tagNovels and NovellasThe Program Ch. 09

The Program Ch. 09


I know I keep making you wait for these chapters. For that, I'm sorry. Not only is time to write short, the dismal winters here make it hard to find inspiration sometimes.

Just so you know, there is a Chapter 10... though, that will be apparent when you get to the end of this one. It's already in the works.

Hope you enjoy it. Thanks for reading,



Taylor stared at the small white gravestone. The anonymity of the simple marker sent a stab of guilt straight to her stomach as her fingers clenched and unclenched around the small bouquet of flowers. They seemed pathetic in comparison to the wreathes she saw adorning the other graves. And this visit was long overdue. Her stomach twisted at the thought of how long it had actually been.

She shivered. It was colder than she thought it would be, and the wind seemed to run right through her. She tried to remember the things she had planned to say, but her mind seemed to flounder under the volume of words she owed him.

Tears welled in her eyes and the anger broke free first. "Fuck you, Mick!"

Her outburst was met by stony silence and she seethed. "What the fuck were you thinking?"

More silence.

"How could you be so goddamned careless? Do you have any idea what you did to Danny? To Wilson? To me?" She started pacing a small line in front of the marker. "You promised me! And then you just fucked it all away! Why? What the fuck were you thinking?"

Nothing but a slight breeze seemed to move in the cemetery.

"What were you anyway? Reckless? Stupid? Selfish?" She swallowed over the lump in her throat and the venom drained from her voice. "Were you always that careless and I was just too stupid to see it? Were you being reckless with me?"

Taylor jumped at the sound of someone clearing his throat behind her. She spun, her cheeks colouring at being caught off guard in the middle of a one sided tirade. Her face turned a deeper shade of crimson at the sight of Wilson closing the remaining distance to her side, the air-cast doing little to slow his long strides. "Jesus, Josh. Don't you make noise when you walk?"

With a small smile, he rested a hand on the small of her back. "Meesh said I might find you here."

"Meesh has an awfully big mouth for a shrink," she muttered, turning back toward the grave.

Wilson chuckled. "Meesh and I had our monthly coffee meeting this morning."

"Isn't that a violation of some sort of confidentiality? Or a conflict of interests at least?" she crossed her arms.

"I'm allowed to have coffee with my aunt." He rested his hands on her shoulders, stepping up behind her. "Besides, we didn't talk about you until you were half an hour late for our lunch date."

"Oh shit, Josh," Taylor moaned.

He gave her shoulders a squeeze. "Don't worry about it. It gave me some time to catch up with Meesh. I know you've got other things on your mind."

"I'm sorry," she mumbled, a shiver running through her again.

"I know." He wrapped one arm around her waist and one across her shoulders, drawing her back into his body heat. It was late in the fall, too cold to be out in just a shirt and slacks and he wondered where her coat was.

She was quiet for a long time, content to relax into his warmth. He rested his chin on the top of her head. "He was never reckless with you, you know?" he whispered.

Taylor shook her head. "I don't know."

"But I do," he said softly. "He was never careless when it came down to you."

She winced, the guilt stabbing a little deeper. "This is the first time I've been back since..."

"I know." He frowned as another shiver ran through her. He shrugged out of his coat and held it for her, letting her slip her arms into the sleeves and rubbing some warmth into her. "Where's your coat?"

She shrugged.

"You don't have to solve this today, Shorty," he said lowly. "There's time."

She bit her lip, pushing back the tears that threatened to spill over. "I'm just so angry."

"You know, it's ok to be angry."

"I know, but..."

"Cut yourself some slack."

"I cut myself too much slack."

"Honey," he whispered. "You have to go easy on yourself. You're still on the DL. It's going to take some time before you're back to one hundred percent."

She frowned. "You think I don't know that?"

"I know you do," he said softly. "And I'll be there every step of the way."

She shook her head sadly.

"I'm not going anywhere, Taylor. I promise, I'm not leaving you."

"Don't," she whispered bitterly.

"Sweetie, I'm just trying to take care of you here."

She stiffened, pulling away from Wilson and stomping down the path toward her car.

"Taylor, where are you going?" he asked with a sigh.


"My place," he lengthened his stride to catch up with her. "Or yours?"

"Home," she repeated angrily.

"Let me give you a ride," he draped an arm across her shoulders.

"I drove myself." She shrugged out from under his arm and then out of his jacket and tossed it at him. "Go back to work."

"Come on, Taylor," he objected. She slammed the car door before he could stop her. "Taylor!" he knocked on the window, waiting for her to roll it down.

She clenched her jaw and complied. "What?" she hissed, staring out the windshield.

"What's wrong?" he stooped, resting his hand on the window frame to be closer to eyelevel.



She started the car and turned to glare at him. "What?!"

"What are you doing?"

"I'm going home!"


"Why not?"

"Sweetie, why don't we go grab some lunch and talk about this?"

Her eyes narrowed. "Fuck you, Wilson."


She threw the car into drive and peeled off toward the gates.

"Taylor!" he shouted, watching her drive away. He threw his hands in the air and stormed off toward his car, muttering under his breath.


Jab. Honey? Left hook, right hook, mule kick, plant, pivot, side-arm. She grimaced as the impact reverberated down her side. Sweetie! Jab, jab, cross, side-step, uppercut, hook. She winced again. Since when was home supposed to be his place? Snap-kick right, snap-kick left, feint, feint, cross. She sucked in a breath and suppressed a groan at the dull throb that pulsed up her side. Her ribs were not cooperating with her schedule. God she was out of shape.

"Haven't seen you around here in a while."

Taylor swiped the back of her wrapped hand across her forehead and turned. "Hey, Sid."

The large man let out a low whistle. "Shit, girl."

Taylor rolled her eyes. "It's nothing."

"Like hell it's nothing. I thought I taught you to fight better than that." He studied the fading bruises that still liberally decorated her face. "Have you been dropping your guard?"

"You can't drop your guard with your hands tied," she snapped, immediately regretting the comment as a look of concern crossed the trainer's face. He had been teaching her to fight since before she was in college, moving to DC shortly after she did. And he seemed to take it personally when she didn't come out on top in a fight.

"You ok?"

"You know I can't talk about it, Sid," she sighed.

He tossed her a towel. "Tell me you have a good reason to favour your left, because it's clear as day."

She mopped the sweat from her face and dropped onto the bench with another wince. "Depends on whether a healing gunshot wound and a few broken ribs are considered a good reason or a bad reason."

His eyes narrowed. "This is your idea of rehab?"

She snorted. "No, this is my way to keep from killing someone."

"Up," he reached out a hand to her, hauling her to her feet and she winced again. "I'm not going to lecture you, because I know you're not going to listen right now." He crossed his arms, daring her to argue. "But I'll help you with the cool down. And tomorrow, we can start on the rehab."

"Sid, I don't have time to rehab," she argued, wandering toward the mats to stretch.

He cuffed her upside the head and matched the angry glare she threw his way. "I've never known you to be stupid, James. Don't make me change my opinion of you. What's this timeline you have in your head that has you doing this kind of damage?"

"One week."

"One week?!" he asked incredulously.

"I have to, Sid."

"How long ago did it happen?"

"Three weeks."

"You're insane."

"I have enough people on my case, Sid."

"Well you should!" He narrowed his eyes, blond brows slashing together. "You're going to hurt yourself worse than already is."

Taylor chucked the towel on the floor. "I don't need another father, Sid," she snapped, stormed toward the locker rooms.

"Maybe you do," he barked back.

"Oh, fuck you, Sid."

"Fuck you too!"

She kicked open the door and stomped into the locker room. She was already a week longer out of work than planned, and she didn't like it. She needed back, and she had to get her fitness back to do so. And for some stupid reason, her body wasn't cooperating. If it wasn't the pain in her side, it was tears... Ridiculous, pointless, useless, bottomless tears. And anger. A whole boatload of anger.

"James!" she heard Sid shout after her. "Tomorrow morning at eight! You get your ass in here and train properly!"

She dropped down onto the nearest bench in the women's lockers, slowly stripping the wraps from her knuckles.

"Did you hear me?" Sid shouted from the door.

"Yes, I fucking heard you!" she hollered.


"Piss off!" Damn, stupid, bossy men. Goddamned, fucking, pushy, overbearing, meddling, assholes. She heard the door close again and the emptiness of the locker room started to suffocate. She sucked in a breath and felt the rebounding pain in her side. Fuck. She lashed out and struck the nearest locker, the impact splitting the skin over her knuckles. "FUCK!"


"What do you mean you don't know?" Wilson demanded.

"Jesus, Josh, calm down," Danny answered firmly, sitting up on her couch.

"You have to know something!"

Danny sighed. "Taylor has always been really private about her past. I never really pressed her about it."

"It never came up? Ever?"

"No, not really. But why don't you know? It's not like I spend as much time with her as you do now."

"Personal life was never a fair topic of conversation." He hesitated. "And she's really private about her past."

"What's wrong?" Danny shifted the phone receiver from one hand to the other.

"I don't know. And I don't like it." Wilson began pacing in front of the computer terminal, waiting for a page to load as he consulted his sister over the phone.

"And why can't you talk to her about it?" Danny asked practically.

"She sort of stormed off the last time we were talking." Wilson tried to hide the guilt in his voice, but couldn't. "I can't figure out what I did to set her off, but she went home and isn't answering any of my calls." Danny actually laughed and he frowned. "Look. I'm worried about her. If you're not going to be helpful, I'll figure it out on my own."

"Oh, come on, Josh," she stopped laughing. "I don't know what I can say to help you here. She didn't talk about her past except where it involved Mick. I mean, she avoided any questions about her parents. She didn't talk about high school, except for playing hockey. I know she's from Southie, but that's a big place. What do you want to know?"

"I don't know," he groaned. "I just want to understand."

"Well, big brother. I think you're going to have to ask her yourself."

"I was afraid you would say that."

"Do you want me to call her?" she asked patiently.

"Uh," he ran a hand nervously though his hair. "Will you call her apartment? Just to say hi?"

"She'll know you asked me."

"I know. I'm willing to risk it."

"Ok, I'll give it a shot." He could hear the humour in Danny's voice. "But you'd better go kiss her and make it all better soon."

"Danny," he warned.

"I'm just saying."

"Just saying what?"

"Oh please, Josh. Everyone knows."

"I'm still not above sending your new boyfriend into witness protection," he grumbled.

"You wouldn't."

"I would."

"Mom would never forgive you. She's already met Bill, and she likes him."

"You brought him to mom?!" he shouted. "Danielle Annabeth Wilson, you..."

She giggled. "You've got nothing on me. Now go take care of your own relationship problems."

"Yeah, yeah. Take care of yourself."

"I always do. You watch your back."

"I will. Bye, Danny."

"Bye." She hung up with an amused sigh.

"Your brother?"

She nodded and then suppressed another laugh. "What are you doing with that?" she gestured to the jar of mustard in his hand.

Bill winced, tilting his head toward the sling immobilizing his shoulder and pinning his arm to his side. "I'm trying to make a sandwich."

Danny rose from the couch, took the jar from him, replaced it with her hand, and standing on tiptoes, kissed his cheek. He smiled and pressed his lips gently to hers, kissing her softly. She grinned when he released her, turning and leading him into the kitchen. "Come on, Boy Scout. I'll make you something to eat."

When the line disconnected, Wilson turned back to the computer terminal, growling at the message on the screen - Information Classified, Insufficient Clearance. "You have got to be kidding me!" He threw his hands in the air.

"Mind telling me why you're trying to access classified information?" Patrick asked from the door.

Wilson spun around, a guilty flush colouring his face. "Boss..."


"I..." He glanced around. "It's..." When Patrick simply stood there, Wilson dropped into his chair with a sigh. "Look, I don't know what's going on with Taylor, but there's something really really wrong. And I thought that if I could read her personal file, I might have a better idea of what's going on in her head. And maybe I could talk to her... Without her trying to shoot me."

"Remind me how long you've known Officer James."

Wilson shrugged. "Maybe seven years."

Patrick raised a brow.

"Ok, ok seven years. I get it. But she..."

An almost imperceptible flicker of a grin passed across Patrick's face. "Personal files are classified for a reason, Wilson. If you need information from James, you're going to have to go straight to the source. And don't try to hack my system again. You're not nearly as sneaky with a computer as she is." He turned on his heel to leave, pausing to suppress a chuckle. "But maybe you should wear a vest when you talk to her?"

Wilson groaned.


"You've reached Josh Wilson. Leave a message."


"Josh. She's not taking my calls. I tried her cell and her apartment. Look, I had Bill try and reach her too, but she just isn't talking to anyone. Maybe you should go see her? Be nice, Josh. You know she's going though a tough time. And call mom. She wants to talk to you. Bye."



Taylor turned off the shower and wrapped herself in a towel. The hot water and steam had done nothing for the tension in her shoulders or the pounding headache that seemed to echo the throbbing sensation in her side. Any time she stopped moving, the stress of being still seemed to settle in her stomach, bringing her dangerously close to vomiting. Whether it was self-preservation or old habits, she suddenly had the urge to leave.

"Fuck," she muttered, dropping the towel and shrugging into her robe. She went straight to her closet and dug out a small suitcase, frantically cramming clothes into the small container. She wouldn't need to pack a lot, just enough for a day or two. She tossed her running shoes on top of the clothes and zipped the suitcase shut. She should just get dressed and leave now. She stooped to lift the bag and pain shot up her side.

"Ow!" It wasn't the same dull pain that she'd grown used to, but a sharp, crippling stab to her gut. She dropped the case and doubled over, catching herself against the side of her bed. "Shit!" she pulled herself up onto the bed and curled into the fetal position. Anything more than a shallow breath brought a fresh wave of nausea and agony. Don't cry, she thought desperately. Don't cry; it will only make it worse. Don't cry... It didn't work. She closed her eyes and pressed her face into the pillow wanting nothing more than for the pain to end. Slowly, agonizingly, she cried herself into exhaustion. Eventually, she fell into a restless sleep.

A vehement pounding on the door startled her awake. Taylor rubbed at her eyes, trying to erase the gritty feeling. It had grown dark outside and she glanced around the pitch-black room in confusion. What the hell?

The banging repeated. "Taylor! Open this fucking door!"

She fumbled for her watch and squinted at the face, trying to make out the hands in the dim light. It was nearly midnight, she thought, realizing that she must have fallen asleep. She furrowed her brow and rubbed her forehead feeling completely disoriented.

"Taylor!" Wilson hammered on the door again.

She rolled out of the bed, catching the bedpost to steady herself as she swayed uneasily on her feet. For a second, she couldn't tell if the pounding was in her head or at the door. It stopped suddenly. She rubbed her forehead and listened...


She shook her head. What the heck was going on? She pushed off the bedpost and stumbled into the main room, turning on lights as she went, wincing at the bright glare. Everything was quiet. She continued on into the kitchen, pouring herself a glass of water and taking a big gulp. She sighed, setting the glass down on the counter and braced herself against the counter. The pain in her stomach was gone, but her ribs were killing her.

Taylor choked back a scream as a hand came down on her shoulder. She grabbed the fingers, spinning and preparing to lash out at her attacker. Wilson caught her wrist and twisted out of her grip before she could strike him, holding her in place. Taylor stared at him, her brow furrowed. "What the hell, Wilson? You scared the shit out of me!"

His brows shot up. "Me? I scared you?" He dropped her wrist and ran a hand through his hair, pulling at his already loosened and dishevelled tie and suit. "I have been calling for the past three hours!" He put a hand on his hip and began pacing.

Taylor shook her head. "I fell asleep." She pushed past him, heading into the main room.

"You fell asleep?" he demanded, hot on her heels. "I've been banging on your door for almost fifteen minutes!"

She pulled up short and he nearly ran into her. "Did you break into my apartment?" her eyes narrowed. The headache was creeping back up on her, the pressure building behind her forehead.

He strode past her and roughly slammed the door. "You didn't answer!" he snapped back.

"I was sleeping," she said slowly. "Which I think I'll get back to now." She started toward her bedroom. "You showed yourself in, I'm sure you can show yourself out." He threw his hands in the air and followed, wedging himself in her bedroom doorframe before she could close it. "I thought I told you to leave," she hissed, crossing her arms and turning her back to him.

The low growl that filled the room had her back stiffening. "What is that?" his voice was like velvet over gravel, soft and dangerous, and the tone brought up her guard.

Self-consciously, she pulled the edges of her robe together before turning to face him. "What's what?"

His eyes were absolutely blazing as he glared at her. "Planning on going somewhere?" He raised a brow, the expression cold. Her eyes flit to the suitcase lying ready on the floor. When she didn't answer, he took a step into the room.

Taylor took an instinctive step back, reaching a hand behind her to keep from colliding with the bed. "No, I..." Her voice caught as he took another step forward. Wilson had never intimidated her before. He had never struck her as someone to be afraid of. He had never seemed dangerous until now.

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