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America High

Title: America High
Fandom: Leverage
Series: Jukebox Musical
Pairings: None
Rating/Warnings: I've got nothing
Word Count: 1685
Disclaimer: If I owned it, the soundtrack would be Kane.
Summary: Everyone has a story.


Todd McSweeten never wanted to join the FBI. That sounds odd since he is, in fact, an FBI agent, but he spent most of his childhood dreaming of outer space instead. He wanted to be an astronaut, to walk on the moon and reach new frontiers like Neil Armstrong did. If there was life out past Pluto somewhere, astronauts would be the first to meet it and Todd was determined to find aliens someday.

Sure Star Trek was fiction but there could still be a great space alliance in the future; one that would be built on the efforts of astronauts like him. This was his dream and his parents always said that he could do anything. His mother in particular spent hours reading about the solar system and famous astronauts and he held even tighter to his dream when she died.

His mom went suddenly and while everyone said she was lucky to avoid a lingering illness, Todd didn't feel very lucky then. He just felt sad and lonely and angry at the world. Because this sucked royally and all he wanted was his mother back.

However, there was some good to come out of tragedy since his father started to spend more time at home after that. Instead of working late at the office, Agent McSweeten would lay his files out on the kitchen table, he and his partner Steve discussing their cases while Todd did homework on the couch. Not every case since some things were classified, but far more than he'd ever brought back home before.

So while Todd still missed his mother, he felt like he was finally getting to know his father and Steve was cooler than any of his real uncles ever were. He taught Todd all kinds of neat tricks and his wife made the best apple cobbler in the world.

Aunt Alice would bring food over once or twice a week, well aware that neither Todd nor his father could cook much of anything. She was pretty and always nice and even if she sometimes made Todd miss his mother more, she never seemed angry when he cried. No one got angry but Todd still felt embarrassed by it and he'd go to his room until he stopped.

However, life went on and the bad days came less often as the years passed by.

As Todd got older his dad would ask his opinion on some cases - just in general terms, of course, but it still felt good to help. He liked helping people and he thought he might like to be a cop if he couldn't be an astronaut. Just a cop since he didn't want to travel the way his father did. He'd rather be in once place so that he could spend more time with his family and, as it turned out, Todd was glad that he'd made a backup plan.

Becoming an astronaut was a lot harder than all the movies make it look and while he liked most types of science, he didn't do so well with math. The basics sure, but any more than that and his head started spinning round and round. So after nearly failing high school Calculus, Todd took a long hard look at his childhood dreams and then he said goodbye.

There was no way he would manage the kind of grades that NASA wanted and the space program didn't seem as important as it had before. If Todd wanted to help people, he could do plenty here on solid ground. To tell the truth, Todd wasn't actually very fond of heights and he didn't deal well with motion sickness either so his dreams would probably benefit from a touch of practicality. So he would never become an astronaut, but he got into the police academy without any trouble and he knew that his mother would still be proud of him.

Todd studied hard and while he wasn't at the top of his class, he wasn't at the bottom either. He was consistently just above average and he was fine with that. Todd didn't need perfect grades to make the world a better place and when he graduated, his father, Uncle Steve, and Aunt Alice were all there to clap as he walked across the stage.

Thus Todd became Officer McSweeten. He settled into his beat in one of the nicer LA neighborhoods and he was happy there. Sure the officer wasn't exactly catching criminal masterminds but someone had to solve minor crimes as well.

Someone had to track down stolen cars and petty thieves and pull kites out of trees. Admittedly, that last wasn't part of an officer's usual duties, but Todd had never been able to resist a pair of pleading eyes. Actually, McSweeten rather thought that he might be the local kids' favorite policeman and even if he never got promoted, that seemed like a decent thing to be. If he sometimes wondered whether he should be doing something more – more glamorous, more useful, more interesting – the needs of day to day life soon put a stop to that.

Indeed, Officer McSweeten would probably never have become Agent McSweeten if the world hadn't intervened.

Todd has just started his shift when he hears about the Twin Towers. The news comes through on his radio, the dispatcher's words almost too distorted to understand. Or maybe it’s just that McSweeten doesn’t want to believe what he just heard. However, the dispatcher only confirms disaster when he asks and the few people on the street this early look as shell-shocked as he feels. The entire situation is surreal, all the more so because no one seems to know any details yet.

There’s only rumor, speculation and a pile of rubble where the Twin Towers used to be. That picture is on every news channel in the coffee shop that Todd runs into and the only thing he can think to do is call his dad.

If anyone knows anything it will be Pete McSweeten and to be perfectly honest, he just wants to hear his father's voice right now. Because Todd doesn't understand this. His life hasn't been without its sorrows but this random violence makes no sense at all.

He's never understood why people hurt and kill each other and, for once, his father can't make things right again. All he can do is tell Todd what he knows and while this is more than the new stations are reporting, the added detail does little to ease McSweeten’s mind. 9/11 is all that he can think about – all anyone wants to talk about – and suddenly he doesn’t feel like he’s doing enough to change the world.

What’s the point of catching petty criminals when things like this can happen? What are a few rescued kites and smiling children compared to the running tally of the dead?

So Todd spends a lot of time talking with his father and thinking on his future before he finally makes his choice. Just over a year after the Twin Towers fell, Officer McSweeten hands in his notice and applies to join the FBI instead. Because as much as he loved being a beat cop, Todd needs to feel like he’s doing something more.

Thus, four years of college, a thousand all night study sessions, a Bachelor’s degree, far too much training and some panicked phone calls to his father later, Agent McSweeten finally joins the field. He’s ready to do something that really matters now.

However, as Todd soon discovers, the FBI isn’t all that glamorous. Maybe for the special Special Agents: the ones who track serial killers or bring down major drug lords and always make witty observations on TV. But Todd is at the bottom of the ladder with no particular special talents and that means the van. Hours and hours spent on surveillance, recording distorted conversations from some of the most boring criminals in the world. The only company he has is his partner Agent Taggert and McSweeten honestly isn’t sure whether that makes it worse. At least if Todd were alone, the van wouldn’t smell like Cheese Whiz all the time.

But he sticks it out because he’s sure that things will get better someday. He’ll do his time in the trenches and then he’ll finally get to help people just like his father did.

So one year passes and then another, Agent Taggert somehow never running out of awful jokes despite months of fifteen hour days. McSweeten survives on optimism and bad takeout and if his faith is getting a little strained, it’s not broken yet. Because for all the terrible things that happen, Todd has to believe that most people are respectable and the world’s a decent place.

Although, it’s sometimes hard to remember that good people are rewarded when watching Nick Moscone’s mansion, the mobster’s wife throwing away more money on wedding preparations than Todd makes in a year. This is four months into McSweeten’s third year of van duty and he’s proud to say that he hardly even notices the odor anymore. At least, not until a gorgeous blonde is looking at his station and the agent is suddenly hyperaware of exactly how long it’s been since he showered or cleaned out his trash.

Agent Hagen and her partner sweep into Todd’s life and then disappear with barely a ripple, only the faint scent of something sweeter left in Hagen’s wake. Well, that and all the evidence of criminal dealings by Moscone that the FBI could want.

That encounter marks a paradigm shift as McSweeten and Taggert are suddenly closing cases left and right, corrupt CEOs and wanted criminals throwing themselves into the agents’ path. Todd goes from van duty to golden boy almost overnight and he finally feels like he’s doing something significant to make the world a better place. He’s helping people and he’s happier than he’s ever been before.

Although, when Agent McSweeten looks up at the stars each evening, it’s a fifty-fifty shot whether he’s thinking about aliens or wondering where Agent Hagen is.


End