Part Two


i

Anna knew how to dig.

Obviously, this wasn't meant in the context of dirt and holes. Rather, Anna had the uncanny knack of knowing where to look to get information. Any information. Even the confidential stuff, like old employee files.

The photo-copies of the contents of one such file made a satisfying thwack on Jenna's desk. Due to the nature of the setup of the press liaison's office (and her habit of wearing headphones despite Connor's insistence that she not), Anna's entrance had gone unnoticed and the thwack went unheard.

Jenna pulled the headphones from her ears, "What's this?"

"The reason Connor has been on a warpath. I think."

The sound that came out of Jenna's mouth was a cross between a teenage girl squealing over the excitement of drama and a grown woman enthusiastically embracing the violation of privacy standards, "You didn't!"

"Obviously, I did," the pathologist took a seat, "and it was incredibly easy too. Meredith down in HR likes my smile."

"Enough to get canned?"

"She also likes my discretion."

Jenna snorted and snatched up the paperwork of interest, leafing through it quickly, "Have you read this yet?"

Anna's smile, while incredibly rare, was in fact nice. She graced Jenna with one, and the press liaison decided that Meredith down in HR couldn't possibly have any defenses against its dimples and beautiful teeth, "I skimmed the important bits. Of course, Durant is squeaky clean from just about every form scandal – I could have told you that from her choice of fashion. She even managed to get on the fast track for promotion about a decade ago."

"Sounds like she's a competent doctor, so what gives?"

Anna held up a slender finger, indicating that Jenna should give her a minute. After a moment or so of digging through her tote bag, she produced another stack of photo-copies, "I'm literally burning these when we're done looking at them. Durant's file, that'll get me a slap on the wrist. This…it will get me fired."

This time Jenna did hear the satisfying thwack as the stack hit her desk. This quickly turned ominous when she saw the name written on the top sheet, "Nooooo! You didn't! Oh my god, shut the door. Shut the door!"

Connor E., Stephen

ii

So, this was the rough timeline of events, as far as Jenna could gather from the not-literal mountain of paperwork that Anna had so generously gifted her. Obviously, the clinical nature of the NIH's record keeping meant they had to wildly speculate about everything, but that was half of the fun of risking your job over useless gossip.

Durant had been hired in the spring of 1999, damn near fresh out of a residency at Saint Anthony's. The nature of her degree and selected subfield had basically prevented her from dealing with patients on a day-to-day basis, except for in the context of medical trials and the occasional clinic shift. Her initial employment was probationary, nothing in the records even indicated she'd function in the capacity of epidemiology, rather, she was meant to work on medical trials hosted by the NIH. When the probationary period ended, she was hired full time upon the recommendation of her supervisor. By 2001, she was a regular staple on Connor's mobile task force, a lateral promotion that had initially kept her grounded in Bethesda for the greater part of the assignments so that she could remain active in a handful of trials. Upon the recommendation of Connor in 2003, she was made a permanent member of his team and her presence in all but one trial cut.

Jenna had, after reading Connor's second performance evaluation of the pathologist, set the three page manuscript down and gave Anna the 'eye', the one that could roughly be translated to, "What even?"

"The only negative thing he wrote about her was her difficulty relating to patients, but since that's literally not in her job description, it's a non-complaint. Seriously, this is a two thousand word essay and at least 1,750 of them are singing her praises. I feel so cheated. Dude. What happened to that Connor? How did we get stuck with bizarro-Connor, grumpy-in-chief?"

Anna, who was busy digging through the stuff on the man in question, looked up briefly, "You don't make it to regional director of the WHO if your shit stinks, Jenna. Her performance here probably, no…most certainly has put all of us to shame. Oh, hey, here's something."

"Oh look, she got injury compensation for…what!? A building fell on her! I can't even right now, Anna. Who has a building fall on them!?"

Jenna's outburst had cut off Anna, who now looked torn between responding to that really weird tidbit of information and sharing her own. She decided on the latter, "Did you know Connor took a year-long sabbatical back in 2005?"

"The only thing I know about Connor is that he's chummy with Frank. That's all I need to know. Wait, hold on…"

Anna did as she was told, although rather impatiently, "Yeah?"

"When did that sabbatical start?"

"Uh…August 1st, 2005. Why?"

"Aha!" Jenna grinned, "Guess who got a promotion on August 1st, 2005."

"You're shitting me."

"Nope. Looks like it was upon his recommendation – Durant was placed in charge of the mobile task force, again, probationary for a year. I'm going to bet you anything it became permanent in 2006."

"You think she stole his task force and that's why he hates her? I mean, it's a pretty viable theory."

Jenna wouldn't put it past the big guy to go from singing Durant's praises to completely loathing her for something like that. As far as she could tell, upon working with the man, was that his position here was is life.

"I'm going to check. You see what happened when he came back."

They spent the next fifteen minutes in companionable silence (the sort of companionable silence that somehow managed to not be tainted by the fact they were violating the privacy of not only a stranger but their boss); it was occasionally punctuated by the sound of paper turning.

"Huh, no. He got the task force back in September, 2006."

Jenna didn't respond to that, and instead flipped her stack to the corresponding month, "Looks like she got her own, taking over for Dr. Johansson. So, Connor's got no beef."

At this point, something particularly strange happened. Anna, who was typically quite composed, stared down at what appeared to be an email print-out (Jenna had to crane her neck to even catch a glimpse of the subject line and even then could only see the word, "Notice"). Her brown eyes were 1.5x their normal size, and her lips pinched in a way that suggested she didn't know whether or not to actually put to spoken word what she was reading.

"Oh," was how she started, "Ah. Oh. Okay. That's…yeah. I guess more that we wanted to know."

Feeling fifteen again, Jenna rocked in her seat, "Anna, that's not fair! You have to tell me! We're in this together! We're being creeps. Together. Remember?"

Anna coughed, and did a weird thing with her face (by which she scrunched one eye shut then then the other), "So, we don't really have a stringent policy on fraternization. I mean, it's your basic don't screw the interns and the patients sort of stuff, with a little bit of 'don't harass the people you directly supervise'. HR does like it when we tell them that fraternization is occurring, mostly so they can shuffle things around to protect the…you know, image of this place."

"You know this how?" Jenna asked, missing the point.

"Meredith," Anna said darkly, not inviting anymore questions along that front.

"Okay okay, geeze. I'm not going to press you for personal details. Just curious."

"Anyway!" Anna spoke over her, "Most people shoot an email to HR, since there's no real 'I'm sleeping with so-and-so' form to fill out. I mean, could you imagine if there were!"

"That'd be weird." Jenna conceded, still falling a little behind the point being made.

"Hell, I'm guessing even the emails are awkward for everyone, not that I would know. I mean, I guess I do now."

Jenna finally got it, mostly because she'd come across what she assumed was a copy of the same exact email Anna was holding, "OH MY GOD!"

And then, for some inexplicable reason, she started laughing.

iii

They burned the paperwork in Anna's tiny fireplace that night and shared a very large bottle of wine. Somewhere along their third glass, a phone call came through to both of them. Some dire situation in Vermont needed their immediate attention, and of course, because they were drunk at this point, both of them started giggling madly while they climbed into an Uber, taking bets on whether or not they'd be sober enough by the time they arrived to escape the wrath of Connor.

Anna said it didn't matter, since they'd both been drinking red wine and now looked as if their tongues were stained purple. Not that they really cared if Connor yelled at them, since that was his natural state: yelling. It was the fact that John was going to give them hell for not inviting him to the party that was going to be the pain.

iv

John whistled when he saw them, low and slow. Apparently they hadn't sobered up enough. He'd noticed them exiting the Uber and was now (in an odd display of chivalry) holding the front door open for them. "You ladies look like you had a fun night."

He appeared to be interested in any explanation they were willing to provide, but was also uncharacteristically patient about receiving the information.

"Lady's night," Anna muttered.

"Oh, as in…"

"No," Jenna jabbed him in the ribs with her elbow.

John let the door shut behind them and slid and arm around their shoulders, "Hey. I don't need to be invited to your lady's nights. That defeats the purpose, doesn't it? Doesn't mean I don't like to hear about 'em afterward."

Anna seemed to be in a charitable mood, most likely the result of the wine, and didn't shrug out from under his arm, "We drank wine and talked about how awful of a human being you are."

Not that charitable.

"You speak such harsh words," John responded, a laugh in his tone.

As they neared the conference room, they caught a glimpse of Frank, who announced to them, unbidden, "I'm getting too old for 3AM calls," before disappearing into the room.

"They're the worst," Jenna slurred after him, meaning something else entirely.

"I'm sure none of you are feeling as bad as the family in Vermont," Connor, the perpetual mood-killer, announced as he walked from behind them into the conference room. When he made it to the table, he turned and looked long and hard and Anna and Jenna, and then pursed his lips, "Do you two need coffee?"

"That doesn't actually work for…" John trailed off under the fire of Connor's glare.

And not for the first time, Jenna found herself laughing. Connor, uncertain of how to respond to that, turned to the case without chastising them further.

A knock on the conference room door quickly drew her laughing to a stop. Connor's uncanny gaze moved over Jenna's shoulder to meet those of the new arrival. After she composed herself further (by rubbing a hand across her face vigorously), Jenna turned, hoping that she hadn't just made a fool of herself in front of someone way more senior, like Ewing or Raster.

No, the man at the door was unassuming, if not slightly goofy looking. Non-descript brown hair and eyes, kind of like Anna's. He seemed not to be fazed by Connor's stare; rather than faltering under it, he granted the older man a smile, one clearly borne by a sort of familiarity, "Hey, Stephen. Kate sent you the message, right?"

"About you tagging along?" If that wasn't fondness in Connor's voice, it was at the very least a tone of earned respect, "Yes. I requested it. You're going to need the practice." Somehow his eyes had found Jenna's before he spoke again, "They're all incorrigible."

This time Frank laughed, before reaching out to clasp the stranger's hand in a firm but friendly shake, "Good to see you again, Miles."

"I still work here, you know," the new guy, Miles, laughed, "One floor up, for the last ten years."

"Out of sight out of mind, man." Frank teased, not unkindly.

At this point, John made himself heard, "Yeah, I have no clue what's going on here."

Without bothering to look at John, Connor stated, "Miles is taking lead on this one. Consider it a trial run." At this, he almost smiled, "He's going to be your new boss."