And we begin season three with... well... more mush! Some major spoilers for the second episode Trials. Also I'm told that this season sounds like the writers took a page out of my manual. Hey guys, you really should talk to me me if you're going to do that... I have way better mush than what I have the nerve to release into the public arena! K, you know I'd be lost without you. Thanks for all you do.

"Claudia?" Artie said, gesturing with his bushy eyebrows at the tray in his hands. He wasn't entirely sure that he wanted to interrupt his not-so-junior agent, who was presently trading bad movie lines with the new guy. But Leena had gone all-out tonight, making the cocoa from scratch even, and he certainly wasn't going to let perfectly good junk food go to waste. Besides, he was pretty sure they needed to have a chat after the judgement error he'd made in following her to Boston.

Claudia glanced up at Artie, then back to Steve Jinks, who glanced toward Artie and then looked at her, curious.

"I gotta go, Artie has this tradition..." she explained, rolling her eyes.

"You don't have to," Artie said, feeling like he was interrupting something important.

"No, no, far be it from me to disrupt tradition," Claudia groused as she disentangled herself from her spot, perched backward in a chair. Steve Jinks, assessing the situation, smiled warmly at Artie, wondering if the supervisor was picking up his silent message - Claudia's annoyance was an act because she felt just slightly uncool about the fact that she was eager to follow Artie.

Claudia carried on the show of being inconvenienced until she made it far enough up the stairs that the new guy couldn't see, before the smile crept over her face. She made no effort to hide it from Artie, who caught it when he turned toward the bedroom and double-checked that she was following.

"Be right there," she muttered as she slid into her own bedroom to get ready for bed before she ventured the last few feet down the hall to the sanctuary that Artie had created for her, coming up on two years ago now. Claudia suppressed a laugh when she heard a thump and a grumble coming from the bathroom. Artie probably got his feet caught up in his pajama pants again, she thought to herself as she climbed up on the bed and waited. "Cocoa looks different tonight," Claudia said, once Artie entered the room.

"Leena made it from scratch," Artie muttered. "Oww," he murmured as he sat down. "Man, I really hit that Owen guy hard," he said, rubbing his knee gingerly. Claudia laughed unexpectedly at that. "I'm... I'm sorry I upset you when I... you know."

"What, you mean when you spied on me me and tried to intervene when things went pear-shaped?" Claudia asked. For a second, she seemed upset, but Artie relaxed when he caught the twinkle in her eyes.

"Yes," he answered. "It was a little... a little hard to talk about it with that new guy constantly popping into the conversation."

"Yeah, I've got to work with him on that. I've never met somebody so incredibly bad at eavesdropping as Jinksie is!" Claudia and Artie both chuckled at that.

"He's pretty bad, yes. And I know he already told you, but... but I was being completely honest with you that I followed you because I wanted to watch, not because I ever doubted your ability. I haven't doubted that since... well, ever, really. Doubted your maturity at times, but never your ability." Claudia tried to suppress her response to Artie's words, but she couldn't help beaming just a little, amongst the sheepish, almost embarrassed feeling she had at hearing his opinion of her. Making Artie proud of her had been her life's goal for the past couple years, and even though she'd found it easy to share her motives and insecurities with the new guy, it wasn't so easy to admit it to the target of her familial affection.

"Thanks," Claudia muttered, totally unsure of how to react to Artie's words.

"I'm sorry, also, that I, I intervened," he continued, wrapping his arm around his young companion. "I should have just watched and let... but it wasn't like I had a lot of time to decide how to react. And I wanted to stack the deck in your favor. It wasn't until later that I realized I should have let it play out naturally."

"No, no, I'm glad you did," Claudia answered. "It actually made it easier to find him after he saw the artifact in action. You... you really didn't go back to spying on me after you left, did you?" Claudia asked. She'd been itching to know, but she'd refused to waste time looking for signs of Artie's continued supervision. If he were watching, she wanted him to see her doing a good job, after all, not being paranoid about his potential presence. Artie shook his head in reply.

"No, you were genuinely on your own. In fact, I've been wondering how the rest of the mission went." Claudia perked up at that.

"Well, world's-worst-spy, once you proved to him that the knife worked, it turns out he paid a little visit to his son, who had terminal cancer." Claudia watched as the light of realization came across Artie's face.

"He saved... he didn't want to give disease to others?" the old man asked. Claudia shook her head with a grin. "Well, I guess it's a good thing I tried to help, and only caused you to lose him, then," Artie said after a moment of thought.

"Yep. Because you couldn't stand the thought of me having to work for my success, the guy's grandson won't have to grow up without a father." Artie hummed in thought as he sipped his cocoa.

"Sounds like one of the most rewarding missions I've ever had the privilege of sending a team on," he commented after a moment's thought. Claudia giggled, just a tad uncertain how to take such a compliment, and leaned a little closer to her mentor, who took the opportunity to reward her hard work with a snug, supportive hug and a quick nuzzle against her hair that sort of approximated a fatherly kiss. "So," Artie continued after disengaging somewhat. "What do you think of the new guy?"

Claudia's eyes lit up at the question and she launched into her assessment of Steve Jinks, on a personal and professional level, as she reached for one of Leena's cookies.