Authors Notes: Hey everyone, so I'm back with a new story for you. I had no intention of writing anything else for a while but this just nagged at me until it was done. As always, I make no money from this and don't own any of it. This story has been fuelled by binge watching Homeland, so if you recognise certain elements of it, that's why, so I should say I don't own that either.
Lastly, I don't really do the whole 'trigger' warnings because books and TV and real life don't but I will say my whump of John is more psychological this time, so consider this your warning. Also, real soldiers and CIA agents are sweary as fuck so here's your warning for that too. ;-)
2009 - Islamabad, Pakistan
"John! I thought you'd died!"
In his usual understated fashion, John Reese just shrugged. Truth was, sometimes he felt like he had died, the John that Khaled Hussein knew had anyway. "That was kinda the idea," he offered.
"Man, the others all said that you'd been transferred to some sort of covert ops. More covert even than Delta. But the guys tried calling you to catch up, tried looking you up, and nothing. We all feared the worst."
"Yeah, sorry about that. I'm not great at staying in touch," he joked lamely. To be honest, it was true, he'd always been bad at it, but now it was obvious he'd had little choice in the matter.
"Look, as touching as this reunion is, we need to get down to business," Kara Stanton said coldly, arms folded across her chest and leaning against the door frame. She'd picked her pose carefully, with one hip jutting out, so that the stance looked sassy and in control rather than gentle or relaxed. She was dressed similarly to John, jeans, dark boots and a long sleeved tee shirt, loose enough to conceal a weapon under in the small of her back. She had a navy scarf around her shoulders which she used to cover her hair when she was outside. The scarf had tassels and a few little stars embroidered onto it, but it didn't make the woman appear any less severe and intimidating.
John had tried to appear less aggressive, the sleeves of his pale blue Henley were scrunched up to his elbows, it was an attempt to seem more relaxed, the colour he'd chosen was calm and non-threatening, the bare skin of his tanned forearms was supposed to suggest he had nothing to hide. It was all subtle manipulative tactics which Kara had taught him but that she herself rarely bothered with.
"Who's she?" Khaled asked, indicating the woman.
"Kara, she's my partner. Don't worry, she always looks like someone just pissed in her cereal," he teased at the woman's frown. Kara really did only have two facial expressions, resting bitch face, or a sweet and innocent smile. Of the two, John found the smile scarier.
Khaled ignored her then and turned back to John, "you know I don't want to do this," he said, urgently, now that they were down to talking business.
"I know," John frowned, he didn't want to do this either, and yet here they were, "if I thought there was another way then I would have made them take it." He didn't have that kind of authority, but it helped for them to believe you did.
"It's dangerous," he said, and John nodded in agreement. "If I'm caught they'll hurt my family."
"I'm going to get your family out of here." John promised, "they need to stay in place for now. If we move them now, they'll know something is up. But I can put a covert security detail on them until we're done, and then I promise, we'll get you all out of here. How does a new life in America sound?"
"It sounds like something I was promised once before," Khaled pointed out as he started to pace the dingy room of the apartment they'd commandeered for this meeting. "I worked as a Special Forces translator for five years John. You guys would come and do your tour, and go home and I would still be there. Mission after mission. I couldn't even leave the base because it was too dangerous, I didn't get to see my wife and kids in all that time! But I did it because we'd been promised a better life. But your government lies, John. They got us out of Afghanistan, but not to America like they promised, they just dumped us here instead. Some days I think we would have been better staying where we were."
John allowed Khaled to see how upset that made him, "I didn't know about that until I was on my way here," he assured. It was the truth, and yet when he'd read it in the briefing, he hadn't been surprised. "But I promise you, this time will be different."
"Because they need you, because they flew me half way round the world to come and work with you, knowing I'd be the only one you'd trust. And because they did that knowing I would never let them get away with that again. You and your family deserve to be safe. I can make that happen for you, but you have to do this one thing for me." John hated himself as he said it, it made him feel sick, manipulating the man in that way. But this was his job now, he supposed, doing things that made him feel sick, so that no one else had to do them instead.
"You always were too righteous for your own good John." Khaled said, and Kara in the background sniggered. "And you drag everyone down this righteous bloody path with you."
John could only nod at that in acceptance, he was almost disappointed when the Afghan soldier's next words were, "But we all used to follow because we trusted you. I'll do this, but only for you. It's one thing, and then you have to get me and my family out of here."
"I promise," John said. And he meant it, more than anything since he'd joined the CIA.
He was about to get into sharing the details he'd memorised on the plane, when he felt the hairs on the back of his neck rise. He could never explain this response, but he'd learned not to question it. "Khal, are you sure you weren't followed?"
He strode over to the window and peered behind the blanket that had been hung as a curtain. He pulled the Glock from his waistband and flicked the safety off.
"No! John, you know I know better than that. There was no one following me I swear!"
Kara had learned to trust what she'd dubbed John's 'sixth sense' as well, and she'd made for the door, weapon drawn, checking through the peephole for intruders.
John scanned the street below and the windows on the building opposite. Khaled came and stood beside him, his voice now at a whisper, "What is it?"
"Not sure," John said softly, "but we're getting out of here." He was about to turn away to make their escape when he saw it. A window in the building opposite was opened and the glint of metal shone in the sun. "RPG! Go!" he shouted, shoving Khaled away from the window. He threw his own window open and aimed for where he knew the wielder of the weapon would be. He got off a couple of shots, but he was too late, and suddenly there was a thunk accompanied by a whoosh of the grenade being shot straight at them.
John spun on his heels and dove away from the window. As he did he saw that Khaled had refused to leave without him. He only had enough time to grab his friend and tackle him to the ground, shielding him with his body as the impact hit the building and the nearest wall crumbled, showering them in dust and lumps of concrete.
It had been accompanied by a bang and a flash of heat, that stunned John momentarily and he stayed down covering his head with his hands, tucking Khaled's head in under his arm, good thing too, as a large piece glanced off his bicep. He shook it off and blinked the dust out of his eyes. "Khal, go!" he croaked, barely an inch from the other man's face. He rolled his weight off the other man and gave him another shove, to shake him out of his ear-ringing shock.
Khaled scrambled to his hands and knees and then turned to John, gripping his hand to help haul him to his feet, when there was another thunk-whoosh sound. There was no time to react before the second grenade exploded.
John wasn't sure if he'd blacked out but suddenly Kara was there. She clenched her fist into the collar of his shirt and hauled him to his feet, getting him moving in staggering steps before he could even blink the blood and dust from his eyes.
"We have to go back," he stopped at the doorway, shouting over the ringing in his ears.
Kara shook her head, frustrated that John had picked this moment to stop, "Reese, there's nothing left of him. Your asset is dead, if you don't want to join him we need to move."
Kara pushed him through what was left of the door. As she did, John looked back into the room and saw the devastation. The wall had come down, exposing the room to the street. Some of the floor had fallen in had left a gaping chasm to the apartment below. The hole was where Khaled had been, and all that was left of him was the arm that John had been holding.
John resisted the urge to throw up or cry and willed his legs to move as he allowed his partner to lead him out into the street and towards their getaway vehicle.