Title: One Journey Ends (1/?)

Author: Esquirella

Rating: R (for violence in some chapters.)

Disclaimer: I own the Rio character and have written other stories with her. I also own all other characters herein unless noted in disclaimers for future chapters.

Synopsis: Every great warrior has an unsettling past. This is the beginning of Rio's story prior to "The Road Less Traveled".

Distribution: Just in case anyone's interested in it, please ask me first. More than likely, I will agree.

--------------------------------------

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This begins Rio's transformation from Tara to Rio Angele, the smallest and deadliest competitor in the Warrior Series.

--------------------------------------

Tara rushed to the hospital as quickly as she could. Being that she was five months pregnant with her first child, her progress was slow. But her husband had been attacked last evening and was in critical condition. She'd gone home to change only when the nurse had told her that the doctor wouldn't let her see him for at least a few hours, when he would be issued a bed in the intensive care unit. She had been covered in his blood from holding him while she waited for the ambulance.

She was back now and had to get to him immediately. She finally got to Mass General's front desk and immediately bore down on the harried staff.

"Ben Connors, please?" she asked the first attendant who met her. "He was brought into the ER a few hours ago."

"Are you a relative?" the stern looking matronly attendant asked.

"I'm his wife," Tara answered a bit more harshly than she normally would have. She would have felt terrible if not for the pain in her legs.

"I'm sorry," the attendant said kindly, obviously used to handling distraught family members. "I have to ask."

Tara nodded sadly and waited for her to pull up the information on the antiquated computer screen in front of her. She was then directed to the ICU floor and given a pass.

The elevator ride seemed to take forever and she leaned against the wall for support. Her legs were killing her and her back pain was also getting worse. When the doors opened she dragged herself through them and down the hallway. She'd always hated hospitals. They were so sterile and smelled of a mixture of anticeptic and bodily fluids. She found the correct corridor and moved towards his room, scared of what she would find.

Ben was lying in the stark white bed surrounded by beeping machines and intravenous tubes. His normally healthy complexion had paled to a sickening gray and his eyes were swollen and bruised, as was much of his body she imagined. The gang of delinquents spared him no mercy. She dropped into the chair next to his bed and began sobbing in earnest. He was all she had in the world and she couldn't survive without him. Silently she prayed, as she'd rarely done before. She'd never had much faith in religion before, but she was desperate to try anything that would bring him back to her.

"Mrs. Connors?" a soft voice queried and Tara looked up to see a young doctor holding Ben's medical chart.

"Yes?" she said dabbing at her eyes.

"I'm Dr. Fuller," he said gently. "I've been treating your husband since he came in."

"How is he?" Tara asked, dreading the answer she was going to receive.

"We have him stabilized for now," the doctor said reverting into a polite yet professional demeanor. "We're still running tests on his head injuries. He's been unresponsive so far."

"What kind of tests?"

"Tests to evaluate the extent of the damage," he said looking down at her sadly. "He sustained massive trauma from what appears to be a foreign object."

Tara's mind called up the memory of the youth with the metal pipe. He'd beaten Ben about the head until her husband no longer moved. There was so much blood and all Tara could remember was screaming for them to stop. Fresh tears now streamed down her cheeks.

"I'm sorry, ma'am," he said quietly touching her arm before replacing the chart and leaving the room.

"Oh, God, Ben please, be all right," she whispered to him holding his hand tightly. "Please . . ."

--------------------------------------

"Are you sure this is the building?" the Scandinavian man Justin for the third time in an hour.

"Positive," Justin sighed and turned back to his coworker in annoyance. "Would you like to recheck the address again before we go in?"

Sven smiled engagingly at him and shook his head. He was a well-built lean man in his mid thirties with shoulder length light blonde hair that he kept tied back from his face. He looked somehow older than Justin knew him to be, probably from worshipping the sun, he thought. How his current employer thought to saddle him with this unhelpful individual, Justin couldn't be sure. He knew his chosen field of employment was a dicey one, though, and he had to allow for such eccentricities to crop up.

"Are you sure Andre wanted you to come along with me?" he asked suspiciously in his usual mono-toned voice. "He knows I always work alone."

"You know Andre well, then?" Sven asked.

"We have never met," the dark haired man replied. "I prefer it that way."

"How many jobs have you done for him?"

"Only three," Justin admitted. "I usually avoid taking more than one assignment from an employer."

"Why did you take so many from Andre?" Sven asked curiously.

Justin shrugged. "They were always pretty easy," he said. "And he pays well."

--------------------------------------

Sven watched the dark haired man carefully. He was taller than the Scandinavian thought he would be. Younger, too. Sven judged him to be no older than he himself was, though the years showed less on the dark haired man. He had long dark brown hair and was lean, though more muscular than the blonde, and also a bit taller.

Sven had been watching Justin for just over a year now. He had hired him a few times for odd investigative jobs to keep tabs on him. He'd always used one of his aliases though so that Justin would think it was just another employer. The blonde man didn't know why he was driven to get closer to the mysterious stranger. He just knew he had to. Ever since he'd caught a glimpse of him on that train he'd been consumed.

This was the first time he'd revealed himself, though. He knew it was a calculated risk, but wasn't sure how else to further his acquaintance with the enigmatic man. He had never had the urge to know a man like this before and it worried him a little.

"Shall we go in?" he asked Justin who was staring at him as if he could discern what he was thinking.

Justin nodded and signaled for Sven to walk in first. As he entered the building, Sven looked about curiously. He saw a concierge desk staffed by two very bored looking young men and a row of elevators. Their quarry was on the tenth floor, but they didn't want to alert him to their presence. He noticed that Justin quickly glanced at the directory while the guards spoke to each other. Finally, his partner approached the desk. Sven followed behind hanging back a little. He had agreed to let Justin handle the guards.

Justin asked to see a doctor on the ninth floor and was given two passes and directed to the elevators. Sven smiled. This was going to be interesting.