Word count: 831
He turned the key in the doorknob and shoved it open, removing his stupid cap and security tag and tossing them onto the counter in the kitchen.
From Jon's room, he heard, "How was work, sweetie?" He smirked to himself and walked down the hall to lean against the open doorway.
"Oh, it was fine," he said, letting the joke fall to the wayside. He wasn't any good at banter. "I hate the woman at the front desk. She's always got something to piss and moan about. How'd your little scout trip go?"
"Okay," Petrov said. His pupils twitched, his posture shifted almost imperceptibly. Almost.
He was trying to hide something.
Christian kept his expression blank, letting him continue, careful not to show the frown that threatened to tighten his lips.
"I checked in with some old connections. They said that Jiyu was into some 'new age' drugs - stuff junkies don't care for. Then," Jon paused, but continued, "I went for some lunch and shopped around for some equipment that we might be able to acquire discreetly."
What had he stopped himself from saying?
"Great," he said, his attention long distracted. What was Petrov hiding from him? He pushed himself off the frame of the doorway and offered his commander a nonchalant half-smile. He rolled his shoulders casually, as if loosening knots buried in his muscles. He normally wouldn't be so casual to a superior, but Jon had seemed reasonably friendly thusfar. The jovial greeting he'd received earlier allowed Christian to break rank for a moment. "I'm starving, boss, you want to grab something to eat?"
Jon was looking at him, right in his eyes, but for a moment it almost seemed as if he hadn't heard Christian. Or he was hesitating, he thought, and wondered why.
"We could go somewhere, yeah," he said, standing up from his chair and lifting his coat from the hook on the door. "So what's this front desk woman got up her ass?"
Christian smirked and shrugged, checking his pockets to make sure he had his keys and wallet. "I don't care enough to discern her specific issue," Christian answered. "I think I'm just going to pull my dad's old one-two and avoid the whole problem."
Jon locked the door behind them and they both got into the Jeep. Out of courtesy, and maybe an overwhelming urge to keep himself private, Christian turned off the music that immediately roared from the speakers. His mp3 player had been left on shuffle, and Eminem had been playing.
He almost regretted turning it off.
"What's your dad's old one-two?" Jon asked, buckling his seatbelt as Christian drove them from the parking lot.
"He considered it his two-punch knock out. He always used it on my mom to avoid fights. Hell," he said, half laughing, "he went through most of their marriage never even knowing what she was mad about." He flicked his blinker on, checking his rearview before moving them into the on-ramp for the highway. "Unexpected gifts, and chivalry," he said. "If you shower a woman with those two things, she cannot help but like you. That allows me to bypass any need to confront her issues."
"Sounds like he had it figured out," Jon commented, but his tone was far-off. Christian let it go, choosing instead to allow the man the quiet he seemed to want. He turned the music on, but lowered to volume drastically.
The rest of the drive passed in near silence. The ocassional comment passed between them, but never grew into conversation.
Christian was more comfortable that way, anyway. He took the opportunity to mull over the mission facts. He still didn't understand why Hullings had promoted him, and Culborrow's reaction was something else to ponder all together. No one wanted to be demoted, of course, but Culborrow behaved as if it was not just the end of his old job. Culborrow behaved as if someone had already pulled the trigger on him and his whole family. Christian wondered who.
Pulling into a steakhouse, Christian turned off the Jeep and they got out. Stretching his legs, he took in a deep breath of the cooling night air. Somewhere in his instincts, he questioned the outcome of their situation. He dismissed his wordless concerns and reached back into the Jeep for his eyepatch. Pulling it down over his eye, he glanced to Jon who watched him in silence.
They went inside and the young woman at the podium smiled up at them, despite the way her stomach dropped. Christian could see it in her eyes. He tried to smile in a way that wouldn't make her impression of them worse.
"Hi," she said, her smile wavering as she looked from one man to the other. "Welcome to Pete's Steakhouse. Table for two?"
"Yes ma'am," Christian said, adopting his soothe-the-frightened-women voice. Her shoulders relaxed and her expression practically said at least the beast has manners.
And he'd even worn the eye-patch, he thought to himself.