Tristan folded his hands in front of him, eyes following her frantic movement across the room silently. The pad with the sloppily scrawled address lay down in front of him; it looked like a common home address to him. It didn’t exactly make the entire thing easier, but knowing where he was, was a start.
It took more than just knowing the address, though; no matter how much she wanted to, Tristan couldn’t just jump up and go there on a moment’s notice - any wrong move on his part, any mistake that could get his cover blown would have severe repercussions for the kidnappee.
"Ma’am," His voice cut through her monologue sharply. "This is not about your fears or sorrows. This is about your friend’s safety, right now. Me goin’ in right this second guns blazin’, while probably satisfyin’, won’t be conductive to his safety; it will probably have repercussion beyond the ones he might suffer from bein’ caught on the phone. I realise we need to act quickly, still knowin’ where he is, but before I can do that, I need you to get a grip and give me y’r phone. Tell me everything you know about the kidnapper, the place he’s being held; what sort of house it is, in what kind of neighbourhood, anything you remember havin’ been mentioned in that phone call. I’ll put together a team based on what you give me.”
He leaned forward, gaze serious. “I’ll do my best, Evie, but y’know I ain’t able to promise anythin’. You did good.”
Evie froze as his voice once again cut through her panic. Her eyes widened at the harshness in his tone, but he was right…absolutely right. Looking like a child that had just been chastised, the woman slowly slid into the chair on her side of the table, a silent nodding of her head marking that she heard and understood. She always did better under the pressure of authority, was able to keep calmer when she’d been told exactly what was needed and expected from her. Obediently, she pulled her phone from her pocket and handed it over.”The kidnapper…Ivan…is an ex boyfriend of Aleks’. Their relationship was…abusive….and a few weeks ago he told me that he’d been getting threatening calls and he suspected they were from Ivan. I told him to inform the police immediately…but he was…he was against that idea.”
She took a breath and closed her eyes, trying to go back to the phone call itself, her hand pressed against her forehead as if she thought the pressure would force out the answers she needed. “It was…a short conversation…but…he said it was one bedroom…one floor…suburban neighborhood…quiet. I thought I heard a bus…like there was a bus stop outside.That’s all…that’s all I got before he had to hang up.”
It wasn’t hard for him - or for anyone really - to hear the commotion going on at the front. Tris, who had been concentrating going over some files for his case, trying to organise everything into a coherent package, almost felt like the sudden yelling physically ripped him from his own mind; heart jumping erratically in his throat as he turned and immediately tried looking for the source of the trouble.
The source wasn’t anyone with a gun, looking to shoot people up in a blind rage, however, which is what his mind had almost automatically gone to; being from where he was. Instead, he recognized the woman from the train - Evelyn “Evie” Reid - looking panicked, angry, on the verge of becoming hysterical even, if the rapid rise and fall of her chest and the shrillness of her tone was anything to go by.
She burst out in tears, proving him right, and Tris felt himself come into motion. He’d heard what she’d shouted; could make a good judgment on what it was about. The news of the missing Russian wasn’t uncommon knowledge - he only hadn’t known that man had friends in the yard.
Jensen, looking surprised and completely out of his depth, and who normally wasn’t Tristan’s biggest fan, now looked as he was the second coming of Christ when Tris picked up the notepad she’d slammed down on his desk and gently took her by the arm. “Ma’am, Evie, it’ll be best if you come with me to a more secluded area, so you can calm down and explain to me, in detail, what the problem seems to be. Think y’can do that?”
For a moment, Evie feared that she had lost it. Just completely hit rock bottom, reached the edge of her patience and her ability to process fear and grief. She felt out of control, like she couldn’t turn off the tears if she wanted to, like she would never be capable of anything but trembling and panic ever again.
Until she heard Tristan’s voice. Her eyes widened as he took her arm, his voice soft and kind, but authoritative. It was like a shut off valve had been triggered, the stream of liquid running down her face coming to a stop, the trembling lessening. Wordlessly, Evie allowed Tristan to pull her down the hall, to one of the interview rooms. She began to pace almost immediately, eyes darting to the pad of paper in his hand.
Calm down, he’d said. No…no there was being contained, she could contain herself. But she couldn’t be calm. It was an impossible task. “He called me…about an hour ago…he gave me that address…told me that’s where he was and that his kidnapper had stepped out…but he came back…I don’t know if…I don’t know if he put the phone down in time…I don’t know if he’s okay.” She swiped at her eyes. “He sounded so…relieved when I answered…like…like he thought I could save him.” A bitter sound caught in her throat. “People I c-care about…keep getting taken…hurt…they die…or they disappear. And I can’t save them…any of them…I can’t do anything.” Her gaze fell on him, helpless, pleading. “Please…please Mr. Mckay…please can you just go and get my friend and bring him back alive. I can’t…I can’t go to another funeral…I can’t…”
"Evie? What are you…I thought you weren’t back ye-"
Jensen sat back in his chair, eyes wide, as the usually quiet and friendly brunette slapped a pad of paper onto his desk hard. “DOES NOBODY ANSWER THE GODDAMN PHONES WHEN I’M NOT HERE?” she roared, slight frame trembling and her eyes wild.
Aleks had hung up, put the phone down, and the minute he did all she knew was fear. Because it could only take a second for the terms of his life to change, for him to go from alive to dead. And nobody had answered the fucking phone.
The man leaned forward and looked at the paper hesitantly, like he thought it would scorch him if he touched it. “What is this?”
"It’s the address where Aleksandr Karkov is being held."
"The missing man?"
"NO. NOT THE MISSING MAN. MY MISSING FRIEND. MY POTENTIALLY COULD BE DEAD ANY SECOND FRIEND. I AM NOT GOING TO ANOTHER FUNERAL THIS YEAR JENSEN…DO YOU HEAR ME…I’M NOT…"
And suddenly she was embarrassed because the tension broke and she was standing in the middle of the yard crying her eyes out like a goddamn child.
But her words were true.
If she had to don black again this year…she honestly didn’t think she’d survive it.
Connor’s shoulders automatically tensed a little at the soft, tentative tone with which the woman had said his name; his gaze turned flat and wary, knowing that whatever was going to come spilling from Evie’s mouth was probably going to be laced with emotion, was probably going to bring back memories of Kathleen, whom he hadn’t been able to save and Connor was so sick of remembering.
True to form, Evie’s words were touching and dripping with sincerity. The truth of the matter was that a part of him was appreciative of the gesture. A part of him was even touched by it, his own emotions a turmoil within him. But he still couldn’t help but think her as naive for making that offer; because while there was no question of him protecting her when it was needed and while there was no question that he would never hurt her personally - the desire to do that had passed a long time ago - it didn’t mean that he didn’t sometimes look at her and still saw her as an expendable asset. A part of him that calculated her usefulness against her personality; would he protect her when it came down to it? Yes. Would he give his own life to save hers? No.
He wasn’t a good person. There was ‘good’ inside of him, if he’d quantify it in terms of good and bad, but ultimately, he was not a good person. She was, however. She meant every word she said; and looking at her and seeing Kathleen, whom he couldn’t save, Connor somehow felt unwilling to break her of her notion of his ‘goodness’. It was nice, somehow, to know there was a person who had faith in you. Sure, there was Spencer and Ash, but they were just like him. They knew who he was: a monster. A broken, twisted individual with no real chance at redemption for the things he’d done. Someone who didn’t really want to be redeemed either way. Someone who’s only redeeming quality was loving someone just as fucked up as he was. Yet Evie somehow still had faith that beneath all of that, there was still someone with a soul and a heart. And right now, he didn’t have the strength to protest. Right now, he actually wanted to believe it.
"You’ve helped me too, you know, in a lot of ways that matter." He finally replied, shaking his head. "It’s not just a one way street. You don’t need to promise me anything. But… I appreciate it."
On impulse, a strange surge of fondness welling up in him and making him move, he leaned forward, hands splaying on either side of her face and pressed a soft kiss, like a benediction, on her forehead. It was a gesture of less than a second, but it hadn’t felt like the wrong thing to do.
"Now stop making those bambi eyes at me and help me pack. No matter what you wish, your stuff isn’t going to pack itself."
She wondered if she’d partially done this on purpose, being vulnerable and emotional with him. Evie knew that she could not completely understand what he was going through, but in the most basic of senses…she knew what it was like to try and piece yourself back together after a trauma. Some pieces were lost…permanently…and as you scrambled and tried to redefine yourself, remold yourself, you used pieces offered to you by others around you. And maybe Connor deserved…deserved to have someone hands him some pieces that weren’t soaked in blood and an atmosphere of fear. She wasn’t numb to the fact that he was a man who did horrible things. But he had never been a thing that went bump in the night to her. In the strangest of ways, he was the nightlight that made her feel safe.
Part of her was surprised though, when he actually didn’t cast away her words. And when he reached out to take her face in his hands, she was beyond shocked, eyes closing out of reflex as he kissed her forehead. It was almost…almost the way Derrick used to kiss her forehead. There was a small bit of affectionate frustration in it. Like…oh evie, what am I going to do with you, you silly girl? And it gave her a sudden rush of comfort…because it was the first time she’d seen Derrick, the things she’d loved about him, mirrored in another person.
Quietly she nodded at his words, turning to grab another box. She wished her things would pack themselves, that everything in her life would just fall into place on its own…for once…for just a day. But life didn’t work that way and you had to pull and dig at everything. In a way you were always packing and unpacking, mentally, rearranging your expectations of the world to fit whatever would help you get through the day.
But at least she wasn’t alone.
Aleksandr could have cried when he heard Evie’s voice come through his phone. His eyes were darting around, checking for shadows and movement, anything that made it look like someone could be coming through, specifically Ivan. “Oh my god, thank god,” he breathed out, voice quiet. “Look, I don’t know how much time I have, he only stepped out for a moment. I’m…. I honestly don’t kn-know where I am, Evie.” He could feel his eyes starting to water as he realised he had no information to tell her. He had no idea how to get himself out of here.
"I-I… wait. I can open up the maps section and see if it gives me anything." Aleksandr pulled the phone away from his ear and went to the map app, waiting until it pinned in on him. "Addlestone!" he said, his heart racing now that he finally has a location, "I’m in Addlestone. I don’t— there’s no address. But I’m in Addlestone. Let me try to find some mail." He took a moment to look around the kitchen, trying to find a piece of mail that had something on it, but he couldn’t find anything. Until he did. It was tucked far, far back in a drawer and it was ripped opened at one point, but he could still make out the address. "I found something. Its— Its um. 375 Garden Dr."
Everyone had assumed that Aleks’ disappearance was linked to Ivan. At least everyone who knew him. But hearing it confirmed made Evie’s stomach drop, made her seethe with an anger that she didn’t often feel. The girl could handle a lot on her own, she could bear wounds cast upon herself. But someone hurting a loved one…someone she cared about?
Practically jumping over the back of her couch, Evie stumbled towards the kitchen where a pad of paper and a pen were stowed in a drawer. Addlestone…Addlestone…her hand shook as she wrote down the name. But god she needed an address. The seconds that passed in silence had the brunette feeling more overwhelmed than she’d felt in a while. Her eyes widened when he gave her an address, and she hastened to write that down too. “Okay…okay I got it. Aleks…listen…I’m going to call the yard now…right now…and they’re gonna come and get you. Do you hear me? You’re gonna be okay…we’re gonna have you home.”
Meg… Evie mentioned the name quite often, but Connor had never really paid it much attention. Something about the name kind of tugged at his memory however, a small frown marring his features as he couldn’t immediately figure out when or where this memory was coming from. He never used to have any problems remembering, even the little details.
Spencer had mentioned that name once or twice. At least, trying to think, that’s what he came up with, but whether he was completely right on that front… well, it didn’t exactly matter at that moment in time.
"Hm, happy to help," Connor retorted, only the slightest edge of sarcasm to his tone; thought it was sardonic more than anything else. He’d offered it, after all. "Just point me to where to start."
Shrugging lightly, his voice dropped a little. “Everyone’s got different ways to deal. Everything you carry’ll keep on getting heavier if you don’t.” His mind briefly touched on his own issues; the hallucinations and the panic attacks. Whether he was hypocritical telling Evie she had to figure it out when he barely had wasn’t something he tried bothering himself with - the idea of Evie not succeeding simply couldn’t fit along with every other goddamn negative thoughts he’d been having the past few months.
Evie’s voice was soft, tentative, as if she were worried that the words she wanted to say would be unwelcomed. “I know cheesy and emotional isn’t your thing…I know it makes you roll your eyes. But just…humor me for a minute, okay? Because you don’t have to be here…you don’t have to be helping me with the things I’m too emotional to handle myself. So just…let me be grateful for a minute and don’t try to wash it away with sarcasm, okay? You’re a good friend…and you’ve…you’ve helped me…sometimes without even meaning to. And I just want you to know that…that even though I know we’re different…and you’re strong in ways I could never be…there’s nothing I wouldn’t do for you, okay? What you’re going through right now…I know you’ve probably got other people who…who can help you a lot better than I can. But if you ever need anything…if there’s anything I can do…I’d do it. I’d do anything for you.”
It was strange. Ivan had to go out, and told Aleksandr he would be gone for a few hours and he wasn’t going to keep the smaller man in the bedroom. Aleksandr gave a small smile to Ivan, and closed his eyes when the other man came over to give him a kiss and he had to kiss back, because he knew what would happen if he didn’t. Once Ivan was gone, and Aleksandr was sure he wasn’t going to pop back in for something he forgot, he got off his spot on the couch and began searching. He needed to find something, anything, that he could use to call someone. He just… He needed to call someone. When he would watch TV, when Ivan was gone, or when Ivan let him, he would catch the news, and that’s when he saw his face. His face on the news, reported missing a week ago. A week and no one has found him? They’re probably expecting to find a body.
Aleksandr went through every room in the house, every drawer, making sure he left it the exact way he found it. But in the kitchen, that’s when he saw it. In the drawer with a bunch of random things was his phone. He picked it up and pressed the center button, and he could have cried when the phone screen lit up. Maybe Ivan was keeping his phone charged? Aleksandr didn’t really care at his point, all he knew was that he needed to call someone.
He went through his contacts and found Evie, so he pressed on her name, and muttered to himself for her to answer as it rang.
Missing…it was such a passive word to use for a person. Objects went missing…but people…people ran away or were stolen. And Evie knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Aleks would never run away. He cared too much about his friends, he was a man of loyalty and deeply planted roots. So every time she saw his face scrawl across the news with that word in large print overtop, Evie felt irrationally angry. And maybe the anger was just a way of trying to deal with the helpless fear. Because all she could do was watch as other people searched and tracked and investigated. All she could do was stand there and be utterly useless. She needed him home…she needed her friend safe and sound. There had already been one funeral this year…no…god no…she couldn’t even let herself begin to think like that.
When her phone rang, she expected it to be Meg checking in, or Roman. Instead, the name that scrawled across her caller id made Evie gasp. She pushed the button to accept the call harder than she intended to, voice shaky with relief and concern all at once. “Aleks?!!! God we’ve all been worried sick. Where are you…tell me where you are and I’ll send someone to come get you right now.”
Letting out a snort-like laugh, his hazel eyes amused and lips tilted up in a grin, “I suppose you’re right. P’rhaps people crave the mystery, I don’t know. Though I sure wish my coworkers would look even an inch as attractive as them women in that movie, I can tell you that,” his grin turned a tad impish for a brief second, southern drawl turning a little more pronounced, a little heavier on his tongue. It was always like that whenever he came out of business mode and started feeling a little more familiar around people. Not the most social of people during working hours, he was all the more social when out of working hours; and having found Spencer again brought out his more playful side anyway.
Tristan noticed her nervous gesture, eyebrows raising slightly as he saw the scar on her collar bone; a scar that was mirrored on the small stretch of skin that showed as the fabric of her sweater moved down a bit with her hand going up. Undoubtedly, there was a story there; a not so nice one, and Tristan couldn’t help the brief flash of concern and righteous anger at whomever had deemed to hurt this nice woman like that. But he didn’t ask, because that wasn’t his place; and with her lover recently dead, not the time either. “That’s certainly the truth.” He simply agreed, reminding himself to read up on her more thoroughly next time he was back at the Yard.
Laughing lightly, he shook his head. “Didn’t even try, me. I’d like t’keep on livin’ thank you very much. As for catchin’ whoever killed them people,” he let out a small sigh, “I’ll do my best, like always. It ain’t ever as simple as it seems, though. Well, surely the bombings were; got terrorism written all over it, but this? Seems more like a revenge killin’. I don’t usually like discussin’ cases with outsiders, but,” He looked her over briefly, “If y’can get to the files, y’d find out most of it in there anyway. Whoever did that crime did it b’cause the head psychiatrist of the ward was a fan of experimentin’ on people. The rest? Collateral damage, most likely. Ain’t pretty, but revenge rarely is.”
If Evie were a normal girl, the flirtatious type that hadn’t just had her heart crushed into pieces, she might have flirted. Might have winked at the southern man and gone “What am I, chopped liver?” There was something inherently attractive about the way his accent deepened with his more impish tone of voice. What woman didn’t get a little weak kneed at a man with an accent after all? Instead she settled for shaking her head and smiling at his playful and roguish tone. “But you wouldn’t get a whole lot of work done with such pretty people stealing your focus,” she amended with a raise of her eyebrow.
Had she been the same girl she was when she’d moved to London, Evie would have felt nothing but horror at Tristan’s explanations regarding the reason behind the massacre. But the world was no longer as black and white as it had been, not given the people that she loved and the things that some of them had done. And suddenly…suddenly she remembered her conversation with Connor at the bar…his words about what had happened to him. Threads were swiftly pulled together and she realized that those two incidents had to be linked. Evie wondered what kind of person it made her…the fact that her main emotional response was a sense of relief that Connor had been liberated from his torture. “I feel bad for the people who didn’t deserve to get hurt,” she said softly. “It never feels fair…when other people get caught up in someone else’s well deserved punishment. It’s individuals like that that made me want to be a psychologist…I guess I wanted to battle the people who abused their positions. Childishly idealistic of me, I know.”
Meg didn’t really know what she could say to that. That she understood? She didn’t, not really. She’d never really felt that sort of loss before - except for perhaps when Roman got kidnapped or when Tim disappeared for a second time, but she’d always had the hope of them returning, which Evie definitely didn’t have. That she was sorry? What good would that do, though? Apologies wouldn’t bring Derrick back. Nothing she could say would bring him back, or ease the load. So she simply kept her mouth shut and pulled Evie closer, wrapping her arms around the woman’s shoulders.
"That sounds like a good goal, Evie," She muttered, slightly lightened by hearing Evie talk about trying at least. "You know whatever you’ll decide, I’ll be there, yeah? Though…," Meg allowed herself a small smile, leaning back to look Evie in the eyes. "If you do go back to school, I heavily advice going to UL." Her lips lifted a tick higher. "Having you as a study buddy would be my honor, after all."
Thoughts suddenly brought back to the food she was cooking (and trying not to burn, though when she was cooking, anything was possible; even burning spaghetti), she let go of Evie and turned back towards the cooking in question. “Seems about done, I’d say. How about you sit down and I’ll get everything ready for you?” Meg busied herself finding plates and cutlery, putting the sauce pot and pasta pot on the table, sliding down into the other seat. “I’m uh… well, I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve been asking around some and… I’ve got something to give you. After you’ve eaten, though.”
There was the tiniest twitching of Evie’s lips in an upwards manner as Meg urged her to go to UL. “So you can be a bad influence on me at home and at school?” she asked softly, a weary attempt at teasing coloring her voice. But an attempt was better than nothing, wasn’t it? “I’m still deciding…I want to be sure that it’s what I want to do before I go back. It’ll mean cutting back my hours at the Yard…not that I’ve been particularly present there as of yet.”
Evie sniffled and took a breath as Meg let go of her, nodding and moving towards the table at the redhead’s beckoning. Honestly she didn’t know what she’d do without Meg right now. Sometimes she felt as if Meg and Roman were the only stable things in her life…but there was a fear that came with that…a worry that one day they too would leave her. “Have you…have you seen the baby yet?” she asked quietly. “I was thinking of going over to visit tomorrow. I wanted to wait…till I was calmer…cause they say babies can sense emotional tensions and I just…I don’t want to taint Roman and Lux’s happiness right now.”
Her eyebrow rose at the news that Meg had something to give her. “You’ve…you’ve already given me so much…support…sanity…a trip to get an insane amount of cologne. Anything else would be…more than I deserve.”