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Talya had never really thought she'd miss English weather but the unseasonably warm December really had begun to cut into the Christmas mood, in her opinion. Still, that hadn't deterred her from enjoying the season, especially with the Espadas children to shop for. Although, to be fair, it wasn't like the ex-spy needed an excuse to shop but the season was more magical when there were children to spoil and Eden was right at the right age for that. So, it wasn't unusual for Talya to try and coax Min or Erik on a holiday shopping trip once Thanksgiving had passed. 

 

Nor was it unusual for Talya to turn up in the dojo when she wasn't scheduled to teach and knew Erik's classes were light, but she wasn't dressed to spar and her expression lacked the coaxing smile that usually accompanied Talya's suggestions to play hooky. Still, things couldn't be all that terrible as she waited for things to finish up before twining her arms around his waist and offering him an affectionate kiss.

 

"And good morning to you, handsome. I don't suppose you have time in your busy schedule for a quick errand?" 

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Ignoring the the moderate sweat he'd worked up during the class Erik slid a hand up Talya's back and dipped her slightly while returning the kiss, sparking a smattering of amused laughs and embarrassed coughs from the last of the students filtering out. "Mmh, it is now, cielo," he agreed with a cocky smile as he brushed a few loose strands of hair away from her face before helping her back upright. "I feel like I could probably be persuaded," the fencer agreed, grabbing a water bottle and taking a long pull before setting about packing up equipment. "What did you have in mind?"

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Talya ignored the good nature laughter and the wattage of her smile increased as she was set to rights once more. "Well, I was going to see if you were willing to come with me to the bank but there are other ways we could spend the time," she began before catching herself and giving her head a short, little shake. No, no. She was going to do what she'd set out to do and not find much more pleasant distractions. 

 

"After, perhaps," she said with a sigh and more to herself. Arching her brows slightly, she amended, "It's an errand I've already put off too long. An official matter of sorts, but not one either of us needs to change for. Unfortunately." Her mouth quirked in a brief smile, "I prefer when work involves the punching, you know."

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"Oh, sure," Erik agreed easily, hardly needing to be sold on the merits of punching people who dearly deserved it. There was obviously something to be said for nonviolent solutions as well but they did lack a certain panache.

 

Pulling his tank top over his head and tossing it into an open duffel bag in one corner of the room he tilted his head slightly to one side. "Mysterious." He didn't get the sense that Talya was being intentionally vague so much as she was dancing around something she wasn't overly eager to deal with. That didn't narrow it down much for him, however; when an immortal said they'd put something off, he'd learned, that could really mean they'd put something off. "Scale of one to ten, how endearingly overprotective should I be getting right now? Is this a blood magic thing? 'Cause I'm still at about an eleven on the blood magic thing."

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Talya's sigh when he discarded his shirt was a quiet one of regret. If ever there was a brilliant visual example of indulging in the short term and ignoring things that were less pleasant than a shirtless Erik Espadas. "Well, I do rather enjoy the overprotective streak. It's entirely new territory, you know. I am not exactly used to much fretting over my well being and it really is remarkably endearing but this is only tangentially related to the unfortunate incident from last month and we are unlikely to run into anyone casting magic bolts at my face in the bank."

 

She turned to watch him change, arms folded loosely in front of her mostly to keep from 'helping'. Talya pursed her lips, and turned her head to make sure the students had all filtered out before continuing onward, "That did, however, make me realize I've been remiss. I've only been part of a team once before, and I've never mixed relationships and work quite this way and I'm afraid I was so focused on the personal relationship that I have been, hm, lax on the former." A note of apology entered her voice as she added, "I am sorry about that."

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Erik's expression fell for a moment as he tugged a clean shirt over his head but a reassuring smile had reasserted itself by the time his head reappeared. "Well, hey, I mean... I missed out on the really bad part of that and you already apologized to Min. Emphatically." Walking closer he rubbed the back of his head with one hand uncertainly. "The team probably should have known about that before, yeah, but I get that it doesn't really come up in conversation. It's actually kind of nice to know some of this is uncharted territory for you, too, heh." They both knew that was downplaying how agitated he'd been immediately after the fight with Mastermind and his Atavisms but he found it extremely difficult to stay upset with Talya for any length of time. "So. What's at the bank?"

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Talya's red lips flattened for the briefest of seconds in what would have been a wince for most people. Her blue gaze cut towards the door as if searching for their missing third. It was easier, in some ways, when Min was around. She had no use for artifice and that, often, was easier than the banter that Talya turned to when there was only Erik. After a moment's hesitation, highly unusual for his glib partner, Talya's sigh was soft, "It's a file. Well, it's my file. Which you ought to have access to; the missions that I've run, the enemies I've made..." Talya gave an uncomfortable shrug of her shoulders as she held out a safety deposit key fished from the pocket of her crisp linen jacket. Her lips curved then in a humorless smile, "Things I'd really rather not tell someone I love. Things that a team leader might need to know. Ought to know. The sword of Damocles, as it were."

 

She extended her hand out, holding the key between deceptively delicate fingers for Erik to take, her smile softening slightly then as she added, "I only feign omniscience, dearest. There are a great many things I've never tried before."

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Erik's hand reached out reflexively to take the proffered key but he stopped short, the muscles between his shoulders having visibly tensed at Talya's hesitation. His immediate instinct was to do whatever it took to remove her discomfort, to resolve the difficult topic in whatever manner was most expedient but as her explanation continued he had to grudgingly accept that the situation called for more forethought than his usual rush to action.

 

Carefully taking a step closer he took Talya's hand in his own, the key clasped between them. "I... Are you sure you're okay with that? People not being able to see your embarrassing Facebook history is one of the big perks of growing up before the internet." He attempted a grin to go along with the weak joke but neither or them was convinced by the feigned levity. "...you're allowed to have secrets. I don't want you to feel like you have to do anything, right?" She had a good point about him needing to be aware of potential threats but if it was going to make things weird between them it really didn't seem worth it. He ran a thumb gently over her knuckles. "I love the you you are now, the stuff in the past isn't going to change that. Promise."

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It was tempting, oh so tempting, to take the offered out but Talya didn't pull her hand and the key back away. Her voice softened, the harsh edges of her clipped accent softening as her voice dropped, "My immortality - there's never a certainty that I'll wake up the next time, Erik. Eventually, I'll likely run down the clock but I have a lot of enemies - so very many enemies and while you and Min can more than hold your own, the thought they might come after the girls when I'm not here to give warning..." She shifted then, the movement almost restless as she gave a short shake of her blond head as she cut the line of conversation off. 

 

Talya forced her hand to relax within his as she summoned up a reluctant smile. "I don't feel like I have to do anything. I feel as if I ought to. You have to understand, it isn't your condemnation that I fear. That's not who you are - and its one of the traits I have always found most attractive." Talya's voice dropped slightly and she took her own step closer, trapping their linked hands, "My reluctance stems from knowing I am handing you one of the things you hate most. I've seen the shadows that flicker across your features when Min or I have something painful that pre-dates you. I don't want to hurt you, Erik, but the thought that I could leave you unarmed leaves me cold."

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Shamefaced, Erik ducked his chin down a bit when Talya pointed out something he thought he'd done a better job hiding. It wasn't as though he begrudged either her or Min their long, winding histories but something deep in his chest always clenched when he heard about some hurt than he was decades or more to late to soothe or avenge. He'd never meant to make either of them reluctant to talk about those things with him, however.

 

"Hey, I'm never unarmed, remember?" he deflected with a sheepish grin, gesturing with his free hand as though he were loosely grasping the hilt of a sword. "That's like my whole thing." He let the smile fade and reluctantly closed his fingers around the key so that Talya's hand rested on top of his closed fist. "But alright. This means a lot, seriously. Do you want to be there to go over it with me or is this something I should go through a bit at a time?"

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"I think that is up to you, oh fearless leader," Talya said, her husky tone turning the familiar nickname into something more private. She leaned in, pressing her red lips against his jaw with her fingers light and warm on his hand, "Honestly, I leave it in your hands. If you never open it, I shan't be cross and if you just want to get it over with, that's acceptable too. I imagine that it will be easier to parse if I explain at least the first few. Before I began typing reports, they're often written in short-hand."

 

The corner of her lips quirked up, her posture finally relaxing. Talya's tone turned teasing then, "Spies, you know. Very fond of their secret codes. Also, I'll have to show you how to disarm the charge that's designed to immolate the documents if its tampered with. We don't tell the bank about that part, by the way. Fire alarms make them ever so testy."

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Erik snorted as he tilted his chin into the kiss. He'd never been entirely comfortable with the role of leader outside of heated battle, he was just more comfortable with it than with trusting anyone else with the safety of his people. Still, Talya had a way of giving the nickname a very different context than it had when Chris used it. "Sounds like we should probably go over the highlights sooner rather than later, I guess. Otherwise I'll just find some excuse to put it off. Good tip about the explosives, by the way. Anything else you've wired to blow I should know about? I suppose your codename should have been a red flag..." he mused with exaggerated thoughtfulness, lightly tapping his forehead against Talya's as her stance sloughed some of its tension.

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"Hmmm..." Talya said, her lips curving in a small, secretive smile before she gave a shake of her head. "No. Nothing else currently primed for self-destruction at the moment. To be fair, my codname has little to do with explosions and far more to do with Jean Harlow. No one ever expected me to turn out so competent. Demolition was a skill I picked up later in my career." 

 

Relaxing into Erik's embrace, she threaded her arms around his waist, "Personally, I have already used up my reserves of responsibility for the day - they're rather small, you know - and have no guilt over suggesting more pleasant distractions. You did say you were free, didn't you?" Distracting her significant other from his duties and responsibilities was much more comfortable ground, after all. Certainly more familiar. 

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"Admittedly I have no idea who that is but I have a hard time imagining anyone underestimating your competence," Erik scoffed theatrically, slipping the key into his pants pocket to free up his hands for more pleasant uses. "And there's no reason we need to go immediatelysure." Shifting closer in her embrace he found the small of her back with both hands and let one of them begin drifting slowly downward. "Should probably still leave time to head over there today, though, even if it's just so you can show-- oh hell." He craned his neck enough to give Talya a wounded look. "I'm the responsible one. I'm the one who thinks paperwork should interrupt fooling around. That's horrible." In a more self-aware moment he might have found it in himself to admit that his carefree mannerisms had never amounted to much in the face of his staunch adherence to his training regimen and patrol schedule, not to mention his longstanding and varied efforts to provide for his loved ones but somehow this still felt like waking up one morning to find one had accidentally become a chartered accountant.

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Her laughter was huskily amused, a soft whisper against his throat as she nuzzled his jaw. "My love, of course you are. You are a father, husband and small business owner. You vote and even take part in the local community boards. I imagine when Eden is old enough to be in school, you'll concern yourself with the PTA. Min is largely a force of nature with vaguely benevolent intentions - half of which come from the fact that it pleases you and my tendencies are established facts. Don't fret. You make responsible very sexy, I promise."

 

She leaned back then in his arms to take in Erik's displeased expression with a bemused smile, "Will it make you feel better if I promise not to point it out to other people?"

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 Erik managed to keep his pout for about four more seconds in the face of Talya's smile before he sighed theatrically and let a grin of his own replace his grimace. "Well, it's a start. So long as I make it sexy." Taking advantage of the space created when the blonde had leaned backward he ducked down to kiss her again, taking his time to explore the fullness of her lips and letting the intensity gently rise like holding a hand under the warming rush of water from a faucet. When he broke away it was only far enough so that he could murmur,  "Still, I wouldn't want to be too responsible. You said something about pleasant distractions...?"

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"I am never short on ideas to get you out of your shirts in the dojo. Perhaps other articles of clothing too if I can manage it," Talya said as she twined her arms around his shoulders, her red lips curving in smile that was full of wicked thoughts. "I was promised a Zorro demonstration at some point and I have been so-" Talya paused to nip his lip very gently. "-very-" Her lips lingered a little longer that time. "-good."

 

Her brows arched up then, in both invitation and challenge. 

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Responsible or not that seemed to shatter Erik's determination to put the trip to the lockbox before anything else. "So it's my job to incentivize your good behaviour, too, huh?" he asked in a soft rumble, hooking his thumbs into the belt loops of her pants and fitting himself more closely against the curve of her body. Lowering his voice ever further he brought his face close enough to the more-or-less ex-thief that her nose went out of focus for him. "Good work, if you can get it. Sure you don't like that outfit too much? 'Something something look better on the training mats'."

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