A/N Yes, it's a nine2five story but this one won't be a comedy the way the last one was. At least, not so much. Always trying out new styles.
John Casey was a fraud.
He was supposed to be. The identity of John Casey had been created for a purpose, for a specific job, and the Powers That Be went to a great deal of trouble finding a man who would be able to fill out that persona with the least amount of 'leftovers'. Troublesome things, leftovers. Qualms, fears, second thoughts, anything that could sneak up from behind and ruin the career of a carefully constructed artificial person. Can't have that.
Not that greed or pride were much better, in the long run, but since their objects were all self-contained they were much more easily manipulated. The more their actual aims matched those of the Powers That Be, the happier everyone would be, but patriots of that sort were rare.
So when Alex Coburn volunteered for advanced training those same Powers That Be practically turned cartwheels to get him on board with their highly selective program. Sure he had a family and a girlfriend, but if they really knew him they would understand, not that they would ever know. At least that's what the Powers That Be told him. What he told himself. Alex Coburn earned himself a valorous and tragic death in combat, by not dying to serve his country.
Thus John Casey was created, neither birthed nor hatched, his history curiously and endlessly malleable for the needs of the day. Only a few things were constant through it all, Reagan, Johnny Walker Black, good cigars, and his beloved Crown Victoria. And guns, lots of guns.
"I know what's bothering you about this mission, Casey," said Chuck triumphantly. "You won't get any chance to shoot things!" He raised his hands but hit the roof of Casey's car and brought them back down again, shaking out the pain.
Except you, moron. Since Chuck was the asset, currently under his protection, shooting him would be counter-productive. Casey considered grunting, but decided not to. Most people took his grunts as he intended, a shield to discourage conversation. The nerd interpreted it as a language, compiled a dictionary, and just kept talking. Little freak even spoke Klingon! Like his little freak CIA buddy, Bryce freaking Larkin, long may he rest in peace.
Casey rolled his eyes, pretending to look in the rearview. The nerd didn't have a dictionary for those yet.
Besides, Larkin died for his country, managed to do something right. The kid showed some stones too, uploading the new Intersect when he had the world–and Walker–at his fingertips without it. But he knew the greater good when he heard it shooting outside the door, and did what he had to do, gave his life for his country. Casey understood that kind of sacrifice. Had to respect it.
Didn't have to like it. Not when their current 'mission' would have them toiling away in the bowels of the CIA building, cleaning up after the little pukes.
Still, it could have been worse. Without Orion's program to get the secrets out of his son's head again, they'd all be stuck back in Burbank, selling Beastmasters. Casey smiled. He liked the Beastmaster, bought one for himself before he left, using his real credit card so he'd get the commission.
Of course Chuck noticed. "What's so funny? Remembering last night's episode of 'Explosions of the Rich and Famous'?"
There's a concept. He grunted his approval. Rich party-boy yahoos loved to blow things up. Probably pee their pants at the first hint of real danger. Not like Bartowski. "Just trying to imagine which'll be skinnier, you or the mop handle."
Chuck snorted. "Like I'm ever gonna swing a mop."
Heh. "This may be a cover, Bartowski, but that doesn't mean you won't have to do some real work once in a while. Get ready for some blisters."
Chuck suddenly looked at his hands in horror, so soft and white. "My hands! They're never gonna believe I'm a janitor with hands like these!"
Casey grunted in amusement. "Relax. New runt like you, they'll give you the toilets."
"You're not cheering me up."
"Not trying to."
Chuck crossed his arms, frowning in silence. Casey smiled and drove on.
"So, you're the two new guys they told me they were sending over?" The head janitor, whose nameplate said (strangely enough) 'Dimples', look over his two newest subordinates, dismissing Chuck almost instantly. Casey he studied as if mass equaled attention in some variation of tough-guy physics. Casey blatantly sized him up right back. Dimples pointed his cigar (not cuban) at Casey. "You I can probably use. I don't think we have coveralls small enough for your partner here, though."
Casey smirked, but said nothing.
"Still, I got some jobs where a small guy comes in handy." He stuck the cigar back in his mouth, talked around it. "You okay wit' dat, small guy?"
Chuck shifted. "I'm okay with anything you can throw at me, Chief."
"Oh, a tough small guy. I like that. You can call me Dimples, tough guy." He smiled. "Now take your bodyguard here and go ask for Muffin. He'll get you squared away."
Casey started to snarl at the dismissal, both overt and otherwise, but Chuck turned and took his arm before he got past the 'g' in 'grrr'. "Come on, bodyguard."
The touch of Chuck's hand on his forearm distracted Casey from his outrage. "Hands." The moment lost, he followed his charge out of the chief's office.
The outer room was full of racks, and the racks were full of boxes and other obscure and unknown implements of the janitor's trade, but people were in short supply. Since they knew where the door was, they went the other way, past many racks and even into inner rooms. "Is it my imagination, Casey, or is there an awful lot of stuff here for being a janitor?"
"You ever been a janitor, Bartowski?"
"Mop-swinging and toilet-cleaning weren't covered in the Nerd Herd handbook, no, but I'm guessing there's a chapter or two in the NSA playbook you've memorized."
"Don't laugh, runt. It's a good cover. No one notices the janitors. Or the waiters."
"Or the bartenders. I get it, Casey."
"Yet you still talk about it. Is it genetic, or–?"
A large black man stepped out of the shadows. "Can I help you gentlemen?"
Chuck drew up short, a new reflex based on large people coming out of gloom. He tried to step back, restore his personal space, but Casey was right behind him and wasn't feeling at all threatened. "Ahhh… we're looking for Muffin, sir, Dimples sent us." He stepped to one side.
"I'm Muffin. You the two new guys we was told about? What's your name, new guy?"
"Actually, 'Muffin', that's 'Tough Guy', according to Dimples." Casey smirked at Chuck's horrified glance. "What?"
Muffin smiled. "Tough Guy, huh? I like that." He pointed at Casey. "And what's his name, Tough Guy?"
Casey's heart sank.
"His name?" Chuck looked at him, that damned twinkle in his eye. Casey just knew the moron was going to do something stupid. "He's, uh, he's 'Ladyfeelings.'"
Muffin laughed, very loud. "Now I know why they call you Tough Guy." He looked at Casey. "Semper Fi, Ladyfeelings."
Casey grunted. Chuck looked confused. "How'd you know…?"
Muffin smiled. "Name like that, gotta be a Marine. Come on, gents, let's get you set up."
An hour or so later, a new janitor by name of T. Guy, according to the temporary name patch on his overly large coveralls, was slaving away at the toilets in the first floor men's lavatory. He didn't mind the work so much, Bartowskis tend to clean when they're nervous and calling Casey 'Ladyfeelings' to his face was enough to make anyone nervous. He found the work calming, not that you could tell that from the yelp he let out when J. C. Ladyfeelings slammed the door open. "Get it in gear, Bartowski. Intersects don't upload themselves."
"I'm almost done," said Chuck, scrubbing harder.
Casey sighed. "Leave the john, genius. You have real work to do."
Chuck stood, and gestured at the mop Casey had recently been swinging. "I thought you said this was real work."
"I lied. I do that."
Chuck quickly stripped off the coverall, and Casey handed him a nametag. "Wait, what are you going to be doing while I'm in there?"
"What do you think, numb-nuts? Groups like Fulcrum are never really dead, and then there's this Ring group Larkin mentioned. I'm going to be wandering the halls of Langley, in my spiffy new government-issued jumpsuit, waiting for you to tell me if there are any traitors betraying their country in their cubicles. Walker—I mean, your wife—is waiting down at the Farm for the same thing. You find it, we kill it."
"Or arrest it, right?"
"With a mop handle?"
Someone knocked on the door. "Come."
Muffin entered the room and saluted. "You wanted to see me, sir?"
"How are the new trainees, Muffin?"
The big man slid smoothly from attention to parade rest. "Tough Guy is not at any of his assigned stations, sir, although several of them look like he was there already. I have Babyface trying to track him down now. Ladyfeelings is already on the third floor. At the rate he's going he'll half the facility done by lunch. You'd think he was in the Navy, not the Marines." Muffin chuckled.
Dimples didn't. "He's neither, Muffin. Ladyfeelings is really John Casey, of the NSA."
Muffin got very serious. "The burn-out?"
"Didn't look that way to me. He's playing a subtle game, him and his boss."
"Tough Guy? His boss?"
"I want to know why these two are sniffing around our territory. Especially Tough Guy. I pulled up a lot of NSA rocks and couldn't find him under any of them. Must be some kind of super-agent."
"Casey could break him in half."
"Looks real, doesn't it? Don't forget, so do we. Find Tough Guy, and keep tabs on both. They can't be allowed to know what the whole CIA doesn't."
A/N Cliffhanger-y enough?