Teasers & Deleted Scenes
FBI Headquarters, J. Edgar Hoover Building, Washington, D.C., December 11, 2007
"One sec. Lemme hit save." There was no visible motion of hands, just a flick of Hafidha's eyes, before she spun her chair, sending braids flying. She frowned up at Daphne through cat's-eye glasses. "Speak and be recognized."
Daphne twisted her hands, glanced over her shoulder, and furtively nudged the office door shut with her heel, not caring that Hafidha's eyebrows rose. "Did we do a bad thing?"
"Chaz? Sunday night?"
"You know it."
Hafidha pointed toward a chair. Daphne collapsed in it with a thump, as if the Evil Scientist's death ray had made her suddenly boneless. "He's so not himself. I just--"
But Hafidha interrupted with a held-up hand, so Daphne bit her lip on whatever she had been about to say. Hafidha said, "The point of the exercise was to prove to the kid that he can in fact get laid any time he wants to."
"Yeah, but I didn't expect him to..."
"Shag some hottie whose name he never got up against a nightclub wall and be back in his seat ten minutes later? With your sour apple martini and my cosmopolitan in hand?"
Hearing Hafidha say it made Daphne glad she was sitting down. It wasn't... jealousy, exactly. Or that she was shocked. She'd taken a few chances herself, when she was Chaz's age. But it was a paradigm shift, as if the guy she knew had split open, and somebody else had stepped out of the smoking skin. "I feel like we pushed him. I don't want him... out of control. He's a good kid."
Hafidha's eyes flicked to the door. She lowered her voice. "He's a 25-year-old man with a broken heart, who also happens to have a terminal illness and a job we will charitably call high-stress."
"Right," Daphne said, and closed her eyes. "I was buying the mask, wasn't I?"
Hafs reached out, patted her knee, and turned away to rummage in a desk drawer. "He's still Chaz. It's just that Chaz isn't just the guy who always remembers to ask if anybody else wants coffee when he gets up. You know. He also leaps tall buildings in a single bound, parachutes from random objects, drafts off semis on a skateboard, climbs without a rope--"
"Not when I'm there he doesn't," Daphne said grimly. "But.. yeah. You're right."
"Honey, I am."
"The only problem is now rather than convincing him he's good enough to get the girl, we've convinced him that he's only good enough to fuck."
Hafidha did something in the drawer that Daphne didn't quite see. And then she turned back, hands folded in her lap, and said, "Daphs--" And then she stopped, and shook her head, and started over. "There's a girl out there for him. Probably a half-dozen, if they have any sense at all. He'll sort it out." She reached out and tapped Daphne between the eyebrows. "Now go blow your nose and get a cup of coffee."
"Hey! I wasn't crying." But Hafidha grinned, and Daphne grinned back--a little forced, not too terrible, and headed for the bathroom anyway.
When she got there, she glanced into the mirror and burst out laughing.
There was a gold star stuck right between her eyes.