Well, well, so this is the sequel to When in Custody. It starts right after the last chapter, so for those who hadn't read it, the first part of the chapter might be a bit confusing. Anyway, hope you enjoy :)
The lights of the hotel room were turned off, but Prentiss didn't need them to know someone was waiting for her.
"Took you long enough. I was starting to think you were going to stay out all night."
Prentiss smirked and switched the light on. As she expected, Maria Hill was sitting on a chair, legs crossed and one elbow resting on the small desk.
"Blame Phil" she replied lightly. "He took forever to talk to me on the way back."
Hill raised an interested eyebrow.
"I take it you two will stand in the same room again without glaring?"
"Shut up." Prentiss said, but the smile didn't leave her face. "It's good to see you." She stepped closer and Hill stood up to pull her into a tight hug. It was good to see Maria again, the brunette thought. Nine years might have gone in a flash but it still felt like yesterday that she had seen the cadet step in SHIELD's facilities, perfectly managing to hide her amazement. After a couple of late night shifts and rope-showing along with a few life endangering situations, both women had bounded fast.
"I found crappy whiskey in your fridge." Hill said when she pulled back. Prentiss smirked.
"Please tell me you left some for me."
An hour later, Hill was on the chair and Prentiss had claimed the bed. Both had been exchanged news of their lives, chatted, gossiped, and laughed hard until a neighbor knocked on the door to claim silence. They had been having a great moment and yet Prentiss knew SHIELD and knew Maria Hill. That organization and this woman never did anything without purpose behind. Phil had said she wanted to thank her and catch up, but something in the way he had said it understated there was more to it. Her friend had come to talk about something.
"All right" she suddenly said, elbows resting over her knees. "Let's cut the chase now Mari. Why are you here?"
The woman frowned and tilted her head slightly.
"What, am I not allowed to visit an old friend? I mean, after what you did for us today…" Prentiss chuckled.
"That might have been part of your plan, but I'm not dumb, I know there's more. C'mon Mari, I've worked with SHIELD too. If you keep up this act you'll be insulting both of us."
"That hurts you know" Hill replied, faking a disappointed pout. The FBI Agent laughed this time and set herself straight, knowing the serious stuff was coming. "Fine. I came to ask you another favor." The brunette nodded and waited. Hill picked up a bag from under the desk and pulled out three files entitled 'Report New Mexico', 'Report B. Banner', and the last one 'Report T. Stark'.
"What is this?" Prentiss asked slowly, taking them with precaution and eyeing it warily. She assumed "T. Stark" was Tony Stark –who hadn't heard of him anyway with the late Iron Man fiasco?-, but Banner wasn't a familiar name. And what the heck had happened in New Mexico lately?
"Read it through." Hill ordered. The FBI agent didn't move and kept a steady eye on her as she executed a quick cold reading on her.
"I have a feeling these are very confidential files, am I wrong?"
"Not above your SHIELD security clearance." Prentiss frowned; this wasn't in SHIELD's usual moves. This sounded more like an under-the-cover operation.
"You are taking risks to bring me of all people confidential files. Fury doesn't know about this, does he?" Hill stared at her straight in the eye and spoke slowly:
"The world is getting stranger by the minute, Emily. SHIELD had a hard time covering some of the latest events, and the rest you will eventually hear about. But when the time comes I need to know where I can find reliable allies." Prentiss shifted uncomfortably on the bed; she didn't like the expression on her friend's face.
"You're starting to scare me. What's going on Maria?"
"Read this. And when you're done, we're going to have a conversation about how the world is changing and how you can help us keep it safe."
Two months later, Portland
"Baby girl, remind me what are we doing here?"
"Hush Derek I'm working."
"Hacking into a restaurant's camera system is not exactly working. What are you trying to do anyway? Why do you want to spy on Emily so badly?"
Penelope Garcia ignored him as she kept on taping on her keyboard. Two days ago, a woman named Maria Coleen had called and left a message for Prentiss. When she had relayed the information, her favorite gumdrop had had that odd look in her eyes, which had vaguely reminded her that time with a certain Doyle…and call her paranoid, but if her team was in danger again, she wanted to be informed. Hence why she ran a background check on 'Maria Coleen' –apparently a current CIA agent- and had hacked into Prentiss' bank account and found out she had booked a plane to fly to Portland. She had followed her friend there –dragging Morgan along- and was now stationed at a café nearby a five-star restaurant, infiltrating the system in attempt to catch anything of Prentiss's last minute rendez-vous.
Ok, call her paranoid.
But still, after that failed attempt of relationship between Prentiss and Hotch last month –thank God it had been one amiable ending!- and Prentiss' odd behavior lately, she had every right to worry. Her friend wasn't going out so often anymore, was more distracted hat usual –Hotch had called her on it at least three time this past week!- and Garcia did not like it one bit. Since that case in Lodi, where Emily had encountered her former partner-boyfriend-fiancé-Carter or Couser or whatever his name was, she hadn't been the same.
"I've got them!" she said, almost triumphantly. Morgan scooted his chair closer to the screen of her laptop and took a close glance: in the far end of the room, he saw Prentiss hug a brunette woman he assumed to be Maria Coleen. Both were wearing wide smiles and laughing. They sat around the table and started talking after ordering a drink.
"This is bordering on creepy Baby Girl" the man said, shaking his head. He had only followed the analyst because he knew she would have gone with or without him, and in case Prentiss busted her, make some damage control.
"Oh sue me, I'm worried." Garcia replied. "Don't tell me you haven't noticed how distant she's been lately." Morgan sighed and put a hand over her shoulder and squeezed.
"I did Penelope, believe me I did. But really, following her to Portland? Isn't that a little bit extreme?"
"She told me she was going to Atlanta. Non refundable tickets. And yet she drops everything to go to Portland after that one phone call? Sorry Derek, but I'm intrigued."
The African-American stiffened slightly; he didn't know that part. On the screen, the two women stopped chatting and turned around, something catching their attention. On the other side of the room, the camera showed five men sitting around a round table, eating. The distance didn't make their features recognizable, but for some reason, Coleen showed signs of discomfort. Prentiss's next moves looked like an attempt to soothe her, but the result was neither a failure nor a success. The woman stopped fidgeting, but the line of her shoulders was particularly tensed.
And so did Prentiss's when one of the men stood up, walked to the closest table where a couple was sharing a drink, pulled out a gun from his vest and shot the oblivious man in the back of his skull.