William loved when Grace came over, and absolutely hated the moments when she had to leave. He always walked her out to her car, to stall that little bit longer before they had to be apart. He would kiss her as she sat down in the driver’s seat. He wouldn’t watch her drive away though—that would have been too much, too cheesy even for him.
But he liked having her around because she brought some normal to his world. He felt like a regular twenty something in the throes of a fresh love, and that silly desire to run his hand through her hair whenever he got the chance. For those moments, he could be silly and stupid and no one could fault him for that.
But as soon as she left, the world resorted to what he’d been raised to know. It was top secret and code words and encryptions that would take years and years to crack. It was missions and puzzles and things that the rest of the world could never know about.
The TV flickered to life, and the stern face of his older sister appeared on the screen. “Are you finally back?” She snipped.
He wiped an angry hand over his mouth and tried not to get openly hostile with his sister. She could make his life absolutely hell if she set her mind to it. “I have thirty free hours a week, to spend how I like, Stacey. Since I’m not actively on a mission, you can complain only when I go over my free time allowance.”
Stacey considered him in silence, but they both knew he was in the right here. After all, Stacey used her thirty hours a week too, and just because she disapproved of William’s fraternization with a civilian, that didn’t give her the right to deny him his free time. “Do you have the codes?”
“Of course,” William sighed, pulling up the files on his tablet and sending them to his sister, “I don’t slack off,” he added, for good measure, digging the little knife into his sister’s side, just to drive the point home.
Stacey reviewed the codes, and found nothing to complain about in her brother’s work. But she couldn’t just leave well enough alone. “One of these days you’re going to get another proper assignment,” she pointed out.
William let himself flop onto the couch, fidgeting with his tablet, already working on another task. When his girlfriend wasn’t there, he really didn’t slack off. “Your point?” He asked, barely rising to her bait.
“Well, what are you going to do about her then? When you have to be somewhere else and someone else? Do you think she’ll just roll with that?” Stacey pried, “She can’t know the truth, you know.”
William let out a slow, low, sigh. He put down the tablet, sat up properly, and met his sister’s eyes on the screen. “Stacey. I swear, I know my duty, and I know my place. Grace and I aren’t engaged. I think it’s even safe to say that Grace and I are barely in love.” He took a deep breath. “I like her. A Lot. But I’m not giving up the family name or my birthright, for her. When the time comes for me to have another proper assignment, I’ll deal with it accordingly. Until then, let me have my thirty hours of freedom without question, and I’ll let you have yours, okay?”
Stacey wanted to warn him. She wanted to explain how it was going to be so much harder than he thought it was going to be. She wanted to reach through the screen and shake that self-assured look off his face and tell him to run—now.
But they were his free thirty hours, and they were his mistakes to make. And his work was always done well and always done on time—so she had nothing to say as a sister or as a superior.
“Very well,” she said curtly. William, confident in his victory, went back to work on the tablet. “Let me know when the next code is done.” William made a vague non-committal gesture with his hand, and Stacey disconnected the video feed.
Time would tell.