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Timing

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“Mother, now’s not the best time.” Alec was clinging to the underside strut of a helicopter, his cell phone tucked between his chin and his shoulder, trying to perform a proper kip-up and regain his footing.

“Darling, are you in trouble?”

“No, no, don’t be silly!” He kicked an enemy combatant in the head and watched as the man tumbled into the void of blue, smiling in triumph. “You know I take flying lessons on Fridays!” He then punched his way up through the bottom of the helicopter, a surprisingly easy task thanks to some loose bolts.

“Well, I just wanted to tell you about my day. Your father had to reinsure my she shed thanks to those awful squirrels that dug into the lawn recently. It turns out we’re covered for exterminators and new underground electrical wires.”

“Wonderful, mom.” Alec had managed to knee the pilot in his neck. He threw the man down through the hole he’d made in the helicopter’s floor, and then secured the floor with titanium-quality bubblegum. Seizing the controls, he pulled the chopper out of a tailspin and brought it, circling madly, to the ground.

Alec felt the landing struts hit the ground, and he jolted with the impact. Stillness and calm filled the air. He looked up. The helicopter had landed successfully and made minimal damage. He checked the microfilm he’d tucked into his pocket; it was still undamaged and secure. The field before him was strewn with the bodies of enemy soldiers.

And his mother was still talking in his ear.

“…And what is going on?! Did you drop your phone? Is something wrong with the plane? All I hear is air!”

Alec tucked his phone beneath his chin. “Nothing, mom. I passed my flight simulator test,” he said lightly. “With flying colors.”

****

Alec was trying to seduce a model. This wasn’t a leisure time activity, it was strictly business. His target had a husband who dearly wanted to rule the world. The more he knew about the guy’s plans, the less likely it would be that he would become the successful owner of every single inch of planetary real estate. He was combed and in his best suit, with a charming smile curling his lips gently upward. Then his phone rang. It was his mother’s number.

He ignored it until she texted him. “Your father’s decided to raise crows.”

This was too interesting a piece of bait for him to ignore. He swiped left and texted back, “mom, I’m in the middle of something.”

He leaned over the table and took a generous look down the cleavage of his dinner companion. She giggled and smirked, rubbing a strawberry along the dividing line of her lips.

Then Alec’s phone buzzed again. He grunted and glanced at the screen. “Oh my goodness. You’re on that date you mentioned earlier. Can I see a picture? Is she beautiful?”

“Do you need some private time?” the target asked.

“Oh no!” he said. “Just some…mild domestic problems. With my mother!” he said quickly, and regretted his words.

“I’m going to powder my nose,” she said, grabbing her clutch and leaving the table.

Alec bit down on his upper lip and quickly texted his mother, “I’m not going to risk…exposing her to your more unique ideas…”

“What kind of unique? Your father’s hot yoga studio? The time we took meditation with Ringo Starr?”

“Your…general…existing sort of crazy.” Saying so made him feel massively guilty.

“Darling, you know what I always say. If this girl doesn’t appreciate our hot ballet sessions or the fact that your father knows every single word to Paradise by the Dashboard Lights…”

“…Then she’s not worth being with. I know mom, but this girl is special!”

A pregnant pause passed, and he immediately regretted telling her anything. “How special? Will she come to the Wilson’s Luau with you special?”

He winced. “I told you I can’t make that. I’m going to a special presentation in Paris.” A presentation to the FBI about the evidence uncovered during this case. But mother didn’t need to know that yet, if ever. “Please, please give my regards to dad and tell him to be careful at that curry making class. I don’t want him to singe the roof of his mouth on the blasted stuff again.”

“You know your father! One pepper isn’t enough when you can have two.” She made a tisking sound. “He’s always doing extreme things. But I’m sure you can’t relate, honey.”

“Oh, I can relate,” he muttered. His quarry had exited the bathroom with a gun. “I’m going to have to get back to you,” he said.

“But I wanted you to…”

“I’ll bring home some porcelain figurines for your collection!” he said quickly, hanging up before she could say anything. Grabbing a steak knife, he gritted his teeth into a parody of a smile and prepared to meet her head-on.

****

He was in the middle of a desert, and his camel had no sense of direction. This was not the sort of problem Alec had envisioned having when he joined the special forces, but he kept with the pace, staying low to the back of the camel. Once they were all the way across the plain he’d deal with whatever else was ready to be thrown at him.

His phone rang when he found an oasis.

Hitching the camel to a palm tree, he picked the phone up and pressed it to his ear. “Hello, mom,” he said. “Oh no, I’m just getting in. Yes, it’s really beautiful out here.”

And it was, honestly. It truly was.

So he let the quiet rush over him – let his mother talk about absolutely nothing and everything at the exact same time. He sipped from his flask as she talked about the adjustments in price the property had undergone. She talked about lunch and tea and how they were going to get matching tattoos of their corgis sometime soon.

He had just one question. “Did dad start that belly dancing class yet?”