Item 19

A while back, on Tumblr, someone suggested a sitcom starring an asexual person and an aromantic person. They called it “Arrow and Ace”. The idea stuck with me, and this is what happened. Expect to see more of these characters, because I have plans.

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Probationary Agent Jeanette Reese was pretty sure that the meeting was going to end poorly. She was at least 83% sure that it would end poorly for her, given the situation and her gender. Agent Drumlin had a hell of a poker face, though, so there was enough uncertainty to keep her on her toes.

“Agent Reese, thank you for coming.” Drumlin had a reputation as an all business agent. A sort of ice queen, but one that was willing to get her hands dirty in the field. Her tone was careful, professional, and had just enough of an edge to be scary.

“How can I help, ma’am?”

Drumlin raised an eyebrow, not accusingly, more like she was surprised, like this was a gambit she had not been expecting.

“You can answer some questions.” she crooked her head to one side, taking in Jeanette’s obvious nervousness, “Honestly, ideally. This isn’t a formal inquiry, you’re not under oath, but this concerns one of my agents. I need facts before I come to a decision.”

There it was. At least Drumlin wasn’t beating around the bush. Fraternization wasn’t against regs, so long as you weren’t fraternizing with your own team, and even then, there were exceptions. It was expected, even, especially in field agents, who needed to ‘blow off steam’ as HR put it.

But she and James had ended…poorly.

“Ma’am, I’ll be honest or I won’t answer. Lying doesn’t do anyone any good. At least in this context.”

“Good to hear. You and Agent Parker were involved in a relationship?”

Jeanette just nodded.

“For how long?”

“A few weeks. We started clicking at that training thing in New Mexico.”

Agent Drumlin nodded. She wasn’t taking notes, which Jeanette appreciated. Notes meant paper trail, and if there wasn’t a paper trail yet, she could hold out hope.

“When did the relationship end?”

“Friday night.”

Another nod. Drumlin blew on her coffee, then took a sip.

“What caused the relationship to end?”

Jeanette closed her eyes for a moment, collecting herself. She did not want to talk about this, not to a career woman who could probably murder her with a paperclip.

“Ma’am, I’m going to go with not answering, here.”

Rather than pressing the issue, Drumlin smiled a little. She glanced at her coffee.

“Agent Reese, I apologize. I’ve forgotten my manners. Would you care for some coffee? I brew it myself, it isn’t the usual motor oil.”

“Yes, thank you.” she said carefully, not quite sure what was going on. Some agents liked to be nice before dropping the hammer. “Cream, if you have any.”

Drumlin went to the coffee machine on, took a mug, opened a panel in the wall that concealed a mini fridge, pulled out a bottle of non dairy creamer. She busied herself with the process, each movement careful, precise. Eventually, Jeanette found herself with the mug.

“Agent Reese, I will respect your privacy as much as I can. I want you to understand that. At this point, let’s go off the record.”

After a moment, Jeanette nodded.

“Good. I read your file, you know. Top scores, excellent marksmanship, good at anything you’ve put your mind to. Hell, you’re even qualified to pilot small aircraft.” she smiled at that, like it was some sort of joke.

Weirdly, it didn’t seem like a joke at her expense.

“I’m sure you know how thoroughly we do our files. So when something is missing, I get a little twitchy. Even if it’s allowed to be missing.”

That’s what this was about, then. Item 19, on the personal section. The question just after gender identity, and just before romantic orientation.

“I believe,” Jeanette said carefully, “That there is only one item where I preferred not to give an answer. So you’re aware, Agent Drumlin, that’s still the case.”

“I understand that. I’m not going to ask you about your sexual orientation. But I’ve got an agent under my command that is telling stories out of class, and I need to know if he has your permission to do that, officially or otherwise.”

Jeanette had a pretty good poker face herself, but she almost lost it there. She covered by trying the coffee. Drumlin was right, it was way better than the usual stuff.

“I’m not sure I understand, ma’am.”

“Parker is bitching about you at the water cooler, telling people that you lead him on, and that you are, and I quote here,” she made finger quotes, lowered her voice, and mimicked Parker’s cadence “’one of those frigid ace chicks.’”

Jeanette did not blush. Her expression didn’t change much, either, but she could feel the hardness seep in to her eyes. She had told him that. Told him that she didn’t do sex, didn’t want it, didn’t need it. Asked him to keep it quiet, but not to have expectations.

She had done that, on their first real date.

Four dates later he had freaked out, screamed at her, and stormed out when she told him that if sex was so important to him, he could just go fuck himself.

“Nice poker face, Agent.” said Drumlin. “You need to work on the eyes though. The murder is slipping out.”

“I explicitly asked Agent Parker to keep that information to himself.” she said, abandoning pretense.

She took another drink of coffee. Drumlin frowned.

“You’re not after me, are you?” Jeanette asked. “You’re after him.”

Drumlin nodded.

“But you came at me sideways, to see what I’d do.”

Another nod.

“How’d I do?” There might have been a chuckle, but if asked, she’d deny it.

“Not bad, Agent Reese. You’re a bit defensive, but I get that. Parker is my agent, and you don’t know where my loyalties lie. The two of you had a screaming match in agent housing, and you’re a woman in a man’s world. It’s easy enough to think that you’ll get thrown under the bus. God knows it happens often enough.”

She finished off her coffee.

“I need you to understand one thing, Agent Reese. In my house, no one gets thrown under the bus, unless they throw themselves. It’s hard living in check boxes that most people don’t bother to try to understand. I’m not going to make it any harder.”

She picked up the phone on her desk, dialed quickly, and hit the speaker button. Jeanette looked confused, but Drumlin just held up a finger.

“Hey, Arrow, whatcha need?” asked a voice, probably late thirties.

“David, hey. I need you to list Probationary Agent James Parker as inactive, failed. And I need you to remember that call signs are for field use only.”

“I don’t go in the field any more. You just want Eff Eye, or you want actually fired?”

“Eff Eye for now. We’ll see how the rest of today goes.”

The voice on the phone laughed, like that was the funniest thing he’d heard all day.

“So, maybe he’s fired, maybe he gets to go to Alaska?”

“Yeah, I’ll have the paperwork for you either way in a few hours. Thanks.”

“No problem. Just, maybe only fire him this time? We get a lot of complaints from all the special cases you send up there.”

“I make no promises.”

She grinned as she tapped the phone and ended the call. She turned her attention back to Jeanette.

“Agent Reese, we can go in a few directions from here. If you wish to simply let Parker drift back to whatever agency he was at before, that’s fine. However, he has acted maliciously in an entirely inappropriate manner as far as I’m concerned, and I would be happy to help you if you want to file a formal complaint.”

“Formal complaint?” Jeanette asked.

“Of harassment. Based on sexual identity and/or orientation.” The senior agent smiled, then, all teeth and threats. “Personally, I’d nail his ass to the wall if I could.”

“I assume I’d have to go on record with my orientation?”

“Yes, but the records are confidential. Well, yours are. His get a giant black mark that follow him around for the rest of his life in government service, and a vacation in our Fort Greely operation. It’s delightfully remote. And cold.”

“At this point, I don’t feel that it’s necessary.” she said, carefully.

“Your call.” She began typing. The meeting was clearly over.

“Ma’am?”

“Yes, Agent Reese?”

“Thank you.”

“Don’t thank me yet. I’ve got a hole in my roster. Expect to be transferred here, you are not being pushed hard enough.”

“I look forward to it.”

 

After lunch, May Drumlin unlocked her office, swearing at the palm reader, because the damn thing was always slow. Monday’s meatball surprise was already disagreeing with her. She went for the Tums in her desk, but then stopped, abruptly.

On her desk was a sketch, featuring a hen and some chicks. The hen had a remarkably detailed Beretta M9 sidearm, and was in as defensive a stance as a chicken really could muster. A number of roosters were sketched, clearly afraid of the hen.

Whoever drew it had titled it “Mama Hen with a Gun.”

A post it on the back simply read ‘Looking forward to pushing back.’

May smiled, then, because she rarely open carried her M9, but Reese had noticed that she had a definite preference for it. The agent had talent, and, when challenged, drive.

She put the sketch in the file cabinet, in Reese’s new file folder. She pulled out the file and made a note to ask the agent how she had beat the door locks. Those things were supposed to be good.

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Domestic Partnership: Part One