"How'd that happen?" she asked, flicking a finger ever so slightly towards his face.
Self-consciously, he reached up to touch the thin scab on his left cheek. "Cut myself shaving," he lied quickly, not missing a beat, with his practised smile and well-honed flair.
She raised an eyebrow. "With a hacksaw?"
"Very few people guess that," he answered, keeping his voice low, measured, "but it is, in fact, the case."
She cracked a smile. Just a little one. It was enough. She turned her attention to the television, and said with something approaching emotion in her voice, "Have you seen that?"
He looked at the flatscreen bolted above the wall, at the text scrolling beneath the pictures of a burnt out bus, of men in camouflage gear with assault rifles, of a woman screaming. "Yeah. I've seen it."
"Yeah," he agreed, and lifted the sifter to his lips. The scotch burned exquisitely on its way down. Setting the cup back on its coaster, he toyed with the corner. "Chaos."
She blinked again. "Are they your glasses?"
"Hmmm," he said, absently, and he ran his fingers from the coaster to the pair of wireframes that sat on the bar beside them. "Yeah."
"I didn't know you wore glasses."
"I don't, usually," he replied, "I forgot my contact solution."
She stood, and moved to the seat beside him, carrying her martini with her. "Would it be too much to hope for you to put them on?"
He regarded the glasses for a second, and took another sip. "It might be."
She pursed her lips, and nodded. "It's not easy."
He sniffed. "No. Can't imagine it would be." He fixed his gaze on the television screen, now an attractive anchor with a solemn expression. "How many dead now?"
She shifted uncomfortably. "Last I heard, sixty seven."
He didn't say anything, just took another sip.
"Listen, we don't have to talk now. I know this can't be a good time for you," she said, all-business all of a sudden. "I'm sorry I called. I honestly thought…"
As she trailed off, he looked at her; high cheek bones, wavy blonde hair. More laugh lines now, but still the same woman. "Thought what?"
She didn't answer right away, instead finishing her martini and signalling for another. "How is it possible I didn't know you wore glasses? I mean, how is that humanly possible."
"I take pains to hide them," he said, as the bartender set the replacement drink down for her. "I can't believe you're still drinking that weak-ass water."
"James Bond drinks these," she said, mock-defensively. "But your glasses, seriously. We were married for six years."
"We were married for six years six years ago," he said with a shrug, taking another sip, draining the glass. As she'd done moments before, he beckoned for another. "Things fall through the cracks."
"You remembered my drink," she said.
"Mmm," he said with a sigh. He picked up the glasses, and turned them over in his hands. "You want to see them?"
He lifted them, and slid them onto his nose, behind his ears, and looked at her, being careful not to smile. There were twelve years between them now, no smile could bridge that gulf. She smiled, though.
"They suit you," she said, "very distinguished. You should wear them more often."
"My ears are uneven," he said, and took them off, stashing them in his jacket pocket. "They draw attention to it."
"I didn't notice."
"Ha," she said with a smirk, "fair point." She lifted the fresh martini, and was about to drink, when she added "How are you going to handle that?"
He looked back at the television. "I don't know. They're killing each other again, it's not entirely unexpected. They've been doing it for sixty years." He paused, as the bartender returned with his drink. "Thanks," he muttered, taking a sip.
"How long have you got?"
"All the time in the world," he answered heavily. "Suicide bombers in Kashmir, the two most unpredictable nuclear powers on the planet glowering at each other across a border they never could agree on, and China waiting hungrily for the carnage. All the time in the world."
"Yeah," she answered, sighing, unimpressed with his trademark sarcasm. "I'm sorry I called you."
"Don't be," he said, with a shrug. "I needed to get out of the office. They're all going stir crazy. But why did you call?"
She gave another little smirk. "To see you in glasses."
It was his turn to be unimpressed. "I dodge questions for a living, Kate. You're not that great at it. Why did you call me here?"
Her eyes widened slightly in annoyance. "Gee, I don't know, Eli. It's been six months since we've talked. Things are happening, in my life and in yours. I wanted to catch up." She flexed all the fingers of her left hand, and that's when the glinting diamond caught her eye.
"Roger proposed." It wasn't a question.
She licked her teeth before she answered. "Yeah."
"Congratulations," he said, not bothering to muster any kind of enthusiasm.
"I'm sorry I called you, Eli."
"More courtesy than I ever showed you," he answered, taking yet another sip. The clink of the ice in the glass, the soft hiss of the liquid; music, especially after the chaos of the last twelve hours. "I didn't even bother to call you about Helen."
"You called me plenty of times when it ended," she said, and she touched his shoulder. "I'm sorry."
"And I've already told you not to be."
"What is it you called me? After the divorce? The queen of apology."
"Passive-aggressive bitch, was another," he said, shooting her his first genuine smile of the night. "Among a few more."
She laughed. "True." She took a second to look him up and down. "It's eleven thirty on a Friday. Why are you still in a suit? I thought you people kept some comfortable clothes in your offices."
"Eleven thirty on a Friday is a lunchbreak for me. Besides which, do you see me wearing a tie?"
Another laugh. "Fair point again. That's two you've made in one night, you going for the record?"
"I've already left yours in the dust."
He grinned, but it was more of a grimace; it was this kind of ribbing, this friendly teasing, that had made him fall in love with him in the first place. And, as she told him after one night of particularly bitter post-divorce sex, vice versa.
"Well," he said, finishing off the rest of his drink, "I'd better get back to the office. I don't know if you've heard, but we've got a thing going on in South Asia. Might get a little hot."
"They won't mind if you've had two glasses of scotch?"
He laughed. "You try doing my job without being just a little bit liquored up." He stood, and signalled again to the kid behind the bar, handing him a credit card. Lifting his jacket from the bar, he shrugged into it, and swooped down to peck his ex-wife on the cheek.
"Will I see you at the wedding?" she asked as he accepted his card back from the bartender.
"I don't think so. I'd have to wear a tie."
She smiled, sadly. "I'm sorry, again, Eli."
"You couldn't keep your life on hold forever, Kate. I widowed you the day I took this job."
"Call me sometime."
With that, nodding to the bartender, he left her sitting there, half-finished martini in front of her. She blinked back tears for a second, and then sighed, lifting the glass to her lips and taking a sip.
"Are you okay, ma'am?" the bartender asked.
She took a second before she answered, toying with the ring around the fourth finger of her left hand. "Yeah. I'll be fine."