"We discovered a problem," said Holman entering Joan's office with Eric.
"What?" said Joan not looking up from her daily briefs.
"Looks like a photo of Annie and Ryan McQuaid taken at Arthur's fundraiser is set to be published in a spread for the Washingtonian."
Joan took off her glasses and looked up. "Well, what's your plan for keeping the photos from going to press?"
"Eric and I are on it ma'am. We're going to wipe out the photo drives belonging to the photographer and hack into the paper's computers."
"Was Annie named in the tag line?"
"No, but Ryan McQuaid was named. It's only a side profile of Annie."
"Regardless someone could recognize her and you know what that means."
"We collected all devices at check-in, how were those photos taken and by whom?"
"We don't know how yet, but we do have an idea of who," said Holman.
"We're in a tight spot with the press these days, they want in on these types of events."
"We need to get ahead of these types of situations and prevent the photos from being taken to begin with."
As Joan listens to Eric continue on about the intel they had on the reporter in question, she picked up her phone to dial Annie.
Annie was back in her apartment and picked up her phone.
"Did you run through the translated intel already?" said Annie without skipping a beat. The intel had been on her mind.
"Going through it now, but Annie, we have a different sort of problem."
"What is it?" asked a concerned Annie.
"You were photographed at Arthur's fundraiser."
"It was a private and closed event."
"It was. We're working on finding out who screwed up and let a camera get past our security protocols, but this is potentially going to jeopardize approval of your close and continuing."
Joan was always to the point. She was like that as an operative, cut to the chase, no bullshit and it served her well in a man's world. But it was hard for her to deliver this blow to Annie.
Ryan was good for her and she was good for him. They were happy and complimented each other well. Joan witnessed how he centered her in a way that even surpassed Auggie's influence on Annie as her handler. The couple had spent a fair amount of time in the recent months with her and Arthur.
"We're taking care of it, but we may not always be able to catch these instances. With the world the way it is today, all it takes is one post and one person to see it to put all your missions and your life in jeopardy."
"We'll be more careful," said Annie.
"It's not you I'm worried about, it's anyone with an iPhone or Samsung or whatever, these devices have helped our work, but also makes it more challenging."
"I'm sorry to I have to say this, but you need to stop going out in public with Ryan or stop working in the covert side of things."
Annie let Joan's directive sink in. The gravity of the situation hit her. Joan only heard breathing.
"Annie, there are many options for you, with your work at the agency and your skill set, you can go far here and I will always have your back."
"I know that, but this isn't what I pictured, at least not just yet," said Annie.
"Sometimes things happen for a reason and you need to see where the current takes you," said Joan.
Joan's words reminded Annie of Eyal. He once said that was his approach to life. . .
"Joan, please don't share this with Ryan," asked Annie.
"Annie, for what it's worth, remember what you do is a job. Jobs come and go, but relationships are what binds us and gives us purpose and fulfillment. He's going to find out sooner or later and I vote for sooner."
"Thanks Joan, I appreciate you saying that, I just need some time to digest the info and make a decision," said Annie.
"My advice is to talk to him."
"See you in the office," said Annie.
Annie ended the call and tossed her phone on her bed with a grunt of frustration.
Ryan walked in from the bathroom and sensed Annie was burdened after the call.
"Everything okay?" mumbled Ryan.
"Yeah. Everything's fine," said Annie every so slightly raising the pitch of the end of her sentence. She did rarely did that with him these days. It was a "tell" of hers he had discovered when he worked with her early on.
"You don't sound very convincing." He knew her well enough to not push too hard.
She went to her dresser and picked out a pair of cropped leggings and an exercise bra. She pulled a tank top over it and packed her work clothes in her gym bag.
"All good. I'm going to get in a quick run before work, what about you?" asked Annie changing the subject.
"I've got a couple of meetings at the Pentagon and then one over at Langley. We could meet for lunch before I head back to my office," replied Ryan as he rose from bed and headed to the bathroom to brush his teeth and shave.
"Thanks, but I need to pass on lunch," Annie called from the bedroom where she began packing a few items in her small roller suitcase.
"After work then, my place this time?"
"Uh, no, actually I'm flying out tonight on a red-eye."
Ryan popped out from the bedroom with his toothbrush and mouthful of toothpaste and head full of places a red-eye flight could be taking her. "What? And you're just now telling me?"
Annie looked at Ryan, "Last minute travel is part of the job, you know that. I don't know every detail of your schedule."
Ryan headed into the bathroom where he spit out the toothpaste and rinsed out his mouth. Annie continued to pack.
"Uh, what's going on?" asked Ryan when he reemerged from the bathroom.
"Nothing." Ryan was smart enough to know it was more than nothing.
"You get a phone call from Joan and suddenly you're …"
Things had been smooth since their return from Argentina, she was happy so he thought and he was definitely happy. They moved in together and the last two months were terrific.
"Aloof, distant, secretive."
Annie sat on the bed. His observations stung even though they were true. "Come on Ryan, I'm not used to someone who wants to know all there is to know about me and an accounting of my schedule," said Annie.
Ryan sat down next to her.
"Well you better get used to it because I'm sticking around," said Ryan putting his arm around her. She leaned into him and put her head on his shoulder.
Ryan didn't expect her to say more. That was all he needed.
"How long will you be gone?"
"Two, maybe three nights tops."
"What about your, you know. . ." she knew he was referring to her heart condition. She was on new medications that appeared to be helping and was due to have a monitoring session to see if there was improvement in the next week.
"It's just a surveillance op."
"We all know how these things can go, who is going with you?"
"Solo and I'll be fine," she said before she lifted her head off his shoulders and turned to kiss him. He kissed her back and they fell back into bed.
It was going to be the first time she left on a solo mission since they returned. From the time he recovered from his gunshot wounds, they worked closely together and he knew her every move. He enjoyed being in the field with her even though she could be unpredictable. Ryan couldn't help but worry about her.
"I have a pre-op meeting," said Annie getting up from under Ryan. She kissed him before he could protest more and left.