In a Heartbeat
CIA Safe House
They had already experimented with the President's staff and very successfully. Two of the White House staffers were much happier these days. But it could have been a fluke. They needed corroboration. So they moved to the legislative branch of the government, trying their methods out on two prestigious senators who were now enraptured with each other, their previous behavior barely civil in each other's presence.
It was time.
In order to complete the CIA's experiment on subliminal vs. coerced suggestion, they needed to move onto the judicial branch of the government.
And that was a problem. No one in the CIA involved in this covert experiment could imagine any of the Supreme Court Justices doing "those things" to each other. There wasn't anyone conducting the experiments and analyzing the data that wanted to witness it either. The thought of even watching the brilliant but stuffy Justices engage in... No, they couldn't bring themselves to do that. They decided to look further within the judicial system. A CIA operative suggested the Judge Advocate General's office.
"Any particular branch of the military?" the male psychologist and co-team leader in charge of the experiment asked.
"Yes," the operative answered, "but to be fair, I've brought personnel files of unmarried officers assigned to the local JAG offices in the Army and Navy for you to peruse." He spread photos on the table in front of those in charge of the experiments. "And," he added, "I have a little personal information about each of them to help you decide."
"These two are attractive," the female psychologist and other team leader, remarked. She studied photos of an attractive male Navy officer and an equally attractive female Marine."
"Yes, but they're very close in rank and fraternization would probably not cause them any undue hardship. I believe these two would not add much credibility or new data to your study."
"I'd like to use the woman," one of the team leaders insisted. "Who else is available to make the match?"
"Well, there is the Navy JAG himself," the unnamed operative offered for their consideration, his personal feelings hidden by a neutral expression. "He's unmarried, women are attracted to him, and he's the woman's commanding officer."
"Perfect!" The psychologists both exclaimed, immediately agreeing that the match would create a real challenge and provide outstanding experimental data. They ignored the other photos and files.
The CIA operative assured the psychologists and their team members that he would personally initiate the next phase of the experiment immediately.
When he returned to his office, Special Agent Howard Middleton sat back in his leather chair and laughed long and loudly. His plan was working perfectly.
"Sir, permission to speak?" Colonel Olivia Meadows asked quietly. She had been standing at attention so long her thighs hurt.
"NO! You may not!" her C.O. bellowed, turning from the window to yell at her, his rage barely under control, his hands clenching into fists. "What am I supposed to do with you, Colonel Meadows?" he asked, moving to stand in front of her, his body so close she could feel his breath on her face.
"Sir," she began.
"I said you were not to speak!" he barked.
He stared at her.
She didn't blink, her eyes focused over his shoulder.
He stepped back, crossed his arms over his chest, pursed his lips and continued to stare at her. Then he leaned in closer, bent his head and looked into her doe brown eyes.
"Now what, Col. Meadows?" he rasped.
She opened her mouth to say something but shut it again when he glared at her.
"You," he thundered, "are supposed to set the example. Arriving late for staff meetings is not excusable but tolerated ONCE! Consistently arriving late is NOT acceptable! Is. That. Clear?"
She remained silent.
"I said, Is. That. Clear?" he snapped.
"Sir, yes sir!" she replied smartly.
"I said you were not to speak!" he groused.
Ollie took a deep breath, compressed her lips and focused her gaze over his shoulder once more. She was really tired of standing.
He continued to enumerate her failings.
"Arguing with a junior officer and doing so in the middle of the bullpen is not acceptable behavior from a senior officer. Am I making myself perfectly clear?"
Ollie kept her mouth shut.
JJ paced to the window, back to the front of his desk, and finally, stood behind his Chief of Staff. "But signing off on cases I specifically said I wanted to review first is not only unacceptable, it is willful insubordination, inexcusable, intolerable, and could get you demoted, Colonel!" He was bellowing so loudly, his breath made the hair on her head sway.
Ollie wisely kept her mouth shut.
He finally returned to his leather chair, and leaned back, never taking his eyes off of her ramrod straight stance. He knew he was capable of reducing her to tears, but it wasn't her tears he wanted. He knew it wouldn't take much for her to lose confidence in her abilities if he continued to admonish her, make her lose what little self-esteem she had left. As her commanding officer, he wanted her to remain strong regardless of what he said. But as a man, JJ? his conscience asked. What do you want from her?
I want her to forget all the failed lovers she's ever had and get on with her life. I want her to remember she's a terrific lawyer, nothing more.
And you, JJ? How do you want her to treat you?
I want her to... she's a strong and brilliant and beautiful woman. I want her to know that she is. I want her to... God Almighty! I want her to be all she can be and I want her to be happy! I regret *I* can't be the one to make her happy.
You regret? The voice in his head nagged. You regret? The attraction is still there, isn't it?
Yes, he admitted grudgingly. It is. I thought it had waned. But I realize it's just been festering deep inside me. Doesn't matter. Nothing I can do about it while she's under my command. He shook his head, disgusted with himself. Who am I kidding? Why the hell would she be interested in pursuing a relationship with me? I constantly bite her head off.
You don't really know that, the voice said quietly. And you'll never know it unless you give yourselves a chance. Consider transferring her. Keep her close by but under someone else's command - Quantico, the Pentagon, some other agency.
It's not that easy.
You want your cake and you want to eat it, too. You don't want to lose her at JAG.
I want her at JAG. I'd hate to come to work every day knowing she wouldn't be here. I can't believe I... Enough! Shut up!
JJ sighed. He had done it again. Argued with himself and lost the damn battle. I need a break. This might be a good time to use some of the leave I have on the books.
Ollie was on the verge or tears, a litany in her head reinforcing her feelings of worthlessness. She had disappointed him once again. She had been late to staff meeting this morning by just a few minutes. It didn't matter that she really had a dead battery. She had been late again. As for the incident in the bullpen, well, she had taken as much of a junior officer's insolence as she could stand. Even a saint could only take so much. But signing off on that pile of cases set aside for the Admiral... that was just sheer bad luck. The piles on her desk had risen precariously and when they spilled onto the floor, she had inadvertently placed the ones he wanted to review into the wrong pile.
He's thinking about transferring me. I know he is, she thought, kicking herself for her stupidity. I don't want to leave JAG.
You just don't want to leave *him,* her conscience whispered.
Ollie didn't argue. She knew she'd miss everyone at JAG Ops if she was transferred but they could stay in touch by email. But to leave the Admiral? Not to be able to see him every day? That was an unbearable thought. What would I do? Email a quick Hi, how ya' doing? Just wanted to let you know I miss standing at attention in your office while you ream me out.
Oh yeah, that would work, her conscience sneered.
I've been standing here FOREVER! If he ever releases me, I think I'll put in for some vacation time. Need to get away for a while... if he approves my leave.
"At ease, Colonel," JJ said, his voice sounding tired, disappointed, and maybe, a little regretful.
Ollie changed positions and waited for the other shoe to fall.
"I think you need to take some time off, Colonel," he remained formal with her. "You need to take a break from JAG and relax, come back to a fresh start. Do you agree?"
She finally directed her eyes at him. First, a vacation, then a transfer, she thought bitterly.
"I asked you a question, Colonel."
"Whatever the Admiral wishes, sir," she returned formally.
JJ crossed his arms over his chest and narrowed his eyes at her. "What does the Colonel wish?"
"My personal feelings are immaterial, sir."
"Very well. As of 1730 hours, you are relieved of duty for twenty-one days. Dismissed."
"Aye-aye, sir," Ollie responded, did an about-face and closed his office door behind her.