Author: Annwyd PM
Chance meetings. Coffee. Conversations that shouldn't happen. Tom and Adam, set sometime after Season 4.Rated: Fiction K - English - Words: 831 - Reviews: 3 - Favs: 3 - Published: 11-14-05 - Status: Complete - id: 2660177
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
It's all about boxes, little crates of memory and feeling somewhere in the back of your mind. Killing a man in cold blood in the name of your country, being beaten near to death for the sake of the woman you love, spending days on end being tortured, watching your wife die in your arms--
--that can all be boxed up and stored away. When the time comes, you pack up your compassion and set it down next to the rest of them.
So I did something stupid: I bought him coffee. I bought two cups of coffee, one for me and one for the man who'd replaced me. Then I walked over to his table and sat down. I pushed one coffee in his direction.
After a moment, he looked up from the window and gave me a skeptical look. "I don't think I know you."
"Oh, come on," I said.
He smirked, just a little, and maybe there was a moment of camaraderie in the expression. Or maybe I was imagining it. "What are you trying to accomplish here?"
"I can't buy coffee for an old coworker?"
"In our line of--sorry, my line of work? No." But he took the coffee, peeled back the lid, and took a sip. "Why?"
I shrugged. "Call it a whim, all right?"
"Hot," he muttered, setting the coffee back down. "You should leave." But he seemed resigned to my staying. "Why are you even here?"
He wasn't this sharp and raw when I worked with him, and I couldn't tell whether it was an act or not. "I'm just here for some coffee. And I come here to write."
He looked up at that. "You're a writer now? I hope you're not writing your memoirs."
"Not yet." I forced a laugh. "Fiction. It's a detective story, actually...that's how le Carré got started. Is Harry still into le Carré?"
"I wouldn't know," he said.
"How are Danny and Zoe?"
"They're fine," he replied, and he didn't even twitch or look away as he said it--no indication that he was lying. But--
"Of course not," he said. "You know I can't tell you."
"Sorry," I said. I looked down, patted my pockets for my notebook. "It's the same skillset, really."
"The writing, the spying. Same thing. It's all about telling stories."
He smiled distantly. "Not really."
I sipped my coffee. It was hot. "You don't ever want to walk away, settle down somewhere and write silly poetry? Never have to deal with all this again?"
His smile widened, but it wasn't particularly pleasant. "You don't ever want to stop breathing?"
"All right," I said carefully, holding my hands up, palms out. "I mean--fine." I'd forgotten how he rubbed me the wrong way. "Fine." I searched for an innocuous question. "How's your lovely wife?" I didn't realize how bitter I sounded when I spoke until after I'd asked the question.
He shifted abruptly, knocking his coffee cup over. "Oh," he said, looking down at the spreading spill. "Damn it." He reached for the napkins at the same time as I did.
I had the coffee half-mopped up when I realized that there'd been something calculated about that accident. On impulse, I looked up at him.
His expression was empty. Hurt. For just a moment, he looked tired and grief-stricken. Then he registered that I was looking, and he just looked tired and annoyed.
"I'm sorry," I said. "I didn't know--"
But he was getting up and turning to leave. "Thanks for the coffee." He was just a little too cold and deadpan to sound like he actually meant it. "Let's not do this again."
I watched him leave, and then I took out my notebook.