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Untitled Spy Game

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Untitled Spy Game
by Buffy

December 2--Spy Game

 

*If you had pulled some stunt over there, if you had gotten nabbed, I wouldn't come after you.  You go off the reservation, I will not come after you.*

It was the memory of that conversation, if the knowledge that Nathan had been absolutely serious when he said it that drove Tom to find Nathan.  The recovery from the "hospitality" the Chinese had shown him was long and painful.  It hadn't helped that there'd been a bit too much truth during his recovery.  There'd been the truth that Nathan had been the one to get Elizabeth kidnapped and traded to the Chinese.  That one Tom had no problem believing.  Nathan had believed Elizabeth was a risk from the beginning, and to get her out of the way and trade a diplomat back to safety would have appealed to Nathan's efficient nature.  The harder truth was one Elizabeth had insisted on telling him herself, in person.  Apparently, Nathan had been right not to trust her.  Oh, she'd had the noblest of intentions.  Her work at the refugee camp was tenuous, dependent on the whims of whatever leadership was in control to keep operating.  She was planning to expose him as CIA, in return for some guarantees about supplies and protection for the children of the camp.  Nathan's machinations had caught her on the way to the meeting to finalize the deal.  Tom didn't exactly hate her for it, in fact he pitied her.  She was, and always would be a fanatic, still working for human rights, still unable to face the consequences of her introductions and her own actions.

For a moment, back in Beirut, Tom had wondered if Nathan was jealous of Elizabeth.  If that was the reason behind his extreme dislike and distrust of her.  Not that he and Tom had been anything other than irregular fuckbuddies as time and work had allowed.  But every time Tom had started to attach emotions to it, to romanticize it in any way, Nathan had demonstrated what a cold, calculating bastard he could be.  A lot of it was the job, Tom knew, but the job only exaggerated a natural part of the older man's personality.

*Put away some money so you can die someplace warm.  Don't ever touch it, not for anyone.  Ever.  Don't ever risk your life or your career for an asset.  If it comes down to you or them, send flowers.*

Tom couldn't help remembering the rules Nathan had told him back in that bar in West Berlin.  Nathan hadn't been joking, those rules might as well have been inscribed in stone tablets carried down Mount Sinai.  But Nathan had come for him.  Tom had gone so far off the reservation that he couldn't even see the reservation, and Nathan had sent SEALs to drag him back.  The exhaustive debriefings after his return had told him almost more than he'd told the agents questioning.  Apparently Nathan had used his entire life savings to fund the bribe that had made Operation Dinner Out possible, and had driven away even as higher-ups in the CIA had pieced together what he'd done and were calling to stop him.  And now, a year later, Tom had tracked Nathan down.  The man had broken every one of the unbreakable rules he'd laid down for Tom:  he'd risked his life and career to help Tom, used his life savings doing it, and was spending his retirement from the CIA teaching history and civics at an old-fashioned college-prep boarding school in New Hampshire.  There aren't many reasons for a man like Nathan to break his own rules like that, and the only one Tom could come up with that fit the facts as he had them, was that Nathan Muir had cared a hell of a lot more for Tom Bishop than he'd ever admitted.

So that left him standing in the hall outside of Nathan's classroom, waiting for the last class of the day before holiday break to be dismissed, holding a bottle of scotch as old as their relationship, trying to figure out what exactly he was doing here.  And then the door was open and teenage boys were stampeding past, leaving a familiar figure slowly tidying papers into a battered leather satchel.  Tom quietly entered and set the bottle on the desk, "Thank you."

Nathan's head snapped up, obviously surprised to see him.  A small smile tugged at one corner of his mouth even as his eyes flicked over him, obviously cataloging the changes in Tom.  He reached for the bottle, "Seventeen years, not bad.  But a bit out of your way to bring it, aren't you?"

Tom met his eyes steadily, this was the make-or-break moment.  "Not really.  Mom's on a cruise for Christmas, I'm officially retired now, and I've got no one waiting for me.  I've been looking around, trying to figure out what to do with myself.  Didn't really have enough time to save for that place somewhere warm, you know.  I hear this school will be looking for a new photography teacher in the spring, but I'm not sure whether there's really a place for me here."  Too fucking many years hiding in plain sight under different names for both of them, because Nathan had obviously understood the question hidden in that statement.  He understood what Tom was really asking, "I can't go back, I can't stay with Liz, do you think we can try making that friendship and sex between us into a real relationship?"

Nathan grabbed his satchel and jacket, "Come back to my rooms with me, have a drink of this.  I'll give you the lowdown of what life's like here, you can decide whether or not it appeals to you."

 

end ficlet