Authors' Note: So the New Year comes with the motivation to brush the dust off of something old. A very belated thank you to Calcitrix who beta read this many years ago.
Preaching The End of the World
"Her sister? I remember something about her sister dying right as we were about to disband," Shipwreck said.
"That's what I was told. Jaye never said anything to me about Katherine being alive." Flint answered, rubbing his forehead.
"Can we call this a clusterfuck now, Flint?"
"Shut up, Shipwreck." Flint didn't turn to face Shipwreck, keeping his eyes on the spot Jaye had occupied. "Brant, does this place have any communications equipment?"
"I think there's some stuff in a room down the hall, but I'm not sure if it's working. We only set this up when Be...I mean Katherine got into the area a few weeks ago. She asked us to get this up and running for a worst case scenario."
"Dial-Tone, go with Brant and see if anything is working. If it is, get word to Duke that they better get here ASAP. Mary, I need you, Shipwreck and Charlie to start making plans to head to the nearest border."
"What about Lady Jaye? You won't be able to convince her to leave with us," Dial-Tone said.
Flint sighed and continued looking at where Jaye had been. He didn't think anything could upstage the rush of emotions he felt after hearing Lady Jaye was actually alive, but her bombshell did. While it wouldn't be any consolation to her, he knew the hell she was going through. There had been several times that Lady Jaye had fallen into Cobra hands, and the terror he had felt each time had been unbearable. Now, it seemed like Cobra Commander was even more ruthless and it didn't take a genius to guess what Cobra was going to do to Katherine. "I'm going upstairs to talk to her. When I'm done I'll come back down for a status report."
As he went upstairs and everyone else set about their tasks Shipwreck started to grin. Charlie noticed and asked why. "Just figuring that Flint won't come back down for that status report till the morning."
Katherine spit some blood out and ran her tongue around the inside of her left cheek, feeling the blood flow. "Is this the part where you tell me you expect me to die after I ask if you expect me to talk? I'm not impressed." Gorman landed a hard right on Katherine's temple. She shook her head and gritted her teeth, refusing to give them the satisfaction of hearing her cry out in pain.
"You obviously know the truth about us or you wouldn't have been burning those files. Why don't you save yourself a lot of pain and tell us what you're really doing here," said Xamot.
Tomax poured himself a glass of water. "As I'm sure you can tell, our associate has no qualms about hitting a woman."
"I'd be willing to hit a woman too if she was tied up. Why don't you undo these cuffs and make it a fair fight?"
Gorman reacted by slamming his left fist into her gut, causing Katherine to lurch as much as was permissible by her bonds. Before she had a chance to recover he came down on the back of her head with his right hand. Gorman pulled her head up by the hair and looked straight into her eyes. "At least at the end of the day I'll still be breathing, which is something I'm not sure I can say for you." He then raised his left hand, taking careful aim of her nose.
Once upstairs Flint guessed which room Jaye had gone into, the only one with its door shut. He knocked and waited for the door to open. It didn't. "If you're here to talk me out of going back to Kiev you can leave," she called from inside the room.
He sighed and leaned his head against the wall. "I'm thinking you need someone to talk to. I'm not planning on trying to talk you out of this. I promise." A few seconds later he was rewarded when Jaye opened the door and moved aside to let him in.
She closed the door as he found a spot on the bed to sit on. It was everything he could do not to remember the last time they were this close on a bed together. His thoughts turned towards Katherine and a hundred questions began running through his mind. Not knowing where to begin he went with the easiest questions first. "You only have one sister, right? One that I never met? One that died under mysterious circumstances shortly after we got engaged?"
Lady Jaye's eyes were glued to her hands in her lap. "I'm not in the mood to rehash my past with you."
"I understand that, I'm just trying to figure out how your sister who supposedly died while working for the State Department is alive and apparently someone MI6 answers to." His eyes were practically boring through the side of her head and still she would not look at him. "Why would you lie to me about her?"
Lady Jaye turned her attention to a frayed section of the bedspread and began to fiddle with it. "Katherine doesn't work for the State Department. She works for the CIA. She's worked for them since she graduated from college. I'm surprised you two haven't crossed paths yet. You've been in the same area for the last few months. I don't even know what she really does for the Agency. All I know is that whatever she does there are only about three people in the world that can read her unedited file. The State Department job is just a cover.
"In 1995 we really did think she was dead. She was in Bosnia and the mission she was a part of went wrong. Everyone else in the party was killed, she ended up falling into a river, and the CIA declared her dead. She made her way out of the country eventually after recuperating from her wounds and came home the Christmas Eve you were visiting me in New York. That's why I left so abruptly. I went to see her.
"Katherine had no idea what had been happening since she had originally left. She needed time to process everything. By the time she was ready for others to know she was alive, we had already broken up." Lady Jaye paused for a moment before continuing. "Katherine does things for the Agency that go well beyond Black Ops. No one is supposed to know she works for the Agency. I only know because they agreed with her that she needed someone to talk to on some level, but she doesn't even tell me the specifics. I failed her once. I won't fail her again."
Lady Jaye finished and noticeably slumped. Flint took a chance and put his arm around her, pleased when she didn't pull away. "One way or another, we'll get her out."
"What do you mean 'we'?"
"You don't think I'm going to let you go alone do you?"
"What about the orders to leave the country?"
"Everyone else will leave tomorrow. I'm not going to let you do this alone and I know better than to try and talk you out of it."
Lady Jaye nodded, "Thank you." She rested her head on his shoulder.
Feeling her lying against him brought back the initial wave of relief he had felt earlier in the day. Flint squeezed her tight. "Al, when I was told you were killed in the car crash, I was devastated."
She pulled out from under his arm and turned to face him. "I'm sorry about that. It wasn't my intention for it to play out that way, but Kat…" Her voice caught. She swallowed hard and continued. "She insisted it was the safest cover for me."
Flint nodded. A part of him realized that Katherine was correct; it had been the safest course of action. But there was still his emotional side that wanted to throttle everyone involved in the deception. He temporarily put aside his anger and focused on the fact that the ordeal was over. "I'm just thrilled you're back now," Flint said and he reached out to squeeze her hand. She gave him a small smile in return, and he was at a loss as to what to do next. He had promised himself that when he saw her, he was going to be honest about his feelings. So what should he do? Profess his undying love? Apologize for every wrong decision he had made in the last four years? Throw her down on the bed and attempt make-up sex?
While his body was eager for the last option, his sensible side argued that none of the above was the right move. If Flint was serious about undoing the last four years, he needed to wait until she was in a frame of mind to rationally discuss any reconciliation.
The last thing he wanted to do now was leave, but he knew he had to. He had some loose ends downstairs that he needed to tie up. "I need to talk to the others, to make sure they can get out safely. Then we'll go over our plan of attack."
"I don't think I can handle any more questions right now."
"Okay," Flint said and he turned to leave. Before he got out into the hall he faced her again. "Al, I want you to know I'm here for you and I'm going to help you get her back."
Flint went downstairs and his first order of business was to locate Brant. He found the Brit in a little room towards the back of the house, holding a radio and talking to Dial-Tone. Flint marched up to him and hit him squarely in the jaw. Brant fell backwards from the force. Rubbing at his chin, he asked, "What was that for?"
"For lying to us about Lady Jaye. Do you have any idea how much grief I…we went through when we heard that bullshit story that she died? You could have let us in on the truth!"
"It was something that Beth…Katherine… whatever the hell her real name is, came up with. I totally supported her after seeing the lame cover you gave Jaye. If she went in as an attaché, Cobra would have had her killed for sure. At least this way, she had half a chance of doing her job."
"That cover wasn't my idea, it was Gorman's. I tried to talk him out of it, but he was adamant," Flint explained.
"Well, considering he's working for Cobra, that all makes sense."
"Excuse me?" Flint said.
"Gorman's the mole. Apparently Bellows assigned Katherine the job of sniffing him out. She got the information, and then told me to get the word out to Bellows. Mary says Katherine gave her an audio recording that proves Gorman defected."
"Shit," Flint said and then sat down. "I think I can tell Shipwreck that now we're completely fucked."
"Although that's a rather crude way of putting it, you are correct," Brant said.
In her room upstairs, Lady Jaye continued to sit on her bed, lost in thought. Her mind was in overdrive, but she couldn't come up with a plan of action that seemed right. She knew she was racing against the clock and she had already wasted too much time. She needed to start looking for Katherine, but the question was, where?
She replayed the events of the last few days, and the answer hit her. The bar Sergei took her to where she first saw Katherine again and met Brant. It was a long shot, but at least it was someplace to start. Maybe she'd been using it as a base of personal operations and would've left something, anything, to give Lady Jaye a starting point. Also hopefully the promise of free alcohol would loosen a tongue or two and help her determine where anyone else arrested during the initial crackdown was taken to. She quickly ran out of the room, but stopped at the foot of the stairs. What about Flint? He would go ballistic if he found she had left. He had promised to check back with her in a little bit. Her sensible side was telling her that she should just wait a couple more hours until she had a better plan, and some back-up. But then when the hell have I ever been sensible?
Lady Jaye paused a moment longer, listening for the others. The living room was quiet, so she hurried down the stairs. She then turned and found the man she was looking for, deep in conversation with his fellow Ukranian. She called his name. Sergei looked at her with a bit of trepidation, but walked over to her.
"Alison, my sympathies on your sister, I…"
She held up her hand, "I appreciate the sentiment, Sergei, but not now. I'm not writing her off yet. That's where you come in."
His look of trepidation continued. He opened and closed his mouth several times before finally speaking, "What is it that you need me to do?"
"I need you to take me back to the bar where we met up with Katherine. In the meantime, I want an updated history and geography lesson."
"I want to help, but I don't think leaving here is a good idea. Brant said…"
Again she raised her hand to stop him. "I have a pretty good idea what was said. To be honest, I don't care. It'll be a lot easier if you come with me, but I can do it without you." She realized she was being too hard on the Ukranian. She sighed. "Sergei, I'm sorry. I shouldn't put you in a position like this. I…"
This time he interrupted her. "I came here to help. If you really want to go back to the bar, I'll take you there."
Fifty Miles Outside the Safehouse
Lady Jaye struggled to stay awake in the passenger seat as Sergei drove them back to the safehouse. She was suddenly exhausted. Part of that could be blamed on the fact that going to the bar had been a bust. When they arrived it had been deserted. Apparently Cobra Commander's actions had frightened the people so much they didn't even feel like going to the local tavern to drown their sorrows.
Now, in hindsight, Lady Jaye realized leaving like she did was an irrational act. And irrational acts only got people killed. She needed to be smarter about things or she was going to get herself in trouble.
Lady Jaye began to lose the fight against sleep. She finally closed her eyes, deciding rest was something else she needed.
The DC traffic had been a nightmare, as usual, and as such Alison was running nearly forty minutes late. Alison had had to pull some serious strings to even get the twenty-four hour pass to come down to Langely and she was going be damned if traffic kept her from making her appointment. She pulled into the parking lot of the apartment complex, nearly hitting a cat as she found a spot. Running up the stairs she knocked on the door and waited for the door to open. It took her a few minutes of waiting to realize that no one was home. Hanging her head in disbelief she started to sit on the steps when she saw a car speed into the parking lot and with a squeal of tires stop next to her car. Out of it came Katherine trying to grab a few take-out bags. "Hey, you wanna give me a hand or are you gonna sit on your ass all evening?"
Alison grinned and started heading back down the stairs. "I don't know if I should be helping you. Here I was nearly running over woodland creatures to get here and I manage to beat you. What happened?"
Katherine groaned while handing a bag to Jaye. She initially ignored the question, heading up the stairs to her apartment door. She opened the door and started putting the bags in the kitchen as Alison entered. It was only after Alison has closed the door that Katherine began to speak. "Sorry about that. I know how busy your schedule is. I got stuck at the office having it drilled into my head for the umpteenth time how I am supposed to initiate contact with the guy I'm supposed to be meeting. I swear, if they're that worried I'm gonna fuck it up then maybe they should be sending someone else."
Alison couldn't help but grin as she listened to Katherine complain. She had had to go through similar training when she first started doing covert op work. Whacking you over the head with the same point was the only way superiors felt comfortable with sending anyone out into the field. And even then they weren't completely comfortable with sending you on a mission until you came back safe and sound. "Don't worry about that. They'll lay off you after you get over this. They're just covering their bases."
"They may be covering their bases but they're sure as hell making me more nervous than I probably need to be." She went to grab some dishes out of a kitchen cabinet. "I know I said I would cook but I never got a chance to hit the grocery store. I've pretty much divested the place of anything with an expiration date. I hope you don't mind but I ended up getting Indian take-out from a place I go to on a regular basis."
"Not at all. It's rare I get anything spicier than pepper on my salad at the base, and when I do get a chance to eat out I'm still stuck since Flint's got the stomach of an elderly man. I swear he gets heartburn when the cook puts too much salt in the water. It's so bad that I'm thinking of getting stock in Pepto."
Katherine couldn't help but laugh as she laid out the take-out containers on the dining room table. "Well you're in luck then. I've got samosas, tandoori chicken, lamb, and a few other things whose names I can't quite pronounce but are tasty all the same." She went back to the kitchen to grab a couple of sodas from the fridge. "I take it then that you're still dating him despite his weak stomach?"
Katherine wasn't all that surprised when she turned around to see Alison smiling. "Yeah. I know this sounds cliched, but just when I think things are perfect he does something that takes what we have to another level. Not only did he remember our anniversary, but he rented out an entire Italian restaurant for us. The entire staff was at our disposal for the evening. He even had the guy that strolls around the place with the violin on hand. I'm still trying to figure out how he managed to pay for it all. Then again I wonder sometimes how the hell he affords that car of his."
"Well then, let's drink a toast to men who actually remember anniversaries." Katherine handed Alison a soda and settled down at the table to start work on the food."
"A toast to first overseas missions."
"Toast me on that when I get back," Katherine muttered. Before Alison could ask her what she meant by that Katherine started to eat. Alison settled for saving the question for later and started to eat as well. A few minutes later Katherine restarted the conversation. "They ever send you off on some mission that has you scratching your head? One that seems like you're under qualified for?" she asked quietly without looking up from her plate.
Alison put her food down and looked at her for a second before answering. While she'd been thrilled that Katherine asked her to pop over the night before leaving she had also been wondering if there was something more to it than just a casual get together. "I felt that way when I first joined the Joes. I was now fighting a major terrorist organization alongside people who had fought in major combat while the most action I had seen was watching guerillas take out some farms in South America. I knew on the intellectual side I could do it, but I wasn't sure if I would be up to the physical aspect of it. Shooting a gun in target practice is a lot different than pulling the trigger on a human target. You're going to feel a little inadequate in the beginning. Once you actually get out there you'll wonder why you were nervous in the first place."
Katherine finally looked up at Alison, who realized for the first time that something more than nerves was bothering her sister. "I'm not talking about a simple case of the jitters. I'm talking about looking at a mission assignment and realizing that they're sending a lamb out to the slaughter. Have you ever dealt with that?"
"Once or twice, but that's the nature of the work we're both in. Sometimes they stick in you in the middle of a clusterfuck with only a butterknife and tell you good luck. What's wrong?"
Sighing, Katherine took a sip of her soda. "They think one of their networks in Russia has been compromised. They haven't heard from anyone for months until a few weeks ago when one of them came out of hiding. He wants to meet, but something doesn't feel right about the situation so they're sending me in to meet him. The analysts are saying there's a better than eighty percent chance that the network is down and the Soviets are trying to suck in a few more of us. I contact this guy and if everything looks cool then great, but if things are messed up and they get me that's ok too because all I know is jack and shit."
"I'm sure they're sending you for reasons other than bait. I honestly can't think of another person to send into any Soviet bloc country besides you."
"I just look around and wonder if anybody cares about that anymore. The old boys only care about preserving the past and say anyone who was born after the fifties is just counting the days till they can get their pension."
Before Katherine could continue Alison's pager went off. She took one look at it and swore loudly. "It's the base and they're using a code that only means one thing. I've got to let them know I received the page and then I've got to leave."
"I thought you took care of Cobra after their little pyramid scheme?"
"So did I, but apparently we were all wrong." The pager went off again and Alison wished she had forgotten it. "I'm sorry. I don't know what to tell you, except that everything's going to be fine. Just remember that you've got to know what you're doing or you wouldn't be part of the agency to begin with. I know you don't want to hear this, but you're just nervous. I know you're going to do a great job."
They both got up and hugged for a minute or so, Katherine clutching to Alison like a man clinging to a life raft. "Call me when you get back, okay kiddo?" Katherine nodded and Alison turned to leave. As she was about to open up the door Katherine grabbed her shoulder. "I don't want to end up like Buckley." Alison stopped dead in her tracks and turned to face Katherine. The agency's wounds concerning Buckley had been reopened when they finally got access to his body four years after his death. It wasn't a name any of them threw around lightly.
"I know this is the life I've chosen. Not that anyone but you really gives a damn, but I don't want people to know whether I'm dead or alive by turning on the nightly news and seeing video that's reportedly of my corpse hanging from some ceiling. I just don't want to end up being nothing more than an anonymous star on a wall. I don't want to be forgotten."
Alison closed her eyes for a second and then pulled Katherine back to her in a fierce hug. "You listen to me. As long as I'm alive that's never going to happen to you. God forbid anything does happen to you, I'll dig you out the damn ground with my bare hands if I have to and drag your body back home. I will bring you home."
Katherine noticeably relaxed as Alison made her statement. "Thanks. And you know the same goes for you. You get into a jam with Cobra and if need be I'll get you out of it."Classified Safehouse
Flint was beyond tired. He had racked up several late nights already, and tonight was no exception. He spent the last few hours with the others coming up with a plan of action. Lady Jaye had never come back downstairs. Part of him was worried that she might have already left. He wanted to check on her before he finally called it a night and went up to one of the other rooms. However, he told himself that he wasn't in a position to do any more late night check-ups on her.
When he finally lay down, he found he still couldn't sleep. His mind was processing the events of the evening. Only a few hours ago he had believed Alison was dead. Now she was back, but bringing information that once again shocked him. He racked his brain to recall any of the times Lady Jaye had even mentioned her sister through the years. There weren't many. Her name came up early on in their dating career, during the obligatory 'sharing of the family information' stage. Then there was another brief mention the first time he went to Massachusetts to meet her family. In their family house there were no signs of a sister. All of the photos were of Alison, or of the three of them. He had asked her about that, and she briefly replied that Katherine had been disowned from the family. There had been a family tragedy a few years before, and Katherine had gotten blamed for it. From that point on she had been banned from the family. Lady Jaye had told the story nonchalantly but her eyes held her true feelings. He could see the pain in them. He had wanted to question her more, to get the real story from her, but they had gotten distracted with family obligations. By the end of their leave together, he had completely forgotten about Katherine.
Then there was the time that Lady Jaye had gotten the news about her sister's death on St. Patrick's Day. After returning from the bar he had gone on her behalf to Hawk to get leave to go home and plan the funeral. He offered to go with her, but she turned him down. She had said it was something she had to do on her own. While he wanted to support Alison he didn't force the issue. It wasn't like he knew Katherine and personally the less time he spent with Lady Jaye's parents the better as far as he was concerned. And with Duke still not cleared medically after being stabbed by Serpentor and the belief that Cobra couldn't have disappeared off the face of the earth after the destruction of Cobra-La Flint knew getting permission to leave would have been tough.
And that was it. In all the years they had been together he had heard about her sister a measly three times. Now Lady Jaye was willing to risk not only her life, but the success of this mission for her. Flint couldn't blame her though. Katherine was family after all. To be honest he didn't have a clue as to what had happened the last couple years. For all he knew the two could have become bosom buddies.
A knock on the door jarred him from his thoughts. "Come in." He called out, hoping it was Lady Jaye. Instead, Shipwreck and Dial-Tone walked in. "Hey guys, you heading out early?"
The two looked at each other and Flint got a sinking feeling. "Uh, Flint, that's why we're here. We want to talk to you about that." Dial-Tone answered.
The two looked at each other again. This time Shipwreck spoke. "Flint, about this mission to save Katherine…do you really think it's a good idea?"
He briefly considered blowing smoke up their asses, but knew he owed them more than that, "No. In fact I think it's a very bad idea. We have no idea where she is. Throw in the fact that Gorman has turned traitor and is working with Cobra Commander who has once again turned into a loose cannon and I say the odds are stacked pretty high against us. We're talking about Lady Jaye's sister though. She won't abandon Katherine, and I …I won't abandon Lady Jaye."
"Flint, you don't have to explain." Dial-Tone replied. "The one thing I've learned these last few years is all that a man would do for love."
He was about to argue the point about him doing this for love but he stopped himself. For starters neither one of the men standing before him would believe it. Secondly, Dial-Tone was right. Flint had come to that realization the minute he saw her in the airport.
Before he had a chance to say anything, Shipwreck spoke, "Look, whatever anyone's motivation is, the point Dial-Tone is trying to make is that we're not leaving. There's no way we're just going to abandon our friends here while we flee for our lives."
"Guys, I appreciate the loyalty, but you need to get out of here. Someone needs to get to Hawk and tell him what's really going on here," Flint countered.
"That's true, which is why we have Charlie, Mary, and Brant. It doesn't take five of us to make a report," Shipwreck answered.
"Besides, didn't a great man once say 'We all go home, or no one goes home'?" Dial-Tone added.
Flint scoffed at the remark, "Sergeant Slaughter, the great Poet Laureate of the G.I. Joe team." He removed his beret with his one hand and ran the other one through his hair. "Like I said, this is all very noble of you. I'm sure Lady Jaye would be very grateful for your offer but…"
Shipwreck became agitated, "There's no buts. You two can't do this alone. You need all the help you can get. I have my connections in the Crimea that I can use to find out information. You're going to need DT's expertise to get messages to Hawk. Plain and simple, you need us and we're here to help."
Flint knew he was beat. However, he still didn't like the idea of risking their lives too. It was one thing for Flint to risk his own life for her. He had done it time and time again. While he was debating the pros and cons Dial-Tone voiced one last thought that sealed the deal. "Flint, you're not the only one that cares about her. None of us want to see her hurt. We'd do anything to prevent that."
Flint sighed, "I guess we better come up with a new plan, then. Let's go find the lady of the hour."
Lady Jaye woke with a start, wincing in pain as she'd forgotten about the seat belt. She frantically looked around Sergei's car as the pounding continued. It took her a few seconds to reorient herself.
She finally clued in to where the pounding was coming from. She could tell that Sergei had made it back to the new safehouse as the sight of Flint banging repeatedly on the passenger side window greeted her. Shipwreck was behind him with a bemused look on his face. Lady Jaye groaned as Flint continued to pound on the window. She could hear Sergei say, "How do you Americans say it? Busted?" Shipwreck was mouthing the same word to her behind Flint's back.
"Any chance I could pay you to make a quick getaway? Name your price. I can pay it." Sergei didn't say anything. Lady Jaye continued to stare at Flint. "It was worth a shot." She took a deep breath before undoing the seat belt and getting out of the car. She put on her widest smile and said, "Honey! I'm home!"