The Other Side
Author's Note: The usual warnings apply. M/M though not explicit or detailed, just background info. Another story I came up with then turned into an rp with SkyTangent ^_~ Dang her for her inspiration *shakes fist*
It didn't look like much from the outside, but then that was the point. The FBI didn't exactly make a habit of painting big signs directing terrorists to their headquarters. However, the building had been placed on the "Buildings I'd tear down" list. It was tall, completely constructed of ordinary cement with mirrored windows lining the entire façade clear up to the overhanging top story. The drizzling mist raining down on the busy streets of Pennsylvania Avenue didn't help improve it's looming presence, the constant stark reminder of it's true purpose. Blinking back a few stray raindrops that found their way onto her face from beneath the umbrella she carried, the young woman who stood there wrapped in the average foul weather coat studied the building intently from behind deep green eyes. She was no one special on the outside, your average ordinary human being who attempted to pass off as attractive to the high standards society set, but at the same time she held her own opinions tightly in check when it came to common sense. She was rational and grounded in her thought processes. She also had a photographic memory. She knew instantly she didn't like the J. Edgar Hoover building, and began to wonder if she'd been a bit hasty in taking the job.
But then she wasn't one to believe in omens.
A passing car's horn jolted her out of her reverie and with a resigned sigh she quickly jogged across the rainy street, irritated when a splash of street water splattered on her nice clean nylons. Shallow she normally wasn't, but she was attempting to make a good impression on this day of all days. Such was the way of careers. Fortunately for her, the interior of the building was slightly less dreary as she entered, shaking the umbrella off at the foyer and taking time to glancing around the interior. Far more brightly lit, professional and classy, the lobby was crammed with civilians and military personnel alike. There was even a curious batch of Japanese tourists off to one side. Fortunately she already knew where it was she was expected, and so passed by the line at the reception desk to enter the elevators at the end. At least the line through security had been short. As the doors to the elevator slid shut, a man pushed his way in last minute with an apologetic smile to her, then straightened his tie.
"Sorry." He said with a dry chuckle. "Always late, right?"
She smiled mildly and nodded politely but didn't engage him in conversation. There were some days where one's thoughts were best kept to oneself.
This wasn't one of those days.
"First day at work?"
Of course it would have been rude not to reply. "Yes." She said trying to appear polite.
"Nervous huh?" She just shrugged slightly in reply. Like she was going to admit to a total stranger her flaws? Unfortunately he was the nosy type and continued to chatter. "This place can be a bit intimidating at first, don't worry." He smiled that wide geeky type of a smile that told her he obviously had no girlfriend. "So what are you in? Accounting? Finance?"
The elevator doors chimed their arrival at his floor as he turned to her expectantly. "Public Relations." She replied calmly. That was enough to draw a blank stare from him in surprise as the doors slid shut. She allowed herself a small smile. There were times like this when she found it decidedly convenient to have gotten that Master's Degree. Still, to be given a job in this high of a position was nerve wracking to anyone, even if you had ice water in your veins.
The doors opened once more and she stepped out into a foyer that looked eerily like something from a science fiction movie. The corridor was white with no windows, sterile walls and ceilings with florescent light fixtures, a couple plush grey chairs next to each other in a waiting grid, and a secretary talking calmly on the phone behind a white desk. As she approached the secretary glanced up, smiled politely and acknowledged her presence, continuing with the phone conversation. There was little to see here while she bided time for the secretary to be free. No posters on the wall, no flowers, just bare emptiness.
Much like her life had been up until now.
It wasn't that she hadn't tried, of course. It was just most jobs didn't agree with her personality quirks. She had aspired to be a lawyer, but after going through law school and being hired by a firm she was sub sequentially dismissed due to 'lack of empathy with clients'. She had tried out for being a prosecuting attorney but was turned down after an uncomfortable run-in with the lead partner deciding he liked his new female hire. Unfortunately for her, he had strings that could be pulled. After those two incidents no one in the law field would touch her with a nine foot pole. So she had turned to other fields that her specialty could be applied to. Surprisingly she had been contacted by the FBI, a field she had never considered but nonetheless seemed to provide excellent benefits. She could only surmise what 'Public Relations' meant. There were so many double meanings to that word when it came to the government.
"I'm sorry for the wait. Can I help you?"
Her attention turned back to the secretary as she smiled politely again. "Yes." She said approaching the desk with a soft click of heels on the white tile flooring. "Celine Duvall. I'm to start working today under Mr. Newell."
"Yes, he's expecting you. Let me buzz you through." There was a distant sound of the door unlocking from the secretary's left and she waved to the plain door behind her. "Go on in."
"Thank you." She walked forward and opened the door and stepped into what was now her new workplace. It looked like any ordinary office lined with cubicles, the clacking of keyboards and the dull murmurs of conversation.
As she glanced around a tall man with a grey smartly trimmed beard approached here. He wore a nice shirt with a tie, but it was slightly loosened around his neck. "Ah, Ms. Duvall! So glad you found our little corner of the world." He reached out his hand and she smiled politely taking it into a shake. "It's nice to finally meet you in person. You have no idea how troublesome those interview committees are, I would much rather have had you up here to interview in person but you know how government regulations are."
"Of course, sir."
"Please, call me John." He said firmly, releasing her hand and gesturing for her to follow. "So there's not much to see here, your typical work area. Break room is over there, there's also a nice café downstairs that I highly recommend you try out." They wove their way through the maze of cubicles to the back area of the building where the windows overlooked the Washington D.C. skyline. There were lines of partitioned rooms here, one of which he led her into and shut the door giving them a semblance of quiet. John sat down and leaned back casually in his chair as she sat across the desk from him. "So I'm assuming they gave you the bare bones version of the truth?"
"Yes, sir." She replied with a faint smile. The 'government's' version of the truth usually was an over exaggeration. "Public Relations. I'm assuming that means representing the public face of the organization."
"Something like." John agreed chuckling as he leaned forward. "Officially the military handles all the secret cover-ups." He grinned widely which told her right away he was overplaying the conspiracy theory to humor her. "We just write their speeches, tell newspapers and television stations what they need to hear, and what they need to know. We have the inside on information they don't have, and can't have, and it's up to our department to make sure they don't use it if they get it."
She smiled genuinely at that. So this is why her lawyer training would be useful. "So we tell them what they need to know… and gloss over the interesting parts."
"Essentially." He chuckled. "What you learn in this department obviously is top secret. Now don't get your hopes up, we don't get to hear the best stuff by all means, the military reserves that right to hide their secrets. But it still can be interesting. Either way, I'll let your partner fill you in on the details."
She blinked. "Partner?"
"Ah yes it's standard protocol for all new agents to be assigned an experienced partner. In your case…" He trailed off and cleared his throat a bit. "Well he's not thrilled about it, but don't let him bully you. He can come off a bit rude, but he knows his stuff."
"Don't worry, sir." She said attempting to stow her amusement. "I can take care of myself."
"So I've read." John's eyes slid down to the file on his desk and lightly patted it. "I'm familiar with your past work history."
"And if it were a problem I wouldn't have hired you. We know some of the hidden details that weren't publicly released, so I wouldn't worry. It's your nature that most interests us in the first place. You have the ability to tell a lie with a straight face, and that's a very important trait that we can use here. Most of our agents are very good at keeping their true intentions secret in front of a public face. You'll fit right in."
Celine lifted an eyebrow but didn't comment as John stood up. "Well best get down to introducing you. I'll let your partner go over the details, you'll stick with him for the first few weeks, observation cases mostly. Once we get a real case I'll stick the two of you on it to see how you do. This way." They walked back outside the office and down the hallway towards the windowed side of the building were several cubicles were lucky enough to have a grand view of Washington spread out before them. It was a maze of corridors and small twists before finally John stopped before a wide cubicle office space. "Celine Duvall, meet Trey Cooper, special agent in charge of our public face."
The man sitting at the computer was definitely not what she might have expected out of an FBI agent. The typical stereotype picked them wearing a black suit, clean shaven, older or at least unattractive, and very stiff. The man who glanced up at them was the complete opposite of that in many respects. He wore a simple navy blue polo shirt neatly pressed and tucked into black slacks. His hair was an unassuming dark brown that bordered on black, a small trimmed goatee framed a handsome strong face. Dark eyes stared up at her from over a pair of stylish Romani sunglasses perched on his nose. He wore no jewelry, no tie, only a simple silver watch on his wrist that was of undetermined make and looked expensive. "Trey, I'm sure you can help her get started. I'm not sure what's on your plate today, but if you can give her a tour and start her off that would save me some time." Trey simply shrugged once, his dark eyes sliding to study her with a sharp intensity like someone reviewing a job candidate, despite the fact she already had been hired. "Well then." John offered a hand to her which she lightly shook. "Good luck. If you have any questions you know where to find me, door's always open."
"Thank you sir." With that, John turned and vanished amidst the tangle of cubicle walls leaving Celine to sit down at her new desk. It was neat and organized with no clutter, a fresh start for her first day. She slipped into the chair and tucked her purse into a drawer then glanced over at her new partner. Trey was staring back at his computer screen with a disinterested expression, idly tapping at the desk with the tips of his fingers. When he noticed her attention drawn to him, he paused to glance her way. Celine smiled. "Nice to meet you."
Trey continued to stare at her without a response, then after a moment he abruptly rose. "I suppose you will be wanting to be shown around then." His voice was deep and somber, and did nothing to reassure her that he was at least pleased to have a partner. Already she began to gather that he was clearly not appreciating his new role as a mentor. "This way then." He said without waiting for a reply, turning and starting through the maze of cubicle walls.
"Great. Nice guy." She muttered before quickly moving to follow him. He was tall enough that she could see him easily over the walls and caught up as he headed into the break room. There was the usual, coffee, soda machine, snacks… Trey just waited as she glanced around without commenting, a bored expression on his face. Celine hated small talk, but at this point she was becoming irritated with her tour guide for being so stoic. "So, been here long?"
That produced a small blink from him as he stared down at her, distracted from whatever fly he might have been studying on the window. "What?"
"How long have you worked with the company?"
"Oh." He frowned a bit. "Just under five years." He turned then and led her back through the maze of corridors. The remainder of the tour went like that, where she attempted to glean something out of him, he produced one or two word replies and soon they were back at their desks.
"So, what secrets are we currently suppressing at the moment?" Celine asked wryly.
Trey glanced up at her sharply, his eyes narrowing with sudden suspicion as if she'd said something uncalled for. "Nothing out of the usual. It's been fairly quiet as of late."
"Right." She sighed and eyed the files stacked neatly on his desk. "Are you going to share any details over the job with me, or am I just supposed to figure it out on my own as some kind of test? I'm beginning to think you have some kind of resentment against having a partner, am I correct?"
Trey frowned again. It seemed to be a common expression for him. "I have nothing against a partner." He replied somewhat stiffly. "I have worked with one and two partners for most of my career."
"Then it's me you object to?"
His dark eyes studied her. "No. You seem to be a capable woman."
"Thank you." She said dryly. What was with this guy, he couldn't be serious. On one hand he looked so casual, but he was beginning to act the very stiff stereotype she'd tried to peg on him. Sighing, she decided the best thing to do was start working and see what he offered in guidance. It wasn't much. By the time she'd set up her computer and checked her 'welcome to the company' e-mails, Trey hadn't yet started in on instructing her. Glancing over the top of her computer, she could see him staring distantly out the window with a distracted expression on his calm face. Shaking her head, she decided that she'd have to figure out everything on her own if she wanted to learn anything. So, she began to familiarize herself with the open files.
There were a numerous array of interesting files currently in the works. She was able to sort them according to agents assigned, and saw quite a few were assigned to Trey. Curious, she punched them up. Most of the files had something to do with military, specifically keeping top secret information from being released. Everything from military maneuvers to new training bases. It wasn't very interesting, as John had promised, and Trey's writing in the official press releases was even less so. Wincing, she glanced up at him again, seeing he was still distracted. Well, perhaps he wouldn't mind if she made a few alterations… She made a copy of the files so his original work wouldn't be lost, and began to re-write his reports making them far more user friendly, less technical, and more interesting. It gave her something to do, and it was only when she went to close the document and found it was read-only, and heard a ding on the computer across from her that Trey finally seemed to notice what she was doing. His head turned and he studied the computer screen, and as a knot of uncertainty pulled at her gut, she heard him click the mouse, and waited. After an agonizing few minutes, she saw his head peer around the computer and their eyes met. "You wrote this?" He asked, frowning.
"Uh. Yeah. I kept the originals." Celine was quick to point out. "I just needed to polish my skills."
He frowned, his head tilting back towards the screen as he studied the words. Celine was about to apologize, when he surprised her. "It's good."
She blinked. "Thank you. I thought you might not appreciate having your work altered though."
He frowned but glanced back at her. "It's better than what I can do." He pointed out very straightforward. "Could you re-do all of these like this?"
"Of course." Celine smiled, relieved. "I'd be happy to."
The rest of the morning passed smoothly and less tedious as Celine took each file and re-wrote his summery, careful not to include any additional information about the subject, but simply keeping to his outline. By about noon she had re-written every single one of his active files, which were of course the only ones that mattered. Sighing she cracked her fingers as she glanced out at the sight of the capitol spread out around them. The drizzling rain hadn't stopped, unfortunately. The streets were still coated with a damp sheen of water and people still hurried around with their umbrellas and coats pulled tight.
"Do you want to join me for a cup of coffee?"
The question came so unexpectedly that Celine wasn't sure she'd heard right. She glanced back to Trey, and was startled to see him watching her expectantly. His face was as emotionless as ever, but his eyes oddly wary, as if the concept of asking her to coffee was about as daunting as facing a criminal. Somehow, she didn't feel flattered. "Excuse me?"
A brief flash of hesitation flashed over his face. "Coffee? Would you like to get some? With me."
The expression on his face was almost so ridiculous, she nearly laughed out loud. "Have… you ever asked someone out to coffee before?" She managed to say with a straight face, though her eyes glittered mischievously at him.
Trey sighed, and finally showed some human emotion as he looked away embarrassed. "Not particularly. None of them have been as… interesting."
"I'll take that as a compliment. And yes, I'll join you for coffee."
Trey stared at her, his mouth half-opening before he recovered. "Really?"
"Well?" She stood, shouldering her purse. "Are you going to gawk or are we going to go for a walk?" Trey blinked at her but rose, grabbing a leather jacket hanging from the back of his chair in response. Celine eyed him. "You're going to get soaked like that."
"It's pouring outside." She pointed out the window.
"Oh. Right." He frowned, then fumbled in his jacket pocket and pulled out a small compact umbrella she SWORE couldn't possibly have fit. Nonetheless, she shrugged and they made their way down to the ground floor and out into the drizzle. Celine pulled her trench coat closer around her, and Trey was kind enough to extend his umbrella over the two of them as they walked down the street heading north across a few blocks to the Starbucks nestled between old turn-of-the-century buildings. It wasn't far, and it was usually less crowded than the Artisan and less noisy as the Hard Rock. Though her feet were feeling a bit damp by the time they pushed through the doors into the warm café, she found the coffee shop more pleasant than she had expected. It was bustling, but there were still a few tables towards the back. She shook her coat off, hanging it on the pegs near the door as Trey hung his umbrella next to it. They pushed their way through the gathered people to stand in line.
"Next!" A bold voice proclaimed. "Come on, hurry it up people!"
Celine winced. "Boy this guy has a pair of pipes."
"Tell me about it." Trey actually smiled as he moved up. "Hey Skye." He greeted.
The man behind the counter grinned widely with a pair of perfectly white teeth. "Hey! Trey, nice to see ya dude. The usual?"
"Yes, and whatever my partner would like as well." He nodded to Celine who smiled gratefully at his chivalry.
"You ol stuffy dog." Skye grinned, glancing at her. The guy was one of those kinds that you either loved or hated. His skin was deeply tanned like someone who spent far too much time in a tanning booth, his hair shaggy and unkempt, a sandy brown streaked blonde, and he wore a tight deep violet shirt with some tight necklaces and bracelet cuffs. He sported a few piercings in his ears as well, and definitely seemed the type prone to work in a coffee shop. Leaning forward on the counter, he offered a hand to her, which she took as he shook it enthusiastically. "This guy's been solo for so long I began to think he was hopeless."
"She's my partner at work, Skye." Trey sighed, seeming to be a bit exasperated at the man's enthusiasm."
"Still, she's a dish." Skye winked at her, and Celine felt her cheeks heat. Ok, that cinched it. This guy HAD to be gay. "Maybe she can get you to ease up." He winked at her. "Partner or not, a girl will do him good. He's WAY too uptight."
Celine smiled. "I take it you two are friends."
"Yep. He's been coming in here every day for five years." Skye grinned. "We know more about each other than even we care to admit. Anyway, what can I get you?"
"Caramel Apple Spice, grande, extra nutmeg."
Skye grinned. "Oohh sweet tooth. Nice. You got it." He punched up the bill and pointed to the young woman busy filling orders. "That lovely young lady there will bring your drink. Make sure to tell her how beautiful she looks with mocha on her cheek."
"You asked her out yet?" Trey asked, smiling a bit.
Skye looked suddenly nervous. "Nah… I don't think I'm her type. She's so calm and quiet and I'm so…"
"Well duh. I work in a coffee shop." Skye rolled his eyes. "But seriously, you think I should?" He glanced sideways at the girl in question. Celine peered curiously over at her. She looked like the artistic type, her reddish hair was pulled up in a spiky knot on top of her head, she wore narrow square framed glasses and was very thin and tall.
"Stop beating around the bush." Trey recommended, pulling out some cash and paying him. "You've been admiring her since she started two years ago. What's keeping you?"
"Says the guy who's not had a date like, ever."
"Oh shut up."
Grinning, Skye ushered the next person forward as the two made their way to the other counter. "So, you two seem pretty tight." Celine smiled.
"I suppose." Trey shrugged. "He reminds me of a guy I used to work with."
"He doesn't seem your type."
Trey grinned at that, chuckling. "I know. It's odd I suppose. We were total opposites. He was always the crazy off-the-wall kind, I was the boring stiff. But for some reason we worked well together."
Celine studied him. "Sounds like you miss him. What happened?"
"Oh, we separated." He shrugged. "We worked in the military together, and our tour of duty was up. We all went our separate ways." He frowned. "Haven't seen him since."
"That's too bad." Celine said softly, her eyes lowering. "But I suppose that's life, right?"
"Yeah." He agreed.
"Here you are." Their drinks were handed over courtesy of the young woman at the counter. She smiled tiredly at them, brushing a strand of loose hair out of her eyes. The nametag attached to her apron named her Nicci. "Enjoy."
"Thanks." Trey said, smiling faintly at her before they moved towards the back of the restaurant and sat down.
"So he's been trying to get the courage up to ask her out, eh?" Celine smiled, sipping her apple cider. "I totally thought he was, you know…" Trey blinked up at her with a blank expression. "…gay." She finished winking. "He's so over the top."
He snorted. "No, he's not gay. He flirts with all the women, none of the guys. Just when it comes to someone he actually likes, he's shyer than you'd think."
Celine smiled. "Cute." She remarked. "So…" She tapped the table and Trey glanced her direction. "You were in the military? What branch?"
"Air force." He shrugged, sipping his coffee and making a face as he downed it.
"Nice." She commented. "What did you fly?"
"Really? That's pretty high up." She commented, lifting her eyebrows. "Those were top of the line for their day, still are pretty sweet jets."
His eyebrow lifted. "You know military aircraft?"
Celine grimaced. "Not necessarily by choice. My father's in the government, I was shipped around from base to base as a child. I got to see some pretty interesting prototypes in action while I was growing up. The air shows were phenomenal though, I have to admit. I've always admired the acrobatics those things can perform."
"They are very versatile." He agreed, smiling over his coffee at her. "I haven't seen another prototype that I've liked quite as much. There's been some decent designs, but nothing that's as skillful in the air."
"What about the new F-42?"
Trey glanced up, surprised. "I've heard of it, but haven't seen schematics yet. Have you?"
"Yeah." She grinned widely. "I have an inside source."
"Really? Who?" he leaned forward, clearly fascinated.
Celine sighed, and leaned forward, beaconing him close. "Look… I don't spread this around because if there's one thing I hate, it's getting jobs because of who I'm related to, not because of the work I do. That's why I kept my mother's name." She smiled tightly. "My father tried to sway me, but respected my decision eventually. I think he's proud either way since I got this far on my own. But there ARE advantages to being the Secretary of Defense's daughter."
To her surprise, Trey froze. "You are John Keller's daughter?"
"Yeah." Celine smiled tightly. "But keep it to yourself, kay? I don't put it on my resume." Trey's expression didn't do much to pacify her. "You won't tell anyone will you?" She pressed, staring at his dark expression.
"No. I won't." He said firmly, lifting his gaze to study her speculatively.
"It changes things a bit doesn't it." She asked wryly, sighing as she leaned back in her chair. "It always does. Suddenly people walk on eggshells around me."
"I won't." He promised, and she was surprised to see genuine honesty reflecting out. "It surprised me, since I had the chance to meet your father a few times. But I don't care what your lineage is. Your work speaks for itself. That's your credentials. It doesn't matter where you came from or what your past holds. It's the present that's important."
Celine smiled. "Thanks for understanding."