A KIND OF MAGIC
Stepping off the plane stairway, and onto the tarmac, Trace scanned the area around her. She had never been to Scotland, and to actually see it, and breath the same air as those who made monumental moments in history made her feel suddenly small in the world. Tilting her head back, and breathing in deeply, the cool air soothed her tired bones, and gave her a renewed vigor.
Her moment of sole contemplation was soon halted, as her traveling companions exited the plan behind her. She had been sent, along with a group of her fellow operatives, on a much-needed vacation. They had been given the opportunity to go anywhere in the world that they wanted, but they had to agree on the same place. So, after much discussion, and twisting of arms, Michael got everyone to agree on Scotland.
At first, Trace was not too hot on the idea. True, it had been suggested by her least favorite spy-boy, and that in itself made it a no-go. And, then there was the total idea of spending her first vacation in goodness knows how long, in a place that took forever to get to by plane. And, of course, there was the whole *flying* issue.
Aly, along with Trace, had turned green all over when the plane took off, and neither had changed color, other than shade of green, for the entire trip. They had been so ill, that they vowed that they would make the return trip by boat if necessary.
Turning, and looked up at those exiting the plane, Trace couldn't help but smile. First off were North and Sly. North was already on her cellphone, talking to Operations. She just couldn't seem to go a day, let alone her whole vacation without checking in with the shark himself. Following closely behind were Rita, Sherry, and Nabiki. Nabiki had on the heaviest sweater Trace had ever seen in her life. Having lived in the tropics for so long, Nabiki was afraid of what would happen to her immune system, when submitted to the cold, damp weather of Scotland. So, as a precaution, she had borrowed a sweater from Roy. Matching sweaters to be exact, as Roy exited behind her, and looked like her twin at first glance.
Next in line was Aly, Michael, and Gray. Tilting her head down, and shaking it from side to side, tears of laughter welled up in Trace's eyes, as she tried her best not to chuckle out loud. Sly and North hit the tarmac, and coming over to Trace, glanced back at what she was looking at. Both women laughed out loud, drawing the attention of the others.
Aly, acting as if she were on the biggest adventure of her life, had paid no heed to those walking down the steps directly behind her. But, the others before her saw them, and all either chuckled or smiled. Michael and Gray, in the spirit of the trip, were both dressed in kilts. Michael's, covered in patches of read and navy, looked to be the most uncomfortable thing in the world. Gray, on the other hand, wearing one with large patches of navy crisscrossed with yellow and white, only placed his hands on his hips, and inhaled deeply.
Reaching the bottom, and joining the others on the tarmac, Gray noticed the ladies hiding their laughter, and raised a curious brow. 'What's up?' he asked innocently, looking to Trace. Aly, having joined the others, leaned in and whispered to North, wondering what all the commotion was about. After a few moments, Aly's hand flew to her mouth, to hide her smile.
'Uh, Michael?' Trace began, walking up to within inches of him. Michael, with the most confused look on his face, shifted from side to side on the balls of his feet. 'Is something wrong there stud?' she asked.
'Yeah, Michael,' Gray exclaimed, placing his arm around Michael's shoulders, 'what is the problem? Is something wrong?'
Michael blushed slightly, then leaned in close to Gray, trying to whisper so that the others couldn't hear, but not quite low enough to keep Trace from hearing.
'Uh, aren't you...well...you know...itching any?' Michael asked, trying to be nonchalant.
'What do you mean?' Gray asked.
'You know...down...well...under the kilt,' Michael offered.
'Michael...you did...well you did wear underwear under it didn't you?' Gray questioned, turning with a serious look at Michael.
'I thought it was customary to not wear any?' Michael interjected, still shifting from side to side.
'That is only if you are a true Scot,' Gray answered.
Trace slapped her hand over her mouth as quickly as she could, but not before a small yelp escaped. Turning, Michael gave her his best blank stare, which only further tickled her funny bone. After making sure she had a grip on herself, she walked up to Michael, and placed her hand sympathetically on his shoulder.
'Buck up stud muffin!! I mean...after all...you are more used to the spy-boy leather gear!!'
Then, laughing so hard she cried, she returned to the others, leaving a blushing, yet on the verge of laughing himself Michael behind.
'What's up?' Aly asked, as the others gathered around Trace. Trace only shook her head, and tried to keep her laughing at a minimum.
'Suffice it to say, this is going to be one very interesting vacation.'
Gathering in the lobby of their hotel, the group went over their plans for sightseeing for the day. They had all wanted to make sure to hit a few of the centuries old castles, and to check out some of the local sight seeing spots. That was, all except for Aly, Trace, Michael and Gray. They had all agreed to just go where the wind took them, and see what happened.
After bidding a farewell to the others, the intrepid foursome stepped out of the hotel, into the cloudy, somewhat cool day that awaited them. Looking to one another, and not knowing where to start first, Aly was the first to speak up.
'Why don't I check and see about getting us some sightseeing brochures?' Aly offered, as the others nodded in agreement. 'I will come with you,' Michael said, placing his arm leisurely around Aly's waist, as both turned and reentered the hotel.
'I am going down the way a bit, and see about maybe locating us some traveling food,' Gray said, as he leaned in and gave Trace a small peck on the check. Smiling, and nodding in understanding, Trace watched as he disappeared down the street.
Standing alone, on the sidewalk, Trace felt like she was about as out of place as a hamburger at a vegetarian convention. After a while and feeling that maybe the others had decided on alternative plans, she turned to reenter the hotel, to search out Michael and Aly.
When she did, she felt someone grasp her upper shoulder firmly, and she spun around. She was ready to lay into Gray, and yell at him for keeping her so long. Spinning around, she let him have it. 'What in the hell took you so...'
Before she could finish her snappy retort, her gaze fell on the most unusual eyes she had ever seen. She felt as if she were falling into their deep-set, dark, murky depths. But, at times, they also appeared as if lighting from some unknown storm flashed across them. During one of these instances, the individual grasping her arm spoke, breaking the hold that his eyes had previously had on her. His voice moved over and through her, holding her in place, and not allowing her to move.
'I was wondering,' he began, gazing at her so intently, it sent shivers up and down her spine. 'I was wondering, do you know how one would get to Valhalla Lane from here?'
At first Trace couldn't answer. Her mouth was bone dry, and her throat had closed off any hope for speech. Then, regaining her senses, she inhaled suddenly, and swallowed with some effort.
'No,' she said. 'I mean, no, I haven't the foggiest. I am new here myself.'
The stranger smiled, and when he did, it seemed as if the very action was so normal and familiar to him, that one would think he would walk around with a perpetual smile on his face.
He was dressed in a tan trenchcoat, dark blue jeans, and very white, very clean tennis shoes. His coat was pulled up snugly around him, and his hands were ensconced in brown leather gloves. Even though they had just met, Trace felt at ease, and totally comfortable with the stranger.
'Thanks anyway,' he said, as he started to move away. Trace watched him walking away from her, and then in an impetuous move, she called to the stranger. 'I...I hope we meet again,' she said, then closed her eyes and berated herself for being so lame. But, she didn't have much time for berating, because the stranger paused, and turned to look back over his shoulder at her.
'I am sure we will,' he said, the smile returning to his face. 'Have a nice visit,' he finished, then turned, and walking around the corner, disappeared.
Looking after the stranger, Trace was so entranced by what had just happened, that she didn't notice that Aly and Michael had returned. 'Boy!! This place is at no lack for castles. There are four within a few blocks alone.'
Noticing that Trace wasn't paying any attention to her, Aly playfully punched Trace in the arm. 'Uh, Trace? You okay?' Aly asked.
'Huh?' Trace mumbled, turning to Aly but not really seeing her. Then, shaking her head, and clearing her thoughts, Trace forced a cheerful smile, and punched Aly back in the arm.
'I am fine!! Now, which place are we going to see first?' she asked, as Gray joined the group. 'What did I miss?' he asked, looking from one face to the other.
'Oh, nothing,' Trace replied. As the group moved across the street, and prepared for their day of fun, Trace casually glanced back over her shoulder, to the corner, and smiled.
Having finished an entire day of sightseeing, the foursome returned to their rooms. They found out, on the way up, that the other members of their party were going to meet in the hotel bar, for drinks and dancing. After a much needed soak in the tub, Trace put on her favorite red dress, pulled her hair up, and joined her fellow vacationers.
Walking into the bar, the first person she saw, was the last she had wanted to at that time. Gray came up to her, smiling so brightly it made her heartache. They had learned, just before leaving for their trip, that when they returned, Gray would go on a special valentine mission. He would have to get close to a sheik's daughter, in order to get intel that was vital and crucial. When Trace had heard, she had first screamed, and then cried. She had cried so hard, that she thought she would die. But, after all the tears, and a long time to think, she approached Gray. With a heavy heart, and a not so steady attitude, she asked him what he thought they should do.
Although his answer was not one that she had not expected, and one that she had come to the realization herself was the only one, it nonetheless made it very hard, and very painful to hear. They were ending their relationship, for the time being. They were resigning themselves that they didn't have the strength or stamina that Michael and Nikita did, to just go with the flow. So, in a moment of affirmation, they decided that each of the other would carry on their lives. And that, down the road, when the mission was over, if they chose to rekindle their relationship, that they would give it a chance.
But, even after all the conversations, and all the decisions, when Gray looked at her, and when he smiled, her heart would clench and it would be a struggle to merely breath. They both had hoped that this vacation would help them to start fresh. To still be friends, and confidants, but to be able to move to the next level. They resigned themselves to this...each of them...but that didn't mean that she had to like it.
'Hey Gray,' Trace said, her greeting weaker than she had intended.
Gray walked up to her, and placing his finger under her chin tilted her head back, gazing into her eyes. 'We have an agreement,' he said, 'and it does neither one of us any good mopping around.' He then leaned in, and giving a light brush of a kiss across her nose, stood up straight.
'Now, we are here to have fun, and I say...there's no time like the present.' Taking her hand, Gray lead Trace through the crowd, onto the dance floor. The music was fast, and cheerful, and in a matter of moments they were both laughing and joking. Then, the music turned more slow, and romantic.
Placing his one arm around Trace's waist, and taking her hand in the his other, Gray drew her close, and set the pace. But, only a few moments into the dance, someone tapped Gray on the shoulder.
Looking up, Trace saw the stranger that she had met earlier that day. Gray, looking from the stranger, to Trace, waited to see what she wanted him to do. Giving him the go ahead, Gray graciously stepped back, and allowed the stranger to take his place.
The stranger, dressed in what appeared to be a brown tweed suit, with a tan shirt and tie, moved slowly forward. Taking Trace's hand into his, and wrapping his arm securely around her, he pulled her up against him. He moved them slowly, setting a rhythmic, sensual pace. Trace gazed up at the stranger, once again, noticing his eyes.
As they danced, the stranger moved his thumb up and down the back of Trace's hand, sending sensations down her arm, and throughout her entire body. He was unlike any man she had ever met, and would ever meet again.
They danced every dance, from then on, and never once said a word to one another. They simply gazed upon one another, enjoying the feel of each other, and the sounds of the music. Trace wasn't sure how long they had danced, but when the last song ended, and the bartender called for last call, she realized that time had passed quickly.
Everyone else had already retired to their rooms, and she and the stranger were the only ones left. Blushing, and stepping back from the stranger, Trace cast her eyes downward, not knowing what to say. The stranger, reaching up, placed the palm of his hand on her cheek. Trace looked up at him, and watched, as a slow, sensual smile formed on his lips. Tilting her head back, he gazed at her, caressing her cheek with his thumb.
She started to ask him his name, but was stopped, when he leaned in and kissed her. The kiss was soft, and chaste at first, but in moments, intensified. He pulled her tightly to him, and deepened the kiss. Trace wrapped her arms around his neck, and ran her fingers up into his short, dark blonde hair. She had never, in her life, had a man kiss her, the way this man did. It was unlike anything else she had ever felt, and she didn't want it to end.
But, as quickly as the moment came, it was over. Opening her eyes, she found the stranger, standing before her, smiling, his eyes twinkling. Then, taking her hand, and bringing it to his lips, he kissed her knuckles.
'Will I see you again?' she asked, afraid of what the answer would be.
'It's a kind of magic. Who's to say our paths won't cross again,' he replied, stepping back a step.
'I hope they do,' she whispered, as he turned, and walked across the dance floor, out of the bar, and out of her life.
The van access door opened, and the operatives from the Thailand mission filed out. Leading the team were North, and Michael. Following close behind were Aly and Trace. They had been sent to retrieve a coded file, and had returned successful.
Turning once they were through the door, the group was headed for debrief. Before they had gotten very far, Madeline stopped them.
'Michael, once you and your team are through with debriefing, would you please meet me in the lobby?'
Before Michael could answer, Madeline turned on her heel and left.
'Wonder what's up with her?' North commented, as Aly and Trace shrugged their shoulders. Figuring that they would find out soon enough, the team continued on their way.
Once their debrief was over, and having returned their gear to Walter, the team headed across the lobby, to join Madeline and Operations at Birkoff's station. Once they were there, they waited, but only for a while.
'Michael, we wanted to personally introduce you, and your team, to a new member of Section. He was recruited into our *family* for his expertise in weapons of all kinds. We are hoping that by educating our operatives in more conventional means of defense, that the current mortality rate will be decreased.'
As Operations said this, the groups' attention was directed to the individual standing next to Birkoff's station, just behind Madeline. Turning, as if on cue, the individual stepped forward, and introduced himself.
'Hello, I am Macleod, Connor Macleod. And I am sure that we will each learn from one another, during my stay at Section.'
'It's you...' Trace whispered, unable to say much else. She was grateful that no one heard her, and as Operations dismissed them, and the group dispersed, Connor stepped up close to Trace.
'So, that is your name. Connor.' Trace smiled, and reaching out her hand, offered to shake his. Connor smiled in return, and taking Trace's hand, shook it slowly.
'And what is your name.. If I may ask?' he replied, still holding her hand in his.
'Uh...Trace. But my friends call me Cat.'
'Cat...I like that,' he answered, his smile never wavering. 'I told you our paths may cross again...Cat,' he murmured, 'its....'
'Its' a kind of magic,' Trace finished for him, as she smiled.
This story ęcopyright Trace, 2000