Episode Eighteen: The Room for Love Affair
Guy felt exhaustion weigh down on his back as he crawled through his daughter’s window. Steffie sat at her desk, reading, and her eyes rose away from the book to watch her father drop into her bedroom. “I’m just going to shower,” Guy said. “And then I’ll sit with you. We need to talk about something.”
“Mom’s home,” Steffie said, turning back to her book. “You might want to wait.”
Guy exhaled. He almost said, “Fuck her,” but caught his tongue before the words spilled out. He said, “If I see her, I’ll talk to her. Sorry if you hear us yelling.”
Steffie simply shrugged, her eyes absorbed in the pages. Guy grabbed his bag of clothes and then left the room to take a towel out of the linen closet. He went into the bathroom, locked the door, and showered. He hoped the warm water would help relax his muscles, but tension refused to leave his body. He told himself Steffie was safe. He told himself Nikolai wouldn’t hurt her, and Grier even less so.
But Nikolai was slowly penetrating into his life and rooting himself there. He stared at the bullet hanging around his neck. He hated worrying about the Russian.
He tried to tell himself Nikolai would be fine too as he stepped out of the shower. He dried off and changed into new clothes. So he wanted Nikolai – so what? He could take a prize every once and a while. And Nikolai acknowledged that they were temporary. What had Nikolai said? He was Guy’s as long as Guy wanted him.
And he wanted him. He wanted Nikolai behind him and in front of him or just sleeping beside him. “God damn it all anyway,” Guy muttered to himself as he buttoned up his shirt.
He opened the door to the face of Steffie’s mother. Her arms were folded firmly across her chest. “What are you doing here?” she asked, her eyes narrowing.
“I’m just checking up on Stefanie,” Guy said. “You said you wanted me in her life.”
“Well, I don’t like you skulking around here,” she said. “You could at least come through the front door like a normal human being.”
“Do you need money?” Guy asked.
“I don’t want your money,” she said, firmly. “How long are you staying?”
“Just the night,” Guy said, “then I’m off again.”
She closed her eyes rubbed the bridge of her nose. Guy thought for a moment that she looked tired, and he ran his brown eyes along the crow’s feet growing around her hazel eyes. He wondered how difficult her life was because of him. No, he told himself, she made the choice to keep Steffie. It wasn’t his fault.
“I’ll order a pizza,” she said, “and you two can stay in her room to catch up. You’ll forgive me for not wanting to spend time with you.”
“I’m just doing what you want,” Guy said. “You said you wanted me in her life.”
“But I never said I wanted you in mine.”
“Then what am I supposed to do?” Guy asked. “You want me to see her, but I have to see you to do that.”
“Jesus, Guy, you could schedule things like normal people. Call me up and say, ‘Hey, Susan, can I have her for a weekend?’ Oh, but wait, you don’t have a phone.”
“It’s not safe for me to do that,” Guy said. “You know that.”
She visibly softened, and her arms changed from being crossed against her chest to holding herself. “I do know that,” she said. “Sorry.”
The two stared at each other for a moment, and then they quickly avoided each other’s eyes. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I just love Steffie so fucking much – it scares me.”
Guy laughed. “It scares me to,” he said. He approached her, and she didn’t back away. He hugged her and rubbed her back, nuzzling into her black hair. He said, “I won’t let anything happen to her.”
“Guy,” she said, pushing lightly against Guy’s chest. “If there’s anything ever wrong, or if you ever think something might go wrong, you don’t take the time to come here and protect her. You warn me so I can get her away from here.”
Guy frowned and released her. “I said I would keep her safe.”
“Well, I have to keep her safe too,” she said. “I love that you’re making the effort to be with her, I really do, but I love her more than that. And I hoped you’d love her enough to understand when her safety is more important than you being a hero to her.”
Guy’s shoulders softened. What if his entire relationship with Nikolai was an A.B.E.L. scheme to destroy him piece by piece? Steffie could have died, and he would have watched it happen. He could have tried to run across the street to stop Nikolai, but he wasn’t sure he would have made it in time.
“I’m sorry,” Guy said. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
She smiled. “Something seems different about you.”
“Fuck you,” Guy said, moping. “Nothing’s different.”
“All right, all right,” she said. “Nothing’s different. I’ll order pizza and I’ll deliver it to Steffie’s room when it arrives. And Guy, the next time you stop in, use the front door.”
“Okay,” Guy lied. He lived in the house for three days before she realized he was there, and he had no intention of always letting her know when he was there.
He watched her begin to walk down the stairs, and he went back to Steffie’s room. He dropped down onto her bed and spread out on it. She put a bookmark in her book and swivelled her chair to face him. “Did I hear we get pizza?”
Guy laughed. “Uh huh. And you know not to use grown-up language, right?”
“Swears, you mean,” Steffie said.
“I only use them at appropriate times.”
Guy raised a brow. “What are considered appropriate times?”
“When you stub your toe at home, or hurt yourself in a way that needs a swear so it hurts less. Not at school, unless the teacher is being a b-word and I think mommy will want to come in and also call the teacher a b-word. And I am allowed to swear around Billy Thompson’s mom because she is also a b-word.”
“Steffie, which swear is your favourite?”
“I like the b-word,” Steffie said, “because I can secretly say it by calling people female dogs.” She grinned. “What one is your favourite? You drop bombs a lot.”
“Yeah, I think that one is my favourite,” Guy said.
Steffie just smiled at Guy and swung her legs. Guy decided not to let the topic slowly breach the conversation and just said, “I heard you saw what happened today.”
Steffie stiffened and said, “Did he tell you that?”
“That guy. He saw me at first. At least, I think he did.”
“No,” Guy said. “I mean, yes. Did you see anyone following you back to the house?”
“No,” Steffie replied, frowning. “Did I miss someone?”
Guy shook his head. “No,” Guy said. “At least, I don’t think so.”
He knew Jackie had a habit of just blending into crowds, but he couldn’t help being disappointed that Steffie hadn’t seen her (even though he hadn’t either).
“Do you like men?” Steffie asked. “Is that why you didn’t stay with mom?”
Guy simply said, “I like everyone. And you know why I didn’t stay with your mother.”
“No, I don’t,” Steffie said. “Mom said it’s because you hate being with anyone for more than a night. So you do like men? Did you stay with this one for more than a night?”
“Yes,” Guy said, shifting uncomfortably. “I like men and women. And, yes, I have stayed with this man for more than a night.”
“Wait,” Steffie said, holding out her hand. Her eyes widened pleadingly. “Is he the Beast? Is that why you punched him?”
“He’s the Beast,” Guy said. “But I punched him because I thought he was going to hurt you. I just wanted him to know I wouldn’t stand for that.”
“Would he have hurt me?” Steffie asked.
“I don’t think so,” Guy said, “but if you see him again, steer clear.”
“Okay,” Steffie said. “Now tell me why you didn’t leave the Beast like you said you would do.”
“That’s just what people say when they can’t come up with an excuse,” Steffie said. Guy frowned. Steffie got off her chair and sat down on the bed beside Guy. She rubbed his back and said, “He’s not hurting you, is he?”
Guy laughed. “No, just that once,” he said.
“I saw him hit you back.”
“Steffie, I think we’re both Beasts – he and I, I mean,” Guy said, wrapping his arm around her back. “I think maybe we deserve each other.”
Steffie frowned. “You’re not a Beast,” she said. “You’re my dad.”
Guy absently rearranged some of Steffie’s stuffed toys on the bed, trying to decide how to explain everything to her. But he realized he could barely explain it to himself.
“Dad, what is your job? Why do you have to hide here?”
Guy tried to think quickly. What was more important to him? Honesty between him and his daughter, or did he want her to keep liking him and spending time with him? And she was so young, what would she understand? Guy forced a smile, hoping she wouldn’t see through it. “I’m a spy,” Guy said.
She laughed and hit him. “You are not.” Guy didn’t say anything, and her eyes suddenly widened. “Are you?”
Guy nodded, deciding he would be dead by the time she figured out differently.
“You’re one of the good guys, right?”
“Of course,” Guy said. “What else would I be?”
“So who is the Beast?” Steffie asked.
“He’s on the bad guy’s side,” Guy said, “but he’s really a good guy. He tells me stuff about the bad guys.”
“A double agent,” she gasped.
“Uh huh,” Guy said. “Except, he’s still – we’re both still a bit rough with each other because we have to be. If anyone ever found out, my side or his, we would both be in a lot of trouble.”
“So he hurt you because he had to,” Steffie said.
“And you hurt him to protect me,” she said.
“And he attacked me back just to defend himself.”
“So you guys are not really Beasts,” Steffie said. “You just have to pretend to be so you can do your job and not get fired, right?”
“Yeah,” Guy said. “Exactly.”
“Cool!” Steffie said. “You’re the coolest dad ever.”
She helped Guy rearrange her stuffed animals, and Guy heard her mother shout up, “Pizza’s here!”
Nikolai closed his eyes as he reclined his airplane seat. He heard Jackie click her tongue against her teeth. He opened one eye and asked, “What is it?”
“Nothing,” Jackie replied.
“You disapprove of something?”
“Let’s face it, you’re a big guy. When you recline, you probably break the knees of the person behind you.”
“You did not get us the seats by the emergency exit. I have nowhere to spread my legs and now I am not allowed to recline?”
“The emergency exit seats have too much responsibility.”
“I do not mind the responsibility for extra leg room.”
“Say that when you have to help screaming children and hysterical parents out of the airplane. It’s not pleasant experience.”
Nikolai readjusted his seat and sighed. He did not feel like arguing with Grier, and she had yet to raise the Guy Solo issue at all. If she started talking about it, it would be a long flight. He closed his eyes and tried to settle into sleep again.
He hated flying–the air pressure against his ears, the tight spaces, the people whose faces all melded together. He felt wounded, incompetent. What if someone attacked him? Would he just kill them and try to explain to everyone that he’s a secret agent and everything would be fine?
“So are we going to talk about what happened today?” Grier asked.
“So I just followed you on a booty call, is that it?”
“You let him punch me,” Nikolai said, opening his eyes. “I thought you were going to keep a look out. Look at my eye.”
“You deserved the punch and the black eye,” Jackie said.
Nikolai huffed, feeling a rage settle through his limbs. “We shall not discuss it.” He closed his eyes again.
He heard Jackie sigh, but he tried to settle into sleep. He listened to the consistent mechanical noises of the plane, the passengers murmuring – “I just worry about you,” Jackie said, gently touching his arm, “that’s all.”
“Only because you do not want to trouble yourself with finding a new partner,” Nikolai said, shifting in his seat.
“No,” Grier said. “I worry about things going badly. Things could happen that I can’t fix, Niko.”
Nikolai stayed silent, hoping she would give up. A stewardess walked by them down the aisle, and Jackie waved her aside.
Jackie whispered, “Do you remember Benedict and Murdock.”
Nikolai opened his eyes and smiled. He glanced to see headphones on the passengers around him. He kept his voice low. “They were our superiors when I started,” he said. “Steele and I wanted to be just like them. We thought we could go on missions together and protect each other and come back heroes.” Nikolai’s smile faded.
“What did Steele think about what happened?”
“Steele and I talked about who we most resembled. I was Benedict, the stoic one. Steele was Murdock, the charismatic chatty Cathy.”
“They’re both charismatic.”
“Nonetheless, what happened ultimately broke Steele and I apart. I do not think Steele knew – or knows – about my sexual preferences. I honestly do not think he would speak to me if I was gay. But Steele blamed Benedict’s homosexuality for what happened and -”
“Start at the beginning,” Grier said.
“You have read the files.”
“But I wasn’t there,” Grier said, “I didn’t see it. The files only say so much, and I get the impression they’re as biased as Steele.”
Nikolai sat up. It was better than being lectured about Guy. “Benedict and Murdock were already considered stars by the time Steele and I were allowed on the field. We idolized them throughout training, and once we were partners and doing field work, we strived to be like them – the best agents possible, basically.
“Steele and I got along fine in the beginning. We were both driven, we were both focussed, and neither of us cared about having a life outside of work. Our conversations lived for work, and we probably spent as much time together as you and I do now, though I think Alec and I talked less than you and I do. Or at least, he and I talked about less things.”
“So you two were rising to the top.”
“Yes,” Nikolai said. “Years passed and he and I rose in the field, with Hoffman and Mags. Westermark focussed on disabling bombs during this time, and neither Steele nor I knew him at all. I do not remember his partner’s name, I just remember he was moved around a lot. Steele did not like him, so I did not think about him.
“I remember once, after a job, Murdock and I shared an elevator. I have to admit I was a tad starstruck. I had always found him attractive, even though he aged quite a bit by then. I could see white and grey in his sideburns, and his hairstyle looked like it hadn’t changed from the seventies. But his hair was still thick and black, and I remembered he smelt of chlorine.
“He turned to me and said, ‘Kuryakin, right?’
“I simply nodded, feeling myself blushing furiously. It had been a while since anyone had that affect on me. I felt as if I met a movie star. He said, ‘I heard about your last mission with that other agent – Alec Steele, is it? – and it sounds like you two are on the rise. Benedict and I will have to be careful if we want to stay number one in this division.’
“And he laughed, and I laughed awkwardly too. I secretly hoped the elevator would stop so we would be trapped there. I wondered if I could seduce him. His hazel eyes burrowed into my eyes, but I could not determine where his sexuality lay. I always got vibes from Benedict, but I never articulated them. I did not know how to casually say, ‘So do you think Benedict is gay?’ to Steele, and now I am glad I did not.
“Then, as the elevator continued to rise, Murdock said to me, ‘You’re a swimmer right? I think I’ve seen you doing laps in the pool.’
“And this was news to me, because I usually swam in the hours when I knew no one else would be there.”
Grier laughed. “You don’t change, do you?”
“I swim with you,” Nikolai responded.
“But you pick weird hours. Sometimes I don’t want to swim at two in the morning.”
Nikolai huffed. “Nonetheless, it surprised me that he not only he noticed I swam late at night but also how he made such casual conversation with me. He treated me as an equal, when I considered him far superior to me. So I simply said, ‘Yes, I like to swim a lot,’ with my best American accent. I knew he worked a lot during the Cold War, and I did not want my accent to upset him.
“And he said, ‘We should swim sometime,’ just before he stepped off the elevator. I think I stayed on the elevator for a good ten minutes, just riding it, trying to recompose myself. I replayed the conversation in my head a million times, but I could not bring myself to talk to Steele about it. I wanted it all to myself.”
“Did you ever get to swim with Murdock?” Jackie asked. “I know I make fun, but I really like swimming with you. You’re great competition.”
“I let you win.”
Jackie slapped Nikolai’s chest. “You do not. You’re just not used to having your ass kicked by a girl.” They laughed, and she finally asked, “So did you get to swim?”
“No,” Nikolai said. “Maybe a week after we heard about Benedict and Murdock. Steele and I were sent in with Mags and Hoffman to save them. They had been tortured for information about A.B.E.L.’s structure, specifically the identities of the higher ups. Steele and I rushed in first – we were physically stronger, so we could carry the agents out if we had to – while Hoffman and Mags guarded the door.
“They were both strapped down to chairs, and they were both bloody all over. Murdock had lost it completely. He kept screaming that he was falling. But Benedict was the worst. He just hung there, his white hair drooping over his face, and he wept. He just murmured, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry,’ over and over again.”
Nikolai paused. He felt Jackie’s hand squeeze his arm. And he looked over to see her smile weakly. He returned a soft smile, and for a moment he couldn’t imagine a better friend than her.
“Steele and I had been trained in torture, on both ends of it, but I think we found it hard because we idolized them so much. Steele untied Benedict while I handled Murdock. Murdock screamed and clung to me. I am not certain if he thought I was saving him from falling or if I was trying to make him fall, but he kept screaming at me to help him and clawing at me. Benedict punched Steele as soon as his arm was free, trying to escape.
“Steele tried grabbing Benedict again, but then he slugged me hard – I even fell to the ground – and he hugged Murdock to his chest. Murdock hugged back, but it was possible he simply clung to him as he did to me. Benedict just kept saying he was sorry and he stroked Murdock’s hair and nuzzled him. Murdock stopped screaming.
“I looked at Steele and I knew he wanted to be screaming. I cannot even begin to describe the look of disgust on his face. Murdock did not really return Benedict’s affection, but he was not really coherent either. He just rambled softly. He said, ‘My partner will never talk. Never. Never.’ and Benedict just kept saying, ‘I’m sorry,’ and he kissed Murdock’s forehead.’
“I had no idea what to do,” Nikolai said. “I think something inside Steele broke, if only for a moment. Mags, thankfully, came in and saw that both of us were at a loss. She rubbed both of their backs and softly said, ‘We’ve gotta go guys. Come on, you don’t want to be here anymore.’
“The men nodded and released each other. Benedict kept an arm around Murdock and he said to me, ‘Help me boy.’ So I did. Mags slapped Steele hard across the face – I knew it was hard because it bruised afterwards – and she told him to snap the fuck out of it. Mags was the only one who could tell Steele to smarten up when he acted out. I am a little ashamed to admit that I generally helped wind him up, but Mags could always talk him down. I was a little jealous of her. She was so strong – physically and emotionally – and yet so small. No one would expect the punch she gave.
“When I got them out into the hallway Hoffman was already shooting. He pleaded at me to move faster. Hoffman was a great shot and extremely astute, but I never think he was meant to be an agent. He was too nervous and jumpy.”
“He thinks too much,” Grier said. “Sometimes you just need to act.”
Nikolai nodded. “Exactly. He would choose to defend us instead of focussing on getting the job done. Somehow through training he still maintained his desire to preserve the group and his friendships. He wouldn’t put his own life first, but he would not put A.B.E.L.’s interests first either. I often wonder how things would have changed between us all if Steele and I hadn’t separated Mags and Hoffman.”
“I can tell you,” Grier said. “Steele and you would have killed each other before you were exiled, and Mags would have eventually become cold and jaded while Hoffman probably would have become a drunk. I would have been fired soon after getting transferred to your division. And Westermark would eventually run A.B.E.L. and everyone’s suits would be a size too small.”
Nikolai laughed. “Well, I like being alive, though I am not sure I like being alive as much as Mags wants her old arm back.”
Jackie scoffed. “She seems fine without it. I think she’ll just be a while rebuilding her self-esteem. We’ll work with her. She’ll get there.”
“And what about Hoffman?”
“I never knew Hoffman on the field, but I can’t see him on the field either.”
“He really put on weight after I left.”
“It’s not even just the weight,” Jackie said. “I just think he’s too smart to be a field agent, that’s all. I’m not saying we’re dumb, I’m just saying I think he thinks too much about different things. Anyway, go back to talking about Benedict and Murdock. I want to hear the end.”
“You know the end,” Nikolai said. “We got them out of there, all of us were fine. Once whatever medication they had him on wore off, Benedict confessed to revealing information and then he simply disappeared. A.B.E.L. hunted him down for months to no avail. Cox told Steele and I in confidence that Benedict gave the information so that they wouldn’t kill Murdock. And he told Steele and I that we should always be willing to let the other die.”
“Jesus,” Grier said.
“We were ready to do it, too,” Nikolai said. “Steele and my relationship, while we considered ourselves friends, it was probably more of a professional relationship rather than anything else. I think if – I think if I started off being partners with you, I do not think I would have been able to promise that I would kill you.”
Grier laughed and tousled Nikolai’s hair. “I appreciate that,” she said. “Fuck ‘em. We could disappear too, if we had to.” Nikolai smiled, and Grier grinned so he could see her rows of white teeth. “Keep going,” Jackie said. “You always add the personal touch, I like hearing it.”
“Well, Murdock never seemed to recover from the medication at all, they must have pumped him full of it,” Nikolai said. “I saw him in the hospital wing once soon after the accident. He was sleeping, so I moved in for a closer peek – I secretly hoped to talk to him in confidence about his and Benedict’s relationship – but his eyes just suddenly popped open and he screamed. His eyes looked past me, as if I wasn’t there. It sent chills through me for days.”
When Nikolai closed his eyes, he could still clearly see Murdock’s face. He opened his eyes quickly and continued, “One of the nurses told me that she thought Murdock was reliving a lot of his missions, except he could not bottle up his emotions anymore. I heard some days he seemed fairly coherent, while others he moved as if he was somewhere else completely. A.B.E.L. eventually moved him to a hospital, and then he, too, disappeared. The security cameras caught one image of Benedict leading him out of the hospital by the hand.
“Hoffman analyzed the photo and said to Steele, Mags, and I that he thought Benedict left that image there for A.B.E.L. to find. He said Benedict knew enough to cover his tracks completely, but he wanted A.B.E.L. to know what he did.”
“Did Hoffman say why he thought Benedict left the image there?”
“Mags told me later, when it was just me and her, that Hoffman thought Benedict just wanted everyone to know that Murdock was safe. He said that they spent easily twenty years together as partners, and he could not imagine Benedict harming him. Neither could Mags, and neither could I. Mags secretly confided in me that she found it all very romantic, and I agreed completely.
“Neither Mags nor I told anyone about what we saw – I do not think she even told Hoffman. But Steele told Cox as soon as he could. Steele disagreed with Hoffman. He took it more as a “Fuck you” to A.B.E.L., and he blamed Benedict’s homosexuality – or at least his seemingly romantic bond to Murdock – for it. He thought it was a sign of Benedict’s weakness, why he cracked under the pressure when Murdock let himself go insane instead. He considered it a reason not to trust Benedict – he was just one of those homosexuals. He told me he thought he took Murdock to sexually take advantage of him in his condition.”
“Jesus. What did you do?”
“What do you think I did?”
“You punched him.”
“I punched him. I punched him more than once. He had two black eyes, a broken nose, and bruises all over his body. He fought back, and while I have to admit he did some damage to me as well, I sucker punched him, so he did get the worst of it.
“We did not talk about it, we simply requested different partners. I do not know if Steele suspected that I might be homosexual, or if he simply thought my opinion differed, but we never spoke of it again. In fact, we hardly spoke again, unless we had to. So he got Mags and I got Hoffman. And then I got exiled and Mags got blown up.”
“I do not wish to speak of it,” Nikolai said, sharply.
“Are you ever going to tell me first-hand about your exile?” Grier asked.
“Perhaps, but I do not have the energy for it today,” Nikolai replied, sinking in his seat. “Not now.” He closed his eyes and saw Murdock again.
Grier said nothing. She rested her hand on Nikolai’s arm, and he knew she would be patient. “I wonder if that is how the agency sees us,” Nikolai said. “Dangerous weaklings like Benedict or horny sluts like Westermark.”
Jackie snorted. “Westermark isn’t a slut. I think he just likes to tease you to get a rise out of you. And he does get a literal rise, doesn’t he?”
Nikolai rolled his eyes, and Jackie winked at him. Nikolai said, “But you understand my point. There is no room for homosexuality in A.B.E.L.”
“There’s no room for love in our professions,” Jackie said. “Look at Guy and his daughter. How much time do you think they spend together? Probably less than a month total out of the year. And how much time do you think he worries he’s going to get her killed? And that’s not selfish love, that’s parental love which I think comes with a lot more responsibility.”
Nikolai sighed, “I suppose you are right.”
“Of course I’m right,” Grier said.
Nikolai thought about Benedict and Murdock. He hoped they were somewhere safe together, and he wished them happiness. He hoped the romance he built for them in his head was true. Then something clicked together in his brain.
Nikolai said, “You wanted me to retell the story of Benedict and Murdock because you think it could happen to Guy and I.”
Grier nodded. “Think about it. A.B.E.L. captures Guy and tells you to torture him until he can’t take it anymore. And maybe you can do it for a while, but unless you were mad, I don’t think you could do it. And then what option would you have left?”
“Run,” Nikolai said.
“Out yourself and run. You’d just be a crazy gay trying to hold onto his boyfriend. They’d see it as you doing something stupid for love or, worse, lust.”
Nikolai considered the thought for a moment. He feared Guy wouldn’t want to run away with him. He wondered if Guy would rather be tortured. “Would you run away with us?” Nikolai asked Grier. “Or would you stay behind?”
“If you can tell me you’re going to run, you tell me. I don’t think I’ll have a career in A.B.E.L. if you’re not here,” Grier said.
Nikolai nodded. “I will tell you.” He paused before asking, “If I ran, do you think Guy would stay with me?”
Jackie sighed. “I don’t know. I doubt it. But if he didn’t, would it be worth throwing your career away for?”
“Yes,” Nikolai said. He knew he didn’t need to think about it. “I could not kill him.”
The corner of Jackie’s mouth upturned to a smile. “That’s what I wanted to hear.”
Nikolai turned his head to smile at Grier. He desperately wanted to hug her, but knew it would be too awkward in the plane seats to do so. So he simply squeezed her hand, and she squeezed back.
Grier asked, “Did Cox ever say anything to you about Benedict potentially being gay?”
“No,” Nikolai said. “Steele told me he told Cox, and Cox just thanked him for the information. I cannot decide where Cox stands on the issue.”
“He tolerates Westermark,” Jackie said. “And I mean, it wasn’t as if Westermark came out after he joined A.B.E.L. They hired him fully aware that he would be making the rest of the men uncomfortable, especially the closet gays like you.”
Nikolai smiled. “I just feel as if Cox would be disappointed if he found out I am homosexual.”
“You’re a good spy,” Grier said, “and he knows that. I think he would be okay with it. And if he’s not, fuck him, right? We’ll smoke this joint.”
Nikolai nodded, but he didn’t feel confident when he said, “Right.”