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Operation Angelfish

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When Neal arrived at the diner, he was surprised to find that Henry wasn’t there yet. Checking his watch, he found he was on time, in fact, he was almost late, and yet his son was nowhere to be seen. Walking over to their usual booth, he slid in and waited.

With his back to the door, he didn’t notice Emma arriving. She also checked her watch when she got there, wondering where August might be. He definitely said four o’clock, she was certain, and yet he was nowhere to be seen. Heading for the usual booth, she was surprised when she saw who was there.

“Neal?”

“Emma,” he replied, looking around. “Is Henry with you?”

“No, I was supposed to be meeting August but... Oh, you have got to be kidding me,” she said as Ruby squeezed between them.

The waitress placed a thin vase containing a single rose in the middle of the table and offered them both what appeared to specially-made menus.

“Seriously?” Emma checked.

“Hey, don’t ask me,” said Ruby, shaking her head. “I’m a late comer to Operation Angelfish.”

She winked at Neal and then she was gone.

“Operation Angelfish?” he said, looking bemusedly at Emma. “This is one of Henry’s things?”

“Apparently. Seems like that kid of ours really wants us to get back together,” Emma considered, sliding into the other side of the booth and taking a look at the menu card in her hand.

“Have you seen this thing?” Neal grinned as he read his copy of the food list. “Everything anybody ever romantically ate in a fairy-tale or a Disney movie is on this thing.”

“That’s our boy,” Emma noted with a smile. “I can’t believe he did this. I can’t believe he roped in August, and Ruby too.”

“From the things I’ve heard from August, he’s trying to pay us back for how he screwed up our relationship before,” said Neal with a look. “I’m willing to let him do his time, actually.”

“That’s just mean,” said Emma with a smirk that matched his own. “Besides, we can’t keep lying to Henry. He thinks he’s getting us back together, it’s so cute, but he has no idea.”

They spoke in whispers, even though neither were saying the actual words of what their relationship really was. In this town, nothing was sacred. It was a miracle that the spark between Emma and Neal had reignited and remained hidden from the world these past couple of weeks.

“I guess we have to tell him,” said Neal with a sigh, “but wouldn’t it be nicer if we just let him believe his plan worked? Besides, I really don’t want to have to tell our twelve-year-old son that we already got back together in secret, at least as far as each other’s beds.”

There was a strange crackling sound that followed that remark and Emma felt all the blood drain from her face. She moved to look under the table and sure enough there was the microphone. They’d been bugged. Before she had a chance to say a word, Henry came running from out back.

“Oh my God!” Emma gasped, her face in her hands.

“You’re already back together?” Henry asked Neal instead.

“Oh, did he...?” he asked Emma, looking under the table has she just had. “Damn it. I keep forgetting, he’s my kid.”

Emma’s head fell forward and hit the table with a thud.

“Mom?”

“She’s fine,” said Neal, unable to keep from smiling. “Hey, Henry. I gotta ask. Why Angelfish?”

“Oh, that’s easy. We learned about them in school. Angelfish in pairs do everything together. They hunt, hang out in the reef, defend their territory and each other, and most importantly, they’re together for life!”

Neal looked from his son to Emma, just as her head came up off the table and she met his eyes. In a second, she was smiling and he returned the look. It seemed to Henry that, one way or another, Operation Angelfish had been a complete success.