Author's note: Another secret agent fic! However, this is a completely different AU than Espionage.
He was hearing voices. He couldn't see anything, he couldn't seem to move, and he was hearing voices. Well then.
"Oh my God." That was an English accent, his brain helpfully informed him.
"He doesn't look good, does he, cherie?"
"Don't be an ass." The first voice again. There was a sort of shuffling, as if someone was getting something out of their pocket.
"What are you doing?"
"What does it look like I'm doing? Calling the police."
"Do you really want to do that?" There was a smirk in that voice.
"What do you mean?"
"We could take him inside, non?"
"Are you bloody insane?" the first voice snapped. "He needs medical attention."
"And what are you going to tell the police, when they ask who you are, hmm?" There was silence. "I think that they've figured out how to track calls by now. They'll know it was your number."
There was a sort of spluttering. "You have got to be kidding."
"At least look him over. He doesn't look well."
"Alright." There was a footstep and the man's voice was suddenly much closer, as though he had just crouched down next to him. "Not as bad as it looks. Wait, is this . . . stage blood? But he has a real concussion, and his rib's broken."
"Don't ask me. Come on, I'll grab his shoulders." There was a slight pause. "You aren't afraid, are you, mon cher?" There was that smirk again.
There was a lot of shuffling, and then, "Oh fuck, he's heavy."
The last thing Alfred heard was the sound of ringing laughter.
Alfred was in his boss's office. "I've been given an assignment for you," his boss said. "It's a double extraction. Do you know what that means?"
"First, who you need to know." He slid a photograph across the desk. It was of a woman with long, light brown hair. "Héderváry is our inside informant. She will be the one helping you get inside, but she will only be able to give you limited aid. I will tell you how to reach her at your final briefing." Alfred nodded; he'd heard of her before. His boss slid another photograph towards Alfred, this one of a man with auburn hair. "This is who you will be ultimately extracting. He's one of ours. I cannot tell you much more about him, but he has a twin brother."
"Oh. That makes things a little more complicated." Alfred grinned.
"Yes, it does. Our agent has been missing for two weeks, and we cannot locate either him or his brother. When you make the exchange, you need to be sure you have our agent. If you get his brother–"
"The mission's compromised," Alfred said. "I get it, sir."
His boss gave him a dark look. "The whole division is compromised. His brother is a dangerous man. This is where the other extraction comes in." This time, he slid a piece of paper across the desk. There was no photograph. "Before you do anything else, you need to find this man."
Alfred picked up the piece of paper. He could see now that it was a bio. He skimmed it: Hair, blond. Height, 175 cm or approximately 5'8". He skipped down to the "special information" section and frowned. "'Ability to extract information from subjects directly'? What the hell does that mean?"
"Agent Jones," his boss said quietly as he leaned across the desk, "Your clearance level thus far has been what we consider standard for field agents. You have just been upgraded. This man is the only way we will able to know for certain if we have the right man."
Alfred looked back at the paper. 'HIGHEST SECURITY LEVEL', the document said."How am I supposed to find him, then?"
"We know where he currently lives." He passed across a slip of paper. "Memorize the address. This will be a solo mission. You will need his help, but do not allow him into your confidences." Alfred nodded and turned to leave. "Oh, and Agent Jones," his boss called after him. Alfred paused, his hand on the door handle. "To make this as unnoticeable as possible, we're going to need to make it look like you got mugged."
Alfred woke up in a bed that wasn't his. He could tell because the first thing he saw when he opened his eyes was a ceiling that had been painted a sort of peach color and had a crack in it, and his ceiling didn't have either of those things. Also, it felt like he was lying on a pile of raw springs.
Alfred groaned weakly and propped himself up on his elbows. He was in a small room, but the light was dim and he wasn't wearing his glasses, so he couldn't see much beyond that there was some sort of bedside table to his left. He felt a little cold, too. He glanced down. Interesting; he wasn't wearing a shirt. He did an automatic body check: his side felt strangely tender, and there was a bandage wrapped over it. He also had a pounding headache. Still, nothing life-threatening, as according to plan. He reached for the bedside table blindly and sort of patted his hand around until he found his glasses. He put them on and had to immediately take them off again because the lenses were smudged with fake blood.
While he was doing his best to clean his glasses on the edge of the sheet, there were footsteps at the door and someone came in. "Oh, you're awake," said the British voice from before. He was a blond blob on top of a sort of grey-brown blob, and Alfred watched as he closed the door behind him. He put on his glasses and the blobs clarified into a short man with messy blond hair and a slight frown. He was wearing a suit that looked a couple decades out of fashion. As he came closer, Alfred saw that he also had very green eyes and very large eyebrows. He looked concerned. "I hope you're feeling alright," the man said. "We brought you inside. I hope you don't mind. It was awfully cold out there and you didn't seem to be too badly injured, so we thought we'd spare you the horrible hospital bills you seem to have here." He smiled in a way that looked forced and he began to fiddle with a spare thread in the cuff of his suit jacket. Though Alfred was not familiar with the mannerism yet, he guessed that it was a sign that the man was lying. He was right.
"What was all that about the police, then?" Alfred asked. He pulled himself up into a sitting position with a wince.
The man went a little pale. "Sorry?"
"I heard some people talking when I was . . ." Alfred waved his hand. "I assume one of them was you." He grinned weakly. "Unless I have English guys just falling all over me lately. Lemme guess, you're in trouble with the law, yeah? What for?"
The man blinked a little too swiftly. His mouth opened and closed. His eyes narrowed a little. "You seem to have had a rather nasty concussion. I'm sure you were hearing things."
Alfred glared at him weakly. "If you threaten me, I'll have the Feds on you in a heartbeat."
"I wasn't threatening you," he snapped. "I only came in here to see if you wanted some more tea, since that cup's obviously gone cold, but I guess you'll just have to deal with it, won't you?" The man stormed off to the door. Alfred looked at the bedside table and noticed belatedly that there was indeed a cup of tea there. The man paused before he closed the door behind him. "By the way, I'm not some petty criminal, so don't look at me like I am. I don't even know your name because I was too much of a gentleman to even go through your pockets." The door slammed shut, and the last thing Alfred saw before it did was an angry flash in a pair of green eyes.
"Wait, you don't understand," Alfred called, but he didn't reappear. He bit his lip. The thought suddenly occurred to him that maybe he hadn't been picked up by the right person. What if this was someone completely unrelated to the man he was supposed to be contacting, and just happened to be someone else who didn't want to draw attention to themselves? Alfred frowned a little. Clearly this situation called for some investigation. His eyes lighted on his familiar coat hung over the foot of the bed. He lunged forward, completely forgetting why there might be a bandage around his torso. His broken rib gave a horrible twinge and Alfred Jones fainted.
When Alfred woke up again, he was on his back in bed again and there were now two other people in the room with him. One of them was the man from before and the other had slightly wavy, light blond hair that just brushed the collar of his finely-tailored suit. They were standing near the door and talking in quiet voices. Alfred frowned and sat up with a wince. Someone had taken his glasses off – again. He put them back on and glared properly at the two men. "Hey, are you gonna hear me out this time?"
They both turned to look at him, Mr. Eyebrows with a slight frown, the other one with a predatory smile. "I hear you were being quite rude earlier," the one with the pretty hair purred as he walked over to the bed. Alfred wasn't great with accents, but the voice clicked with the one he had heard earlier: right, French. "I'll give you the benefit of the doubt." He held out a well-manicured hand. "A pleasure to meet you."
Alfred brightened a little and took his hand. "I'm Alfred," he said. His gaze strayed back towards the Brit. He noticed Alfred looking and looked away with a huff. Alfred grinned and looked back at the Frenchman. "Sorry, I didn't mean to offend Eyebrows there. Would you mind passing me my jacket?"
"Of course." He handed the jacket over. Alfred ran a hand down the jacket's lining, looking for the hidden pocket. "Looking for this?" the man asked.
Alfred looked up. The Frenchman was holding a handgun – Alfred's handgun, standard issue. He was also smirking in a way that made Alfred suddenly like him a whole lot less. At least it had been obvious when the one with the eyebrows was lying. Alfred frowned and tried not to betray how uncomfortable it made him that he had already been disarmed. "Actually, I was looking for this." He slipped a hand inside the hidden pocket and pulled out his badge. He flipped it open. "I'm from the FBI. You are under an obligation to cooperate."
"So that's what it was," the Brit might have muttered, but Alfred couldn't be sure. He was a little too distracted by the click that followed his statement and the fact that the Frenchman was now pointing a cocked gun at Alfred's forehead.
"Whoa," Alfred said, and put up his hands. "Whoa, whoa. There's clearly some kind of misunderstanding here." He quickly looked over the man with the gun. Hair, blond. Height, probably a bit under 6 feet. Dangerous? Definitely. He wasn't 100% certain, but it was worth risking. He met the Frenchman's eyes evenly. "You're the reason I'm here. I read your file. Well, part of it, anyway. I know you're wanted in Britain, but I don't know why. The FBI's known for ages. Why do you think we haven't extradited you yet?" He leaned forward. "Because we need your help. I need your help. One of our agent's in serious trouble, and – well, I can't tell you the details, but we need you, okay? As far as the government's concerned, after this is over, we never met. No charges, no nothing. I swear."
There was an expression of recognition on his face, and Alfred grinned with sudden triumph. The man actually laughed. "No, Alfred, I'm not who you think I am. My name is Francis. The man you're looking for is standing over there."
Alfred blinked and looked at the tweed-coated back that was now turned partially to him. "You're Arthur Kirkland? But you're so normal," Alfred blurted out.
Arthur snorted and turned to face him. "Exactly how much of my file did you read?"
"Um." Alfred frantically tried to match the file to the man standing in front of him. Now that he looked, he could see that Arthur and Francis were about the same height and probably similar in age. "I guess not a whole lot. It was kind of vague on exactly . . . why you'd be helpful."
Francis lowered the gun and chuckled. He put the safety on and tossed it back to Alfred, who caught it easily. (Meanwhile, Arthur looked as though he was about to have a heart-attack at the casual treatment of the firearm.) "I see we don't have to worry about you."
Alfred looked between him and Arthur. "Okay, what am I supposed to know here?"
Arthur sighed and walked a little closer to the bed. He ran a hand through his hair. "Do you know why I had to leave Britain?"
"They kept arresting me for knowing too much. The funny thing was, they could never figure out how I knew what I did, and I always knew how to escape from wherever they were holding me. Do you know why that was?" Alfred shook his head. "Because I can read minds."
For a split second, Alfred couldn't decide whether to laugh or to be horrified. Luckily, his usual instinct took over and he laughed. And laughed. Francis chuckled along with him while Arthur was starting to look irritated. Finally, Alfred calmed down enough to speak. "You can read minds?"
"Like, as a magic trick, or for real?"
"For real." Alfred started laughing again and Arthur scowled. "If you want my help you had better bloody well show me some respect," he snapped. "Despite its history of incompetence, I would have at least expected the United States government to send someone who knew what he was getting into."
That made Alfred stop laughing. "Hey, we aren't incompetent."
"Oh really," Arthur said. His eyes flashed and he crossed his arms. "Would you like me to give you a history lesson?"
"Now, now," Francis said with a smug smile, "We have better things to worry about. If it helps, Alfred, he's telling the truth."
Alfred bit his lip. He was starting to get the feeling that these people weren't kidding. "Prove it."
Arthur walked over and gripped Alfred's upper arm. Alfred looked down at the hand in surprise. "What is your favorite color?"
"Red, white, and blue, of course," Alfred said with a cheeky grin.
"You're lying. It's orange, but you don't tell anyone because you once had a girlfriend who hated it. Also, you think I'm a pretentious prick, which I am, but not as much as Francis. You're right about him being awfully comfortable with that gun of yours; he used to be a bodyguard in France, and if you give him a chance he'll make a dirty joke about two of the things I just said." He released Alfred's arm. "Satisfied?"
Alfred gaped at him. "You're really not kidding."
"No, I'm really not. I can also heal physical damage, which is why all you have right now is a horrible headache and not an actual concussion."
Alfred was starting to feel uncomfortable. "Should I, uh, mask my thoughts or something?"
"It requires physical contact." Arthur gave him a disdainful look. "And since that disgusted you so much, I'll be sure to refrain from it in the future."
"Hey," Alfred said, a little hurt. "I wasn't disgusted."
Arthur huffed. "Let me make this as simple as possible. I will not cooperate with you, no matter how much you threaten me with that badge of yours, until you honestly believe that I can read your mind and trust me to do so." With that, Arthur stormed out of the room and slammed the door behind him.
"He seems to do that a lot," Alfred said to Francis.
"He's easily offended," Francis said with a smile. "He's also exceptionally stubborn. Perhaps you'd like to stay the night? I doubt he'll come around anytime before that." He gestured at the room. "I hope you'll excuse the meager accommodations. We don't have guests often."
"Um, sure. Thanks," Alfred said. "May I ask why he's so touchy?" Alfred asked as Francis gathered up the cup of cold tea to take it away.
Francis chuckled. "I'm afraid only he can tell you that. However, you should know that this is not the first time the FBI has blackmailed him for help." He gave Alfred a slightly sad smile. "If you ask him to look into the mind of someone who has recently been tortured for information, I'm afraid I'm going to have to kill you." He turned to leave and paused. "Oh, and your shirt is on that chair there. It took Arthur an hour to get the fake bloodstain out of it. You people really just keep coming up with the strangest ideas of how to make an agent inconspicuous, don't you?" He left and shut the door neatly behind him.
Alfred lay back on the pillows with a sigh. So that was Arthur Kirkland, one of the best-kept secrets of the FBI: a man who could read minds. His boss must have had a good reason to not tell Alfred that Arthur (a) was basically telepathic and (b) had a grudge against the government. He was pretty sure that basically being held hostage hadn't been part of the plan. When he had gotten out his badge, he had checked that the letter he was supposed to deliver to Arthur was safe. He hadn't told Arthur yet, but Alfred's only really purpose on this mission was to keep Arthur alive. He was finally beginning to understood why.