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[personal profile] metropolis22786

Silver Springs, MD
November 2009

The phone rings, the first part of the "Wonder Woman" theme sounding before Falkner snaps awake and reaches for it,groggily, through the tangle of sheets and sleepiness. She punched the green button. "Falkner."

"Es, I," said Nikki Lau, and the uncertainty, the lostness of the voice drew the last parts of sleep away from Falkner's brain in a whirlwind of man down, man down. There's an indrawn breath on the line


"Oh, Jesus, I'm really sorry, Es, I just... I can't be in the office tomorrow, I-" it cuts off, and there's maybe something that's a sob, maybe just an exhalation.

She doesn't remember swinging her legs out of bed, it's the slight twinge across her back that gives it away. She's standing, the phone clasped to her ear as she rises and moves out of the bedroom, leaving Ben to his deep slumber, oblivious to the phone and the four a.m. call. The dryer is still going, she can hear it from out on the hallway as she says, "What's up?"

Not, "Is everything all right?" because a four a.m. phone call is never good news.

"It's my dad," she mutters, voice quavering. "He's... He's dead."

A sharp intake of breath. "Oh, Nikki... I'm so sorry."

"A heart attack," she replies to the unspoken question, and damn profilers to all the hells, they know what to ask and when to ask it, but also what not to ask and when not to ask it. "Sudden and massive, he never stood a chance, it was just-"

"One of those things," finishes Falkner, into the trailed-off silence. There's a pause of several seconds, Falkner leaning on the bannister looking downstairs, eyes flicking to Bekk's and Debs' rooms, while she listens to the shaky intake of breathing on the other end of the line.

Not because she's silent, but because she's sniffling.

Nikki needs the time to gather herself, repair her shattered self-image. She's the Bulletproof One, the Girl Without Fear, always on show as her team face. Falkner realises this, ruthlessly crushes the part of her that wants to say mythology, says game face, says, "You've got a week's leave starting seven a.m. today. Let me know what flight you're on. I'll deal with the office side tomorrow."

"Are you sure? I've got the report to write, and-"

"Lau." The Command Voice.

The protests dry up. "Yes, Ma'am?"

"Go to your family." Soften the Command Voice, but it's still there if necessary. "The reports can wait for a week. You know that extra Ess I have in front of my name? It lets me order agents around."

There's a faint sigh down the phone.

"Your family take precedence, Agent Lau. Go to them."

"Thank you, Ma'am," says Lau. "I'm sorry to have woken you."

"No, you did well," says Falkner. Recognizance of a bad job done well, she thinks. "Thank you for informing me. Text me the details of your flight, okay?"

"Will do," says Lau, and it's the Wonder Woman's voice, calm, steady, controlled, back in the saddle.

No useless human emotion will get in the way here, says that voice, but only Falkner knows how fragile she is.

"Do you want me to send anyone with you?"

There's a definite sniff this time. "No, I should be fine. I'll let the others know tomorrow. Keep the tranks handy in case Danny wants to follow me, huh?"

A chuckle forces its way to the surface, unlooked for, but welcome. "Will do."

It's Lau that hangs up after that, no more pleasantries or useless talk. Falkner returns to the bedroom, plugging the charging lead into the phone and laying back down, pulling the covers up to her chin. Ben's still sleeping deeply, but it's a long time till Esther can join him.

Her thoughts revolve around two words, until she falls into an uneasy sleep.

Secondary Crack.
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