?

Log in

 
 
27 July 2006 @ 07:59 am
Erin Driscoll and Bill Buchanan  
Title: On the Carpet
Author: stbacchus
Characters: Erin Driscoll (3), Bill Buchanan (33)
Rating: PG-13 (some strong language)
Summary: In the aftermath of season 4, Erin Driscoll and Bill Buchanan have to explain themselves to District Command's investigator, Lynn McGill.

Chapter 1: Erin Driscoll

Erin Driscoll did not look at herself in the reflective doors that opened into the Counter Terrorist Unit's District Command Headquarters. Her eyes looked so dead recently that it scared her a little. Still, that was an improvement on how they'd looked for the last three weeks - guilty, haunted, soaking wet more often than not. If they now seemed blank, it was because Erin had finally gotten herself under control. She avoided her own gaze again as she waited for the elevator, concentrating instead on the digital display ticking down the floors.

On the fifth floor, Erin headed to the office of a Mr. Lynn McGill. She didn't recognize the name from her time at Division Command; he must be new. And he must be good at his job, if he was already heading up an official inquiry. Well, good at his job or good at kissing ass, she'd just have to see.

"Good morning, Ms. Driscoll," McGill's secretary greeted her.

"Hello, Joanne," Erin said, pleased to see a familiar face. "How have you been?"

"You know me-work, work, work."

Hoping to avoid the reciprocal question, Erin changed the subject. "How's the new boss?"

"Do you believe I'm the fourth secretary he's been through in six months?" Joanne smiled wryly.

Erin took a deep breath as she entered the office. She had already submitted a report, so she suspected this supposedly informal interview would be an evaluation of whether she was still fit to run a domestic unit.

McGill stood up to greet her and shake her hand. He was clean-cut, well-groomed without being fussy, wearing a dark suit that was sharp without being showy. He had a boyishly handsome face and a politely vacuous expression. No wedding ring.

"I appreciate your taking the time to meet with me, Ms. Driscoll. I know this has been a trying time for you."

A wild understatement. This McGill practically defined innocuous. Erin didn't say anything. He continued smoothly.

"As you know, I'm writing the official report on CTU Los Angeles' pursuit of Habib Marwan. I read your report, but I wanted to go over a few points and get your input on a couple things."

Erin nodded.

"Let's start with Jack Bauer. I see that he used to run the Los Angeles domestic unit. But he wasn't working with CTU on this particular day?"

"That's right. He was there as a representative of the Department of Defense. We were discussing budget allocations."

"Budget allocations. Why did you send him out into the field?"

"He was...useful during Tomas Sherak's capture. When Secretary Heller was abducted, he wanted to help." Erin flicked her eyes downward at the thick file lying under McGill's left hand. "If you've read Bauer's file, you know that his reputation as a field agent precedes him."

"Almost as legendary as his reputation as a maverick."

"I thought he could be of use. He did save the lives of Secretary Heller and Audrey Raines single-handedly."

"Did you authorize him to shoot Tomas Sherak?"

"I...yes."

McGill pressed his lips together. "As long as you're more sure on the point when you testify for the House special subcommittee than you were just now."

He paused, as if to gather his thoughts, although Erin thought it more likely he was looking for signs his warning had sunk in. She mimicked his bland expression and nodded a little bit. He seemed satisfied.

"Why did you authorize illegal torture?"

"It was necessary. Sherak had information. We needed it."

"Just that simple. The ends justify the means. Although the information wasn't timely enough to stop the attack on Secretary Heller, correct?"

"No. I made a mistake in not pushing him harder, sooner."

"Hence your later decision to put the thumbscrews on Richard Heller."

"Curtis Manning was unwilling to go further than sensory disorientation, but that's essentially correct. Apparently, a more invasive technique was in fact warranted."

"I've read the transcript of his interrogation, and I'm not sure that follows. But what really concerns me is the lack of respect for your authority throughout the day. Besides Manning and Bauer, I see Chloe O'Brian resigned following some serious insubordination, and Secretary Heller pulled rank on you several times. What can you tell me about that?"

"Evidently, I was unable to inspire the kind of loyalty that Jack Bauer did. Nonetheless, I was the person in charge, not him."

McGill made a note.

"All right, let's move on to Marianne Taylor."

Erin's breath caught in her chest.

He continued, "I've assigned an analyst to examine the computer system and find out exactly how she managed to frame Sarah Gavin. I suppose that's all I need to know. You hired them both, correct?"

"Marianne as an independent contractor for that day only."

"Right, that's what it says." He looked back down at his notes. Erin let out a silent sigh of relief.

"While I was examining the record of communication between CTU and the LAPD, I found that you called back a squad car under CTU authority. Why was that?"

Erin didn't answer. There was no good answer for that question.

"Ms. Driscoll, I have to make a note of it whether you provide me with an explanation or not."

She sighed, although she kept her expression carefully blank. "It was for Maya. My neighbor called the police. I sent them back and had her brought to CTU instead."

"I see. There's just one more thing." He paused, and his expression changed briefly. Erin could guess what topic he was about to bring up. She took the opportunity to steel herself.

"How do you feel about the level of care your daughter received in the medical clinic?"

"I hired Mark Kaylis. We were on good terms. I'm sure his mistakes were honest."

"You're referring to his giving her Haldol, to which she had an allergic reaction."

"Correct. They were able to reverse that error."

"Yes, but you brought her in for supervision and they failed to adequately supervise her."

"Maya could be...difficult. I'd honestly rather not assign blame."

McGill seemed slightly confused by that, but he didn't press it. "Well, that's all the questions I had. Was there anything you wanted to add?"

"Not at this time, no. When are you submitting your report?"

"Hopefully around this time next week. Although it will be classified."

"Of course."

By the end of the handshake, Erin's mind was already a thousand miles away.

Chapter 2: Bill Buchanan

Bill Buchanan marched into District Command and punched the elevator's up button. While he waited for the car to return to ground level, he glanced briefly at his reflection in the stainless steel doors. Not a hair out of place.

He had been summoned by Lynn McGill, a recent hire from the private sector who was making a name for himself by "cleaning up" CTU's domestic units. Firing people was never a pleasant job, but it was even less so when most of your staff carried guns. McGill was known to swing the axe swiftly and mercilessly. Bill supposed that was why he was chosen to sort through the wreckage of CTU's pursuit of Habib Marwan. It would be easier for someone who wasn't there to pass judgement, anyway.

Meanwhile, District bumbled around trying to put together a new staff while they investigated what was left of the old one, and Bill was the one who had to hold CTU Los Angeles together. He had looked at the hourlies, and Edgar Stiles was the one and only person who had been there the entire day. Also one of the few who wasn't under investigation, fired, quit, or dead. Stiles would be the interim director if he weren't the least suitable person in the entire unit. Bill wasn't sure why District had kiboshed him hiring his own interim staff, but he guessed it had to do with the pending investigation.

McGill's secretary let him through, and Bill entered the office, taking it all in surreptitiously. It was a skill he developed in the field that had continued to serve him as he moved upwards through CTU's surprisingly robust bureaucracy. There were two certificates on the wall: a Bachelor's in Social Science from UCLA, and an MBA from same. Bill saw no other personal objects. McGill himself was both shorter and younger than Bill expected. It was a little obnoxious, actually, that District had put this kid in charge of investigation. He couldn't have much experience doing anything, certainly not with CTU.

"Thank you for taking the time to speak with me, Mr. Buchanan. I understand you have the job of running the Los Angeles domestic unit while a replacement is found. You must be very busy."

"It's not a problem. I'd like to help any way I can." Bill paused delicately before continuing, "Though I was wondering why you called me here. Was my report unsatisfactory?"

"I just wanted to go over a few points and make sure I understand the situation completely before I make my own report to CTU Headquarters. Cross the t's and dot the i's. You understand."

"I'm not sure I do. What 'situation' do you mean?"

"The overall context of your decision-making process. When the CTU inquiry is finished, I'll be reporting the findings to the House oversight committee. You'll probably also be called to testify as an eyewitness. I'd just like to make sure we're all on the same page."

"Present a united front," Bill inferred.

"I've already met with Congressman Fulbright, the chairman of the committee. He expressed some concern about CTU's operational parameters. Addressing the committee's questions with in-fighting and finger-pointing isn't the best move for any of us."

"Finger-pointing? In one twenty-four-hour period, CTU Los Angeles saved the Secretary of Defense from assassination, stopped 103 nuclear reactors from melting down, and prevented terrorists from using a nuclear warhead on Los Angeles. I don't see any blame here, Lynn."

"With all due respect, Mr. Buchanan, in that same twenty-four-hour period, CTU failed to prevent a train bombing, allowed one nuclear reactor to melt down, watched Air Force One get shot out of the sky, and let the mastermind behind these attacks escape no fewer than five times."

Bill opened his mouth to speak, but McGill held up a finger.

"And in the process, killed the Chinese Consul and illegally tortured at least one man who has a highly passionate attorney. On top of that, I can't help noticing that the man behind so many of these actions is now dead."

"Regrettably, yes. Jack Bauer is a hero and should be remembered as such."

McGill leaned forward a little bit. His voice became a little softer and more congenial, though his expression didn't budge an inch. "Listen, Bill. The brass wants us to take whatever tack will get us through the House investigation with a minimum of embarrassment. I guess CTU had some trouble proving its authority back when it was created...?"

"Yes, I was there," Bill said, failing to keep a note of flippancy out of his voice. And you were where, the junior high cafeteria? he did not add.

Still, McGill apparently picked up on the temperature drop and stiffened back up. "Frankly, Mr. Buchanan, I was happy enough to be alive the day after two nuclear attacks on Los Angeles. But our elected officials aren't so easy to please, and if you think they aren't going to be asking the hard questions, you are mistaken. I can base my report to Headquarters on your written summary of the day's events, but I thought you'd appreciate the chance to review and clarify before I do that."

Bill bristled at the insinuation that he needed to explain himself, but he just asked, "What do you need me to clarify?"

"Let's start with Behrooz Araz. Were you able to determine why Marwan wanted him so badly?"

"No, we were not."

"I examined the hourly report logs, and there's a red flag item here at 6:30 P.M. that doesn't seem to have been followed up for several hours after it was submitted. It regards the pilot whose identity was apparently assumed for the purpose of shooting down Air Force One."

"I wasn't at CTU Los Angeles when that report came in. I was only supposed to manage the trade."

"You didn't wonder why there was any trade at all?"

"Of course. But there wasn't time to dwell on the details."

"Pretty big detail. I think Habib Marwan was willing to give up something valuable for something worthless because he wanted to keep CTU's attention focused away from the incoming reports. What do you think about that?"

"I guess I think it worked, Lynn. But it wouldn't have if the Los Angeles unit got the budget it needs to hire the staff it requires."

McGill raised his eyebrows. For a minute, Bill wondered if he was going to argue.

"Fair enough. I was also thinking that Los Angeles ought to have a bigger slice of the pie. That particular unit seems to see more action than all the others in this district combined." He made a note. "Moving on, I'd like to hear about Joe Prado."

"Confessed collaborator. What about him?"

McGill pulled a file folder out of his desk. "These are letters from his attorney. He claims Prado was tortured illegally."

"I wasn't able to find a judge to authorize the necessary action, so I spoke with President Logan directly."

"Yes, I see that he did give his authorization. Though I have to wonder why, if everything was on the level, you let Prado go before torturing him."

"Does that matter? We got the information we needed."

"Evidently, it matters a great deal to Amnesty Global. Of course you know they would be pushing even harder if Prado had been innocent."

"He wasn't."

"Not the point, Mr. Buchanan. The constitutional defense against torture is absolute. It doesn't matter if Prado was guilty or not. By violating his rights, you diminished the rights of every citizen of this country."

"We were trying to save lives. That was more important," Bill said through clenched teeth.

"And succeed where Erin Driscoll failed, capturing Habib Marwan?"

"If you're suggesting that I was acting out of self-interest, you couldn't be more wrong. Clearly," he added sardonically, "I didn't do very well for myself."

"Fine," said McGill in the same bloodless monotone he'd had the entire time. He reminded Bill of a telemarketer. "But you didn't capture Marwan, correct?"

"Not that time, no. Because the Secret Service interrupted our raid."

"Because President Logan knew Bauer had defied his orders and tortured Prado."

Bill didn't say anything.

"I recommend coming clean on this point, Mr. Buchanan. The House subcommittee can put the pieces together just as well as I can."

"They won't have to, once they see that report."

It was a coolly delivered jab, but it sparked something in McGill. "What do you want me to do, lie to Congress? Swear on a Bible and make up stories?"

"No, but you don't have to drive a stake through CTU's heart! Who do you think would have stopped Marwan without CTU? Homeland Security is a joke. The FBI and the CIA don't do what we do. No one does!"

"Is that what you're going to tell the subcommittee?"

"They can go to hell. I know I did the right thing because Los Angeles is still standing, and not a crater in the desert."

There was an awkward silence.

Finally, McGill said, "I appreciate your candor, but it isn't constructive. I'll have my secretary bring you a copy of the subcommittee's first investigation of CTU Los Angeles. I found it very useful in giving me an idea of what kind of questions might come up."

Bill snorted. "Lynn, if there is one thing I learned from my time at CTU Los Angeles, it's that you're never prepared to do a thing until you've done it hands on. It's easy to theorize and strategize about what 'should' work or what you're 'supposed' to do, but let me tell you: that means nothing when you're actually out there, on the front lines."

"I'm sure it seems that way," said McGill. God almighty, that calm, glib attitude was getting old. "Anyway, let's move on to the illegal raid on the Chinese Consulate."

"What raid?" Bill asked, knowing full well McGill must have some information.

An annoyed scowl passed over McGill's face for a fraction of a second. "This part of the report will be classified. The House won't see a word of it. However, for the purposes of CTU's internal investigation, we need to know who did what. Did you authorize the raid?"

"No. Jack Bauer and Tony Almeida arranged it without my knowledge."

"But you ran interference with Consulate Security. Were you also responsible for the hourlies that showed Bauer working with Audrey Raines?"

"Yes."

"Why did Bauer and Almeida go behind your back?"

"You should ask them."

Another flicker of irritation. "I'm asking you."

"I suppose they didn't want to risk my disapproval."

"And would you have disapproved?"

"I don't know what intel led them to Lee Jong." Impulsively, against his better judgement, Bill added, "But I can tell you that Jack's instincts throughout the day were flawless."

McGill waited patiently, as if for a punchline. When none was forthcoming, he said briskly, "Right. Is there anything else you'd like to add?"

"I think I've said all I care to."

"Fine. I've got everything I need here. Thank you again for coming in."

They did not shake hands.

Chapter 3: The Report

Erin Driscoll washed her hands. She had spent the day gardening, cleaning, and generally avoiding the envelopes sitting on her kitchen counter. There was nothing left to do except open them. She cursed herself for being so pathetic. It wasn't long ago that she wouldn't have hesitated to open them and read them, even if she knew what they said. It wasn't so long ago she would've known, either.

She decided to look at McGill's report first. If nothing else, she wanted to know how she had come off in the interview. Besides, Joanne had taken a risk leaking the supposedly classified document to her.

McGill had been impressed by her "stoicism" and thought she would "make a formidable witness" with the House subcommittee. While he felt that allowing Jack Bauer to return to the field was a "serious error," he nevertheless thought Erin had done a better job controlling Bauer than Bill Buchanan had. Ha. So she wasn't the only one.

His major complaint about her performance was that she seemed to have a hard time getting her staff to follow her, but he blamed most of that on Bauer, too. Surprisingly, he had completely omitted her calling back of the LAPD car. Erin wondered if that was because he was building a case for his recommendation or because he sympathized with her. The old Erin would have preferred the former.

Opening the second envelope, she expected to see a confirmation from District of McGill's recommendation. Instead, she got a pink slip on the official CTU letterhead. She'd been fired. She'd been fired through the fucking mail.

Numbly, Erin clutched at the kitchen table. All she could do was wonder what was left for someone who had sacrificed everything for her career and then lost that, too.

~^^~

Bill Buchanan sat in his living room, shirt unbuttoned and stocking feet resting on an ottoman. A cup of hot Earl Grey tea sat at his right hand, while his left held a copy of McGill's report. He'd spent a couple of Lakers box seats to get it, but it was pretty good reading. He'd read the letter from District first and already knew they wanted him for Special Agent in Charge of CTU Los Angeles. That wasn't exactly a demotion, although it wasn't an attaboy, either. It meant that District had confidence in his abilities, but it also meant his former employees at Division were now technically higher-ranking than him.

Bill thought that would please McGill, who put far too much stock in the bureaucracy. However, McGill apparently wanted Bill fired, citing "multiple illegal actions" requiring "increasingly complex whitewashing."

On a final skimming, Bill felt the words more than analyzing them. There was a palpable dislike for both Bill and Jack oozing through McGill's writing. The Boy Wonder had a decent poker face and his diction was respectably flat, but his arrangement of the facts and the details he selected revealed a lot more than he probably realized. Bill filed this information away for future reference, as he filed the report away in his wall safe. He had never regretted majoring in English.

~^^~

"Thanks for bailing me out," Jenny McGill told her brother, hopping into the passenger seat of his car. "This is nice. How much'd it cost?"

"It's leased. Look, just shut up, will you? I've had a bad enough day already."

"Aww. You gonna tell me about it, or is national security at stake?" she teased.

Lynn hesitated, petulantly, just to make her wait. "A guy I recommended for the shitcan was just put in charge of the Los Angeles domestic unit, and the poor woman whose daughter killed herself got said shitcan instead."

"So? If you weren't the guy doing the shitcanning, how do they know what you said?"

"They're intelligence agents, Jenny. Their job is to find things out." Lynn rolled his eyes skyward. "I get called on the carpet and my boss is all, Big picture, McGill! Buchanan gets results! Torture's okay if it's mostly guilty people! Who cares if he almost started a war with China! Why are you laughing?"

"I can't believe there's a bunch of pencilnecks in an office somewhere that get to decide who tortures who. Especially if one of them is you."

"That's the point. I don't decide anything, but I'm on record as thinking the new Special Agent in Charge of CTU Los Angeles should be fired."

Jenny shrugged. "When have you ever had to go to CTU LA? Never. Not even when you had to write your book report on it."

"I guess," Lynn sighed. "You know, I read about all the Special Agents in Charge back to Jack Bauer. The number of people who've had that job...probably a meteor will fall on Buchanan before we ever have to work together...."
 
 
 
Averyaverita on July 28th, 2006 02:49 am (UTC)
Wow! That was amazing. While I like Bill and Erin very much, I have to admit that they are rather flat characters - I would have had trouble finding an interesting situation for them to be in. You did it believably and eloquently. I especially liked Erin's reaction to being fired, very touching, and the irony of the last line. Bringing Lynn into the picture was a stroke of genius :)

Well done!

-Avery
stbacchusstbacchus on July 29th, 2006 08:57 am (UTC)
Thanks! I did have trouble finding an interesting situation. My husband came up with the internal investigation idea. He figured it would be easier if I could use Lynn, who is my favorite character. Like you said, genius. :) Once I had the right setup, the rest came pretty easily.
Betty_Pipettipipetti on August 17th, 2006 12:35 pm (UTC)
Hey that is good.
Your writing is very engaging, both in overall narrative, and in dialogue, which is all too often poorly written in stories and tv shows! And, I'm saying that not knowing anything about these characters, so there.