Love on Gaia: The Heart is a Double Agent

The Heart is A Double Agent

The carefully orchestrated betrayal of her lover was proceeding flawlessly.

His breath was hot against the back of her neck, face buried in her sleek black hair while his hands gently grasped her waist. “You are,” Khalid said, “utterly magnificent, darling.”

Esi wanted to enjoy the moment, like she usually did. The time when the end goal was in sight, and she could congratulate herself on a job well done. Assignments were always passionate but brief: a week or two to gain the mark’s confidence, perform her mission, and then a promise to meet later—which meant never again. She got to travel the world, practice magic, meet people like herself, all on the Phoenician’s dime. Right now they were in a swank hotel in the old town of Prague, something she’d never been able to afford before becoming Gaia-touched.

Instead of triumph though, she felt an odd reticence growing in her breast. Esi’s eyes lingered on their phones, hers and Khalid’s, stacked together on the nightstand. In her mind’s eye she could see the program in her phone reaching into his, twining itself around hidden data and peeling away secrets one at a time. Contacts, mission updates, GPS logs—she hadn’t been told what exactly her employers were searching for, just the usual platitudes about how knowledge was power. Her handler, Yiannis, was short on talk. Typical Phoenician.

This assignment had been longer than usual. Khalid was a sweet guy, so it didn’t bother her in the least. At first she’d wondered if his naivety, his “researcher with his head in the clouds” thing was just a pose, but he truly was as dorky in private as he was in public. In fact he’d grown on her quite a bit, if she was being honest. He did occult research, traveling to Constantinople or Paris or New York to speak at this or that conference, always receiving late night messages to which he’d write long, rambling, academic jargon laden replies with his laptop balanced on his knees while Esi lounged in bed.

Yiannis was never unhappy with the data she got out of snooping on Khalid, but never satisfied, either. A month would go by, and then she’d be asked to riffle through some personal papers and take pictures. Another month, and then steal his special keycard so another agent could burgle Khalid’s offices while they were out at dinner. If Khalid ever realized he was under such scrutiny, he didn’t show it. He was always kind with her, in his goofy way.

Whatever the Phoenicians were looking for, they found it tonight. At their pre-mission meet, Yiannis had looked relieved, his cruel lips wrapped around a cigarette. They had some kind of sure intel that Khalid finally had the data they wanted, on his phone. Easy enough to steal. Yiannis, as usual, had taken his time explaining and re-explaining the job to her, as if she were a simpleton. She’d thought of putting in for a different handler, but Yiannis had been the least awful of the Phoenecians she’d worked with till now.

“Esi, I’m too tired to reach for my glasses. Can you do your little trick?” Khlaid said into her hair.

She smirked. Sure, why not indulge him? Just beneath the surface of her skin, anima pulsed, languid as honey. She focused herself, walking through the minor mental ritual of the spell, tracing its lines and patterns in her thoughts. Then she spoke a word to will the magic into reality.

The black frame glasses jerked to life. Khalid, head propped up on an elbow now, laughed as the frames twisted back and forth in an approximation of a march. She rolled over just in time to see him put them on. No matter how many times she hinted at him needing a different pair, something in wire and silver that made him look more distinguished, Khalid insisted on sticking with the thick black glasses that made him look like a hipster.

“So amazing to meet someone who’s also aware of the secret world. I’ve seen fantastic stuff out at digs, but never—wait, is something the matter?” he asked.

“No,” she said, turning away from him. Soon, Yiannis and his goons would be here, and Khlaid would be—would be—

“You must be thirsty, after all that…exercise. I’ll get us some water,” Khalid said as he rolled out of bed.

His footsteps were barely audible on the carpeted floor. She could still feel the warmth of his body on her skin, a ghost touch that was quickly dissipating from the places where he’d held her. A pang of yearning stole through her heart.

“We’ve got mineral water, sparkling—you like fruit infusions, yes?” He turned around, still completely naked, awkwardly juggling bottles and cans in his arms. “Why are you looking at me like that?”

The sight of him in all his glorious dorkishness brought tears to her eyes.

Drinks forgotten, he rushed over and cupped her face in his hands. She leaned into the warmth. “Oh no, what is the matter Esi?”

“It’s…it’s nothing,” she said. “I’m just sad I won’t be seeing you again for a while.”

“Oh, did you mean, you won’t come with me to London for the parazoology conference? Uh, listen. The, uh, company has been keeping me busy on research—had some amazing finds of ancient technology outside of Egypt, really wild stuff—but I’ve got some vacation time saved up.” He brushed her kinky hair with his hand and kissed her on the top of the head. “We could go somewhere, just the two of us. I uh…I’ve been thinking about it for a while, I mean. The two of us.”

“Khalid, what are you talking about?” she asked.

“Well,” he took a deep breath, “I-I’m in love with you.”

Her mouth hung open. Beneath the overwhelming shock, she felt a growing heat in her heart.

Time to nip this in the bud, just tell him it’s over and you’re leaving. You’re a secret agent! Act like one!

Instead, she said, “I love you too.”

Khalid shouted with joy, holding her hands and jumping up and down on the bed. She was still in shock, but felt the unlooked for certainty that she recognized for truth: she did love him.

Then her phone started to ring.

A sign from Yiannis, telling her the mission was complete. To leave now.

She met Khalid’s gaze. There was joy there, yes, but something else lingering deep in his eyes, something inkling or suspicion.

Her mind spun in circles, scrambling for a lie to tell him, for some way out of this mess.

Again, her traitorous mouth took charge. “Khalid, if you leave this building, you’re going to die.”

Damnit! Get control of yourself!

“W-what?” He still held her hands, but the strength was out of them, now. Bugger it. She had to keep going, tell him everything.

“I’ll explain everything outside, somewhere, when we’re safe. But for now I need you to trust me.”

He looked sheepishly away. “Oh…I guess that report about you being a spy was true, then.”

“You knew?!”

“Well, I mean…the, uh, company—”

“I know it’s the Illuminati, Khalid, you can stop being coy.”

“—er, right. The Illuminati gave me some reports from time to time, but I figured they were just being a bit overprotective as usual. They once had me move apartments because they suspected the local grocer was a Templar, or something. Ridiculous.”

She was so incredulous, she couldn’t speak. “Khalid, you are king of the dorks! You belong to a secret society! How can you be so…so…naive?”

He gave her his goofy winning smile. “Well, it is my best quality.”

The phone rang again. She tossed it into her bag and hurriedly shrugged into her yellow one piece dress. “No more talking. We need to leave.”

“Do you mean it?” he asked as he tossed on a shirt. “Just the two of us?”

She freed a slim black pistol from her purse, then grabbed Khalid by the collar and kissed him fiercely. “It’s going to be the two of us against the world.”

“Wouldn’t have it any other way. But what are you going to do with that?” He tilted his head at the pistol.

There was a knock at the door.

“This,” she said, pushing Khalid behind her with one hand while leveling the pistol with the other.

Anima coursed through her body, pulsing in rhythm to her heartbeat. Blazing golden bullets streaked from her gun. Glowing holes ate through the door where the bullets hit. Something thumped to the ground on the other side.

She yanked with her free hand, and the door tore off its hinges. There was a body in a purple jumpsuit and scuba mask slumped in the doorway. She leapt over it and rolled into the corridor.

A roar of gunfire greeted her, but it bounced harmlessly off her hastily summoned shield. Through the haze of gunsmoke she spotted a soldier crouched behind an abandoned luggage cart. She stretched out her hand, and hurled black bolts of magic. He jerked when they pierced his chest.

At the elevator, frantically slapping the call button, was her quarry. Yiannis.

“Esi! What are you doing?” he cried.

“Resigning.” She chanted and jabbed her finger at Yiannis’ chest. He gasped and gripped his heart, then fell over dead.

There was a gasp behind her, and she wheeled around with her pistol.

“Don’t shoot!” Khalid stuck his hands up in the air. “Remind me to never complain if you don’t do the laundry.”

She laughed and hugged him. The elevator dinged and opened. She led Khalid over the body of her former employer, and hit the button for the garage.

“As long as we’re being honest,” Khalid said as the elevator started to move, “I’ve been thinking about going freelance for some time. But it’s a bit of a dangerous world out there, in the occult archaeology game.”

“Good thing you’ve got a beautiful lover who’s also an amazing bodyguard, then.” She felt giddy.

Maybe I’ll regret it later, but damnit, I’ll enjoy it now.

He gazed into her eyes and took her free hand. “Darling, you’re utterly magnificent.”

Thanks for reading!
Theme: Eros
Character: Heather “Goonshine” Ramis