Please note this is a sequel and you will be lost unless you read Human Resources first.
"What the hell are you doing here?" Erin asked as I rushed into our office.
"I have a whole pile of emails that need dealing with, and like, 2 hours to deal with them." I explained. "I have a date, and I need to get changed and back here before four."
Erin shook her head.
"You recall you had your email set to forward to me, right? Like I'm doing to you next week? There are no fires for you to put out, Annie. Just go." She shooed me away before I could even turn on my display. I left my bag under my desk and started back out the door.
"You're a lifesaver! I have to stop at Tops and Bottoms." I called over my shoulder. Erin followed me through the door.
"Wait a minute. You have a date? With who? Who rates brand new lingerie?"
"I need a new bra, you perv!" I laughed and headed for the elevator.
"That was a two part question, Annie Ellis!" Erin called from our office door. I waved and stepped on the elevator.
Tops and Bottoms was a tiny boutique near my apartment. I honestly didn't understand how the woman stayed in business because there was never anyone in there other than me, but given the price of the bras she sold, she probably only needed to sell a couple a week to pay her overhead. Woe unto the woman with a full bust. You practically needed a mortgage to buy them. I'd been thinking about a couple of new bras for a month or so, and I'd been in the shop the previous week. She had exactly what I wanted.
"Anna! I just had a shipment of your bra. It came in three different colours, and they're all so fantastic." Helena exclaimed as I stepped into the store. I let her rummage around in the special little stock closet she kept behind the desk, and browsed for a few moments, but the bra I'd seen last time I was in was missing.
"Helena, you had a demi-cup in bright green last time I was in?" I asked. She turned and nodded.
"I have one left in your size. You will try it on?" Helena's heavy German accent made her sound so much authoritative than she really was. She led me to the fitting room and handed me the bras to try. With a quick glance at my watch, I rushed to try them on. Helena poked her head in when I was decent, and adjusted and tugged and tweaked at me a little before declaring my 'usual' too big.
"Did you lose weight, Anna?" She demanded, her eyebrow buried in her heavy bangs.
"I just spend a week running ten kilometres a day. I might have dropped a pound at most?" I didn't think I was any smaller.
"This band is too big. Try the green, it fits snugger. I'll see about a smaller band in your other bra." She disappeared back into the store and left me to try the green bra on. It was perfect. Helena even nodded her approval when she slipped back into the change room. She left the other bra for me to try and then fussed over it a little before deciding it was a better fit. She must have sensed I was in a hurry. She wrapped the bras in tissue and handed them to me as I signed the credit card slip.
"Thanks, Helena. You're always so awesome." I smiled as I was leaving.
"I love to see you, darling. Come to visit sometime. You don't need to be buying a bra to come in." She kissed both my cheeks and gave me a quick hug. "When you have time to tell me about the new man in your life."
I felt my cheeks heating and shook my head. The woman was too perceptive by far. I stopped for a coffee on the short walk home, and checked my watch again before I took a shower. I had a couple hours, but getting back to the Triskelion on transit was going to take at least a half hour, so I didn't have time to waste. I wrapped myself in a towel as I stepped out of the shower, and rubbed at my hair as I padded into my bedroom. I carefully pulled out a blouse and pencil skirt and laid them across the bed before drying and styling my hair and applying make up.
I took an appraising look in the mirror. My hair was down, straightened, and pushed behind my ears, and I had somehow managed to get my eyeliner perfect. The blouse was just sheer enough to remind Coulson of the day we met, and the green bra completed the look. I pulled a blazer over it, grabbed my purse and headed back to work.
A low whistle greeted me as I stepped back into my office, at 3:30. Erin stepped around her desk and held her hands out in surprise.
"Damn girl." She let out an impressed breath. "So tell me about SHIELD summer camp, while we wait for the mystery man."
I sat down and rubbed my eyes.
"It wasn't terrible. Jackson is out of his league, and was floundering all week. I think it will be better for you. We only had three classes: Hand-to-hand, range, and fitness. The fitness was brutal. Two five kilometre runs a day. Aside from the fitness class, you can test out of the other two if you're proficient."
"So you tested out of hand-to-hand." She assumed.
"Sure did. I needed the extra time to spend on the range." I laughed. "Oh, I have glasses now. For shooting. And apparently reading."
"That's funny." Erin snorted.
"Shut up. I only skimmed my email. What was up this week? I saw four Starks awaiting investigation." I changed the subject.
"Well, he was in the office on Wednesday. And he was in fine form." Erin laughed.
"Oh god, do I have to run a harassment seminar with him in it again?" I groaned.
"You sure do!" Erin slid a piece of paper across the desk. I was a list of who would be in the seminar the next week. Tony Stark's name was on the top of the list.
"This is lucky number seven, isn't it?" I groaned. "Do you think he'll show?"
"He told me he couldn't wait. He said that the last challenge in his life is to rattle you enough to file a report yourself." Erin rolled her eyes.
"Taze him." I heard Coulson say from the door, and rose. If Erin had been a cartoon character, her jaw would have unhinged and dropped on the floor. She couldn't have been more surprised.
"Hey Agent Coulson. What brings you in?" She stammered. Coulson stepped into the office and smiled.
"Picking up Anna. We have reservations for dinner." He offered his hand. I reached for my travel bag and purse.
"Just need to drop my bag at home on the way, if that's alright." I asked. He nodded. Erin sat, mouth agape. "G'night, Erin."
"Yeah." She called out the door as I took Coulson's hand and left.
I gave Coulson directions to my place once I was buckled into Lola. I resisted the urge to run my hands along the chrome, and pulled my hair back into a loose ponytail for the drive. By some strange miracle, he found a parking spot right in front of my apartment building.
"It's a little chaotic still from my panicked packing." I apologized as I opened the door. I flipped the switch to turn on the living room light, and took my bag down to my room.
"Why do women insist on apologizing for the state of their homes?" He pondered from the living room.
"That has a vaguely sexist undertone to it, Phil." I warned as I hung up my blazer. I pulled the tie out of my hair and fluffed it up quickly.
"I don't mean it that way. I just haven't ever met a woman who hasn't felt obligated to apologize for a non-existent me –" He trailed off as I walked back into the living room. I slipped past him toward the kitchen.
"Drink? Or do we have time?" I offered. He loosened his tie and popped the top button of his shirt.
"I thought you said that bra got ruined." He stammered. I pulled a bottle of vodka out of the freezer and poured us each a drink.
"Little secret about me. I like my vodka neat. Do you want ice?" I avoided responding. Coulson stepped around the tiny island and traced his finger along the collar of my blouse. I purposely popped a button open when I was in my room, so he was able to fully take in the lace on the demi cups. I probably could have been an evil mastermind, had I set my mind to it. Coulson's eyes dilated as his fingers caught on the edge of the lace.
"You weren't hungry then?" He asked and slid an arm behind my back, pulling me against him roughly. I leaned back and smiled.
"I'm starving. I was too busy this afternoon to eat." I admitted. Coulson dipped his head to my neck and kissed just below my ear. I bit my lip as he trailed down my neck and dropped kisses along my collarbone.
"You're going to put me in an early grave, Anna." He groaned. I stiffened.
"Don't kid about that, Phil." I pushed him up to look in his eyes. "Please."
"Bad choice of words." He agreed, and picked up his glass. He moved to the living room and sat down on the couch, patting the cushion beside him. I sat down; my legs tucked up beside me and leaned into his open arm.
"Any exciting cases next week?" I asked.
"Nothing yet. I've got some stuff to look into. Unless something changes, we'll be nearby for most of the week." He kissed my forehead.
"That sounds nice. It'll be good to enjoy some humanity after dealing with Stark for three days." I laughed.
"Stark isn't all bad. Mostly just spoiled." Coulson offered.
"He deliberately looks for people's buttons. Like this harassment shit. I don't think he's the huge sexist he makes himself look like. Look at who is running Stark Industries. He couldn't be a sexist with a woman that capable in charge. So why act like he is when he's consulting?" I grumbled.
"Because he can." Coulson laughed and finished his drink. "Has anyone even turned the tables on him?"
"Can you turn the tables on him? His brain processes a mile a minute. He might play you into a corner, if he realized what you were up to."
"Friendly wager. Turn the tables on him. Wear this bra, and this top. And be mercenary. I bet he'll break before you do." Coulson smiled. It was the smile I was beginning to associate with his particular twisted humour, and strangely, I trusted him most when I saw it.
"What's the wager then?" My eyes narrowed. Coulson knew Stark better than I did.
"If I'm wrong, I'll cook you dinner next week." He wagered.
"And if you're right?" I prompted. He smiled.
"You cook me dinner." He suggested. I nodded. It almost seemed too fair.
"Okay." I shot him a wary look. He rolled his eyes and kissed my forehead.
"Drink up. We've got dinner reservations." He pulled his tie off and unbuttoned the next button down.
"Am I dressed okay, or do I need to put on something fancier?" I asked. He pulled me to my feet and stole a kiss.
"You're perfect." He assured me.
I'm not sure I'd ever been in a restaurant as classy as the one Phil had chosen. My stomach flipped over as I took in the opulent chandeliers, and gorgeous furnishings. This was a serious first date. Never mind that we'd put the cart before the horse, Coulson was taking this seriously. My stomach fluttered again, and my hand was just a little shaky as I reached for my glass of wine. Everything on the menu looked incredible and terribly elegant, and there was a distinct lack of pricing anywhere. I could feel a wave of panic cresting below my diaphragm. Coulson and I both lived on SHIELD salaries. He already had the extravagance of Lola, there was no way he could be dropping his credit card on ridiculously expensive meals too. I took another sip of my wine as I examined the menu.
"Have you any questions about the menu?" The waited had slipped up silently as I was focused on the font choice in the menu.
"What would you recommend? It all looks so amazing." I asked.
"Well, I would likely be reprimanded if I didn't recommend the filet mignon, however, I enjoy the wine braised pork loin much better." He offered. "It is served with seasonal vegetables."
"That sounds perfect, thank you." I closed my menu. Coulson nodded.
"Yes, I'll have that as well." He agreed. The waiter took our menus and departed. Coulson reached across the table, and twined his fingers in mine. "You look nervous, Anna."
"I've never eaten somewhere so fancy before, Phil. What if I don't know which fork to use?" I tipped my head to my place setting. Phil's smile was immediate and put me completely at ease.
"Take a look at the tables around us. I've seen your table manners. You're fine." He reassured me. I glanced to either side of us, and saw that no one had really figured out the cutlery situation. I stifled a snort of amusement and took another sip from my glass.
I'd always lived with the assumption that the fancier the restaurant, the longer the wait for the food, but our meals reached us within a reasonable amount of time. Which was probably good because my stomach had started singing the song of its people after about ten minutes, much to my mortification. We were just finishing when Coulson's phone rang. He pulled it out of his jacket and looked at the screen, grimacing.
"I'm sorry, I have to take this." He stood and answered as he walked to the front of the restaurant. I finished my wine and watched him pace outside the restaurant window, one hand gesturing at someone who couldn't see the exasperation in the expression. His shoulders heaved and he put the phone away before walking back into the restaurant.
"Is everything okay?" I asked when he sat down.
"I have to cut this short, unfortunately. I have to get back to the bus. We've got a lead on one of the people we've been pursuing for a long time." The apology was conveyed by the tone of his voice. I nodded.
"I understand. Do you need me to take a cab home?" I asked. He shook his head as he waved the waiter over.
"No, I can get you home. I just can't come in for a nightcap." He handed the waiter his credit card.
There wasn't really anything to talk about on the drive back that wouldn't have felt contrived. Coulson's mind was elsewhere, and I didn't mind the silence. Whatever freakish luck he'd acquired earlier had stayed with him, and once again, he found a parking spot in front of my building. He walked me to my door and waited as I fumbled with the lock.
"It sucks that you're being called away, but thanks, Phil. I really enjoyed dinner." I turned to face him once the door was open.
"I'll let you know what's going on as soon as I can." He paused. "I've never been able to say that to a woman I've been seeing before. That felt nice."
I could feel heat rushing to my cheeks.
"Are we?" I asked.
"Seeing each other?" I prompted. He stepped closer to me, sliding his hands along my waist. He leaned forward and kissed me. There was no lascivious intent, no searing soul-rending passion, but a gentle, steady comfort that turned me on in ways other kisses never had. His kiss held the promise of more, of future nights where we wouldn't be interrupted by work.
"Definitely." He pushed a strand of hair off my face.
"I can't wait to draw a heart around your name on my math binder." I teased. He shook his head and kissed me again, this time more aggressively. I pulled him inside and shut the door, and he shoved me into it. Ah. There was the searing, and soul-rending. My breath drew short and I pushed him away.
"I need to go." He murmured against my cheek.
"If you don't, I'm not going to let you." I threatened. He kissed me one last time, and drew a finger down the front of my blouse, staring wistfully at the green bra. He finally pulled away and reached for the door handle. I stepped away from it to allow him passage.
"Good night, Anna." He departed. I threw the bolt once he was gone. Sighing in disappointment, I headed to bed, alone.
Hey gang. I'm back. I am having profound issues with my OF so I thought I'd write some cobwebs out and work on the other project in my free time. Because there's so much of it...