Noah was still bummed he hadn’t been allowed to pick the spot this time. Post-deployment debriefings were wrapping up, the team would be leaving DC soon. He would miss nights out with this team. When he started critiquing the place Jaz had suggested, though, Hannah had shut it down.
“You’re going. There is something up with those two…”
He had assumed she meant Jaz and Dalton. Everyone knew there was something between them; the Deputy Director often sent them her patented ‘I’m-only-being-patient-for-the-long-game’ look.
Now here they were in some hipster-infested post-industrial dive bar where the only beers on tap were cheaper in the grocery store around the corner. Noah had made one grieving comment when he looked at the menu and Hannah had stomped on his foot. “No. You are supposed to be keeping an eye out for me.”
Confused, he clarified. “For...men?”
Hannah did not sigh to herself. She was a highly trained operative. “One man. Keep an eye on al Raisani.”
Well okay then. Guess she hadn’t been obsessing over their favorite local forbidden love.
So Noah did what Hannah told him to do. Not because he was scared of her, though, mildly that was the case. Mostly because he was bored. This wasn’t his scene and it was far less interesting than their colleagues.
Like how jumpy Jaz had been, all keyed up and snappy and practically crawling out of her skin.
“Jazzy.” McG’s lowkey exasperated tone was well-established. The two of them had a penchant for shenanigans and their own semi-secret language of looks and inside jokes to manage them.
What was less anticipated, and certainly more difficult to parse, were the small touches from Amir. Hannah’s guy kept giving her sad, puppy dog eyes across the table and, as he passed her on his way to the restroom, he laid one knobbly hand on her shoulder. McG stood when Amir returned, shaking his head minutely, just once. Noah thought he caught a pleading look from their favorite sniper. McG bypassed their table and headed up to the small stage in the corner.
Great. It was open mic night. McG was funny, but this schtick was so obviously an attempt to catch some girl’s fancy. Noah tuned out the stand-up routine in time to see Jaz get up and steal McG’s vacated seat next to Amir. She laid her head on his shoulder. Amir multitasked his response, reaching for her sugary pink drink and winding his arm around her back, all while listening intently enough to roll his eyes at McG during all the right moments.
There was a short stack of napkins and slips of paper on the waitress’s tray when she came round, ostensibly to check on the team. Dalton was not far behind her and took a seat with his back to the wall. He glanced up at their friend on stage, back to the phone numbers delivered to their table, and added, “Seriously?”
Noah couldn’t resist. “That’s how I’ve felt all night, my man.” Dalton screwed up his forehead, but clinked beer bottles anyway.
“God - let him have his moment you guys!” Jaz was defending McG? What else had Top missed?
McG wrapped it up and said the darnedest thing when he returned. Patted Amir hard on the back and said, “You’re up.”
Noah caught Hannah sitting up straighter in her seat. Their captain was still playing catch up; used to having some operational awareness, he asked with honest curiosity, “What are you doing?”
Amir pointedly looked in Hannah’s direction as he answered Top. “Solidarity.” And then he was heading up to the stage.
It was a touching rendition of that song Patrick Swayze got on the radio from that movie, Dirty Dancing? Amir was clearly an amateur, but he could carry a tune. No one understood why it had Hannah going all misty eyed and...sappy. Noah was pretty sure she dropped her hand under the table when Amir took his seat again so she they could hold hands.
None of that held a candle to what happened next.
Jaz - their fierce, brave, all around badass sharpshooter - stood. For a moment, she stood there next to the table. Eventually, McG held up a full shot glass and offered, “Liquid courage, Jazzycat?” Her small hand reached out, then pulled away empty handed. “No?”
Deep breath, in, out, eyes on Top. “No. Ugh. If I don’t do this, I’m gonna go crazy.”
Then she, too, took the stage. Jaz’s voice was amplied as she spoke into the mic. “So, Halsey does this better, but hey, what’s a girl gonna do when she needs a good cover to get her message across?”
Opening chords rang out and Jaz’s voice was true. “I keep a close watch on this heart of mine…”
Jaz’s low, sultry voice was made for this. Clear. Committed. Sexy as hell. She sang out about finding it “very, very easy to be true” with such playful, tempting lilt to her that half the room started to pay some serious attention.
The bar got noticeably quieter. Jaz didn’t look like she could feel anything other than the vibrations coming out of her mouth in the shapes of words, sound, meaning. When she hit the penultimate hook, her voice held a terribly attractive waver. Noah joined everyone else at his table in risking a glance at Dalton. Yep. He was hers alright.
From the looks of things, Dalton was just floored. Careful not to betray his thought, Noah couldn’t help realizing just how deeply he was screwed if this didn’t mean what the man obviously thought it did. Hannah was glued to al Raisani, though, and McG was offering Jaz encouraging looks that she couldn’t see. All she could see was Dalton.
Go ahead and walk that line, Jaz.
Several folks tried to snag Jaz when she was through. She just kept an eye on her target and made her way back to the table, perhaps slowly, definitely not surely. Instead of sitting, she landed near McG and held out her hand, “I’ll take that drink now.”
Before McG could connect glass to fingers, Top was standing and taking the hand midair in his own. If Jaz hadn’t smirked over her shoulder at her guys as she was pulled away, Noah might have stood to intervene.
Jaz wasn’t sure what she was expecting, exactly, but it wasn’t for Top to push her up against the brick wall just inside the door. He was closer than necessary, even with the crowd around them.
“What - you didn’t want the team watching you - this?” Jaz found herself without a proper verb, unsure what was happening. She just knew the hand on her was firm and familiar. Its weight held her against the wall and Top’s blue blue eyes held hers wide against his.
“Oh they’re watching.”
Jaz spared them a glance; it was true. Suddenly she felt more exposed than she had at the center of attention on stage. The breath she sucked in and held didn’t escape Top’s notice.
“You want out?”
Out of what? Was she in something now? Top took his hand off her side, slid it onto the brick; she missed it immediately. His other came up as well, boxing her between his body and the wall. Jaz shook her head and Top, in all the excitement, lost track of the question. When he started to pull back, Jaz’s hands shot out, fisting in the blue check button down tucked into his jeans.
She tugged and Top leaned in slow. Still wary, so careful. His face was so close, Jaz could no longer see how seriously he was looking at her. She could hear how rough his voice was, though, all velvet on sandpaper as he asked, “I can do this, then?”
Jaz nodded slowly, her lips still moving up and down as he captured them in his.
The cheer that followed them from the depths of the bar was louder than their team alone. They were in that affirming sound, though. This would not be a hidden thing.