Rachel Young was used to getting woken up at all hours of the day and night. So, when the phone blared in her ear at five-fifty on a Sunday morning, she woke up far faster than she would have preferred, and had the phone to her ear before she'd fully opened her eyes.
"Good morning, Rachel. I was wondering if I might use your shower?"
"Yes. The water in my building is out."
Even if the man did have the ability to survive on four hours of sleep a night, wasn't he enough of a genius to realize that the rest of the world didn't possess the same talent?
"You woke me up at…" Rachel swore under her breath as she fumbled for the lamp, leaning back to squint at the clock, "ten minutes to six on a Sunday morning to ask if you could use my shower?"
"I thought calling ahead might lessen the risk of you shooting me through the door, rather than if I showed up on your doorstep without warning."
Briefly, she entertained the notion of shooting him anyway, then dismissed it. The higher-ups at the Bureau frowned upon you shooting your assignment.
"I'm here," she answered, stifling a yawn as the adrenaline rush ebbed. "What time did you want to come over?"
"Oh, I'll be by in about ten minutes. Thank you!" And he hung up.
'Ten minutes!' Rachel nearly cracked her head open scrambling out of bed. 'Damn Hood.'
Nine minutes and fifty-seven seconds later, a soft, precise tap on her door sent Rachel into a round of muttered curses. She'd put on a knee-length robe – Hood had seen her in less – yanked a brush through her hair, and started coffee, but that was about as far as she'd gotten. Even years of training couldn't dismiss the fact that she was not, nor had she ever been, a morning person.
"Good morning, Rachel, and thank you again," Hood said as soon as she opened the door for him. She sighed faintly, stepping back to avoid getting hit with the duffle bag slung over his shoulder.
He was dressed casually, wearing sweatpants and a white tee shirt over jogging shoes. The shirt was damp with sweat, the shoes battered, and his hair looked like it had been combed with a broken spatula. She gave him an uncomprehending stare for a moment, before closing the door again.
"You jog?" she asked finally, when his questioning gaze finally penetrated her pre-caffeine early-morning haze.
"When I can. It gives me time to get my thoughts in order."
Wondering what the inside of his head must look like when his thoughts were out of order, Rachel merely shook her head and asked, "Coffee?"
"In a moment, thank you. I'd like to, ah, get the sweat off first?"
"Through the bedroom and on your right," Rachel answered, waving him in the right direction and retreating to the kitchen for some much needed caffeine.
She was halfway through her second cup when another knock at her door – this one louder, sharper, and less controlled than Hood's had been – startled her out of her morning haze. Frowning slightly, she downed the last of the cup and headed for the door.
Through the peephole, she could just make out the head of a tiny, brown-haired woman, fidgeting and smiling nervously towards Rachel's door.
'If this is Girl Scout Cookies…' Scowling, she leaned forward and opened the door a precise two inches. "May I help- "
The 'you' was rather abruptly halted on her lips when the woman pressed the muzzle of a revolver dead center against her forehead.
"You can take two giant steps backwards with your hands in the air and call my husband out of your bedroom, you home-wrecking bitch."
'You have got to be kidding me,' Rachel thought, blinking twice as she processed that. Staring down the barrel of a gun didn't happen all that often, even for an FBI agent. Rachel herself had spent more time staring down the barrels of test tubes, thanks to the man who was currently in her bedroom. The man who was currently alone in her bedroom, to be more precise. Wherever this woman's husband was, it wasn't here.
Another blink, and Rachel processed something about the gun that she really should have noticed a whole lot sooner.
'Okay then… let's play along with the crazy lady for a moment.'
Slowly placing her hands on top of her head, Rachel took three moderate steps backwards, leaving the door cracked open and glowering at the security chain she'd forgotten to latch after letting Hood in.
The woman pushed the door open with her foot, never taking her eyes or her gun off Rachel, then stepped in and closed the door the same way.
From within the bedroom, there was the distinct squeak of her shower being shut off, and Rachel fumed momentarily. No doubt Hood would stroll out here in a moment, utterly careless, into what might have been mortal danger if the situation were just a little bit different.
Obviously, they needed to work out some sort of communication system on the very slim chance of something like this ever occurring again.
Sure enough, Hood strolled out of her room a moment later, wearing nothing but a pair of sweatpants and a towel- currently over his head- vigorously rubbing his hair dry.
"I'll take you up on the coffee if the offer is still…" Hood trailed off as he slowly lowered the towel, leaving his hair in a state nothing short of alarming.
"Why is there a woman with a gun in your apartment?"
Said woman was blinking, bewildered, at the soggy scientist. "You're… not my husband."
"I should hope not, seeing as we've never met."
"I thought she… I mean, he – I thought they - " The woman waved the gun uncertainly, an action that might have had Rachel ducking for cover under different circumstances.
"I can assure you I'm the only man here," Hood answered, flashing his best innocent-little-boy smile.
The woman frowned, uneasy for a moment, then turned the gun back on Rachel. "How do I know you're not sleeping with my husband anyway?"
"Oh, I wouldn't like that at all," Hood answered before Rachel could open her mouth. The gun-wielding woman turned back to glance at him, confusion flickering across her face.
"Who the heck are you, anyway?"
Still smiling, Hood nodded towards Rachel without missing a beat. "I'm her boyfriend."
'Hold on just a - !'
"Boyfriend, are you?" The other woman smiled for the first time. It was slightly alarming. "Prove it."
"All right…" Casually, Hood strode past the woman to a wide-eyed Rachel, casually slipped his arms around her waist, and kissed her.
'Wait just a goddamn… wow.'
More than slightly against her will, Rachel found herself melting into the impromptu 'proof' of her nonexistent romance. Hood's hands were spread across her lower back, his thumbs rubbing circles across the painfully tight muscles. Raising her hands, Rachel rested one against his shoulder, and found the other twining into his still-damp hair, although a moment of indecision touched her – push him away or pull him closer?
And while that decision was still turning over in her mind, several things occurred to her simultaneously. The first was the heat of his body – his bare shoulder felt hot enough to burn her palm, and she could feel the heat of his hands even through her robe and nightgown on her back. The second was the faint, sharp-sweet taste of lemon in his mouth, absurdly recalling the taste of lemon-drop candies
The third was that Hood really, really knew how to kiss. When she was alive, Mrs. Hood must have been a happy woman.
Hood was the first to pull back. Rachel's lungs were screaming, but she'd been loathe to break the kiss for something as trivial as breathing.
Leaning back slightly to stare up at Hood, Rachel licked her lips and wondered absently at the taste of lemon. He stared back down at her, looking faintly amused, his eyes virtually glowing with that peculiar silver light they sometimes seemed to take on.
Both of them were distracted enough that they jumped when the woman's voice broke the silence.
"Proof enough," she said mildly, shoving the gun into the back of her pants and flipping her shirt out to hide it. "You're pretty gone on each other. You're a lucky woman, Miss… Rachel, right?"
Feeling faintly numb, Rachel nodded and watched silently as the woman let herself out. It was Hood who finally broke their embrace, walking over and locking the door.
Silently, Rachel gave herself an all-over shake and headed resolutely for the kitchen, pouring another two cups of coffee and plunking herself down at the table.
Hood trailed in a moment later, taking the other cup and sitting down opposite her.
'Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out.' "Couple of questions."
"Shoot," he answered, then winced. "I mean, go ahead."
"Why do you taste like lemon?"
"Oh," a quick grin brightened his face, "that's my toothpaste. You like it?"
"Yeah. How hot was your shower? Your skin felt like you'd been boiled."
"That's actually me," Hood answered, sounding almost sheepish. "My normal body temperature runs high, around ninety-nine five."
'Interesting. Just not relevant.'
"Okay, last question." Rachel nodded in the general direction of the door. "Who was she, how did you meet her, and how long have you been planning this?"
There was a moment of dead silence. Finally, Hood replied, "That was three questions, and I have no idea what you're talking about."
"Hood…" Rachel said warningly. "That sort of thing only happens in badly written novels. Wronged women shoot first and ask questions later."
He sighed faintly and stared at the ceiling, chewing on his lower lip. "Melody's a grad student who attended one of my lectures about four years ago. I was impressed with her intellect, and we've kept in touch. I helped her find her current job. She's not married, but she and her girlfriend have been together for six years. We only spent a couple of weeks planning this. How did you know?"
Rachel couldn't help laughing. Standing up, she retrieved the carafe from the coffee-maker and topped up both their cups. As she leaned over Hood's shoulder, she bent low enough for her lips to brush his ear as she whispered the answer.
"Real scorned women put bullets in their gun."