Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters. Such a pity.
"We're walking in the dark here…"
Funny how those words came to him now, here at this moment, in this place. He hadn't thought about Cara for a long time, consigning his former handler to the same black cubby where he stored his most anguished memories. She was so much a part of the more painful ones.
Though in retrospect, maybe it was not so funny that she would surface in his mind now. After all, this was déjà vu…back against the wall, in the shadows, fighting off enemies.
And she'd been right…about the dark at least.
It hadn't started that way when he had enlisted for "God and Country". His inaugural path had been well lit and clearly marked; he knew his role and embraced it. But with every assignment, every torture, every red bead stringing from a snipers wound…every death…the shadows advanced until they soaked into the very crevices of his being. He felt his world shrinking to one inhabited only by the shadowy ghosts of his targets, haunting him, taunting him.
And yet somehow, an occasional soft glow would seep through gloom that surrounded him.
"Hey, sweetheart …Jessie …what's wrong?"
He tried hard to cling to the golden memory of his time with Jessica. He had been able to see her clearly in his mind then, back-lit by sparkling sunrays streaming through the patio doors. On the telephone, teasing him, leaning over him with her shiny blond hair caressing his face. Her fingers stroking a newly acquired scar on his shoulder.
But over the years those glowing visualizations grew murky, toneless edges encroaching on the images until he could no longer distinguish the pictures from their monochrome frames.
"I need you to dispose of this…and them. No teeth. No finger tips."
And over the years any pride he took in his accomplishments faded away. In those early months he had even thought about quitting, leaving the CIA with all its gray and black missions. But resigning, he soon realized, was not an option available to him anymore; his slate would never be wiped clean. Whether he had been aware of it or not, he had signed onto lifetime employment; the only way he would ever leave would be as a permanent part of the dark...under a casket lid.
Perhaps he should have been more distressed by this revelation, but while he was an expert liar - having been taught by the best - he never lied to himself. He stayed because he knew his handler was right: the conventional world no longer had place for him. He was becoming the dark as the roads he traveled with Cara led them further and further into the dusk, their light constantly dimming, eventually melding into the night.
And then...then it was midnight. And worse than an indiscernible end to this road, was his inability to see the edges anymore. His dark was complete. So he simply trailed Cara from one mission to the next, numbing himself to what had to be done. To what they did. What he did...
Until Ordos, when his world changed again. Only this time it was not a gradual transformation over several years, but a very sudden, radical one. A total alteration.
"Sorry John. Nothing personal. They told me you'd been compromised…"
Long months passed, days adding steadily to a complicated mosaic, captioned with flashes of such pain and loss that he could not, would not, review them except from afar, as though through the wrong end of a snipers scope...or more realistically, through the bottom of a bottle. Flashes of New Rochelle, of rage, sorrow, guilt, and endless regrets.
He stumbled down his dark road to the city with its glitter, and noise, and hoards of indifferent people in an effort to shed the cloak of grief that enveloped him. But all the bright colors looked gray in the dark, and even bustling city crowds could not silence the screaming in his head.
A hazy recollection of emptying too many bottles, occasionally crashing among the trash in some murky homeless camp, and then…alcoholic oblivion.
"You need a purpose. More specifically, you need a job!"
Somehow his hazy path intersected that of a limping little man with glasses and a funny haircut who gave him a job, a purpose and a tether for a life set adrift. Somehow the mysterious little man lit the torches on his path and gradually midnight gave way to dawn, the shadows slowly receding. His guilt would never cease to exist, but the sharp edges of regret were being dulled with every soul he managed to save.
Over time, he even began experiencing a shimmering of hope that he might actually find his way onto a better lit road.
But here…now…he was well into the shadows again, his back pressed up against a cold gray concrete embankment. Shards of masonry spit at him as bullets hit support columns in the way of their trajectory to his death. He knew who was after him; every bullet fired had his name on it.
"Looks like you're just about out of time, my friend!"
Pulling back into the gloom, he hunched over his weapon. Pity. He had enjoyed living in light again. Had even begun a tentative connection to the normal world once more, anchored by a select few individuals he could learn to trust…eventually. Perhaps one day even call 'friends'. But it was evidently not to be his road after all, just a small detour.
He'd walked in the dark once and would so again. Only this time his dark could become permanent.
He checked the magazine. Almost empty. Pulling the knife from his boot, he cuffed it to his gun hand. If this dead-end road was his destiny, then he would make sure he didn't tread it alone. Those firing at him now would learn a universal truth: sooner or later, we all end up in the dark.
Surging to his feet he prepared to make his last stand…and abruptly the noise in the garage rose to uproar levels as ever more concrete chips filled the arid atmosphere. But this time the shots fired weren't ahead of him; they were from behind, coming from the direction of two determined NYPD detectives: one a tarnished, slightly over-weight male, the other a determined, fully armed female. The two were positioned behind the railing on either side of a patrol car, shooting with clear intent to do as much damage as possible to the enemies closing in on him.
"Get in the car…!"
His cavalry had arrived, giving him another chance. A chance to crawl back out of the abyss and leave the dark behind once more.
He didn't hesitate.
He dove over the railing…back into the light.