Author's note:

PSM is short for Pistolet Samozaryadny Malogabaritny - which translates into small self-loading pistol.

It was a very popular weapon with KGB personnel.


Jenny and Jethro's apartment in Golders Green

March 9th, 1999

2130

Jen put away the last of the clean dishes and tried to free herself of the images that had melded with her mind.

It was virtually impossible.

Three lifeless bodies on the dock.

The subsequent discovery of two more in the water.

Jethro, working out where the shots had been fired from and coming to the conclusion that it was the handiwork of the man he was determined to run to ground.

Williams .. dead by his own hand several hours after that.

Decker and the Special Agent in Charge back in Naples as pissed as hell that they'd spent a week in the UK with nothing to show for it.

Not to mention the inquiry that they would most certainly be dragged into, and the paperwork which would dog them for the next month at least.

Unholy mess didn't even begin to describe it, she thought as she closed the cupboard and made her way to the bedroom.

"It's not your fault," she said as she lay down on the bed and joined Jethro in staring at the ceiling.

But he felt it was.

Something about the way Williams had left the scene had worried his gut.

He could have, should have, stopped him.

Or followed him immediately.

But he hadn't – because part of him had been disgusted with the man.

He'd let him go - and when he eventually caught up with him he'd been a few minutes too late.

He struggled to find words, but Jen turned onto her side and looked straight at him.

"Sshhh," she said, placing her fingers against his lips. "I know."

She leaned across him and turned off the bedside lamp - pressing a kiss to the palm that had risen to caress her cheek before easing herself onto her back once more.

Giving him space, but not leaving him alone.

After a while he reached for her hand.

Grazing her knuckles with his thumb until she shifted back onto her side and laid her head on his chest.

As his fingers ran through her hair he felt her tighten her grip on him - and knew that whatever she was about to say was going to going to be hard to hear.

"They were lovers, Jethro," she said softly.

He hadn't known, but in retrospect it didn't surprise him.

He'd seen the look on the man's face as he'd looked at Laura's body.

It had been a partnership built on trust and mutual respect that had developed into more somewhere along the line.

Just as his and Jen's had.

Only something somewhere had gone wrong for Williams and Evans – and they'd paid the ultimate price.

She inched a little closer, and the hitch in her breathing tore at him a little more than the pain he'd heard in her voice.

He knew without asking what she was thinking.

Another time, another place it might just as easily be them.

He refused to dwell on how he would feel if the same thing happened to him.

It never would happen to him, he told himself.

Once in a lifetime was enough for that kind of pain. She was his to protect and he couldn't imagine reneging on the promise he'd made to himself about that when things had become serious between them.

He dropped a kiss to her head and she shifted slightly.

Almost as though she was planning to move away.

Instinctively he wrapped a hand in her hair and pulled it downwards so that her face rose to meet his.

Tracing the contours of her face with the fingers of his other hand.

Memorizing them all over again.

Restraining himself slightly when he felt his touch border on possessiveness.

He didn't fully comprehend how cold he was feeling until she stopped his hand at her lips and kissed each fingertip slowly.

Relief of a sort sluiced through him.

Perhaps the recognition that he could let go; that he could let his guard down.

Releasing her hair, he pulled her into his side and held onto her as fiercely as she was holding onto him.

He knew he was trembling as her warmth leached into him, but it didn't matter because the moment was tender and accommodating.

Suffused in gentle caresses and rhythmic breathing that grounded them both.


Outside an apartment in the 9th Arrondissement

Paris

2230

Anatoly shut the door behind him and buttoned up his coat against the frigid night air.

Despite the fact that Svetlana knew exactly what he did, he didn't like to keep his equipment at her apartment.

He walked quickly down the street. Eager to get back to his partner, but not so lost in thought that he failed to recognize the signs that he was being followed.

He unholstered his PSM as he turned into the new shopping arcade at Passage Du Havre, and at the first given opportunity turned the tables on his stalker.

"I see you haven't lost your touch," the man said when Anatoly had him up against the wall in a deserted alleyway with a pistol under his chin.

"Piotr!" Anatoly lowered his gun as he recognized a friend from his KGB days.

"Have time for a drink with an old friend?"

Twenty-odd minutes later they were sitting across one another at a small bar on the Right Bank.

"Are the rumours wrong?" Piotr asked as he tapped a new pack of cigarettes on the table and pulled one out for his companion.

"What rumours are those?" Anatoly asked nonchalantly as he put it in his mouth and lit it.

"That you're out of the business."

"The only way out of the business is a bullet to the brain, Piotr. "

"I meant out of the freelance business."

"I'm still my own man."

"Really. The word is you're on someone's payroll."

Anatoly leaned back slightly and took a deep draw on his cigarette.

"What is it that you need taken care of?"

"It's not for me personally," Piotr said slowly. "Let's just say I've been instructed to make inquiries about your ... availability."

"Consider me .. available." Piotr smiled and raised his glass, and as Anatoly tossed back the remains of his single malt, he smiled too. "Tell me more."

A few hours later he slipped into Svetlana's bed.

As he lay propped up on his elbow watching her sleep, his mind drifted back to the woman on the dock.

She had been blonde too, he thought as he ran his fingers over the tresses scattered on the pillow beside him.

Although he'd taken out many people over the years, very few of them had been women.

He realized that he had never made the distinction between the sexes before - and as he looked down at his lover again, the moment was almost surreal.

He relived the prickle of regret over killing the woman in Portsmouth - and knew it was because of Svetlana.

She had humanized him in ways he hadn't thought possible after all this time.

Her love didn't make him less effective at what he did. In some oblique way it made him more effective - because having a place to call home with her grounded him.

This time when he looked down at her, her eyes fluttered open.

"Anatoly!"

She was in his arms immediately, and the strong emotion rippling through her almost brought him to tears.