A Matter of Trust
He floated in a sea of blackness.
Where he was and how he had arrived at this place, he could not remember.
At first, he believed himself alone in the darkness, then he heard the
mummer of voices and sensed movement nearby. He tried not to flinch
as invisible hands reached out to brush against his hair and tug on his
clothing. The scent of evil was almost overwhelming; he could sense
a fierce hunger, a longing that was almost tangible, coming from the things
surrounding him. They hungered for his very soul, these unseen creatures
of the void, but surprisingly he was not afraid. This was not his
place; they had no power over him. They could not take what he refused
to surrender. How he knew this he didn't know but the certainty came
from the very core of his being. He could sense the creatures' frustration
as their efforts to absorb him were rebuffed. Ignoring their cries
of distress, he waited for deliverance from his tomb of darkness.
He had been drifting in the void for what
could have been seconds or eons when he noticed a change. He was
alone; the unseen inhabitants of this realm had fled. Far off in
the distance a single pinpoint of light appeared in the blackness.
As he watched the pinpoint grew brighter and a fierce longing arose within
him. Giving in to that inner compulsion, he let himself be drawn
toward the light. Up close the light was so bright it hurt to look
upon it but he ignored the pain and reached for the glowing star....
And awoke on the couch in his living room.
A dream, it had been a dream. With a groan Edward Marcase sat up
on the couch where he had inadvertently fallen asleep. Maybe Shiroma
was right, maybe he should have returned to the hospital. It had
been less than 24 hours since he had literally come back from the dead.
The euphoric feeling, (shock the medical part of his mind supplied), that
had surrounded him since his awakening in the hospital was fading.
And his body was letting him know, in no uncertain terms, that it did not
appreciate the abuse to which it had been subjected. He had convinced
Kimberly that he was fine and had promised to take it easy and rest.
It looked like that might not be a hard promise to keep seeing as how he
had barely made it to the couch before collapsing.
Favoring his bruised ribs Marcase rose
from the couch and headed to the kitchen. He had just finished filling
the coffeepot with water when he heard a knock on the door. Answering
the door he stared in surprise at his unexpected visitor.
"Well, Edward, I see that you are still
disobeying orders. Or did I just imagine that you are supposed to
be in the hospital?"
With a weary sigh Marcase waved his boss
in. "Come on in, I take it Kim called you?"
"Dr. Shiroma was concerned by your unwise
decision to leave the hospital. She also mentioned you were acting,
well let's just say odder than usual."
Marcase gave a wry smile, "You mean crazy?"
"Something like that."
"Look I'm fine really."
"So you said."
Marcase sighed; Cassian could really drive
him crazy sometimes. "I was just making coffee, want some?"
"Changing the subject isn't going to work,
but coffee sounds good. I'll take mine black."
"Make yourself at home."
Marcase pointed Cassian toward the living
room and escaped to the kitchen. He was not looking forward to this
conversation. He and Cassian had never seen eye to eye on anything
but this time, he had done the man a grave disservice and the price had
almost been his life. If Cassian and the team had not come for him,
the NSA would have killed him for real. Usually Marcase's instincts
were right, but he wasn't perfect and when he made a mistake he believed
in owning up to it and making amends. He had judged Cassian unfairly
and it was time to face the music.
Cassian watched Marcase disappear into the
kitchen and wandered into the living room. The apartment fit its
owner. It was neat without being fussy, decorated in warm browns.
The few pieces of furniture were designed for comfort. Bookcases
lined one wall and an entertainment center filled one corner of the room.
But what caught Cassian's attention was the collage of photos that filled
the wall next to the entertainment center. Dozen of photos filled
the space. Some showed Marcase with colleagues but most were of smiling
men, women and children from a dozen countries.
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"I see you've found my victory wall."
Startled Cassian turned to find Marcase standing behind him. Handing
him a cup, Marcase pointed to the wall of pictures. "I keep it to
remind me what it's all about. Whenever I get tired or frustrated
I look at all of their faces and it reminds me why I'm fighting.
It keeps me going on. Each of them is a miracle, a survivor.
Sometimes when you're up to your neck in bodies, it's easy to lose sight
of what is really important. They remind me."
Turning Marcase walked over and carefully
eased his body down onto the sofa. "But you didn't come over to talk
about my decor."
Studying the careful way Marcase moved,
Cassian wanted to pack him off to the hospital where he belonged, but he
did not give in to that impulse. Marcase could be obstinate when
he put his mind to it and stress was one thing his system did not need
at the moment. Following Marcase across the room he sat down in the armchair
next to the couch. "No, I came over to try and talk you into
being reasonable and coming back to the hospital. Shiroma thought
I might have better luck convincing you."
"All I need is some rest and I can do that
much better at home than in a noisy hospital."
"Alright, but if I find that you are not
taking it easy I'll send Mr. Hailey over to baby sit. He would not
be happy if you killed yourself after all he went through to rescue you."
Placing his coffee cup on the coffee table
Cassian rose to leave. "Cassian." The softly utter word stopped
him just as he reached the front door. Turning he watched as Marcase
took a deep breath and slowly released it, whatever was on the younger
man's mind was obviously serious. He crossed the room and reclaimed
his seat. For a few moments they sat in silence as Cassian waited
for Marcase to broach the subject that weighed so heavily on his mind.
Finally, Marcase looked Cassian in the eye and spoke. "I owe you
an apology and a thank you."
"Are you sure we should discuss this now?"
"Cassian, I'm OK and I need to say this.
I misjudged you. I let my false perceptions govern my actions; it
cost the life of one man and almost cost me mine. I'm sorry, I know
that doesn't make everything alright, but I don't know what else to say."
Cassian studied Marcase closely then nodded.
accepted. There is just one thing I want to know. Why?
Why did you feel you had to disobey my orders and put yourself at risk?"
Marcase gave a weary sigh and shook his
head. "I'm not sure I can explain it."
"I thought you were coming to take my patient
out and kill him. I couldn't let that happen."
"Edward, what have I ever done to make
you think I would take a crippled man out and execute him?"
"Oh, come on Cassian, you and I both know
that we are all expendable. You'd sacrifice any and all of us for
the cause. Gordon Kennick was a liability. His presence at
the Mansion would have tipped off the NSA to your interest in them.
That would have messed up your so-called covert operation. When you
ignored mine and Shiroma's medical recommendations, I took it to mean that
Gordon didn't need to worry about medical care since he wouldn't be around
to need it."
"Well, you were wrong."
"Yeah, I kind of figured that one out for
"Edward, I can't always explain my actions
to you. The NSA already knew about Kennick and was on their way.
I told you to stay put to protect you and Kennick. I would not needlessly
risk the team. As Mr. Hailey reminded me, talent is too hard to replace."
"How are we to know that? You keep
us in the dark and then you're surprised when we screw up your plans."
"You have to trust me Edward. That
whatever decisions I make are in the best interest of the team and the
people we are sworn to protect. I can't always explain myself.
There are too many players in the game, and sometimes even I'm not sure
of what games are being played."
"It all comes down to trust doesn't it?
When we met I told you I didn't trust you and it was true. I've been
on the receiving end of too much betrayal from you intelligence types.
But now, I think maybe that's changed. Don't get me wrong, I still
think you are probably the hardest man I've ever known, but I've learned
one other thing about you; you don't hold life cheap. I've seen true
evil Cassian, and it's not in you."
"So does this mean you'll follow orders
and do what you're told?"
Marcase laughed, and the impish grin that
Cassian had come to recognize as trouble spread across his face.
"Don't count on it boss. If you had wanted robots you should have
picked a different team. I will still probably disagree with everything
you do; can't fight my nature. But I'll try to see the big picture
too. I get so wrapped up in my patients and fighting the disease
I'm sometimes blind to anything else."
For the first time since entering the apartment
Cassian felt some of the tension leave him. Maybe the team could
survive this after all. Marcase was not the only one to learn something
about himself from this incident. "That's what makes you a good doctor,
but Edward, sometimes we can't always do what we wish. Sometimes
we sacrifice some to save many; there is no other choice. I know
that's not something you accept, but it is nevertheless true. I can't
promise that I won't have to make those kinds of decisions in the future,
it's the price of responsibility; but I can promise you that any decisions
I make will not be based on expediency but on necessity. I'm also
a doctor, I took the same oath you did; it's my job to save lives.
I'll try to share what I know with the team. It won't be easy, I've
had a lot of practice keeping secrets."
"Well, we are a team aren't we? And
a team sticks together even when one of us does something stupid and the
other keeps secrets."
"Yes, we are a team, that is if Shiroma
and Hailey have
forgiven me for getting you killed. They expressed a severe
dislike for my management skills."
"You're kidding, Hailey actually disagreed
with you, I don't believe it."
"Believe it Edward, it seems Mr. Hailey
has an aversion to loosing teammates. A hold over from his SEAL days
I suspect. Makes him quiet testy."
"I'd best try to stay out of trouble then,
I wouldn't want to make Michael testy."
For a few moments the two men sat in companionable
silence each lost in thought. They would never see eye to eye on
things but that was as it should be. A team needed diversity; what
it didn't need was subterfuge. But you could trust someone even if
you didn't agree with their decisions. And teammates backed one another
even when they disagreed.
Suddenly a wave of fatigue washed over
Marcase. He hadn't realized how much tension he had been under until
it lifted. Damn he hated feeling weak, but you couldn't turn your body
inside out and expect to bounce back overnight.
Cassian sensed the exact moment when the
adrenaline that had been sustaining Marcase through this uncomfortable
discussion faded. It was time to go. "Speaking of Hailey, I
had best be going. I promised him and Shiroma a full report.
They are both worried about you."
Rising, Marcase followed Cassian to the
door. "Tell them I'm fine, and Cassian, thanks again for everything."
"Try to behave yourself Edward, I'd hate
to have to send Mr. Hailey over to keep you in line. Michael's not
the only one with a protective streak when it comes to teammates.
Get some rest, the team needs you and we have a lot of work ahead of us."
"So I've been told." At Cassian's
puzzled look he continued. "I'll have to tell you about my encounter
on the other side sometime."
"I'll look forward to it. Goodnight,
Closing the door, Marcase made his way
back to the couch and was soon fast asleep. This time there were
no dark shadows to interrupt his rest.
From the street Cassian watched as the
lights went off in Marcase's apartment, then entered his limo and headed
for home. His team had survived its latest threat and another player
had been removed from the game. For the moment Dr. Daniel Cassian