11 Days Ago
Limit Testing Day Two
‘You probably should lock your door, boss.’
Ryan opened his eyes, and stared up at the overly cheery face of Clarke staring down at him.
‘I mean,’ Clarke continued, ‘you don’t need Priority-Six safety precautions like Taylor uses, but how about just locking the normal lock? Otherwise people might catch you sleeping and get the urge to cuddle you.’

He ignored the comment, sat up and stretched. ‘Not like anyone would be bothering me this time of the morning.’
‘Except me.’
He blinked a few times, clearing his mind. ‘…why are you here?’ he asked. ‘I thought you tended not to rise until about ten.’
‘No rest for the wicked,’ Clarke said, ‘and I was very wicked last night.’
‘Work, or play?’
Clarke handed him a cup full of sweet-smelling tea. ‘Work. I got her. Happy?’
He drank the hot tea, he hadn’t gotten as much sleep as he’d liked, but the distraction of a drink would have to do. ‘Which “her” Clarke? You’re chasing so many-’
‘The Liar, boss, I got the Liar.’
‘I’m impressed.’
‘You should be, I mean, I am, so you definitely should be. Liars aren’t exactly the easiest bunch to court – pardon the pun. I mean, first it’s all “off with his head”. And I mean the one containing my brain, before you start thinking I was having fun from the start on this one. Then it’s getting past her frosty exterior – this time, not a pun. She didn’t want me digging around in her lineage, but my gods, she’s got to be at least part Winterchilde or Frost Jack or Snow Queen or something. That, or I’m just more susceptible to the cold than your average Joe Agent.’
Clarke took a breath, then downed a tiny espresso, tossing the cup over his shoulder, but it disappeared before it could hit the floor.
‘And the bitch was cruel. I mean, seriously, I’m trying to charm her and then…shrinkage. Oh my gods, shrinkage. Again, not in the fun way.’ He rolled his eyes. ‘Seriously, if you were actually paying me, I would have to ask for danger money, or a bonus or-’
‘If I give you a week’s holiday, will you get on with it?’
The other agent grinned. ‘I have been meaning to got to the Caribbean-’
He downed the rest of the tea. ‘You were there last week.’
‘And I miss it already.’
‘Clarke.’
‘Yeah, right, so frosty bitch. And impervious to my charm. I mean, you’d think agents killed her entire family the way she wouldn’t give me the time of day. But then again, I don’t know her lineage, so it’s possible. That, or she just doesn’t like guys in suits – which is weird considering what Court she was a part of. I mean, they’ve probably got more guys in suits than we do. Anyway. I finally get a date with this she-beast and she stands me up. But, of course I was expecting this, so I had a couple of comfort girls lined up. Takes the edge off the reject, if you know what I mean.’
‘Clarke.’
‘I crawled back for a second date. Or another first date, whatever you want to call it. This amused her, so she only had three guys beat me up this time. But, yanno, that’s ok, I like getting to use my hands for violence sometimes. It’s actually refreshing. Didn’t mess them up too badly either, and they limped away before the ambos got there, so all’s good. She finally agrees and I get her out to dinner.’
‘Do tell me that she was worth the effort.’
‘No, cause that’s a spoiler, boss.’ Clarke said with a grin. ‘Anyway. Dinner. She tries to poison me of course, but it’s all stuff I’ve got immunities to, so no harm no foul. Well, the taste did mess up the fowl, so I guess there was a little bit of a foul there, but I let it slip, cause there was a nipple-slip so I chalked it up to evens.’
He required himself another tea, experience telling him that the story was far from over, let along the actual necessary conversation that came with converting a member of the Court into an informant. That, that was a lot of paperwork.
‘She knew why I wanted her, so at least that part was easy, I prefer dating when it’s honest. Of course I like it when girls tell me they think I’m the hottest guy on the planet, so I’ll accept a white lie or two. But, for the sake of work, honesty is better. She isn’t interested. Flat-out not interested. She accepted the date because it’s nice to get us to foot a bill at- Oh right, I’m gonna have to requisition an item or two from storage to finish paying it, I’ll submit it later, paperwork hasn’t been high on my list of priorities today. She doesn’t even want to give me a chance to give my spiel, so I’m kind of left high and dry. Dry being the unfortunately operative word here.’
‘You know the risks, you can’t expect-’
‘Every woman to drop her pants and beg me to fuck them, I know, but at the same time, it’s in my damn blood, so it’s easier for me to get blue-balled than you guys, and that’s my cross to bear. The night was made easier by the fact that there was-’ He required another espresso, but didn’t casually toss this one away.
There were very few things that could stop Clarke dead in the middle of a sentence, especially when regaling one of his stories. Guilt was one of them.
‘You didn’t.’
‘Didn’t what, boss?’
‘What made the night easier?’
‘I plead the fifth.’
‘You…have none of the perquisites that would allow you to plead that. It was Unicorn Wine, wasn’t it? Dammit, you-’
‘Come on,’ Clarke said bitterly, ‘like you’d say no. It’s not like they can get anymore extinct than what they are, so we may as well celebrate them in the only way we can – by enjoying the products that lead the genocide of their species. We were all complicit, every single one of us bastards who ever drank the wine, or ate a steak, or whatever. Sooner it’s all gone from the world – except what’s in the museums, sooner we can all forget about it.’
‘It still isn’t right.’
‘And you’d kill for a glass.’
‘I wouldn’t have to,’ he said, ‘I have four bottles stored away. And they’re staying that way before you get any ideas.’
‘At least until you get married the next time,’ Clarke said, his jovial nature returning. ‘So yeah, that’ll be a large part of the bill. Guy who owns the restaurant is a good guy though, he’s not going to extort us on the bill, hells, he has a niece who’s a recruit, so he’s not exactly anti-Agency.’
‘You said you were successful.’
‘The fact that I drank contraband with great joy appealed to her. Of course, she had my feet frozen to the floor at the time, so it may have been that appealing to her. She, er, likes guys that can take a bit of damage. Yay for immortality, right?’
‘She let you speak?’
‘No, she wanted to get a room. Again, just to make me foot the bill. Neutral ground that they are, she made me get one of those Madchester suites. You know, the ones with the walls that change colour, and the windows that look out to wherever, and whose couches will occasionally get a little too fresh?’
‘Put in a separate bill for that. Then go liaise with Williams in Hyde, see if we can pay the bill directly to the Court, improve relations a little.’
‘Then of course she wants dessert, which was unfortunately a la mode, not a la Clarke, but at least the room service is decently priced in Madchester hotels. Don’t worry, I’ll keep us out of the poorhouse, and I only ever wagered the deed to the Agency once.’
‘No you didn’t.’
‘Yes I did, I just didn’t tell you.’
‘No such thing even exists,’ he argued.
‘Technically, they do, but hey, it was worth it, and there’s still a roof over your head, so don’t stress about that.’
‘That seems like a story you would have told.’
‘I know your tastes, and I don’t think they extend to hearing about me and a twelve-hour long game of Spank Poker.’
‘…correct.’
‘So anyway, with me on my knees feeding this bitch her dessert when she finally decides that she wants to hear what I have to offer. I think she has some sort of weird deep-seated need to fuck over the system. I explain what we’re offering, what she’ll get in return for giving up what she knows. And…she agrees.’
‘Well done.’
‘Colour me really suspicious, I mean, it’s kind of too easy after all this work I’ve put in, but at this point, I’m too tired to give a damn, so we shake on it.’
‘You…just shook on it?’
‘Well, then there was the sex, of course,’ he said with a grin. ‘And Liars are really hard to please, you know, they’re very kinky. I think I might have to sacrifice a month some time to do a working sex holiday so I can fully understand the intricacies of the average Liar sex life. It should make future encounters easier.’
‘I’m not sure I could justify that.’
‘All you gotta do is sign a form, boss, I’ll take responsibility for my actions.’ Clarke slumped a little. ‘You’ve let Taylor do worse for his pride, and it’s my pride at stake. She rated me a four. A. Four. Out of ten. That’s like…I’m still surprised she went through the deal if I only rated a four. I gave her a seven, and one whole point of that was because she had the most beautiful set of breasts I’ve seen…in at least two months.’
‘I don’t need to know this.’
‘Trust me, if they’re whole-point breasts, then they’re something special. I mean, breasts in general are the world’s most perfect creation, they’re soft, they’re sexy, they’re…multipurpose, and they’re nice to fall asleep on after you’re done fucking each other’s brains out. Straight girls kind of miss out, because as nice as a guy’s chest is, it just doesn’t compare, it’s strong, but it’s not soft. If it’s soft, then they’re after a whole different type of guy, and all the power to them, cuddly people need love too, but I’m not cuddly, so I feel like I have something less in that department to offer a girl. You probably wouldn’t have agreed on the whole-point awarded though, they were a little too small for your tastes.’
‘I beg your pardon?’
‘Well, you’re a “more than a handful” kind of a guy, least judging from the girls I’ve seen you hook up with, unless you’re keeping a harem of small-breasted girls out of my line of sight, and if you are, can I please have some tips, every time I try and maintain a harem, things tend to go awry.’
‘Clarke, I don’t have a harem.’
‘Man like you though, you could, call me if you ever want to get one set up, I know a lot of girls with agent fetishes, I’m willing to share.’
‘Clarke.’
‘Fine. Sheesh. But these girls, they’re also up for casual sex if you ever feel the need to have something pretty hanging off your harm, it’s not exactly like little-miss-faux-agent is filling that position. When you told me you’d picked up a hacker, I was kind of hoping you’d found this hot little thing, maybe with that whole repressed librarian thing going on, but no, you had to get one of the stinky ones. Some of these girls I know are blondes, and I know you totally have that gentlemen-prefer-blondes thing going on, so come on, let me set you up with a little fun.’
‘I don’t need-’
‘Of course you fucking do, boss. You’re just as much a man as any creature that popped out of a womb. You don’t need food, or drink, but I don’t see you giving up on that any time soon. Your last girl died, I know, but even most widowers don’t wait twenty years before-’
‘You’re mistaken if you think that I’ve abstained for twenty years,’ he said quietly. ‘But by and large, I have more important things to consider than my own needs. What are you doing with this Liar?’
‘Keeping her at a safe house for the time being, much to her displeasure, probably be transferring her to somewhere more permanent in a few days, the guys will talk to her, we’ll get our info, then she’ll get her end of the bargain and we’ll go our separate ways, you know, the usual.’
‘Indeed.’
‘I’ll be getting our your hair now.’
‘So you can go tell your story all over again to someone else?’
Clarke grinned. ‘Well, you did tell me to go see Williams, and that guy always buys me a beer.’
‘Go.’
‘Oh and boss? You’re cute when you’re sleeping.’
‘Clarke-’
Clarke flipped a casual salute, then shifted away.