Katie’s alarm clock buzzed – she hadn’t bothered to reset it after leaving Baker and Mills – there was no need to fall out of her routine when she had planned on being employed within a short time frame.
And she had managed it – albeit in such a strange, roundabout way that it never could have been predicted. She had a job – a job where, if things continued to pan out as truthful – she was essentially free to dictate her own pay cheque.
She moved to her cupboard, and sorted through the more formal end of her wardrobe – it seemed the safest option until she found out what the other members of the Agency wore – or what was expected of her. Darren seemed to be always wearing a suit – if her sample size of two meetings with the man was enough to judge him on – so there was something to be said in dressing to match.
She pulled out a pair of dress slacks, a prim button-down shirt – a fair more business-like cut than her usual blouses, and a neat, black leather belt.
She dressed, and walked through to the kitchen, turning on the radio as she fought with the fridge, finding a carton of juice that she’d already opened.
There was a knock at the door.
She paused, her hand halfway to a glass, and frowned – it was too early to expect anyone, and she wasn’t expecting any deliveries.
She smiled – a theory forming in her mind; one confirmed when she unlocked the door and found Darren standing there, looking awkward, but happy. There was a large brown paper bag in his hand. ‘I- Breakfast. I thought we could discuss commuting arrangements. May I- Come in?’
She smiled, unable to help herself – there was something entirely too sweet about the man, and stepped aside so he could come in. ‘My kitchen it just through there,’ she said as she locked the door – almost surprised that she wasn’t thinking twice about locking herself in with a virtual stranger. ‘Would you like some juice?’
He had stopped just behind her. ‘My jacket,’ he said in his strange, halting way, ‘should I remove it?’
She nodded, and reached for the bag. ‘There’s a hook on the back of the door,’ she said, ‘then follow me through.’
He joined her in the kitchen a moment later, and took the plates from her as she held them in one hand, fighting to close the cupboard door with the other. ‘Eggs,’ he said, pointing to the bag. ‘It seems to be a staple breakfast food. It seemed like a safe choice. If you don’t like them, I can require something else.’
She lifted the juice carton. ‘Would you like a drink?’
‘It’s customary?’ he asked.
‘It’s a personal choice,’ she said, choosing her words carefully. ‘but I prefer to have something to drink with my breakfast.’
‘Then- Yes,’ he said.
She poured two small glasses of orange juice, handed one to him, then sat opposite him. ‘I didn’t expect you,’ she said as he took the Styrofoam containers from the bag. ‘But I’m not upset,’ she clarified quickly, unwilling to make him feel as though he were doing something wrong.
‘We didn’t discuss much yesterday,’ he said.
It was a statement of fact as much as anything else – she’d agreed to take the position, and they’d had a long, if fairly meaningless conversation about the most trivial of things; with the understanding that everything important could wait for today.
She levered some of the scrambled egg onto her plate. ‘This is as good a time to start as any. What topic did you want to discuss first?’
‘The commute,’ he said. ‘There’s no need to travel the- I can shift you to and from the agency each day. If you like. If you would prefer to walk, I could escort you, if the hour is too early or- We have a parking lot if you wish to drive.’
She nodded. ‘Let me see how comfortable I am getting teleported around before I make that decision.’
He lifted his head, then nodded. ‘The next topic is related to the last. Recruit have the option of living at their agency, as the hours of operation and work tend to vary far more than in a regular, human workplace.’
She gave him a quick, cheeky smile. ‘I’m not ready to move in with you just yet, Agent.’
He nodded again. ‘Fair enough. Next is your position, something I’ve been in discussion about since you left yesterday. Normally recruits are brought on board as just- Recruits. I’ve received dispensation from Agent Ryan to bring you on board immediately as an aide, on the condition that you meet with him today, and he approves of you.’
She placed her fork down, then noticed that he hadn’t taken any breakfast for himself, and immediately portioned some egg onto his empty plate. ‘Do you think he’ll approve of me?’ she asked. ‘I barely know anything yet, and I’m not sure what kind of tests I could pass.’
‘I’ve had him agree to forgo the recruitment tests,’ Darren said, almost automatically. ‘I didn’t view it as necessary. We can assign a nominal field rating, then run the tests at a later point. It isn’t- Usual to do it this way. Not from what I understand. But- Many things about my- About me- Are unusual. It will not affect your job not to run the full set of tests. I have- Headhunted you. There’s no need for other departmental testing.’
She laid her hand over his – well aware it was already too natural of an action.
He was gentle, and cute, and – although by far the strangest man she’d ever met – far sweeter than most of the guys she’d dated.
She quickly took her hand away, blushed, composed herself, then looked back at him. ‘You avoided the question,’ she said.
‘I apologise,’ he said, ‘I felt I would answer the more pertinent question.’ He gave an awkward look, then picked up his fork and ate a few bites of his egg. ‘What is it?’ she asked after he was silent for a few minutes – it wasn’t a frightening silence, just one where he seemed to be unable to place the words he needed to say in an order that she could understand.
Or maybe, that he could understand.
He was- He was a week old. He was a real person who was younger than the juice he was drinking.
She leaned back in her chair, facts hitting her again, weighing her down with precisely how monumental it was.
There was a man, who some would willing call angel, eating eggs in her crappy little kitchen.
Darren looked at her for another long moment, then put his fork down. ‘I don’t know Agent Ryan. I have- I know you better. As a person. I know him from his files. He greeted me upon my generation.’ He must have noticed her look. ‘He was there when I was born,’ he explained. ‘He explained the Agency and Duty, and everything I need to be in order to be an agent.’
‘But you don’t know him as a man? Is that what you’re saying?’
He scratched at his shoulder – one of the very few natural moments she’d seen him make – then he adjusted his tie slightly. ‘I don’t think he likes- Me,’ he said. ‘I don’t have many points of comparison, but I don’t think I please him. I think I- Disappoint him. I am not what was expected. I am- I believe I am flawed.’