See DISCLAIMERS. Ugh, this one needs a lot of work, and has a ton of backrev triggers. The romantic urgency is clumsy, but I’ve got to get the bones down so I can fix it in revisions.
It was the dream again.
Not every night, but often enough that she knew what would happen next, Denna had the same dream.
At least, often enough since Munich.
In her mind’s eye, she was in bed with Rayner in a nondescript hotel room, and when Denna looked out the window, she saw a dark moonless sky, but they were both fully dressed. Rayner was displeased with her. In the dream, Denna too was upset. She couldn’t convince Rayner of something she knew was the absolute truth, and they were at an impasse.
Rayner was then suddenly by the door, without having moved from the bed, and Denna was right beside her. Rayner opened the door to walk outside, and the door opened right to the street instead of the hall outside the hotel room.
Denna was prepared to follow, even though she knew bad things were outside the door.
Then she stood in the street outside the hotel, and it was the same street back in Munich where she’d been kidnapped, but now, instead of Rayner, Katja was beside her. She was dressed in a thigh-length black leather trench coat over dark leggings and knee-high militant boots, and Denna knew she was armed.
Instead of the dead of night, it was afternoon on a cloudy day. The street was wider than it had been that dark night, and there was no one else around. No cars were parked nearby, and across the street was an eight-foot-high wrought iron fence and hedges that stretched high enough to be impenetrable, and as long as the interminable block.
Now that she stood in the street, Denna’s feet wouldn’t move forward.
Katja walked away from her, stopped and turned around as if she wanted Denna to follow, but her face was blank, impassive, with no sign of recognition. Her eyes didn’t warm for Denna the way they did now that they were lovers, and she didn’t beckon the way Denna expected.
Denna then felt the impulse to look up the street, and there was a wild boar at the end of the block. He was huge, five feet high at the shoulder, with sharp white tusks longer than her hands. Covered in gray and brown matted fur, he smelled of death and decay Denna could sense even at this distance.
She knew she needed to run, and turned to Katja for help, but Katja was gone. In her place, a large falcon, wings spread wide exactly where Katja had stood, suddenly appeared and flew away.
Denna looked back. Now, the boar was rushing top speed at her. There was no cover on the street – it was just her and board. The only escape was back inside the hotel, but when she reached for the door, it was always the same distance from her hands, no matter how she hard she tried.
She looked again. He was closer now, grunting in menace, a malevolent blur bent on her destruction.
He was coming, and he wanted her dead.
Denna woke with a [lurch], just stopping herself from leaping from the bed. Drenched in sweat, she shivered despite the hot, thick air in the dark room and glanced at the screensaver clock on one of her systems.
“You were screaming,” Katja said, her voice low in Denna’s ear.
Denna felt a kiss on her temple, and realized that Katja’s arms were wrapped around her.
They lay nude, tangled in the threadbare sheets that were still tousled from their earlier lovemaking. Denna’s heartbeat slowed from the thundering pace created by the dream, and the gasping breaths evened out as Katja caressed her calm.
She knew the dream was just a shadow of what she’d actually endured. She hadn’t given much thought to the symbolism of the dream – Katja’s escape, or what the boar might mean – but the fact that she’d been with Rayner in the dream and then her life had been in danger didn’t require much dream analysis.
Denna didn’t want to talk about it. Not again, not when it had never really helped her, but the darkness, the silence, and Katja’s warm security teased the words across her lips.
“They grabbed us right outside the hotel.” She spoke in a flat, monotone. She’d told the story so many times back in D.C. The required sessions where she’d assured her therapists that, despite the trauma they were all so sure she’d experienced, she was mentally prepared to go back to work. After awhile, they’d believed her, but she knew that it wasn’t really the therapists she was working to convince.
“I fought back, of course, but there were too many of them, and I didn’t have my weapons.” That was the last time she’d made that mistake. Everywhere she’d been since, she’d carried a weapon.
There were two knives and one gun within stretching distance right now.
“Rayner was armed, and managed to get a hand on her gun. She fought herself free, and I heard gunshots, but I didn’t know until later that she’d taken two of them out.” [BACKREV: check this detail.]
“One of them knocked me unconscious. I woke up during the ride to wherever the hell we ended up. I heard them talking about taking turns with me, but then someone – Roux, maybe – told them they’d have to wait. That Renault had plans for me first.”
Denna turned her head to look out the window. She couldn’t see the sky – too many streetlights. She wished she could see the stars. [Fix]
“He asked me questions, but I didn’t have any answers. I didn’t know where the others were staying – I never knew. I -“
She thought about the pain, the endless pain, the misery, the desperation and that grief – the grief that still held her captive. The sandess at a life unlived.
Was what she had with Katja really the opposite of that? Was this what she had been missing? If so, why didn’t it make her feel any better?
Did she really need to become a traitor to have someone in her world that made her feel whatever this was with Katja?
“I didn’t want to die, but I didn’t have anything to bargain with, and I knew they were going to kill me.” She sighed, and to her own ears, she sounded exhausted. “I think I gave up then.”
“I saw that,” Katja said. “It infuriated me. I couldn’t let them kill you.”
Denna pulled away to lie on her back and look Katja in the eyes. “You knew?”
“I was there.”
Denna looked up with a start, and comprehension chilled her to the core. She started to disentangle herself. She thought she’d imagined it seeing Katja in that warehouse. [BACKREV: CHECK THIS. IT’S CRUCIAL.] “You were there?”
She could hear the bite, the anger in her own voice, but she didn’t care. If Katja had helped Roux…
“Was this your idea? Did you help them?” She bit the words off, tasting bile.
Denna prepared to leap from the bed. If Katja had been there, been in on it, then Denna was a fool. She’d been sleeping with someone who…
The horror of it sickened her, and she was filled with an instant rage that she electrified her entire body.
If Katja had helped plan the torture that Roux had perpetrated, Denna would kill her right now.
Katja squeezed her tighter, more from her own anger at Renault than any attempt to comfort Denna. She knew she couldn’t let Denna go. If she did, she’d lose her forever, and that couldn’t happen.
She needed her too much now, though she was terrified of admitting it. [Fix]
“Listen to me,” Katja said, and was surprised to find that she was nearly begging. “Listen.” She wrapped an arm around Denna to prevent her escape. “I didn’t know they were going to grab you, and by the time I found out about it, it was too late. I got there as soon as I could, I told Renault it was stupid, and I did what I could to get you out of there.”
[BACKREV: CHECK PREVIOUS MENTIONS of Katja talking to Denna about Munich.]
“I called Pen and told her to leak the location to Foster, and to lure Roux away from the warehouse. It was the best I could do without ending up dead myself. There were too many of them – if I’d tried to shoot our way out, we’d both have been killed.”
She stared into Denna’s eyes, silently praying that she’d be believed.
Denna looked incredulous, but Katja hoped that all that had happened between them would convince her.
“I got out of there quickly, knowing that Foster was on the way. And then, I…”
She was still embarrassed by what she’d done next, but she could see that Denna needed the whole truth. Or at least as much as Katja could give her.
“It was a stupid move, but I went to the hospital to see if you made it out okay.”
Denna’s eyes widened. “That was real? You were really there?” Her voice dropped to a whisper. “I thought I imagined it.”
“No. Pen was pissed.” Katja winced. She tried never to mention Penelope around Denna, but now she’d done it more than once. She trusted Denna, to a point, but the old habit of protecting Penelope at all costs was persistent.
“I did what I had to do,” Katja said, and her voice dropped to whisper. “And I’d do it again.
She traced Denna’s jawline with the tip of her index finger, then her chin, and back over her lower lip.
“I swear to you,” she said in a murmur. “I will never let anyone hurt you, not if it’s in my power to stop it.”
She [stared] into Denna’s dark eyes, hoping that Denna would believe her. Denna’s expression was blank, and Katja wanted it to change, but then to her surprise, Denna reached up and wiped tears from Katja’s cheek.
Katja hadn’t known she was crying.
Denna wrapped her around Katja’s neck and pulled her closer. Just before their lips touched, she whispered.
“I believe you.”
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