Title: "Down to You"
Author: Mala
E-mail: malisita@yahoo.com
Fandom: "Spy Game"
Rating/Classification: PG-13, angst, slash-ish, mild language.
Disclaimer: I don't own these characters or Brad Pitt or Robert Redford.
Summary: Begins immediately after the end of the film "Spy Game."

"Don't ever risk your life or your career for an asset. If it comes down to you or them, send flowers."--Nathan Muir.

Harker calls his cell before he's even two miles away from :Langley, malice dangling free like all the shit-smeared red tape they must be cutting through over in China. "Muir...we want you back in here ASAP."

He chuckles, holding the phone to one ear as he steers. "I'm retired, remember?"

"As far as the public knows, Tom Bishop has been dead for the last year. What's to stop someone from making that true?"

"Someone". Read: "Us". Because they're miserable bastards and he finally gets it...he finally gets that some prices are too high. His false cheer drains away, leaving nothing behind but that obsessive-compulsive drive that has kept him up and going for the last twenty-four hours.

"Fine," he bites off, wanting to say "fuck you" instead but knowing it's imprudent, emotional, and unnecessary. All the things he could never make Tom stop being, no matter how hard he tried. He makes a sharp U-turn on the long stretch of road, hits "end", and tosses the phone into the passenger's seat as he drives back to pay the piper.

At the security gates inside, two agents are waiting to escort him back upstairs.

***

"According to Commander Wiley, they now have two guests at their base hospital on Peng'hu. An Elizabeth Hadley and a man claiming to be a "Terry King"."

"Do they now?" he asks, carefully, staring at the pinched faces around him that he'd known he would have to see again but hoped otherwise. He tries to school the relief out of his voice, knows the Boy Scout isn't out of the woods by a long shot.

*Hang in there*, he thinks, fiercely. *Hang in there.*

"Yes, and it's quite strange..." Harker picks up Troy's thread as pompously as possible. "But this "Terry King" seems to bear a startling resemblance to our most recent topic of conversation, Tom Bishop. Even beneath all the bruises."

He clenches his fists beneath the table, hating this bureaucratic dance...this game that was playing all day while a man's life was at stake and is still going on. "Imagine that."

"Nathan..." Troy doesn't sound happy and looks it even less. Somehow, the truth of that is easier to take than Harker's smugness. "Commander Wiley reports that his orders for the rescue op were signed off on by the Director. Sealed, stamped, and signed."

He's been in the intelligence game for most of his life. Has been in the jungles, the trenches, the offices, making the deals that his government would never admit to. So, he's learned to admit nothing as well. Learned by example. One wrong answer and he could be sealing his fate...and someone else's.

He shrugs and gives three words. Three simple words.

"I owed him."

***

A public declaration of his traitorous acts is, naturally, out of the question. They cannot risk a congressional hearing and the media turning it into a three-ring-circus or, worse, a two hour espionage thriller on the big screen.

He, blithely, volunteers to buff the floors and clean the toilets at Langley (there's a lot of them, after all...with people so full of shit) but no one takes him up on it.

So, they detain him "indefinitely" at a high security facility instead.

When they escort him to Bethesda, Elizabeth Hadley is already gone. Sent back to England for MI6 to deal with. He's privately thankful for that, doesn't want to question his own responsibility in creating this situation, doesn't want to feel cheaply victorious that, for a short time, he'd gotten rid of her...and now she's gone, again, probably forever. Disappeared into the black cloak of her own government's dealings. *Hewonhewonyhewon*.

The only "guest" remaining, courtesy of the U.S. Navy and the CIA, is the only one he wants to see.

"Terry King" has a private room surrounded by armed guards...no doubt with itchy trigger fingers. He isn't surprised at the odd parallel of how China treats it's enemies and how America treats it's heroes. The only difference is that his own government heals the bruises before they do the banishing or the executing. And Tom is, indeed, healing inside the quiet hospital room, under the glare of sterile lights.

He's recognizable now. Pale and mottled yellow-green, but that little smirk is nearly the same as it was in Beirut--if a bit swollen. "You look hideous," Nathan murmurs, attempting light fondness, wondering if Tom even remembers saying the same thing to him, if he remembers the good times at all...before his ideals were crushed and he hooked up with another op.

And he does spark with recognition, remembrance. "Wh-what? No flowers?" he rasps, barely audible, quirking a scarred eyebrow.

The door is ajar. The guys from Langley have joined the armed entourage and they're all listening...waiting...for any excuse. He shrugs, spreading his hands wide. "No..."

Tom's teeth flash white against the unnatural purple-red hue of his lips. "You should've... just ...sent...flowers."

He blinks, slides off his glasses, finds himself cleaning them even though the problem is with the sudden dampness in his eyes and not the lenses. "That was out of the question," he assures, hoarsely.

"Was it?" The steel blue gaze flickers towards the propped-open door, meaningfully.

Nathan moves on suddenly unsteady feet--it must be sleep deprivation--towards the narrow bed. It doesn't escape his notice that there are standard issue handcuffs keeping the younger man attached to the bars.

From one prison to another. And now they're *both* being punished for their tireless service to their country...for their weaknesses. For *his* weaknesses. "I'm done," he reminds. "I've got nothing left to risk."

Splinted fingers crawl towards where his hand is hanging at his side...and are stalled by the tight chain of the cuffs. The embittered, insightful, words reach farther. "Because you risked it all...for me...an 'asset'."

There is a loud noise from the hall...like several throats being cleared at once or a chair tipping over. He knows they're counting down the seconds. They didn't allow this visit out of the goodness of their hearts. They were hoping to listen in and learn something.

He's only got one piece of information left. The most vital tidbit of all.

He leans forward, whispering close and feeling Tom's shallow breaths against his cheek as he catches his fingers and holds them for an instant. "You were never just an asset."

As Troy and an MP guide him out of the room, he doesn't look back.

He can't.

Not even when the man he gave everything up for--the man he will very likely never see again--says, softly, "I know."

***

He has four different birthdays on file with the Agency. The Mussad, the KGB, MI6, all have erroneous dates as well.

Every year on the actual date--known to only a select few--he receives a lovely arrangement of flowers. Usually roses. Usually red. Although, there's variation from time to time. Things he wouldn't expect. Once he got a fruit basket filled with oranges that he told the MPs keeping tabs on him to go ahead and take home to their wives.

The card is always unsigned.

But he knows.

They'll both always know.

It was all worth the risk.

 
  --end--

July 23, 2002.    



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