The bedroom was dark and quiet and Jim had never felt Eric’s body so tense in his arms. Eric lay half on top of him, bare chest to bare chest, with his head tucked under his chin. He waited silently, stroking Eric’s back.
Eric sighed heavily. “Jim, I…” he whispered at a loss.
“Eric, it’s okay,” Jim replied soothingly.
Eric hugged Jim tighter. “I don’t know how to deal with this.”
Jim’s gut twisted. “Mari’s a terrible loss. There’s no right or wrong way to deal with her death.”
Eric sniffed and tried to curl closer to Jim. “She was my sister,” he said hoarsely. “I was supposed to protect her.”
Jim’s gruff voice was soft yet compelling. “There was no way you could’ve known.”
“I saw the glint from the rifle.”
Jim continued stroking Eric’s back. “At that distance, that glint could’ve been anything.”
Eric blinked back tears. “I don’t want to go back to Miami. First Speed and then Mari. I can’t stand looking at H. All I see is how much he and Mari meant to each other. How do I help my sister’s husband when I can’t deal with it? I don’t know how to be strong for him.”
“You don’t have to.”
Eric moved his head and buried his face in the side of Jim’s neck. “I feel like I should. I feel like I owe it to her.”
Jim trailed his fingers up Eric’s spine. He cupped the back of Eric’s neck and started rubbing the tense muscles. “The only thing you owe her is not to let her death tear you apart.”
“Can I stay here with you?”
Eric’s voice was lost and broken, reminding Jim of a frightened child. Jim kissed the side of his head. “For as long as you need.”
“What if I never go back to Miami?”
“That’s okay, too.” Jim’s voice was low, barely loud enough for Eric to hear. “I love you.”
Eric kissed the spot right below Jim’s ear. “I love you, too.”
Jim finally felt Eric begin to relax. He ran his fingers through Eric’s hair. “What’s said is said. I’m afraid that we’re still stuck with each other.”
Eric titled his head into the soothing touch. “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
The soft rays of the sun just before dusk illuminated the small sunroom at the back of the house. Vicky dozed on the couch, enjoying the quiet and the warmth on her face. She recognized the footsteps drawing closer. She didn’t move but she did smile.
Ivan stood over her. He took a long moment to soak in her beauty. He ignored his knees’ protests and knelt next to her.
Vicky heard his low grunt. She smirked but still didn’t look at him. “I can hear your knees creaking.”
Ivan chuckled quietly. He slowly ran one hand over her leg. He used the other to push her white sweater up just enough to caress her stomach. “I’ve improved with age.”
Vicky opened her eyes and looked at him warmly. “Like a fine wine.”
Ivan leaned down to kiss the bullet scar that only served to accentuate the rest of her flawless skin. “You said you loved me,” he murmured. “And what’s said is said.”
Vicky swallowed a gasp and curled a hand in his hair. “I do, God help me.”
Ivan playfully licked her and rubbed his beard over the sensitive area. “You are beautiful, Bunny.”
Vicky moaned low in her throat. However, that didn’t stop her avidly watching him. She opened her mouth to speak but her voice completely failed.
Ivan continued worshipping her. “Beautiful. Dangerous. Perfect.”
Vicky tightened her grip and forced the words out. “As much as I’m enjoying this, I would rather not have Frank’s fresh faced little girlfriend walk in on us. I would be forced to kill her with a knitting needle and he loves her so.”
Ivan raised his head to grin at her. “Frank and Sarah have gone to a movie and they’ve taken Marvin with them.”
Vicky arched an eyebrow in disbelief. “Marvin? At a movie? The man thinks the government uses films as mind control devices.”
Ivan snickered. “That is why he is wearing a hat made out of…” his voice trailed off as he struggled to find the right words in English.
Vicky threw her head back and laughed. “That is vintage Marvin Boggs.”
Her bare throat drew Ivan’s attention and he moved to kiss her there. The touch of his lips was gentle yet intense. She wrapped her arms around him.
“Tell me again,” Ivan whispered hotly.
Vicky’s voice was husky with desire. “I love you. I love you. I love you.”
Captain Wallace B. Binghamton finished applying the black grease make up to his face, around his eyes. He blindly reached for a towel and ended up wiping his hands on his uniform shirt instead. However, he didn’t notice. He groped at the small shelf above his sink for his glasses.
He put his glasses on and peered at himself in his small mirror. He grinned and his white teeth were the only bright spot. The skin on his face, neck, and hands was completely black to go along with his black clothes.
“Brilliant, Wally,” he commended his reflection. “Brilliant. Letting the whole base think you’ve gone to Comm Fleet. You even fooled Carpenter.” He tilted his head to the side and slowly turned to make sure he didn’t miss any spots. “He’s a good aide, but he’s not cut out for stealth missions. Poor boy almost makes more noise than Parker.”
He arched an eyebrow. “Stealth is my middle name. Binghamton. Captain Wally Binghamton. I like my martinis shaken not stirred.”
He nodded at his reflection once more. Then he crept out of his quarters and kept to the jungle to avoid the Shore Patrol. He took a small boat across the bay and went around to the far side of McHale’s Island.
He wrestled to get the boat onto the shore. The sounds of wet sand and tree branches breaking beneath him was loud in his ears. “Shhh,” he hissed and dropped the edge of the boat on his foot.
He slapped a hand over his mouth to stifle a yell. He shoved the boat, turned, and limped indignantly into the jungle. Palm fronds hit him in the face and vines and branches almost tripped him. “Carpenter, put that tree on report,” he muttered. “You should keep this island better maintained. That’s strike one, McHale.”
After what seemed like an eternity but was really only a few minutes, he found the main base. He looked towards the dock. “The PT-73 is gone. I restricted those pirates to their island. That’s strike two, McHale.”
He scanned the area. All of the huts were dark except for McHale’s. He crept closer and approached from the rear.
Quinton McHale’s booming laugh filtered out. “Read ‘em and weep. Full house.”
“I wish I had some of that beginner’s luck.”
Binghamton didn’t recognize the second voice right away. He wasn’t quite tall enough to peek into the back window. “Is he teaching Parker to play poker?” he asked himself quietly.
McHale laughed again. “You want to deal?”
“Sure,” the second voice answered cheerfully.
Binghamton looked around quickly and found a bucket by the cook shack. He took it back to the window and stood on top of it. He kept low enough so only his eyes were above the windowsill.
He almost fell when he discovered the owner of the second voice was his aide, Elroy Carpenter, an Elroy Carpenter missing his uniform shirt. He had the urge to march in there and demand an explanation but his body refused to move. He could hardly breathe.
McHale sighed and laid his cards down. “All I’ve got is two pair, twos and jacks.”
Carpenter rolled his eyes and threw his cards on the table. “You still beat me.” He stood up, revealing that he was also barefoot and missing his belt. He pulled his undershirt over his head to expose his well-defined chest.
McHale grinned. “It wasn’t my idea to play strip poker, but I will admit to enjoying the view.”
Carpenter stepped closer. He nudged McHale’s legs apart and stood between them. “I think you’re cheating me.”
“Would I do that?”
Carpenter snorted a laugh. “Yeah.”
McHale ran his hands over Carpenter’s chest. “How did I get so lucky?”
Carpenter leaned down and kissed McHale softly. “I love you too, Quint.”
Binghamton’s eyes widened and he felt like they’d pop out of his skull. //Carpenter didn’t just say that! But he did! He did! But what’s said is said!//
Binghamton fell off the bucket and landed on his rear. He yelped, scrambled to his feet, and took off running. He ran straight into the nearest tree at full force. He staggered back and barely noticed the crack through both lenses of his glasses before the darkness took him.
Later, he woke with a pounding headache. He shot upright in bed. “Where am I?” he wailed. “Where? Where? Where?”
“In the infirmary, Sir,” Carpenter answered sorrowfully from his bedside.
“What?” Binghamton blustered. “Why am I here?”
Carpenter frowned and looked at Binghamton with puppy dog eyes. He pressed Binghamton’s glasses into his hands. “You took a knock to the head in the last air raid.”
Binghamton looked at his white hands through his perfectly sound glasses. He touched his throat. His skin was smooth, with no signs of the greasy make up. He clutched Carpenter’s hand. “It must have all been a dream. Thank God.”
Carpenter stood up anxiously. “Let me fluff your pillow, Sir.”
Binghamton tried to push him away but the boy insisted on crowding him. He felt Carpenter’s sleeve brush against the back of his ear. “That won’t be necessary.”
“Yes, Sir. Sorry, Sir.” Carpenter sat back down, straightened the cuffs on his uniform jacket and folded his hands in his lap.
Binghamton leaned back and shut his eyes. “I might as well rest while I’m here. You’re in charge, Carpenter,” he said softly and never saw the smudge of black make up on Carpenter’s wrist.
Jay ducked out of the way of a flying plate. “Gloria, please,” he tried.
“I’m surprised you can bear to be seen with me,” Gloria shouted. “I heard what they called me.”
“I know. They were jerks and, if you would’ve stuck around long enough, you would’ve heard me tell them that to their faces.”
“All I am to you is a Columbian piece of ass!”
“Damn it, Glora!” Jay shouted back. “You’re much more than that. I love you!”
Gloria stopped short before she could throw the glass at Jay. She clutched the cracked granite counter in her tiny kitchen and just stared at him a few feet away in her hole-in-the-way apartment’s living room. She slowly lowered her arm.
Jay stood tense, with his hands on his hips. He cursed under his breath. He turned away from her.
Gloria watched the hard line of his shoulders. “Jay,” she started in a remarkably softer voice than the one she’d just been using to shout at him.
“Don’t Gloria,” Jay interrupted gruffly. He reached down to the coffee table for his half full glass of scotch. He quickly downed it and set the glass back down.
Gloria bit her bottom lip. “Jay.”
Jay didn’t face her. He shoved his hands into his pockets. “I should go.”
Gloria came around the counter but didn’t move any closer. Her voice regained a slight edge. “Leave? You can’t leave now.”
Jay finally met her gaze and his eyes flashed. “Yeah, I can. We both need to cool off.”
Gloria kicked her heels off and beat him to the door. She pressed her back against it. She planted her hands on his chest and looked up at him. “How dare you try to leave after saying something like that.”
Jay tried to step back but she grabbed his shirt. He stared at the peeling paint on the door above her head. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“You said you love me.”
“No, I didn’t.”
Gloria smiled. “Yes, you did.”
Jay grunted. “You were hearing things.”
Gloria frowned. She tilted his chin down and waited for him to meet her gaze. “Was it only the heat of the moment?”
Jay sighed heavily and admitted, “No. I don’t say things I don’t mean.”
Gloria’s face lit up. “Good,” she said earnestly. “Neither do I. I love you, too. What’s said is said and we can’t take it back. Okay?”
Jay caressed the side of her face. “Okay.”
Derek sat at the bar, staring at his drink. He had a funny feeling in the pit of his stomach and he didn’t like it one bit. Emily’s, Jordan’s, and Spencer’s voices were just background noise.
“Hey, you okay?”
Derek didn’t react until there was a soft touch on his shoulder. He jerked upright. “What?”
Jordan peered at him. Her carefree smile morphed into one of concern. “You all right?”
“Fine,” Derek answered shortly.
Emily looked at Derek from Jordan’s other side. She arched an eyebrow. “You’ve been staring at your drink for a half hour. Does it hold the secrets of the universe?”
Derek rolled his eyes. “Ha. Ha.”
“We solved the case. We rescued the girl,” Jordan persisted. “What’s wrong?”
Derek threw his drink back. He managed a half smile for her. “Nothing. I’m just tired. I’ll see you guys in the morning.”
Jordan half stood to follow him but Emily put an arm around her shoulders. “Not now. He needs some time.”
Derek took the elevator up. He walked straight past his door to the one three doors down. He hesitated for a split second before knocking.
Dave opened the door. “Morgan,” he greeted neutrally.
Derek nervously shifted his weight from one foot to the other. “Hey. Can I come in?”
“I’m really not in the mood right now.”
Derek licked his lips. “Okay. How about we get together for dinner when we get back to D.C.?”
“I don’t think that would be a good idea,” Dave answered immediately, in that same maddening neutral tone.
“Look…” Derek glanced up and down the hallway. “Do we have to do this with me standing out here?”
Dave started to close the door. “Good night, Morgan.”
Derek’s hand shot out to stop him before he could think about it. “Wait. I know you heard what I said to Harris.”
Dave’s expression didn’t change but there was a slight narrowing of his eyes. “That you don’t know what it’s like to be in love with another man.”
“Yeah, well,” Derek stammered at a loss.
“What’s said is said. And it’s the truth,” Dave stated. “It’s what we both agreed to. I’m just not sure if I can do it anymore.” He smiled ruefully. “Maybe I’m just too old to be fuck buddies.”
“But…” Derek’s voice trailed off helplessly.
“Let’s just step back for a while and then see what happens.”
Derek’s hands itched to touch Dave. He thought about pushing in, shoving Dave against the nearest wall, and burying his tongue in Dave’s mouth. Instead, he found himself reluctantly nodding. He copied Dave’s neutral inflection. “All right, Rossi.”
“Good night, Morgan,” Dave said softly and shut the door.
Derek rested his forehead against the hard surface. “Good night, Dave,” he whispered.