A/N: As of tonight's (1/10/2013) episode "Prisoner's Dilemma", this fic is now AU. This would happen 12-24 hours after Reese release from prison.

Joss exhaled a long breath as she entered her apartment. She put her purse on the counter that divided her living room and her kitchen. She closed her eyes briefly and finally acknowledged the presence that had been lurking behind her for the last few blocks.

"Hi John," she said, not bothering to look behind her, "Close the door, will you?"

She heard the door shut. She finally turned as John stepped into the muted glow of the light over her stovetop.

"Detective," he greeted. Joss felt the side of her mouth lift up. It was nice to see John back to his old self as opposed to the character he played while staring at her in an orange jumpsuit. She had missed him; despite the fact that she saw him almost every day of his incarceration. She gave him a once over with her eyes.

"New suit?" she asked.

"Finch's version of a 'welcome home' gift. Somehow my old suit got covered in rubble," he stated.

"Is that a fact?" asked Joss and she let out a smile, "Well, I'm glad you're back on your feet."

"Thank you for helping me get there," John replied.

"Anytime," she said and turned to walk into her small kitchen.

"So," she continued, "Is there a reason for this visit or did you just come to be dazzled by my sparkling personality?"

John smirked, "I'm always dazzled by you, detective."

Joss snorted, "Charmer."

Joss opened her cabinet door and looked up.

"Damn, that boy," she muttered.

"What is it?"

She rolled her eyes at the cabinet and turned her head to face John.

"Someone at school taught Taylor about the wonders of coffee and ever since then, he keeps on putting my coffee has his level and not mine," she replied exasperated.

"Can't believe you stand for that," he replied with humor laced in his voice.

She gave him a look, "I don't. But if misplaced coffee is my biggest problem with my teenage son, I'm doing pretty good."

John nodded and walked into the kitchen, "Here, let me get that for you."

She backed up to give him some space, but ended up trapped between John and countertop. John reached up to grab the coffee and sent Joss a brief glance that let her know that he was well aware of their intimate position.

"You know, Carter, I think I like you this way," he said.

Joss cocked her head to the side, "And what way is that?"

He handed her coffee can to her.

"Trusting," he replied and moved to allow Joss space to get by him.

Joss looked at him and smiled.

"Well, you've earned it," she said and walked by him to get to the coffee maker.

"You want a cup?" she asked.

"That'd be nice," he replied.

Joss nodded to the living room, "Just have a seat and I'll be out in a minute."

Joss started scooping the coffee grounds into the filter and noticed that Reese hadn't moved. She turned to him.

"You know, watching me isn't going to make your coffee brew any faster," she said wryly.

"We need to talk," he announced in a voice completely devoid of the lightness that had colored their conversation so far. Joss took in John's silhouette as he stood like a sentry in the middle of her kitchenette. She narrowed her eyes at him.

"After coffee," she replied simply and returned to what she was doing, briefly ending their conversation. She felt John walk behind her as he moved to the living room. John never made social calls, so Joss had expected their conversation to turn to Finch, Donnelly, Fusco or one of the 8 million people of New York City. She hadn't expected the personal tone in his voice or the concern in his eyes when he had been standing in her kitchen. Silence stretched as the coffee brewed while Joss wondered about what John planned to say to her. She had expected a thank you in regards to her actions to insure his release, maybe even a truly heartfelt expression of gratitude, but that could have been done in a few minutes with out Reese making a production of it. As she walked over to the couch that Reese was sitting on, she truly had no idea what she was getting into. She placed the mug in front of him and took a seat adjacent to him on the love seat.

She waited from Reese to take the mug in his hand before she took a sip herself. She let the heat from the warm, bitter liquid center her and then spoke.

"So, what did you want to talk about?" she asked with the directness that came from being a life-long New Yorker.

"Finch told me what you did for me, what you been doing for me," he stated.

Joss shrugged, "It's not just you, John. It's the people you save. If I don't protect you, you're not on the street. If you're not the street, people die. It's that simple."

"No, it's not. Not for you," he replied.

Joss sighed, "I know in the beginning I gave you guys a hard way to go, but whatever we do, however we do it, we save lives. That's why I became a cop."

Reese smirked at her, "We?"

"You, me, Finch and Fusco. We," she said.

John looked at Joss in the eye.

"After Finch, you're the best friend I've got," he said sincerely and paused, "I'm concerned about you."

"That's sweet. But I'm fine," Joss replied and continued with her coffee.

John leaned toward her, "I don't think so. I don't think you've been fine for months."

Joss narrowed her eyes at him, "What are you doing?"

"I'm looking at the woman who saved my life and hoping that she didn't lose herself in the process."

Joss put her mug down, "While I appreciate you and Finch's concern about my moral integrity, I'm fine. Despite what you both seem to think, I do know that sometimes you have to do the wrong thing for the right reasons."

"I know you do. And I know that's what drove you from the Army in the first place," John replied.

She lifted her finger at him, "Don't push it."

"An Army Interrogator with Top-secret clearance and enough pull to get my sealed records and to get a Cuban national onto U.S. soil eight years after she retired," John put his mug down as well, "Sounds to you were a star in military intelligence, a star that bowed out instead of faded."

Joss folded her arms, "Is this an interrogation?"


"Then, I ask again, what are you doing?" she asked.

"We pushed you, Joss. Far past your lines and limits-"

Joss interrupted John with ferocity that nearly scared her, "Don't you dear assume that you know what I am capable of. I'm not some pillar of virtue you can corrupt, John. I got my scars and skeletons just like you."

"But you're not me. I don't ever want you to become like me. The more you work with me and Finch, the more alike we become."

"That's my choice. I knew that I was going to have to make a few compromises if I was going work with you. I was prepared for that," she replied.

John lowered his head a little, "Maybe I wasn't."

He looked up at her, "When we met, I had lost all faith in everything I believed in. I had been betrayed by my own country. My partner, who I trusted with my life, had shot me. And the love of my life had been killed by man who was bound to love and protect her. Then I met you, something about you made me think that maybe this world was still worth protecting."


"That's what makes you special, Carter. After everything you've done, everything you've seen, you never lost faith," he replied.

Joss laughed, "You make me sound so naïve."

"No. That faith keeps you strong. Keeps you from bending, breaking and taking the easy way out."

"You have to bend sometimes. I know that," she replied.

John nodded, "Don't let us bend you so far that you break. If Finch or I push you too far, I want you to promise me that you'll walk away."

Joss took a deep cleansing breath. She looked at John. He was sincerely worried about her and worried about the compromises she had to make throughout their "whatever this is" relationship. Suddenly, she smiled.

"John, you're an idiot," she stated, taking John by surprise.

"You're my friend too," she continued, "And friends look out for each other. They help each other out of jams and pull each other from the brink. They trust one another."

She leaned into him, "I trust you. I know that if it is in your power, you would never put me in a position that you thought I couldn't handle or couldn't come back from. Now I need you to trust that I know my limits and that I will kick your ass if you push me too far."

"I have no doubt about your ass-kicking abilities, Detective."

"Good. Cause I also trust that you will help pull me back if I need it and that you will allow me to do the same for you," she finished.

"You'd pull me from the edge?" he asked, softly.

Joss looked at John's hand and then took it in her own, "That's what friends do. You told me once that I wasn't alone. Neither are you."

John nodded to her, "Thank you."

"Anytime," she replied and squeezed his hand. To get John out of jail, she definitely played in the gray and broke laws left and right, but looking at John, free and in her apartment, she couldn't say that she regretted anything that she had done. Criminals were behind bars, a good man was free and while her conscience wasn't quite clear; it was…satisfied. She knew John would do the same, if not more, for her. For now, that was going to have to be enough.