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Through the Scope (Fire At Will)

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He's never been good at following orders.

David knows that he'd be a better agent if he were, if he could accept any order and carry it out without questioning it. But that's not who he was back in 2008, and it's not who he is now. In Montenegro, Devereaux told him Don't shoot, and if David hadn't disobeyed that command, a little boy would still be alive today, and Devereaux would be dead.

(Truth: he's had nightmares about it, every night for months on end. Even now he sometimes wakes up in the dead of night, sweat-soaked with his pulse racing, and the boy's blood-stained body imprinted on his retina.)

(Truth: in the same situation, he'd make the same choice again. He'd hate himself for it, but he'd still pull the trigger.)

*

Don't get attached, Devereaux used to say. If you want a relationship, get a dog.

David stares at the photos of Devereaux with Natalia Ulanova, looking happy and in love. He stares at the photos with Devereaux and his little girl, and he feels like throwing up.

It's the one rule that Devereaux tried to teach him that David has always tried to live by. No attachments, no relationships, no people in your life whose well-being he genuinely cared about. The best advice he was ever given. Turns out Devereaux didn't even bother to heed it himself.

Turns out it was all a fucking lie.

*

In 2005, he's still green as fuck. They're on an assignment in Edinburgh and it's raining. It's been raining the whole fucking time since they got there, and David tries to focus on that: how he's cold and drenched to the skin and his socks are wet, because if he doesn't allow his mind to fixate on that, he'll think about the way the blood is seeping through the sleeve of the jacket he borrowed from Devereaux, darker than the rain on the brown leather.

It barely even hurts. The bullet just brushed his arm; it's nothing. It would have been something if Devereaux hadn't shoved him out of the way. He wouldn't be feeling the rain, otherwise, or much of anything.

Back at the hotel, he takes a shower and lets hot water beat down on him until it turns freezing. He still hasn't stopped shaking. Devereaux hands him a glass when he steps out of the bathroom and David downs it all at once, barely registering the burn of the alcohol down his throat.

Devereaux looks at him like someone who's concerned but doesn't want to let it show. "You okay, kid?"

David shrugs, doesn't answer. (Truth: no, he's not fucking okay. He would have died today if it hadn't been for Devereaux. There've been close calls before, or so he thought, but he realizes he didn't even understand the term close call before today.)

He puts his glass down on the stained TV table and keeps hold of it until his hand's almost steady.

Devereaux is still watching him like David's a bomb about to go off, like he's going to have to duck for the detonation and put out the fires afterwards. And maybe that's what's going to happen, because when David steps closer, he fists his hand in Devereaux's rumpled dress shirt and pulls him in, crashing their mouths together, tasting whiskey and blood and rain. Devereaux's lips are cool, but they quickly warm up under his, and it's a better distraction than anything else.

"Bad idea," Devereaux says in a low, grave voice, but he's already waited a fraction too long before pulling back, which tells David everything he needs to know.

He offers another shrug and, for good measure, a cocky devil-may-care grin he doesn't quite feel. "You can lecture me later, boss. I just need– Please."

In the morning, Devereaux will tell him that this was a one-time thing, and David will roll his eyes and say, "Jesus, don't get your panties in a bunch, old man. I wasn't going to propose or anything," and they'll both pretend to forget that it ever happened.

*

"You owe me that much."

"I don't owe you shit."

(If anything, Devereaux's the one who owes David. Devereaux's the one who left.)

*

Later, much later, he will ask himself whether he would have taken the shot, if the opportunity had presented itself on the streets of Belgrade. If he hadn't made one stupid rookie mistake after another. If Devereaux had been a little less good at playing him.

He likes to think that something would have stopped him from pulling the trigger, but the truth is, he felt betrayed and angry and hurt. Which he knows was exactly what Weinstein was going for when he showed him the pictures and the training reports, because even Weinstein was aware that David wasn't going to follow a simple order if he didn't agree with it.

Maybe that's what makes Weinstein such a good agent, and David such a bad one.

*

"I haven't finished teaching you yet, son."

Fuck Devereaux and his condescending, holier-than-thou bullshit.

*

He visits Sarah in the hospital. She's alive, conscious and alert, and he can't regret his choice to save her even if it meant that Devereaux got away.

She won't even look at him. "You had to think about it," she says. "You actually had to stop and think about whether my life was worth saving. What kind of a person does that?"

"I'm sorry. I am. It's not as easy as you think it is, but –"

"I don't want to hear it." Sarah fiddles with the hemline of her hospital gown. Just a few hours ago, she was radiant and gorgeous and happy. Now her eyes are red and tear-stained; she looks pale and sad and she almost died today, and it's all Devereaux's fault.

(Truth: Devereaux might have been the one with the blade, but the blame rests on David's shoulders, a heavy weight pulling him down.

But he's a CIA agent; he doesn't deal in truth, he deals in believable lies and convenient half-truths, and anger makes for a much better bedfellow than guilt.)

*

"So, no regrets?"

"Not one."

A knee-jerk response, then.

He thinks about it later, tries to feel for that sharp, bitter taste of remorse. There might be a thing or two he'd have done differently, perhaps, but nothing that leaves him guilt-ridden and accounts for the sleepless nights Devereaux tried to goad him into admitting.

Regrets aren't good for anything. They are for idealists and dreamers, and old people who die peacefully in their beds. There's no time for regrets in David's life.

*

"Yeah. The boy did good," Devereaux says, soft and deadly, and David knows he rues not killing him the other day. He feels sick to the stomach, and it's hard to meet Devereaux's steady, measuring gaze.

The thing is: even if there's already a plan in motion to get to Lucy before Hanley can get his hands on Mira, even if Celia comes through to get him the location in time, even if everything works out and he can get the girl out – the fact remains that he was the one who deliberately put her in this position. He's the guy who used the life of a twelve-year-old girl as a bargaining chip to put pressure on a man who hurt his feelings.

That's what it amounts to, in the end: lingering grudges and resentment. Devereaux didn't think he was good enough, Devereaux didn't think he had what it took, Devereaux didn't care enough about him to stay, Devereaux abandoned him and lived a life David had no idea about.

He thinks about that when he crashes the car, remembering Devereaux's voice. Mason, you ready?

Devereaux has done a good job teaching him. Maybe it was never about teaching him how to be a good agent. Yeah. Yeah, I'm ready.

*

The reports from the ICC and Mira's testimony are all over the news. When she pushes through the mass of hungry journalists outside the courtroom, Devereaux is at her side, shielding her with his body.

David switches off the TV. He knows Mira's story. He doesn't begrudge her whatever kind of peace and comfort she can find. While making the right choice at the end might have won him Devereaux's forgiveness, he knows he burned this bridge a long time ago.

*

Take the shot, Celia's voice in his earpiece tell him.

Watching a sleek American businessman shake hands with a Middle Eastern terrorist leader, David is crouched on a rooftop in Prague with his finger on the trigger, and he hesitates a second too long. Not long enough for the target to escape, not long enough to mess up the assignment; just long enough to realize that maybe he's done taking orders.

He hands in his resignation the day he gets back to the States.

Weinstein isn't pleased with him. Then again, Weinstein never liked David. It was Hanley who approved him for active duty after Devereaux recommended to drop him. Rotting in some holding cell where he'll never see the light of day again, Hanley probably regrets that now.

*

He's been all over Europe, but he hasn't really seen any of it, just fancy hotels and run-down buildings, the grey web of streets as seen from the rooftops, and lots of dead bodies.

The day after his final debriefing, he packs a backpack and buys a plane ticket to Vienna. From there, he takes the train. Bratislava, Munich, Berlin, Cologne, Amsterdam, Brussels, Bruges.

It takes him until Paris, six weeks later, before he stops looking over his shoulder. If they wanted to take him out, they would have done so right away. He was never important enough, but it wouldn't have surprised him either. The agency doesn't like it when people turn their backs.

The next stop on his route is Spain, then maybe Portugal, Italy, and from there further south across the Mediterranean or perhaps east, who knows. He already started brushing up on his Spanish during the last couple of nights at the little B&B he stayed at in Marseille.

"Where to?" the middle-aged cashier at the ticket counter asks him in bored French. Jeanne, her name-tag reads.

Against his best intentions, he finds himself answering, "Lausanne."

*

Devereaux looks good. Older, a bit heavier maybe, definitely with more silver in his hair. It's the first time David has taken a good look at him since 2008. There just wasn't enough time for it in Moscow or Belgrade, between all the running and fighting and shooting.

Now, in the comfortable, cluttered living room of Devereaux's house, David allows himself the luxury of studying the man, to catalogue all the ways he has changed and the countless ways he has not. He sits relaxed, arms casually over the backrest of his couch, but there's a tension in every fiber of his body that betrays him. If he had to, he'd be armed and ready to fight in less than three seconds. David doesn't think it's necessarily him Devereaux sees as a danger, it's the world at large. For people like them, there's always someone somewhere out there with a reason or fifty to want them dead. You can leave the job behind, but the job never really leaves you.

"I quit," David says, his eyes never leaving Devereaux as he takes a sip from the coffee he'd been offered. It's as good as he expects from someone who owns a fancy lakeside café.

Devereaux's expression remains neutral. "Aren't you a bit young for retirement, kid?"

"Yeah, probably. But as someone told me, I show a lack of discipline for the chain of command," he parrots back the words from Devereaux's training report. Devereaux's wry smile proves that he remembers it verbatim. "True enough. I suck at following orders. Turns out I'm kind of crap at the whole 'no attachments' bullshit too."

"You always were."

David snorts. "And you weren't? I've seen the photos of you and Natalia. It wasn't that you didn't do attachments, you just didn't let yourself get attached to me." He's come this far, he might as well put the cards on the table. He can already hear Devereaux's sarcastic reply, the So what? You were going to kill me because I hurt your precious feelings?

There's a long moment when Devereaux just looks at him, steady eyes holding David's gaze until David feels fidgety and uncomfortable, breaking eye-contact to lean forward and put down his coffee cup just so he can escape the appraisal.

"If that were true, I'd have killed you in Moscow along with the rest of your team." Devereaux's voice is soft, but it makes the adrenaline pump through David's veins like a gunshot.

"Why didn't you?"

Devereaux gets up and goes to stand next to the window, turning his back on David. It could be a symbolic gesture, it could be that he's just enjoying the view. "It was like you and your pretty blonde girlfriend in Belgrade. I asked myself if you were worth saving."

David swallows against the lump in his throat. He'd ask what Devereaux decided – but then, he knows the answer to that. Devereaux had several chances to kill him between Moscow and Belgrade, and he didn't take any of them. He wonders if Devereaux ever regrets it, but he can't make up his mind whether this is a question he wants to voice; if he's ready for the answer. The entire conversation is too raw and too honest, too layered with meaning, and he's tired of it.

Perhaps Devereaux is tired of it too. He turns back to David. "How long are you staying? Lucy will be back home soon. I'm sure she'd like to see you. You're like her knight in shining armor." They share a small smile at the idea.

David gives a one-shouldered shrug, trying to seem more careless than he feels as he decides that if he was brave enough to come here, he might as well be brave enough not to hide between a schedule he isn't on. "No plans yet," he says. He tries not to squirm under the weight of Devereaux's stare.

After a stretch of silence that lasts a bit too long, Devereaux nods.

"Okay. Let's see how it goes."

End.