Author: sss979

Title: Double Agent

Rating: PG-13

Warnings: Non-graphic sexual situations, wartime violence

AN: This was originally part of a book, but I think it works better as a short so I'm taking it out and putting it here. :) Please enjoy.

"Mom says you were a soldier."

Face was caught slightly off guard by the implied question. He glanced briefly at Jessica, then into the wide eyes of her son. "I was," he answered as he drove the last stake into the ground for the tent. How the hell had he managed to get dragged along on a camping trip with Jessica and her two kids?

"Did you fight in the war?"

"Yep." What else was he supposed to say? Once again, he wished he had paid closer attention, just once, when someone around him had talked to children.

"Our mom was a nurse in the war," Heather informed him.

"I know," Face answered with a polite smile. "She took care of me once."

"I took care of you a few times," Jessica corrected.

"Hold this for me, will you?" Face directed, propping the tent poles up in Heather's hand. He did the same with the poles at the front of the tent, then moved to the other side, pulling the poles on his side up and apart until the tent took shape.

"I'm gonna be a soldier," James declared from a few steps behind him.

"Not if I can help it, you're not," Jessica said firmly.

"I am." James smiled. "She just doesn't know it yet." The kid was a regular smartass at eight years of age.

"What kind of soldier are you going to be?" Face asked as he tied the canvas against the poles.

"I haven't decided yet." James tipped his head. "What kind of soldier were you?"

"I was in Special Forces."

"In the army?"

Heather poked her head around the side of the tent. "What kinds of things did you do?"

Face was beginning to get used to the fact that questions seemed to come in pairs – the second one dropping before he had the chance to answer the first. "Yes, in the army. And I did a lot of things." Face debated for a moment on how much he wanted to say and the best way to say it. He walked around to the other side of the tent and tied it, too. "Mostly, I tried to figure out what the other guy's next move was and where they were hiding."

"How did you do that?"

Face hesitated. "Well, my team and I spent a lot of time in the jungle, trying to watch them without getting seen." Or shot.

"That sounds exciting!"

He chuckled. "That's one way to put it."

"What else did you do?"

"Well, sometimes my team got special assignments." He looked over the tent, propping the poles just a little further up. "We'd pick up pilots that got shot down or steal back prisoners of war."

"Did you ever kill anyone?"

The innocent question caught Face totally off guard. Thankfully, he didn't have to find something to say. Jeessica came to the rescue. "James, what did I tell you about that?" she chided.

The boy's eyes lowered immediately. "Sorry, ma'am."

"Don't tell me you're sorry. Tell him."

"Sorry, Mr. Peck."

"It's alright," Face answered the sincere apology. He was currently wracking his brain for an age-appropriate story to tell them. One that didn't involve so much blood and gore that they wouldn't be able to make sense of it if he took those parts out…

***

"Lieutenant Peck?"

Face glanced up at the man standing over him and regarded him with mild interest. Dressed in dirty jungle fatigues and wearing the signature green beret, the sergeant was in stark contrast to Face, who was reclining in the small café in civilian clothes – clean – and sipping a cool drink. He nodded, and added quietly. "Don't salute."

The man blinked, startled, and shook his head. "I wasn't going to, sir."

Face grinned slightly, and waited for the man to explain himself. "Captain Ryan Richten asked me to find you. He said you might be here. He'd like a word with you."

Face only vaguely recognized the name. But he didn't ask questions. Not here. He glanced at the waiter, who had stopped some distance away, eyeing the soldier warily. "L'addition s'il vous plait?" Face smiled.

The waiter hurried away, then came back a moment later with the check. Face paid him, offered a parting smile, thanked him in French for the wonderful service, and went on his way with the sergeant a step behind. Once they were a safe distance from the café, Face spoke again. "Sorry if I seemed a little rude back there," he apologized. "They don't even know that I speak English. And I'd like to keep it that way."

"They think you're French?" the sergeant asked.

"A painter," Face added. "It's a nice place, but the owner is a little wary of American soldiers in his restaurant. Given the bombings and all, I can't say as I blame him." He glanced at the man walking beside him. "What did you say your name was?"

"Tom Western, sir," the soldier greeted, extending a hand. Face shook it firmly. "Sergeant First Class."

"Templeton Peck," Face answered. "But you already knew that. Is the captain back at the base?" He'd noticed the lack of any kind of transportation to get them there.

"Actually, he's right over there," Western pointed.

On the other side of a metal screen in a bar that welcomed Americans, a middle-aged man in green fatigues sat alone at a table, sipping a beer. Face followed the sergeant through the front door and into the bar, then over to the table. The captain rose to greet him and extended a hand. Face recognized him once he saw him. "Captain Richten," he greeted with a smile.

"Peck," Richten replied. "Good to see you well. Please. Sit."

Face sat across from him and beers were ordered all around. "So what can I do for you?" Face asked once the requisite small talk had ended.

Richten hesitated for a moment, taking another sip of his beer before looking across the table at Face. "You remember that Vietnamese girl you turned for us?"

Face remembered several, but he immediately knew the one that Richten was referring to. "Linh Hoa Tran," he nodded. "How is she? Is she still alive?"

"Still alive, and very successful," the captain answered proudly. "Just last week we managed to evade a trap that probably would've taken out an entire platoon because of the intelligence she gave us."

"Good," Face nodded. He'd known Linh Hoa would be good at working both sides of the war. She hated the Viet Cong with every fiber of her being; Face had made sure of it when he'd taken - then showed her - the pictures of her family after they'd been mutilated and tortured to death in a village about ten miles south. With those photos as evidence, it had taken almost no convincing on his part. She was ready to die just for the satisfaction of taking a few of the VC bastards down with her.

"She moved right in on Colonel Hoang," Richten continued, referring to one of the top men of the Viet Cong, known to be operating nearby. "And actually, she pitted him against the man who'd introduced the two of them. Everyone wants Linh Hoa as a mistress."

Face smiled politely as he sipped his beer. "She's a pretty girl."

"She's been feeding us amazing intelligence," Western added. "It's been a long time since we've had an informant this good."

Face glanced at him briefly, and nodded. "So what's the problem?" If they were looking for him, there was clearly a problem. He was only in town for a night, and he'd only stayed on base long enough to move from the chopper to the front gate. He was surprised they even knew he was here, and even more so that they would make the effort to come find him.

Richten sighed. "The problem is that Colonel Hoang's patience is wearing about as thin as any man's would, if you get my drift."

Face raised a brow. He got the drift.

"If we want to get her out of there alive, we have to pull her out soon."

"So pull her out," Face shrugged, looking down at his beer. It seemed a simple enough problem to fix. "You knew you couldn't keep her there forever. What do you need me for?"

"We want Colonel Hoang, too."

Face glanced up, keeping his head tipped down. "Alright…" he said hesitantly, inviting Richten to continue. He wasn't sure what, exactly, was meant by that.

"We want an opportunity to take him alive. We need his guard lowered."

Face tipped his head, beginning to understand where this was going. "In other words, you need Linh Hoa to spread for him."

"That's the long and short of it, yes."

"Uh huh," Face said.

"We were hoping you might convince her that this is the best way."

Face raised a brow. Convince a civilian Vietnamese woman to have sex with the man who murdered her entire village? He knew he could… he just wasn't sure he wanted to. He understood why they felt it was necessary; it was the surest way to make sure Hoang was captured unharmed. He also understood the value of interrogating a well-informed enemy, and that Linh Hoa was expendable when it came right down to it. She knew that, too. He'd made it clear to her from the beginning.

"All we're asking is that you talk to her," Richten clarified. "You seemed to have something of a… connection with her."

Face sighed as he looked away. This was not how he'd wanted to spend his day off. "I'll talk to her," he granted. "But I'm not promising anything."

***

"Linh Hoa?"

The young, pretty, delicate Vietnamese woman stood as he entered the room. "Lieutenant Peck," she greeted with a smile. "Il est bon de vous voir."

"Et vous," he replied. He stood aside as she addressed the children around her in Vietnamese – which he only understood bits and pieces of – and they filtered out of the room.

"//I hope I'm not interrupting you,//" he continued in French as she turned to the row of beds, straightening the slightly wrinkled blankets from the children's attempt at tidiness.

"Non," she assured him. "//It is lunchtime. That's not my chore today.//"

The orphanage was nothing like the one Face remembered in LA. It was small and cramped with children, and only a few women to care for them. Linh Hoa was the youngest; the other two were widowed with grown children of their own. They were the ones who had petitioned the Americans to help them construct and fund the group home. Having already constructed a school and a trade center in the town, the base commander had considered it a wonderful idea.

The VC laughed their asses off at public service projects like this one. The stupid Americans wasted time and money helping their enemies. The irony seemed even greater when the VC "turned" one of the schoolteachers or trade workers against the Americans. But the same workers that gave the VC such a good laugh gave the Americans some of their most valuable intelligence information. Once they were "double agents" for the VC, they were given all sorts of intelligence in return for the prepared information about American operations.

Perhaps just as importantly, no one would ever question why the Americans were at the orphanage that they had established. They could talk to their agents openly, with no risk of endangering them. Out the window, Face could see Western handing out candy to the children clamoring around him. Face smiled faintly as he watched him.

"//I hear that you've been a tremendous help,//" he said as he looked back at Linh Hoa. "//You've saved a lot of lives.//"

"//That is what they tell me,//" she answered, focusing her attention on the last cot in the long row.

Face eyed her carefully. "//They tell me you're afraid to help them any further?//"

It had been meant almost teasingly, a challenge. But as the young woman looked up and met his eyes, he instantly knew she was very much afraid. He frowned, and took a few steps toward her, hands buried deep in his pockets.

"//Why are you afraid?//" he asked quietly. "//Has Hoang treated you poorly?//" He would've expected the man to wine and dine her if he was trying to get her into bed.

Her eyes flashed at the very mention of the VC colonel's name. Her hatred was still as strong as ever. "Non," she said firmly. She looked away. "//It is Captain Richten. He asks me to do something I cannot do.//"

"//You cannot?//" Face questioned. "//Or you will not?//"

She paused to consider that for a moment, staring out the window at the children and the American. "//I would gladly give my life to see those dogs suffer,//" she whispered, barely audible. Face stepped closer. "//What they did to my family…//"

She trailed off. Face stepped up behind her, but didn't touch her, observing the cultural regulations. "Mais?" he asked quietly.

She turned to face him suddenly. "//But what would I do if I become pregnant?//"

Face blinked, startled by the question. It took him a moment to find an answer. "//There are things you can do,//" he started hesitantly.

"//I cannot kill the baby,//" she said firmly. "//I am Catholic. It is a mortal sin.//"

"//Yes, I know,//" he answered. "//But I didn't mean that. I mean…//" He sought for a way to explain contraception in a second language to a woman whose culture demanded prudence. "//There are devices you can use. To keep yourself from becoming pregnant in the first place.//"

She stared at him confused. "//I have never heard of such a thing.//"

"//There is such a thing,//" he assured her. He paused for a moment. Where the hell would he find contraception? "//If I get it for you…//" He paused for a moment to search her face for any traces of distrust or fear. "//Will you do this? Is that really the only reason?//"

She nodded firmly. "//If I can be sure there will be no baby, I will do anything.//"

It was only a few minutes later that Face walked out of the building and met Western and Richten in the street. Richten's expectant look was a question in and of itself.

"Where's the nearest American medical center?" Face asked.

"The Army field hospital at Nha Trang," Richten answered. "Why?"

"Because I need to find some kind of contraceptive."

Richten blinked. "I don't think they'll have anything like that there."

"If they don't, I'll try somewhere else. She won't do it if she thinks there's a chance she could end up pregnant."

"Well, we could just… give her a pill or something," Western suggested. "Tell her it's new medicine from America."

That suggestion earned a glare from both Face and Richten. "I can get it," Face said, deadpan. "Just give me a few hours."

He turned and walked away, Richten following on his heels as Western watched them go. "Call Nha Trang. Then see if you can get a hold of Colonel John Smith," Face called over his shoulder. "He should be at Thuong Duc with A-109. He needs to know I won't be there until tomorrow."

***

"Apparently, I missed my calling in life," Cruiser grinned as he stepped out of the room with the black medical bag in tow. "I should've been a gynecologist."

Face shot him a sarcastic look. "Did you find one that fit?" He sure as hell hoped so. Three medical centers had radioed back that they had nothing like what Face needed. He'd finally appealed to the Agency at MAAG headquarters in Saigon, and had Cruiser bring it to him. Face would've gone himself, but Cruiser was already in Saigon, and had offered.

"Yeah, and I showed her how to use it, too. She should be good to go. Meantime," he threw the bag over his shoulder, "I gotta get the rest of these that didn't fit back to Saigon. You comin' or stayin'?"

"I'll catch a ride out to Thuong Duc in the morning," Face assured him.

"A'right." He gestured to the room behind him. "She's all yours, Faceman."

Face knocked quietly on the door before he cracked it open. "Linh Hoa?"

"//You can come in,//" she answered.

He pushed the door open the rest of the way and stepped inside, leaving it open. "//Did he get you situated?//"

"Oui," she smiled softly. "//He is a good doctor. Very nice.//"

Cruiser's bedside manner had always left something to be desired. Face was shocked to hear him described as "very nice". He didn't let his surprise show. "//He is a good doctor,//" Face agreed.

"//This thing – a dee-ah…//"

"Diaphragm," Face offered. He had no idea what it was called in French.

"Oui." She smiled. "//It will work?//"

"//I promise it will work.//"

"//There is no chance that I could become pregnant?//"

"//None at all.//"

"//That is good.//" She smiled softly as she looked away. "//Now I can think about other things.//"

"//Things like what?//"

She looked up at him shyly. "//Like… what I am supposed to do.//"

He gave her a quizzical look and she lowered her eyes. "//I have always been a virtuous girl,//" she explained quietly.

Ah. Those things.

"//And you can continue to be,//" he answered smoothly. "//Think of this as service to your country. It doesn't count against your virtue.//"

She looked up again at him, and he gave a reassuring smile. "//Will it hurt?//" she asked.

He shook his head a little. "//Honestly? I don't know.//"

Her eyes lowered. "//I suppose it doesn't matter.//"

He watched her, not sure what else to say. After a moment of silence, she took a step forward. His hands dropped from his hips as she came closer than she ever had before, took his face in her delicate hands, and stood on her toes to kiss his lips. His eyes widened in surprise as she broke every cultural norm in one fell swoop. He froze for a moment before slowly responding, kissing her softly. His arm circled her waist instinctively and he held her close. She was so tiny and delicate, he was careful not to hold her too tightly. He didn't want to crush her. Finally, she pulled away and stared up at him. He didn't speak.

"//You are a good man, Lieutenant Peck//," she whispered.

He smiled at that, reading the vulnerable look in her eyes like a book. "//Not that good.//"

***

"Peck?"

Someone was calling his name. Damn. He was really enjoying these last few minutes of sleep. "Lieutenant Peck, are you in there?"

He opened his eyes to bright sunlight and blinked a few times, letting them adjust. His arm was around a small, delicate woman under the thin sheet that was already too warm. He took a deep breath and the woman stirred, pushing herself up from his chest and blinking as she looked around. His eyes went directly to the door. "I'm here," he called back.

"Colonel Smith is on the radio," the voice informed him through the door. "He wants to speak with you."

Those words woke him up a little more. He glanced at the window, then at his wrist although he could already feel there was no watch there. "What time is it?" he asked, looking around for a clock. There was none.

"It's 0940, sir."

He groaned as he covered his face with his hand. That explained why Hannibal was calling for him. "I'll be right out."

The man left, and Face dropped his head back on the bed, staring for a moment up at the ceiling with his hand in his hair. The light, almost tickling touch on his skin made him glance down at the woman whose head was once again resting on his chest. She'd pulled the sheet down to their waists, exposing them to the slightly cooler air. It wasn't much relief. Even at 9:40 in the morning, it was already damn hot.

He rubbed her back with the tips of his fingers and she looked up at him with a smile. "A fait vous dormez bien?" he asked quietly, brushing her coal black hair out of her eyes.

She nodded. "//I slept very well, thank you.//"

"//I have to leave,//" he said, his tone apologetic.

"//It's alright,//" she assured him. "//I have things to do as well.//"

He pushed himself up, guiding her to the side. As he slid out of the bed, he leaned down and left one lingering kiss on her lips before he found his clothes. "//Still nervous about it?//" he asked as he slid his legs one at a time into his pants, hopping on one foot to keep his balance.

She smiled. "Non."

"//Like I said,//" he picked up his shirt off the floor and slipped his arms in, "//just think of it as service to your country.//"

She frowned as a dark look came over her eyes. "//I would like to kill him myself, if I am honest.//"

"//He'll be much more damaging to the Viet Cong if he's alive,//" Face reminded her. "//And besides,//" he sat down on the edge of the bed to slip his boots on, "//if he's dead, he can't tell us much. The goal is to find out what he knows and head them off, remember?//"

"//Many men died the last time you tried to head them off,//" she pointed out, resting her chin on her folded hands as she watched him.

"//No, not really,//" he answered. "//From what I hear, we only lost one, and two wounded. It would've been a lot worse if we hadn't known they were waiting to ambush us.//"

"//So where are you going now?//" she asked quietly as he stood up, grabbed his pistol from underneath the pillow, and slipped it into its holster, strapping it around him.

"//I have to meet up with my unit,//" he answered. "//I was supposed to be back already. I only had two days off.//"

"//Will you come again?//"

"//Maybe.//" Fully dressed, he knelt down on the edge of the bed and took her chin in his hand, lifting her up gently. She slid gracefully to her knees. "//I'll call back here in a few days,//" he said quietly. "//I want to hear that you took the bastard down.//"

She smiled. "Merci, Face," she breathed. "Soyez prudents."

He kissed her soundly, letting it linger for a few seconds before he stood, brushed her hair back once more, and turned away.

Once outside the door, he walked quickly down the hall, avoiding the children chasing each other from room to room. As he stepped into the bright sunlight, he shielded his eyes instinctively. He immediately saw the jeep waiting for him, and held the rail overhead as he slid into the passenger seat.

"How long since he called in?" Face asked, immediately and instinctively scanning the perimeter for any sign of danger. Any one of these people could be, and probably were, VC.

"About twenty minutes," the Sergeant answered. "Captain Cooler told me where I could find you. I came right over."

It was a ten minute drive back to the base. Face walked through the door of the radio control center and immediately made eye contact with the operator who was talking to Hannibal. He was easy to spot; he looked frazzled. He handed over the radio as soon as Face was within reach. "Hannibal, this is Face. Copy?"

"Where the hell are you, kid?" At least he didn't sound mad. A little irritated, maybe, but not mad. "I thought you were supposed to be back first thing this morning."

"Did I say this morning?" he grinned. "I meant tomorrow morning. Sorry for the misunderstanding."

"I want you on the first ride out of there, Lieutenant," Hannibal ordered. "We're getting briefed in fifteen minutes. I guess I'll have to fill you in."

"Alright, I'll be there as soon as I can." He checked the clock on the wall. "Don't start the party without me."

***

Two wide-eyed children stared at him in amazement. "Is that a true story?" James asked quietly.

Actually, the story had ended up more fiction than fact in the PG version. He'd edited out the part about the contraception, Linh Hoa's actual operating procedure, and the fact that she had been one of the many Vietnamese women Face had bedded on his deployment – though she was the only operative. They didn't need to hear about those minor details.

"True story," he nodded firmly.

"Whatever happened to Linh Hoa?" Heather asked, hugging her knees to her chest. Out of the corner of his eye, Face saw Jessica watching him carefully, listening to the story with as much interest as her children.

"Did you ever see her again?"

Face shook his head. "No."

"But did she get the bad guy?"

"Colonel Hoang was captured a few nights later," Face nodded. "They gave Linh Hoa some money to get started in a new life and sent her to another part of the country where she'd be safe."

"You should go find her," Heather grinned. "You two would have a lot to talk about."

Face smiled faintly. "Maybe someday I will," he lied.

"Can you really speak French?" James questioned.

"I used to," Face answered. "It's been a long time since I've used it."

"Did you learn it in school?"

"When you were a kid?"

"No," Face replied. "I learned Latin in school as a kid. I learned French in the army."

"You speak Latin, too?" James asked, wide-eyed.

"I doubt I could speak it," Face admitted. "But I could probably still read it."

"Will you teach us?"

That question had been predictable.

"Not now. Maybe some other time." Hopefully they would forget about it before too long.

Heather stood up and turned to Jessica. "Mom, can we go down to the water?"

"It's almost dinnertime," Jessica reminded.

"After dinner, can we?"

"What's for dinner?"

Face watched as Jessica stood and headed for the cooler, both children following after her. A sad smile crept across his lips as he watched them go. Only children could be so innocent...

***

"Everybody keep your eyes peeled," Hannibal warned as he led the team of five Americans and ten Yards through the blood-soaked, devastated town five miles southeast of Ben Soi. They'd been in the jungle for three days already, and it was their fourth drop in a row with only three nights to recover in between. They were pushing their luck being on the ground when they were all so tired, and they all knew it.

A wide-eyed toddler sat in the lap of a glassy-eyed teenage girl, too terrified to cry. A man lying face down in a pool of blood on the dirt street opened his eyes and raised his fingers weakly towards the passing figures. Face tapped Cruiser's shoulder and gestured to the man. With one more glance around, Cruiser shouldered his weapon, keeping it easily accessible, and knelt down next to the man, turning him onto his back. Face didn't look down at them, keeping his eyes on the surrounding area as he covered the medic and his Vietnamese patient.

"Jesus," he heard Cruiser whisper.

A slight breeze blew thick, humid air across the ghostly silent village. Face set his jaw to keep himself from gagging at the scent of bodies that were already beginning to decay in the hot sun. "Ban!" Cruiser called to a woman on the steps of a little hut, watching him blankly. "Den!"

The woman stared at him, as if she didn't comprehend. From the blank look on her face, it wasn't clear if she even heard him. As Hannibal and the others progressed through the village, two of the Yards looked back to see the Americans who had stopped. They backtracked, and came to stand beside Cruiser as he called again for the girl. This time, they added to his limited Vietnamese with a string of their own, both talking to her at once until she finally responded, coming to stand beside them.

Face exchanged glances and nods with one of the Yards, and they clapped each other's shoulders before Face turned away again, following the team and leaving the two able soldiers to cover Cruiser and serve as interpreters.

A wild pig crossed the road a few paces in front of Face, its snout covered in blood. Something inside of Face wanted to shoot the damn thing. He couldn't explain the reaction, or the strong emotion that came with it, but the sight infuriated him.

BA hung back, waiting for him to catch up, and he moved a little faster through the street, checking windows and doors for anything that moved. The dirt was red with blood where bodies had already been removed. Face wondered where they were putting them.

When they reached the central court, Hannibal stopped suddenly. It was a few seconds before Face could catch up and see why. In a pile in the center of the open court were the bloody bodies of women, their stomachs slit and fetuses lying in blood, some still attached to their mothers' organs in some way or another. Face shut his eyes and swallowed hard, regaining his composure.

"Search the houses," Hannibal ordered. "I want a thorough sweep. Mark the ones with wounded so we can get them to a central location. BA, get on the radio to Covey and see if Bien Hoa can spare us a few medics."

"Right," BA answered.

Face turned away from the sight and took one of the Yards with him down a road to the right. Aside from the man who'd looked up when they'd first entered, there was no one living in the street. Face checked a few of the bodies for a pulse, but with others, there was no need. It took only a few hours for a corpse to start rotting in this heat. This village had been hit at least twenty-four hours ago. It couldn't have been much longer than that. Some of the burned huts were still smoldering.

Charred bodies lay in the remains of one such hut. In another, the broken form of an infant that looked like it had been thrown against the wall. "Why do they do this?" Face mumbled under his breath, bewildered by any army that would do this to their own civilians.

"They do because people not support VC," the Yard answered in broken English. "If not pay money, give men for soldiers, VC destroy village. Kill everyone."

Face knew that. He'd seen this many times before. He'd even exploited it, to turn valuable informants against the VC. He was no more able to comprehend it now than he had been the first time. Or the second. Or the third.

It was easy to determine which house belonged to the village leader. It was the one with the family hanging on the front of the house, hands nailed through the wrist with a stake. Every bone in the woman's body had been methodically broken. The child, no older than ten, had bloody marks from a cane from head to toe, bruises and compound-fractured ribs, eyes wide open in horror, pupils rolled back. His feet had been amputated, one digit at a time, before he'd finally, mercifully, bled out. His father's abdomen was slashed open, his entrails around his feet. His death had no doubt been last; they took no time to make him bleed and suffer just for dramatic effect.

The screams seemed to echo in the silence.

Face checked the house although he knew it would be empty. Then he moved on to the next building, and the next. By the time he reached the last hut on the row, he was already feeling numb and detached from the horror around him. Like watching the scene on a big screen, a silent movie with actors long dead and gone. None of it was real. These people were just paid actors…

He stopped inside the doorway of the final house. He scanned with both his eyes and the barrel of his gun, looking for anything that moved. A pair of legs stuck out from behind a doorway. After a moment of hesitation and a careful look around, he stepped carefully over the scattered, broken fragments of a house and knelt next to the body without looking. No pulse.

Something made him pause. He couldn't identify it, but something felt… familiar. Casting a lingering look down at the bloody body – the woman had been shot several times – he slowly turned her over.

Linh Hoa…

He stared for a moment down at the familiar face, and lowered his head as he reached a dirty, bloody hand to close her eyes. He left his hand there, across her eyes, as he leaned down carefully and kissed her forehead. Maybe she'd been lucky. Maybe she'd never even known what was happening. At least she'd been shot and not tortured. At least they hadn't known who she was, and had never found her. If they'd known, she would have suffered a lot more before she died.

"Merci," he whispered as he touched her cheek once more. "Merci pour votre aide…"

Without another word, he stood and turned away, leaving the little hut just the way he had found it.