A/N It occurs to me that with the wedding coming up (eventually), it might be a good idea to start getting ideas for some of the music they'll play at the reception. I have some, but I'm an old fogey too.
"Be a dear and hold this for me."
" I'll have to get my 'mean face' on."
"Start with her."
Chuck lay there in bed, contemplating the Ring. It was looking kind of tarnished, by now. A little worn. He lifted his hand and stroked the little band of gold on his wife's finger. She'd been rubbing at it and it showed, a cheap wedding band procured for a cheap wedding.
She deserved better. A better life, a better husband, better everything. The life, even the husband, was a long-term project. A better ring could be gotten somewhat more quickly. He could go out and get one tomorrow, or some tomorrow when he had a lot of money saved up, but…When to give it to her? He'd have to think about it, come up with the perfect time and place. It wasn't like there was a Miss Manners guide to the subject.
"What are you doing?"
Of course she was awake, and of course he hadn't noticed. "Hmm?"
What was he doing? "I'm…spinning your ring, isn't that obvious?"
"Spinning my wedding ring. Is that like spinning the bottle? I would have thought we were a bit beyond that stage in our relationship."
"You played spin the bottle?"
She pulled her hand away, hid her face against his chest. "If you can call it playing, when you have to trust to an inanimate object, random chance, and some stupid boy's pride to get…anything. The tortures of youth."
Her teen years hadn't been happy ones, and he'd somehow managed to remind her of the fact. The tortures of youth had nothing on the foolishness of age. "Ah. I must have missed that one, what with having only Morgan and Ellie to play it with."
She burst out laughing.
He much preferred that sound. "And, uh, no, it's not like playing spin the bottle. It's better."
She looked up at him. "Really?"
He smiled that smile. "Oh, yeah."
She held up her hand. "Show me."
"Round and round and round she goes, where she stops..." He took his hand away. "Hey, look at that. I win again."
She gave him his prize. "I like this game. My turn."
"Hey Hannah, can I talk to you a second?"
Hannah looked up from her circle of listeners. "Sure, Agent Carmichael." She looked apologetically at her audience but most of them were staring at Sarah and didn't notice. So fleeting is fame. She expected Sarah to pull her into a quiet spot but instead they walked down the hall. "Where are we going?"
"You know all those reports you analysts complain about reading?"
Hannah's heart sank. "Yes?"
"Well, now it's your turn to write one."
"You participated in an action last night, so you have to write a report about it. You didn't think it was all kickass, martinis, and sex, did you?"
She hadn't thought about it at all. "Obviously not, or the reports would be much more interesting."
They shared a laugh together, and then Sarah asked, "So who's your young man?"
"I have a young man? News to me." Hannah started patting her pockets.
"I got used to every male head in the room turning my way a long time ago. I plan on it, I use it in my work. So when I walked over to your little gabfest and one of those male heads stayed focused on you with rapt admiration, believe me I noticed."
Hannah grabbed Sarah's arm. "Did you happen to notice which one?"
Carina aimed a vicious kick at the shield on Casey's forearm. "All I'm saying is next time, let him take your gun away from you in the middle of a firefight."
Casey caught the kick and pushed it away, bringing up the other shield. "I was outside–" (punch) "Shaw couldn't exactly–" (kick)"–follow you into the ladies' room, and Sarah–" (kick) "–had already established herself as a class-A bitch–" (punch) "–so it was unlikely Hannah would go after her for another go-round." (punch)
Carina blew the hair out of her eyes with an angry puff. "Stop being reasonable!"
"Do you really have a problem with a successful mission? 'Cause I sure don't. And it's not like you didn't get a chance to beat up on some heavily-armed goons in a skimpy dress in front of an appreciative audience."
She smiled. "There is that."
Hannah hit the backspace key yet again. "They actually give you guys lessons in how to write this badly?"
"No. They give us lessons in how to think clearly, and it sort of…carries over."
Hannah leaned back and pointed at the dismal paragraph she'd managed to cobble together. "You call this clear?"
Her coach shrugged. "We're supposed to see what's happening, not what we think is happening. 'Tipping the valet' could as easily be 'passing a disk to a co-conspirator.' That sort of automatic assumption could be death to us, or the vital clue that causes the mission to fail."
"Well, this sort of writing is death to us, let me tell you."
"Tough. And your dislike of my husband shouldn't carry over into the report, either."
Hannah slumped. "Is it so obvious?"
"'Significant other' instead of 'husband'? Pretty obvious, yeah."
"You said to be neutral."
"About what you see, not the stuff we already know."
"You're not mad?"
"Why would I be? I don't like him much on missions, either. He gets the job done, but he's cold, and I like my warm cuddly-bear." I need him.
Hannah grinned. "Now there's a word I'd love to see in a report." The grin faded. "I was afraid it would hurt your feelings, or piss you off, or something."
Sarah laughed that off. "A beautiful woman not falling in love with my husband. I think I can live with that."
The easiest way to get a weapon through airport security is to not try to get a weapon through airport security. There are just far too many ways to get something cheap and untraceable at the destination site, and for the kind of specialty weapon this assassin favored, the Ring had its own transport network.
He had backups too, since he trusted the Ring as much as he trusted anyone, and he didn't trust anyone.
"Telescope, this is Eagle-Eye."
"What happened to Graboid?"
"That was this morning, Perfection. Right now I've got a completely different sort of undercover operation for you. We've got a ping on a major annoyance, by name of Rafe Gruber."
"Where have I heard that name before?"
"He's an assassin, does a lot of work for the Ring. Always on the move, he does a lot of in and out jobs, and whatever you're thinking don't say it, even over a secured network."
"They got sloppy on this one, using one of his known aliases, must be in a devil of a hurry. If we get a move on, we can hopefully take him by surprise."
"Copy. Let me just tell Hannah we'll have to change our lunch date."
"No, don't do that. It's perfect."
"Thanks for inviting me along on your girl's afternoon out," said Carina, less than totally sincere. The outdoor café they were in left them far to exposed for her comfort. She sipped her drink and winced. Could use some alcohol, and so could the drink.
Sarah shrugged, gaze rarely straying far from the exit. "You and Hannah have met already, so why not?"
"If you call a stranger sticking a gun in your hand and a plug in your ear 'meeting someone'," muttered Hannah.
The two agents laughed. "Well, there's meetings and then there's meetings," said Sarah.
Hannah looked around, kept her voice low. "Which ones have the poison?"
"The second, definitely," replied Carina. "You got poisoned?"
"By accident. They were trying for her," Hannah pointed at Sarah, "but I stole her drink."
"Sounds like something I would do." She watched as Sarah turned an interesting shade of red, thinking of all the things Carina not only would do, but had done.
A waitress brought their food and they waited until she left.
Hannah lost no time slicing into her meal. "Sarah got me the antidote."
Carina stabbed into her salad, staring at her friend. "Nice of her."
Sarah didn't stare back, looked at Hannah instead. "It was the least I could do after you stabbed that big guy in the leg."
Carina looked at Hannah too. "What'd you stab him with?" She finally sounded like she cared.
What? "And that worked?"
"Well, the plane was falling out of the sky at the time, so he lost his balance and–"
Carina sat back and frowned at both of them. "You two are making this up."
They just sat there, looking at her.
"Then how come I never saw a report on it?"
Sarah shook her head. "I was doing a favor for Shaw, what with him taking a bullet for me and all, so he did the paperwork. I was just Subcontractor A."
Carina speared a cherry tomato. "That must have been either a big bullet or a small favor."
"He kept me safe, and my husband always pays his debts, as do I. Not everything's about size, you know. As it turned out it was just a key of some kind."
"What does it open?"
"No idea. Shaw's a Ring expert, we're the best Ring ops team on the East Coast. If it has anything to do with the Ring he'll come to us eventually. Incoming."
Hannah wondered what that last comment was about, while Carina pulled out a mirror and looked behind her while pretending to check her face. "Oo, my ride's here. Do me a favor, Blondie, and doggy-bag this stuff. It's pretty good." In spite of her words, she sat and continued to peck at her food, watching the door.
"Are you leaving?" asked Hannah.
"In a bit. I'm waiting for my new boyfriend to show up."
"You have a new boyfriend?"
Sarah smirked at her friend. "Carina's always got a new boyfriend."
"Hey, don't blame me. You abandoned your sacred duty, so I called dibs."
"So who is he?"
"I don't know, I haven't seen him yet. When I do, I'll be sure to let him know."
"You mean you'll be sure to let me know."
"I was very clear about what I meant." She looked up and smiled. "Ah, that looks like the lucky fellow now." She stood up, grabbed her bag. "Don't forget, Blondie, doggy bag."
Sarah gave her a nod and a wave, the kind you give someone when you remember they said something but can't remember what it was.
"She'd better hurry up," said Hannah. "He looks like he's going somewhere fast and it better be there when he arrives."
Sarah turned to observe, reaching discreetly into her pocket. "Carina knows what she's doing. She doesn't play 'hard to get' so much as 'hard to avoid'."
The valet stood by the opened door as Rafe got into his rental.
"What's she waiting for?" said Hannah.
They watched as Rafe got out of the car again. The poor valet did his best, but it was clear to the professionals that whatever his client was saying to him was rude and unpleasant. "That," said Sarah. "It won't stop her in the slightest, but seeing how he treats underlings will tell her a lot about how she needs to treat him."
Rafe stopped digging his fingers into the underlings shoulder, toss his folded tip contemptuously on the ground, and turn back towards his car. The valet stooped to get his meager prize.
"Did you hear that?" said Hannah, turning her head to try to locate the sound, missing the sight of Rafe reaching for the dart.
"Hear what?" Sarah was clearly focused on the scene, so Hannah abandoned the minor mystery and watched with her.
As he fell into the car Carina stepped over the valet and pushed her mark into the passenger side. "Hey, honey, let me drive."
The two ladies watched as the car roared off down the road and out of sight.
"And there they go." Sarah turned and signaled to the waitress for a container.
Hannah grinned. "I hope she doesn't hurt him."
Sarah returned to her interrupted meal. "I think he'll get exactly what he deserves."
A/N2 I dislike Fake Name immensely. The whole 'Sam' thing (which, by the way, Maverick41 did a great job expanding on in his story s/8708964/1/Chuck-vs-The-Finally-Getting-To-Deal-With-The-Whole-Name-Situation), the dentist thing, the Hannah break-up, which inspired me to write s/6318406/1/Hannah-HISHE to give her a happier ending than she got. Just so many reasons to hate that episode.