Marcos slammed the file cabinet drawer shut and pulled the next one open, flipping through the colorful tabs that his secretary used. He had given up any hope of ever understanding her system; he would be completely lost without her and he was pretty sure that she not only knew it, but that she had planned it that way.
"What are you looking for?"
"I need the file on…" He fell silent when his secretary pushed him away from the file cabinet and handed him one of the health shakes she was always insisting he drink. He was thirty-eight years old, he had survived two wars and countless skirmishes in too many foreign countries on missions that technically didn't exist, and he had scared the piss out of men bigger than him, but when it came to his secretary… well, she wasn't the slightest bit intimidated by him.
"And it couldn't wait five minutes for me to get back from the smoothie shop?" She shook her head at him. "You're not working on anything that requires you to mess up my filing system."
"Cailyn, I don't have time to wait for - "
"And I didn't have time last night, but you still went to sleep with a big smile on your face, didn't you? Don't I always make sure you get what you need, when you need it?"
Marcos was a man of above-average intelligence and he knew better than to piss her off. The woman could do things in bed that practically melted his brain and he had learned that the best way to keep her doing those things on a nightly basis was to keep her happy. "I need the file on the Perretti job; there are some inconsistencies in a couple of the accounts that I wanna go over - "
"I've already checked those inconsistencies and verified our agents' accounting of the incident; our people are all clear. Wouldn't I have brought it to your attention if we had a problem with any of our people?" She rolled her eyes when he glared at her.
"I'm bored and you know when I get bored I start going through that mountain of post-it notes on my desk so I can go back and clean up questions regarding old case files."
Her eyes narrowed as she studied him, taking in the barest hint of agitation that was visible in his expression. This wasn't just boredom. She had been his secretary for five years and his lover for three, more than long enough to learn to read the man. "Marc?" She slapped his hand away when he reached for the handle on the file cabinet drawer. "We have seven open cases right now, three that need to have someone assigned to them; what's distracting you?"
"Xavier called while you were out."
"Does he have a job that requires one of our people?"
"Basara was spotted in Cairo a few hours ago."
This was not good information. Basara had been connected to terrorist activities in several countries and Marcos had been the last agent the Company had sent in to take the man out. His cover had been blown and after torturing him, Basara had left Marcos to die in a building wired with explosives. He had managed to free himself and crawl out of the building, but he hadn't escaped the explosion. "Marc, you can't go after him yourself." She followed him as he stalked back into his office, pacing around like a caged animal.
He paused and looked toward the door when he heard the obnoxiously loud voice. "Guerin! Tell me you're lookin' for an assignment."
"I'm in the market for an assignment that'll get me outta town for a few days. What've you got?"
"How's Cairo sound?"
"Perfect." Michael slouched down in one of the leather chairs in front of the man's desk and studied the couple's body language. "What's up?"
"How soon can you be ready to go?"
This sounded serious. Michael wondered what had gotten Marcos worked up into such a febrile state. "Soon as you need me. What time do I leave?"
"We leave in three hours."
Michael's gaze shot to Cailyn, surprised that she hadn't said anything yet. "Um… we?"
"Basara's in Cairo and I want him dead. Xavier sanctioned the kill; I wanna be lookin' into his eyes the moment he knows he's a dead man." Marcos's voice was icy as he verbally sentenced the man to death.
Michael shifted uncomfortably. "Look, Marcos, I know you got fucked on that mission, and you've got every right to want revenge, but, what makes you think he won't kill you the second you come face to face?"
"I'll be trustin' you to put a bullet between his eyes before he gets that chance." He moved around behind his desk, his fingers trailing along the edge. "I will not miss out on an opportunity to watch him die." His fist slammed down on the ink blotter. "I will not have that taken away from me!"
Alright, that was all he needed to know. "Do I need my passport or are we flyin' under the radar on this one?" Michael asked.
"Xavier's providing all transportation and I'll handle our false identification papers and all expenses."
Michael stood up. "It's gonna take me two hours to get to my place and back, and about half an hour to get my gear together. Should I meet you back here or out at the Company landin' strip?"
"No, here's good." He braced his fists on the desk and raised his head to stare at the younger man when he stood up. "I want him dead, Michael."
Michael saluted to show that he understood the situation perfectly. "He'll be dead before he hits the ground."
Marcos nodded and turned his head when the office door closed a few moments later. "I can't let this go, Cailyn." Her silence spoke louder than a screaming fit would have and he looked at her directly, his blue eyes faded by the near-blindness he had suffered in the explosion. He could only see shadows and blurred images unless he was very close to what he was looking at, and there were very few people who knew that his sight was compromised.
She knew that Michael Guerin was one of the few people Marcos actually trusted and he claimed the younger man was the best sniper he had ever worked with. She also knew that there was no way to control a man like Marcos and that if she expected him to come back to her she had to let him go without a fight. "I know you're gonna do this regardless of what I say, so I'm not gonna ask you not to go. But, you know what could happen if you meet with that bastard face to face, Marc."
"Cailyn, Michael's the best sniper I've ever worked with and I'll have him at my back." He shook his head. "He may be a total dick most of the time, but he takes this job seriously."
She sighed and nodded. "You'll need to get packed, so let's close up and head for home."
Maria ignored Michael when he came home much earlier than she had expected him to. He had only been gone for a couple of hours and she had been certain he'd be gone for most of the day at least. She didn't think much of it when he went back and forth between the kitchen and the bedroom several times, but when he walked by carrying a packed bag she frowned.
"Where're you going?"
"Away." His answer was short and precise; Maria didn't need to know any more than that.
She stood and followed him back to his bedroom when he passed by again, pausing in the doorway when she saw the long rifle case lying open on his bed. "You've got another assignment," she guessed. "It's not like the last one though, is it?"
"Nope." Michael checked the weapon over even though he knew it was in perfect working order; he cleaned and oiled it on a regular basis as a preventative measure.
"How long will you be gone?"
"As long as it takes."
Maria tried once more to get at least some small piece of information out of him. "Can you at least tell me where you'll be?"
Michael closed the case and locked it as he glanced at her. "No."
Maria was beginning to feel anxious and she couldn't shake it; she just had a bad feeling about this. "What if something happens to you?"
"Never talk like that before a mission; it's bad luck." He picked his phone up off of the bed, flipping it open to make a call as he picked up the case that housed the weapon and carried it out to the garage. He talked as he worked, and she assumed he was gathering information of some kind for his upcoming mission.
She stood in the doorway, watching him as he secured the case to the motorcycle and then strapped his bag to the back. She listened to him as he carried on a conversation with whoever was on the other end of the phone and she frowned when she heard the name Basara and the word terrorist.
"Wait just one minute," she insisted, rushing after him when he disconnected from his call and turned to walk back into the house. "You're going after a known terrorist?" she asked, unable to control the fear in her voice.
Michael growled in frustration. Instead of preparing for his mission, he was going to have to stop and spend time giving this Maria girl a lesson in reality! What hadn't she understood about his job? "What exactly do you think I do when I'm sent out on assignment? Go to crappy little third world countries and build schools and play with small children?" He snorted disdainfully. "Grow up, Maria; that's a bunch of PR bullshit created to give naïve people like you a nice, soft picture to make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside so you don't have to think about what's really going on."
Maria winced as she listened to him talking like that; he was so cold about life, about his job, and his mission. "Maybe in your world."
"Whatever." He shook his head and brushed past her, walking back to his bedroom to finish gearing up. "Believe whatever you wanna believe. You always do," he muttered.
Maria watched him as he armed himself with multiple weapons before pulling his dog tags out from beneath his shirt and letting them fall to rest against the white tee shirt when he turned to face her. It was as if he were making a statement that he wanted to make sure she could read without mistaking it for anything else.
"This is who I am and I make no apologies for it, not to you or anyone else." He pushed past her, stopping at the hall closet to retrieve his leather jacket before heading for the garage.
Maria stood at the picture window in the living room, watching him as he backed out of the garage and followed the driveway until he reached the end of his property and turned onto the paved road, more worried than she had let on. She supposed she shouldn't be surprised that he had an assignment; it seemed to be how he handled any situation that he didn't want to deal with, running off and focusing on something else until it could be forgotten.
She sighed and went back to doing what she had been doing before he came home. She still had a few hours before she had to be at work, and she didn't want to spend that time obsessing over his behavior. She just hoped that in his determination to ignore what was going on between them that he wouldn't forget to be careful.
Maria walked along the aisles in the movie rental store, browsing over hundreds of titles without consciously looking for any specific thing. She had really only stopped by to drop a couple of rentals she and Michael had gotten out the week before and hadn't returned yet, but she was bored and had no desire to rush home to an empty house. She didn't have to work that night and she had gotten so used to having Michael rambling around that it was too quiet without him there.
He had only been gone for a couple of days but it felt more like weeks. She had worked the first two nights and that had helped keep her mind occupied, but tonight it was just her and the empty house and she really needed a distraction. Watching the news wasn't helping because she had no idea what to look for; she didn't know where he was, what he was doing, or what type of situation he had been sent in to handle.
The news was only causing her to worry about him; wondering if he was all right, what kind of situation he was in, was he safe or in danger? She hated thinking about what he was doing right now; her heart rate was going too fast, and fear was causing her to stress out. He was a trained professional in his chosen career and he probably had backup, so there was no need to worry. Maria repeated the mantra over and over in her head, doing her best to calm down.
She paused when her gaze skimmed over the Terminator trilogy; the covers looked about the same as they had in her universe. As many times as her hybrid boyfriend had insisted on watching the movies she practically had them memorized. They were by no means her favorite type of movie to watch, but she was wondering if they were the same as they had been in her universe… and, if they happened to take her mind off of the danger Michael was probably in, then that was even better.
She scooped up all three movies and carried them to the counter, carrying on a short conversation with the friendly cashier. They had gotten familiar with each other since she and Michael had been coming in on a fairly regular basis. After leaving the store she decided she didn't feel like cooking so she stopped for takeout before turning the truck towards home.
Michael pounded on the door to the room that Marcos was in, frowning when the man didn't answer the door right away. He crouched down and checked the door, especially around the lock, checking to see if there was any damage that might indicate that someone had entered the room without the man's consent. There was no evidence that foul play had occurred, but he knew that things weren't always what they seemed to be.
He withdrew the handgun from the shoulder holster and took several steps back, giving himself plenty of room to charge the door. He was taking a deep breath when the door was suddenly pulled open and Marcos stood in the doorway hastily dressed, red-faced, and breathing heavily. "It's three o'clock in the fuckin' mornin', Guerin! What the fuck do you want?" he snarled.
Michael stepped past Marcos and into the room, and he grinned when his sharp gaze landed on the laptop lying open on the bed. "Marcos, you old dog… Internet sex? At your age?"
Marcos shut the door and turned slowly, trying to get his bearings and follow Michael as he moved around the room. He cursed a blue streak when he stubbed his toe on the dresser and he paused there, squinting to make out the other man's shadow. "No, don't touch that computer!" he shouted when Michael leaned down to pick it up.
Michael glanced at the open laptop and an eyebrow lifted in appreciation when the woman on the small screen waved. "Don't worry, you dirty old man, she's covered up." He chuckled and turned his attention back to the woman. "Cailyn, I hate to interrupt - "
"Liar." She studied him for a few moments. "You've got something," she guessed.
"Yeah, so, if you guys are finished with your computer fuck I kinda need to talk to him."
"Your eloquence never fails to amuse me." She chuckled but her expression quickly turned serious. "You know he's trusting you to get him back here alive."
"I've worked with him and for him off an' on for the past seven years… I've never let him down, Cailyn."
"Don't let this be the first time, Michael." This time her smile had an edge to it and it held a warning. "Because if anything happens to him, it'll also be the last time." She made a motion with her right hand when he just nodded in response. "Let me talk to him before the two of you go running off to chase down your next lead."
Michael sat down on the couch and waited for Marcos to finish the conversation, ignoring the man when he motioned for him to leave. He leaned forward and stared at his hands when Marcos stepped out onto the balcony and closed the door behind him. He scratched his chin as he wondered what Maria was up to; it had been three days since he had left and he hadn't so much as called Gabriel to check on her.
He shook his head and slouched back when the door opened and Marcos stepped back inside. "Alright, what's important enough for you to interrupt my time with Cailyn?"
"Had a request for a meetin' slipped under my door." He held up a small piece of paper. "I figured you'd be interested; whoever it is wants to meet in the alley in two hours. They claim to have Intel on Basara."
They discussed the meeting and decided to gear up and head down to the alley to check it out and set up in case it was a trap. It was always best to handle the situation as if the possibility of a trap was probable in order to control the element of surprise as well as they could.