It was Thanksgiving of 2002, when Joss announced to her family that she was going to be promoted to Lieutenant. The promotion came with more money, better health care and an increase in her level of security clearance. Her family, always proud of Joss's achievements, begged for the details that they knew she couldn't divulge, but that never stopped them from asking. In all of this noise, the silence of one 5-year-old boy was particularly deafening. Joss looked over the hugs and congratulations from aunts, uncles and cousins to Taylor.
"Baby, are you okay?" she asked.
Taylor nodded, "Does this mean you'll be home more?"
The noise suddenly died down as the soft-spoken boy asked his question. All eyes were on Joss as she searched for words that wouldn't break her son's heart.
"I'm going to try. But I don't know for sure," she replied, feeling sick in the heart.
"Okay," Taylor said and pushed around the stuffing on his plate.
Joss leaned in a whispered to him, "But you know what?"
"What?" Taylor asked, still messing with his food.
"I'll have a set schedule. Which means that I can call you and you can call me at the same time, every night," Joss stated.
"Really?" he asked.
Joss nodded, "Being a Lieutenant, gives me a few phone privileges."
She bent down and took her son's hands into her own, "I know it's not the same, but I need you to know that I want to be with you more than anything else in the world. And I trying to make sure that happens everyday"
"What do you mean?" asked Taylor.
Joss opened her mouth to answer, but a big hand on her shoulder stopped her. She looked up and saw her husband starting down at her and her son.
"It means that after this tour, mom will be with us full-time," he said with his deep voice.
Taylor's eyes lit up and he leapt into his mother's arms.
"Really" he exclaimed.
Joss quickly shot her husband a scathing look and then smiled at her son.
"Yeah, baby. I'll be back soon," she said and Taylor hugged her tighter. Joss blinked back tears.
"Why don't you go play with your cousins, okay? I hear Adam has the new Playstation," Joss suggested to her son.
"Cool. Can I have one?" he asked. Joss laughed, happy to have him distracted from her future departure.
Joss ruffled his hair, "Maybe later, young man. Now just go play."
Taylor gave her a mock salute and ran off. Joss lifted herself of the ground and glared at her husband.
"I don't believe you," she said with venom laced in her words.
Her husband reached out her, "Now, babe…"
She swiftly avoided his touch and pointed her finger in his face, "Don't "babe" me. You know I try to be honest with my son at all times. And you do this."
"It's not a lie, if it's true," he replied.
"You don't know that. I don't know that. Even if-"
A voice cut through the impeding argument with a low rumble, "Jocelyn."
Joss looked at her father, whose towering figure nearly dwarfed everyone else.
"Can I see you in the study?" he asked.
Joss let out a breath and smiled, "Sure, dad."
She stared at her husband she left, letting him know that their conversation was far from over.
In the study, her father gestured for her to sit down. Jocelyn's father, Matthew Rogers, was a big man with a decorated military background. He was a big part of the reason that Joss joined up.
He sat down in the chair across from Joss.
"First of all, I want you know that I'm proud of you," he stated.
"Aww, Thanks, dad."
Matthew put his hand up, "I mean it. Everything things you've done with Taylor and getting married and your career. You are incredible, my dear."
Jocelyn smiled, "Dad."
"But I worry about you. And now that you are going into Army intelligence, I worry about you even more."
Joss leaned into him quickly and whispered, "How do you know that?"
Matthew raised his eyebrow, "You think you're the only one in this family with pull? Jocelyn, you are entering to a dangerous game, I just want to make sure you are ready for it."
Jocelyn let out a huff, "I'll be fine. I'm more interested in how you know all of this stuff."
"If you are going to get into intelligence, you are going to learn when not to ask questions," he stated cryptically.
"But that's why they want me. I asked questions people are afraid to ask and I get results. I'm good at what I do."
Matthew squinted at her, "I know, that what worries me. If you come across the wrong bit of information, who know what they'll do."
"They?" Jocelyn asked.
Matthew pointed the American flag hanging in the study. It was above a glass table that contained his purple heart, Silver Star and other military commendations.
"They," he repeated simply.
"Listen carefully, Jocelyn Rogers-Carter," Matthew started, "Name your price, in the beginning. The service can build you up or shake you down. I raised you to think for yourself and sometimes the service tries to kill that in people. There has to be a line that you don't cross for anybody. A private code that will allow you to stay true to yourself."
Jocelyn looked at her proud father, a patriot with an impeccable record of military service, confused and concerned.
"What are you saying, Dad?"
"People lose themselves all time, especially intelligence. You got a family and little boy; you can't afford to lose who you are for God and country. Now I want you to do your duty, to serve this great nation of ours, but if something happens. If they ask you to cross a line that you know you can't come back from…" Matthew let his words trail off.
Joss got out of her chair and hugged her father, "I do what I must. I'll protect myself. I promise."
Matthew nodded and kissed her hand, "That's all can ask, babygirl. All I can ask."
As the years passed, her father's words continued to come back to her. She saw a few men and women in her unit slowly become people she didn't recognize. She learned to read the look in someone's eye after that had been asked to do something they hated.
She also saw heroes and men and women who risked their lives to save others. She saw honor and destruction in equal measure. When she had to make decisions, her father's words were never far from her mind. While it wasn't always possible to take the moral high ground, Joss tried her best and took her personal code of honor wherever she went. As she got deeper into military intelligence, she realized just how hard it was to stay true to her personal ethics, just how hard it was to stay true to herself. She learned how to play in areas of grey, but she tried not to stay there too long. Honestly, playing in the gray was one of the reasons she left the military. While she didn't expect things to be cut and dry in the NYPD, but the limits were clearer, the mission was consistent and the rules could be broken instead of rewritten to fit into a political agenda. After 8 years in the NYPD, she was pleased to say that her moral compass was still intact… mostly.
Joss Carter had seen dirty cops, she had heard about HR in whispers, but her income was constant, her son had a stable life and she was already fighting the criminals on the street; fighting corruption in her own department was a battle she didn't need. She couldn't fight it on her own anyway. So she kept her head down and closed her cases as admirably as she could.
Until a certain vigilante came into her life and told her in no uncertain terms that she wasn't alone. Now, as she looked at him across the basement of Merton Watts bank, she hoped that she communicate the same message back to him. She knew the rules. She knew the law. John Reese; the vigilante she had chased for six months, the man who lived in the gray; had saved her life, the life of her son and the lives of countless others. He became somewhat of a partner, even a friend and if she was going save him, she was going to have to play in the gray just like him. The only question was how far could she go to save the "Man in the Suit" before she violated her own code of honor?