Title: Diana's New Friend
Characters: Diana, Neal, Jones, Peter, guest starring Donna Anna Morgan, cameos by Blake and an unidentified intern
Spoilers and warnings: none
Disclaimer: All the cool characters belong to Jeff Eastin, who doesn't seem to mind if we take them out and play with them.
Summary:Diana is assigned to a protection detail. It's not a good fit for her.
Originally found on my Live Journal account, so if it looks familiar, you'll know why.
It was only her deep respect for Peter Burke, and her understanding of just how much paperwork this would entail for him, that prevented Diana from causing significant bodily harm to Miss Princess Airhead, aka Donna Anna Morgan. You're a professional, Diana, act like one, she told herself. You can make it look like an accident.
They were beginning Day 3 of what should be a (God willing) three-day hearing at which Princess's boyfriend's testimony regarding the distribution of nicely made designer knock-offs was key. Diana had met him briefly, just before becoming responsible for the safety and well-being of his girlfriend. He seemed like a reasonably bright guy, for a criminal. Not in Caffrey's class, of course, but hardly anyone was. Girlfriend, on the other hand, well, when intelligence was being doled out she was massively shortchanged. Diana had nothing against stupidity; some of the easiest busts were made because of criminals doing stupid things. And she knew that not everyone (well, very few people, actually) had her upbringing. She could enjoy spending time with people who might not have had any real formal education, but were at least aware of a world that existed outside of reality television.
Donna Anna wasn't one of them. And she just wouldn't stop talking. At all. About shopping. About clothes. About eating only organic food. About the cast of "Jersey Shore." The worst part was that she decided Diana was her new bff, and even insisted that everyone call her Donna Anna because it sounded like Diana.
Diana wasn't thrilled when Peter first asked her to stay with Ms. Morgan, because, frankly, she wasn't into babysitting. But then she thought about Charlie, and how her bodyguard was the most important person in her life outside of her parents, and the person she spent the most time with even counting her parents, and the final sacrifice he made for her so she could be here, and she softened. This was only for a few days, how hard could it be?
After six hours with Donna Anna Diana tried to recall if it was the bathroom or the kitchen where most accidents in the home occurred.
On the first evening Neal stopped by with a box of pastries and a bag of freshly ground coffee beans. "Peter said you sounded a little stressed on the phone," he said softly when Diana opened the door. "Want some company for a couple hours?" Diana grabbed his arm and pulled him in.
"You have no idea. I owe you for this."
"Wow, must be pretty bad if you owe me before I even get in the door," he laughed. Just then Donna exited the bathroom. Diana and Neal both noticed the expression on her face change from blandly pleasant to almost predatory when she saw Neal. He smiled with amusement as he put down the box and the bag.
"Hi, I'm Neal Caffrey. I work with Diana."
"I'm so pleased to meet you, Mr. Caffrey," she said somewhat breathily, as she proceeded to the very edge of his personal space, and then took a half step in. "I'm Donna Anna Morgan." She extended her hand to him. He had to back up slightly to take it. "Call me Neal. Diana, should I make coffee now, or would you rather save it for morning?"
Diana grinned. Was Caffrey actually a little bit uncomfortable? He did come all this way, and she DID owe him. This could be a quick debt to repay.
"Sure, let's make a pot now. Is that June's Italian roast?"
"Oh, I only eat organic foods," Donna said.
"It's Fair Trade coffee, and the brownie is organic and vegan," he said, opening the box. "Diana, I'm afraid our cannoli were made the old fashioned way and loaded with fat and sugar."
"Yum," Diana replied with a huge smile.
Donna pressed against Neal's arm, looking at the open pastry box. "That's so thoughtful of you, Neal." Marilyn Monroe could pull off that voice pattern; Donna, not so much.
"Diana mentioned you were particular about - food. Di, I forgot to bring a measuring spoon. Is there one here, by any chance?" he asked as he gracefully ducked away from Donna while slipping the spoon he'd brought from his jacket pocket to the nearest drawer.
Now Diana was openly laughing. "I'll help you look. Donna Anna, maybe you could clear off the table?" Donna had left a couple of romance novels and a stack of gossip papers on the small dinette table, because, as she had told Diana, she liked to read and keep up with current events.
After Donna moved her reading materials into her bedroom she called Diana over with a conspiratorial whisper.
"You and Neal, is there something - I mean, are you guys, like, together or anything?"
Diana wondered how Donna would react if she told her that she and Caffrey actually had pretty similar taste in women, at least, physically, but thought that was too much information, so she just said, "Nope. He's all yours." By the end of the evening Diana was actually sorry she had put it that way. Donna hung onto Neal's every word, not to mention his arm, for the better part of the next two hours. When he moved, she moved. When he spoke, she looked at him adoringly. When she spoke, she faced only him. Diana made a mental bet with herself of how long it would take her to sit on Neal's lap.
When he got up to leave Donna held his arm with both hands, and said, "You're not staying? I thought you were our nighttime protection."
"I'm sorry," he said, looking genuinely remorseful, "but I'm not an agent, I'm just a consultant. I don't even carry a weapon. I believe Agent Jones is taking the night shift. You'll like him," he said to Donna. "He's sweet. But a word of advice - whatever you do, don't get him talking about his partner, Blake. He can bend your ear for hours." Diana walked into the hall with him and closed the door.
"Best of luck to you, Diana. I am not coming back," he said as he texted Jones informing him that his partner in cyber geekdom might be mistaken for his boyfriend, and he should just go with it. Now Diana was REALLY sorry she told Donna she wasn't Caffrey's girlfriend. He had definitely made the evening pleasant, and she believed him when he said he wasn't returning.
Diana was expected to stay in the suite for the duration of Boyfriend's testimony, but since she herself was allowed to sleep, a second agent was assigned for overnight. Clinton Jones was posted the first night, and since Neal gave Donna every indication that Jones would not be interested in her, she went to bed soon after he arrived.
"Caffrey left coffee, and there's a cannoli in the 'fridge. Help yourself. I'm going to take a Tylenol PM and try to forget this day ever happened," Diana told him. "Would you make sure I'm up by five? Or shoot me, right now I don't care."
Diana awoke just before five a.m. and joined Jones for freshly brewed coffee. "What do you think it will take to get Caffrey back here?" she asked, peering into the almost empty bag of ground coffee.
Jones waved his phone at her. "I don't think even the threat of prison would do it, not after the burning texts he sent." Diana sighed. "Maybe he'll just send more coffee."
That second day was brutal. Donna was restless. She wanted to go ice skating at Bryant Park. Diana gave her a look that even Donna understood to mean "no." Then she wanted to go to a farmers' market. A freakin' farmers' market, to buy fresh organic produce. Locally grown. Diana didn't even have a glare for that. Very calmly, in the same quiet voice one might use when announcing that the dog is rabid and has to be put down, get over it, Diana told her, "One, we can't leave this suite, and two, we are in the Financial District of Manhattan. There are no farmers' markets in the Financial District of Manhattan." Dear Lord, where was this chick from?
"I thought Manhattan was the crossroads of the world. There must be one here someplace," she said as if Diana just didn't get what Manhattan was all about.
"If you want locally grown seasonal produce it would have to be seasonal and - well, locally grown. In January, in this part of the world, that would be - that would be - " What WAS in season? She thought for a bit. "Christmas trees?"
Donna-Call-Me-Donna-Anna crossed her arms and plopped on a chair like an annoyed eight year old. Diana crossed her arms, too, in order to keep her hands away from the gun in her holster.
"Look, I'm gonna call in a lunch order. Do you want someone to pick you up anything special?" Maybe too broad of a question. "I mean, more magazines? Books? DVDs?"
Donna brightened immediately. "Do you think Neal could bring lunch?"
"Chance in hell," muttered Diana. "I don't know," she said brightly. "Let's call him and ask."
"Hey, Caffrey." "Good morning, Neal." Terrific. He was being double teamed on speaker phone.
"Morning, ladies. How are you?" he asked in a carefully modulated tone.
"Caffrey, Donna Anna was just wondering if you would be stopping by here today, maybe with lunch."
"Oh, Diana, I would if I could but I am just neck deep in the Henderson real estate fraud files, and I'd hate to lose focus now that we're so close."
"Isn't that a cold case?"
"Yes, but I really want to wrap this one up for Peter by close of business tomorrow." Diana could almost hear him grinning.
"But don't you get a lunch hour?" Donna Anna's whine was almost adorable.
"We have people to pick up whatever you need," he said.
Diana bit back a I-have-something-better-I-have-you comment, because, after all, it was PETER who had Neal.
"Alright, Caffrey, I'm sure we'll talk later. Enjoy your mortgage fraud."
Three hours later Neal knocked on their door, a file box in his hands and several bags on top.
"Peter told me you would hurt me if I didn't show up. Did you tell Peter you would hurt me? Because first he mentioned orange and cotton/poly blends, but I'm pretty sure I could win at trial on that."
"I, uh, might have, might have implied, that, umm..."
Odd, Neal thought, Diana was usually far more articulate.
"Alright, damn it, yes, I told him that. I'm not proud of it. Well, actually I am. It worked, didn't it?"
He raised one eyebrow, and walked past her to the kitchen area. But slowly, without his usual bounce. "Diana, you're looking so well rested. Donna Anna, delightful to see you again," he said quietly. He set the bags with food on the counter, and removed a smaller bag with freshly ground coffee. "I don't know about you, but I really could use the caffeine right now. Should I make a full pot?" he asked them. While Donna stared at him with a teenybopper smile on her lips and a look of compete adoration on her face, Diana noticed his hand shook slightly while he scooped the coffee into the basket. He washed his hands and rubbed a wet paper towel across his eyes.
"Oh, Neal, are you alright?" asked Donna.
"I'm fine, thanks for asking."
"Really, fine, Diana." He had half a smile which he turned up to full brilliance immediately. That was never a good sign.
Donna pulled their sandwiches and salads from the bags while Diana and Neal got utensils and plates from the kitchen. "Is the salad dressing organic?" Donna asked brightly. "Benzene's organic, can we put some in her food?" Diana muttered to Neal. He smirked, then gasped and pressed his lips together.
"Caffrey, really, what's wrong?"
He exhaled hard. "Too much dust and small print. I took something before I left - it should kick in soon."
They sat at the table, Donna Anna devouring her food and chattering aimlessly. Neal was unnaturally quiet and took one bite of his sandwich before pushing it aside and focusing on his coffee.
"So, Caffrey, are there files in that box for me to work on?"
Neal looked up, startled. "Oh, yeah. Mine, actually, but I wouldn't turn down some help. Left them in the kitchen - lemme get 'em. " He got up stiffly. Diana mentally noted that it was rare for Neal to take slang-like grammatical shortcuts. He was off, it had to be some headache. They cleared away the dishes and Neal spread old mortgage fraud files across the table, while Donna leaned over his shoulder. When he thought Diana wasn't watching he pinched the bridge of his nose.
"You know what? I'll work on these. Why don't you head back to the office," Diana said.
"What, and dump my work on you? Aren't you the one who said I should think long and hard before I tried to pull anything over on you?"
"Yeah, I did. This offer expires in thirty seconds."
He looked grateful. "Thank you, Diana. You don't know how much I appreciate this."
He said goodbye to a truly disappointed looking Donna Anna and carefully made his way down the hall to the elevators, not resuming his usual grin and gait until he got to the lobby, because while he didn't think Diana would shoot him in the back, he didn't survive this long by taking foolish risks.
Diana made it through the rest of the day with her charge by working on the pile of case files and planning all the ways this assignment could end that included the words "and then she just vanished" and wouldn't incur Peter's wrath. Dinner was delivered by one of the interns, who had apparently been warned by Neal to drop and run, and since the kid didn't know Diana well enough to be afraid of her, he listened to Neal. A shame, really, thought Neal after he passed those words of wisdom to the guy, but it's not as if he planned to pursue a career on the 21st floor. Hopefully.
Diana finished going through the box in the middle of a "Say Yes to the Dress" marathon. When Donna Anna saw that she had returned the files to the box she started explaining the current bride's problems with her bridal party and her mother (compared to the OTHER bride's problems with her sister and her bridal party). As hard as Diana tried to avoid getting sucked into the drama unfolding before her, she couldn't help it - she was an FBI agent and trained to handle ugly situations like these. (That dress costs HOW MUCH?) And the bridal shop WAS in New York, and some of those dresses COULD someday turn out to be counterfeit, so, maybe this could fall under the heading of research, just in case. She only hoped Caffrey never found out.
Blake got night duty. He couldn't quite follow Donna Anna's chain of thought about Jones, but chalked it up to her missing her boyfriend, and nerves about his ongoing grand jury testimony. By mid-morning, after Blake was long gone and Diana was truly at the end of her normally short fuse Neal showed up again.
"Pack up, ladies. Jones will be here with a car as soon as your boyfriend's finished testifying, which should be in about an hour. I just came for the files I left yesterday."
"I could bring them in with Jones," Diana said.
"Peter asked me to get them, I'm sure he'll explain later," he said cheerfully.
"Are you feeling better, then?"
Shortly after noon, Donna Anna and her boyfriend were reunited and on their way home, and Neal, Diana and Jones were in Peter's office.
"Excellent work, Diana, I understand how difficult it was dealing with Ms. Morgan. Jones, Blake and Caffrey all said how challenging the situation was, and I want you to know how much I appreciate your professionalism. The only mistake you made was getting conned into doing Neal's work with the mortgage files. Next time, unless blood, clearly broken bones or a fever is present, call me before you make any decisions based on his health. And, Caffrey, Jones, maybe one of you could talk to Blake. He's not sure why Ms. Morgan thinks he's gay but he thought it had to do with one or both of you. Take care of it before it becomes an issue. And Diana, welcome back. We missed you."
"Missed you too, Boss," she said, eyeing Neal wickedly.
Thanks for reading!
A/N This was inspired by a couple of lines from "Love Makes the World Go Square" from the show"No Strings" -
...where words have a childish kind of grace, and intellect makes no demands
place where a thought never pays, wonderful world of cliches.
Lyrics and music by Richard Rogers.