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Observations of Affection

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Getting into the MII building was easy enough - even getting past reception to the elevators wasn't much of a problem, provided you knew what to say to the receptionist. Once in the elevators, it was simply a matter of pressing the button for the right floor, which was not the 17th.


Several floors were dedicated to office space and meeting rooms. A man in a suit might blend in without much trouble, but if that man then tried to access MII's databases, he'd find himself locked out, Augustine Montgomery being someone who believed in distributing information on a 'need to know' basis.

He'd also find himself tracked very quickly by MII's ever-vigilant security people.


Only three floors offered access to the central database. Severe security measures had been put in place to ensure only people who were supposed to be there got inside, but, as with the receptionist, for those in the know, it was possible to get around them.

Naturally, if you ran out of luck, all the preparation in the world couldn't help you with anything other than making a clean escape - which wasn't exactly the plan here.

Bern turned around, making sure he was smiling and keeping his (empty) hands in clear sight.

"Sorry. I was a little distracted. Is there a problem?"

He hadn't been shot out of hand: that felt like a good sign. A little sloppy, too; Bern wasn't about to complain, but Augustine might tell his security people to come across a bit more threatening when apprehending intruders - even intruders who looked like harmless students, complete with backpack and ironic t-shirt. (Bern's said 'I know you don't know what I know. Don't ask.')

"Sir, I don't think you're supposed to be here."

"I'm not?" Bern asked, slowly counting down in his head. "Sorry. I must have taken a wrong turn somewhere. Would a blow job be enough of an apology to make up for it?"

The security guard stared at him.

Well. This is awkward. Bern cleared his throat. "Um."

"How the hell did you know this time?" Augustine Montgomery demanded.


Bern decided not to disabuse Augustine of the notion that he had an unshakeable faith in his ability to recognize his boyfriend when said boyfriend was standing right in front of him. After all, two might play the game of 'well, I didn't think you needed to know'.

Besides, an impressed Augustine was an Augustine less inclined to complain about being stood up - although Bern felt the term was a little harsh.

"I didn't invite you to my office to play games, you know," Augustine said. "With either me or my security people. They have more important work to do."

All right. Somewhat less inclined. "I needed some information," Bern said.

"You could have asked." Augustine's expression softened though, as Bern had known it would at the suggestion that MII's resources and information were still superior to anyone else's.

The truth was that the Hut of Evil was more comfortable, and Rogan's media room, especially with Bug present, was better equipped for heavy-duty searches or observation and tracking. Augustine's strength was in the number of people he employed, and the sheer amount of data they were able to analyze over the course of a day. All the processing speed in the world wouldn't help you find what you were looking for, if what you were looking for was a needle in a haystack.

Augustine's people simply sifted through the hay until they found the needle, while also making note of any and all notable information regarding the hay, on the assumption that you never knew when someone might want to know everything there was to know about hay.

"This way seemed more interesting - and more fun." Bern grinned.

Augustine rolled his eyes. "Next time, ask. And don't offer blow jobs to random people."

Oops. "I was almost completely sure it was you. Mostly because you hadn't shot me yet."

"Gratifying to hear that you wouldn't have offered one to someone who'd shot you."

Bern shrugged. "It seems a good guideline."

"Well, my guidelines are a bit more practical, but might I offer dinner? You pick the place, I pick up the tab. No pizza or fast food, please."

"What about your blow job?"

"I have an appointment with a client in ten minutes," Augustine said. "In addition to which, I'm a responsible adult person, for whom a relationship does not revolve around sex or the acquisition of information."


"Sex, the acquisition of information and free dinners," Augustine amended.


"So does your sister know that you have three teams watching her full-time?"

"My sister knows that I love her," Augustine said. "She understands that one of the way in which I express this feeling is by making sure that she's protected at all times."

Bern decided that meant Augustine's sister lived in either blissful ignorance or frustrated annoyance.

"Should I feel hurt?"

Augustine smirked. "What makes you think I haven't put a team on you, too? The university isn't exactly hard to infiltrate, you know, and plenty of my employees might pass for students."

Possibly, some of them even were students. "I think I'd have noticed. And if not me, then Rogan's people. Which I suppose might get a little embarrassing."

"Connor employs some very skilled people," Augustine admitted. "Then again, so do I. And unlike Connor, I don't limit my recruiting to ex-soldiers."

Bern wondered if that was a covert job offer. He hoped not. He really had no intention of working for Augustine - or for Rogan, if it came to that.

Augustine sighed. "Three of your professors get paid a modest sum to report any irregularities. A handful of students as well, although that's less because of you and more because I like to keep an eye on what's going on at our city's university."

"You're not going to tell me which three, are you?" Bern really liked some of his professors.

"No," Augustine said. "I also have a team track your phone. They don't listen in on your calls, and they don't report your movements to anyone, but if someone grabs you, I will know about it within minutes."

And call Rogan to send in the troops, only to be told he's way ahead of you, assuming the rest of the family doesn't beat him to it?

"So would it be all right if I tracked your phone, too? Or asked one of Rogan's people to do that?"

Augustine's expression made the answer very clear. Not that Bern was surprised. "It seems fair, don't you think?" he asked.

"I'm the Head of House Montgomery," Augustine said.

"And Heads of Houses don't do fair?"

"No," Augustine said. "Heads of Houses who need another House to get them out of trouble might as well be dead. If I get kidnapped and get rescued by anyone not of my own House, I'll be ruined. My career will be over. I might hand over MII to one of my siblings, but it would take at least three generations before we could even hope to recover financially. It would take even longer to restore our reputation. Connor knows this as well as anyone. It's why I would never put him in a position where he'd need to choose between my life and your respect."

Bern blinked. "Oh."

"Rest assured I have no intention of allowing myself to get kidnapped any time soon, though."

"Good," Bern said. "Although if you ever do, I hope I'm not expected to just sit on my hands and wait for someone else to rescue you. Aunt Penelope raised me better than that."

"You'll be the fourth person my people will call in case anything happens to me."

"Who's the third?" The first two were Augustine's siblings, Bern assumed.

"Someone I trust as much I trust you, even if I might not like him half as much," Augustine said. "Not to change the subject, but do I need to ask if you would like dessert?"

"Obviously, I want dessert. You?"

"I'll have some coffee and pretend to be of an age where a person eating lots and lots of food still impresses me."