Shane is coming down on the train from London for a meeting with me.
This is either incredibly good, or incredibly not.
Usually, if you have a one on one meeting with your first, it’s about a promotion, or something you’ve royally screwed up, or occasionally it’s about a mission briefing, but right now, I know I’m not slated for any missions.
What leads me to wonder what I screwed up.
We’re meeting up on the Downs, away from listening ears, surrounded only by the whipping wind off the ocean, and the wide open spaces with miles and miles of nearly deserted walking paths. We know we won’t be interrupted.
I’ve just gotten to the rendezvous point, which is not far from my flat, when I see Shane round the corner of the shrubs behind me, his hands tucked in his pockets, the wind whipping his blond hair into a frenzied mess, which he doesn’t seem to notice.
“Hey boss,” I say with a grin, and he gives me only a cursory smile in return, as he HATES it when I call him boss.
“Hey, Emme,” he says without breaking stride. “Let’s walk.”
Falling into step beside him, I tug up the zipper on my fleece and look out at the sea – the waves are angry today, whipping hard and steely grey against the white, white cliffs they are crashing on.
It’s so starkly beautiful, it sometimes takes my breath away.
“What’s going on, Shane?” I ask, unable to wait any longer as Shane marches up the hill, a blank look on his face. He stops suddenly and looks at me, so I skid to a halt beside him, waiting.
“You have to stop seeing him.”
I reel back a step, my face a mask of confusion. “What are you talking about?”
“The civilian you’ve been seeing – you have to stop.”
My mind is whirling, and I try to make sense of what Shane is saying. “What are you talking about? How do you…”
“Harkness reported in to headquarters that a civilian has been at your flat several times in the last few days, and that last night, he never left,” Shane’s face betrays nothing, but his voice as an edge of anger and disappointment to it.
“You’ve had Jack following me?” I screech. “I knew it. I KNEW it… I thought I saw him in the Meads the other day, but I thought there was no way one of our best surveillance agents would be kicking around the southern coast. Why has he been tracking me?”
Shane sighed, and then began to walk again, slower this time. “We’ve been tracking you since your attack, to see if there was a repeat performance or another incident. That’s all it was. But when Jack reported this civilian, I knew I had to talk to you about it. You know the rules, Em.”
“I know the rules, Shane. I just thought a little humanity once in a while might be nice from Leukos.”
“You know that you can’t become entangled with someone who doesn’t know who you are, and you sure as hell can’t reveal who you really are, who WE really are.”
“Did Jack identify my ‘civilian’?” I ask, intensely protective of Connor’s identity. I’m totally unwilling to share him, but more importantly, I don’t want him showing up on anyone’s radar – don’t want him in any danger from my ‘world’.
“No. Just that you are seeing someone. A lot.”
“I’m not seeing someone ‘a lot’,” I argue, slowly filling with indignant anger. “We’ve only seen each other a couple of times. It’s no big deal.”
“Are you sleeping with him?” Shane asks bluntly.
“That’s none of your business,” I shoot back hotly.
“It is, if it means you aren’t going to be focusing on your job,” Shane barks back.
I stop, planting my hands on my hips. “Have I ever, in five years, given you reason to think I can’t focus on my job? Have I ever let you down? Have I ever gotten distracted? Christ, have I ever had a life that wasn’t entirely controlled by the whims of Leukos?”
I will not cry. I will not.
“I would never disappoint you, Shane. You’re one of my best friends… you’re my boss, and I want to work hard for you. Don’t make my casual dating a reason to drive a wedge between us. It’s ridiculous.”
Shane shakes his head, looking contrite. “I’m… I’m sorry, Em. I just… you’re a good agent. You’re important to me – to us. I don’t want to lose you.”
“You aren’t losing me. I’m just… seeing a boy. It’s nothing. He means nothing – just a bit of fun.”
Connor is so much more than that, but if they think he is impairing my judgment, they’ll make him… disappear. Or give me a reason to never see him again.
Which is a thought I can’t bear to let cross my mind.
“Are you sleeping with him?”
“You aren’t my father,” I spit, pissy now that Shane is being so nosy.
“I’ll take that as a yes.”
“You can take it as a ‘butt out of my personal business’.”
Shane looks at me with a hint of a smile, but I continue nonplussed.
“My dating isn’t affecting my job, so back off. I won’t let it interfere.”
Shane watches me for a long moment, our eyes meeting even as the wind whips our hair around our faces, and then he nods once. “I’ll just have to trust you.”
“Which you should have done in the first place, instead of barreling down here from London hell bent on chewing me out,” I fire back. “You know me better than that. Hell, you know me better than anyone.”
“That’s true,” he says quietly.
“Why the hell did you have Jack Harkness following me?” I ask as we begin to stroll again. “He’s too valuable to be stuck in Eastbourne all week. What’s so important?”
“We found out who your attacker was,” Shane explains, and I feel a shiver of anger and anticipation and knowing the name frisson down my spine.
“Who?” I bark impatiently.
“His name is Jason Markston. He’s an MI-6 agent.”
MI-6 is the Secret Intelligence Service, Britain’s external intelligence agency. Basically, all the real life James Bonds and super spies are MI-6 agents.
And what the hell one of them wants with me, I have no idea.
“He was working undercover as a protection officer for the sellers, and was ready to blow the virus buying operation wide open when we blew in – another prime example of when agencies don’t work together. Leukos was specifically contracted to take out the buyers and sellers, but apparently Markston wasn’t kept in the loop. He thought you were another terrorist cell, so by attacking you, he was actually following his original orders to contain the whole operation.”
“He nearly killed me!”
“And he’s been punished because of it. He’s lucky he wasn’t thrown out of the service on his ear – if he hadn’t seen your Luekos tattoo, he would have killed you. He’s as much as admitted that, but he *was* following orders.”
“This is ridiculous, Shane,” I say, my face flushed with anger. “Who the hell are we all working for, and what the hell are we all working towards, if we’re practically picking each other off during missions? He could have killed me…”
“I know,” Shane says, his voice sympathetic now. “I’m sorry, Em. And I’m sorry it took me so long to find out who he was. Markston has been well hidden by MI-6, and well protected since the incident. I had to call in a lot of favors to find out who he really worked for.”
“You called in favors? For me?” I ask, strangely touched, and Shane nods, as though embarrassed.
“You’re my agent. I take care of my agents.”
I look at him, saying nothing, and he continues, almost shyly.
“What you said… about who I am to you… well, you’re important to me, too. You’re one of my best friends, Em, not just one of my best agents. I care about you.”
I bite my lip, touched. Shane doesn’t discuss feelings – ever.
“I’d like you a lot better if you’d stop spying on me,” I say teasingly, bumping my shoulder against his.
He bumps back, smiling. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
The walk back to the car park is made in comfortable silence, and I know that by tonight, Jack Harkness will be back in London, and Shane along with him. As he gets ready to get into his car, he pauses, and looks at me seriously.
“Be careful with this guy, Em. I don’t want you to get hurt, either way.”
“I will,” I agree, biting my lip. “It’s just a bit of fun, I told you. We’re having dinner tonight at his flat – no big deal. How harmless can lasagna be?”
“In that case, I just hope he’s a good cook.”
“I’m sure he’s a fabulous cook,” I shoot back with a confident smile. “And I know what I’m doing.”
Shane nods then pulls open his car door. “I trust you. I’ll rescind any surveillance orders on you tonight, but if anything suspicious comes along, you report in.”
“Duh,” I say, emulating a sullen twelve year old, which makes Shane laugh.
“Germany is probably going to go live within the week – I’ll be in touch.”
“Have a safe trip back,” I say as Shane climbs in the car.
Shane flashes me a smile, guns the engine, and in a moment, he’s gone.
I heave a sigh of relief at dodging whatever bullet was speeding towards me when Shane called this morning before turning on my heel and walking swiftly for home.
I have a dinner to get ready for.