|Firsts and Lasts
Author: Guede Mazaka
The first thing Elizabeth did when she walked in was to throw up her arms in a voluptuous stretch, going up on her toes and making every bone in her spine pop. Then she contently sighed and dropped her arms, beaming about the busy office. “It’s so good not to be sick. I didn’t miss anything important, did I?”
Everything abruptly came to a standstill. Pens fell, typing stopped, faces turned and utter silence padded arrogantly around the room. Elizabeth felt her skin began to prickle, but refused to be uncomfortable for no apparent reason and boldly stared back. Her hair was perfectly tousled, her make-up was flawless, and she didn’t have snot running down her face. It couldn’t be her.
A door creaked. All heads swiveled; while Elizabeth generally disliked following the crowd’s example—especially since in their line of work, it was a maxim that the enemy was always where you weren’t looking—but in this case, she thought she’d make an exception. A roomful of CIA agents couldn’t all have bad instincts. If they were looking that way, there was something important to see.
Jack weaved out, swayed back to grab the doorway and essayed a grin at the world. The effect was somewhat spoiled by the enormous ice-pack he had slopped over one eye. When he noticed Elizabeth, he removed the pack to reveal an impressive bruise. “Liz. Might I have a word?”
For a moment longer, everything was silent. Then the typing started up once more, the chatter and buzz of information transfer filled the air, and everywhere Elizabeth looked, there was nothing but studious work. She snorted, amused at how strongly the leader influenced the rest of the hive, and stopped for some coffee before she joined Jack in his office. From the looks of things, she was going to need it.
He sat down, shooting sideways looks at her. “So. Er. How’s Will?”
Elizabeth did a quick mental rundown and disguised the activity by pretending she needed to suck down all her coffee. It wasn’t the best pretense she could’ve put up, given that just a moment before she’d been enthusiastically declaiming how well she felt, but she did what she had to with what she was given. Besides, her miniskirt was particularly cute today. That should earn her a little laxness.
The icepack was back on Jack’s eye, which left her looking only at the other one. Even when he was being his most candid, his eyes weren’t generally reflective of his inner mood, so Elizabeth moved on. Hair was at its usual level of laidback snarl. He wasn’t missing any ornaments, and his kohl was on straight so whatever had happened had done so after he’d gotten to the office. Desk wasn’t piled with papers, which reduced the chances that it was about a work-related issue. And Jack’s overall air was minus its usual hint of exasperation, so it probably wasn’t due to an overreaction on Will’s part. “Am I going to want to kill you after you explain?” Elizabeth asked, carefully setting her cup down so she’d be less one potential weapon. “Because boyfriend first.”
“Understandable. An’ no, I don’ think…well. It was a bit of miscommunication. My fault, m’fault—” hand raised to forestall Elizabeth’s next question “—I’ll freely admit t’that. But Will’s a bit hasty an’ left before I could get round t’explainin’ that part…”
“Which would be…” Elizabeth rolled her hands over each other, gesturing for a further explanation.
Something in the pack crackled when Jack shifted it about and he winced, sliding a thumb beneath it to rub gently at his face. His one visible eye glanced at the sidewall. Which was blank.
Maybe Elizabeth did need coffee. She took another sip and tried to figure out why an undecorated wall would be so inter—oh, right. Anamaria’s office was that way. And fascinatingly enough, Anamaria was scheduled for in-office duties today, yet she was audibly absent and Gibbs, who should’ve been handling the street-work, had apparently changed duties with her.
The caffeine in Elizabeth’s blood began to curdle with suspicion, and she whipped back to deliver her hardest look. “Jack. What did you do?”
“Absolutely nothing.” He said that with the utmost conviction, yet he stared back at her as if he didn’t expect him to believe her. Which, paradoxically, ensured that Elizabeth did, because Jack was only insecure when he was being honest.
After a moment, he volunteered a little more. “I was a bit careless wi’ m’mouth, but that was after th’fact.”
“And the fact would be?” She arched an eyebrow.
* * *
Will stumbled, slipped off the step and grappled for the railing, averting complete collapse only at the last moment. He whooshed out a breath of relief and was about to take another one when Anamaria performed the same maneuver, only more forcefully, and knocked the air out of him. “Oof!”
“Sorry, didn’t—m’feet are bein’ gauche—les deux sont—fuck.” She doggedly hung on to his elbow and swayed them both to the side, heavily straining Will’s hold on the rail. “M’head…”
“Those were some cocktails,” he agreed, not feeling too spruce himself. It felt a bit petty to say so, but having Elizabeth on sick leave meant he and Anamaria had to do more social drinking when touching bases with contacts, since they had to split her role between themselves. And Will didn’t drink often for reasons besides it being amusing and handy to be the only standing person left at a party.
He retained enough sense to realize that they weren’t going to make the door by the current way they were going. He also had enough sense to realize that drunk Anamaria was short-tempered and unpredictable, and that grabbing her by the waist might not be interpreted the way he meant it to be. Will, however, did not have enough sense to fully understand how one interwove with the other. But that was important. He needed to. He—
--Anamaria’s heel broke, the snap like a whipcrack over the head. Startled, Will had his arms around Anamaria and was yanking her against the door before he knew quite what his hands were. Where he was doing. Fuck. “I’m too drunk for this…”
“Oui, oui, m’gonna kill Jack for sending us t’do so many bar-meets t’mor—” She giggled, a sound entirely at odds with the words making up her mumbling, and slumped against his chest. Her back was smooth and warm, and her right breast nicely filled his right hand.
Will yanked it back like it was burning—it was a bit scorched, as if he’d a weak sunburn—and tried to get the key into the lock without dropping Anamaria. He lost track of the juggling act and had to rewind his arm around her waist, while she futilely tried to pull herself up on uneven stilettos.
“I—think—somethin’s wrong here. Tu sens…ah, merde. My head.” She flopped against the door just in time for it to open, which of course meant Will went tumbling after her in an attempt to break her fall.
There really wasn’t a good way to hit the floor. Even with the slack-bonedness that inebriation brought, Will’s elbow and hip were still going to hurt in the morning. And so was his shoulder, because Anamaria had incredibly pointy earrings on and they were stabbing through his shirt.
“Merde. This is so stupid,” she muttered, a trace of her temper returning. “What th’hell am I—putain! M’earring!”
“Hmm?” Will, who’d gone very still at the first sign of anger in Anamaria’s face, chanced a glance sideways.
It appeared that not only was her earring attempting to stitch itself into his shoulder, but it also had succeeded in snagging his hair. He reached out and worked at freeing it, but she was doing the same thing, and his vision was a bit blurry, and squinting really didn’t help. “God. At least no one’s going to be home to see this.”
“What? Thought Norrington…?” Teeth in lip, Anamaria glared at the earring and extricated it with one deft nail. Then she was going to sit up, but apparently their legs were too tangled for that, and she couldn’t get the right angle to glare those body parts into submission as well. She struggled for a few seconds before giving up and slumping over. “Putain de merde.”
“Jaime’s watching Elizabeth for the night, since he wasn’t around for most of her sick days. Nice of him.” The world was spinning around Will’s head, and it was confusing him. Anamaria smelled nice. Rum and spice, like Jack, only with a hint of Elizabeth’s lime tartness. Or maybe that was the carpet. Or maybe it was him, since they’d both spilled rum on themselves at various points during the evening.
Humming something low and prowling from the last club at which they’d stopped, Anamaria raised her head and gave Will a strangely considering look. She tilted her head, a smile that was both familiar and not familiar dancing around her mouth. “Will.”
“What?” And suddenly Will placed it. That was the same assessing look he’d get from a girl just before Elizabeth planted a possessive kiss on him. “Ana, we’re drunk—”
“Don’ y’be callin’ me Ana,” she growled, suddenly up and pinning him to the floor. “Ana. Mon dieu…if y’weren’ so cute, I’d shoot y’right now for that.”
Will squirmed and heaved till he was half out from under her, desperately trying to ignore the fact that her wrap-blouse was hanging open and that damn it, Anamaria was a beautiful woman. His prick, smart piece of meat that it was, wasn’t paying attention to his sense of self-preservation. “Cute? Ah. You. Women. You like women.”
“An’ like I’ve told Lizzie plenty of times, don’ mean I can’t look once in a while.”
Well, she was doing more than looking, and Will would’ve had to have been dead if he hadn’t imagined this at least once in his life, but something was…not right. Opposite of not right was…wrong. Wrong. “Anamaria. Elizabeth?”
Her eyes narrowed. “Are y’gettin’ us confused?”
“Ah. No.” Yes. Maybe. Will’s head really was full of alcohol, sloshing him around, and then they were kissing and Jesus, Anamaria’s lips were as wonderful as they looked.
* * *
Scarlet was staring at Will while the glass she held in her hand was overflowing and the tap was now pouring beer onto the floor. “You—you—y’slept with Anamaria?”
Will mechanically reached out and shut off the tap for her. She jumped in surprise, then briskly dumped out the glass in the sink and rummaged around behind the bar until she came up with a dusty round-bottomed bottle of dark-brown glass, which practically exuded potency. Two seconds and a glass of amber liquid was wafting scorching fumes up Will’s noses.
“Drink up.” She patted his shoulder, then started wiping up the spill. “Trust me, honey. In there’s—well, it ain’t a cure for what ails you, but it’s a good first step. Now, just keep talking; Scarlet’s here an’ listenin’ an’ not saying a word of judgment.”
“Well…” He didn’t really want to keep talking, but the pressure crawling at his insides and pushing and trying to slam his hand into the counter wouldn’t let him shut up. His throat and mouth still tasted horrific as well, courtesy of the hangover. “Oh, by the way, I’m sorry about throwing up in your toilet.”
The look Scarlet gave him was a cross between fondness and exasperation, which would’ve been funny if Will weren’t absolutely certain that he was going to die. Soon. And messily.
“All right, all right. Last night.” Will picked up the glass and experimentally sniffed—an action that he instantly regretted, since the sheer burn almost made him sneeze the…alcohol…across the bar. And was it really a good idea to be seeking a solution in the very cause of the whole problem?
“Will, love, Ah’ve known y’for a good while now. An’ Anamaria’s been comin’ around since she got assigned to Jack.” A ruby-red nail, like what Will’s blood would look like splattered over the floor, tapped his nose. Anamaria had nails like that. “Talk. Ah’m not Anamaria. An’ while mah bed’s being well seen to by Peter, it doesn’t mean Ah haven’t been round the block in mah day.”
She was playing up the accent. When Scarlet started really talking like her fictional namesake, then Will knew she was being serious. And lace and ruffles and slow sweet smiles aside, she wasn’t a mere sugarcake.
He took a sip. Coughed it down and then laid his head back on his arm. “Anamaria’s a gorgeous, gorgeous woman. And it’s not exactly like we’ve never…well, you know. Same bed, except she’s seeing to Elizabeth. But—but human vision doesn’t work like a computer image! I can’t exactly tell my brain, ‘Cut out the naked bits of Anamaria.’”
“Plus it’s two women.” Scarlet somehow made wringing out a rag soaked with beer look like holding the wisdom of the ages. With a spark of kind laughter in her eyes, no less.
“Well, that too,” Will was forced to admit. Mumbling it as lowly as he possibly could. “So yeah, I wondered. And then she was actually—but we were drunk, and I said so, only I think I forgot in all the kissing…she’s very direct in everything, it turns out.”
* * *
They banged into a couch. For a second, Anamaria surfaced from the hands and the pressing and the hot mouth to wonder how the hell they’d gotten there that fast. The sofa should be on the other side—oh, right. Neither of them had really wanted to risk the highway, so they’d gone for James’ apartment, which was closer.
He had a very soft carpet. A true gentleman…Will had one hand between Anamaria’s legs, fingers playing over her folds and thumb just easing in, and damn but someone had taught him good. He was working her like he knew exactly where the spots for breathlessness were, where were the ones for growling and nipping and just rubbing herself against him till her nipples were heavy and hard and aching with the good kind of grind that introduced a very, very good fuck. And his cock was shoving into her thigh—
--her fingers were wound up in his shirt, having just gotten it off of him. They slowed down and she blinked, wiped her tongue across her lips in an effort to stop tasting whatever cinnamon-sugar Will had poured into his skin. “Will—merde, down an’—wait, Will?”
“What? What?” He slowed down, looking confused. Started to take his hand off of her, but she had seized his wrist and kept him from doing that before she quite remembered what that thought had been. But she didn’t let him go back to what he was doing, either. “Anamaria?”
“Drunk. An’…y’re a man…” She was trying to reconstruct what the hell she’d been thinking a moment ago, only all she could remember was that she’d observed many times that Will was a fine-looking one, and he was. Nice boy. And if she hadn’t been for women, she might’ve given Elizabeth a run for her money.
‘cept she and Will had shared Elizabeth more than once, so it wasn’t exactly giving anyone a run for…she was going to kill Jack. Too many drinks. “Nothin’. Just going t’have words wi’ Jack ‘bout so many damn bar-meets.”
“Right,” Will mumbled, diving down again to turn her mouth inside-out and make her like it. Then he stopped, shook his head. Eyes were as dazed as a club-stunned fish, and the thought of that made Anamaria laugh.
She sounded funny. Kind of thick and echoing and distant, but she was very definitely present and feeling the hand moving back between her thighs, moving the hand moving fingers into her, and—
“Anamaria, are you—do you—I want to fuck.” He blushed when he said that. Or maybe flushed. It made Anamaria bare her teeth again in amusement. “Oh—oh, shit—please don’t kill me—I—”
And why the fuck was everyone so damned pussyfooting around her? The only one that wasn’t was Elizabeth, only she’d been sick and not really wanting much except snuggling Will for the past week. So it’d been mostly work for Anamaria and she was momentarily sick of that and besides, Will had just shown he knew how to handle himself. It was refreshing.
She flopped out one hand, kept the other arm around him and licked at his ear while she dug in his clothes, which were all rumpled and were going to need one hell of an ironing later. Stupid thought—and there was a better one. A bit longer to get the condom on than she really liked, but hell, wasn’t like she did this often.
Something pinged again, deep in her mind, but goddamn, Will was sucking on her neck and he must have taught Elizabeth that, or she him, because they both went at it the same way. “I ain’ gonna kill you. Not on pur—”
Well. Will didn’t need too much convincing, because his tongue was back to spreading delicious tingles down her throat and they were shoved right up to the couch now so she had something against which she could brace herself. Good thing, and good thing she’d skirt and nothing else, because her blood was up and beating a wild dance just beneath her skin, drowning out the noises she was making as Will pushed in. And then it was hard, glorious, fast fucking that puddled heat in her belly and pushed it out her throat so she hit her head a few times on the floor—
* * *
*Sounds like y’had fun, least.* The warm, rich low voice pouring over the phone briefly switched from soothing to sly. *Ma fille, y’blushin’?*
Anamaria slouched lower in her car and kept her hand over her face, where it’d hide the burn. Of the hot sunlight, and damn well not her cheeks.
Oh, hell. “Maman. Blush or no blush, it still—I did—Mon Dieu, I’m never touchin’ drink again.”
*Now, Anamaria…* Fabric rustled and things banged in the background; Maman was taking down all the lace curtains for a good dusting, spot-cleaning and airing.
When she’d been younger, Anamaria had always hated that chore. The curtains were pretty, but they were damned heavy and scratchy as well, and there were always dead moths stuck in a couple that were just waiting to be pulled out and tangled into her hair by her brothers. And it’d always taken up a good long afternoon when she could’ve been biking or climbing trees or, later, walking down in the French Quarter to stare at the long-legged women while her stomach fluttered.
Come to think of it, it wasn’t too steady now. She pressed her thumb and index finger harder against her forehead and tried not to succumb to the headache. “I know, I know. Ain’t bein’ serious about that. But…I fucked him. Merde. Me an’…”
*Anamaria.* Somehow Maman made that single word encompass several worlds of love, patience, and firmness.
“Oui, I asked him to, and oui, I wanted it. But I like women! I tried this round ‘fore an’ it didn’ do much ‘cept bleed me a bit.” She started to bite her finger, then made herself stop. Shouldn’t be all that much, and it damn well shouldn’t be worth ruining a fifty-dollar manicure over.
Damn it, Will Turner would have to be a pretty man. He and his girl had just about everyone’s flavor covered, in between the two of them. Though Anamaria had thought that by now, the partitions and preferences had gotten pretty damn settled, and weren’t going to shift on her like quicksand. It was one thing looking at his ass, and another to have had it, in a manner of speaking. Maybe not like Jack did, but Will had been moaning and crying out—
--she cut off that train of thought before it could wreck her further off-track. All right, it’d been good. And they’d been drunk, but she distinctly remembered saying yes and even getting upset at Will for being a slow bastard. So the problem was: it’d been good. It’d been good and she hadn’t had that happen with a man before, and she’d been perfectly happy not knowing it.
The cell buzzed her ear. *Sorry, chaton. Dropped a screw,* Maman apologized. *Anyways, y’wanna do it again?*
Anamaria pinched her nose and briefly wished she’d called someone else, because as close as she and Maman were, there were some conversations nobody ever wanted to have with their parents. But hell, it wasn’t as if there was a better person to talk to. Stupid paradox. “Non…well, I…see, when there’s Liz sometimes things slip, an’ I guess I wouldn’t mind now if that happened…”
*But y’ain’ goin’ t’go look for it.* Sounded like Maman had something all figured out. It wouldn’t surprise Anamaria too much; her mother ran the family and the neighborhood and a damn good-sized section of the city, and she’d been around. *That’s all right, though damned if y’two wouldn’ make pretty bébés—all right, all right, I promised not t’mention that. So why’d you call, then?*
“It…surprised me,” Anamaria muttered, trying not to pull up her knees to her ears. It’d been a habit all through her childhood, and she’d always gotten a rap across the knees for it. Not that she blamed Maman, because it really did look stupid for a grown woman in a tiny skirt to be doing that. “I…Maman, last couple of years I’ve been wakin’ up next to a beautiful blonde fille. Just…was off doin’ it next to Will.”
And that was the lousy, bad, stupid but whole explanation. It’d been good, yeah, but it hadn’t been comfortable. Which Jack, that rum-soaked bastard, hadn’t helped with all that much. She owed him a slap.
Hundreds of miles away, her mother smacked her a kiss, and Anamaria felt its soft wetness land lightly on her cheek, a steady warmth in her skin. *Chaton, we all do things once that we’d do again, but that we wouldn’t do twice. Just ‘member that. An’ be fair wi’ any blame.*
“Oui, Maman,” Anamaria grinned. Her stomach felt better already.
* * *
“God, that was great,” Will gasped, nuzzling tiredly at Anamaria’s neck.
She didn’t turn and bite his ear. Something was…weird about that…because right, Elizabeth did that. And he wasn’t sleeping with Elizabeth.
The pain in Will’s head came back and he stopped kissing to shake his head, trying to get rid of it. But it didn’t go, so he ended up rolling over and staring at the ceiling, trying to will the world to quit spinning till he figured out everything. “Anamaria? You…are you…did you?”
“Was good.” Her hand flopped over his stomach, crawled down it to strip the condom off of him.
Will suddenly remembered—then didn’t. But he remembered something else in its place that made him momentarily terrified. “Oh, shit. You’re—you’re on the pill, right?”
Anamaria made growling noises, as if to say thinking took too much effort right now. She squirmed over him and tossed the used condom into the trash, then slid off to curl up a few inches from him. “Oui, ‘cause m’bleedin’ is a bitch wi’out it.” Smack. “Y’re th’only one round when we’re havin’ our monthlies; y’should remember why me an’ Liz are synced. An’ ‘sides, it didn’ break.”
“Oh. Okay.” Thinking did hurt. And Will hadn’t the faintest idea why he still kept trying to do it, and why he was starting to think he might’ve made a mistake. A really good, really satisfying one, but still. Maybe he should’ve called someone first. It usually was a good idea to call first and…but who was he going to call?
Hell, he’d figure it out in the morning. By then Jack would be back in town, and he always knew an answer. More often than not, it was the right one, too.
* * *
Alexander looked faintly incredulous. “So of course there is an incredibly awkward morning-after, but they still have to drive to work together. Jack needs a single look to assess the situation, and his response is, ‘An’ y’left me out?’”
His imitation of Jack’s accent was devastating, Elizabeth absently noted. The majority of her was slightly more concerned with the fact that Will wasn’t answering his phone. “Yes, well, sometimes his sense of humor gets the better of his instincts. He thought they were putting on an elaborate sham to cover up oversleeping. Of course, they weren’t—and anyway, will you?”
“I know, I know, and I wouldn’t ask you if I had a choice. If Theodore were in, I’d ask him because he’s Will’s pool-buddy, or if James weren’t down in Puerto Rico, or if Horatio didn’t run every time he sees me…” She spared a moment to be annoyed at Hornblower for that. Honestly, it wasn’t as if she’d ever done anything bad to him. In fact, what she did usually ended in him getting a right fucking, so he should’ve been jumping at the chance to return the favor. “But they’re all unavailable, and you’re the only vaguely male friend I’ve got left that Will might talk to. I’d do it myself, but someone needs to find Anamaria.”
He still seemed reluctant, though he was softening a bit. Edrington wasn’t usually one for interfering with private affairs not involving himself as an integral part of them, but he was basically a good person. And…well, it might still work.
Elizabeth clasped his hand in her own and produced the biggest, most trembling and pleading eyes that she could possibly do. “Please.”
Also, he was a gentleman, and she wasn’t above playing damsel in distress when she needed to. He’d better remember Will had plenty of surveillance footage and so it was in his best interests as well as her own to keep Will happy.
The skin between Alexander’s eyebrows wrinkled adorably as he grimaced, sighed, and shuffled inside his desk for his car keys. “Where is he?”
There wasn’t really time for it, but Elizabeth took a moment anyway to clap her hands and make a deliriously happy, thankful sound. And she meant it, too. “The Tortuga. Scarlet sneaked a call to me about fifteen minutes ago; she’s been stalling him for the past hour so you’d better hurry.”
“You do realize how very inappropriate it is to send an ex to talk down the current boyfriend,” he muttered, hefting a holstered gun. A judgment snapped through his eyes and he discarded it to shrug on a different shoulder holster, which carried a lighter and smaller gun. Scarlet’s bar was generally a safe spot, but it was on the fringes of high-activity areas, so that made sense.
As long as he didn’t shoot Will—no, Alexander would consider that an extremely uncouth way of bringing someone in. “Do we count as exes? It was only a weekend.”
Alexander flicked a sharp look and a raised brow Elizabeth’s way as he tugged the buckles tight. “Elizabeth Swann. Are you or are you not asking for my help?”
“Oh, sorry. All right, now don’t—” she stopped herself and pushed knuckles against her lips. No, micro-managing probably wouldn’t work here; that was the whole point of getting Alexander to do it. And it was not abandoning Will, because they’d been through something a bit similar back when Will had first taken up with Jack, and Elizabeth with Anamaria and James. Will was a little freaked, but a good calm sense of reason would get him to relax.
Anamaria, on the other hand, was a bit of a question mark at this point. Elizabeth could count on one hand the number of times she’d seen Anamaria just…lose her head. She’d seen the woman get shot and still manage to stay in control of herself. So at this point, rationally speaking, Anamaria was the more critical issue. It was triage. Damage management. Not breaking all the eggs in one basket—that was not how the saying went.
“Elizabeth. Elizabeth.” Sharply snapping fingers right in front of her nose brought her back to the present with a start. Alexander looked like he wanted to be pained again, but was restraining himself out of deference to…whatever. “Elizabeth. Go talk to Anamaria. I’ll talk to Will. And when this is all over, we’ll talk about certain video clips involving a crumpet, Horatio’s arse, and a motorcycle.”
“Right, right. Of course you’re right.” Embarrassed to be caught panicking, Elizabeth hurriedly turned towards the door.
Then she stopped as certain words rang fuzzy, dosed-up, snuffly memories. “Crumpet…” she slowly repeated, turning around.
Alexander somehow managed to make shrugging on his coat-jacket express infinite degrees of patience, forbearing, and disgusting smugness. “I think Horatio’s getting ahead of Will in the bugging wars.”
Elizabeth flamed red as Texas chili and got herself out of there before she lost any more ground to Edrington. God help her, but after this manner was settled she and Will were going to sit down and figure out a way to put the MI6 boys properly in their place. Especially since she was going to have to surrender some prime popcorn-snuggling film.
“The things I do for love,” she snorted, tripping down the stairs.
* * *
God in heaven, but her head hurt like a barrel of nails had been rattled in through her eyes. Anamaria rubbed off the crusts on her eyelids, risked a squint at the world and promptly reburied her head in the carpet.
“What the hell did—oh. Oh. Oh.”
Will. Oh, right—poor Turner had had to drink more than usual, and apparently he was a teetotaler for more reasons than sheer delight in being able to take advantage of drunk people.
That sounded vaguely familiar as well.
“Goddamn it, I hate drinking. I want all hangovers to die.” Shuffling and stifled moaning sounds. “Also, I want a bottle of aspirin.”
“Y’can’t have it. I’m gettin’ it,” Anamaria hissed, forcing herself to sit up and reaccustom her body to the laws of physics. Which wanted very much to whack her head against the floor and make her legs sprawl like they were rubber-boned, but she was damned if she was going to let them.
Legs. Were bare…yeah, all the way up. And she was pretty damn sore—
--Anamaria made her own, “Oh,” sound.
“Anamaria?” A flop-haired, bleary-eyed Will slowly moved into her frame of vision, looking concerned. His eyes widened when he saw her nakedness, and then he noticed his lack of anything aside from his shirt, which was flapping over his cock. He promptly blushed and started to drag his shirt-tails down to cover himself, but then he noticed something else.
It was almost funny, in a very dry, weird, ironic way, watching him slowly reach up to touch the raw bite marks on his neck. Funny like Jack would find it, and damned if Anamaria couldn’t hear his slurring amused voice in her head right now.
*…an’ if y’see either of them, be sure t’remind them it’s called a working week for a reason. Much obliged, Jaime.*
No, that was Jack’s voice on Norrington’s answering message. The one in her voice was making snide comments on the efficacy of alcohol in producing certain results that should be enjoyed under any circumstances, and never mind the morning-after. Because if he were running the show, the morning after would always be spent in a new bed, as yet unaware of—
--Anamaria shut off that damned voice and grabbed for her clothes, mumbling imprecations under her breath. Bad enough she got him working; she didn’t need his nonsense during her pleasure time, too.
“Um…ah…” Will had dressed the fastest she’d ever seen him do and was trying to hand Anamaria her top without looking, which meant he was about shoving it up her nose. She snatched it away before he did her an injury and he flinched. “Fuck.”
Anamaria seconded that, because frankly, the last thing she wanted to do was tear into him, even though she knew it’d make her feel better for a few minutes. And a few minutes better sounded pretty damn good, given that right now she felt like she’d been run through a couple highways in nothing but rollerskates during rush hour, but she’d just feel gut-wrenching bad about it later. He didn’t deserve it this time. Not in the least.
Thing was, she didn’t know who did, or even what was deserved.
“So. Breakfast?” Uncomfortable cough, and Will still wouldn’t look her in the eye. In fact, when she started to stand, he bounced up and went about like a deranged squirrel till he’d found a bottle of aspirin and some water.
That wouldn’t have been too unusual, except from where she was standing, trying to make her hair into something passable, Anamaria had been able to see the aspirin. And that she didn’t feel in the least like calling Will on his frantic behavior.
They stole a couple bagels and some lox from James’ fridge, which kept their mouths busy and thus lowered the discomfort level long enough to get them out the door and past the fact that there was one car and two of them. Anamaria told herself not to groan, shoved the last bite in her mouth, and claimed the steering wheel.
Will occupied himself with digging around till he found a bottle of Elizabeth’s hangover cure, which they passed back and forth between them. It helped. A little. And his finding a spare pair of high heels in the backseat helped more, since that meant Anamaria wasn’t driving with one foot snug on the accelerator and the other jacked up above the brake.
What didn’t was Jack looking up to see them, his mouth halfway into a joke-scold about their timing, and then beaming like a crackhead streak of sun. “Not a bad excuse, but if y’were really goin’ t’use it, y’should’ve invited me.”
The next moment, he was on the floor and Will was out the door. Anamaria had a blurry flashback of a bewildered, furious, guilty expression on Will’s face.
Jack didn’t so much roll to his feet as scoot away from Anamaria till he was standing. He shot a disbelieving, uncomprehending glance at the door slamming behind Will, then looked at Anamaria. And then he really got it. “Christ and His glory. Did hell freeze over?”
“Jack, you—you—oh, you’re too much of a damn fool to even be worth slappin’.” Anamaria whirled on her borrowed heels and stomped out. Maybe when she stopped, the world would decide to make sense again.
* * *
“Oh, no, not before lunch. I find it tends to make the whole day a bit sluggish.” A familiar Brit-accented voice politely refused Scarlet’s traditional offer of a slow, comfortable screw and sat itself down besides Will. Edrington did take a glass of orange juice before turning to confront Will’s complete surprise. “She practices that look, doesn’t she?”
“What?” What on earth was he doing here? They worked well together when they were assigned to, but otherwise they didn’t share enough interests or background for—wait. Elizabeth. Look. “She pulled that one on you? The big shimmering eyes?”
Alexander sipped cautiously at the juice, found it acceptable and drank a healthy amount before answering. “It’s terrifyingly effective. Though not enough for me do this for free. And I do hope you had the decency to at least make me a purebred British Shorthair.”
Somewhere in the background, Scarlet loosed a not-quite-understanding titter as her skirts rustled out of the room. Whereas Will, who completely understood, choked hard enough to get a thump between the shoulderblades.
“Dear God, Turner, don’t die on me. One, it’s rude, and two, your girlfriend would never forgive me.” More orange juice disappeared, while the faint look of satisfaction on Alexander’s face grew. “She’s let me know the skeleton of the story, which I suspect is more on the scale of an artist’s reconstruction, given that she would have had to get it from Jack, and—”
“I get the point. You’re here under duress. And apparently everyone knows…oh, fuck.” Will put his head back on the counter and tried to disappear.
Alexander, however, failed to be impressed or sympathetic. “Somehow I have the feeling you’ve been sitting here for a long time, saying nothing but that.”
“As a matter of fact, no.” Only for the last ten minutes, but Will wasn’t going to admit that to the snotty bastard. He resisted the urge to kick Alexander’s stool and make it spin. “If you knew Anamaria, you’d be—”
“—hiding in a bar, derelict from duty? You have no idea how fortunate you are with Jack as a superior, you know. Depending on the circumstances, I think they still shoot people for doing exactly what you are.” Will’s glare was met with a cool look. Then Alexander finished the last of the orange juice and leaned over the bar to set it in the sink. “No, not everyone knows, William—Turner—damn, this is confusing.”
That elicited a bit of a laugh from Will, both at Alexander and at himself, because he was acting like an idiot. Unfortunately, he wasn’t yet sure whether acting like an idiot was to be preferred to being actually dead.
“Just use Will. I think Bush would be happy if we kept him out of this,” he said, straightening up. As he did, he caught a whiff of himself and wrinkled his nose; it wasn’t strong, but it was very, very stale. No wonder Jack had been able to tell straight off. Well, that plus the bite marks, and Will tugged uncomfortably at his collar and tried to peer at himself in the mirror behind the bar.
Wait. Jack had said what he had, but he hadn’t sounded…shocked, which he should’ve been. Even he wasn’t so blasé or in possession of such composure that he wouldn’t be. So…he’d been joking. “Oh, damn. I also punched Jack, and that was a hanging offense, too.”
“I doubt that’ll be happening any time soon. They all seem determinedly fond of you,” was Alexander’s surprisingly snark-free reply. But then he sat back, having retrieved a bowl of Scarlet’s special chocolate-covered pecans, and returned to being irritatingly sure of himself. “Why are you hiding, by the way?”
Munching. From this angle, Alexander looked a little like a chipmunk, albeit a good-looking and over-confident one. “And why would she?”
“Because—because—” Will spread his hands out like Jack did and moved them around, trying to orchestrate his words into sense. “I’m a man.”
“Exactly. You are. And she’s a woman, and you both should qualify as consenting adults by now.” Alexander must have thought Will was still burying his head in his arms, because the man took a surreptitious lick at the chocolate that had melted on his fingers. “So what part of this situation is keeping you two from addressing it like consenting adults would? And don’t invoke Anamaria’s temper at me, Will. I know women with better tempers but worse judgment in deploying them, and I accordingly respect them less than I do her.”
He had a point. If Will was honest with himself, he’d come up with the same answer about a half-hour ago, but stasis could be awfully tempting sometimes. After all, the nasty thing about good points was that they were, in fact, pointy and sharp and prone to jab deep.
Another few pecans flipped into Alexander’s mouth, and then he set the nuts back behind the counter and delicately wiped off his fingers on the rag Scarlet had left. His expression was rather bored, and so was his tone, but the look he gave Will was quite sympathetic. “That’s the duty of being a man and a professional, Will. We aren’t permitted to duck.”
“Note to self—when in a food fight, stand behind Edrington,” Will muttered, unhooking his carkeys from his hip-chain.
“You’re assuming I would let myself be found in the middle of a food fight in the first place.” Alexander got off and, jacket slung over shoulder, walked Will out of the bar. He peeled off and headed for his car, then stopped. “Oh. And—”
Will rolled his eyes. “You want the files on DVD or tape?”
“Actually, I can do without those. I’d rather…you rein in Elizabeth concerning Horatio’s wardrobe.” The other man made a careless little shrug that did nothing to disguise his intent.
Which was serious, and surprising enough for Will to take a second look at Alexander. Maybe the rule about no discussing exes might be bent in this case, because obviously Will needed to start paying more attention to Edrington. “I thought you three—four—were getting along swimmingly.”
“We are, thank you. But it really isn’t quite fair to aim at the most gentlemanly. To him or to her abilities of persuasion.” Slight smirk. “Tell her she might find it more of a challenge to aim at someone less afraid to refuse her.”
“Sure…” And that was an interesting little twist, Will thought as he watched Edrington drive off. Though he couldn’t quite decide whether the other man had meant Archie, William, or—no, Alexander didn’t need Elizabeth’s help to look eye-catching. Still, that left a difficult choice…
…Will’d put it to the office pool. Once he’d taken his shot to the gut.
Sighing, he got behind the wheel and started the engine.
* * *
Anamaria walked into the lobby only to be engulfed in a whirl of blonde. “Oof! Fille!”
“Oh, thank God. I’ve been calling bars and checking spots all over town; I was beginning to think you’d hopped over to New Orléans and then how the hell was I going to talk to you?” Amazingly enough, Elizabeth still had enough breath left after pouncing to get all those words out in one go. She hooked her arm through Anamaria’s and more or less locked herself to Anamaria’s side, making it clear as vodka she wasn’t letting go. “Don’t kill Will.”
For about the third time, Anamaria repressed the urge to roll somebody’s damn eyes. God in heaven, she didn’t threaten to kill people that often. Did she? “Wasn’t plannin’ on it.”
“Oh, good.” The next few steps indoors saw Elizabeth go slack in relief and turn into a pretty, curvy lead weight. Then she frowned and perked to attention, staring curiously at Anamaria. “You’re not?”
This time, Anamaria gave in and glared. “No, I’m not. Wasn’t like I can blame him for askin’ an’ then likin’ it, can I?”
Apparently, something in Elizabeth’s devious, endlessly inventive mind had temporarily shorted. There was nothing behind her big brown eyes except a blank question mark, and she blinked just like a robot. “You liked it?”
Well, they weren’t even going to get to the elevator like they were. So Anamaria went back outside and sat Elizabeth down on the steps—because all of the chairs were bugged, and she recalled Will saying anything said outside was least audible to the many taps in the lobby. Also that that spot on the steps was least visible to the cameras. Their jobs made life damn inconvenient from time to time.
“Amant, we were drunk, an’ he’s nice-lookin’, an’ I’d been wonderin’ for a while, though I didn’t really realize that till this morning.” Anamaria cupped Elizabeth’s face in her hands and tilted it, trying to see something back there. Looking into emptyheadedness wasn’t only depressing, but it was downright frightening as well. “Not t’mention, he tasted a bit like you, an’ I’ve not gotten t’see you since before th’cold took y’down.”
That brought something back into Elizabeth’s eyes, but near-frantic guilt wasn’t exactly what Anamaria had been hoping for. “Shit, so you two—because I, well, kicked everyone out except Will? I’m so—”
“Elizabeth!” Anamaria barked. Then she sighed and stroked her fingers into Elizabeth’s hair, pulling the other woman forward to peck each worried furrow that had appeared on Elizabeth’s forehead. “No. Probably would’ve happened sooner or later, but you bein’ sick an’ Jack—damn fool—schedulin’ so many drink an’ court meets on th’same night just made an openin’. It ain’t y’r fault, least of anybody. Comprend?”
Elizabeth nodded, but Anamaria didn’t let go till she felt sincerity in that nodding. Then she leaned back and put an arm over Elizabeth’s shoulder so they were leaning together. A familiar car was cruising up the way, and would be round in about a minute or so.
“So…are you bi now?” Elizabeth asked, nuzzling tentatively at Anamaria’s ear. “Because that’s okay, too. I mean, I am—”
Girls. No better than the other sex sometimes; when it came to insecurity, everyone was on a level playing field. And that meant Anamaria too, much as she hated admitting it when that knowledge decided to shove itself in her face. “No, I’m still for girls only. I liked it, Lizzie—that ain’t th’same as lovin’ it.”
“Oh…” The concept needed a bit of processing, but Elizabeth worked out the details quick enough. Her body went a little more relaxed against Anamaria’s. “Oh. All right. But…well, why Will? Unless you’ve done Jack and Jaime and haven’t been telling me…”
And Elizabeth recovered quick enough, too. Anamaria grinned a bit and, because it was so comfortable-familiar coming on the tails of a hell of a lot of confusion, let the sly elbow in her ribs pass without retaliation. “Ah, Norrington’s a lovely man, but too tall. An’ stiff—take too damn long t’get him t’relax, an’ by then I’d forget what th’hell I was thinkin’. An’ Jack? Merde, can y’imagine what that’d do t’his ego? Be hell workin’ wi’ him ever afterward.”
The car pulled up in a spot two spaces down from the steps and Will cautiously eased out. He smiled wide as the sun when he saw Elizabeth, but that pretty show of teeth dimmed a bit when he saw Anamaria. One hand went directly into his pocket, while the other stayed out to nervously fiddle with his hip-chains as he walked up.
“Hey, Liz. Anamaria.” And there Will stopped, biting his lip. He didn’t really take his teeth out of that poor bit of himself, so the rest of his words ended up being chewed out. “So that was fun, and don’t take this the wrong way, but I don’t think I want to do it again. But it was really, really good. And hi. I didn’t hurt Jack too much, did I?”
“He had that one comin’,” Anamaria snorted. “If y’hadn’t, I would’ve.”
Will was shifting his weight around like he needed a bathroom and the nearest one was fifty miles away. He was staring hard at Anamaria’s face, though she was doing her damnedest not to hide the expression she wanted to give. “Are we…okay?”
“I’m not goin’ t’kill you.” It was hard to tell whether the bit of headache coming up was an aftershock of the hangover, or whether it was an entirely new one. “Sit down, Turner.”
“Good. We are.” He blew out a breath and grinned like a silly little puppy, which made Elizabeth giggle and Anamaria’s gut twinge.
She nearly smacked it down, but then she thought the better of it and just let the feeling dwindle off on its own. Wasn’t like a little twinge was going to change who she was, and the fact that it was Elizabeth making her feel like glowing, and not Will. It’d all been just…an addition, more like, and not a renovation or anything like that. A new flowerpot on the windowsill.
Did that one come from Maman or Jack?
Probably Maman. Jack’s metaphors were more askew, and this one made sense straight off.
* * *
“That was still a bastard thing to say,” Will sniffed, pushing at the man trying to worm over his shoulder. “And—Jack, damn it, stop licking—I need to—this has to be—you said—”
“I’m sorry?” Soft lapping at the spot behind Will’s ear. “Very sorry?” Dexterous fingers massaging down his arm. “Very, very sorry?”
To hell with the program. Will saved, clicked off and spun the chair around. “You can’t apologize to Anamaria like this.”
“No, but there’s more’n one way to skirt a storm,” Jack murmured, nibbling down Will’s neck. “Anyway, y’handle much better’n her.”
Handle? Now that was carrying the metaphor too far.
Will knocked Jack to the floor, and then he showed the man what handling was. Or what it should be, anyway.