Spoilers: Through Prisoner's Dilemma
Disclaimer: Not mine.

AN: Once Dead Reckoning airs, this will be AU. It's already kind of AU, but it seemed like fun.

Part One

He was finally able to return her smirk and he relished having some power back. The last mission he'd be sent on was a total bust. "There's nothing more I can do." He shrugged, casually sitting down in his chair as though he wasn't still wearing a bomb vest. "Kill me or let me go."

Stanton's cold eyes narrowed. "You can get me Reese."

Snow laughed outright. "Last time I saw him, I tried to have him killed. You're on your own."

Her lips pursed, undoubtedly recalling that she too had tried to kill him the last time she'd seen him. Never one to give up, she leaned her head to the side and grinned. "Then you can get me leverage." Her voice softened to a sing-song tone as her hand slid along his shoulder. "If you get me Reese, I'll let you go."

Already resigned to dying right where he was, Snow shook his head. "There's only one person who can help you, and it's not me."

Stanton rolled her eyes. "The girlfriend?"

Snow nodded. It made no difference to him whether she succeeded or not, but some resilient instinct to survive told him that helping her was the best chance he had, no matter how small it was.

The gun's barrel pressed into his chin took him by surprise. Stanton shook her head, her eyes somehow growing even colder. "Jessica is dead. Long dead. You know that already. I'm starting to lose my patience."

Snow smirked again, even with the gun still threatening to end his life at any moment. "Not the dead one, he's got a new girl."

Stanton's eyes lit up and she smiled. "Do tell, I love gossip."

"Mind taking that gun off me first?"

With a sigh, Stanton slipped the piece back into her waistband and nodded at the timer on the vest, always counting down. "You've got ten minutes to give me something good or I'm not going to fix that."

What the hell? He hated Reese. Might as well get him killed too.

He met her eyes. "NYPD Detective. Name of Carter, works out of the 8th. If anyone can get you Reese, it's her."

"A cop?" Stanton's eyes narrowed as she weighed her options. Finally, she fixed him with a grin. "Let's go see this girlfriend of his. Then I'll decide if I believe you."


It took a week before she was convinced. In fact, even sitting in the car with an unhappy Snow beside her as she watched this Carter marching out of Merton Watts with a horde of FBI agents and a handcuffed Reese, she was still ready to kill him. She had the gun right there too, when she saw it. The unadulterated worry on Carter's face. The judgment lapse on both their parts as their eyes met and held.

"God damn, you weren't lying." She lowered the binoculars for a moment to look at her passenger. "I guess I should keep up my end of the bargain."

With her gun steady on him, Stanton keyed in the code to deactivate the vest. Snow shoved it off as quickly as he could lest she change her mind and jumped out of the car while he buttoned his shirt.

"Oh, Mark, one more thing." She pulled the trigger before he had time to turn, the bullet throwing him into the wall. "Fuck you." She didn't look back as he slumped to the ground.


Stanton had hooked up the vest while Carter was still out cold, knowing that an ex-Army trained cop would put up a fight. But as she was completing the task, finishing the timer that would keep the woman under control, Carter's brown eyes opened and searched the face of her captor.

It took her a moment with her concussion-scrambled brain to come up with the name that went with the face. "Stanton?"

She smiled her twisted smile. "I'm so flattered. John must have mentioned me."

Carter felt her natural competitive streak rising up. "John's never mentioned you. Snow said John killed you."

Stanton laughed. "John never was very good at taking orders."

Carter snarled in response, the adrenaline rush of waking up in an unfamiliar place waning enough for a massive headache to take over all her thoughts. She looked down to shield her eyes from the light and finally realized what she was wearing. Her wide eyes darted back up to meet Stanton's.

Still smiling, Stanton stepped back from the timer. "I wouldn't worry, hon, John's always had a soft spot for humans."


Everything hurt. Every single part of his body. Between the beating he'd taken in the yard at Riker's and quite possibly the worst car crash he'd ever been in - and he'd been in plenty - he was relatively sure something was broken. And judging from how much it hurt to breathe, the broken part was probably an extremely important part.

He struggled to remember what had happened. Though he remembered the crash, he couldn't remember much else. Beyond the physical discomfort, there was more. A mental distress. An unidentified source of anxiety that made him nauseous. He couldn't place it and sincerely wished for the earpiece he'd come to rely on, Finch's trusted voice bringing him up to speed.

"Oh, goody, you're awake. Now we can get down to business."

The sound of her voice was perhaps the most unwelcome sound he'd ever heard. But still not the cause for the unpleasant twist in his gut.

He scowled, remembering that she was to blame for the crash and thus a good portion of the pain he was in, not to mention that she'd also shot him the last time they'd been face to face. "No, Kara, to answer your question, I didn't miss you a damn bit."

She made a clicking sound with her tongue. "Careful there, you'll make a girl cry." Turning a chair to face him, she sat down and crossed her legs. "See, John, I've learned a lot since we got fired."

"We didn't get fired. They tried to kill us. I quit."

"Actually, I tried to kill you. Failed obviously, but they did fire us. That's what it means when they try to kill you." Her lips pinched into a thin line, anger forcing its way through her fake smile. "We were a great team, John. We never failed a mission and despite our loyalty, our dear friend Mark ordered our deaths. Didn't that bother you?"

Reese shook his head.

"Of course not. You didn't like your job the way I did." She sighed. "I really loved my work. It was so much fun."

Reese grimaced, hating her as much for her lack of a conscience as for her attack on him personally.

"While you decided to take your good fortune and disappear, which by the way you weren't any better at what with all the attention to draw to yourself, I decided to figure out why they turned on us. I decided to see what was on that damn computer that was worth killing two of the CIA's greatest assets."

Reese scoffed at her ego. "Is this getting to a point any time soon?" He punctuated his words with a glance at his watch. It hadn't fared well in the crash; the face was smashed and the hands no longer moving. One more thing to hate her for, as if he didn't have enough reasons already.

"You're as invested in this as I am, John." She stood up and stepped closer, leaning down into his face. "Did you know it wasn't Mark? It wasn't Corwin. It was a god-damned computer that decided to kill us!"

It was only his training that allowed him to hide his feelings. It wasn't quite a surprise, but rather a disturbing confirmation of something he'd wondered. Ever since he'd met Finch and learned about the machine, especially once he'd successfully convinced the machine to help him find Finch, he'd suspected it had been connected to the cluster fuck in Ordos, to the laptop that was worth mass murder and the lives of two operatives.

Stanton had been the one with the computer, she'd been the one who had access to any intelligence the mission provided. And someone with determination like hers would undoubtedly be able to figure it all out eventually.

Now that he knew for certain, he had even more questions, questions he didn't think Finch had the full answers too, questions Reese wasn't sure he really wanted answered. If the computer had been looking for someone to help Finch, maybe it had chosen him as the best option. Maybe it had set them up, betting that he'd managed to survive, knowing that he'd wind up in New York, expecting he'd be in a position for Finch to render assistance.

He hated to think that this whole new life of his, this whole knew purpose for living, everything that he enjoyed anymore, had all been orchestrated, planned, manipulated. Maybe the machine had been able to predict it all, had interceded before he could get leave to see Jessica, had thus been responsible for her death. It felt like he'd been stabbed in the gut.

How could be continue with his work if he was just a pawn?

Would it even be possible to escape from the damn machine?

"Look, I know you're pretending not to care, but if we take down this computer, we'll get our jobs back. Back in the field, on actual missions again, our enormous expense accounts, fancy clothes, free trips around the world! Fuck, John, we can have it all back, especially now that jackass Snow is finally out of the picture." She paused long enough for some of the crazed look in her eyes to die out. "Sounds like heaven, doesn't it?"

"I'm not interested."

Stanton narrowed her eyes. "Who was there for you when Jessica married that little shit?"

Once again, Reese fought to hide his emotions. "Tell you what, Kara, how about you go fuck yourself?"

She laughed, throwing her head back with her amusement. "You're such a tease, John. And so damn predictable." She disappeared around a corner, her voice echoing back at him. "I knew you'd need a little incentive."

When she reappeared, she had a huge smile and the sadistic gleam in her eyes again. But Reese didn't even notice.

His eyes were locked on Carter. On her terrified eyes. On the gag in her mouth. On the dried blood on her face and hands. On the bomb vest she wore. On the timer that was counting down.

And that, he realized, explained the sick feeling he'd had. He remembered being with her just after the crash, the way her body had been pressed alongside his, the way he'd wanted to reach out to her and assure her they were ok.

He didn't try to hide his emotions. It didn't even occur to him that he should try. He was more frightened than he'd been in his life.

Still grinning, Stanton shoved Carter toward the chair she'd been in and then moved to unlock the cuffs on Reese's wrists. "Remember, my dear, anything happens to me, if I don't get back on time, if you piss me off, your little girlfriend goes boom." She chuckled. "Think you'll recover from letting this one down? You barely survived the last one." Walking toward the door, she noticed that Reese hadn't moved to follow her; he was still staring at Carter. "Tick tock, John, I don't think you want us running late, do you?"

His eyes remained on Carter's, trying to silently promise that everything would be fine, trying to apologize for not telling her the truth about his crazy ex-partner when she'd asked. He saw her terror, but beyond that, he saw something that made him even more loathe to leave her - he saw her utter trust.

Their eyes stayed locked together until he reached the doorway. Then he nodded at her once, sealing his promise that he would be back to get her.