A/N Morgan is sensitive, Carina is vulnerable. Live with it.
"The killer's escaped and Stampede has his phone."
"It's not aliases you're changing now, it's you."
"Tell me your real name, right now."
"Only in his pain is he useful to us."
Morgan Grimes said good night to all the other employees at the restaurant he managed-well, assistant managed-which strangely enough didn't involve nearly as much work as assistant managing a Buy More did. Morgan thought he had mad work avoidance skills, but the El Segundo School of Finance and Big Mike's own natural talent put him to shame. I wonder who he's exploiting now.
Certainly not Jeff and/or Lester. What those two lacked in work avoidance skills they made up for with a lack of any skills at all. He was so glad that government plane hadn't crashed anywhere near LA, 'cause he would sure have ended up running the Buy More again. He could practically feel their combined evil orbit of loser-dom trying to suck him in as they passed overhead.
Morgan grinned and shook his head as he locked the grate that covered the door. Look at him now, who'd believe it? A night of work, more of a night of COD, a morning of breakfast, and a whole glorious day to laze in bed. How responsible could you get?
It had to be Chuck's doing, somehow, but he couldn't see how. He shook his head again, in amazement , not amusement. His best friend, a janitor! To give up the Nerd Herd and follow his girl to DC, just because the Orange Orange transferred her. Wow! That's love. Anna was just so wrong about Sarah, she's obviously very career-minded to just pick up and move like that.
He stood up, stepped back, and ran into somebody.
He spun. "Sorry, sorry!" Embarrassed, he looked up and down the street, but no one was there. He'd managed to step on the toes of the only pedestrian in sight.
"Watch it, short stuff," she slurred. "Or I'll kick your…" she wavered a bit "…kick your…"
"Ass?" he said helpfully.
She curled her tall slender body around his for a look. "No thanks, hardly looks like you got enough for yourself." She giggled.
"That's what I said. What'n'ell are you doing here? I thought you were in DC."
"We're in DC."
"Course we are." Her beautiful face twisted in disgust. "Where'd you think we'd be, out in the friggin' sticks somewhere? Do I look like I should be out in the sticks?"
"Are you kidding? A hot ba–uh , beautiful woman, uh…" Drunk beautiful woman. Obviously drunk and completely alone. Oh god, what do I—No. Not me. What Would Chuck Do? "You know what, wherever you are, you're always the most beautiful woman around, but an empty street really doesn't suit you."
She tossed her head back, ran her fingers through her hair. "And what place would suit me?" Your place or mine?
Not even tempted. "Right now, I'm thinking a coffee bar."
Both her brows rose in surprise. "Martin, are you trying to get me sober?"
He sighed. "It sure looks that way."
She smiled, without her normal air of calculation. "You're sweet, and a gentleman. I like you. Where are we going?"
He gave her a sharp look. "You're not really drunk, are you?"
"Not for lack of trying, no," she said sadly, ruffling his shorter hair. "But you're really a gentleman. It's very sexy."
Washington had lots of coffee shops, too many shady deals at odd hours for just one, and of course you had to have enough that the reporters couldn't cover them all. Which is to say that they had no problem finding one, although all the shadowy corners were full up.
"So this so-called best friend just throws you over for someone she's just met? That's rude."
Carina sipped her coffee, making a face. She didn't like bitterness. "I wouldn't say 'threw me over', exactly. She just told this Jill-come-lately something she should have told me first, that's all."
Morgan was outraged on her behalf. "That's all? That's everything! I've been a best friend since the sixth grade and let me tell you, best friends don't do things like that."
"Best friends get angry, it seems."
"You're damn right they do! You mess with my friends, you mess with me!"
Carina leaned in and kissed him hard.
H e gripped her hands and freed his face long enough to ask, "Carina! What are you doing?"
"I'm hoping your place is closer than mine because mine is just too damn far."
"Leader, I appear to have an overlap."
The voice from the speaker was distorted but understandable. "Explain."
"Surveillance of the second woman revealed a secret meeting with a task force's target, a man."
Distortion couldn't hide the ferocity."Task force targets are need to know, operative. They should be alerting me to your operation, not you to theirs. Send me his picture."
"Transmitting now. " The operator started to sweat. "I had reason to become suspicious, Leader."
Leader let the operative sweat until the image completed transmission. "I know this face. The task force we sent is either dead or in jail. I was led to believe that an NSA trainee had defeated the lot of them."
"He always lets others have the credit, it's his signature move."
"My point exactly. I will listen."
"The meeting took place on a city street, a seemingly random accidental encounter. It would have been believable had the street not been completely deserted at the time. After this meeting they went to a nearby coffee shop."
"A haven for clandestine affairs."
"Exactly. They were observed talking, then the woman attempted to kiss the man and they left together."
"She wanted to make it appear that he was seducing her?"
"Or she him."
"Clumsily done either way. Her Seduction School teachers would be ashamed. Where did they go?"
"We tracked them to a local area B&B, owned by a woman named Pendergast."
"The same woman that offers housing to all the–"
"The very one. Clearly this is his base of operations, hidden in plain sight, where he can go in and out all day with no one the wiser."
"Or bring in other agents for a prolonged debriefing. How terribly clever, both him and you. I will reactivate the Carmichael file. There will be a new task force and you will be in charge of it, operative."
Score! "Thank you, Leader."
"You will also send a full report of how you accessed task force files to Security, so they can make sure it will be harder next time. I expect great things from you. Do not fail me." The message terminated.
The operative started to sweat again.
Morgan wasn't exactly sleeping. He was just very, very relaxed, but the combination of grape soda and Red Bull that allowed him to fight off two tranq darts allowed him to fight off this. A slight motion of the woman sleeping next to him brought him completely awake. For a second he was afraid he'd overslept his duties as a breakfast chef and reached for his clock to check, but no, he had a bit of time yet to appreciate the warmth and comfort, even with an early start for that one woman who got promoted.
Once he thought he'd loved Anna. Only the ease with which he'd broken up with her told him he never had. So he knew now that he didn't love Carina either, but he liked her a lot, and Morgan would go a long way for the people he liked. Especially when they were so recently best-friend-less.
"I have to go," said Carina.
Even that little movement had woken her up. "No," said Morgan softly, unwilling to let this night end. "No you don't, I do. I work here in the morning, but you can stay. As long as you like."
Carina rolled out of bed and moved around the room stark naked, gathering up her clothes. "You may work here in the morning, but I work somewhere else entirely, and they don't really have a 'yesterday's clothes' policy."
"So I'm guessing you don't work at a Buy More."
She laughed as she rebriefed herself. "Don't quit your day job, Morgan, you'd make a terrible spy."
He sat up, just to watch her move, even if it was to cover herself up. "So would you. In case you missed it, I work nights."
She paused in the act of buttoning her pants. "And here I thought you enjoyed it. I may have to come back and make sure."
He threw her pillow at her. Yes, please. "That's not what I meant."
"Well," she said, giving him a sidelong glance, "If I'm alive tonight, maybe I will. But no promises."
He shook his head, still grateful for the last one. "I'm not asking for any."
She leaned on the bed and gave him a light kiss. "Which is why I might come back."
"What do you think you'll do about this so-called best friend of yours?"
For once, she looked at a loss. "I don't know."
He looked unhappy. "It's can't be easy. But I'll tell you what I would do…"
Chuck turned as he heard the doorknob rattle, sliding one of Sarah's knives from his waistband. If it was an Uzi-toting terrorist, or his wife for that matter, he'd really rather know it sooner than later. If it was his wife and he wasn't checking to see if it was an Uzi-toting terrorist she'd kick his ass.
Of course it was his wife, and he was checking, so his hind-quarters were safe for the nonce. "So, did she get off all right?"
She tossed her bag into a chair. "Safe and sound, on the plane and off the ground."
He grinned. "You're in a good mood."
"She was rhyming, all the way to the airport. Not sure why. Couldn't think of a rhyme for 'waffles', though, thank God." She shrugged. "But it sounded like she was happy, so why not."
"I think getting promoted, surviving an assassination attempt, and finding out that your new best friend really would take a bullet for you are all perfectly valid reasons for happiness. And all in the same day, no less."
She plopped herself down on a stool. "Been there, done that. On the other hand, I'd kill for a cheese omelet."
Chuck lifted a plate to the counter. "Well, isn't today your lucky day…"
"Where is Agent Miller? Her report of last night's action hasn't yet crossed my desk." And they all knew just how much General Beckman loved reading Carina's version of events.
Sarah looked unhappy. "None of us knows, she just walked away and left the clean-up to us," she said, feeling like she was betraying her second-best friend, but you don't lie in official reports. "But I'm sure she'll be here, General."
Beckman looked something other than unhappy. "Your loyalty does you credit, Agent Carmichael, but 'just walking away' is not acceptable behavior for an agent on scene."
"I've known her for years, General, her best and perhaps her only friend, and last night the role she was playing required her to almost kill me."
Beckman nodded. "That can't have been easy, even for as loose a cannon as Agent Miller is known to be."
"She's not that loose, General. Something happened to her last night, and I'd like to get to the bottom of it, if I may."
"You may, Sarah. Her work yesterday was exceptional and has earned the benefit of your doubts, as well as my own. The Intersect Project has tolerated some pretty loose cannons already–" only Casey looked at Chuck's inset on their screens "–it can tolerate another, but try to tighten her as much as you are able. You seem to be good at that."
"I will, General."
"Good. Moving on–"
Another inset window opened. "Agent Miller reporting."
"Good morning, Agent Miller," said the General. "Agent Carmichael and I were just discussing your absence. I trust you are fully recovered from the events of last night. I understand they were more than a little stressful."
"Last night was hard on me, I will admit, but we each have our own ways of relieving a little stress, and I found the cure for what ailed me."
No one asked what she meant.
General Beckman's expression beat Switzerland in terms of neutrality. "Then I will leave it at that. I will be interested to see your interpretation of events last night, Agent Miller, as we are unable to understand why a major assassination operation would be mounted against a junior analyst."
"I…haven't really given the matter much thought, General."
"Keep it in mind as you compose your report, please. In the meantime I want Agent Carmichael and Colonel Casey to return to the scene of events and report their findings to the Intersect."
"You're benching me?"
"You benched yourself, Agent Miller. Consider that the next time you decide to go off the reservation for a little stress relief." Her window blinked out, as did Casey's.
Now Carina's face could twist into a grimace. "Way to have my back, Sarah."
Sarah was having none of it. "I had to deal with Mrs. Pendergast alone, Carina, you know what she's like when guests break things."
"So you just throw me to the Generals?"
Sarah sat back, refusing to accept that charge. "I didn't throw you anywhere. You have to stick around to file your report anyway."
Carina's anger had no place to go, so it curdled in place. "And then spend the rest of the day babysitting your geek!"
"He's my nerd!" said Sarah, stung. Carina knew better. "Get it right, or you and I are going to have some serious words!"
"Oh, we are, are we?" Carine spat back. "How about these 'serious words'? You are fired, Sarah. I'm firing you as my best friend!"
Her window went black.
A/N2 I counted six double entendres in there, don't think I got them all. I hope you laughed along with me.