A/N from NarutoRox: I'm baaaack! Did you miss me? (Sorry, I'm on a Sherlock kick. And that was cruel) ^_^ Anyway, sorry for my tardiness, and special thanks so my lovely coauthor Z for taking over in my absence. :)
I paced back and forth nervously, the phone still clenched in my hand as I waited for the person on the other end of the line to answer me. He'd put me on hold over five minutes ago, and I wanted to get this over with before Myrnin got out of the bathroom.
I gulped at the little flip-flop my stomach gave as I glanced at the bathroom door. After we'd woken up this morning, I'd let him- okay, ordered him to - take a shower. He was in bad need of a wash, and this bathroom was in the interior of the house, with no windows or means of escape to speak of - besides the door I'd been keeping watch over.
Not that I thought he'd attempt an escape after...after last night. But still. The slightly more intelligent, wildly paranoid part of me was determined to keep him under lock and key, and wasn't entirely convinced that last night hadn't been a ploy to make me lower my guard. That, and I was still in turmoil over the orders I'd been given yesterday.
I still didn't know what to do. I'd never, ever gone against orders before, but...
I saw the sense of it, I really did. If Morley was our new objective, then Myrnin really was just a liability at this point. A loose end to tie up.
At the same time, though, he was also a possible asset. He had to know something about Morley we didn't; he'd been working with him for some time. Of course that depended on whether or not he'd even tell us, but I still found it weird that Amelie hadn't thought of that. We were sitting on a possible treasure trove of information, and she wanted it...taken care of.
It didn't sit well with me.
Unless she knew something I didn't.
Or - and this was what was really bothering me - I was letting my emotions cloud my judgment, and Myrnin was more dangerous than I thought.
All of this had run through my head first thing when I woke up this morning, and all of this was the reason for my current state of impatience over my phone call.
"Alright, we're clean and off record. What's up?" said the cheerful voice on the other end of the line.
I sighed with both relief and annoyance. "It's about time! What took you so long?" I snapped, even though I knew why and that it wasn't his fault.
I could practically hear Michael roll his eyes, even though I couldn't see him. "I'm sorry, was I supposed to tell the undercover op in Prague to wait while I had a chat with a friend, who coincidentally wanted me to turn off all the safeties and recording devices so we could have said chat on the job without being caught?" he asked ruefully. "You do know I've been on duty for over fourteen hours, right? And that I'm surrounded by about twenty other surveillance techs who could pick up on my less-than-sanctioned conversation with an agent currently in the field?"
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, then cut him off before he could say anything else. Michael got cranky when he was in the Surveillance Ops 'bubble' for too long; he often forgot to eat when he was engrossed in an assignment. If he was about to sign off, I guessed I had about twenty minutes before he realized that was why he was grumpy and took off to get a bite to eat. I had to get this out quickly.
"Yeah yeah, I know. I'm sorry," I said, letting out the breath I just took in a big huff. "I'm having a...rough day at the office, and I kind of have a limited window of opportunity, here."
"You and me both," he said, appeased. "So what's on your mind?"
"I, uh, kind of need a favor." I said, nibbling on my lower lip.
"Uh-oh, I know that tone. What kind of favor?" he asked. I heard the sound of his chair reclining as he leaned back.
"I need your mad computer-hacking ninja skills." I said, deciding to go with some flattery. Michael always appreciated a nice compliment or two.
"I figured that. What I meant was, what kind of mad hacking would you like me to perform?" he asked wryly, letting me know he was on to my flattery scheme. I smiled in spite of myself.
"I need you to pull up some files and run some background on someone for me," I said, breathing easier.
He snorted. "That's it? I could do that in my sleep. I figured you wanted me to do some non-Amelie sanctioned cyber recon or something."
I shot another glance at the bathroom door to steady my resolve, and nodded to myself.
"Er, it kind of is..." I started, biting my lip. "I'd rather she not know right now, anyway. It's...sort of personal."
I heard him fight back a laugh. "What, you want me to do background on a new boyfriend or something?"
I shot a panicked look to the bathroom and winced. God, that was a little too close to the truth for my comfort. I was really glad Michael couldn't see my face right now.
"No! No. Look, can you do it or not?" I sighed, defeated.
Michael snickered again into the phone. "Jeez, I was only joking. Seriously, you are wound tighter than a yoyo. I said I could do it, who's the guy?"
I scowled, Michael's assumption that it was still a guy irking me. Once I asked, he was either going to rib me, freak out, or worse; but at the same time, I was running out of options.
"Hey, are you still there?" he asked.
"I need everything we have on Myrnin Fwytawr. The full file, even the classified stuff. All of it." I said through gritted teeth.
I heard the thump of him jerking forward in his chair and almost dropping his phone.
"I'm sorry, what?" he asked incredulously. "Myrnin Fwytawr? The same Myrnin Fwytawr you were on assignment to find, whom I now have on good authority as been ordered terminated? That Myrnin Fwytawr?!" he whisper-shouted into the phone.
I gulped. "Um...yes?"
I heard some muttered swearing, then a pause. I'd started to think that maybe he'd hung up on me when he finally sighed into the phone.
"Can I ask why?" he said wearily, and I gave myself a mental pat on the back. "You're not getting overly attached to this assignment, are you? I thought they beat that out of you in training."
I scowled even though he couldn't see me. He and I had both started out at the agency at the same time, albeit on different fields. He was my senior in age only, and he had no right to be lecturing me on the job.
Telling him all that wasn't going to make him help me, though, so instead I snapped "Can you do it or not?"
"Of course I can do it, I'm just wondering why I have to. You just told me it was personal, but this most certainly is not if it has to do with your assignment. What gives?"
He didn't sound angry, just worried. Good, I could work with that.
"Look, I just have a feeling. Somebody's not telling me something, and I want to know why. Plus the file Amelie gave me isn't complete, and I want to know what she kept me in the dark about."
It was subtle, but there had definitely been some editing on my copy of Myrnin's file. Nothing obvious or noticeable, unless you knew what to look for. I'd been scrutinizing the thing since I had gotten it, and had only noticed it this morning.
It wasn't much, but I had a sinking feeling that there was something in those edits that might be the reason for Amelie's hostility.
Michael sighed into the phone again. "Look, I'm not even supposed to know anything about Myrnin or your assignment. Just how the hell am I supposed to go digging for it?"
"Yet you just said you knew who I was talking about, and somehow knew I'd been ordered to terminate him." I said wryly. "Sorry Mikey, you can't pull that one on me. Nice try, though."
He laughed softly into the phone. "Okay okay, I'm nosey. I like to check on my friends. But here's the thing..." he lowered his voice some more, and I had to listen harder to hear the rest of his sentence. "I already tried. To look up Myrnin's file, I mean. I couldn't."
"What do you mean you couldn't?" I whispered, though I wasn't sure why other than because he was.
"I mean I couldn't get ahold of the file. My security clearance wasn't high enough, and when I tried to get to it through...less than kosher means, it didn't work."
" 'Less than kosher'?" I asked. "And what exactly does that entail?"
"It means I tried hacking it, but it was too secure. I mean, like wicked secure. Let's-keep-crazy-world-class-hackers-out secure, which includes hacks from our own people, apparently." he said, and if I didn't know better I would say he almost sounded peeved.
"So you can't get it at all?" I sighed, dismayed. "Surely you can do something, Michael. It's you! Use your-"
"Mad ninja hacking skills, yeah yeah I know. I can't, Claire. Not without losing my job, anyways. And I like my job. It has great benefits."
I scowled, then tensed when I realized the shower in the bathroom had shut off. Crap, I was running out of time. I was going to have to move this along.
"What if you had the right security clearance?" I said, keeping an eye on the door. "Could you get it then?"
"Well, yeah. But I don't. That's the problem. And no, yours won't work either. Besides not being high enough, it would be flagged if it was used to try to access it, considering the circumstances."
"But if you had the right clearance, you could get in." I stressed. "Would a level 1 clearance work?"
"Yeah, from what I can tell. If I had it. Which I don't."
"But you know someone who does," I said, grinning internally.
There was silence for a minute, and I started my nervous pacing again. "Michael?"
"Oh hell no." he said, alarmed. "No way in hell. Not happening. Just stop thinking about it!"
"No! I am not using my uncle's security clearance to hack into our servers!" he hissed.
"Why not? I know you can get ahold of it," I sniffed with an eye roll. "His security level is almost as high as Amelie's! And she won't think twice if his name pops up on file..."
"That's not the point! Sam and I have a certain level of trust, and there's no way I'm going to abuse it." he said dramatically. Riiiight, goody-two-shoes. I rolled my eyes again.
"Yeah, right. Like he's not the reason you know half the stuff you're not supposed to know. And I'm not asking you to steal it, just...borrow it for a bit. That's all. Just to look at the file."
"...No! I can't."
I closed my eyes and gritted my teeth in frustration. "Please, Michael."
There was more silence, and my hopes started sinking. He was pretty much my only shot at this, and if he didn't do it-
"Fine. I'll see what I can do. NO promises." he grumbled, pissed. "And FYI, you're a sucky friend, Claire."
"And you're a whiny drama queen," I said with a shaky laugh. I meant it to come out cheerful, but instead it sounded miserable, and I winced. "Thanks, Mikey." I whispered solemnly.
He was quiet again for a minute, but when he spoke it was peppered with warmth.
"I'd say you're welcome, but that seems premature. If I can get it I'll have it to you by tomorrow. And Claire?"
I glanced at the bathroom door as I heard Myrnin moving around inside. The clock wasn't working in my favor. "Yeah?"
"Be careful." he said, sounding embarrassed.
"Always am." I said, disconnecting the call and pocketing the phone just as Myrnin came out of the bathroom.
I closed my eyes as I let the water cascade over me. I should have been trying to find a way out of here, but my initial search of the bathroom had heeded no useful items or obvious means of escape, so I had given up temporarily in favor of getting cleaned up.
It's not as though I had anything better to do, and besides, it was oddly comforting.
Unfortunately, the feeling was short-lived as reality came crashing down.
What the bloody hell was I supposed to do now?
I mean, sure, my prospects were certainly better than this time yesterday, but for how long? Amelie wasn't going to tolerate just keeping me locked up here forever, and I was betting the order to get rid of me was going to come sooner rather than later. What would Claire do then?
I'd like to think she wouldn't kill me, but I couldn't be sure. As fond as I was becoming of her, she was still a trained agent. She wouldn't - couldn't, really, considering what it would mean - go against orders.
I sighed as I shut the water off. Damn it to hell, this was becoming a fine mess I'd gotten myself into.
I heard Claire talking on softly as I got dressed, and I tensed. Probably a phone call.
Possibly my execution order.
I pressed my ear to the door and tried to hear what she was saying - the door was thin, probably so Claire could hear what I was doing, which was ironic - but from the tone of her voice it was a personal call, not a business one.
At least, I thought it was. It could have been in code.
Either way, she had heard the water shut off and would be expecting me. It would be suspicious if I stayed any longer, so I made to open the door.
Sure enough, she was stuffing something in her pocket when I emerged.
"So, what's the plan for today?" I asked nonchalantly, giving her my best playful smile. "Because I have a few suggestions..."
She raised her eyebrows at me, crossing her arms in a gesture that directly contradicted the smile that threatened her mouth.
" 'Fraid I have everything all planned out for you." she said, sounding a little too innocent.
"Oh?" I said, stepping closer until we were less than an arm's length apart. "And what would that be...?"
"Well, I have a lot of important work to do," she said, reaching out and casually fixing my shirt collar.
"That doesn't sound like fun at all," I said, consciously staying still while she fiddled with my shirt. "And just what am I supposed to do?"
"You-" she smiled warmly at me "are going to march on into your cell and stay there. Much better," she added once my collar was to her liking.
I blinked at her. Talk about killing the mood. "You're joking."
"Afraid not," she said sweetly, patting my chest once and backing up a step.
I scowled at her. "I thought we had an agreement!"
She frowned. "Really? I don't remember agreeing to anything."
"An unspoken agreement, then."
"Hmmm...nope, not that I'm aware of."
"That's not fair at all. Come on now, I promise to behave myself." I added slyly, leaning forward to loop an arm around her waist.
She rolled her eyes but didn't immediately step away. "Riiiiight. And why don't I believe you?"
I gave her my best puppy-dog eyes. "Please? I'll even cook lunch."
She snorted, then. "Um, no. If I recall, the last time we were both in a kitchen you were trying to kill me."
"Actually, I was not. I was trying to subdue you. If I remember correctly, you were the one throwing knives at me. And then you tried to strangle me with a telephone." I sniffed petulantly.
"The same telephone you tried to throw at me."
"Only as a distraction. And it didn't actually hit you, remember?"
Her mouth twitched - hiding a smile or a grimace, I wasn't sure - and she pressed a hand to her forehead. She leaned into me and rested her head against my shoulder briefly, surprising me. She started shaking suddenly, and I had a fleeting moment of panic before I realized she was laughing, not crying.
Lord, this woman was going to drive me crazy. I've never had this much trouble reading someone.
"I honestly don't know whether to shoot you or kiss you, and you're not making the decision easy." she said suddenly into my shirt.
That made two of us.
"Technically, you could do both. Though I'd rather you didn't." I suggested lamely. I suddenly felt hot and claustrophobic, and I wasn't entirely sure why.
She leaned back and stared up at me slowly, an odd glint in her eyes. "Yeah," she said quietly. "Me either."
A/N from NarutoRox: Yeah...sorry for the fluff, but it's what came to me, and who am I to stop the fanfiction muses?
Thanks for reading! Reviews are always appreciated! :)