This is turning into an obsession. A bad, horrible, gloriously strange obsession that forces me to watch every episode like it's the Supernatural season finale (which I have watched. Like twelve times. Dean makes angst really, really smokin'). Anyway. I am writing the next chapter LaTotES, but Joe Tucker sidetracks me. Like alot.)


Joe Tucker isn't his real name.

But sometimes when he's sitting next to Janet while she rattles of random facts because she's terrified and it's like a nervous tick with her or something, well.

He wishes it was.

-O-

He's recruited online.

It's the most ridiculous thing he's ever heard of, but he trusts his staff sergeant more than anything, so when his email dings and presents him with an opportunity to scare people straight, he replies yes and buys a plane ticket. It was his staff sergeant and he's always followed orders.

During their first meeting, SSG. Dave Lawson and the rest of his team beat the living shit out of him and twelve other men; then offered coffee and a haze of almost explanations.

It's a business. That's it. A way to earn money while doing the things they've been specifically trained for. Millionaire clients dealing with people who are a threat to their status are more than willing to pay an undisclosed amount to have the problem taken out and corrected.

(While he's signing his name next to the fortieth x, Janet is finger painting with her daughter and absently rubbing scar below her rib cage. It's almost funny how little they know.)

-O-

When Joe's eighteen, his mom dies. It's sudden. (But not, sort of, because he had just gotten into college and every success in his life was always short lived, so.)

He doesn't cry at her funeral because his dad's already half-way to wasted by the time the pastor steps up, and damn it if she doesn't get buried with a shred of fucking dignity. So he stands there like the good son he never was, and when it's over he goes home, burns the dirty black suit into ash on the kitchen floor and packs a duffel bag full of clothes and empty of memories.

Two days later, and he's sitting in a recruitment office signing his life away. (It's not like it was much of a fucking life to begin with, though.)

-O-

He climbs the ranks quickly in the military; knows all the tricks. Keep your head down and follow orders and don't argue when criticized and if he had known the army would have been like home just with guns he would have stayed the fuck there and worked in his dad's car dealership.

But, sometimes, out in the desert with the stars and the sounds of his unit masking their fear with dirty jokes and half-hearted insults in the tents behind him Joe can finally breathe.

Two years, and all he wants to do is not breathe, damn it because it'd be all sand and dust and the ash of the men burning in the tanks ten feet from him.

(He gets a purple heart, and he frames it so he can look at it while he's choking back another Jack Daniels and answering emails from Ssg. Lawson.)

-O-

Tom sits next to him during training. He's intriguing, the kind of guy you'd walk right by on the street or in an alley. He fits in anywhere despite his nationality; blends into the crowd until he's nothing but a spot in your peripheral.

But Joe's seen him put a bullet in a guy's head for digging a little too deeply into what the 'higher ups' were doing, and then ask if he wants pizza or Chinese.

(He'd call him badass if he wasn't so busy trying to find the upper hand.)

They picked him because of his ability to play a part, and he's got a baseball trophy in the bottom of a box in his apartment in New York that proves it. Because his dad had yelled at him for a good forty minutes before that game about his curveball not having enough spin and his fastball not being quick enough, and it was never enough for his old man, but it was enough for college scouts. And when they approached him after the game with phrases like a full ride on their tongues he smiled and ducked his head while his dad gave him praises like the family man he was expected to be.

The prodigal son and the black sheep all tied together with a bow made from barbed wire and glass, and it hurt like hell but look daddy, look where I am now.

He gets jumped from behind while walking to his truck after dinner with Tom, and wakes up in a strange bed with an ache in his thigh and the realization that he has officially been clocked in.

-O-

He kind of wishes he had found Janet last.

He was screwed the moment he stepped into that room with her, because she had smashed half the furniture in an attempt to find a freaking nail (like who even thinks of that) and she was bleeding and panicked but still looked ready to kill him, and he got that feeling. The one he had while he watched his unit burn, like he should be doing anything, whatever it fucking took, to save her.

(Somehow, he thinks, breaking down Tori's door wouldn't have produced the same effect.)

-O-

Two months of training doesn't prepare him for this. They told him what the reactions should be, but somewhere along the line they forgot that these are actual human beings. With human thoughts and emotions, and not even the most brilliant foolproof plan can account for human reactions. (Some, not all, but some of these people are just so freaking selfless and determined and they didn't prepare him at all for this.)

The rule book goes out the window right around the time Bill Blackham points a shotgun at his face, and his complete faith in this system when they lock Janet in a closet and fill it full of poisonous gas.

(The rest of his faith goes as Tom shuts a safe door with Janet and a homicidal ex-con as the only occupants, and then slowly watches as they use up their oxygen. But that's later.)

-O-

Joe really is allergic to bees.

Chapter Three of the how to kidnap and terrorize people until they admit their wrong-doings manual says to use as much real information as he can so that when questioned his answers will be automatic, a reflex.

Whatever.

There's a moment in that fucking cabin as a bee lands on his cheekbone, where he realizes that he's on his own. No one's going to help him besides the people he's lying to and that hurts so bad that he walks an entire mile in silence while Janet follows behind him.

(That hurts, too. Because Joe knows that Janet was never the type of person to follow anything, and he broke down that wall by sticking her in an abandoned town full of fucking microwaves and enough lies to choke him in his sleep.)

-O-

He stole her file once. Grabbed it off Tom's desk while he went out and shot another guy who was getting a little too greedy for his own good, and skimmed it just so he didn't feel so in the dark when they dropped him in that godforsaken town.

Twenty-five. Mother. Strong-willed. May cause problems unless threatened.

(He still doesn't know how anyone could compress this woman into ten words and not even include badass motherfucker.)

In her file, behind the simple definitions about a complicated woman, there's a single slip of paper.

It's a police report, filed by a nosy nurse who asked too many questions when Janet came in for stitches for the third time that month.

It wasn't investigated because her mother is Eleanor Sullivan, but it's still there. A black mark on an otherwise pristine reputation of a woman who seems a little too perfect, a little too put together.

(It's the first time he questions what they're doing, and of course it's Janet because who else could it ever be.)

-O-

It's unnerving to see Tom serving Chinese and pretending like he doesn't have a bachelor's degree in fucking Literature or whatever, maybe because Joe was told he was supposed to be the not seen and not heard guy in the town but probably because of that one time he saw Tom slit a guys throat with food actually in his hand.

Anyway.

He nods and pretends to not know that the guy these people are so intent on pointing a gun at could kill them with a chopstick.

(He could probably also pretend that he doesn't notice the way his body shifts slightly in front of Janet, but he figures lying to himself, too, will just make this process a whole hell of a lot harder.)

-O-

He hates fortune cookies. Seriously, they're shitty and unimportant, and people read into them like they're like Bible. It pisses him off, and so he wonders what kind of sadistic people he works with when it's a fucking fortune cookie that orders Janet to put a bullet through his head.

He knows how to disarm her, she holds a gun like a woman who doesn't like them, and he could snap her arm with a flick of his wrist. It's not like he hasn't done it before.

But for some reason he just freezes, stands there stunned while she rambles about her daughter, and something clicks. This woman, this beautiful, crazy, head-strong woman is ready to kill him to get back to her daughter. This is what they've done to her, to these people, reverted them back to caveman with nothing but survival instincts and it makes him want to gag.

He's shaking by the time he tunes back into what she's saying, and everything he was ever taught in the military is just gone. So he pleads. He begs and he pleads and he cries because he might have spent months trying to drink himself to death but he doesn't want to die.

After, he slides down the wall and bites his knuckles so hard they bleed. (He's glad she shot the camera, because Tom would never let him live this down.)

Oh. And fortune cookies can go fuck themselves.

-O-

Here's the thing: three months ago he was the most important person in this business, the guy moving the pieces across the game board. And now, now he has a feeling that he's just another pawn on the board.

Joe didn't know about the implants or that he'd be forced to have a fake psychiatrist who lives in a mental ward dig it out of his thigh with a Swiss army knife. He didn't know about the creepy night guard or the fucking poisonous gas, and when he muttered god help us as Janet carved open Charlie's mask, it wasn't part of his act.

This town is going to kill them, somehow, and he has no fucking clue when he became nothing but collateral damage.