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Chapter 4 : March 23, 2000: Croydon
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A/N: This is very important! I altered the last chapter. If you do not recognize the below italics, you may want to go back and re-read the third chapter. That being said, I hope you enjoy this one. Please review and tell me what you loved/hated and what you think I can improve! Thank you!
"There's a message for you." He slid a folded note across the table to her and scrambled away. It was printed on fine cardstock, with a golden border. It bore the words "For Your Eyes Only."
March 23, 2000:The Apartment, Croydon, 12:23 am
Kendra sat in the overstuffed chair in the corner of the living room. Her hair fell into her face, obscuring any good view of her expression. She was playing with the Order's pendant, rolling it between the fingers of one hand. There was a clipboard with a couple of sheets of blank paper balanced precariously on the armrest next to her. She was reading the files the Order had given her on their contacts, or what remained of them. Most had gone missing in the past few months, a few were found dead, and a few others were too scared to contribute and some just wanted too much in return. She didn't look up when the door opened and closed, nor upon the issue of a frustrated sigh or the sound of boots being kicked off. Instead, she simply said, "You stood me up."
Doyle, who hadn't seen her when he walked in, jumped and glanced around in room quickly in a comically exaggerated way. Dodging the obvious admission that she startled him, he answered, "No. You stood me up. When I got to Carver's, they said you'd already left."
Kendra closed the file with an ungainly flapping noise - not at all the decisive snap she'd been expecting. "I waited thirty minutes and I left a positive credit on the tab for you to have dinner."
"Which I would have done, but," he paused, searching for the words, "I lost some time."
"I think so."
"Me too," Kendra said, "I guess that explains it. I - well, the first thing I remember is sitting on the edge of the fountain." A few blocks away from the apartment, there was a park with a small central fountain. She wasn't quite sure of the magic involved, but she knew it was more complex than the average Charms Master could handle; somehow the entire thing was a penseive. All it took was a little waiting and then a quick flick of the wrist and the memories of a mission seeped out of the vial and into the - she thought for a moment and decided she didn't know what the liquid in a penseive actually was - into the whatever it was. At least, her mission briefing had detailed it that way. Maybe those memories just floated around for years or disappated entirely. She liked to think she'd see them back someday.
Doyle nodded, "Did you just get home?"
"A while ago. I've been studying up on the Order's intelligence network. There are some holes in the lines of information that we're going to want to repair."
Doyle ran a hand down his face, from his forehead to his chin, a gesture which K recognized as a symptom of exhaustion. He crossed to sit at the desk. "That's it?"
"What's it?" she asked, furrowing her brow.
"You aren't going to speculate on why the big O decided we needed to go on separate missions on our meet-date anniversary? Or even act a little upset that they ruined our plans?"
"Doyle," she began, "Will it change anything if I act like it's the end of the world? Either they knowing interfered with our dinner out or they needed us to do something immediately and called on us to do it. I'm trying to get us prepared for the next Order meeting so they don't think -- Ugh!" She broke off with a growl of frustration. "I just feel like we're spinning our wheels, here, D. We've been on the ground for five days and what have we got to show for it? A paycheck?"
"That's not fair and you know it. Working at the Ministry sucks, but if you're going to be here for any amount of time, you have to have a job. People will question how we get our money otherwise. And you get some good intel at a job dispensing information."
"Fine, but I'd rather be out doing something."
"I know. Believe me when I say it chafes me just as much as you, but we've got to play this hand slowly and close to the chest, or we'll lose it all. Besides, it is the weekend - we have tons of time. I suggest we do something tomorrow. Or actually, later today. Have any ideas?"
Kendra's features, which had been tightned by stress, slacked into a smile, "Plenty. There are a few leads to follow up on." She patted the file gently.
"Good. Now that that's solved, about that meet-date anni dinner..."
"Um, we don't really have much in the apartment, Doyle," Kendra hedged; shopping for food was, after all, one of the only chores she had. "I was trying to get settled and I didn't think about it until, well, now."
"Do we have chocolate chips?"
Kendra paused a moment, thinking she hadn't heard him correctly. "Excuse me?"
Doyle sighed, and repeated himself loudly and slowly. "Do we have chocolate chips?"
"Yes, last time I checked."
"And I know we have pancake mix."
"Yes," grinned Kendra as she put the pieces together. "That we do."
"Then I suggest we go on a mission: to the kitchen."
Kendra decided to play along and glanced quickly around the apartment, "Mission? Are there any obstacles?"
"I don't know," Doyle responded before he dropped suddenly and soundlessly to the floor. He made a quick, efficient roll over one shoulder so that he could peer cautiously down the hallway. "All clear."
"We should still be careful, " suggested Kendra, always the cautious one. She crept as silently as she could manage to crouch next to Doyle on the floor.
Doyle didn't audibly respond. Instead, he made the trained hand motion that signified he would enter the kitchen, and she should follow immediately. He stood, and slid Risky Business-style across the doorway that lead down to the bedrooms. Merlin, the border collie, didn't stir from his slumber on Kendra's bed. Dispensing with the Organization's protocol, Doyle waved wildly for Kendra to join him.
Kendra, not caring to be outdone and grateful to whomever decided she would need gymnastics, did a flip into the kitchen, landing neatly beside her partner. Doyle, to his credit, only looked slightly suprised.
"Do you think missions are always this fun?" K laughed softly.
"I hope so, Kendra, I really hope so."
The next morning, Kendra's first sensation was of wrongness. It was like she didn't remember where she was and her training kicked in. Without moving, she took in all she could. She was obviously in a bed, with sheet that felt more like t-shirt fabric than standard linens. There was and arm thrown casually over her waist, and something warm and presumably fluffy laying across her feet as if to keep her from running away. And the pillowcase - the pillowcase smelled a little smoky with an underlying spice to it. She smiled and sat up - secure in the knowledge that she was in Doyle's room. Kendra remembered sitting down - just for a moment to talk to Doyle after their pancake dinner - but nothing after. She was so drowsy and full, that she must've dozed off; she supposed he was too tired to protest. The man in question didn't stir next to her but Merlin looked up lazily, his tail half-wagging and thumping dully against the plain blue comforter.
"Okay, boy," she whispered to him, "I'm going to take you for a walk." Merlin, well-trained though he was, jumped up and barked his excitement. "Hush! You'll wake Doyle."
She moved the sheets off to the side and swung her legs over the side of the bed with a soft sigh. Kendra stood up, stretching as much as possible and discovering she'd fallen asleep in the same rumpled robes she'd worn the day before.
"Five minutes, Merlin," she murmured, giving the collie in question a light tap on the nose and walking to her room to change. Kendra emerged only a few moments later in a fresh outfit with her hair pulled back. Merlin immediately began wagging his tail so hard it made a loud thumping noise as it collided with the unyielding door frame.
"Let's go," she said, grabbing his leash, clicking it closed around the solitary metal loop on his collar and following her overly-excited canine out the door. And down the stairs and out onto the sidewalk and about half-way down the block before she could manage to slow him down to his normal gait which was somewhere between a walk and a trot. Merlin made a small huffing noise, which presumably meant he wished she would hurry up, but stopped trying to drag her to the park.
"Atta boy," Kendra affirmed, evening out her steps behind him. Merlin simply sniffed again, like an acknowledgement. She just shook her head in disbelief.
"You know," she muttered, "I'm beginning to think you speak English." Merlin made no response. It occurred to her that he might be an Animagus and might, therefore, actually be capable of understanding her but she shoved that out of mind. The dog did, after all, sleep in her bed; something things were too paranoid for even a spy to contemplate too closely. She turned her attention instead to the neighborhood. The Big O had dropped them in a fairly nice place, with a pretty park nearby and some charming old architecture. There was a grey gargoyle from a nearby Neo-Gothic building staring down at her over its own gaping mouth. She tried not to look to closely at it; there was something there that just made her nervous. She focused on the cracks in what she thought of as the sidewalk, but had recently learned that the natives called the pavement. There were a few brave weeds sticking up here and there, where the segments of the walk had settled apart from each other. She studied them, noticing a bright blue flower with a yellow center peeking up next to a red brick building. Kendra suddenly wished she were an artist so that she could capture it's odd urban beauty. Merlin woofed softly, trying to get her attention. She hadn't noticed until that moment, but she'd been frozen there, staring at the little bud, knowing what it was like to be caught between worlds. Between muggle and magical, between the Order and the Organization, between the cracks in the pavement. Merlin sniffed loudly and seemingly stamped his foot. There was something odder than normal about it this time. He backed up as far as the leash would allow, making little yipping noises as he went; she noticed that all the hair on his back was standing on end.
Kendra hesitated a moment and then, in one quick motion, dropped down on one knee beside her furry companion - just as a spell rocketed over her head, making contact with the brick and sending a big chunk straight down onto the flower she'd been looking at. She cursed under she breath and whirled on her aggressor. He or she was tall and dressed in black robes that blended in well with the early morning light; his features were obscured by a mask and there were dark leather gloves on his hands, like an executioner.
"Sectumsempra!" he yelled, aiming directly at her heart, but she quickly sidestepped and blocked with a non-verbal shield. She didn't like having that wall at her back; she dropped Merlin's leash and started edging her way into the middle of the sidewalk.
"Is that the best you can do?" she asked, sending an antler-growing jinx his way; he blocked it uncertainly, probably recognizing its bright orange flash from childhood.
"I'd ask you the same question but that answers itself, Mudblood." He hurled two blood boiling curses at her, one from each direction. Kendra insinctively hit the deck, rolling back to dodge the twin beams of light slashing angry lines through the air toward her. She knocked her elbow hard against the hubcap of a parallel parked car, causing that familiar humming sensation all up and down it from the jab at her funnybone. Not pausing to think, she sent a jet of lemon juice out of the tip of her wand, reaching her intended target - his eyes.
He stumbled a little, the sting causing him to lift both of his arms to cover his eyes, massaging them with clumsy fingers. She pushed herself up, leaping to a standing position, this time with her back covered by the car. The man blindly fired off a series of hexes, which she alternately dodged or blocked. She realized too slowly that that last spell had come from the wrong direction, singing her right ear. Another spell hit her squarely in the back of the head and an unfamiliar burning pain spread across the back of her skull. She sunk down, scraping her back hard on the door handle of the car, but succeeded in concealing herself from the second man. Kendra resisted the urge to touch her hand to the back of her head, feeling that if she drew it back with blood it would all be over.
Instead, she issued an order to Merlin, who had remained on alert throughout the whole exchange, pointing him toward the first man, the taller of the two. The dog nodded as if in agreement and launched himself at the Death Eater in question, sinking his sharp teeth into the flesh on the back of his ankle. The man gasped and tried to shake his leg free, but only succeeded in making the dog dig his canine fangs in deeper. It might have been comical if it weren't so serious and yet, she knew that when she told Doyle about this, he'd have everyone in stiches someday as he told the story.
"Is that all that you have, you little Mudblood chit? Some messy school tricks and a dog?" he asked, grimacing at the pain in his ankle and looking at her with red, angry eyes, and he raised his wand, as if to Disapparate, but Kendra was faster.
"Expelliarmus! Stupify!" Her assailant fell with a crunching thud to the ground, smacking his head hard on the brick he'd dislodged with his first attack; Merlin dropped his grip on the man's ankle huffing his disapproval. She looked at the dog, and whispered, "Mane." Merlin turned his eyes on the unconscious man and sat down, unmoving - he would stay, as she had told him, until he was called for again.
One down, she thought grimly, turning where she knelt to find out where the other man had gone. He was no where in view, but she couldn't shake the feeling that he was still nearby. Well, she thought, if he wants hide and seek, two can play that game. She raised her wand and gave her head a sharp tap, feeling the Disillusionment slither like cold water over her skin and the spell-burned back of her head twinge at the touch. She moved slowly to keep the charm in place, knowing that if she moved too quickly she would cause a blur, just big enough to be detected.
"I know you're there. Got a message for yeh."
Kendra didn't reply, she was edging around the front wheel, slowly but surely, almost able to see past that hubcap.
"Come out, lit'tle Mudblood, I won't 'urt yeh." And then she saw it, a boot, sticking out from the entrance of a nearby alleyway. He was across the street from her but she knew that if she could stand up, she'd have a straight shot at him. The problem was getting there fast enough to avoid him getting a shot in. The back of her head gave a dull throb in response to that line of thinking. Kendra crawled past the end of the car, completely in the open but for that charm. She had never been so thankful for her aptitude for concealment.
The man leaned out from his hiding place, craning his neck to get a better view. "Yeh might've bested me mate but'cha won't get me too." He failed to lean back toward the brick and block himself. That was his first mistake.
"I'm losing me patience, girly. Get ou' where I can see yeh."
"Be careful what you wish for," answered Kendra, jumping to her feet, blurring into view, and sending a bruising Impedimenta at the man, knocking him into the dumpster behind him with enough force to dent its side. He was knocked out instantly, but she nevertheless, summoned his wand, bound him, and levitated him across the street to fall with a thump beside his fellow. She re-stunned them both for good measure.
Then, she set about Disillusioning them and preparing to take them back to the apartment, hoping to high Heaven that no one have seen any of that fighting. She really couldn't handle being in trouble at the Ministry now, not even for a legitimate reason like self defense. The Order had already proclaimed that the government couldn't be trusted with even the smallest detail and since they knew the true lay of the land, she would have to follow their advice. And the Order said to keep your head down low and obey whatever law you had to in order to keep fighting for another day. The International Statute of Secrecy was included under that heading last time she checked, not that the Organization couldn't get her out of any mess, but she was pretty sure they'd deny involvement on this one, like with all the other times.
She picked up Merlin's leash, remembered she was still Disillusioned and dropped it quickly. How absurd would it be to look out one's window and see a dog on a floating leash? It made her think of those gag leashes with the wire in them, so that it looked as though the person holding it had an invisible dog. She chuckled softly at the thought of an invisible owner. The pain in her head increased as she did so. It made her walk a little more quickly.
As Kendra opened the door to the appartment, she immediately smelled tomatoes grilling on the stove. Merlin trotted in, nearly tripping over his leash, and leapt up on the over-sized chair in the corner; his eyes resumed their almost unblinking stare at the two Death Eaters.
"About time," Doyle called cheerfully, "I was beginning to think you weren't coming back." He set down the fork he'd been using to stab and flip the food and turned toward her. The change in his expression was immediate. He'd been smiling, the laughable thought that she wouldn't make it still in his eyes, and then, all the lines that defined a smile fell right off his face and cracked a little on the floor.
"God, Kendra. You'd better sit down." He took her elbow and guided her to the desk, seating her in her favorite chair. She used an ounce of magic to pull the Death Eaters into the room and a non-verbal to slam the door.
"No, K, don't even think about magic for a bit. I'm going to go and get the Dittany." She must've dropped the Disillusionment at some point, and she must really look like Hell. She did feel faint, but she wasn't prepared for Doyle's reaction. And D never over-reacted. He'd even called her K, which was an indication of serious trouble. But thinking about it made her head hurt; she longed to lie down and sleep for just a little while. The floor was even starting to look inviting. Maybe if she could just stretch out in the right way, she'd sleep soundly. Kendra had just started to try and move when Doyle re-entered the room.
"Oh, no, you don't, Kendra. He hit you with a coma curse. You'd not wake up for weeks."
"I just need to lie down for a second. Then, it'll all be better, Doyle, you'll see. It'll all be..."
Doyle slapped her across the face; not too hard, but enough to snap her back awake. He flinched a little as she raised her hand to her cheek in shock. "I'm sorry," he whispered, "It had to be done." And he muttered a few spells over the essence of Dittany to increase its potency before scooping some up in his hands and applying it to the wound on the back of her head. Kendra hissed as it made contact, more aware then ever for now. Every minor touch was agony; she fought so hard not to struggle she found her muscles shaking as though strained from hours of excercise. Doyle made sympathetic noises, murmuring comforting things, and dabbing as gently as he could. When she felt as though she wouldn't be able to supress a scream the next time the potion came in contact with her skin, he drew back.
"There, now, I'm done. It's clean and healing. I don't think you'll even have a scar. Of course, you'd just use your hair to hide it anyway once it grows back."
"What?" She thought she'd heard him correctly, but her hearing did seem a little foggy.
"Well, your hair, it sort of, got singed off."
"I brought you a hat." And he had. He held it up to her. She'd never seen it before. It was light blue, and knitted so that it would be close-fitting. There was a cluster of white and blue flowers above one side's ear. It was rather adorable which she supposed could be of use to her; she very often got more information if she looked young and impressionable.
"Just bandage me up so I can put it on."
"I'm going to have to cut off the singed parts."
"I know. Just do it."
And Doyle did. Then, all fixed up, Kendra tried to stand - she made it up but when she wobbled, he slipped an arm around her waist. "Don't try to do too much too fast. You're always like this. You know that you're going to have to stay up for twenty-four hours, right? It's the only way to get the curse out of your system."
"Yeah, I know," she responded, too tired to be annoyed that he was repeating things she'd known since her fifth grade Defense class. "What are we going to do with my catches?" She nodded in the direction of the two knocked out men.
"Tie them to chairs and get them to talk?"
"Sounds like a great idea to me."
"What an eventful morning," Doyle remarked, shaking his head. Kendra sensed that he would have whistled a low, slow whistle if he could've.
"You're telling me," she answered, pulling the hat down more securely over the tips of her ears.
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