What caused the hurt
The forest was on fire, and it wasn't my fault. It was Rachel's.... and Matts.... and Joes... and-ok-mine but it was mostly theirs.
What did the CIA expect would happen when they sent twin sisters, and two trouble making best friends to a highly unstable (and apparently very flammable) large surface of wooded area with gallons of unused propane?
The boat ride from the coast of Brazil, back to the US, was strenuous with large amounts of puking on Matt's behalf. Despite the rancid smell of my brother-in-law's vomit, it was (almost) nothing compared to the tongue lashing our handler gave us.
I mean, it's very likely that Matt and Joe purposely conspired to leak all of the propane out of the tanks, but they couldn't possibly have known that Rachel and I were burning the camps of the rebels. (They did know but our fuming handler really didn't need to know that.)
The four of us should have been blacklisted as soon as we stepped into the covert side of the CIA, but an untamable cheer went up instead. It only took a moment to realize the cheer was started by Hunt, who was everyone's best friend and therefore impossible to hate- no matter how many married women he hit on.
"Can we talk about Matt, Joe, and the twins being completely kick ass awesome? Blowing up Brazil's forest! Am I right?"
At his declaration, another wave of cheers went up. Brazil wasn't in the good graces of the covert CIA as of late, especially after they refused to sign the international treaty with the NSA. The NSA was the CIA's favorite alphabet agency (if only for the moment) because that treaty would have opened up several mission routes under the noses of Carta and warlords. Now that it had fallen through, the CIA would go back to teaming up with MI6 against worldly threats.
"We cannot confirm nor deny our involvement in the burning of the Brazilian forest." Matt stated out loud, making sure everyone could hear him clearly.
"As we also cannot confirm nor deny that operative Melantha Solomon has a burn the size of a small state on her leg from a mysterious circumstance that is said to involve, well, fire." Rachel said a moment later as another cheer died.
The moment my name was mentioned, I noticed a shift in the commotion. It was still loud and enthusiastic, but a few people exchanged strained glances with one another.
I allowed myself to be swallowed in the tight throngs of people who were cheering for us, but only long enough to be accounted for, before I saddled up to a trusted companion whom had been a part of the worried looks.
“Hello Patricia, would you like to tell me what I shouldn’t know? Or should I pretend we didn’t have this conversation and go find someone else?” I asked her, and she looked me in the eyes.
It would always be weird to call her Patricia, even though I was Gallagher Alumni, it was hard to not see her as the strict but kind, Professor Buckingham.
“This conversation never happened either way,” I turned before she finished, but she gripped my arm tightly, “I will tell you, Melantha, but we’re even for Kazakhstan.”
Her voice was quiet and even, but a smiled was planted on her face as she let out a short laugh. To any onlookers, it would appear to be a normal conversation between two friends who had catching up to do.
“I never said you owed me Kazakhstan.” I replied, knowing fully well that she never owed me anything after Gallagher.
I maintained my smile also as Patricia took a deep breath, the eyes of the agency were always upon us, so we couldn’t show a chink in the armor as we continued to speak.
“It’s… Probably nothing, but Warren has missed his last three check-ins. He was due back two hours ago, but we haven’t heard anything.”
My façade dropped a fraction of an inch as I heard the news. Warren never told me that he would be working a mission the same time I would- I never would have accepted my mission had I known. The thought stopped me short, that was probably why he hadn’t told me.
“Where was the mission to?” I asked, being as nonchalant as anger and fear would allow me to be.
“You know very well I can’t tell you that.” She snapped and I turned on my cold demeanor, something that made people run for the hills when they thought I was coming for them and even now, people were moving away from where we were standing.
“Excellent. Thank you for sharing what you knew, I know I put you in a tough position.”
I was angry, but not at her. If I had snapped at her in return, I would just feel like shit later and be forced to apologize to the older woman.
I had turned from her to leave the building- intent on finding the director- with the belief that Patricia would tell me no more… but my sudden change of attitude must have sparked something in her.
“The last I heard, he was headed to France to meet with a contact in the Secret Service. I don’t know who the contact is, or where the exact location was, but I know he was only supposed to be gone for two days. He left after you, and should have been home before you.” She was quiet but stern, making sure I absorbed every bit of information she gave me.
“Is there anything else you can tell me?” I questioned hopefully, and she shook her head.
“Call Abigail, maybe that will... You won’t do anything stupid will you?”
“No. You said it was probably nothing, and I believe you. He’s probably just being Warren.” I smiled, keeping a calm face as I thought “My husband might be captured by the enemy. No I’m not worried, of course I believe the CIA is capable of handling this. I trust them not to throw him under the bus to save their mission.” As if.
I didn’t wait for anyone, as soon as I was able- I made straight shot for the door once I was able to ditch Patricia.
It would take the CIA about an hour before they would come looking for me to tell me what was up, and then they would go to Joe, Ray and Matt once they realized I had fallen off grid. I had two hours’ tops to be out of the country before they started a man hunt.
Whatever they had Warren working on must have been important if they were willing to separate us to do it. Another piece clicked into place. Ray, Matt, Joe and I hadn’t been on a mission with all four of us in years, they must have wanted us gone so Warren could slip out without any of us informing the others. Of course, it only took ten years, but the CIA was finally starting to learn and be the cunning agency they tried to make themselves out to be to everyone else. Why the hell had they chosen now to do it?
I stopped by a payphone to call Abby. The first thing the CIA would do is dump my phone and then go harass my baby sister, the least I could do was make it easy on her.
“Trinity?” I questioned into the phone, after hearing the click.
We had begun to use Trinity as a code due to an unfortunate event involving a flight attendant, a bomb and a lot of finger nail polish.
“I’ve been waiting for you to call and I’m honestly surprised it took you this long. Ramona bet you would call within 20 minutes and I bet you would call within 5 but it’s nearly an hour on the clock, so what’s up?”
I had a hard time keeping up with my baby sister sometimes. She was five years younger and still a fresh face in the secret service, so they hadn’t broken her of her… Abbyness yet.
“I’m headed out on vacation to France. I really need some air. I feel like the Eiffel tower is a good scene this year, yanno?”
“I heard that, but the Louve is a much more private and enclosed space. I feel like you would be more relaxed in a place with fewer people, they tend to be less busy on Saturdays. Apparently, nobody tends to get off work at 6 pm and say 'lets go see Davinici’s greatest work' anymore. Sad though really. Davinici is one of my favorites.”
“Really? I’ve always found myself impartial to him. I’m more of a Van Gogh kind of woman. I can probably fit Davinici into my trip though.”
“Excellent. Take pictures, and I’ll come visit everyone real soon.”
“Goodbye, little sis. I love you.”
“Bye, Lanie. I love you too, and tell Warren I said hi next time you see him."
I knew I had wasted a little time by saving skin for Abby, but it was worth it for her.
It only took an hour and twenty minutes for me to board a plane. I finally understood why people saved money for “a rainy day” because I didn’t know if I would have time to stop at a bank and get permission to pull an insanely large amount of money out for a reason I couldn’t even give. No, rainy day money was a much better option. The entirety of the flight, I felt like someone was watching me, but two trips to the bathroom a fake question to the air hostess didn’t lead to anything interesting. It was nearly impossible to believe someone had followed me so soon after departure, but my sense of paranoia just continued to flare.
It wasn't hard to find a hotel in the vacation country, and I bought the cheapest room possible for a full week- but I hoped not to need it that long.
Once night fell, and I had nothing else to do... the panic set in. What if he was hurt? Why hadn't he checked in? Why hadn't he tried to reach me? Why didn't he tell me he was going on an op? Where was he? What was in France?
The fear didn't allow me to get any sleep that night... or the next.
I felt utterly useless waiting until Saturday for a meeting with a contact. I probably would have called Abby to change the date, if I wasn't positive that the CIA was bugging her line. It didn't matter much after two nights of waiting- it was finally Saturday.
It was agonising, waiting for the clock to reach 6. When the clock struck 9am exactly, the hotel phone rang. It normally wouldn't have been strange, but I had asked specifically to not be bothered. Which meant it was probably Abs. I answered it tentively.
"Lane- Sorry- can't-"
Even though the call was littered with to much static to hear a clear sentence, I knew it was Warren.
"Warren! Where are you?"
"Danger- go- Lane?"
"I can't understand you!"
And then I could. With sudden and sharp clarity that made me drop the phone to the floor in shock.
"Lanie! Run! They're coming for you!"
I could've- should've- grabbed so many things, but I only grabbed what I could reach from the spot I had rooted to. My half empty backpack, and my burner. All of my favorites would be forever lost though. My only signed copy of the Heart of Darkness, and my leather bound Oliver Twist were both lying open on the bedside table. Even if I didn't have time for reading, it was comforting to have them.
No sooner had I thrown the door open, a man in a suit (how cliche) was standing with his gun drawn to the breach position.
I had him eating his barrel before either of us could manage a word, he wasn't my first kill, but he was my first close range shot. Both hallways were blocked with people after the shot echoed, so I did what any logical person would do-( well, if that person was staying in a foreign country with a fake Id that wouldn't hold up to interpol) I jumped from the two story balcony.
Even though I jumped like I had been taught, absorbing the landing evenly throughout my body, pain rocketed from my back to my skull but I didn't stop running.
I made it out the door with a slight limp, trying to blend in with a crowd that was trying their best to push me out. I had never been a good chameleon, Matt was better at that. A car came squealing up next to me, keeping pace with my malformed run.
"Warren sent me, get in!"
I nearly did, but a sideways glance had me running even harder to get away. These guys weren't interpol, and I hoped they weren't MI6 after I killed the man.
I did the first thing I could think of after escaping them with a nearby mall, call Grace.
"Hey, Grace! It's Melantha, how are you?"
"I'm fine," her voice was in straight deadpan and I knew she guess why I was calling, "but I'm wondering if this has anything to do with your alias entering Paris?"
"Haha, kind of. Are you available?"
"You know I would be there for you if I could, but I'm occupied in Germany."
"I'm slightly curious as to why MI6 is in Germany, but I have other things to attend to before I have my people snoop."
I heard Grace's dry laughter before she replied.
"What can I do for you besides being their physical? You owing me a favor will be priceless."
"My safe house was breeched, I need somewhere to lay low for a couple days. Somewhere only you and maybe Abe knows the location of."
"You're in luck, there's a cottage a couple miles from the lock bridge in a suburban area that the CIA deemed inoperable after a little extravaganza involving some alcohol and the neighbors. Anyways, you won't miss the house."
"Great. I owe you. Have fun with those Missiles, and tell Abe that it's white to black not black to white." I laughed at the memory, but I heard her exasperated sigh.
"That's not fair, Melan-"
I hung up before she could get the rest of her sentence out, I didn't need her going back on her word out of spite.
Finding the house wasn't as easy as Grace made it seem so as 3 rolled around, I dumped my bags in her vacation home. The MI6 (and CIA by association) knew about this house, but they wouldn't check it for hours.
The house had a ticking noise, and I couldn't find it for the life of me. It could easily be any of their excessive clocks, but I wished I could find it so I could smash it into a million pieces.
I rummaged around until I could find Grace's stash of undercover dye- she had a copious amount if red for reasons I probably didn't want to know but my phone rang before I could start thinking about it.
"Hello?" I questioned, knowing exactly who it was.
"Operative Queen, we've been trying to contact you for three days." The agent said calmly, oddly even for the violation I was doing.
"You should've tried this number first." I replied since they would probably yank my clearance as soon as I got back- I was going to be smooth about it.
"Just listen, you're in danger. Operative King is not in Paris. He was evacuated from his mission and word didn't get back until yesterday."
"Explain." I snarled, knowing he already was but I was angry now.
"The group holding him hostage was after you, they knew you'd go off grid to look for him."
I swore immediately, my first and most ineffective reaction.
"Tell me what to do." I questioned as my senses zeroed in on something I had noticed early... oh Grace and Abe would be pissed.
Tick...tick... tick... tick...
A clock ticked every second, that ticking was getting fast, lapsing the clock tick.
A war cry flew from my lips right before I catapulted through the house, leaving a disaster in my wake. I had no idea where the yell came from, but it wasn't unjustified.
I didn't stop running as I dodged out of the house, but the blow still threw me forward like a rag doll and my belongings tumbled out of my bag.
For the sake of nothing, I screamed a curse when I stood. The continents in the bag were displayed for everyone to see, and when a civilian came to help- he seen my rifle and froze.
"Your bag!" I demanded in French and he quickly pulled it from his back, throwing it to me.
I unzipped it and dumped everything on the floor. He only had some text books, a laptop, some mail and a wallet. I kept the wallet and mail, but dumped his cards onto the concrete, keeping the cash.
"Give me a minute." I snarled into the phone as I heard several indistinctive shouts.
Once I had my stuff secured away, I ran. La policia would be there as soon as they had a bomb squad ready, and I had to be elsewhere.
"Tell me what to do." I said again, once I was a "safe" distance but I could still hear the sirens.
"Operative Lady of Light, is already in town for you meeting, we've contacted her right after you answered. You'll meet her at the same location in twenty minutes."
"That is an hour away, how the hell can I make it in time?"
They hung up before I could get an answer, karma for hanging up on Grace. Hot-wire a car it was then.
I was driving down the streets of Paris like a maniac, half certain I had picked up a tail but when they turned down the street I realized I was being paranoid.
I seen her immediately, she was sitting lowkey in another sports car (probably something stolen) and I made my way to her. Half way there, shoots began ringing out all around me and I turned my fast walk into a full out sprint. She threw the door open when I was close enough, and I jumped in- slamming into her but she didn't flinch as she slammed the stick into drive.
I heard people screaming and watched them fall as we drove away from the bloodbath. My chest seized with anxiety, but I kept my cool like always.
"That's not the question you need to ask." Abby said, hands tightening on the wheel.
"That's the question I want answered."
"We are going to a private landing strip, just over the boarder of Belgium. We're picking Warren up on the way."
"I thought he was in the States." I said, uncertainty obvious in my voice.
"No, he's still being held captive but we know where he is and how to get to him."
I was pissed that the CIA had lied to me twice now, concerning Warren but I couldn't be pissed for too long since Warren needed my help.
When Abby stopped the car, we were only two hours from where we started, in yet another suburban area.
"Don't worry about civilians, they're aren't any here. It's a new residence." Abby reassured me as I gave a weary look around.
"And we're going in without backup or weapons. Sounds fun."
"Of course we have backup," Abby started as she closed her phone and popped her trunk, "and of course we have weapons."
In typical Abby fashion, everything fell into place once she said it for the universe to hear.
Two trucks pulled up behind and in front of us. I went on the defensive until I realized who the first person was.
"Hello, favorite twin." Hunt said with a wink as his entourage armed us with a gun and two large knives.
"There won't be much resistance, maybe none, but be careful." Abby advised as everyone took up a breach position.
Hunt and I would go through the back, Abby and a man she picked would go through the front and everyone else would find some sort of Crack to crawl through.
We cleared the front quickly and bulldozed our way through the empty house and into the basement where I was sure we would find him.
I seen him on the floor, he looked dirty but otherwise fine. When he seen me, his eyes widened and he began to squirm until he seen my smile.
I dropped the knife to the floor and slide it over before turning on Hunt, my gun leveled to his head- and his to mine a fraction of a second later.
"What are you doing, Solomon." Hunt spit fiercely.
"I'd ask you the same thing, Hunt. Why kidnap my husband when you have close contact to me everyday?"
"What the hell are you talking about?" He said, but it was to late to play coy anymore since Abby was being escorted down the steps with her hands behind her head.
"Good job giving us blanks." I said, tossing my gun toward him and he gave me the wicked grin I had been expecting.
"I'm sorry, Abby. I thought they would send Rachel or Joe to save them. I genuinely liked you." Hunt apologized after his goons forced us on our knees beside Warren.
"Oh god. Abby this, Abby that. Let it go." Warren moaned, annoyed.
"He always had a crush on you." I said to Abby, giving Warren a reassuring squeeze but he didn't buy it.
"As if." Abby rolled her eyes.
"It doesn't matter, he seems like a necrophiliac. God knows Abby wouldn't touch you if she were alive." Warren replied- cracking us and some of the men up but Hunt shut them up quickly.
"This is exactly why I'm killing you." Hunt growled and we laughed even more.
"You're executing us because you're a pathetically Flacid little shit." I snarked, pulling the attention from Warren to myself.
"Say it again, I dare you."
Hunt rested the barrel against my head at the same time shouts came from upstairs.
"There's our backup." Abby grinned, and I remembered the cell phone and I grinned back, good job sis.
Hunt didn't waste time speaking anymore, like any good villain; he believed he could still win. The barrel lifted to Warren first and I began fighting, he wouldn't take my love on my watch.
Hunt wasn't expecting my lunge. Whereas Abby had been incapacitated, I had merely been expected to sit on the floor and watch.
I was able to easily throw him off-balance, and the gun clattered from his hand. It wasn't a fist fight though, since we both pulled our knives.
We only went back and forth for a moment before my twin appeared behind him.
"The knife goes down, or you will. Your choice." She said and I turned to help Warren and Abby out of their bondage.
I barley heard Rachel shout my name, or the shot that went with it, but I would never forget the next few seconds when I spun to find the knife coming in my direction- and deflected it with my own weapon.
Later the next day when we were back home and the debriefing stopped, Warren and I laid together in bed.
"This is why we stopped going on vacation." Warren said and I laughed kissing him, but realized he was right.
The knife fight in Buenos Aires. The Russian president in Kazakhstan. The heist at the Castle in England. The snake pit in Australia.
"Yea, I think America is a pretty safe bet." Warren laughed, and I decided to tell him my big secret... it was only right that he'd be the first to know.
"Hey, Warren." I whispered and he replied immediately.
My feelings built inside my chest as I forced myself to say, "I'm pregnant."
I felt him stop breathing before he threw himself off the bed and turned the light on. I was mortified at his reaction until the light showed me his ecstatic face.
"I'm going to be a dad? Are you lying?" His voice cracked, but he knew from my face that I was telling the truth.
"Oh my god. I've got to tell Joe... I've got to tell Matt! I'm going to be a dad!"
Warren clamored back onto the bed, but his face clouded in terror.
"I'm sorry, did that hurt. Are you okay?"
I began laughing. He had barely jostled the bed and was fretting, I couldn't wait to see him with our baby.
"Love, I'm more than okay." I whispered and he kissed me gently.
"I love you so much, Melantha. We will be great parents."