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Silent Reflections - a Pros ficlet

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  • Silent Reflections - a Pros ficlet

    Disclaimer: these characters and all else connected to CI5 belong to those lucky souls at Mark 1 Productions. I have borrowed them for this story and am making no profit from this.

    This story is a response to the 'erotic combination challenge', using the combination of: Julie; CI5 Rest Room; radio.
    Thanks to Carol for all her help.

    Silent Reflections


    The assignment was over.

    Months spent working undercover in a library had provided Julie with a sharp reminder of one of the main reasons why she had wanted to join CI5 in the first place: to avoid that kind of employment. The scariest thing about her part in the whole assignment had been just how good she was as a librarian.

    And now the assignment was over. Christina Herzog, the woman she had been assigned to the library to monitor, was dead. Shot dead within 36 hours of the boys taking over the case. My case, she reflected bitterly.

    The head librarian had been extremely unhappy about losing two librarians in one fell swoop. She had been unhappier still about having a terrorist shot dead within the sacred confines of the library and to Julie had fallen the task of pouring oil onto troubled waters while the actual case was resolved by others.

    At the end of a long, difficult day, Julie had returned to CI5 Headquarters with the idea of getting her report down straight away, saving herself a job in the morning. On her arrival, the CI5 grapevine had lost no time in giving her the full details of how the case had ended in further bloodshed. Christina, and the rest of the terrorist group she had tried unsuccessfully to distance herself from, had been gunned down. Only through a miracle had all the CI5 personnel involved in that final showdown escaped serious injury.

    And yet, somehow, knowing how the case had blown up in the faces of Cowley's blue-eyed boys didn't make Julie feel any better. The whole affair left a bitter taste in her mouth.

    With a little shake of her head, Julie stirred herself out of her contemplations. She threw her pen down onto the desk, suddenly aware that she had been chewing on it while staring blankly into space for quite a while. Reading back what she had already committed to paper, it struck her as nothing more than disjointed ramblings that Cowley would tear to shreds if she tried to submit it. She had had a long couple of days, it was late, and even here at CI5 most people had already given up for the day and gone home. Telling herself that she should go home, have a bath and not think about it again till the morning, nevertheless she found herself instead wandering down the corridor to the deserted CI5 Rest Room and filling a kettle.

    While waiting for the kettle to boil, Julie idly flicked the radio on, and the room was abruptly filled with loud, jarring music, breaking the stillness of the evening. Wincing slightly, she quickly turned the volume down and then switched through the channels until she found something more suited to her mood. It was a classical piece, she couldn't even place the composer never mind the title, but it was soothing and peaceful, just what she needed. Her hand fell away from the dial to rest on the counter and a long sigh forced its way out of her lungs as the music washed over her.

    "That's a good choice," a quiet voice somewhere behind her observed wearily, and Julie nearly jumped out of her skin in shock.

    Whirling around, she found Ray Doyle sprawled bonelessly across an armchair in the corner of the room, regarding her from beneath heavy eyelids without much interest.

    "My God, Doyle, don't do that!" Julie protested, a hand pressed to the base of her neck as she fought for composure. "You scared me half to death."

    "Sorry, love." Doyle didn't look very repentant, however, more remote, distant, as though he was barely aware of her. "Thought you'd seen me."

    "What are you doing here?" Stupid question, she chided herself. It was, after all, the agents' lounge: why shouldn't he be here? But then, maybe it was a fair question after all. Why should any agent be sitting here alone in the gloom when they could be at home, or in a pub somewhere drinking hard to forget the day?

    "Waitin' for Bodie." There was a slight pause, and then Doyle half-heartedly offered a little more information. "He's seeing the medics. And Cowley."

    "Oh." That seemed to cover it, really, and Julie turned back to the sink, fastidiously fishing an almost clean mug out from under a stack of dirty plates with a slight crinkle of her nose, and giving it a quick swill. But she felt somehow disinclined to let the conversation drop there, and found herself turning back to Doyle to enquire, apropos of nothing, "Will he be long?"

    From deep within the folds of the armchair Doyle shrugged, eloquently. "Doesn't matter. I'm not in a rush."

    Nodding as she turned back to make the tea, Julie found herself recognising his mood in much the same way she recognised her own face in the mirror each morning. It was the same oppressive, dark mood she'd had hovering over her for much of the day. On an impulse, she poured a second mug of tea, leaving it black and unsweetened rather than ask, and carried it over to him.

    A ghost of a smile played at the corners of his mouth at the gesture, and he made the supreme effort of hauling himself upright in the chair before taking the mug from her. Feeling a little daring, Julie perched on the arm of Doyle's armchair rather than pull up one of the horribly uncomfortable straight-backed wooden chairs that liberally dotted the room. "Bad day, huh?" she observed sympathetically.

    At that, Doyle glanced up at her sharply, and she felt moved to add, "I heard how it turned out. Sorry." Although she couldn't for the life of her think quite what she was apologising for.

    Doyle seemed to be thinking along the same lines. "Not your fault, was it? Anyway, I don't really feel like talking about my day. Tell me about yours." He shifted position slightly as he spoke so that he was sitting sideways onto the chair with his back resting against the corner of the backrest and an armrest, one leg curled under him with the steaming mug held lightly in a hand and resting on his knee, both eyes now fixed intently on her face as he visibly pushed aside his own preoccupation to concentrate on the distraction she had provided.

    Another sigh escaped before Julie could prevent it, and she shifted position herself while thinking how to reply, curling up into the soft, wide armrest to face him and resting her own mug on the cushions atop of the chair, hand gently curled around it. A wry smile tugged at one side of her mouth at a sudden memory of the head librarian. One terror she would never, touch wood, have to face again. "Do you have any idea the trouble you boys caused with that little shoot-out of yours in the library?" she asked.

    Doyle smiled slightly, as though welcoming the lightening of the mood. "Never be allowed through the hallowed doors again, will we?"

    "Something like that. The head librarian was not amused."

    "Yeah, I bet." He let out an infectious chuckle at that, and Julie found herself laughing as well, letting go of her annoyance at the situation as she remembering the indignation of the older woman.

    "I got the impression she thought you'd done it on purpose, purely to thwart her attempts to preserve the sanctity of silence."

    Doyle laughed even harder. "Sanctity of silence, I like that."

    Then, abruptly, both the laugh and the smile were gone and a shadow fell over his features once more at the memory of what had taken place that day. Julie rested her chin against her cup and studied him for a moment. Then she spoke softly, "I liked her, you know. I mean, I know what she was and what she had done, what she was capable of. But I worked with her for months. I liked her. Felt sorry for her, almost."

    She hadn't planned to let that slip to anyone. It seemed like a weakness, a flaw in her judgment, a sin that should never be confessed for fear of losing... what exactly? Her reputation? The possibility of working on other, similarly sensitive, cases? Her job? And yet, for all her past sins, Christina had been just another woman making her way in the world. Letting nothing slip and yet easy to talk to, pleasant to work with. Was it such a crime to appreciate that? As long as she wasn't taken in by it - and she reminded herself that she hadn't been, she had done her job to the letter. In spite of it all.

    Doyle was silent for a moment, contemplating his as yet untouched tea. Then he glanced up at her with a faint smile. "'S okay. I know what you mean. But she made her choices a long time ago. It was too late for her to go back on that now."

    "I know." Julie paused to sip her tea, eyes fixed on the cup, not trusting herself to look at him just now. Then she glanced up and caught his eyes, seeing in them a conflict that mirrored her own struggles to distinguish between the rights and wrongs of a bad situation.

    The silent eye contact went on for too long. Julie felt herself sinking; it would be so easy to get lost in those eyes... In a sudden attempt at self-preservation, not trusting her own judgment on this day of all days, she leapt to her feet to empty her cooling tea down the sink. "I should go home, I'm not going to get any more work done here tonight."

    She stood with her back to him for a moment, and felt the silence stretch, broken only by the soft music still coming from the radio. He wasn't going to stop her going then. And, perversely, that in itself made her reluctant to go and leave things hanging as they were.

    Come on, Julie. Just what is it you want, exactly? she asked herself, irritably. And knew, deep in her heart, what the answer was. She wanted someone to understand, someone to care. To not have to go home to an empty flat with this mood hanging over her. To not be alone just now. Nothing more than that.

    Turning back to Doyle, she saw that he hadn't moved but remained curled up in that chair, studying his mug of still untouched tea as if he'd never seen it before. Then, as if sensing her regard, he looked up at her, and she read in his eyes the same need she had identified in herself. The same doubts, the same uncertainties. Like looking in a mirror, she reminded herself. Everyone needs a little comfort after a bad day, don't they?

    That thought reminded her, too sharply, of the events of the past couple of days. The frustrations of so long spent undercover in an occupation she proved to be good at but detested. The frustration of having the case removed from her hands - the thought of being considered good enough for undercover observation and monitoring, but not good enough to work at the sharp end. The conflicting emotions about the outcome of a case with too many grey areas.

    A strangled sob escaped. Julie was appalled at herself, but couldn't hold it in. It had been such a long, frustrating day, and she was so tired and confused.

    Doyle was on his feet in a second, wrapping lean yet strong arms around her. "Go on, let it out," he murmured in her ear, and she did, angry at herself for displaying such weakness in front of another agent, a senior agent, and yet at the same time sure that for once it didn't matter. Not with this man, not tonight.

    She buried her face in his chest and sobbed, feeling those strong arms holding her, that gentle voice soothing her, and suddenly found that she didn't even know why she was crying. "Stupid," she muttered to herself and felt, rather than heard, him chuckle softly.

    "That's better," he released her, and took a half step back to have a good look. "Feel better now?"

    Julie nodded, rather surprised to realise that she did. One of those brilliant, flashing smiles lit up his face, like the sun coming out, and he put an arm around her shoulders again, guiding her back to the armchair. But rather than sit down, Julie twisted slightly to face him, holding his eyes firmly. Now or never, she told herself, before you lose your nerve. Everyone needs a little comfort, once in a while.

    Standing close, she lifted her head slightly and brushed her lips against his, just for a moment, feeling him respond. Then she looked into those eyes again, read the question in them, and nodded.

    Just this once. No strings, just two people in need of comfort.


    *****

    Later that night, when she had finally made it home, had that bath and settled down in bed to read only to find herself unable to focus on the page, Julie reflected that it was a good thing, really, that Mr Cowley had kept Bodie talking for so long. Neither of them had thought to lock the door. As it was, by the time Bodie had arrived at the Rest Room in search of Doyle and his lift home, she had given in to the domestic impulses she usually tried to bury while at work and was busily washing those abandoned dirty dishes, smiling thoughtfully at the soap suds, while Doyle was sprawled bonelessly across the armchair again, lost in his own thoughts. As if nothing had happened.

    And yet... whatever Doyle might think about it, Julie knew that she had a memory to savour, dispelling the gloom of the day. A much better way to remember the assignment than library books and boredom, blood and death. And, she liked to flatter herself, perhaps the hard edges of Doyle's recollections of the day would be likewise softened by the memory of what they had shared. Wasn't that, after all, what it was all about?

    Tomorrow she would return to work, write her report and get on with the next assignment, whatever it might be. And Doyle would get on with whatever case he was next assigned to. Neither would tell another soul, and they may or may not ever refer to it between them again on the rare occasions their paths crossed. No matter. The black mood had been lifted for both of them; she had seen it in his eyes. No strings attached, no more words needed. Just a pleasant memory to take home to an empty flat instead of the ghosts of an ill-defined war.

    And tomorrow? Well, she would wait and see what tomorrow had to offer.


    ? Jo - October 2002

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