Retribution, Seven Style
Humming to herself, she vacuumed the glitter off every surface she could, including herself, not caring that Team 7 watched her and laughed. Once the worst of it disappeared and the vacuum put away, she settled cautiously behind her desk and prepped the training files for her supervisor's signature and forwarding from there to AD Travis for final approval.
She kept certain pages hidden, specifically one designed for a nasty payback on one Chris Larabee. Harper slipped those documents into her briefcase then settled behind her desk and started working on classes for the other teams.
Lost in her work, something in her surroundings started bothering her. Scanning the office, her computer screen blinked at her. It flashed through twenty-five screens before giving her the 'blue screen of death'. The second computer started the same routine. Restarting both of them, she fed it her search-and-destroy program again and wiped out the simulation of the 'blue screen'. Obviously Dunne respected her enough not to destroy her hard drive - that, or he knew the amount of paperwork he would have to fill out for committing such a deed. But technically he 'crashed' her computers.
Straightening them out, she became aware of a faint sound echoing around her. Very faint, but noticeable. She searched for and did not locate the source. Frustrated, she finally decided to give up; she sat back and concentrated on the files in front of her.
The ringing telephone gave her an escape from the drudgery of paperwork. "Harper."
"How's my baby girl?" The man's voice boomed through the earpiece and the woman smiled, leaning back and making herself comfortable in her chair.
"Just fine, Da. How are you and Ma?"
"Well, my little musician. She was asking about you so I told her I would call and check up on our darling."
"I'm doing good."
"And it's wonderful to hear that."
"How's the pub?"
"Booming. The tourists love us, especially since I convinced Donald to sing on weekends."
"He has a lovely voice."
"It would sound better as a duet." Here it comes, she thought to herself. "He asked about you." Harper pursed her lips. Yep, here it comes. "He misses you."
Her head banged against the back of her chair. Her drunken mistake when she visited her parents came back to haunt her, giving her an admirer. Not that Donald was not a nice guy, but not one that she wanted as a permanent attachment.
"Da, I've already told him and told you. I'm not interested in a commitment with him."
"Pah! Every woman wants a commitment. Just because of what happened with your marriage does not mean you should swear off men."
Harper blew out a breath. "Da, I didn't swear off men. Why do you think Donald's interested? He must have liked what happened that night."
"Watch your mouth, child. This is your father you're talking with. I might have to go defend your honor." Her snort came clearly through the line. He changed the subject before that stubborn streak appeared. "Your mother's wanting grandchildren. It's the Irish in her. She wants a grandchild, she wants her daughter, and she's getting demanding as she matures."
The daughter rolled her eyes. Her father wanted to bounce a little one on his knee and kept pushing her towards marriage as if the first one was not a complete disaster and technically, through the annulment, never happened. Marriage scared her now and she possessed no ambition to enter that sacred trust anytime soon. "Have you forgotten what happened last time?"
This time he sighed. "No, baby girl, I haven't. But I've got hope that you'll find someone. Your mother's got a feeling. She'll be doing a reading for you soon enough."
Rubbing her forehead, Harper thought about her mother reading the runes and the tarot about her future. Her mother's feelings often came true in one form or another; it must be the Celtic heritage. That still did not mean she had to like it.
Her father waited for her to say something, thinking over the long and convoluted tale of how they reached this point. Her mother met her father during his tour of duty in London as part of his Army service when mutual friends set them up. Half-American and Half- English, her father fell hard for the full-blooded Irish woman visiting English relatives and they married after a whirlwind courtship.
Once he retired and the couple traveled the world on their extended second honeymoon, they moved back to his wife's hometown in Ireland and he assumed ownership of her uncle's pub, finding himself to be a natural barkeep. If he could only get his daughter to move out there, get her married and make her a mother, he'd be a happy man.
"Da, have her call me when she finishes."
He nearly fell over in shock. His baby girl rarely held stock with her mother's readings. "I'll hold you to that."
"I love you, Da."
"I love you, too." They disconnected and she stretched her weary muscles before looking directly at the camera.
"Now you know I have parents and I was married. The marriage is considered classified and if anyone breathes a word of it, they will face serious criminal penalties. This is not a joke." Confident her warning fell on receiving ears, she returned reluctantly to the never- ending documentation required by her position.
They listened to her conversation with her father without their leader. Chris entered in time to hear, "is considered classified and if anyone breathes a word of it, they will face serious criminal penalties. This is not a joke."
The blond looked them over and enjoyed the stunned looks on their faces.
"I'll be damned," Ezra muttered. "Some poor, unfortunate soul married that she-devil?"
"Classified? Why would a marriage be classified?" asked Nathan, puzzlement on his features.
JD reasoned, "Maybe it's part of that black ice."
"Then we best leave it alone," Larabee told them plainly. He gathered from these comments that she was (a) married at some point; (b) the marriage turned classified; and (c) if he did not shut this down now, he would not bail them out of jail. He corrected himself; he would, but their asses would be his for the duration that they breathed on this earth. Check that; he snorted, for most of the Seven they already were Larabee's personal property.
Josiah made a few mental notes and a few more pieces fell into place but he still did not have enough to begin to figure out the picture. Days like this he loved his job as a profiler.
With a naughty grin, Ezra removed his own remote and started adjusting buttons.
"What's that for?" asked Nathan.
"Watch and learn, Mr. Jackson, watch and learn."
She hoped to finish the bulk of her reports and proofread the analysis before leaving for the day. With that thought in mind, Harper applied herself and tuned out her surroundings.
Ten minutes later, that sound tickled her consciousness again. She tried ignoring it but it throbbed in her mind, in her ears, and in her body. Just a constant thump, thump. Thump, thump. Narrowed eyes swept her office for the source and found nothing.
Thump, thump. Thump, thump.
Where was that coming from? She stood and checked her chair and desk, finding nothing.
Thump, thump. Thump, thump.
Chris heaved a sigh as she slowly grew more agitated. "What did you do, Ezra?"
"I am only analyzing her familiarity with literature," he replied with one hand on his chest and his most innocent expression.
Tanner ruined it with his impish smile. "Hell, Ez, that was the easiest one ta set up."
Buck slowly nodded. "Yup. Didn't understand why you wanted that where you did, but hey, it's yours. Looks like it's working."
"I don't hear anything," JD added.
"You are not supposed to, Mr. Dunne. The sound is on a very low frequency."
"What is she hearing?"
"The sound of her guilty conscience," the southerner replied with a gold toothed grin.
Nathan went over what he knew and could not put it together. He decided to watch and wait.
Josiah went over the clues - literature, low sound, and guilty conscience. Hmm...it sounded familiar but he could not place it.
Thump, thump. Thump, thump.
They were going to make her insane.
Thump, thump. Thump, thump. It grew louder if possible.
On her hands and knees, her floor received her attention without a care about her appearance or the fact she presented her butt to the camera, only wanting the noise to stop.
Thump, thump. Thump, thump.
"Nice view," Buck said with a leer.
"Presenting her best side," cracked Chris with a smile.
"What are you doing to her? It's making her nuts," JD commented, directing his gaze at the smug undercover operative.
Ezra raised the volume in response. Everyone heard a low sound echoing throughout her office. Thump, thump. Thump, thump.
Thump, thump? Josiah's eyes widened at the realization and a slow smile spread across his features. He felt Ezra's gaze on him and he nodded slightly in appreciation. Ezra winked at him before turning it up another notch.
Thump, thump. Thump, thump.
Louder this time and more insistent, the sound went right through her. With her high tolerance for most pain, this set her nerves on fire and upset her balance.
Thump, thump. Thump, thump.
Wait; was that a faint echo? Echo? The vent! Immediately shoving her chair under the vent, she grabbed her screwdriver, climbed on the seat, and undid the screws.
"Ah-ha!" she cried aloud, pulling the mini-transmitter/speakers from among the glitter and waved it at the camera. "Stop it or I crush it!"
Thump, thump. Thump, thump.
Her telephone rang. "Guilty conscience, Ms. Harper?" asked Ezra, his drawl thick with amusement.
Thump, thump. Thump, thump.
She smacked herself on the forehead. "No, brain damage. Poe's 'The Telltale Heart'; I must give you points for that one."
"I aim to confound," he replied.
"Payback's a witch and so am I."
"You may try, my dear, but I am afraid you are not of the caliber necessary to fool me."
"Is that a challenge?" She stared directly into the camera with an eyebrow raised.
"There is nothing you could do that I would not be able to thwart."
"Then you are challenging me?"
"Only if you purchase for my esteemed self a bottle of prestige wine of my choosing once you fail in your endeavors."
"You're on only if you buy my choice when I get you."
"Consider it a wager."
"Excellent." The thumping finally stopped once she heard the dial tone. Replacing the receiver, she nearly jumped when it immediately rang. "Harper."
"Ms. Harper, you have a visitor in the lobby."
"I'll be there momentarily."
As she walked out she mumbled, "Why am I scared now?"
"Everyone, if I may direct your attention to the main lobby screens?" said Buck in his best ringmaster voice, his hands pointing to the previously unviewed front lobby screens. The mustached man arranged earlier for JD to give them a live feed of the lobby without explaining why. "For your musical entertainment," he pointed to the tuxedo-clad visitor, "and our romantic interlude."
"What did you do, Buck? You never told any of us about this." JD glared suspiciously at his roommate. He knew about the lobby cameras but not about a visitor.
"That's because I wanted it to be a surprise," he replied.
Chris recognized the surprised and figured Harper would be wound tighter than a drum after this. He grinned and said, "Buck, this may be the best part of the day."
Green eyes met midnight blue and both smiles widened. "Oh, yeah."
"Chris, what is he planning?" asked Nathan.
"Keep an eye on Harper's expression and the others around them. This will be good."
Vin gave his friend a piercing look only to have it deflected back at him. Curious, he reclined his chair and kept his eyes on the screen with a grin only described as smug.
"Agent Harper, this gentleman needs to see you," the other agent told her. He let her around the center booth and she went over to the indicated tuxedo-clad man.
"Agent Harper?" asked the twenty-something gorgeous man holding a box.
"These are for you." He handed her the long box and she saw beautiful red roses inside tied with a deep crimson bow. The card was nestled in the bow.
"Thank you," she replied.
"There's something else, too."
"No, ma'am." He dropped on one knee and started singing a cappella much to the amusement of everyone in the lobby.
"I'll make love to you, like you want me to, and I'll hold you tight, baby, all through the night."
Applause rang out from everyone assembled and Harper actually cracked a smile. It would something talked about for weeks. "Thank you."
"I'm not done," he said shyly, dimpled smile in evidence.
"Roses are red, Violets are blue, If you believed the lyrics before, You're as dumb as a door."
With a quick smile and a wave, he exited quickly to the howling, tear-wiping, knee-slapping amusement of every agent gathered to watch. With as much dignity as she could muster, she returned to her office still holding the roses.
Whatever charitable thoughts Nathan held for Buck for sending her flowers and a singing message died a quick death with the second song. He stood, moving around the table to corner the mustached man.
Having a strong sense of self-preservation, Buck scooted out of his chair and moved to keep the table between them. "Now, Nathan, don't you be getting all upset. This was in fun, remember?" His hands waved for emphasis.
"You humiliated her in front of everyone." The sleek jungle cat stalked his prey.
The prey kept moving using chairs and bodies to keep him free. Josiah stuck his foot out and Buck tripped over it, concentrating more on Nathan than on his foot placement. "Nice trip," the profiler growled his own disapproval at the rogue.
Buck glowered at the seated man as Nathan caught up to him and easily pulled him face-to-face. "You will apologize, you hear me?"
The scoundrel tried pushing himself free to no avail. "Now, Nate, don't get all lathered up. I already apologized."
Nathan looked at him suspiciously. "I haven't heard one."
"That's because it's not verbal." Chris decided to save Buck a little hassle. Why, he didn't know, but every once in a while it felt good to pull Buck's fat out of the fire and make the mustached man feel like he owed his oldest friend and boss. "It's in the card, Nathan. Watch." With a flick of the wrist, he pointed at the screen. Buck shot him a look of gratitude as Nathan loosened his hold.
Face nearly burning with humiliation, Harper planned an execution. Opening the box of roses, she pulled the card from the envelope and tucked it in her hand away from the prying cameras.
Forgive me for being male...like the scorpion, it's just my nature. Give me a chance to make it up to you...Dinner? Just tell me when.
Looking directly in the lens, she was still seething, "I'll think about it."
Her telephone rang after she resealed the box for the trip home. "Harper."
"Dumb as a door!" an unknown laughing male voice yelled before hanging up.
"Right now, I'm thinking 'no' real hard," she commented. Reaching into her bottom desk drawer, she searched for her weakness and one of the major food groups for present day - chocolate. Nothing. No chocolate, no candy bars, no nothing. Frantic hands nearly upended the drawer searching and then she unwillingly accepted her stash was gone. They took her chocolate. Her anger thermometer went up. Those good for nothing, low life, pain in the ass . . . MEN!
There was going to be hell to pay and she knew just then how to do it. Aiming a death glare at the cameras, she promised in a low menacing growl that would have done Larabee proud, "Just remember, you have gone too far and asked for . . .no begged for it. So don't cry when you get what you deserve." Storming from her office, she used the back way to the main building out of their surveillance.
Team 7's Offices
Hearing the threat, a nervous, prickly tingling began at the base of every one of the seven men's necks.
"What the hell?" asked Chris. He knew next to nothing about what they had done to this point but she really looked pissed. A pissed off Harpy was not a good thing.
"What was she looking for?" The youngest shuddered from the glare.
"I do not know but prudence dictates preparation." Ezra stood with his sense of self-preservation fully aroused and armed.
"I'm with ya there, Ez." Vin followed his partner out of the Conference Room.
"It couldn't be the telegram." Buck shook his head, disbelieving his joke would provoke her that far.
Nathan dropped his head in his hand and Josiah pat him on the back with an enigmatic smile.
When she dropped off their surveillance, they started preparations for what they felt was their impending doom. They all found reasons to be at their desks and keeping a lookout for her; with a Harpy on the rampage, they did not need to be targets bunched too close together in a room like the Conference Room with very few exits. They wanted space to move if it came down to it.
The knock on the door surprised them. No one on their floor ever knocked. Exchanging looks, the closest person opened the door to reveal a visitor.
Cecil Nottingham stared at the woman. A woman wearing a smile that could only be described as feral. If he thought her class demeanor was harsh, this scared him. "Uh, Agent, Instructor, Harper, uh, ma'am, what can we do for you?"
"Invite me in." There was that 'obey-me-or-else' voice. He barely resisted the urge to snap to attention.
Against his better instincts, the sharpshooter for Team 6 opened the portal and allowed her access. All activity in their offices ceased as they stared in shock at the intruder.
Ellen Bishop, leader of her own band of misfits and mother of two, knew when things fell silent out there, her people were doing something she probably would want to stop or know about. She stepped out and caught sight of Instructor Harper, the woman responsible for making her team more unified. For that, she owed the woman every courtesy although her personality rubbed everyone in the building raw. "Instructor Harper, what can we do for you?" She pasted a pleasant smile on her face.
Hazel, smoldering eyes rooted the leader in place. Her words came out in a clipped, harsh tone. "I have a proposition for you and your team. May we speak privately?"
The team leader nodded once and ushered Harper into her office, closing the door on the stunned, surprised faces of her own team. "What's the proposition?" She propped herself on the corner of her desk and kept Harper standing.
"Agent Bishop, I am in need of your team's services for a demonstration."
"You're not going to try and sucker me into a self-defense refresher, are you?" She'd heard about Wilmington from the certifying team.
"Actually, I was hoping you and your team might consider assisting me in Team 7's refresher on Monday afternoon."
"Team 7?" Those were magic words but she let nothing show on her face.
"Yes. I am in dire need of a team that is willing to go toe to toe and not take it easy on them. I understand your two teams have a . . .friendly rivalry?"
"You understand correctly. What's in it for us?"
"Other than free shots at Team 7?"
Ellen thought to herself that the woman knew how to bait the hook. "Yes."
Harper studied the leader. "What do you want?"
"Don't ask me if you don't want an honest answer."
"Don't tempt me."
"I'm asking, then," she rephrased.
"I want my team to get the equipment they desperately need. I've put in several requisitions and keep being told that there's no money in the budget. I've heard about your experimental funding and I want some."
"More than I've already budgeted for you?"
That stopped Ellen cold. "Excuse me?"
Harper indicated she wanted a paper and pen and wrote down a figure. "This is what I have allotted for your team for new equipment. I have not had the opportunity to meet with you and discuss what you want."
The amount revealed caused the team leader's eyebrows to rise. "You're serious; this is for my team?"
"Yes. You, your team, and I need to talk about this and decide how you best want to spend it. I'll take your team out to dinner one night to discuss it and as recompense for helping me out."
"And they said you were a humorless bitch," Ellen said, testing the woman before her.
Harper gave her a small smile. "Don't believe everything 'they' say. I may be a witch but I do have a sense of humor. Just ask Team 7."
Ellen laughed. "I heard about the dummies."
"The living or plastic ones?"
The team leader started choking. "I like your style," she told the Instructor, suddenly deciding she needed to rethink her opinion about this woman. "Come on, I think we can help you." Once in the common area, she looked at the open door for their offices and commanded, "Close it."
Once Cecil followed her instruction, she looked her team over. "How would you folks like the opportunity to play with Team 7 during their self-defense refresher?"
They exchanged looks and said nothing.
"In return for dinner on Harper and a few other goodies. Instructor Harper is looking for a team that will not let the big, bad boy image of Team 7 scare them into going easy. A team not scared of those overblown cusses. In fact, she'd like to make them work very hard for it."
"That can be arranged," Buster spoke up. He smiled a toothy grin that the rest of his team matched. "Instructor, just to clarify, you don't want us to play 'nice' with them, do you?"
Harper thought if she were on Team 7, she might be frightened by this. "No fractures, no face, and no permanent damage but other than that, make them earn it. Can you do that?"
"Oh, yeah!" Cecil exclaimed, wanting a piece of Tanner.
"Just realize you might not be needed," the Instructor warned.
"They're going to challenge?" asked a surprised Ellen.
"Your team did. Why shouldn't theirs?"
Buster howled. "When?"
"Monday, from one till five."
"Instructor, I am looking forward to this," Cecil told her.
"I only ask one thing in that you don't tell Team 7 that you're helping me; I'd like to surprise them."
They looked at each other and mutually decided that suited them just fine. With nods of agreement, Harper took her leave, taking the circuitous route to Team 7's office.
She threw the door open and it banged against the wall. "Someone had better give me my chocolate back before I get really ugly," she snarled at them, particularly at the sharpshooter.
Confused blue eyes met her hazel ones.
"Don't give me that innocent look, Agent Tanner. Where's my chocolate?"
"Lady, I don't know what yer talkin' about," Vin declared, more than innocent, "I ain't got your candy."
"Geez, Harpy, can you calm down for a minute?" the computer whiz asked. "What makes you think we took your chocolate?"
"You're the only ones that have been breaking into my office all day," she shot back with that obvious truth.
Nathan gave her a questioning glance then stared at Ezra, Vin, and Chris. Vin's innocent look came across as real and the medic eliminated him. Stealing candy was not Ezra's ball of wax so he moved on to Chris. The normally smug leader was just as confused as everyone else was. Who was it?
"Agent Wilmington, you wouldn't happen to know anything about my missing candy, would you?" Hazel eyes raked over the bigger man.
"Darlin', I'm still waiting on an answer." He gave her his best smile and hopefully little boy expression.
"I'm still thinking." The displeasure showed on her face.
"I sincerely hope you do not harbor the obnoxious thought that I would have anything to do with the petty theft from your place of labor?" Green eyes met hers and she read the innocence in them.
She did not answer him as her eyes swept the room again and found everyone staring at her in puzzlement with the exception of Josiah. Feet propped on his desk, leaned far back in his chair, he studied her while eating a candy bar. One of her candy bars. "Agent Sanchez?" Slowly she advanced on the profiler, like a vulture on mostly dead carrion. He gave her a broad smile.
"What just happened here?" asked Ezra, not recalling the bigger man removing anything from her desk during their last visit.
"I believe I miscalculated a maturity level," Harper admitted, still locking gazes with the older agent.
"Bishop takes queen," he rumbled a soft reply as he took another rather satisfying bite of the treat. At her surprised expression, Josiah added, "It's the surprises that get you killed. It always pays to study your subject and be prepared. Are you prepared, Agent Harper? I have faith I am." He winked at her.
"Josiah, let me ask you this. Is the profile you are building what I am allowing you to see or is it reality?"
He sobered and contemplated, a quiet, thoughtful expression on his face, then a slow, gloating grin split his face completely in half. "Animis opibusque paratus," he answered her, wanting to see a reaction.
She understood the Latin - 'I'm ready for anything' - and had her own reply. "Ne invoces expellere no possis."
His mind translated 'do not call up that you cannot put down'. He answered her thrust with a responding parry, enjoying the fencing match of words, "Frontis nulla fides."
Harper got it - do not trust appearances - and realized the truth in that statement. However, she could not allow him the last word. "Fac ut gaudeam; mox nox in rem!"
Make my day; let's get this show on the road, she told him. He could oblige her. Right before he replied, another voice entered the discussion.
"Utinam logica falsa tuam philophiam totam suffodian!" The Latin phrase snapped at both of them causing them to turn to the owner, a dapper man dressed in an expensive suit and wearing a smirk that would make a saint swear.
Both Josiah and Harper burst out laughing at the curse he gave both of them.
"Ezra, I know I don't understand what they said but what the hell did you say?" asked Buck, puzzled by the whole exchange going on around him.
Josiah translated, "May faulty logic undermine your entire philosophy!" He wiped a tear from his eyes.
"Agent Standish?" Harper acknowledged him with an impressed nod, a twinkle in her eyes.
"Mundus vult decipi, ergo decepiatur. Is that your motto?"
Ezra presented her with a nod of his own. "It will do." His agile mind translated the sentence as 'The world wants to be fooled, thus it is fooled'.
"Then allow me to introduce you to mine: Latet anguis in herba."
His smile came out with the thought of 'dangers lie hidden'. "Victis honor!"
She sputtered aloud, "Let's hear it for the losers? Meaning me?"
Josiah finished with, "Ruat caelum." (What will be will be).
All three exchanged glances and Harper smiled. "Hodie mihi est, sed cras, tibi. For the rest of you, you'll get yours." After she left, the rest of the team stared in awe at their Latin-speaking members. They never knew the two possessed such mastery of the tongue to have the ability to trade insults back and forth so quickly. Of course, none of them thought it was a skill any of them would find useful one day. Harper was bringing a lot of unique skills into the open.
Once they were assured she had returned to her office, they left theirs to the next complete their next phase of Retribution, Team Seven Style.
As they rode the elevator down, Josiah asked, "Exactly what are we doing?" Chris wanted to know also since he was participating.
This inspired snickers and stuttered exclamations through howls of laughter. By the time the elevator stopped, all seven were filled with mirth.
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