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Last American Exit

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The end of the day and there are still more problems than solutions.  Chase tries to keep his eyes focused on the report in front of him, but his brain has other plans.  His lids are heavy – too many nights without sleep worrying how he is going to keep an entire city alive – and his mind is growing slow and weak.  Before the creation of “New Seattle” his mind was agile, a thousand details big and small would constantly click through a rotation, keeping him quick and smart, ready for action when the time came.  It overwhelms him at times, knowing what he once was and what he has become now.

 

Lazy thoughts of nights on the beach in Mexico float in front of the words on the page, the waves washing the type from the paper.  When was the last time he was there?  2013?  2012?   A group of them – his brother Harrison and his wife Vivian Stoll, Eric Fillmore and his wife Becky -- rented a house and stayed for two weeks; drinking, eating, talking, and laughing. 

 

Harrison.  His older brother.  He should be here dealing with this mess. Or even smart and sarcastic Vivian. Harrison was the businessman, the leader behind the scenes; Chase was the leader in the field.  That was the agreement when they started this company with Fillmore.  Eric was a waste of good air but he brought the cash that was needed for the Graves brothers to start their company, and his wife Becky was good for the occasional secret romp when Chase came into town.   

 

The business side was murky territory for him; Chase was trained to get in, get out, save lives, get the job done on the ground, not in the board room.  That was what people hired their company to do – go into unreal situations and get everyone out safe and sound.  Someone once told Chase he was “a commando with a conscience.”  Right now he wished he wasn’t.

 

Pushing thoughts of Harrison out of his head, Chase imagines the warm night air on his skin and the soft sand beneath his feet.  Then there was that girl he met on the beach – Cynthia?  Charlotte?  Cheyenne?  – who spent the night in his bed before she went back to her frat-boy boyfriend at the nearby resort.  He remembers her tight, perky breasts; the way she giggled when he went down on her and how it quickly changed to a deep, throaty moan; how her soft ass cheek fit perfectly in his large hand.   He preferred blonds, but the brunette college student did in a pinch.

 

Leaning back in his chair, his fingers slide through his sandy-brown hair, grasping his follicles, and a huff of frustration escapes his lungs.  Bouncing the chair back and forth in a gentle rhythm, Chase closes his eyes, indulgently allowing himself to remember the smell of sex and Coppertone on the smooth, tanned skin of his Mexico fling – part salty, part sweet.  Saliva pools on his tongue.  Having spent the better part of his military career eating rations, his sense of taste didn’t seem to be a big loss, until he realized how much he missed the aroma of a woman when her thighs were wrapped around his head.  That was the one taste he missed more than anything.

 

He takes a deep breath, exhaling slowly through pursed lips, calming his desires.  Weren’t powerful men supposed to have mistresses?  Right now he was the most powerful man in Seattle.  Where the hell were the women falling all over themselves to be with him?  He snickers at the image of scantily clad zombie women with snow white skin and black string bikinis draped across his leather office furniture like something out of a James Bond film.  All he needed was the fluffy white cat and he was on his way to being a great villain.

 

“Sir?”

 

Chase launches himself to an upright position, his eyes wide in shock at the sight of Major Lilywhite standing on the other side of his desk, in his navy blue uniform Polo shirt and khakis. 

 

“Jesus Christ, Lilywhite.  Don’t you knock?”  He slams his palm on the paperwork, shaking the desk violently.

 

“I did.  Guess you didn’t hear me.”  Major mutters, picking up the stapler that is now precariously angled over the edge of the desk and sets it back gently.  “General, I’ve been thinking about this Brother Love problem and I think I have a solution.”

 

Brother Love - a.k.a. Angus McDonough - and his band of loyal followers; this was the latest thorn in Chase's side and he had quietly hoped they would just go about their pseudo-religious business without giving him any worries.  When their group attacked a transport bus full of prisoners, many people in the community sided with the zealots, feeling that prisoners should be "donated" to the zombie cause anyway and for a second, Chase thought that if he left them alone, they could clean up New Seattle in a way that Fillmore-Graves could not.  But as the weeks pass he has grown to realize that their covert actions are becoming a concern for both humans and zombies in the city.

 

Chase stands abruptly, pushing back his chair and crosses his arms.  “Answers to problems!   Excellent!  This is what I like about you, Lilywhite; you don’t just give me the problem and hope it all just magically solves itself.”

 

“I try my best, sir.”  Major nods again, the corner of his mouth turning up to a crooked smile and he runs one hand through his dark brown hair.

 

“So tell me what you’ve got,”  Chase smiles, feeling for the first time today that something important may actual get accomplished.

 

“Well sir, I know you don't want to just go in and arrest them because you feel it will just elevate Brother Love to look like some sort of 'religious martyr', but we also need to keep tabs on their growing organization to stop them from leading any more feeding riots like we saw when they attacked that busload of prisoners.  And right now, a lot of people in New Seattle see him as a sort of 'saviour' for giving them the food that we can't provide -- although we still don't know exactly where they are getting their food from."

 

Chase wrinkles his nose in disgust.  When he went to inspect the scene before Liv Moore and her merry group on the police force had their way with the carnage, the sight of the severed body parts flung through the street turned even his stomach.

 

"So that being said, I think we need to infiltrate their group and keep tabs on them - learn more about what's happening and who is actually in on things within their structure.  But they’ll be on the look-out for Fillmore-Graves people, so we need to think outside of the box.” 

 

Major drops a red file folder on Chase’s desk, tapping the top of the papers with his index finger.

 

Chase frowns, picking up the file he looks at the label Major has written along the side.  An involuntary snort of laughter follows as he reads it out loud. 

 

Operation Mars?  What the hell is this?  Are we going to get someone to load them all up in a rocket ship and shoot them into space?”

 

Laughing, Major reaches up to scratch his stubbled chin.  “No sir – although I could get behind that idea too.  This is a woman I found – Veronica Mars – who I think could help us.  She’s a private investigator that moved her company – Mars Investigations – into Seattle before we walled the city.  I ran some details on her – she’s a zombie and she was a very successful investigator when she lived in Neptune, California.  In fact, she was the one who took down Kane Enterprises about ten-years ago for corporate espionage.”

 

Running his index finger over the smooth surface of the file folder, Chase’s eyes narrow.  He remembers the fall of Kane Enterprises – not just because they were a bidder on the development of the software system  for Fillmore-Graves, but also because Harrison had a lot of money wrapped up in Kane Software and he threw a fit when they took a nose-dive on the stock market. 

 

He smiles to himself, his eyes still fixed on his desk.

 

“Took down an entire corporation, huh?   That’s all nice and white-collar, but can she handle a pack of crazy zombies with a Christ complex?”

 

Glancing between the file and Chase, Major nods.  “Yes, I think she can.  At one point, she did six-months in prison for shooting a man.  There seemed to be a lot of extenuating circumstances around the case but the bottom line is that she seems to be good at emotionally detaching herself from situations, which is an asset to our operation, sir.  I also thought that Brother Love wouldn’t suspect a newcomer that was a woman as much as he would if they were a man.”

 

Emotionally detached.  Chase quietly wishes for the ability to emotionally detach most days.  But when the lives of millions of zombies are at stake, he finds himself caring a bit too much.

 

“There’s a lot more in the report I prepared for you, sir.  If you want to look over it and we can talk about it...”

 

Shaking his head, Chase lifts his eyes back to Major.  “I trust your judgement, Lilywhite.  If you say this is the woman for the job, then this is the woman for the job.”

 

Chase lowers himself back into his chair, a strange feeling tickling his brain.  Curiosity.  Wonder.  He worked with many, many strong, competent women in the field over the years and he came to trust them, sometimes over many of their male counterparts.  From the sounds of her, this private investigator sounded smart but with a slightly badass streak.  Exactly the kind of person they needed at this moment.

 

“Who are you, Veronica Mars?”  Chase says out loud, his fingers drumming on the arms of his chair.

 

“I’m sorry...?”  Major stammers, his face registering confusion.

 

“Bring her in for a meeting.  I want to talk to her before we hire her for this job.” 

 

Leaning back, Chase feels the corners of his mouth push into a legitimate wide smile.  “Make it after hours so no one sees her.  If she’s going to try and get in with Brother Love and his crew, we want to make sure no one can connect her to us, and vice versa.”

 

Major pauses for a second, his eyes narrowing as if unsure of what he is requesting.  “Ummm....okay.  I can do that.”

 

Flicking his hand in the air, Chase’s eyes land on the red file again.  “Then go.  Do it.”

 

The sound of Major’s boots echo in the silence before his form disappears through the door.  Chase picks up the red folder and licks his lips with anticipation.  Opening it, he pushes his chair back, lifting his boots up to rest on the top of his desk as he crosses his legs at the ankles. 

 

“Finally, a report worth reading.”   He smiles as his eyes begin to skim the details on the first page.

Chapter Text

 

Chase’s taste buds prickle as the Fireball Whisky passes over them.  He never did care for hot sauce, but whisky was always his drink of choice; at least the spicy cinnamon alcohol allows him to partake in one of his human pleasures.  The heavy bottom of his empty glass connects with the glass desktop and he pours himself another lonely round.

 

Everyone left the building hours ago, but Chase waits patiently for his last meeting of the day.  Is a midnight meeting considered the last meeting of the current day or the first of the next day?   He supposes that it would depend on exactly when Major shows up with his guest.  Chase picks up his phone, glances quickly at the time – 23:43 – before setting it face-down again on the desk.

 

Leaning back in his chair, he stretches his arms above him before resting his hands behind his head, his eyes focused past the glass doors to his office, towards the hallway.  There’s been an internal restlessness to him leading up to his meeting that developed soon after he finished reading the dossier on the enigmatic Ms. Veronica Mars. 

 

They grew up with similar backgrounds – Chase from a two-parent, middle-class, military family; Veronica in the California suburbs with her Sherriff father and stay-at home mother.  Both had strong high-school academic records – he was on the football team; she was a pep-squad girl – that led them straight into their careers of choice soon after – he went into the Marine Corps, she went to Stanford on a full scholarship for their law program.  But somewhere, things seemed to get derailed in Veronica’s pristine existence.  From what Chase could gather, it all began to fall apart when her father Keith Mars lost his position as Sherriff and culminated with his murder a few months later.  Somehow, the Kane family was not only involved in his death but it had something to do with what Keith knew or did not know about the corporate espionage perpetrated by Kane Software.  Then there was the little matter of her shooting her fiancé – Duncan Kane – soon after the revelation of his family’s improprieties.  Depending on what version of the story you decided to believe, Veronica was either a slut or a saint. 

 

As Chase read through her file he found himself drawn into the details of her life as if it was some salacious unfinished novel; now he’s anxious to meet the hero of the story in the flesh.

 

At first he doesn’t see her coming around the corner as Major’s tall, broad body obscures her from his view, but when the diminutive figure emerges from behind him Chase sucks in a sharp breath, standing swiftly to attention, his hands locking in a military stance behind his back.

 

For a moment, Chase is sure his heart has stopped as Veronica strides towards him, dressed in chunky leather boots, black jeans, black muscle shirt, and leather jacket.  The image in his head of a young, tough girl quickly blends with the confident, hard woman in front of him.  She stops across the desk from him and flicks her wavy dyed blond hair from in front of one eye, the faintest smirk crossing her pale pink lips. Her aqua blue eyes skim across him; she’s smart and he knows that she’s probably making her own assessment of him right now.  He silently hopes he passed her test.

 

“Ms. Mars.”  Chase gestures towards the leather office chair near her.  “Please, have a seat.”

 

She nods, moving her head to glance around the room before sitting, her eyes fixing on him again, crossing her arms sitting as tall as her tiny frame can muster.  Even though she is at least a foot shorter than him, she somehow seems larger in Chase’s mind.  He catches the faint dark shadows under her eyes, the tiny creases that run along her forehead, the subtle concave of her pale cheeks.  Her life is written in fine lines along her skin – like him, she has seen too much, known too much, lived too much.  And now they are here.

 

Chase lowers himself slowly back into his seat wondering what she is thinking about him right now.  She doesn’t seem intimidated in the least, or if she is, she isn’t letting him know.

 

“Lillywhite, you won’t be needed for a while.  You can wait outside.”  Chase states without taking his eyes off Veronica.

 

“Yes sir” He hears Major respond, the sound of the door clicking shut.

 

For a second, there is silence as the two people left in the room contemplate their next move.  Leaning back in his chair, Chase crosses his arms as well, trying to look at ease.

 

“Has Lillywhite briefed you fully on what we need done?” 

 

She gives him a sharp nod.  “Get in with Brother Love’s group, get information, bring it back to you.  In return I get $1,000 a day and a card for extra brain tube rations – in my alias' name, of course.”

 

Chase nods in return.  “Yes.  You think you can handle it?”

 

A wry smile crosses her lips and a scoffing laugh follows.  “Yeah.  Yeah I think I can handle it.”

 

“You seem pretty confident about your ability to handle a mob of crazy zombies.”  He shoots back, quirking his eyebrow, holding back the large smile that is now pushing at his cheeks.

 

“I am.”  She sits forward in her chair, her smile disappearing.  “Look, I have no doubt that your little boy-toy back there has done his homework on me – he seemed to know a lot about me when he first showed up at my office – so you both must know that I’m more than capable of what you are asking me to do or I wouldn't be here right now.  The question is, are you capable of using that information to keep the humans of New Seattle safe from these goons?”

 

His tongue darts across his lips as he leans forward towards her, his eyes narrowing.  “I’m more than capable of keeping both the humans and zombies of New Seattle safe.  I’ve done it for this long and I’ll continue to do it longer if I have to.”

 

Veronica rolls her eyes.  “Yeah, you’ve been doing a bang-up job so far.  Sick humans being smuggled into the city to become zombies; black-market food tubes being sold to the rich while the poor starve; some religious nut leading midnight feeding frenzies.  I know I’m competent, the question is... are you?”

 

The muscles in Chase’s jaw twitch as his stomach turns, anger rising in him.  “I didn’t ask to be in charge.”  He snaps.

 

“And I didn’t ask to be turned into a zombie, but here we are.”  She states, leaning back in her chair once more, her head held high.

 

One point Veronica Mars; zero points Chase Graves.  He mentally chastises himself that he let her get to him as he drags his hands through his hair, watching her lips twist into a satisfied smile.

 

“How did you get turned?”  He shoots back, taking a quick sip of his drink before setting it down again.  “That little detail seemed to be missing from your file.”

 

Touching her fingers to her chest, she feigns shock, batting her eyelashes at him.  “What?  You mean you don’t know everything about me?  I’m shocked.  You may want to fire your researcher.”

 

Dragging his teeth across his lower lip, Chase smiles.  “I may have to.  Are you going to answer the question?”

 

Her eyes narrow and he muses about all the obscenities that are probably running through Veronica's head.

 

“Guess that wasn't something that would’ve just popped up in your Google Search of my name.” Exhaling slowly, Veronica rolls her eyes.  “It was about two years ago.  I was chasing a bounty who skipped bail in San Diego and headed up here to Seattle.  Should have been an easy job – find him, nab him, call the cops to haul him in – except when I went to confront him at his apartment, he went full zombie on me.  He managed to scratch me before I shot him in the head and I spent the next week locked in his place, feeding off the brains he had stashed in his fridge.”

 

The first blank piece of the Veronica Mars puzzle fills in Chase’s brain.  It should sate his curiosity, but instead it leaves him still looking for more.  “But you had a business and a life back in Neptune?  Why did you move up here?” 

 

She arches her eyebrow, lowering her chin slightly she tosses him an icy stare.  He feels the chill run through his spine, realizing she was definitely ruffled by his question.

 

“A week after I came back, I was sitting in a movie theatre with my two best friends and I found myself looking over at them in the dark and thinking about what their brains would taste like.  I knew right then that I needed to come back to Seattle.  If there were zombies up here, I figured I could move with a little more independence than if decapitated bodies started showing up all over Neptune.”

 

Leaning forward, his arms crossed on his desk, Chase nods before taking another sip of his drink.  “That’s a rough choice, but you did the right thing.  All of our lives changed when we were turned.”

 

She shrugs, focusing back on him for a moment before letting out a deep sigh.

 

“I spent the most of the last fifteen years feeling like a zombie on the inside –” Veronica reaches across the desk, grabbing Chase’s glass and quickly brings it to her lips, tossing back the last of the drink in one sharp movement.  “—becoming one on the outside just seemed inevitable.”

 

Chase glances between the empty glass and his companion.  He desperately wants to ask her about the events that led to her time in prison, but he can’t bring himself to glance inside her wound.

 

“I’m sorry.”  He mutters, feeling slightly taken aback by the openness of her pain.

 

She shrugs, reaching for the bottle of whiskey, refilling their communal glass before pushing it towards him.  Chase nods, taking the tall shot she has poured him before returning the favour, pouring out the spicy liquid and returning the glass to her.

 

“At least you got turned with a group of people at a picnic,” she says before taking her shot and returning the glass to him.  “It’s a little harder to be a lone wolf zombie out there on the streets.”

 

Smirking, he is content to be bartender for the moment as he refills the glass again.  “I take it you did your homework on me.”

 

Veronica licks her lips, her eyes darting between him and the glass in a way that makes Chase’s heart rate increase.

 

“Chase William Graves.”  She begins slowly, choosing her words carefully.  “Your father, General Henry (Hank) Graves was stationed in Germany when you were born.  Your mother, Beatrice was in her thirties and you were their second and last child, having lost one child after you to a miscarriage.  You and your brother Harrison grew up moving every few years when you were younger before your father took a job with the Pentagon and your family settled in a suburban white-picket fence neighbourhood in Washington, D.C.  Star athlete in school, you were valedictorian and could have gone to any Ivy League school you wanted, but you chose to follow in your father’s footsteps and went into the Marine Corps.  Your brother went to Harvard Business School and when you were on leave from a particularly grueling assignment in Iraq – in the age of ‘private security contractors’ – you decided to start Fillmore-Graves with Harrison and his best friend.  Your dad’s connections with the Pentagon allowed you to find contracts quickly – specializing in quietly resolving hostage situations in unfriendly countries.  When your mom and dad were killed in a car crash in D.C., you decided to use the money he left to you both to grow the company.”

 

Veronica leans forward, talking a sip of their drink and clears her throat.  He cannot partake.  Hearing his personal history laid out before him has rendered Chase stone silent, his teeth gritting behind his closed lips to keep his emotions at bay.

 

“When you and a group of employees were turned into zombies at a corporate picnic, you and Harrison decided to capitalize on it – an army of the undead as it were could be a valuable asset on the field, just as long as no one got shot in the head.  You relocated Fillmore-Graves in Seattle as a haven for the zombies in your company, and you worked hard to care for them, while using their skills in battle.  You made a new-order out of the chaos, so to speak.”

 

“I think you’ve proved your point, Ms. Mars.”  Chase snaps, grabbing the glass and emptying it in a long, deep swallow.  “Unless there’s anything else you want to share with me that’s has some significance to this operation.”

 

A smile twists across Veronica’s face that sends a shiver down Chase’s back.  “You lost your virginity to a girl named Susan Patrick in the ninth-grade after the homecoming dance, at a friend’s party.  She recently posted it on a Reddit forum discussion about having sex with celebrities.   Apparently, on the outside you have a bit of a non-zombie following.  Not really anything that has to do with this operation, but still interesting.”

 

Chase smiles, the muscles in his face pulling the widest grin across his skin in genuine amusement with the woman who is sitting across from him. For a moment, he considers asking her more about her life, attempting to fill in more of the blanks, but he’s worried she may think it confrontational, so he backs off.

 

“Well,” He starts slowly.  “Game – set – and match to you Ms. Mars.”

 

Veronica stands, leaning towards him, her palms pressed to the desk surface.  The scoop neck on her black t-shirt falls open giving him a glorious view at her pale breasts nestled in a black lace push-up bra.  His eyes linger a second too long before making eye contact with her and she smirks, knowing exactly where he was looking, but refusing to move herself from her position.   Chase briefly toys with the thought of what it would be like to lean over the desk and kiss her, but he shakes it off.

 

“I’ll be in touch with Lillywhite when I have something for you.  Until then, make sure you have more whisky for our next meeting.”  She orders, jerking her head towards the near empty bottle sitting between them.

 

“Are you presuming to order me around?” Chase snarks, his smile unmoving.  “Because I don’t know how I feel about that.”

 

Running her teeth slowly over her lower lip, her eyes light up twinkling with mischief.  “Really?  Because you strike me as the kind of man who kind of likes to be bossed around a little.”

 

His cock twitches, the heat of arousal surging across his skin.  The thought of proposing they move their conversation over to the plush leather couch crosses his mind.

 

“I spend a good deal of time following people around, hyper focused on their body language, their quirks, even their kinks.”  She cooes, straightening her stance.  “I'll get you the information you need on Brother Love, faster and more efficiently than any of your people could do.”

 

Adjusting her leather jacket on her shoulders, Veronica throws him one last glance before pivoting on her heels and striding towards the door.

 

The swing of her hips accentuates the soft curves of her buttocks in her tight black jeans and Chase's mind begins to race; he needs to say something, but he's not sure at this point what to say.

 

“Nice jacket.” He calls out, instantly regretting his choice.

 

She pauses at the glass door, tossing her hair back as she turns to flash a smug grin at him.

 

“Thanks.”

 

And then she is gone, hurrying out through the door and down the hallway.  The room feels electric and all the hairs on Chase’s arms stand on end, his mind humming through the events that just transpired.  Veronica Mars was one woman that was not to be underestimated; he was confident he wouldn’t make that mistake again.

Chapter Text

 

From sixteen floors up, New Seattle looks calm after dark; like any other city in any other state.  Chase takes a sip of his whisky, his eyes following the lights of cars on the street a few blocks away.  Life moves on.  It always astounded him how no matter what the circumstances, life – or in this case death – had this way of adapting to whatever the surroundings.

 

When he was a mercenary, he always marveled how he could go through a blown out, war-torn town and there would still be children laughing and playing hide-and-seek in the rubble.  Mothers holding new babies; men going about their chores and work as if the home next to them hadn’t been obliterated just days ago.  The drive to just continue always astounded him and he kept these memories close in his mind for those days when he wanted to just give up on zombies and humans.  There was always something to live for.

 

The past few days his brain made him live for a simple telephone call; the one telling him that Veronica would return to speak to him about what she had found out about Brother Love.  Each day that passed, he found himself hoping that this would be the day that she would contact Major and set up a meeting.  When she actually did make contact yesterday, a giddy flutter rippled through his core and he mentally chastised himself for feeling like a dumbass teenager.  

 

His reflection smiles back at him in the glass and he runs his free hand through his thick hair, his bicep flexing, stretching the thin fabric of his Fillmore Graves Polo shirt.  After everyone had left the building, Chase went downstairs for a workout and a shower, hoping to rid himself of any pent-up thoughts and feelings he may have for Veronica before he saw her.  It didn’t work and instead he found himself replaying questions he had for her about her life over and over as he lay on his back doing bench presses.  He reminds himself that this is just business – another thing to manage – but after their first meeting, Chase find his mind consumed with thoughts of Veronica, a welcome distraction from the mendacity of his current situation.

 

The movement of his office door opening in the reflection catches his eye and he turns towards it, just as Major holds the door open for Veronica’s entrance.  She’s wearing a pink flowered sun dress with a white cardigan; her hair is done up in a demure bun on the top of her head and she carries a large blush pink purse on her shoulder.  Her makeup is contoured to make her look a lot younger, fresher than the first time she met with him and his eyes skim down her form and end with the white Ked sneakers on her feet.

 

“Melissa Mackenzie,” she says her voice slightly higher and breathier than the last time they spoke.  “Nice to meet you.”

 

Veronica strides confidently towards Chase her arm stretched to shake his hand, a brilliant fake grin on her face.  Chase chuckles and takes a few steps to meet her and they both stop near the back of his black leather couch.

 

“Nice to meet you, Melissa,” he retorts shaking her hand.

 

Her fingers reach up and touch the diamond solitaire necklace on her chest.  “Please.  All my friends call me Missy.”

 

She bats her eyelashes at him playfully and he’s sure that if he wasn’t already dead, that she would have killed him with that look.  Dragging his teeth across his lips, he smiles. 

 

“Nice getup.”

 

Dropping her purse on the couch, she shrugs.  “Thanks.  It’s amazing how much traction you can get from men when you pretend to be a recently turned zombie, scared and alone in New Seattle.  I mean really, you guys are so gullible.”

 

Chase glances towards Major, catching his eye as it returns from tracing the back of Veronica’s form.  Chase frowns at his second in command, a possessive streak constricting his chest. 

 

“That’s all, Lilywhite.  I’ll call you when I need you to take Ms. Mars home.”

 

Major nods his understanding, taking one last glance at Veronica before retreating down the hall, leaving them alone in the office.

 

His attention turning back to Veronica, Chase sweeps his hand towards the couch.  Another glass waits for her next to a fresh bottle of Fireball Whiskey.  “Have a seat, Ms. Mars.”

 

“Thank you,” she says, walking between the coffee table and the couch. 

 

She eyes the alcohol and reaches for the bottle as she takes her seat near her purse.  Twisting off the cap, she helps herself to a short pour before placing the bottle back on the table, leaving the cap off in anticipation of more.

 

Chase smirks at the pristine looking woman as she quickly downs her shot of whiskey.  He circles wide around the couch, his eyes staying on her as she refills her glass then holds the bottle up towards him.  He takes the whiskey bottle, his fingers landing close to hers during the pass-off and she lingers a split second longer than necessary before releasing it to him. He nods his thanks, staring back into her sparkling eyes before sitting down in the chair across from her.

 

“So, what do you have for me?”  He pours himself a two-finger shot before replacing the bottle on the table between them.  “What have those feminine wiles of yours extracted from Brother Love and his group?”

 

Reaching into her large bag, she extracts a small Chrome Book computer.  Placing in on her lap, she opens the screen and starts it, her eyes momentarily focused on her task as she begins to speak, her voice back to its normal tenor.

 

“Brother Love has a right hand man named Tucker who took an instant shine to me.  He’s young and recently turned – by one of your soldiers I was told – and is one of the few people in the congregation that still uses make-up and dye to cover his zombism.”

 

Chase winces at the memory of the debacle involving Major and his new recruits scratching a human in an altercation.  It was a stupid mistake on Chase’s part to try and entice young zombies to join Fillmore Grave – no matter how much training; he was constantly hearing reports of the newbies screwing up one thing or another.

 

“I’ve cultivated the persona that I was a librarian at Seattle University before I got turned by my ex-boyfriend.  Lost my job because people were afraid of little old me becoming a big bad zombie.  I was able to bond with Tucker rather quickly and it’s allowed be to get behind the scenes of the group.”

 

She places the computer on the table and swivels it to face Chase before pressing the spacebar.  Images on the screen begin to circulate of people in a theatre, their hands in the air, eyes closed, mouths agape as if waiting to be fed.

 

“Brother Love – or Angus McDonough – is a former multi-millionaire who was thought to be killed by the ‘Chaos Killer’.  Apparently he wasn’t completely dead as much as mostly dead – drugged and frozen, left to hibernate permanently in a freezer. Lucky for me, you actually employ the ‘Chaos Killer’ and I was able to speak to Major Lilywhite directly about what happened.  He informed me that he gave Angus to his son, Blaine DeBeers.  Major didn’t know and didn’t care what happened to him from there.”

 

Chase smirks, remembering how he turned Major back into a zombie, at his request.  He had almost forgotten that his right-hand man had a dubious moniker of a killer attached to him.

 

“Using a hidden camera in a sweater broach, I was able to get some shots of the happenings at the ‘church’.  Brother Love leads three sermons per day – morning, afternoon, and evening – each one espousing that zombies are God’s ‘chosen people’; resurrected like Jesus to walk among the living, as it were.   He keeps talking about how he was trapped in a stone well and God spoke to him before providing him with food.  He says that it rained down like bread from the heavens.”

 

The photos on the screen change from people in the crowds to images of Brother Love – white robes to match his skin and hair – up on a stage, waving a hammer in the air as he moves across the stage.  His eyes are a deep red and his gestures are grand and sweeping across the screen.

 

“Once a week, a select group of zombies go to a restaurant named Romero’s to feast on the leftovers from wealthy zombie guests.  The restaurant is owned by Angus's son, Blaine who seems to be doing a good business importing some of the best American brains around.   While the poor zombies of Seattle are starving, the rich can still get brains, for a price.  But since I saw you leaving there a few nights ago, I’m sure I don’t have to go over the precise menu selections.”

 

He glances from the computer screen to catch Veronica’s powder pink lips pulled up into a smirk, her blue eyes twinkling with glee.

 

“Are you following me now?”  He teases, raising his glass to her and takes a sip.  “Because I don't know how I feel about that.”

 

“Don’t flatter yourself,” she shoots back with a wink.  “I was trying to get more information on the people frequenting the restaurant before I actually went in the next day for lunch.  Good thing I did – when I realized they were serving whole brains, I snuck some food tubes in with me to consume in the bathroom.  Took the edge off the stripper brains someone fed me before anything but my cardigan was shed.  Still had to pretend to dance around every pole I saw, but at least the clothes stayed on.”

 

Chase opens his mouth, taking a sharp breath.  He’s about to make an overtly sexual comeback but instead, the newspaper image of her being handcuffed and led from a courtroom passes through his head and he decides it best to shut his damn mouth, his eyes shifting back to the screen.

 

She clears her throat and there’s a lingering silence, her hand moving into his peripheral vision as she reaches for her glass.  He knows that she knows all about her trial – it was very public record.  Chase has read the details so many times by now he could quote the articles by heart.  Veronica claimed that she was violently raped by her fiancé Duncan Kane but somehow, she was the one arrested for attempted murder after she pressed her father’s gun to Duncan’s scrotum as he slept and blew his testicles clear off.  Her calm 911 call for an ambulance was still up on YouTube  -- posted by a local news outlet and never taken down.  Over the course of the trial, the prosecution presented evidence – naked Polaroid photos she posed for with Duncan – as evidence that she must have consented to what happened that night.  The defense provided evidence of the countless outburst of rage Duncan experienced throughout his life and argued that when Veronica presented him with the information about his family’s corporate espionage being linked to her father’s death, he became violent.   But the police never took photos of her bruises the night of the incident --  never took her to the hospital -- so there was no physical evidence that anything other than consensual sex took place; only her word.  It took fifteen minutes for a jury of her peers to find her guilty of the lesser charge of assault with a deadly weapon.  If he hadn't lost his balls, Duncan Kane would have got off free and clear.

 

“So they gave you the equivalent of the zombie roofie,” he mutters, glancing up at her for a split second before his attention returned to the photos.

 

“I told you, I can handle myself.”  Her tone is hard, shifting dramatically in an instant.  “Keep your eyes on the screen and you’ll see another problem in a minute.”

 

Random photos of scenes from the congregation continue until it shifts to pictures of zombie children, gathered around Brother Love, all receiving colourful Dixie Cubs filled with cut-up brains.

 

Chase runs his hands over his face, closing his eyes for a moment.  “Kids.”

 

“Yeah, kids.  Zombie orphans that Brother Love has taken in because they were turned and their parents had trouble feeding them or something happened to their families and they had no where else to go.”  Her voice continues in its matter-of-fact tone as images of the children playing together circulate.  “I’ve been placed with a group of adult zombies helping to educate them – because I’m supposed to be a librarian so why not.  They’re currently living in the basement of the theatre in a makeshift orphanage and Brother Love feeds and clothes them.”

 

“I can’t just go in and lay down the law,” Chase murmurs, his hand covering his mouth.  “The kids would get caught up in it and become collateral damage; as if they weren't already.”

 

“Well you could do that, but it would make you a Goddamn monster.”  Veronica retorts, pouring herself another shot and topping up his glass before placing the bottle down.  “And I get the sense that you are not, in fact, a monster.”

 

Chase chuckles, shaking his head.  “Are you sure about that?”

 

Veronica reaches out her pink manicured fingers and presses the screen of the Chrome Book down so there is now nothing between them.  “I’ve seen the devil with my own two eyes.  I know what evil looks like now.  And you, Chase Graves, are not evil.”

 

He laughs, grabbing his glass and taking a long shot of his whiskey before leaning back in his chair.  “I’m sure there are some people out there that would disagree with you on that, Ms. Mars.”

 

She shakes her head, leaning forward to rest her elbows on her knees.  “No, you aren’t.  I’ve hacked into your files; I’ve read your reports on your missions overseas and in South America.  Protecting people working humanitarian missions in places no one would ever go; rescuing prisoners of war that have fallen behind enemy lines, when no one else would. No, Chase Graves, you’re a Goddamn hero – but no one knows it.”

 

The muscles in Chase’s jaw clench and he leans forward toward her, his eyes locked with hers.  “Funny, because I was thinking that you were a Goddamn hero too.”

 

Her mouth twitches ever so slightly but other than that, she doesn’t move, maintaining their eye contact across the table.  “Really.  How so?”

 

“About ten years ago, I ran this mission in the Congo,” he begins slowly, choosing his words carefully.  “A group of girls had been kidnapped as brides for soldiers.  Their government had washed their hands of the situation so one of the fathers hired us to bring them back.”

 

Veronica sits, unmoving, her eyes still fixed firmly on him.  Chase clears his throat and continues.

 

“We found the girls – some were pregnant, some were near dead, all were traumatized by their captors.”  Chase’s voice drops as if he is telling a bedtime story and not one as scarring as he is weaving.  “Well, we have them separated – the men on one side of their village square, the women on the other side --- and we have each group surrounded, waiting for a transport plane out of there.  All of a sudden, one of the women – tiny and round with pregnancy – starts yelling across to the men.  We can’t understand her and the translator can’t keep up with her words but I know that she’s cursing at the man who kept her.  So I walk up to her, trying to calm her so she doesn’t get upset and go into labour or something, and the next thing I know she’s grabbed my side arm and she’s marching past all my men, waving it at her husband.  My battalion all turn and point their weapons at her and in that split second I yell at them to stand-down.  But this woman doesn’t care whether there are guns pointed at her or not.  She passes through my men and finds the man who tortured her, cowering with his hands on his head, kneeling with the other men, and she shoots him in the forehead at point blank range before turning and walking back towards me, the gun at her side.”

 

Chase takes a shaky breath, his mind playing the scene as it did many, many nights after the event.  “That’s when she hands me the gun as if it was just a stick or something and goes back to stand with the other women like nothing happened.  And I looked at the gun in my palm for a moment, in complete shock.   But then, something hit me, and I held it out towards the group and asked them ‘who’s next?’  The translator was in such shock he didn’t translate it, but they knew what I said, and out of those fifteen girls, five more took my gun and shot their rapists.”

 

Veronica takes in a deep breath, exhaling slowly though her nose, but doesn’t move any more than that.

 

“I never knew what happened to those women after I returned them safely to their homes.  But I know in my heart that at least six of them survived.”

 

It’s as if all the air is sucked out of the room as the two sit in silence, unmoving.

 

“Well,” Veronica finally begins, slowly, hesitating.  “It’s nice to know you see me as both a survivor and a victim.”

 

Chase blinks rapidly.  “Wait.  What?”

 

“You don’t have to handle me with kid gloves.  I tossed you a very lovely ball with the stripper reference, and I was sure you would return my volley, but instead I get this whole ‘I get you’ monologue instead.  Which, you know, it’s nice to know that you understand.”  When her fingers raise as air quotes, Chase’s stomach turns at his mistake.  “But hey, I’m sure you know what it’s like to be raped by the only man you cared about, then get stripped apart on the witness stand in front of every news outlet in America, and probably a couple from Canada too.”

 

Shit.  Fuck fuck shit damn.   Chase’s brain comes down hard on him.

 

“I’m sorry, I –”

 

Grabbing the small laptop, Veronica shoves it back in her purse before quickly downing her drink.  She wipes her lips with the back of her hand, smearing her lipstick slightly in the process.  

 

“Look, after our first meeting, I thought we could have a little fun – a little banter, a little flirting – while we got the job done.  Apparently I was wrong.”  Shoving her arm through her purse straps, she rises; her cold, sharp blue eyes staring down at him.

 

“Veron – Ms.Mars – I’m sorry I...” He starts, finding his brain and his tongue don’t seem to be connected anymore.

 

“That’s all I have right now,” Veronica states firmly, shifting her purse strap high on her shoulder.  “Just sit tight and don’t do anything stupid with this group, alright?  When I have more, I’ll be in touch.”

 

She turns on her heels and Chase stands.  Of all the scenarios he ran in his head leading up to seeing Veronica again, this was not one of them.  As she reaches the door, he finally finds his words again.

 

“Be careful.”  Chase calls out as she pulls the glass door open.

 

Pausing mid step, she glances back at him, her hard features softening slightly.  “I always am.”

 

And then she’s gone.  Again.

 

Dropping down into his chair, Chase hides his face in his hands, rocking back and forth as he does.

 

“Fuck!”  He groans into his palms.  “Fuck.  Fuck.  Fuck.  Fuck.”

Chapter Text

Where I come from, smashing open the skull of a little old lady is considered bad manners.

 

Another shot of whiskey to make his words fade.  The gentle hum of the alcohol coursing through his body.

 

Today they captured the woman they called “Renegade" or Mama Leone depending on who you talked to.  She ran a Laundromat on the edge of the city, near the border wall, and had set up quite the business smuggling in people who wanted to be “cured" of their illnesses by being turned into zombies, and smuggling out humans who just didn't want to be in Seattle anymore.  The older woman, with sepia brown skin and streaked white curly hair, barely flinched when he told her she was going to be sedated and frozen. 

 

He didn't have the stomach to ship her off to the guillotine.  But then, word came down that the board was upset.  The board needed answers.  The board wanted to make an example of her.  It was a matter of "optics" -- how would it look if they didn't bring the full force of their laws on her.

 

He briefly considered what his father would say about the situation, knowing full well that Hank Graves' midwest upbringing and old fashioned values would have easily justified why killing this woman was not only a bad idea, it was morally reprehensible.

 

All of this was the bureaucratic bullshit Harrison was good at negotiating.  Why these rich investors thought that they had any say in who lived and who died was what really stuck in Chase's craw.  They put him in charge – leave the battlefield decisions to him.  They said she needed to be made an example of, but he knew if he killed her, another person would just replace her.  He'd seen it so many times; there was always someone clamouring for power of one form or another.

 

Compounding his problems inside the walls, outside the walls General Mills, the head of the U.S. Defense Department was making the rounds on news programs talking about how the government should just nuke Seattle and be done with it.

 

Another drink splashes down his throat and he wipes his lips with the back of his hand.  At this rate, he'll be full on drunk by the time Veronica arrives; but after their last meeting, maybe that wasn't a bad thing.

 

A week went by without any word from her and Chase was starting to believe she wouldn't come back.  He checked the system and she was still collecting her rations on both her real I.D. and her fake one.  He even went so far as to send Major past Romero's on Monday to check and make sure she was dining with the other church zombies.

 

Then yesterday – as Chase sat in his office, struggling with the demands of the board and his own feeling of morality – Major appeared with a message from her.

 

“Whiskey.  Tomorrow at midnight.”

 

Chase couldn't help but smile when Major told him; a smile that came and went on his lips throughout the rest of the day.

 

Since Major was sent on a secret assignment, Chase set up security clearance for Veronica at the gates, with orders that no one was to follow her up to his office – she knew the way – and they were not to be disturbed.

 

Standing, Chase pushes back his office chair and stretches his arms high in the air, cracking his knuckles over his head.  He hadn't the time to change from his full uniform and now, in his slightly drunk state, he feels constricted.  Reaching under his bullet-proof vest, he scratches his pecs.  If he had been thinking he would have showered and changed before this meeting.  Walking over to the long table on the other side of his office, he tosses his beret towards it, watching it sail like a Frisbee through the air before unceremoniously landing onto the glass top, sliding and twirling.  Pulling open the clasps of his vest, he groans as he peels it away from his body; it feels good to shed the excess weight. Reaching for the hem of his turtleneck, he pulls it over his head, his black undershirt rising, getting bunched under his arms and his skin prickles as it comes in contact with the cool office air. Dropping the turtleneck on the table, he pulls his t-shirt down over his abs, letting out a comfortable sigh. 

 

“I feel there should be music and a pole…”

 

Chase whips around on his heels to find Veronica standing in the doorway; a playful smirk across her lips as her eyes skim his body.

 

“You're early,” he replies, shaking his index finger at her.  “And you didn't knock.”

 

Veronica drags her teeth over her bottom lip, adjusting the large black purse on her shoulder.  “And you have an all-glass office.  You know what they say about people who live in glass houses right?”

 

“They shouldn't throw stones,” he snarks, crossing his arms in front of his chest.

 

“No.  They should change in their bathrooms.”  Veronica replies, a wide grin spreading across her lips.

 

For a moment they stand, facing each other, each one eyeing the other to analyse their next move.  Chase’s cheeks twitch as a smile pulls across his face.

 

“Welcome back, Ms. Mars.  I take it you had no problem with security downstairs.”

 

She quirks her head to the side, letting her lose wavy hair fall over her shoulder.  Veronica is back in her armour – black jeans and leather jacket – with a red t-shirt underneath; a look Chase prefers to the ingénue getup from their last meeting.

 

“I think they took your orders very seriously – looked at my I.D. then let me go about my business.” 

 

Veronica strides towards Chase's desk, dropping her purse on the chair before grabbing for the half-empty bottle of whiskey.  She frowns, holding the bottle up to the light.

 

“You started without me.”

 

Shaking his head, he chuckles lightly.  “Been that kind of a day.”

 

Lowering the bottle, her eyes narrow.  “So I've heard.  Word on the street is you have the trafficker they call Mama Leone.  I'd think that would be quite the cause for celebration for you.”

 

She unscrews the top of the bottle, pouring herself a shot in his glass before lifting it to her lips and tossing it back.  A thin outline of her pink lipstick is left along the rim and all Chase can think about is getting his lips on the other side of that glass. 

 

Veronica hikes up one leg, seating herself half on his desk, the other leg stretched to the floor, keeping her balanced.  She pours another drink for herself before setting the bottle down again.  Raising the glass in the air in a toast, she returns it to her lips, taking another shot.

 

He wants to remember her this way.  If nothing ever happens between them, this is the way he wants to carry her in his memory; perched on the edge of his desk like she owned the whole goddamn place.

 

“Aren't you going to join me?”  She coos.  “Or are you just going to watch me drink the rest of this bottle myself?”

 

Dragging his teeth over his lower lip, Chase nods.  “You stole my glass.  Again.”

 

Veronica shrugs, lowering the tumbler down onto the desk.  “You can get another one.  Or we can share.”

 

For a split second his heart stops then skips, a sharp breath in returning it to its normal rhythm.

 

Slowly, he makes his way around the desk, stopping but not sitting, his gaze still fixed on her.  Picking up the glass and bottle, he pours himself another drink before placing the bottle between them.  His eyes dart to the glass and he raises it slightly, observing the pink stain on the rim.  Taking hold of the top of the glass with his other hand, he turns it so the lipstick is now towards Veronica.

 

“That side's yours.”

 

Her nose wrinkles and her lips pucker as she holds back the grin pulling at her cheeks and Chase is sure she is the absolute cutest girl he's ever laid eyes on.

 

“Fine.”

 

Arching his eyebrow at her, he drinks the whiskey in one long shot before easing himself down into the chair, bringing the glass down between them.

 

“So what do you have for me tonight, Ms. Mars?”

 

Reaching for her bag, she unzips it and produces a brown folder from which she pulls several printed colour photos.  Laying them across his desk, she taps one with her manicured finger.

 

“The answers to several of your problems -- this is Dalton Edwards with Blaine DeBeers.  He's Blaine's supplier of brains from outside the walls.”

 

Chase scans the photos, analysing the face of the tall, dark haired businessman talking with the white haired zombie conman.  There is currently a gentleman’s agreement with Blaine that Chase doesn’t ask where he gets his brains and in exchange, he helps Chase with some less-than savoury plans – like the one that Major and Blaine’s right-hand-man Don E. are running tonight.

 

“I went with Tucker to the basement of Romero's to collect leftover brains for the kids.  Blaine saves the scraps and we put them in a blender and feed them to the orphans with applesauce so they don’t feel the effects of the whole brains.”

 

“And this Dalton character was there when you came down?”

 

She nods, pushing the photos around to bring a picture of Dalton and Blaine looking through a thick binder to the top of the pile.

 

“He has access to brains; lots of them. Not enough to feed the entire city, but probably enough to top up whatever you are losing to smuggling.”

 

Deep creases form across his forehead, his gaze still fixed on the photos.

 

“So what are you suggesting?”

 

Veronica slides herself up on the desk a bit, crossing her arms.

 

“I'm suggesting you go in with that big army of yours, close down Romero's, arrest Dalton for smuggling, and threaten to freeze him and his business if he doesn't give you his connections.”

 

Chase's cheek twitches and a sardonic smile appears, in spite of himself.  Glancing up at Veronica's wrinkled brow and hard expression makes him smile even more.

 

“I happen to like Romero's and so do most of the members of the board of Fillmore Graves.”

 

Rolling her eyes, she lets out a huff of annoyance at him.

 

“Nothing really changes, does it; even in this zombie state there's still the rich who are perfectly willing to stand on the backs of the starving poor.”

 

Her arrow hits its mark and a pang of remorse shoots through his gut.

 

“I'm not saying it's a bad plan.  What I'm saying is that if I do this, it needs to be finessed a bit.  I originally had a deal with Mr. DeBeers to stay out of his business if he gave me intel on what was happening on the streets.”

 

Veronica arches her eyebrow at him with just a hint of a smile as she leans towards him, her palms flat on top of the photos.

 

“Yes.  But now you don't need him.  Now you have me.”

 

The suggestion in her words lingers in the cool air as she holds her gaze with his.

 

“I do?”

 

She retreats, sits up and pours another drink, taking a long sip before answering.

 

“Yes.  You do.  I have all the information you need on Dalton – where he lives, his movements in the city, even his mother's maiden name should we need to hack into his files.  Forget about Blaine – put him on ice -- I can help you far better than he ever could.”

 

In the silence she stands, begins to wander the office slowly. There is a little sway to her tiny frame that tells Chase the alcohol has hit her system.

 

“Then what happens to the kids – the members of Brother Love's church – if I close down Romero's?”

 

Veronica tosses him a smile over her shoulder, stopping at the board room table.  Her fingers skim his vest before reaching across the table to grab his beret.  Placing it on her head, she adjusts it slightly at an angle then turns, throwing him a small salute.

 

“You're not getting it, General.   The kids can be fostered to other zombies or become part of the zombie school at Fillmore Graves.  But if you have food tubes for everyone, you eliminate the reason why people are following Brother Love in the first place.  They came to him with the promise that their hunger would be fed.  Then you become their saviour again, not this false prophet. ”

 

She crosses her legs at her heels, hands on her hips and gives him a look of smug satisfaction.  Once again, she has rendered him speechless -- the sight of her in his hat; her plan to help not only the zombies of Seattle, but him as well; the bold and brash handling of him.

 

Impulsively, he rises, walking slowly towards her.  Her eyes never leave his, but she doesn't move.  When he's inches away from her, he stops, hears her breath hitch as her blue eyes shimmer up at him.  Gently, he reaches up with both hands to raise the hat off her before lowering it back down on his own head, adjusting it so it is properly fixed to him.

 

“Are you done bossing me around, Ms. Mars?”

 

She licks her lips, her chin rising slightly towards him.

 

“No.”

 

A spark rushes through Chase's nerves.  He wonders if she feels it too; the electricity between them so intense he wants to throw everything away just to be with her.  Glancing at her prefect lips, it takes every ounce of his control not to kiss her, long and passionately.

 

But instead he steps back and turns, feels his cheeks flush as he walks away, retreating back to the whiskey bottle.  Snatching it off the desk, he takes a swig directly from the bottle, wiping the excess off his lips with the back of his hand.

 

“So what else do you need to tell me?  What amazing advice do you have for me now?”  His words slip out a little harsher than he intended, but at the moment, he hopes it keeps Veronica slightly at bay.

 

“What are your plans for Renegade?”

 

He turns, lets out a loud laugh, shaking his head.  With the bottle still in his hand, he raises it in his fist, his index finger pointing towards Veronica.

 

“That's none of your business.”

 

She crosses her arms in defiance, her lips forming a serious line.

 

“I'm trying to help you.”

 

Chase rolls his eyes, takes another quick drink before landing the bottle back on the desk.

 

“Yeah, right.  I’m paying you to deal with Brother Love, not Renegade.”  He removes his beret and he hangs it on the bottle.

 

“If you execute her, you’ll lose the support of the people.”  Veronica blurts out forcefully.  “I'm out on the streets; you aren't; if you execute a woman who was trying to save people's lives, the few supporters you have out there will turn on Fillmore Graves.”

 

Covering his eyes with his palms, he wonders how the hell they went from flirting to arguing in the course of minutes.  Letting out a long breath, he uncovers his eyes to see Veronica still standing across from him, unmoving.

 

Mama Leone’s words echo in his ears.  Before she was sedated, the older woman took her last chance to lecture him.  You have a public relations problem.  When you’re asking your fellow Americans to donate their brains for our cause optics matter.  Saving human lives.  Now that’s good optics.  Everything she said stuck with him as truth – a truth that ate at him through the day.

 

“I don't want to execute her,” he yells, his patience lost in exhaustion and drink.  “Do you really think it brings me any joy to crush an old woman's skull?  Because it doesn't.  But I have to – I have to make her an example so the growth of the zombie population stops.”

 

He expects her to shrink at the sound of his voice, but instead, she takes two steps towards him, pushing back her shoulders, her eyes full of fire.

 

“And I'm saying to you,” she yells back.  “That a few new zombies in Seattle are pittance compared to the revolution you will start if you execute her.”

 

“Who's going to feed all these new zombies?  You?”  He laughs sarcastically.

 

“No!  You with the new brains I told you about.  Then you put every man you have on plugging that hole in your supply chain.  Or let me handle it, since it's obvious that the entire investigation section of Fillmore Graves is filled with incompetence!  And if you do execute her, mark my words, one day it will be your head on that block.  It's a slippery slope from hero to villain.  Choose to be the hero I know you are.”

 

Chase wishes he could retort, but she's right, and he knows it.  Apparently, it just took a tiny, blond woman screaming at him for him to hear what he needed to hear.

 

His voice lowers and he eases himself to lean against the edge of his desk, the fight driven from him.

 

“Why do you care about any of this?”

 

Veronica lowers her eyes, takes a moment before speaking in a softer tone.

 

“Right now, I think I may be the only person on this planet that knows you, Chase Graves.  I've researched you, analysed you, found out things about your life and career that you have probably forgotten.”

 

She wanders slowly, past the couch and chairs towards the window, never turning around to look at him.

 

“And I know everything about you.”  He tries to get a read on her expression from her reflection in the glass.  “It makes us even.”

 

She shakes her head, places her hand on the glass.

 

“No.  What you don't know is that I started researching you long before this case.”

 

Chase frowns, shifting himself towards her but remains near his desk, giving her space.

 

“You're not some crazy fan girl, are you?”  He teases, trying to lighten the mood.

 

It works and she giggles, tossing him a quick glance over her shoulder.

 

“No.  I'm not.”

 

“Good,” he replies with mock relief.  “Then do you want to tell me why the fascination with me?”

 

There's a pause and he watches her body shift, her shoulders lower, her head drops, arms cross tightly.  The confident woman from minutes ago begins to morph as if some invisible armour was slowly wrapping around her.

 

“We were all friends.” Veronica begins her voice soft and dreamy.  “Lilly and Duncan Kane.  Me.  And Logan Echolls.”

 

Chase frowns.  “That name sounds familiar.”

 

A small laugh escapes, but she doesn't turn towards him.  “Everyone knows Aaron and Lynn Echolls.  Big time movie stars who cared more about their own celebrity than their son.”

 

Chase nods; he can't remember the exact number of times he had seen Aaron's film Hair Trigger, but it was probably around a hundred.

 

“We all grew up together.  Lilly was my best friend.  I was so naïve and sheltered, and Lilly...well...she wasn't.  She traveled the world, wore string bikinis, led the Pep-squad;  she was the complete opposite of me and yet she was my best friend in the whole world.”

 

The missing pieces.  All the things Chase wanted to ask her about her life leading up to….everything.  He thought he would be more intrigued by the revelations; instead a slow churning worry started in his stomach.

 

“When we all hit about 14 or 15 years old, Lilly and Logan began dating because, why not.” She chuckles.  “He was as adventurous as she was, as beautiful as she was, as rich as she was.  They just fit.”

 

“And how did you fit?” Chase questions her gently.

 

“I was pared with Duncan, by design or default.  He was quiet, smart, and athletic, from a good family.  I was going to be a lawyer; Duncan was going to go to Stanford with me and work on a business degree.  We knew each other so long, it was just effortless to just be together.”

 

Chase nodded, as if he understood.  The fact was that he had never found a connection with any woman that went beyond a few months or the occasional fling.

 

“For years, Duncan and I just stayed the course, while Lilly and Logan were on again, off again so many times that I lost count.  But the last time they broke up, just after my father died, Logan came to find me at my parent's home and told me he was joining the Navy as a pilot.”

 

He watches her eyes close for a moment in her reflection, her pain radiating through the room.

 

“He was finally choosing a life beyond Lilly and partying and surfing.  A life beyond Neptune; and he was never coming back.”

 

Opening her eyes, she gazes up through the glass at the stars above them both.  “He wanted to tell me that he always had feelings for me, that he loved me; that he needed me to know in case something happened to him.  And he wanted to know if I felt the same way.”

 

“Did you?”  Chase is transfixed by her story, but also wondering in the back of his mind if he ever crossed paths with Logan.

 

“Yes.”  She chokes out in a whisper.  “But I didn't want to leave the normal life I had carved out with my fiancé, so I admitted my feeling but told him we couldn't be together.”

 

Taking a breath, Chase steadies himself.  “How do I fit into all of this then?”

 

That’s when she finally turns, a piercing look in her eyes that cuts through him.

 

“You look exactly like him.”

 

Chase smiles in spite of himself.  “So you started your investigation of me to do what…see if I was him?”

 

Veronica bites her lip and nods.  “Yes.  I spent so many years keeping myself from investigating Logan that I couldn't bring myself to find out about him.  So instead, I found out about you.”

 

Pursing his lips together, he nods, hiding the fact that inside, he is gutted.  She wasn't flirting with him; didn't investigate him out of curiosity or interest in who he was or what he had accomplished.  She wanted him to be someone else.

 

“So you never saw him again?”

 

A deep sigh escapes her mouth.  “I saw him one more time.  He showed up with Lilly the two days I was on the stand at my trial for shooting Duncan.  He had a front row seat for my very public flaying by some very good lawyers.”

 

“And he did nothing?”

 

Veronica begins to walk away slowly, dragging her fingers along the top of the leather chair, then the couch, as Chase's eyes follow her.

 

“He and Lilly came to my cell after the final day of being on the stand, but by then I was a ghost – there was almost nothing left of me, except rage.  And that's what I did when they tried to use hollow words to sooth me -- I went ‘full zombie’ on them.  I raged at them for leaving me.  I raged at them for pushing me to be with Duncan in the first place.  I raged at them for knowing what he was capable of and never saying anything to me.  I raged and raged, screaming at them that I never wanted to see either of them again.  And they believed me, so I never did.”

 

She comes to a stop near her purse and fishes out an envelope.  Dropping it beside the whiskey bottles, she pulls the bag onto her shoulder.

 

“Here's my file on Dalton.  Use it or don't; it's up to you.”

 

“Thank you” 

 

He stands, takes a step towards her as she turns her back to him.  Before she can move, he catches up to her.  Reaching out, his hand softly brushes her shoulder, resting lightly on her arm.  He feels her muscles tense underneath his palm as he places his other hand on her shoulder.  For a second the only sound is their breathing as Chase stands behind her, mere inches away.

 

“I'm sorry I'm not him.”

 

A shudder runs through her but she makes no move to leave.  Dropping his hands from her, he moves into the space between them, his lips hovering near her ear.

 

“But I want you to know, if I was in fact the lucky man who had your heart, nothing on earth could scare me away from you.”

 

To his surprise, she lifts her head slightly to rest against his chest.  His arm wraps around her body, his hand spreading across her stomach, holding her gently. Closing his eyes, Chase inhales the flowery scent of her perfume. 

 

Veronica's hand comes to rest on his and she sighs in that perfectly content way that makes him gloriously happy.

 

“I don't want you to be him.  I want you to be you.  Please, just remember who you are and that you're a good man, in spite of your circumstances.”

 

He chuckles.  “A good man, huh.”

 

“I wouldn't have taken this job if you weren't.”

 

Chase flips his hand, threading his fingers through hers and to his delight, she responds by closing her fingers on his.

 

“My father used to say that we couldn't always control the mission, but we could control how we behaved, how we reacted to our situation.  That was the mark of a good leader.”  He confides quietly, allowing her a piece of him that she couldn’t read online.  “He was a good man and every day, I try to live up to his example.  Lately, I feel like I’m failing miserably.”

 

Veronica raises his hand in hers, holds it up in front of her face, rotating them gently as if she’s analyzing his large, steady hand wrapped around her tiny fingers.

 

“My father died trying to be a good man.  He lost almost everything in his pursuit of the truth – his job as Sherriff, my mother’s love – because he believed so strongly that the people that murdered a man in cold blood deserved to be brought to justice, even when the rich men and the stupid bureaucracy of our city tried to stop him.”

 

With a little tug on her hand, he spins her to face him and she smiles.

 

“Right now, I think I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t.”

 

Her hand presses against his chest.  “Then choose to be a good man.  They may have taken your life, but don’t let them take your soul.”

 

Raising her hand up to his lips, he kisses her knuckles softly his gaze unwavering from hers. 

 

“I’ll take it under advisement.”

 

She rolls her eyes at him again, letting out an exaggerated sigh as she pulls away her hand.  “I guess if that’s the best you can do...”

 

Chuckling, he takes a step back, leaning against the edge of his desk.  “Are you gunning for a position with Fillmore Graves as my adviser?  My conciliary as it were?  Because you do look good in the beret.”

 

“No.  Just showing up and bossing you around is more my style.”

 

She laughs a throaty laugh and turns towards the door, her hips swaying away from him.    Grabbing the door handle, she turns, arches her eyebrow at him in a way that tells him she’s not really kidding. 

 

Chase chuckles, crossing his arms and shaking his head.  “Then until next time, Ms. Mars.”

 

Veronica nods and throws him a small salute before hurrying out the door and down the hallway, disappearing towards the elevators.

 

A slow exhale pushes through his lungs; his brain running at full speed as it processes everything that just happened.  Tonight did nothing to quell his feelings for Veronica – if anything it intensified.

 

...be a good man.

 

It was harder then it seemed, especially considering the mission he sent Major on tonight.  His own moral compass still waivered, but now it had a new reason for pointing him in the right direction.

 

For her. 

 

If he couldn’t be a good man thinking about the people of Seattle and himself, he would do it to prove to her that he was the good man she believed him to be.

 

His cell phone buzzed on his desk and he flipped it over to see who was calling at this time of the night.

 

Major.  “Fuck.”

 

Answering the call, he barks into the phone.  “What.”

 

“Sir.  We have our prisoner downstairs in lock-up.  Should we bring her up to you or would you like to come down here.”

 

“Bring her up here.  Let’s get this over with.”

 

“Yes Sir.”

 

Chase hangs up and tosses his phone back on the desk with a crash.  “Fuck.  Fuck, fuck, fuck.”

 

Rising, he walks over to his pile of clothing on the table, removes his hat and begins dressing.  By the time Major arrives with the prisoner, he is back at his desk, looking like he is actually in control of the place.

 

Major enters without knocking, dragging a zombified young woman in handcuffs with him.  Sloane Mills looks like she was dragged out of a rave, still in her high heels and party clothes.  Her long hair is matted and her makeup smeared.  Taking her by the arms, Major leads her to sit in the chair across from Chase.

 

“Miss Mills.  So glad you could join us on this side of the wall.”  Chase says, reaching inside his desk drawer for a large bundle of brain tubes and an envelope.

“My father works for the U.S. Defense Department!  General Mills will nuke this whole city when he finds out you kidnapped me!”  She screams at him.

 

Chase leans forward.  “No.  No he won’t.  Because now, you’re here.  His only child is now part of the zombie city he despises.  But I’m going to bet that he loves you more than he hates us.”

 

Her eyes narrow, not sure what to do with the information Chase is giving her.

 

Pushing the tubes and envelope towards her, Chase forces a smile.  “You’ll have a good life here.  We’ve set you up with a free apartment, an I.D. card so you can get food, and the opportunity to do as many drugs as you want without having to worry about dying.”

 

Her face contorts as she grabs the tubes, dropping them on her lap and grabbing one from the pile.  She quickly rips it open with her teeth and sucks it back.

 

“You suck,” she mutters before ripping open another tube.

 

Chase shrugs.  “I probably do.  But right now, but I’m sure the zombies I’m saving from total annihilation wouldn’t think so... if they knew.”

 

Major takes her by the arm and give Slone a tug.  “Let’s get you to your new home.”

 

She stands, still sucking on the brain tube.  With a last foul glance at Chase, she follows Major without resistance.  It’s not until they disappear down the hall that Chase sits back in his chair and lets out a loud sigh.  The whiskey is still on his desk and he reaches for it, downing the last of it in one long chug.

 

His eyes find the glass with the lipstick stain and he picks it up, holding it up he turns it, letting the florescent catch the glossy sparkle.

 

“Would you still think I’m a good man after this?”  He asks out loud. 

 

The silence in the room his only answer.

Chapter Text

Chase can't look away. Following up on his directive, Major delivered a new dossier to him this afternoon and from then on, all Chase could think about was finishing with the bureaucratic bullshit so he could read it. At almost 18:00, he was finally able to put the day behind him and sat down on the couch to open this new file.

 

Major's orders to find out more on Logan Echolls meant pulling in a few favours from old Pentagon contacts, but by now, word had spread about the kidnapping of Slone Mills, so he figured people helped him more out of fear for their safety than anything else.

 

He quickly realizes that Veronica could have easily stopped digging into his life at the first page – Logan joined the Navy three years after him. By this point, Chase was already posted to a battleship in the Pacific Ocean. When Chase joined the Navy Seals, Logan was flying missions over Iraq. From then on, throughout their careers, they always seemed to just miss each other. And he was sure that if his doppelganger was in the same bar as him during Fleet Week, someone would have noticed.

 

Chase flips to the last page -- “Personal History” typed across the top. Skimming the preliminary information he finds nothing he didn't know – home town, parents, schooling. Reading past the mundane, he spots the information that makes his heart clench.

 

Married Lily Kane…

 

“And they lived happily ever after,” he mutters.

 

…divorced five years later, Lieutenant Echolls remarried Ms. Kane one-year after their divorce.

 

“Or not.”

 

From there it's more information on his current life in New York City. Lily became a designer and had five boutiques across New York State; Logan is still on active duty; they have no children. Going back into the information he skimmed, Chase registers the details of their relationship – married in a small Italian village approximately one year after Veronica's trial.

 

He rubs his temples, thinking back to his conversations with Veronica.  Despite her incessant need to know everything she must have been telling the truth – Veronica never bothered to find out about Logan and Lilly again – the pain of knowing either way probably more than she could handle at the time. The wedding must have been extremely quiet for it to not make headlines; Chase imagines that a life in the spotlight with a celebrity family would probably drive Logan to seek out a simpler existence away from prying eyes. If that was the plan, then Logan succeeded.

 

Closing the file, he tosses it on the coffee table next to the sofa and lets out a loud sigh.

 

“Rough day?”

 

Chase nearly jumps out of his seat; his head whips around towards her voice.

 

Veronica stands in the doorway, her hip propping open the door, a large pizza box in her hands. She wiggles the box back and forth ever so slightly and smiles.

 

“Surprise.”

 

Chase blinks rapidly, his brain catching up to the situation.

 

“I didn't know you were coming tonight. You were just here a few nights ago so…”

 

She shrugs, entering the room she crosses the floor and places the box on the coffee table, shoving the file folder over to the edge of the table in the process.

 

“Snap decision. Figured you would still be here at 10 o'clock. And look…here you are.”

 

Opening the top of the pizza box, steam rises from the cheesy goodness inside.

 

“One large ‘Zombie special' – jalapenos, ghost peppers, and cayenne sauce with brain mash. Couldn't eat this all myself so…”

 

“…you thought you'd see if your Fillmore Graves access privileges still worked?”

 

Veronica flops down in the chair across from him, but avoids eye contact, a faint blush across her cheeks.

 

Busted.

 

He licks his lips, a wide grin spreading across his face.

 

“FYI…the access is only for you to come to my office, so if you have any designs on wandering around the place…”

 

“What makes you think I want to be anywhere but here?” She looks up at him briefly, a coy sparkle in her eyes, before spinning the box sideways so she can help herself to a slice.

 

He stretches his arms across the back of the couch, clicking his tongue on the roof of his mouth. “I still feel like there’s more to this little visit. I only saw you a few days ago, and yet, somehow, here you are again.”

 

Veronica takes a bite of her pizza and shrugs, for a moment unable to speak; he chuckles lightly and reaches for a piece of pizza for himself. Just as he lifts it to his lips, she asks:

 

“So how’s Mama Leone doing?”

 

He pauses, mouth agape, his eyes glancing sideways at her. Veronica bats her eyelashes at him, taking another bite of her own slice and chews it slowly.

 

“She’s still alive. For now.” Chase replies and takes a large bite before she can interrupt him again.

 

“Hmmm.” Veronica mutters, food still in her mouth.

 

His stomach tightens at the memory of the ensuing argument he had with the Fillmore Graves elite, the day after Veronica's last visit.  In their view, Mama Leone needed to die and Chase was the person to carry it out.  The battle of words ended with Chase proclaiming that if any of them would like to step up and be the janitor for this mess, they were welcome to do so.  When the table full of cowards looked blankly at one another, he knew he had settled things, for now.  

 

"Let's just say Lucy, I had a lot of ess-plain-in' to do the next day when people started questioning me about it again.” 

 

She shrugs. “I’m confident you can handle them, Ricky. Just get out your bongos and play them a song.”

 

Chase chuckles. “Is that how we’re going to play this? Me as a Cuban band leader; you as the pesky housewife?”

 

Holding the pizza just in front of her lips, she smiles. “If role-play is your bag, then sure.”

 

In the silence, he allows himself to imagine Veronica standing in the living room of his house dressed in a red-polka-dot flared dress, a floral apron over it, her blond hair piled high on her head and a gin and tonic in her hand, greeting him as he comes in the door.  He takes the drink from her with one hand while slipping his other hand up under her skirt, sliding in between her soft skin and the elastic of her garter as her bright red lips press hard against his.  Not exactly realistic, but for now, the tiny fantasy will do.

 

Veronica takes another large bite of pizza, her nose wrinkling and her lips contorting as she tries to keep a large grin from spreading across her face.

 

Chase give his head a shake to clear the fantasy from his mind and rolls his eyes at her. “Oh no you don’t; you’re not flirting with me to get what you want. Do you really think you can come in here, ply me with food and bat your eyelashes at me and I’ll hand over this city to you?”

 

“Noooooooo....” Veronica drawls, dropping her slice back into the box. “I just came to check up on you.”

 

A snort-laugh escapes him. “I need checking up on now?”

 

“I see Romero’s is still open.”

 

Tossing his pizza slice through the air, it lands inside the box with a splatter of grease. “It’s been three days!”

 

“Plenty of time to plan and execute a shut-down.”

 

Leaning back, Veronica stretches her arms across the back of the chair, letting her hands drape down at the wrists. Her smile is gone, replaced by a hard line on her lips.

 

“Not enough time if you want to do it right.” He snarks. “Or are you more of a leap-before-you-look sort of plan-maker?”

 

Veronica tilts her head to the left and sighs, a little movement that tells Chase he may have hit the nail on the head.

 

“Drawn out plans are over rated.”

 

He laughs, shaking his head. “This is what a military career teaches you – the better thought out the plan, the better the probability it will succeed.”

 

“My plans succeed,” she retorts, kicking her boots up onto the coffee table and crossing them at her ankles.  "I'd be dead by now if they didn't."

 

“So your plan to capture that guy that scratched you and made you a zombie went well?  Oh, and technically you are 'dead' so --”

 

Her eyes narrow, one eyebrow raising in a hard arch while the other lowers. “That...was...improvised.”

 

Stretching his legs, he plants his army boots on the coffee table near hers; they are almost twice her foot size.

 

“Look, I have a plan I’m formulating, but if we want the kids to be taken care of, I have to execute the closure of Romero’s and the safe acquisition of the orphans coordinated within a similar time frame, which complicates things.”

 

Veronica purses her lips, as if deciding whether to believe him.

 

“So what does that mean?”

 

Chase exhales, his hands run through his thick hair.

 

“That means that we get the kids their last meal from Romero's on a Monday, we go after Dalton and shut down things on a Tuesday, and Wednesday morning we sweep in and get the kids out from Brother Love's compound safely. But I also have to coordinate where they’ll be housed here – right now I think cots in the classrooms will have to do. If Dalton cooperates, we should be able to get our shipments to the factories by Friday and increase the supplies for everyone within the week we begin the operation; which is highly probable since he'll get to watch Blaine get put on ice first.”

 

Veronica licks her lips, her eyes hold his gaze. “So you’ve been thinking about this.”

 

Chuckling, Chase shifts himself, his feet landing on the ground and he leans forward, placing his elbows on his knees.

 

“Yes. Yes I have. As a matter of fact, I spent the better part of the night you left drafting some ideas for the mission. Slept on the couch in here. I was very cold and lonely.”

 

“Then you should have asked me to stay –”

 

His mouth drops open slightly at what she is suggesting.

 

“—to help with your plan.”

 

The breath he was holding in, escapes him and he shakes his head. Standing, he beats a hasty retreat towards his desk; pulling open the bottom drawer, he grabs a new bottle of whiskey and two clean tumblers.

 

“What makes you think I need help with this plan, Ms. Mars?”

 

“I thought we covered last time -- you need my help in all sorts of ways, General Graves.”

 

Veronica’s eyes wander away from him and her head turns towards the red file folder near the end of the coffee table.

 

It all happens as if in slow motion as Chase looks up from pouring the alcohol. Without warning, Veronica reaches across the table and takes the file, flipping it over and seeing the words written along the edge:

 

Lieutenant Logan Echolls, VAQ-140 Patriots

 

Standing the bottle next to the glasses, he watches her hand hover over the cover, as if deciding what to do with the information within her grasp.

 

“What do you want to know?” He blurts out from across the room and her head turns sharply, as if she forgot he was there.

 

Veronica’s cheek twitches, glancing back at the file then back to Chase. Retracting her hand, she presses her palms together, sandwiching them between her knees.

 

“Is he alive?” She chokes, barely above a whisper.

 

“Yes.” Chase nods.

 

She nods in return, her eyes darting to the file and back to him.

 

“Is he happy?”

 

Chase shrugs. “He married Lilly. And then divorced her; and then remarried her again; so I would say reasonably so.”

 

A little snort comes from her mouth before Veronica breaks into a giggle, her hand covering her mouth as if embarrassed. Her eyes close as she continues to giggle, tears brimming on her eyelashes.

 

Picking up the glasses, Chase crosses the office again to his spot on the couch. Dropping down into his seat, he reaches the glass across the table to her. She looks up with glassy eyes and takes it, placing it to her lips and quickly making short work of the drink.

 

“I'm sorry...I shouldn't laugh, it just caught me off guard.  Though I really shouldn’t be surprised; they always were meant to be together, one way or another.” Veronica states, wiping her eyes with the back of her hand. “I’m glad they found their own unique way of being happy.”

 

Taking a sip of his drink, Chase smiles. “Are you mad at me for finding out about Logan?”

 

"No." She shrugs, tossing a fleeting glance towards the file. “I mean, I told you that you looked like him – I actually figured you might get curious and check.”

 

“You know,” he begins, a mischievous smile crossing his lips. “We aren’t exactly alike.”

 

Veronica’s brow wrinkles and her eyes narrow, but her smile stays intact. “Ok-ay...I'll bite...what’s the difference?”

 

Chase licks his lips and grins. “I’m one shoe size bigger than him.”

 

Her eyes dart from his eyes to his crotch to his feet and she giggles, her hand covering her mouth. “You know what that means, don’t you?”

 

He scratches the stubble on his neck and shrugs. “That they have to have a Private dig a pair of boots out of storage for you when you become a cadet?”

 

Veronica tosses back her wavy hair as she lets out a throaty laugh, her hands coming up to clutch her chest, and Chase silently hopes to hear that laugh again and again.

 

“Admit it,” he continues, placing his hands behind his head and leaning back with a grin. “You came here tonight not for the pizza, but for my dazzling conversation skills and witty repartee.”

 

“Yeah.” Veronica laughs again. “That's exactly why.”

 

He glances at the two unfinished pieces in the giant box of pizza. “Next time, you don’t have to spend money on the food. Just come over.”

 

Leaning her elbow on the arm of the chair, Veronica presses her forehead to her palm, her head quirked to the side. “If you say that, I may just show up every night.”

 

“I’m kind of hoping you do.”

 

There’s a soft, dreamy quality to her face as she smiles at him and his heart beats hard in his chest at the very sight of her, sitting happily across from him.

 

“Tell me something new,” she says softly.

 

“Tell you what?” Chase replies, placing his glass on the table, his eyes looking into hers.

 

“Feed my curiosity. Every time I’m here, you tell me something more about yourself -- tell me something new, General.”

 

The span of his life arcs across his mind, waiting for him to pick one small detail to share with her tonight.

 

“My mother had these pearls that she always wore – my father bought them for her on their one-year anniversary." Chase begins, picking a memory that is closest to his heart.

 

"Well, one day, Harrison and I were playing pirates and I took them to hide in the jam jar that was our ‘buried treasure’ in the back yard. So of course, we promptly forgot where we stashed them and had to admit to our mother that we lost her pearls and beg her forgiveness. And you could tell, her heart was completely broken when we admitted it, but all she did was let out a sigh and grabbed a kitchen spoon and then all three of us set about digging up the better part of her vegetable and flower gardens.”

 

Chase chuckles, scratches his chin stubble. “We found them, but not until well after bedtime so I fully expected my mother to march us up to our rooms and lock us in there forever; but instead, she threw us into a bath to wash all the dirt off of us, gave us some warm milk, and tucked us in, same as always. Before I fell asleep, I asked her why she was being so kind to us, even though we messed up so badly, and she said that she may not have liked us all that much at the moment, she still loved us more than anything. We corrected our mistake, and she hoped we learned our lesson, and then we moved on, because that's what you do.”

 

Veronica nods, smiling as if satisfied with the little piece of intimacy he has provided her with tonight.

 

“So you never found her, huh?”

 

Chase frowns in confusion. “Found who?”

 

“Found the woman to love you like your mother did.” Veronica states. “I managed to compile a nice list of names of former girlfriends, but nothing long-term in the relationship department from what I could see.”

 

He’s more than mildly shocked that she has gone to these lengths to find out about him. “How the hell would you know that?”

 

“Facebook.” She replies bluntly. “Just because you aren’t on it, doesn’t mean the girls you slept with aren’t either. And Instagram. Do you know how many times you’ve been tagged in the past ten-years without actually being online?”

 

Leaning his head back, he slouches in his seat so his neck rests on the end of the couch, his eye gazing up at the ceiling.

 

“Are you doing this just to show you’re smarter than me?”

 

Air escapes through her lips. “Pfft. No. I think you already know that.”

 

He snorts, his hands covering his eyes as he laughs. Hearing the jingle of the zippers on her purse, he peeks between his fingers to see her rise, walk around the table and couch, landing directly above him. Veronica’s long hair drops down each side of her upside-down face, framing her smile as she looks deep into his eyes.

 

Lifting his hand, Chase offers his palm to Veronica and she places her hand in his with no hesitation. Guiding her knuckles up to his lips, he kisses them gently, holding her hand near him for a few seconds before releasing his grasp.

 

“When will you be back?”

 

Veronica shrugs, tossing her hair away from her face. “Soon.”

 

He’s not drunk tonight and therefore doesn’t have the bravado to ask her to stay longer, although the thought does cross his mind.

 

"You know, Ms. Mars...I'm growing quite fond of seeing you here."

 

"Good." 

 

With a wink she retreats, hurrying towards the door, throwing a quick glance over her shoulder before she disappears again into the building.

 

Placing his hand behind his neck, Chase closes his eyes, allowing himself to bask in the gentle lingering scent of her perfume still hovering above him.

Chapter Text

Major checks his watch; his eyes darting down the hall out the glass windows of Chase’s office.

 

“Are you sure you don’t want me to contact her, Sir?”

 

Chase continues unrolling the schematic maps of three buildings across the boardroom table, glancing at him briefly again.

 

“She’ll be here.”

 

“But you said she came by last night, so what makes you think she’ll be here tonight?”

 

Placing a paper weight on the edge of one of the maps, Chase lets out a deep sigh of frustration with his right-hand man.

 

“She’ll be here.”

 

The last time he checked, it was 21:45 – plenty of time for Chase to set up what he needed while he waited for Veronica to arrive at 22:00.

 

“But if you didn’t tell her about this meeting –“

 

Chase brings the last paperweight down a little harder than expected, making Major cringe at the sound of glass on glass.

 

“Oh for Christ’s sake, Lilywhite – would you just give it a rest.  She’ll be here!”

 

As if she heard her cue, Veronica appears in the doorway, glancing from Chase to Major and back to Chase, her wrinkled eyebrows and thin pursed lips expressing both her confusion and annoyance.  Pushing through the door open further, she pauses, holding it open unsure if she is staying or leaving.

 

“Am I interrupting the party?”

 

Chase smiles, sweeping his hand towards the board table now covered in papers.  “Not at all.  In fact, you’re right on time.”

 

His eyes skim her body –- her black pencil skirt hugging her delicate curves, knee-high heeled boots, red silk blouse, her hair done in long, flowing waves -- she's dressed up for her visit tonight.  A pang of regret rushes through his heart as he realizes she dressed up for him, thinking they would be alone. 

 

She approaches the table; her eyes fixed on the papers, but says nothing.  The way her hips sway in her outfit, thanks to those boots and tight skirt, make Chase think of ditching the entire plan for tonight and sending Major far, far away.

 

“I wanted to go over the plans with you for the extraction of the kids from Brother Love’s congregation and the shutdown of Romero’s.”

 

Veronica bites her lip, a smile pushing at her cheeks.  She looks up from the papers, a twinkle of excitement in her eyes.

 

“So what’s your plan, General?”

 

Chase wanders over to the first set of plans for the building layout of Romero’s.   Veronica sidles over, standing close at his right side.  With a small cough, Major joins them next to Chase's left.  Chase leans over, placing his palms down on either side of the drawing.

 

“Lilywhite observed that Romero’s gets their shipment of brains twice a week – the first one on Tuesday afternoon for the restaurant then the second on Thursday nights that is then transferred to Blaine's other business -- The Scratching Post.  We will be leading a coordinated strike on Tuesday, just after their first shipment arrives but before the restaurant opens.  Lilywhite will lead this operation, arresting Blaine and his crew and confiscating whatever brains have been delivered.”

 

Pointing towards the plans next to Romero’s, Chase brushes past Veronica’s hand and he pauses, glancing up at her face.  She smiles at him briefly before averting her eyes back down to the plans.

 

“At the same time, I’ll be leading a strike on Dalton’s apartment.  The information you provided me with indicated that he usually spends his Tuesdays locked in his apartment with a hooker he picks up at The Scratching Post the night before – probably courtesy of Blaine as part of their agreement.  The fact that this is a weekly occurrence was confirmed by Lilywhite when he checked in on Dalton this week and spied not one but two women with him during the day.  At this rate, it may be a full-blown orgy we break up next week. ”

 

A small snort of a laugh escapes Veronica and Chase glances up at her and smiles.

 

“While Lilywhite and I are interrogating Dalton and Blaine, Lieutenant Hobbs will lead another team in to the theatre to recover the children as quickly and quietly as possible between the noon and evening sermons.  I’ve spoken to the teachers here at Fillmore Graves – in confidence – and they are prepared to come in early and set up one of the classrooms to receive the children.  They are currently collecting extra clothes and toys to help them transition into our facility.”

 

Veronica leans across the table slightly to focus on the layout of the theatre; as she does, her body presses against Chase’s ever so gently.  Her hand flattens on the table next to his as she braces herself, her thumb gliding against his hand as she moves.

 

“So there’ll be a team of soldiers extracting them?”  She asks, still looking at the layout.

 

“Yes.” Major finally speaks up.  “We'll be using tranquilizing darts if we come upon opposition from any of the congregation.  This is a zero casualties operation.  Once we extract the children, we'll bring them directly here.”

 

Veronica nods quietly at his words but doesn’t offer any opinion.

 

“We have two days to create our teams and execute this plan next Tuesday.” Chase continues.  “They'll be briefed the morning of the operation after regular hours to minimize the leaks to anyone outside Fillmore Graves.”

 

Shifting away from him, Veronica runs her hand across the papers, her eyes skimming the details.

 

“What’s my role in all of this?”

 

Chase stands fully upright, his eyes glancing at Major then at Veronica.

 

“We need you to be the constant for these kids.  I’m sure they trust you by now.  We’ll have to neutralize any other adults that may be with them at the time, but Hobbs and his team will lead all of you out safely.”

 

Pulling herself away from the plans, Veronica stands, crossing her arms over her chest.

 

“That’s not going to work.”

 

Frowning, Chase crosses his arms as well, his feet spreading apart in a stiff military stance.  “What do you mean by that?”

 

Shaking her head, Veronica sweeps her hand over the plans.  “First, if you go in there and try and extract the kids you’re going to have a fire-fight on your hands.  Fillmore Graves is the devil in these people’s eyes and the minute your troops come it, it’s going to get ugly, fast.  Second, these kids have severe PTSD from what’s happened to them – you’ll either damage them more or they’ll go full-zombie on your men and they’ll be forced to do something that they shouldn’t do.  Plus, there are now 55 kids in our care – we picked up three more this week – and that’s an awful lot of kids to coral quickly out of a building.”

 

He grins with amusement, knowing full well she couldn't help herself from interjecting her own ideas into the plan. 

 

“Then what do you suggest, Ms. Mars?  Because I have this feeling you probably have an opinion on how this should go.”

 

The corner of her lips twitch as she holds back a smile.  “Let me play Pied Piper and lead them out safely.  I’ll tell them I’ve arranged for a field trip to, say, the Space Needle; you send a school bus, driven by Hobbs or someone else from Fillmore Graves, and pick us up.  That way, if anyone needs to be sedated, you only have two other teachers to deal with.  Quite frankly though, if I explain to the two other women that are helping to care for the children that we are helping the kids, they may actually go along with this plan -- I’ve talked to them a lot over the past few weeks and all they want is what’s best for those kids.  Then all we do is drive everyone to Fillmore Graves and drop them off.  By the time Brother Love realizes what’s happened, they’ll be safely inside the building.”

 

Chase wants to kiss her so badly right now it hurts in his chest.  He licks his lips, watching a smug smile finally spread across her face.

 

“Or we could do that.”

 

Veronica arches her eyebrow at him, lowering her chin slightly.  “So much for your fancy military strategizing.”

 

He runs his fingers through his hair, chuckling.  Glancing back at Major, Chase shrugs.  “Guess you have to find us a school bus, Lilywhite.”

 

Major nods, smiling at them both.  “Shouldn’t be a problem, Sir.”

 

“If it helps, I think you're other two plans are pretty bang on.  Especially the part about arresting Blaine  – he creeps me out.”

 

“He should,” Major interjects.  “He used to kill street kids to feed his business – one that he created by turning rich people into zombies.”

 

Veronica rolls her eyes and shivers.  “Lovely.  And this is who you had giving you information off the streets?  Why wasn't he the first one in the guillotine?”

 

Chase pinches the ridge of his nose and closes his eyes.  “Because, at the time, I thought he could be useful in the long run.”

 

“So Fillmore Graves' board wants Mama Leone to die for making new zombies but not Blaine, because, why?  The brains pâté at Romero's is exceptional?”

 

He releases his nose with a sigh.  “Why are you raking me over the coals about this?  He'll get what's coming to him in the end -- isn't that enough?”

 

Veronica shrugs, her eyes focused on his.  “I just thought you made better choices than this.”

 

He chuckles, crossing his arms over his chest again. “Better choices?  I'm making the best damn decisions I can considering the circumstances!  You know, contrary to what might be popular belief, the government doesn't run ‘zombie apocalypse’ scenarios in their military training.”

 

“If I could interrupt for a second,” Major steps up next to Chase, his hand held out as if to calm the situation.  “The General is under a lot of pressure.  There are so many things going on that no one knows about – I mean, just last week the Government was threatening to bomb us and the General defused the situation.  He saved us all.”

 

Veronica sticks her leg out and taps her foot, her hands now fixed firmly on her hips.

 

“Oh really?  How’d he do that?”

 

Chase glances at Major and then back to Veronica, cursing in his head.  If he wasn't sure it would scare off Veronica, he would shoot Major in the leg for opening his mouth.

 

“Well, Lilywhite?  Are you going to tell her?”

 

Major's eyes open wide darting between Chase and Veronica.  “Well…we just…there was this girl…and we brought her here...but we saved her life so...”

 

Raising his hand up to stop the prattle, Chase shakes his head.

 

“Just get out, Lilywhite, before you say something else you shouldn't.”

 

With a nod, Major turns and hustles out the door without another word.  When he's gone, Chase runs his hands through his hair and lets out a deep sigh.

 

“Let me explain --" he begins calmly, placing his hands on his hips.  “I'm sure you saw on the news that General Mills was threatening to bomb us.”

 

Veronica nods slowly, her eyes narrowing at him in a way that Chase can’t pinpoint if she is quiet because she’s angry, or is actually concentrating on what he is saying.

 

“Well, his daughter was going to University of Portland – majoring in partying and illegal drugs.  So, we ran a mission to bring her inside the walls to ensure General Mills did not bomb the city.”

 

Veronica exhales loudly, her voice low and controlled.  “So you kidnapped her and, what, turned her into a zombie?”

 

Chase's jaw clenches, an automatic response to anyone who questions his actions or motivations.

 

“Yes.  But you tell me – what the hell else was I supposed to do?”

 

She scoffs, rolling her eyes at him.  “What about diplomacy?  Ever think about talking it out before you take the life of an innocent girl?”

 

“Oh please,” he snorts.  “When we took her she O.D.’d on Utopium in the bathroom.  Lilywhite turned her into a zombie to save her and now, she can party as hard as she wants without dying…again.”

 

“You don't get to judge her,” Veronica snaps at him.  “You took a girl's life.  You took her from her family and friends and dropped her into hell!”

 

“I did it to save all of us!”  He yells, pointing his index finger at her.  “Don't you dare come in here and judge my methods when we would all be dead by now if I didn't do what needed to be done!”

 

“So what?” Veronica's arms flick in the air as her eyes dart around the room.  “Keep us alive for what?  Why not let them nuke us and just get all of this over with!  There is no happy ending for any of us, so why not just pull the plug sooner than later!”

 

Her words strike Chase like a fist to the gut and he stops himself from yelling, lowering his finger from the air.

 

“You don't really mean that?”

 

Flinging her arms in the air one last time with a huff, Veronica turns, walking swiftly towards the window. At the glass she pauses, pressing her palm against the darkness on the other side.

 

“Yeah, I do.”  She says, her voice more controlled but still with an undertone of bite.  “What is there out there for any of us?  When we eventually run out of food, we'll all go full-zombie and never turn back.  We’re shunned by our country, we can’t leave Seattle, and we can never settle down and have a normal relationship or family.  What kind of future is that?”

 

Normal.   

 

It’s then that he realizes, deep down, what is still driving Veronica Mars -- despite the tough exterior, she was still chasing the normal life that was taken from her many, many years before she became a zombie.

 

“There's a cure.”  Chase replies, barely above a whisper.

 

Veronica’s head whips around towards him, her eyes wide with surprise.  “What?”

 

Crossing the room towards Veronica, Chase stops, leaning on the arm of the sofa near her. “There is – was – a cure.  Dr. Ravi Chakrabarti is a friend of Major's; he managed to synthesize an antidote to zombisim.  Major was his guinea pig and they were able to make him human again.”

 

“But I thought he was a zombie...now?” 

 

Chase nods.  “He is.  He asked me to turn him back into a zombie after his human girlfriend was killed in an attack on a house full of zombies. ”

 

“Let me get this straight…he chose to become a zombie…again…because something bad happened in his life ?” A deep V creases between her eyes as she frowns in thought.

 

“Yes.”  Chase crosses his arms, his jaw twitching as it tightens.

 

“So the person making the questionable life choices is your right-hand man?”

 

 “Yeah, well, right now he's the only one I can trust.” He chuckles, rubbing his eyes with his hands.  “Fillmore Graves is not in the business of pharmaceuticals -- I'm trying to let Dr. Chakrabarti do his work without interference in the hopes that he is able to come up with the formula to create more than one tiny vile of the cure at a time.”

 

“So you're buying us time.”

 

“Yes.  Time enough so when the cure comes, we are all still around to take it and get back to our normal lives.”

 

Silence falls between them as Veronica contemplates his words.  She turns away from him slightly, staring out into the fast darkness of the city below them.

 

“I'm sorry if I'm not as good a person as you surmised from your investigating.” He begins, slowly, quietly.  “But what you know about me is just on paper – you don't know the stories behind the stories – not all of them.”

 

He catches her gaze in the reflection but doesn't turn around.

 

“Like the girls I've dated – you see the pictures but you don't see that none of them ever stuck around to see me come home from a tour of duty or assignment.  You read my mission logs, but you don't know what I felt or learned from each experience.  I'm much more complicated than what you have analyzed on paper – and so are you.  You are more than the newspaper articles and trial transcripts I read in a file.”

 

She shifts the weight on her feet, wrapping her arms around her body, staying silent as she listens to what he has to say.

 

“None of the decisions I've made have been easy, or even ethical, but my mission is to keep us all alive, and that's what I'm doing.  Slone Mills is the sacrifice of one to save the many right now.  And I'm sorry if this is incongruent with what you feel a ‘good' man should do.”

 

Glancing back at him briefly, her eyes shift down towards the ground.  Chase has said all he can and now the silence between them is Veronica’s to break.

 

“You still are,” she whispers.  “A good man.”

 

Veronica’s hand moves up to her lips and she bites her nail, a little nervous tick he hasn’t seen before.

 

“My dad was a good man, but like everyone, he was flawed.  When a computer engineer from Kane Software named Martin Davis was found dead behind a seedy bar in town, the Deputy on the case – Deputy Lamb – chalked it up to someone looking for love in all the wrong places and was robbed and killed by a hooker or pimp; based on the statements given by the owner and patrons of the bar that night.  At first, my father believed Lamb’s report – being too busy to question it – but then  Davis’ husband came to pick up his personal effects; including a Gucci leather wallet with $500 cash inside and an expensive Bulova watch.  If robbery was the motive, there would be nothing of value still on him.  Lamb messed up, and my father started investigating further which led him to start looking into Davis’ job at Kane Software.  Well, word started to come down from City Hall that my dad was to stop his investigation immediately if Kane Software was involved.  When my father wouldn’t, he was removed from his position on a trumped up charge of evidence tampering, but he continued his investigation on his own.  At the time, I didn’t know any of this – he kept the fact that he was investigating my future ‘family’ from me.  It wasn’t until after he was killed that I learned the truth...”

 

She pauses to take a deep breath and Chase leans forward, placing his hands on his knees to brace himself, giving her the space and silence to tell her story.  Parts of it he knew already, but he was sure that there was more to it than what the media covered.

 

“...my father wasn’t just driven by justice – my mother Lianne had been having an on-again-off-again affair with my future-father-in-law Jake Kane for almost a decade.  Dad knew about it, but was never able to pull the plug on their marriage.  The opportunity to take down Jake Kane was just too irresistible to him so he pursued it to his death.”

 

Swiveling towards him, she leans on the window support beam and sighs.  “In the end, he got the information he wanted – that Davis was killed by Jake Kane’s head of security, Clarence Weidman on Jake’s orders.  Turns out Davis was the lead engineer for a secret project that Jake began to develop; a project that was stolen from IBM through corporate espionage.  Davis accidentally discovered the truth when he went to a reunion of MIT grads and a friend from IMB got shitfaced and started bragging about revolutionary new software he was developing.  When Davis confronted Jake, first Jake tried to bribe him, but Weidman must have decided that bribery could easily turn to blackmail so he killed him and paid the low-life’s that frequented The River Styx bar to lie to Deputy Lamb.  Before my father could take the information to the Federal Trade Commission and the FBI, he was killed by Weidman as well.”

 

Veronica takes a step closer to him and Chase sits up, pushing his shoulders back as he raises his head.

 

“And you found this all out when you were investigating your father’s death?”  His voice is gentle, trying to keep her at ease as she shares her pain with him again.

 

She nods, glancing away for a moment.  “Yes.  This was also the information I gave to my ex the night he –”

 

Her demeanor falters as a cringe of internal pain registers across her face – a look that makes Chase want to take her in his arms and protect her from the world.

 

“So, I guess what I’m saying is that maybe you’re right and being a ‘good man’ is more complex than just seeing the world in black and white.  Maybe a ‘good man’ is someone who tries to make the best choices given their personal motivations and flaws.”

 

Her eyes are glassy and he can’t help but offer out his palm to her.  There’s a moment where he’s not sure Veronica will take it as easily as she did the night before, but when she steps nearer, her own hand outstretched, Chase’s heart beats faster.  His fingers wrap around hers and she comes closer as he brings her knuckles up to him mouth for a kiss.  This time, he doesn’t let go and she makes no move to pull away.

 

“Does it still make me a ‘good man’ if I was dishonest about my motivation as of late?”

 

Her brow wrinkles but she doesn’t try and remove her hand from his.  “What were you dishonest about?”

 

Chase’s thumb begins to stroke her fingers gently and his eyes watch as her hand tightens around his.

 

“You.  You’re my new motivation.  Just when I was ready to just give up on the people of Seattle, you came around and reminded me that maybe there was more to live for than just basic survival.” Standing, her eyes follow his up as he towers over her.  “Maybe the thought that I may have found someone worth surviving for is my motivation.  I can’t be wrong in thinking that you feel the connection we have much as I do.”

 

For a second she pauses and Chase worries he has said too much, but then she nods gently.  “Yes.  I do.”

 

Chase’s heart nearly springs from his chest and he smiles.  “Good.  Because ever since you stepped through my office door, Ms. Mars, I have been completely and utterly absorbed by thoughts of you.”

 

Her nose twitches, her mouth wrinkling as she fights the smile trying to force its way across her lips, but her sparkling eyes give it away.  “I may have had thoughts of you – outside of this job you hired me for – for a fleeting moment or two.”

 

“Well,” he says with a chuckle.  “Isn’t that...interesting.”

 

This time, she can’t control her smile as it spreads across her face.  Gently, Chase unfurls her hand from his; opening her palm he guides it up to his lips, kissing her soft skin.  Her hand lingers for a moment before she slips it onto his cheek, gliding over his stubble before resting along his jaw line.  In Chase’s mind all time has stopped as he gazes into her eyes.

 

“This shouldn’t be happening,” she whispers, her body still unmoving.

 

“Why not?”  Chase replies, gently kissing the pulse point in her wrist.

 

Her breath hitches before she speaks.  “This is just a job.”

 

Quirking his eyebrow at her, he lowers his head slightly, moving closer to her.  “Not anymore.”

 

Veronica’s eyes go wide and she pulls her hand away, stepping back as she does.  He’s scared her – he can see it in her face – called her out when she didn’t want to or need to be.  Chase stands up straight; his arms dropping behind his back, his fingers clasped tightly trying to show her he is backing off.  For a second, he thinks it’s worked and she’ll stay, but she side steps around the couch, her eyes diverting to the ground as she quickly makes her way to the door.  There’s been too much said tonight and he knows it.  They both need time to think.

 

To his surprise, she pauses at the door, pivoting towards him, a tiny furrow in her brow.

 

“I need you to come back on Monday night around 19:00 for a final briefing,” he say quickly, his voice all business.  “Unless you want to return sooner, that is.”

 

She glances towards the board room table then back – a short nod her only answer before she turns and hurries down the hallway.

 

Letting out a long breath, Chase wanders around the couch, dropping himself like a stone on the cushions.  Leaning his head back, he covers his eyes with his palms.  Why couldn’t this be simple?  Boy zombie meets girl zombie – girl zombie likes boy zombie – boy zombie and girl zombie run off together to a place where human brains are plentiful and live happily ever after.  Okay, maybe not ‘simple’ but at least a little less complicated than this.

 

“Sir?”

 

Chase doesn’t remove his hands, staying blind to the sight of Lilywhite presumably at his door.  “What?”

 

“Sorry if I made trouble for you, Sir.”

 

He exhales loudly, trading his palms for his bicep now covering his eyes.  “There’s always trouble for me, Lilywhite.   Zombies.  Seattle.  The board.  Everyone.”

 

“What I mean, Sir, is that I kind of sensed that you and Ms. Mars –” Major stammers.  “Well, I kind of got the feeling I got you in a bit of trouble with her tonight that really wasn’t a part of the mission.”

 

Chase chuckles, finally removing his mask, and glances at Major.  “You kind of did.”

 

Major smiles.  “I’m sorry Sir -- my wingman skills aren’t up to snuff.”

 

He leans forward, resting his elbows on his knees and smiles.  “Don’t worry.  You didn’t know.”

 

Twisting his cheek up on one side, Major makes a clicking sound.  “Yeah, but I kind of caught a vibe after the first time you guys met that there was something that just...I don’t know...clicked with you both.”

 

“How so?”

 

“Well, for starters, she didn’t stop smiling the entire time I drove her home after that first meeting.”  Major shrugs. “And the next day, you were kind of smiling a lot more than normal for no apparent reason.”

 

Chase gives Major a finger-shot and laughs.  “Why do I suddenly feel like we’re in the high school locker room and you’re asking me about who I want to take to prom?”

 

Crossing his arms, Major chuckles.  “Would you like me to pass her a note in English class?”

 

Standing, Chase strides towards Major, stopping a few inches away and grasps his shoulder with his hand.  “Not yet.  But thanks for the offer, Major.”

 

“Anytime, General.”  Major nods as Chase drops his hand.  “Want to grab a drink at The Scratching Post tonight?”

 

“You mean before we arrest its owner and close it down?”  Chase chuckles.  “Sounds good to me.”

Chapter Text

Stepping off the elevator, Chase rubs his hair with the towel one more time. Early evening was always the best time to work-out in the Fillmore Graves gym – after everyone had left the building. It gave him time to regroup before heading into another boring evening of paperwork and planning. The plus side of brain tubes was the fact that he never really had to stop for ‘dinner’; mashed brains were the ultimate on-the-go-snack.

His navy blue t-shirt is still wet from throwing it on just after his shower, and he pulls it away from his skin, moving it back and forth a bit to try and dry the damp spots. Wrapping the towel around his neck, he pushes through his office door with a loud exhale.

When Chase’s black office chair swivels around, instinct kicks in and he grabs his gun from the back of his pants, raising it towards the moving object.

Veronica gasps, her eyes opening wide as the revolver faces her. Recognizing his target, Chase drops his aim quickly towards the ground, his heart pounding in his chest.

“Jesus Christ, Mars! I could have killed you!”

The fear in her face recedes as he locks his gun, his arm falling to his side. Leaning back in his chair, Veronica kicks her feet up onto the desk, crossing her chucky boots at the ankles.

“But you didn’t. Well done.”

Whipping the towel from around his neck, he tosses it indiscriminately towards the boardroom table as he strides towards her.

“You’re in my spot.” He notes, placing the gun on the edge of the desk, facing away from her.

She shrugs, raising her hands to rest behind her head as she bobs back and forth slightly in the chair.

“You weren’t here when I arrived so I decided to make myself at home.”

Glancing across his desk, he notices she has fished out two glasses and his whiskey from the drawer; her glass is half-full. Placing his palms on the desk, he leans closer to her and smiles.

“Looks like you have. Did you have fun going through my drawers?”

Her eyes skim his torso before returning to meet his gaze, a smirk crossing her lips. “Not yet. But the night is young.”

Sucking a breath through his teeth, Chase pauses, the thought of Veronica pressed up against him in nothing but her black lace underwear – her fingers hooked along the elastic of his tight grey boxers --  flashes though his brain.

“I didn’t know you were coming tonight.” He says, pretending to look at a non-existent watch. “It’s only 19:00 – kind of early by your normal standards.”

“I never said I was coming.” She coos back, a slight twinge of teasing in her voice.

Closing his eyes briefly, he chuckles, shaking his head. If this was what they were doing tonight, he was going to need another cold shower after her visit too.

“You can come anytime you want with me.” He shoots back, watching her eyes darken at his words. “Multiple times, if you want.”

For a moment there is nothing between them but electricity and silence. It was her turn to volley back at him and for the life of him, he had no idea what she would do next.

Sliding her feet off the desk, Veronica rises from the chair slowly, methodically. She’s wearing her leather jacket with a black silky camisole underneath and as she moves, it falls away from her body, exposing her black lace bra ever so slightly. His eyes follow hers as she leans closer to him, her palms now pressed onto the desk mirroring his stance, her middle fingers touching his. Face to face, he can smell the sharp scent of cinnamon alcohol on her breath. She holds her position just inches from him and his breathing increases in time with hers.

“Is that a promise, General?” Veronica finally replies, licking her lips slowly.

Every muscle in his body tenses, resisting the urge to kiss her.

“You’ve been sent by my enemies to psychologically torture me, haven’t you?”

The corner of her mouth twitches as she smiles. “How am I torturing you? I just popped by for a visit, that’s all.”

He runs his teeth along his bottom lip, his eyebrow arching as he maintains his gaze. Then a flash from the past floods his memory – Liv Moore, flirting with him in the hotel bar; Liv Moore, pouncing on him in the elevator on the way up to his room; Liv Moore, moaning his name as he fucked her on the desk in his hotel room; Liv Moore, disappearing from his room after their third round of sex that night when the nymphomaniac brains she consumed wore off.

Pulling back slightly, he frowns, regarding her now with some sense of worry. “What kind of brains are you on?”

Veronica blinks rapidly, her forehead creasing into deep lines. “None. Just brain tubes. Why?”

Chuckling, he stands, crossing his arms in front of his chest. “Bad zombie dating experience. Just checking.”

A little snort escapes her mouth and she stands, picking up her whisky glass from the desk. “Care to elaborate?”

Reaching for his glass and the bottle, he lets out a groan of frustration as he fills it a little more than just a shot.

“I happened upon this woman I know – Olivia Moore, one of the medical examiners for the city – in a hotel bar one night. Well, we start chatting and flirting and one thing lead to another…” He takes a shot from his glass before continuing. “…and the next thing I know, she’s disappearing from my room while I'm in the shower.  Turns out she had consumed some very...how should I put this...adventurous brains that night.  When they wore off, so did her attraction.”

A cringe puckers Veronica's face and she sucks in a sharp breath. “Oooo…brutal.”

Chase takes another sharp shot of his drink, finishing it before reaching for the bottle again for a refill. “Probably for the best it didn’t go past the one night; she was also Lilywhite's ex-fiancee.”

“No!” Veronica giggles, her hand rising to cover her lips to hold back her laughter.

“Hey! Don't laugh! She was an attractive, consenting adult who I knew was in fact a zombie so there was no risk that I would ‘turn' her. And it had been a while since…you know…considering my circumstances.” He replies with mock indignation.

“I'm sorry.” Veronica stifles her giggles. “Zombism does put a crimp in one's social life.”

“That it does.” Chase raises his glass in a small toast before drinking his shot down in one gulp.

Veronica leans her hip on the desk and takes another sip of her drink in the silence.

“So,” he begins hesitantly, seating himself on his side of the desk. “Has there been anyone – you know…special...since you've been turned.”

She drops her head slightly and her hair falls down the side of her face, obscuring her features from view. “You say that like there could have been someone special before I became a zombie.”

“Was there?” Chase replies softly.

Pushing her hair back, she tucks one side behind her ear, but doesn't make eye contact.

“No. Not really.” Veronica's voice is now a quiet monotone. “I lived with someone for three years when I was in my late 20’s, but he was another mistake.”

Chase swallows hard, unprepared for what he may learn. “Was he horrible?”

She chuckles, glancing at him from the side of her eyes. “No. Just boring; and completely unsupportive of me being a private investigator.”

Chase exhales with a small laugh. “So your run of the mill, average jerk?”

Swivelling, Veronica reaches across the desk and takes the bottle, pouring a shot into her glass. “Piz was alright, I guess. He was a music reporter that I met through some mutual friends. There was just never really a spark between us so in the end, it was more like living with a sibling than a lover.”

“You lived with a grown man named Piz?” Chase asks incredulously.

She giggles again and something inside Chase bubbles with happiness at the sound.

“His actual name was Stosh Piznarski, but everyone called him Piz.”

He smirks, shifting himself on the desk, his free hand stretching to brace himself with his palm presssed flat against the surface. “Not really the kind of name that one imagines being screamed in the throes of passion.”

This time a full guffaw escapes her lips. Taking another sip of her drink, she twists her body, her hand sliding next to his as she braces her body, leaning towards him across the desk.

“What would be a better name --" she pauses, her breath hitching as she brings her face mere inches from his. “Chase?”

His body is screaming at him to move – grab her, kiss her, carry her over to the couch, and make love to her right then and there – but he freezes, his brain reminding him this will only scare her away.

Leaning closer, her lips brush his so gently that at first it almost doesn't register that she has kissed him. On her second pass, she pauses, pressing against him a little harder, lingering long enough for him to react, his hand moving up to gently caress her cheek. When she moves away from him slightly, he follows, eagerly catching her lips with his and she sighs, her fingers dragging up his arm to grasp his bicep, holding herself steady. In one quick movement, Chase slides himself up on the desk, his arm wrapping around Veronica's waist as he pulls her body closer to him, all the while keeping his lips firmly planted against hers. Now that they are closer, she opens her mouth slightly, her tongue brushing against his lips, looking for entry and he obliges a deep, satisfied moan releasing as his lips part. Her hand glides up his back, her fingers grasping his hair firmly and he groans his approval, echoing in her mouth.

She tastes of cinnamon and whiskey sweetness and the floral bouquet of her jasmine perfume makes him feel more intoxicated than he is. As they continue to explore each other – their lips brushing together as their mouths open, accepting the other inside of them – nothing else matters to Chase anymore. Let Seattle burn – just leave him here with Veronica and his life will be complete. He knows this is like nothing he has ever felt before – this feeling of all-consuming need for another human being, and now that this feeling is surging through him, he doesn't want it to end.

A coughing noise and then:

“Sir?”

Veronica springs away from his grasp so fast Chase almost falls over in her absence. He shifts his weigh quickly, standing straight on his feet towards the intruder.

The stoic pale face of Lieutenant Hobbs stares back at him; Hobbs’ fingers raised in a frozen salute against the edge of his beret.

Chase glances briefly at his gun on the table, then up at Veronica. By the embarrassed pink tinting her cheeks he's sure she wouldn’t mind if he shot Hobbs for his indiscretion. Turning back to face the Lieutenant, he puffs his chest out, his arms placed firmly behind his back.

“What the hell do you want?” Chase barks with such command that the soldier jumps slightly.

“Sorry to interrupt, General,” The mealy little man begins. “But you said you wanted to go through my list of team members for the…uh…mission…as soon as I had it done.”

Chase purses his lips, his jaw twitching as his muscles clench. “And you didn't think it could wait?”

Hobbs clears his throat, his eyes darting from Chase to Veronica to the ground. “I'm sorry Sir, I just thought that your…companion…”

“Wait a minute?” Veronica snaps, adjusting her leather jacket as she walks around the desk. “Do you think I'm a hooker?”

Hobbs clears his throat again, his eyes bouncing between Chase and Veronica as she moves to stand beside the towering General.

“Well, I did see you at The Scratching Post last night with Lilywhite, Sir, and I just sort of assumed --”

“That I sleep with prostitutes?!” Chase yells at the man.

“For the record – not a hooker.” Veronica says raising her hand.

Chase glances down at her as she stands by his side, her nose twitches as she holds back a smile.

“No; definitely not a hooker.” He says with a chuckle. “In fact, Hobbs – this is Veronica Mars, the contractor I hired to infiltrate Brother Love's congregation – also known to you as your contact for your mission on Tuesday.”

The man's mouth drops open a little before he closes it, obviously thinking the better of speaking again.

“You can come in tomorrow morning and meet with me about your team,” Chase continues. “But for tonight, you need to leave. Immediately.”

“Very good Sir. Good night to you and Ms. Mars.” Hobbs says with a slight nod in their direction, his eyes narrowing as he regards the couple across from him one last time before retreating back out the door.

There is a moment of complete silence as the pair watch Hobbs disappear down the hall.

“Is he trustworthy?” Veronica asks quietly.

“He's been with me for years – had my back in combat for a few. But recently I'm starting to get the feeling his loyalty is more and more to the board and less and less to me.” Chase confides, his eyes still fixed on the glass walls surrounding his office.

“He won't jeopardize the mission, will he?”

Chase shakes his head, glancing down at her. “No. He can follow orders. I trust him with you and the kids – I don't trust him with the likes of Dalton and Blaine.”

Veronica's hand reaches for his, slowly weaving her delicate fingers in between his thick digits. “As long as you're sure he'll keep us safe – I mean, I can handle myself but the kids --”

Raising her hand with his, he kisses her knuckles softly, lovingly. “Everything will be fine. I promise.”

Her blue eyes sparkle back at him and he smiles. Giving his hand a tug, Veronica lowers his arm, stepping around him lightly, guiding him to follow. And he does, slowly and obediently until she stops in front of the couch, dropping his hand and turning towards him, a coy smile on her lips. Reaching up, she flattens her palms against his shoulders, giving him a little shove back. With a laugh he flops down into his seat, his arms stretching across the back of the cushions.

For a moment he regards her standing above him, wavy tussled hair framing her delicate features. Then, ever so gently, she kneels down on one side of him, then the other, her hips hovering over him just enough to give him some room. When his hands come to rest on her waist she lowers herself down to straddle him, a small gasp escaping her as her jeans connect with the bulge in his pants. Instead of moving she chooses to grind down into him, causing him to moan with pleasure.

Now, face to face again, she smiles, her nose brushing playfully against his.

“Is that a gun in your pocket, Chase?” She teases him.

“No, I'm just very happy you're here, Veronica.” He replies, letting his hand drop to cup the soft curve of her buttocks.

She places her palm on his jawline, her thumb brushing his cheek. “I like hearing my name on your lips.”

“I'll say it all night, if you let me --" Brushing his lips against hers, he mummers contentedly. “Ver-on-i-ca.”

She giggles at his inflection, her lips connecting with his again. “Chase.” She whispers, her breath warm on his skin.

Closing his eyes, he loses himself in the feeling of her on top of him, kissing her tenderly. His hand reaches under her jacket, spreading wide on her back, keeping her close to him. She responds by wrapping her arms around his head, her fingers sliding through his hair as she continues her eager kisses.

When she begins rocking her hips back and forth on him, he growls – a deep, feral tone from the depths of his chest – and she moans into his mouth before pressing down on him harder.

Chase's mind wanders as he continues his deep, passionate kisses, imagining them naked together, his cock buried deep inside of her as she rides him.

“Fuck.” He moans in between kisses as he swells to uncomfortable proportions inside his pants.

Letting go of his hair, Veronica pulls her face back from his slowly, her movements on top of him stopping for the moment. Leaning into his hand, he holds her firmly, unwilling to let her move too far away.  Dragging her teeth over her bottom lip, she smiles.

“Problems?”  She asks, pushing herself down onto him again.

Shimmying underneath her, he manages to shift her back on his legs towards his knees and she giggles, her darkening eyes fixed on his.

“Not anymore.”  Chase murmmers, his head ducking under her hair, his lips making contact with the soft crease between her neck and shoulder.  A mewl of pleasure resonates in her throat as he sucks her delicate flesh and her fingers grasp his biceps, her nails digging into his skin.

“Oh God, Chase – yes.”  Her words fall from her lips in a whisper before another passionate moan.

Taking her words as encouragement, Chase takes her jacket, pulling it gently away from her body, allowing him more access to her.  As he continues to languish attention on the spot that is giving her so much pleasure, she shifts, releasing him for a moment as her jacket falls to the ground.  He removes his lips from her for a second glancing down at her breasts held firmly by her lace bra near the top of her thin camisole.  Veronica arches her back into his hand again, and he takes her cue, his hand moving from her bottom to slide up her shirt before coming to rest just under her bra.  When his thumb passes over the fabric covering her nipple, her breath hitches before a low groan of satisfaction.

Kissing her neck softly he continues to move his thumb over her nipple in small circles and her hips pitch forward, trying to find him underneath her again.  Small whimperings of arousal rise from her and he can’t help but feel a deep sense of satisfaction that he is the reason for her excitement.

Veronica lets out a shaky breath.  “Please Chase. Please don’t stop...”

Continuing to pepper kisses along her neck, he moves to her clavicle before trailing down to the small crease between her breasts and pauses. He could go on, peeling back the fabric covering her skin, taking her beautiful breast in his mouth.  He could easily bring her to orgasm, if he undid her jeans and slipped his fingers gently inside of her.  But that’s not what he wants.  Planting one last kiss on the exposed skin of her breast, he raises his head in line with hers.

“Not yet.”  He whispers, sliding his hand away from her breast and resting it on her hip.

She blinks at his words, a look of shock, then mild annoyance crossing her face.  “What?  Why?”

Licking his lips, he chuckles.  Gently sliding a section of touselled hair away from Veronica’s face, he tucks it behind her ear and smiles at her perturbed pout.

“Because I don’t want this to be another wham-bam-thank-you-zombie night;  I want to take you home with me and make love to you slowly over a very, very long time.  I want to see every part of you naked; memorize every line on your skin and kiss every mark on your body.”  Her lips start to curl in an embarrassed smile but she doesn’t look away from him as he continues to speak.  “I want to find out what you like; what you don’t like; what makes you moan; what makes you come.  But most of all, I want to lock us away from the world for just a little while so you can me mine and I can be yours, fully and completely.”

Leaning forward, she kisses the tip of his nose and he laughs.

“Why Chase Graves...the last thing I expected was that you were such a hopeless romantic.”

Grasping her bottom with two hands, he pulls her body closer to him once more.  “I wasn’t.  But then I met you Veronica Mars.”

Kissing him gently on the lips, she sighs, pressing her forehead against his.  “You know, I shaved my legs in anticipation of some action so I'm disappointed on many levels right now."

His throaty laugh fills the room and he gives her a quick peck on the cheek.  “Sorry to put you out.  But I'll make it up to you...I promise."

Draping her arms over his shoulders, Veronica sits back, her eyes holding his gaze.  “So when will this very planned night of not-so-spontaneous passion happen?  Should I get my calendar out?”

A wry grin crosses his lips.  “Don’t make it sound so un-romantic.  What’s wrong with wanting to actually take you out on a date or two first?  A movie?  I mean, we’re about to close down the best restaurant in town, but what about pizza?  Maybe just pretend that this is something close to what would happen if we weren’t in the situation we are in?”

She snorts, rolling her eyes at him and he chuckles.  “Fine.  You win.  We’ll do this the old fashioned way.  But I reserve the right to still torture you with my sexual innuendo until that time.”

“Oh don’t worry about torturing me – I'm going to have a very long, possibly painful night alone in my office."  He adjusts the bulge in his pants and she giggles. 

Veronica’s eyes focus on his pecs and she presses her palms against his muscular chest.  “So after we take down Dalton and Blaine; after we get the kids away safely; after we get the brains that everyone needs...then we get to be together?”

“Yes.”  He replies, giving her butt cheeks a playful squeeze.  “And then we can work together on locking down Brother Love for good and finding out who is stealing brain-tubes from our factories.  Do all the planning for those missions while naked, sprawled across my bed.”

Her eyes light up with excitement and she gasps.  “How did you know my kink is getting the ‘bad guys’?”

Chase kisses the tip of her nose gently and chuckles.  “Lucky guess.”  Dragging his fingers gently across her cheek, he tucks the other side of her hair behind her ear.

With a deep exhale, Veronica rises, standing above him once more.  This time, she offers her hand to him and he takes it, kissing it softly before releasing it back to her.

“Why do you do that?  Why do you always kiss my hand?”  Bending quickly, she picks up her jacket off the ground and pulls it on.

Chase’s face warms and his eyes dart to the side, slightly embarrassed to admit the truth.

“My father used to do that to my mother – at the end of a meal, when they were sitting together on the porch, driving in the car.”

A soft smile crosses Veronica’s lips.  “Well, it’s quite charming.  I don’t know what other women have thought, but I quite enjoy it.”

He glances up and shrugs.  “I wouldn’t know.  I’ve never done it with anyone else.”

She bites her lips, a soft tinge of pink on her cheeks.  “Oh.”

There’s a moment of silence between them as the meaning behind his words sinks in with them both.

“Don’t forget about our meeting tomorrow night.”

“I won’t.”  She nods before striding across the room, back to his desk.  Reaching behind, she grabs her purse off the ground and swings it over her shoulder as she walks towards the office door.  Pulling it open, Veronica pauses to glance back at him.

“Good night, Chase.”  She says softly.

“Good night, Veronica.”  He replies.

With a quick wink of her eye, she is gone, hurrying down the hall towards the elevators.

Sinking into the couch, Chase drops his head back onto the cushions, starting at the ceiling.  Closing his eyes, the image of Veronica stretched naked across his bed – her pale glistening skin contrasting against his deep blue sheets, her hard pink nipples waiting for him to suck, the curly patch of white hair between her legs spread wide and welcoming for him.  They could have been together tonight – on the couch, on the floor, on the desk -- but he didn’t want the quick fantasy; he wanted the long reality and was willing to hold out for it.

“You’re a woman worth waiting for, Veronica.”  He says to himself in the emptiness.

Chapter Text

Chase paces nervously on the small auditorium stage, rolling the remote for his Power Point presentation around in his hands. It’s not like he hasn’t briefed a large crowd before, but the stress of the day is beginning to get to him. Three operations running simultaneously meant he had to trust that the two that he was not personally leading would go well – especially with Veronica being a part of one of them. For a moment, he thought of changing his plan to take down Dalton, and instead dress up as a school bus driver for a couple of hours, but he knew that was the easiest mission and should be left to Hobbs. And Lilywhite seemed particularly eager to be the one to take down Blaine.

 

Rubbing his palm over his lips, Chase glances over the small crowd of Fillmore Graves soldiers who are filing in. He nods his greeting to the two teachers who take their place near the front, leaving a seat between them and Hobbs.

 

He gets that no one likes Hobbs – he was never one of ‘the guys’ behind the scenes and always seemed to enjoy his solitude between missions – but since he and Chase have started butting heads in meetings, Chase has noticed a marked difference in how people are starting to treat the man to his face – they are staying away, as if they can sense that they may be aligning themselves with the wrong person.

 

Glancing towards the door, Major enters, holding the door open for a moment to allow Veronica to follow him into the room. Chase’s mouth drops open ever so slightly and he stops pacing, his attention firmly fixed on her. She’s straightened her hair, each strand holding exactly where it should be as it drapes over her professional grey suit jacket and slacks. Around her neck, she wears a diamond pendant that falls below her collar bone and glistens in the fluorescent light. Her deep red lips part in a hint of a smile and her smoky eyes give him a quick wink before she finds a place near the front of the auditorium next to Major.

 

With a cough, Chase glances down at the remote in his hand, trying to remember he is seated in front of approximately fifty employees. Flirting with Veronica would have to wait.

 

Turning on his heels towards the screen behind him, he adjusts his vest, pulling it down nervously before reaching up to right his beret on his head. With a deep breath, he swivels to face his audience.

 

“Lieutenants; have your teams assembled?” He barks and a silence falls across the space.

 

Operation Hunger members present, Sir.” Replies Major.

 

Operation Rescue members present, Sir.” Calls out Hobbs.

 

Chase glances to the side row where his team of six soldiers sit clustered together. “Operation Feast members present.”

 

Pointing his remote towards the back of the room, the first slide comes up behind him on the screen with all the names of the operations with the leads and members listed under each.

 

“Tomorrow morning, Fillmore Graves will lead three missions – all with the same goal – to keep the zombies of New Seattle safe and fed.” He begins; his shoulders pushed back, his eyes pointed into the audience.

 

“The first mission – Operation Rescue – will bring child zombies that have been orphaned or shunned by their families into the care of Fillmore Graves so they can be properly fed, educated, and hopefully, either reunited with their families or placed in foster care with loving zombie families in Seattle.”

 

Changing the slide to a photo of Brother Love, Chase continues.

 

“Approximately 55 children are being held by a religious zealot named Brother Love. He is one of the suspects in a number of attacks on humans in Seattle over the past few months. Before we take him down, it is our job to protect the innocent children who have sought sanctuary in his congregation when they had nowhere else to go. Now, they will have us.”

 

Glancing quickly from Veronica to Hobbs, Chase continues, pacing the stage once more as he speaks.

 

“At 10:00, Lieutenant Hobbs – accompanied by Private Biggs and Private Steele – will drive a school bus to Brother Love’s church under the guise of taking the children on a field trip. Once there, our contact within the group -- Ms. Veronica Mars – will lead the children onto the bus along with two female teachers from the congregation.”

 

Pausing, he nods at Veronica and all eyes turn towards her. Sitting forward in her seat, her lips set in a serious line, she nods to the group. Everything about her means business – from her outfit to the attitude she projects at that very moment. Chase glances down at Hobbs, who seems to shrink as her eyes dart directly towards him, staring him down. He can’t avoid the smirk that crosses his face witnessing the small exchange before he continues.

 

“We have rigged the school bus and Private Biggs and Steele will be hidden below the seats at the back of the bus. Once all the children are loaded and accounted for, the bus will be driven to the Fillmore Graves parking garage where they will be met by Mrs. Kirk and Ms. Sawyer – our teachers here at Fillmore Graves. In the garage, safe from view, Ms. Mars will explain to the students and teachers about what is happening and that they will all be safe and cared for by our staff.”

 

He sweeps his arms towards the two teachers and smiles.

 

“In anticipation of this mission, school staff have set up a classroom filled with cots, new clothes, and toys to help welcome the children here. This can be a hard transition for these kids and we want them to feel as secure as possible.”

 

Nodding towards Hobbs, Chase continues.

 

“Once the students leave the bus, the teachers from Brother Love’s congregation will be invited to stay with the children and Fillmore Graves. If they choose not to, or put up a fight, they will be sedated and transported back to their homes safely. This is a zero casualty mission – there will be no exchanges of live ammunition around these children. Any of the adults that resist, are to be sedated, not eliminated. Are there any questions?”

 

Chase’s eyes shift towards Veronica, wondering if she will challenge him on anything he said. When her response is nothing but a nod and a small smile, he exhales through puckered lips.

 

“Alright. Moving on then.” He says, changing the slide to show the layout for Romero’s with red x’s scattered along the perimeter of the architectural plan.

 

“At approximately the same time, across town, Lieutenant Lilywhite will be leading Operation Hunger. Lilywhite and his team will arrest the owner of Romero’s – Blaine DeBeers – and bring him in for questioning on the charges of creating new zombies without consent and smuggling of illegal brains across the border. The team of twenty soldiers will enter through five different points in the restaurant before it opens to the public for lunch, catching the group as they proceed with their morning prep.”

 

He changes the slides to a collage of photos of people within Blaine’s inner circle.

 

“The only member of this group that is to be taken alive is DeBeers. Live ammunition will be used during this mission, however, our target is to be sedated and transported for questioning. Extreme force may be applied to any of his group that fight back.”

 

The next slide is a grainy photo of two of Blaine’s men unloading a large crate from a van in the back alley of Romero’s.

 

“Once in custody, Lieutenant Lilywhite and a small crew will transport him back to Fillmore Graves for questioning. The rest of the team will pack any and all brains that are on the premises and call for a transport pick-up where they will be delivered directly to our processing plant to supplement our supplies.”

 

Chase turns, his jaw set tight and his eyes strong and hard as he looks over the crowd.

 

“And just in case anyone is thinking about dipping into those brains, just remember, it is a one-way ticket to the guillotine for any soldier who disobeys a direct order. Do I make myself clear?”

 

A small murmur of understanding runs through the crowd and Chase nods his approval.

 

“Good.”

 

Changing the slide one more time, an image of Blaine and Dalton speaking in the basement of Romero’s appears on screen. Turning around, he catches Veronica’s eye as a small smile appears on her face, knowing it’s one of her photos.

 

“The final mission – Operation Feast – will be led by me. Our team will be arresting Dalton Edwards – the man responsible for providing illegal brains to numerous restaurants around Seattle. My team of ten soldiers will apprehend Dalton at his apartment at the same time as the other two missions. As we have it on good information that he is usually entertaining, shall we say, several lady friends on these mornings, this will be a zero casualty operation with no live ammunition.”

 

He can’t help but smirk at the idea of catching Dalton in flagrante delecto as it were.

 

“Dalton is to be taken alive, sedated, and will be brought in for questioning on charges of illegal trafficking of brains. Lieutenant Lilywhite and I will be handling the interrogation of the prisoners and will be incommunicado until the process is complete.”

 

The final slide is posted on the screen – that of the factory which processes brains.

 

“These three missions are an important first step in making sure every zombie in Seattle is properly fed. The brains we receive from Dalton’s connections on the outside will supplement our supplies to the point that every zombie in Seattle will be able to function properly, without the risk of falling into full zombism or attacking our human neighbours. It is imperative that these operations are a success tomorrow for the good of everyone in New Seattle.”

 

Turning off the screen, Chase stands on the edge of the stage, his hands behind his back, standing straight at attention.

 

“You will be briefed on your individual assignments within the mission tomorrow morning. Are there any further questions?”

 

The hand of a young soldier goes up and Chase nods in his direction.

 

“Umm...so does that mean that The Scratching Post is going to close down too?”

 

Chase lets out a small ironic chuckle, shaking his head.

 

“Yes it does. Sorry soldier, you’re going to have to figure out another way to get laid on a Friday night.”

 

A ripple of laughter goes through the crowd and Chase rubs his chin, eyeing the young man, his voice deep and serious.

 

“This mission is not about our comfort. This is about our overall mission to protect and feed all of the zombies in Seattle – not just the privileged few that can afford to buy brains when the tube supplies run low. For too long, we have looked the other way as profiteers have made money off the backs of the wealthy while the poor are starving for brains. And that ends tomorrow.”

 

A solemn silence falls over the crowd and Chase catches the smile on Major’s face as he nods his approval. Glancing over at Veronica, her lips are pursed in a fine line as if holding back a smile, but her eyes sparkle back at him with happiness and in that moment Chase realizes that he is living up to her expectation of being a ‘good man’.

 

“If there are no more questions, then you are free to go.”

 

He says with a dismissive wave of his hand at the crowd.

 

There is a low mummer as people begin to rise and a terrible thought runs through Chase’s brain.

 

“Should any of you feel the need to leak any of the information that was just presented to anyone outside of this room,” He barks so ferociously that several people jump at the sound of his booming voice.

 

“Just remember, I will not hesitate to send you to the guillotine for treason. Do you understand me?”

 

“Understood Sir.” Hobbs says from just below him, giving Chase a confident salute.

 

His eyes narrow as he regards Hobbs – was this actually him pledging his allegiance again or sucking up to Chase? He isn’t sure, but for now, he returns the salute with a firm nod at Hobbs.

 

Lowering his hand, Hobbs turns towards his team and begins to usher them out of the room. Chase stands on the edge of the stage, his eyes now trained on Veronica and Major, who continue to sit in their seats as everyone around them leaves the theatre. When the last person closes the door, Veronica glances between Major and Chase.

 

“Well that went well.” She comments with a wry smile. “Tell me, is it normal to threaten to kill your men on a regular basis?”

 

Chase arches his eyebrow at her and folds his arms over his chest. “It is when you suspect one of them will turn against you because they can’t get alcohol, drugs, or hookers. Just my friendly reminder that they can’t get laid if they’re dead.”

 

“Well I, for one, think it was one of your best speeches yet,” Major says, giving Chase the ‘okay’ sign and a wink. “Really top-notch stuff, General.”

 

Rubbing the back of his neck, Chase chuckles.

 

“Thanks Lilywhite. I hope someone was taking notes so one day, children can memorize if for history class.”

 

Veronica rolls her eyes. Standing, she glances between the two men.

 

“Are you sure you want to feed his ego like this, Major?”

 

Stepping right to the edge of the stage, Chase removes his beret, clutching it to his chest, his arm sweeping out over the audience.

 

Friends. Zombies. Countrymen. Lend me your brains...”

 

“Boo!” She calls out as she walks towards the stage. “See what you’ve done, Major; now he has a Shakespearean complex.”

 

“Just as long as no one does any back stabbing, we're okay.” Chase chuckles, replacing his beret on his head.

 

“No Sir. You definitely took care of that.” Major retorts.

 

Veronica stops near his feet at the bottom of the stage and he crouches, kissing the very top of her head. She raises her chin and he leans even further down, giving her a quick peck on the lips and she blushes deeply, a reaction that warms Chase's heart.

 

“Did my threatening of the troops really upset you,” he asks quietly, shifting so he’s now seated on the edge of the stage.

 

Veronica shrugs, placing her hands on his knees as his legs dangle on either side of her.

 

“No…yes…but it needed to be done. I mean, I’m not a child -- I get it -- people don’t like to lose their creature comforts and if any of them rat us out ahead of time, we’re all screwed tomorrow. So better to bring the hammer down now than the anvil later.”

 

Major approaches them and stands a little ways away near the stage, a twisted grin on his face as he glances between the two. Chase knows he's smiling because of them, but he ignores it for now.

 

“I think it went well, Sir.” Major states. “These are solid plans that will help everyone and I think it’s been a long time in coming.”

 

“It may not be the easy thing to do, but it’s the right thing to do.” Chase says softly, glancing between them. “And I’m glad that I have both of you and Veronica to count on for this endeavour.”

 

Chase’s hand covers Veronica’s on his knee and she smiles softly at him.

 

“I’m glad you chose this path, Chase.”

 

He thinks about asking her back up to his office, hoping for a repeat of their rendezvous on the couch. Or maybe he would let her initiate things again tonight – in her power suit and high heels – and just see where things go.

 

In the silence, Major clears his throat, crushing his thoughts.

 

“Umm…not to be that guy…but I'm gonna have to be that guy…is this –” Major darts his index finger between the couple. “— actually like a thing now?”

 

The corner of Chase's mouth twitches as he grins first at Veronica and then at Major.

 

“Yes. It's kind of a thing.”

 

Major closes his fist and pumps it in the air.

 

“Yesssss. Awesome Sir. And you too Veronica. I’m happy for you guys…like…truly. It's all just swell.”

 

Veronica giggles, glancing between the men. “Thank you Major.”

 

For a second, a silence falls in the auditorium before Major lets out a loud sigh.

 

“Well, since this is becoming super awkward super fast so I’m just going to leave you two alone now.”

 

Ambling his way back towards the door, Major gives them both a small salute.

 

Chuckling, Chase salutes Major back. “Thanks Lilywhite. I appreciate it.”

 

“Good night, Sir.” He nods at the door before closing it behind him.

 

Veronica arches her eyebrow suggestively at Chase, a coy smile now crossing her face.

 

“Well that went well. I wasn't sure how he was going to react.”

 

His forehead wrinkles. “Why?”

 

Veronica shrugs and lets out a little fake sigh. “I just thought that he might be a little…you know…jealous.”

 

“Of you?”

 

Chase's mind momentarily wanders to the sight of Major checking Veronica out in his office, when she wasn’t looking.

 

“No! Of you.” Veronica giggles, swatting his knee playfully. “You know, you were literally all he talked about the first few times we were alone together.”

 

Chase glances towards the closed door, rubbing his chin in thought.

 

“Well…now that you mention it... Major does have a pretty good physic; we’ve spotted for each other a few times at the gym. And he does seem to enjoy talking to me while I'm getting a spray tan. I mean maybe…”

 

She swats him again and he laughs, kissing the top of her head.

 

“So is that a hard no to a threesome?”

 

“No! I mean yes!” Veronica replies through her own laughter. “He had his chance. You're all mine now. Unless he wants to tangle with me and some piano wire.”

 

Reaching out for her, he rests his hands on her shoulders, gently guiding her closer to him.

 

“God, you’re hot when you're jealous.”

 

Veronica moves towards him stopping as her body presses against the stage as their laughter subsides. Her arm stretches across his leg and her head leans on his thigh, her eyes glancing up at him. Looking down into her eyes, Chase begins stroking her straight hair gently, enjoying the feeling of her soft locks on his fingertips. He’s started to crave these moments of intimacy with her and the fact that she feels so comfortable giving them to him now makes his heart swell with happiness.

 

“What are you thinking about in that beautiful head of yours?” He whispers, smoothing her long hair across his leg. “You know, besides Major and me.”

 

She lets out a little sigh and smiles. “I was actually thinking about how confident you looked on stage, how poised. You’re the leader this city needs right now.”

 

“I’m trying to be. I’m just glad you came around to help keep me focused on what’s important – helping the zombies of Seattle stay alive and safe until a cure is found.”

 

Moving out from under his hand, Veronica stands upright; her head leaning back to look up at him. A coy smile appears and she drags her teeth over her bottom lip.

 

“You were also all kinds of sexy up there, dressed in your uniform, bossing people around.” Veronica drawls, her fingers tracing up his thighs and stopping at his waist.

 

Sliding his fingers under her hair, Chase’s hand softly cradles her cheek as he lowers his head towards her.

 

“Funny. I was thinking the same thing about you.”

 

“I wasn’t bossing anyone around.” She teases him back, moving her head away as he tries to kiss her.

 

“Not yet.” Chase replies and she allows him to catch her lips with his, sinking into a strong, passionate kiss.

 

Opening his mouth he sucks in a deep breath as she gasps, her lips trembling against his before she rises on her toes, pressing her lips to his again, her hands lacing through his hair, knocking his beret off his head. His tongue sweeps through her mouth, connecting with hers and they both moan, satisfied for the moment with their tame intimate connection. Warmth spreads through Chase's body and a sense of calm the likes he has never know fills his mind. Everything but this is folly to him now.

 

The searing pain in his neck makes him wince and he groans, both from the muscle spasm and the separation from Veronica as he moves away from their embrace.

 

“Problems?” She teases, dropping her hands from his head so he can rotate his neck.

 

“While sexy as hell, not exactly the most comfortable position.”

 

Chuckling, he braces his hands behind his neck, his elbows to the side, biceps flexing under his shirt as he stretches.

 

Crossing one foot slowly behind the other, Veronica backs up, a twinkle of mischief in her eye as she unbuttons her jacket to reveal nothing but a sheer, lacy grey camousal, her soft pink bra clearly visible through the fabric. Stopping at the row of chairs, Veronica slowly lowers herself down into a seat, perching on the edge, she bends her knees together before sliding her heels apart, spreading her legs invitingly to him.

 

Hopping off the stage, Chase pulls open his vest, letting it fall to the ground as he paces towards her. Moving toe-to-toe with her, he quickly sheds his turtleneck, leaving him in his tight navy undershirt. Veronica drags her teeth over her bottom lip, leaning back in the chair to gaze up at him.

 

He drops to his knees in front of her, his arm wrapping around her waist to pull her body against him, her fingers grasping his bare biceps to keep her anchored.  A shudder runs through her body and she shifts, pressing her warm core against him. Chase can feel her heat through their clothes and he slides his hand between her buttocks and the chair, pressing her to him further.  His fingers slip past her jacket, under her camousal, resting gently on her satiny bra.

 

“Chase.”

 

His name falls from her lips in a whisper as he begins to move his fingers in small, delicate circles, over her breast.  Veronica's eyelashes flutter, her breath hitches.

 

 

“Veronica.” 

 

His lips drop to catch hers in a quick kiss before releasing her again, his head ducking to kiss her neck, taking the time to lavish attention on her sensitive skin as she moves against him, creating a gentle friction between them.  Tiny mewls of pleasure begin to rise in her throat as he nibbles her collar, remembering how much she enjoyed it the last time.  Kissing across her clavicle, he shifts to the other side, burying his face under her hair to catch her earlobe between his lips, causing her to let out a deep moan.

 

“I want you so much, Chase.” She sighs, brushing her lips across his ear. “I've never wanted anyone more in my life.”

 

Chase frowns, pulls back to look into her eyes, his ministrations pausing. “Really?”

 

Veronica ducks her face for a moment under her hair, biting her lip as she tilts her head towards him.

 

“Lilly once said I was a ‘red satin' dress woman not ‘white cotton' one – meaning she thought that I was a passionate person but I never let anyone see that side of myself. And I didn't really...until now.”

 

“But the others…” Chase says, his hand sliding away from her breast to press against her back, keeping her close to him.

 

“Do you really think there were others? Duncan. Piz. That's it. Not even Logan.” She tosses him a wry smile. “When someone can Google your name and your entire life pops up for them to read in the bathroom at a restaurant it kind of makes it hard to go out on a casual date."

 

Chase grinds his teeth together, cringing at her story.

 

“But you…” She continues, her hand pressing to his cheek. “You didn't run. You knew everything upfront, and you didn't run.  If anything, you seemed so…intrigued by me that I couldn't help see if…”

 

“See if what?” His thumb strokes gently along her spine and he feels her relax into his touch.

 

“See if what I felt when I first stepped into your office was real.” Veronica confides, he voice barely above a whisper. “If that spark I felt from the moment I sat across from you was actually real attraction – and that you felt the same.”

 

Leaning forward, Chase kisses her forehead, tenderly.

 

“When I told you the story of the women in the village, it wasn't because I saw you as a victim or a survivor; I saw you as someone who dealt justice in their own way when they knew the law wouldn't. If anything, I don't see you as them; I see you as me.”

 

Sliding his hand from below her, he brushes her hair from her face and smiles.

 

“You and I -- through this strange twist of circumstance -- we ended up here, together, trying to keep ourselves in line when the world is in chaos.  And every goddamn day I become more certain that you are the one person on this planet that could save me from being consumed by the magnitude of the job that has been handed to me.”

 

Cradling her face in his hands, he raises her head gently, kissing her softly.

 

“And yes, for the record, I felt that spark too.  I didn't expect it, but it was there, from the first moment I met you. It was there."

 

She giggles lightly, pressing her forehead to his. “Good to know.”

 

Closing his eyes for a moment, he relishes the sound of her breathing, synced with his.

 

“When all this is over tomorrow, come to my house. We'll order pizza. Watch a movie –" He opens his eyes, keeping close watch on her reaction. “Maybe you can stay all night.”

 

Biting the corner of her lip, her eyes light up with excitement.

 

“If I shave my legs, I won't be let down this time?”

 

“Shave whatever you want.” He chuckles. “I promise I'll run my fingers over every part of you – smooth or otherwise.”

 

Veronica lets out a little groan, leaning back in her seat.

 

“Like I won't be thinking about that all night and day.”

 

As she begins to button her jacket, Chase sits back on his heels in front of her, watching her every movement.

 

“Just keep your focus during the mission tomorrow,” he reminds her gently. “If anything happens to you --"

 

Finishing her last button, Veronica slides back to the edge of the seat. Leaning over, she kisses the tip of his noes playfully and smiles.

 

“You shouldn't be worried about me. I know how to take care of myself. Worry about yourself and what terrible, erotic nightmare you may be wandering into when you capture Dalton.”

 

Chase chuckles, covering his face with his hands, pushing them up through his hair as visions of three people dressed up in furry mascot costumes, rolling around on the floor together, flashes through his head.

 

“Dear God, why did you have to bring that up?”

 

Pulling her knees together, Veronica stands, he fingers running through Chase's hair below her.

 

“Just ‘cause I still like to torture you.”

 

Taking her hand in his, he kisses it, letting it linger on his lips longer than normal.

 

“Tomorrow.” Chase whispers into her skin.

 

“Tomorrow.” Veronica replies softly.

 

With a small sigh, he releases her and she smiles down at him, her eyes sparkling with happiness before she turns, slowly making her way to the exit. She only gives the briefest glance as she opens the door, disappearing into the hall.

 

Chase closes his eyes, swallowing hard, he stays on his knees and silently prays to every God he can think of in heaven and on earth that they both make it to see each other tomorrow night.

Chapter Text

“On three…” Chase mutters as he wraps his hands around Blaine's ankles.

 

From the other end of the gurney, Major nods, sliding his hands under Blaine's arms.

 

“One…”

 

Pulling up on Blaine's legs and torso, they raise him off the metal surface by an inch.

 

“Two…”

 

Lifting him higher, the men swing Blaine's limp body in the air, back and forth like a giant skipping rope, gaining the inertia they need.

 

“Three!”

 

With a loud groan of exertion, Chase and Major launch Blaine into the air where he sails free for a split second before coming to land with a dull thud on the high wooden stage, near the foot of the guillotine; his arm twisting around and under him, his head cocked to an unnatural angle on the rough flooring.

 

Major exchanges a quick glance and a smirk with Chase.

 

“Well, that worked.” Chase says dryly, shaking his head with a sigh.

 

Ambling up to the edge of the six-foot tall platform, Chase’s eyes follow the guillotine up to the top where the midday light catches the tip of the heavy metal anvil from a skylight in the warehouse.  Knowing that extreme measures may be needed to produce results, Chase had the structure moved into one of the empty warehouses in the Fillmore Graves building a few days ago.  The entire place still smelled like watermelons from the team recalibrating the mechanisms after it was moved.

 

Major jogs around the side of the stage and up the steps, coming over to pick up Blaine from his tangled pile.  Hoisting him under his arms again, he begins to drag the white haired zombie towards the guillotine – grunting and groaning as he does.

 

Rubbing his eyes with the palms of his hands, Chase lets out another sigh. 

 

“Hold up, Lilywhite.”

 

Major pauses as Chase comes around and up to the top of the platform quickly, not wanting to waste time; they needed to get their prisoners secured before they wake up, lest they have to contend with two men going full zombie on them.  Glancing out into the vast empty warehouse, Chase checks on Dalton – secured to a bolt in the cement floor with chains attached to each wrist and around each ankle – laying on his side in nothing but a pair of red silk boxers.

 

"Thanks for the help, General.  He's heavier than he looks."

 

Moving to Blaine’s side, Chase lifts him under one shoulder and Major does the same on the other side, easily carrying him on the platform around the guillotine.

 

“That oughta do it.”  Major says as he places Blaine’s head on the base of the guillotine as Chase releases him. 

 

The unconscious man immediately slips from his position and Major gasps as he grabs him before Blaine hits the ground.

 

“Oh for Christ’s sake,” Chase mutters.

 

Straddling his back, Chase lifts Blaine by the torso, holding him straight as Major repositions his head in place on the guillotine again.  Unbuckling the thick brown leather straps, Major starts the process of tying him down to the machine.

 

“So, should I ask why Dalton is in red boxers?”  Major chuckles, wrapping the belt straps around Blaine’s head.

 

In spite of himself, Chase laughs, shaking his head as he keeps Blaine balanced between his knees.

 

“Because he was naked when we arrived and that was all my team managed to get on him after we sedated him.”

 

Major pauses for a second in his work, his eyes wide as he lets out a hooting laugh.

 

“I guess you called it, Sir -- caught him in bed with some prostitutes.  What a way to go."

 

The clicking of the metal buckles echo in the warehouse as Major continues to secure Blaine, moving on to his hands and arms.

 

“Oh no.  There was no way I could have called this.” 

 

Chase continues, a twisted smile appearing across his face as his memory flashes to those moments that may haunt him for the rest of his life.

 

“We bust in through the front door and there, in all his glory, is Dalton – sitting on his couch, watching ‘The Price is Right’ buck naked while getting a blow job from one of the girls while the other girl was sitting on the couch next to him, eating Fruit Loops out of a giant salad bowl.”

 

Major pauses, his mouth agape, glancing up towards Dalton then back to Chase.

 

“I think I’m scarred for life by that visual.”  He mutters before returning to finish buckling Blaine’s final hand to the guillotine.

 

“Yeah, but the best was that single, solitary beat where we all paused, because no one could believe what was happening – Dalton, the girls, my team, me – all of us just froze in shock.”

 

Chase’s eyes narrow as he remembers back to the mission.

 

“And I was convinced that this was all too surreal to be true and it would just disappear in front of my eyes, like turning off a bad movie.”

 

“But instead you get to replay it, over and over in your head,” Major laughs, standing and wiping his brow from his work.

 

Chase lets go of Blaine and his body slumps, now only being held up by the straps of the guillotine.  Stepping away from him, Chase shakes his head.

 

“Oh it doesn't end there.  So we easily sedate Dalton, and the girls – who, again, are completely naked – both take off towards his bedroom and lock themselves inside." 

 

Chase rubs the back of his neck, trying to find the words to fit with the circus in his head, thinking back to the incident. 

 

“And I end up having to kick down the door so they don’t try and call anyone – like Blaine – and tell him what’s happening.  Well, I get in there and they go completely full zombie on me – again, while naked -- which is a very, very unsettling thing to have coming at you.”

 

The two men wander down the platform toward Dalton, who is still laying on the ground, unmoving.

 

“I managed to sedate the first one quickly enough, but then the other one jumps on my back and starts ripping at my clothes like something out of the worst porn you’ve ever seen.”

 

Chase removes his hat and places it on a small table set up with two chairs near Dalton.

 

“But I don’t want to hurt her, so I flip myself so I’m facing her, trying to keep her from tearing me to shreds when Private Stephens finally sedates her and she completely collapses – naked – on top of me.”

 

Pulling one of the metal chairs away from the table, Chase takes a seat, his palms pressing on his knees.  Major takes a seat near him, chuckling.

 

“Oh my God!  That has to be the best mission story ever told.” 

 

Major runs his fingers through his hair, leaning back in his chair and laughing.

 

“Yes, but do you know what I thought, while my crew were dragging this woman’s naked, limp body off of me?” 

 

Glancing at Major out of the corner of his eye, Chase shakes his head.

 

“What?”

 

“I actually thought ‘when I tell Veronica about this, is she going to think it’s funny, or is she going to be pissed off that a naked hooker was on top of me?’” 

 

He takes off his beret and places it on the table, running his hands through his hair before resting back in the chair, legs stretched out in front of him.

 

Leaning his elbow on the table, Major rests his chin in his hand and chuckles. 

 

“I think under the circumstances she’ll understand.”

 

Linking his fingers behind his neck, Chase leans further back in the chair, staring at the industrial tubing running along the ceiling of the warehouse.  The whirring of the giant fans above them fills the space with a low rumbling sound, reminding Chase of helicopters flying in the distance.  The truth was that he couldn’t wait to tell Veronica about the mission – imagining her eyes opening wide in surprise, her delicate fingers covering her mouth as she giggles, the hint blush of her pale cheeks when he mentions the naughty bits.  The first part of his mission was a success – now he just wants to get the rest over with so he can find her and celebrate.

 

“You’re smiling again, Sir.”  Major says, interrupting Chase’s thoughts.

 

Licking his lips, Chase turns his head slightly towards Major. 

 

“Am I?”

 

Making two fists, Major adjusts himself to lean his chin on his hands, batting his eyelashes playfully. 

 

“You do get that dreamy look when you think about her.  You know she told a friend who told a friend that she is sooooo into you.”

 

Chase snorts with laughter, shaking his head. 

 

“Are you making fun of me, Lilywhite?”

 

“Noooo Sir.”  Major leans back, putting up his palms in mock defense.  “Just some good natured ribbing between soldiers to pass the time.”

 

Giving Major the side eye, Chase clucks his tongue on the roof of his mouth.

 

“Or you could fill me in on how your mission went and save me some time wrapping up all this shit later.”

 

“Or I could do that.”  Major laughs.  “Let’s see...while not as eventful as your mission, it did have its moments...”

 

Chase struggles against the muscles in his cheeks involuntarily trying to pull into a wide grin at the thought of Veronica coming over to his place tonight for pizza and a movie and...whatever else she wants.  His imagination drifts for a second to the sight of her soft pale body laying naked across his pristine white couch, her arm raised over her head, one leg sliding off the cushions, exposing herself to him unabashedly. 

 

“...I mean, I guess when Don E jumped out of the refrigerator with a machete, it was pretty crazy.”

 

Giving his head a shake to clear his thoughts of Veronica, Chase attempts to focus on what Major is saying.

 

“What did you do?”

 

“Pfft.  I shot his hand off.  FYI – it stayed wrapped around the knife which was quite disturbing.”

 

Chase snorts a small laugh.  “Still not a naked zombie hooker, but continue.  How many casualties?”

 

Counting off on his fingers, Major pauses. 

 

“Seven.  Eight if you count Don E.  Even though I shot him, he managed to escape while I was apprehending Blaine.  I’m actually surprised he didn’t follow the truck back here like some pit bull searching for his master.”

 

The image of short, bald Don E in a tacky shirt, standing behind the bar at The Scratching Post lingers for a second on Chase’s mind.  He didn’t necessarily hate the guy – but there was a bigger picture to consider right now.

 

“And everyone else?”

 

Major lets out a deep sigh.  “Dead.  Even Candy – Blaine’s ‘best girl’ – who came after us with a sawed off shotgun.”

 

“And the brains?”

 

“Collected and repacked.  I called for transport before we left with Blaine to come here.”

 

Nodding, Chase rubs his face with his palms.  Two missions accounted for; now to finish with their interrogations so he could find out how Veronica’s played out.  Adjusting his focus, Chase sweeps his hand loosely in the direction of Dalton’s white body sprawled out on the concrete. 

 

“Speaking of which -- when do you think they’ll wake up?  I’d like to get this over with sooner than later.”

 

“I can try to get things going...” 

 

Major rises, pulling his vest down to his belt buckle and placing his beret next to Chase’s on the table.  Walking over to Dalton’s limp form, Major bends down, balancing on the balls of his feet.  Lowering his face towards Dalton, Major cups his mouth before yelling in the man’s ear.

 

“Get up!”

 

Dalton’s whole body twitches but his eyes stay closed.  Sitting forward, Chase leans his elbows on his knees.

 

“That seemed to work.  Again.”

 

Major takes a deep breath before yelling into the man’s ear again.

 

“Dalton!  Rise and shine!”

 

The man’s face puckers, cringing as he moves away from Major, muttering something unintelligible.

 

Standing, Chase walks over to Dalton, positioning himself near his stomach.  Placing the sole of his boot on Dalton’s hip, Chase gives him a push and rolls the half-naked man onto his back, the sound of the chains echoing as they hit the concrete.  Dalton groans, his eyes fluttering open slightly before getting bright and wide when he realizes Chase and Major are standing over him.

 

“Holy fuck!”  Dalton yelps as he pulls at the chains holding him to the ground, scrambling to get away from their shadows.

 

For a second the two watch Dalton flail against himself, attempting to stand and run but being pulled back down to his knees by the chains every time he tries.  When he finally gives in to his predicament his breathing is ragged and heavy. 

 

“Dalton Edwards -- you are charged with trafficking of human brains.”  Chase begins, his legs spreading to shoulder width as his hands clasp behind his back.  “Under the laws which govern New Seattle, we have the right to execute you for this crime.”

 

Dalton’s head whips back and forth frantically between Chase and Major, his face now wild with panic.  He glances down at himself for a moment before looking up at the two men again.

 

“Where are my goddamn clothes?!”  He shrieks, flailing again at the chains.

 

Chase hears Major stifle a snort of laughter and feels the muscles in his face twitch as he holds back a smile.

 

“Guess you don’t remember ‘The Price is Right’, do you Dalton?”  Chase says, rolling his eyes.

 

Dalton frowns for a moment in thought before grinning for a split second before his face falls again.

 

“Oh man!”

 

A loud rattling comes from the guillotine platform and Chase turns to see Blaine shaking the entire machine as he tries in vain to free himself from his shackles.

 

“Oh good.  He’s awake too.”  Major comments with a smile at Chase.

 

Blaine rails back and forth, trying to get enough leverage to get out of the position Major has placed him in, but can’t get further than a few twists in the restraints. 

 

“What the fuck am I doing in here?!”  Blaine screams from the guillotine.  “We had a deal, Graves!”

 

Striding across the warehouse, Chase raises his voice.  “Blaine DeBeers -- you are charged with creating of new zombies without their consent as well as trafficking of human brains. Under the laws which govern New Seattle, we have the right to execute you for these crimes.”

 

Clenching his teeth, Blaine seethes, his eyes beginning to grow red with zombie rage.  Shaking the guillotine again, the anvil clanks and clatters above him.

 

Glancing up, Chase shrugs. 

 

“Or you can execute yourself.  Go ahead and keep fighting this, Blaine, and you’ll drop that goddamn anvil on your own head.”

 

Blaine’s body goes ridged, Chase’s words obviously getting through to him.  The veins in his eyes begin to fade as his body goes limp in the machine.

 

Shifting his stance so he can see both prisoners, Chase looks between the two. 

 

“Gentlemen; here’s how it’s going to work today.  Somebody is going to tell me everything about the business of importing brains into Seattle.  And by everything, I mean everything – from the names of your connections to the time and place your delivery drivers’ stop to take a piss, because if you don’t the first person to end up on the receiving end of the anvil will be Blaine, the second will be Dalton – once he cleans what’s left of Mr. DeBeers off of it.  Do I make myself clear?”

 

“So that’s it.”  Blaine hisses from his post.  “We tell you everything and you let us go?”

 

Walking back towards the stage, Chase shakes his head. 

 

“Nope.  Unfortunately, I can’t do that.  You’re both done in Seattle – for now.  But, if you cooperate, I’ll just put you in a nice freezer with a little nametag and maybe, just maybe, if I have a use for you in the future, I’ll come and unthaw you.  How does that sound?”

 

Blaine’s lip twitches before it curls into a sneer.  “Like shit.  That’s how it sounds.”

 

Chase shrugs nonchalantly before sauntering back towards Dalton, kneeling on the ground and shivering.

 

“How about you, Dalton.  Does that sound like a fair deal?  I mean, there’s always the possibility this whole nightmare will be over eventually and you can come out of freezing, become human again, and resume your lovely life of crime.”  Chase’s hand sweeps dramatically towards the guillotine.  “Because let me tell you, it’s a bitch to clean watermelon from that thing.  Just think how hard it will be to clean fragments of human skull and brain tissue from Blaine’s crushed noggin off of it.”

 

Dalton’s shoulders hunch, rolling back and forth as his head drops forward before the contents of his stomach empty onto the cement, splashing back onto his body.  Chase and Major both jump back to keep out of the splatter range.  Glancing down at his boots, Chase shakes his head at the bits of bile and brains on him.

 

“I just shined those,” he mutters before tapping his toe behind him, trying to get the zombie vomit off before it sticks.

 

“Look, why don’t I just drop the anvil down on Blaine and save us all some time,”  Major says, beginning to walk towards the platform and away from Dalton, the incredible zombie mess.

 

Stopping near the edge of the platform, Major stares at Blaine laying prone in the guillotine. 

 

“I watched this man get away with murdering street kids – kids that had a chance in life – just so he could feed the rich zombies he created so he could get rich himself.  He’s a public menace and justice needs to be served.”

 

A twisted smile crosses Blaine’s face and his eyes light up.  “You don’t have the guts to kill me, Major.”

 

With a sharp turn on his heels, Major quietly resumes his walk, following the edge of the stage towards the steps; climbing them quckly before crossing the stage to position himself beside the guillotine.  His hands shake slightly as he reaches for the release handle before he pauses.

 

“Ready on your order, General Graves.”

 

Arching his eyebrow at Major, Chase raises his hand to stop him, glancing between the two prisoners. 

 

“Well, Dalton.”  Chase says slowly.  “What will it be?”

 

The guillotine begins to shake again as Blaine’s eyes grow wild. 

 

“Tell him Dalton!  For Christ’s sake!  Tell him everything you shit!”

 

Walking over to Dalton slowly, Chase looks down at him as his body sags, his eyes cast away from the stage.

 

“Fine.”  He mutters.  “I’ll tell you everything.”

 

Licking his lips, Chase smiles.  “Excellent.  I’m glad you decided to see things my way.”

 

On the stage Blaine stops shaking, his body going limp as Major removes his hands and takes a step back from the guillotine, letting out a deep exhale through pursed lips.

 

Walking toward the table, Chase reaches into a large pocket in his vest and removes a slim camera.  Turning it on, he adjusts it, pointing the lens towards Dalton.  His pale, filthy body appears on the small screen and Chase presses the ‘record’ button, zooming in on his prisoner’s face.

 

“So..Dalton Edwards...how exactly does one get brains into Seattle?”

Chapter Text

Everything took too damn long. The missions this morning took too long; starting the interrogation of Dalton and Blaine took too long; when they finally cooperated, getting the information out of their prisoners took too long; then waiting for the transfer to the freezers – after Major sedated them – seemed to take forever. And all the while, in the back of Chase’s mind, a whisper floated through every drawn out moment.

 

Veronica.

 

Hurrying through the long concrete hallway connecting the warehouse spaces to the main Fillmore Graves building, the echo of children squealing with excitement rises as Chase walks closer and closer to the fitness area of the complex. Pulling up his sleeve, he checks his watch – it’s already 15:35. The regular students would have been dismissed by now, but these must be the children from Brother Love’s congregation playing in the large gymnasium. His heart quickens with his pace as he realizes that Veronica is probably with them.

 

Stopping at the big double metal doors, Chase peers through the tempered glass windows into the gym – the volume and pitch coming from the kids playing inside making him wince slightly. The large group of almost sixty children – from the very young up through to the ones who looked like they were pre-teens – are happily running around the gym at a fever pace. Some are shooting baskets; others are running up and down the bleacher steps; another pack are running in circles, playing a high-pitched game of tag.

 

Emotion rises in Chase’s chest and he swallows hard as a lump reaches his throat. They’re happy. The kids were all genuinely happy. Because of him. Because of Veronica. Glancing around the gym, he spotts Ms. Sawyer talking with some other adults, but there is still no sign of Veronica. His feeling of joy evaporates quickly, replaced by concern deep down in the pit of his stomach. Pulling open the door, he marches inside, focusing directly on the teacher and her group.

 

The resonating sound of his combat boots on the wooden gym floor alerts Ms. Sawyer to his presence and she turns towards him, her eyes narrowing, her brow furrowed. Taking a few steps away from the other women she meets him alone near the bleachers.

 

“General Graves; thank God you’re here.” The diminutive red-headed woman states firmly, her hand coming to rest on his bicep. “We need to talk.”

 

The chaos around Chase becomes nothing but white noise as every sense is now fixed on Ms. Sawyer.

 

“What’s wrong?”

 

Her eyes dart to the side, checking who is around them to hear or see their conversation. Stepping closer, she keeps her eyes focused for the moment on the children running around them.

 

“Have you talked to Lieutenant Hobbs?”

 

Chase's jaw twitches, his nostrils flare as he tries to hold back the panic rippling through him.

 

“No. Why?”

 

“Well when you do, please thank him for traumatizing these kids some more,” she snarks, her hand sweeping in the air towards the children. “He has all the sensitivity of a rat gnawing on a one-legged man’s ankle.”

 

Pulling his beret off his head, Chase squeezes it in his fist, trying to keep from punching something.

 

“What the hell happened?”

 

Letting out a long sigh, Ms. Sawyer crosses her arms, her eyes finally fixed on his.

 

“Well, I only know what I walked in on...and what some of the older kids told us. Apparently, some man named Tucker joined them on the bus and everything was fine until about a block away from us – I guess Ms. Mars was sitting next to this Tucker fellow and he suddenly stood up and started yelling about how Fillmore Graves was the devil. When they pulled into the Fillmore Graves lot, instead of sedating him, Hobbs shot him dead – in front of the kids. We were standing outside the bus and saw it happen through the window. That’s when Ms. Mars threw open the door and yelled for the kids to run to us for safety. In the chaos of sixty kids streaming out of the bus, I didn’t see what else happened. We just focused on getting those kids safe inside.”

 

Chase’s body involuntarily shakes – his eyes becoming warm as zombie blood rushes through his capillaries. Taking a trembling breath through his teeth, he forces himself to remain calm -- going full-zombie in front of the kids will only exacerbate the problems.

 

“There wasn’t supposed to be live ammunition.”

 

Ms. Sawyer shrugs. “I know that – I was at the briefing. We all know. The only one who didn’t seem to know was Hobbs. Or didn’t care.”

 

Closing his eyes for a split second, Chase musters up the courage to ask the question he is dreading.

 

“The others. What happened to the others? Ms. Mars and the teachers?”

 

Ms. Sawyer’s eyes skim the group, avoiding Chase’s.

 

“I don’t know. I haven’t heard. I’ve been so focused on getting all of these children calm and fed and bathed and clothed that I haven’t had the time to find out. All I know is they aren’t with me.”

 

She’s dead.

 

The dark thought runs through Chase’s mind, taunting him.

 

“She can’t be,” he mutters out loud, his consciousness trying to keep him from momentarily going off the rails.

 

“What was that, General?”

 

Giving a shake of his head, Chase brushes his hand through the air.

 

“Nothing. You’ve done a good job, Ms. Sawyer. Whatever you’ve done today, it looks like the children are happy and content.”

 

Stepping back, he nods at her again, anxious to remove himself and find out about Veronica.

 

“Thank you, General.” A tight smile pulls across her lips. “I’m confident it will all work out.”

 

“I hope you’re right,” he replies quietly, replacing his beret on his head as he makes his way quickly to the doors of the gymnasium; pushing his way through, the doors bang loudly against the doorstop as he exits.

 

Taking a hard right, Chase launches himself into a run down the hallways, zig-zagging through the corridors until he gets to the elevators that will take him just outside of his office. Pounding the button with his fist, Chase feels the anger inside himself beginning to take over.

 

Veronica.

 

Even the simple act of thinking her name sends a pulse of pain through him. He should have gone with her. Instead, he made a decision he may regret for the rest of his life. It’s always the seemingly easy missions that get derailed – he should have known that from experience. But Hobbs – that son of a bitch – he trusted him; the mission in Columbia where Hobbs took out the sniper that skimmed Chase’s shoulder or the time Hobbs led the group out of a minefield in Croatia. The loyalty he showed in battle – that’s why Chase pulled him off the front line when Vivian died to help him. But now, he disobeyed direct orders. He turned against him – just as Cary Gold, Chase's last loyal employee, had turned on him when she released the zombie virus into Seattle.

 

The elevator opens and Chase pushes past the stream of employees getting off, hammering on the button to close the doors before anyone else can follow leaving Chase alone, save the multitude of mirror images of himself riding along side as he ascends the tower to his office. Staring at his reflection flowing off into infinity, he watches his eyes begin to redden as his anger boils up.

 

With a barbaric scream, his fist comes into contact with the mirror, shattering his image, sending shards flying. Turning, he focuses on his reflection again before punching himself in the face with another scream of anger. Stepping over the pile, he focuses on the last side, his chest heaving as his zombie blood flows hotter and hotter through him. With one last howl of agony, he obliterates his final reflection with a single blow.

 

“Fuck!” He screams, looking down at his bloody fist.

 

Flipping open one of the pockets in his vest, he grabs a pristine white handkerchief and shakes it in the air before wrapping it around his knuckles.

 

“A gentleman always carries a handkerchief,” he hisses through clenched teeth, trying to calm his breathing. “Thanks Dad.”

 

Closing his eyes, visions of his father, in his white Dinner Dress uniform, appear in his mind.

 

Five-year-old Chase tries to wipe his runny nose on his pajama sleeve and his father chuckles deeply, pulling out of his pocket a clean white handkerchief and hands it to Chase to use instead; his mother is making her way down the stairs in a red party dress, a delicate strand of pearls around her neck, glossy red lips smiling sympathetically at her sick son. Grandma is upstairs with Harrison, but not Chase -- he needs to see his family, one last time before bed.

 

One last time...

 

Anger turns to regret and sadness as Chase remembers turning down Veronica's offer to take things further the last time he saw her. What if he truly missed his one chance at happiness because of some crazy romantic notions held over from his childhood? He carried with him the regret that he was oversees on a mission when his parents died for years after, replaying the last conversation he had with his father just hours before the accident around in his head in a constant loop. What if he looses Veronica, before they really even had time to really be together? Would he be able to live with himself, imagining what could have been for the rest of his miserable life?

 

Chase feels his body begin to retreat from full zombie mode – his pulse slowing, the blood flow from his wounded hand stopping -- and instead of twisting anger he is left with a piercing ache in his heart.

 

With a sharp ‘ding’ the elevator lurches to a halt, the doors opening slowly. Pulling his shoulders back and placing his emotions in check, Chase focuses his stare past the group of people waiting to enter. Without meeting their gazes, he pushes his way through the silent, unmoving crowd.

 

“This elevator’s out of order,” he states in a monotone, not waiting to hear a response as he moves quickly towards his office.

 

Rounding the corner, he can see Hobbs and his two team members sitting on the white couches, their arms casually slung along the back cushions.

 

With a deep breath, Chase adjusts his beret before pulling at his vest, making sure the Teflon is covering all the right parts of him.

 

“Just play it cool,” he mutters to himself before bursting through the doors to his office.

 

The three men scramble to their feet at the sight of Chase, standing at attention and saluting.

 

“General Graves, Sir!” Hobbs calls out, not looking his commanding officer in the eye.

 

Taking his place standing behind his desk, Chase’s mouth twists into a crooked smile.

 

“Well, don’t just stand there – get over here and give me a full report on your mission.”

 

Chase registers Private Biggs and Private Steele exchanging a nervous glance before following Hobbs toward the desk. They’ll throw him under the bus –he thinks, beginning to plan his interrogation of the group in the back of his mind.

 

“So, Hobbs, tell me – how’d it go?” He asks as congenially as he can muster.

 

Hobbs chuckles, glancing between the other members of his team, over his shoulder.

 

“Not as exciting as yours was. Word’s already spread about Dalton and the women he was with.”

 

The corner of Chase’s mouth twitches – Hobbs is trying to play the friend and right now, he’s not having any of it. If anything, it's making his anger boil hotter in his gut.

 

“This isn’t about my mission, Hobbs,” Chase says, his voice low and commanding. “It’s about yours.”

 

Removing his beret slowly, he holds it over the desk before watching it drop with a thud on the glass top. His eyes dart between the three in the silence; Biggs and Steele exchange another glance before focusing on Chase, then quickly looking away.

 

“Well, Sir; ours didn’t go exactly according to plan.”

 

Hobbs clears his throat, his eyes avoiding Chase’s for a split second before returning.

 

“What happened?”

 

The fake smile drops from Chase's face completely as his teeth set firm, his jaw twitching.

 

“Well Sir, it seems that your contact – Ms. Mars – was loyal to Brother Love’s group – not ours.”

 

His eyebrow jerks up, his face questioning the claim before his words come.

 

“Really?”

 

Hobbs shuffles on his feet slightly, swallowing hard, his hand rising to rub his neck and he clears his throat. As he moves his fingers under the collar of his turtleneck, Chase notices the top of a large white bandage and tape flash against his skin. Someone shot him either in the lower part of his neck or shoulder and the wound hadn’t healed yet. Tucker? One of the teachers? Or Veronica?

 

“Yes. Yes Sir. When we picked her up, she brought her boyfriend with the children onto the bus.”

 

Boy-friend.” Chase says slowly, his eyes narrowing in disbelief.

 

“Yes Sir. I know that there may have been a...connection...between you two, but she was playing you, Sir.”

 

Chase’s tongue rolls around the sides of his mouth as he tries to keep his words and emotions in check.

 

“Was she now? How so?”

 

Steele and Biggs begin to shift nervously as Chase looks first one, then the other square in the eyes, ignoring Hobbs. Someone was going to tell him the truth about what happened on that bus – and if it wasn’t going to be Hobbs, it was going to be them.

 

“Well Sir, when we picked up the kids, she came onto the bus with the two teachers and her boyfriend.  He sat right behind me with her and they held hands, whispering the entire way there while I drove the bus and watched in my rear view mirror.”

 

Hobbs clears his throat loudly again and Chase imagines his hands wrapping around the man’s throat, choking out the frog that seems to be caught in his esophagus.

 

“When we got to the gates of Fillmore Graves, she pulled out a gun and started yelling about how this was an elaborate trick and that she and Tucker were commandeering the bus and taking off with the kids for somewhere safer than Fillmore Graves.”

 

Placing his palms on the desk to steady him, Chase leans towards Hobbs, his lip twitching involuntarily as he speaks, low and harsh.

 

“What happened to them?”

 

Taking a step forward, Hobbs nods.

 

“We neutralized them, Sir. It was for the best. Ms. Mars was using her influence with you to benefit the group. They needed to be stopped.”

 

The rage swells in Chase and before he can stop himself he is in full-zombie mode, leaping over the desk, his legs knocking everything to the ground; drawing his gun from his holster in a flash. Hobbs lets out a shriek of distress as Chase pounces on him, the barrel of his gun pressed to Hobbs’ forehead as he straddles his chest, his knees hold the man’s arms pinned firmly to the ground.

 

“What did you do to her?!” Chase seethes over him, spit frothing from his mouth as he speaks.

 

Hobbs shakes underneath him, his eyes growing red.

 

“I saved your life and this is what you do? She was some slut that got into your head. I know about her and how she's been here almost every night! Ever since she’s been coming around, you’ve been making mistakes, Chase! I’ve seen it. The board’s seen it!  First you didn't execute Rengade, now you're closing down Romero's and bringing a bunch of brats into the business.  You’re going to throw everything we worked for away for some prison whore! It needed to be done!”

 

Chase’s finger shakes on the trigger, staring into Hobbs’ eyes. Pulling the gun off him, he aims it at the kneecaps of the Private Biggs standing next to him and fires – the man’s scream of pain filling the room. Pointing the gun back at Hobbs' forehead, he cocks the trigger, but keeps his eyes on Private Steele, who is now shaking as he stands near his fallen friend.

 

“What did you do to her?!” Chase yells again. “If you don’t tell me, I swear to God, Steele, I will shoot you full of holes and watch you beg me to kill you.”

 

“Freezer.” The young man stutters. “We froze her and the other women. We dumped the body of the man in an alley.”

 

“Thank you, Steele."

 

Chase nods to the young man and pulls the trigger. The echo of the shot ending Hobbs’ life reverberates off the glass surrounding the office before silence falls. Looking down into the shocked face of his former comrade, Chase watches the red veins drain in Hobbs' open eyes as blood seeps from his skull.

 

The sound of boots running down the hall make Chase look up, just as Major bursts through the door, gun drawn, followed by a handful of soldiers behind him. He pauses, his gun trained on Private Steel's back.

 

“You okay, General?”

 

With a small nod, Chase rises, stepping away from Hobbs' lifeless body. The anger in him recedes, taking with it full-zombie mode.

 

“I am now.”

 

Waving his gun in the direction of Biggs, curled up in the fetal position on the ground, he lets out a resolved sigh.

 

“Someone get Private Biggs to the medical centre.”

 

Walking over to Private Steel, Chase puts his hand on the shaking man's shoulder.

 

“What’s the whole story? What happened out there, Private? Whatever it was, it seems to me that you and Biggs didn't know about it before it happened.”

 

“No Sir!” He yelps, his eyes darting between his wounded friend and Hobbs.

 

“Hobbs pressed the remote button to alert us we needed to get out while the bus was still moving.  By the time we squeezed out, the bus had stopped and we saw Hobbs arguing with two people at the front of the bus.  Then, he raised his gun and shot Tucker at point blank range.  Ms. Mars flung herself away from him and opened the bus doors and started yelling for the kids to get out.  The kids started screaming and running so Biggs threw open the back of the bus so some of the kids near us could jump out.  Hobbs yelled at us and told us to sedate the teachers near us so we pushed past the kids and caught them before they could escape.  There was another shot and when we looked up, Hobbs was fighting with Ms. Mars. She got his gun somehow and tried to blow his head off – but she missed and grazed his neck. Biggs managed to get a jump on her over one of the bus seats and grabbed her from behind so she couldn't shoot Hobbs again, but when he grabbed her, she went all full zombie.  Hobbs told me to sedate her before she killed us all.”

 

He takes a deep breath, watching as two soldiers drag Private Biggs from the room as he moans in agony.

 

“Hobbs told us after that she was a spy for Brother Love who infiltrated the organization and we were going to freeze her until the board decided what to do with her and the other women. He said she had a criminal record and shot some guy once – and that she wasn't to be trusted.”

 

Major steps forward, his brow furrowed.

 

“That's what I was coming up to tell you. When I took Blaine and Dalton to the freezer, the technicians told me it was a ‘busy' day – they had just frozen three other people on Hobbs' orders.”

 

Chase replaces his gun in his holster, taking a deep breath.

 

“Is she down there?”

 

Major nods, placing his gun back in its holster.

 

“Yes -- I saw her. Hobbs filed her paperwork with the tech guys under a pseudonym – Katherine Black – and put the wrong date on it so if we didn't know, we would have never found her.”

 

Placing his hands on his hips, Chase's head dips as he closes his eyes. He put Veronica in this situation – he hired her, made her a part of the plan, left her with a traitor. Even if she ever forgave him, he may never forgive himself.

 

“I'm sorry, Sir.” Private Steele says, his voice shaky. “Lieutenant Hobbs told us…”

 

Chase raises his hand to the man, his stomach turning at the thought of Veronica fighting off the men before succumbing to the drugs.

 

“I'm going to go retrieve Ms. Mars from the freezers.”

 

The words catch in Chase's throat. He turns his head to Private Steele, making sure to look him directly in the eye.

 

“Lieutenant Lilywhite – have your men escort Private Steele to lock-up. And you'd better hope to God that when I thaw Ms. Mars and she tells me exactly what happened, that it fits your story, or I'll make sure to deal with your punishment for disobeying orders, personally.”

 

Major nods and raises his hand, gesturing to his crew.

 

“Merryweather. Douglas. Please escort Private Steele to lock-up.”

 

Glancing down to the floor, Major sweeps his hand towards Hobbs' body – his eyes still staring up in grisly horror at his fate.

 

“Pierce. Jenkins. Go get a body bag from supply and take Hobbs down to freezing. I'll take care of his remains. And then call maintenance to clean up the General's office.”

 

Major's hand grasps Chase's shoulder in a brotherly way that momentarily reminds him of Harrison.

 

“I'll take you to her, Sir.”

 

Chase nods. “Thank you, Major.”

 

A tight smile crosses Major's face before the two men make their way out of the office, leaving the carnage temporarily behind them.

 ----------------------------------

The technicians jump to attention as Chase and Major enter, both salute quickly before Major takes the lead, continuing quickly down the first row of morgue-like freezers built into the walls.

 

This was the first step in the freezing process – the dry ice chambers that allowed them to freeze a person safely and swiftly. Twenty-four hours in here before they were bagged, tagged, and stacked on metal shelves in larger industrial freezers. Chase couldn't imagine what could have happened once Veronica had been processed into deep freeze – lost in anonymity; lost in the bureaucracy.

 

Stopping at the very last row, Major nods before pulling the latch on the large drawer in front of him. With a grunt of exertion against the airlock, the drawer slides out, revealing a black body bag.

 

His stomach turns, thinking about how she could have died. Mostly dead -- that's what Veronica is right now and he should be relieved, but somehow it brings him little comfort knowing he played a part in her fate.

 

Major steps to the other side of the drawer and grasps the top of the bag, pulling the zipper down just far enough to reveal Veronica's frozen white face, laying in state. Chase pulls the bag back slowly from her cheek and his skin prickles as he brushes against her icy flesh. Tiny icicles attach to her closed eyelids and lashes – her hair tied up on the top of her head still in a messy bun, held in place by ice. Placing his warm hand on her cold cheekbone, his thumb brushes her blue lips and he wishes for a moment that he could revive her with a single kiss.

 

“Should we bring her out and put her under the hairdryers?”

 

Major's voice breaks through Chase's thoughts.

 

“No. Not here.” He answers quietly, his eyes still fixed on Veronica's closed eyelids. “We'll take her to my place and thaw her. Right now, I don't trust anyone around here.”

 

“Good idea. I'll go track down a van to transport her there. We'll go together so I can help you get her into the house. Then I'll come back here and oversee cleanup of this whole mission.”

 

Glancing up, Chase nods his approval.

 

“Thank you. Right now, more than ever Major, your loyalty is appreciated.”

 

Major dips his head slightly and smiles, clapping his hand on Chase's back as he passes by.

 

“Not a problem, General.”

 

With the sound of boots fading behind him, Chase lowers himself so he is almost nose to nose with Veronica.

 

“I'm sorry, Veronica. I'm so very sorry.”

 

His hand brushes her forehead gently, as if she was made of fine porcelain, and quietly promises himself that once they put this behind them -- if they could put this behind them -- he would protect her with his own life.

Chapter Text

Steam rises from the faucet as Chase adds more hot water. Holding his hand under the stream, he tests it to make sure it's hot, but not hot enough to accidently scald Veronica. Turning off the water, he glances over at her, propped up in his Jacuzzi bathtub to make sure her head didn't slip under the water while he was distracted. She is still wearing the floral blouse and jean Capri pants she was frozen in and they stick to her body in awkward positions, parts still frozen even though they are submerged in the warm water.



When Chase and Major arrived at his house, they realized that not only did Chase not own a hairdryer, but using only one would be an inefficient way to thaw Veronica anyway. Chase decided that placing her in his large bathtub would be a better way to thaw Veronica, though it may take a little longer, and Major set about helping him move her body into the tub before he went back to the office. Since Chase couldn't place her head in the water, he also turned on the shower, creating a sauna in his bathroom. He positioned her has best he could, propping her head on the ledge that ran around the elevated tub, making sure to adjust her body as it thawed from its stiff plank form, to a more natural seated position as her muscles and tendons loosened. It had been about 30 minutes and although the icicles on her skin had melted, Veronica had yet to wake up.



Sliding across the marble ledge surrounding the large bathtub, Chase makes his way closer to Veronica’s head propped up on the edge – her frozen condition unchanged. The heat from the water is making him perspire and he peels his sticky t-shirt away from his skin. Pulling his foot up on his knee, he removes one black sock, then the other. Balling them up together, he looks down at his scruffy dog, lying sprawled on the bathroom rug.



“Fetch White Fang,” he calls and the dog springs to life, jumping up and wagging his tail excitedly as Chase throws the socks across the room.



White Fang scampers across the tile, his claws seeking traction. When the socks hit the white vanity doors, he slides, running into the object with a loud thunk before retrieving them, causing Chase to wince in empathy for him. With his head held high, the dog proudly brings them back to Chase.



Rubbing White Fang's head, Chase takes the socks from his mouth.



“Sorry Fang -- miscalculation on my part, buddy. Maybe this isn't the best place to play fetch.”



His dog lets out a contented sigh and sits near his ankles, looking up adoringly at his master.



“You still love me, don’t you, Fang?”



A soft woof is White Fang’s response. Jumping up onto the ledge, the dog strolls over to Veronica’s face, sniffing her forehead before licking a trickle of water from her brow.



“No! I told you not to do that.” Chase picks up the dog and places him on the ground again. “Go sit on the mat.”



Disobeying orders, he jumps up on the ledge behind Chase, walking along before stopping to sit near the water taps and stare at Veronica.



“You know, I could replace you with a cat. I hear they're low maintenance.” Chase taunts his pet and Fang emits a low growl.



Turning his attention back to Veronica, he brushes a stray clump of hair off her forehead as her up-do begins to fall out of place as her hair thaws. Moving closer, Chase begins carefully extracting bobby pins from her hair, trying to loosen more ice from her head. Her brain, her heart – they needed to thaw completely before she would wake up.



Placing the pins on the ledge, one by one, he smoothes her hair, giving it a bit of a shake and sending ice crystals flying. Visions of Veronica’s long, wavy hair, tossed over one shoulder should make him smile – instead a pang of guilt over her current situation runs through his gut. She shouldn’t be like this. He should have protected her – he should have known Hobbs was not to be trusted – he should have been there. But then there’s that stubbornness he's seen flashes of over the past few weeks and he wonders if she would have even let him help her.



Let him.



Chase chuckles at the thought. He always thought he was in charge, but somehow, this tiny blond seems to actually be the one calling the shots – because he knows deep down she’s right. That was really what Hobbs and the board were afraid of; there was someone smarter than they were, with more good sense and integrity than the bunch of them, who was now giving him advice. Veronica called him out. In a room full of sycophants and yes-men, she was the only one who had the courage to tell him what he needed to hear, not what he wanted to hear or what was good for the company, and he was a better man and leader for it.



Brushing her cheek gently with his knuckles, worry creeps back into his mind; not about the board or the fall-out from Hobbs’ death but whether Veronica would blame him for what happened to her. She had every right; he had made a critical error in judgement. She never did strike him as a person who gave anyone a second chance and he hoped that maybe she cared about him just enough to grant him one.



Veronica’s eyes spring open and she gasps for breath, her entire body twitching as her brain comes back online with the rest of the nerves in her body. She begins to slip into the water and Chase grabs her by the shoulders, suspending her just before her head goes below the water line.



“Get away from me!”



She screams her blue eyes wild and filled with panic as she tries to move from him but can’t get the muscle strength to do so.



“Veronica, listen to me...it’s Chase...you’re thawing. I’m trying to help you!”



Chase moves his head directly in front of her, leaning over the tub so he can try and make eye contact as her eyes dart around the room uncontrollably, trying to process her surroundings.

 

White Fang begins barking from his spot next to the tub and her movements come to a halt as she glances from the dog to Chase and back to the dog.



“You have a dog?” Veronica croaks before a full-body shiver ripples through her.



He can’t help the loud laugh that escapes him.

 

“Yes. I do. His name is White Fang – just plain ‘Fang’ for short.”



Hearing his name, the dog stops barking and makes his way over to Veronica, pausing to sit near her head again and licks her temple.



“Friendly.” She says, her teeth chattering. “Jack London, right?”



“Yes. My favourite book when I was growing up.” He nods, smiling. “It’s a good sign that your brain functions are returning, if you could make that connection.”



Another full body shiver runs through Veronica and she attempts to push herself up higher in her seated position. Glancing around the room, she focuses back on Chase, a frown wrinkling her forehead.



“This is your place?”



Nodding, he lets out a deep sigh and slides over to the taps. Turning the hot water on again, he begins to warm the water some more.



“Major helped me get you here. I thought this would be the safest place for you right now.”



Veronica sinks herself down a little lower into the warm water and lets out a small sigh.



“I take it you know all about Hobbs.”



Swallowing hard, Chase nods again. “Yes, but there are still a lot of blanks. Do you remember what happened?”



Turning off the water, he shuffles back towards her, staying just far enough to give her some space.



Resting her head back on the ledge, she gazes up at the ceiling.



“Last thing I remember was going full zombie on Hobbs and his crew.”



“What happened before that?” He asks quietly.



There is a pause as she closes her eyes, squeezing them tightly as if grasping for the memory temporarily frozen in her brain.



“It all started back at the theatre – Tucker insisted on coming with us. He said it had been years since he had been up to the top of the Space Needle and wanted to join us.”



She pauses, her eyes opening and refocusing on Chase.



“Correction; he wanted to join me. For the last week, he had become more demanding of my time, trying to make excuses for us to be together for some reason or another. He wasn’t bad – he was just so sad and so lonely – he talked a lot about the friends and family he lost when he became a zombie – and I think he was just happy someone was listening to him.”



That would be the “boyfriend" part of the equation, Chase thinks to himself, slightly relieved for the explanation.



“He jumped on the bus at the last minute and sat with me and I began to formulate a plan: keep him occupied and sedate him before we get there. So I continued to sit with him, talking and laughing, distracting him from the fact that our bus route was nowhere close to the Space Needle. About a block away from Fillmore Graves, I reached under the seat, pretending to get something from my purse and grabbed the sedation gun that was taped there by Hobbs – as per our plan. Well, I injected Tucker in the belly and it should have work but it doesn’t and he gets up and starts screaming because I just stabbed him in the gut with a big needle. Then he saw the Fillmore Graves gates out the window and he lost his mind – started screaming about you being the devil and we were taking the kids into hell.”



Her body is wracked with shivers again and Veronica pauses, gathering her senses before continuing.



“So the sedation gun was empty. That means Hobbs had been plotting something from the very beginning.” Chase mutters.

 

“He must have, because he was also carrying live ammunition -- which was completely against your orders."



Veronica nods, taking in a sharp breath as her shivering subsides.



“So...I got up to try and calm Tucker and Hobbs threw the bus into park and stood up to confront Tucker, but instead of sedating him, he pulled out a gun and shot him in the head at point-blank range.”



She takes another calming breath, her eyes growing wide at the memory.



“And all that went through my head was ‘oh my God, he’s going to kill the kids’ and I jumped past him, grabbed the door release handle and yelled at the kids to get out. Well, it was anarchy -- the kids started screaming and pushing past us -- but Hobbs wasn’t after the kids – he was after me. He pointed the gun at me and I knocked it out of his hand; it  landed on the bus seat and I slipped past him and grabbed it. I flipped over on the seat onto my back and I aimed up at his head, so I could shoot him when he came closer and it wouldn’t hit the kids – it would go through the roof. When he advanced on me and I took my shot, but a kid pushed him and I ended up only grazing him, just missing the kids. Then he jumped on top of me and started wrestling me for the gun -- that's when I started to feel myself slip into full-zombie mode and I pushed him off me and stood up, thinking I would just snap his neck with my bare hands.”



Chase stomach turns at the story, the image of Hobbs attacking her now seared into him mind.



“Well, one of the other guys – Steele or Biggs – grabbed me from behind and that’s when I completely went full-zombie and broke free. I ripped the gun back from Hobbs’ hands and was ready to shoot when the soldier that grabbed me got me in the neck with a sedation gun. That’s the last thing I remember.”



With a small groan of exertion, Veronica pulls her body forward, attempting to sit up on her own. She closes her eyes as the warm water wraps around her back and sighs deeply.



Hanging his head, his mind full of regret as he processes her story, Chase resists the urge to climb in the tub with her, take her in his arms and beg her for forgiveness.



“I'm sorry I didn't follow my instincts and left you alone with Hobbs.”



“You didn't know.” She says quietly. “It's not your fault.  You did what was best for all the missions."



“But I should have known – risk assessment 101 – do you have the proper team for the mission. Having him involved made me uneasy, but I went with his track record in the field over my instincts and I put you and the children at risk.”



Glancing back at him, her eyes narrow with concern.

 

“How are they – the kids?”



“Good. Ms. Sawyer is making sure they are happy. Last I saw them, they were all running around the Fillmore Graves’ gym acting very normal-kid-like.”



“Glad to hear it.” She smiles. “And Hobbs?”



“Dead.” Chase admits bluntly.



“Oh.” Veronica's eyebrow arches, a smirk crossing her face. “Did you kill him?”



“Yes.”



“Good.”



Leaning back in the tub, a soft exhale of relief leaves her.



“He tried to tell me that you were a double-agent, sent by Brother Love to infiltrate the organization. Apparently, you used your magnificent powers of seduction to get me to do your bidding.”

 

He frowns, rolling his eyes at the thought of her being a femme fatale from some old noir movie.



“And you didn't believe him?”



“Not for a second. Hobbs was the traitor. He cared more about decisions made by the board for their own egos than what was good for the city.”

 

There's a silence as they both process what has gone on in the past 24 hours, from both of their perspectives.

 

“How did your mission go?” Veronica asks. “Hopefully better than mine did.”

 

Chase chuckles, shaking his head. “Sure. We'll call it ‘better.’”

 

A conspiratorial grin spreads across her lips.

 

“Oh? Do tell? What happened with Dalton and his lady friends?”

 

Chase lets out a deep sigh, trying to summarize the mission, in his mind knowing he would be telling this story for the rest of his life.

 

“Started with us busting in and finding Dalton naked, getting a blow job while watching the Price is Right and ended with a naked zombie hooker being sedated and falling on top of me. I was fully clothed, I might add.”

 

There's a pause as Veronica's mouth drops open in shock, but slowly, a large grin appears as she wrinkles her nose up, consumed with hysterical laughter. For a second, he's worried that she will lose all motor control and slip under the water, but she remains upright as tears roll down her face.

 

“That's just so awesome.” She giggles, trying to get control of herself.

 

“I'm glad you enjoyed it,” he chuckles. “Still far better than the ‘furry' escapade I was psychologically preparing for.”



Her laughter turn into a spasm and she shivers again, muscles convulsing under the water, cutting their merriment.

 

“Are you okay?” Chase asks, leaning closer to her in case she needs him.



“My clothes – they’re still ice cold against my skin, that's why I don't feel any warmer.”



Glancing inside the tub, Chase realizes she’s right. The fabric itself has thawed, but it must be insulating her skin from the warm water. Her hands float up and she moves slowly to try and unbutton the top of her blouse.



“I can give you some privacy,” he says, averting his eyes from her body.



“I can’t – I can’t unbutton it.” There’s a small splash and he looks back as the muscles in Veronica’s arms give out. “My fine-motor skills aren’t back yet. I need your help.”



His heart skips a beat and he pauses, processing exactly what she is asking him to do.



“Should…I…uh…”



Chase’s hands jerk through the air in a strange pantomime like he’s undressing her and Veronica giggles at his complete lack of cool.



“Yes. I need you to undress me. Please. And thank you.” Veronica glances over his shoulder. “And if you can somehow get me into that piping hot shower that would be great too. I have a feeling it will thaw the rest of me faster than this bathtub will.”



Pausing, Chase swallows loudly and Veronica giggles again. This is not foreplay, he repeats in his head. You almost got her killed, sex is definitely off the table for now – just worry about how she’s feeling and forget about any hopes you had for tonight, idiot. The addition of the idiot part in his head takes on the tone of Harrison ridiculing his little brother and Chase smiles.



“Okay. I can do that.”



His hands dive under the water and grasp the first button on her shirt; nimbly opening it followed by the rest of the row. The fabric billows and floats up to the top of the water and Chase's eyes linger a bit longer than they should on her exposed white lace bra. Thanks to the cold, her nipples are hard and dark, forming a peak in the sheer lace.



Giving his head a small shake, he readjusts his gaze down through the water to her silver belt buckle. Plunging his arms deeper into the water, he fumbles with the frozen leather for a moment before it gives and moves through the buckle. Slipping his hand between her cold skin and the jean fabric, he hears her breath hitch before he opens the button of her jeans. How many times had he imagined undressing her slowly, over the past few weeks? The reality they have been handed though makes it far less sexy than he planned. The metal zipper is still frozen and he awkwardly fights with it under the water, causing Veronica to giggle. When it finally releases, Chase pauses, wondering how to get her clothes off of her while she is in the water.



“I need to lift you. Is that okay?” He asks gently, his eyes falling back on to hers.



Her beautiful blue eyes radiate that wonderful soft, dreamy look she has when he kisses her and for a second he holds out hope that they could still be together.



“Yes.” Veronica’s answer passing from her lips soft as a breath.



Nodding, he rises slightly, leaning over and into the tub, Chase slips his hand under her blouse, wrapping his arm around her back and securing his hand to her waist. His nose brushes hers but he resists the urge to kiss her – that’s not what this is about – before pulling her up, holding her close to him as he stands. All the water rushes off of her, cascading back into the tub and down the front of his clothes. Sliding her shirt off one shoulder, then the next, he pulls the cold fabric gently away from her skin and she lets out a contented sigh of relief. Keeping his eyes fixed on hers, he slides his fingers past the waistband of her jeans and over her buttocks, separating the fabric from her underwear. His eyes widen as he recognizes the lacy texture of her panties.



“I dressed for our…ahem...celebration.” Veronica’s eyes twinkle with mischief. “I didn’t think I would want to go home after the mission was complete.”



It takes Chase's brain a moment to process the mention of their original plans for the evening.



“Is that still something…I mean…I kind of got you frozen…so sort of a mood killer I thought…” Chase stammers.



“Well, I’m not talking about right this very second or anything,” she laughs. “I mean, let’s make sure all my proper bits are thawed and in working order. Oh, and you have to feed me first, because man, am I starving.”



Playfully squeezing her still partially frozen butt, he laughs.



“So our official course of action is: thaw, pizza, more thawing, movie, sex..maybe.”



Veronica rolls her eyes. “Yes, Mr. Spontaneous – that is the official mission for tonight. If you are up for the task, that is.”



Sliding his hand around under her waistband to make sure the fabric is away from her skin; he removes his fingers quickly and pulls her jeans down in one swift motion, letting them fall into the water. Veronica lets out a little squeal as he bends and picks her up high in his arms, placing a delicate kiss on the end of her nose.



“I think I can manage it.”



Giving her a little toss in his arms, he readjusts her so she leans against him, her head resting on his shoulder. Her arms move slowly to grasp his t-shirt as he begins walking, anchoring herself to him. Stepping into the shower, he moves under the hot jets of water and she gasps as it hits her naked skin.



“Is it too hot?” He asks, quickly stepping back from the flow.



“No. It’s good. Just shocking.” She replies, lifting her head up and glancing around the enormous marble shower stall.



Walking back under the main rain shower head, Chase lets out a deep sigh of relief as the hot water falls down his head, soaking his clothing in an instant, washing the perspiration from him.



“Can you hold me up while I stand?”



“Okay.”



Lowering Veronica's legs down to the floor, he continues to hold her around the waist as she finds her balance, still gripping his shirt for support. When he’s sure she’s stable, he stands tall again and pulls her close to his body, his arms wrapping around her body tightly making sure Veronica doesn’t fall.



The seconds turn to minutes as they stay this way, keeping her warm and safe in his grasp. Closing his eyes, he ducks his head down, brushing his cheek across the top of her head. He almost lost her – almost lost this, this almost unidentifiable feeling of peace and joy that is radiating through his chest. Right now, nothing else matters – Veronica is here with him and safe -- Fillmore Graves and the entire City of Seattle could fall into anarchy outside these doors and he wouldn’t care.



“I love you,” he murmurs. “I love you so much.”



His words are greeted by the white noise of water, but no sound from Veronica. Opening his eyes, he looks down into her face, staring back up at him, her eyes wide with what looks to him like panic.



“Chase…”



Yep…idiot. Harrison’s voice again in his head, the time Chase picked a dozen of his mother’s prized roses to give to a girl who didn’t like him in elementary school.



Wriggling in his arms, Veronica steps back slightly, her hands dropping from his t-shirt, reaching out to the wall of the shower to steady herself. Chase drops his arms and steps away from her, trying to ignore the fact that her bra and panties have now become transparent under the water.



Backing up towards the entrance to the shower, Chase averts his eyes from her, jerking his thumb towards the bathroom door.



“You seem pretty well thawed. I’m going to go get out of these wet clothes and order pizza. Stay in here as long as you need.”



“You don’t need to go,” she pleads, taking a steady step towards him.



“No. I think I should.” He glances back at her face momentarily to see the panic still in her eyes. “Because right now, you have this terrified look on your face, and I put it there because I apparently have the mental filter of a child, so if you’ll excuse me…”



Bowing slightly at the waist, he retreats quickly, almost slipping on the tile floor as he goes. White Fang gives a little bark before following his owner out the bathroom door. Neglecting to grab a towel, Chase pads across his home, the sound of sloshing water falling off of him echoing in the silence of the house. Right now, he doesn’t care. Fuck the carpets. Fuck the hardwood floors. Fuck it all.



White Fang manages to just make it into the room before Chase closes the door and marches over to his small ensuite. With a groan of emotional agony, he peels his wet t-shirt over his head, dropping it onto the tile floor. Glancing out the door, he sees White Fang sitting on the bed, watching him from across the room.



“I’m such a moron.” He says out loud as he pulls off his pants and underwear, leaving them in a sopping pile on the ground with his shirt.



Striding naked to his dresser, he glances at his reflection in the mirror.



“See Fang, this is how you end up 36 years old and still single. Either don’t care at all about a woman and just sleep with them, or care too much and get all these stupid idealized romantic notions around them and become a freaking idiot.”



White Fang emits a low woof and Chase shakes his head.



“Easy for you to say. You’re adorable. Women fall in love with you immediately.”



Opening his top drawer, Chase pulls out a plain black undershirt and throws it on before moving on to open a second drawer, producing a clean pair of grey boxer-briefs. Stepping into his briefs, he lets out another moan of discontent.



“You know, you think in High School that this kind of romantic stupidity is over and done with, but nope...not for me.”



Extracting a pair of loose black jogging shorts from another drawer, Chase pulls them on before lying down on the bed, his arm covering his eyes. This was all just a ridiculous situation. He never planned on falling in love with her, but here he was, madly and passionately in love with a woman who may or may not feel the same way about him. He knew she cared about him; he knew that she wanted to be with him; but did she actually feel as deeply about him as he felt about her?



Quietly, he blames his parents – his father and mother made it look easy. Get a good, steady job in the military; find a strong, confident woman; marry her; have kids and a house and a dog; live a good life. Even Harrison managed to find his own form of happiness with Vivian before he died. They didn’t have children, but they loved travelling together; good food, good wine, good conversation. All Chase could find was numerous warm beds for the night and several “Dear John” letters waiting for him when he came back from his military tours and overseas missions.



White Fang’s warm tongue runs over Chase’s chin and he lets out a sigh. Removing his arm, he scratches Fang’s head gently.



“Enjoy being a dog, Fang.  Just hope you don't get saddled with being a human in your next life.”



A small knock at the door makes him turn his head. He wants to ask who it is, but quickly realizes Veronica would probably think him an even bigger idiot than she already does. Instead, he stands, walking over to the door and opening it for her.



She's wrapped in his big terry-towel robe, her long, wet hair falling down her back; where it was once matted and icy her hair is now clean and brushed to a smooth line against the white robe.



“Can I come in and we can talk?” Veronica asks quietly, her eyes bloodshot and glassy, as if she had been crying.



Opening the door further, he nods, gesturing for her to enter. White Fang jumps up immediately and begins barking happily, wagging his tail at her.



She smiles and walks towards the bed, sitting near the edge and brings her feet up to sit cross-legged, tucking the long robe between her legs. White Fang takes this as an invitation and crawls right into her lap, giving her chin a lick before making himself comfortable.



“I think he likes you.”



Veronica shrugs, smiling up at Chase.

 

“What’s not to like?”



Opening the door completely, Chase backs up and leans against the wall, trying to give Veronica some space.



“So, what do you want to talk about?”



Narrowing her eyes, she presses her lips together.



“Hmmm...maybe the big elephant in the room covered in pink hearts and flowers?”



Crossing his arms over his chest, Chase shakes his head and laughs.



“I’m sorry I let that bastard in. Won’t happen again.”



Veronica swallows hard, her eyes dropping for a moment towards the dog on her lap before refocusing on Chase.



“What if I want it to happen again?”



Shuffling slightly, he frowns in confusion. “Really? But you looked so...scared...”



She licks her lips, focusing on scratching the top of White Fang's head, avoiding his eyes again.



“You need to know that everyone I have ever said...that...to has died or hurt or abandoned me.  And it's not that I don't...I mean...that I don't feel like that...”



Taking a lock of her hair, she begins twisting it around her finger, watching it wind slowly up to her nail.



“When Duncan...did what he did...he kept yelling at me that I was ‘his’ and that he loved me. So now, in my head, it’s like this sick trigger. And it’s not that I don’t want to hear those words – and say them back to you – it’s just that I can’t.



She continues to loop her hair up and down her finger, avoiding his eyes; which is probably for the best because right now, with this confession, Chase is barely holding his own emotions together. He wishes things could be easier for her, that she didn't have to carry the emotional weight of the pain that was inflicted on her by her crazy ex-fiancé, day in and day out, and he longs to be able to somehow just erase it all from her mind. But he can't, and he knows it, so now it is just up to him to figure out how to ease her burden, as best he can; if she will let him.

 

Tentatively, he takes a step towards Veronica and she looks up, meeting his gaze as she holds out her hand to him; taking it gently, Chase drops to his knees on the carpet just in front of her, kissing her knuckles softly.



“What if I say instead that I adore you; I have a deep, unwavering affection for you; my fondness for you knows no bounds and I am one hundred percent hopelessly devoted to you.”



Covering her mouth, Veronica giggles, a high girly laugh that brings happiness rushing back to his heart.



“Are you going to start singing something from ‘Grease’ to me now?”



“Junior High production – grade eight – I was a ‘T-Bird’. So I could, if you really wanted.” He teases, kissing her hand again.



Dragging her teeth over her bottom lip, Veronica smiles down at him from the bed.

 

“I think I’m good, but thanks for the offer.”



A loud rumble echoes from her stomach, causing White Fang to growl at her and jump off her lap onto the floor.



“I think it’s time to feed the beast.”



She gasps in mock shock. “Are you calling me a Beast? Because you may want to work on that nickname a bit before you start using it with me.”



Dropping her hand, he rises and she stands stepping close to him, her big blue eyes twinkling up at him.



“You are in no way a beast, my beauty – but I’m assuming that a fed Veronica is a happy Veronica.”



She winks, clicking her cheek and pointing two finger guns at him.

 

“Good assumption. Let’s order that pizza -- extra peppers, please and thank you.”



Chuckling, Chase turns to leave the room but her hand on his arm stops him and he turns back towards her.



“For the record – in case you were wondering – I too have a deep, deep fondness for you.”



He takes in a sharp breath at her words. It wasn’t the confirmation he was expecting, but he is thrilled none the less. Taking her hand in his, he smiles.



“Come on – let’s get you something to eat.”



Hand in hand, Chase leads her from the room, fighting the goofy happy grin he can feel pulling across his face.

Chapter Text

Love, Actually.”

 

“Ohhhhh...I love that film!”

 

Veronica shimmies with excitement, rubbing the back of her shoulders against Chase’s chest.  Throughout the evening, she seemed to migrate close and closer to Chase, starting out in the opposite chair, facing the TV mounted over the fireplace, as they shared the large pizza on the coffee table between them.

 

Once the pizza was done and they started deciding on which Netflix movie to watch, she moved over to the end of the couch where he sat. As they debated the pros and cons to each movie in the queue, she began to slide closer and closer to him until she had her feet up stretched across the couch, Chase’s robe still wrapped around her, her torso leaning back against his body.

 

At some point, she had reached out and took his hand, draping his arm across her chest, his hand resting casually on her shoulder, pulling him closer to her; and that’s where it had stayed, in a comfortable embrace.

 

“Okay! We have consensus. ‘Love, Actually’ it is!” Chase exclaims, feeling slightly victorious.

 

“Yeah, no, we can’t actually watch it.” Veronica says, bursting his bubble. “It’s not Christmas time – and that is most definitely a ‘Christmas’ movie.”

 

With a defeated groan, Chase drops his head back, his arms flying out to either side of him in the air before falling to hang off the sides of the couch.

 

“I give up. We’ve been trying to choose a movie to watch for two hours! Do you realize that? Two. Hours. We could have watched an entire movie in that time.”

 

Giggling, Veronica flips herself around onto her knees, adjusting her robe around her. Her hair dried hours ago and is now a soft crown of blond waves framing her smiling face.

 

“But look how much we learned about each other!”

 

She teases him, her hand coming up to rest on his bicep.

 

“I now know that your favourite movie is ‘Return of the Jedi’; that you hate horror movies because Harrison let you watch ‘Freddie’s Dead’ with him and his friends when you were ten years old; that the ‘Red Wedding’ in Game of Thrones made you queasy; and that ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ was your mother’s favorite film, because Elizabeth Taylor is awesome and Paul Newman reminded her of your dad.”

 

Lifting his head, Chase smiles warmly at Veronica; she did have a point. They had spent the last few hours learning all the things that couldn’t be contained in a report; the things that made them really, truly tick.

 

“And I learned that your favorite movie is ‘The Big Lebowski’; that your dad had to take you out of the theatre because you cried so hard at ‘Bambi’; you had a big crush on Leonardo DeCaprio after ‘Titanic’; and you binge watched ‘Battlestar Galactica’ over five days when you sprained your ankle on a case, a few years ago.”

 

Her eyes twinkle with glee as she smiles back at him. “All true. Glad to know you were listening.”

 

Reaching over to his outstretched hand, she takes the remote from him and turns, pointing it at the television. The Netflix screen disappears to black and she places the remote down next to the empty pizza box on the coffee table before turning towards him, leaning back on her heels.

 

“So...we’ve eaten. We’ve watched a movie...sort of...” she says slowly, her eyebrow arching as she licks her lips. “...I think there’s only one more thing to cross off our list for tonight.”

 

Dragging his teeth over his bottom lip, Chase tries to play cool, even though internally he’s about to jump out of his skin. This is it. This is the moment...the moment they have been waiting for...teasing about...thinking about for weeks now.

 

“Oh? What’s that?”

 

He replies coyly, but unable to fight the Cheshire grin that pulls across his face.

 

Rising on her knees, Veronica leans towards him, anchoring herself on the arms of the couch until she is nose to nose with him. Her beautiful blue eyes darken as she holds his gaze for a moment.

 

“Do I really have to say it?”

 

Her breath is warm across his lips as she hovers just in front of him as if waiting to see which one of them will flinch first. His hand rests lightly on her cheek, his thumb brushing her bottom lip softly.

 

“Yes. I want to hear you say it.” Chase’s voice is husky, thick with anticipation. “Tell me what you want, Veronica.”

 

Her breath hitches and she closes her eyes for a moment, her face pressing into his palm, letting him gently cradle her.

 

“You,” she answers quietly, opening her eyes to him. “I want you.”

 

Chase’s head bows towards her, meeting her forehead to his and he feels her tremble slightly in his grasp.

 

“If there’s anything you don’t want...any way that I touch you that you don’t feel comfortable with...say ‘stop’ and I will stop. Immediately.”

 

Nodding into his forehead, she closes her eyes again. “I will. I promise.”

 

Brushing his lips against hers, Chase holds himself in check. It would be easy to lay her down and make love to her right here on the couch – but he doesn’t want that – he wants to linger and enjoy the overwhelming sensation of being with her, intimately, for as long as he can tonight.

 

When she tries to catch his lips with hers, he holds back, only letting her get the softest kiss back. A little moan of displeasure rises from her throat as he brushes his lips against hers again and again. Growing bolder as he teases her, she shifts her body to straddle his lap, keeping her warm core hovering just over his hardening cock, teasing him back. When he finally keeps his lips stationary, she presses her lips against his in a deep, satisfying kiss. Chase’s reward is her hips, lowering down to press against his groin. A low growl of appreciation resonates in the back of his throat as her fingers thread through the hair on the back of his head, keeping him locked in their passionate embrace.

 

As her hips roll against him, his mind begins plotting all the ways he wants to make love to her tonight. Sprawled across his bed. Standing in the shower. Stretched across his dining room table. He wants her in every way, in every room, on every surface in this house.

 

Sliding his hands between the collar of her robe and her skin, Veronica gasps in his mouth as Chase’s hands find her soft breasts, her nipples hard against his palms. Cupping them gently, his thumbs pass over the sensitive peaks and she pulls away from their kiss, gasping again followed by a deep moan of pleasure. His eyes follow his hands down to her chest, taking in the gentle slope of her skin in his hands. Ducking his head down, he catches one nipple with a flick of his tongue and she mewls with satisfaction, arching her back to him. Raising her breast to his mouth, he takes her nipple between his lips, flicking the delecate nub back and forth with the tip of his tongue. Her tiny sounds take on a deeper tone as he continues to play with her breasts, and her hips begin to thrust against him in a harder, more defined rhythm. When he releases her, there is a momentary groan of annoyance with him before he takes the other nipple in his mouth and lavishes the same attention on it that he did it’s twin.

 

“Chase.” She murmmers through the sounds resonating in her throat. “Oh Chase, more. Please, more.”

 

He stays attached to her breast, sucking and playing with her until her mewls turn to high keening and her hips begin to jerk in an uneaven way against him. Only then, before she can come, does he release her, as she gasps at the sudden loss of stimulation.

 

Quickly, he slides his hands under the robe, grasping her smooth naked bottom and stands, raising her up off his lap as she squeals, throwing her arms around his neck for support.

 

Kissing her nose, Chase smiles at her. “Don’t worry. I’ve got you.”

 

She places a soft peck on the tip of his nose and smiles. “Yeah. You do.”

 

Hooking her heels just at the top of his buttocks, Veronica pulls herself tightly against him and he begins to move them slowly through the house and Chase can't help but think about all the places he could pause and make love to her along the way. As he walks, she continues to gently kiss his lips while they move.  Reaching the bedroom, he pauses at the foot of his king size bed, closing his eyes and deepening their kiss, his tongue sweeping through her mouth in search of hers. She responds, flicking his tongue with the tip of her hers, teasing him for a second before sinking into his kiss, a contented hum of approval rising from her throat.

 

Chase lowers her, placing his knee on the bed as he guides her down onto the surface and Veronica releases her hold on him, letting herself fall gently onto her back, the top of her robe opening as her arms spread to the side. Lingering for a moment, Chase's gaze runs from her twinkling eyes, down her body before settling on the soft white mounds of her breasts. Her spray tan has faded slightly, giving her skin a porcelain-like appearance against the dark pink of her hard nipples.

 

Chase begins plotting, planning in his head the number of orgasms he wants to give her, and how. For the moment, it's not about his pleasure, it's about hers – although he has to admit that the idea of seeing her in the throes of ecstasy does give him a rush.

 

Jumping up on the bed just above her head, White Fang barks happily, as if he feels like he is somehow involved in their game. He licks Veronica’s forhead and she giggles, reaching up to scratch his head.

 

“Oh no. You're not a part of this, Fang.”

 

Leaning over Veronica, Chase scoops up the dog with one hand and tucks him under his arm, as Veronica give him a little wave of her hand.

 

“Bye buddy. See you in a few hours.”

 

Standing, Chase takes White Fang's paw and waves back at Veronica before turning and marching out the bedroom door. His pace quickening, he makes his way to the kitchen, opening the cupboard over the fridge to pull out a container of green chew sticks. Dropping one on the floor, he sets the dog down next to it.

 

“Now, no barking or scratching at the door, or into the bathroom you go.”

 

White Fang settles into enjoying his treat, grunting and growling and Chase quickly retreats back to the bedroom.

 

Turning the corner into the room, he pauses, his mouth dropping open slightly at the sight of Veronica lounging on his bed, propped up on her elbows behind her, a wicked beautiful smile across her face. She's opened the robe so her body is completely on view to him, the collar hanging down just off her shoulders, one leg stretched long down the bed, one propped slight up, holding her in place. His breath hitches as she slowly stretches her leg down, revealing her soft tuft of white curly hair to him nestled between her thighs.

 

“You're wearing far too many clothes,” she teases, arching her eyebrow at him. “Unless of course you plan on just staring at me all night – which, you know, could be kind of fun too.”

 

Giving his head a small shake, Chase chuckles, forcing his eyes to focus on her face for the moment. Closing the door to the bedroom with his foot, he pulls his t-shirt over his head, and drops it on the ground. Veronica’s eyes widen and she licks her lips, as if getting ready to devour him.

 

“That's better,” she cooes.

 

Slipping his thumbs into the waistband of his boxers, he bends, pulling his underwear and shorts down to the floor in one swift motion before standing up straight again.

 

Her breath hitches as her eyes fix firmly on his hard cock and she drags her teeth over her lips.

 

“Much better. I must say, General, you do keep yourself in very fine form.”

 

Her voice is husky and strained and Chase can't help but be a little flattered by her reaction.

 

Placing one knee on the edge of the bed, he pauses, bending to kiss the tip of her perfectly pedicured pink toe. A little gasp escapes her as he moves up her body to kiss her ankle before gently continuing a path up the top of her calf. When he gets to her knee he slips his hand under her kneecap, stroking the delicate flesh, causing a moan of pleasure to rise from her. She wriggles in anticipation and he continues his trail up the top of her thigh. Pausing at the apex of her, he skims his lips just over her pubic hair – catching a faint hint of her beautiful sweet scent – before placing a kiss just at the top of the mound of wiry hair.  When he continues his course up towards her navel, she lets out a little growl of discontent; knowing she was probably hoping he would stay between her legs a bit longer.

 

Carrying on his path he reaches the soft flesh just under one breast and he opens his mouth, running his tongue in the fold. Veronica gasps as he continues up to the top of her breast, flicking the tip of her nipple, causing her back to arch up towards him, seeking more.

 

“Chase.” She whispers, her physical need starting to spill into her words. “Please. Please.”

 

Raising his head Chase catches her lips with his, locking them together in a deep, passionate kiss. Veronica's hand grasps his bicep as he steadies his balance on the bed, her fingers gently gliding down the shaft of his hard cock. He moans deeply in her mouth, followed by a gasp as she wraps her fingers around him, her hand moving up and down his cock ever so slowly.

 

“Fuck,” he murmurs, closing his eyes for a moment, his face contorting with pleasure, enjoying the waves of ecstasy rushing through him as she strokes him gently.

 

Easing herself away from Chase, Veronica lays on mattress, smiling up at him coyly as she continues to stroke his hardening cock.

 

“You may need to test me – just to make sure everything has…thawed.”

 

The corner of his mouth twitches into a wide smile. He knows what she's asking for and he's more than happy to oblige.

 

Cupping her sex, she rises to meet his hand as he slips his long middle finger past her already wet folds, stroking up to find her swollen clit waiting for him. Her eyes widen and she gasps, followed by another deep moan as he begins to stroke her, applying the barest amount of pressure.

 

“Well, I take it that part of you is thawed.” Chase whispers. “Let's see about the rest of you.”

 

“Yes. Please...God Chase, please.”

 

She tries to keep eye contact with him but is struggling and her eyes flutter as she focuses on the pleasure he is creating for her – her rhythmic stroking of his cock now becoming harder and more urgent.  It's taking every ounce of concentration he has to keep focused on her and fight back any urge he has to come in her grasp.

 

Pressing the pad of his finger against her inner lips he hesitates and she bucks against him, drawing the tip of his digit into her. Slowly, he continues pressing his finger into her opening as a soft mewl of pleasure rises from her. She's soft and wet and all he can think about is having the chance to bury his cock deep inside her later. Feeling for the telltale spongy bump of her g-spot, he easily finds it, his strokes illiciting another series of passionate cries from her lips as she bucks against his hand.

 

“Please. Yes, Chase. Please. Please!”

 

Slipping away from her grasp, he slides himself down on the bed, his finger parting the soft white hair between her legs. For a moment, he stops, taking in the beautiful sight of her engorged clit, his finger disappearing past her lips inside of her, the blush of her sex as it pumps full of blood. The first lick his tongue across her clit makes her buck her hips into his face and he smiles, taking a deep inhale of her scent. Gently, he pulls back the flap of skin covering the most delicate region of her clit and begins flicking it with the tip of his tongue, back and forth quickly as she moves underneath him. Her cries of passion turn to tiny pleading mewls and her body tenses, waiting for release. He slides another finger inside of her tight opening stretching and moving her juices back and forth, filling the room with the sound of her wetness. The sweet smell of her makes him feel intoxicated and he wishes for the ability to taste her – imagining the salty slickness passing on his tongue.

 

“God. Oh God…Chase…Chase!  Yes! Yes!"

 

Veronica's back arches as she screams out, her muscles contracting around his fingers as she comes, her clit throbbing against his tongue. Pausing, he lets her come down from her orgasm, enjoying the view of her from between her thighs. When the pulsing subsides, he kisses her clit gently before slowly dragging his fingers from her as she moans.

 

Grasping the covers he rises to meet Veronica's eyes, hovering just above her. She is blissfully disheveled as her hair falls across the bed, her skin glowing with perspiration. She raises her head, catching his lips in a wet, passionate kiss before releasing him. Giving his shoulders a push, she rises, maneuvering him onto his back with no argument from him.

 

“Now it's your turn, General.”

 

She smiles down at him, tossing the robe fully off her body, kneeling near his torso.

 

“You call me General but I don't feel like I'm in charge,” he says, brushing a lock of her hair from her face.

 

“You aren't.”

 

Veronica winks at him, wrapping her hand around the base of his cock, pumping it gently from the bottom all the way to the head.

 

Chase moans, letting his head fall back as she continues to stroke him steadily, keeping him hard, but no where close to coming. When her head dips down to wrap her lips around the head of his cock – sucking it gently – his groan of satisfaction fills the room.

 

Her wet mouth rides up and down his shaft, her grip on him tightening as he swells harder and harder and tiny shots of precum mix with her saliva. When her tongue swirls around the head as she rises, he closes his eyes, trying to keep himself from coming yet, his fists balling up the covers under him.

 

“Jesus fucking Christ, Veronica.”

 

She continues, increasing her speed ever so slightly. His body tenses, shaking as he fights every urge he has to come right then and there. A subtle vibration begins around him and he realizes she is humming as she moves up and down on him and it's at that precise moment that he thinks if he doesn't come, he may lose his mind. He doesn't recognize the sounds rising from him, concentrating instead on the waves of pleasure coursing through him.

 

Without warning, she releases him and a deep gasp rises from his chest. Tossing one leg over his stomach, she mounts him, stretching her torso against his, her lips pressing to his. His fingers wind through her hair as his tongue dives into her mouth, slick and warm from being wrapped around him. He loves the weight of her body on his and he draws his fingers down her spine, pressing her down on him even more, continuing to kiss her passionately.

When she finally wriggles from his embrace, they are both panting and she smiles down at him, her beautiful face framed by her golden hair. She arches her back and he manages to lean up and catch her nipple in his mouth and she pauses, allowing him to suck her soft skin to a hard peak again as she moans with pleasure. Moving to the other breast, he lavishes the same attention on it as he rolls her hard nipple between his thumb and index finger gently keeping her arousal growing again. It's not until he hears the soft mewl that tells him her orgasm is building does he release her completely.

 

Pressing her palms to his chest, she rises away from him, sliding her warm core back towards his waiting cock. Reaching around herself, she wraps her fingers around his shaft, guiding the tip of him through her wet folds to hover pressed between her warm, inviting lips. Locking eyes with Chase, Veronica slides back, taking him partway inside her soft opening and they both gasp, eyes widening as they finally connect. She pauses for a moment and he feels the soft walls of her vagina stretch around his shaft.

 

Every muscle in his body tenses, trying not to thrust into her – letting her take control of how fast, how much, how deep she wants him.

 

Slowly, Veronica slides down him, consuming him inside her completely as she opens to him. When the tip of his cock presses against the muscular tissue if her cervix he moans loudly, his eyes rolling back in his head as he savours being so deep inside her.

 

Her hips begin to rock as a low keening rises in her chest and he easily slides through her wetness, the friction creating waves of ecstasy flowing through his body. As her tempo increases, so do her cries of passion, matched in tone and volume by the ones falling from his lips. Her hips begin to jerk, falling out of rhythm and he knows she is close to coming again.

 

Reaching between them, Chase slips his thumb into her folds to press against her clit and she screams ecstatically, moving faster against him.

 

“Oh God! Oh my God Chase! Yes! Yes!”

 

He closes his eyes, holding his own orgasm back until she comes again, his jaw twitching as his teeth clench, every muscle contracting in his body.

 

A loud groan of satisfaction fills the room as her orgasm pulses around Chase's cock, a warm rush of cum coating her already slick walls, as her muscles clamp down around him.

 

It's only then – watching her beautiful face relax and glow as she is consumed by pleasure – that he lets himself cum deep inside of her, his muscles releasing as his orgasm stretches over every fibre in his body.

 

For a moment in time they are fused together as one and he reaches up, stroking her cheek lovingly as she looks down on him from above, her eyes bright and glassy, a peaceful smile spread across her face.

 

And he knows. He can read it on her face and in her eyes.

 

She loves him.

 

Even if she can never say the words, he knows in his heart that she loves him just as he loves her, deeply and profoundly in a way he has never felt before.

 

With a deep sigh she moves, lowering herself to kiss him tenderly as he slips out of her. Both of them groan as they release, disappointed with the loss of connection.

 

“I was kind of hoping you could stay in me all night.” She whispers, her nose brushing playfully against his.

 

His hand rests on her naked buttocks and he sighs.

 

“Give me thirty minutes to regroup and I can try to make that happen.” Chase replies giving her a light peck on the lips.

 

Veronica smiles, tossing her hair to one side and gathering it to make a pillow under her head as she rests on his shoulder, still straddling his torso. His skin prickles as it presses against her sticky flesh and he relishes the closeness between them now. Chase kisses the top of her head, smoothing some of her stray hairs down with his free hand.

 

“Well, you know…two orgasms in a night is a record for me.” Veronica confides quietly. “It may be kind of interesting to see how many we can rack up.”

 

“Or…” he begins, continuing to stroke her hair. “You just give me a number to shoot for and I do my damndest to hit the target.”

 

Glancing up at him, she moves her hand to his chest, resting her chin on top as she smiles a big, dimpled grin.

 

“How very general-like of you General.”

 

Taking his hand off her behind, he salutes her quickly.

 

“General Orgasms, at your service m'am.”

 

The snort of laugher from Veronica turns into a high nose-wrinkling giggle as her body shakes with laughter on top of his. Chase joins in, unable to control himself.

 

“Oh my gosh, I'm never going to be able to hear anyone call you General again!” She says, gasping for breath.

 

Wrapping his arms around her, Chase sits up, taking her with him so she ends up straddling his lap as her giggles continue.

 

“So we have my nickname down. What about yours?” Taking her palm in his hand, he kisses it gently and her laughter subsides. “Beast is out. But I feel that Beauty is still in the running.”

 

“Nicknames are passé. We need a cool couple name like Benifer or TomKat.” Her eyes twinkle with mischief. “Ver-Che or Gra-Mars!”

 

Chase rolls his eyes, adjusting her on his lap so she's hovering over his flaccid cock – just close enough so he can feel the heat of her against him.

 

“Okay, for one...both Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez and Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes broke up. And for two…no. Just…no.”

 

Scooting them to the end of the bed, Chase lifts her in his arms as he stands and her legs lock around him again.

 

“I think we should table this discussion until after a shower. And at least two more orgasms.”

 

He kisses her nose before carrying her to the door, pausing before he opens it.

 

“I thought you needed thirty minutes,” Veronica coos, quirking her eyebrow at him.

 

Ducking down, he kisses her neck gently before raising his head back in line with hers.

 

“I'm sure we can figure out some creative way to pass the time in the shower until then.”

 

Brushing her nose against his, she lets out a contented sigh.

 

“I'm sure we can.”

 

Opening the door to the bedroom, Chase carries her across the house towards the master bathroom, his mind humming with possibilities.

Chapter Text

Chase opens his eyes a crack; she was still here. Veronica lies naked next to him on his pillow, her back pressed to him under the covers, their fingers entwined and pulled close to her breast. Next to her snores White Fang – the little interloper taking it upon himself to sleep directly on top of the empty pillow beside them.

If one got to choose their version of heaven when they died, then Chase wanted this to be his for eternity. Who was he kidding…he was probably booked for a one way ticket to hell, so he needed to enjoy this moment as much as possible.

Veronica sighs in her sleep, her body shifting closer to his and he kisses the back of her head gently as not to wake her, lingering to enjoy the woodsy scent of his shampoo in her hair. His mind wanders back to their post-coital shower last night – the feel of her fingers skimming his wet skin, exploring his body under the warm water. How her skin felt as he did the same – soft and supple – before lifting her up and making love to her again pressed up against the cool tiles, while the warm water rushed over them.

There was something in the way Veronica was with him last night that made him think that she was finally free to be her true self with a man and she unabashedly initiated everything that went on that night – taking place all around the house – ravenously enjoying every orgasm he could draw from her body.

His alarm beeps beside him and he curses in his head, rolling away from Veronica briefly to turn it off. Returning to her, she yawns, stretching against him as he wraps his arms around her again.

“What time is it?” she mutters, her eyes still closed.

“Too early,” he replies, nuzzling his lips into the soft crook of her neck. “Go back to sleep.”

Yawning again, she rolls in his arms so she’s now completely wrapped in his embrace – her eyes still shut.

“You have to go to work.”

“No I don't.”

Kissing her forehead, he pulls her closer to his body, his cock twitching against her thigh, and she giggles.

“Yes you do.”

“No. I don't. I'm taking a sick day.” Forcing a series of hacking coughs from his throat. “See. I'm sick. I'll have to stay in bed alllll….daaayyy…”

“Zombies don't get sick,” she retorts with a laugh. “Besides if you don't go to work the entire city will fall into ruin.”

“No it won't. Major can handle it instead.” He squeezes her playfully, pressing her body into his. “No one will even notice I'm gone. It'll all be fine.”

Veronica's eyes finally open and she shuffles herself around on the pillow so they are eye to eye. Her hands rest against his chest as she leans in to give him a peck on the lips, her leg sliding over his waist, hooking around him to pull herself close to him.

“Petulant little bugger in the morning, aren't you.”

Chase responds with a deep chuckle, his hands moving to grasp her naked buttocks as she presses her sex against him.

“But I'm tired. Someone kept waking me up for sex last night, like I'm some sort of machine or something.”

She bites the corner of her lip, dragging her teeth slowly over as her eyes dart to the side.

“I didn't hear you complaining.”

“It's hard to complain when you wake up with a raging hard-on from your girlfriend stroking your cock while you sleep.”

She giggles, that high resonating laugh that he loves to hear.

“I was merely examining it. I was curious.”

“About what?” He laughs, rolling onto his back. “It's pretty standard issue.”

Propping herself up on her elbow she looks down on him, her long hair falling past his chest, tickling him ever so slightly.

“I was just…you know…doing some research; checking out how big it was; seeing what it responded to when I touched it; finding out which way it curved.”

Lowering her head, she kisses him, lingering for a moment before slipping away.

“Figuring out how it managed to make me come more times in one night than I think I have in my entire life.”

He reaches over and cradles her cheek in his palm. Her eyes are soft and dreamy, her pale white cheeks tinged with a hint of blush as she speaks so openly to him.

“Although the operator may have had something to do with it too.” Veronica teases him, scrunching up her nose with glee.

Returning his lips to hers, she opens her mouth, accepting his tongue into her as they connect again, deeply, passionately. Sliding her leg across his belly, she moves on top of him; her warm body pressing against his as they continue to enjoy their long, lingering kiss.

This is why Chase wants to stay home – he wants to relish every moment with Veronica. Last night wasn't enough – he needs more of this – their connection, so strong he finds himself unable to pull away.

“Bingbingbongbong.”

White Fang leaps off the pillow and starts barking wildly. Raising herself to sit up on Chase, Veronica frowns.

“Is someone at your door?” She asks incredulously.

“Must be the wrong house.”

The doorbell rings again and White Fang jumps off the bed, scampering out of the room, still barking as he tears through the house.  Chase releases a loud groan of discontent. Veronica is still perched across his belly, her naked body on full display to him. Oh the things he still wanted to do with her…

“Aren't you going to answer that?” She tosses a look over her shoulder before looking down at him, scrunching up her nose.

Giving her bottom a gentle pat, he grins mischievously up at her.

“Can't. Trapped under a beautiful naked woman. They'll have to tell me how to save my soul some other time; I'm too busy with my carnal pleasures to listen today.”

Sliding off him with a heavy sigh, Veronica pulls at the covers, wrapping them around her body. The doorbell rings and White Fang loses his doggy mind again.

“Go answer the door. Whoever they are, it's obvious they're not going to leave.”

With another groan, Chase tosses his legs off the side of the bed. Reaching over to the nightstand, he opens the drawer and grabs his gun before striding over to his dresser, quickly pulling on a pair of boxer briefs over his semi-hard cock. He tucks the gun into the back of his waistband and frowns, concerned with who would be at his door at 7 a.m.

Glancing over at Veronica, she tosses him a wry grin.

“Well, that look should scare them away.”

With a final smirk, Chase walks to the bedroom door and nods in her direction.

“Stay in here. Lock the door behind me, just in case.”

Veronica nods, her lips pursed into a fine, serious line.

The doorbell rings once again just as Chase closes the bedroom door and he sprints across the house, coming to a stop next to White Fang barking at the closed door.

“Fang…quiet. Heel.” Chase commands and the dog quickly obeys.

Pulling the gun from his waistband, Chase glances through the peephole, his weapon at the ready.

Standing outside is Major in full uniform, glancing around the front door as if searching for life, holding something Chase can't quite see. With a deep sigh, he slides his weapon back into his waistband and opens the front door.

“Hey! I was just about to call tactical to come in and check on you.”

Major smiles a wide grin, his eyes glancing briefly towards Chase's shorts before his gaze settles back on Chase face. Lifting a drink tray, he presents two Starbucks paper cups to him.

“Brought coffee for you and Veronica,” he states, stepping around Chase and into the house. “Two venti Zombie Special Lattes -- super dark roast with skim milk and extra cayenne powder on the foam for both.”

Rolling his eyes, Chase closes the door, following Major as he makes his way to the kitchen table. For a moment, the light catches it in a certain way and Chase can make out the outline of perspiration left behind where Veronica lay on top of it last night. He makes a mental note to wipe it down later.

“Figured I would come and pick you up since you left your car at the office last night,” Major continues, placing the coffees on the table and turning back to Chase, still grinning like an idiot. “So…how's Veronica. Was she okay after the freezing wore off?”

Chase’s eyes dart towards his bedroom then back to Major.

“She’s fine.”

Major nods, glancing over his shoulder at the bedroom door as well, before turning back to Chase, his eyes darting back down to his underwear.

“Well…then…if you want I can wait here or outside while you get ready…”

Lifting the coffee to his lips, Chase takes a quick sip, arching his eyebrow at Major.

“Not going into work today. Sorry.”

Major's mouth drops open. “Umm…Sir…I don't think…”

“Nope. Can't change my mind. I haven't had a day off since Discovery Day and I've decided that today is the day to do just that.”

Chase takes another sip of coffee, grinning at the confusion that crosses Major's face.

“But Sir…you have to…the Board…and Brother Love…”

“Too bad. You deal with it,” he states, raising his index finger at Major as he takes another sip of coffee. “But thanks for the Starbucks.”

“I don't think you understand, General. I tried to get a hold of you last night but you didn't answer your phone.”

“Nope. Turned it off.”

The thought of Veronica thawing in his bathtub sends a pang of regret through Chase again. Yesterday, he turned his phone off, tossing it in his bathroom cabinet drawer so he could ignore it and focus on Veronica. It was still in there this morning.

Major clears his throat, shuffling from foot to foot. Chase knows that he has Major stumped on what to do next, and he's kind of enjoying watching him squirm.

“But…” Major lets out an exasperated sigh. “You have to!”

“Says who?” Chase chuckles, running his hand through his bedhead hair.

“Says me.”

The men turn to see Veronica standing with her arms crossed in the doorway to the bedroom. She's wearing Chase's black and white Fillmore Graves company baseball shirt, the edge of a pair of his grey boxers peeking out from underneath. She braided her hair to one side – taming the wild waves that happened after their shower last night. Striding towards them, she points at Chase.

“He's just being difficult -- pay no attention -- he'll get ready after his coffee kicks in.”

Major lets out a snort laugh, glancing between the lovers as he grins from ear to ear.

Veronica comes around to stand near Chase; grabbing the other coffee, she frowns at the table for a second, her thumb wiping at a smudge on the glass before tossing a conspiratorial glance in Chase's direction when she realizes the smudge was from her last night.

“You need to go into work and collect my purse with my burner phone and keys from wherever you store them when you freeze someone.”

Veronica points her finger up at Chase and he smiles back at her, amused by the tiny blond ordering him around.

“Then, you have to go to my apartment and get my real phone and some clothes for me since mine fell apart when we tried to wash them last night.”

She takes a sip of coffee and glances at Major.

“FYI…freezing, thawing, and washing clothes in hot water turns them to shreds.”

“Got it.” Major winks, clicking his cheek at her.

“But you look great in this outfit. Why can't you just stay in it forever?” Chase teases her, pointing to her outfit and smiling.

Veronica's eyes narrow at him over the lid of her coffee as she raises it to her lips and he chuckles, knowing he's getting to her.

“Look General Petulant…” she begins, shaking her finger at him.

Major snickers and Chase smiles, enjoying the easy banter between them. He knows he needs to go into work, he just doesn't want to.

“...just go into work and take care of the bullshit. And when you’re done, I’ll be here waiting…because I want to be here…not because I have nothing to wear and no place to go.”

The honesty in her words catches him off guard. She was staying, with him and for him. Veronica places her hand on his forearm and smiles.

“Plus, the mission isn't over yet. We still have to take down Brother Love and find out who’s stealing the brain tube shipments.”

With a heavy sigh, Chase places his coffee back on the table.

“Fine. You win.”

Veronica exchanges a glance with Major before smiling back at Chase.

“I usually do.”

Chuckling, Chase leans over and kisses the top of her head.

“Funny – I already caught on to that. But at least I feel like I put up a good fight.”

Nodding towards Major, Chase spreads five fingers in the air.

“Give me five minutes to shower and change.”

Walking through the house towards the master bathroom, he hears Veronica call out down to him.

“You could always wear just that to the office! I'm sure it will help cut through the bullshit!”

The sound of her and Major laughing behind him warms Chase's heart in a way he hasn't felt in a long time. He had people – good people – surrounding him again. He wants to turn around but is worried that they may see the emotion on his face. So instead, he flips them the bird, his hand just behind his ass and Veronica shrieks with laughter at his response. Major chimes in with her laughter and the sound follows him as he enters the bathroom. He can still here them when he closes the door behind him.
----------------
Pausing outside his front door, Chase adjusts the large Fillmore Graves duffle bag on his shoulder, trying to shake off the events of the morning.

The big pink blood stain on his office carpet reminded him throughout the morning of Hobbs' betrayal but when the Board assembled to interrogate him about Hobbs, Brother Love, the children, and the loss of their favorite restaurant, Chase stood on that bloodstain and reminded the old men that not only did he have 60% of the shares in Fillmore Graves, but he had the means to make life very uncomfortable for all of them. He needed their money to keep his efforts in New Seattle afloat for the time being, and was quite clear that if they didn't cooperate he would just take it from them over their cold, dead corpses.

Adding to this was the knowledge that Brother Love – in a probable fit of rage at the loss of the children and the disappearance of Blaine and Tucker – attacked a church full of humans at evening mass last night. The entire incident forced Chase to issue an 8 p.m. curfew for the city starting tonight – even though he knew it would be putting a strain on his forces. He needed to strike at Brother Love soon, or the problem would continue to escalate.

To make matters worse, Major was sure he spotted members of the congregation outside of Veronica's apartment while Chase was inside, gathering her things. If they were looking for her, Veronica leaving his house could be dangerous.

The only thing that kept him sane was when Ms. Sawyer came by to update him on the children – informing him that the first night was rough for a few of the younger kids as they adjusted, but the older ones expressed their relief that they weren't sleeping in a dank basement, listening to the mice scurrying around them all night.

With a heavy sigh, Chase unlocks the door. He can hear White Fang barking on the other side and he receives an ecstatic greeting from the mutt when he enters. Kneeling, he rubs White Fang's head.

“Hey buddy! Are you taking care of our house guest?”

Veronica appears in the doorway to his bedroom, closing the door behind her. She is dressed in one of his white shirts, a blue tie slung around her waist, and a pair of red silk boxers underneath. She has popped the collar up slightly and the buttons are open I a deep V down her chest, the subtle curves of her breasts visible. The long waves are back in her hair and a section falls over one eye.

“He's trying to keep me out of trouble,” she quips, walking towards him.

Chase stands, his mouth dropping open a little.

“You look incredible.”

Waving her and a little in the air, Veronica scoffs. “What? This? I got bored and started playing with the clothes in your closet. Hope you don't mind.”

Dropping the bag off his shoulder, Chase closes the gap between them, sweeping her up off her feet and kissing her passionately. She giggles into his lips before opening her mouth, her tongue sweeping across his.

The events of the morning fall away as Chase loses himself again in her. Doing the mental calculation in his head, he surmises that they could have at least a good hour of sex before he has to leave for a meeting. Moving towards the bedroom, he continues kissing her, trailing his lips along her jaw line and up to her earlobe.

“Where are we going?” Veronica giggles, her arms wrapping around his neck. “The kitchen? I think we missed that room last night.”

“Bedroom.” Chase murmurs between kisses.

“Ahh…wait…no…”

Wriggling in his arms, Veronica nearly falls and he catches her mid air, landing her in front of him on her feet right outside the bedroom door. She presses her back against the entrance, holding the doorknob behind her, her eyes are wide and wild, her body seeming to vibrate.

Fear. She was afraid of what was behind that door.

“Veronica…what's wrong?” His voice calm and controlled.

Raising her index finger, she sucks in a deep breath.

“Let me explain…I got bored. And then I got curious. And then it all kind of spiraled out of control...”


His mouth turns up into a small grin and he reaches behind her for the doorknob. Stepping aside with a resolved sigh, she gives up without a fight and he opens the door. Glancing at her out of the corner of his eye, she steps away, chewing her thumb nail. The door swings open fully, revealing the secret, and Chase's mouth drops open in shock.

The bed has become a shrine to his life. Shoeboxes with photos of his family, books from the library in his study, papers of every size and colour all cover the duvet.

Walking slowly into the room, Chase surveys the scene – photos of Harrison and him as children are in a pile near the foot of the bed as are another pile with ones of his parents. Glancing across the line of pictures, he realizes that they are all in some semblance of an order, unlike the messy pile they were in the boxes.

“Were you organizing these?”

Veronica comes and stands next to him, her hand her gently touching his bicep.

“Kind of. As best I could. They were kind of just stuffed into those shoeboxes in the back of your closet so I figured that since I was looking through them, I might as well put them back nicely so they didn't get bent and damaged.”

Removing his beret, Chase places it in a free spot among the pictures, taking a photo from the pile as he does. It's a picture of him when he was a boy, fast asleep in his wooden trundle bed – his arm around a brown and white basset hound puppy sleeping soundly next to him. Chase's brush-cut shows his chubby little boy cheeks, his mouth open as he sleeps soundly. He didn't even know a picture was taken until his parents developed the roll.

“This was my first dog, Duke. We got him when we came back to the States.” Chase tells her, leaning the photo so she can see. “I mean, technically he was for Harrison and me, but he slept with me the most, mainly because I would slip him a treat to get him to join me when got him – then he just did it on his own.”

Veronica smiles up at him. “He's pretty cute. So were you. Still are, I might add.”

He chuckles, dropping the picture back on the pile. Turning to face Veronica, he wraps his arms around her waist, smiling down at her.

“Do me a favour? Leave them out for when I get back tonight. There's a few in there I want to show you – if I can find them, that is.”

“So you're not mad that I snooped?”

Placing his hands on his hips, Chase glances between the bed and Veronica.

“I left a private investigator alone in my house – what else were you going to do with your time?”

Wandering over to him, Veronica slips her hands through his arms, leaning her head against his chest. He reciprocates by kissing the top of her head and wrapping her in his embrace.

“I have nothing to hide from you, Veronica. You've seen who I am – both the good and the bad. If there's something you want to know, just ask. If there's something that you need to tell me, just say it. My life is open to you, in every way possible.”

She squeezes him tightly but doesn't look up at him. He knows that if Major hadn't prepared the dossier on her – and she didn't do her research on him – they would still be awkwardly trying to figure each other out. And he truly had nothing to hide – in comparison to Veronica’s path, his life had been relatively simple. But maybe that's what attracted Veronica to him: his security, his stability, his strength.

“I was so scared that if you discovered I was going through your things…” She can't finish her sentence and it takes Chase a second to catch on.

“Did you think that I would be mad? Like Duncan was when you revealed his family secrets?”

Veronica nods into his chest and Chase squeezes his eyes shut for a second to gather the proper words in his head to reassure her.

In this moment, he fully accepts that to love Veronica is to enter into an unholy trinity where Duncan will always be some part of their lives. Neither of them want him anywhere near them, but there is no way to forget him and what he did, and nothing Chase can do will ever diminish it. Duncan could be dead and he would still be with Veronica. And so, Chase continues their tango, as Veronica takes one step back, he follows and takes two steps forward, to lead her back on track.

“I'm not mad and I have no secrets. Up until the whole turning-into-a-zombie thing, I led a fairly normal secret-free life.” He kisses the top of her head again, stroking her hair gently. “And the only family secret is that my Great-Aunt Gladys may or may not have had an affair with Elvis when he was stationed in Germany that may or may not have resulted in my father's cousin Edwin who apparently played guitar really well.”

Veronica snickers into his chest and he kisses her head again, happy to hear her laughing again. Lifting her head up, she smiles at him once more.

“I could look into that if you want.”

“Why don't we keep your skills a bit closer to home.” He chuckles. “Although a road trip to Graceland together would be fun, you know, if we are ever able to leave Seattle again.”

Reaching up, Veronica brushes her lips against his, her eyes sparkling back at him.

“How do you do that?” She whispers.

“Do what?”

“Know exactly what I need?”

His fingers skim her cheek, tucking a lock of hair behind one ear.

“All I'm doing it trying to love you. If this is what you need, then I must be doing it right.”

Kissing him again, Veronica wraps her arms around his head, keeping Chase locked to her. His response is to bend, grasping her thighs and lifting her up as her legs lock around his waist. Walking around the bed, Chase lowers her down on top of his chest of drawers, glancing at their reflection in the mirror.

Veronica looks over her shoulder and smiles.

“Well, this is interesting…”

“You kind of made being on the bed impossible.” He retorts to her reflection.

Glancing back up to him, Veronica licks her lips, a wide, wicked grin pulling at her cheeks. From last night Chase knows that this is Veronica's signal that something very, very interesting is about to happen.

Still keeping their eyes locked, Veronica reaches under the edge of his vest, her hands going straight for Chase's belt buckle. As she fiddles with the straps and zippers, Chase begins to unbuckle his heavy vest.

“Oh no.” Veronica waves her index finger back and forth in front of him. “You’re leaving the uniform on.”

And just like that, Chase is hard and ready. A low grown and a chuckle rises from his chest as Veronica continues on her mission, pulling his pants and underwear down just enough for his cock to come out.

Reaching under his shirt wrapped around Veronica's body, Chase pulls down the red silk boxers, and they easily slide off the tip of Veronica's toes. Lifting one of her legs, he places it on his shoulder as she hooks her other leg back around his waist.

Veronica's mouth opens in anticipation as he positions his cock between her wet lips, gasping as his first thrust slides easily through her slick, warm sex. Leaning back on her arms, she bucks her hips up into him, taking him deeper. With a final thrust he fills her, and they pause, letting out a unified moan of pleasure before he continues, rocking in and out of her easily. Leaning her back against the mirror, Veronica keeps her eyes focused on Chase as her moans begin to fill the room. When he turns and kisses the side of her foot, she giggles and playfully wiggles her toes at him.

Continuing his rhythm, Chase anchors himself to the drawers, pressing his hand against the mirror beside her head and she grabs him by the edge of his vest. Turning her head, she kisses the pulse point on his wrist and he moans with satisfaction. Their position has made for easy access to her and the intense friction he's able to achieve makes Chase feel his orgasm mounting faster than he expected. Reaching with his free hand between them, he presses his middle finger against her clit and a high keening escapes her as he begins to rub in quick, small circles, trying to get her to come before he does.

It doesn’t take long before those beautiful little mewling sounds of pleasure begin to fall from her lips and Chase knows she is close to coming. Increasing his thrusts, Veronica lets out a deep moan, her eyes closing as her body contacts and releases around him. Knowing she has come gives Chase licence to let his thrusts become erratic and he closes his eyes, concentrating on the sensation of being inside of her.

When her hand slides between them, cupping his balls gently, a long series of profanities escape his lips and she wrinkles her nose and smiles , knowing full well what she is doing to him. Squeezing ever so gently she works his delicate flesh until he is coming deep inside her, long and hard as she continues to coax every ounce of cum from him. Sweat drips down his face as he tries to catch his breath, stars appearing in front of his eyes. Leaning his head down towards her, she kisses him softly, a big grin still plastered to her face.

“I think my new kink is you in your uniform.”

Chase chuckles, placing a soft peck on her forehead. “I think my new kink is being bossed around by you.”

Her laugh turns into a moan as he slides away from her and he fights his light-headedness to stay upright.

“I think I may need a shower before I head back to the office.” He states, pulling his underwear up but leaving his pants open.

Veronica shakes her head as she pulls her knees together, her heels hooking to the edge of the dresser to help keep her balanced.

“Oh no you don’t -- for this to be an official ‘quicky’ you need to go back to the office smelling like sex.”

Chase pauses, glancing at himself in the mirror. His hair is dishevelled, his pale skin has a pinkish glow, and his clothes are completely askew. The entire room reeks of sex and he’s sure it’s on him as well. Shaking his head, he does what he’s told and zips up his pants.

“And what are you going to do? Keep hanging around like that?” He nods in her direction and grins.

His shirt his open across her and Veronica’s hard nipples are peeking out from behind the fabric; her hair is now a wild mass of curls from perspiration; her entire body is flushed.

“No. I’m going to take a long, hot bath and change into something else.”

Turning around, Chase grabs his beret from the bed and swivels back to her, combing his hair with his fingers to try and set it right before placing his ‘cover’ on his head.

“You know, I did grab a bunch of things from your apartment – they’re in the duffle bag I dropped in the living room when I saw you. Everything you need to look ‘human’ again, as it were.”

“Oh. Okay.” The smile disappears from her face, replaced with a small frown.

Walking back to her, he offers his hand and she responds, placing her hand in his palm.

“I did want to talk to you about things – before you up and leave.” He says, kissing her knuckles and bringing her hand up to his chest. “There was an attack by Brother Love’s group last night and Major was pretty sure he saw a couple of people from his congregation outside of your place.”

Veronica takes in a sharp breath before letting it out slowly. “So it’s not very safe out there right now, is it?”

“No – but I was thinking that maybe you can stay here, at least for another night, and come in to the office with me tomorrow. You can see how well the children are doing and maybe we can sit down and strategize about finally getting Brother Love taken care of.”

Quirking her eyebrow at him, she smiles coyly. “What happened to naked strategizing in bed?”

Kissing her hand again, a mischievous smile crosses his lips. “Oh no...there are a thousand other things I would rather spend my time doing with you in bed. Let’s leave work at work.”

“A thousand, huh. I think we are currently only at about 20 different things.”

Leaning in, he kisses her softly, lingering for a moment before stepping back again. “Then you’ll definitely have to stay here longer...much...much...longer.”

Her hand comes up, cupping his face. “Okay.”

The full meaning of her words settle in and a ripple of happiness runs through him.

“Really?”

“Yes, really. If you want me to, that is.”

Blinking rapidly, Chase nods. “Yes. Yes I want you to stay here, as long as you want.”

Hopping off the dresser, Veronica raises herself up on her tiptoes and kisses him quickly. “You know this isn’t about Brother Love and his crazy group, right?”

“I would have offered even if a group of radical zombies wasn’t looking for you.”

With a giggle she releases him; turning around to open one of his drawers. She pulls out a fresh pair of his grey boxer briefs and she steps into them, folding them over and rolling them around her hips so they stay on her.

“Well then, you go back to work, and I’ll make room for my stuff...and continue ransacking your personal belongings, of course.”

“What if I don’t want to go?” He teases, thinking back to their disagreement this morning.

Coming around to his side, Veronica gives him a small shove towards the door.  “Go! Get back to keeping Seattle safe from crazy zombies!”

He continues to let her push him out the door and through the house, both of them laughing as she does. Near the couch, White Fang chimes in, leaping off a chair and barking at them as they move through the room. At the front door, they stop, both out of breath from laughing so hard.

Pressing him into the door Veronica kisses Chase, lingering for a time and they both wrap their arms around each other, still breathing heavily. Everything from the office that he had to deal with this morning seems to disappear. Now he understands that feeling – how his father would come home from work late some nights, his shoulders hunched, looking like he was carrying the weight of the free world on them – and how with only a few words whispered in his ear and a simple touch, his mother seemed to be able to make his father’s worries just disappear. There was something about being with someone – the one – that made him forget, if only for a time, about everything else but them.

Stepping away, Veronica lets out a sigh, crossing her arms in front of her body.

“Not to sound all June Cleaver about this, but when will you be home?”

Chase lets out a little groan. “Probably around 19:00 hours – I had to issue a city-wide curfew for 20:00 hours starting tonight, until we get this Brother Love problem solved, so I’ll definitely be home before then. But now I have to go to a meeting with the police chief and figure out how to coordinate the increased night patrols.”

Frowning, Veronica looks perplexed for a second before her eyes open wide and she smiles...

"Oh!  I cracked the code! You'll be home at 7 o'clock!  I’ll have a fresh brain tube waiting for your dinner.” She coos, batting her eyelashes playfully at him.

“Thanks.” Chase chuckles.  

Turning, he glances through the peephole to make sure no one is outside. With a quick wink at Veronica, he opens the door, slipping outside before anyone can see her. He hears her locking the door from the inside and he exhales deeply, feeling satisfied that for the moment she is safe.

Adjusting his beret, Chase continues on to his car, nodding at the security detail in the two cars behind him. Unlocking the car with his remote key, he comes out onto the street and hurries to get into the driver’s seat. What he failed to mention to Veronica was not only did he fear for her right now, but also for himself. After what happened with Hobbs, the only two people he trusts are Major and Veronica and he was going to make sure whoever had it out for him, didn’t mess with them either.

Chapter Text

“And this one was when I was thirteen.  Awkward.   As.  Fuck.” 

 

Veronica's head shifts on his bicep and she giggles, taking the picture from Chase's hand, bringing it closer to her for a better look.

 

By the time Chase arrived home that night, Veronica had laid out all the photos in organized little piles on the coffee table – clearing the bed off completely.  Even though he had brought her clothes, she was still in one of his grey t-shirts with a pair of her tight black yoga pants underneath.  True to her word, she had arranged the kitchen table as if they were having a large fancy meal -- except on each plate lay a single brain tube.  When they sat down, she asked him  -- how was your day?  -- and Chase was sure this was almost as good as hearing her say ‘I love you.’   They spent the next hour talking about his meetings in depth while drinking Fire Ball Whiskey and consuming several more brain tubes before they retreated to the couch to look through photos and put his work day behind him. 

 

Two hours later, they were still looking though piles, White Fang fast asleep on the living room rug near them, snoring soundly next to the gnawed nub of another green chew stick. 

 

“We're all awkward at that age.  But I have to admit, when I first saw this photo I thought you were older...I mean...you're just so darn tall!” 

 

She inspects the photo for a moment, smiling down at the image of the thin, lanky boy with a brush cut, braces, and acne.  He was holding a basketball and his orange uniform seemed to hang off his frame.

 

“I think you're still pretty cute though.”

 

“Bullshit.”  Chase chuckles, slowly pulling the photo from between her fingers.  “I would bet that you were adorable at that age.”

 

Relinquishing the picture, Veronica returns her hand to rest on his forearm, a little scoff leaving her lips.

 

“Please.  At that age, I was so short I could still find clothes in the kids section – and sometimes had to if there weren't any extra-small sizes in the woman's.  Lilly had started to develop by that time, but I was flat as a board and convinced I would stay like that forever.  Plus, because we hung out with boys, I would sometimes get mistaken for another boy – which is why I started wearing a lot of pink dresses and grew my hair really long.”

 

“I dunno.  Still sounds adorable to me."

 

Sliding the photo back into a pile, Chase flips through until he finds another picture of himself, this time much bigger and bulkier in a dirty football uniform.  He's standing next to his father, who has his arm around Chase's shoulders, a large grin on his face.  Chase's hair is substantially longer -- a section of dark brown hair falling over one eye and the glow of perspiration on his face catches the light from the camera flash.  He had also discovered by this point that Clearasil was a teenager's best friend.

 

“This is when I was seventeen – we had just won the district championship.  I decided the year before that I would enlist in the Navy after I graduated and started to bust my butt to bulk up.  The football coach found me working out one morning in the gym and he invited me to try out.  Up until then, basketball and baseball were more my thing, but I tried out anyway.”

 

Tapping the photo with her nail, Veronica laughs.  “And I bet this was the look that pleased all the girls at school.”

 

 “Yeah.  It did, but I still had absolutely no game when it came to girls.  I assumed they still saw me like I was the dorky kid from years ago, so I had no clue that girls were into me for anything other than just being friends.” Shaking his head, Chase scoffs. “Which pretty much leads us to the present day.”

 

Veronica laughs, kissing his bicep and giving his arm a squeeze.  “I'm glad you clued in with me.”

 

Kissing her forehead, Chase smiles.  “I'm glad I did too.”

 

Her eyes returning to the picture, Veronica's thumb skims over the image of Hank Graves, standing beside his son in a red Polo shirt and tan pants.  His hair was white as the driven snow -- having gone prematurely grey in his mid-thirties -- and Chase considered it ironic that Harrison always worried about suffering the same fate naturally, never thinking it would eventually happen to both of them due to zombisim.

 

“Your dad looks so proud of you.”

 

“Dad was proud of everything we did.  That was just who he was.” 

 

He pauses for a moment, his mind turning over the many times his father grasped Chase's shoulders before hugging him, whispering how proud he was of his son.  He's still not sure his father would say that to him now, if he was alive.

 

“He never pushed Harrison or I to go into the military and was equally proud of Harrison when he went to university instead.  He was firm, but kind to us – never raised his hand to us ever.  In fact, it was my mom who was the disciplinarian.”

 

Leaning back on the couch cushions, Chase shifts his arm around Veronica's shoulders and she snuggles against his chest, breathing a little sigh of contentment.

 

“There was this one time…Harrison dared me to steal something when we were out grocery shopping.  So when Mom's back was turned, I grabbed a Hot Wheels package that had been left on top of some cans, and hid it in my pants behind my back and pulled my shirt down over it.  Then Harrison grabbed a package of Twizzlers when she wasn't looking and did the same.”  Shaking his head, Chase's stomach flips at the memory.  “But then, we got to the check out and just as we finished putting everything through, my mom turns to us with her hand out and says in a loud voice ‘and also whatever my sons tried to steal.’”

 

“No!”  Veronica gasps.  “Busted!”

 

“Yep.  She knew.  And everyone else in the store knew too.  So not only did we have to pull this stuff out from under our shirts in front of everyone, but she actually paid for them while the clerk scowled at us.”  Chase laughs.  “And then…when we got home…she put them in her closet and we never saw them again.  All she said was ‘I hope you learned your lesson’ in that low mom-voice that freaked me out.  I mean, she sold out her own sons in front of everyone and rescued us from ourselves in the same breath.”

 

“Wow.  Your mom was doing some hardcore mom-ing.”

 

Placing the picture on his knee Chase sighs.  “She was.  She never raised a hand to us either but man, she knew how to keep two crazy boys on the straight and narrow.”

 

“You and Harrison were crazy kids, huh?”

 

Chase shruggs.  “I mean really, probably not any more than any other boys our age, but we did get into our fair share of trouble together.”

 

“That's kind of nice, to have a sibling to do that with.”  Veronica adjusts her body closer to Chase's.  “Being an only child, I kind of missed that.  But that's kind of what Lilly became for me – a big sister.  I thought she was so amazing…”

 

Her words trail as she goes quiet and Chase knows she's gone into her memories – good and bad.  Kissing her forehead again, he rests his cheek on her head.

 

“It's great you have all these pictures.”  She says, her voice just above a whisper.  “Almost everything I have is back in Neptune.  Not that I'm much for reminiscing…at some point, all my good memories just seemed tainted by lies.”

 

Another long pause, filled only by the sound of them breathing, falls between them.  Throughout the evening, Veronica shared small details of her life while looking through his pictures but they were brief, giving Chase only a tiny glimpse into her life before she retreated back into asking questions about his stories. 

 

Slipping away from his embrace she rises, her back turned towards him.  “Just a second…”

 

His eyes follow her as she retreats to the bedroom, reappearing with her cell phone in hand.  It chimes as she powers it up and she returns to the couch, dropping down next to him.

 

Keying in a long passcode, Veronica flips through her phone before pulling up a photo.  Leaning towards Chase, she gives him a tiny smile.

 

On the screen are two people, a baby, and a dog.  The man has dark skin, his curly hair cut short to his head, and he sports a soul-patch on his chin.  The woman is white but tanned, her hair cut short with a shocking purple streak through her bangs that hang over one eye.  The baby -- dressed-up in jeans, tiny suspenders, and a white t-shirt -- has a beautiful round afro of curls and is laughing for the camera.  The giant brown Labrador dog sits proudly by the man who has his hand resting on the dog's head.

 

“This is my family now,” Veronica states, pointing at the picture.  “That's Mac and her husband Wallace and their son Jeremy when he was about six months old.  The dog's name is Ralph.”

 

“Ralph?”

 

Veronica rolls her eyes.  “Yeah.  That's what happens when three people can't decide on a name together and you just start calling it whatever.”

 

Looking into the happy eyes of the dog, Chase shrugs.  “I don't know – he kind of looks like a happy go-lucky guy.  Ralph probably fits.”

 

Veronica chuckles.  “It actually does fit.”

 

For a second they both contemplate the photo – taken on the beach, probably by a professional photographer, Chase surmises.  The family looks genuinely happy and for a split second a pang of regret runs through him that Chase would never be a father.

 

"They look like a pretty great family."

 

“They are -- for so many reasons." Veronica pauses, biting her bottom lip in thought. "When I shot Duncan and was arrested, it was front page news.  There wasn't a person in California that didn't know about it.  Mac and I weren't what you would call best friends in school, but we had been over to each other's houses a few times over the years as partners on different projects through middle school and high school.  Well, she just loved my big pit-bull, Backup and always brought him treats whenever she came over to my place.  But we lost touch after graduation.”

 

“When I was arrested Mac saw the news and got really worried, not only about me, but also about what happened to Backup since one of the articles mentioned that he attacked an officer.”  Veronica gives an ironic chuckle. “Which was good because my mother could have cared less about anything at this point but her lover -- Jake Kane --possibly going to prison for corporate espionage.”

 

“So Mac and Wallace found out that Backup was sent to animal control -- he was in the backyard when everything happened with Duncan and when the Deputies found him, he attacked them in the chaos and confusion.”

 

The thought of feeding Duncan to a pack of rabid dogs passes through Chase’s head, but he quickly files it away with all the other things he would do to Duncan if he ever met him.

 

“They saved Backup from being put down and kept him for me until I got out.”  She smiles down at the picture.  “When I was released, I didn't know who would be there for me or where I was going to go…and when I walked into the parking lot, they were there – Mac and Wallace -- with Backup.”

 

“That's amazing.”  Chase rests his hand on her knee and she smiles up at him.

 

“Sometimes strangers can be kinder than people you actually know.”

 

Leaning her head against his shoulder, she hands him the phone and he takes it, looking deeply at every detail in the picture.  The beach.  The couple.  The baby.

 

“I stayed with them in their tiny apartment for a few days until I found out that my mother abandoned my dad's house – I guess going back to the house where I was raped superseded any desire she had for money and she just left it to rot for more than a year. It was easy enough to break into and even though I wasn't technically the owner, with my dad's death certificate and some creative document forging, Mac and I managed to convince the utility companies to turn things back on.”

 

“Wait a minute – you went back to live in the house where…” Chase still can't bring himself to say the words. 

 

He remembered in the transcripts from the trial that Veronica called Duncan to meet her at her father's house and that everything took place in her father's bedroom – where she supposedly found the files that implicated Jake Kane duct taped to the back of an armoire.  It wasn't until she emptied the contents of the wardrobe – packing away Keith Mars' uniforms and clothes – was she able to move the object in search of a runaway cufflink.  That’s when she found the files that set everything into motion.

 

Veronica sits back to look at him and shrugs.  “Where else was I supposed to go?  I had nothing.”

 

Chase takes in a shaky breath – just when he thought he had heard the worst of her story, another layer peels back revealing just how strong Veronica really is.

 

“So we set about making it a home again – cleaned it, threw out a lot of the old stuff and moved in some new things, mowed the lawn -- Mac and Wallace took up residence upstairs in the master bedroom and I lived in my dad's old office on the pull-out couch.”

 

“Thankfully, my dad's best friend Cliff McCormack -- who was also initially my lawyer when this all went down – put everything from Mars Investigations into storage so I could start the business back up in my tiny room, meeting clients at Starbucks.”

 

“And your friends still live there?”  He asks.

 

Veronica nods.  “Yeah. Jeremy was born just after I left.  He's one of the reasons why I came here – I couldn't live with myself if I accidentally scratched him while helping Mac change a diaper or something.”

 

Veronica takes her phone back and smiles. “Wallace went to high school with us too, but he was a jock – played basket ball too – but I didn't know him very well.  I just kind of started seeing him at parties in High School when he became one of the top players on the team.  Now he's a teacher at our old high school.”

 

“And Mac --”  Veronica scrunches up her nose playfully and pokes Chase in the bicep.  “She’s the ‘Q' to my James Bond at Mars Investigations – the computer hacking genius who dug up a nice big file on you for me.”

 

“Rea-lly.”  Chase drawls.  “Maybe I’ll have to hire Mars Investigations to do all my research from now on – Major only knows how to do a Google search.”

 

Rising slightly, Veronica plants a soft kiss on Chase’s lips.  “I think you should.  In fact, I’ll even give you a special client discount.”

 

He reciprocates with a kiss to the tip of her nose and her eyes light up with happiness.  “Thanks.  I’ll take that into consideration when I look at your quote.”

 

Sliding back away from him, Veronica’s smile widens across her face and Chase can’t help but grin, happy at her being so happy.  Turning her attention back to her phone, she sweeps her finger back across the screen and a photo of her as a young woman appears, a large sleeping pit-bull stretched on the grass in front of her.  She tilts to phone towards Chase and sighs.

 

“This is Backup.  Wallace took it the day before he died.  They found a giant tumor in his stomach and before we put him down, we decided to give him three days of doggy heaven on earth.  We fed him steak, we took him to the ocean to play in the surf.  This is him all tuckered out after playing fetch in the back yard.”

 

Chase takes the phone from her, the smile turning to a serious line on his lips.  Veronica’s hair is much shorter – a professional looking bob, bleached blond in the California sun – and her head is bowed towards the dog, her hand poised over his head mid-petting.  There is a calm, soft look to her face, but in her eyes a deep sadness.

 

“I was living with Piz by this time but Backup kind of felt like he belonged to Mac, Wallace, and I.  We all made the decision together when the vet told us he wasn’t long for this world.  And a few weeks later, we all made the decision to get Ralph – he was a rescue from a puppy-mill.  When I broke up with Piz and went back to living at the house he used to sleep with Mac and Wallace one night, and me the next.”

 

Handing the phone back to Veronica, Chase flashes a small smile.  “Thank you for sharing this with me. Maybe one day I’ll be able to meet them.”

 

“I hope you do. I think Wallace would enjoy trying to beat you in a game of one-on-one in the driveway.”  She replies, taking the phone and flipping to another photo.  “Although I think he’s currently sporting more of a ‘dad-bod’ then you are.”

 

He chuckles, sliding down on the couch a bit so his head rests on the cushions.  It’s been a long day, but he doesn’t want it to end.  She hands him the phone and his eyes focus on an image of a man in a brown uniform, a little blond girl with pigtails on his shoulders.  It’s a picture of a picture that looks like it was in an album at the time it was taken.

 

“That’s my dad and me on my sixth birthday; I was still pretty small so he could carry me on his shoulders.”

 

Keith Mars – his dark hairline receding, his olive skin brown from the sun – smiles back at them in a way Chase remembers from his own childhood; that unmistakeable smile of a parent filled with joy that their child is with them.  It’s a reminder to Chase that even though their lives changed when they were older, both he and Veronica had similar upbringings.

 

“He had to work during the day, but when we got home, he brought home three cartons of ice cream from the local ice cream parlour and that’s what we had for dinner – banana splits.  Not birthday cake – ice cream because he knew it was my favourite – and the banana and nuts could be considered ‘healthy.’”

 

Pulling her knees up to her chest, Veronica wraps her arms around her legs tightly, her eyes still fixed on the phone screen.

 

“My mother left almost everything as it was in the house before she disappeared – but for some reason, she decided to take all of the photos – the ones in frames, the albums, the shoeboxes – except one.  There was one album that I found in my old bedroom, filled with photos I put together when I was a teenager of me and family and friends.  That one she left – it had exactly ten pictures of me and my dad.  That’s it.  That’s all the good memories she left me.”

 

“I’m sorry you don’t have more.”  Chase says, handing her back her phone. 

 

Veronica takes the phone and pauses for a moment, her eyes darkening with sadness as she gazes down at the photo of her father one last time before making the screen go dark.

 

“It’s probably for the best.  It just makes me cherish the memories I have of him even more.”

 

Placing the phone face down on the coffee table, Veronica unfurls her body, reaching her arms over her head and yawns.  Laying back, she stretches her body along Chase’s side, her head resting on one of his pecs, arm draped across his chest.  His hand sweeps down her back, coming to rest on the small of her back, his fingers curving around her buttocks.  For a minute they lay quietly together and Chase closes his eyes, just content to hold her like this for a time.  It feels so natural to be with her in this way that he needs to remind himself they’ve only been together for a little over 24 hours.

 

“Thanks for picking up some of my stuff at my apartment today.”

 

Chase kisses her forehead and smiles.  “You’re welcome.  Did you find room for everything?”

 

“Yes.  I found some extra hangers in the guest room closet and I refolded your underwear so mine fit next to them in the drawer.”

 

Wiggling his eyebrows at her he laughs.  “I like that our underwear are together in the same drawer; like they’re fooling around without us actually in them.”

 

Veronica laughs, stretching her leg across his lap.  “I must say, you did a very interesting job of packing things for me.  You managed to grab what looked like an actual handful of underwear but only one bra; my makeup case but not my toothbrush; and somehow you forgot shoes, but you did grab my vibrator.”

 

“In my defense, when I saw your vibrator sitting on your nightstand, I almost didn’t pack anything but that.”   She pokes him in the ribs with her index finger and he lets out a little yelp of pain. 

 

“How am I supposed to go into Fillmore Graves for a meeting tomorrow without shoes?  Wear yours?  I’d look like a clown.”  Giggling, Veronica gives him a playful squeeze.

 

“Hey, at least I stopped again on the way home tonight and grabbed your boots and black high heels – as you requested in your text.” 

 

“Yes, but the vibrator is literally the one thing I don’t need anymore –” Veronica shifts, sliding up onto his body so they are now nose-to-nose.  “—now that I have you.”

 

She lowers her lips to his, kissing him passionately, her hips pressing into his as she does.  Chase’s fingers trail up and down her spine, under the baggy t-shirt causing her to shiver.

 

“You’re not thinking about this properly.  Just imagine...”  He brings his lips close to her ear, dropping his voice to a whisper.  “..me inside you while I press your vibrator to your clit; running it across your body – your nipples, your thighs – before pressing it to you so you can come over and over again; or just watching you play with yourself using it...”

 

“Oh.”  Veronica sighs.  “I never thought of that.”

 

Trailing his fingers over buttocks and between her thighs, he presses gently feeling the heat of her through the fabric of her pants and she moans at his touch.

 

“Do any of those things sound...appealing?”  Chase nibbles on her earlobe and she sighs again, moving her head closer to his.

 

“Yes.  All of them.”  Her voice husky with desire.  “But not tonight.”

 

Sliding off of Chase, Veronica stands, offering her hand to him; he sits up, placing his hand in hers and she smiles down at him.

 

“I still want to enjoy you – just you – and nothing else between us.”

 

Chase smiles up at her, sitting forward he brings her hand towards his lips and he kisses it softly, knowing exactly what she means.  With the exception of his ill-fated zombie one night stand, there was always that ‘what if’ in the back of his head with all his sexual partners and he has to admit, being able to not worry about those things has freed him in a way he didn’t really realize, until now.

 

“I want that too.”

 

Giving his hand a little tug, Veronica takes a few steps and he rises to follow her, threading her way through the house towards the bedroom.  As they cross through the doorway, Veronica tosses him a little teasing wink over her shoulder, a mischievous grin on her face.  Stepping up to her quickly, he sweeps her up off her feet into her arms, her high laughter echoing in the room for a moment before his lips close on hers. Turning her around in the room, angling towards the bed, Veronica’s leg reaches out, catching the edge of the door giving it a little kick to close it behind them for the night.

Chapter Text

Chase’s eyes dart quickly from Veronica back to the elevators numbers as they rise to the next floor. The early morning rush of people getting to their desks meant that they were packed in with other Fillmore Graves employees on their way up to his office, stopping on every floor to let off or pick up more people. Glancing at her out of the corner of his eye, his mind flashes back to a few hours ago when he was staring up at that beautiful face from between her thighs – her long blond hair spread across his pillow, her fingers gripping his hair as she bucked and moaned under him.

 

As if reading his thoughts, she spies around the other bodies in the elevator, arching her eyebrow at him coyly before throwing him a small wink of shared conspiracy. Now that she has top level clearance with Filmore Graves, he contemplated the idea of tearing out the windowed walls of his office, just so they could have their privacy whenever they wanted. She could come and go as she pleased and he found himself anxiously waiting to work late, late into the night with her.

 

The elevator doors open and people shuffle in and out again, nodding their hellos and goodbyes to Chase, and his focus shifts back to work.  Major was meeting them in his office to discuss taking down Brother Love’s group.  Chase had worked out some ideas briefly in his head, but Veronica insisted they keep work at work, and would not discuss the matter on the way to the office. 

 

When they finally reached their floor, Chase sidesteps the others, stopping a few feet away from the crowd so Veronica can catch up with him.   He resists the urge to reach out and take her hand, choosing instead to tip the edge of his beret to her and nod.  When he was packing her clothes, he had grabbed her black pencil skirt, a red silk blouse, and the black leather jacket that were laying together across the back of a chair in her bedroom – a professional enough outfit for her to come to the office in when paired with the heels he grabbed for her last night.  She had done her hair up in an elaborate braided bun on the top of her head and he could start to see the white of her ‘normal’ hair peeking out at the roots of her blond dyed hair; her makeup gives her a semi-tanned look so she blends in with everyone else in the building who is on a strict tan-and-dye schedule.

 

Making their way to his office Chase smiles at his secretary, pausing at her desk. “Gina, this is Veronica Mars – she’s going to be around for the next little while, doing some contract work for Fillmore Graves.”

 

The petite brunette smiles up at Veronica and nods.  “Nice to meet you, Ms. Mars.  Anything you need, just ask and I can give you a hand.”

 

Veronica returns her smile. “Nice to meet you too, Gina.”

 

“She’s been given Level 5 clearance, and she may be asking for some personnel files.  Please give her whatever she needs to get the job done.”

 

There’s a pause and Gina pushes a stray hair from her forehead, her smile becoming tighter as she glances between Chase and Veronica.  “Whatever you say, General.”

 

Veronica tosses a small look out of the corner of her eye at Chase and he knows the question on her mind -- can she be trusted? 

 

The silent response he gives her with a nod of his head towards the door and the furrowing of his brow is:  I don’t know.

 

Holding the door open for her, Chase removes his cap as Veronica sweeps past him, heading for his desk.  He follows, dropping his beret on top before setting himself down in his chair across from her.  Unzipping her leather jacket, she removes the clearance badge clipped to her collar and repositions it on her blouse.  Sitting in the leather guest chair, she leans back and crosses her arms, letting out a deep sigh.

 

“When is Major supposed to meet us?”

 

Flicking his arm out to uncover his watch from under his sleeve, Chase frowns.  “He should be here by now.”

 

Walking through the door backwards, Major calls out before turning.  “Sorry!  Lineup at Starbucks was crazy.”  Spinning towards them, he holds a tray of coffees out in front of himself.

 

Veronica stands, taking the tray from Major and pulls one from the holder, placing it on the desk in front of Chase with a wide smile.

 

“Thanks for texting us that you were stopping.”  Veronica places another cup down near the other empty guest chair before taking a Venti cup for herself and sitting back down.

 

Us, huh?”  Major smirks, his eyes glancing between them as he takes his seat next to Veronica. “Because, technically, I texted the General...”

 

Chase rolls his eyes, leaning back in his chair and anchoring his hands behind his head.  “Knock it off, Lillywhite.  You’re acting like a high-schooler again.”

 

Leaning towards Major, Veronica fans her fingers out, placing her hand near her mouth, her eyes narrowing at Chase as she speaks.

 

“He’s just sooooo cute.”  Veronica’s voice is a high falsetto and she bats her eyelashes playfully.  “But a real bear before he has his coffee in the morning.”

 

Pulling his coffee close to his lips, Major brushes his fingers across Veronica’s arm.  “Do tell!”

 

Rocking forward in his chair, Chase takes his cup and raises it in a small salute to the grinning idiots across from him.  “Fine.  Whenever you two are done with this little thing you’re doing, I’ll be over here, waiting to actually work.”

 

Rolling her eyes back at him, Veronica takes a sip of her coffee and leans back in her chair with a sigh.  “We’ve had our fun.  All good to go, General.”

 

Chuckling, Major nods at Chase and raises his cup to him.  “All good, Sir.”

 

A smirk pulls across Chase’s lips as he leans forward, crossing his arms on his desk.  “Good, because I’m hoping we can have Brother Love and his crew either in holding or in the freezer by curfew tonight.”

 

“What do you have planned?”   The smile drops from Veronica’s lips and her eyes narrow, intent on what Chase is now saying.

 

“We strike fast, in the middle of one of Brother Love’s sermons, to get as many followers as we can.  Since we don’t have the children to worry about anymore, I’m not against using lethal force against a group who is known for their violence.  Five strike teams – one from the front, one from behind, one coming up through the cellar doors; two more teams outside surrounding the area to catch anyone who tries to escape – plus one medic team to care for and transport any zombies in need of assistance after.”

 

Veronica nods, placing her cup on the desk before leaning back in her chair, crossing her arms.  “Which sermon were you thinking about?”

 

“19:00 hours – seven o’clock.”

 

Scrunching her nose, Veronica nods at Chase.  “Can I make a suggestion?”

 

Leaning back in his chair, Chase smiles.  “Of course.”

 

“I know it would be fast, but do you think that you can hit the noon sermon instead?”  She glances between Major and Chase and pauses as if waiting for them to stop her idea.  “Reason being is that more of the ‘die-hards’ seem to come during the day – a smaller group but it's comprised of the people who would have been involved with night-time raids.  Some of them lost their jobs because of their zombism and have become Brother Love’s most passionate supporters.  Others will take off work – their lunch hours or just personal time – to hear him speak twice during the day; afternoon and then evening.  As well, the evening one often attracts families – kids that need to eat before bed -- and street kids looking for food – not necessarily ones that believe in Brother Love, but know he can get them something to eat.”

 

Placing his palms together, Chase rocks back in his chair, his fingers coming up to touch his lips as he thinks.  “It’s fast.”

 

“But that also means that if there are any leaks within your organization, they won’t have time to warn Brother Love.”  Veronica states, tapping her index finger on the arm of the chair.

 

“We could call the people we need for the teams into the warehouse.  Assign them, brief them, outfit them, and have them ready to ship-out by noon.”  Major adds.  “That way, we would arrive during the service when everyone is distracted.”

 

“The service usually runs at least an hour – first part is usually a choir before Brother Love speaks.  He can go on anywhere from fifteen minutes to an hour, depending on how God strikes him that day.”  Veronica glances between the men before her eyes stay on Chase’s.  “Whatever brain rations he has are served at the end, so just a word of warning that there may be a few people on the verge of going full-zombie already, depending on how hungry they are.”

 

Plans begin to come together in Chase’s head as he visualizes exactly how this will take place.  The drawings of the theatre run though his memory superimposing on the photos Veronica provided him of the inside of the compound.  He’s had less time and less resources to put together a mission before and his brain rolls all of the different scenarios around as if searching through his catalogue of knowledge to find what would fit best for this situation.

 

“Alright..here’s what we’ll do...”  He begins hesitantly, letting the pieces fall into place in his head.  “Major, get Gina to print you the list of every soldier who’s in-house and on the street today;  I don’t want to take too many soldiers off their beat for this, unless absolutely necessary, just in case we need feet on the ground if Brother Love somehow escapes.  We’ll assemble the five teams of five soldiers per squad from that list and have them meet at the warehouse in an hour.”

 

Glancing at his watch, he frowns.  

 

“It is now 09:45.  If we assemble everyone by 10:45 then we can brief them, outfit them, and ship out by 11:45.  It’ll be tight, but I’ll have our tactical personnel start to move their equipment into the warehouse now, so everyone can be outfitted quickly.”  Pointing towards Major, Chase nods.  “I want you on the ground, leading this mission.  I know it’s a big one, but I think you can handle it.”

 

Standing, Major salutes the General.  “I won’t let you down, Sir.”

 

“I don’t doubt it.”  A tight smile crosses Chase’s lips and he salutes back at Major.   “Now get me those names.”

 

Turning on his heels, Major beelines towards the door, executing the first part of his mission; when the door closes, Chase reaches for his phone, his hand stopping just over the numbers as he spies Veronica pick up her coffee cup, an amused smile on her lips and a twinkle of happiness in her eye.

 

“What?”

 

She shrugs, taking a sip of her drink before moving the cup down, licking her lips.  “I do say, General – you being all General-like is pretty damn sexy.”

 

Chuckling, Chase shakes his head as he dials the number to connect him with tactical supply.  “If you like that, you ain’t seen nothing yet.”

 

Biting her nail, a husky laugh escapes her and she leans back in her chair, her eyes focused on him and only him as he sets to work.

--------------------------------------------------------

The precision with which the next few hours unfold shocks and impresses Chase.  Major shows his strength as a leader, assembling five good teams to go into the mission.  While they worked on the particulars, Veronica spent her time downloading and printing colour photos from the Mars Investigations iCloud account with notes on key players in Brother Love's organization so Major could zero in on the people who posed a threat.  When it was all assembled, they moved to the warehouse and briefed the teams before sending them off on their mission.

 

Now, in the quiet of his office, Chase and Veronica sit side by side, glued to the images transmitted from the body cameras on the team leads to his computer.  Adjusting the headset, Chase speaks into the microphone positioned just below his lips.

 

“One minute.”

 

Major's watch comes past the camera and his voice replies.  “One minute.  Call out teams.  Team One, ready.”

 

Each team calls out their signal as Chase watches the timer at the top of his computer count down the seconds. 

 

“On my mark.”

 

Veronica's breathe hitches and she leans closer to the screen, just in his peripheral vision.

 

Sucking in a deep breath, Chase calmly exhales the word:  “Engage.”

 

The sound of multiple doors unlocking, followed by the shuffling heavy of clothing and the metallic clanking of weaponry resonates before steady boots in rhythm on the ground echo through the speakers.  The images gave away nothing but a scramble of bodies before entering the cinema to the eerie sounds of gospel music from a choir.

 

Major's body camera zooms past the crowd down the aisle before stopping at the end of the row at the foot of the stage with Brother Love looking down in white faced horror at him.

 

“Angus McDonough!  I am here to arrest you for the murder of human civilians in New Seattle.” Major calls out into the silence, his gun drawn.

 

Brother Love raises his hammer – his white cloak spreading like wings, the blood-red emblem of a cross stretching across his body – and steps quickly towards the camera, opening his mouth to speak but instead, the cracking sound of a single shot rings out from Major’s weapon, hitting the preacher in the middle of his forehead, silencing him once and for all. Brother Love's body stays in a grisly frozen state of shock for a split second before collapsing past the camera onto the stage with a dead weight thud.

 

The chaos that erupts next defies description as a hail of shotgun fire bursts from unknown directions and Chase knows by the sound that it is not coming from their weapons, but from but Brother Love's men.  His eyes darting between all the cameras on his screen, he watches members of his teams engage the fire while others drop to the ground, trying to protect those in the congregation who chose to hide instead of fight.

 

When Veronica’s hand touches his arm, Chase tenses, almost forgetting she was there beside him, watching the carnage and listening to the screams of terror from those trying to get away.

 

The innocents.  There will always be innocents in this kind of situation – the ones who wandered in, just looking for food or support and instead have been drawn into this war.  He knows this; he accepts this;  but he still has problems living with it.

 

Chase’s eyes flash between the clock and the images to save himself from being sucked into the vortex of time created during the apex of the mission – where it feels like time is moving slowly, when the reality is far different.  He knows the longer it takes, the more risk of more casualties on each side, and while he's glad that Brother Love is dead, his stomach always tightens at the thought of more civilian casualties.

 

Finally, the gunfire subsides and Major lowers his gun.  “Medic Team, deploy!  Team casualties and civilians in need of assistance.”

 

“Teams report!”  Chase leans closer to the screen, analysing the images as best he can. 

 

Major is on his knees, coaxing a woman out from under a seat. 

 

“Team 1 -- Hard to assess, Sir.  Too many down or in hiding.  Will transport everyone back to HQ for further information and assistance.”

 

The crackling of static breaks through and another voice comes in.  “Team 2 – Killed two members identified from photos.  Two more in cuffs ready to transport for questioning.”

 

“Team 3 – I have two team members in need of a medic.  Many civilians down or in hiding.”

 

Chase pulls his fingers across his lips, listening as the updates continue to come in from the other teams, but he can see the carnage for himself as the body cameras pan the space.  He made the call for live ammunition.  He knew that there would be zombie casualties.  He tries to rationalize that this is the price they pay for following a false prophet – but part of him still thinks they are all still victims in this sick joke of a zombie life.

 

The medics enter the scenes, barking orders at the officers left standing and Chase removes his mic, pushing his chair away from the screen, his fingers running slowly through his hair as he continues to watch it unfold.

 

“What’s done is done,” Veronica whispers next to him.

 

“It needed to be done.”  He retorts.  “To keep the peace.  To save human civilians.  It needed to be done.”

 

With a deep sigh, Veronica stands, offering her hand to him and he takes it, kissing the back of her hand before looking up into her sad blue eyes staring down at him.  For all she’s seen in her life, he knows she has never seen war – not like he has.  Just as he has glimpsed into the horror of her past, she has now glimpsed into the battles he has commanded and lived with and will continue to live with for the rest of his life.

 

“Come for a walk with me.”  She states, giving his hand a small tug.  “Get away from this for now.”

 

“I can’t.  I need to keep monitoring the mission – get back to the warehouse – follow up with our medical team here.”  He shakes his head, knowing that this is just the first part of the mission that will take up the rest of his day.

 

Nodding, a tight smile presses across her face.  “You’re right.  I’m sorry...I just thought...”

 

“Thought what?”  His thumb moves softly over her skin and a blush crosses her cheeks.

 

“I just thought you would like to escort me down to visit the kids we saved from Brother Love.  Maybe that would help us both feel better about everything that just went on.”

 

He smiles, his head bending down slightly before gazing back up at her.  “I would love to do that, but I can’t leave.  If you ask Gina, she can call down to the classroom and find out where they are, then direct you to the area – just in case they’re in the gym or downstairs getting their first tan-and-dye.”

 

Slipping her fingers from his grasp, Veronica nods.  “Thanks.  I think I’ll do that.  Text me when you need me.”

 

Chase nods and she turns, walking towards the door.  The thought crosses his mind that she is now safe to go back to her apartment, but he doesn’t say the words.  Not yet.  For now, he tries to refocus on the task at hand, his eyes pushing back to the screen to watch the mission play out until the end.

 

----------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Closing the file on his desk, Chase lets out a deep sigh, rubbing his eyes with his palms.  Veronica had fallen asleep on the couch hours ago, the emotional fall-out of the day finally catching up to her.  Between the Brother Love mission, catching up with the children she helped to save, and finally, assisting with the identification of key people in Brother Love’s organization, Chase could tell that she was psychologically done hours before she actually admitted it to him.  He had offered to get Major to drive her back to his place, but she insisted on staying until he was ready to go.  Several brain tubes and a couple of glasses of Fireball Whiskey’s later, she collapsed in a little ball on his couch and now a the sound of a tiny whistling in her breathing filled the room.

 

Leaning back in his chair, Chase stretches his arms up, rolling his head back and forth along the headrest.  Once again, he finds himself surrounded by death.  The stacked bodies of zombies reduced now to nothing but paperwork piled on his desk.  Three stacks:  one for the dead, one for the living, one for the frozen members of Brother Love’s congregation.  By all accounts, the majority of citizens seemed to react favourably to the evening news that the curfew had been lifted and that the threat against the humans of Seattle had been neutralized.  Then came the inevitable fall-out – loved ones contacted to collect bodies from the Fillmore Graves morgue, explaining that by their association, the dead were guilty of the crimes committed by Brother Love – whether it was true or not.  He wishes it was simple – good guys vs. bad guys – like playing cops and robbers in the back yard as kids.  It was at these moments that he wasn’t too sure if he was the bad guy or good guy.

 

Glancing towards Veronica, Chase lets out a heavy sigh.  Through it all, she never wavered in her calm, sweeping through the process of handing out justice to those she knew had been the orchestrators of Brother Love’s organization like a one-woman judge and jury.  Once they were satisfied that everyone had been accounted for, she merely stated that justice had been done before slipping back upstairs to visit more with the children in the school. 

 

Heaving himself out of the chair with a groan, he saunters towards her, wondering if he should wake her to take her home, or just curl up on the other couch and fall asleep himself.

 

Stepping behind the arm of the couch, he looks down at her sleeping below him – her leather jacket covering her shoulders --  and she lets out a contented sigh.  Sometime after the second whiskey, she had taken her hair down out and now it was bunched up under her like some makeshift pillow.  Reaching out, he gently strokes the top of her head and another small sigh falls from her lips.

 

“Keep doing that,” she whispers.

 

“I thought you were asleep?” He teases, continuing as told.

 

“I am.”  Opening one eye, she glances up at him before closing it again.  “Or I was, until I heard the sound of your boots clomping towards me.”

 

“I don’t clomp.”  He continues to caress her hair, leaning down to lay his head on the arm of the couch just above her.

 

“You do clomp; but you can’t help it.  That’s just how you walk all military-like.”  Rolling onto her back, she looks up at him, her eyes twinkling with mischief.

 

“I’ll try to tiptoe next time.  I finished my paperwork so we can go home and you can sleep in a proper, comfy bed.  I promise I won’t clomp around when we get there.”  Lifting his head, he leans over and kisses the tip of her nose.

 

Hovering over her he watches her stretch and yawn, her eyes closing and opening in that dreamy, doughy way as she tries to wake herself fully.

 

“Oh, it wasn’t too bad on the couch.  I was dreaming about us.”  Veronica says, looking back up at him and smiling.

 

His hand drops down to rest on her cheek and she turns to kiss his palm. “What about us?” 

 

“When I was nineteen, Lilly got us fake I.D.s and we went to Fleet Week in San Francisco – I was her ‘wing-man’.”  She begins, her hand now covering his.  “I dreamt that I met you there and you swept me off my feet and we started this mad, passionate affair that weekend that ended with us running off together.”

 

Chuckling, Chase shakes his head.  “Nineteen, huh?   You would have hated me back then.  I was a cocky son-of-a-bitch.”

 

“So...what’s changed now?”  She snarks and he sticks her tongue out at her playfully in response.  “Oh I would have been the last girl on earth you would have looked at – everyone was in mini-skirts and tube tops and I was wearing these flowered sun-dresses with braids in my hair drinking Skist at the bar.”

 

“Actually, you are exactly what I would have been looking for back then.”  Chase leans over and gives her a small peck on the lips.  “A nice girl to spend the rest of my days with – who didn’t mind that I was coming and going at the whims of the Navy command.”

 

Her hand comes up to caress his stubbled cheek.  “I would have waited.”

 

For a moment he allows himself to give in to the fantasy of being with her from the beginning.  If she left Duncan; if he didn’t have a string of heartbreak; if they hadn’t seen and done what they had in their lives.  Where would they be?   A little house?   Some children?  She would definitely be a lawyer.  He would probably have followed his father into the Pentagon or some other safer work to be close to home.  There would probably be dogs; many, many dogs.  What could they have been before everything fell apart?

 

Veronica slides herself upright and he sits up taller as her face comes in close to his before kissing him deeply, slowly, lingering as he breaths in the soft sweet flowery scent of her.  Pulling away, she frowns, her hand brushing his cheek.

 

“You look like you have the weight of the entire world sitting on your shoulders.”

 

Sweeping his fingers across her cheek, Chase tucks a section of wild hair behind Veronica’s ear.  “I do.  Or at least Seattle.”

 

Her hand trails down to his shoulder, skimming his arm all the way down to grasp his large hand in hers, raising it up to her lips to kiss.  She holds it near her heart and a wave of calm moves through Chase’s body.

 

“It had to be done.”

 

“I know.  Doesn’t make it any easier though.” 

 

For a second, they linger, her eyes moving, searching his and he briefly wonders if she’s trying to read his mind.  Dropping his hand, she bends down, reaching for her heels and slipping them on.

 

“Come on.  I know what you need.”  She states, throwing her jacket on and rising, grabbing her purse from the nearby chair. 

 

Standing, he frowns as she scurries past him, picking up his beret and vest off one of his office chairs and tucking it under her arm.  Her blond hair is still wild from sleep and she tosses it out of her face before grinning back, offering her hand out to him.  He takes it and she rises on her toes to kiss him quickly.

 

“Oh don’t look at me like that.  You’ll like this.”

 

Apparently his face gave away his confusion to her and he chuckles as she pulls him from the office towards the elevators.

 

“Is it sex in a mysterious place?  Because I’m pretty sure I’ll like that.  Although we could have had sex in the office now that everyone is gone.  Just saying.” 

 

Rolling her eyes at him, she turns, concentrating on the elevator doors opening.  Once inside, she pulls her access pass from her jacket and swipes it before choosing the 10th floor where the classrooms are located.  Her hand squeezes his and he responds with a gentle squeeze back.  As they doors open, they are greeted by two female officers seated at a desk just across from the elevator.  When they see Chase, they stand and salute.

 

“General Graves, Sir.  This is unexpected.”  One of the sergeants’ states, glancing between Veronica and Chase.

 

Dropping his hand from Veronica’s, Chase salutes them back, stepping up to the desk.  “How are the children tonight?”

 

“Much better tonight, Sir.”  The second sergeant replies with a nod.  “There were a couple that kept coming to us and asking for us to read them another book or some water, but they finally fell asleep.”

 

Shaking his head, Chase chuckles.  “So pretty much like any normal kid.”

 

The woman glances at her partner and laughs.  “Pretty much.  My daughter is four and she still does it to her dad every night.”

 

“Well, thank you both for stepping up to help get them settled in.  Hopefully, we can get everyone placed with foster families soon and you can go back to spending evenings with your family.”

 

“Happy to help these kids, Sir.”  She nods with a smile.

 

Veronica starts down the dark hallway, gesturing for Chase to follow her and he does, moving down the floor and around the corner to the last classroom.  She pauses by the door and points to the window, inviting Chase to look inside. 

 

Illuminated by the lights from outside, Chase can see five cots set up close to one another – each one containing a sleeping child, mouths agape in various states of tangled positions with their covers.  The boys don’t look more than six or seven years old and each child holds a stuffed animal either in their arms or dangling from their hand.  There is a comfort to the peace in the room and he breaths deeply, trying to draw in some of that peace for himself.

 

“They’re so happy here,” Veronica whispers, her hand coming to rest on Chase’s bicep.  “These poor children have suffered so much, but here, they’re happy.   I saw it for myself today.  In the compound they were sad and scared because their families abandoned them and ended up in the hands of a monster, but here, in a matter of a day, they are playing and laughing and sleeping again.  And that’s not to say that they aren’t still sad and hurt by what happened to them, but maybe they actually have a chance at some form of life.  And that’s because of you.”

 

Closing his eyes for a moment, Chase leans his forehead against the door and exhales before opening his eyes again, watching the young zombies sleep.

 

“Yes, lives were lost today,” she continues and leans her head on his shoulder.  “But lives were saved too.  And one day, when there is a cure for this, these children can go on and live wonderful lives – in spite of the obstacles they were handed -- because of you.”

 

 “One day...” Chase whispers. 

 

Reaching around Veronica’s waist, he guides her close to him.  Dropping what she is carrying onto the ground, her arms wrap around to hold him as her head leans against his chest.

 

The thought of life after zombism plays across Chase’s mind.  Would he and Veronica survive to that point?  Would they be a part of life after?  And what kind of life would it be?  Was there a second chance for love and family and children after everything they had been through? 

 

“When everything goes back to normal.”  Veronica murmurs into Chase’s shirt, arms wrapping tighter around his body.  “And you and me can just be we.

 

Laying his cheek on the top of her head, he adjusts his grasp, holding her closer.  “You keep thinking about that too?”

 

Her head nods into him, her voice cracking with emotion.  “I do.  When I was looking through your pictures I couldn’t help but think about it – family...a house...kids...I mean, I know that may never happen but still...what if...”  Bending down to her, Chase kisses her softly, deeply, hoping beyond hope that they do get to see the day she is wishing for right now.  Pulling away, his eyes meet hers, seeing the tears brimming on her lashes. “I want another chance to do this life again – but this time, with you.”

 

Returning his lips to hers, Chase doesn't hold back, lifting her straight off her feet and she giggles, her lips vibrating against his.  As he lowers her back to the ground, she bites her lip, gazing up at him and smiles.

 

“Let's go home.”  He smiles, bending to pick up the things she dropped on the ground.

 

Taking his hand, Veronica wraps her arms around his bicep as they walk down the hallway.  “Let's go home.”

Chapter Text

Seeing his chance, Chase kisses the back of Veronica’s neck as she pulls her hair up on top of her head in a high ponytail giggling as she tries to slip away from him. 

 

“Hey!  I thought we agreed not to start anything again.”

 

Catching her around the waist, trying to hold her still, he moves behind her, clutching his beret with his one free hand as he dips his head to kiss along her exposed neckline, his eyes meeting hers in the bathroom mirror.  A deep sigh of resolve sweeps past her lips as she continues to twist her long hair into a bun on the top of her head and secure it in place, seemingly ignoring his presence.

 

“I’m not starting anything – I’m savouring you.” He murmurs into her skin.

 

She rolls her eyes, dropping her hands to rest on his arm.  “You’re seeing me again in a few hours --  I’m quite confident our relationship will weather the separation.”

 

Standing straighter, he rests his chin on the top of the bun on her head and she laughs, her eyes narrowing as her grin spreads wide across her face.  Since they were both half asleep by the time they made it home last night, he texted Major and his receptionist to tell them to clear his schedule that morning so they could sleep in.  Although that was the plan, it was punctuated by the occasional round of love-making before he and Veronica would drift back to sleep, tangled together under the covers.  When he awoke, he received a message that his staff were able to get him out of all but one meeting with a board member today at noon and he grudgingly agreed to make an appearance.

 

“You know...I have clients other than Fillmore Graves to check in on and I have to collect some surveillance equipment for our meeting with Major about the stolen food shipments.  Plus, I need to try and book an appointment at the salon to try and get this white hair covered up.”  She states, pointing at the thick white hairs peeking out near her scalp.

 

Brushing his knuckles gently across her cheek, Chase takes in her pale complexion.  He had noticed that one of the effects of the freezing meant that her spray tan had been fading rapidly everywhere on her body, but he didn’t care at the time, concentrating more on the fact that she was naked in the first place.

 

“How about this plan – I’ll make an appointment for you at the Fillmore Graves tan-and-dye facilities for after our meeting.  Since I’ll probably have to work late anyway, you can take your time and get any service you want.”  Chase kisses her cheek and smiles, swaying them ever so slightly as he presses her body into his.  “You can get a cut and colour, a spray tan...maybe a massage...whatever you want...all on the Fillmore Graves dime.”

 

“Mmmmm...that kind of sounds like an offer I can’t refuse.” She coos, keeping her eyes on his. “And if we do that, then I have time to pack more of my things from my apartment and bring them over here.”

 

Turning in his arms, Veronica raises herself up and gave him a quick peck on the chin and he grins down at her, licking his lips at the thought of having her all to himself again tonight...and the night after that...and the night after that.

 

“Then it’s a plan.”

 

“It’s a plan.” She repeats, her smile now radiating happiness.  “A very good plan I may add, if it gives us time alone in your office after everyone is gone.”

 

A low chuckle resonates through his chest.  “Oh really?  Why’s that?”

 

Touching the tip of his chin with her index finger, Veronica licks her lips slowly.  “Because last night, I was kind of hoping we could live out one of my fantasies involving you, me, and that big boardroom table...but then you kept working and I fell asleep.”

 

Closing his eyes for a second, Chase sucks in a deep breath through clenched teeth, trying his best to keep his erection at bay as his mind runs through a multitude of scenarios involving Veronica stretched naked across the glass surface.

 

“Killing me,” he mutters and she laughs, pulling away from his grasp.

 

“Can’t – you’re already dead.”  She teases as she makes her way from the bathroom, tossing a wink over her shoulder at him.

 

Rolling his eyes, Chase shakes his head to try and remove the naked image of her from his brain.  Glancing at his watch, he makes the mental calculation – everyone was sure to be gone from the building by 22:00 hours tonight – that meant he had eleven hours to wait.  Eleven hours for his brain to torment his body with thoughts of Veronica.  Letting out a cleansing breath, he turns on his heels, finally anxious to start his day.

 

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

 

When he arrives, Gina is nowhere to be found and he frowns, contemplating whether he should leave her a note to book Veronica's appointment with the salon, or just do it himself.  Pausing at her desk, he glances into his office through the glass and sees the backs of three men in suits – Victor Douglas, David Pratt, and Donald Martin – all members of the board – as well as Major, standing next to Chase’s desk.  His face shows no recognition as his attention is held by what the men are saying to him, and he replies to their muffled words with nothing more than a tiny nod.  Pulling his phone out of his back pocket, Chase checks his calendar – he was sure Gina said the meeting was only supposed to be with Douglas.  Sure enough, the meeting request was only for one, and the hairs on Chase’s neck stand on end.  Something was up.  Glancing around the empty waiting area, he quickly unbuckles his vest and checks his weapon in his holster, making sure the safety is switched off before returning it to its place. Adjusting his vest back over the weapon, he clears his throat before pushing through the office doors.

 

“Gentlemen.  Sorry to keep you all waiting.”

 

The three men rise and Major snaps to attention, saluting Chase as he passes, but doesn't make eye contact.  The simple act sets Chase’s muscles to contract as if ready to to defend himself at any moment.  Standing tall behind his desk, arms slung behind him, Chase’s eyes skim the three older white men staring at him, their eyes narrowed to a piercing squint.  Neither of the three have ever seen combat – know nothing about war or the business of war.  They just have money and it’s Chase’s job to make sure they make more money from their investment in this company.

 

“What do I owe the honour of not one but three board members today.”  Chase begins, nodding in the direction of each man, a wry smile creeping on his lips.

 

Douglas steps from between the two others, pointing his bony finger at Chase, his body shaking.  “You killed my boy!  Devin was an innocent bystander and you killed him you bastard!”

 

“Your ‘boy’ should have been a ‘man’ and not fallen in with a group of fanatical murdering zombies.” Chase replies calmly, his arms dropping to his sides should he need to reach for his gun.  “My soldiers are not instructed to ask the pedigree of the people shooting at them before they engage fire.  Your son was among Brother Love’s inner circle – I have intel that he was one of the people that coordinated night time strikes on innocent humans.”

 

Leaning forward, Chase braces his palms on his desk, his arms pushing straight as he gets closer to Douglas.  “Maybe if he needed more brain tubes, he should have called up his daddy to take him to Romero’s for a bite.”

 

The man lunges towards Chase and he instinctively steps back as Pratt and Martin grab their friend and pull him back off the desk.  “I’m going to kill you, you maniac!”

 

“You’ve gone too far, Graves!”  Growls Pratt as he tries to hold Douglas back.  “First you fail to execute that woman – Renegade -- then you close down two businesses without any word of your intentions to us and bring in a bunch of brats that we need to clothe and feed. And now this!  You’re a loose canon and we can’t have it anymore.”

 

Pulling out his gun, Chase points it at the men and they freeze, their mouths dropping in stunned silence.  Spinning the weapon on his index finger, he offers the handle to the men.  If they wanted to play a coward's game of Russian Roulette with him, then he was giving them the gun.  

 

“You want to replace me?  Fine.  I never wanted this job in the first place and every time I tell you to replace me, you all look at each other and slink away like the gutless old men you all are.”

 

The three men look at each other and then towards Major, his eyes open wide in shock.  Clearing his throat, Major turned towards Chase.  “Sir – it seems that the board wants me to be in charge from now on.”

 

Chase can't help the snort of laughter that escapes him and he flips the gun up onto his palm, presenting it to Major.  “You want it?  It’s yours.”

 

Holding up his hands, Major shakes his head emphatically.  “No Sir, General Graves – not at all.  That’s what I was trying to explain when you came in – I don’t have any military training or background in this sort of thing.  You are the right man for the job.”

 

Nodding, Chase smiles at Major’s loyalty.  Sliding the gun back into his holster, Chase adjusts his beret and places his hands behind his back again, straightening his spine before he addressed the cotery of old men.

 

“Gentlemen, it seems as though we are at an impasse, so at majority share holder in this company, why don’t I just make this decision for you – you leave right now and go back to your mansions and keep making money;  I’ll stay here and keep collecting all the money that the U.S. Government is paying us to keep us zombies away from the rest of the country.  I won’t bother you, and you won’t bother me...”  Raising one eyebrow, Chase’s jaw twitches as his tone became menacing.  “...and I can assure you that you and your families will wake up in your beds safe and well fed tomorrow morning.  Do I make myself clear?”

 

The three men squint at each other and then Chase, their hands dropping to their sides in defeat.  He knew he had them – if they were afraid of Harrison and Vivian, then he knew that they were terrified of him.  The mistaken impression with the board that he was a ‘lose canon’ was an image he continued to cultivate, knowing full well that every decision he made was carefully thought out before it was executed, but it helped in many situations where if he couldn’t gain their confidence, he could at least benefit from their fear and compliance.

 

“I am truly sorry for your loss, Douglas.” Chase offers quietly.  “But there was nothing we could do to save him.  He chose the wrong path and that was his undoing.”

 

Douglas’ lip twists up into a grimace of pain and he averts his eyes, turning his back on Chase as he makes his way towards the door, defeated in every way.  There is a pause as Pratt and Martin glance between their friend and Chase, as if deciding if they should stay and speak up, or retreat.  It's only when Chase gives them a small nod that realize they are dismissed and follow Douglas quietly out of the office, disappearing down the hallway without looking back.

 

Letting out a deep sigh, Chase drops into his chair, pulling off his beret as he rocks back, his hand running through his hair.

 

“That was intense.” Major mutters from beside the desk causing Chase to chuckle.

 

“That was not at all what I was expecting when I read that meeting request.”  Tossing his cap on the desk, he restlessly bounces back and forth in his chair, his arms raising up to grasp the top of the seat.

 

“Me neither –” Major concurs, sliding into one of the vacant seats. “When they first suggested that I should be in charge I actually laughed at them, thinking it was a joke.”

 

Snorting, Chase sits up, shaking his head at Major.  “You mean you don’t want this prestigious position?  Just think about it – the money, the fame, the women...”

 

Chuckling, Major shakes his head.  “Absolutely not, Sir.  Don’t take offence to this, but you don’t make it look appealing.”

 

“Thanks.  I think.”  He laughs, rubbing his face with his palms and closing his eyes, trying to process what just happened. 

 

“But General, I hate to say it but I don’t think they’ll rest until you are out, in some way.” 

 

Opening his eyes, Chase fixes his attention on Major – the smile disappearing from his face.  He's right and Chase knows it.  Before this, the board was already starting to turn on him – arguing at ever meeting about what he was doing and why he was doing it.  He would have to watch himself now.  Even with the threats, he had to come to terms with the fact that things may not be safe for him, going forward.  And if they weren’t safe for him, they may not be safe for Veronica either.

 

“You’re right, Major – they won’t -- which is why we need to make sure we get to the bottom of the stolen brain tube shipments as quickly and quietly as possible. If they’re going to force me out of this position, I want to make sure the zombies of Seattle are taken care of first, then I'll bow out quietly, if they want me to go.”

 

Leaning forward, Major frowns – deep lines creasing his forehead as his eyes grow hard.  “But sir, you can’t just leave.”

 

Chase shrugs, taking in a deep breath.  “Once we fix the food transportation problem completely, my mission may be over.  I can just fade out into the general population – collect my dividend in the company as a salary and line up for my brain tubes like any other zombie.”

 

“Does this have to do with Veronica?”  Major asks, his voice lowering as if worried about saying her name.

 

“Maybe it does.  Maybe I want to make sure she’s safe.  I finally found someone and I’ll be damned if I let anything happen to her or me for that matter.  And maybe I'm just being a selfish prick and just want to try out what a ‘normal’ life would be like.”

 

“I get that feeling, sir.  I wish for ‘normal’ every day.” 

 

Casting his eyes down, Major lets out a sigh of longing.  No matter what Chase's feelings for Liv Moore once were, he knows that Major will always carry a deep, unrequited love for his ex and for a moment Chase finally understands what it is like to love someone this deeply -- he just doesn't want to entertain the thought of losing Veronica like Major lost Liv.

 

Leaning back in his chair, Chase links his fingers together behind his head and smiles back at his loyal friend.  “Then maybe that’s our new plan -- Operation Normal -- not just for me, but for all of us."

 

Smiling, Major nods.  “I think that’s a great idea, General.”

 

Chapter Text

Chase rubs his eyes with his palms, leaning back in his chair.  Today was a shit show – but then again, when wasn’t it?  His confrontation with the board members was just the tip of the crazy.  First them, then being bombarded with the usual thousand small problems that needed to be solved; it all made him very thankful he spent a few extra hours in bed with Veronica this morning.

 

On top of everything, the media was on his back about the closures of the restaurants as well as the elimination of Brother Love’s group. One of the columnists in the newspaper referred to him as a Dictator, which actually made him laugh out loud.  They didn’t know the first thing about a dictatorship – he had worked several different continents on missions -- many of which were Government contracts specifically targeted to undermine totalitarian regimes. 

 

What the journalist failed to realize was that he was really working to make sure the zombies and humans of Seattle were free to live their lives to their fullest while trapped within the walls and had no intention of imposing his will on the people, for his own ego or profit.  Full bellies, full opportunities for everyone.  It wasn’t his fault there were always those who looked to get rich from these situations – those were his real targets.  He just hoped they could eventually get to a place where they wouldn't have to worry their next meal was coming from, or that their own county would try and eliminate them with the drop of a bomb while they slept.

 

“That bad, huh?”

 

Opening his eyes, Chase grins across the office at Veronica standing in the doorway, Major situated just behind her holding a white file box, a silly smile twisted along his lips.

 

“Yes – but it just got a thousand times better.”

 

“Awww shucks.  Thanks General.”  Major replies before Veronica can follow up.

 

Veronica shakes her head, rolling her eyes at Major.  “I think he was talking to me.”

 

Returning Chase’s smile, she strides over to the board room table and Major follows, placing the box down near her.  Standing, Chase stretches as he wanders over to meet them.  Veronica has changed since this morning and she is now in a professional-looking chocolate-brown pencil skirt, white blouse, and leather jacket; her hair styled in soft waves falling around her face.  She must have made the change when she went back to her apartment and he wonders what other outfits she packed to bring over to his house.

 

“Before I forget, Veronica...Gina made you an appointment at the salon for 17:00 – five-o’clock.  They're tanning and dying the kids from the congregation today, but they managed to squeeze you in when the children are usually having dinner.”

 

Stopping at her side, he resists the urge to lean down and kiss her, biting his bottom lip to hold himself in check.

 

“Thank you.  I appreciate it.”

 

Pulling her phone from her pocket, she gestures to the two men to sit near the edge of the table and they oblige as she seats herself between them and focuses on the iPhone screen.

 

“I already touched base with my computer expert this morning and she’s expecting our call.  I asked her to dig up everything and anything she could find on Russ Roche that couldn’t be found out just by cozying up to him.” 

 

Russ Roche -- the presumed 'master mind' of the stolen brains operation.  Based on intel given to him my Blaine, Chase had instructed Major to cozy up to the Fillmore Graves employee to gain his trust and see if they could gather evidence to link him to the brain tube thefts.  That was almost two-months ago and the only thing Major seemed to be able to get out of him was he liked cheap beer and even cheaper women.

 

Veronica glances quickly between Chase and Major before she connects her call and holds the phone up in her palm as the sound of the phone ringing now filling the room via speaker.

 

Mars Investigations – Mac here.”  A woman’s voice drifts into the room from the phone.

 

“Hey Mac.  I have you on speaker phone with General Graves and his second in command, Lieutenant Lillywhite.”

 

Chase is sure he hears a small chuckle on the other end of the phone at the mention of his name and he tries to catch Veronica’s eye to see her reaction, but her expression remains neutral.

 

Hello everyone.  I was able to dig up a lot of information in a short time, but I do have some questions to round out my search.”

 

“Of course -- whatever we can offer. Thank you for handling this so promptly.”  Chase offers, leaning towards the phone.

 

No problem whatsoever.  This is an easy one compared to what I’m used to.”

 

Chase exchanges glances at Major as he looks away sheepishly.  Surveillance was completely out of Major’s league and Chase curses himself for not using professionals from the start – maybe this whole problem would have been solved sooner.

 

“Whatcha got for us, Mac?” Veronica asks, keeping her eyes on the phone.

 

The sound of flipping papers pauses the conversation for a moment before the clicking of fingers on a keyboard begins.

 

Nothing looks out of the ordinary on the surface – no major purchases through his bank account or credit cards, however he did just register a new car several months ago.  Not a brand new car – looks like it’s a few years old – but from the registration information and the insurance forms it’s a pretty tricked-out Jeep.”

 

Veronica nods, her eyes meeting Chase’s.  “He knows what he’s doing  --  he bought something flashy – probably with cash – but not too flashy as to attract attention.”

 

Exactly.  I was able to hack into the traffic cameras on his block and I got lucky – looks like we have a pretty good view of the front entrance to his condo building.  If I get some timelines of when this all began, I may be able to get video footage of him loading in things like large pieces of furniture and electronics; things he could easily pay cash for and no one would notice.”

 

“I was at his place once –“ Major interjects, raising his index finger as if a lightbulb went off in his head.  “His condo is nice enough, but now that you mention it, he did have a really big television, and like, every gaming system available.”

 

“And you didn’t see that as suspicious?  You didn't question how he could afford it on his salary?”  Chase points his finger at Major, frowning at Major's perceived incompetence.

 

Major shrugs.  “I dunno.  I mean, I have the same set up and I’m not stealing brain tubes.”

 

A small snort of laughter comes from Veronica and she rolls her eyes.  “We can figure out some timelines for you Mac and I’ll text them to you.”

 

Sounds great.  Speaking of texts – I was able to hack into his cell phone number you gave me and download a list of contacts.  Nothing in his texts or emails seemed suspicious, but they may have a general code or code words they are using or even a burner phone.  I’ll email you the list and maybe you can go through them and see if anyone sounds familiar or triggers some reaction if the name is mentioned to Roche.”

 

“Perfect.  Email them to me and we can get on that A-SAP.  Lieutenant Lillywhite told me that Roche is expected for his shift at around five tonight – I’m going to stay late at the Fillmore Graves offices and tag his car with a tracking device while he’s on patrol so I can keep tabs on him.”  Nodding at the file box, Veronica shoots Chase a thumbs-up.  That must be how she got the surveillance equipment past security, he quickly surmises.

 

Are you going to use your cell or your office computer for the tracking?  Let me know which one you use and I can patch in and see if I can triangulate some of the locations of some of the people he is phoning with where he ends up.”

 

“I’ll probably use my cell – that way I can get alerts when he’s on the move no matter where I am.”

 

Not planning on being in the office much this week, are you?”

 

There is a hint of playfulness in Mac’s voice that could not be missed and when Chase looks over at Veronica a subtle blush has passed over her pale cheeks.  Did she tell Mac about him?  Was there a conversation at some point when she was alone about what transpired between them over the past few days?  And what exactly did she tell her best friend?  He makes a mental note to ask her about it later on.

 

Coughing, she meets Chase’s glance for a split second before frowning at her phone.  “No.  I’ve been busy outside of the office.”

 

“How soon do you think we can have the information we need to arrest Roche and any of his partners in this crime?”  Chase interjects, trying to keep the conversation on topic.

 

“Depends.  When is the next shipment scheduled to go out?”  Veronica's mouth twists in that way that Chase knows her brain had kicked into high gear, planning their next move.

 

“Shipments go out once a week to our distribution centres on Friday, unless one of them is running low and then we send out a supplemental smaller shipment.”  Chase rocks back in his chair, crossing his arms.

 

And is it the bigger shipments or smaller ones that have been targeted?” Mac’s voice comes through the phone.

 

“Completely random.” Major shrugs. “Sometimes it’s the smaller shipments, other times it’s the bigger ones.  Sometimes it’s none at all.”

 

“Nothing is ever random.” Veronica smiles at them both.  “Can you give me the location of each shipment at the time they were hit?  I bet if we look at them we’ll notice some pattern.”

 

Dragging his teeth across his bottom lip, a surge of desire rises in him -- there really wasn’t anything sexier than smart, dominant Veronica.  Her forehead wrinkles and her eyes narrow at him.

 

“What?”

 

Chase gives a nonchalant shrug, unable to stop the grin that spreads to his cheeks.  “Nothing.  I’m just in awe of the fact that in one afternoon Mars Investigations got further in solving this problem than any of us did in months.”

 

She leans back in the chair, still holding the cell phone up in front of her and tosses him a flirtatious wink.  “That’s just what we do. Trust me...we’ll have enough evidence to get Russ Roche and anyone else he may be partnered with taken care of in a few days.”

 

“I don’t doubt it at all.” He chuckles, his attention turning to Major. “Looks like you have some leg-work to do, Lillywhite.  I’ll need you to do up a list of dates and approximate times you were out partying with Roche as well as any details you can remember about what transpired and the names of any people you met.”

 

Major nods.  “Will do, sir.”

 

“I can pull the records of Roche’s patrol schedule for the past six-months and the details of the thefts from the files with Veronica and send them directly to you, Mac, within the next hour or so.”

 

That should give me enough to start on later tonight.  I will forward Veronica any information I’m able to extrapolate once I get everything together.”

 

“With the data we do have, I’ll start looking through the files on this side, Mac and text you anything I notice as well.”  Running her fingers through her hair, she tucks a section of hair behind her ear, her hand stopping to rest on her neck.

 

“Anything else you need from Fillmore Graves right now?” Chase asks, not able to move his gaze off Veronica’s profile.

 

She shakes her head, her hand dropping to the arm of the chair.  “That sounds like enough to get us going.  I assume you want to do this as quietly as possible, considering the headlines today.”

 

Silence falls in the room as the three glance between one another.  They all knew the back stories to the newspaper stories and Chase knew that his two confidants understood the ramifications of what was being said in public.

 

If it makes anyone feel any better, there isn’t a lot of coverage about you guys on the outside anymore.”  Mac says.  “I only know what’s happening because I subscribe to The Seattle Times online.”

 

Clucking her tongue against the top of her mouth, Veronica smiles.  “Keeping tabs on me, Mac?”

 

Keeping tabs on you is impossible, Vee.  Unless I implant a tracking device behind your ear next time you visit.”

 

A deep chuckle rises in Veronica and Chase can’t help but smile at her happiness.  “And on that note, Mac – I’m going to let you go.  Give the boys and the dog a hug for me.  I’ll be in touch.”

 

Will do.  Talk to you later.”

 

Veronica disconnects the call and places the phone face-down on the desk, tapping her nails on the glass surface.  “The sooner we get this information to Mac, the sooner we can solve this problem, General.”

 

Major pushes back his chair and stand, nodding at them both.  “I’ll get on my part right now, Sir.  Just need to grab my cell phone from my locker and look up a bunch of dates.”

 

Chase rises and nods to him.  “Excellent.  I’ll start pulling that information as well.  Maybe if we work fast enough we can make sure that another incident doesn’t take place now that production has increased at the factories.”

 

With a small salute, Major turns and exits the office quickly, intent on his new mission, leaving Chase and Veronica alone.  Silence falls as they both realize there is no one around them.  Holding up her palm, Veronica offers it to Chase and he obliges, pulling it gently up to his lips to kiss.  Rocking back in the chair, she looks up at him, grinning wildly.

 

“Okay...you were right.”

 

“I was?”  He frowns.  “About what?”

 

“I did kind of miss you these last few hours.” Biting the side of her lip, her eyes twinkle back at him.  “It sounds ridiculous to say out loud – I mean, I’m a grown woman not a teenager – but I really did miss you.”

 

His eyes dart towards Gina’s desk to see if she's there.  There’s a pang of regret when he realizes that not only is she there, but there are people milling about the hallway as well. 

 

“I missed you too.” He replies quietly. “And it’s not ridiculous at all.  Considering all the insanity out in the world right now, having you around just feels like...”

 

“...home.” She squeezes his hand as she responds and a deep sense of calm flows through him.

 

“Yeah.  Home."

 

Rising, she stays close to him, planting herself an acceptable distance away lest someone look through the glass walls and spy them together.  Swinging her hand playfully, Chase could care less about who can see them, but tries to keep some semblance of professionalism in her presence.

 

“I had a visit from a couple members of the board today.  They’re pretty upset with how I’ve been handling things as of late.”

 

“Oh really.” She drawls, cocking her eyebrow at him.  “Did they have any better solutions?”

 

Letting out a deep sigh, he shakes his head.  “No – but it means I have to be careful around here.  Right now, I feel like I can only trust you and Major -- and I’m getting the sense that it may become even more dangerous for me and possibly even for you both because of your loyalty.”

 

Narrowing her eyes, she glances over her shoulder towards Gina’s desk, dropping Chase’s hand as she focuses back on him.  “Do you have an exit plan, if things go south quickly?”

 

Scoffing, he crosses his arm and shakes his head.  “Exit where?  We’re walled in here.  The only reason I’m mentioning anything is because my biggest concern is for you, not me.”

 

“I can handle myself.” With a dismissive wave of her hand she paces away from him towards the exterior windows.

 

“You’ve said that to me before,” he states, following her across the room.  “And then you ended up frozen.”

 

Shooting a look of deep distain over her shoulder, she crosses her arms and spins to face him, stopping in front the bank of tall windows.  He’s hit a nerve and he can feel her agitation radiating from every pore in her body. 

 

“So what do you suggest?  We stop seeing each other outside of work?”

 

His hands fly up from his sides into the air in frustration.  Why did he think this would be anything but a fight?  Because if he had learned anything from his short time with her it was that Veronica Mars did not take kindly to being told what to do.

 

“No!  But I am suggesting that we make a plan – create a safe house or someplace inside the city that you can go if you need to lay low, should anything happen to me.”

 

A pained expression crosses her face and for a moment she avoids his eyes, trying not to let him see.  But it’s there – right on the surface – and now that he knows her, has seen her at her most raw, most intimate moments; she cannot hide it from him. She may think she can but he knows, her subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) expressions always give away her emotions. Stepping in front of her, he leaves little room for her to avoid him, his fingers gliding up her arm causing her to tense as he rests his hand gently on her shoulder – only then looking up at him with sorrowful eyes.

 

“Listen to me, Veronica.  I need to know that you'll do this for me.  They can do what they want with me – that’s out of my control – but I need to know that you'll be safe, should anything happen to me.  Please.  Promise me if something happens, you’ll think about yourself and leave me to my fate.”

 

Sucking a breath through her teeth, Veronica glances towards Gina’s desk again.  “I hate those windows,” she mutters, stepping closer to him.

 

Chuckling, Chase lowers his head to hers so they are almost nose to nose and she forces a tight smile at him.  “I know why I hate them...but why do you?”

 

Linking her fingers through his, Veronica lets out a soft gasp as if trying to keep control. “Because all I want right now is for you to hold me and just pretend just for a second that everything will be alright.”

 

Taking a sharp breath, Chase steadies himself.  “I want that too.”

 

He steps around her, standing tall as his broad body blocks her tiny form from view.  Guiding her towards him, Veronica presses her body gently against his as his arms come to rest on her hips, keeping her in place; her fingers sliding up his chest, resting by her head and he hears her breathing softly.  Resisting the urge to wrap his entire body around hers, he closes his eyes again, hoping that no one can see her huddled against him.

 

“I won’t let anything happen to you.” He whispers.

 

“And I won’t let anything happen to you.” She whispers back.

 

Opening his eyes, he glances down at the top of her head, her face hidden from him.  Chase should have known she would react this way – should have known that she wouldn’t listen.  But it was too late now to turn back.  If the board was looking to get rid of him, in some permanent way, he just had to hope now that Veronica didn’t get caught in the crossfire.