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22 June 2010 @ 04:15 pm
Fic: Determined Spirits, part four  
Determined Spirits
A V-Castle Crossover

This is a bit longer than the previous parts and not the greatest spot for a chapter break, but this'll mean there's only two more.

Part One
Part Two
Part Three

And for those who aren't V or White Collar watchers but have seen SG-1, Doctor Pearlman is played by Lexa Doig and Mozzie is Willie Garson, if it helps. There's also another suprise!crossover in this one! :D

Tom didn't have to get close to the Monet to see he was right. The reds in the sunset and black of the shadows in the painting had been altered from the painting he'd seen before.

"So?" Kate prompted.

"It's different," he answered.

"Detectives?" Sills hurried up to them. "Have you found the missing paintings?"

Tom turned to him. "Actually, Mister Sills, I think there's at least one more painting missing. This one was replaced by a forgery."

Sills was startled. "What? No, that can't be." He peered at the Monet. "It looks ... correct. The brush-strokes... the signature... It's in the right frame. I'm not a Monet expert, but it seems right. Are you sure?"

"Let's take a closer look, shall we?" Tom put his hands on the frame and carefully lifted it from its pegs. Then he turned it over to see the back.

He didn't have to look at it himself, he only had to watch Sills' face drop. "That... That's not right. There should be a lot number from when it was auctioned in 1912." He looked up at Tom. "How did you know?"

Tom shrugged. "Just a guess. Interesting they didn't try to fake the back, though. You need to check the authenticity of the rest of the works."

"And get us the information on their provenance as well," Kate suggested coolly. "Let's go discuss how the museum acquired that Vermeer, while you get me all the documents regarding that dispute." She led Sills away.

Tom set the painting on the floor, still treating it carefully although it was a fake.

"How did you know?" Castle asked, joining Tom in looking down at it. "Sills couldn't tell. But you knew from looking at it?"

Tom shrugged. "Something seemed off. It might take an expert to tell us what, but it felt wrong to me. I've visited this gallery on my own many times, and I have a good eye for details like that."

Castle wasn't put off by the casual answer and frowned. "Or did someone tip you off?"

"If I'd had a tip, I'd have said so." That was actually his preferred method of handling facts he shouldn't have, but Kate had already known it was something he'd seen himself. "I need to look at surveillance video. Whoever painted this must have looked at it very carefully to make it match so well. I bet he's been in this room a lot."

Castle was still on the hunt for something else. "Esposito says you're famous at your old precinct for breaking a case on some suspect's smell."

Tom stayed calm, and managed a short laugh. "Yeah, I remember that. Everyone looked at me as if I'd gone crazy. But I was right."

Castle looked at him - not with the previous sense of challenge he'd had, but more as if Tom was a puzzle he wanted to solve. "Something about you seems 'off' to me, Demming."

Self-protective instinct roiled in his stomach: the urge to run away from being found out warring with his instinct to strike out and end the threat. In the end he forced a little smile. "Don't cast me as the villain, Castle, because you regret telling me the field was clear. Grasp at straws all you want, there's nothing there."

Tom started walking away toward the security office, and Castle called after him, "See? And now I know there is something."

Tom grimaced. That had been unwise throwing the challenge down in front of Castle like that. Castle was stubborn enough to go after it and clever enough to find the holes in Tom Demming's identity if he looked closely.

But it was some consolation that even if he figured out 'Demming' was a false identity, he'd never figure out the truth.

* * *

"Mozzie," Tom said, standing right behind him at the news-stand.

Mozzie whipped around, nearly dropping the chocolate bar in his hand. "Demming!"

Tom smirked a little. Mozzie's air of omniscience was annoying, so it was fun to fuck with him once in a while. Tom knew Neal had never told Mozzie the truth, but the rat was very smart and he had to know there was a very large secret hanging in the background. But he helped anyway.

"Walk with me." They ambled along the street and paused in front of shiny boutique window so they both could see behind them. "Neal says you made me a second package."

Mozzie was smooth and calm again, as if he'd expected to see Tom all along. "I did," he nodded, glasses flashing in the sunlight. "Neal said your other exit might be compromised."

"It's not, to my knowledge. But I don't mind options. Thank you. I have a question about my case. The Monet in the AFMA was replaced by a forgery." Mozzie didn't look surprised, but then, he rarely did. "Who'd have the skill?"

"I do," Mozzie told him, challenging. "Isn't that what you're asking?"

Tom smiled. "You, my friend, are many things but you're no master painter. And if it had been you, you're smart enough to have already told me. But this copy is very, very good, at least to the eye. Good enough to fool the curators on the wall."

Mozzie frowned at him. "But not you? You're no art expert."

"I could hardly spend all this time around you and Neal and not learn something, right?" Tom returned.

Mozzie's glance suggested he didn't miss Tom's deflection, but he didn't press. "I can think of a name. I'm not saying he did it, because I don't know, but if it's not him, he knows who did. Wallace Berger."

Tom knew the name vaguely. "You have an address?"

"No. But I heard he's in town. So's Sophie Devereaux."

Tom's reaction was all that Mozzie could've wanted with that bombshell. He regarded Mozzie in stunned surprise. "What? Sophie's here?"

"I saw her, a week ago." There was a smug curve to Mozzie's lips, avenging himself on how Tom had startled him earlier. "Do you need me to find her?"

"No. If she's around, I know where she'll be." Tom wanted to insist that Sophie couldn't be involved. But she was like Neal -- she enjoyed the freedom of doing whatever she wanted on Earth far too much. And this did sound like a scam she might be part of. Not to mention she hadn't told him she was around, which was in itself suspicious. "I hope she's not involved in this, but if she is, I'm going to be very disappointed."

"And then work hard to keep her out of jail, too?" Mozzie asked, slyly. "For a cop, you have interesting priorities, Demming."

Tom was not bothered by the back-handed threat, and smiled at him a little. "I do. And I'm prepared to overlook some things because I know the big picture. But paintings and money are not worth human lives. That's where I draw the line, and if she's forgotten that, then... I'll have to remind her."

Mozzie's gaze met his and he nodded slowly. "You're one of the most dangerous men I know, badge or no badge."

Tom didn't like to think of himself that way, since he hadn't done anything more dangerous than any other police detective in many years, but that didn't make it less true. "And you're one of the smartest." He nodded his head to Mozzie in goodbye and headed back to work.

* * *

Back at the station, while he looked up Wallace Berger in the system, he put the phone to his ear and called the Omni Hotel's head of security. After the usual bullshit to reconnect with Mathers, who was still nicely grateful for Tom putting away two clerks who'd been embezzling from the hotel, Tom got to the point, "I've had a tip that a person of interest might be staying there. She might be there under the name Sophie Devereaux. Or be in room 617 under a different name."

Mathers hesitated for a second and then remembered how grateful he was, said, "Hold on a sec, let me access registration."

"There's no Devereaux," he reported after a moment. "There's a woman in 617. Under the name Genevieve May."

Tom's pen snapped as his hand tightened to a fist. Why not put up a sign that she was part of the Fifth Column? "That's her. Ring her room, I need to leave a message."

It rang through and switched to voice mail. He left the message, keeping to both cover identities, though he wanted to yell at her for using that name. His anger made his tone very formal. "This is Detective Tom Demming, NYPD, calling for Genevieve May." His voice got a little caught in his throat at the name. It had been a long time since he'd spoken 'May' aloud. "I believe you may have information related to a current case I'm working. It's important that you call me back." He left his cell number and hung up, blowing out a breath. Hopefully she would call back, so he didn't have to go looking.

But then "Wallace Berger" spat out some addresses and after some cross-referencing, he thought he had the one. He went upstairs to find Kate and Castle in the case room.

"Hey, where've you been?" Castle asked.

"Meeting one of my CIs," he answered. "A fruitful meeting it turns out. Meet Wallace Berger," he handed the file to Kate, "whose legitimate business is painting portraits, and whose side business is making copies of famous paintings. I have an address, if you're interested?" he waved the paper at Kate who snatched it away.

"Give me that, Demming. Let's go."

"Is this a date, or can I join in the fun?" Castle asked.

Kate frowned at Castle. "This is not a date. And of course, you can join us, if you want."

"I've never seen a forger's place. Should be very interesting." Castle moved to the door with typical eagerness.

Shaking her head, Kate followed.

They took a car to Berger's place. The area was in mid-improvement -- run down warehouses and industrial spaces had turned into clubs and lofts. In the cluster of buildings at the end of the short, dead-end street, Tom looked around, wondering which building it was since none of them seemed to have numbers.

The three of them split up to look, and Castle was the one to find it: a three story building with tall windows on the top floor. The main door was open and led only to a staircase.

Everything was quiet, as if no one was around this time a day.

As he climbed up to the third floor, he caught the acrid whiff of toluene lingering in the stairwell. They were definitely in the right building.

His heart was beating a little more quickly at the promise of the confrontation to come. Was it possible to get addicted to the danger? He wondered about that sometimes, when there were guns drawn and there was a possibility he could get shot. Every day chanced exposure. Luckily they weren't looking for him actively anymore, but he hadn't changed his face. He lived in a big city and met lots of people. Any one of them... suspect, witness, attorney, juror, stranger on the subway... could be an agent who could recognize him and this life would either end in another flight or a hail of bullets.

But that little thrill was a genuine feeling, and it reminded him he was alive. He couldn't give it up. If it ended today, it would be worth it to have been free these past ten years.

He and Kate reached the top floor and the single, wide door, with Castle tagging along behind. He knocked loudly. "NYPD, Mister Berger. We need to ask you some questions."

He knocked again, louder, and the door clicked and opened slightly. He and Kate shared a glance, and she put a hand on her weapon. "Mister Berger, NYPD. Is everything okay?"

When she got no answer, they both drew and stood to either side of the opening. With his free hand, he pushed the door open. The small entry was empty, but he could see feet on the floor, sticking out from a doorway to a connecting room. The walls were regular height, ending halfway to the unfinished ceiling twenty feet above that stretched the entire length of the building.

"Stay here," Kate whispered to Castle. "NYPD, nobody move!" she called and started inside.

Tom followed, senses alert. His nostrils twitched: he smelled paint and various benzenes. But even those strong chemical scents couldn't mask the smell of blood. Lots of blood, but no decay, meant the death was very recent. He cleared the kitchen area to the left as Kate knelt at the body to check his pulse. She murmured, "Berger. He's dead. Still warm."

"There goes our lead," he said, keeping his attention on where the entryway opened out into the loft. "Let's check it." The room where Berger died was a small sleeping area with another wall and door, presumably for a bathroom. She nodded and rose to check the connecting room.

There was something else not quite right but he couldn't place it so close to the body. He moved forward to where the room opened out into the loft. Besides a few scruffy pieces of furniture and some metal shelves, there were canvases on frames and boards everywhere - some in progress on easels, some empty, stacked in piles on tables -- and other tables filled with painting supplies. The tall windows let in the light and four were opened to let in the breeze.

Movement out of the corner of his eye caught his attention and he turned to see Kate, coming out of the connecting door.

But her eyes were on something else and she raised her gun. "Stop!" she shouted.

Tom turned the other way to see a man emerge from behind one of the large canvasses. He had a gun, too, pointing right at Tom, and he fired.

The shot slammed into him and Tom jerked backward into the painting on the easel behind him. When he tried to use it to catch his balance, he knocked it over and tripped on the legs, stumbling before he found the back wall to steady himself.

Kate fired back, taking the shooter down. He fell with a very satisfying thump to the floor. "Tom?" she asked, not taking her eyes from the perp. She cautiously hurried forward to kick the gun away.

He couldn't answer right away. The bullet had hit him on the right side of his abdomen, and with his free hand he found he was bleeding. It had punched mostly through his human flesh, and both wounds burned like fire.

But he couldn't afford to have paramedics or doctors involved. Which meant he had to recover. He wiped his hand on his shirt, made sure his jacket was over the wounds, and was straightening by the time Kate turned around.

"Tom! Damn it. I'll call the paramedics--"

"I'm fine, Kate. Fine," he insisted, his voice a little too breathless. He cleared his throat and forced himself upright, away from the wall. It ached, but he'd felt worse. He was going to need to get something to stop the bleeding though. "I was surprised. It missed." He pulled his hand away and held it up to show his clean fingers.

She frowned in concern. "He had a clean line from eight feet away, and he missed?"

"Don't sound so disappointed," he chided, joking, and reholstered his gun, glad the holster was on the other side from the wound. He forced himself not to wince at the movement. "Shooter still alive?"

She glanced down. "Nope. Damn it."

"Well, thanks for taking him. He might have been a better shot." He tried to breathe normally, ignoring the burning in his middle. "I'll call CSU and some uniforms." He headed back to the hall, phone to his ear and nodded to Castle that he could go in.

He could hear the two of them talking, and while they were occupied, he grabbed a wad of tissues from the box in the hall and shoved them under his shirt and waistband of his pants. He tightened his jaw, hissing once at the pressure on his burned and torn flesh, then tucked his shirt back in tightly to try to hold them in place until he could tend to it.

Phone call done, he returned to the living area. Kate was kneeling by the guy she'd shot, searching his pockets, and Castle was hovering nearby, watching. He noticed Tom's return and greeted him with, "You've got quite the Joseph look there, by the way."

Tom frowned at him, missing the reference. He'd been on the planet long enough and read enough books that he caught most things, but Castle was being obtuse. "Joseph?"

"The coat of many colors," Kate explained. "The back of your jacket's covered."

Castle shook his head, grimacing in pity. "And it's oil paint, too, on grey wool. It's ruined."

Tom didn't bother to look, only made a face. "Damn it. I liked this one."

Castle wandered back to the painting now mostly on the back of Tom's jacket and the easel, then turned back to frown in Beckett's direction. "Missed you completely, huh?" Castle asked Tom.

"Passed so close I felt the heat of it."

"That's too close."

Not certain if Castle was being sarcastic, Tom returned, "You going to put that in a book?"

"Actually, I already did," he answered. "So you were here," he moved to stand where Tom had been, "and the guy was over there? And he couldn't hit the broad side of a barn? No offense," he added in a quick smirking aside to Tom. "That's amateur, isn't it? And yet, he came to clean up Berger's loose end."

Beckett stood up and shook her head. "Well, I can't say I'm all that sorry he's dead, when he was trying to kill Tom, but I am sorry we won't be getting him to talk. He's got no i.d. on him. We'll have to hope his prints are in the system and track him that way."

Uniforms arrived and when Beckett went to meet them, Tom saw Castle squatting over the fallen easel. "What are you doing?" he asked, but he knew. Castle was looking for the bullet.

"See, in my book it was an assassination attempt, and they figured out which window the shooter was from the trajectory of where the bullet landed," Castle explained. "Ah, there it is." He was careful not to touch it, pointing at the splintered hole, and then pulled his finger back to trace how the easel had fallen to get an idea of the trajectory.

Castle frowned from Tom, the shooter's body, and the wall and back to Tom again. "You sure you weren't hit?"

"I kinda think I would've noticed," Tom said dryly. "I'm fine."

Which wasn't true, but he had to stay there and endure anyway, as Ryan and Esposito arrived to help with the scene, the crime scene team, and then IA to question everyone about the shooting. As time passed, he was feeling rather miserable, and it was getting harder to pretend his middle didn't hurt like hell. Finally they were released to go back to the precinct and he seized his chance, "Hey, Beckett, I've got a basketball practice. Think you can take it from here for now?"

She smiled at him. "No problem. I'll see you later tonight?"

At which point he realized he'd screwed himself. Because of course she was going to notice if he was hurt when his shirt was off. But he wanted to see her anyway, so he smiled back. "Sure."

Instead of going to practice though, he went home. In the bathroom, he used the mirror to look. It was still bleeding slowly and burned, which meant there was probably a bullet fragment in there. So he took a pair of tweezers, and poked inside. Though he could feel something hard in there, he couldn't get it out. "Damn it." The kitchen sink was stained with red blood and pale green abdominal fluid, and the wound was making him nauseous, which was not a pleasant new sensation at all.

He needed help, which was another risk. He hadn't dared to reveal himself to more than a few of his own kind, and he couldn't let the humans know what he was.

Abruptly he felt very alone.

He pulled the vodka out of the wet bar and drank half the bottle, wishing it worked nearly as well for him as it did for humans. Then he called Neal.


"Tom Demming, Neal. This is personal."

Neal paused and then said enthusiastically, "Shari! Thanks for calling me back."

Tom caught on right away. "You're at Peter's place?"

"Oh yes. I'm very busy, but never too busy to talk to you," he purred, murmured something Tom couldn't catch, and shortly said in a very different low voice, "What's the matter?"

"I got shot."

"Shit. How bad?"

"Not too bad. But I need help."

"No, I can't get away. Go to Pearlman."

Tom flipped through his memory, coming up with the name. He didn't know her, which was a problem. "You sure she's one of us?"

"Never met her, but she's a good candidate. Ryan knows her. If she's wavering, a little of you will convince her."

A candidate recommended by the person who'd captured John May in the first place was not ideal, though Neal believed Ryan was committed now. Tom hadn't dared to test that loyalty in person yet. A loyalty experiment with a stranger when he was bleeding all over the place was probably not wise either.

But he couldn't be terrified of everyone and never take a risk either. Not when his middle hurt like he'd swallowed a hot coal.

"I hope so." Then he added irritably, since he had Neal on the line and he could indulge in his old authority, "And for fuck's sake, Neal, you know if you blow it with Peter and get sent back to jail, agents will have you taken from prison and killed for being so reckless. I can't get involved again."

"I know. I won't," Neal said, sounding more subdued.

"Good. And thank you."

He hung up, then, leaving his badge and any other connection to Tom Demming on his kitchen counter, he put on his leather jacket and went out to find someone who he hoped was a Fifth Column doctor.

* * *

Tom pushed the buzzer of the townhouse and the female voice answered, "Hello?"

Leaning against the wall, he said, "Doctor Pearlman? I'm sorry to bother you, but I need your help. I'm from very far away and I don't know where else to go."

She hesitated very briefly and then answered, "Of course. Be right there."

It took a moment when he heard footsteps behind the door and then it unlocked and opened. He held himself tense as the door opened. He didn't know her; but that didn't mean she couldn't identify him, though he hadn't been on the radar in years. But he also knew she had been assigned to examine human procreation, including human delivery. His hope was that exposure to newborns and human grief and joy had helped her become friendly to his cause.

But luckily it didn't seem to matter, as her dark eyes looked up at him without recognition.

"'Very far away'?" she repeated dryly, lifting her eyebrows and looking amused. "Come in."

As soon as the door shut behind him, she asked, "What do you need?"

"I was shot. I think there's still a fragment in there, and I can't stitch up my back myself."

She wasn't surprised to hear that he was walking around after being shot. "Oh, that is a problem. My office is right here and I'll take a look."

Her office turned out to be what was probably the dining room in the old days and when the lights came on, he saw a bulletin board covered with photos of babies. The photos were a good indication that he was right.

She saw his attention and attempted to cover. "My patients send them to me," she explained brusquely. "Take off your jacket and shirt and let me see."

He stripped off his shirt with a wince and stretched out on the exam table.

She gathered her supplies and washed her hands in a sink in the corner. When she turned back, she paused. "You're large for a worker," she murmured in surprise. Her eyes flickered with thought. "But you can't be a soldier, or you wouldn't be in pain at all. Which means..."

He could practically see the progression in her mind: he had to be a defender, there were only a few of them, and there was only one likely to be on the surface getting shot at.

Then her gaze fastened to his face, eyes widening. "Is it true?" she whispered. "Is it really you?"

He answered, holding her eyes, "I hope I haven't made a mistake."

"No, you haven't." She shook her head and came up to the side of the exam table.

He was still wary and tensed to strike, knowing he'd have to kill her if she attacked him.

"You doubt me? All right." She said in bold declaration, "I am Leah Pearlman, Fifth Column member, and I am helping John May." They both knew that those words signed her own death warrant, no matter how loyal or useful she had been before that. Then she smiled and her small hand touched his arm lightly. "Relax. Let me do my job."

"All right." He lay there and let her dig the metal out. It felt better immediately when she dropped it in the little tray, and after she stitched and bandaged it, he felt almost back to normal.

She smoothed the bandage one last time. "There. All done."

He sat up. "Thank you."

She eyed him with some disapproval. "You need to keep safer," she chided. "Getting shot at by humans is careless."

He shrugged. "I've been 'dead' for ten years. The movement continued without me."

"And if your corpse gets autopsied by humans?" she challenged. "You know what Anna will do to this planet."

She had a point. As he reached for his shirt, he realized that this was proof Anna was wrong to try to keep them rigidly adhering to the old ways. As late as the voyage here, he would've killed a worker for reprimanding him, if she had dared to try. But now they had become more equal, and he had to accept Leah was right.

Leah added, glancing at the photos on the wall. "I do my job, because we need it, and I know that. But ... when I see the babies and the parents' joy, I know it's wrong. They don't deserve our cruelty and lies. And when the humans find out, they're going to hate us. If we had come openly, maybe they would've helped us willingly. But now it can only end in death, and that hurts to think about," she murmured.

The guilt stabbed him, and he shut his eyes briefly. If only he could go back and do it all over again, with what he understood now... But it was madness to think those thoughts. Infiltration still had to be better than open conquest. "We need to make sure that doesn't happen."

She turned to face him, nodding. "I read the blog, John. I think more of us read it than you know." She advised, "Take your phosphorus supplements to promote healing. Eat something fresh -- alive if you can, though I know that's not always practical here."

He grinned and shrugged into his jacket. "I like human food, but that's one human morality I can't follow. Not when there are mice around." She snickered. He went on, more seriously, "Have you heard anything about when the Arrival is due?"

She shook her head. "Not specifically. Within the year, I'd guess, though."

"That soon? Are the experiments going so well then?"

"Better than expected. We've had one IVF hybrid take, and a few others miscarry. The compatibility is all we thought it would be."

He blew out a breath. "I know that's good news for us collectively, but damn it, I thought I had more time. I need you to keep my presence secret. I went through a lot of effort to make sure Anna believes I'm dead, and I need to keep it that way as long as possible."

"I understand. But I'm glad it's not true. If you need my help again, I'm here."

He thanked her and left, consumed with thoughts that the Arrival was coming. He'd known it would be "soon" but suddenly "soon" had become "now", and it wasn't going to be too long until Tom Demming was going to have to die to bring John May back to life.

* * *

Before leaving for the day to meet Tom, Kate looked at her computer and then, eaten up by curiosity, entered a phrase into the internet search box that she remembered from peeking at his writing. It came up immediately with the username johnmaylives at blogger.

She opened the link. The blog was barebones, white on black text, and the same entry he'd written was on top. She scrolled around, frowning curiously. The blog was called John May Lives, and the entries were all similar in topic -- about daily life, but always with an emphasis on the value of life and open to feeling emotions, exactly what Tom had talked about. Oddly, all the entries purported to have been sent to the poster by anonymous letter or e-mail.

Which, given she'd seen him drafting the latest entry and he'd confessed to having a new identity, made her suspect Tom was this "John May" himself, hiding behind a screen of a fictional second party. But why the hell would he risk cracking that identity and risk his life to write a blog about... philosophy? It made no sense.

There were few comments and never replies from the author.

But one comment made her feel cold and she stared at it for a long time: "John May is dead. All of you traitors will soon join him. You will be cleansed when the day of Arrival comes."

The response was anonymous: JOHN MAY LIVES

She frowned. This wasn't some mob family thing, as Tom had implied. "cleansed"? "arrival"? That sounded religious. Maybe he had escaped from a cult?

Curious, she ran "John May" in the database. She clicked through the entries for that name, and the one that drew her name was the suicide from ten years ago, upstate. A wife named Lily and a step-son clinched it.

The case had been closed as a suicide -- there had been a note, evidence of odd behavior, and a car driven into the ocean. The body had never been recovered, though.

Because that body was now Detective Tom Demming.

But further inquiry came up dry: "John May" had no connections she could find to any criminal record, investigations, or religious wackos. It was all very clean. And yet Tom had been concerned that the kid might get killed, if word got out that John May's suicide had been fake.

Was it too clean? Was he a spy? A terrorist planted here under deep cover? A former terrorist who'd tried to give it up, given that comment about cleansing? A cult member who'd escaped?

Was there another identity behind "John May"?

"Who are you?" she whispered, and stared at the ten-year-old driver's license photo of a man who looked exactly like Tom Demming. "Why do people want you dead?"

* * *

When Kate buzzed to come up, he brushed his teeth again and drank some more beer in case dinner had left a smell, and was in time to open the door as she approached. "Come in." He saw her nose twitch, probably at the bleach he'd used in the bathroom to clean up the mess.

But then her eyes settled on him, and he was glad he'd changed to a t-shirt and shorts. He certainly wasn't above trying to distract her, not when she distracted him by being there.

"Did you have a good practice?" she asked, setting down her clutch and her holster on the table in the short hallway.

"I... uh, didn't go," he answered and moved into the kitchen to start unpacking the take-out containers with studied casualness.

"Why not?"

"Well..." Inhaling a deep breath, he pulled up his shirt to reveal the bandage wrapped around his middle, beneath the ribs, and smiled as sheepishly as he could. "Turned out it got me after all."

She took two steps toward him, alarmed.

"I thought it was the heat of the miss, but it's this ugly graze on my side. So, I got it taken care of by a doctor friend of mine."

"But you're okay?" she demanded.

"I feel like I got kicked by an elephant, but I'm okay," he reassured her. "But I'm not very hungry after the pills. I have salad and pasta from Jonnie's for you, if you--"

She put a hand on him, halting his words, and when he turned, she shook her head at him. "I knew he couldn't have totally missed you."

Grabbing her hand, he pulled her close. "You saved my life," he murmured, "He wouldn't have shot so badly a second time."

Careful of his bandaged area, she wrapped her hands around his neck to kiss him. "It was a lot of paperwork," she teased. "Gonna make it up to me?"

"Oh yeah." He captured her mouth with his, hands skimming her hips and then to her blouse to undo the top two buttons, this time careful not to tear at the fabric.

His lips found the swell of her breasts, while his hands skimmed her hips.

There came a knock on the door and he straightened, alarm flashing through his body. He pulled free of her hands and grabbed his gun from the table before going to the door. She reached for hers, as he flicked off the safety and bent to check the peephole.

He didn't need the distorted image -- the familiar scent wafting in from the corridor was enough. He unlocked the door and flung it open. "Sophie! What the hell are you doing here?"

Her clothes were more expensive than his cop's salary could manage, but she looked the same. She smiled and answered in her adopted accent, "You called me, remember?"

"I thought you would call me back, not visit," Tom said, trying to signal her that he had company.

She got it immediately, leaning to one side and spotting Kate behind him. "I'd have called first if I'd known you would have company," she retorted and stepped past to smile at Kate. "I'm Sophie."

He introduced, "Sophie, this is Kate Beckett. Kate, Sophie."

Sophie asked, "Detective Beckett, isn't it? I imagine you both must be working very hard on the case." Her gaze took in Tom's boxer shorts and bare feet, and Kate's open shirt. Kate blushed adorably. "I'm so happy you've stopped running away. Tom."

He wished she hadn't tacked on "Tom" as an afterthought, since Kate couldn't possibly miss that.

"I don't want to interrupt Tom actually practicing what he preaches," Sophie teased, "so I'll be brief. I had nothing to do with the robbery. Nor did anyone I know. A friend of mine, however, put together this. Hardison, you met him, remember?" she reminded him, and Tom nodded. Hardison was the young hacker who had made it possible to upload to his blog without giving away his location. He was glad Hardison was a friend of Sophie's, because he was going to be very useful when the Arrival came. She set down a thumb drive. "None of it is admissible, I'm afraid, but at least it points you at the right people."

Kate seized the drive eagerly. "I can't wait to look at it. Thank you."

"Oh, I'd do quite a lot more for Tom here, if I needed to," Sophie answered breezily.

"You've known him a long time?" Kate asked.

Sophie laughed. "Oh, yes. Since we were both much younger." Her eyes met his, and he knew she was remembering home, too. She had been at the queen's court, a worker with a talent for infiltrating enemy Nests, and had been the first to report intel that Anna was moving on them.

"You knew him before he came to the NYPD, then?"

Sophie's gaze snapped back to Kate, aware that Kate was fishing, and she didn't answer.

Tom cut in, annoyed, "Kate, please. I asked you to leave it alone."

And Sophie looked back at him in shock. "She knows?"

He made a rueful face. "I ran into James, and Kate was there. That required some explanation of the ... unpleasantness ten years ago. And the danger of digging into my old identity," he said, with a sour glance at Kate.

Sophie took a step toward Kate and addressed her directly, with that cool accent of hers underlying her calm words, "I realize it's your job to investigate mysteries. But your curiosity could kill him. Not to mention--"

"Sophie!" he cut her off before she could inadvertently spill something closer to the truth in her effort to make her point more dramatically. Or before she threatened Kate. "That's enough. Kate didn't mean any harm."

"Very well. I'll leave you to it then. Walk me to the door?" She curled a hand around his arm. "We should get a drink and catch up. And you know you're always welcome with us, if the water gets too hot," she invited. "Nobody will ask difficult questions."

His smile was fleeting. "I rather like my moral high ground, but thank you." He lowered his voice to a murmur only Sophie could hear. "I've spoken to more of us in the last two days than the last five years, and I ... I can't hide forever, can I?"

"No," she agreed in the same low tone, watching over his shoulder to make sure Kate didn't approach too closely. "We've kept the name alive, but that won't be enough when the Arrival comes. We need your authority to stand against Anna."

He nodded, thinking. She had a point-- it was only his rank as a defender that gave workers something to cling to, when their instincts and their Blisss addiction said the queen must be right, even when they knew she was wrong. "All right. Maybe it's time to start building something that'll be bigger than the five of us. An actual organization." She smiled, pleased and proud of his decision, as he finally did what she'd wanted all along. "So I need you to go back to Europe and start vetting contacts for a network. Carefully. In my name, but leave the double-bluff intact. I know that'll take you away from your friends --" he started with regret, but she put her fingers over his lips.

"Yes, they are my friends, and because they're my friends and I care about them, I follow you. So of course I'll do this. Besides, it'll give me a chance to think about... things."


But she didn't answer the implicit question, leaning in to whisper in his ear, "John May lives. Take care that it remains true." She kissed his cheek then headed for the elevator. He watched her go, worried for the mission he'd sent her on and if it was wise to get more active.

He went back in and locked the door, thoughtful.

Kate asked, "Is she a thief? She denied responsibility for the painting."

"Thief. Con artist," he admitted with a smile. "Old friend. And a very useful informant for some of my bigger cases. Sophie's a lot of things."

"You shared some criminal past with her and Neal, didn't you? That's why you know them," Kate guessed.

"Not ... exactly." He wanted to tell her that they hadn't been criminals, but since that was his main excuse for not telling her at all, he held his tongue.

"And she knows your... " Kate started, but stopped herself. When she looked at him again, her expression was rueful. "And I should drop it, shouldn't I?"

"Please." He poured out a shot of vodka and gulped it down. He put both hands down to lean against the narrow wet bar, staring at his reflection in the glass of the picture. He wanted to be glad he was slowly putting a resistance together, but mostly he hated that he was watching his life as Tom Demming crumble day by day.

He started when her hand touched his shoulder. "Didn't anybody tell you not to drink and take pain pills, dummy?" She plucked the shot glass from his hand and pushed his shoulder lightly to turn him away her. "I'm sorry. I'm being pushy and curious, forgetting you got shot at today." Then she put both hands on his shoulders, kneading with her fingers into the muscle at the base of his neck. "So let me help. I have a better way to reduce stress than booze."

"You do? But what about dinner?"

Her voice was like molasses, as her hands made soft trails down his spine. "It'll keep."

Part Five

Crossposted from DW There are comment count unavailable comments over there. Feel free to comment wherever.
entertaining in a disturbing waylyssie on June 23rd, 2010 12:38 am (UTC)
At which point he realized he'd screwed himself. Because of course she was going to notice if he was hurt when his shirt was off. But he wanted to see her anyway, so he smiled back.

*snickers* Hoist by your own petard, Stalwart-Boy.

Also. THAT LOUD SOUND YOU HEARD when I read 'Sophie', was, y'know, glee. And amusement. And I'm of the firm belief Parker knows. ANYWAY.

Eee. =D
lizardbethlizardbeth_j on June 23rd, 2010 05:15 am (UTC)
hee! I figured Sophie would get some dolphin noises.

Hardison's got to know, but huh, yeah, I could see Parker knowing. Maybe not specifically aliens, but something not -human. And not caring.
Merry F: sam anders gun armsivanolix on June 23rd, 2010 01:10 am (UTC)

I love the way you're developing so much of the Fifth Column...it feels more real than on the show.
lizardbethlizardbeth_j on June 23rd, 2010 05:27 am (UTC)

*sigh* I want to believe this is what John May has been up to, in the show, and Joshua knows better than to tell Ryan and his merry band of incompetents because he knows they'll just screw it up.
cujoy on June 23rd, 2010 02:39 am (UTC)
Yay Sophie. I love cross-over verses, especially when I enjoy every single verse that's being crossed.

I don't think he's fooling Kate at all.
lizardbethlizardbeth_j on June 23rd, 2010 05:37 am (UTC)
hee, it's certainly fun to cross them.

He's fooling her to the extent that she has no clue WHAT he is, but she knows there's weirdness building up, yes. And eventually the Sherlock Holmes law would apply: eventually all of her logical explanations will fail, and the improbable would have to be true. She's still Scully, not Mulder, so to speak. :)
Rainne: Castle - Castle & Beckett - Smoochxdawnfirex on June 23rd, 2010 05:06 am (UTC)
This kind of makes me want to watch V just so I know what the crap is going on with it.
lizardbethlizardbeth_j on June 23rd, 2010 05:33 am (UTC)
oh no, did I lose you? I'm sorry. :( If it helps, very little of what I've written is actually IN the show. (or that probably makes it worse,doesn't it?). Hold on a bit longer and you'll get some actual explanation, promise.

Thanks for reading along!
Rainne: NCIS - Kate - Not Just a Memoryxdawnfirex on June 23rd, 2010 05:40 am (UTC)
Not any more than I already was lost; I'm mostly just wishing I knew the full backstory. I mean, the aliens-infiltrating-Earth business is fairly clear, as is the rebellion; I just wish I knew more, LOL.

Carry on!