Out of Africa

Durga Rising

"Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift."
~Mary Oliver.


November 1989. Chișinău, Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic.

Our last sunrise in Chișinău. The thought was both heartening and frightening, all at the same time. Heartening because after nearly three months of being stuck in this city, which currently bordered on anarchy as riots for Moldavian independence took over the country, they were finally getting pulled out—their mission was complete, and it was time to return home. Frightening because two nights ago, everything changed.

He glanced over to the source of that change—Constance Connelly, stretched out across the small bed, still dead asleep. Even in the darkness of almost-dawn, he could make out the lines of her body beneath the thin covers, her bare feet peeking out at the edges and on the other end, the curve of her white shoulder and one arm that dangled over the edge.

She was absolutely, deliciously naked underneath that flimsy coverlet, and he was all too familiar with the delights that her small but sturdy body could afford—though for the life of him, he still couldn't figure out how they'd fallen into this pit in the first place.

They'd been frightened, two foreigners in an uncertain land, the only source of support to one another for the past twelve weeks. That certainly counted for something. Two nights ago, relieved at the news that they were going home—and barely dodging the civil war that was sure to erupt within the next few days—they'd gone out drinking to celebrate. As much as Easter's mother had taught him to revile alcohol, he'd certainly drunk more than his fill, as had Constance—and the next morning, there had been a confused, bleary-eyed conversation about what the hell had happened the night before.

It should have ended there. It didn't.

This time, they'd still drank a few bottles of cheap wine at a streetside café, walked along the river Bic and talked about what they'd do, once they got back to the UK—all despite the constant drizzle of rain, which Constance claimed only reminded her of home. But they were much more sober and completely aware of the choice they made when they fell into bed again.

Constance stirred, turning her face towards him as she murmured in her sleep. She looked so different—open, vulnerable, suddenly so much more fragile than he'd ever noticed. The sun was coming up quickly now, bringing definition to the muted tones and shadows of the room.

The sunlight on her face highlighted the scar on her upper lip—and not for the first time, Clyde wondered what had happened. It wasn't hideous, and didn't even detract from her looks in the least, but it was still something that one noticed within a few seconds of meeting her. He'd finally asked, one night several weeks ago, when they'd finally reached a level of friendliness that allowed them to lose their stiff formality. She'd merely smiled a feline smile, shrugged, turned away—and he'd known to never ask again. Whatever the story was behind the scar, it was still too fresh for telling.

With another light sigh, he turned back to the dawn. Soon they would make their way to the outskirts of town, where their pickup would be waiting to take them across the border. They would go back to Paris for a debriefing, before returning back to London. Where they went next was anyone's guess.

He found himself hoping that on his next mission, he'd be paired with Connelly again—and truly, it had nothing to do with their newfound physical intimacy. She was a good agent, smart and quick on her feet, a damn fine markswoman and one of those rare people who shared his sense of warped humor. Most importantly, she held his same fervent belief in justice and in their work. She wasn't deluded, but she also wasn't jaded. A perfect balance.

She made a small noise as she rolled over again, lying on her back as deep blue eyes slowly blinked, bringing the world back into focus.

"Are we OK?" She asked, voice still foggy with sleep. She didn't look at him, instead keeping her gaze on the ceiling.

"Yes," he assured her.

"Good." She rolled over again, "I hate complications."

He found himself smiling in agreement with the sentiment.

Yes, they were a perfect pair indeed.


September 2013. Nairobi West Hospital. Nairobi, Kenya.

That scar had faded over the years, but Clyde Easter's curiosity over it had not. Even now, as Constance Connelly slept peacefully under the influence of sedatives, he sat by her side, leaning forward slightly to inspect the mark on her upper lip.

Several years after their first mission in Moldova, she'd opened up enough to tell him that the scar had been given to her by her mother, but she hadn't gone into further detail.

Now he wondered if there had been any truth in that detail. He wondered if there had been any truth in anything she'd ever told him, in any moment they'd ever shared.

He turned around to glance out the window at the early morning sky.

"Bit ironic, isn't it?" He murmured, more to himself than Constance. "Two decades later, and here I am, waiting on the sun to rise and waiting for you to wake up again."

His mother always said the world was a circle and life was a cycle, and he saw the reality of it in this moment. Some things always changed, some things never did.

There was a small noise at the door, and Ahoo Shir-Del appeared in the doorway.

"Hello," she was sheepish, as if she hadn't expected anyone else to be here.

"A bit early to be out and about, Agent Shir-Del," Clyde sat back slightly, taking a moment to give her a critical once-over.

"I didn't come to finish the job, if that's what you're worried about," Ahoo motioned to Constance.

She took a small measure in satisfaction at the shock on Easter's face.

"I just wanted to see how she was doing." She admitted, her voice becoming gentler.

"Recovering. They've been decreasing her sedatives by the hour, so she should be awake soon."

"Good," the younger woman nodded.

"Tell me what happened," his voice was neutral, but the command was still at the edges.

"I already gave my debriefing," she hesitated.

"And I'm sure you did a stellar job." Easter was theatrically long-suffering. "But I am asking you to tell me again."

She took a deep breath, knowing better than to argue, "Where do I start?"

"When you walked into the room, with Wasaki and Connelly."

"I saw Wasaki, tied to the chair. He'd been…he was badly beaten. Connelly wasn't in the room. She knew I was there, because she called out."

"She asked if you had come to kill her."

"Yes." Obviously, Easter had already heard the story from Prentiss—so why was he asking for this recap? "Then, she came out, with the gun. At first, she had it pointed at me, but when she got closer to Wasaki, she turned it towards him."

"What side was she on?"

"What?"

"When she stood next to Wasaki—was she on his right or his left?"

"His left."

"And the gun? Which hand?"

"Her right."

"You're sure about that?"

"Of course," Ahoo motioned to Constance's unconscious body. "I wouldn't have shot her in her right shoulder if the gun hadn't been in her right hand."

Clyde had to give a shrug as he acquiesced to that point. "And how did she seem?"

"What do you mean?"

"Her demeanor. Was she anxious, that sort of thing."

"The opposite—she was completely calm. There were a few times she got angry, but it wasn't real anger, just more like a sense of…injustice, I guess. I mean, even after I shot her, she remained so calm—it didn't seem to faze her at all."

Clyde became pensive.

Ahoo waited a beat before asking, "Should I—would you like me to continue?"

"No. You've been most helpful." Surprisingly, there wasn't any sarcasm in Easter's voice when he said this. He was much too distracted for his usual snark.

I missed something. Ahoo's mind began to search through every second of her stand-off with Constance, but nothing stood out. She didn't have the courage to ask Easter—he was acting oddly, and they'd never had the smoothest relationship to begin with.

Her thoughts were interrupted by a low moan—Ahoo and Clyde both whirled back to the hospital bed, immediately alert. Constance's eyes were still closed, but her head turned slightly.

Clyde was on his feet, hand gently on her arm, expression laced with apprehensive anticipation.

He cares for her. The realization struck Ahoo like a slap to the face. She suddenly felt like an intruder, like she shouldn't be here for this strange and sure-to-be-awkward reunion.

"I'll…um—go get a nurse," she offered feebly, turning and leaving the room.

Clyde nodded in agreement, his eyes never leaving Constance's face.

After what seemed like an eternity, those oceanic eyes opened, muddled and confused. She didn't ask questions, but he watched as her mind slowly pieced things together. Through it all, her eyes stayed locked onto his, like a drowning woman holding on to a lifeline. Clyde could mark the instant that she remembered it all, because her gaze dropped away, as if ashamed.

She didn't speak, and Clyde knew that she was waiting for him to give her some clue as to how he felt about the whole ordeal. Anger, betrayal, hurt, relief, and confusion battled at the tip of his tongue, but instead, he chose the simplest of truths.

"I wanted to bring you roses."

A flicker of relief in her eyes, quickly replaced with caution. "But you didn't."

"No."

She didn't ask why. She knew. And the answer broke a small piece of her heart.

"You think I'm a traitor," she said quietly, her voice tired and devoid of conviction. She turned her head away.

"I don't know what to think," he confessed, just as quietly.

She made a small noise of sympathy. A beat passed.

"I need some water," she motioned to the pitcher across the room. Clyde dutifully got her a small cup and brought it back to her side as she adjusted the bed so that she was seated upright.

The nurse and Ahoo returned, the former elated to see Constance up and well, the latter much more apprehensive.

Ahoo kept close to the wall, out of the way and almost out of sight. However, Constance's eyes zeroed in on her and that familiar feline smile came out to play across her thin lips. Now the younger woman felt like a butterfly pinned to the wall by that smile, by all it could mean, by all it could say but didn't actually, by how out of place it seemed, here and now.

"Well, Miss Connelly, so far you look good," the nurse decreed with a happy lilt. "The doctor will be around later—please just take it easy until then."

"Of course," Constance gave a slight nod, completed with a demure, grateful smile.

The nurse left the room and heavy silence reigned.

"Well," Constance finally spoke again, shifting slightly against her pillows. "I think we should go ahead and kill the elephant in the room—Ahoo, you're a pretty good shot, why don't you do the honors?"

The words were a barb, but the tone was a joke. Ahoo studied the woman, unsure of what she really meant by that statement. Still, she pushed, "Why didn't you just let me take Wasaki in?"

"Because that wasn't part of my mission," Constance was calm, concise.

"But—you could have died," Ahoo stepped closer.

"Yes."

"Was it worth it?" Ahoo felt a pinprick of curiosity.

"Absolutely," the older woman's voice was lined with conviction.

Clyde Easter sat back, crossing his arms over his chest—Constance glanced over at him, a secretive and slightly-amused look that said I know you disagree, Mr. Easter, but you'll have to keep your questions to yourself until this girl leaves.

And he hated knowing exactly what she said without speaking, hated that they still had such a deep connection, hated having this history with this woman, which now tangled around his feet and kept him from doing his job properly.

"I don't understand," Ahoo admitted helplessly.

"I know." Constance's voice was as soft. An unreadable smile slipped across her face, "You know, at first, I though you reminded me of myself, when I first started out—but now I see that was wrong. You are much more like my brother was."

"The little boy playing at war?" Ahoo surprised herself at how easily she remembered their discussion.

Something flickered behind Constance's eyes, then she quietly replied, "He was a fervent believer in justice, in doing the right thing—fervent and naïve, and it's the last part that got him killed."

"I'm not your brother," Ahoo fought back a wave of childish indignation. "And I'm not the one lying in a hospital bed."

Constance's eyebrows shot up in surprise at Ahoo's sudden strength, but the amused smile dancing around her eyes never left. Clyde's gaze flickered between the two women, engrossed in this new exchange.

"He thought he was invincible, too." The older woman's tone edged with knowing caution. Then with a slight shrug, she abandoned the line of conversation, turning to look out the window. "How long have I been out?"

"A little over twelve hours," Clyde finally spoke. "You went into surgery yesterday evening, and it's just past eight o'clock in the morning now."

Connelly nodded. "I would have expected longer—you know, with surgery and everything."

"It was a clean shot—not much to repair, other than a few minor bits to stop the bleeding," Clyde informed her. He looked back at Ahoo with an expression that bordered on relief, "Agent Shir-Del has a brilliant aim."

"Of course she does," Constance kept her gaze out the window. "Clyde, darling, could you give us a moment?"

Clyde mumbled something, shuffled a bit, then left—Ahoo couldn't help but stare, for she'd never seen him take an order from anyone, much less with the strange air of deference that he gave to Constance. She thought of how he'd acted whenever Constance first began to wake—there was something there, and she suddenly realized how stupid she'd been. Clyde Easter was never going to kill Constance Connelly. Whatever they were now, there was too much history between those two to be swept aside, and even an iron man like Clyde Easter wasn't immune to such a tie.

Not for the first time, she realized how wrong her decision had been, and regretted her actions.

Constance was studying her with a clinical curiosity that was completely unnerving.

"I'm sorry," Ahoo found herself whispering.

"You shouldn't be," Constance informed her. Ahoo looked up in confusion, so she clarified, "You did your job, and so did I. No hard feelings, my dearest."

"But—I shot you." Ahoo stepped closer, her face skewed in disbelief.

The older woman gave an amused smile, as feline as ever. "And it still didn't stop me from doing what needed to be done. You couldn't have kept me from killing Wasaki, no matter what. But I admire that you were willing to go to such lengths to try. You held onto your convictions, despite your emotions and your doubts—not everyone has that kind of strength. You should be proud of yourself."

With a regretful shake of her head, she pronounced, "It's really too bad that you're one of them."

"One of them?" Ahoo's spine straightened at the words. "And what do you mean by one of them? A Muslim?"

"No." An amused smirk danced at the corner of the older woman's lips. She leaned forward slightly, almost conspiratorially, her voice a stage whisper as she decreed, "Heterosexual."

Ahoo's eyes widened and a nuclear bomb went off in her stomach.

So George was right.

Constance was chuckling softly now, sitting back again, "Don't worry, Shir-Del, I won't try to tarnish your virtue. I grew out of the nefarious and destructive seductress phase a long time ago. But you are a fun thing to play with."

Ahoo blushed, eyes darting away.

The older woman easily changed the subject, "I meant what I said, about you reminding me of my brother. You two would have gotten on famously."

She gently reached out to take Ahoo's hand, surprising the young woman with her sudden movement.

"Please." Constance was seriously now, perhaps more serious than she'd been all morning. "Do not blame yourself for what happened. Events unfold, and it seems like chaos, but all is as it should be. You played the part you were meant to play, and so did I—even Wasaki had his part, which he played as well. You and I, we're soldiers of the light—true soldiers of the true light—and there can be no shame or regret in that. I know that right now, all you can see are the mistakes you made, the hundreds of ways that it should have gone or could have gone better—but one day, you'll understand the truth in my words, and you'll be able to look back on this with pride. I just hope that day comes sooner rather than later."

Now Constance gave a shy smile, releasing Ahoo's hand.

"I never knew you were such a philosopher," the younger woman admitted, her skin still soaking up the warmth left behind by Constance's touch.

"I'm not. I'm just Irish—consummate bullshitters, the lot of us," Connelly became light again, blue eyes twinkling merrily.

Ahoo smiled at the quip, but became serious once more, "I still don't understand."

"I know. And even if I told you everything you wanted to know, you still wouldn't understand."

Ahoo knew that Constance's statement wasn't meant as an insult, so she merely shrugged.

"Take care of yourself, Agent Shir-Del," Constance's voice was lined with compassion.

The younger woman nodded. Then with a sheepish smile, she said, "I'd tell you to do the same, but…I guess I've already made that a little more difficult for you."

Constance grinned, waving away the thought, "I'll survive."

Which brought to mind another question, "What will happen to you?"

"I don't know," Constance suddenly looked tired and worn. "Which is why you should send in Mr. Easter on your way out. That'll be the next discussion I have, I suppose."

Ahoo nodded, gave one last awkward goodbye, and left the room.

Within a matter of seconds, Clyde Easter appeared.

"So, did you tell her why you did it?"

"I've done a lot of things in the past few days, Mr. Easter. You'll have to be more specific."

"Why you wanted her to shoot you."

Constance didn't reply. She merely stared at him for a beat, sizing him up, as if perhaps she thought he was bluffing.

So he set out to prove himself, "Shir-Del said that the gun was in your right hand."

"Yes, well, that would explain why she shot me in my right shoulder—"

"Your right hand, Connelly. We both know damn good and well that you're left-handed."

"I'm an ambidextrous markswoman, Easter, you know that too—"

"But that's not why you had the gun in your right hand."

Again, Constance fell silent, opting to focus on the window instead.

Clyde leaned closer, his voice filled with certainty, "You wanted her to shoot you in your right arm, so that your left would still be free to slice open his femoral artery—because you might shoot with either hand, but your left is still the stronger, dominant one, and you wanted to be able to finish the job. Which means you knew she was going to shoot you—and you wouldn't have known that unless you had known that you would do whatever it took to push her into doing it. Which means you wanted her to shoot you, and I want to know why in bloody hell you'd take a risk like that."

Constance's eyes snapped back to his, devoid of emotion. "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. You cannot spill blood without spilling some of your own in return. I knew it had to happen, even before I shot Emily Prentiss. I knew that I would have to do things that would break the boundaries, and I knew that in the end, I would have to pay some kind of price for it all. I told you before we even landed in Nairobi that I didn't think I'd return from this mission, and I meant it. I saw a chance to settle the debt, and I took it."

He shook his head in incredulity, "You—you almost died, Constance."

"It was a price I was willing to pay. And a price I will pay, one day." Something passed behind her eyes. "Which brings us to the hard part. What are you going to do?"

He gave a frustrated sigh, turning away to the window. "I suppose that depends on how you answer the next few questions."

Even though he couldn't see her, he could sense her nodding in acquiescence.

"How long have you been with the Kidon?"

"Nine years. But I worked for Ha-Mossad longer than that. That's why I took the job in Jerusalem—it was a cover, arranged for me so that I could come to work for them. And I did work at the consulate for those eight years…though I would travel into Tel Aviv whenever they needed me for Mossad work. After a few years, they realized that I had a very…useful set of skills, and they brought me further in, making me a Kidon agent."

"And since then, you've been operating as an assassin."

"A messenger of justice."

He turned back to her, as if truly seeing her for the first time. "You sound like some kind of religious zealot."

"A zealot, yes. But it's not from a place of religion—at least not entirely." She gently touched the scar on her lip, almost without realizing it.

"Your mother." Clyde understood, on some level. "She was Jewish, which is the only way you were able to work for Mossad in the first place."

"Yes."

"Luckily for you, you had your father's Irish surname to throw people off the trail," his tone suggested that he didn't particularly appreciate her luck.

She simply smiled. Then she frowned slightly, her gaze drifting off and becoming hazy, "They always made an interesting pair, my parents. I never could quite figure them out, you know? As a child, you see them and you think that's just how relationships go, but then you grow up and realize perhaps there was something wrong. I think they loved each other, in the beginning—when you come in on a story that's been told for so long like that, you never really get the truth, just half-rememberings and added slights and hurt feelings. My mother always saw him as the goy who stole her heart—and I don't think she ever forgave him for that, either. I think she believed that he'd convert, after the wedding. Of course, to hear Da tell it, he gave her two good, solid kids and let her raise 'em up to be upstanding Jews, so what reason did she have to be upset?"

Clyde knew that somehow, this unraveling of Connelly's past would answer the questions of her present, so he prompted her to continue the story by assuming, "But he never converted."

"No." Constance's voice was laced with wry amusement. "His mother's people were from Dublin—bad enough he was the relation from the North, but can you imagine if he'd come back as Jewish, too? The good Catholic Connellys would have become extinct just by the sheer number of coronaries."

He found himself smiling at the quip, and almost hating himself for it—he didn't want to smile, didn't want to be reminded of all the ways that she was still Constance. But his self-loathing and angst were kept at bay by his curiosity, "Your mother was still alive when you left Interpol to work for Mossad. Is that why you did it—for her?"

She rolled her eyes lightly, turning her gaze to the window. "My brother Michael was the one destined to fight for Israel, he even moved there and became a citizen so that he could join the army."

"That's how he died," Clyde suddenly understood. "And you decided to take his place."

A small hum was his only answer. Then Connelly turned her cat eyes to him, voice quiet and knowing, "You want to know how I got my scar?"

Clyde felt a ripple of shock at this small offering (because, yes, it was a peace offering of sorts, her answering his decades-long unspoken question as a way of proving that she wasn't hiding anything else from him). And despite his inability to see how it had any bearing on the current situation, his curiosity pushed him into nodding, quietly adding, "If you feel like sharing the story."

She gave a slight shrug of feigned nonchalance, "Might as well. You've been dying to know for ages, and we probably won't ever speak again after all this is over."

He didn't refute her statement, and his silence sent an ache through her chest. However, she took a deep breath and focused on the task at hand, "My mother…she was Jewish, but her people were from Italy. Hair-trigger temper, prone to crying fits—I'm sure they have a clinical term for it now, but back then, it's just how she was. Da used to say that's how all Italians were, overdramatic and overemotional. I suppose that was easier than admitting the truth."

Her brows quirked in confusion as she continued, "I'm not really sure why, but I always seemed to anger her. She never—my brother could do no wrong in her eyes, but I could simply walk into a room and she'd become venomous, angry…physically violent. Sometimes she'd just smack me with the back of her hand, sometimes she'd pick up the first thing she could reach—it didn't matter, it always hurt and I always cried."

There was a beat of silence as Connelly wandered through memory, seeing sights and remembering moments that obviously still had weight, because Clyde could see flashes of the uncertain and hurting girl beneath in those grey-blue eyes.

Then she cleared her throat, becoming almost clinical, "My brother and I were always destined for different paths. My mother, in her archaic and steadfast faith, almost saw us as two separate offerings. Of course, Michael, the chosen one, would go to Israel. I was for Great Britain. She told us this, often—so often, that we grew up thinking nothing strange about it at all. After all, didn't other children's parents tell them that they were going to grow up and become doctors or lawyers or whatever their father was? My brother was going to go back to Israel, which was still a very new nation, and serve in the military, because that's what they needed most. I was allowed to do whatever I wanted, so long as my job served our country in some way—though I think my mother envisioned something closer to secretary to a MP in the House of Commons rather than Interpol agent."

Now her expression became troubled, as if she regretted confessing this next part, "I loved my brother. Everyone in my family did, really. But I loved him and saw him for what he was—Mother was too blind to realize that he could never be what she wanted. I thought…I decided, in my early teens, that I would go to Israel with him. I would help him, get him where he needed to be in life. When I told my mother, she was—she laughed. Then she struck me so hard that I fell into the kitchen table. As usual, there were tears. And she told me: 'The day you can learn to endure pain without tears, then you can serve Israel. And that day will never come, because you will never be anything more than a stupid, stupid girl'."

Clyde's fist involuntarily clenched at the thought of young Constance—even slighter and much more defenseless than she was now—being beaten by a calloused and jaded woman, and he wondered how she ever survived such a life with her sense of hope and justice intact. He knew she had, because she'd proven that so many times over the years—but now, he understood what a triumph it was, in and of itself.

Constance sensed his anger at her mother, because she quietly confessed, "In her own way, she had a point."

"There are better ways to prove such a point," Clyde couldn't stop himself from interjecting. "Better and kinder."

She smiled slightly in understanding. "Of course there were. But neither of our mums understood that, did they?"

He looked away, unwilling to bring his own mother into this—and even more unwilling to remember the points of connection between him and the woman who was still technically a traitor.

"Anyways," Constance sensed his hesitancy, and dutifully overlooked it. "I learned the lesson, and I learned it well. One day, several years later, I came home from school—she was angry, not an uncommon occurrence. I asked her what was wrong, and she turned away. And because I was a stupid, stupid girl, I followed her into the kitchen and dared to ask again. She picked up a plate from the sink and smashed it against my face."

She was unbelievably calm as she gently brushed her fingertips across her cheek, tapering across the scar above her lip, "It shattered on my cheekbone and left this."

With a sudden smile of pride, she turned her attention back to him, eyes almost glowing as she added, "And do you know what? I didn't cry. Not a single tear."

He suddenly understood. For years, he couldn't comprehend why she'd been so proud of the scar, why she'd seemed so happy to admit that it was given to her by her own mother. But now, it was clear as day—because in receiving that scar, she'd finally proven herself worthy of a task that would consume her entire life.

"Constance," he could hear his own broken heart in his voice, but he didn't care. "Your mother's dead. Don't you think it's time to stop trying to win her love?"

She gave a sad smile. "I gave up on that quest a long time ago, Mr. Easter. I found something better to live for—justice, vengeance, balancing the scales between good and evil. You know me, Clyde—you know why I do this, even if you don't want to admit it."

He looked down at the floor. She didn't press it further.

"What are the rest of your questions?" She folded her hands in her lap.

"How many people have you killed?"

"I don't know. A dozen, maybe more? I learned to stop keeping count a long time ago."

"Have you ever used your knowledge or connections with Interpol to further an assassination, or any other operation for Mossad?"

"Besides this one? No."

"Have you ever used your knowledge or connections with Mossad to further any operation for Interpol?"

"No. My team's the best of the best, they don't need help."

"When you told me that you were speaking to your mother, who was it really?"

"My contact in Tel Aviv. My handler, I suppose you could say."

"What did your handler tell you?"

Suddenly, she became hesitant. "Clyde, I can't divulge that kind of—"

"There was another insider, wasn't there?" He stepped closer, eyes drilling into hers with frightening intensity. "Someone else already inside the investigation, who contacted your handler, who relayed the information to you."

Connelly didn't answer.

"Who alerted Wasaki and Ade of the raids?"

"That was me," she swallowed nervously. "I had—there was already a cover story in place for me. Someone at Ha-Mossad had already been talking to Ade for weeks, setting me up as an IRA fanatic planning an attack. When I got the call—just before we left—I was informed of this story, and given contact information for Ade and Wasaki. But I had to get closer—I had to be in the room with them, if I was going to pull off the hit. And in order to do that, I had to prove myself trustworthy. I told them I had a contact on the task force. I gave Ade the heads-up on the first raid as proof. That got me a face-to-face meeting with him."

"I won't even bother asking where he is now—I'm sure those teeth you gave Zamir are the only things left."

Connelly blanched, and Easter had his answer—Zamir had been the insider.

He continued his line of questioning, "The second time, when you shot Emily—"

"I had to—I'd already warned Wasaki of the raid, and he was gone. I couldn't let him get away for good. Emily was going to find me, blow my cover, compromise the entire mission. It was a flesh wound—the least I could do that would still buy me time. I never—"

"I know," he held up a hand to stop the rush of explanation. "And in truth, it was that action alone which told me that you weren't working for Wasaki. If you were, you would have double-tapped her in a heartbeat and we would have never known it was you."

She blinked, grateful for his understanding and unsure of what to say next.

Luckily, Easter took the lead again, "And your handler…didn't warn you that we were coming for you?"

"I went dark—just before I shot Emily, actually."

Easter spared her a scornful look, "We both know there are ways for handlers to contact agents, even after going dark."

Constance looked away.

"Of all the lies I'll let slip past, this isn't one of them." Clyde persisted. "Did you know that we were coming for you?"

"Yes."

"And yet you didn't leave."

"I told you. I had a mission to complete." Constance's voice became cold. "And a price to pay, once it was done."

Clyde felt another wave of shock wash over his entire being. "So…you're telling me that you knew we were coming, and you waited? You waited, because you wanted to get caught, to get shot, to—"

"The scales needed to be balanced," she still didn't look at him. Quietly, she added, "And I had a point to prove, to Wasaki. I wanted him to think that he'd won, just for a moment—so that he could see just how futile it really was. I didn't just need him dead. I needed his sense of invincibility to die as well. I needed to look into his eyes and see the moment he realized that he'd lost."

"And that you had won."

"It's not about me. I'm just the messenger, remember?"

"Ah, yes. Azriel."

Her head snapped back at that, her eyes finally meeting his again.

He turned away, his voice heavy and worn, "Final question. Was Moldova a lie, too?"

Her stomach turned to stone, and her lungs barely gave her enough breath to push out, "What?"

"I know about Bev. And based on what George Whitting has told me, and what my own eyes saw when Ahoo walked into the room, it isn't an isolated incident. Which makes me wonder if perhaps those two nights in Moldova were some kind of…insurance plan, of sorts."

"Clyde, that was years before I even thought of leaving Interpol. Michael was still alive—"

"I know when it was, Constance. I'm asking what it was."

She swallowed the lump in her throat, looking down at her hands, "I've always liked women, Clyde. Always."

His head bowed, and she knew that her answer hurt him, but she tried to explain, "But…you...you were always my exception. It was never a lie, never with you."

He turned back to her, still confused and hurt, and she felt the urge to wrap him in her arms, hold him close and whisper gentle assurances in his ear—of course, he'd never get close enough to let her do that, ever again.

"I know you don't have much reason to believe me, but I hope that you do," she offered a wobbly smile. "Because I may have lied about what I do, but I have never lied about how I felt about you."

He gave a small nod. Then, clearing his throat, he quietly stated, "I want to believe you, and a part of me already does—but even if I do fully believe, I'll never trust you again."

"I understand."

He shifted away again. "And I can't—you cannot return to Interpol. The level of mistrust between you, Emily, and me is just too great, and no one can be sure that you won't pull a stunt like this again."

She took a light, unsteady breath, "Which brings us back to the question—what are you going to do?"

"I can't shield you from this. No matter how much I would like to."

"I wouldn't want you to."

He turned back to her, slightly surprised by her answer—even more by her tone, which was warm, even affectionate.

She gave a lazy smile, the kind she wore their last morning in Moldova. "This is who you are. I wouldn't change it for the world."

"God dammit," his voice trembled with emotion. "This would all be so much easier if you weren't still so very much your usual damn self."

She hummed in amusement before becoming serious again. "I don't want to make this harder for you. I didn't want any of this—not for you, never in a million years. Do what you need to."

"That's the problem," he admitted quietly. "What I need to do as an Interpol agent is in complete opposition with what I need to do as your friend."

There was a beat of silence as Constance studied him down the length of her nose with her usual clinical curiosity. "Chișinău. You haven't been carrying that around with you all this time, have you?"

"No." He answered truthfully, and he could see the relief in her face at the answer. "But you brought it up when we landed, and after I found out about Bev….it suddenly began to play on a loop in my mind."

She arched her eyebrow, "Anything worth remembering?"

"All of it," he shared her knowing grin. He sobered slightly, "At least now. Before…before I wasn't sure if it was just some kind of power play on your part."

"Power play? Clyde Easter, it wasn't as if you started following me around like a moony-eyed cow, completely bent to my every wish and whim—as all of our subsequent fights and disagreements proved."

"Yes, but how were you to know that, until after? It would have been a gamble, which you would have obviously lost—though we were closer after that, so I suppose you gained an ally of sorts."

"We were more than allies—and we were more than allies long before we woke up in bed together." There was an edge of defensiveness to her tone.

He gave a sigh of acquiescence. "There was a time when I thought we were going to build something together. Not in a romantic sense, just…we worked well together, and I thought we knew each other better than anyone else."

"We still do. We may not know everything about each other, but you still understand me better than anyone I've ever met."

"Even Bev?" He couldn't stop himself.

She gave a slight smile, "That's different."

"What would you do, if you could just walk away from this?" Clyde was suddenly curious. "If you could just retire, leave Interpol and Mossad—would you go back to Killrea, back to Bev and your roses and your quiet little life?"

"I don't like suppositions on things that can never possibly happen," she informed him, turning her gaze back to the window. "And even if I were allowed to simply retire from Interpol, the Kidon doesn't work that way—it's a bit of a blood-in-blood-out situation."

"Even after your identity has been compromised?"

Her smile was droll. "Perhaps now you can understand why I wasn't too concerned with dying."

"Surely they wouldn't—"

"Probably not. Only if they thought I'd tell all their secrets." She gave a light sigh. "I knew what this life would be, before I even chose it. And yet I still chose."

She reached out for him, her hand landing softly on the covers, still out of reach. Her voice was quiet, lined with compassion, "Do what you need to do. I knew this would be part of the price I paid, and I accepted it long before anything happened."

"All this talk of blood and payment," he shook his head. "Sounds damn Shakespearean."

Her feline grin came out to play again, "It will have blood, they say; blood will have blood."

He didn't share her sense of amusement. But he couldn't help but agree with her words.


"[I]nevitably, the further you run from your sins, the more exhausted you are when they catch up to you. And they do. Certain. It will not fail."
~Russell Gewirtz, Inside Man.



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