Fandom: The Kingdom
Pairing: No Pairing
For: Dear amatia, thank you for another wonderful prompt. I hope this story is what you wanted. Happy new year!
Summary: Quantico wasn't what Janet was expecting, but that was okay. She was used to things not being anything like her expectations. (A story about Jen Garner's character, Janet Mayes from The Kingdom.)
Quantico wasn't what Janet was expecting, but that was okay. She was used to things not being anything like her expectations.
The buildings could have passed for any other training facility: nondescript, functional, boxlike. Nothing like the elegantly designed imaginings in her head, cobbled together from movies and snippets of news footage and then embroidered into something more romantic.
The people were no less surprising.
"Abandon hope all yea who enter here," one of her fellow NATs expounded dramatically, flinging his arms wide to encompass the entire lecture theatre they'd been ushered into. He had blond curly hair and a handsome face, somewhat marred by his smirk. Already, there was a court of fellow ivy-leaguers taking the seats around him. All speaking knowledgably about what was to come.
"What a grade-A jerk," said the woman sliding into the seat next to Janet. "Why'd he even bother applying if he thinks it such a joke?"
Janet lifted one shoulder in a shrug: she'd met his type before. "There's always one."
"If there's any justice in the world, he'll wash out during Hell Week," the woman said, pulling a pen out of her tightly coiled, midnight-coloured bun and clicking it open. She scrawled the date at the top of her open notepad, and then sat with her chin resting on one hand while she twirled the pen around and around with the other. "Indira Roy, by the way."
Janet pulled her own pen out of her ponytail, clicked, wrote the date, and then sat, tap-tap-tapping it against the desktop. "Doctor Janet Mayes."
"Of course you are," Roy said, as she doodled a skull and crossbones in the margin of her pad, decorating it with three sprongs of wildly curling hair and a little thought balloon that read, Abandon hope all assholes who enter here.
Janet stared, thinking that it was completely understandable that she'd never imagined anything at all like Roy.
Day three of Basic Training wasn't unexpected, it was just a world of hurt.
As soon as they got back from the evening run, Janet flopped face down on the end of Roy's bed, not even feeling self-conscious. "I may never walk again." She felt like one giant bruise from top to tush: her legs were still quivering from the sixth 1.5 mile run of the day, her stomach muscles felt like someone had been bashing her for hours with a tyre-iron, and if she had to do one more set of maximum push-ups she was going to fall over and drown in a puddle of her own sweat.
"You pussy," Roy said, from the floor where she was continuing to do crunches in what she had described as a quick cool-down routine ten minutes ago. "I'm telling you, if that blond asshole wins best score this week because you're a pussy, next week I'm going to make you suffer like you never have before."
"That wouldn't take much." With an effort, Janet rolled onto her side so that she could see over the edge of the bed; she watched the relentless flex and curl of Roy's torso. "You're like a machine. How do you do that?"
"Just the usual. Hyper-alloy combat chassis. Y2K compatible tactical software. In-built rocket boosters." Roy bared her teeth. "It's not like I worked at it, or trained or anything like that."
Janet groaned and buried her face in the prickly bedspread. "I'm kind of hating you a little bit right now."
Roy finished her set and rolled over onto her front to do another set of push-ups. "Hate me all you want, Princess. but it's not my fault you've got skinny white genes and a pretty face."
The jolt of anger helped Janet get up off the bed. "What?" she demanded. "You think I'm afraid of hard work? You think I'm trading on this," she swept a hand impatiently up and down her body, "to get through?"
The silence was damning: Roy just kept huffing through her set.
"I suppose you think I faked it through my medical degree, too? Or, hey, maybe it was nepotism, right? I'm someone's daughter, or niece, or mistress. Jesus!" Janet had thought they were on the way to being friends, not… whatever this was. She poked Roy's foot with her own. "Will you stop that and look at me?"
Roy finished her push-up, and turned over, settling so that she was sitting with her chin propped on one knee. Sweat was ribboning down her face, and her eyes were narrowed and thoughtful.
Janet crossed her arms. "Are you this big a shit to everyone, or am I today's special?"
"Hit a nerve, did I?" Roy said, not looking at all upset or repentant; and then, calculatingly: "A perp will try to use that."
Janet's heart was pounding so hard it hurt, and she could feel her eyes prickling, like they hadn't since she was thirteen and Mike Mitchell had gone around to all her friends and told them she was a slut, just because she wouldn't sleep with him. But when she looked at Roy's face, she didn’t see any smugness; no sense of victory or vindictiveness.
All she saw was an aloof kind of sadness, almost as though it wasn't Roy who had started this… almost as though Roy was expecting her to walk away…
"Oh, God." Janet covered her face with her hands. "I'm a cliché. I'm a walking, talking cliché."
Shrugging, Roy said, "That doesn't have to be a bad thing."
Janet peered at her from between her fingers. "Is that a joke?"
"Live the cliché for all I care. All I'm saying is: where's the harm in being white and pretty when you're walking and talking, and also able to kick a guy's balls into the middle of next week when you're running and fighting? That seems like a win/win scenario to me."
The words hung between them like bullet-proof glass. Janet didn't know what to say; no one had ever spoken to her like that. After a moment, she pointed to the door and took a step back, saying, "I should go shower."
Roy nodded, and Janet beat a strategic retreat before any more sharp-edged truths could be spoken.
Later, at dinner, after they'd both showered, Janet slid into the seat across from Roy's just as always, and they spent most of the meal carefully discussing the best way to hide a body -- dissection, acid, bones dumped at sea -- until the memory of their argument was flat and dead, covered up by other things.
It turned out that Roy's blond nemesis was named Acer. Jonathan Acer.
"Of course he is," Roy had muttered, while they were memorising dates for their History of Law Enforcement test.
"It's just a name. Don't let it psych you out," Janet soothed.
"Who said I was?" Roy's fingers were making unconscious clawing motions on the table top.
"No-one. Figure of speech." Janet looked up from the chapter on the J. Edgar Hoover Building. She'd been curious about Roy's instant antipathy for days now. "What's your beef with him, anyway?"
"Everything," Roy said immediately. "Everything in the entire history of the world, including white slavery, the British Raj, and the invention of MacDonalds."
Janet rolled her eyes. "Oh, well, as long as it's something substantial."
With History successfully behind them, they came to the attention of Special Agent Hernandez, a driving expert.
"You will do this," Hernandez bellowed, her voice almost a lethal weapon in its own right. "You will do this just as you've been shown. You will do this without committing mortal damage to any traffic cones. You will do this without tailgating your DUI suspect over the edge of a cliff. You will do this until you get it right." She paused to eye them all. "Or else this is your last week as a trainee agent. Do you understand?"
"Yes, Agent Hernandez," they all chorused, like the well-trained monkeys they had already become.
"Aye-firmative, Agent Hernandez," Acer said, a beat late, blond hair ruffling rakishly in the breeze.
Hernandez just shook her head at him indulgently.
Roy turned so that her helmet hid her expression from all but Janet and pretended to gag.
"Mayes!" Hernandez bellowed, startling them both: Janet was up.
Putting her own helmet on, Janet jogged over to the skidcar and slid in. Instructor Johnson was already waiting in the other seat, and they sat at the top of the course, engine idling, waiting as the pit crew refreshed the water and transmission fluid covering the tarmac. Then the call came through and Johnson said, "Go, go, go," and they were off.
Janet bore down the straight, picking up speed, judging the first swerve perfectly. The wheels slew a little to the left, but she pumped the brakes and they held, and the car missed the first cone by at least three inches.
Zig-zag-zig -- a sharp left around the suddenly appearing pedestrian -- a right around the next cone -- a jab to the brakes at the deluge from the water hose -- and yes, good call, because Agent Johnson pressed the magic button while visibility was still out, lifting the car's outside wheels, spinning them into a skid -- the world outside flashing past in a grey and green blur. Janet held it, held it, and then they were out of the deluge, the windscreen wipers whipping away the last of the water, and the outside wheels dropped again, biting into the road. Janet pulled the skid in just the way they'd been shown and was back in control, roaring through the last set of traffic cones clean and clear.
She pumped both fists as soon as she was out of the car, her knees still shaking with adrenaline. "Did you see that?" she demanded of Roy "Am I good, or am I good?"
"Rub it in, bitch," Roy said, but she cheerfully hi-fived Janet as she headed off to her own practice run.
Roy started off a little slowly, by her standards, but her passes were clean, and she came out of the skid like a pro. The rest was cake. She jogged back over, grinning like a demon, arriving at Janet's side just in time to hear Acer say:
"Not bad ladies, but now you'll see how it should be done."
After glaring at his retreating back, Roy very deliberately crossed every one of her fingers, put both hands together palm-to-palm, looked up at the heavens and said, "Please, God. Just smite him a little bit. That's all I ask."
"Roy!" Janet pulled at her hands. "You can't pray for that!"
"Just watch me."
When the buzzer sounded, they both turned to watched Acer's run -- Roy muttering, "Come on, come on. Screw it up. You know you want to," under her breath.
Acer started off fast and sure, and then the deluge hit. The car wobbled for a moment as the outside wheels came up, and then steadied, and he came out of the skid at a perfect angle for the next cone, which he swerved easily.
"I see how it is," Roy said to the sky. "I can see I'm going to have to take matters into my own hands!"
"Shhh," Janet hissed, keeping a wary eye on Hernandez, who was only a few feet away. "And don't look at me like that. I'm not helping! I'm not in the smiting business."
"Give it time," Roy said, turning away from the manly chest-thumping that was now taking place amongst Acer's crew. "Give it time."
A week later, as Janet was coming out of one of the toilet blocks near Hogan's Alley, she overheard Acer's unmistakable voice saying, "Oh yeah, I'd fuck Roy." There was a pause for effect, and three or four other voices hooted in agreement. "But," Acer continued over the top of them, "I'd be thinking of Mayes."
The catcalls in response to that went up by several decibels.
Janet jogged back to the Alley the long way around.
When she got back, she said, "You missed a few: the fall of Rome, global warming, the wage gap."
Roy didn't even ask who she was talking about, just nodded. "He's an asshole born and bred."
Hell Week. Better known as Defensive Tactics 101.
Janet levered herself up from the mat and flexed her aching wrist. She rubbed at the red marks from the handcuffs, but they didn't go away. "You're getting better at the take-down."
"I am," Roy agreed, clipping her handcuffs back to her belt. "You know why?"
"Oh, please. Tell me why."
Roy tilted her head at the other side of the room, where Acer was getting his ass handed to him by the six-foot wall known as Stonk. "I just imagine I'm doing that."
Janet watched in appreciation. After a brief tussle, Acer hit the mat again, hard enough to bounce. "Nice. I wonder if that knee thing Stonk does would work for people smaller than tanks."
"Why not? It looks like a variation on an Aikido move to me." Roy's face went dreamy. "If we ever meet Acer in a dark alley, we could give it a try. Maybe he'll call us 'ladies' first -- right before we knee him in the nuts."
"That's kind of sick, Roy."
"Yeah," she agreed. "It really is."
"Bladed weapons," Agent Liu said, standing next to an array of knives, axes, throwing stars and hand-made shivs, "might not have the drama of guns, but they are more deadly in several key ways. Would anyone like to hazard a guess as to why?" He waited for a moment, watching the hands go up -- and the ones that didn't -- and then pointed right at Roy. "Enlighten us, Trainee Agent Roy."
With her usual aplomb, Roy immediately said, "They have two danger zones, the edge and the tip, which means they can slice or stab."
"Good. Anything to add, Trainee Agent Mayes?"
Janet swallowed hard, and then said, "It's a silent weapon. It can kill you before you even know your attacker is armed."
And so it went: question, answer, demonstration. The knives gleamed beneath the fluorescent lighting, flashing silver as Liu demonstrated basic moves and countermoves.
When they broke for lunch, Janet congratulated herself on getting through it without giving anything away, right up until Roy cornered her near the condiments in the canteen and said, "What the fuck was that about?"
Roy raised both eyebrows in patent disbelief, opened her mouth, and then snapped it shut again when Janet took an involuntary step back. "Right," she said, leaning around Janet and snagging a couple of salt sachets. "Have it your way," and she marched over to sit with the visiting SWAT trainees on the far side of the room.
"It's just… it's stupid, that's all." Janet rubbed her arms in a vain effort to keep out the night's chill.
"Shocking. You being stupid. I can barely believe it." Roy puffed on her illicit cigarette, the end of it a winking red eye in the darkness. She blew the next breath at Janet's head, knowing how much she hated it.
"When I did my stint in ER, this kid was high on crack and he went kind of crazy. Ripped off all his bandages, went tearing through the treatment rooms, grabbed a scalpel and just…" Janet could remember the smell of blood and ruptured intestines like it was still fresh on her hands.
Roy stubbed her butt out against the sole of her shoe. "… and here you are at Quantico, instead of earning a cushy wage as a GP in some nice suburb of Anytown, USA."
"My brother got his head blown off when he was seventeen. Perp was a ten year old. Found the gun in a storm drain. It was dumped there after a hold-up at a seven-eleven."
There was nothing to say to that, so Janet didn't even try, just pulled Roy into an awkward hug and held on and on, and didn't let go until they were both shaking so hard with the cold that they had to give up. They stumbled back inside, arms still slung around each other's shoulders, and if Roy's eyes were red with more than cold, Janet never mentioned it.
The Gospel According to John
The first day on the firing range, Acer picked up the .40 calibre semi-automatic pistol, loaded it with a practiced turn-slide-click, and aimed it at the paper target. Then he fired: bam-bam-bam-bam, fifteen times, smooth and easy, regular as a metronome.
Every bullet hit the target, creating a neat black hole in its chest.
"Damn, I'm good!" he said, as he lowered the gun, turning to make sure his audience had seen. "Acer by name, and there's truth in advertising!"
"Acer by name, asshole by nature," Roy said. She had her arms crossed, a take-no-prisoners expression, and she hadn't bothered to lower her voice.
"Is that so?" Acer turned to face her, eyes gleaming with challenge. "Let's see you do better then, In-deeeeer-a."
Roy's chin tilted up at an obnoxious angle, and she stalked over to the same firing position Acer had used. She loaded her weapon, aimed at the damaged target and shot her whole clip in three short bursts.
Two eyes and a mouth appeared on the target's face.
"The name's Roy, asshole. But you can call me Trainee Agent Roy, just because you're special."
Acer laughed and held up both hands in mock surrender. "Hey, point made. I can be the bigger man here. You're good, and I was an ass. I promise to keep my sexist assumptions under control from now on, okay?"
The rest of the group let out its collective breath, smiling as though Acer was a great guy to have conceded like that; slapping both him and Roy on the back and saying congratulatory things, like, "Dude," and "So cool," and "I wanna learn to do that."
Roy's eyes were flinty with displeasure, but she put up with it. Acer gloried in every second.
The medical examiner was a rather handsome red-headed woman in her forties called Renault. She'd won Roy over instantly when she'd impatiently said, "Yes," in response to Acer's, "What? Just like the car?"
The demonstration autopsy went as briskly as her manner had suggested.
As Renault made the second slice of the Y incision, Janet elbowed Roy and nodded over at Acer and his crew. All of them were looking grey.
The morgue attendant silently helped Renault peel back the skin from the ribs, revealing a gaping, bloodless wound; the skin flap was left draped over the corpse's face. Renault made a brief note into the overhead microphone, and then took the bone-cutter from the assistant's hand and began removing the ribcage.
When the saw bit into the first rib, Stonk made a horrible gulping sound, like a dying frog, and looked about half a minute from fainting. Acer looked almost as bad, and was watching the autopsy from side-on, a hand covering his nose and mouth.
Roy looked at them calculatingly for a moment, and then turned and gave the examiner a dumb, flirtatious smile. "You're going to remove all the organs, aren't you, Agent Renault?"
"Yes," Renault answered; the smile wasted, she didn't looked up from her task.
"Even the testes?" Roy asked, her voice pure honey.
This time Renault paused. She gave Roy a hard-eyed once over, and then the corner of her mouth twitched slightly. "Yes. Heart, lungs, kidneys," she said, in the same no-nonsense tone, as though the mouth twitch had just been a figment of their imagination. "Liver, stomach, brain." She cut the final piece of bone and pulled apart the ribcage; a stench of rotting meat wafted through the room. "And the testes, of course. We weigh them and then take sample slices for the lab."
Stonk broke, making a mad dash for the exit. Even after the door had softly hinged shut behind him, they could faintly hear gagging.
"Sometimes," Renault went on, as if nothing had happened, "we need to dissect the penis too." She snipped off the remaining pieces of flesh anchoring the ribs, and then lifted out the whole ribcage. "If it's been interfered with, or bugs have laid eggs in it, or something of that kind."
With a choked sound, Acer dashed after Stonk, his face as pale as his hair.
Roy watched him go with satisfaction radiating from every line of her body.
In the ladies room afterwards -- once they were alone -- she said, "It may not be a noble victory, but I'll take it."
They bumped into Renault again in the cafeteria, hours later, when all their reports had been written and they'd finished their evening run.
"Shame about those Acer boys and their weak stomachs," she said, in between blowing on her straight, black coffee. "I went through the academy with his uncle, you know."
"Really?" Roy said, unreasonably delighted by this intelligence. "What was he like?"
Renault took a sip of her coffee and pulled a face. "Let's just say, nothing around here has changed much since my day." She glanced around and then added in a lower tone, "If you want my advice?"
They both nodded immediately.
"Ignore the fuckers as much as you can. Their ilk are like air -- you'll have to deal with them wherever you're posted, and the only way I've ever found to not go crazy, is to just say, 'Fuck 'em,' and do your job as best you can."
Roy's expression had turned sour and disappointed.
Renault looked right at her, as though she was autopsying her soul. "I know," she said, "Believe me, I know, but there's no way to win the war, and fighting the battles over and over will just break your heart."
The end was as unexpected as the beginning. Suddenly they'd done it: 21 weeks at the Academy. Over 1,500 hours of training, dozens of tests, and an uncounted number of sit-ups, push-ups, pull-ups and miles run.
Until now, they hadn't discussed the future, their mutual fear of jinxing themselves silently understood.
"So. What's next?" Roy asked, the lines of her suit still crisp, despite the endless hurry-up-and-wait of the morning-long ceremony.
They were standing at the window in the common room, watching the rain beat down. The drum-um-um-um of it hitting the roof was like an echo: Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity.
"Forensics -- reporting to some guy called Fleury." Janet let the fear and excitement show on her face.
"Good," Roy said. "That's what you wanted."
"Yeah." Janet fiddled with the button on her jacket. "What about you?"
"Can't tell you. But it's good. I'm happy with it." Roy waved a hand, somehow managing to imply that the world of international espionage was about to become her oyster. "And it's a guaranteed Acer-free zone. Always a plus."
Janet nodded. "Sounds ideal."
"Yes, it is."
They looked at each other, all too aware of their packed bags, and their lifts waiting below in the rain. And then they were in each other's arms, hugging tight, laughing a little in that way that's almost crying, and murmuring to each other, "I couldn't have done it without you kicking my ass," and "You'd better email, or I'll kick your ass all over again," and finally, almost in unison, "I'll miss you," "I'll miss you," "God, I'll miss you."
Final Note: I owe a debt to two main sources of information on the FBI. Wikipedia, for general stuff, and Lee Lofland's Police Procedure & Investigation: A Guide for Writers for several of the details about training. Remaining errors are all due to my over-active imagination.