Title: All Good Things

Summary: Ian and John and the secrets that make a man. This is where the end begins.

AN: Wow, it's been a while. A really long while, in actually. I'm surprised at how much the fandom has grown while I've been away. I'm not back full time, because, wow, Uni sure does take up a lot of time. And I need good marks to make selection. But still, this little snippet popped into my head. I might still take it down and give it a bit more back story, but I think it can stand on its own okay. Let me know what you think, anyway, and we'll see.

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John nearly can't take it all in. Ian, MI6, Scorpia... its way too much, all at once.

He follows Ian, dazed, out of the office and to the cafeteria. Ian get them both coffee; black, no sugar.

"Well," he says, once the idea that this place isn't a bank starts to sink in. "Dad would have been proud." He almost manages to keep the bitterness out of his voice. There's no reason to bring up their father, yet he does it anyway. Maybe it's his revenge for this life of lies that Ian has built; after all, to their father, John had been the prodigal son.

Ian pauses mid sip. The expression on his face makes him look 12 years old and John just can't believe he's a spy. Not Ian who could never get away with sneaking out after curfew and who was always too honest to steal whiskey out of the drinks cabinet. Not Ian who couldn't lie about who broke the antique grandfather clock even though John had owned up to it.

"He died believing one of his sons had eschewed the grand Rider military tradition," Ian says with a quirk of his lips. John is pathetically relieved that he's not the only one who's been kept in the dark, but he understands how much their father's disappointment had hurt Ian. And for the reason for that disappointment to have been so blatantly false...

"I think this counts as serving your country," John says dryly. "It's hardly banking."

Ian shrugs. "I think he still would have preferred it if I was in the SAS with you. Shooting people 'like a real man' not hiding in the shadows." The mockery in his voice makes John wince.

And John doesn't say, "You were supposed to be the one who escaped. You were supposed to be the one who wouldn't have to die for this country." Because it's much too late for that now. He can't say how relieved he was when Ian went to university instead of the Army. How glad he had been when Ian became a banker rather than a soldier. Because those were false feelings, because Ian is in as much danger as John has ever been. And in a strange way, that hurts.

The silence stretches to the breaking point. And it's John who breaks first.

"Are they serious?" he asks. He can't look at Ian, so stares at his coffee. He knows the answer already.

"They're MI6," Ian replies. "They're always serious."

"Why me?" he asks. It comes out all wrong. An accusation, a plea, a whine. All things that John hasn't done in years.

"Because I suggested you," Ian says, calm and reasonable.

Just for a moment, John hates him. Hates this creature that has taken his brother's place. Because Ian understands what he is asking, and is asking for it anyway.

There's nothing he can say. He can't say 'the SAS is my life'. He can't say 'a dishonourable discharge will kill me'. He can't say 'I don't want to.' Can't ever, ever say that. No matter how much the words choke him.

"I was once told that it is our duty to help our country however we can," Ian says. There's a bite of steel in his voice, underneath the pleasant words. And because those are his own words (and their father's before that) John has no choice but to drink his coffee and agree.

Duty is something he understands.

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Two weeks later, John goes to a bar, drinks too much, and kills a man.

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