Disclaimer: I do not own Human Target or Ne-Yo and intend no copyright infringement.

Author's notes: How on earth did this story go from 5 pages to like 10? Anyway, tis the season. I was gonna put up a Christmas tree…just because I didn't want to break my own tradition…but I am never home now…plus Christopher Chance apparently doesn't like trees. I mean, that isn't the reason, but our relationship would never work….because I like Christmas trees…and Christmas...and presents….you get the point. Anyway…enjoy.

Know When to Fold 'Em

"Two pair gentleman." Chance reached out and collected the chips from the center of the table. When he leaned back, Guerrero shook his head. "It's cool. I got all night to win my money back." Winston glared over at him. "Don't be so confident." He shuffled the deck and started dealing the cards. The three men carefully lifted their cards, and then stared at each other. Poker night became a normal thing for them. It was something to take their minds off of the car chases and shoot outs that they were so accustomed to. Ames and Ilsa decided that there was too much testosterone running amuck during those nights, so shopping was on their plate. Chance checked to Guerrero then looked at him. "Don't study too long my friend. Time is of the essence." Guerrero snapped back. "Dude, you don't scare me." He tossed down his hand. "Read 'em and weep boys." He tossed down his hand and smiled. Winston huffed. "Shit. Ridiculous."

A couple hours passed and the chip stacks were nearly even. Chance had a slight lead over the both of them but wasn't ready to stop playing. "Ok, time out, we need some refreshments." His coworkers agreed. They had been playing non-stop for most of the evening and their appetites were winning out over their need to beat each other. Winston pulled out his cell phone and dialed their favorite pizza shop. A few minutes later he hung up with a disgusted look on his face. "Well guys, they only have one driver on tonight so its gonna be a couple hours. How about subs?" Guerrero shook his head. "No go dude. Suds and Stuff is closed all month for renovations." Chance pulled out his phone. "How about Japanese? I'll call the girls and they can pick it up. Just in case they only have one driver too." The men nodded and Chance called Ilsa. After placing an extravagant order, they went back to playing poker. Normally the women would stay out shopping all night then go to their respective homes, but tonight they were invited to join them for dinner.


The elevator chimed and the men signed in relief. The were hungry and ready to attack whatever Ilsa brought through the door. They could hear them laughing as they approached the conference room. Their hands were full with brown paper bags. Chance nodded. "Wow, there are no designer names on those bags." Ames looked at him sideways. "Well that's because you ordered everything on the menu. Couldn't you get delivery?" He shook his head. "It was an inconvenient night for the delivery teams. Besides, didn't you buy out the stores before you got us food?" Ilsa took the opportunity to chime in. "We can always take it back if you have a problem with our shopping habits." He got up and walked over to her. She narrowed her eyes. He could see the corners of her lips slightly rise up into a sinister smile. He didn't say anything and took the bags from her hands.

Ames pulled down plates from the cabinet as they all made their way into the kitchen. Before she had them laid out, the men had started digging into the white boxes. Ilsa crossed her arms. "Do you think you can forgo the barbarian behavior?" Winston knew better and pulled the boxes from in front of them. "Sure thing Mrs. Pucci. They act uncivilized a lot more than you think." When they all had their utensils, Chance and Ilsa reached for the same white cardboard box. He was slightly faster. She looked at him cross. "What are you doing?" He began pouring out the contents then looked at her. "What?" She shook her head in confusion. "Chance you didn't order that." He shrugged. "Yeah, but I like it. It's in the bag. Sooo obviously it's here to share." She raised an eyebrow and looked at the rest of the crew. "Do any of you like Ochazuke?" They shook their heads in near unison. Winston adjusted his posture in the chair. "If I can't spell it, I ain't eatin' it."

Chance leaned forward and looked at her. "Well, sorry that we both like it. Guess you should be faster next time." She pursed her lips. "Are you always this childish?" He took a bite of his newly acquired meal. "Yuuuup." She tried her hardest not to fall for the boyish look he had across his face. It wasn't often that she got to see it, but when she did, it gave him the upper hand. She watched him for a few moments as he enjoyed what was laid before him. It wasn't like she was dying to have the dish, but she did prefer it as a snack.

They were both cultured in their own right, having been around the world more times than anyone could count. They had enjoyed food, drink, music and had become more than culturally diverse. It just so happened that they shared a love for one particular Japanese food. Chance took a few more bites, and then peered over the top of another white cardboard box. He pointed to it with his chopsticks. "Are you gonna eat that dumpling." She just looked at him. "Be my guest." She accepted the defeat of the meal and continued eating.

When they were finished, Ilsa gathered up the plates. Ames walked out to the conference room then yelled back. "Heeeeeyy fellas, why don't you let Mrs. Pucci and I play a few hands." Chance shook his head. "No way Ames. No chicks allowed." Guerrero chimed in. "Yea…exactly. Don't you two have something girlish to do?!" Ilsa decided to weigh in on the matter. "What's the matter boys? Afraid you might lose?" Winston never backed down from a challenge, and he was pretty sure he could keep all his money and his dignity for the remainder of the night. "Hey guys. If they wanna lose their money then lets let 'em." They all walked into the conference while Ilsa stayed behind. "I'll be there in a moment."

They settled in and Ilsa followed shortly. She was carrying a small paper bag in her hand, which made Chance sit up in his chair. "What's that?" She held up the bag. "What this? Oh just some cannolis." He glared at her. "From where?" She shrugged. "Oh…nowhere special. The pastry shop on fifth." He leaned back in a huff. "Ilsa, those are my cannolis. Put them back." She pulled one of the pastries out and held it between her fingers. The powdered sugar fell delicately over the top of her hand. "Correction my friend, they WERE your cannolis." She closed her eyes and took a bite. Chance couldn't decide if he should be more attracted to her eating them or jealous because they were his. "Mmmm, this is delicious. Excellent choice Mr. Chance. Well then, shall we play?"

They had played what seemed like a million rounds until the women had a significant chip lead. Guerrero knew they would be lucky that night and end up beating them. Chance and Ilsa had exchanged more than a fair share of narrow eyes. She was mad he ate her Ochazuke, and he was mad she ate his cannoli. What hurt worse was that she was taking most of his money. Winston had more than both of the men and was the only one who had a snowballs chance in winning his money back. Ilsa was feeling lucky and stared over at him. "We can keep going Mr. Winston if you want to be in the hole with Rumsfeld." She smiled after seeing his unhappy reaction. Guerrero took the opportunity to gather what was left of his dignity. "Ok, I'm out. Clearly the lucky streak has hit the ladies."

After a few more hands, and losses for the men, they conceded. Winston got up and pushed his chips to the middle. "Three hundred. I'll take my cut and go home with my tail between my legs." Guerrero put his head on the table. "Yea. The two of you aren't playing again….ever." Ames pushed her chips in with a huge smile on her face. "I'll take my seven hundred and be on my way boys." They could only shake their heads.

Once everyone left, Chance and Ilsa stared at each other from across the table. They were still at odds over the stolen food from each other. He leaned on one hand and started playing aimlessly with the chips in front of him. He wasn't sure what to say so he took a deep breath and mustered up his dignity. When he finally made eye contact, she had already folded her arms in defense. "You didn't have to eat my cannoli." She raised an eyebrow. "You didn't have to eat my Ochazuke either. You can't have to both ways my friend." He spun his chair around so she couldn't see him. He waited a few moments. Then turned slightly but didn't make eye contact. "So…that's not the point." He crossed his arms and proceeded to pout. "Are you going to act like that all night?" He didn't turn around. "Maybe."

She got up and went back to the kitchen. He got up and made his way to the stairs. He made sure he stomped loud enough so that she could hear him. When he got to the top, he turned and yelled down to her. "YOU KNOW I LEFT YOU SOME OCHAZUKE…BUT YOU ATE MY VERY LAST CANNOLI!" She smiled as she reached to the back of the fridge and pulled out a small paper bag. She walked up the stairs to his loft and found him sitting on the couch playing video games. He didn't make eye contact with her. "Are you still going to ignore me?" He kept his focus on the television. "Yes I am." She opened the bag and pulled out the powdered treat. "So I should eat these cannolis myself?" This time he stopped playing and looked at her. "Eat all you want. It isn't the same." She walked in front of the television and stood before him. He paused the game again and looked up at her. She leaned down and straddled herself over him. "I can assure you that these came from the same bakery you so very much love." He frowned. "It's not the same. Besides, that shop isn't even open. The owner knows me well and always fixes me up." She took another bite. "That's fine. I suppose I will enjoy these delicious treats…made by Allesandro…myself." That caught his attention. "Hey, how did you get them? He always gives me the special orders." She smiled and lowered the pastry to his lips. He took a bite and savored it. "Hmm, it really is the real deal."

She gave him another bite and watched as he enjoyed it. "You think you have all the connections my friend. The truth is that I have gotten these same delicious cannolis for quite some time. I thought since I knew you liked them, I would ask Allesandro for a special order…just for you." He placed his hands on her lower back and smiled. "That really was a sneaky move. You really wouldn't have eaten my last cannoli…would you?" She leered at him. "Oh yes Christopher. I most definitely would have." He rubbed his hands on her back. "You're a mean woman." She smiled down at him. "How do you think I get by in this world?" she stared down into is eyes. They were a frosty blue shade. Normally they turned this way when he was caught with his hand in the cookie jar. He had eaten her dinner and tried to play innocent. She knew him much better than that. He knew well enough that his eyes and smile could make her do anything he wanted, but had to be careful if she caught onto him.

She finished the last piece of cannoli in a slow deliberate manner. There were remnants of powdered sugar and ricotta cheese on her fingertips. She raised them to her mouth when he grabbed her wrist. He never broke eye contact as he pulled her fingers towards his mouth. He gently placed his lips on her pointer and index fingers to take away any traces of the delicious treat. She watched as he cleaned the rest of the cannoli from her thumb.

She was turned on by him. In one instance, he could destroy an army of men and in the next, bore his eyes directly into her heart. He had her taken. She wanted to deny her feelings but for some reason, he was the first man who could break down the barriers that she set forth. At first, she felt like she couldn't trust him. She had done extensive research before making the trip to the ashram. It was a lucky gamble. She knew she was a strong dominant woman. Marshall had been somewhat her equal, but it was an odd relationship that she went along with. She wanted a stronger willed man. In fact, she needed a stronger willed man. A man who would be her equal or stronger for when she didn't want to be the hero.

She stared down at his eyes again. She was still captivated by them. She reached down and ran her hands under his shirt. "May I?" He smiled. "Who am I to deny a lovely woman what is so rightfully hers?" She pulled it up to expose his chest. It was in pristine condition. Much more attractive then anything she had ever seen. It was sparsely covered with dirty blonde hair that disappeared into the waistband of his pants. She ran her fingertips up and down each ripple. Her hands disappeared underneath of the top of the shirt. He continued rubbing her lower back. "Are you going to seduce me?" She smiled down at him. "You seduced me when you allowed me to sit here." He chuckled. "Wow….so it's my fault?" She pulled at his shirt until he raised his arms and allowed her to take it off. When she tossed it to the floor, she once again admired what was set before her.

He pulled another sinister smile. "So this is still my fault correct? With you straddled over me, and my shirt off?" She shrugged. "Yes. I a completely innocent." Before he could answer, she leaned down and kissed him. She moved her lips to his cheek and then to his ear. He moaned when she nibbled at the base of his neck. She moved lower and showered kisses over his upper chest. When she was done, she came back up and locked lips with him. He pulled her closer as he danced his tongue over hers.

"Mmmm, you taste like cannoli madam. A special order cannoli." She leaned back while still keeping her hands on his shoulders. "Yes, it's a good thing I like to share." He pulled her back into a long, sensual and steamy kiss. She loved kissing him. It was like being in her own little world. Everything stopped and she lost herself in his lips. He started lifting her shirt, then broke the kiss. "The fight seems a little unfair if I'm already half naked." She allowed him to continue taking her shirt off. "You always seem to get your way Christopher." He smiled. "Yes, and?" She kissed him again. They were getting hot and heavy. Touching, feeling, loving. It wasn't often they acted like teenagers, so they took advantage of the situation. They continued their lip locking session when the elevator chimed. "Chance! Where you at man, I forgot that CD you burned for me."

He looked over her shoulder and rolled his eyes. "Damn. Hang on, don't go anywhere." She rolled to his side and he jogged down the stairs. "Hey dude I got it right here." Winston pursed his lips. "You hot or something?" He jogged back out with the CD in hand and looked at his bare upper chest. "Awww no man, just doin' some exercises." Winston shook his head. "Ok." When he got onto the elevator, Chance turned back around to the stairs. To his surprise, she was standing there, only now, her pants were missing.

She stood up a couple steps from the floor as he walked towards her. "Did it get hot all of the sudden?" She leaned on the rail. "No, I just thought I should save some time." He stepped closer. "You plan on taking advantage of me?" She reached out to him and he leaned into her. "Mr. Chance, you can't take advantage of a willing partner." She stood only a few inches taller than him. Normally with her high heels, she was equal to his height. In the past she had felt vulnerable, but now she felt safe. He was a modern day knight in shining armor.

The position gave him a slight advantage over her need to balance. He leaned forward again and kissed her bare stomach with the lightness of air. She closed her eyes and wrapped her fingers in his hair. He ventured lower and pulled the waistband of her panties between his teeth. She kissed the top of his head while he continued his adventure. He spoke into her warm body. "This is why I can't ever get anything done. You walk around half naked and expect me to be able to concentrate. You wonder why I don't let you go on any missions." She smiled and rubbed his shoulders. "I simply came down to check on you. I can't help that your imagination is overly carnal."

He looked up and gave her his trademark sinister smile. The smile that meant he was up to no good. Before she could react, he bent down to her knees and pulled her forward over his shoulder. She yelped in surprise. "CHRISTOPHER CHANCE, PUT ME DOWN!" He reached up and smacked her backside. "Nope. I have a sexy billionaire goddess, swung helplessly over my shoulder, and I don't plan to give her up anytime soon." She sighed and conceded. "And you wonder why you're always in trouble." When he got to his room, he carefully laid her on the bed. He pulled off is own pants and laid down over her.

"Close your eyes." She dawned a serious look before she obeyed him. "Now, think back to the first time you met me. What was your first reaction? And tell the truth." She pursed her lips and furrowed her brow. "Well….I had done my research on you before I arrived, and I was impressed with your record of…well…chaotic work. But, when I saw you for the first time… I thought you were one of the most attractive men I had ever seen." He kept looking down at her. "Did you think it would end up this way?" She smiled. "You pinning me half naked on your bed? No. I can't say that I did." Her eyes were still closed and she couldn't see the unhappy, questioning concern on his face. He drew in a breath before he asked his next question. "Does it make me a bad person for liking you…even when you're….I mean…"

That comment made her open her eyes. "Mr. Chance, I have no reason to justify the decisions I made over the death of my former husband. What he did was a horrible thing, but I still loved him. I have known you for nearly two years, and I think that our decision to move forward is the right one. However, if you feel some sort of hesitation, then you should tell me, and I will slow down on my end." He lowered his head and lost her gaze. He felt completely attracted to her, yet at the same time moving in on another relationship. She wondered when this came about and went into "Professional Pucci" mode. "Look at me Chance." He met her gaze once more. "Where is all of this coming from?"

He shook his head. "Nowhere, never mind. Let's just get some rest." He made an attempt to roll from atop her when she wrapped her legs around his midsection and placed her hands on his cheeks. He was much stronger than her, so it was the only option she had to keep him there.

"Don't run. Tell me what's wrong...and be honest." He was silent for a moment while trying to figure out what to say. "Ilsa, I'm supposed to be this strong man who steps in the line of fire to kill the bad guys, but I am here in this very moment with a heavy heart, because I have feelings for you….but I get the distinct feeling you are still somehow tied to him." She was taken aback. Now it was her turn to try and leave. She wasn't sure where it was all coming from and chose her trademark departure tactic. She lowered her legs from his hips and dropped her hands. Before she could attempt to move, he gently grabbed her wrists and pinned them over her head. "No. You didn't let me run…you can't either." She knew she wasn't able to physically fight him so her only choice was to figure out the root of the problem. "The only choice I have is to tell you that I moved on. I would hope you believe that, unless there is something else."

He took a deep breath. "I was at your place the other day to get something for you. There was a shoebox…on the counter. Pictures….of you and Marshall. They were all over. It just made me think…maybe you aren't ready for this." Almost immediately she sighed in relief. It had felt like the world was taken off of her shoulders. She tugged gently under his hands. "You promise not to run?" She raised an eyebrow. "Somehow I think you will still have the advantage." He released her and she put her hands around his neck. "Chance. Do you remember when Connie stayed here a few weeks ago? I explained to her that after going through everything, and evaluating my feelings…even though I loved Marshall deeply, I was ready to move on. Well, that and a few therapy sessions. But…I had slowly let go of the things reminding me of him. Connie and I were simply looking through them and talking about the past. She understood my feelings for you and that I was ready to let go. Anyway, she called me when she got home and asked if she could have the photos. Even though what he did was wrong, she wanted to keep the memory of her brother. I could understand her reasoning. It never dawned on me that you would see them and I'm sorry that you did."

She paused for a moment then caressed his face. "It was never my intention for you to see those pictures and I'm sorry it happened that way. But I can tell you this….What's done is done and I am over it. I want Christopher Chance in my life and no one else. Well…maybe chocolate and champagne." He smiled. "More like expensive chocolate and champagne. You have high standards whether you admit it or not." She pulled his lips down to hers. He heart felt heavy and slightly guilty that he had seen the pictures, but knew he understood her explanation. He adjusted his weight over her and kissed her harder. He wanted to reinforce that he was the one and only man in her life. He knew it was greedy to feel this way, but the feeling he had was primal yet caring at the same time. Ilsa was just as needy in her hunt for pleasure. They touched, caressed and were attentive to each other's needs. When they came up for air he smiled down at her. "Did you really go to therapy for all this?" She wasn't at all ashamed. "Yes, and most of it was because of my feelings for you. My therapist knew who you were. Do you remember the banquet you escorted me to? Well, she saw us dancing. She said she could completely understand why I fell for you."

He was proud of himself and had every right to be. He was worth it and he knew it. But not in the arrogant way some men were. That's what she liked about him. Unless they knew him, people could never understand the humble man that was Christopher Chance. He snuck another quick kiss. "You know, if you need therapy I can help you out. I have a couch. I'll even give you a discount." She laughed. Something he loved to see. "Mr. Chance, I didn't need PHYSICAL therapy." He rolled the both of them on their sides while never letting go. "Well, I'm just saying….just in case. I got ya covered." She dawned a serious look again. "I hope I didn't hurt you Chance. I really do care about you." He gave her a genuine smile. "Yes. Yes I know you didn't. I'm sorry I even…" She stopped him. "No…it's ok. You're completely within your right."

He pulled her closer. "Well in that case, I would like to exercise my right to a little bit of Ilsa." Before he could say anything else, she threw her leg over his hip and rolled him onto his back. "Well now you don't get to make ALL of the rules." He looked her deep in the eyes while she ran her hands up and down his chest. The man made her go numb on more than one occasion. This was one of them. She swore he deliberately flexed his muscles everywhere her hands went. She wasn't complaining, but her lack of concentration was making it hard for her to have any sort of upper hand. She knew this position would only last for so long. Before the night was over, she would be on her back again.


The next morning, at precisely six o'clock, his alarm went off. He rolled over to turn it off, and then switched on the local R&B station. He smiled as the lyrics of Ne-Yo's "Miss Independent" started playing. He turned back to her and raised an eyebrow. "How fitting." She stirred. "I heard that sir."

Ooh it's somethin' about
Just somethin about the way she move
I can't figure it out
there's somethin about her

said ooh its somethin about
kinda woman that want you but don't need you
hey I cant figure it out
there's something about her

Cause she walk like a boss
talk like a boss
manicured nails to set the pedicure off
she's fly effortlessly

"First off Chance, how do you know I get pedicures?" He chuckled. "You? I would think a spa treatment is a weekly requirement for you? But then again, you might have Fred Flintstone feet for all I know." That got him a pillow to the face. "Are you calling me high maintenance?" He didn't answer. She opened her eyes and glared at him while the song continued playing.

She made for a boss, only a boss
anything less she tellin them to get lost
that's the girl that's on my mind

she got her own thing

that's why I love her
miss independent
won't you come and spend a little time?

Mmm her favorite thing to say
don't worry I got it
mmm and everything she got
best believe she bought it

"Okay, maybe that part doesn't suit you, because I did buy us dinner the other night." She shook her head. "I believe you got us corn dogs." He moved a stray hair from her forehead. "You ate it didn't you?"

She got her own thing
that's why I love her
miss independent
ooh the way we shine
miss independent yeah

When the song finished, he reached back and turned the radio off. "Well maybe if you're really nice to me, I will buy you more corn dogs. She smiled and moved closer to him. "There is nothing more I would love." They kissed again while she pulled the sheets over top of them. "Looks like this independent woman is going to take what she wants." He smiled. "No complaints from me."