Author: Froggy Frog and Miller
"Your record, is exemplary, however," Assistant Director Phillips droned. He pushed at the papers on the desk in front of him like a newsreader.
Willow sat on the chair at the end of the long, dark table. She rested her hands on her knees and forced them to remain still. She stared at the Assistant Director, her face as stony as she could make it. She ignored the other two men that sat on either side of Phillips, their faces darkened and shadowed by the dim lights.
"It is largely because of this reputation, Agent Rosenberg, that we have decided upon reassignment and not dismissal. We have decided, Agent..." he began.
Willow's jaw clenched. Here it came.
Phillips' sentence was interrupted by the door opening, flooding the darkened room with daylight. A blonde-haired woman entered.
Willow glanced at the woman, her annoyance at the interruption furrowing her brow. The woman was rather plain-looking, and wore the same standard issue black FBI suit Willow was wearing. Actually, it wasn't quite the same. It could do with a pressing.
"Ah. Agent McClay. Thank you for joining us. Finally," Phillips said.
"I-I'm very sorry, Sir. I had a few things t-to do. That is, Sir," the woman mumbled.
"Never mind. Please, take a seat," Phillips said curtly.
Willow watched Agent McClay approach the table. She placed the folders she was carrying on the table, knocking over a glass of water that sat there.
"Oh... I'm s-sorry. Just let me c-clean this up, Sir," Agent McClay said, fumbling in her pockets and producing a handkerchief. Willow forced her face to remain impassive, suppressing an urgent desire to laugh.
"Leave it. Please sit, Agent McClay," Phillips said firmly.
Agent McClay sat rather awkwardly in the chair next to Willow. She fumbled with the damp papers in front of her and kept her gaze downcast, avoiding looking directly at the men before her.
"Agent McClay, this is Agent Rosenberg," Phillips said.
Agent McClay looked quickly at Willow, a confused and slightly frightened look on her face. Willow looked a little more closely at the woman's face. Perhaps she wasn't quite so plain after all.
"Since you are late, Agent McClay, I'll briefly revisit the material we have covered thus far," Phillips said.
Agent McClay reached for the glass before her, then realized it the same glass she had emptied onto the table. Her head dropped slightly. Willow pushed the nearby pitcher of water towards the woman. McClay flashed a smile of thanks at Willow. Willow was stunned for a split second by the brightness of that smile. No. Not plain at all.
Agent McClay poured herself a glass of water, contributing to the wetness of the table in the process. She sipped at the water, holding the glass unsteadily with a shaking hand.
"It has come to the attention of the Bureau that both you, Agent Rosenberg, and you, Agent McClay, invest significant part of your time in practicing questionable activities involving the occult," Assistant Director Phillips said.
Willow closed her eyes and sighed. She'd already been through this. For the last hour she'd sat and listened to Phillips' recount the particular results of the FBI's new Internal Security initiative and what it had discovered about her and her after-hours activities. She hoped he would keep it short this time. Willow listened again to Phillips' explanation of the so called initiative. Identical, word for word. She was sure he was reading it directly from his notes.
"The FBI's Internal Securities initiative is designed to monitor Agents both on and off duty. It is to ensure their personal safety and ascertain the effect of their often traumatic on-duty experiences on their personal lives. It is not an intrusive program, and your privacy is assured and rigorously protected."
Sure it is, thought Willow. My private life is safe amongst spies, agents and politicians.
"This program has brought to our attention your somewhat bizarre lifestyle. There are elements of this occultist practice that senior government members find disturbing and may jeopardize your relationship with the Bureau and your colleagues. In essence, witchcraft is not permitted as a secondary occupation for a government agent. Given your observed regular participation in this activity, a decision was made last week to dismiss you both," Phillips' said.
Agent McClay's head shot up.
"B-but... You c-can't! What about my work?" McClay blurted. "You can't just stop it! Sir." Tears welled in her eyes.
Keep cool, girl, thought Willow.
"If you'd let me finish, Agent McClay," the Assistant Director said. "This decision was made last week. However, it has recently been overturned."
McClay felt in her pockets for her handkerchief, realized it was sitting in a pool of water on the table, and then wiped her eyes with the sleeve of her jacket. She sniffed.
"O-overturned, S-sir?" McClay said, her voice hopeful.
"Yes. Apparently your, erm... expertise in matters of the occult may prove useful in a case recently put before Assistant Director Skinner's office," Phillips said.
Skinner? Willow thought. The name rang a bell.
"Therefore, you are hereby reassigned to Assistant Director Skinner's office. Report there immediately this meeting ends," Phillips said.
Agent McClay looked at Phillips, frowning heavily. "But... S-sir, my work? My r-research?" she said, her voice trembling.
"Agent McClay, your research is suspended indefinitely," Phillips said, coldly.
Agent McClay bit her lip and looked at the desk. Her shoulders sagged.
"Agents. Please understand the seriousness of this assignment. If your particular talents prove useful to Assistant Director Skinner there may be cause for appeal against dismissal. For example, it could be argued your occultism is a form of research and training. This would not reflect quite so badly on the Bureau if it became common knowledge," Phillips said.
He picked up his papers and tapped them against the desk to straighten them.
"However, if you do not prove useful to Assistant Director Skinner, the board will recommend your dismissal."
Phillips stood up. "Good day, Agents," he said, and turned to leave the room via the rear entrance. The other two men followed him out of the conference room.
Willow tried to relax her muscles. She'd been sitting tensed and rigid for over an hour and was stiff. She needed coffee.
Agent McClay had stood up and was collecting her damp paperwork. She turned to leave the room. As she reached the door she stopped, her hand on the doorknob.
She looked towards Willow uncertainly.
"Um... Agent R-Rosenberry? D-do you know where Assistant Director Skinner's office is?" she asked.
Willow looked at the forlorn face of Agent McClay and smiled. She picked up her attaché case and walked over to the door.
"It's Rosenberg, actually. And no, I'm not sure where Skinner's office is. Let's find out, eh?" Willow said.
The woman gave a faint smile and nodded gratefully.
There were no magazines. There should be magazines. It was a waiting room, after all. Even if it was the waiting room outside Assistant Director Skinner's office.
Willow look around the room. It was a bleak, formal room with two black couches and a desk. Behind the desk, typing away on her word processor, sat Skinner's secretary. She was a pretty secretary, but most secretaries were pretty, Willow thought.
On the other couch sat Agent McClay. He head was bent over her clipboard, on which she scribbled something with a pencil. Willow couldn't see what it was she was writing. Her blonde hair was tied loosely behind her head, and several strands had fallen free. She kept tucking the strands behind her ear. She hadn't said a word to Willow since leaving the boardroom, and had seemed distracted and distant ever since.
Willow leaned back against the couch and tried to relax. At least the couch was comfortable. They'd been waiting for three quarters of an hour and the secretary wasn't sure when Assistant Director Skinner's meeting would finish. Willow doubted it was actually a meeting. Even though the heavy door to his office was shut, she had occasionally heard muffled shouts coming from the other side. The meeting was more like an argument. Skinner would not be in a good mood.
The door flew open. Willow wondered if she should stand up, but instead remained seated and somewhat stunned as a rather striking red- haired woman stormed out of the office, furiously slamming the office door shut behind her. The woman stood by the door and closed her eyes, taking a deep, slow breath. Then, in a completely composed and dignified manner she walked passed Willow and Agent McClay and out of the waiting room. Willow realized her mouth was hanging open, and she was staring down the corridor after the woman. She wasn't usually taken by redheads, probably because she had striking copper hair herself, the source of much teasing as a child, and wasn't too keen on continually being reminded of that. But this woman was astonishing. Her poise, her eyes, her pale skin.
She forced her gaze away from the corridor and focussed again on the waiting room. Willow noticed Agent McClay staring behind her, down the corridor after the red haired woman. She had a rather dreamy statement on her face and was nibbling her lower lip. There was a small snapping sound as her pencil's lead broke against the paper. She looked quickly back to her notepad and dusted the paper off with the back of her hand, her eyes darting around the waiting room, her cheeks slightly flushed.
Willow raised her eyebrows and grinned. Perhaps they shared more than a passion for witchcraft.
"Agents? Assistant Director Skinner will see you now," the secretary said.
Willow and Agent McClay stood up quickly. Agent McClay paused and stared at her feet, waiting for Willow to open the door.
"Here goes nothing." breathed Willow.
She opened the door and entered the office.