A/N: Contrary to my own expectations, I actually finished my other Undercovers fanfic! Was starting to think I'd never get around to this, but here she is. And hey, if I write one more, I'll be responsible for half of the Undercovers fics in existence! ... You hear me, people? I know the show is dead but this fandom doesn't have to be! Write, write I say*!
by Drink Sparky Cola
It was nearing dawn outside of the compound, two floors above the dank, musty corridor flanked on either side by heavily locked doors and dimly lit by flickering lights that were out of tempo with a steady, unseen dripping.
The two men faced straight ahead to the room at the end of the corridor, hauling their burden stoically. The bloody figure being dragged between them was oblivious to anything. He'd forgotten what time it was, hell, what day it was. Had it been twelve days? Thirteen? It felt more like fifty…
One of his captors unlocked the door and held it open while the other unceremoniously dumped him inside. The captive already inside the room snapped to attention when the door was opened but waited on his haunches until it was closed and locked and the footsteps began to die away.
Finally, Bill Hoyt sprang from his crouched position and fell to his knees next to the prone form of Leo Nash. Leo rolled himself over on his back, with Hoyt's help, and closed his eyes to shut out the throbbing in his head. When they'd dumped him, he'd tried to put his hand out, grab onto something—anything—to break his fall, but willpower was taking a two-week vacation. Hoyt examined his forehead; a bruise was already starting to form where his head had collided with the cold pavement. But what did it matter anymore? After all the blows to the head he'd taken during his 'interrogation' by their Russian captor, another bump on the head was, frankly, just adding insult to injury.
"Agent Nash, Agent Nash, sir, thank God, you're still alive!" Hoyt gushed. Leo started to sit up but the room refused to stop spinning. It reminded him of drinking too much, but what he wouldn't give to be thoroughly inebriated right now instead of the alternative.
"I did just what you told me to do, sir. I didn't give in. I refused to tell them anything. Every time they asked me a question I just recited the lyrics to "Bohemian Rhapsody," just like you said! They kept telling me they wanted me to hack into some file but I didn't, I wouldn't, even when you—" Hoyt paused mid-sentence and Leo cracked an eyelid open to witness Hoyt's hesitance to finish that sentence, to admit that he was coerced into doing their captors' bidding by listening to Leo's torture session in the next room.
"You did good, kid," Leo said hoarsely. "Don't give 'em an inch."
He was feeling a bit more grounded now. The floor no longer felt like he could fall off of it while lying on it, in any case, so he began to sit up, pulling himself over to the wall. Hoyt said nothing while he helped him move. Leo would actually have preferred his usual rambling to the looks of forlorn pity and guilt Hoyt wore these past few days. It was starting to make him uncomfortable.
Neither of them were sure who exactly had captured them, which made it all the more difficult to envision rescue. All they knew is that they had just successfully completed a mission in Moscow to take down a rogue arms dealer when they were grabbed, possibly by another group entirely. It was impossible to know.
"They gave me a computer, you know, to do my hacking, and I tried to send an encoded message to the C.I.A., but they were watching me pretty closely. I don't know how much of it got through…" Hoyt sighed and averted his gaze, staring down at Leo's broken fingers. "They found out what I was trying to do and retaliated… on you. I'm so sorry, Agent Nash. I'm so, so, sor—"
Leo took a deep breath and grabbed Hoyt's arm with his good hand, holding steady. "I don't. Blame. You," he said carefully.
The younger agent seemed unsure, but let it drop. After a pause he said, "Do you think they're still looking for us? The Blooms?"
Leo sighed inwardly. If he were perfectly honest, he had given up hope days ago that anyone was ever going to find the two captured agents alive. But he couldn't tell the kid that. It was imperative that Hoyt's hope be kept alive if they were going to prevent him from cracking. They wanted him to do something, hack into some private documents, neither of them really knew for sure, but they did know that Hoyt had the knowledge and skills their captors needed; Leo was just a bargaining chip.
"Of course they're still looking for us," Leo said and though it pained him to lie so dramatically, he did it with a wink and a smile. In truth, there was something else he wasn't telling Hoyt, something he'd realized a short while ago: he wasn't getting out of this alive.
Leo had had a sneaking suspicion things would turn out this way, but it wasn't until today that he was sure. The wounds that he hid under his shirt would probably have him bleeding out before morning. Hoyt had longer… Hell, he might even be able to hold out until a rescue plan surfaced, if he was smart enough to think of one. Besides, they wanted Hoyt alive; Leo was never meant to survive.
"I've been through worse than this before," Leo assured—also a lie. "And I always come out on top."
"I've no doubt about that, sir." Hoyt grinned, but the expression faded when he spied Leo wincing and clutching his middle while trying to sit up straighter. Hoyt crouched alongside him, eye going wide at the telltale red stain blossoming on his side. "Sir, are you hurt badly? Let me see. Maybe I can—"
He made to lift his fellow agent's shirt to inspect but Leo held him off firmly. "It's nothing to worry about. I'm fine."
Hoyt wasn't buying it but left Leo be and resumed the pacing he'd kept up for however many days they'd been in this hellhole. "I think you're right. I'll bet they're still looking. Agent Bloom and Mrs. Agent Bloom wouldn't let them stop. Well, I mean, would they? I know I can be pretty annoying to Mr. Agent Bloom but I think he kinda likes me anyway, don't you think? I'll bet they haven't given up. Maybe next time they put me in front of a computer, I'll—" Hoyt stopped pacing and rambling, face curling in curious recognition. "Hey, did you hear something?"
"I don't know…" Leo said, half in, half out. His head drifted back against the cool wall, eyes closed.
"I think I hear footsteps," Hoyt replied. "Coming closer. They couldn't be coming back so soon, could they?"
Of course, why not? Just let me die in peace… Leo thought, his stomach sinking, but he said aloud, "They just couldn't get enough of my company."
There was a beat while Hoyt listened, then perked suddenly. "Sir, I think I hear gunfire."
"No, it can't b—" but the unmistakable far off sound of weapons fire interrupted his thoughts and Leo's eyes shot open, body tensed. The pair listened as the sounds of the distant exchange drew near until they were absolutely sure that something upstairs had gone awry.
"What do we do?" Hoyt looked to Leo.
The injured agent snapped to attention, pulling himself together and shoving down the pain to scramble to his feel unsteadily. The first promise of rescue in their nearly two-week capture was acting as a shot of adrenaline to the heart. The footsteps outside were almost at their door, frenzied shouts, somewhere an alarm flared into life. "Follow my lead," Leo said. He flattened himself against the wall adjacent to the only door and waited until it opened. Two men entered, the first with a gun at the ready. He looked momentarily shocked at the sight of only Hoyt, arms raised in a hapless gesture, but before he could react, Leo was on him, snapping his arm over his knee and kicking him into the door. The gun clattered to the floor and Leo snatched it up, shooting the other gunman while Hoyt finished off the first. Not wasting any time, Leo raised the weapon and took out two more men rounding the bend at the end of the hallway.
"Think they were sent here to finish us off?" Hoyt asked, grabbing the other man's gun.
"Absolutely," Leo replied as he searched the bodies for extra ammunition. "So whattaya say we get them first?"
Hoyt grinned. "Absolutely."
The pair took out a few more gunmen heading their way who were caught off guard then dodged the return fire. Leo didn't have time to wonder where the stamina was coming from or how he managed to harness it; he just took out everything that came his way.
"Aaaand, I'm out," Hoyt announced after a few more rounds. Leo sighed and checked his own gun. Six more shots. This wasn't going like he'd hoped. Where the hell were Samantha and Steven? He knew they must be out there… More enemy targets flooded the room outside their cell and Leo and Hoyt, standing on either side of the doorway, ducked their heads out to scope out the situation. This was it. Six bullets for seven guys. At least he would be dying on his feet. An hour ago, he didn't think that was possible. If he could take out as many as he could, he'd give Hoyt a fighting chance until reinforcements arrived.
Leo took a deep breath. "I got this one," he said.
"Wait, sir—" But Hoyt's protest fell on deaf ears as Leo stepped out into the No Man's Land and started firing, each shot hitting home, more to his own surprise than he cared to admit.
It was the last guy who got him, a bullet in the leg that Leo barely felt right before his shooter went down from an unseen assailant. Hoyt watched the whole thing, wide-eyed wonder clearly visible in his bruised features. Leo had actually taken out six guys in about six seconds then sank to the floor, collapsing heavily into the doorframe.
"Alright, I'm done," he said, tossing the empty gun aside with a clatter.
Their own guys must have taken out the rest, as he heard shouting—in English—down the hall. Hoyt knelt next to Leo, holding hands in place over the bullet in his leg. "Sir, that was… amazing… I don't even…"
"I know, I'm awesome," Leo mumbled, beginning to lose consciousness. "Make sure Steven knows."
"Make sure Steven knows what?" The unmistakable voice of Steven Bloom hovered nearby, his wife in tow. Samantha went to Hoyt, pulling him to his feet while Steven crouched beside Leo, checking his pulse and radioing for a medic to their location.
"It's alright, we got your back now," Steven said quietly.
"You always do," Leo smiled, and gave in to darkness.
Steven Bloom leaned back in his chair, massaging his temples. He had found trouble concentrating on the latest case Shaw had dropped off for them, his mind still on the traumatic events of their last case, though it had ended over a week ago. It unnerved him to think how close they came to losing Bill Hoyt and Leo Nash. Leo may be a nuisance but he was still Steven's friend, and a very old one at that, possibly even the closest one Steven had, though he was reluctant to admit that. Steven had yet to catch sight of the limits to which he would go for the guy, and these past few weeks had certainly tested that.
As if on cue, a familiar voice broke his thoughts. "Whatchya got there, Stevie? Is that our latest mission?" Leo Nash, supported by crutches and looking marginally better than he had when he'd been found last week, hobbled into the kitchen, his trademark grin plastered on his face.
"You have got to be kidding me if you think you're getting anywhere near a case for at least another month. What are you even doing out of bed anyway? If Samantha sees you—"
"Oh relax, I'm not scared of—"
The sound of footsteps approaching the kitchen immediately set both men on edge and two sets of intimidated eyes darted to the door, only to see Bill Hoyt enter.
Leo's eyes turned on Steven warningly. "Don't even say it."
Hoyt's eyes widened at the sight of Leo, up and about. "Agent Nash! What are you doing here? You should be resting. You look terrible—oh!—I mean, you look great, sir. Totally awesome, as always, I just mean, you look tired. Here, have a seat." Hoyt pulled up a chair opposite Steven at the table and Leo reluctantly took it.
"Thanks, Hoyt." In truth, Steven thought, the young agent still wasn't looking so hot himself; the bruising was starting to heal, but it left his face a purplish-yellow mess. He wore it well, though, surprisingly. The kid was made of tougher stuff than he used to give him credit for.
"Is there anything I can get for you?" Hoyt asked, taking the crutches without asking and laying them on the floor. "A refreshing beverage, perhaps?"
Leo looked to the ceiling thoughtfully and tapped his chin. "You know, I could go for a coffee right about now. From that place down the street?"
"Coffee. Absolutely. Coming right up. The usual?"
"Of course! You know exactly how I like 'em."
"Yes, sir. Tall espresso with extra foam, extra sugar, and special guest," Hoyt responded with a little wink.
"Special guest?" Steven raised an eyebrow.
"A shot of Jack Daniels. Helps get the blood flowing," Hoyt answered promptly.
"Atta boy," Leo grinned, reclining in his chair.
"I'll be right back with it, sir. Don't move a muscle."
Hoyt was almost out the door when Steven cleared his throat loudly and called for his attention. The kid spun around to meet his gaze. "I don't suppose you would mind getting me a cup as well?"
"Oh, sure, Steven," Hoyt smiled genially. "No problem. What do you drink again?"
Steven stared. "Regular. Black."
"No prob, I'm on it, boss."
He bustled off, leaving the two alone in the kitchen. Steven turned slowly to meet Leo's gaze, the usual Cheshire grin managing to burst forth past the scars still adorning his face.
"Am I… in the twilight zone or something?" Steven was still somewhat flabbergasted, his jaw ever so slightly ajar as he watched the seemingly unphased Leo sneak a peek at Steven's laptop and the mission files he'd been going over.
"What ever are you referring to, Stevie?"
Steven shook his head, tried to brush it off. "Nothing, it's just… you seem to have acquired a pretty big fan as of late."
"Oh, that. Yes… He has been laying it on a little thick ever since we were captured. But who can blame the little guy for noticing my superb radiance? I mean, this is me we're talking about here," Leo said cheekily.
Steven squinted. "I just don't get it… Since Day One that kid's been worshipping the ground I walk on. Now he just… stops? I mean, I don't care, of course not!" Steven laughed a little too loudly. "It's just… weird, you know? Maybe something's the matter with that kid."
Leo eyed the other agent, head cocked, then a sly grin broke through his features. "Steven Bloom, you sorry bastard. You're jealous of me!"
"What? Am not!"
"Am too! You're jealous with a capital J because your obnoxious sycophant adores me more than you now!"
"That's preposterous," Steven shook his head while Leo laughed. "You're imagining things. Maybe you should be resting after all—GIVE that back!" He snatched the laptop back and attempted to pretend to focus, but when the laughter of his companion finally died down, Steven couldn't help but feel the tension of being watched. Slowly he looked up, expecting to find the ever-unserious Leo waiting to crack another joke at his expense. Steven was already readying a protest but something about Leo's expression stopped him. He looked different than usual, more genuine. He waved a hand in Steven's direction, brushing him off.
"Don't worry about any of this, Steven, it's only temporary. The kid's just into me 'cause we were in a… bad situation together and I helped him hold his shit together. He'll be back worshipping at the altar of Steven Bloom before you know it."
Steven stared blankly then flashed a small half-smile. "Alright, I'll admit it just this once… that I kind of, maybe, surprisingly, miss the attention just a little…" He winced at his own confession, but chuckled at himself a moment later. Steven was pleased that Leo seemed to be healing expediently, maybe even a little impressed, but he'd no sooner thought these words than he caught sight of the ever-so-slight waver in his fellow agent's otherwise cheerful expression. It was subtle, and lasted only a few seconds, but he definitely faltered, and it didn't go missed by Steven.
"Listen," Steven began hesitantly, and Leo replaced his look of uncertainty almost instantly. "How are you dealing with all of this anyway? You doin' alright?"
"Me? Oh I'm doin' fine. Great, actually." Leo smiled a decidedly disingenuous smile that didn't fool Steven.
"Bullshit," Steven called him out. "You almost died. You two were held and tortured for thirteen days. Nobody comes out of shit like that feeling 'great.'"
Leo nodded. "I know. It is tough some times… to fathom the extent of my awesomeness. You should ask Hoyt about it; I think he could write a whole book about how awesome I am."
"Leo, I'm serious—"
"So am I! He let me read some of it recently. It's not bad, actually. If they turned it into a movie, I think it might have to be narrated by Sean Connery." Leo rambled on in a light tone but the mask didn't fool Steven. He had known Leo Nash too long to believe that the joker façade was anything but a cover-up for a deeply-rooted pain or fear. This experience had shaken him to his core, physically and psychologically. He could pretend everything was great, but the emptiness in his once bright eyes spoke volumes.
"Leo," Steven interrupted his self-loving ramble and sighed. "You don't have to talk to me, if you don't want to, but you have to talk to someone. You can't just bottle all this up and expect it to go away."
Leo forced a grin. "But relying on bottles is the only therapy I'm familiar with." Steven just shook his head sadly and Leo faltered then replied cautiously, "Honestly… you're the only person I'd ever want to talk to about any of this."
Steven nodded. He was the first friend Leo had made in the CIA, possibly the only friend Leo had left after he'd burned all his bridges with alcohol. Back when they first met, Steven was a different person—ambitious, short-tempered, more serious, if it could be believed. He certainly wasn't one to discuss feelings. He was much better since becoming domesticated with Samantha, but it never occurred to Steven before this point that that change may have come a bit earlier. Leo had made him more accustomed to sharing through a combination of his nosiness and his over sharing. He'd always been his incorrigible, broad self, somehow eliciting protective instincts in Steven that he didn't think possible. Now that eccentricity, that vibrancy, was being threatened, and Steven was the only one who seemed to be able to salvage it.
He should be surprised, but then, Steven had a long history of coming to Leo's rescue. Why should this time be different?
"Talk to me," Steven prompted. "You can trust me."
The younger agent nodded slowly. "I don't know… I just… can't seem to close my eyes without being back in that room. I'm—having some trouble moving on."
"It'll pass, man. You gotta give it time. The pain, the nightmares—" Leo looked up, startled, but Steven just nodded. He was their houseguest while he recuperated; with Samantha checking on him every twenty minutes, there was no point in pretending like he wasn't having nightmares. "They're all gonna pass, I promise."
"I know, I know you're right, I just… can't change the fact that I was ready to give up. I was gonna throw in the towel. I couldn't take it anymore. I wanted to die, ten times over. I just wanted out."
Steven didn't know what to say. This kind of openness and severity in the confession was jarring, though he couldn't say he didn't expect it. Leo had been through a lot, as much as any of them had at their worst. He'd been interrogated, shot, starved, tortured; he never seemed to let it get to him, his alcoholism not withstanding.
"It's such a coward's thing to say, I know." Leo pinched the bridge of his nose, eyes squeezed shut.
"No, it's not," Steven said, and said something that had been weighing heavily on his mind for several weeks. "Leo—I'm so sorry it took us so long to find you two. You never would have reached that point if I was just… a little better at my job."
The injured agent scoffed, incredulous. "Don't be ridiculous, Steven. It's not your job to always be rescuing me. I don't make that easy on you—believe me, I know—but I hope you realize you don't have to beat yourself up about it. I should have been able to handle it… Hell, you would have. You have everything to come home to. A beautiful wife, big house, thriving business, and you're a better agent that I am—" He doggedly continued before Steven could interrupt. "Yes, you are, but so help me God if you try to get me to cop to that again later on." Leo's eyes turned downward. "I can't even picture myself with those things… maybe I should have given up."
"I can't believe what I'm hearing right now," Steven blinked in disbelief. He'd always thought that Leo was coveting his wife, but it never occurred to him that he might be coveting his life in general. Leo Nash just never struck him as the type to settle down.
But, he supposed, there was nothing better than a near-death experience to get you to reexamine your freewheeling lifestyle.
"Leo, I wouldn't be coming to your rescue all the time if I didn't want to. You have a family here… and the rest of those things? They'll come in time… I know Samantha would hate me for telling you this, but I've seen the way you get along with Lizzie—" Leo's eyes brightened at the mention of Sam's little sister. "Maybe there's something there worth exploring?" Steven still shuddered at the thought of being related to Leo Nash but the latter seemed to appreciate the thought.
"Yeah," Leo nodded thoughtfully. "Plus, if all else fails, your fanboy likes me more than you now."
Steven frowned. "Yes, there's also that."
And, like that, the moment had passed, less painfully than Steven had anticipated, and in the wake, the old Leo emerged, grinning and irreverent.
"You know, you never really took full advantage of little Billy's affections. There's a lot of untapped potential there."
"Is there now?"
"There is. He makes an excellent wingman."
"Now, see, I just don't see myself needing one of those right now."
"Oh, just something to keep in mind, you know, for down the line," Leo responded with a wink. "Did you know he'll also go across town to find you a copy of the most obscure DVD you can think of?"
"Stop." Steven sunk his face into his hand.
"Also, he'll make a Facebook page for cat, Pickles."
"You're… evil," Steven chuckled. "I didn't even know you had a cat."
"I don't. She's fictional, but she leads a very interesting social media-based life."
"You can't keep doing this to the kid."
"Oh, relax," Leo shrugged. "I'm just having a little fun. Besides, he likes doing stuff, makes him feel useful. Don't ruin this for both of us, Steven!"
Steven shook his head, still smiling and a calm settled on the two of them. Things finally seemed to be getting back to normal for the team. Leo still had a long road to recovery, but he would surely get there, like he always did. "Thanks again, for coming for us," he told Steven.
"Always," Steven's reply was sincere. "And just know, if you ever need to talk anymore, I'm more than happy to listen."
Leo leaned back in his chair, relaxing for the first time in three weeks. "I know."