The date with Eames had gone well.
In fact, it was actually a lot of fun.
I'm not sure why that surprised me.
Maybe because we'd started off on the wrong foot.
Why did I have to tell her that it felt strange to hold her hand?
No wonder she'd been insulted.
Although I guess I did a decent job of explaining to her what I'd meant, even if I wasn't being completely honest.
Because the truth was that it was only strange because of what holding her hand did to me.
It had made me very aware of her.
As a woman, I mean.
Throughout the course of our dinner date, I spent a lot of time holding her hand.
Ostensibly for the purpose of making us both more relaxed with the common gesture of togetherness, but in reality, well…I really liked holding her hand.
Hers are small…smooth and soft, but strong, too. Like the rest of her, I guess.
And that was probably a bad path for my mind to go down…
But so the date had gone well and then she'd driven me home.
There was a brief awkward moment in the car while I pondered how far we were going to take this practice session.
Because, if we were in love with each other, surely we kissed from time to time.
But would that ever come up?
I couldn't imagine a scenario where we would have to offer up that kind of proof in front of the feds.
I mean, we did have a job to do.
Our relationship was just the back story, not the main event. I mean, we were professionals. There weren't going to be any overt public displays of affection.
So in the end, I picked up her hand again. It was beginning to feel natural to do so, which meant that our date had been a great idea.
But this time when I picked it up, I brought it to my lips and kissed the back of her hand.
"Thank you," I told her.
"For dinner? You paid," she deflected, although I did notice that her cheeks flushed slightly from the contact of my lips on her skin.
"You know what I'm saying," I said firmly, still holding her hand in mine. I didn't really want to let it go, but after another moment, I forced myself.
"I'll pick you up in the morning," she said.
I barely slept all night.
I don't care what anyone says. Undercover work is exciting.
And yes, it can be exhausting and dangerous and lonely.
But Eames would be with me. I didn't see myself getting lonely this time around.
The hard part this time would be maintaining my focus.
And remembering that her actions were all for show.
So while I tossed and turned under the sheets, I thought about how best to gather information on the agents at the Bureau.
It would be tricky, working cases and yet investigating them at the same time.
But we'd do it.
And then for some reason, I thought about the softness of Eames' skin.
It was on that note that I managed to drift off to sleep.
The next morning, she picked me up and together we headed for the diner to meet Stahl.
"What do you think they're going to start us off doing?" she asked. "And how are we going to flush out the mole if we're doing undercover work, just the two of us?"
"We have to earn their trust first," I replied. "And then we'll be allowed more access, and that's when the real investigation begins."
"So for now, we're just a couple of feds," she said with a grin.
Agents Stahl and Beemer were seated in a booth near the back of the diner.
I didn't like Beemer and he knew it which was why so far I'd been dealing with Stahl, but I wasn't going to complain about his presence.
The more agents with whom we became familiar, the better.
"Goren and Eames," Beemer said with a sneer. "You know, I knew there was something going on with the two of you. It's nice to have proof that my instincts were right."
"Yeah, that probably doesn't happen very often, does it?" Eames retorted.
I bit back a smirk at the confused look on Beemer's face. He wasn't sure if she'd just insulted him or not.
We slid into the seat across from the agents and then waited patiently while a waitress filled our coffee cups.
"Okay, we'll start with the ground rules," Stahl said. "First off, you're not agents. You're assets. There's a difference."
"Right. It means that you answer to us," Beemer added arrogantly. "We're your handlers. We'll bring you the assignments and you report directly back to either Agent Stahl or myself."
"And for now, you're in the trial phase, which means that you'll be under surveillance," Stahl picked up. "It helps us evaluate your effectiveness and it's a safety precaution in the beginning. Your work will involve the two of you worming your way into different walks of life. Different groups of people. And sometimes those people are very paranoid. This way, if they start watching you, we'll know about it because we'll be watching you, too."
"How long is the Bureau going to keep us under surveillance?" Eames asked.
"That's the other thing," Beemer said snidely. "You don't ask questions. You'll know things when we decide that you need to know."
This was a test. He was pushing us to see how far we'd go.
I glanced at Eames and gave her a slight nod and then the two of us got up from the table.
"Where are you going?" Stahl asked sharply.
"We're not doing this," I said.
"Goren, wait," she called out when we started walking away.
I paused for a beat, and then together we turned around and went back to the table.
I put my hands on the surface and leaned down close to Stahl, ignoring Beemer altogether.
"I didn't come to you for this. You came to me," I reminded her. "And we're not putting up with these bullshit mind games about who's in charge of whom. It's not about hierarchy. It's about getting the job done, right?"
"Right," she agreed.
"So tell him to take the stick out of his ass," Eames added with a nod toward Beemer.
"Guys, come on," Stahl entreated. "Sit back down. Maybe we got off on the wrong foot here."
"I think we did," I replied.
But we sat back down.
"As I was saying," Stahl continued. "You'll be under surveillance by us in the beginning. For the first month maybe, depending on how things go. Although, Eames, I didn't realize that you had your own place. I guess I just assumed that you were living with Goren, but…"
And I wondered how she knew that Eames wasn't living with me.
Had she been watching us last night, too?
Watching as we'd sat in the car outside of my building and I'd kissed her hand like some nervous kid?
"Is that a problem?" Eames asked her evenly.
"Actually, it is. It's protocol to keep new assets under watch, but we'd have to double the budget if we're going to watch two apartments."
"So you want us to live together to save the Bureau money?"
"It was your idea to come into this," Stahl reminded her. "And I got the approval, but it was based on only expanding the budget enough to allow for your salary. If it's going to be a problem…"
"No, it's not a problem," I spoke up. "It's fine. We've been talking about moving in together anyway, so this will work out great."
I could feel Eames tense up beside me and I wondered how badly she was going to ream me once we were alone.
But there was no way that we could back down at the first speed bump.
And really, would it be that big of a deal?
I could sleep on my couch for…however long.
Although I had a feeling that I'd be taking a whole lot of cold showers in the weeks to come.
"Good. And really, for your first assignment it would've been a necessity anyway, so...it's good to just get that out of the way."
"Our first assignment," Eames repeated. "Which is what?"
"Don't look at it here. Take it home and read over it," Stahl said as she pulled out a file from her briefcase. She slid it across the table, but kept her hands on top of it. "I hadn't planned to throw you to the wolves this quickly, but we needed a couple for this and now that we have you two, well…it's always better to use an actual couple rather than two agents who are just pretending. Because you know that kind of thing just never works."
Eames and I both nodded our agreement, but on the inside, I was starting to panic.
I really hadn't anticipated that this couple thing would come into play for anything other than our reason for both coming to the Bureau.
But now it seemed as though they were going to use it to their advantage.
"Your mission is outlined in the file, along with your identities and cover story and the sheets on the men in question," Beemer told us.
I watched as Stahl reached into her briefcase again and this time she pulled out a cell phone.
"Don't use your other cell phones for anything related to this case. Only use this one. I've already programmed in the number on which you can reach me. You need to check in once every twenty-four hours, but obviously more often if you have information to pass or if you need any kind of back-up. If you suspect that your cover is compromised, then you have authorization to abort the mission at any time."
I wanted to ask if Ross had been given that authorization as well.
Had he suspected that he'd been compromised?
Or had he been taken completely off guard?
And was it Beemer who had exposed him?
Or someone whom we'd had yet to meet?
I was anxious to get to the bottom of that, but I had to take it one step at a time.
First we had to establish trust.
We had to prove our effectiveness as their assets.
And apparently, we had to be a couple.
Thirty minutes later, Eames and I were back in the car. She'd been quiet throughout the rest of the meeting and I was worried about what was going on in her mind.
Was this more than she'd bargained for?
Was it too late for her to call Moran and get her job back?
"Don't say it," she interrupted. "Do not say that you're sorry."
And despite her words, she didn't sound mad.
But I still couldn't get a read on her.
"I didn't know that it was going to turn into this," I said.
"Of course you didn't. And we didn't have a choice, did we? If I'd gone to them as anything other than your girlfriend, then they would have suspected something. Because people don't just quit their job and follow their colleague. So like I said, no more apologies. We both signed on for this. Let's go by my place and I'll pack a bag, and then…"
"We'll be roomies," I said with a wry grin.
"It is kind of strange though, don't you think? The NYPD insists on no fraternization between partners and yet the Bureau is practically picking out China patterns."
"You think they're manipulating us?"
"Maybe. But I have no idea why," she admitted with a shrug. I guess that at this point, it didn't really matter.
We'd find out soon enough and until then, we were going to play their game.
My phone rang as I opened up the file, so Eames took the documents from me while I checked the display on my phone.
"It's a payphone," I told her with curiosity.
Which meant that it was Maas.
"Goren," he said. "The feds have been to your place."
"I know. We just met with Stahl, and she told us that we'd be under surveillance during our trial phase. They also said that Eames has to move in with me," I stated, wanting to get it all out in the open. "For budgetary reasons."
I didn't want the appearance of impropriety to adversely affect our potential return to the department.
And I really didn't want Eames to get any kind of bad reputation.
What woman would want it to be known that she was shacking up with me?
"Yeah, well, did they tell you that they were going to put bugs in your place?"
"What?" I asked sharply. "They went inside?"
"Uh huh. They weren't in there long, but long enough."
"Okay," I said numbly. "Thanks for the heads up."
"No problem. You call me if you get into trouble, okay?"
The feds had bugged me?
And now Eames was going to be living with me and they'd be listening.
I was starting to wish I hadn't dropped that acting class in high school.
Because even though I had no problem pretending to be in love with her since I was…I was going to have a problem acting as though we'd been a couple for some time already.
I hung up with Maas and then looked over at Eames, who was reading through the file that Stahl had given us. We were still parked down the street from the diner.
"It's a human trafficking ring," she said, finally bringing her eyes up to mine. "The Russian mob."
"Maas thinks the feds bugged my place," I told her.
"What? Wait, how would he know that?"
"He was keeping an eye on it, I guess," I answered, although suddenly I wasn't sure either.
Why was he watching my place?
Just as a precaution?
Or did he want to keep track of what I was up to for some other reason?
"So Maas is watching. The feds are watching. And pretty soon the Russians are going to be watching," she stated.
"It looks that way, yeah," I said with a nod.
I wasn't sure what that meant for us except that maybe I'd have to get better drapes.
But at least Eames kept her sense of humor about her.
She flashed me that smirk that wreaks havoc on my libido, and said, "Why do I get the feeling that we're going to end up on Youtube before this thing is over?"