Tune the Violin
Wesley was running late. He agreed to meet them at the mom and pop deli on M Street. It was such a hole in the wall you had to know it was there or you'd walk past it. The FBI kept them in business. Their sandwiches were culinary concoctions that were renown at the JEH, and woe be unto the agent who tried to butt in line. Mahoney and Sanders were favorites of the owner, and slipped behind the counter and into the kitchen whenever they showed up.
"You are too skinny, my boy," Raisa Orlov greeted them. "And you," she smiled at his partner, "are too tiny. Here," she said, slicing two pieces of rare roast beef. "Eat before you fade away."
Both agents grinned at the woman. She was smaller than Sanders, and looked as though a strong wind could easily blow her away. They adored her motherly ways and she adored them.
"So? Is your big boss going to join you today?"
"Yeah, he'll be here," Mahoney smiled. "And he eats more than we do."
"Everybody eats more than you do," she groused. "I'm making a special sandwich for you, and you better eat all of it," she warned.
Wesley had eaten the deli's famous sandwiches countless times, but had never met Raisa Orlov, nor been in her kitchen. Marta always picked up his lunch order. When he stepped through the door, the delicious aromas made him salivate. The tiny woman behind the counter looked straight at him when he entered. Meeting her eyes, he shivered, feeling as though a goose had danced across his grave.
She stopped slicing roast beef, her eyes never leaving his, her demeanor suddenly quiet and pensive. He stared back, stunned. She was a slightly younger version of the old woman in his dream. Long, silver-gray hair coiled into a braid, hung down her back, and her golden eyes carefully assessed him.
"So..." she murmured. "You have come." Wiping her hands on her apron, she untied it, walked over to him and reached a hand up to his chin. "What took you so long, Sergei? I have waited my entire life for you. Tsk," she clucked. "And now I shall have to wait for you again."
"Who are you?" Wesley asked, staring at her, not entirely positive he wasn't at home in bed and dreaming.
"I am your heart's desire, my love," she whispered for his ears only. "But not in this particular lifetime." Her hand was soft and gentle on his cheek, and her eyes filled with tears. "Come, my love. Sit with me and I shall tell you more." She took his strong hand in hers and led him to a chair.
"Sir?" Mahoney asked, about to follow them. "Where are you going? Raisa? Lunch? The restaurant? The people waiting to eat? Sir?"
Sanders grabbed his arm. "No, Mahoney. Let them go."
"But..." he looked at her. "What's going on here, Sanders?"
"I don't know, but I do know we have no business interfering. Come on. Let's go."
Mahoney muttered as his partner dragged him away. "I'm hungry, Sanders. I need to eat. I..."
"I'll spring for General What's Its Chicken, Mahoney. You drive."
Still holding his hand, Raisa sat next to Wesley and stroked his cheek. "You are as handsome as you ever were, my love," she murmured. "I have missed you so."
Still unsure if he was hallucinating, Wesley took inventory of his surroundings. The deli was real; a stainless steel counter held the ingredients for sandwiches. Mahoney and Sanders had been there, although they left him alone with this woman who kept referring to him as her love. Obviously, his agents were unaware of how crazy this Raisa person was. Or... is she? Maybe, I'm the one who's nuts.
His confidence returned, he straightened his back and tried to remove his hand from her grasp. For such a little person, her grip was amazingly strong. He didn't want to be rude. She was old, after all.
"Who are you, madam?" he asked, his voice authoritatively soft. It was his AD tone, and he expected a satisfactory answer.
"I'm Raisa Orlov, my love."
"I am not your love, Ms. Orlov."
She laughed, a low husky sound, and Wesley thought if she were twenty-five or so years younger, he'd be very interested in pursuing this dialogue. But she wasn't twenty-five years younger and his patience was wearing thin.
"Yes, you are, Sergei."
"How did you know my middle name?"
"Middle name? It's not your given name? What do they call you in this time?"
In this time?
"My name is Wesley Schyler. Wesley Sergei Schyler."
She nodded slowly. "You shall always be my Sergei."
Wesley bristled and leaned closer to her. "I am *not* your Sergei," he hissed. "I am an assistant director of the FBI! Now, who are you? And how do you know me? And what the hell is going on here?" He pulled back from her grasp, clearly frustrated by her likeness to the woman in his dream, and completely puzzled by this turn of events. He closed his eyes, pinched the bridge of his nose and let out a heavy sigh, emotionally exhausted.
She was undaunted by his manner and touched his face with a gentle hand. "Listen to me, Sergei. This time, we were not meant to be, but I can help you until we meet again - in another life - in another time, perhaps, in another place."
He hadn't moved while she spoke, but when she finished, he growled at her. An actual growl, a low warning from deep in his throat.
She chuckled and patted his cheek.
"Ah, Sergei, my Sergei," she smiled at him. "Listen, and I shall tell you what you need to know."
"You'll tell me what I want to know," he warned softly, "not just what you think I need to know."
"I'll tell you what you need to know," she replied sternly. "Still your mouth and listen."
Still my mouth?
He compressed his lips and waited.
"Sinovia will tell you more, but I shall begin."
Sinovia? Who the hell is Sinovia?
"We have lived before, Sergei," she began. "We have lived many times."
Wesley arched a brow at this remark.
"And there are times we live more than once in the same time. Sinovia calls it living a parallel life. Do you understand?" She eyed him cautiously, fully expecting a look of disbelief.
But Wesley's expression remained neutral - and stoic. Jesus! She's crazy as a loon.
"Has anyone ever told you that you look just like someone they know, or teased you by saying you have a twin somewhere on this earth?"
Reluctantly, he nodded. A lot of people heard that at one time or another. He had even mentioned it to several people he knew, but it was just coincidence. There was an easy explanation - some people were bound to share similar features. He knew he didn't have a damn twin!
"We all have doubles, Sergei."
"We do?" he asked incredulously. This was news to the FBI. Jesus! The ramifications! he thought sarcastically.
"When you were a little boy, did anyone ever tell you that you reminded them of someone who looked just like you when he was a little boy?"
"No!" he snapped and glared at her.
And then, he got a faraway look on his face.
"Yes," he admitted. "There was a woman who lived in town when I was a boy. I used to run into her in the general store. She always said I reminded her of her brother who lived in Pennsylvania."
"And did you ever meet this man?" she asked quietly, wondering how far to push him.
"No, but I saw a picture of him when he was a little boy."
"And...," he pursed his lips, his gaze wavering from her face. "I did look like him."
"Do you remember what you thought when you saw his picture, Sergei?"
"Yeah," he grinned, relaxing for the first time. "I ran home and asked my mother why she never told me I was adopted."
Raisa laughed, her expression softening, making her look younger than her years. "What did your mama say?"
"She showed me pictures of my father as a boy. I looked just like him." He crossed his arms over his chest and smiled at the tiny woman next to him. "I asked her if she knew my father had a twin in Pennsylvania."
"So... you were an investigator even when you were a child."
"No," he chuckled, "just a curious boy. Now," he shifted back into AD mode. "Where is this conversation going? I don't believe in fairy tales."
"You will, my love," she murmured. "You will." Standing, she waved her finger in front of his face. "First, you will eat. Then, I will tell you a fairy tale."
"I don't have time for fairy tales, madam. I'm a busy man. I need to..."
"You need to eat, Sergei. And you *will* listen to what I have to say." She moved back to the food counter to prepare a sandwich for him. Wesley started to protest but she silenced him with a look. He couldn't believe he willingly obeyed her quiet command to remain where he was and still his mouth.
Homemade pumpernickel bread smeared lightly with white horseradish had his mouth watering. Roast beef - rare and sliced thin - and on the side, bite sized chunks of pickled tomatoes, and sweet peppers. When she placed a bowl in front of him and he took a whiff, he thought he'd died and gone to heaven. Hot borscht, laden with sliced beets, tiny red potatoes, cucumbers and sour cream. Wesley hadn't had borscht like that since his mother served it the night he came home from Vietnam. He sighed with great satisfaction and dug in.
Raisa smiled, watching him eat. For some reason that gave her a great deal of pleasure. "I'm glad your appetite has not changed, Sergei. It is always good to enjoy a meal."
"Mmmph," he said, ignoring the circumstances and indulging in the culinary orgy.
"We'll talk as soon as you finish eating."
"Talk. I can listen and eat at the same time," he muttered, his mouth partially full, his palate wonderfully enriched by the food in front of him.
"If you insist," she said, sitting beside him.
"Once upon a time..."
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