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Once Upon a Time in Virginia

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His father, of all people, drops him off at the gate.

The initial offer came as a surprise, an entire summer's worth of protest and disappointment vanishing in the blink of an eye, replaced by subtle pride and Martin still isn't sure he didn't imagine the entire thing.

The drive was made in silence, wordless except for Martin's occasional grumbling that he was quite capable of taking a bus. His father's answer was cold indifference, leaving Martin to question both of their sanity.

Call your mother, he said upon dropping Martin off, waiting only for Martin to step out of the car before taking off, disappearing around a corner and all Martin could do was watch.

He's still watching. Staring at an empty street and wondering exactly what led him to this place.

The thought lingers only a moment, replaced by the knowledge of where he is and it seems strange to be here. Strange to think of how long he spent wanting, needing to be here; an entire summer and now that he's here the sensation is gone. Replaced by determination and a dull, stomach twisting nervousness that Martin pushes to the back of his head.

His coat is travel-worn, stained with a summer's worth of dirt, making him look more like a vagabond than a new recruit. He wears it like a badge of honour, though, the last traces of his youth visible in each scratch in the leather. Today he becomes an adult. Today he sets out on a path he's been working toward since college.

Shouldering his duffel bag, Martin nods to himself before setting out, walking up the long, winding driveway that leads to the front doors of the Academy. Trees line either side, their leaves already tinged in shades of orange and red. Fall had come early to Virginia, filling the air with the sickly-sweet scent of sumac and decay.

Only a few people move about the grounds, those that do clearly knowing their final destination, hurrying with a sense of purpose that leaves Martin overwhelmed. He feels like an outsider. He imagines that's how those that glance in his direction see him too; a well educated frat boy gaping in wonder because he finally made it. Some even go so far as to openly sneer, likely expecting failure, likely basing that assumption on the car that dropped him off.

He should have taken a bus.

~*~

His room is stark, reminding him of his time at boarding school, without the luxury of cotton sheets. The ones neatly turned down on the bed are obviously polyester, faded a dull grey with time and use. They hold the scent of bleach, though, obviously clean and, besides, Martin's slept on worse.

A clean line runs down the centre of the room, dividing it neatly in half, each side an exact mirror of the other. Two beds are pushed against either wall, two end tables complete with lamps and alarm clocks resting at their sides. Two pine chests sit at the foot of either bed with two desks filling the remaining space, those complete with horrid yellow chairs that Martin's certain pre-date even his father's time.

It's a functional room, one he doesn't expect to see the inside of very often. Training is hard, or so he's heard, demanding constant attention. When he isn't in a classroom learning tactics and procedure, he'll be out on the range learning to fire an arsenal of weapons, or running obstacle courses that are designed to break even the strongest man.

Martin can hardly wait to begin.

His father once told him that he was too soft to join the Bureau. That he was better suited to a life in politics; quick mind and soft stomach making him ideal for the back-door dealings that plagued Washington. He tried to ignore the comment, but found himself running the very next day, swimming a few days later and within six months he had an application in to the Academy.

He told himself that it had nothing to do with his father or a need to prove himself.

A clatter in the hall outside his door breaks Martin from his thoughts, his heart racing as he pictures his father on the other side, coming to drag Martin home, perhaps lock him in his room until he sees reason. His father still hasn't gotten around to recognizing the fact that Martin is no longer a child.

Drawing a breath, he stills his face to impassiveness, watching the door swing open, his father forgotten as Martin gets his first look at his new roommate.

Slightly taller than Martin, with skin the colour of bronze, eyes dark and determined, mouth turned up into the barest hint of a smile, the guy standing before him is quite possibly the most attractive man Martin's ever seen. He's wearing jeans, tight jeans that hug his hips and flow down over long legs.

Martin swallows hard and briefly reconsiders his desire to join the Bureau. Surely his father won't object to Martin changing his mind.

To date, Martin's indiscretions have been few and far between, the last having ended the summer after his junior year. Replaced by a promise of never again and a string of half relationships with women of his mother's choosing. This is the second time Martin's found himself wanting to break that promise.

"You know, that staring thing's going to get old fast," his new roommate says, already claiming one of the beds, tossing his bag onto the floor before jumping onto the mattress, the springs creaking noisily.

"I'm not staring," Martin replies rather defensively, but he glances down, releasing a shaking breath before finding the strength to look back up.

"Right. I'm Danny, by the way," and there's something almost arrogant about the way he says it.

Like he's daring Martin to question his presence, or maybe expecting Martin to reject him out of hand. He has the look of someone used to disappointment.

"Martin," Martin answers, realizing he's still standing in place, the strap from his duffel bag digging painfully into his shoulder.

Placing it carefully on the ground, he lets his eyes wander over what has, by default, become his side of the room. It's not necessarily the side he would have chosen --had he been given the choice-- but he's closer to the door, which will make slipping out in the mornings without disturbing Danny easier. Martin's come to enjoy his morning swim too much to give it up for fear of rooming with a light sleeper.

Danny's still watching him, eyes following Martin as Martin walks the space between his bed and desk in an effort to memorize the layout. He doesn't seem like the type to join the FBI, his clothes too casual, his body language too relaxed. Martin's not certain he wants to spend the next sixteen weeks living the man.

It's certainly going to make Martin's time here infinitely more difficult.

"So what's your story?" Danny asks, still watching with curious eyes and Martin sinks down onto his bed before answering.

"What do you mean? I don't have a story," Martin answers, wondering just what information Danny's digging for, having no intention on giving him anything.

"Great, this should be boring," Danny says, rolling his eyes and leaning back, white t-shirt riding up to expose the tanned expanse of his stomach.

Martin thinks seriously about finding an excuse to leave. Surely there's something for new recruits to do the day before orientation.

~*~

As it turns out, there is a pre-orientation event planned, although Martin's not entirely sure planned is the right word --he's fairly certain this isn't the Academy's doing. It's more like a gathering, a central meeting place the new students have gravitated towards. Martin's still not sure how; he stumbled across the dining hall purely by accident while trying to find the gymnasium where he was told he could pick up his uniform.

Still, it's a chance to meet some of the people he's going to spend the next few months working with, so Martin heads inside, silently assessing each face that comes into view. The girl by door, she won't last two weeks. The tall guy by the kitchen, he'll finish top of his class. The girl crossing to the other side of the room, she might just topple the tall guy.

There are dozens of students, watching one another, half the faces he sees carrying trepidation, the other half open suspicion. Competition, to a certain degree, is encouraged here.

There's a midway point, his father told him before they began their silent road trip. You're part of a team there, Martin, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't do everything in your power to succeed where your classmates fail.

Cold words, fitting for a man like Victor Fitzgerald and Martin once again finds himself vowing not to end up like his father.

"Can you believe this place?" a voice asks beside him, startling Martin from his thoughts and Martin's not surprised when he turns to find Danny standing at his side.

"It can be a little overwhelming, if you're not used to it," Martin answers, something his father might say and Martin cringes before he can stop himself.

Danny doesn't respond, instead looking at Martin with newfound interest, like Martin's a puzzle he's determined to figure out and Martin coughs to displace the suddenly awkward silence.

"Sorry… I didn't mean…" he tries, giving up the second the broken sentence leaves his mouth, because he did mean, and what's worse, he doesn't really want to apologize.

"It's cool," Danny says, shrugging, turning to take in the room.

Martin can almost read the thoughts going through Danny's head. He's measuring their fellow classmates as surely as Martin did, discounting those he knows aren't a threat, memorizing those that might me.

 

Martin thinks he might actually find himself liking Danny. It's certainly a better alternative than lusting over him.

But he's not going there, because he still has his promise. Still has his future ahead of him and that kind of thing could ruin him here. Ruin him for life so Martin puts it out of his head.

"You know, I wouldn't have pegged you for a guy to show up at the first social function of the year," Danny comments, still scanning the crowd, nodding to a few select individuals he deems worthy.

"Exactly what kind of guy did you peg me as?" Martin asks, realizing Danny's been weighing him from the moment he showed up and found Martin standing frozen in the centre of their room.

First impressions have never been his strong suit.

"You seem cautious. The kind of guy who gets a feel for a situation before jumping into it, that's all," Danny answers, finishing his perusal of the room and the students, turning back to face Martin, an innocent smile ghosting across his lips.

Part of Martin wants to tell Danny he's wrong. That he doesn't know anything about Martin and shouldn't make assumptions. That Martin's a very social person, thank you very much, and that he does this sort of thing all the time. Except, of course, it's a lie and for some reason that Martin has no intention of questioning, he doesn't want to lie to Danny.

"I was looking for the gym, actually," Martin answers somewhat sheepishly, wishing he could take back the tone the second the words leave his mouth.

"Me too," Danny says with a grin, nodding like he's decided something, but for the life of him, Martin can't figure out what.

He doesn't get the chance to either, Danny already heading for the door, glancing back over his shoulder and motioning for Martin to follow. And Martin does, without question, leaving behind what is probably going to be his only chance to figure out where he stands in relation to the rest of the class.

Strangely, following Danny into the hall, it no longer really seems all that important.