Two men sat in the same room.
The first man sat on the edge of his mahogany desk, one palm planted firmly on top of the wooden top and the other holding a granny-smith apple, partially reflecting the tubular fluorescent bulbs above. He seemed to be made of all sharp points and pricks, from the neatly pressed folds of his black suit with gold and amber accents, to the angles formed by his bent knees as his legs hung over the edge of the desk and his jaw that was free from even the slightest trace of facial hair. Even his chocolate-coloured curls, which logically would feel like regular soft hair upon being touched, appeared to be sharp and pointy in the room’s odd lighting. He had a completely neutral expression, his crimsoned lips set in a straight line and his eyebrows remaining in a standard position. However, the chestnut orbs that were his eyes had an expression of contempt and hatred as he squinted at the other man sitting before him.
The second man in question was sitting straight up in the firm plastic chair, his thighs pressed firmly together as his toes pointed towards the first man, and his hands strategically folded in his lap to hide the slight pudge of his stomach that was distorting the fabric of his clothing. Contrary to the appearance of the first man, he seemed to be made up of soft curves and bends, from his unnaturally wide and feminine hips and thighs that strained the seams of his too-small trainee’s uniform, to the barely noticable baby fat that lingered on his face and stomach. He as well was trying his best to maintain a neutral expression, but he was not even close to successful- his teeth nervously tugging at his plump bottom lip, and his sapphire eyes wide open and darting around the room anxiously, mostly focusing on the angled man who sat before him.
After a few moments in which neither of the two men spoke, the silence only being broken by the hum of lightbulbs above and the barely audible honking of the cars on the London streets far below, the first man spoke, his voice filled with audible annoyance towards the second. “Lester.”
“Yes, sir?” The second man asked in a quiet voice as he attempted to sit up even straighter in his chair, resisting the urge to adjust the single strand of raven-black hair that had fallen out of his quiff and in front of his left eye.
“Phillip Michael Lester. Do you know why you’re sitting here in my office?” The first man asked, crossing one leg over the other as he adjusted the gold-plated name tag on his desk. Daniel James Howell. Supervising Secret Agent.
“No, sir.” Phil shook his head, speaking in a slightly louder voice in an attempt to convince himself that he was confident and unafraid. In reality, however, he was deathly afraid of the man before him. Daniel Howell was one of the highest ranked agents in the London Private Investigation Committee, only a few spots beneath the President of the Committee himself. He was best known throughout the L.P.I.C for two things- the first thing was his incredible mission skills, both his physical ability as well as his mental capacity. The second thing was his extremely limited yet utterly terrifying range of emotions. Daniel seemed to constantly have a deadpan expression; however, whenever he spoke, his voice was unmistakably laced with annoyance, scorn, or outrage, or perhaps a combination of the three. All agents who were lower ranked than him were as respectful as humanly possible in order to hide their fear and terror. The most notable feature of Daniel’s besides his mission skills and personality was the fact that he never hired any trainees to go on missions with him. Most supervising agents served as instructors for the trainees and lower agents, taking them on missions and instructing them further than basic training could. However, Dan had never supervised any trainees in his life despite what his title implied, and nobody seemed to know why, apart from the fact that most trainees were too scared to look him in the face, never mind spend an entire mission with him.
Rather than continuing to talk, Daniel got off of his desk and began walking in wide, lazy circles around Phil’s chair, tossing the apple up in the air and catching it in the process. Every so often, he would raise the apple up to his mouth as if to take a bite, opening his lips just the slightest bit as he made contact with Phil, but seemingly changing his mind last second as he tossed the apple into the air once more. After five or six laps around Phil’s chair, Daniel began speaking in the same contempt-filled voice as before, crossing his arms behind his back while holding the apple tightly in his fist. “Tell me, Lester, what have you done in the establishment so far besides beginner’s training? And do not say eating and sleeping,” he added just as Phil opened his mouth.
How did he know I would say that? Phil wondered, his mouth closing then opening again as he attempted to speak for a second time. However, he was unable to find any words, since 95% of his time was spent training, the other 5% devoted to basic human functions as well as resting between training periods. “I… I’m not sure how to answer that question, sir.”
“Exactly. And to be quite honest, I’m not surprised one bit.” Daniel sat down on the edge of his desk once more, crossing his legs at the ankles and finally taking a bite of his apple. He downed the bite in two seconds, not even smudging his red lipstick in the process before placing the apple down on the corner of the desk and crossing his arms over his chest. “I don’t find it very stunning that no other agents have selected you for missions yet… according to your files, you are one of the worst performing trainees we’ve had in the past five years.”
Phil nodded slowly, looking down at his folded hands in his lap. This wasn’t a surprise to him either- he was quite possibly the most unathletic, clumsy, overly apologetic person he knew, and he hated it. It was well-known that he would apologize whenever he hit someone during his self-defense training, and he would curl into a ball on the floor and beg for his life whenever somebody approached him with the intent of returning the gesture. He was constantly breaking equipment by dropping it or tripping over it, often injuring himself in the process, and would get winded from running any distances over ten feet. His ridiculous six-foot-two height and the lingering baby fat on most parts of his body didn’t help anything either, and simply contributed to his unathleticism.
“Out of shape… clumsy… overapolagetic…” Daniel murmured, seemingly reading his mind as he took another bite of his apple. “I can’t help but feel a bit sorry for you… but mostly, I’m disappointed. I’d expect more from someone who’s done nothing but training for two years.” He considered the apple in his hand for a few seconds before placing it back on his desk and picking up a pastel yellow cube of sticky notes. “It’s rather pathetic, actually.” Without warning, he threw the sticky note cube at Phil with all the strength in his arm. Instinctively, Phil let out a high-pitched squeal as he covered his face with his arms and tucked his knees up to his chest in an attempt to shield himself from the incoming projectile. Only after the note cube had harmlessly bounced off the top of his head and landed with a dull thud on the hardwood floor did he realize that Daniel had most likely wanted him to throw the cube back at him, or at least catch it, rather than react as he just had.
“Pathetic,” Daniel repeated, walking around behind Phil’s chair and picking up the note cube, throwing it up in the air as he had done just minutes earlier with the apple. Putting the cube back on his desk, he picked up the apple once more and began eating it. This time, a substantial bit of time went by without either of them speaking, Daniel’s quiet chewing noises filling the room. Phil had grown so on-edge at this point that he was worried the superior male sitting before him could see his heart throbbing in his chest. His folded hands were trembling with his built-up anxiety, his sweaty hair falling out of the regulation quiff and into the former emo fringe he had possessed until just a few months ago. He’s probably brought me here to kick me out… he’s just building up to it, just teasing me beforehand…
“Like I said, I feel sorry for you.” Daniel chucked the apple core across the room, where it landed with a clang in the trash can by the door. “However, contrary to what you’re probably thinking, you are not being dismissed from the Agency. Yet. ” As he got up and began to walk in circles around Phil’s chair again, he occasionally intentionally kicked the metal leg of the chair, letting out a dry chuckle whenever Phil jumped from the sudden noise and movement. “I have a proposition for you, Lester. Let’s say, hypothetically, I had a mission coming up in one week in Tokyo, Japan. A rather small mission, actually- it’d only take a couple of weeks to complete on my own. If I was to bring you on this mission, with the promise of some sort of… reward… if you were able to help me complete it… would you be interested?”
“A… a mission, sir?” Phil asked quietly, finally managing to muster up enough courage to look up at Daniel’s face.
“Yes, a mission. If you were to not be a complete nuisance and failure to me during it, I would ask your trainers to permanently recruit you as my agent-in-training.” Daniel nodded, pausing and turning to face Phil, standing right in front of his chair. “However, before you tell me whether or not you’re interested, let me tell you one very important thing.” Practically slamming his hands on Phil’s shoulders, Daniel leaned close to his face, close enough that Phil could count the barely noticeable freckles scattered across his face. “Although this mission is small, it is of the utmost importance to me. And I am only taking you with me on it because I feel sorry for you. I have no desire to be around you if I don’t have to, and if you cause me to fail this mission, I can reassure you that there will be severe consequences.” He tightened his grip on Phil’s shoulders, which was extraordinarily painful as his slender yet strong fingers dug into his flesh through his shirt. “I’m simply giving you this opportunity because I’d rather not have the Agency’s reputation ruined by one pesky trainee. I’m utterly disgraced by your lack of skill and improvement, and I’m taking it upon me to do everything in my power to change you completely. Do you understand, Lester?”
“Y-yes, sir… I understand, sir…” Phil nodded slowly, his hands latching onto his inner thighs and squeezing them tightly to ground himself- having Daniel leaning this close to his face was sending his anxiety through the roof, his breath coming in quick little gasps and his frame trembling more than before. Please get away, please get away…
As if he was reading Phil’s thoughts, Daniel finally straightened up after a few more seconds of looking into Phil’s eyes with a deadpan expression, walking around behind his desk and sitting down in his worn office chair, his plump crimson lips curved into a frown as he held out an envelope to Phil between two fingers. “Here. This contains your mission description and what you need to pack. All of your questions will have their answers in here. Now, please report back to your dorm room.”
“...yes, sir. I will…” Nodding frantically, Phil scrambled to his feet, almost tripping over his boots in the process and provoking a barely audible snicker from Daniel. Blushing furiously and covering the lower half of his face with the collar of his shirt, he stumbled forward and took the envelope before making a hasty retreat from the office, closing the door as quietly as he could before letting out a sigh that was almost a sob, holding the envelope to his chest as he looked down at the floor. Rather than feeling an ounce of excitement about his first mission as an unofficial agent-in-training, Phil felt only dread and possibly terror at the possibility of screwing up an important mission with the Daniel Howell. If he messed this up, he was absolutely dreading what would happen to him next. Daniel’s words rang in his head- he really was pathetic, and he was never going to be a real agent if he didn’t perform perfectly on this mission with him. Shaking his head weakly, Phil felt like screaming in frustration as he slowly straightened up as best he could and made his way down the hall towards his dorm room. If I don’t improve… he’ll absolutely obliterate me. And there’ll be nothing I can do to stop him.