Authors Note: 2 posts today, because no one should have to wait for an epilogue.
2009 - VA Psychiatric Rehabilitation Centre, near Langley, Virginia
"The CIA has made you good at lying. But you don't have to lie to me here." Doctor Stein said, watching his patient closely.
John sat on the sofa in a tee shirt and pair of sweatpants, a pair of slip on running shoes on his feet because he'd flat out refused to wear the slippers that had been suggested. They were fastened tight with strong elastic and a toggle, he hadn't been allowed anything with laces in, and for that he hated them even though the cast on his hand would have made laces impossible anyway. He hated them almost as much as he hated slippers, because slippers were for old men and sick people, and he was neither. Unfortunately there seemed to be some debate about that last one.
"I'm not lying," he insisted, staring at his stupid running shoes, "I really am fine."
"Oh, okay," the doctor answered sarcastically, "I'll write that in my report shall I? The Pakistani's really will be pleased, they're desperate to have you back so they can execute you for murdering a police officer."
John cringed at the words, but he supposed he deserved it. The doctor had been trying to gently get something out of him for days now, it was clearly time for blunter tactics.
"Look," the doctor sighed, "a lot of strings were pulled to get you out of there. I need to be able to give them something. If you don't work with me, I won't be able to sign you off, you won't ever be able to get back out into the field."
John laughed bitterly at that, which only made his broken ribs hurt all the more. "They won't want me back now. I bet Kara's started bullying my replacement already."
"Believe it or not, Mr Reese, a lot of people find your job stressful. Things aren't the way they used to be, it's not a problem to get help, and with your exemplary record I see no reason why you can't get your old job back, that is if you want it?"
John looked up at him then, and met the older man's eyes, "I'm not sure that by this point I'd be good for anything else."
The doctor gave a wan smile at the admission, finally he was getting somewhere, "And why do you feel that way John?"
2012 - NYC
The Lyric Diner was quiet for a change, most of the early morning rush had gone by the time John stepped in. He scanned the room and found who he was looking for, although he hadn't expected to see all three of them.
"Starting a new breakfast club, Finch?" he asked with his usual half-smile. He sat down next to Joss, and opposite Lionel. Harold was in the opposite corner by the window, his briefcase on his lap. They'd let him his preferred spot, back to the wall, clear view of the room and the door. He'd never said, but instinctively they all knew he felt better with a clear line of sight.
"I felt it only fair that they should know," Harold explained cryptically.
John waited as the waitress served them coffee and brought Harold his tea, before asking, "Know what Finch?"
"That the Director of the CIA received an interesting package this morning. A thumb drive, containing proof that the embassy director in Islamabad conspired with Pakistani intelligence to allow certain rogue militant activities to continue under their watch, in exchange for some, quite hefty sums of money. It includes a memo that details an ISI asset finding out about the corruption and concerns that he was meeting with a CIA agent. There's no actual mention of the meet itself, although the dates line up. And although it was rather difficult to find, there's proof that the embassy director researched psychotropics from his secure server in the day before you were admitted to hospital. I'm afraid I couldn't spell it out for them without blowing Mustafa's cover, but I'm sure they can read between the lines."
John drank his coffee carefully as he took it all in, Joss' hand sneaked across the table and rested on his hand, the hand he'd once broken in his attempt to escape his hallucinations.
"So the asset was your friend?" Lionel confirmed. "And they discredited you for asking too many questions?"
"Five years as a translator embedded with US Special Forces in Afghanistan," Harold said, "he was a hero, just trying to do what was right for his country. For the world, actually."
It was more information than John would have given them. He'd never doubted Khaled's heroism, but it was nice to have it confirmed. The words made his eyes sting. "It was three years ago Finch," John pointed out, "imagine what else they've gotten away with in three years."
"I don't need to imagine, I've read it" Harold said sadly, "but we can only give it our all and hope it's enough. You did that John. And we got there in the end."
2009 - VA Rehabilitation Centre, near Langley
"Hey partner, you ready to break out of here?" Kara smiled as she stood at the end of the swimming pool.
John got to the end of his lap and grabbed the side, gazing up at her. The cast had come off his arm a week previously and he'd been in the pool every day since, determined to enjoy at least one thing in his enforced stay in what he had to admit was a rather luxurious facility. The bruising on his ribs had faded to a mottled green by now and although he'd lost weight at first, all the swimming had brought his appetite back and he'd started to build up some muscle again.
"Kara, I wasn't expecting you. Langley said they were sending a car this afternoon."
"Yeah, well I missed you. You should have seen the guy they stuck me with while you were on this little holiday of yours, total Boy Scout. I want my old Boy Scout back, you were much more fun to tease."
Holiday, is that what we're calling it now? John thought bitterly, but he said nothing. He hauled himself out of the pool and grabbed the towel he'd left on a bench attached to the wall, "Let me just grab my stuff and let's go."
"Looking a little bit lean there, Reese. Come on, hurry up and we can grab some burgers on the way to Langley. There's a great little diner down the road..."
"Langley?" John ran the towel through his hair, "I thought we were going to a hotel."
"They've got us a new assignment if you're up to it. Barcelona, there'll be sun, sangria, that European culture and history stuff you like so much!" She rolled her eyes with mock boredom, "it'll be like the last few months never happened."
John nodded sadly, yeah, just like this never happened. Now wasn't that just like them, keep on pushing on and pretending the bad things never bothered you? He thought about protesting, thought about telling her he'd spent the last few months having it rammed into him that ignoring bad events was what caused things like this to happen in the first place, maybe even telling her that Langley could stuff it all together, he was out. But instead he just shoved it down and said, "Sounds good, sangria is on you!"
Kara laughed as he left to go change, "Sangria is on Langley! Have we got the best job in the world or what?"
Final word from the author: I'm sure there's someone reading this about to criticise John going back to work after his breakdown, but in the emergency services, that's what we do. I know a lot of people suffering severe stress, anxiety, PTSD caused by work, and yet they're still working for the job that caused them all that in the first place. Perhaps the consequences of John's mess are more severe but then so is the world that the CIA inhabits, and I personally don't think it's ridiculous for the Agency to bend the rules in this way to get one of their best operatives back. (Just saying this for the person who thought my last story was too far fetched, or the one who refused to believe me when I explained basic police procedure)
Anyway, I'm thankful to everyone who has read, reviewed and enjoyed this story. I was supposed to be taking a self imposed break from fanfiction, but I just love exploring the psychological damage done to my favourite vigilante, and through it finding his strength in taking the hits and finding a way to carry on. Hope John is a reminder to you all to push on through the tough times, like he is to me. Xx