137 Q Street
by sarAdora ~~~~~~~~~~
"A Ms. Zirniklis on line two, sir," his assistant announced.
Damn! She's going to cancel.
"Hello Neysa," he said softly.
"I hope I'm not disturbing you," she said politely. "I'm running very late today and my schedule is tight. Perhaps, we should..."
"How much time can you spare?" he interjected, loath to wait another day to see her again.
"About an hour," she admitted.
"Will sandwiches do?"
"Of course," she said.
"Tell me when and where. I'll be there," he promised.
"The Hirshhorn? There's a pretty little garden patio near the fire exit at the rear of the Giacometti exhibit. About 1:30?"
"I'll be there."
Lunch was simple - Gyros oozing with tzatziki sauce, fat spicy fries, and coffee for him, root beer for Neysa. "How did you know I liked root beer?" she asked, clearly delighted. "I was sure I looked more like ginger ale," she teased.
"Actually, you look more like... I think most women... a lucky guess," he finished lamely, certain his face was a little pink.
Neysa laughed. "I'm going to have a wonderful time teasing you, aren't I, Alex Morris?"
"It's possible," he agreed, not at all uncomfortable with the idea and thinking of all the delightful ways he could tease her.
She told him about her work at the Smithsonian. She had submitted designs for improving the landscape of most of the buildings and had been flattered that a number of them had been accepted. She would sub-contract the labor and oversee the planting and replanting herself. It was a good contract and one that would insure her income for the year. She didn't tell him she had forfeited her contract with the FBI. They would just have to find someone else to landscape their smaller properties. Neysa didn't want to get too close to any of them.
Her hands were getting messy from the sauce oozing out of the gyro wrapping and there was a big dab of it on the side of her mouth. Alex gave serious thought to licking it off, but used his napkin instead. Neysa's emerald green eyes focused on his warm brown ones and she smiled when he touched her.
"There's something familiar about you," she said quietly, "comfortable, too. I can't put my finger on it. We haven't met before, have we?"
It was sheer willpower that kept him from inhaling harshly when she spoke, and he barely managed to keep his voice neutral. "I'm sure I would have remembered," he said gallantly.
"What do you do for the FBI, Alex?" she asked quietly, keeping her eyes on his.
"Nothing that would interest you," he smiled. "Lots of boring paperwork, bureaucratic stuff, meetings, things like that."
"In the interest of national security?" Neysa arched a brow.
"All government agencies have paperwork," he insisted. "Some of it is necessary to justify our positions," he winked. "Some of it is... just paperwork."
"Were you ever an agent, Alex?"
"Yes, a long time ago," he dismissed it.
"Desk agent or out in the field with a badge and gun and handcuffs and things like that?"
"All agents have a badge, Neysa. All agents have been trained in the use of firearms and most carry handcuffs."
"Do you?" she asked, a thoughtful expression on her face, a memory surfacing, then lost again in the recesses of her mind.
"Do you want to see my badge?" he asked, chuckling. "I assure you it's real."
"I'm sure it is," she laughed. "I called the FBI building and asked for you. They put me right through to your assistant. And I don't think Mikhail would have lied about your position as an assistant director. What is it you are an assistant director of?"
He briefly cupped her cheek and smiled at her curiosity. He had to tread lightly if he was going to be successful befriending her. "My job is a mixture of boring minutiae and picking up pieces that have been blown apart, trying to make heads and tails out of puzzles. I work long hours and get a migraine headache at least twice a week from something one of my agents did and for which I am ultimately responsible." He paused to sip his coffee, his eyes never leaving her face. "When I have a chance, I enjoy the company of a beautiful woman. I haven't done that in a long time. I think your job is much more interesting than mine. Tell me how you became a landscape architect."
Neysa was a pro at privacy. All her life she had kept to herself, afraid to take a chance on exposing herself to the wrong people. She was shy around them. She understood the man by her side was not comfortable talking about himself and she respected his evasive speech.
"How did I become a landscape architect? I went to college," she said simply. "Did you go to college to become an FBI assistant director?"
He grinned at her remark. If he didn't know better, he'd say she was being sassy, but she wasn't. It was just her manner of speech. "I went to college and became a lawyer, then joined the FBI."
"Did you know how to use a gun before you joined the FBI?" "Yes," he nodded. "I was in the military before I went to school."
"Vietnam?" she asked, suddenly omniscient.
"Yes," he admitted.
"I'm sorry," she said softly, putting a hand on his arm.
"Will you have dinner with me, tonight?" he asked, changing the subject.
"I can't. But I would like... how about tomorrow night?"
"Perfect," he smiled, wondering if the Friday evening tet a tet would lead to more satisfying weekend activities.