal."

Dread poured through me. I had a bad feeling about that. I had a very bad feeling about all of this. Vicky was a civilian. Sure she was married to Satan for over six years and yes she seemed to do a convincing job of lying to James over the phone but there was a high possibility she would crack in person. James was violent and unpredictable at the moment. Would it be so wise to risk a woman's life. Who would care for Laurie?

"James I don't think that's a good idea…with all the explosives in here what if there was an accident? Who would care for Laurie if something happened to the both of you?"

"Shut up! Shut the fuck up! I want Vicky in here NOW."

James slammed the phone down on the cradle and threw it against the wall smashing it into pieces. Fuck, that was bad.

Breathing hard and twitching like a crack head, James paced the length of the bar. He stopped and braced his hands on either side of Bella. Running his nose from the base of her neck to her temple he breathed in deeply and laughed.

"She smells like innocence. Did you know that Eddie? She smells like something clean and pretty. I think I'll take you like this first, then I'll bend you over the bar and take you that way. Will you scream for me pretty Swan? Will you beg me to stop? I wonder…"

A faint tap was heard against the glass at the door. James' head whipped to the side and his hand automatically yanked the gun from his jeans and he stalked toward the doors slowly, eyes wild.

"Who is it?"

"Jamie? It's me, Vick…"

The speed at which James unlocked the door and swung it open was startling. He reached out quickly and yanked her inside before shutting the door again and pulling her toward us.

He forgot to lock the doors again.

My eyes slammed to Bella's and I knew she had seen it too. Shifting she licked her lips and looked around subtly. Her eyes locked onto a small point up high against the wall behind me. She found the camera. Flickering her eyes toward the door trying to indicate the door was unsecured I could see was getting frustrated at not being able to just say something. She gave up after a few seconds when James began talking.

"Are you wired? What the hell is this?"

"It's a vest…they thought that you might not know it was me and shoot when I knocked but I told them I wanted to come in here. They didn't want me to come so by compromise I wore the vest. I'm not wired Jamie, you know I wouldn't do that to you."

Yes, they would but that was another indication that they had ears in here already. They didn't need to wire her ass up because they were already inside. Good.

"Jamie, take the deal. Please, take the deal. I want to go home. Laurie is probably scared right now. Please, I hate being here with all these cops. It's crazy out there and I can't leave without you. I can't leave not knowing what's happening to you."

"Listen to me Vicky. I got an airtight escape plan okay? Just stay with me. I'll finish up here and we'll leave together. We'll get Laurie and we'll start new somewhere okay?"

Victoria's eyes flashed for a moment with an emotion I couldn't understand.

"What do you mean? How the hell will you get out of here? You're surrounded."

"Trust me. I had a long time to work this out sugar. Just sit tight. I'll finish up with them and we'll run away from all this. We'll be new people, in a new town. Laurie can go to school and we can start fresh."

I felt my stomach drop for the millionth time when I saw that he was swaying Victoria. She was considering it. We were right back to square one. Except we had one advantage. The door was no unlocked. I had no idea what the information would do to help those outside but it was clearly nearing eight or nine at night. Nightfall would make it easier for him to get away and hide.

"La porta e` aperta!" I tried to make it sound as much like a curse as I could.

"James, these cuffs are making my hands fucking numb. My ass is going numb from sitting like this!"

A swift kick to the stomach is what I got for that. If Whitlock the Amazing didn't get my message I was going to kill him when I got out of here.


"Quick! Get me a translation for that! La prta a aparta! He's telling us something!"

I licked my lips and stared at the screen. I had missed something. That was apparent when Agent Swan started giving the camera in the back a staredown and Masen's random outburst had earned him a kick.

"Here it is, La Porta e aperta – The door is open. The hell does that mean? It's closed…"

"Not open…unlocked. He didn't lock it back. Get me the feed from James pulling Victoria inside. Wait, freeze it there and slow it down…yeah, fuck Masen I could kiss you. James never locked the door."

I looked at AD Cullen and wanted to flinch from his penetrating stare. He was frighteningly grim.

"This does nothing for us. If we go in there he'll blow the place wide fucking open."

"No, he won't. Victoria's in there. He won't risk her. Alright, here's what we're going to do. It's risky, so fucking risky, but it's got to work."

Cullen leaned forward and put his game face on.


James and Victoria were having a moment to themselves in the corner of the bar. From their body language I could tell that Victoria was not enjoying herself but James was eating up whatever she was saying. Perhaps there was hope for us after all.

Victoria pulled a small cell phone from her pocket and handed it to James.

"They wanted me to give you this. They tried to call you again on the landline in here and when it didn't go through they gave me this to give you."

That was good. She didn't give away the cameras and she played along with the game. That was a huge indicator that she was still on our side.

James tucked the phone into his pocket and walked back over to us.

"Change of plans Eddie. I've changed my mind about letting you live. I think watching Swanny over here in your last moment will be punishment enough."

James began packing up his bag and Victoria stood uncertainly off to the side. The phone in James' pocket began to ring. The generic ringtone was unbearably loud in the silence of the bar.

"What the fuck do you want?"

James stilled his movements and looked at the doors in horror a moment before they cracked open.

Whitlock was on a loudspeaker outside.

"We have both exits covered James. SWAT is on the roof and occupying both buildings beside the pub. We're coming in and unless you want to put Vicky in the middle of the fire you'll put down your weapons and come quietly. Remember that if anything happens to Victoria, Laurie goes into the system. Do you want that for your little girl James? You want your wife to die, you're daughter to go into foster care because of you?"

The doors opened slowly, the barrel of an assault rifle slowly slithered through until a SWAT officer came creeping in. Another one followed him and another. Soon there were eight SWAT team members all with weapons aimed at James blocking the exit behind them was who I assumed was Whitlock, wearing a Kevlar vest and had a sig in his hands. Another four came stalking out of the shadows of the back door.

"James, think about this. Victoria has almost no chance of making it out of here alive unless you cooperate. Make this easy, ensure that your daughter has a mother to come get her and not a social worker."

James was enraged. He dropped the bag beside him and took a step back. He was only another step away from Bella.

"Fuck you. You've been lying the whole time haven't you! There was never any deal! Vicky, how could you lie to me? I love you! I was going to make this right for us! Fuck!"

"Jamie, I didn't know! I swear! I didn't know what they were going to do!"

This seemed to pacify James somewhat but I had to know that he wasn't going to go down so easily. He took another step back and realized that Bella was right there. Faster than I could see he had a gun pressed to her forehead.

"Let Vicky go or I kill her."

Whitlock paled but squared his shoulders.

"You shoot a federal agent James and this SWAT team will gun you down before you can take another breath. Victoria is standing awfully close to be safe. Just put it down and give it up James. Let us help you. You can still make it out of here with a decent deal. Don't do this. Don't ruin your wife and daughter's lives."

Everything after that happened in a blur. A shot was fired, James' head whipped back, another shot sounded and James' fell over Bella. Victoria screamed and dropped to the ground as well. Whitlock ran toward James at the same time SWAT went into a flurry of motion. I stopped breathing when I lost sight of Bella.

Oh Jesus who shot first?

"BELLA? BELLAAA? Dammit answer me! Bella!"

I was surrounded by men in Kevlar and black as my handcuffs were snipped off with bolt cutters. I stood up and tried to run toward Bella but was held back by a multitude of arms. A cacophony of 'Sir, calm down. Everything is alright. You're fine. Sir, calm down' was whirling around my head.

"Jesus get off me!"

I fought. I raged. I had to get to her. Finally the two men in front of me backed down and I watched as someone pulled James off Bella. Jesus there was blood everywhere. It was all over her face, her chest, dripping down her stomach. Her eyes were closed and she was sheet white.

My hands were on her face and I knew I was probably holding her too tightly. When a SWAT officer came close to cut the cuffs off her I growled low and turned my back to him, trying to shield Bella's body from him.

"I need a blanket and paramedics!"

That got some reactions. A few men ran out the doors. Another two were rounding up the men behind the bar. Funny how I had forgotten about them.

Bella's eyes fluttered and I held my breath.

"C'mon Swan, open those eyes for me. It's over. It's all over. Please baby open those eyes for me."

Bella blinked up at me and for a moment she looked frail and frightened. I'd seen this look before. When her father died. When she shot her first assailant. When she had nightmares about it for months after it happened I was there to listen. I knew that look and how it would haunt me until I died.

She looked down at herself and then at me and the floods burst. Her tears were hot against my skin as she pressed herself into me and sobbed.

"Shhhh it's okay. It's all over. We're okay. You're okay. I've got you. I've got you. Everything is okay now. You're safe. You're safe."

I dark blue wool blanket was shoved at me and I looked up into the eyes of Whitlock. I sent him as much gratitude as I could through my gaze and wrapped Bella in the blanket. Two paramedics came barging in. They surveyed the damage quickly. One pronounced James dead, the other checked over Victoria announcing that she had fainted and then headed toward us. Bella shrank into my side.

"Please, I don't think I can handle anyone else touching me right now. I want to get clean and be anywhere else but here."

Whitlock pursed his lips and waved off the paramedics. One of them started to argue with him but finally gave up and had Bella sign off a waver and pressed her for a promise to go to a hospital as soon as she could.

After giving my statement I ushered Bella out to into the street and stopped cold at the sign before me. There were three SWAT bus's haphazardly parked off to the side. Two tech vans set up across the street, countless sedans and police cars pulled in. Red and Blue lights were swirling everywhere and reminded me that neither one of us had eaten in a while. I dug my keys out from my pocket only to feel a hand clamp down on my wrist.

AD Cullen looked at me with a frown. Angela and Ben raced to us only to hover behind Cullen.

"How about I drive you where you need to go?"

I nodded and squeezed Bella tighter into my side.

"Hey, Swan. Where you wanna go?"

"I…I don't want to go home. I don't want to be alone right now."

Nodding I gave AD Cullen my apartment address and slide into the back seat of his sedan.

Angela looked stricken at not being able to help Bella but Ben wrapped an arm around her and I nodded to them as we pulled away from the curb.

The ride was silent. Bella's tears had tried up and she stared vacantly out the window. It wasn't a long ride but it felt stuffed with awkwardness. It felt strange to be away from there now. It felt weird knowing that only a half hour ago we were in an impossible situation. It felt weird. I felt weird. And oh God Bella knows how I feel about her now.

I thought hard about that. I could gather my courage and tell her I was being honest or I could just say that I was going along with what I thought James wanted to hear.

The problem was I didn't want to take it back. I was so fucking elated that she knew. I felt hope welling inside me for the first time in years. I could finally be with Bella. She had said she loved me back. She wasn't lying right? She wasn't playing James' game. She was telling the truth.

The sedan came to a stop and all three of us sat in silence for a moment.

"You both have two weeks of paid vacation. I don't want to see either one of you anywhere near the Hoover building. Am I clear?"

"Yes sir." Bella nodded woodenly beside me.

"Also, when you both get back we're going to talk about reassignment. I don't want to hear any protests right now. Just rest, recoup, and make appointments with psych. This is mandatory. No skirting alright?"

I gave another affirmative before helping Bella out of the car. The trip to my apartment was again silent. Bella was quiet during the elevator ride and silent as I opened the door. Once inside she headed straight for my bathroom. I ran a hand through my hair and stalked toward the bedroom, right behind her.

She tore into the bathroom and closed the door. I heard the shower come on immediately and took a deep breath. I rummaged through my drawers and pulled out a soft button down baseball jersey from my college days and a pair of boxers. They'd be like shorts on her. I stripped off my tie and shirt and padded to the bathroom with the clothes in my hand.

"Swan? You in the shower? I got you some clothes."

Muffled crying answered me and I turned the knob, surprised to find it unlocked. The bathroom was saturated in fog. Rivulets ran down the mirror and I had a hard time seeing through it all. Beside the toilet was a puddle of navy blue blanket and on top were the blood stained scraps of her underwear.

The glass shower door was fogged at the top but the bottom was still clear. Bella was huddled in the back of the shower, holding her knees to her and crying. I set the clothes on the counter and kicked off my shoes. I kicked out of my slacks and slid open the bathroom door. Still wearing my boxer briefs I climbed in only to curse at the heat of the water. It was fucking scalding. In an attempt not to burn myself by reaching around the water to turn the cold side up I think I looked like a flailing duck but the water cooled to a lukewarm temperature and I slid down the wall to sit in front of her. The water pelted my side but felt amazingly relaxing.

"I want him off me. I want it all off me but I feel like it wont go away. I feel greasy and gross. I wont come off me."

Her hands were scrapping at her upper arms leaving angry red scratches and raising welts. I stopped her movements by holding my hands over hers.

Slowly I picked up the washcloth beside her and the bar of soap on the rack before lathering it and sliding it gently over her skin. She let out a shuddering breath and her arms dropped away from her knees. I kept my eyes on her arms and far away from her bare breasts. Applying gentle pressure I washed from her shoulders down to her fingers. I cleaned each one and even made a show of scrubbing between them. She smiled a little and I slide the washcloth back up to her neck working her tight muscles and getting behind her ears.

"Turn around." I murmured.

She complied and again I averted my eyes to the ceiling while she moved. The pale expanse of her back was bared to me and I gently swiped the soapy cloth over her shoulders, making my way down her waist to the flare of her hips and ass. Her head dropped back and I wrapped my arms around her waist and pulled her back into the space between my legs.

"You're all clean. Not a spot of dirt on you. Want me to wash your hair? I only have Dial…I know its not the best smelling stuff. You'll end up smelling like me but…"

"Please? I'd like that."

My heart raced at the thought of her smelling like me. I ran my chin again her shoulder and pressed a kiss to her neck. She shuddered and I pulled away to grab the bottle of shampoo/body wash.

I worked her hair into a thick later and then pulled her back so that the water sprayed between us. I watched as the suds cascaded down her shoulders, down her back and from the side I could see them sliding over the swell of her breasts. I swallowed thickly and turned to shut off the water but Bella had slowly turned from her position and was grabbing the bottle of shampoo. She squeezed a very liberal amount into my hair and smiled a little when it started to slide down the side of my face. I shut my eyes as she worked it into my hair and then down the back of my neck, over my chest and down my stomach. Her little hands were firm and kneading, gently cleaning over the bruised spots on my body.

I knew if I opened my eyes her tits would be right there in my face so I kept them tightly closed.

Now was not the time to try anything.

When all the soap was rinsed from my body she grabbed my arms and we stood up. I opened my eyes and kept them trained on her face. Dear God that was hard. In my peripheral I could make out dark pink nipples and it was killing me not to look.

I will not ogle my partner, I will not ogle my partner, I will not ogle my partner. I will not ogle my partner.

And I just couldn't help it. I glanced down and that was all it took. They were burned into my mind. They weren't big by any means but they were perfectly shaped and her nipples were puckered and hard. My eyes shot back up to her face and I noted the blank look she was giving me.

"I'm sorry I couldn't help it. I mean, I just…I'm sorry."

She laughed a dry hard laugh and shook her head.

"For what it's worth they're amazing."

That sent her over the edge and she clutched at her side giggling like mad. I smiled at her mirth and slid the door open as I shut the water off. I grabbed the first towel I could reach and wrapped her in it before stepping out to grab another one from beneath the sink for myself. I dropped my sopping wet boxers and wrapped the towel around myself quickly. As I turned I noted Bella's wide eyes and pink cheeks.

Good to know I wasn't the only one peeking.

I smirked and handed her the clothes I had brought for her before heading out into the bedroom for clothes of my own.

I yanked on a pair of boxers and some flannel sleep pants before toweling off my chest and hair. Bella came out wearing the jersey. It was so long on her that only a sliver of the boxers could be seen under the hem.

"I'll um, take the couch."

Grabbing a shirt I started toward the door before Bella stopped me.

"Please…Edward. I don't want to be alone right now."

I swallowed and nodded. I dropped the shirt onto the chair beside my dresser and walked over to the bed. We stood, facing each other on opposite sides of the mattress just staring at each other.

"Bella, I can sleep on the couch if you want."

Shaking her head she pulled the comforter back and slid into the sheets. I followed suit and before I could figure out how this was going to work out she scooted over and draped herself over my side; her head tucking into my shoulder and neck, her legs wrapping around one of mine. I rolled toward her and threw my other leg over hers and it wasn't long before we were both out for the count.

For a week Bella stayed at my apartment. Saturday we woke up to Angela knocking on the door. She had gotten Bella's purse from the pub and went to her apartment to collect some of her things. They spoke for a few minutes in hushed whispers in the kitchen before Angela gave me a small smile and left. My car was parked outside and I didn't want to think about how that happened considering I still had the keys.

We went to the small grocer down the street and loaded up on food. We were both overly paranoid as we stalked the isles, constantly looking around for any threats. By the time we left we were both set on edge and I couldn't get back to my apartment fast enough.

For a week we holed up and watched TV, ordered take out some nights and just existed together. We hardly spoke unless necessary and as the nights wore on I could tell Bella wasn't sleeping. The exhaustion of the first night had worn her down but now she couldn't fall asleep and when she did she had nightmares.

By the fifth night I had, had enough.

"I made us appointments for psych. The Tuesday after we get back we both go in."

Bella stiffened but didn't say anything. She just nodded and continued to stare at the TV.

"Bella, we should talk about this."

"What's there to talk about? It happened. It can't unhappen. We just have to move on from it."

My body was healing fast from the beating I took from James. Bella had refused to get checked out since we left the pub and I was glad to see that she didn't have any injuries besides bruised wrists.

"Bella we both know there's more to it than that. I mean-"

"I meant it."

I stopped speaking and knew I had to tread lightly.

"Meant what?"

"What I said in the pub. I meant every word. I…I love you. I've loved you for a long time but I couldn't risk losing what we had. You're my best friend. You…God, please. I meant what I said Edward, did you mean it too?"

I felt as if I should have been scared to have this conversation. I should have been worried at what was going to happen. I should have feared the fallout if things between us didn't work but I didn't. I knew without uncertainty that this was right. No hesitation. It was time to stop hiding it.

"Bella, I've loved you for so long I cant remember a time I didn't love you. I would never lie about that. I would never, ever say something like that if I didn't mean it. I'm in this for good. They can separate us. They can reassign us but at the end of the day I plan on coming back to you. Nothing in this world could change that."

I'd like to say I remember ever second of what happened after that but the truth is we'd been skating around each other for years. The way we melded together was a blur but suddenly she was on me and we were kissing each other like we were back in that pub and it was our last few moments to live.

I only remember a few sensations and an overall recollection of the events that followed our confessions.

I pressed Bella back into the couch and ran my hands over her body. I kissed every inch of her face and neck. I felt her through her clothes and reveled in her moans. I pressed my hard length into the apex of her legs and came damn near close to coming without even taking our clothes off. I slid my hand into her shorts and slid my fingers into her slick heat. I felt her convulse around me. I carried her to the bedroom where we had both slept, wrapped in each other for the past week and I took her clothes off slowly, deliberately.

I tasted her, I loved her, I held her so hard I thought I would bruise her. I kissed her until I knew the contours of her mouth. I slid into her and never wanted to leave. I felt her shudder, arch, and writhe beneath me. I heard her moan and call out my name. I grunted, groaned, and claimed her over and over again.

And when I was close she whispered to me, "Take his touch away Edward. Make me yours, only yours."

I tried to pull out and when she locked her ankles around my back I slammed back into her a came. Her breasts arched against my chest and I sounded feral as I marked her in the most carnal way possible.

Afterwards I held her to me, our bodies slick with sweat and our words quiet and tender.

It was the culmination of loving someone so close from so far away for so long. It was five years of pent up tension. It was five years of missed 'I love you's and tender touches.

We made love three more times that night and in the morning we hashed it all out. I asked her out on a date and we went to dinner that night. I picked her up outside my own door. We made plans to relax with Angela and Ben, at my place but still. I had a feeling there wouldn't be many visits to any pubs or restaurants in the near future. Not until we had counseling. We were goofy in love with one another and Ben teased me openly about my emasculating behavior.

When our vacation was up we squared our shoulders and went back to work. AD Cullen was all smirks and smiles when he saw us. I had a feeling he knew about what happened in that pub but he wasn't giving anything away. The digital copies had mysteriously developed a blank spot between the time we were cuffed and the time Vicky walked in. Cullen seemed inordinately pleased with that.

He also kept his promise from before. I was sent to ViCAP and Bella stayed in General Assignments. We made it work.

Victoria went back to work, she gave her statement and washed her hands of her ex husband. James was buried and I heard that no one attended his funeral. Whitlock came to see us in person. He brought his wife Alice with him and she seemed to connect with Bella in a way I had never seen before. They made plans to go shopping together. I found this hilarious in ways no one else would understand.

Jasper is stand up guy and I owed him my life as well as Bella's. We shoot hoops on Saturdays.

Tonight, I was going to take the next step. Tonight I was going to ask her to move in with me. It wasn't a huge step considering she still spent more time here than she did at her place but it was a show of solidarity.

Tonight I was going to take the first step toward those kids and that happily ever after.

Maybe we'd get a dog too. Who knows.

At the end of the day, I realized what was important and if I wasn't still so bitter about the whole hostage situation and if James was still alive, I might even thank the bastard for what he did.