Chapter 25

I fell asleep soon after, tucked against the warmth of Boone's body. I half-expected him to leave in the middle of the night, to bolt like he normally did with his one-night stands. Instead, I was woken by the feeling of lips kissing down the side of my neck, over my shoulder, and hands trailing from the curve of my hips to the sides of my thighs.

Shifting, I asked in a hoarse whisper, "Can't sleep?"

His mouth brushed my earlobe when he answered, "Not with you naked next to me, rook."

I smiled sleepily. "I can go put on some clothes if you want."

He let out a rumbling laugh. "Don't you dare."

I moved so that I could see the outline of his face in the lights streaming in from the living room. We smiled at each other for a moment. Then, he pushed my hair behind my shoulder and smoothed a hand down my arm. I lifted my head to press my lips to his, cupping his jaw with my hand.

After a while, he pressed me back against the pillows, breaking the kiss to travel down my body with his hands and mouth. It didn't take long for my eyes to be hooded with something completely unrelated to sleep, to start emitting breathy sounds, to feel even the tiniest sensations that his lips and fingers made. He knew exactly what he was doing to me, but he went slowly. I caught glimpses of his face and sometimes it looked like he was trying to commit my reactions to memory.

I hooked one of my legs around his waist to let him know I was growing impatient. He knew where the condoms were this time, and soon enough he was positioned between my legs, holding my arms above me.

Our hips joined, my breath catching in my throat. He kissed me, deep and purposefully as he moved at a painfully slow speed. I kissed him back fervently, trying to free my arms so I could touch him. He didn't let me go, though, and I arched my back to press my entire body against him, my breasts pushing against his chest. That distracted him, and he made a deep, low sound, his grip loosening enough for me to break free and grab onto his shoulders. With one hand on the bed, he wrapped his other arm around my waist, keeping me pressed firmly against him. My back completely lifted off the bed, I wrapped my arms around his neck and let my head fall back. He kissed my neck, his teeth grazing my skin in an animalistic way that I sort of loved.

We moved together, the sound of our heavy breathing filling the room. I was so hot that it felt like I had a fever. I urged him to go faster with the movement of my hips, and he did just that. Within moments, I was digging my fingers into his skin, clutching him for dear life. He went harder, and then faster, and I was brought to the brink. We came one after the other, him collapsing on top of me.

I was trembling underneath him. "Well, um," was all I could say.

Breathing a laugh, he unglued himself from me, and then ran a hand up from my thigh to my collarbone. "Well, um," he echoed.

"Are you making fun of me?" I asked in a half-whisper.

He pressed a kiss to my arm. "Never," he replied as he moved to get up.

"Yeah, right," I answered.

Tossing a cheeky grin over his shoulder, he went into the bathroom.

Moving gingerly, I got underneath the covers. Rolling onto my side, I touched my fingers to my lips, which were hot and swollen. I had never kissed anyone like we kissed, or had sex with anyone like that, with so much feeling and passion and fervor. I had never felt like this in my entire life.

I didn't know what we were doing. God, I really didn't know, but I felt so completely sated and content that I didn't care much at all.

Boone came out of the bathroom, his shadowy form slipping into bed next to me. He drew the sheets over us. "You better not hog the covers," he said, referring to that one night in Istanbul.

I laughed. "That was just one time," I said defensively.

"Well, you know what they say…"

Grinning, I answered, "No, I don't, actually. What do they say?"

"Once a cover hog, always a cover hog," he stated.

I laughed again, muffling the sound in the pillow. "What? No one says that," I said.

"Well, someone did," he replied.

"Yeah, you," I told him.

"No, it wasn't me," he said, the smile apparent in his voice. "You really haven't heard that saying before?"

Wriggling upwards, I let my mouth hover over his. "Shut up," I whispered, and then kissed him.

I let my chin rest on his chest, and I brought my hand up to smooth it over his skin. Even though it was dark, I could still feel the indentations where he had cuts and scrapes from Pakistan. He didn't act injured, not that I expected him to because he was Boone, but it was almost easy to forget what he had been through the past few weeks.

"Do they hurt much anymore?" I asked lightly, running my finger along a healing cut.

"No, not really," he replied.

"Good," I said. I splayed my hand over his heart where it was still pounding. "I did a number on him, you know?"


"Lukin," I said.

There was a nearly imperceptible tensing of his muscles. "Oh," he said.

"Broke his nose," I told him. "Jabbed a pen in his leg. Got in a pretty good crotch-shot. I mean, I won't lie; most of it was in self-defense, but I'm glad I got to hurt the bastard before –" I cut myself off.

"Before I shot him," he finished for me.

I pressed my lips together. "Yeah."

There was a moment of silence, and then he said, "I'm glad you got to hurt him, too," he said. He kept it well under wraps, but I noticed the grim undertone in his words.

Wanting to comfort him in some way, I moved forward and slid a leg between his, fitting my body against his side.

He put an arm around me, groaning. "Like I said, rook, I can't sleep with you naked, all pressed up against me."

I nestled my head on his shoulder. There was no way I was moving. "That's too bad," I said.

He breathed a laugh, letting a hand skim over the curve of my hip. His fingers tickled my skin. He ran his hand back up, running it along my ribcage, and then down again. "Not really," he said softly.

We were quiet for a long time, comfortably tucked together. I kept my hand on his heart and he continued drifting his along my skin.

"Boone," I eventually murmured into the silence.

He grunted softly in acknowledgment.

"Why'd you join the Agency?" I asked. "I just realized that I've never asked after all this time."

His chest rose and fell as he inhaled deeply. "The usual reasons, mostly," he replied. "Retired from the SEALs, needed a job."

"You didn't like the SEALs?"

"No, it was the best experience of my life," he said, "but it wore on me. Christ, tactical mission after tactical mission. I realized I didn't want to do that for the rest of my career."


"I was always interested in the intelligence gathering side of operations," he said. "So, when I got out, the Agency seemed like a good choice, and they like to recruit ex-military."

"You didn't consider the private sector?" I asked. "There's a lot of money there."

"I did, at first," he answered. "I even got a job at as a security consultant for a defense contractor."

"Really?" I mused. I couldn't see him as anything but an operative.

"Quit after the first month," he told me. "I couldn't stand being stuck behind a desk."

I smiled. "I bet," I said.

"So, I joined the Agency," he said. "Got a job with logistics, and I've been there ever since."

"Why didn't you go for CS?" I asked.

"There weren't any positions open when I applied," he responded. "Logistics seemed like the next best thing."

I took note of his words; logistics had been his second choice. "And you never put in for a transfer?"

"No," he said. "After the SEALs, I kind of liked that logistics was low-key."

"Low-key?" I repeated.

"Relatively," he said, amused.

I brushed my hand over the muscles of his stomach. "But you still wanted CS," I stated.

He didn't say anything.

"You still want CS," I said lightly.

He sighed. "I don't care about CS as much as you think, Gem."

I knew he was saying that for my benefit so that my decision would be unbiased. It both aggravated me and made my chest tighten with tenderness. I didn't know what to say, so I just made a noncommittal sound. He put a hand over mine, squeezing it.

"And what about you?" he asked.


"What made you join the Agency?"

"Oh. They found me at a college career fair after I graduated," I replied. "Made it seem like an exciting way to serve my country." I paused. "They weren't wrong."

He cleared his throat. "You didn't want to be a historian?"


"You majored in history, right?" he asked.

"Minored," I corrected. I shifted onto an elbow to look at him, even though his face was barely visible. "But I've never told you anything about history."

"You haven't?" he said casually.

I squinted at him. "No," I said.

"Well, I must have read it somewhere," he answered.

"Like my case file?" I offered.

"Might've been your 201 file," he replied slowly. I could tell he was smiling.

"You snooped on me," I accused disbelievingly.

"It was only a glance," he defended. "And it was before I met you. I just wanted to know about my new colleague."

"That's reassuring," I said, slightly sarcastic. "Case files are classified. How did you—"

"I knew someone," he interrupted gently.

"Of course you did," I muttered.

I wished I knew someone who could get me his file. But I was pretty sure this someone was of the female persuasion and completely charmed by his big, brooding man-presence.

"They only let me look at it for sixty seconds," he justified. "I didn't get past the third page."

I brushed my hair out of my eyes. "What did you see?" I asked apprehensively.

"Not much," he said, but with a hint of teasing, added, "Why, is there something in there you don't want me to see?"

"No," I said, indignant. I had actually never seen my own 201 file; it was for the Agency's use and that was it. I didn't even know what was written in there.

"Not anything about how you had an imaginary friend named Macaroni?" he questioned like he was the most innocent person in the world.

Horrified, I breathed, "What? No. That is not in my file—"

He chuckled, low and deep. "It is," he said. He then let out a loud laugh. "Right there on the front page."

"No," I said again, in denial. I had never told anyone that. All I could think was if my parents had told the background investigators when they did interviews for my security clearance. Thinking about it, I could see my mother spilling that kind of information.

"Afraid so," he confirmed.

I bit my lip. "So, when you first met me, you already had an impression of me as—"

"As the agent who had an imaginary friend named Macaroni, yes," he finished for me.

"Oh, my God," I mumbled, covering my face with my hands.

He laughed again. I wasn't really used to lighthearted Boone. "Well, I ended up liking you just fine, didn't I?" he said.

My voice was muffled by my hands when I responded, "I guess."

I felt his hand touch my arm, and then move up to smooth over the side of my head. "You had my attention before I even met you, rook," he said quietly.

Those words struck a chord in me somewhere. Slowly, I let my hands drop, and then leaned over to hold his face in my hands. His jaw was scratchy with stubble. I meant to give him a quick kiss because I could at this moment in time; he was in my bed and who knew what the morning was going to bring. But he pulled me back down and kissed me again. It wasn't like any of the other ones. There was something entirely and inexplicably intimate about it. I had never experienced anything like it, not with anyone. It was like we were trying to spill out everything we had never said or done into that one act.

It went on for seconds, minutes, hours, I didn't know. We eventually fell asleep, my cheek resting against his chest, and his arm wrapped around my waist.

When I woke up, it was morning. I couldn't see the bedside clock, but the light coming in from the living room was unmistakably brighter and I knew the sun was up. I lay there for a while, tangled up in Boone and relishing the warmth of his body and the sound of his breathing. I couldn't process the events of last night quite yet, but somehow I felt lighter.

Unfortunately, I needed to pee and brush my teeth, so I carefully extricated myself from Boone and picked up my Yale tee-shirt from the floor, pulling it over my head. I realized I was sore all over, and I glanced over at Boone, who was the reason for it.

Lying on his back, the arm he had held me with was still extended, the Celtic cross tattoo on his upper arm just showing. The light hit his hair so that some strands glinted red, and his eyelashes were stark against his skin. The sheets were jumbled around him. He was too tall for the bed, his feet poking out from underneath the covers. I couldn't help but smile and take a mental picture of him, never wanting to forget this moment.

It was in that moment that I decided to take the CS job. Despite his efforts to make sure I wasn't pressured into anything, I knew he wanted it more than I didn't want it. And for that simple fact, I needed to take it. There were a lot of other factors that swayed the decision, too, but Boone was the definitive one, and I was okay with that.

I ran a hand through my hair and watched his chest rise and fall. Yeah, I was okay with that.

I padded into the bathroom, quietly closing the door. Really craving a shower but not wanting the sound to wake Boone, I washed my face, brushed my teeth, and put my hair up into a ponytail instead. Afterwards, I opened the door and stepped back into the room, prepared to slip back into bed.

Boone was tugging on his slacks, his back to me. I saw the faint, pink scratches that I had left there. When he heard the door open, he turned around, buttoning his pants. "Hey," he said.

I leaned against the doorjamb, crossing my arms. "Hey," I said, smiling.

"I didn't hear you get up," he said.

"Well," I said, shrugging, "I'm sneaky like that."

Buckling his belt, he smiled with one corner of his mouth. "I'm not so sure about that," he said. "I think it had more to do with not getting much sleep last night."

I laughed, and then walked to the bed. I plopped down on the edge of it. "So, you want some breakfast?" I asked. "I don't know about you, but I'm starving."

"Oh," he said, bending down to pick up his shirt. "Well…"

"I haven't got much, but I might be able to scrounge up some pancakes," I told him.

He went still. He stared at me, something passing over his features that I didn't understand.

I ran my fingers over the fabric of the comforter. "No guarantees, though," I said. "I think I'm running low on flour, and milk, and eggs." I grinned sheepishly. "But I can whip something up."

He put on the shirt, buttoning it from the bottom up. "I would, but I told Perry I'd visit him at the hospital this morning," he said. He looked at the bedside clock. "I'm – uh – I'm actually late already."

"Oh, okay," I said, nodding. "Of course."

Pulling on his shoes, he replied, "Sorry."

Again, there was something off about his expression and tone, but I ignored it. "It's fine," I said honestly. I stood up, flashing another grin. "More food for me, then."

He followed me into the kitchen. He picked up his jacket from the floor, and I felt my cheeks flush at the memory of what had happened against the fridge. The magnets were still scattered on the floor.

Shrugging the jacket on, he gave me a kiss on the cheek, and said, "I'll see you later, rook."

I gave him a smile as he headed out of the kitchen. "Tell Perry to get well soon for me, okay?" I called after him.

"Yeah, 'course," he said. "Bye."

I heard the front door unlock, open, and shut. I turned to put on the coffee maker, and then searched for some ingredients for pancakes, pushing away the odd feeling in my chest at Boone's sudden departure.

Saturday and Sunday passed uneventfully. It was nice to relax and catch up on much-needed sleep. I watched a lot of TV, belatedly emailed my parents to tell them Ben and I were over, and did some online shopping for new heels since Moscow had destroyed my nicest pair. I didn't hear from Boone, not that I was expecting to. I just thought we would have talked before going into work Monday.

The thrill of Friday night – and early Saturday morning – had worn off, and I was now apprehensive. It might have been a mistake to cross the line in our relationship. What if he was regretting it? What if it had just been a one-time thing, no strings attached? I wasn't expecting a relationship out of the man, but I did expect him to remain my partner and my friend, no matter what.

Needless to say, Boone was on my mind for most of the weekend.

On Monday, I parked next to Danny in the Langley parking lot. In a blue polo and khaki pants, he looked better than he had in weeks. He waited for me to get out of my car.

"Morning," he greeted.

"Hey, Danny," I said, shutting the door and locking the car. I adjusted my pencil skirt before walking over to him. The winter air was chilly on my legs. "How was your time off?"

He grinned, brushing his hair out of his face. "Good," he said. "I forgot what sleeping was."

I laughed. "I know," I agreed.

We started walking toward the main entrance. "How about you? How was your weekend?" he inquired.

Oh, he didn't even know how complicated that question was. "Fine," I replied for simplicity's sake. "Good."

"Did you hear about Perry?" he asked.

I looked sideways at him. "No."

"He went home on Friday," he said, smiling.

I raised my eyebrows in surprise. "He did?"

Nodding, he explained, "Nixon got the call during my debriefing. Doctors put him on bed rest, but he's home and doing well. Good news, right?"

My stomach dropped, but I managed to nod and say, "Yeah, that's great news."

It was undeniably great news for Perry, but it also meant that Boone had lied to me. He hadn't scheduled a time to meet Perry at the hospital Saturday morning at all. He had just wanted an excuse to leave my apartment as fast as possible.

And for what? So he didn't have to see me in the harsh light of day? So he didn't have to eat pancakes with me?

Shit. This was exactly what I had been scared of.

I felt slightly sick. He had lied straight to my face, and he was just so good at it that I had believed him. Or maybe I was just so naïve that I had believed him.

"I know a lot of things have gone wrong," Danny continued, "but I think we did pretty well considering." He held up a hand and counted off, "The bomb, the core, Lukin, getting Boone and Perry back from Pakistan, Perry making it through all right…"

"Yeah, you're right," I said distractedly.

I was having a hard time deciding if I was more hurt or angry at Boone. I knew he wasn't used to staying the night with anyone, but I wasn't some random one-night stand. I had no problem with sex for the sake of sex, but Friday night meant more that. God, it meant so much more than that.

I gritted my teeth to quell the wave of emotion that suddenly passed over me. My anger quickly trumped my hurt feelings.

"I wish we had a little more time off because—oh, hey, there's Boone," Danny said.

Looking up, I saw Boone climbing out of his green Jeep. Perfect timing. He had on the same jacket as Friday night and his aviator sunglasses. He had let his stubble grow in, hiding the faint bruising on his jaw. He shut the door, raising a hand to greet us as we approached.

"Hey, guys," he said.

"Hey," Danny replied.

"Hi," I said impartially.

Boone's sunglasses were too dark, and I couldn't tell if he was looking at me or not.

"Sort of a big day, huh?" Danny said, sounding a bit nervous.

Boone locked the truck, and brushed my arm accidentally as he went around me to pop the trunk. He reached in, picked up a small bag, and shut it. "Yeah," he said.

Danny rubbed the back of his head. "I thought about the job offer all weekend, you know?" he said. "And I was going back and forth, pros and cons and all that, but the only thing I could actually decide was that we should stick as a team. I mean, if you guys want me around, that is."

I nudged his arm. "Of course we do," I told him.

His eyes were wide with anticipation when he looked between Boone and me, and asked, "Have you guys made a decision, then?"

Boone made a noncommittal sound.

I knew I was the one with the answer, so I said, "Yeah, we've made a decision."

Boone turned his head to look at me. I couldn't distinguish his expression, though. "We have?" he asked lightly.

For some reason, I wanted to say, "Yeah, two days ago, in a perfect moment where you were naked in my bed and I realized how happy that made me." Instead, I just nodded, and said, "Yeah."

"Well?" Danny prodded.

"We're going to take it," I told them.

Danny froze, and I could feel Boone's eyes boring a hole into me. I shifted onto my other foot.

"Okay, then," Danny said, digesting that information.

"You sure, rook?" Boone asked.

"Yes," I replied without looking at him.

"No more logistics," Danny mused quietly, pushing his glasses up his nose. "Hmm."

I turned to him. "But Danny, if you don't want to or don't feel comfortable –"

He waved me off, suddenly grinning and looking his age. "No, no, I think it's the right decision," he said. "It's not too often that you get handed a chance like this."

"That's what I figured," I said, even though that was only part of the reason for my decision.

"Plus, I won't be in the field as much as you guys," Danny added. "I'll be with the techies."

"They'll be lucky to have you," I told him, completely sincere.

"Thanks." He smiled, and then hunched his shoulders. "Well, I think life is about to get even more interesting." His tone was serious and lighthearted at the same time.

"Not that it needs to be," I added.

Danny laughed, nodding. "Not that it needs to be."

Boone shifted, probably sensing that my comment had been partially directed at him. I avoided his eyes. Slipping my hands into my coat pockets, I said, "I just hope I can live up to Nixon's standards. He's already got a pretty good team."

"I don't think you have to worry about that," Boone said. "Nixon picked you for a reason."

His words reassured me, as they always did. He was right; Nixon wasn't a spontaneous sort of man. He wouldn't bring any of us on board unless he thought we were ready.

Clearing my throat, I jerked my head toward the headquarters' main door. "Come on, it's freezing out here."

We walked into the main lobby, passed through security, and headed for the elevators. Danny veered to the right, though, and said, "I need coffee, but I'll be right up. You guys want anything?"

"No, thanks," I replied, pressing the button for the elevator.

Taking off his sunglasses, Boone shook his head, and Danny disappeared toward the cafeteria. I took a deep breath, not happy to see Danny leave. I watched the numbers descend on the display screen next to the elevator in front of me.

The tension in the air between us was thick. When it hit Ground, four people got off the elevator, and then I stepped on, Boone following me in. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him run a hand over his jaw as I pressed the button for the fifth floor.

The doors closed, and we were completely alone now. Staring at the doors, I asked casually, "So, how's Perry?"

He glanced sideways at me. "Doing better," he replied, just as casually. "A lot better. He's home now, actually."

"Oh, really? And when did he go home?" I asked.

He didn't reply. I shifted to meet his eyes. His face didn't show it, but I could tell he knew that he had been found out. He couldn't have possibly thought he was going to get away with lying to me. I worked for the CIA, for God's sake.

"When did he go home?" I asked again.

He closed his eyes momentarily, his Adam's apple bobbing. "I'm sorry, rook," he said.

I exhaled sharply. "Yeah, well."

The elevator opened onto the fifth floor. I got off, heading to the left toward the Operation 67 office. Boone grabbed my elbow, pulling me to the side of the hallway. He whipped me around to face him. He looked down at me, his jaw tense.

"Gem," he started, and then paused.

"I really don't want to hear it," I told him evenly.

"Gem," he said again with resolve.

I shook my head, stepping around him. "No, Boone."

I started down the hallway toward the office, but Boone caught up with me in a few strides. He stood in front of me to stop me from walking away. Raising my chin, I set my jaw and stared coolly into his eyes. He stared back, his eyes more grey than blue this morning.

A woman passed by, her heels clicking loudly on the floor. We broke eye contact, realizing where we were. Boone peered through the small window of a nearby door, and pushed down on the door handle quickly, pulling me inside.

It was a small conference room. The lights were off but sunlight filtered in through the window blinds. It smelled like stale coffee and cleaning products.

I turned on my heel as Boone closed the door, putting up my hands. "Whatever excuses you have, I don't—"

He dumped his duffel bag on the floor. "I don't have excuses—"

"—want to hear them because—"

"I just want to—"

"—you've made it pretty clear how you feel," I finished.

"Gem," he said forcefully.

"What?" I snapped.

He took a deep breath, and said, "I didn't mean to lie to you."

"Oh, you didn't?" I questioned, eyebrows raised.


"So, it just slipped out involuntarily?" There was acid in my tone and I didn't care.

He leaned against the conference room table, silent for a few seconds. Then he sighed, and said, "I don't know."

I folded my arms over my chest. "Well, I don't either."

He squeezed his eyes shut, shaking his head. "Look…I woke up, and I was in your bed, and then – then you were asking about pancakes, and I just couldn't stay."

Furrowing my brow, I said, "Really?"

He looked up at me. "What?"

I watched his face for a long moment. I opened and closed my mouth, trying to figure out what to say. "Jesus, Boone," I eventually managed to say.

"What?" he said again, frowning in concern.

"Please do me a favor," I snapped, "and don't treat me like all the other girls."

"All the other—"

"Yeah, Boone, all the other girls," I repeated heatedly. "The ones you must feed lines to so that there's no mess when you break things off."

Taken aback, he straightened. "Hey, you're not some random girl to me—"

"You're damn right I'm not," I interrupted sharply.

"You're not," he agreed, vehement.

"Because first and foremost, I'm your partner." I uncrossed my arms and jabbed my chest with my finger. "I'm your partner, Boone."

He blinked down at me. "I know."

"That means something, right?" I asked, almost rhetorically.

"Yeah," he replied earnestly. "Of course it does."

"It means you don't have to lie to me about anything," I told him. "I don't want you to lie to me about anything, even if it'll hurt my feelings."


"If you wanted to go, you could've just said that." I tried my best to hide the hurt in my voice, but my confident tone faltered slightly.

"It's not that I wanted to go," he said. "It's just I don't – I never—" He stopped, running a hand through his hair.

"You never what, Boone?" I prodded.

He inhaled deeply and dropped his hand. "Listen, rook, I'm not used to –" he started, and then cut himself off.

I had never seen him so unsure of himself. I waited for him to finish.

"Everything happened so fast and unexpectedly," he said. "I – my head's still fucking reeling, you know?"

I tucked a strand of hair behind my ear. "You think mine's not?"

"I don't regret a thing," he told me, and the sincerity in his voice made me believe him.

That lessened the knot in my stomach, but only a bit. "You don't?"

He shook his head. "I don't," he confirmed, and then sighed heavily. "But I realize it was more than just spur-of-the-moment sex, Gem, and I've never really done anything like that."

"I know," I said.

"And I don't know if I'm even capable of not fucking up something like that," he finished.

I glanced down at the floor, and then looked up again. "I was just offering breakfast, Boone, not a long-term relationship," I told him.

He nodded. "Yeah, I know," he said. He looked uneasy, and then he added, "I just need some time to…I don't know, figure things out?"

It wasn't an unreasonable thing for him to say, I knew that. But there was something about the way he said the words and the uncertain look in his eyes that made my heart drop.

I turned away slightly, and said, "Right."

"I'm sorry," he said.

Facing him again, I shrugged with false nonchalance. "Maybe…maybe there's nothing to figure out, you know?"

His eyes scanned my face carefully. I was giving him an out, if he wanted it. I wasn't going to push him into anything he didn't want. He had to decide that for himself.

More than anything I wanted him to protest, to disagree and tell me there was something to figure out, to say that Friday night had changed things and it was scary and new and crazy but the change was for the better. More than anything.

But he just looked at me and didn't say anything. The seconds passed by.

As those seconds ticked by, my brain began to shut down any fragile thoughts about hoping he would act. I had to protect myself. I had to protect the overwhelming feelings that Boone had managed to pull out of me and subsequently trample on. I had never been someone who would beg a person to give me the attention I was looking for. No, no matter how much I liked Boone, I wasn't going to force him to do anything.

And even if he did feel something for me, I knew Boone was against commitment. I had known that from the moment I met him. Did I honestly expect him to change all of a sudden? I felt so, so stupid.

I dropped my eyes to the floor and bit my lip before gathering the courage to meet his eyes again. "Well," I said calmly. "I guess we should just pretend nothing happened."

He rubbed his jaw, almost a nervous gesture. "We said we couldn't go back after that," he reminded me, his voice low.

"Yeah, well..." I bit my cheek. "Maybe we should try."

He closed his eyes, swallowing hard. I had to turn away from him because a tear threatened to spill down my cheek and I didn't want him to see it. I went for the door.

"Gemma," I heard him say.

Fingers wrapped around the door handle, I hesitated.

He came to stand behind me, and I could almost feel his presence like a tangible thing.

Neither of us moved for a few seconds. But then both of his hands came up to touch my shoulders, gently, tentatively. My heart beat faster; it always did when he was this close. In a moment of weakness, I let my head fall back to lean against his chest. His fingers tightened, holding me close. He was so warm and smelled so intoxicatingly good. I closed my eyes, allowing myself to enjoy this one, fleeting moment.

We had always been better at actions, however small or seemingly insignificant. A touch, a smile, a look. Messy, inadequate words were never our thing.

I wasn't sure what was supposed to happen now. All I knew was that pretending nothing happened was going to be impossible.

Opening my eyes, I sighed, and said, "We need to get to our meeting."

I pulled the door open, stepping out of his grasp. Going out into the hallway, I held the door for him. I didn't even attempt to analyze the way he looked at me before picking up his bag and stepping out of the room.

It was a long, silent walk to the office. I was relieved when we passed through the security doors and were hit with commotion.

Operation 67 was bustling, nearly every seat taken and the sound of phones ringing filled the room. The flatscreen TVs mounted on the wall were tuned into various news stations from different countries. It was a typical Monday morning at the CIA.

Gibson looked up from her desk, where she was on the phone. I could see the outline of bandaging underneath the sleeve of her sweater. She met my eyes before peering behind me at Boone. I tried hard not to care what was going through Boone's mind at the moment, but I couldn't help but wonder if they had talked since their date.

Covering the receiver of her phone, she asked, "You sticking around?" as we passed by, obviously curious whether we were going to take the CS job.

"Yeah," Boone responded in a detached sort of way.

She nodded, looking pleased, and then caught me by surprise by saying, "You, too, Hart?"

I glanced over my shoulder. "I've already got my eye on the desk next to yours," I told her.

Her eyebrows arched high and for once, I was actually on the receiving end of one of her little smiles. "Dream on," she replied, and then returned to her phone call.

As we moved further into the office, Boone dropped off his bag, and had to shake hands with a few people who hadn't seen him since his return from Pakistan. I made my way to Nixon's office. I saw Giddens and Yorke bickering about something at the front of the room. Leaning heavily on one crutch, Yorke raised his coffee mug toward me in greeting. I smiled back.

Next to Nixon's closed door, I shrugged off my coat and waited for Boone and Danny. Boone came to stand beside me after a minute. We stood against the wall, watching the bustle of the office. His proximity shouldn't have affected me the way it did; clammy hands, heart pounding in my chest, jittery nerves like I had just taken six espresso shots. Thankfully, Danny soon came through the door with his coffee clutched in one hand. He weaved through the desks until he reached his temporarily allotted one, setting the cup down and taking off his jacket. He approached us, brushing hair out of his face.

"Should we knock?" he asked uncertainly, gesturing toward the door.

Boone raised his hand, knocked twice, and then opened the door. "Sir," he said. "Is this a good time?"

Nixon said something incomprehensible, and Boone waved us into the office. I stepped in after Danny, feeling slightly nervous. Dark skin speckled by his grey stubble, Nixon swiveled his chair around to face us, closing a file he had been reading.

"Morning," he said.

We echoed him, coming to stand in front of his desk in a line since there weren't enough seats for all three of us.

Raising his thick eyebrows, Nixon said, "So, I don't want to waste any time here. I guess you have an answer for me?"

"Yes, sir," Boone said from beside me.

"And?" Nixon prompted.

Boone paused, and I saw him glance sideways at me. He was giving me one last chance to change my mind.

I took a deep breath, and replied, "We accept the offer."

Not missing a beat, Nixon said, "The three of you?"

"Yes," Boone said.

Danny nodded.

"Now, just a disclaimer, because I don't want you to be under any illusions about the job," Nixon said. "It's consuming, it's exhausting, and it's thankless. Nobody is going to shake your hand and thank you for your service to this country. Nobody is going know what you do, the sacrifices you make. You will be unsung heroes." He gave us a serious look. "I need you to understand that, completely."

We were quiet for a couple seconds. Danny was the first to say, "Yes, sir," and Boone and I followed.

Nixon's eyes swept from Danny's face, to Boone's, to mine. He suddenly gave us a close-lipped smile. "Welcome to the team, then," he said. He stood and shook all of our hands. "Michaels wasn't happy to let you go, so I know I made a good choice." Sitting back down, he reached over and picked up a manila folder. "I'd like to give you some time to settle in, but I'm afraid I can't."

I stared down at the unmarked folder. I thought I was going to spend the day doing paperwork, moving desks, and saying goodbye to the logistics team. Boone and Danny stiffened as well, not prepared for a mission either.

"Agent Rowe, please excuse us for a moment," Nixon said.

Danny bowed his head, and left the office, closing the door behind him.

Nixon scratched his chin. "Agent Boone, Agent Hart, I was impressed with how you handled your covers in Istanbul. I've overseen a lot of operatives in my career, and it's rare to find two that work so well together," he told us.

Boone cleared his throat gently, and I had to make sure my face was blank.

"I'm usually wary about that," Nixon admitted, "but after the Pakistan mission, I realized that with the two of you, it's an asset."

He extended the folder to us, and Boone took it.

"And I want to use that for this next mission," Nixon said.

"What's the mission, sir?" I asked.

"Volkov has poked his head out from wherever he's hiding," he explained. "He's looking to purchase something called 'the Chiffer' from an associate of his in East Africa. He's offering $20 million for it."

"$20 million?" I repeated. "It's got to be something big, then. What is it?"

Nixon shook his head. "The Agency has no intelligence on what the 'Chiffer' is," he said. "That's what we want to know, and that's what you're going to find out."

I nodded. "So, where are we headed?"


Surprised, I raised my eyebrows. I'd never been to Mozambique before.

Boone flipped open the folder. I saw two Canadian passports, two plane tickets, and a stack of papers and documents. "And our covers?" he inquired.

"Dominic and Kate Francis," Nixon replied. "Newlyweds from Ontario."

I looked up sharply. Boone opened one of the passports, and then handed it to me. Our eyes met as I took it from him.

Some sort of understanding passed between us, and it didn't matter if we were temporarily at odds, at an impasse, confused. He gave me a small, almost imperceptible nod, which I returned. We both knew we had each other's back. Whatever this job required, we would do it and we would do it together.

Nixon leaned back in his chair. "This isn't a problem, is it?" he asked, looking between us.

I glanced down at the passport. There was a photograph of me next to a different name, date and place of birth, and nationality. I was beginning to acquire quite a collection of these. Closing it and lowering my hand to my side, I responded, "No, it's not a problem."

"Good." He straightened. "There's a meeting about the operation in thirty, and then it's wheels up at 1500. I want you both in Maputo by tomorrow night. There will be a ground team waiting for you with the supplies you'll need."

Boone and I exchanged a look before we both replied, "Yes, sir."

I gripped the passport tightly. Danny was right; life was about to get even more interesting. Not that it needed to be.

After the meeting, I said goodbye to Danny and headed for the elevator. I needed to get home and pack before the flight. Wrapping my coat tightly around myself, I stepped into the empty elevator, jabbing the button for Ground. I leaned heavily against the back railing and stared at the button panel. The doors began to close, but an arm forced them open again.

I glanced up to see Boone walking onto the elevator. When he saw me, his expression was carefully controlled, but there was something underneath the surface. I wished I could read his mind because I wanted to know what that something was. He was so goddamn hard to figure out. But I diverted my eyes back to the button panel.

He leaned against the back railing next to me, and we watched the doors shut. I suddenly felt my heart rate spike and I curled my hands tighter around the cool metal of the railing.

"Gem," he said quietly.

I felt my stomach drop as the elevator began its descent. "Hmm?"

"You're okay with this mission, right?" he asked.

"Yeah, of course," I responded.

"And we're okay?"

I turned my head to look at him. He was watching me with those grey-blue eyes. He wasn't asking if I had forgiven him or moved past our heated conversation in the conference room. He knew I wasn't ready for that. He was asking for confirmation that we were still partners, friends, whatever we had been before all the complications.

"Yeah, we're okay," I assured him.


I nodded. "I'll meet you at the airfield at 1430?"


We stared at each other, and those seconds were packed with so much emotion and so many feelings unsaid that I had to swallow the lump in my throat.

The elevator dinged and slowed down at the third floor. Three people shuffled on, and I broke eye contact with Boone. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him run a hand over his jaw. We stood there, side by side, as the elevator continued down.

When the doors opened on the ground floor, the other people stepped off.

Boone and I didn't move for a second, and then I heard him ask softly, "Ready, rook?"

I smiled to myself, and then took a deep breath and let it out. "Yeah," I said. "Ready."


A/N: Vertigo is finished, which feels just crazy! I'm not sure if the ending was what you were expecting or not, but I wanted this story to be about Gemma and Boone realizing and admitting (to some degree) their feelings for each other, while the sequel would focus on the development of their romantic relationship. They've got some things to work through, obviously, which is all part of the fun with these two. There's so much more to come, and I hope you'll stick around!

Many thanks to last chapter's anonymous reviewers: Guest, A, Guest, story, Millie, mylittleprincess, MM, Leprechaun (your comments are always so encouraging, thank you!), GiGi, Sami (so glad you like the subtle interactions, those are my favorite, too!), Guest, kat, exactly what, Reader, Em, Mercy (your reaction made me smile like an idiot, haha!), yoyo, Guest, O O, T (you will be my go-to person about the DC area :) Thanks for all of your lovely reviews!), wyant14, A, Guest, KB, Asher, Guest, Anon, Olivy, Kate, and Guest!

Thank you to anyone who reviewed, followed, favorited, or PM'd over the course of this story. Every bit of feedback meant so much and has really made a difference. Seriously, thank you.

I plan to start posting the sequel at some point this summer. In the meantime, I've written a oneshot called Sahara, if you want to check it out!

Until the sequel :)