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Get Shot and Fucking Die

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Jasmine had no clue as to what was going on. Her police captain, Captain Ryan Hughes, had ordered her to pack a bag and that they were getting on a plane. And certainly not a regular plane, where there was economy, business class, or first class, but like a cargo plane, and they strapped you down, and all the others were in military uniform of some sort. She had spent the entire trip side eyeing Hughes. When they de-boarded, she was met with a heat like she’d never experienced.

“What the hell, Cap?” she demanded as they sat in a muggy, hot air condition-less office.

“Your expertise has been requested,” he informed.

She stared at him, “My expertise has been requested?” she repeated.

“Yes,” he started, but was interrupted by a man in fatigues approaching.

“Mr. Hughes,” the man greeted, and she and Hughes stood, “I’m Lieutenant Brown,” he gestured to the right through a door-less frame she could make out more men, “We’ll be escorting you to the camp.”

“’Ppreciate it, Lieutenant,” Hughes nodded.

“Ma’am,” Brown nodded to her, then pulled something out of one of his pockets and held it out to her. “It’d be for the best, if you cover your hair.”

She stared up at him, then down at his hand, it was a good one hundred and some degrees, she had absolutely no desire to cover her head in a black anything. She sighed, hair already up in a bun to keep it off her neck, she turned towards the window and with the slight reflection, managed to cover her hair to a somewhat respectable manner. She turned and looked to the Lieutenant who gave his nod of approval.

“Great,” he turned and barked into the other room, “Gear up, we leave in 10.”

*****

Jasmine’s trigger finger was twitching, she wanted to shoot someone. She was crammed into a Humvee between four guys, one of which was Hughes, in this ridiculous heat, and on top of it all, the guy to her right kept sniffing her. Yeah, she definitely wanted a gun. After a two-hour drive, which consisted of a ridiculous amount of sweat and stress, seeing as they had to stop five times and deal with locals. And by we, she meant them, because she was a civilian, she didn’t get a gun, which was an irritatingly new feeling for her. They finally came to a stop outside of a tall, metal fence, which had a gathering of about twenty people, men, yelling at the gate.

“Stay in the car,” Brown ordered them, as all the others got out. She immediately slid to the window so she wasn’t pressed bodily against her superior, Hughes did the same. She heard mumbling from the soldiers, they were definitely talking about her. And since they were talking about her, they missed the guy reaching into the vehicle, grabbing her by the shirt, and yanking her through the window opening.

She let out a surprised grunt, and another as he slammed her against the vehicle. She dropped her forearms quickly, breaking his hold on her, and sent a knee into his stomach, the man doubled over, and she took that opportunity to try to circle around the vehicle, he promptly grabbed her by her hijab covered bun and threw her back against the car, yelling in Arabic. Others from the crowd had caught on, and started forward. She grabbed the closest one by the arm, kicked out his knee, and slammed him face first onto the hood of the Humvee. In that time, some of the soldiers had closed in, she grabbed up the Beretta from a man’s hip and leveled it on the next closest man closing in on her, everyone froze.

La-a,” she ordered in Arabic, no. “Tarajue,” back off.

The man slowly backed up, in the chaos, the gate had been opened and they were now being greeted by an angry looking team of men that sent the locals scattering. A harsh hand stripped the gun from her hand and Brown stepped up.

“I told you to stay in the fucking car,” he growled out.

“I didn’t get out of your precious fucking car,” she bit out, “Tell your man to stop day dreaming about fucking me and maybe this dude wouldn’t have pulled me through the window,” she pressed the man’s arm further up his back.

Brown backed off, but barely.

“Lieutenant,” a man drawled out from near the gate, she sent a glance that way. “Glad you could make it.”

“Shut up, Syverson,” Brown muttered, storming through the gate.

“You letting him up anytime soon, ma’am?” one of the men from the other Humvee asked hesitantly.

“I’m thinking about it,” she countered as Hughes rounded the car and started for the gate.

“Shit, Jazz, you’re always makin’ friends,” he goaded playfully.

“You know what would be great, Hughes?” she sassed, releasing the man and following after him. “What’s that, Detective?”

“A gun. I wonder where I get to carry one of those,” she mused sarcastically.

Once the gates were secure, the team from the camp disbursed. Lieutenant Brown led the way to a building that had definitely seen better days. “Syverson will be out shortly,” he informed tersely, then disappeared. One of the men brought their belongings, she sent him a side eye as he dropped her bag at her feet.

“I open this and do an inventory, are all my panties and bras gonna be in here?” she asked.

The man’s cheeks reddened, which was impressive given the heat, “Yes, ma’am.”

Her eyes narrowed, “You sure?”

He cleared his throat, “Miller may have tried ma’am, but Wilson stopped him.”

She arched a brow and unzipped the bag, everything was as meticulously placed as she’d left it. She gave a slight facial shrug and nodded, “Thanks, my dude.”

“Ma’am.”

Turns out, shortly was another two hours of sitting and staring at grubby walls. Every twenty minutes or so, she would get up from the uncomfortable bench and pace until Hughes growled at her to sit down.

“Mr. Hughes, ma’am,” a man appeared and gestured for them to follow.

“Do they not know my name?” she muttered to Hughes, grabbing up her bag and trailing behind Hughes.

“Probably not,” he answered after pondering a second.

“Fantastic,” she muttered back.

They were brought to a room, it had decent lights, but no one was in it. She glanced to the soldier.

“Captain Syverson will be in in a few minutes.”

She pondered how long a few minutes was in military time. A short while was apparently two hours. A few minutes had to be a good forty-five minutes then. She angled back in the wooden chair and stared up at the ceiling.

“Explain to me, what the hell I’m doing in the desert with no air conditioning,” she ordered Hughes.

He cleared his throat, “A friend asked a favor.”

“Your friend?” she asked.

“Correct.”

She swiveled her head to take him in. “So why is it, that any time a friend asks a favor of you I wind up having to tag along?”

He shrugged, “Usually, because their requests require my best detective.”

Her eyes narrowed and she seriously contemplated throwing something at him, “Flattery will get you nowhere, Cap.”

He grinned slightly. “I’m well aware, Detective Lane.”

At that, a door opened, and one of the men from the gate entered, not exactly in what was considered uniform, given that he was wearing a shirt with the acronym DILLIGAF spelled across the chest, a few more men trailed in behind him. She sat up straight as he shook hands with Hughes.

“Mr. Hughes,” the man nodded, then glanced her way.

Mr. Hughes, she repeated in her head and scrunched her nose, no, that didn’t work.

“This is Jasmine Lane,” Hughes introduced. “Detective,” he added on, “The best we’ve got in terms of solving homicides.”

Her brows scrunched inwards, gaze flicking from Hughes to the DILLIGAF guy, who reached out and offered his hand, she stood and shook it, “Captain Syverson,” he informed, then gestured to the other men, “My team, Russel, Shaw, Bennett, Brooks, and Collins.”

She nodded their way, shot a look to Hughes. “What type of favor did your friend ask you?”

Hughes shrugged.

“This is more of a you owe him rather than a he’ll owe you type of situation,” she observed.

Hughes waved his hand dismissively, she took the hint and shut up, Syverson’s blue gaze was flicking between them, then he gestured to Shaw, who held out a folder. Syverson held it out to her, she took it, opened it up, photos, of dead people, okay, she glanced from the top on to the next and then the third.

“You only have one photo of each scene?” she asked, glancing up at him. He didn’t respond, she took that as an affirmative, she sighed slightly, and pulled out the small stack of pictures. She began placing them on the table.

“What, you gonna play cards with pictures of dead people?” Russel asked.

She sent him a leveled look, then went back to her photo arrangement. “Yeah,” she said after a moment, “The game is simple, you want to play?” she asked.

Russel stared at her, then glanced to Syverson, who’s brows flicked upwards slightly. Russel stepped forward, pulled out a chair and slouched into it.

“You’re assuming that these are all done by the same person,” she informed, “That you have a serial killer on your hands.”

“Shit’s obvious,” Russel stated, gesturing to the pictures.

Her head tilted slightly, gaze scanning over the dead bodies, women, mostly. “Purpose of the game,” she started, reaching out and picking up a picture. “Weed out the victims that weren’t killed by the same person.” She paused, “One, was a robbery, another was an accident, and the third and fourth were committed by a bored soldier who got tired of sitting in the heat and decided to break up the monotony by shooting random women.”

The energy in the room changed, went from slightly standoffish to full on charged.

“You can’t prove that from one picture.”

“I’m not proving it from one picture, I’m proving it from ten,” she gestured to all ten photos in front of her. “So,” she waited, “Are you playing or not?”

He scanned the pictures, then picked on up. She waited.

“Well?” he demanded.

“Why’d you pick that one?” she asked.

“I picked it at random, they’re all the fucking same.”

“Well, for random, you’re correct,” she took it from him, “This,” she pointed to something in the sand, “Was the accident. Poor lady picked up a gun, accidentally shot herself, walked there, and died.”

“Explain the hand up by her eyes.”

She pointed to the sun. “When was the picture taken?”

“Morning,” Bennett informed.

“Sun was rising, it was in her eyes, she blocked the sunlight with her hand, she died,” she pointed to the small wall, which was missing a stone and the woman’s elbow was propped up against, “rigor set in. Arm stayed propped up.”

She flicked her wrist, the photo glided through the air. “Which one are you ruling out next?” she asked.

“This is bullshit, Cap, she doesn’t know what the fuck she’s doing,” Russel turned to demand at Syverson.

“Shut up, Russ,” he muttered, then angled forward and tapped a picture, “Robbery.”

She smiled slightly, picked it up, “Good,” she nodded, pointing to the man’s exposed wrist, “His watch was taken. Bruising to the face implies a struggle as well.” Another flick of the wrist and the picture glided away.

“Well?” she prompted Russel. The man pointed randomly to two photos. She tsked and picked up the one to her far left, and the one top right.

“Note that in addition to the hands up by their faces, their other arms are outstretched,” she held the two photos up side by side, “they were reaching for each other, yes?” she asked.

Bennett nodded.

“Blood spatter,” she pointed to the sand and the small wall, “Suggests a long-distance shot.”

“Doesn’t mean one of our guys has gone off the deep end.”

“I said soldier, not American soldier,” she stated dryly, “Has anyone mapped where the bodies were found?” she asked.

Crickets, she sighed, glanced to Hughes, then to Syverson, “Do you have a map and a few pens?”

He gestured to Brooks, who disappeared, then returned.

“Right,” she uncapped her pen and peered up at Brooks, “Point to the locations, please.” She held up a photo, he pointed, they repeated for all ten photos, including the four she had ruled out.

“There, see?” she pointed, “You could have ruled those out had you just mapped them. Now that we have that squared away, where’s the evidence?”

“There isn’t any,” Syverson stated.

She blinked at him, “How do you mean?”

“Nobody collected any.”

“At any of the scenes?”

He shook his head.

“Alright, do you still have the bodies?”

“No.”

“Can I see the crime scenes?”

“No.”

She stared at him, then to Hughes, then back. “I’m sorry,” she smiled in exasperation, “How exactly am I supposed to solve your crimes if I have no photos, no evidence, no bodies, and no crime scenes?”

He stared at her. She reached up and held up a photo, “The most recent murder was today, right?”

“Affirmative.”

“If I see it now, I could still gather some evidence.”

“Not gonna happen, ma’am.”

“Then I guess we go back to the states, then?” she asked Hughes, “We helped them eliminate some like-crimes, I have open cases to get back to, a five-year-old rape victim in a coma,” she shrugged and stood up, picking up her bag.

Syverson’s eyes did something scary, went dead for a second or two, but then, she interacted with the scum of the earth, killers, rapists, abusers, yeah, he was scary, yeah, he could make her life hell, but it would take more than that look to back her down.

“We don’t travel at night, you can go to the scenes first thing in the morning.”

“Then all of the evidence of the most recent scene will be degraded.”

He shrugged a broad, muscled shoulder, “By the time we get there, you collect your evidence, we start coming back, it’ll be dark,” he shook his head, “We don’t travel in the dark unless absolutely necessary.”

“This is absolutely necessary.”

“No, ma’am, it’s not.”

“It is.”

“We’ll go first thing in the morning,” he repeated, then he nodded his head towards the door, and his men started out. She sighed, bent, picked up the two discarded pictures, put those in the bottom of the folder, followed by the other ruled out murders, and then the other six, which definitely were related.

She flung her bag over her shoulder and started for the door.

“I know it seems she’s putting your team in danger, reckless danger that a civilian doesn’t understand. But she’s collected evidence of murders in the middle of active gang wars. She’s not asking you or your team to do something that she hasn’t done.”

Syverson stared down at Hughes, then glanced towards the door that Jazmine had disappeared through.

“Mz. Lane,” he called, Jasmine was halfway down the hallway when she heard his voice call after her, she sighed, turned and started back.

“I’ll have a word with Mz. Lane, then I’ll show you where you’re bunking down,” he informed Hughes, promptly closing the door in her superior’s face.

She blinked, okay, so maybe being trapped in a room with Syverson was scary, usually when she was locked in a room, she was the one with the key and the one with the gun. She had clocked two guns on Syverson, as well as an impressive amount of ammo, and a huge ass knife to top it all off. She waited.

“I need to make myself clear, Mz. Lane.” Her gaze slid to his mouth, he had an accent, a twang of sorts, she was putting him somewhere around Texas. Her gaze went back to his eyes, which were back to scary.

“I tell you to do something, you do it. Immediately. You get killed on my watch, that looks badly on me, you get any of my men killed because you’re a maverick, you will not like the consequences. You understand?”

She watched him a moment, then asked, “What’s your definition of immediately?”

He stared down at her, she was pretty sure she saw him contemplate strangling her.

“Generally, when I’m confronted with someone who needs to do as I say, I wait about five to seven seconds before I repeat myself, time to process and react.”

“You have three.”

She gave a small facial shrug, that was reasonable, “I understand.”

The scary went away again, replaced with friendly-going genial demeanor, if he thought her incapable of kowtowing and ‘yessir’-ing, he was wrong, she wasn’t in the military but the police force had its own hierarchy and decorum, even if she did sass Hughes, but the asshole deserved it for dragging her out here.

His hand slid down and he opened the door, he gestured her through the door, she didn’t know about giving him her back, but as it were, he was apparently no longer in the strangling mood. Hughes was waiting for them, gave her a once over and a leveled eye, she gave a slight nod, and Syverson took the lead, “Not sure how you feel about sleeping in the same room…” he trailed off.

Jasmine’s head tipped back, then rolled to glower at Hughes, “You owe me a vacation and a spa gift card,” she muttered to him.

“You just had a vacation.”

“And you better be planning on how you’re going to pay me all this overtime.”

Syverson glanced back over his shoulder as they exited the building.

“There is no overtime.”

“Oh, there’s overtime. If I’m in one hundred plus heat with no air conditioning, sharing a room with you, crappy crime scenes that I’m expected to solve from one picture, everything is overtime.”

“No overtime.”

“You know what? You are not the ‘Oh Captain, My Captain’ of my heart. I want my other Captain back. That guy was cool, he didn’t drag me across the world to the desert.”

“Where’d he drag you to, the Alps?”

“He didn’t drag me anywhere, because he had the full knowledge that I’m a detective and therefore stay within city limits, quite possibly precinct limits. The worst that happened was speeding to crime scenes and occasionally to get donuts.”

“That’s against department policy.”

“Oh, see I thought that was okay to admit to, seeing as we’re in. The. Desert,” and then her entire voice changed, went soft as she murmured, “Doggy.”

A German Shepherd was bounding towards them, the dog circled then plopped down in front of Jasmine, panting up at her. Jasmine let the dog sniff her hand, then reached down and patted her head.

“It’sa good doggy, yes it is,” she cooed to the dog.

“Please tell me I can keep the dog to keep her from stabbing me in my sleep,” Hughes muttered to Syverson, who grinned wryly, “No can do.”

“That’s Aika,” he projected and Jasmine looked up. “Aika,” she said to the dog, she got a thump of the tail, and continued ruffling the dog’s soft head.

“C’mon,” Syverson flicked his fingers and they started walking again, this time, Aika in tow. They made it into what was apparently a house, and climbed the stairs. “This is me,” he knife-hand pointed to a room, then started down the hallway to the left, at the very end of the hall, on the right, was a room only slightly larger than a closet. “This is you,” he informed, nudging the door with his boot. She peered in to see a bunk bed, a couple bedside tables, a giant trunk, and that was about it.

“For safety purposes, we go dark at night, snipers take shots at the camp. You don’t have any windows, but it’s important you know.”

Jasmine flicked her gaze to the walls, no windows, well, in this instance she’d take it. He sighed slightly and she glanced back at him. “We don’t have a female only restroom facility.”

If he told her there was a porta-potty outside she would throw him down the stairs. He gestured to the room across the hall. “All the other rooms have joined bathrooms, this one was free reign, the two of you will share it for the duration of your stay. The men have been informed and ordered to stick to their own bathrooms.”

Great, animosity straight out of the gate. “Thank you,” she forced out anyways, at least it wasn’t a porta-potty. He nodded slightly, “Don’t exactly have showers, make do however,” that didn’t seem to be a huge priority. She of course would disagree. “It’s almost twenty-two hundred, you got about fifteen minutes before we go dark.”

She blinked, 2200, right that’s ten pm. Meaning back at the States it was about three pm. Great.

“Questions?” he asked.

“When do we leave?” she asked.

“Ready at 0600, leave at 0700.”

She nodded, Syverson strode away, leaving her and Hughes alone. She dropped her bag to the bottom bunk, pulled out her toiletry bag, and crossed the hall. She eased the door open and grimaced; it was repulsive. Once they got back tomorrow, she was hunting down some cleaning supplies and sufficiently scrubbing this mess. She scrubbed at her face with a wipe, gave her pits a good scrub while she was at it, re-deodorized, brushed her teeth, and returned to the bedroom/closet. Hughes went to the bathroom, she changed into a pair of compression shorts that hit her right above the knee and a tank top, then flopped down onto her bed. She was hot, and miserable, and absolutely not tired at all. It took about three hours for her to fall asleep, which meant she’d get about five hours of sleep, not the worst ever, she just, usually was working when she stayed up that late, not laying around waiting to be tired.

Chapter Text

She jerked awake, glanced to the small battery-operated clock on the bed side table 0545. She breathed out, then sat up, she rifled through her bag, pulled out jeans and a black long sleeve thermal, fuck Hughes for not telling her where they were going, this was totally going to suck. She stood, glanced to the top bunk, Hughes apparently was already up, then yanked on her clothes and headed for the bathroom. Which was apparently locked. She blinked, wrapped on the door, “Hughes, hurry up.”

A minute passed, then another, finally the door opened, “Finally—” that wasn’t Hughes. It was the soldier with the shitty attitude, Russel.

“Left you a present,” he winked, striding down the hall.

She peered into the bathroom, and stepped back to glower at Russel’s back, oh, if she had her gun. She stepped into the bathroom and slammed the door shut. He shit, on the toilet seat. And she had to pee, badly. She held it. Slathered on sunscreen followed by deodorant, yanked her hair up into a bun and wrapped the hijab around her head, then crossed back to her bedroom and pulled out one of her larger sized evidence baggies and a pair of gloves. She crossed back to the bathroom, turning the baggie inside out over her hand, she held her breath and scooped up the repulsive turds, then carefully—carefully—folded the bag over and zipped it closed, no shit having touched her gloves,  she snapped off the gloves and washed her hands three times. She glanced over at the toilet, then huffed, she really had to pee. She lifted the seat and awkwardly squatted, relieving her bladder. 

Once finished, she washed her hands two more times, and then strode out and found Shaw coming out of a room. Holding the bag strategically behind her back, so he couldn’t make out the contents, she stopped in front of him, blocking his path.

“Hi,” she smiled up at him, it may or may not have been the same smile she used on unsuspecting criminals, open, pretty, and completely disarming.

“I was hoping you could tell me where Mr. Russel sleeps.”

He blinked, “Uh…”

“I have a peace offering,” she filled in before he could become any more suspicious.

“Oh, yeah,” he nodded, then gestured to the room behind him, stepping out of her way.

“Which bed is it?” she asked.

He pointed, “Top bunk.”

“You’re sure?”

He nodded.

“Thank you so much,” she grinned again, Shaw nodded, then started down the stairs, she walked into the now empty room, lifted Russel’s pillow and slid the bag of shit under it.

She returned and washed her hands again, then went back to the bedroom to slather on more sunscreen on her hands—it took work, staying this pale.

“Hey,” Hughes appeared in the doorway.

She cut him off before he could say anything further, “Don’t use the toilet for the foreseeable future.”

He blinked, “Why?”

“A wild animal shit on the toilet seat.”

He stared at her, took a step back into the hallway and opened the door. “Oh, that’s disgusting!” he slammed the door and stepped back to her, “Did you—”

“What the hell do you mean ‘did I’? Of course I didn’t, what? Was I raised by wolves? You ever hear about shit on the toilet seat back at the precinct?”

“Not in the woman’s restroom.”

She stared at him, “Men are repulsive,” she muttered.

“Listen, it’s been suggested,” Hughes started, and pulled his hand out from behind his back to reveal a long black dress and a long black robe.

Jasmine stared at Hughes. “No,” she stated firmly.

Hughes cleared his throat. “You don’t want to piss off the locals.”

“I’m sorry, perhaps I misspoke, hell no.”

“Jasmine.”

“Perhaps, if you wanted me to dress appropriately, you should have told me a general idea about the dress code instead of saying it was classified and implying that it was an FBI conference.”

Someone cleared their throat from the doorway and she turned to see Syverson standing there.

“Problem?” he asked, gaze flicking from Jasmine to Hughes and back.

Hughes held up the long abaya, which was a robe type thing, as well as the long-sleeved dress.

“It was suggested that she conform to the local’s attire.”

“Correct,” Syverson nodded, Hughes gestured towards her.

“I’ve agreed to cover my hair, it’s like a sauna underneath this thing, I’m not sauna-ing up the rest of me, if the locals have a problem with that, too bad.”

“What happens if the locals take exception to that?” Hughes tried.

“If the locals take exception and act on it, then Syverson will fucking shoot them,” she stated with false confidence.

“That’s satisfactory,” he dipped his chin in agreement. Jasmine blinked, she hadn’t expected him to agree, Hughes hadn’t either. “Ready? We’re wheels up.”

Hughes sighed, dropped the attire to the bed and filed out. Syverson stepped between her and the door.

“A reminder about our agreement.”

She nodded, practically bouncing on her toes, “Don’t breathe without your say so. Got it.”

“Mz. Lane,” he drawled out, she locked on his eyes, which were luckily more amused, than scary. “We’ll pull up, my men will secure the area, once I give the okay, you get out of the Humvee. Shit goes sideways, you’re behind me, hand on my back, got it?”

She blinked, then nodded, “Yep, got it.”

He waited a beat, then shifted out of the way, she started through the door, then backtracked, grabbed up her go-bag with the folder tucked in it, then started out again. As she followed him down the stairs she asked, “Do you have any cleaning supplies?” she asked.

“Excuse me?”

“Cleaning supplies, like, for bathrooms. Spray bottles that have chemicals that make the toilet bowl sparkle.”

He stopped on the fourth step and turned to stare at her, eye level for once. Brows drawn inwards he asked, “is this an emergency or can this wait until we got back from your crime scene?”

“It can wait.”

The ride in the Humvee was as unpleasant as the first, well, no one seemed to be sniffing her hair, so maybe not as unpleasant, but she was just as hot and smooshed as before. They finally came to a stop, Syverson turned in the driver’s seat and ordered, “Stay,” before angling out of the vehicle. As soon as the seat next to her was free, she slid up to the window and peered out, taking in the scene. She was pondering why he felt the need to order her to stay, maybe he had it on good authority that Hughes did as he was told, or maybe he had it on bad authority that she didn’t do as told.  Her door was wrenched up and Syverson flicked two fingers, “Out,” he ordered. She hopped down and took a few steps then stopped. She turned in a circle, took in the houses, the hills, pathways—foot and vehicle—scanned windows for any activity, then came back to the small stone wall that ran the length as far as she could see.

“You’re stepping on my blood,” she pointed to Bennett, he looked down then cautiously took a step back. The area was more dirt than sand, more compacted. So, the blood hadn’t blown away with a stiff breeze, rather it had baked into the ground, which was gross, but something. She set her go-bag on the ground and pulled out a pair of gloves, followed by a camera. She snapped a few photos, but it really was pointless. Then she picked up the photo of the dead body, cranked her head to the side and stepped forward, sitting down where the victim had been.

“How tall you reckon Ms. Doe was?” she asked.

“’Bout five two.”

She nodded, peering around, “Little shorter than me then.”

“Are you really sitting where her body was?” Collins asked.

She didn’t look his way, simply snapped a picture and asked, “Are you supposed to be watching me or for potential assholes?”

“The latter,” Syverson muttered. She turned, glancing at the wall more closely, “Got a hair, probably the victims,” she gestured, “hand me a baggie.”

“I still want to know why the hell you travel with a crime scene kit,” Hughes muttered handing her the evidence bag.

“Why wouldn’t I?” she asked, sealing the bag and handing it off, she shrugged, “I started after the mafia thing, were you around for the mafia thing, or were you still at Central division?”

“I was coming, Sterling was going,” he reminded, “Did you take one to the Bahamas with you?”

“I didn’t go to the Bahamas,” it was a running joke, about where she went for her vacation, there was a betting pool even. “And yes, I took a kit with me.”

“Why would you need a crime scene kit at an FBI convention?”

“I can’t think of a more pertinent time to have one. They always have fun stuff.”

“Like what?”

She shrugged, standing and leaning over the small wall, “I dunno, Jeffrey Dahmer’s teeth or something.”

“They don’t have Dahmer’s teeth,” Hughes protested.

“Why would you want to touch Dahmer’s teeth?” Russel demanded.

“He was a cannibal,” she stated, as if that made perfect sense. “I have blood.” She stood upright and gestured.

“It’s probably too degraded,” Hughes handed over the supplies anyway.

“Next time I’m at a crime scene, I’m gonna say that, see what your reaction is,” she swabbed at the blood with the q-tip, capped it, then handed it off. Right at that moment there was a scream, or a wail rather. Her head jerked to the right, squinting into the distance. The wail came again, this time words, Arabic, but she understood, “Someone’s dead,” she informed, managing three steps before Syverson was on her. “Behind me,” he bit out. She side-stepped, behind him, hand came up to his back like he’d instructed earlier.

“On me,” he ordered and the others fell in, they started moving in quick formation.

“Eyes?”

“’Bout five hundred yards, straight ahead.”

The guys were all close to six foot or taller, she was hardly five foot four, she barely kept up, luckily, she wasn’t really in sand, but the compacted dirt. They came to a stop a good 50 yards out. She locked eyes on the victim and the wailing family member. “She’s contaminating the scene,” she stated.

Syverson didn’t acknowledge her. The woman fell to her knees, rocked forward than back.

“She’s contaminating my scene,” she repeated.

Still nothing, the woman started dragging herself towards the body. Jasmine started forward, Syverson hooked a finger in her belt loop and pulled her back. Blue eyes slanted her way, then went back to his scope.

“Move,” he ordered, and they started forward again. They were almost spitting distance, and the woman was about to touch the body, she’d already damaged the scene by spraying sand everywhere. She dodged around Syverson and caught the woman around the waist, walking her backwards while murmuring placations in the woman’s ear. Finally, Cole caught up and took over with the woman. Jasmine ignored the pissed off vibe rolling off of Syverson and knelt down inspecting the body and surrounding area.

“Boot print,” she pointed to about six inches from the body. Hughes handed her a dollar bill, which she placed next to it, then snapped a picture. “Fingers,” she pointed to the hand. He snapped a few pictures of her hand, then handed her a kit, and she scrapped under the woman’s nails, the one’s that were remaining that is.

“Girl fought,” Hughes muttered.

Jasmine eeked closer, slowly reached out, the woman to her left let out a wail as Jasmine’s gloved hands gently touched the dead woman’s face. She prodded gently.

“Get her back, Cole,” Syverson ordered out. Jasmine ignored him and whatever was happening to her left, and instead gently opened the woman’s eyes.

“Huh,” she muttered to herself. “Petechia,” Hughes muttered, getting a picture. Jasmine stood up and carefully examined the woman’s hijab, then carefully unwound it and pulled it away from the victim’s throat.

“Strangulation, peri-mortem, interesting,” she held the hijab away while Hughes snapped pictures, then carefully tucked it back into place.

“Rigor is setting in in the face. Time?” she asked. “7:37.”

“Puts death around 5, 5:30.”

They scraped the bottoms of the woman’s shoes into evidence jars, snapped a shit ton more photos, and Jasmine stood. “Captain Syverson?” she turned to face him. “If you were to shoot someone at this location, where would you do it from?”

He did a quick sweep with his eyes, then pointed to the mountain. “Best vantage, best coverage.”

“Is going up there out of the question?” she asked.

Syverson’s shades stared down at her, then he grabbed hold of the radio strapped to his shoulder and spoke, “Shaw, bring the Humvee.”

She blinked, glanced around to see that, Shaw, had in fact, stayed back with the vehicle. It also seemed like Syverson was granting her request, that or they were going back to the camp. They piled back into the Humvee, then started driving. After a few minutes, they came to a stop. “We walk from here,” Syverson stated, fuck yes, they were going to the vantage point. She slid out and hurried to catch up to Syverson. After he cleared the area he gave her the go ahead, she found a few spots where the minimal shrubbery had been compressed, someone stepping on it. She followed the trail to the edge of the cliff where a larger portion of the tall, dry grass smooshed down as well as the sand. She peered over the edge, then immediately laid down, shimmying her way closer, “Hold my legs, please?” she called back, she felt large hands encompass her ankles and she shimmied forward a bit more. She reached down over the edge and grunted, “hold on,” he started to pull her back but she waved her hand, then pulled off her hijab and held it back behind her, “Hold my hijab.”

“I’m kinda holding your legs right now.”

She sighed, and tucked it into her back pocket, then reached up and pulled out a bobby pin from her hair, she pulled it apart a little then nodded, “Okay, lower.”

He gave her more wiggle room, and she reached down. “You know,” he called quietly, “We have equipment that we could be using right now.”

“Why bother?” she asked, angling up and pivoting so she was sitting on her ass, staring up at him, a shell casing on the end of her bobby pin. He reached forward and she immediately pulled her hand back, “Don’t touch it,” she admonished, “It’s got a gorgeous fingerprint on it.”

He held his hand up in apology and she held it out again. He glanced over the casing, then nodded, “Common among the Iraqis.”

“Beautiful,” she murmured, then stood, brushing sand off her butt and front as they walked back to the Humvee.

“Lookee what I got,” she held it up to Hughes triumphantly. “Fingerprint and all.”

“Not that there’s a database for that.”

“Don’t be such a Debbie Downer, Hughes,” she called, dropping the shell into an evidence baggie and handing it over to him. She grabbed her hijab and rewrapped her head, then climbed into the Humvee.

Chapter Text

She was a little tired, but in much better spirits, even with the new victim, because she now had evidence. And pictures of the crime scene, thorough pictures of the crime scene. Syverson had given her permission to set up in the small room off of his office, war room, thing. He even had a printer, so she printed all of her pictures and was sorting through them when she heard yelling, angry yelling. She stood, peered around the door and spotted Russel, yelling and waving the bag of shit, and Syverson standing, arms crossed, watching him. She blinked, in her hyper-focus on the crime scene, she had forgotten about the shit.

“You bitch!” Russel roared.

She blinked, and the man was striding towards her. Syverson caught up, beat Russel to her and planted a hand in the man’s chest, effectively holding him off, and keeping him from hurling the bag of crap at her.

“You fuckin’ put this under my pillow!”

“You seem very upset, perhaps we should take a step back and calm down,” she condescended, successfully pissing him off further.

“Mz. Lane,” Syverson drawled out, but an edge to his voice, torso turning to stare down at her.

“It’s his shit,” she stated, “He shit on the toilet seat. I was simply returning to sender.”

 Syverson’s gaze sliced to Russel, whose gaze flicked away, guilty.

“Please, excuse us, Mz. Lane,” he bit out tersely.

“Speaking of shit, cleaning supplies?” she asked up at him.

“Box, behind my desk.”

She turned and strode back into the building, grabbing up the box of cleaning supplies, including a pack of rags, and stacking her evidence and crime scene photos on top, box under her left arm, she started out. While pulling her sunglasses down over her eyes, she drawled, “You have yourself a nice day, Mr. Russel,” before striding down the steps and towards the house.

“Fucking cunt,” she heard him spitting, followed by Syverson ordering, “Get in there and sit the fuck down.”

She dropped her evidence and photos in the bedroom, snapped on a pair of gloves and started spraying and scrubbing. There was a wrap on the door frame, she blew hair out of her face and glanced over, Syverson was leaning against the door frame. He held up a biohazard bag.

“Thanks,” she stood, he opened the bag and she dumped her rags in. She did one last wipe down with a clean rag, threw that in as well, followed by snapping her gloves off. She turned scrubbed her hands thoroughly. She turned and he was still standing there.

“Excuse me,” she muttered, stepping around him and striding into her room, closing the door only for him to stick a booted foot in the jam to keep it open. She turned and looked at him, then shrugged, toeing off her boots, she undid her jeans and yanked them down, tossing them to the side, Syverson’s gaze flicked down the length of her, then back up, blue eyes doing the wonky, scary thing again. She yanked on her compression shorts, peeled her shirt off and pulled on a tank top.

“You think, next time, you could avoid the drama, and just tell me when someone does something?”

She stared at him. “Yeah, sure,” she scoffed out, “Because being a tattle totally works out well.”

She pulled her hair tie out, re-did her bun. He didn’t speak, so she did, “So, I was thinking,” she rifled through her bag and found her flipflops, peeling off her very sweaty socks—everything was sweaty—she slipped into the shoes and then dropped onto her bed. “That I could interview the families of the victims.”

He stared at her. Didn’t say anything. She waited some more, still nothing. “Is that a ‘no’?”

“It’s a hell no.”

Her shoulders slumped, then squared again, “It’s important, if there’s a connection between all of the victims, we can potentially prevent further deaths, and, figure out who’s doing the killing.”

“No.”

She breathed out slowly. “Why not?”

His expression said that he wasn’t used to being questioned or having to repeat himself. He was a Captain, his subordinates simply ‘yessir’-ed and shut up.

“Listen, if I can’t have the whole picture, the probability of my solving this is minimal. Which means, this guy continues killing until you guys either luck out and kill him without knowing who he is, or, he gets too old and decrepit to continue.”

He stared down at her, arms folded against his chest.

“I have minimal crime scene photos, I have minimal evidence, no databases or analysis of said evidence, and I can’t talk to any of the families. If this is how it is, fine, send us home.”

His right brow flicked up then dropped, his eyes landed on the wall across from him and did the scary dead inside look, like he was so incredibly bored or had so much disdain for her he could kill her. She waited. She wasn’t sure who Hughes owed the favor to, she was beginning to realize it had nothing to do with Syverson though, someone big, so big, that whoever it was, had the ability of making the man in front of her put up with her presence. She pondered the many politically savvy people Hughes knew, a few came to mind, a specific senator for sure.

“Fine. You can meet with the families, I can’t guarantee their cooperation.”

“Neither can I,” she shrugged, “But the effort is necessary, simply going to the home is enlightening.”

“Seven families,” he muttered, she pulled out the map she had used to plot the victim’s locations, she added the most recent. “Geographically, they’re very close.”

He nodded, eyeing it, “They aren’t too far in, threat is moderate.”

Moderate was better than high, right?

“You know some Arabic,” he noted.

“Uhm, yeah, I’m not fluent. There are Arabic speaking families in our jurisdiction,” she shrugged.

“We’ll bring Mahmoud, then.”

“Now?” she asked, hopefully.

“Tomorrow.”

“Right,” she breathed out, then, “Damn, I guess I have to wear the stupid dress, then.”

Syverson slanted a look her way, “I could still shoot people, but it might make them less inclined to answer your questions.”

Damn if he wasn’t right. She grumbled and flopped down onto the bed, she was taking a nap. She heard the lock click, then the door close.

Chapter Text

When Jasmine woke up, she grabbed up a clean pair of socks and stuffed her feet back into her boots. She thumped down the stairs to see that it was still daylight out. She was starving and parched. She followed along behind some soldiers and found the makeshift mess hall. She spotted Hughes, who waved her over. He slid an MRE over and two water bottles.

She readily accepted both, even if the MRE was bland as ever. She guzzled down her water, and tried to shake the cobwebs loose, her nap still hanging onto her. When she finally found alertness, it was to the fact that she was being stared at, some subtly others obviously. She glanced down, shit, she was still in her shorts and tank top, perfect. These guys hadn’t seen a woman in who knew how long. She did not need this type of attention.

“You wanna go look at crime scene photos?” she asked.

“A woman after my own heart,” Hughes muttered, standing and leading the way. They were almost out when someone reached out and copped a feel of her ass. Laughs rang out. She reached back, grabbed hold of his thumb and twisted. He let out a shout of pain, and she pressed forward, bringing his hand to the center of his back, his arm angling back dangerously.

“Now, boys,” she pitched her voice low, so only he and his table could hear, “You can look, but you can’t touch. Don’t make me hunt down your mamas when I get state side and have a conversation about manners with them.”

The kid nodded adamantly and she let him go. “How ‘bout that gun, Cap?” she asked Hughes as they started for the house.

“I wish, kid,” he muttered with a shake of his head.

She was sitting on the floor, staring up at the pictures she’d taped to the wall, evidence and notes scattered across the floor when Syverson darkened their doorway again. If she thought him scary before, this was terrifying. “Explain the mess hall,” he grit out.

“You eat there?” she asked of him, then pointed to the picture of the petechia and badly bruised throat to Hughes.

Explain the situation in the mess hall,” he expounded.

“I ate an MRE, drank some water, then we came back here to go over the crime scene.”

“As you were leaving,” he prompted.

“Some guy grabbed my ass,” she informed.  “So, the guy, strangles and revives,” she murmured to Hughes. “Multiple times, and as they’re dying, he climbs up the mountain and watches through the scope?” she asked.

Hughes nodded, though his gaze was on Syverson.

“We need to discuss dress code.”

“Well, shit, Captain Syverson, how ‘bout I don my hijab and abaya, that’ll certainly protect me from potential sexual assault,” she intoned lightly.

“He shoots them regardless of if they’re already dead or not though,” she returned to Hughes.

“This one,” she held up one of the older shots, “Minimal blood spatter.”

Hughes nodded. “Part of the ritual and fantasy, a compulsion.”

Syverson was still standing in the doorway, he pinched the bridge of his nose, breathed out slowly, then said, “He and his table have pulled night watch for two weeks. The whole camp had a conversation about not sexual assaulting someone.”

She wrinkled her nose in mock sympathy, “Being a parent is hard. Gotta remember to teach the kids good touch, bad touch.”

Syverson scoffed, she thought it might be to hide a laugh, and he seemed to lighten up, less murder-y look, more indifferent.

*****

Jasmine was going to die. Black dress, black abaya, black hijab. She hadn’t even left her room and she was dying from the heat. She yanked off the abaya, she’d put that on once they got there. She drank two water bottles. It was 0600, six AM, the lowest temperature of the day, and it was 85 degrees. No. Hell no.

“You good?” Hughes asked.

She shoved her go bag at him, and didn’t answer. This day was going to suck. The only positive so far was meeting Mahmoud. He had a broad smile and he greeted her with a genuinely enthusiastic, “Salaam!”

She returned his greeting, with a nod, “Salaam, I’m Jasmine, this is Captain Hughes.”

“Your Captain,” he pointed to Hughes, then gestured over his shoulder to Syverson, “My Captain.”

She smiled and nodded. “We’re going to meet families, yes?” Mahmoud asked.

“Correct.”

“Sy says you know some Arabic.”

“Just a little.”

He nodded, “I’ll do translations then.”

She clambered into the truck, abaya folded on her lap. Hughes sat to her right, Mahmoud to her left. Mahmoud filled most of the silence, excited that she knew some Arabic.

“I’m a detective, some of the people in my jurisdiction speak Arabic, I learned some.”

“That is very thoughtful of you.”

She shrugged, “It helps some, with community relations.” Also when she wanted to overhear, people lie blatantly in their own language, right in front of her, mostly because she perpetuated that she only knew greetings and farewells, she knew a bit more than she let on.

“What type of detective are you?” he asked.

“Now, mostly homicide. I started out in the sex crime division, occasionally, if they need additional assistance, I’ll lend a hand.”

“Both seem very bleak,” he pointed out, she caught a hint of slight disapproval.

“This place seems pretty bleak, you’re still here.”

He grinned, “Ah, yes.” Then he asked, “What’s your most interesting case?”

She paused. “Uh, well…Probably the one where my boss demanded I get on plane, cross the ocean, and solve murders without evidence, crime scene photos, bodies, or analysis.”

Mahmoud smiled, “It will be a great story!”

That was for sure, if she didn’t keel over from the heat.

*****

Once they got to their first destination Syverson and Mahmoud got out.

“Stay put,” he Syverson muttered.

“First we see the Sheikh,” Mahmoud informed, and then started towards the house. After about ten minutes, they came back. Mahmoud jumped back into the seat next to her and informed, “He has granted permission, but stipulates that if the families refuse, it is their choice.”

She nodded.

“First house, comin’ up on the right,” Syverson muttered, they came to a stop and the others started getting out, with room to move in the Humvee she pulled on the abaya. Everyone was already sweating, her especially, she slid out of the Humvee and was met face to chest with Syverson.

“You good?” he asked, she blinked at her reflection in his sunglasses then nodded.

“Water,” he held a bottle out to her, then turned and started for the first house. She uncapped it, drank a few sips, then set it inside the Humvee. Mahmoud and Syverson lead the way, standing at the door, the others back by the road, not wanting to appear as a threat. She and Hughes stood between the two groups.  The door opened, Mahmoud spoke, explaining their presence, the door was slammed shut. Great, that was a no.

“Next house,” Syverson informed with a knife-hand to the right, “Two houses down.” They walked, she almost tripped and fell on her face three times. This was not conducive.

Surprisingly, this family let them in, only after they spotted Jasmine though, interesting. She toed her boots off and stepped into the house, offering a quiet ‘Salaam’ and nothing more. They sat, had chai, which she really wanted to refuse, given that she was already hot and sweaty, but that would be rude. She took a few sips then simply held the small cup.

Mahmoud did introductions. The man of the house, husband of the victim, father of the young teenage girl in the kitchen, spoke, gaze on her.

“He wishes to know who you are.”

“I’m Jasmine, I’m very sorry for your loss. I’m a detective, I hope to find the person responsible for your wife’s murder.”

Mahmoud translated, the man cut a look, not exactly a glare, but definitely full of disdain. He spoke briefly, she understood the sentiment. Mahmoud paused, gaze shifting to her.

“He said something crappy about women,” she stated for him.

He nodded slightly, “He asks what does a woman know.”

She glanced to Hughes, then bopped her head, “Perhaps I should excuse myself from this conversation,” she nodded to Mahmoud to translate. The man seemed to approve of this, she stood murmured, “shukraan lak,” thank you, set the cup down and stepped outside. Syverson sending her a look, but she didn’t bother trying to translate that, she stuffed her feet back into her boots and rounded the side of the house, ignoring the men back at the truck and found the teenage girl leaning back against the house.

“Salaam,” she called quietly. The girl looked up, gaze locking on her, surprise then turning to curiosity. She stumbled a bit but managed out, “I’m sorry for your mother.”

The girl nodded.

Did she have…” she paused trying to think of the word, “any new friends?”

The girl shook her head.

Any one suspicious?”

Again, she shook her head. Then spoke, “My mother was very devote, she was good, why did this happen?”

Jasmine sighed sadly, reached out and squeezed the girl’s hands comfortingly, “Asif,” she apologized, sorry.

The girl sniffled, then nodded, Jasmine made her way back towards the truck. She reached in, pulled out her water, and took another sip. After a few minutes, the others exited the house.

“Anything?” she asked Hughes.

Hughes shook his head, “Nothing really. He said his wife was very devote and nothing more.”

“Same with the daughter, she said mom didn’t have any new friends, no one suspicious, and that her mother was devote and good.”

She grabbed her notebook and scribbled down the minimal information, then nodded, “Right, next one?”

The next house refused them entry. They went on to the fourth, and were let in. More hot chai, the man was more excepting of Jasmine, but she stuck strictly to observing, rather than dictating to Mahmoud. She caught the eye of the woman in the kitchen, adult, about the same age as the man. She nudged Mahmoud, and glanced to the woman again.

Mahmoud asked briefly of the woman in the kitchen. “His late wife’s sister.”

She nodded. “Would she have information?”

The man sent her a look, but called the woman in. Mahmoud translated Hughes’ questions. She confirmed everything the husband said. She was good, she prayed often, and she didn’t see anyone suspicious.

And so it went for the next house as well, formalities, chai, questions, leaving, the sixth denied them entry and then they were down to the last, yesterday’s victim.

“Is it too soon?” she asked Mahmoud, “She would be having the wake and funeral today, right?”

As they spoke, the woman came round the house and froze, taking them in, her gaze landed on Jasmine. She looked to the house, then beckoned her forward. Syverson shifted, so she moved before he could tell her absolutely not. She tried to move as quickly and subtly as possible. The woman grabbed hold of her hands and squeezed.

She spoke quickly, and quietly, she couldn’t catch all she said, she glanced back to Mahmoud. He stepped forward, but didn’t want to be seen from the windows.

“She says thank you,” he murmured low, “For trying to help her daughter.”

He translated, already knowing the questions she would ask. When it came to someone suspicious, the woman held up a finger and nodded, then spoke.

She glanced to Mahmoud, “She says there was someone, a man, tall, strong, he had been near the house a few times in the last week.”

“Okay, yes, good, anything else?”

“She says she didn’t get a good look at his face.”

She nodded, “Shukraan lak, shukraan lak,” she thanked the woman. They hurried back to the vehicle and climbed in, and the quickly pulled away. She grabbed up her water bottle and gulped down the little remaining, then struggled to yank the abaya off. Mahmoud reached up and helped with the sleeve, “Thanks,” she wheezed out. Her head was killing her, she felt dizzy and lightheaded, and she kinda thought she was going to puke, which she could not do, under any circumstances, with her current audience. She leaned her head back slightly, clamped her mouth shut and swallowed, swallowed, swallowed. She closed her eyes, and focused on breathing. She had, about an hour drive back, she could do this.

Chapter Text

Once they cleared the gate, she practically shoved Mahmoud out of the way with a murmured apology and took off for the house, on a brisk walk. Unfortunately, Syverson wanted a word and caught up to her at the stairs, grabbing her wrist and turning her.

“We gotta talk about you approaching the woman.”

“I’m gonna puke,” she stated, he blinked, let her go, and she tripped on the dress, caught herself before she could smash her face on the hard steps, and took the stairs two at a time. She made it to the bathroom, slid on her knees on the tile floor, lifted the toilet seat and heaved. Left hand propping herself up, she reached blindly with her right for the hijab and yanked. Get it off. She heaved again. All that came up was the minimal water she’d ingested earlier and bile, obviously badly dehydrated. She finally got the hijab off and flung it blindly behind her. She panted into the toilet bowl, thanking whatever higher powers there were that she had cleaned the bathroom.

She felt the back of someone’s fingers pressing into her neck, then a muttered “shit”. Syverson. His voice ordered, “Bring cooling measures to the house,” he had to be talking into the radio strapped to his chest, because she definitely wasn’t going anywhere, that or there was another witness to her upchucking in the bathroom. But then the crackle of the radio and, “Copy, Cap.”

Great. Just the one witness then. She spat into the toilet, then sat back on her heels. She stood shakily and flushed the toilet, then moved to the sink and rinsed her hands. She wanted to rinse her mouth, but she vaguely remembered someone saying to stay away from drinking straight from the tap.

“Here,” a bottle was in front of her. Uncapped and waiting. She took a tentative sip, hands shaking, rinsed and spit. She repeated that process.  Then finally took a sip and drank.

“You good?” he asked.

She nodded dazedly, then started for her room. He followed her. She wasn’t sure why, she set the water down, yanked the dress up over her head and tossed it to the side, she bent and grabbed her shorts and a tank top, she heard voices from the hall, heard the door close. She yanked off her underwear and bra, put on a fresh pair followed by her fresh clothes and then collapsed on her bunk. There was a light wrap on the door, then it creaked open, and closed.

“Here, sit up.”

She didn’t think she could manage to sit up, but she did manage to force her eyes open to see Syverson, with water bottles, sports drinks, a few wash clothes, and what looked like squeeze ice packs. Okay, she might be able to sit up for that.  She shifted, got an elbow underneath her, and propped herself against the wall. He opened a cold looking sports drink and handed it to her. She took a long, slow drink, and nearly hugged him. Perfection.

He watched her for a moment, then disappeared, and returned with damp washcloths. Yes, she could smother herself with those, they’d be adequate. He handed her one and she dropped it on her face, better.

She heard pops then the sound of slush shaking, then felt glorious, glorious cold being wedged under her waist. Two more wedged under her thighs.

“One more,” he stated. She reached out blindly and he put it in her hand, she slapped it gracelessly onto her forehead.  She laid there like that until she felt the packs losing their iciness. It had been a strange meditative state of being pulled in two directions, too hot and too cold. She finally sat up, ice pack and damp cloth falling into her lap, her head no longer felt like she had an icepick wedged into her but there was still a dull throb, she reached out picked up the sports drink and took another long pull. Then she grabbed one of the packs that had been below her waist, it was still decently cold, just not freezing, she brought it up and put it on the back of her neck.

“What’d you learn from the woman?”

She blinked, glanced to the floor to see Syverson sitting against the wall, legs extended in front of him, crossed at the ankle, with a folder on his lap.

“She said there’d been a man scoping out the house throughout the past week,” she took another drink.

“Description?” He asked.

“Tall and strong, she couldn’t see his face.”

He nodded slightly. “Was that information worth potentially dying over?”

She stared at him, then managed out in a relatively calm voice, mostly because she was still exhausted, “Can we pretend, just for a second, that I have an inkling of an idea of what I’m doing? Just pretend.”

He grinned, it was dangerous and condescending and surprisingly pretty, all of which made her want to throw something in his face. He put the folder on the ground beside his thigh and clasped his hands together on his lap. “Alright, let’s pretend. Say she was armed, pissed off about the fact that you molested her dead daughter’s body the other day. What would your first inclination have been?”

She stared at him, “How is this scenario any different than what I do on the weekly basis? Going into stressful situations to question potentially, most likely, armed individuals in order to get information on a victim?”

“You don’t see a difference,” he stated.

“The only difference is usually I have a gun of my own,” she countered.

“Next time you do it, I’m hauling your ass back here, and you’ll be locked in this closet until whoever the hell sent you calls you and Hughes back to the States.”

That was positively absurd, and he would totally do it.

“What, do you want?” She asked slowly, asking for patience.

He tossed something onto the bed, she glanced to it to see it was an MRE, “I want you to eat something, stay hydrated, and to use your goddamn head.”

She breathed out, reaching for the MRE, so, she could admit, she kinda deserved this third degree, but she also kinda didn’t. He had said if ‘shit went sideways’ she was supposed to stay behind him, additionally, that she was supposed to do as he said when he said it. Technically, shit hadn’t been going sideways, nor had he given her an order. Why? Because she had been thinking, contrary to Syverson’s beliefs. She had been thinking, ‘I’m gonna beat Syverson to the woman, because otherwise, the funeral party will see the team of armed men and I won’t get to ask her questions’. So, yes, she knew he was going to be pissed off, but to imply that she did all of this, including pissing him off, without thinking it through, was ridiculous.

She tore the MRE open and sent a glance his way. She squinted at the contents, there were instructions, on how to eat. She set it to the side, grabbed her sport drink and drank the rest, then laid back down. She didn’t have the energy to deal with figuring out how to properly heat up the food.

“It’s spaghetti.” He stated like that was supposed to entice her into reading all the words.

“Hmm,” she mumbled, eyes closing.  

She heard a muttered, “Right.” Then heard things being torn open, and then something rattling right in front of her face. She opened her eyes to see, Skittles. She blinked, slanted her eyes up the arm that was holding said Skittles in front of her. She reached out and snatched them from him, tore off a corner, and tapped some out onto her hand before tossing one into her mouth. Delicious, overly sweet, goodness.

So, she ate, but only because he bribed her with candy and did all the work. Halfway through the spaghetti she realized he was studying her, while she ate, turned her attention on him.

“You have no reaction to the food,” he stated.

“Huh?” she asked eloquently.

“Usually people say they’re bland, awful, or surprisingly good.”

She blinked, chewed, swallowed. “It tastes like school lunch or, no, like hospital food,” she squinted, “Maybe both.”

“Spend a lot of time at hospitals?”

She shrugged, biting into a breadstick. “I’m a cop, people I work with are cops. Cops get shot or run over or stabbed or contaminated with drugs or bodily fluids,” she informed.

“You been shot or stabbed?”

“Sure,” she nodded, sipping from a water bottle. His brows flicked up marginally, a silent question, then vocalized it, “Which sucked worse?”

“Getting stabbed,” she muttered, dipping her breadstick into the pouch of spaghetti. “Granted that guy was hopped up on PCP. I tazed him, I’m pretty sure I just gave him more power, I broke his leg in three places, his arm in two,” she shrugged, “PCP is out of this world,” she muttered grudgingly.

“Where’d you get stabbed?” he asked.

She used her breadstick to point to her left clavicle. “I was stabbed in my thigh as well. But I was off duty, at a family reunion.”

He blinked, “You were stabbed at your family reunion?”

“My family’s screwy,” she informed, at that moment Hughes walked in, took in Syverson on the floor, Jasmine in the bed, munching on breadstick and spaghetti.

“Family reunion story?” he asked, stepping over Syverson’s legs.

“Well, summary, he doesn’t need the gory details.”

“What’s next?” Hughes asked.

She sat up a little straighter, gaze flicking to Syverson, who was standing. “Nothing for tomorrow, you’re gonna re-hydrate,” he stated, pointing to the bottles of water and sport drinks on her bedside table. She would argue, but, she didn’t particularly feel like having this whole thing happen again. Syverson waited a beat, no doubt waiting for her argument, she simply blinked up at him.

“Right,” Hughes muttered, gaze flicking from her to Syverson and back.

Chapter Text

Jasmine woke up, glanced to the clock to see that it was 1300, one in the afternoon. She’d slept a long time. She sat up, she was covered in a fine sheen of sweat. She grabbed up her toiletries and a new change of clothes and headed for the bathroom. Once finished, she set out looking for Hughes, she was making her way into Syverson’s office/war room, but turned when she saw it empty.

“Don’t tell Jazz about this.”

Jasmine immediately backtracked to see Hughes and Syverson in the room off of the war room. Hughes was talking on the weird phone thing and Syverson was leaning back against the wall, presumably supervising the phone usage. She strode in silently and snatched up the phone, bringing it to her ear.

“Don’t tell me what?” she demanded. Hughes stood, tried to snatch the phone back, she side-stepped, rounded the table.

“Uhmmm,” the voice on the other end muttered out.

“Grouch?” she asked, grabbing a chair and holding it between herself and Hughes, the man turned, tried the other side of the table.

“Yeah.” Grouch, of course was not his name, his name was Gibson but, he was the grumpiest man she’d ever met.

“Tell me what?” she turned, chair between them, then rounded the table as Hughes reached for the phone, she slapped at his hand.

“Well-uh.”

Hughes vaulted the table, she backpedaled, leaving the chair, and instead, grabbed Syverson’s wrist and tugged. The man only budged because he let her, not because she was that strong. She continued backing up until she was in the corner, Syverson blocking Hughes access to her. She kept her hand on his back, high up above his tactical vest.

“I swear to Christ, Grouch, I will drop your precious Keurig machine off the roof.”

“Your adult victim died.”

Fuck,” she bit out.

“But the kid woke up.”

She blinked. “The kid woke up?” she whispered out.

“Yeah.”

“The kid woke up?” she repeated.

“That’s what I just fucking said, Jesus.”

“You haven’t questioned her.” It was a statement not a question.

“Fuck no.”

“You can’t. Find me a nice, attractive black female officer or detective. If they’re all busy find an attractive non-white male.”

“How the fuck am I supposed to know what an attractive man looks like?”

“The opposite of you.”

“Fuck you, La—” she hung up. Her hand had crept up, was touching Syverson’s neck, it was warm, gritty with sand, and muscular. She lowered her hand, tapped him twice on the back and he pivoted, moving out of her way to reveal a semi-pissed off Hughes.

“Bad news Hughes,” she stepped around Syverson, “My adult female victim died—that’d be the coma kid’s auntie.”

She tossed the phone to him, hit him smack in the chest, “Good news, kid woke up from the coma.”

“You’re a pain in my ass, one of these day’s I’m gonna demote you.”

“Please do, then you won’t drag me to a giant sand pit to be cooked alive in a hundred plus degree weather.”

Hughes set the phone on the table and strode out, she couldn’t tell if he was pissed or not. She only figured he wanted her kept in the dark so she wouldn’t demand that they leave, which she hadn’t so maybe it was bravado, or he was hiding something else.

“Good news, then,” Syverson cut in.

She shrugged, “Yeah, as good as we’re gonna get.”

“Did the aunt raise the kid?”

“No, she was babysitting, mom was at work.”

“You have a suspect?”

“Fairly certain the aunt’s boyfriend, well ex-boyfriend. Kid and mom told aunt they didn’t like him, she broke it off. Month later, aunt’s beat to shit and raped. Kid’s beat to shit and raped.”

“Jesus.”

“If I were a betting woman, I’d say he probably molested the kid, or at least started the grooming process, that’s why kid told mom and auntie she didn’t like the guy.” She strode over to her crime scene photos she’d taped to the wall, took them in.

“So you arrest the guy?”

“Well,” she paused, “Shit, I guess I shoulda asked Grouch that, I was in the process of getting a warrant, when I was spirited away,” she held up her hands to encompass her current location. She pointed to the phone, he nodded. She dialed the main desk.

“Yo, Sammy,” she greeted. “Hey, did my warrant come through?”

She blinked, “Right.” She stared at the wall blankly a moment. “SWAT guys good?”

She gave a facial shrug, “At least there won’t be a trial then, yep, later,” she hung up.

“Got my warrant, guy committed suicide by cop,” she shrugged. “Fuck, I’m not exactly sure who has to do that shitfest of paperwork.”  She put the phone down and walked back to the wall of their crime scenes.

“So,” she stated, “All the families, the ones who spoke, anyways, said the victims didn’t know each other, assuming they aren’t lying, how the hell is this guy picking them?”

“Wrong place, wrong time.”

She wrinkled her nose. “That’s just a step above coincidence.”

She pulled off the most recent victim’s picture. “She had stuff stuck to the bottom of her shoe.”

“It’s the desert.”

“Right, but her shoe was sticky. What would that be?” She put the picture back, grabbed up another that showed the bottom of that victim’s shoes as well. “What’s that?” she asked.

“A shoe,” he stated.

She sent him a dry look, then grabbed hold of his scope, which was attached to his tactical vest, his hand shot out and grabbed around her wrist, “Use your words, ask.”

“May I use your scope, Captain Syverson?” she forced out, not out of pride, but because time was of the essence and ideas were often fleeting. He let her wrist go, “Yes, you may.”

She held the scope to the picture, pulled back and blinked a few times, then looked again.

“Huh,” she mumbled, then held it out to him. “A peel?”

He dipped his head low and looked, “Yeah, probably from the market.”

She perked up, “There’s only one?”

“In the immediate area.”

She eyed him a moment, he stared back. She waited. “Is this where you request a stake out?” he asked out.

She smiled, “Well, I was going to request undercover, but stake out works.”

He sighed lowly, head going back, eyes heavy as he stared down at her, “You’re gonna send Hughes to an early grave,” he muttered.

Her smile turned devilish, “Not you though?”

The look he leveled on her told her that he hadn’t become a Captain in the Army on a Special Forces team to have one tiny detective send him to his grave. She started for the door, then paused, turning back, “When can we do the stake out?”

“Tomorrow.”

Her head rolled back to stare up at the ceiling. “What am I supposed to do in the mean time?”

He shrugged a large shoulder, offered a small, sardonic grin, “Enjoy the sights and sounds?”

*****

Jasmine had come prepared, and by that, her hair was covered in a hijab, but more importantly, she had stuffed the abaya and the dress into her go bag. As well as an outfit consisting of male traditional garb. She was pressed against a window, they hadn’t taken a Humvee, the point was to be incognito after all, with a pair of binoculars.

“Three o’clock,” Shaw muttered from beside her, she shifted, turned to three o’clock and watched as a vendor interacted with a few customers. He was friendly, eyes crinkled when he smiled, indicating it was genuine. No lingering touches but also he didn’t exhibit any revulsion at physical contact, likelihood of him being her assailant, minimal.

“No,” she went back to scanning, passed over a man at ten o’clock and went to the one at nine. The man was arguing, or haggling rather, it didn’t seem particularly malicious, just the usual. She scanned again, gaze holding on the man at ten o’clock and bypassing him, only to flick back. His lips were pressed into a thin line, brows pinched inwards the slightest amount.

“Ten o’clock.”

“The guy talking with the couple?”

“Mmhmm.”

“He looks normal.”

“He might be.”

“How do we find out?” Shaw asked.

She lowered her binoculars and reached into her bag, pulling out her attire, “Undercover.”

Syverson turned in his seat to level her with a stare, she was beginning to grasp that when his face was completely devoid of any emotion, meant he was planning on strangling her.

“No way in hell you’re going out there alone.”

She nodded, “I know,” she reached into her bag, pulled out the men’s clothing and grabbed Mahmoud’s arm, “Good thing my husband’s here to escort me.”

Syverson’s glower landed on Mahmoud.

“Uhh,” Mahmoud mumbled, gaze flicking from her to Syverson. “I had no prior knowledge of this,” he stated.

Jasmine ignored Syverson, “C’mon, gotta get changed,” she tossed the clothes at Mahmoud, the clothes landing on his face as he kept staring at Syverson. He pulled the clothes down and waited, Syverson finally caved, “Keep your gun hidden in your clothes,” he ordered. Mahmoud nodded, then started changing. Jasmine simply yanked the dress on over her existing clothes, she was already sweating like a pig, why bother fighting to get her clothes off in front of an audience?

Mahmoud reached up, adjusted her hijab slightly, then nodded. “Yes, good.”

She smiled, then opened her door and stepped out.

“When you leave, walk around the block, we’ll pick you up, shit goes sideways, we’ll move in,” Syverson informed Mahmoud, who nodded then stepped out and rounded the vehicle after one last look at Syverson.

Jasmine threaded her arm through his, and rested her hand on his forearm, let him lead the way as it were. They went to a few other vendors first, then made it to the target. Gauging this early on what would get his attention was difficult. So, she set to simply pick up the fruit, set it back down, and watch him interact with his other customers. And finally, she saw it, women with spouses, particularly, women who were, by American standards, normal, but by his standards perhaps a bit argumentative with their spouses.  She caught Mahmoud’s eye and nodded. They bought some fruit, then started around the block as instructed. The ride back was quiet for the most part. They got back to the camp and she followed behind Syverson as he made his way back to his office/war room.

 “I’ll need to go back to the market tomorrow, a house, and a gun” she tacked the last two on at the end, as if it were a gallon of milk, in hopes that he would simply give them to her.

He stared at her. “You’ve painted a bright red x on your forehead and you’re using yourself as bait.”

“Correct, that’s generally how this works.”

“No.”

“No, what?”

“No, you’re not using yourself as bait.”

She stared at him, “Well, I don’t exactly think that he’s going to follow you home, Captain Syverson.”

“What happens when shit goes sideways?”

“If it goes sideways I’ll handle it, and Mahmoud will be there.”

“No, he won’t, if,” he held up his hand, “if, I allow this, I’m going not Mahmoud.”

“But I need Mahmoud, I’m passable in Arabic not fluent.”

“No.”

“Why is me doing my job so frustrating for you?” she demanded, “You’re fine with Hughes doing things.”

He stayed silent, leaning back against the wall.

“Because I’m the tiny, helpless woman? I’ve dealt with worse people than this without you or any other testosterone riddled man stepping in to save the day.”

“Like the mob,” he recalled.

“Yes,” she stressed carefully, leaning into the table, “Like the mob.”

 “What happens when this guy turns out to have terrorist friends and they get pissed you apprehended him, or killed him?”

“I guess they’ll track me down to the States and blow up my house.”

He studied her then strangely asked, “You got a husband?”

She blinked, “What?”

“A husband, boyfriend, man.”

“What does that have to do with anything?”

“The fact that you haven’t been calling says no. Fact that you’re here without him trailing your ass, says no.”

She stared at him, “Please spare me the grandma speech of ‘get yourself a man to take care of you’ bullshit.”

His brows flicked upwards.

“I don’t need a man to take care of me, I don’t need a man to protect me, I can take care of myself,” she stood, “The only thing I need a man for is to rub my feet,” she leaned in salaciously, “because it just doesn’t feel as good when I do it myself.”

Scary expression was in full, but she wasn’t backing down, women were being slaughtered, she had the opportunity to potentially stop the guy, she was doing it. “Get me my house, Captain Syverson.”

“I’m already in the house when you and Mahmoud lead the guy there. Mahmoud stays hunkered down, in case we need him to translate. I’m in the bed with you. It’ll be dark, he won’t notice the difference until it’s too late.”

She breathed out slowly, “Fine. The gun?”

The deadpan look was her answer. Fine, she started for the door.

“Lane,” he rumbled out, she turned. “Same rules apply, I tell you to do something, you do it.”

“Yessir,” she replied, his brows flicked inwards again, and she strode out.

Chapter Text

The next day found them going to the market later, closer to when the booths were closed down, so the man could follow them. She was her same awful self to Mahmoud at the man’s booth, the man recognized them, she could tell, but his expression, surprisingly remained only slightly pinched, he didn’t say anything in regards to her behavior, didn’t touch her.

After purchasing their items, they left, they walked slowly from the market, her arm tucked into Mahmoud’s arm, “Sorry for being such a bitch,” she muttered in English, Mahmoud turned a small but vibrant grin her way, “You’re not so bad. My mother was very strict.”

“Mmm,” she mumbled, as they turned down their street. “Think we’ve got a tail,” she murmured, “I agree,” Mahmoud confirmed. Fantastic. They entered the house, closed the door, Syverson was sitting in a chair in a dark corner, invisible to any prying eyes.

She went into the kitchen bustled around in there, came out, tossed an apricot at Syverson, who caught it easily.

“Now what do we do?” Mahmoud asked.

Jasmine flopped onto the couch, “Wait.”

“Wait?”

She nodded, “See if he takes the bait, comes in,” she shrugged.

“That seems extremely boring.”

“Sorry, Mahmoud,” she mumbled, falling onto her back, leg dangling off the edge of the couch.

“So,” she breathed out, “Captain Syverson,” she drawled out.

Blue eyes locked on her, she didn’t usually address him formally, actually, she didn’t usually address him.

“What was it Hughes really didn’t want me to know?”

He blinked, “Repeat that.”

She turned her head his way, “What does Hughes not want to tell me?”

He cleared his throat, well shit, “The call before your Grouch was a certain Senator,” he informed.

She waited.

“She’s re-calling him, wants an in-person report.”

Jasmine blinked up at the ceiling, then laughed, “God, what a piece of shit. When’s he leave?”

“Transport should be here tomorrow morning.”

“He owes me so much over-time,” she muttered.  The sky darkened, Mahmoud went to the guest bedroom in the back of the house. She and Syverson moved to the master bedroom, sharing a bed with Syverson was weird. She didn’t share a bed with anyone, ever. And the big body next to her took up space. It had been at least two hours, she was pretty sure he wasn’t asleep, he sat up silently, he glanced her way as he stood and crossed to the window. She shifted up the headboard, but he held a hand back towards her and she stilled. He stood at the window for minutes, close to five, then he shifted back and came back to the bed.

“Gone,” he stated on a grunt.

Fantastic. She stayed up though, she was pretty sure he did too, she managed, right around four, to doze off. Jerked awake though, when Syverson left the bed, started moving around, with minimal sneaking. Great, it was time to go, apparently. She breathed in slowly, then sat up.

“Time is it?” she asked, rubbing at her eye.

“0600,” he replied.

She pivoted, dropped her feet to the floor and stood. “Mahmoud alive?” she asked, following Syverson out.

“Good morning, lovechicks.”

Jasmine blinked, brows scrunching, “Birds, Mahmoud, lovebirds.”

Syverson slapped him on the shoulder and started for the door. “Wait, wait, wait,” Jasmine cut him off, “We can’t go out.”

Syverson turned, irritation not just written on his face, but his entire body.

“This dude sees you, it’s done, we can’t risk that.”

He heaved out a sigh, “What do you suggest?”

She peered out the window, then shrugged, “Have breakfast, pop by, see that his booth is up, driveaway.”

*****

They did just that. The booth was set up, suspect accounted for, they turned before they were spotted, and made their way back to the house. Syverson exited the house and they loaded into the van before pulling out of there. Mahmoud sat up front, she sat in the back and watched the desert fly by. They finally pulled up to the gate and drove through. She hopped out and found Hughes exiting the makeshift mess hall.

“Hear you’re headin’ out today, Captain,” she called, slapping him on the shoulder as she passed him. His chin tipped up, head falling back in exasperation.

“You said you’d keep your mouth shut,” Hughes accused Syverson.

“Don’t give him shit,” she called, walking backwards, “You did say I’m your best detective,” she turned back around and called, “you think I don’t recognize a diversion?”

Hughes followed after her as she made her way up the stairs, she turned into their closet and found his bag already packed and ready to go.

“Alright, listen Lane,” he started.

She turned, arched a brow.

“My higher-up would like a debrief,” he informed, “Transport is expected in less than an hour.”

She stared at him, “So, I stay here, in the desert, in the extremely hot desert, and solve a murder, that you were ordered to solve.”

“Alright, listen, you solve this thing, you help a lot of people in a lot of high places.”

“I don’t want to help people in high places, I want to help people in low places, that’s the job, Hughes,” she stressed, “You. You’re forgetting that.”

Not to mention, the fucker was the only line of civilization left, and he was leaving her here in a freaking camp, with Russel, who definitely didn’t like her, a whole camp of men who wanted to, and the Captain who wanted to strangle her.

“Lane, that’s not what this is.”

She yanked off her boots, her socks were drenched in sweat, “Uh-huh,” she mumbled out, as she gathered up a change of clothes and a washcloth, and padded across the hall to the bathroom. She was in serious need of a sponge bath. She was in the middle of pulling on a fresh pair of clothes, when someone started banging on the door.

“Just a sec!” she called.

More banging.

“Jesus, Hughes, hold it!” she yelled, only to have the door kicked opened, she finished pulling her pants on, but still only had her bra on.

“Gotta piss,” but that wasn’t Hughes, that was Russel.

“Jesus fucking Christ, seriously?"

“Nice tits,” he muttered, pulling his dick out of his pants. She sneered, then stormed out, slamming the door shut, but it just bounced back opened, he’d fucked it up. She yanked on her new shirt, threw her dirty clothes into her closet, and started down the hall and stairs. She pulled her sunglasses down over her eyes and glanced around, spotted Shaw and strode towards him. “You got screw drivers and stuff?”

He blinked down at her, “Ma’am?”

“Tools to fix a door, install a lock.”

“Yes, ma’am.” He continued staring at her.

“Can you take me to the supplies?” she asked slowly.

He smiled slightly, “Yes, ma’am.”

He led her to a different station, she wasn’t sure what it was called, but they had almost every tool known to mankind. She gathered up everything she would need, drill, screw driver, screws, a new latch, no doorknobs though, as well as a barrel bolt slide lock, to install.

So, she had done this before, but she had had a youtube tutorial to help her. She remembered most of it. She was on the finishing touches of the new latch, when she felt someone at her back. She peered over her shoulder, then up, Syverson.

“Shaw tells me the door’s messed up.”

She stood from her crouch and grabbed up the supplies for installing the barrel bolt. She sent him a leveled look as she marked where to drill the holes. She would be installing two, on a few inches above the door knob and one a few inches below.

“Shaw’s a weird one,” she mumbled, dropping her pencil to the floor and picking up the drill.

“How so?” he asked.

“Kinda reminds me of this crime scene tech,” she revved the drill a few times then drilled the four holes. She put down the drill, aligned the barrel guide, and screwed it in place.

“Someone mess with the door?” he asked as she screwed, biting down on her bottom lip in concentration.

“Does kicking it open count as messing with it?” she asked

Blue eyes locked on her, went intense and scary.

“I’ve gotta close the door, do the catch,” she informed before he could respond and promptly closed the door in his face. When she reopened the door, Syverson was gone. She wandered out, there wasn’t much for her to do, and with Hughes gone, no one to talk to. After sitting in the scorching sun for a bit, reading over a cold case file that she’d brought with her, she flipped the folder closed and made her way to the shade.

“Ms. Jasmine.”

She glanced up to see Mahmoud coming her way. She smiled, waved him over, then saw Aika prancing along behind him.

“Hi, puppy,” she whispered, rubbing the dog’s head with both hands.

“What are you reading?” Mahmoud asked, sitting on the bench with her.

“Old case,” she informed.

“Oh?”

“Double homicide, wife and husband,” she recited, “preteen daughter and young son missing.”

“How old of a case?”

“Back when I wore a uniform.”

Mahmoud flipped the folder open.

“There are photos,” she warned.

He hesitated, “Was it particularly awful?”

She looked up from the dog, eyes locking on his, “Yes.”

Mahmoud hesitated, then skimmed through the details of the report, there were footsteps approaching, she glanced up and grimaced, Russel. He came to a stop in front of them, thumbs threaded through belt loops.

“Ma’am,” he muttered.

She sat back from Aika, her left hand still on the dog’s head, and waited.

“I apologize for breaking down the door and violating your privacy.” He was tense, jaw rigid, despite his relaxed stance, his left elbow was tucked into his side more so than his right indicating a potential injury.

“It won’t happen again.”

She highly doubted that, it would happen again.

“I hope you accept my apology,” he said tersely, glanced to his right, then strode away. Her gaze followed after him, then Aika stood up, and she glanced to her left to see Syverson leaning up against the building, arms crossed, then striding towards them.

“You accept his apology?”

She blinked, then pivoted on the bench to face Mahmoud, and shrugged, “I’m thinking about it,” she muttered. Mahmoud glanced from her, up to Syverson, and then down to the file in front of him. Syverson shifted, rounded her and straddled the bench next to her, right as Mahmoud flipped to the crime scene photos.

“Oh,” he muttered out.

“Mahmoud, I told you,” Jasmine slapped her hand down on the file and dragged it away from him.

“Who did it?” Mahmoud asked.

“We don’t know, that’s why it’s called a cold case, Mahmoud.”

He stared.

“There’s plenty of biologicals of course, most being from the victims. One boot print, no forced entry to the house, but forced entry to the bedroom. Everyone’s got a theory, no one’s got evidence or a suspect. Could be a serial killer, could be a pissed off family member, dad wasn’t the biological father of the kids. Kids’re gone, no blood from them in the bedrooms, could be they ran away, could be they were abducted, or abducted and killed off sight. Amount of violence to the parents, say it was very personal, the primary intent was to kill them,” she shrugged, “Currently, he’s the fucker who got away, whoever he is.”

“I’m going to have nightmares,” he muttered.

“I warned you.”

Syverson slid the file his way, and scanned through the pictures. “They’re bad,” she warned, again, he simply leveled a look at her, one that said he had seen some shit, but seeing someone shot in the head was different than seeing someone bludgeoned until they had no face. He flipped through to a close up of a wound, a ruler held next to it for reference. He ran a finger tip over it, “What was it?”

“Ball peen hammer.”

He grimaced, one of the first she’d seen on him. She flicked to the next picture, “They were both targeted. One didn’t receive more of the attack than the other.” She tapped the man’s picture to backup her statement. Syverson didn’t say anything, simply stared down at the picture, a muscle jumped in his jaw, once, twice, three times, then he closed the file. “It’s your case?” he asked.

She shook her head, then shrugged, “I was a uni then. A responding officer on the scene. It being a cold case though,” she shrugged, “Anyone can take a look.”

They fell into a silence, then she stood, “You guys hungry?” she asked, “I’m starving.”

“You can eat after that?” Mahmoud asked, pointing to the folder.

“I mean. When else would I eat? There’s always some sort of fuckery in the world.”

Chapter Text

Two more nights found that though she was pretty sure the guy had followed them the first night, and each subsequent night Syverson’s spidey senses had gone off at least once per night, the suspect never attempted breaking into the house.

She was hot, exhausted, and pissed off. What the hell did she have to do to get this guy to take the bait? They were back at the camp for the day, on top of all that, when they’d returned to the camp, she’d heard Russel call out to Syverson, asking if he’d ‘tapped that’—meaning her. Syverson had simply leveled the man with a look, neither of them had seemed to know that she was still in earshot. She had simply stomped ahead, went into the bathroom and washed to the best of her abilities. She was set to take a nap on her bunk when she spotted something on her sheets, she froze. That-that was cum, on her bed. On her sheets. Her first thought was that the man, the suspect, had somehow figured out that she was actually with the Americans, had infiltrated said camp, and found her exact bunk to jerk off on her bed. That wasn’t possible. Meaning someone, one of the soldiers, had broken in and jerked off onto her bed.

She lost it. The heat and exhaustion and frustration of the last three days and nights, this was the final straw. She grabbed the small bedside table and threw it with a yell, it slammed into the wall. She grabbed the other table, threw that as well, breaking that one. She was alone. She was entirely alone, with Hughes gone, she didn’t have anyone at her back, no one she trusted, maybe Mahmoud, but she didn’t really know him. These guys hadn’t seen a woman in months, what was keeping them from storming in and running a train on her?

“Fuck!” she yelled, kicking the trunk at the end of the bunk bed, heaved that up and overturned it. There was a hard knock at her door.

“Lane?” A voice called, Syverson.

“Go. Away,” she barked out.

“Lane, open the door.”

She didn’t answer, simply heaved up the trunk again and threw it at the wall, the trunk dropped, leaving a substantial dent in the wall. In the sudden quietness, she heard a slight scratching and scrapping sound from the door, was he-was he picking the lock? She strode to the door and yanked it open, he had a fucking lock pick in his hand. She slammed her fist into his shoulder, rocking his torso back but nothing else, “Go the fuck away,” she growled out. He put two fingers right below her collarbones and shoved her back into the room, him stepping in and closing the door behind him.

“What the hell?” he muttered taking in the mayhem. She shoved him again, “Get the fuck out!” she roared. He dropped his lockpick set to the side and grabbed her by the forearm, spinning her so her back was to his chest, she started thrashing and kicking. He didn’t say anything to her, simply let her work her shit out. While she did that, he took in the damage, tables overturned, one broken, a substantial hole in one wall, he swept over the bed, then did a double take. Shit. Shit, someone had jerked off on her bed.

She continued thrashing, managed to duck her head under his elbow and almost break free, he planted his feet, grabbed her other arm with his free hand and held firm. Sufficiently immobilized she let out an infuriated yell. She pressed back against him, he moved with it, went back a step and braced, giving him better advantage, then she went still, save for panting heavy breaths. “I’m good,” she said after a few breaths.

No, she wasn’t, he waited longer, another two minutes or so, once she eased back and went limp, he finally eased up on her wrists. She stepped away, kept her back to him, and wiped at her face, maybe it was sweat, probably was, could also be tears. He waited, glanced over at the bed again. She breathed in shakily, then said quietly, “Please get out.”

“How ‘bout I help you clean up?” he asked.

A sigh, then, “Okay.” She kept her back to him, he started with the first bedside table, righted it, it seemed functional, the other though, he crouched down and inspected it while she righted the upside-down trunk.

“I’ve got tools, I can fix it,” he informed, she turned, “You gonna glue it together?” the leg had snapped off.

“Nah, we got some extra pallets laying around. I’ll take from that.”

“Sorry,” she sniffled.

He glanced up, “Why?”

“For breaking your shit.”

He scoffed, “Yeah.”

“And uh shoving you,” her gaze flicked away, “Even though I told you not to come in and you didn’t listen.”

His lips quirked upwards, and he stood up, “Gonna get the tools, be back.”

She nodded, shifted the broken table over, then dragged the trunk back to the foot of the bed. She pondered the hole in the wall and determined there was literally nothing she could do about that, so she set her sights on locating her belongings and making sure that she didn’t have any nasty surprises in or on them. She found that all of her things were clean, inspected the bed, and had no desire to touch the sheets, she checked the pillows, but didn’t trust them to be clean. She sighed, then sat down and bent down so she could fold her arms on the trunk and use them as a pillow. By the time Syverson came back, she was asleep.

*****

Syverson made a small detour before going to get his tools, instead, he found Russel, grabbed him up by his shirt, and slammed him against the side of the house. He stared down at the man, who had at first scrambled and fought to get out of his hold, but froze when he saw who it was. Syverson watched as panic set in in the other man’s eyes.

“Explain to me,” he started, voice low, barely more than a whisper, “Why the fuck there’s skeet all over her bed.”

Russel blinked. “I-I didn’t think you wanted her. I didn’t think you’d care. Shit, Sy—” Syverson pulled him back from the wall and slammed him straight back against it. Russel shut up.

“You don’t like her, that’s fine. You think she’s dumb and a liability, fine. You don’t have to be friends. You don’t have to braid her fucking hair. You do not, go into her room again, you do not jerk off on any of her stuff, and you do not fucking touch her, got it?”

“Yessir.”

Syverson pushed away from him and strode out, he gathered his tools, then made his way back up to Jasmine’s room. He froze, scanning the room, he didn’t see her straight away, but he heard her breathing, he took two steps in and saw her at the foot of the bed, asleep, using the large trunk as a pillow.  He sighed out, then put his tools down, scooped her up and carried her towards his bedroom.

*****

Jasmine woke up confused. She was staring up at a ceiling, but it wasn’t hers, she glanced around, the room was bigger too, hers was only slightly bigger than a closet. This was nice, had a private bathroom even. She sat up, couldn’t find anything to indicate whose room she was in. She stood and crossed to the door, opened it and stepped out. She blinked, that was the staircase. She glanced down the hallway, which at the end was her closet bedroom. A man coming up the stairs froze, what he was seeing dawning on him as she figured out that the bedroom she woke up in was Syverson’s. The man’s gaze shifted to the side, “Ma’am,” he nodded, she sidestepped, and he went into the room next to Syverson’s. She spotted at least two other men in the room, and the kid immediately started whispering, and closed the door. Shit.

She hurried down the stairs and glanced around, trying to figure out what time it was, thus, figure out where the hell Syverson was. It was early afternoon, she’d only been asleep a few hours then. She blinked heavily, then exited the house and went towards another building, which was where he usually was being briefed and preparing for missions. She climbed the stairs and entered the wide-open door, her eyes took time to adjust to the dim room, then she turned right and found him and two other men talking. Syverson glanced her way, then went back to the men. She blinked, managed to focus and realized they were discussing inventory, therefore, not classified.

“Looks good, Jenkins,” he muttered, flicking the paper back towards the younger man. “Submit it, then break for chow.”

He stood, as did the others, then he started towards her, she opened her mouth to speak but he held up a placating hand as the other two men tromped out, ma’am-ing her as they went. He inclined his head towards the porch and headed that way. She heard the click of dog nails on the floor and turned to see Aika following them. She held out her hand and ruffled the dog’s head. Aika sat at her feet and tipped her head up to her. Jasmine ran her fingers from tip of the nose to between her eyes and back.

“I’m confused,” she started, “about where I woke up.”

Apparently, having a man jerk off on her bed was enough to knock the confidence and sass out of her, that was a shame.

“Figured you’d rather that than me spray painting you green.”

She blinked staring down at the dog, who was spray painted green. She tipped her head back to stare at him, eyes narrowed, though it could have been because of the sun, and not because she was trying to figure out how to get her hands on a gun so she could shoot him.

He inclined his head, “All I could come up with, you got better ideas, we’ll try that.”

She realized, that this was a very precarious situation. War was stressful. Men were constantly crossing over the moral lines they had been raised on. They could very well cross the line to get at her. Syverson had the camp’s respect. He had rank. And the ability and skill to kill a mother fucker, but if the whole camp revolted? She was fucked, literally.

“I’m not sleeping with you,” she blurted.

“I already measured, your bed won’t fit through the door.”

She waved her hand in the air, Aika jumped up to try and recapture her affections. She smiled down at the dog and started stroking her snout again. “I mean, I’m not fucking you,” she said with strength, but she didn’t look at him when she said it.

“I don’t expect you to,” he countered.

She blinked, “Oh,” she mumbled, “Okay.”

“You haven’t eaten today.”

She hadn’t.

“I’ve got MREs,” he gestured towards the building, she wasn’t feeling particularly hungry, but she should eat. She scrubbed her hands then sat down and tore open the package, it wasn’t the best food by any means, but she’d had worse. The phone went off, Syverson answered it with a grunt, then turned and held it out to her. “It’s for you.”

“Yeah?” she greeted.

“Jasmine.”

Hughes. If she had spoken to him when they first gotten back, she would have torn him a new asshole, now she was just tired.

“What’s up?”

Silence. Then, “Your case has been officially closed. Your girl is leaving the hospital tomorrow.”

“Have you hooked her and mom up with children services, therapists, psychologists?”

“She’s already had her first evaluation.”

“You got the school involved too? They’ll need to be in the know.”

“Done and done.”

“Good.”

“You alright?” he asked, not exactly hesitantly, but close.

“Fine.”

“You sure? You sound…off.”

“It’s hot. I’m tired.”

“Right. Reece is getting antsy, said he needs his partner back.”

“Tell him to keep his hands off my emergency chocolate.”

“Too late, he’s already eaten it all.”

She hissed her displeasure, “If he hasn’t replaced it by the time I get back, I’m telling his wife about the stakeout.”

“Which stakeout?”

“He’ll know.”

“What, Jasmine—”she hung up, and went back to her food.

“We got about two hours, before we head out for the market,” Syverson informed.  She blinked, right, yeah, they still had a serial killer to catch.

“Right.” She nodded.

Chapter Text

Jasmine woke up with a jolt, she glanced at Syverson’s watch to see that it was about three. He appeared to be sleeping, though the man seemed to wake from a dead sleep at the creek of a floorboard. She sat up against the head board and waited. An hour passed, then another, and it was five o’clock and if the man was going to attack it would be now or never. She blinked, then stood. She could hear the mosque. Of course. The women, as their families had pointed out, were very devote, which meant, they would have been going to the mosque at this time, to pray. She wrapped her hijab around her hair, yanked on the abaya, and opened the door, stepped out. She was halfway down the walkway when she was tackled. Ah, yes, she’d made quite the impression.

She slammed into the ground, the weight of a fully-grown man landing on top of her. She brought her leg up and kicked into his midriff, but the stupid dress and abaya tangled, and the impact was minimal. She managed a solid elbow across his mouth, which gave her time to scramble back, only to be tackled again, hand wrapping around her throat and squeezing. She reached blindly to her right, grabbed hold of a rock and brought it up, slamming it into his temple. The man yelled out and slumped slightly to the side, but still straddled her. She struck out again, but he recovered and began squeezing harder on her throat, pain exploded on her cheek bone, he’d punched her. His grip tightened, she wheezed, then couldn’t make a sound at all. She gave up trying to injure him and instead, chunked the rock at the house as hard as she could, maybe it made contact, maybe it didn’t. Her vision started spotting, she was about to slip into unconsciousness, when she felt his weight flying off of her, no longer being strangled she raked in a breath, turned over, coughing, she glanced over to see that Syverson had tackled her attacker off of her.

The abaya was tangled in her feet again, she yanked at it, still coughing, and started to take it off when a shot cracked out. Syverson, that had to be Syverson’s big body that went flying back. And oh, shit. She couldn’t make out, in the dark, if he had his armor on or not. She leveraged up onto her knees, making quick work of the abaya, she definitely didn’t have armor on. They’d broken the illusion, blown their cover, the man could just shoot her, not go through with his whole strangling, reviving, strangling, reviving, and then shooting her. She stood, abaya in on hand, she gave it a few quick flicks of her wrist, twisting it around itself. She heard a gasp, a wheeze from Syverson’s direction, hoped that meant he was wearing his armor, and that he had an inkling of a chance of surviving that. The attacker was standing unsteadily, she could make out the barrel of the rifle, he was aiming it at her. She sidestepped, then launched herself forward using her abaya to wrap around the rifle and leveraged it back, throwing it into the darkness, and then threw herself at his shadow. He stumbled back, turned to break his fall, and she pounced on his back, wrapping her arm around his throat, which was totally against department policy, but seeing as she wasn’t even in the United States, who cared, and squeezed.

The man sputtered, and spun around in a circle, arms angling back trying to get her off of him. She held tight and ducked her head so he couldn’t gouge at her eyes. He started to fall to his knee, but managed to stand again, and then he fell backwards, his weight atop of her, she landed heavily on her back and angled awkwardly over the stonewall. She let out a yelp, losing purchase on his neck, he spun, to face her, and she rolled off the wall on instinct rather than being able to see his fist aiming for her face. She landed on the ground hard, he lunged for her and she kicked up into his lower abs. He let out a sharp, pained yell, dropping to his knees, and wailing. She scrambled back on her elbows, then yelled out as something slashed across the back of her calf.

“Fuck!” she yelled, he had a knife, not that she could see much, she caught the glint of the blade plunging towards her, scrambling, she grabbed a handful of sandy dirt and chunked it at his face. He roared in anger, started slashing blindly, dragging himself forward with his free arm, she must have hit a nerve or something when she had kicked him, he didn’t seem capable of standing.

She made out the blade coming towards her and rolled to the side, she felt the blade plunge through the sleeve of her dress and into the ground. Heard him grunt with exertion, pulling the knife from the ground, she rolled to the other side as he tried to stab her again. She kicked out, aiming high, she connected with what had to be his diaphragm, he grunted as the wind was knocked out of him, but he managed to hold onto her leg. Shit, she realized her mistake, too late. She tried yanking back on her leg, but he was strong, and held fast. He brought up the blade, she felt it against the back of her leg, he was going to hamstring her. She wouldn’t be a cop again. She wouldn’t be able to walk without a limp. She—another crack broke through the darkness. Not the rifle, a handgun, Syverson’s. Blood and bone fragments sprayed against her face. The man slumped forward, against her, brains and blood pouring onto her. She kicked out frantically, got him off of her. She elbow walked her way back until her legs were free and she sat up, yanking the bloody, drenched dress off of her, leaving her extremely happy that she had insisted on wearing her leggings underneath. Then she crawled her way up towards the house, the general location Syverson was in.

She tugged off the hijab, wiped blindly at her face, then threw it to the side. She stared up at the sky, could make out Syverson’s breathing, wheezing and rattling, but alive.

Time passed, the sky lightened, she finally broke the silence. “You know, Syverson,” she rasped out, his head turned slightly in her direction, “Yeah?” he asked, voice equally as pained as her own. “This woulda been a whole lot easier, if you had just given me a fuckin’ gun.”

He scoffed out a small laugh, winced in pain, and rolled towards her, he leveraged himself above her by his elbow, he was going to kiss her, she was sure of it, his gaze flicking from her eyes to her lips. He was definitely going to kiss her. He lowered slightly, and then—"We should get moving,” he informed. “The locals will be coming with all the commotion,”—he didn’t.

“Right, yeah,” she nodded. He pulled back and she sat up slowly. Everything hurt. She glanced around, could make out the man’s body folded awkwardly on the ground, missing most of his face.

“Did Mahmoud sleep through all of this?” she asked, voice like sandpaper. Shit, she probably shouldn’t be talking, but if she didn’t talk, she’d probably start crying.

Syverson snorted out a laugh, arm banded across his middle protectively, “Yeah,” he grunted, then used his free hand to push himself to standing.  “C’mon,” he ordered, voice still full of pain, but just as authoritative as usual, “Get moving, we have to pack up the body, take it with us.”

Great. She pushed herself into standing, picked up her discarded items of clothing, and followed him into the house.

“Mahmoud!” Syverson called. She heard a splutter, then a “huh?” Mahmoud appeared, hair sticking up in every direction, his sleepy eyes took them in then widened, “Holy shit,” he whispered. Syverson held up the car keys, “Go get the van, park it out front, should be a body bag in there, bring one.”

Mahmoud stared at him. 

“Mahmoud,” he stressed.

Mahmoud shook himself, “Right,” he snatched up the keys and literally ran out of the room, only to reappear a moment later, “Two blocks that way?” he pointed.

Syverson nodded, lips quirking the barest amount, and Mahmoud took off again. Jasmine leaned back against the wall, she didn’t think she could stay standing.

“You good?”

“Ugh,” she whispered, then a little louder, “I guess I was due for an ass kicking, it’d been awhile.”

He braced himself back against a cabinet, eyes, though in pain, lightened with amusement.

“You?” she asked.

He gave a slight nod, nothing else. She kept her eyes locked on his, and something, happened, she didn’t know exactly what, but whatever it was, this weird trance-truce-trust-attraction-thing, happened, and it didn’t break until Mahmoud came skittering back into the house, body bag in hand and declared, “That is disgusting. His head is gone.”

“That’s what happens with a headshot, Mahmoud,” Syverson explained, eyes still locked on hers, before leveraging off of the cabinet, grabbing the body bag, and striding out. Jasmine and Mahmoud followed after him.

“Are you alright, sister?” he asked her quietly.

“Been better, Mahmoud.”

Syverson laid out the body bag, then set about straightening the body, Mahmoud helped.

“This is just awful, what a mess,” Mahmoud mumbled.

“His head exploded on me,” she informed, rounding the body bag and grabbing the guy’s arms by the wrist. Mahmoud stared at her.

“Grab his middle,” she instructed him, as Syverson grabbed the man’s feet. Mahmoud recovered, bent, and grabbed hold of the man’s waist.

“On three,” Syverson instructed, “One, two, three,” they hefted the body up shifted a few steps, and dropped him into the bag. She dropped his arms, and turned, grabbing up her bloody clothes and throwing them into the bag before Mahmoud zipped it up.

“So, is that brain on your face then?” the Mahmoud asked, standing.

She stared at him, turned to Syverson, “Please tell me you have a shower, it works, but no one uses it.”

“We do have a shower and it works.”

“I will give you whatever you want. Beer, liquor, nachos, five baby Aika’s, whatever you want, if I get to use that shower.”

He shook his head slightly, bending to grab the bag, “Think we can come to an arrangement.”

“Beautiful,” she breathed out, taking the middle this time, as Mahmoud grabbed the head of the bag. They hefted it up, she was pretty sure she did absolutely nothing to help carry the bag, but it was the thought that counted. Her head was killing her, her throat was killing her, her back was killing her, her leg, she glanced down, she had actually forgotten about that, but it was bleeding.

Syverson grabbed a few things from the back of the van before they shoved the body in.

“Mahmoud, sit in the back with Lane,” he ordered.

“I’m not driving?” Mahmoud asked, holding the keys like a prized possession.

“Need you to keep an eye on Lane, tell me if her lips get anymore blue.”

“What’s wrong with my lips?”

“They’re a little blue,” Mahmoud reiterated what Syverson had already said.

She stared at him, then Syverson. “You got shot, point blank, with a rifle and you’re worried my lips are blue.”

He turned, tossed the items in his hand into the passenger seat, then angled, with difficulty, into the driver’s seat. Apparently, the conversation was over. She crawled into the vehicle, she wasn’t too proud, especially not in front of Mahmoud, he was a solid dude. She sat upright with difficulty, then buckled in. The van started, Syverson popped a u-turn, and got them out of dodge. Once they were a good deal from the…well the house, she leaned forward, peered at Syverson through the rearview mirror.

“It’s just the slight asphyxia, temporary loss of oxygen.”

“Which is why I asked Mahmoud to tell me if it gets worse. If it does, that means the trauma to your throat is still hindering oxygen intake, which means you need to be medevac out of here.”

Right, he had a point, she sat back with no further argument. After a moment, he angled to the right and grabbed the bag he’d taken from the back, yanked something out and held it over the console. A sweatshirt. The delight she felt, it was as if she was a house-elf, she grabbed it, and shimmied it on over her head. It was huge, her hands didn’t reach the end of the sleeves—this would be perfect for a slap fight.

After an hour, they finally made it to the gate, which, unfortunately, had a group of angry locals yelling. The gates opened, the guards stepped out, forcing the visitors back, and Syverson drove through. The gates slammed closed, and Jasmine kicked the door open, eased out. Syverson got out, handed the keys off to someone. “Deal with the body,” he ordered then started towards the medical station.

Once they entered the station, he immediately began listing off things wrong with her. Medics scrambled, ushering her further into the station, grabbing supplies, telling her to sit down, now take your shirt off. She blinked, pointed an accusatory finger at him and announced, “He was shot.”

He leveled a glare her way, but was distracted by a particularly ballsy medic who demanded that he sit down and be examined. They lifted off his tactical vest cut through his shirt and—holy shit. She stared, bruised, so bruised, blooming from the center of his chest outwards. The bruise was so scary she completely bypassed how freaking built Syverson was, which of course, she had known in theory, a t-shirt didn’t hide much in terms of muscles, but the man was jacked and that bruise was taking up all of her attention. “Do you think your heart stopped?” she asked Syverson.

“Ma’am, please sit still,” one of her medics ordered.

“Can you tell if his heart stopped?” she directed at his medic.

“Ma’am,” the medic palpating her throat admonished, “Please, you shouldn’t be talking.”

The other medic was wiping blood off of her face.

“Contusions to the ribs and back,” a medic said from behind her, and why did she have three medics when Syverson—who had been shot—had one? That didn’t seem logical.

“Take some deep breaths for me,” she felt the chilliness of a stethoscope, on her back, she did, it hurt a little, she saw Syverson doing the same thing, that looked like that hurt a lot more.

“Auscultation is normal,” her medic said, while Syverson’s simply gave a singular nod, wrapping the stethoscope around his neck again, and palpating the guy’s ribs.

“If your heart stopped, do you think you would know?” she asked.

Syverson slanted his eyes her way.

“If it did, how did it restart, I wonder,” she continued.

Ma’am,” her medic stressed again, then, “Somebody get—” then stopped, turning and looking at Syverson, “Captain, please, tell her to stop talking.”

Syverson’s lips twitched upwards, gaze light with amusement, while her other medic informed her, “You’ve experienced significant trauma, you shouldn’t even be able to talk.”

“Lane,” he rumbled out.

“Yes, Captain Syverson?”

“Shut up.”

She grinned, then she shut up.

The medics finished their assessment of her. She had bruised ribs and back, she was apparently lucky to have gotten away with just that. She didn’t feel particularly lucky because her back felt like a rhinoceros stomped over it. Her cheek was swelling, meaning she was losing some visibility, they gave her an ice snap pack to slap over it, and the swelling started going down. The gurney thing she was sitting on was too tall, her feet couldn’t reach the ground, so they dangled uselessly.

“What the hell?” A medic muttered out, stepping back after he almost slipped. There was a pool of blood at her feet.

“Why didn’t you tell us you have a wound?”

“You told me to shut up,” she stated, “That and I kinda forgot about it, on the scale of being punched in the face to having a man drop all of his weight on me bending me over a wall, it was kinda minimal.”

The medic looked about ready to have a shit hemorrhage.

“Take your pants off and lay on your stomach,” he ground out.

She stared at him, there was no way those words left his mouth. “Cut the pant leg,” she ordered instead of complying.

The man breathed in slowly, then turned, grabbing the scissors and slicing up her leggings to her knee as she rolled onto her stomach. The wound ran from high ankle, angled up her calf, and swooped around to the side of her calf a few inches below her knee. The medics applied a topical numbing agent, then flushed the knife wound of foreign objects—sand—then applied betadine to the surrounding are, they gave her a shot of anesthetic, then started sewing her up. She laid with her arms folded, ice pack resting on top, so that she could press her bruised cheek to it while watching the medic with Syverson, who was laying back, slightly reclined one arm bent up, under his head. The medic had hooked an EKG up, and was also doing an ultrasound on Syverson’s heart, Syverson’s head was turned, blue eyes locked on the ultrasound screen. After a couple minutes, the medic pulled away, wiped off the ultrasound goo, and then snapped off his gloves.

“Everything appears normal,” he started, Syverson immediately sat up, pivoting on the bed.

“I recommend you stay for observation,” the medic tried as Syverson’s boots thumped to the ground and he stood and crossed over to her gurney.

“What about her?”

“Probably needs fluids at the least, she’s been bleeding for a while. May have a concussion. Thirty stitches to the calf.”

“If you don’t have to stay, I don’t have to stay,” she said to his bare stomach, because she was still laying down. The weird pull and tug motion of them stitching her leg closed had stopped, she peered back and saw them readying bandages to cover it with.

“You can’t get this wet for twenty-four hours.”

She sat up and turned, “Take them out,” she ordered.

The medics stared dumbly at her. “I was promised a shower, I’m taking a shower,” she told Syverson.

“We’ll wrap it in plastic,” he stated.

She crossed her arms, Syverson grabbed the hoodie he had loaned her and held it to her, she grabbed it and pulled it over her head.

“How ‘bout they hook you up to some fluids, I deal with this shit,” he held up his gear, “Then we leave.”

“Captain, that isn’t—”

“Fine,” she agreed.

He nodded, turned and grabbed his tactical vest and his M4A1 rifle, and started for the exit.

“Well?” she prompted the medic, “Hook me up.”

Chapter Text

Forty-five minutes later they were unhooking and removing the IV, and Syverson strolled in, a new shirt, no gear, looking about as shitty as she felt. She hoped off the table, grimaced slightly at the twang in her calf, and started for the exit. One of the medics held out a sheet of paper, she stared down at it, a list of symptoms to look out for and things to not do. Great awesome, she was going to have a brain bleed and die. They left the tent, made their way to the house. She stopped though, because stairs. Syverson stopped as well, eyeing her as she eyed the stairs.

“You can always go back to the med station.”

Her eyes narrowed and she started up the stairs. She felt like she had been pulled in every direction, she was loose and tight at the same time, just straight tired. She started to turn left towards her closet, then about-faced, remembering all her stuff was in Syverson’s room now, that, and the coveted shower. He had opened the door and crossed the room. She followed behind, closing the door quietly and leaning back against it, definitely not because walking up those stairs was exhausting, definitely not. His back was to her. He was staring at the bags of sand stacked up on the windowsill.

He finally turned to face her, and she saw the same dangerous look as before, the one where she was certain he was already planning body disposal in the sequence of strangling her. He started towards her, then stopped just within arm’s reach.

She stayed pressed back against the door, Syverson in front of her. She couldn’t tell if he was in the mood to yell at her or not, he was just, staring at her. Finally, she broke the silence, “I didn’t know if you had your armor on or not,” she whispered out, voice cracking and laced with pain.

His eyes closed for a moment, then opened. “I had it on.”

“I didn’t know.”

He didn’t say anything, there wasn’t much to say, not really. He stepped closer and reached up, callused fingers ghosted over her badly bruising throat, then went up, pressed her chin up a little. He didn’t move, not for a minute or two, then he bent and they breathed each other’s air, eyes trained on the others, trailing down to their lips, then back up. He eased forward, lips pressed against hers, and oh, kissing Syverson was soft, and gentle, save for the prickliness of his beard, and she hadn’t expected that, not when it was stern, commanding, demanding, eyes sometimes doing scary things, Captain Syverson.

She wheezed a little and had to pull back for air, foreheads resting against each other, until she had caught her breath and stood up on tiptoes to kiss him again.  He was the one to break this kiss, “Tell me to stop,” he murmured against her lips. “Sex is literally on the list of things we aren’t supposed to be doing right now.”

Right, the sheet of paper the medics had given her, she crumpled it, tossed it to the side, and reached up, pulled him down to her lips by his neck and ordered quietly, “Don’t stop.”

His eyes closed, he breathed as deeply as he could given his ribs, then he bent and picked her up, he opened his eyes and walked to the bed, deposited her there. He reached out, threaded his hand in her hair holding her still, “If something hurts, doesn’t feel right, you tell me, we stop.”

She tugged at his shirt with a small grin, and he let her tug it up and off, he opened a drawer on his bedside table, pulled out a condom, set it on the bed, and reached for the waist of her leggings, tugging them down and off, she pulled off the sweatshirt he’d loaned her, and he shucked his pants. He climbed up onto the bed, grabbed her by the thighs and tugged her down the bed a bit before angling down, hot mouth kissing down her belly and heading for—she angled her leg across her center, blocking his path. She hadn’t had a proper shower in days, no way did oral seem like a good idea. Mouth still kissing and hot on her lower belly, his eyes flicked up to hers, he nipped gently with his teeth, and a warm, rough hand cupped her knee and pulled her leg away. As his mouth made contact with her clit, her hand jerked out, but he didn’t have any hair for her to latch onto. He brought a hand up, grabbed hold of hers and gave a squeeze. She couldn’t keep her head angled downwards to watch him, her throat hurt too much, she dropped it back and closed her eyes.

She got lost in it. Completely lost, until something made her open her eyes. She let go of his hand, and elbowed up so she could peer down at him, her right foot came up and pressed into his shoulder. He didn’t really budge, not really. He simply glanced up at her and she narrowed her eyes at him, “What’s your first name?” she demanded, he pulled away, a broad smile across his face, blue eyes devilish, the first time he’d leveled that smile at her.

“Hank,” he informed.

“Hank,” she repeated breathily, “Hank Syverson,” she canted her head to the side, “Henry?” she asked.

He nipped the inside of her thigh with his teeth, “Hank.”

She grinned slightly, then dropped back off of her elbows, ouch that hurt. “Your parents should have just named you Manly McChesthair,” she told the ceiling.

He huffed a laugh, “You gonna keep talkin’ ‘bout my parents, or can I get back to business?”

She waved her hand in the air, “Carry on, Hank,” she breathed out.

He snatched her hand out of the air and got back to business. “You should grow your hair out,” she informed, apparently she wasn’t done talking. “It’d be nice to have something to hold onto.”

“I’m not growing shit out when it’s a hundred plus every day.”

“I wonder if you’ll have a weird tan on your face from your beard.”

She lost his tongue, but gained his thumb on her clit, then a finger in her pussy, oh, then another. She shut up after that.

She was close, she angled up, “Don’t stop, don’t stop, don’t stop,” she whispered out.

So of course, the motherfucker stopped. He reached for the condom, opened it, and slid it on.

“You suck,” she informed.

He grinned again, it was so pretty, “I won’t take that personal.”

He pressed up against her, cock running from her pussy to her clit and back down. “You okay?” he asked quietly.

“I believe you told me that if I fessed up that something hurt, you’d stop,” she channeled one of her criminals, “I a’int sayin’ shit,” she declared.

His eyes narrowed, “Jasmine,” his voice pitched low with warning.

“I swear to god, if you ate me out to stop before giving me an orgasm, and not fuck me, I will shoot you.”

He eased forward slightly, his cock easing into her, “Do you always talk this much shit when you’re getting fucked?” he asked.

“I don’t usually get fucked,” she replied a little breathless, eyes widening.

“What?” he asked, “You do the fucking?”

“No,” she angled up, “I just don’t,” before he could ask anything, she stated, “This is against the laws of nature.”

“What?”

“You can’t be ridiculously attractive, a dick, and well-endowed. It’s against the laws of nature.”

He pulled out, then flexed his hips, and pressed back in slowly. “I’m not a dick.”

“Your bossy and demanding. You’re supposed to be compensating.”

“I can’t be bossy if I’m the boss.”

Her eyes narrowed, and to avoid further argument or shit-talking, he brought his thumb to her clit and started circling.

“Hmm,” she hummed out, he angled down, pressed his lips to hers, “More,” she murmured. He obliged, and she was close, but she glanced down to see him with a hand up on his ribs, right, getting shot, that had been a thing.

“My turn?” she asked up at him. He winced slightly, and she didn’t waste time in rolling them. It took her a few moments to get in the rhythm, her ribs ached, her back twanged, not to mention, it had been a while. But once she hit it, she hit it.

She felt the stitches in her calf pull, but she ignored it, kept going, because this was so, totally, worth it. His thumb landed on her clit and she stuttered to a stop, too much, she couldn’t get there, but his other hand wrapped around her hip, and forced her into moving. She jerked, mouth dropping open, as she came, her leg was trembling, eyes pinched closed.

“Mmm,” she cried quietly, but it was cut off by him tugging her down, her mouth landing on his, his hand still forcing her hips to move against him. He groaned against her mouth, then tipped his head back and he was coming too. She was panting, his breathing was long and languid, and she didn’t think she could move if she wanted to. He tightened his hand on her hip, then slowly pushed her to the side, eased her off of him, she crumpled to her side, he angled off the bed and got rid of the condom then resumed his lying motionless next to her. She trailed her fingertips up his torso, then back down, circled the awful bruise on his chest. His arm wrapped around her, thumb rubbed up and down the side of her arm.

“We did this in the wrong order, should’ve taken the shower first,” she mumbled. They’d gotten all the blood and bone fragments and brain matter off of her in the clinic, but still. Though now that she thought about it, she was hot and sweaty and sticky now.

“I want my shower,” she stated.

“I haven’t decided what I want in exchange.”

She stared, “Decide after, I need a shower.”

He grinned lazily, “I know what I want.”

“Great,” she leveraged herself up, “Tell me about it in the shower,” he grabbed hold of her arm gently, kept her in place.

“I’m invited to the shower?” he asked.

Her eyes narrowed, “Or you can just sit and wallow in our sweat, your choice.” He managed to get himself into sitting up, then shifted off the bed. Jasmine was already halfway to the bathroom.

She almost cried when he turned the taps and glorious water poured out. “It’s beautiful,” she mumbled.

“There’s no temperature control,” he warned.

“I don’t care.” She started to climb into the tub, but he shook his head, “wrap the bandage,” he ordered, pointing to a package of clingwrap, she blinked, why did he have that? She didn’t bother wasting time, she wrapped her whole lower leg

She clamored into the tub and groaned as the water pounded down onto her shoulders, it was cold, the total opposite of her usual so-hot-Satan-gets-out shower, but given the current temperature, it was perfection. She tipped her head back and soaked her hair, then tipped her head back down to see that Syverson—Hank—hadn’t gotten in yet.

She blinked water from her eyes, “Are you getting in?” she asked out, voice hoarse and gravely, the medic said it would take time for her voice to return to normal, probably the same amount of time for the bruises to fade.

“Yeah,” his eyes were soft, he climbed in, and took over the flow of water. She looked down, saw that he had a bottle of shampoo, for his buzzcut, probably his beard too, a bar soap, and that was exactly it, she snorted, she should have brought her toiletries. Oh well. She grabbed the shampoo, dumped some into her hand and began lathering. She shampooed twice, especially when she saw that there was blood washing down when she rinsed. She wrinkled her nose, “Please tell me that’s mine.”

Syverson chuckled, reaching for the shampoo and rubbing it over his short hair, then down through his beard. She reached for the bar soap and began suds-ing up her hands, she started, carefully at her neck, then worked her way down. At some point, Syverson took over suds-ing her, so she started on him. She went hesitantly over his torso, the bruise so large, she was afraid to touch him. Once they’d rinsed, he muttered, “Time to get out.”

“I don’t want to get out,” she muttered.

“Your shivering and your lips are turning blue again.”

She sighed, and climbed out while he turned the taps off. She wrapped herself in a towel and dripped onto the floor. She was ready to fall over.

“Are you sleeping for the rest of the day?” she asked.

“That’s what the medic ordered.” He didn’t sound too pleased about being ordered. She squeezed the water out of her hair into the tub, then towel dried, while padding into the bedroom. She found her bags he’d brought in the other day and rifled through for a new pair of underwear, pulled those on, and then stared at her sparse choice of clothing. She was never one for sleeping naked, that wasn’t practical, especially given their current location. She found a hair tie, bunched her hair up into a bun.

“I have nothing to sleep in,” she stated as Syverson crossed the room for his trunk, he held up a new sweatshirt, seeing as the other one probably had some sort of blood or brain on it, and a t-shirt. She made grabby hands for the sweatshirt, she was a sucker for an oversized sweatshirt, even if it was one hundred plus degrees. She pulled it on, threw on some deodorant, and promptly face-planted on the bed.

“We need to change your bandage,” he informed.

“It’ll be fine,” she mumbled.

“No,” he said seriously, “It won’t.”

She heard him rifling around, then flinched when he ran his fingers up her leg.

“That hurt?” he asked.

“Tickled,” she rasped out, turning her head slightly. He unwrapped the plastic, then peeled up her old bandage and meticulously re-padded and bandaged it, taping it down gently.

She dozed off, woke up an indiscriminate amount of time later to see Syverson propped against the headboard frowning at a piece of paper, a folder resting on his lap. She reached her hand out and ran a finger up his ribs. He turned her way.

“You never told me what you want in exchange for the shower.”

He grinned slightly, “Tell you later.”

She narrowed sleepy eyes at him, “Thought you said you were gonna sleep all day.”

“I’m in the bed, aren’t I?”

She snuffled a quiet laugh, eyes closing. She woke up later, much later, a warm hand on her hip shaking her lightly. “Hey,” voice pitched low. “Gotta eat somethin’.”

No, she absolutely did not. Her throat hurt way too much for something as ridiculous as that, she pulled the hood of the sweatshirt up in defiance.

“C’mon, up,” he ordered, though still quiet.

She swatted her hand at him. Instead of taking the hint, he simply picked her up, which, given his current state, didn’t seem like the wisest move, and then set her back down, only sitting up. She stared at him blearily.

“It’s soup, or, it says it’s soup,” he held up the already heated MRE. She held it for a few seconds, trying to blink herself into wakefulness, then brought a spoonful to her lips. It tasted like vegetable soup, small little lumps that were probably vegetables. Swallowing was painful. She grimaced, but brought another spoonful to her lips. Syverson had set out two other pouches, she wasn’t awake enough to read them. He was rounding the bed and easing down onto it, his own MRE in hand.

“Can’t get you a transport out of here, for another day or two,” he informed.

She blinked, oh, right, yeah, she would be leaving now that they’d found the killer. Shit. Shit, what the fuck was she doing?

“Lane,” he prompted.

“Have you told Hughes?”

“No.”

“Ugh, that might be a conversation for you to have. He hears the state of my voice he’s gonna bitch at me.”

“He’s the reason you’re here.”

She smiled slightly, “Be sure to tell him that.”

“You good?”

Honesty was the best practice, right? “I’m kinda freaking out,” she told the wall.

Silence, then, “’bout what?”

She shrugged, ouch, that hurt, “Everything.”

And she was, freaking out about everything. This was a weird situation. She’d caught serial killers before, she’d been attacked before, she’d killed before and watched others kill. But then throw in, that this whole thing had been written into classified by whatever high up that had requested Hughes and her presence, that she was injured and what the hell did she tell her job, obviously Hughes would know, but technically, she couldn’t tell anyone else, what if she had health complications, could she not tell doctors? Even though they were bound by doctor-patient confidentiality?

And the cherry on top, was that she had sex with the attractive, scary Captain who she wasn’t even certain liked her. And she didn’t do sex, or relationships really, because not many could understand being a homicide detective, former sex crimes detective. That or the men were threatened by her occupation. Though he probably wasn’t, he was a professional badass. She shook her head slightly, she was thinking too much.

He didn’t say anything for a while, she continued her small slurps of soup and small winces as she swallowed it down. “Hey,” he murmured, she glanced his way. This wasn’t his scary look, it was the one they shared in the kitchen back at the house. And oh, ohhh! That was, that was definitely attraction and not dislike at all. Okay, so maybe she was really bad at figuring this shit out, and was a little emotionally stunted in regard to relationships. He pivoted at the waist, then froze, grimaced, and shifted his whole body her way. His right arm came out, right hand going to the nape of her neck and pulling her towards him.

His gaze locked on her lips, then he tipped down, lips pressing against her, her eyes fell shut, his tongue traced over her lips, then teeth nipped gently at them. He pulled back breaking the kiss, but pressed his forehead to hers, “What’re you freaking out about?”

She blinked, she was freaking out? Oh, yeah, right, “Mostly the classified thing,” she murmured, gaze on his lips, “A friend of mine, he was punched in the throat on duty, had all these complications. I’m used to confidential, confidential’s pretty easy, classified, what do I tell the doctor? I promise I didn’t do this myself, please treat me without my telling you anything?”

His lips quirked upwards.

“Also, I didn’t really think about how I wanted the case to end, or well, it wasn’t exactly a case, but yeah. And I guess I did kinda want that due process, only I have no clue if that would have worked out given, we’re not in the States, and I’m kinda bummed but also fuck that guy.”

He was grinning now, that was really pretty up close.

“I’m pissed, because Hughes got to go home, and I had to stay when I wasn’t even the one ordered here, and of course I wind up having to deal with all the bullshit. And, I just, really want to be able to exist in the same space as another woman, I’m so tired of men staring at me.”

She paused, “Also, I kinda liked the whole fucking you thing, and I’m kinda bummed I’m leaving.”

His eyes went soft, then intense.

“Can you kiss me again?” she asked. He did not disappoint, like, at all. When he pulled away this time, he put space between them and ordered, “eat your food.”

Ugh.

Chapter Text

The next day and a half she sat around and inspected the other photos, the ones she’d cast out as unrelated to the serial killer, particularly, the two she’d deemed committed by a soldier. The only time she went outside was to pet Aika, which Syverson definitely exploited. Mahmoud as well. She held up one of the photos, inspected the dirt around it, there was a small puddle like stain on one of them, like…like someone had spat onto the ground, but that was too much to be just spit…tobacco, chewing tobacco.  She breathed out slowly, glancing towards Russel and Collins, then towards Syverson. There was no way of narrowing this down, she knew it, she would have to let it go, even if she really wanted it to be Russel. 

She and Syverson, they didn’t sleep together again, well, they slept in the same bed, but they didn’t sleep together. When they had had sex, they were both caught up in the notion of still being alive, that the pain wasn’t quite so bad. But now, that bone ragged, hanging on simply by adrenaline sensation had worn off. And all they had left was pain, breathing too deeply hurt let alone trying to move. That didn’t mean that she didn’t wake up pressed against Syverson. That was…not expected, especially given the heat. She started to shift away, but realized the weight on her hip wasn’t the bedsheet, it was his hand, and he pulled her back flush against him. Well, okay then.

“Transport should be here around 1100,” he informed, voice slightly roughened from sleep.

“Right,” she nodded slightly, that meant she needed to pack, granted, not a whole lot was out of place, she was pretty meticulous about staying organized when traveling. She was definitely stealing his hooded sweatshirt though.

They probably should have spent the few hours they had to actually discuss feelings and relationships, that would have been the smart thing to do, but they didn’t. Instead, they just, existed. Skin to skin, breathing the other’s air, running heavy hands down arms, up backs, threading fingers through hair. They should definitely be adults and talk about this. She shifted, careful not to put too much weight on his chest and pressed her lips to his. She was kinda fond of the beard, he angled up a bit, then dropped back when he twanged his ribs. Instead, his hands came up, grabbed her by the back of the neck and the jaw, and pulled her closer. She bit at his lip and pulled back slightly, sighed out a breath, then racked in another as he pulled her back down to his lips. Yeah, she liked the beard, and his lips, and his hands.

After their make out session, which unfortunately wasn’t able to go anywhere, she angled up and started packing, and double checking everything. She even went back to the closet to make sure she had everything from their as well. Back in Syverson’s room, she sat on the floor and refolded all of her clothes, made sure all toiletry lids were secure. She tucked her cold case file into her go bag, then grabbed up the stack of crime scene pictures and evidence baggies and held them out to Syverson.

“Can’t imagine I’d be allowed to take any of this.”

His brows flicked upwards, sleep-hooded eyes glancing over it, “Probably not,” he muttered, sitting up slightly and flipping through the stuff. He reached down, rough fingertips ghosting up the inside of her thigh, gentle, coaxing, “Come back to bed.”

She stared up at him, then caved, let him draw her back into the bed and his embrace. 1100 came too soon though, they both stood from the bed and she pulled on her last pair of jeans. She hefted her bag over her shoulder, then picked up her go bag, and started for the door. Syverson reached out, grabbed her by the wrist and turned her, corralled her back against the wall. He waited a beat, then dipped low, hands cupping her face, and kissed her. Her eyes closed, she dropped her go bag, cupped the back of his shaved head and pulled him closer. She was in the process of climbing him like a tree when someone banged on the door, “Sy, transport’s here,” someone called, they froze. She pulled back, racked in a few breaths, then murmured, “Gotta go, Hank.”

His eyes went soft, tracked over her face, then slowly eased her to the ground, he picked up her go bag, flung open the door, and stepped out, Jasmine trailing behind him.

She started for the truck, Syverson walking a step behind her. She paused at the door and turned to face him, “Thanks for keeping me alive, Captain Syverson,” she held out her hand.

“Thanks for not being too much of a pain in the ass,” he countered, grabbing hold of her hand and shaking once, then simply holding it. Right. Yeah, don’t kiss the man in front of his entire camp. She nodded slightly, then turned and climbed into the Humvee. He closed the door behind her and leaned against the window opening. “Try not to be too reckless, Lane.”

She grinned up at him, “I’m not reckless, Syverson, I take calculated risks.”

He slanted blue eyes over her then ordered, “Do as your told,” he gestured to the driver of the Humvee. She arched a brow and sat back, as he tapped the vehicle and stepped away. The ride back was boring, she spent the whole time trying not to fall asleep. They finally made it to the base, and she holed up in the same hot, stuffy office as when she’d first arrived and waited until the plane was ready. It was the same kind of plane, no comfy seats or first class, just strapped in.

She slept, she was a cop after all, she could sleep just about anywhere. She woke up a few times in the fifteen-hour flight, stretched, then would go back to sleep. She woke up as the plane was descending. Once given the go ahead, she stood, and gathered her things. She strode out, pulling on sunglass in the early morning sunlight and glanced around, breathing in crisp air, she shivered, thank god for that.

“Lane!”

She turned, saw Hughes striding towards her. Oh, good, she hadn’t planned out the whole getting home thing.

“Hey!” he called, bending to give her a hug, then back tracking, “Jesus, shit, are you alright?” he asked, eyeing her face, then gaze dropping to her throat.

“I’m fine.” She graveled out.

“Jesus, what the hell happened?”

“We went undercover, baited the guy,” she shrugged. “He attacked, shot Syverson in the armor, then Syverson shot him in the head.” Among other things, but yeah, that summed it up.

“Damnit, I shouldn’t’ve left—”

“Shut up, Hughes,” she grumbled, striding towards the direction he’d come from. She spotted his car, shoved her bags into the back, then slumped into the passenger seat.

“Should we go to a doctor?” he asked sliding into the driver’s seat.

“The medics looked me over,” and okay, maybe they had suggested additional medical treatment, he didn’t need to know that.

“We’re going to urgent care,” he stated.

She slid her gaze his way, leveled him with a glower, but said nothing. Urgent care took a while. When they finally saw her, the immediately noted the age of the injuries. “A medic looked me over, thought we’d come in for a second opinion to be safe.”

The nurse, Katie her name tag on her scrub top read, eyed her then nodded slowly. Hughes flashed his badge, “She’s a detective, she was undercover.”

Katie’s chin rises in understanding no longer carefully calculating, “Right, well, let’s take a look, then.”

“Hughes,” Jasmine muttered, “Get out.”

Hughes looked offended and about to protest.

“I have to take my pants off.”

“Oh, right,” and her boss stepped out.

Jasmine shimmied out of her jeans, unfortunately skinny jeans. Katie carefully inspected the bandage, then unwrapped the wound to reveal the stitches, “clean, even, no tearing, you’ll have to come back to have those removed.”

She nodded.

Katie turned her green eyes to Jasmine’s throat, “This is of concern,” she gestured slowly.

“Manual strangulation,” she noted.

Jasmine nodded confirmation.

“This level of bruising, we generally do a scan, make sure that there isn’t anything that may require surgery.”

Well shit.

“Any coughing, respiratory distress, seizures, loss of time?”

She shook her head, “Just the hoarseness, and, well, the obvious,” she points to the dark bruises. The nurse nodded, scribbling a few things down on her chart. “Contusion to the face,” the nurse also noted, then gently palpated her bruised, but no longer swollen face. “No signs of a break.”

Katie scribbled some more, then took her blood pressure and pulse, then listened to her breathing.  “Alright,” she nodded, “We can write you a prescription for pain, if you like?”

She shook her head, “that won’t be necessary.”

“Then you’ll want to have those stitches removed in about six, seven days, you can come here, any doctor will do.”

She’d find one of her paramedic/fire-fighter buddies to take them out. “Great,” she nodded, hoping down from the exam table, stuffing her legs back into her jeans, feet back into her boots, and strode out. She was straightening out her bunched-up pockets when she felt something, she fished it out of the pocket and held it out, a folded piece of paper, she glanced it over as Hughes made his way towards her.

“Says I’m good, stitches out in six or seven days.”

Hughes nodded, “Right, you want me to take you home?”

She wanted to go straight to work, but another shower would be awesome. “Yeah, alright.”

Once she was safely dropped off at her house, she took a shower, pulled on Syverson’s giant hoodie, grabbed up a pillow for a cuddle and stared at the paper. Syverson’s hand writing was blunt and clear. His name, a mailing address, and beneath both he’d written, Don’t go and get yourself killed, Lane, you still owe me for the shower. She snorted, then laughed, a full-on belly laugh that tapered into giggles. She pressed her face into her pillow and sighed, shit, she realized, she’d gone and caught feelings for the broody Captain in Iraq.

She fell asleep, overhead light still on, face pressed to her pillow, and his note clutched in her hand. Her last waking thought, I’ll have to put together a care package for the asshole.

END.