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WATCH YOUR BACK

Chapter Text

Natasha Zapata approaches the building where she and Edgar Reade make their home,
reaching for her keys before she abruptly recognizes a tall, olive-skinned behemoth of a
man she's not seen or thought of in years: LEXOR ROY. A rush of memories, not all
positive, flood back into her mind. After departing for the CIA, she'd met and had a fling
with (if 18 months can be defined as 'fling') with the good-looking, highly-skilled MMA
(Mixed Martial Arts) combatant, which ended in a jail term for Roy.

She continues on cautiously, sliding her hand closer to the holstered SIG SAUER 40 cal pistol
at her side. She stops a few feet away from him before speaking. "Lexor. When were you released?"

'Week ago. Looking good, CIA. Speaking of RELEASE..." he cups his groin suggestively.

Zapata ignores the crude gesture, refusing to allow herself to be baited.

"I'm glad that you're OK. I need to go." She doesn't move though, waiting for him to take the hint and depart.

“So…I’m ‘ghosted’, that’s it?”

“Lex…we’re not doing this again; PLEASE. I’m worn out, and I need to get upstairs.”

“When then? Meet me an hour-wherever you say.”

“No, I can’t. I’ll call you in a few days...actually-I WON'T, now that I think about it.”

“You’re not in your old place-I went by there. You moved out six months ago. My P.I. tracked you here.”

(Shakira’s “Estoy Aqui”, Zapata ‘s ringtone, sounds in her jacket pocket, and she refuses the call by
touch-it’s probably Reade, and she ‘ll be home in a few more minutes, anyway)…
“YOUR P.I.?L -you HAVE TO stop this. It was a good 18 months-a GREAT 18 months
actually, in many ways-in many ways NOT-we left it how we left it, and now we’re HERE. I have to
tell you, though: I can’t be your friend if you insist on putting surveillance on me. Real talk.”

“What’s your hurry? You’re awful anxious to get upstairs.”

“Ask your P.I. Now you’ll have to excuse me-I need to get home.”

"Estoy Aqui" sounds again, and this time she answers: it’s Reade…

“Hey…si…uh-huh…I’ll be up in ten. No-un conocido que me encontro en la calle…Si…diez. Bye.”

Lex bristles. The tone in her voice when she said “hey” and “bye” is unmistakably that tone that
lovers use when speaking to each other…the same tone the two of THEM had used during their
nearly two year involvement

“Who's that!?”, he barks, QUIEN ES!?", and Tasha braces herself for a possible verbal tirade (and
perhaps a PHYSICAL attack). “You see?! Do you SEE why we ended? THAT kind of shit, right
there!", she retorts. "Now...you're out, you're free...move on, Lex. I have."

"Yeah, how about NO," he replies, clenching his big fist and taking a half-step toward her.
Fluidly, and instinctively, Tasha flips back the long over-coat she wears and places a hand on her side-arm.
"DON'T". As baldly as that. DON'T.

"YEAH...well...it's in your 'best interest' to call me at this number (he's cupped a laminated business card in his
other hand, which he casually flips at the CIA Agent's feet.) I'd do it by NOON, or a certain video will be
released-I'll bet it goes viral by the evening. Remember HAMMERLOCK? He remembers YOU."

Lex Roy turns on his heel and saunters away, his derisive laughter roiling through the semi-empty streets.

Zapata's blood turns to ice, and she's nearly sick, right there on the sidewalk. That Mother-Sucker
recorded me is her singular, heart-rending thought. Clutching her stomach, she bends
and shakily retrieves the business card, and hurries into the building, as quickly as her queasy stomach
will allow.

Chapter Text

"The person that I ran into on the street-during the time that we were away from each
other for that year and a half, I was involved with him. Involved, but undercover..His name's
Lexor Roy-his ring name is Lex Roy. He was 'streeted' a few months ago, from Otisville. Here's
the fucked-up part-he was there because of ME, though not as part of the operation-AG Domestic
Assault."

'Okay."

"He came here to tell me...to threaten me-that if I don't go back to him, he'll release some
material that will damage me, the CIA, and who knows whom or what else.

Reade steadies himself. He said that he loves this woman without condition, not
when it's most convenient. These past activities have nothing to do with him, his
involvement with Meg hasn't been brought up or thrown into his face once, nor his
narcotic addiction...or that other thing-with Coach.The Mother of his Child deserves
the same consideration, concerning HER past. And so he asks, simply: "How bad?"

Maintaining her steady gaze, her answer is deadpan: "Multiple Men. Unisex. Where the...
the men gang one woman. Or The Women gang the one woman. I-I would rather
not go into specifics...please don't ask me to."

His nod verifies that he's good with not having more details than those she's provided.
He looks away.

"Reade. Look at me. Please." When he does, she implores him to TRY to understand
the circumstances surrounding her behavior: the dispersing of the team, Paterson's
defection to Silicon Valley, and...MEG...no one to talk to or lean on or confide her loneliness
or feelings of loss...NO ONE to 'TALK HER DOWN'...Keaton encouraged her to get close to
Lex, to find a way into the Russian, Ukrainian, and other gangsters seeking a foothold into
the MMA (the money-laundering, sports book, etc are very tempting prizes.)

So she did as asked...a six month assignment turned into a year, then longer. And the assignment
became...a fling. She knew that she was in trouble after the first six months, and once Keaton
didn't pull her...that was sort of that...She knew he was abusing steroids, as well as meth and br />
alcohol. Combined with his volatile temper, this caused plenty of verbal altercations, a few physical
(he broke her wrist once)...for HER it as an ASSIGNMENT/A WAY TO SCRATCH AN ITCH; for him much
more, apparently...he considers her to be his property, then (and apparently NOW), and one night
after she fails to bring a fresh beer to him within seconds of his requesting it, he attacked and
brutalized her so badly that three weeks in the hospital (and jail term for Roy) is how she finally
"got out"...

'I didn't get pulled into the narcotics or the alcohol, Reade. I swear on THIS one." Galinda stumbles
into the room, wavering on her feet. She's only been walking for a day, and she's groggy from her
nap. She goes directly to her Mother, who boosts her up and onto her lap. They booth look at her fondly,
with huge smiles full of love...then at each other, the love shing there a different kind-that of a man and
a woman so in love that nothing can break corrupt that emotion.

.
"There's at least one video. I was not aware of being filmed. I don't care about myself, only HER...and
YOU. Neither of you can be damaged by the release of it. I will not let that happen. Paterson and Rich
are already into the tech part of blocking the release, also Boston. Keaton's looped in-he has CIA
resources he can bring to bear."

"And the Noon Deadline?"

"Rich said to not bother about it. He's hacked the entire network, and the server he uploaded it to. And the
cloud. They will corrupt it out of existence, long before noon, which is-one hour from now."

"I kept track of you all of that time, you know. Once Meg came onto the radar-I hoped that it was a short term
type of thing, casual...when it developed into more, that was the the main factor, the trigger that pushed me
into Lex's orbit and...the rest. I love you so much, Reade. Through it all, my love just...grew STRONGER, somehow.
Will you accept that I will NEVER bring something like this to your door, ever again? That NEW TASHA, the Mother,
the LIFE PARTNER, has put of of that shit behind her? You love me, I know that. Forgive me?"

"I can forgive this, and push through it. I understand that conditions were less than perfect, and that any of us
might have made some regrettable decisions. We're RAPATA, baby. We don't break. And I'm fucking Lex Roy UP,
after this is all finished, by the way."

"Ya esta dormiendo de nuevo, Pobrecita...acostamos?" Her dark, dark eyes are relieved-and mischievous

Reade is a quick study. "Hablando de eso...yo tambien tengo 'mimis' ".

Chapter Text

"He's not the same, Kurt...I'm telling you. I know him...this...DISTANCE...we've never been
this....'not close.'

"Listen, My Girl: That was a lot to process, you know? I can tell you-as a MAN-let him process.
What you did is not smart-(he holds up a hand to cut-off any protest)-and I wouldn't be your friend
if I just gloss that over...that being said, it's not an insurmountable barrier. Reade is a reasonable, very
thoughtful guy, who loves you beyond reason or logic. I advise you to let him get to where you want him
to be ON HIS OWN."

"Is Jane here? I wouldn't mind her in-put."

" 'Course...Jane Weller!"

Jane comes into the room, drying her hands on a towel. "You summoned me, Master?"

"We're doing an "I Dream of Jeannie" thing", Weller explains.

Tasha rolls her eyes. Oh, Brother ..."

"Keep 'em ROLLING, Frozen-Out", Kurt jibes.

"Kurt, Jane warns. What's up. You two need my help on something?"

Weller says, "MMA guy." "Right...That part is already being handled. If it were ME-she adds,
WHICH IT WAS, not to be an ass -roll them all and rendition the fuck out of Roy
AND Hammerlock-he's actual name is Pierce Graham, by the way. Fuck the rest"

"Reade has been a bit distant as well. Tash could use some advice about that, since we went through
something similar."

"On THAT...avoiding the issue is NOT the answer...WE learned that...as time goes by, Reade, I believe,
will get to the place where he realizes that this entire Roy debacle was really not your fault. I see its as a
perfect storm of shit that just...evolved into a tsunami. You made some mistakes, but we all do. You love him,
and he loves you. As long as he hasn't mentioned leaving, he's coming to grips with it. That means that there's
a way forward...hang in there."

"Thank you, Guys. I feel much better about things. I'll take your advice, give him a little space. Thank you both, again."