With a start, you wake up.
Just another nightmare, you have to remind yourself. It's not real.
Well, not anymore, anyway. Not for you.
As a distraction, you grab the remote and turn on the TV.
It's something you do religiously; something you've gotten used to.
Flipping through the channels, you can't find anything good on.
When did all the real shows stop playing? When is the last time you saw anything remotely interesting?
What the hell ever happened to the Marx Brothers and the Three Stooges and—your personal favorite—Charlie Chaplin?
Are they no longer interesting to people? Are they too dull, too quiet, too boring? Or are they just old, just burnt out?
Realizing you are no longer thinking about the TV shows, you press the 'channel up' button hard. So hard, it falls out of your hand.
You lean down to pick it up and change the channel yet again, when you can't find the button you are looking for.
Most of the buttons are worn down, their ink rubbed off by the number of times you've pressed them.
Finally, after what seems like an eternity, you settle on a crime drama.
(Nothing like reliving the old days to make you feel like you're actually worth something again.)
But that only lasts no more than fifteen minutes when you realize that the man behind the computers can't actually get all of that classified information so quickly.
You only know of one person who can do that.
So you angrily change the channel again.
You are flipping through so fast that when you saw something you wanted to stop at, you had to go back four to get to it again.
And there she is.
Her hair looks different—she got bangs, you realize. Not so flat, either. And are those...curls? Loose, sure, but her usually pin-straight blonde hair is definitely not how you remembered it.
Could so much have changed in so little time?
Or has it been longer than you thought?
She has gotten better, you think. Not that there was anything for her to fix before—she just improved.
(Improving perfection? You didn't think that was possible.)
A familiar man taps her on the shoulder. It takes you a minute to place the face, but once you do, you lean forward and grip the armrest so tightly, you are surprised it doesn't tear.
He came back from retirement?
When did this happen? Since when is he a team player?
All you can think of is how, when he retired and your team forever changed, he stayed the same. You kept in touch with him for nearly three years, and he stayed the same.
Independent, self-absorbed. Not a 'team player'.
Clumsily, you force yourself out of your chair and grab a glass, and a bottle of scotch. You pour it into the cup, leaving only half empty, and-
Just like that.
Just like you.
He is whispering in her ear, his hypocritical lips moving slowly with age.
Shots fire. You pour yourself another glass (a little bit more this time) and down it.
The man ducks, protectively curling himself over the woman. The man to her right, a reporter, is hit. He falls backward.
The camera is shaking and jumping around, but this particularly determined reporter refuses to leave where a story is being made.
Another man runs towards his two coworkers. He, if possible, gained more muscle.
You can feel his pain when you see that his childlike, immature, teasing features have been forever wiped off his face.
The two men stand up and help the blonde. She is shaken up, the dead man's blood all over her face and clothes.
(You remember seeing almost the exact same thing on the screen, not even two months ago.)
The three of them are talking, pointing. Two more run up to greet them. A brunette—definitely more mature, no questions asked. She grabs the blonde's arm and, alarmed and frightened, looks into her eyes.
The blonde's eyes are dead calm, most likely in shock. It pains you to see.
This time, when you pour the glass, it is just shy of full. It takes you two long, painful gulps.
But you turn your attention to the other man. Black hair.
But behind that, a good agent. A great husband. An excellent father.
You just stare as he, as head, makes it his duty to make sure she is alright as well.
When she nods her head, he looks around to see who fired the shots.
Can't he see? She's not okay! Even you can tell, and you've been out of the field for-
Your hand is shaking so much that you spill the alcohol into your lap as you're pouring, then again as you bring the strong liquid to your lips.
More shots fire. The blonde is the first to duck. Two of the men crouch over her, while the head of the team and the other woman hold out their guns and try to find where the bullets are coming from.
Two more people run out. Two more familiar faces.
The blonde—what is her name again? You can never seem to remember—is now a redhead. And the man who used to be unnaturally skinny, laughably nerdy, and lovably different...well, you can tell he's changed.
First it's by the way he runs—with a purpose, sure of himself. Not pompous, but sure as hell certain and secure with himself. He has done away with the half-rimmed, thick glasses and the long shaggy hair for a cut that seems to you like a stereotypical teenaged boy.
You grip your glass so hard that it nearly falls out of your hand. The bottle and glass bang against each other—clink clink clink—as you pour yourself yet another drink. You down it in one swift motion, throwing your head back as if you're a pro. Angry.
Because he shouldn't have changed. He was fine the way he was; he had no right to change.
But what he does next interrupts you from your thoughts and you lean forward, intrigued. He grabs her arm and helps her up, and brushes her messy hair out of her face. The buff one and the hypocrite glance at each other and take imperceptible steps back. He tries to follow her eyes with his but find it is no use; so, he resorts to a different method and gentry grabs her by the chin, lifting her face until it is at level with his.
The now-redhead smirks at the muscular man, but instead of returning the appreciation like you predicted, his eyes widen. You look where he is looking and you nearly fall out of your seat.
There is a 9-millimeter sized hole in the blonde's arm, blood falling out and running away, away, running down her arm and sleeve.
The redheaded one gasps and covers her mouth, her eyes immediately filling with tears.
The cameraman notices what they are looking at and zooms in on the bullet wound, camera shaky and unsteady, focused on the source of all this pain.
Sick son of a bitch.
You grimace and snarl and spit at the television until the cameraman and reporter decide to show the tiniest bit of respect and pull away, now showing the entire group of familiar faces.
When the brunette, who seems to have a much more confident and powerful aura than I remember, grabs the blonde's skinny arm in attempt to stop the bleeding, the wounded one blanches and jerks suddenly, as if just now realizing her pain. The old man rubs her good shoulder comfortingly, most likely assuring her that the ambulance will be there soon.
Then the reporter's face appears on the screen once again, as if you actually cared about him more than you did about the others. He says something, babbles on about FBI agents being shot at and hospitals and being okay.
You realize you may have to wait for the morning papers to find out what happened to those who you loved so very much.
Overwhelmed with anger, you throw your once again empty glass at the moving picture screen, your glass shattering all over your floor and the television cracked down the middle. As you walk out of your room, you catch a glance of the blonde's face, a long and jagged crack distorting her once-beautiful profile.
Her still beautiful profile.
Not that you would know.
Because while they are out there, catching the bad guys and criminals and monsters that in a way destroyed you in the end, you are here, all alone, throwing cups at TVs and drinking yourself to sleep.
And still waking up from the nightmares.
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