Again upon entering the apartment, she instantly whips off her hijab and shakes out her hair. It's as if she can't wait to be rid of it. A repulsive thing that's casually tossed away into the corner.
Something in this action catches Dmitry's attention every time she does it. He can't tear his eyes away. It's not like he's never seen a woman before. Hell, he sees quite a few mostly naked every day. Despite being a man with many years in the mafia (or MI6 if you prefer - some days he's not sure which one is really correct) and an owner of a strip joint, seeing this one simple act takes his breath away for just a moment and then makes him look at his shoes with an uncharacteristic humbleness. No that's not right - it's not humility, but he doesn't have the word for it. The act is so intimate. He's technically forbidden to see her without her religious head covering. In her culture, for her to appear without it one needs to be family or married to her. Yet, she defies that. Right in front of him. Her look dares him to say even one word on the subject. He won't of course. Why ruin the only real intimacy he's had in what feels like eons?
He meant it when he said they both needed a friend those weeks ago when he offered her a ride in the rain. He'd been touched emotionally when she clumsily tried to care for his injured hand — braving contact with him, when they last met. Perhaps it was that small trust that makes him think well of her now?
He remembered that she'd asked for tea then. A choice whole leaf smoky black variety is on the counter where she can see it and the delicate tall blue and white net pattern tea set with gold edging he'd selected. Tea leaves already in the pot and there's water warming in the kettle on the stove.
He'd stocked more than vodka in the fridge, not wanting to risk her disapproval - even though he'd shrugged it off last time with the excuse of "I'm Russian".
The shrill whistle of the kettle makes him want to swear a blue streak for ending the sacred moment between them. Why did he not get a samovar instead? Holding his tongue, he turns to get the hot water. But she's already there. How did she move so fast?
Gracefully she pours it into the teapot, sneaking glances at him as he wordlessly watches her.
"Thank you … for having tea here." She gives a quick smile that disappears, as if since he's Bratva the tea too might come with some price. Some exchange of a favor later.
"Last time I was, what do you say...ungracious host. Forgive me," he spreads his hands in a gesture of peace, before pulling a tray from the fridge with jam, plates and spoons and setting them on the table. "Tea first, then business."
When she reaches for the teapot, he steps in. "Allow me to share Russian tradition. Sit. ... Please."
When she realizes it's an invitation, and not a command, she complies.
He pours the teacups half full and fills them the rest of the way full with hot water, and places a dainty cup on a saucer in front of her. "We make tea strong, so it lasts in the kettle longer."
"Now for best part." He takes a large spoonful of the dark haskap berry jam and gestures for her to do the same with an encouraging smile.
Following his example, she looks at him quizzically as if to say, 'Now what?'
"Mix the jam into your tea, or like when I was a boy…" Without ceremony he plonks the whole spoon into his mouth and silently slurps off all the jam.
It causes her to laugh. A stifled one, but the first he's heard.
"Tell me you are not tempted to do the same," his eyebrows raise in challenge and he waves his spoon at her.
Shaking her head and trying to suppress further giggles — as if he's being utterly silly, she mixes some of the jam into her tea, but then gives in and just eats the rest. She closes her eyes in the sheer pleasure of the sweet tart flavor.
She nods, her eyes still shut.
Helping himself to more jam for his tea, he feels satisfied that he brought her one small joy today. Bratva he may be. But he's still a lonely man who wants to do one good thing in his life — to provide hope and a little light to her world. Even if his boss makes him retrieve information from her in exchange for passports to London. He'll have to think hard for what to do for the next time. But that's later. And she's here now — head uncovered, sharing tea with him and the business will be easy. Simply delivering a report to him. "Хорошо." (Khorosho - good.)