Author Topic: Dislocation  (Read 433 times)

Meg Miller

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« on: November 10, 2016, 10:16:37 PM »
It is one thing to drink yourself to sleep in company. It is quite another to do it on a week night when you have to go into work the next morning in the company of the person you got drunk with the night before. That was Meg's dilemma this morning. Her head was pounding, and despite there being no actual proof of whatever might have happened last night in her apartment, she was worried she might have embarrassed herself - or AJ - so thoroughly that he would never want to have anything to do with her ever again. Of course, he had promised her a ride into work, so she couldn't even avoid him. She was just going to have to face the music, provided it beat in time with the thumping in her head.

First things first, though ... Groping her way out of bed, she decided to forego the painkillers and water in favor of a shower, wincing her way into the bathroom to set the water flowing. A few minutes under the hot water should open those baby blues.

It was a good thing she had opted for the shower, or she might have been a little startled to find a certain secret agent sneaking in through her front door to surprise her with breakfast. Whether he'd waited for that opportunity or had just gotten lucky was unclear, but he didn't have any trouble getting in - a point he found slightly disturbing. And while she was in the shower, he got the coffee going and started frying up bacon and eggs, which he'd brought over from his own kitchen, just in case she was all out.

If she'd been a little more awake, she might have noticed the noises coming from her kitchen, but it was the scent of coffee that caught her nose, and even then, only after she'd gotten out of the shower. She didn't recall seeing a window open, so where was that smell coming from? It was enticing, though. Wrapping a towel beneath her arms, she wandered out with the intention of putting her own coffee pot on, and let out a squawk of shock at the sight of AJ in her kitchen.

"What the ... how did you get in?!"

"How do you think I got in?" he asked, smirking as she confronted him in just a towel, which was a pretty enticing sight actually. He looked her over, knowing she was probably hung over and unsure what she remembered about the previous night. He picked up a set of keys he'd found in her purse and dangled them from a finger. "You really should be more careful, you know," he teased before turning back to the business of frying eggs and bacon before they burned. He was already dressed for work in a freshly pressed suit and tie, and looking like the drinks they'd shared the night before had had little or no effect on his ability to function.

She, on the other hand, looked distinctly rough, tucking the towel tighter about herself as she looked at him blearily from beneath a mop of tangled hair. "You stole my keys?" she asked, mildly horrified by his behavior. But only mildly - he'd brought food and coffee, that was more than enough to allow her to forgive him. "You're a thief." Her expression softened into a smile, though. "Thank you for not letting me break my rules last night," she said quietly, hugging herself. "I'll, um ... clothes and such." Making a hasty retreat, she snatched the first clothes to hand out of the closet and hid herself in the bathroom again to dress and try to correct the damage from her drunken evening.

"Nice try, but technically speaking, I'm a CIA Agent specializing in covert operations," he pointed out with a grin, which was just another way of saying he was a secret agent with a license to kill. Thieving might be part of the job sometimes, but it wasn't what it was all about. Nor were assassinations. In fact, he avoided jobs like those at all costs. Assassinations were for, well, assassins and marksmen, and he considered himself neither of those either, even if his job did involve that from time to time. "You're welcome!" he called back, chuckling a little as she rushed off again to hide in the bathroom. He had rules of his own, after all.

With company in her apartment, it took her significantly less time to consider herself fit for human company than it usually did. When she emerged, she was dressed reasonably smartly, the magic of make up had occurred, and she was in the process of pinning her hair back from her face, looking far more like herself than she had having just rolled out of the shower.

"Now I resemble a member of the human race ..." She smiled, leaning over to kiss his cheek. "Good morning. And did you by any chance bring aspirin?"

"And you didn't before?" he asked, sliding the eggs onto a plate as she kissed his cheek. He smiled at the kiss, but made no mention of it, nor was he able to reciprocate with his hands busy with breakfast. "On the counter," he told her, nodding to where he'd left a bottle of aspirin, along with her keys. "I hope you don't mind your eggs over-easy," he added, for good measure.

"I love you," she groaned in delight, pouncing on the aspirin with the desperation of the truly hungover. She swallowed a couple dry, proving that her headache was definitely up there in the epic range, before turning her attention back to him. "You know, I have no idea what over-easy means. I'm assuming it's not undercooked."

Both brows arched upwards, surprised by her abrupt declaration of love but assuming she didn't really mean it. He knew she liked him, but love? It was a bit premature for that. "Have a seat, princess. You're about to find out what Americans like to eat for breakfast." And here, she probably thought it was fake scones and burnt coffee.

"I'm a princess now?" Laughing carefully so as not to make her head throb again, she slid into a seat at the counter, making an effort to keep her eyes open rather than give into the urge to lay her forehead down and pretend the world didn't exist for another couple of hours. "I, um ... I don't actually remember much of what happened last night after the ice cube," she confessed in embarrassment. "I wasn't too ... handsy, was I?"

"No, not really," he assured her honestly. She might have straddled his lap and tried to convince him to stay, but he wouldn't define that as being handsy exactly, if he understood the meaning of the word. "Not much happened after you took your bra off. I tucked you in, and you passed out," he told her, setting a plate of fried eggs and bacon and toast in front of her, along with strong, black coffee. "Drink your coffee. It will help you feel better."

"Oh god, I did take it off, didn't I?" She groaned, hiding her eyes for a moment. "Sadly, that was quite mild behavior for the drunk version of me. You're lucky I didn't tie you down and take advantage of your gentlemanly nature." The plate in front of her caught her attention. "Goodness ... I thought you ate donuts for breakfast?" she teased, reaching for the coffee cup to take a long, slow sip.

He chucked at both her statements. "I'm not a gentleman and I never said I ate donuts for breakfast. That was a coffee break, not breakfast," he pointed out, fixing a plate for himself and taking a lean on the counter opposite her. "You clean up pretty good for having a hangover."

"You are a gentleman," she insisted, smiling at him as she raised a forkful to start eating. "Mmm ... how much do I have to pay you to feed me every morning?" As to the way she cleaned up, well ... "If you could see me from in here, you wouldn't say that," she told him in amusement. "I feel as though someone tried to squeeze a size ten brain into my size four head."

"I've already got a job, thanks." He smiled but said nothing further regarding whether or not he was a gentleman. There were probably women out there who'd disagree with her, for whatever reasons. "I'm telling you, drink your coffee. It helps, trust me," he insisted, dunking his toast in his eggs before taking a bite.

"I promise, I don't normally drink so much," she said quietly, taking his advice and alternating bites of breakfast with gulps of coffee. "I really am sorry. I know I get a little uncensored when I drink."

"Let me ask you something ... Did you have fun?" he asked, watching her over the rim of his coffee cup as he took a sip. There was a point to his question that he'd make once she'd answered.

That was a no-brainer to answer, which was just as well, because she thought her brain might still be trying to fit into the spangly leotard she'd worn once at the age of four. "I did," she nodded carefully, smiling at him. "I had a lot of fun, actually. Thank you."

Meg Miller

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« Reply #1 on: November 10, 2016, 10:17:25 PM »
"Then you have no reason to apologize," he told her, once she'd answered his question. "My offer for dinner is still on, you know," he added. It was a promise he'd made back in Paris, but one that hadn't happened yet. The Chinese didn't count, in his opinion.

"My acceptance hasn't been withdrawn," she assured him warmly. "I'm glad I didn't send you running for the hills last night. It's been a long time since I've relaxed with someone, let alone let myself get drunk. In a way, that was a rather massive compliment, even if it means you have to put up with the hungover me for the next couple of hours."

"I had fun, too, Meg," he assured her, hoping last night wasn't a one-time only event. He wasn't sure where they were headed or what the future might bring, but he was secretly hoping for more than just friendship, though he didn't want to get his hopes up too high only to have them shattered. Slow steps, they'd agreed. One thing at a time. "I thought we'd take the car today. I wouldn't want you to fall off the bike," he teased.

She laughed - not the giggle from last night, but the more controlled, grown up laugh she displayed in public. "How thoughtful of you," she teased him in return, finishing the contents of her plate before pulling what was left of her coffee toward her. "What a wonderful impression I'm going to make today - second day at the CIA and hungover already." She, too, hoped they would be able to repeat the night before; not the getting drunk part, although that had been enjoyable, but simply spending time with him. Unlike him, however, her hopes were already flying high without a tether.

"I won't tell if you don't tell," he assured her with a grin before returning to finish up his eggs and toast and crunch on his bacon, washing it all down with his coffee. "How's the head feeling?" he asked, wondering if the coffee and aspirin was having any effect yet. "I could have told you not to mix your drinks last night."

"I wouldn't have listened," she smiled, relaxing a little now the pounding seemed to have muted itself. "Better, though, thank you. I don't seem to have an ill-educated percussion section in my head any longer."

"I doubt you'll be called upon to do much today anyway," he assured her further. It was, after all, only her second day on the job, but he had already decided that there were certain things he wasn't going to allow them to force her into. He just wasn't quite sure how he was going manage that.

"Here's hoping. Let me get my boots on, and I'll be ready to go," she told him, finishing her coffee to slide down off the stool and go fishing for a pair of comfortable boots. He had plenty of opportunity to note that her socks were mismatched - not just different colors, but different patterns, too, and much brighter than most people would expect to find on her feet. "Hopefully there won't be too much computer time, today," she said as she sat on the edge of the bed to pull her boots on. "At least, not until after lunch."

"Take your time," he told her. He hid a smirk behind his coffee mug as he noticed the mismatched socks on her feet, but once again, said nothing of it. She'd realize it sooner or later, and he was hoping he'd be there when she did. While she searched for her boots, he cleared the counter of plates and cups, rinsing them off before placing them in the dishwasher and turning off the coffeepot for the day.

It was only when she was ready to go that Meg realized she hadn't actually looked at a clock yet, glancing down at the watch on her wrist. "You know, I think that's the fastest I've ever managed to go from recumbent to presentable ever. You are obviously a good influence on me. Can I keep you?"

"Do you really want to?" he asked, turning the question back around on her, though neither was really being serious about it. Or were they? "I'm good for a few things, I guess." Making breakfast and cleaning up after her seemed to be a few of them, but he wasn't interested in being her cook or her servant, and he didn't think that was really what she wanted from him either.

"More than a few things," she told him, her smile close to tender as she picked up her bag. She paused next to him, touching her fingers to his cheek. "Stop worrying so much?" she suggested softly. "Of course I want to keep you. The question is really yours to answer, whether you want to be kept." Rising onto her toes, she kissed the tip of his nose, reaching around him for her keys.

"Well, I don't really want to be a kept man, if that's what you're implying," he replied with a grin, pausing for a moment as she touched his cheek and kissed his nose, feeling amused and elated and confused all at the same time. He had a perfect opportunity to take her in his arms, as she reached around him, but he resisted the temptation, wanting things to happen on their own.

"What, not even a little bit?" she teased, jangling her keys in her hand. "Not even at weekends?" She gave him a gentle tug to usher him toward the door, waiting until he was turned away before letting herself frown just a little. Was it just her, or was he leaving everything to her? Every gesture that counted toward affection seemed to be coming from her, if she discounted being tucked in and having breakfast provided.

"Maybe on weekends," he allowed, with a smile. The truth was, he was a little unsure what exactly it was she wanted from him, and he was afraid of disappointing her. She'd come all the way from England because of him, after all ... or so she claimed. What if she decided he wasn't who she thought he was, after all? What if she changed her mind? What if, what if, what if?

"I'll bear that in mind," she promised, nudging him out into the hall to turn and lock her door securely behind them. "Well then ... shall we, Agent Doyle?"

He'd done everything he could think of to impress her, to treat her with respect, to be the gentleman he thought women wanted men to be, but he couldn't help getting the impression he'd disappointed her somehow. "You know, sometimes I wish we were still Sarah and Jason," he admitted as he stepped out into the hall and turned to wait for her to lock up. Not Sophie and Jake, but Sarah and Jason.

"You do?" A flash of concern rushed through her at this; she knew he'd liked her Sarah alias, but she'd thought that perhaps her true personality might be more palatable. But apparently not. She glanced down, ostensibly watching her hand put her keys away. "May I ask why?"

It wasn't because he liked his women ditzy, but because they'd been comfortable with each other then. Easy going, without any preconceived notions or expectations. Even if it was phony. "Because we were just Sarah and Jason, then," he tried to explain, turning to face her, but not moving from the spot just yet. "I mean, forget the fact that we both had ulterior motives and that we weren't really who we were pretending to be. I don't know. Maybe I'm trying too hard," he said with a frown. What if she decided she liked Jason or Jake better? What if he was going about this all wrong?

"Maybe we both are," she shrugged. "Andrew ... the only thing I asked to postpone was sleeping together. You don't have to hold me at arm's length; I'm not going to be offended if you touch me, or kiss me, without getting clear verbal consent first. We're not friends, Andrew. We're somewhere between friends and lovers, and there's nothing wrong with acting on instinct. Truly."

"But why do we have to wait?" he asked, still confused. After all, it wasn't like they were virgins or that they'd never slept together. Of course, he was thinking like a man, while she was thinking like a woman. "I don't want to be friends, Meg," he admitted honestly at last, not only to her, but to himself. "I'll keep it professional at work, but I'll be honest. I want more than that. Do you know how many times in the last month I came close to getting on a plane to London just to see you again? Just to see if the sparks I was feeling were real or just my imagination? And now that you're here, I know I wasn't imagining things, and I know you felt it, too," he said, reaching for her hands. God forbid anyone peek out of their doors to see what was going on in the hallway.

How had they not managed to have this conversation last night? But here they were, standing in the hallway of their apartment building, trying to work out exactly what was going on between them. Meg flushed, not embarrassed or shy, but a little caught up in the moment. "Of course I felt it," she was quick to agree with him. "I still feel it. Every time you're close, every time you touch me, or it even seems as though you might touch me, I feel it, and it's ... it's overwhelming. I've never felt this way before, and I don't know how to handle it, and ... I don't want to be overwhelmed like that until we're both comfortable with each other. Please, I'm not asking just to confuse you or to make you suffer. If anything, I'm making myself suffer, but it's only because I don't want to disappoint you!"

Meg Miller

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« Reply #2 on: November 10, 2016, 10:18:04 PM »
Maybe because they were too busy having fun and getting drunk to have a serious conversation about their future. "I don't want to disappoint you either!" he exclaimed with a sigh. Well, at least, they were talking and not arguing about it. "I haven't had a serious relationship with a woman in a long time. My job and my lifestyle haven't really allowed it. Trekking halfway across the globe at a moment's notice to do something you can't even explain isn't very conducive to a serious relationship, but I know what I want. I want someone who understands and accepts me, warts and all." No, he didn't really have any warts. It was just a figure of speech. "I want someone I can build a life with. A partner, a companion, a friend, and a lover." He didn't think it was too much to ask for, but it might be a little too soon.

"Well, then maybe we should stop worrying about disappointing each other and get on with it, then," she said abruptly, realizing as soon as she said it that it could have come out a little less hostile. "Sorry, I didn't mean it to sound like that, I just ..." She sighed, closing her eyes briefly. "I don't want to make a mess of this," she said quietly. "Like isn't a strong enough word for the way I feel about you. If I had the guts, I'd admit that I'm probably falling in love with you, and it scares me, but since I don't have the guts, like is just what you have to work with here." How was that for a similar goal?

He furrowed his brows as he tried to sort through what she'd just said and not read between the lines too much. Or maybe that was exactly what was required. What was it she was really trying to say? "You're falling in love with me?" he echoed her words back at her. Of everything she'd said or tried to say, his mind seemed to want to focus on that. She might claim to not have the guts to say it, but in a way, she just had.

"Well ..." She fidgeted, glancing back and forth along the hall, half-hoping someone would come into view and save her from having to answer that question, but no such help was forthcoming. Blue eyes rose to meet his gaze, shy and nervous, and afraid of what his response was going to be. "Yes."

"Why didn't you just say that, then?" he asked, chuckling and appearing to have relaxed, at least a little. He was still holding her hands as he met her gaze, noting the blush that rose to her cheeks at her apparent nervousness. He lifted a hand to touch his fingers to her cheek. "Would it scare you to know that the feeling is mutual?"

"A little," she admitted. The touch of his fingers to her cheek offered an electric reaction; a gasp of breath, the darkening of her blush, a stormy look in her eyes as she swayed toward him. "In a good way. If that makes sense."

He wasn't really sure if he was making things better or worse, but at least, they were being honest with each other for a change - honest with themselves, too. "I guess we'll have to be scared together then," he said, slowly leaning closer so that he could touch a kiss to her lips that was soft and tender.

In many ways, this was their first kiss - theirs alone, not a part of an act or motivated by anything other than the wish to kiss and be kissed. Soft, tender, and willingly reciprocated, she forgot for a moment where they were as her lips softened beneath his, breathing him in even as she tasted him. This ... this was what she had crossed the Atlantic for.

It was their first kiss because it was real. There was no pretending, no ulterior motive, no outside influence or pressure from themselves or anyone else, no booze to lower their defenses. It wasn't like the kisses shared between Jason and Sarah, or Jake and Sophie, as enjoyable as those were. This was AJ and Meg, perhaps the first time ever, dropping their defenses and opening their hearts to possibilities that neither had ever expected or anticipated or even dreamed possible. This was a kiss full of warmth and affection and most of all, full of hope.

Meg knew she wasn't dreaming, because she didn't have a quietly throbbing hangover when she dreamed about this. It was real, and it was hers, and his, and quite suddenly she didn't want to go into work and pretend to only be colleagues. She wanted to lock him in her apartment and explore just what this was between them. But, sadly, the work day was calling to both of them. Gently, she drew back, brushing a softer kiss to his lips before she retreated. "Let's forget my stupid rules," she suggested quietly. "Let's just ... see where we go from here, together."

He smiled as she pulled gently away, knowing as well as she did that they had to face the music that was work sooner or later, but they were both used to playing a part, and this was no different than that. What they did with their free time and their personal lives was no one else's damned business but theirs. "We better get going or we're going to be late." It would be hard enough dealing with the inevitable questions that would be asked when they were seen arriving together.

"You're the one who knows where we're going," she reminded him with a faint smile, reluctantly easing back. One hand absently smoothed his lapel before she let it fall away entirely. "I am entirely in your hands. And therefore I will blame you if I'm late on my second day."

"I'll take the blame. What's the worst that can happen? They fire us?" he asked, with a smirk, knowing that wasn't going to happen. The government had invested too much time and money into their agents to let them go just for being a few minutes late for work. "I'll try to keep my hands to myself," he warned, as he turned to start on his way down the hall. She still hadn't seen his apartment yet, or even knew which one it was.

"Likewise," she murmured teasingly, falling into step with him. Despite the hangover and the mild argument over what, exactly they were feeling, she was feeling more buoyant than she had in weeks. It boded well for a good day at work.

His car proved to be a black BMW, which he tended to drive a little too fast. The car and the bike and the designer suits might lead her to believe that money wasn't a problem for him, but then, his job was high-risk, and he got paid accordingly. Some might even think it wasn't enough, considering the risk, but he wasn't complaining. The drive to work was accompanied by music, mostly that of the 80s, which he liked to sing along with, for better or worse. When they finally arrived at Langley, the parking lot was just as crowded at the day before, but thankfully, his spot was reserved. He made a stop at Starbucks on the way in, and by the time they actually arrived at their desks, they were already half an hour late.

Not that it really seemed to matter, so long as the work got done. But it seemed as though something was up in their department. People were moving with more purpose than usual, a sense of undercut urgency ringing through the bullpen. No sooner had Meg sat down at her desk than she heard the unfamiliar voice of the department chief snapping across the desks.

"Doyle, Miller, in here!"

Glancing over at AJ in vague alarm, she rose, letting him lead the way into the chief's office.

"Oh, God," Amanda Drew murmured upon witnessing the two of them arrive. AJ was actually whistling, in too good a mood. "Did you get laid? He always acts this way when he's gotten ..." And then her jaw dropped as she looked from one to the other. "Wait, did you two?" she whispered, gesturing between them, but before either could reply, someone was shouting for them and Drew winced. "Don't worry. I won't tell!" she promised, gesturing with a zipping motion across her mouth that her lips were sealed.

AJ, too, winced at the summons, though he didn't think it had anything to do with what Drew suspected so much as that they were late.

"I'll tell you later," Meg mouthed to Drew as she passed her. They'd become friendly during the Greece mission, and she was more than happy to cultivate that friendship now. She had a feeling she was going to need a female friend. The summons, however, had her feeling jumpy. "Worst they can do is send me back to London."

"They're not gonna send you back to London," AJ assured her, though he was privately thinking the same thing. Logically, they wouldn't have gone through all the trouble to get her here just to have her turn around and go back her second day here ... would they? He hoped not. "Don't worry. The Director is always a little cranky first thing in the morning," he told her, as he led the way into their boss's office. "Morning, Chief. You rang?"

Meg Miller

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« Reply #3 on: November 10, 2016, 10:18:43 PM »
"Shut the door and sit down," the director told them, gesturing to the other side of his desk. "We've got a situation here, and you two are up."

Surprised, Meg sat down abruptly, glancing at Andrew. "I wasn't aware that I was intended to take part in field operations here, sir," she began, but was cut off as the chief shook his head.

"You weren't," he said gruffly. "But needs must. The mark knows all the faces I could throw at him; you're my only option."

AJ sobered immediately, as soon as he knew this was about business and was for real. He took a seat beside Meg, his attention on what the chief was telling them, his face passive, though his insides were twisted in knots. Was the man really going to ask her what AJ thought he was going to ask her?

"There's a courier passing through D.C.," the chief went on, nodding to the files on the desk in front of them as he paced back and forth. "All attempts to relieve him of his package have failed. The man is well funded and well equipped and, we believe, keeps the package on his person at all times. The direct approach has failed, and searching his rooms turned up nothing. He's moving on in another day, so this is our last chance to get hold of some vital intel. Agent Miller, you're a trained swallow. We need you to get his attention, his interest, and get that package off him by any means necessary. Doyle, you're the handler."

Meg felt her face pale and redden in quick succession. Either the universe was utterly against her, or this was someone's idea of a sick joke, but either way, she was now being farmed out to whore for someone else's country. She was going to have words with MI6 for this.

AJ felt himself growing angrier with each moment as the man explained what they were asking of her - of them. He was to be her protection while she worked her womanly charms on whoever their mark was in order to secure whatever package he was carrying. She was essentially being ordered to do exactly that which she'd done to AJ in Paris, but just who was the mark?  "I mean no disrespect, sir, but there has to be another way."

"There is no other way, Doyle, all other avenues have been exhausted," he was told. "It's Giles Barnard. He knows all of you by sight at this point; Agent Miller is our only ace in the hole."

Flicking through the file, Meg sighed quietly. "Any means are authorized, sir?" she asked, hoping he wasn't going to insist that she follow through on all her specialized training.

The chief nodded. "Any means," he assured her. "I don't like throwing anyone into a honeypot situation, but this is necessary. If that package leaves D.C., we'll have lost our chance to know who sent it and who was supposed to receive it."

"What's in the package?" AJ pressed further. Whatever it was, it had to be important for them to go to such lengths to obtain it, and he suspected they must have an inkling as to what the package contained. Once he knew that, he'd decide whether he agreed with the urgency of this mission.

"Proof of foreign interference in our political process," the chief told AJ firmly. "Unassailable proof. We need that information. It'll be out of the country by tomorrow, Doyle."

"Why not just kill him?" AJ asked, though he knew that was only ever done as a last resort, and even then, it was only ever done when the mark proved a direct threat of some kind. Or so AJ believed. Of course, the agency wasn't above marking someone for assassination if they proved a threat, but it seemed all they wanted from Barnard was information and that hardly necessitated bloodshed.

The look he got from his superior for making that suggestion implied he needed to take his brain out for a good wash. "He's a recognizable courier," the chief said patiently. "We know him, and we can track his movements. Remove him, and we wouldn't know who was being used as a courier at all. He's more valuable alive, as you know. Agent Miller?"

Meg looked up from her scanning of the dossier. "Sir?"

"I need you and Doyle in position by midday," the chief told her. "Barnard is predictable to a point."

AJ knew better than to argue with his superior officer. He also knew if he did, the man might suspect something as he had always been and impeccable, ideal, and obedient agent who was known for getting his job done. At least, until the Paris incident. It was the only red mark on an otherwise pristine record. There had to be another way, but he and Meg would figure it out on their own. At least, he was being sent along as her handler. He could be thankful for that. "Yes, sir. Of course, sir," he replied quickly.

"The files are on your desks, the infiltration team will be waiting to get you both into something less conspicuous and kit you out for the field," the chief told them. "All the information is in the files. Now get moving, you don't have much time."

"Yes, sir." Meg rose from where she was sitting, feeling her stomach stay where it was. So much for a good day.

There wasn't much more to say than that. AJ would have insisted on being her handler, but he'd already been assigned to the task. What he had to figure out now was how to protect her and make sure this guy didn't take advantage of her. Also, how to get their hands on the package, obviously. He'd already said his yes sirs, and so AJ got to his feet, as well. So much for a good day.

Meg was silent on the way back to the desks, feeling sick to her stomach about the mission. But then, hadn't she told AJ that was how she felt whenever she was assigned something like this? And he'd promised to take care of her. That made her feel a little better. Sitting down at her desk, she sighed, rubbing her forehead. "All right," she said thoughtfully. "What do you have here that I could use to sedate this man?"

"I don't know, but I'm sure we can dig something up. Drew!" he called, summoning the other agent over again. She was female; she'd have a better idea how to hide a sedative in Meg's purse. Apparently, he didn't have to explain as half the office was hard at work getting everything ready for their latest operation.

"I'll need a GPS tracker concealed somewhere, as well as a transmitter so you can keep track of what's going on when I'm out of sight," Meg continued, making notes. She couldn't go armed, because there was no way to tell how far she might have to go to get a sedative into the man. "I don't know these locations at all." She looked up as Drew came over. "Amanda ... sedation. How and where can I hide it?"

"Right," AJ replied, knowing all this already. "Grab your file. We'll read it on the way to the prep area," he told her, as he did just that. Agent Drew was free to follow, if she wanted to. They were going to have to get ready in a hurry, but so long as everyone was doing their job, it shouldn't be a problem. He wished he'd known in advance that today was going to be one of those days.

Two hours later, Meg had been given a minor makeover and equipped with what they believed she was going to need - a tiny invisible ear piece that was a combined GPS tracker and sound receiver/transmitter, dropped into her ear canal, and an aerosol can of what looked like Evian water, containing the fastest acting sedative the lab had been able to guarantee effectiveness with. With her hair extensively styled and her make laid on with what felt like a trowel, this was the best face change they'd been able to manage in the time available.

Still feeling sick, she was already in position by the time noon came around, with their plan hastily sketched out but considered relatively foolproof. She was a housewife who had arranged to meet her husband for lunch at a swanky hotel, and was going to be stood up very obviously. After all, what better prey for a predator than one who already felt resentful and in need of a little revenge?

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« Reply #4 on: November 10, 2016, 10:19:31 PM »
As she sat at the table, doing her best to look annoyed and resigned all at once, she raised her glass to her lips to disguise her murmur, knowing the transmitter would pick it up. "Comm check - any sign of him yet?"

The preparation for AJ's part in this was a little easier. He wasn't the one on show here, but he still had to look like belonged there. Thankfully, he'd never met their mark and so didn't have to worry about wearing a disguise or being recognized. It was no secret that he wasn't happy about this arrangement, but they didn't have much choice. "Not yet," he replied quietly as he sipped at a drink and paged through a newspaper. "Wait, he just pulled up. Getting out of the car. He'll be heading your way momentarily."

"Show time." Meg leaned back in her seat, adjusting her expression. As their mark, Barnard, entered the restaurant, she checked her watch, then checked her phone, sighing in apparent irritation. As he sat down to eat, she repeated this several times at five and ten minutes intervals, until a full hour had passed and she still didn't have a lunch companion. Then, for the entertainment of their mark, she held a loud, terse argument with her supposed spouse over the phone, with the part of the neglectful husband being played by Amanda Drew back in Langley.

Bit by bit, she drew him in, until finally, just as she thought she was going to have to storm out on her own, he sent a drink over to her and invited her to join him. With a discreet glance in AJ's direction and a tap of fingers to her thigh to show she had her in, Meg did just that, and two drinks later, was being shown up to Barnard's hotel room, the number of which she had gotten him to say aloud for AJ's benefit. Once behind that door ... well, she was on her own until it was proved otherwise.

AJ had always been good at his job - patient, intelligent, thorough - but this job was proving a real challenge. He would have loved nothing better than to punch the guy in the nose, or maybe worse, but he held back for her sake. Once Meg had accompanied the man upstairs, AJ tossed a few dollars on the bar, along with a tip for the bartender, and made his own way upstairs to a room that the agency had procured where he could monitor what was going on with Meg and her mark.

"I'm here," he told her through the ear piece, his words for her hearing alone. "He so much as looks at you the wrong way, and I'm there." Between them, they'd agreed on a series of code words that would tell him if and when she needed him, without raising suspicion. For AJ, this was the hardest part - the waiting and wondering - but if Meg did her job right, it wouldn't be long.

He couldn't possibly have known how reassuring it was to know he was right there. Something felt off about this mark, but she couldn't put her finger on it. It was uncomfortable enough to have to flirt with him knowing that AJ could hear every word, but it was something else that had her alarm bells ringing. And AJ pretty soon got the hint that all was not well in Room 284.

"Look at you, so beautiful and so neglected," Barnard was saying, his voice growing louder the closer he was to Meg. "He is an idiot. You deserve what I can give you."

There was a pause, and suddenly Meg sucked in her breath sharply. "What ... what are you doing? What ... ow, get off!" What followed was the sound of cloth tearing and a struggle, and quite suddenly Meg screamed in pain.

Mission or no mission, AJ wasn't about to sit there and do nothing while Meg was assaulted or worse. It didn't take a superhero with x-ray vision to know what was going on in there. Thankfully, he was just down the hall and it only took a matter of about thirty seconds before he was kicking in the door to Room 284 without warning.

The door didn't stand a chance against a highly trained and highly motivated ex-military intelligence agent, and once inside, he got his first glimpse of what had made her scream. Meg was on her knees in front of Barnard, one arm held at an appalling angle that only served to draw attention to the dislocated shoulder he had given her, not to mention the bloody bite mark on that shoulder, visible thanks to the torn fabric of her dress. Her other hand was caught in Barnard's, and it was clear he was making a very creditable attempt to break at least one of her fingers. It was also clear that he was enjoying himself - his pants were round his ankles, showing off that this was a man who truly enjoyed inflicting pain, something neither one of them had been made aware of.

As AJ burst in, he turned toward the door with a scowl. "What the -"

AJ wasted no time, pausing only long enough to slam the door shut behind him before he was bodily grabbing the man and slamming a fist into his face to send him sprawling backwards. He gave no explanation of who he was, why he was there, or if he'd known what was going on in the room. He gave the man no time or opportunity to explain anything, pummeling the man until he was unconscious and giving him no quarter.

Barnard didn't have the chance to fight back. With luck, when he came around - if he came around - he'd assume AJ was the neglectful husband. Meg winced as she reached out with her sore hand to grasp AJ's shoulder. "Andrew ... Andrew, stop," she told him, her voice shaking and tight with pain. "You'll kill him."

He didn't really care at that point what the guy thought of him. It would be best if he assumed AJ was the jealous husband. Hell, it would make this whole thing look like it had been a lover's spat, rather than a covert spy mission. It was only Meg's intervention that stopped AJ from beating the pulp out of the guy's face. He turned to face her, ignoring the throbbing in his hand and wincing at the sight of her before muttering a litany of colorful language. He didn't bother asking if she was okay, since she clearly wasn't. Instead, he pulled off his jacket and carefully drew it around her shoulders.

"I'm getting you out of here," he told her. She needed medical attention, but before they could do that, they needed to find what they'd come for. "I want you to go down the hall to Room 270 and stay there. Key's in the right hand pocket. Call HQ and tell them what's happened. I'll be along as soon as I've got what we came for."

She didn't argue, wincing only a little as he settled his jacket about her shoulders, needing a little help to get up onto her feet. The dislocation was the main source of the pain, but she was more than a little shocked that she had been bitten as some kind of twisted foreplay. "Only the package," she reminded him. "The Circus needs him alive." Grimacing, she limped painfully out of the room, heading for 270, where she could call into HQ and let them know what had occurred.

He helped her to her feet, of course, horrified and enraged that things had gotten so out of hand; that their mark had dared lay a hand on her. Did he want to kill the guy? Hell, yes, but even more so, he wanted to hurt him the way he'd hurt her. He was seething with rage, remembering another job that had gone wrong and the life that had been lost there. He wasn't going to let that happen to Meg - not now, not ever. He threw the man over onto his back to pat him down in an effort to find what had brought them here in the first place.

Down the hall, Meg dialed the direct line to their boss at Langley, relaying in angry tones what had happened and what they needed right at that moment. The chief was not happy about having the law laid down to him by an agent, but when that agent pointed out that she was a member of MI6, not the CIA, and how interested London would be in her injuries, he started to backpedal fast. It was only her second day as liaison, after all.

It wasn't long before AJ returned with the package in the form of a flash drive tucked safely into a pants pocket. With any luck, when Barnard finally regained consciousness, he'd likely be more concerned with his injuries than the package, and by the time he realized it was gone, they would be, too. Arriving outside the door to Room 270, he knocked to let Meg know he was back and to let him in.

It took a moment for her to manipulate the lock and let him in - her right hand was already swollen, and her left virtually useless. Stepping back, she let the door close behind him. "Did you get it?" she asked with a faint wince. "Chief's sending a car, medical's on standby at Langley."

"Yeah, I got it," AJ replied, a little shorter than he'd meant to. It wasn't Meg he was angry with; it wasn't even Barnard, really. It was Langley for having missed a very important detail regarding their mark. Seeing her, he frowned, stepping close to take a better look at her. "You okay?" he asked, knowing she wasn't. The look on his face was not only one of concern but worry, too.

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« Reply #5 on: November 10, 2016, 10:20:15 PM »
She was shaking, the adrenalin already wearing off to leave her embarrassingly close to tears. "I'm pissed off, is what I am," she said vehemently. "There is no way in hell your chief didn't know that man is a sadist, and a violent one, at that, but was that anywhere in the documentation? Anywhere at all? He sent me knowingly into this situation with the full expectation that I would be injured without allowing either of us to know that it was an inevitability. Bollocks to that. And come to think of it, bollocks to his rhetoric about not having anyone else he could assign, too."

His brows arched upwards, not really surprised that she was angry, but surprised his boss had been so seemingly duplicitous. It was almost as if he'd wanted her to fail, unless he hadn't known. One thing was certain - AJ was going to find out who was to blame and make sure it never happened again.

"Come here," he told her, drawing her as gently as he could toward the bathroom. He wasn't dismissing her feelings, but he didn't want to wait too long to see to the bite wound. "You're done being a swallow," he told her as he slid the jacket back from her shoulder to take a better look at the wound. There wasn't much he could do for her shoulder without hurting her, and that was better left for the medics.

Letting out a shuddering breath, she moved willingly with him into the bathroom, biting down a whimper as he removed the jacket from her shoulders. With her swollen right hand supporting her left elbow, there was very little she could do to help, part of her wishing in vain for a miracle cure-all for her ills. "I can't believe the bastard actually bit me," she muttered, glancing down at her right shoulder. It was a very clear human bite mark, and still bleeding, attesting to the anti-coagulant properties of human saliva. She sighed, looking away from the wound. "I'm sorry, Andrew, but I have to make an official complaint about this to MI6. Not about you - you, I will be praising to the skies for your quick response, but ... this can't be allowed to go by without repercussions from London."

"He got off light, if you ask me," AJ said, though he'd beaten the man to within an inch of his life. He carefully examined the wound before turning to wet and soap up a clean cloth and gently dabbing the wound clean. "You don't have to apologize to me. I'm as pissed off as you are. Maybe more. There's no excuse for it. They rushed this job and botched it badly. It's a good thing I was close by, or it could have been a lot worse. Someone's head is going to roll." Not the Chief's necessarily, but whoever was responsible for missing vital details that put an agent's life at risk. He seemed to have regained his composure, but inside he was seething with anger. Someone was going to get a piece of his mind, but it wasn't going to be Meg.

She hissed softly as he dabbed at the wound on her shoulder, her fair skin turning pale at even that small pressure on the dislocated joint beneath it. "I liked this bra, too," she murmured, pouting a little at the realization that it was going to have to be thrown out. It was a ridiculous thing to be concerned about at this point in time, but it was better than dwelling on the extreme botch job that had just happened.

"I'll buy you a new one. Hell, I'll buy you a whole drawer-ful," he promised her, knowing she was just trying to distract herself from the pain and the humiliation of the attack. "Look, Meg ... I'm sorry this happened. I know it's small comfort, but it could have been a lot worse. I don't blame you for being angry. I wouldn't blame you if you wanted to go home, but I'd miss you if you did."

"Oh, for goodness sake, I'm not going anywhere," she told him, rolling her eyes. "It's the luck of the draw, whether you get through an assignment without injury or not. If it wasn't this one, it would have been another one. And if you think for one moment I'm leaving after what we talked about this morning, then you have another thing coming, Junior."

He couldn't help the flicker of a smile at her words, amused by her stubborn streak, even if some part of him was still fuming. "I'm not so sure luck had anything to do with it." He wasn't sure he wanted to share his suspicions, but if he was right, there was a lot more to this than merely bad luck.

"Well, no, it helps to have all the information," she acknowledged. "I hope your chief can handle having his arse handed to him, because that is precisely what I plan to do when we get to Langley."

"I'm pretty sure he'll be handing someone else's ass to them when he figures out who's to blame," AJ replied, as he patted the wound dry. He'd cleaned it up as much as he could, but there wasn't much more he could do that that. "Let me see that hand."

"Ow," she informed him conversationally, but talking helped. It was keeping her mind off the dull throbbing in her shoulder, anyway. "I don't think he managed to break any bones, but he came bloody close." Settling her left elbow onto her thigh, she offered her right hand to be inspected. The joints on three of her fingers were red and swollen, minimal movement possible, but it didn't seem too bad, on the whole.

"He's gonna think twice before he tries that with anyone else," he said. He had half a mind to hand the guy over to the cops for attempted rape and assault, which was what he deserved, but there'd be too many questions. With any luck, the guy learned had his lesson, but AJ had his doubts. He frowned as he examined her hand, but he was ill-equipped to deal with it.

"I'm fine, Andrew," she said softly, setting aside concerns over herself to deal with the simmering rage she could feel still there at his core. "I'm fixable. And you're right, I'm never being a swallow again. They can whistle for it, both sides of the Pond. I'm a codebreaker and covert ops, not a honeytrap."

"You're not fine, Meg," AJ argued. It wasn't just the physical hurts, but the mental and emotional ones. He knew she was upset, no matter how hard she was trying to hide it. "No, you're not. Over my dead body," he said. Though they both knew it wouldn't quit come to that, that was how strongly he felt about it, even if that was how they'd met.

She met his gaze, her own still shaken but a little more settled now the immediate pain and the immediate danger had been taken care of. "You're not fine, either," she reminded him with a pointed arch of her brow. "And I'm not going to medical until we speak to the chief. I want him to look me in the eye and tell me he didn't make this mistake personally."

"Yes, you are. The Chief can wait. Let him stew a while. You need to have that bite looked at, and your shoulder's out of place. Don't tell me you're not in pain, either. We'll sort the rest out after. Besides, no one is getting this, until they hear us out," he said, patting the pocket where he'd stowed the flash drive.

"No, I'm not," she argued vehemently. "Notes on a medical report are impersonal. Lying to someone who is still in pain after you put them in the firing line is a lot harder, we both know that. If I have to, I'll run away from you to make sure he gets a good look at me, Andrew, don't you dare think I won't."

He sighed, understanding where she was coming from, but not wanting to delay in getting her medical attention. "Fine, but as soon as you've made your point, we're going to the hospital." Not you - we. As her handler, she was his responsibility, after all, and he felt as much to blame for what had happened as anyone else, but it wasn't just because of that, and they both knew it.

"Thank you." Despite the ache in her swollen fingers, she touched his cheek, smiling gratefully. "And thank you for being right there when I needed you." Her thumb brushed over his lips gently, a coded knock at the door drawing her attention out through the bathroom doorway toward the outer door itself.

"You're never doing that again," he told her quietly, conviction in his voice, but something else, too - something softer, quieter. He didn't want to admit it, but she'd scared the hell out of him. He knew he couldn't keep her safely wrapped up in bubble forever, but he didn't want to see her get hurt ever again. Not even so much as a broken fingernail. He touched a kiss to her forehead, lingering close until the knock at the door drew his attention. "You ready for this?"

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« Reply #6 on: November 10, 2016, 10:23:06 PM »
Her smile softened as he kissed her forehead, touched by how deeply concerned he was for her. But there was no time to linger in that feeling, as the knock sounded again. She nodded. "Better now than later," she said, easing up onto her feet. "After you, sir."

"It's your call," he told her as he headed toward the door, looking through the peephole before pulling it open to let the extraction team inside.

To Meg's surprise, the agents at the door were Amanda Drew and Mitch Johnson, which suggested that volunteers had been shouted for the second she hung up the phone. The extraction team were armed discreetly, moving to escort AJ and Meg down the hall and the stairs, bundling them into a car parked close to the hotel. They didn't spare a second thought for the unconscious man left in Room 284, all their concern for getting their people out of there in a hurry.

"Where's Hayes?" AJ demanded, regarding their boss, who was commonly known as the "Chief" because he was the man in charge, not because it was his rank or his name.

"Said he'd meet you guys at the infirmary," Drew told him, twisting to look over her shoulder at Meg. Her frown creased in angry concern at the state of the English agent. "Yelled the place down, demanded all the files on Barnard, including the ones you guys were given, shut himself in his office, and started swearing like a trooper. What went wrong?"

AJ wasn't surprised it was Drew and Johnson who'd be escorting them back to Langley. He'd known them both forever, especially Johnson, and trust them implicitly. They'd had each other's backs more than once and would likely do so again in the future. If the tables had been turned, he'd have done the same for them. AJ's expression darkened at Drew's question. "The file wasn't complete. Sick bastard attacked her just for kicks. She's lucky I was able to get there fast enough to stop him from doing any more damage. Someone dropped the ball on this one, and I want to know who."

Johnson was in the driver's seat, listening to all this without comment, so far, but he could tell from the look of Meg and the tone of AJ's voice, that something had gone very wrong.

The curse that escaped Drew's lips was utterly vile, but thankfully not aimed at them. "I knew it was fishy that I didn't get tapped for this," she muttered, glancing at Mitch. She flickered a guilty look toward AJ and Meg. "None of us were tapped. We weren't even asked. I'd lay odds that someone tampered to make a point, out of jealousy."

"Yeah, well, we're all supposed to be on the same team," AJ pointed out, his face flushing as he did a slow burn. The more he thought about it, the angrier he felt. "I want to know who was responsible, and I want them gone," AJ added, no room for compromise in the tone of his voice. If there was someone on the team who was purposely putting agents at risk, no matter who those agents were, they needed to go.

"The Chief is pissed," Johnson interjected at last, though he was only repeating what Drew had already told them.

"No one should be put in that kind of situation," AJ added. "Not you, not Meg. Not without knowing the risk and preparing for it. She didn't even have a chance. If we'd known the guy was a sadist, I would never have allowed her to be ..." He broke off, as if just realizing what he'd just said.

"If we'd known, I would never have left the public areas," Meg covered him as smoothly as she could. "This is going to blow up," she warned the other agents. "If I was CIA, it could be kept internal, but MI6 will want to know. If this wasn't caused by some petty ambition, then it might be a sign that someone is trying to break the bonds between London and D.C. Someone should warn Riggs."

Even though AJ thought Riggs was an asshole most of the time, he was still one of theirs. "You're right. Riggs should know," AJ agreed, though he doubted the man would suffer the same fate that Meg had, but if Meg's suspicions were right, then he might be danger, too. "Just so you know, until this is sorted, I'm not letting you out of my sight," he told her, once again leaving no room for argument. He was her handler, after all, but that wasn't the only reason. "Who put the dossier together?" AJ queried, wondering if either Johnson or Drew knew.

Drew shook her head, frowning. "No idea," she admitted. "I was on safe-room detail most of the morning, aside from helping you guys get kitted out. Mitch?" She looked over at Johnson, wondering if he might know who had been involved in compiling the dossier.

Johnson's brows were furrowed, his expression practically mirroring AJ's. "No idea, but if this was done on purpose, then we have a real problem."

Well, that was putting it mildly, AJ thought.

"We should keep this between us for now," Meg suggested quietly. "Andrew trusts you both, and that's enough for me. But if this is something bigger than one or two people's spite, then the rot goes deep. We may not know who we can trust."

Drew nodded. "In that case, you're not staying in your apartment tonight," she said firmly. "Or if you are, you're not staying alone. I can come over, if you need me to, unless you have other plans."

"If this goes deeper than jealousy, we're all in danger," Johnson added, though it seemed Meg was in the most danger, especially if her theory was right and someone was trying to drive a wedge between their agencies. "If it's someone on the inside, they know where we live. Hell, they know everything about us. Question is, who and why?"

Drew looked thoughtful for a long moment. "Well, we know how to do this," she pointed out. "We're all high level, we've all had the training. Doyle, you're on protection detail, and don't argue, Miller. Until we know for sure what's up, we have to keep you breathing. Mitch and I can do the snooping to find out what we can. I've got a couple of contacts outside the CIA who might know something if it's big."

Meg opened her mouth to argue, and abruptly shut it, recognizing good sense, even if it meant she was little more than a child being held by the hand for the time being.

"I don't think the Chief is involved," Johnson added. "It's someone else. Someone who has access to information, but not necessarily an agent," he reasoned. "Someone with that kind of access will know where we live, but if they wanted any of us dead, we'd be dead by now, and if they're just looking to drive a wedge between our agencies, they might think they've achieved that goal. In fact, it might be to our advantage to let them think that."

"So, we go about our lives, business as usual," AJ said, though his gut instinct was still telling him not to let Meg out of his sight.

"And assassinating me would be the single stupidest thing they could do," Meg pointed out. "Both sides would want to know who, how, and why if I showed up dead. I'm still going to have to let my own superiors know about this."

"Do it," Drew nodded. "Whatever you would normally do, do it. Business as usual, like Doyle says. You won't be sent out on any field work until you're at least all healed up, so you're safe for a month or so. That should give us the time we need to find out what happened today."

"Agreed, and like Miller said, until we know more, this is just between us," Johnson remarked, as he turned the car down the road that led to Langley. "I'll warn Riggs," he volunteered further.

AJ nodded his approval. Riggs would take it better if it didn't come from him. A month should give them time to figure out what was going on. They're weren't intelligence for nothing, after all. "What do we tell the Chief?"

"We'll have to let him figure it out for himself," Drew said reluctantly. "If he's smart, he'll lead the investigation into this himself, but for now, all you can do is tell him what you know, not what you suspect."

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« Reply #7 on: November 10, 2016, 10:23:29 PM »
Meg sighed softly, shaking her head. She didn't like keeping good people in the dark, but how could they tell who was good people and who wasn't? "And all we know for certain is that pertinent information was withheld, leading to injury," she said quietly.

"We don't even know for sure if it was done on purpose or not, but I suspect it was," Johnson remarked.

"So do I," AJ agreed. At first, he'd thought it was just sloppy work, but now that they'd had time to think it through, it made more sense that all this had been carefully planned. It seemed that, for now, they had a plan.

Drew nodded, turning back to face forward as they approached Langley and the Circus, as the CIA building was affectionately known.

Meg swallowed the bile rising in her throat. She wanted to believe it was an honest mistake that had put her in danger, but they were right; it had been a little too neat not to have been planned in some way. Her swollen fingers touched AJ's hand. "Can I stay with you tonight?" she murmured softly, keeping her voice down for the benefit of the other agents, who really didn't need to know what was going on between their colleagues.

"Told you I wasn't letting you out of my sight, didn't I?" he whispered back, a faint smile on his face, mostly for her sake in hopes of reassuring her. He would have taken her hand in his, if he wasn't afraid of hurting her. Instead, he was going to have to depend on that smile and soft tone of voice to convey his feelings, until they were alone. He brushed his fingers against hers, gently, hoping she understood.

She seemed to relax a little, a hint toward a smile showing on her pale face. "Thank you."

But the time for soft words and gentle reassurances was past them. As the car pulled up to the Circus, it was obvious that their arrival was expected. It was time to face the music, and put a discordant beat of their own into the rhythm. They just had to hope that whoever had been behind this wasn't waiting in line to finish the job.