Underwater he was comfortable. It was home. He could breathe, relax. Even the strong undercurrents of the Thames weren't strong enough to bother him. But he knew that she was only human and the impact with the water would've hurt not to mention the fact that she couldn't exactly breathe underwater. That's what she had meant by special talent – she needed him to save her even if she didn't say it out loud.
Hector swam round to where she had fallen, fighting against the current. He knew that if he was five feet and eight inches tall with only a little muscle, he would be dead within a minute... Serena had no chance. He searched frantically but the disgusting water stung his eye and he didn't want to think what was floating around in it. It was far from the ocean at Nantucket, or the Spanish sea.
Suddenly, hands were grabbing his jacket and he turned to find a calm Serena, casually clinging onto him for dear life. He pried her hands loose and took one in his hands and they began to swim to the side of the Thames. He could see that she was struggling with air so he brought his mouth down on hers and breathed some into her. It wasn't exactly the welcome kiss he had imagined, but it was wonderful anyway. When they were at the side of the Thames, they kicked upwards and clung onto an old ladder which had gotten slippery and slimy over time, grateful to have their heads out of the water.
Serena breathed in deep breathes of air and beamed at Hector, "That wasn't so hard was it?" She said cheerfully. Hector noticed that the current had dragged them about a half mile from the bridge as they were swimming to the left. They had gotten away clean as nobody could see anything moving in the groggy water. Where they were standing, no one could see them as it was beneath a billboard.
She climbed up the ladder, almost slipping twice and offered a hand to Hector. He rolled his eyes and climbed up after her. She twisted some water out of her hair and took off her soaking jacket. "God that water is disgusting and cold." She remarked as she pulled out the knife strapped to her thy and cut the slit in her skirt a little higher to allow her to walk better.
"The place I am staying is just there if you want to dry off and warm up." Hector offered, knowing she would refuse. It was almost fate that they had resurfaced on the corner of the street where he was staying.
She actually considered it though. "Yeah if you don't mind. Then I can get back to my shack and scout the rendezvous point." Hector didn't bother to hide his surprise. She further surprised him by putting an arm around him and snuggling close as they walked to his apartment for the week. His arm curled round her waist and pulled her closer. He realised that she was going to leave in an hour, maybe less, he didn't know where or what for but he knew that she would keep to the promise she made herself and not see him again, at least not on purpose.
In his little apartment, he let Serena use the shower which he guessed didn't work very well. When she came out, she was clean, warm, wearing one of his shirts and buzzing from the adrenaline of the whole thing. "Showers free." She sung happily.
"Why are you so happy?"
"Well the pay packet for this job," she replied as she jumped onto the sofa and crossed her legs, "Was insane." She finished. Hector knew why a big pay check would make anyone happy but Serena was different. Every dime she had she spent tracking down the bastards that killed her family and anything left went to her sister, the one who survived but was paralysed from the hip down. It went to making her comfortable.
Hector smiled and said, "I see. So what did you have to get?"
"I don't know, it's in an envelope which I then put in a waterproof pouch." She said, pointing to the red pouch sitting on top of the microwave oven. Hector nodded and went into the bathroom for his shower.
When he was dressed and dry, he opened the bathroom door to find a mattress sitting in the middle of the floor but no Serena. So that was his prize? He helped her with a big payment job and he got a mattress? No goodbye! His fury was matched by the ache he felt in his chest at her disappearance. She was gone...
Then he heard a scratching at the door and it opened. He sighed with both relief and surprise. There she was, holding a bag of what smelt like Chinese food and a pair of lock picks wearing a red dress that fit her like second skin. The confused look on his face prompted her to explain, "The clothes are your neighbour's ex-girlfriends – he was happy to help a poorly dressed woman find some real clothes and I have to say, its designer. And I thought we might eat some Chinese for lunch – I mean I kind of owe you for helping me breath underwater and stuff so..."
"Where did the mattress come from?" Hector asked.
"Oh that? That was George's kid's mattress but when he and the Mrs got divorced, the kid moved in with his mum. Only visits every other week. I said I needed to borrow one and he again was oh so happy to help a woman without a bed." She said and she put the food down on the kitchen work top and spread out on the mattress. "Oh and George is the landlord."
Hector was amazed she could fleece this stuff from anyone, as long as they were single and straight. But who would refuse a gorgeous and poorly dressed woman such as Serena? She was so damn amazing... but he knew what it really was. She had mastered the art of manipulation. She had once tried to manipulate Hector, when they first met but he was kind of immune to her lies (what with Lucas pointing them out). This thought made him think of Lucas and his family and he felt empty inside, without them. His only comfort was Serena and even she was going to leave soon.
He helped himself to food – he was ravenous. While he was chomping down on some noodles, he noticed that Serena had ripped some wires out of the wall that lead to the TV and had begun working on them.
"The TV doesn't work."
She twisted the fuse and some other wire together and the TV turned on. "It does now. Oi! Don't eat everything!" She teased and pulled out her own box of noodles. "I always check the news after I have done a job to give myself a rating out of ten."
Sure enough, the news had the scene covered saying it was a theft and had only one casualty – Lewis. No one else was even hurt. "I would give it a nine." Hector said. Her response was comical.
"Harsh! That is a full ten; no civilians were hurt, only the inside of the room was burnt a little, and no one had any idea who it was. It was perfect." She replied.
"True." She took a bite of her food and took a seat cross legged on the mattress. "So what are you planning to steal from Safe – that memory stick with the smiley face?" She asked casually.
Hector flashed a shocked look. "How did you-"
She gave Hector a look that said, 'Really, are you serious?' and said, "Honey, I am a trained operative. There's nothing you can hide from me when there is a pair of binoculars by a window that looks onto the centre and a photograph of a weird object with writing on the back. I'm not dumb, I can put two and two together. You should really burn that photo and store the binoculars underneath the sink taped to the basin."
"It's something I desperately need to get to help my family." Was all Hector replied with. She nodded, understanding.
"I get it. Just don't be so amateur about it. Or you are going to get caught. And wait for three days before you do it because security will be crawling over that place because of the bomb I set off in the building behind it." She said.
Hector was puzzled for a split second – he hadn't noticed that they were behind that building. Something at the back of his mind was nagging him, trying to tell him something, his Scion brains working faster than usual.
Hector would've paid attention but Serena chose that moment to put down her noodles and stalk up to him silently. Hector was frozen, paralyzed and awed by everything about her. She smirked and pulled the Chinese out of his hands placing it delicately on the kitchen counter and then slowly, her eyes never leaving Hectors, lifted her arms and hooked them around Hectors neck. He had to concentrate on breathing steadily – that was the effect she had on him.
He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her as tight as he could without crushing her bones – it was difficult to be gentle all the time, but he had learned how to handle humans. "I have to say, working with you has its benefits." She whispered, but to Hector it was like a shout from the rooftops.
He grinned, loving the mood Serena was in. "Oh really?" Was what he murmured back. Then to his absolute surprise, she went on her tip toes and gently pressed her lips against his.
A sensation of pure peace and serenity spread throughout Hector as he kissed her back, fondly remembering the many times these lips had met. It was sweet and heady – something Hector was not prepared for. He had her, in his arms, in a shabby apartment in London. They were together. Before the kiss could progress further, Serena pulled away. Hector had the feeling she was reluctant to stop but her brain and its rules were interfering in matters of the heart. "Serena." Hector whispered, all the longing and all the aching he had felt at her absence clinging to every syllable of her beautiful name.
She rolled her eyes and bit her soft, soft lip. "Hector." She indulged him. Then she tried and failed to stifle her sigh as she let go of his neck. But Hector couldn't let go.
"Please don't leave me." He said, suddenly very innocent and vulnerable. Her face was unreadable. He continued. "There's no one left but you."
This sigh she didn't bother to hide. She gently took hold of either side of Hectors face, his eyes closed at her touch, "I'm really sorry about Pandora, Hector. And I'm sorry about this whole situation, but I won't make it better."
"But I've lost my whole family, Serena. You have no idea-"
"I know how it feels to lose a family Hector." She said darkly. "When Raul killed my Dad in front of us and fed him to his dogs in chunks he forced us to cut," Hectors eyes flung open, she had never told him that detail before. Maybe she thought he could handle it now. "It was so painful I considered suicide. Would've done it if they didn't keep me tied to the damn bed all the time. When Raul's men raped me," Hectors rage flared and his arms around her flexed protectively, "I honestly didn't care, I was still in shock from Dad. But when they did it to my youngest sister," He voice cracked a little. She shook her head to regain control, "I retaliated. So they killed her too. They slowly cut her so she died from blood loss. That made a cut inside me that will never heal. When they forced me to watch them slit my mother's throat, my only thought was that she had a quick death." Her dark past threatens to spill out of its cage and she takes a long breath to steady herself.
"So don't give me any crap about me not knowing – because trust me, I know. And I will just make the ache worse because you will wish that they were here to be able to see you happy. So it's better I leave Hector." She said. When Hector tried to argue she stopped his lips with a slender finger. Then she continued, "I have a lot of enemies, Hector and if they find you... if they hurt you..." She struggled to finish her sentence and she gazed up at Hector. He could feel her protective love and beneath that the darkness that threatened to swallow her whole at only the thought of something bad happening to him. She took a deep breath and finished, "I don't know what I would do. Without me, you are safer."
Hector kissed her finger gently and then shook his head. "Without you, it's torture." He whispered. She closed her eyes and buried her head in Hectors chest.
"I'm messed up – I kill for a living, Hector. I kill, I steal and I manipulate. I'm no good for you. You deserve someone better, someone who makes you laugh, smile, who takes you to the cinema." She tried to reason, more with herself, Hector noticed, than him. He knew her resolve was unravelling. "Someone normal."
He kissed her head, glad to feel her so relaxed in his arms. It felt like home. "You only kill people who deserve to die, baby." He murmured against her hair. It was so soft. "You do what you have to do. I don't deserve you, you are right; you deserve someone way better than me. But I want you – I need you. I tried the normal crap and it was nothing compared to you. And since when was I normal anyway? Serena, stay."
"Oh Hector, your hopeless." She sighed but Hector could feel her smile. She looked up at him in complete wonder, her fingers tracing the shape of his mouth. She kissed him. Then, her brick phone buzzed. She rolled her eyes and checked the message then sighed again. "I can't stay, something came up."
She pulled back and this time he let her go. "Will you be back?" He asked, hopefully. She turned back to smile ruefully at him, then her smile turned playful.
"Of course I will – there's still a few things I want to give you." She said teasingly. "And don't eat my food – I'm starving." And she was gone, but Hector still felt whole. He had her back.
Hector woke up to feel Serena's body lying next to his, curled up against him, her head on his chest. He waited patiently for her to wake up, studying every inch of her flawless, gorgeous exotic face. Her long dark lashes, her full lips, dedicating every line, every feature to memory. She looked so peaceful. Then there was a knock at the door and she sat bolt upright and drew a gun, taking off the safety and pointing it at the door awaiting an attack.
Hector sat up and put an arm around her waist, he was used to her reflexes by now. "Serena, baby, relax." He whispered in her ear, his voice slightly hoarse from lack of water. He noticed she was wearing some of her own night clothes – a simple t-shirt and very short shorts. His attention was drawn to her bag of clothes and weapons by the door. Hector smiled: she would stay with him. She didn't relax though. In careful steps with predatory grace, she stalked over to the door and looked through the crack. Apparently she recognised whoever it was because she sighed with relief and put the safety on the gun, tossing it onto the mattress next to Hector and opened the door.
"Matthias!" She said peacefully in her sleepy voice and hugged him. Hector felt a pang of jealousy but he knew it was ill placed – Matthias was her best friend from birth. He was the only normal friend she had and they were like brother and sister. Hector sat upright in bed and greeted him wordlessly.
"Serena – still wearing that crummy top. You have the worst taste." Oh and another reason why Hectors jealousy was ill placed – Matthias wasn't into women. He preferred men. "And Hector – still as gorgeous as ever. Why you aren't already married to him Serena, I will never know." Serena blanched.
Hector grimaced at the memory of his proposal. Oh yes, he had proposed to her. That was when she said things were getting too serious and he deserved better. Maybe she still thinks that, but she is fighting it. It had been a glorious day in paradise and as Serena had woken up to Hectors tender kisses that morning he gave her the ring and proposed, wanting her to be his forever and likewise. At first she had been so happy, she had giggled and smiled and cheered. And then the thought dawned on her face and she left him. The pain he had felt then had been quite unlike any other he had ever experienced. No blow had hit him so hard. Even Helen's lightning bolts were nothing in comparison.
"How did you find me, Matty?" She asked as she ushered him in and sat him down.
"Maria." He answered. Serena looked stunned and shook her head. "Anyway, honey this is not a social visit – I was sent to tell you something." Serena looked confused so Matthias continued. "A lady called and paid me three hundred pounds to find you and tell you to stay with Hector until he can go back to his family."
Hector perked up. "A lady? Who?"
Matthias shrugged. "I don't know but that's what I had to say." Serena looked troubled, but Hector knew. It was Noel. Dear Aunt Noel. He smiled beatifically. "Well I have to get to work but you look after yourself. And also this," He handed Serena a letter, "Is from her."
She looked so happy it broke Hectors heart and kissed Matthias on both cheeks. "Thank you." She whispered fervently and she saw him out. When she came back she tore open the letter. It was from her sister. The one who survived.
When she had finished reading the letter she clutched it to her chest and a few silent tears ran down her face. Hector wiped them away. "Is she okay?"
Serena nodded, "She is perfectly happy, she says to stop sending her money." She laughed a little. "She met a guy and wants me to meet him with her, tonight."
Throughout all the time Hector had been with Serena, he had never actually met her sister. "I would like to go with you." He asked, almost shyly. Serena looked almost shocked.
"Raul's men always watch her – it always gets messy." She warned.
Hector smiled, "I can handle it."
"Can you now? Because last time I had to save your arse which then endangered my arse."
The memory of the last time they had been in combat together momentarily clouded Hectors thoughts – she had been amazing, taking men out left right and centre and Hector had been pretty much useless because there were just too many men for his usual approach. She really had saved his butt. "We wouldn't want to endanger your perfect arse now would we?" Hector said to her immense shock. She playfully hit his chest – she was in such a good mood. Hector wished he had brought her that joy. "So what time did you get back last night?"
"About three hours ago." She said. Even as she said it another yawn racked through her slight body. She was so skinny but powerful in every way. She defied the laws of physics completely. "But don't worry I'm way too excited to sleep right now. Besides, I have things to do."
This intrigued Hector, "What things?"
"Things I can't tell you, you know my rules Hector." She said and bit her lip as a small frown appeared on her perfect face. It was obviously something big, something that was troubling her. And Serena was rarely troubled. Hector gently stroked her hair away from her face.
"What happened last night Serena?"
She rolled her eyes, "I really am breaking one of the most important rules-"
"Just being here with me is breaking your biggest rule so what's another one?" Hector said, trying to persuade her as best as she could but the truth of the matter was that if she really didn't want to tell him, then she wouldn't. No one could break her.
She sighed, "Let's just say I killed a lot of people but one of them got away. So now I have to hunt him down. It's just one big pain in the arse but hey, that's what happens when I drag along-" she cut off sharply as she realised her mistake.
"You took someone with you?!" Hector shouted. She put on her business face and simply answered.
"Why didn't you take me?" Hector asked, positively livid that she would trust someone else to go with her but not him. That she would tell other people her business and not him. It made him feel unimportant in her eyes and worthless as a warrior.
She looked Hector directly in the eyes, "Because I don't give a shit if he dies or not." Oh, it was as simple as that. She rolled her eyes as she noticed Hector gradually deflating. "Honestly Hector, you think you would get it through your thick skull by now that I care about you enough to keep you out of my business." She shook her head.
"No one has ever called me thick before, I don't think."
She laughed, "Of course not, they are all too afraid you will flatten them! But they don't know what I know..."
"What's that?" She pushed him down on the mattress and sat on top of him, before taking his face in her hands and kissing his nose. It was so sweet Hector didn't really know how to respond in any way, he was entirely at her mercy.
She laughed again noticing Hectors surrender, "You are slow Hector and your fighting tactics need work." At this he laughed and twisted so he was on top of her and mimicked her move by taking her face in his hands and kissing her nose.
"I am better than I was last time we fought Serena."
Her eyebrows raised, "Oh really?" She smiled slyly and then twisted her hips before pushing up wards and pinning Hector down on the mattress. She was strong but not strong enough – she had forgotten he was part God, clearly. Hector pushed her arms back around her so he was holding her in his arms, and kissed her deeply enough to make all the fight leave her and her arms held him closer. She did still love him, why didn't she give up her stupid rules for once and just be with him?! She pulled away, panting. He brushed her hair away from her face and tucked it behind her ear.
"Why can't you just forget everything and stay with me?" Hector asked, his voice so sad it surprised even him.
She sighed and closed her eyes, "Hector... I-"
"You what? You think it's better for me? You think it's safer? Well I have an entire race after me, with your protection I am probably better off anyway. And I'm a better warrior now anyway." Hector said before she could turn him down with the usual crap.
She opened her eyes and looked deep into his eyes, trying to figure him out using her Zen crap. She kissed him gently, chastely on the lips. "My Hector," She breathed. Hector's breathing hitched at the sound of her voice, "So strong, so smart, so ready for battle." Then her voice became sad almost, "But you haven't seen enough of the world to get tied down." Then suddenly she smiled, dazzlingly, a smile so gorgeous Hectors heart stopped. "Damn it, I love you Hector," A giant smile spread on his face, "I won't deny it." He stroked the side of her face as they gazed at each other. Then her smile turned playful, "But I won't stay until I'm sure you can look after yourself."
Any chance to prove himself meant the universe to Hector. "How?"
"So eager." She breathed. Then suddenly she stood up and held her hand out to Hector to help him up. "Get dressed, we are going to see Sukhi."