The Shallows (Part 1)
Summary: A few months after moving to a quiet little lake town on the edge of the state park, the reader has a near death experience and is saved by a man close by. When the police don’t take her seriously, he does and the pair stumble onto something bigger than they imagined...
Pairing: Wildlife Agent!Dean x reader
Word Count: 4,500ish
Warnings: language, implied smut (protected sex), mentioned past domestic violence (not graphic), near drowning
A/N: Inspired by the song “Shallow” by Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper. Written for @atc74 ‘s Duets Reboot Challenge!
Halfway through your swim you heard music turn on. You lifted your head up, a man sitting on the fishing dock with a tackle box and pole, a small radio on his other side. You sighed and swam out further along the shore, trying to get away from the noise.
The whole point of moving to a small town was to have some peace and quiet for once. The day was still nice though and you weren’t going to let it ruin the nice morning you’d been having. You went around a rock that jutted out and towards the open water a bit. You couldn’t hear the music anymore and smiled, closing your eyes briefly.
Something shifted in the water and you looked down at the darkness, water swirling more violently.
You shrieked as you felt yourself be pulled under. You kicked at whatever had a hold of you but you tried to stay calm and realize all of the bubbles meant it likely wasn’t some evil lake monster but instead some kind of underwater current. You swam back the direction you’d come from and managed to feel the force come off of you. Breaking the surface you let out a big breath, only to be pulled under again.
You broke free of it again and started to head towards the shore but could feel it getting larger. You shouted and went under, doing your best to outswim the force under the water but it was keeping pace with you and then some. When you tried to break for the surface, you could feel the water starting to move you around violently. You slapped a hand up but you were pulled back down. It had to have been an underwater vortex to keep doing that to you.
You kicked and got free a bit but it was quickly back and you didn’t have enough time to get up, your lungs starting to burn.
Air. They needed air. God, they needed air and now.
You slapped a hand over your mouth when you felt your body start to twitch and move on it’s own. Some water slid in and you jerked when it hit your lungs. You coughed violently and sucked in more which was still a big problem as you were underwater.
It felt like your lungs were on fire, water rushing in as your eyes got heavy, a noise above barely registering before you were out of it for good.
Your lungs were burning again as you hacked up the water in your body. You rolled to your side and continued to cough while on the rocky shoreline. You wracked your body and rolled back when you felt you could breathe again, a very wet man with green eyes staring back at you.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
“Never better,” you croaked out, rolling again and coughing more up.
“I’m gonna call an ambulance. Don’t die on me.”
“Y/N, are you sure your head isn’t playing tricks on you? No need to be embarrassed,” said the police chief when he came to your hospital room. You frowned at him.
“I’m a good swimmer. I didn’t just suddenly start drowning on my own,” you said.
“Mhm. Well I would stick to the beach area of the lake for now just to be safe,” he said before he left. You rolled your eyes and slumped back in your bed. You sighed but saw a man with a baseball cap and green raincoat enter the room. He smiled and you nodded, the man chuckling a little.
“You have no idea who I am, do you,” he said. You titled your head, the man taking off his hat. You saw green eyes and nodded.
“You’re the guy who had the radio that cause me to swim out there and nearly drown,” you said. He stared at you and you laughed. “I’m kidding. You’re the guy that jumped in after me, right?”
“Yeah. You were pretty out of it after I did CPR,” he said.
“Thanks. I’m still not sure what happened out there. I normally don’t almost drown,” you said. He chuckled and nodded, glancing at your door.
“Do you mind if we speak in private?” he asked. You looked at the door and back at him. “I work for Fish and Wildlife. I’m conducting an investigation.”
“What?” you asked.
“I’m investigating your near drowning, Y/N,” he said, standing by the edge of the bed.
“Because this is strange. The Shallows is a very safe swimming spot. No undercurrents, free from boating, water visibility is good...I noticed it wasn’t clear when I jumped in which makes me want to investigate,” he said.
“I already told the cop and he didn’t believe me. Maybe I was panicking and imagined it all,” you said.
“I’d rather hear it from you firsthand,” he said.
“Well it felt like an underwater kind of...tornado,” you said, Dean staring at you. “You don’t believe me either.”
“I want to hear the full story,” he said. “Go on.”
You told him the rest and he nodded when you finished.
“You think I’m making this up too?” you asked.
“You forget I was in the water too,” he said, giving you a smile. “There’s something going on. Stay away from the Shallows until further notice.”
“What’s your name?” you asked.
“Dean Winchester. I have a small office in the town hall if you’re ever looking for me,” he said. He nodded as he turned to go. He looked around and found a pad of paper on a table, grabbing it and writing down a phone number. “Call my cell if something feels weird or off. I wouldn’t go talking about what happened in the water either.”
“Why? What do mean feel weird?” you asked.
“I grew up around here. I know you aren’t local. But I think you do know that one of the largest water bottle plants on the country is just up the road.”
“And it’s very lucrative. I would be quiet about this incident for now is all,” he said. He tapped the table and turned to leave.
“Hey, uh, Dean? Thank you,” you said.
“Don’t feel too bad. It almost got me too,” he said. “Rest up for me, sweetheart. Stay out of the Shallows.”
“Will do, Dean.”
“Pick up,” you mumbled as the phone rang the night. “Pick up.”
“Agent Dean Winchester,” he said. “It is also nine at night so-“
“Dean. It’s Y/N,” you said, staring out the back window of the house you were renting.
“Oh, hey. This is my work number. I’ll text you my personal-“
“Yeah that’s great but uh, I’m like 99% positive that there is someone or something outside my house,” you said.
“Go someplace secure in the house,” he said. You looked out the back window again, glowing eyes far back in the tree line. “Y/N.”
“There is something creepy out there,” you said.
“What’s your address?” he asked.
“12 Maple Ridge,” you said.
“Alright,” he said, the sound of typing going for a second. “Okay. It looks like a wolf tripped the trail cam behind your house about four minutes ago.”
“I saw glowing eyes,” you said.
“Pretty sure it’s a wolf. I can confirm in person,” he said. “I can be over in a few minutes.”
“Alright,” you said, hearing him stand and a door open. “So you’re just gonna like, walk up to a wolf?”
“Believe it or not, I am not impervious to animal attacks. I know my manliness may have fooled you,” he said, chuckling to himself.
“So there’s trail cams behind my house?” you asked, an engine going in the background.
“Mhm. About a half mile back from the yards. Monitor wildlife and all that,” he said. “So they sent you home from the hospital?”
“This afternoon. Not really much to fix they said.”
“Those throat lozenge things help,” he said.
“That’s kinda a good idea. You ever…” you trailed off.
“No, no. Just figured your throat probably hurts,” he said.
“True,” you said, Dean humming for a moment.
“So you new in town?” he asked.
“A few months. It’s kinda cheap to live here, no offense,” you said.
“None taken. I get it. What do you do to put food on the table if you don’t mind me asking?”
“I’m a teacher,” you said. “Summer break right now.”
“Nice. What grade?”
“I think first. I was a substitute for some woman that went out on maternity the very end of last year. Apparently she moved away,” you said.
“We’ll have to hook up at some point,” he said.
He started to laugh and you could imagine him shaking his head.
“Sorry. I normally come into the elementary school twice a year and do some fish and wildlife stuff with the kids is what I should have said. Sometimes I take ‘em on field trips,” he said.
“Oh. Yeah, we’ll have to do that,” you said.
“Cool. I’m pulling up now. If you see someone walking around with a flashlight, don’t freak out,” he said.
“Alright,” you said as you hung up. A moment later you saw a light in the backyard, Dean walking around a bit before going to the trees. He walked back towards the front of the house and knocked on the door.
“Hey,” he said when you answered. “Yeah, it was a wolf pup. I guessed from the camera but tracks confirmed it. Just keep your garbage in the garage.”
“Alright. Thanks,” you said.
“It’s my job,” he said. “You need anything else?”
“No,” you said. “Unless you want a beer? I owe you one.”
“I’m always down for that,” he said. He slipped inside and took off his shoes, following you back to the kitchen. “This is nice.”
“It’s a rental. It came like this,” you said as you pulled two beers out. He took one and cracked it open, taking a sip before he sat down on the couch. You followed him in and sat on the other end, Dean looking around. “I didn’t interrupt you with anything, did I?”
“No. Just a boring Friday night,” he said. “Pretty quiet around here.”
“I’ve noticed,” you said.
“We don’t get a lot of young people that move here. They normally want something more than quaint little lake town,” he said.
“Maybe. It’s simple here. I like simple,” you said.
“Old soul?” he asked.
“Maybe. Just like simple.”
“You got a past. No one comes here for the hell of it. That’s fine,” he said.
“You’re such an expert all of a sudden,” you said.
“Been there, done that is all,” he said.
“You grew up here you said.”
“Yeah. This place ain’t as perfect as it seems,” he said.
“Then why don’t you leave?”
“Why’d you stay?”
It was quiet and he nodded, watching you sip away at half your beer.
“I can be a hard ass sometimes. Personality flaw,” he said.
“Yeah, I got those too,” you said.
“You want to like, get a bite? The Lakehouse bar is the best around,” he said.
“Sure. Come on,” he said as he got to his feet and held out a hand. “My treat.”
“One drink,” you said as you took it and he pulled you up. “One.”
“Oh hey,” you asked the bartender two hours and too many drinks later. “When’s the kitchen close?”
“Midnight,” he said, sliding a menu in front of you.
“Do you guys have dessert?” you asked.
“Get us a round of loaded fries and you strike me as a brownie kind of girl so get a double chocolate lovers too for us, Al,” he said.
“I do love me a good brownie,” you said, resting your head against your hand.
“Let’s get some food in ya. Help you sober up a bit,” he said.
“You drove,” you giggled, closing your eyes. “Hm, you’re cute.”
“Not as cute as you,” he said. You peeled open an eye, Dean smirking. “How’s the throat?”
“Okay. Don’t really want to think about what would have happened if my knight in plaid armor hadn’t saved me,” you said, playing with the rim of your glass.
“I just did what anyone would. We’re even. Pay it forward to someone someday,” he said.
“I’m not swimming anytime soon,” you said.
“You could fish,” he said.
“Fishing’s not really my thing,” you said.
“What is your thing?” he asked, leaning his head in his hand.
“I don’t know,” you said with a shrug. “I just want what everyone wants.”
“Everyone wants a normal life except when that gets boring, they want some excitement and then once it gets exciting, they want the normal life again,” he said.
“Nearly dying today was exciting enough,” you said, running your hands over you face. You took a deep breath and sighed.
“Not really,” you breathed out. Dean said something to the bartender and soon he had two container in his hand, his other held out for you.
“Come on. My house isn’t that far. We can walk,” he said. “More private.”
You thought about it but then nodded and slipped your hand into his, Dean leading you out. There was a light summer rain and you slipped up your hood, getting Dean’s for him.
“Thanks,” he said, taking your hand again. “I’m just a few blocks over.”
“It’s quiet,” you said, cutting across the street, Dean walking slowly.
“It is this late. Kinda nice actually,” he said. “I walk at night sometimes. It’s a safe town.”
“Aside from the potentially evil bottle plant,” you giggled.
“I don’t think they’re purposefully evil,” he chuckled. “Just be careful. I don’t want something happening because you stumbled onto something.”
“What do you think that water current was?” you asked.
“Honestly? Without getting in some dive gear and checking it out, no idea. It could be a freak accident or it could be something else. I don’t want you getting into any trouble over this though,” he said.
“Did you find anything out in your investigation?” you asked.
“I haven’t looked too much into it yet,” he said. “I have to do some research first.”
It was quiet as you walked, Dean squeezing your hand. You glanced down at it, Dean humming to himself.
“Why are we going to your place?” you asked.
“Because you looked upset. It probably didn’t hit you until just then,” he said. “We’ll eat some greasy food and turn on a movie. Those two things always help.”
“I would have died if you weren’t there,” you said.
“You probably wouldn’t have swam over there if my radio wasn’t going,” he asked.
“Dean,” you said, tugging on his hand. “What happened was not because of you. It was an accident.”
“I know,” he said, pulling you to walk again. You rounded a corner and he headed towards a cute house, a bit bigger than the one you were renting. It was kept up well and you saw a black car in the driveway, Dean smirking when you stared. “We’ll have to introduce you to Baby on a nice sunny day. She likes going for drives.”
“So you save damsels in distress, like animals and have a cool car. How are you single?” you teased as he unlocked his door.
“How do you know I’m single?” he smirked.
“How do you know I’m single?” you asked.
“I’m pretty sure we both know,” he said, showing you inside and slipping off his boots. He flipped on a few lights and showed you back to a family room, going to the fridge and taking out a few bottles of water.
He hummed and set the containers down on a coffee table, going back to the kitchen to get a pair of forks.
“Alright,” he said as he sat down, waving you to join him. You took a seat beside him, Dean opening the food containers and diving in.
“S’good,” you said, looking around the room. It was quiet as you had your midnight snack, comfortable in the dim space.
“I got lost in the woods when I was about ten,” he said. You paused but he kept on eating. “For like, four days. Totally thought I was going to die. I know near death experiences are...not fun.”
“Was that around here?” you asked.
“Up the road a little bit where the terrain is rougher. I’m literally the reason there’s a safety class taught to Kindergarten through middle school nowadays,” he chuckled.
“What happened?” you asked.
“I grew up on the edge of town, cheaper houses out that way. I played in the woods a lot when I was a kid. I wandered in too deep one day and couldn’t see our house anymore. It started to get dark and I panicked and went in even deeper. I got pretty far in, eventually found my way into the state park without realizing it,” he said.
“The park is like, far,” you said.
“Yeah,” he said. “Like I said, I just got deeper and deeper until the trees thinned out and there was the lake. I came out right around the Shallows actually. I was so thirsty I thought I’d end up drinking half the lake. Once I got there I knew I could make my way back to civilization.”
“That must have been scary,” you said.
“Yeah. The near death part came when I stumbled onto a momma grizzly bear and her cubs,” he said. Your eyes went wide and he nodded. “Oh, yeah. I honestly shouldn’t even be here to have this conversation.”
“Did you scare it off?” you asked.
“No. I went to run and tripped, got myself scrapped up pretty good as this massive thing gets up on it’s back legs and roars and I’m like oh fuck, this is it. Next thing I know, this ball of fluff whirls past me and the bears take off. I managed to get to my feet and bam, baby wolf comes running up to me like it wants to play with me. Then comes the other wolves and I’m still thinking I’m dead but the baby is barking at me all happy like and the big one just nods for it to come back and they all leave,” he said.
“No wonder you do what you do.”
“Well I never wanted to be scared like that again but these animals aren’t violent. How happy would you be if someone walked into your house without your permission?” he asked.
“That’s a good point,” you said.
“Stop by the office sometime, you can take one of the free guidebooks. It’s got a lot of information on dealing with those kinds of situations,” he said. “It shouldn’t be a problem but you know, just in case.”
“With my luck I probably should,” you said, slumping back into the couch.
“Rough go of it lately?” he asked.
“Same,” he said, pushing away his food. You turned your head, Dean looking over at you. “My parents moved away, out near my little brother. My girlfriend broke things off about six months ago after she moved to LA. It’s been quiet lately.”
“My ex-boyfriend hit me a few months back,” you said. Dean stared at you and you looked at the space between you. “So I left and moved as far away as possible.”
“Did you call the police?” he asked.
“Yeah but nothing came of it besides him kicking me out on the street,” you said.
“S’why you like quiet,” he said.
“I’m perfectly okay with being alone,” you said.
“Me too. We could be alone together,” he said, shrugging as he stared at the rug.
“I don’t want a relationship again. Especially not with a big strong guy like you,” you said. He nodded and closed his eyes, rubbing his temple. You leaned over and kissed him, Dean turning into it right before you broke it off. He swallowed and blinked a few times.
“I thought you just said-”
“You feel...safe,” you said. “Don’t ask me why.”
“Alright. I won’t ask,” he said softly. He cupped your cheek and you leaned towards him again, Dean brushing his lips over yours slowly. He was tentative when he kissed you, gentle like. You moved with him, kissing him in return with the same tenderness. He broke it off and rested his forehead against yours. “I get what you mean, feeling safe.”
“Now what?” you breathed out.
“Now I can walk you home or you can stay the night. Your choice.”
You yawned as you heard Dean wake up the next morning. He scrunched up his body before he stretched out, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand before he saw you and smiled.
“Morning,” he whispered.
“Morning,” you said. He threw his arm over your waist and rolled closer, giving you a sleepy morning kiss.
“Do you drink coffee?” he asked. You hummed and he smiled. “I’ll throw some on for us.”
He pecked a kiss to your nose and threw off his sheets, wandering into his bathroom. He exited after a moment and pulled a clean pair of boxers out of his dresser, tugging them on before he left. You smiled as you sat up, rubbing your arm before you got out of bed, finding his t shirt and pulling it over your head. You put on your underwear and followed him out to his kitchen, Dean smiling when you came in.
“I totally just lost that shirt, didn’t I,” he said.
“Most likely,” you said, coming up behind him, wrapping your arms around his waist.
“Are you hungry? I can make us something,” he said, spinning around as the coffee machine heated up. You smiled and nodded, Dean resting his hands on your hips. “Feeling any better today?”
“So far today is much better than yesterday,” you said.
“I’m glad,” he said. “After breakfast I have to pop into my office but I don’t have any big plans after that if you’re free.”
“Normally I go for a swim after breakfast,” you said.
“You ever been kayaking?” he asked. You shook your head and he smirked. “You’ll love it. We can go check out the lake.”
“Just not the Shallows,” you said.
“We’ll stay far away from the Shallows,” he said. “I promise.”
“Alright, you got a deal then.”
“Dean,” you said a few hours later out on the water. “I’m pretty sure my boat is trying to spin in circles.”
“Yeah, mine too,” he frowned. He moved over close to your boat and leaned over to pull in close, the boats evening out somewhat. “Weird.”
“What side of the lake are we near?” you asked.
“The North end,” he said, looking over the top of the trees as the same thing you were. “Bottle plant isn’t far away.”
“The Shallows are just around the corner there,” you said with a nod. He looked around for a moment before he stared at the dark water. “Dean?”
“Something’s not right,” he said. “I’ve been on this water a million times. A nice sunny summer day like this? You should be able to see down to the bottom yet I stick my paddle in, it’s cloudy and you can’t see past a few feet.”
“What are you saying?” you asked.
“I don’t think what happened to you was an accident,” he said. He opened a flap on his life jacket and pulled out a little vial. He stuck it in the water before putting a cap on it and shoving it back inside. “Let’s get out of here, sweetheart.”
“Uh, Dean,” you said, pointing your paddle at a jet ski headed your direction. “I think it’s a little late for that.”
“Shit,” he said. “Play dumb. We’re just a couple out on a date.”
“Aren’t we kinda a couple out on a date?” you asked.
“I mean yes so technically, we’re not lying,” he said, the jet ski slowing down as it got closer.
“You two are in restricted waters,” said the guy on jet ski, a little water company symbol on his life jacket.
“Oh, sorry. We thought the whole lake was okay,” you said.
“Yeah, sorry about that. Something wrong with the water or something?” asked Dean.
“You’re in restricted waters. Anything beyond the Shallows is off limits, understand?” he asked.
“Oh. Yeah. I thought the state park owned all the-” said Dean before the guy narrowed his eyes.
“You’re fish and wildlife, aren’t you,” he said. Dean snapped his mouth shut and the guy looked between you both. “This is not your jurisdiction.”
“Actually anything in a fifty square mile radius is my jurisdiction,” said Dean, cocking his head. “You don’t own the water so we are free to be here.”
“Aqua Corp has water front usage rights from the park. If you’d bother to look it up you would know that and know that you two are, in fact, trespassing. Last warning. Leave before we press charges,” he said.
“We’re going,” you said. Dean grumbled but you both paddled away, Dean quiet for a while until you were back closer to the launching dock.
“I think I just made someone’s shit list,” he said. “It’s probably a good idea if you stay away from me from now on.”
“Not happening,” you said. “I’m involved in this too.”
“I figured you’d say something like that,” he said, sighing when you saw a truck pull up on the launch dock.
“Is that an Aqua Corp truck?” you asked.
“An Aqua Corp security truck,” he said, glancing at you. “I feel like we’re about to have a very long day, sweetheart.”
A/N: Read Part 2 here!
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Fic: Ethan Hunt Must Die 1/1
Pairing: August Walker x YOU
Word Count: 10,420
Summary: You are a medic and a member of what’s left of The Apostles. And it’s not rumour anymore. August Walker is definitely not dead. All you want to do is help him with his cause, kill those responsible for his grave injuries (and foiling his manifesto) and make Ethan Hunt pay. Falling in love with August Walker is just a given ;)
Rating: Mature to Explicit some Violence, sex and fluff and yearning and impetuous kisses, explosions and delicious August Walker. And, this story is not as serious as it may appear, so have fun reading.
Note: If you have been around you’ve seen the original iteration of this story, but maybe not in its entirety. It was originally broken up into 10 parts as A Month of August Walker Challenge. Now, in all of its revamped glory is the complete story all in one place.
Want to read more? Click for my Masterlist
Your contact was a pleasant woman. She’d collected you from the tiny airport in Kashmir and on the way to your destination, she’d offered to buy snack food for you from a nearby shop.
‘The cabin is fully stocked,’ she reasoned pointing to the squat building by the side of the road, ‘but in case you want a Coke or something.’
You did want a Coke in fact and you took her up on the offer. Along with a few cans of cola you grabbed other items – chocolate bars, fishing tackle, and feminine hygiene products. You didn’t know how long you were going to be out there in the middle of nowhere, and you didn’t want to use up the precious bog roll when your cycle eventually came.
The woman was leaning against the side of the battered truck and smoking a cigarette when you stepped out of the shop. Eyeing your purchases, she nodded with approval.
‘Good idea,’ she said, making a vague gesture towards you with her cigarette. ‘We didn’t think about a woman’s needs during such a long excursion. Next time. There are all sorts of painkillers in the stocks though… just so you are aware.’
She put a gloved hand on her lower belly and laughed a little.
‘I know how it can get.’
You smiled, grateful to be sharing this moment with her, woman to woman, and thanked her before getting back into the truck.
‘Is there gonna be a next time?’ you asked, sweeping the seatbelt across your chest and clicking it into place.
She didn’t look at you as she started the truck and set off down the road.
‘I hope this is the last, ‘ she said finally and as it seemed like such a struggle for her to come up with an answer that she seemed satisfied with, you didn’t continue to press the matter.
Settling into the seat, you unwrapped a chocolate bar, and with three large bites, had it stuffed into your mouth. The salty chocolate and nougat were glorious and you moulded the sweet wad into the roof of your mouth so that you could savour it with slow licks. You folded the plastic-coated wrapper into a small square and tucked it in your jacket pocket.
The woman drove along the rough frosty mountain roads as if you two were being chased. She didn’t seem at all phased with how the truck bounced and jumped dangerously close to the edge of the cliff, as if one wrong turn of the wheel wouldn’t send the two of you plunging down into the river below.
That imagery triggered sudden rage in you.
Goddamn you, Ethan Hunt, you thought.
You wanted just two minutes alone with Hunt to make him regret having ever laid eyes on August Walker. Hunt deserved nothing but a long slow torturous death.
Ever since the incident, The Apostles had been split on what to do regarding August Walker. Should he be left out there and forgotten? Or should his remains be recovered and given a proper burial?
The thought that there was nothing left to recover prevailed until reports that August had survived the fall started trickling in. With this new knowledge, it was impossible to prevent the uprising that voted to scour the mountains to find him. This time, your only mission was to man the cabin in the event one of the search teams found him.
‘Not far to the cabin. Ayami is apart of the search team. You know her, yes?’ asked the woman.
‘Yes. I know her.’
‘Good, Ayami planned all of this, coordinated us, and was able to pinpoint a location not far from this cabin.’
Not enough planning for a menstrual cycle, you thought, petulantly.
‘It will work out,’ she continued and nodded. ‘He will be found.’
‘This is the third time someone has,’ you made inverted commas in the air with your fingers, ‘pinpointed his location, only to run into IMF lies. We are wasting precious time. August is alive and we need to find him.’
The woman drove on in silence for a moment.
‘I agree with you, yes. I agree. But what do you suggest that we do? If not this.’
You relented and sighed. You had no idea what to do other than this.
‘If I could snap my fingers…’
You clicked your fingers and she chuckled, clicking hers as well.
‘He would be safe with us,’ she finished for you.
A half hour later, she slowed and finally stopped the truck and pointed through the windscreen at what looked like a stack of fallen trees.
‘Unfortunately, my friend,’ she said. ‘There is a way to drive up to the cabin. However, it is many, many kilometres that way and petrol for me is hard to come by right. It’s easier to drop you here and you take the trail. It’s only a few hours hike.’
You grabbed your rucksack from the foot well, reached over and one-arm hugged the woman and then got out. She did a wide circle turn around and pulled the truck up to where you stood.
‘Good luck, my friend. And take care.’
‘Take care,’ you said. ‘See you soon.’
She gave you a two-fingered salute and drove away.
It was cold that far up in the mountains and the beginning of the trail looked desolate. Securing your rucksack on your back, you began your long trek, and the cabin was a welcome sight after hours of navigating the rocky hard terrain. Inside was small and utilitarian, but it was more than enough for you. You didn’t bother to take off your boots before falling onto the cot and into a deep exhausted sleep.
In the morning, you took stock of your surroundings. The cabin was pretty well-appointed with a wood stove, a table with two chairs, an amazingly comfortable cot and stacks and stacks of supplies. The gold-painted metal ammo closet in the back was comforting to see and you were going to familarise yourself with its contents later. But first, breakfast.
You got up to make coffee and noticed a medium-sized cardboard box sitting on the small dining table by the stove. There was a note.
‘Your name was given to me at the last moment. Here are some things you may need.’
And it was signed, ‘Ayami’.
You slit open the box with your pocket knife and laughed when you saw the contents. Ayami had packaged not only tampons and pads but several different styles of menstrual cups for you and you felt guilty for earlier, being such a brat about the supplies you needed.
‘You planned everything, Ayami,’ you said aloud to the empty room. ‘Thank you.’
You lit the fire in the stove and put a pot on to boil some water. A noise outside pricked your ears. It sounded like the heavy motor of an ATV and out of the noise you picked out the sounds of other engines drawing closer.
Shit! you thought, rushing to the ammo closet at the back of the cabin.
Flinging open the doors, you dragged out a single barrel shotgun, loaded it, and scrambled back to the front cabin door. Peering out through the narrow window you watched as several four-wheelers and one battered Land Rover raced towards the cabin. In a cloud of kicked up dirt and dust, the Rover drove straight up to the door and to your absolute surprise, the passenger door popped open and Ayami jumped out.
You opened the cabin door and came out.
‘Good!’ she shouted over the noise of the engines. ‘You’re here. Get the first aid boxes ready, now!’
You were a medic and understood the urgency in her tone. You ran back to the cabin and were piling bandages, antiseptics, and other items on the table when three men carried in a limp body between them. Ayami strode across the room and captured you in a hug.
‘I am happy to see you,’ she gasped breathlessly and grabbed your hands. ‘We found him!’
With heart crashing against your ribs, you looked to the man being stretched on the cot as Ayami continued.
Oh God… they found him.
‘Somehow some wanderers discovered him months ago and took him in.’
She trailed off and shook her head. She still seemed to be in shock.
‘Doesn’t matter,’ you told her and squeezed her hands. ‘We’re looking after him now. Radio in for helicopter transport. It may take a few days to get someone out here.’
You cleaned your hands and went to assess the situation. August was alive and badly burned, but gladly not beyond your repair. Ayami came back into the cabin after making the call and joined you at the bed.
‘You planned all of this, Ayami,’ you said. ‘You made this happen. What’re our next step?’
Ayami put her hand on your shoulder and smiled viciously.
‘To make Ethan Hunt pay.’
You were wrong.
It didn’t take a few days for the helicopter to arrive. It took two weeks. Although the cabin was well stocked and had nearly everything you needed to tend to August’s wounds, it wasn’t enough.
Ayami wanted to leave and take August the long way through the mountains. They had the power to transport him over land and it was fucking stupid to leave him at the cabin to succumb to something that could be fixed. His body was fighting a raging infection and frankly, he was losing. You explained to her your reasons for why it would be tough on August to try to drive with him through such hard terrain. He was in a fragile state and jostling him all around in an unstable car could exacerbate any internal injuries. A chopper ride would be better.
Ayami understood that, however…
‘We’ve got plenty of antibiotics,’ she said reasonably. ‘Why can’t we give him some?’
‘Because we don’t know what he has. He could have a bacterial or viral infection and just picking something to give him might do more harm than good. I don’t want to take that risk.’
It wasn’t as if you didn’t want to pump him full of all of the pills you had, just to scattershot the infection, but incorrectly dosing him, in his weakened state, might kill him. August Walker was alive and you were going to keep him that way.
So you did your best. With Ayami’s help, you kept him clean and dry and in order to manage his temperature, iced. August, however, foiled your attempts to tend to him effectively. He was delirious and unaware of what was happening to him. More than once you had to extract yourself from his vice-like grip as he held onto you and growled guttural threats of violence to your person. All you could do was try to soothe him and mop his brow and use the aspirin to dull his obvious pain.
During the wait for air transport, you stayed up some nights with August. Sometimes you just sat at his bedside and read by the light of your headlamp. Sometimes you just watched him, held his hand and stroked his hair when nightmares haunted his sleep.
He would heal pretty well, you observed, and, without too much lasting damage to his face. He was fortunate that the hot oil missed his eye, although it ruined his ear. But you knew that too could be reconstructed.
‘We’re gonna get you back on your feet, August,’ you murmured on those nights when he was at his most fitful. ‘And we’re gonna get those people who did this to you.’
Even though you weren’t sure he could even hear you speaking, you continued to encourage and comfort him. It was the least you could do.
‘You met John Lark before?’ Ayami asked over breakfast one morning, using August’s real name for the first time.
‘When he was going by John Lark?’ you asked for clarification and she nodded. ‘No. Not then. He had already assumed the new identity and was in the CIA when I turned up.’
‘He was not always like this,’ she said a bit cryptically.
‘How was he?’
Interest sparked in you.
She shook her head.
‘Just different. Maybe he’ll tell you someday.’
Ayami smiled at you and you turned, alerted by the soft groan coming from the bed.
‘Oh God, he’s waking up again,’ she chuckled and then asked you, ‘Top or bottom.’
You laughed inspite of yourself and gave the choice a moment’s thought. ‘Top’ meant that you got to administer medication, clean up his face and check his bandages, while ‘bottom’ meant that you would have to wrestle with his strong flailing arms and risk getting punched in the face. Ayami looked at you expectantly and you grimaced.
‘I had top last time, so…’
She smiled and got up, patting your arm in passing. ‘Then you get top this time.’
‘Ayami, c’mon,’ you protested rising from the chair. ‘I don’t want to be unfair.’
‘Yeah, sure,’ she said lifting her arms and flexing her biceps. ‘But, I need my workout.’
Ayami needed to stay in Kashmir to tie up some loose ends. So, you said your farewells and parted company when the chopper transport finally arrived.
You, on the other hand, were headed to New Delhi where another contact would meet and relieve you of your August-sitting duties.
Exhausted and battered, it was just after midnight when you finally arrived at the airport. Out through the cloudy bubble heli-window, you saw the second contact rush to the settling helicopter. You unlatched an dragged open the side door.
‘Hello!’ he shouted over the roar of the blades overhead. ‘It’s Janus. You can come with me!’
‘Where am I going?’ you shouted back, not moving from where you were sitting next to August’s prone body.
He was still blissfully unconscious and sleeping quietly.
‘There is a safehouse here. You can rest. We will transport Walker to the small plane over there and continue on to London.’
You shook your head and were able to speak normally when the blades finally shuddered to a stop.
‘I’ll go on,’ you told Janus. ‘I’ll go on, it’s ok. I’ll stay with him.’
Janus looked puzzled.
‘No, you are to go to the safe house. I am to continue on.’
You had come this far. You weren’t going to leave August, so you again declined the offer of a trade.
‘Now. Come on. I’m not going to quibble with you,’ you said, kicking open the other door so that the two men accompanying Janus could wrangle the stretcher out of the chopper.
You watched them carry August off and jumping out of the heli, you turned to Janus.
‘Be well, my friend. But I’ve got it.’
Janus shrugged a little and nodded, seeing that you weren’t going to be swayed.
‘Is it really him?’ he asked and you could hear relief seeping into his voice.
You put your arms around him in a farewell hug.
‘It is,’ you said. ‘You have Ayami to thank for that. Make sure that you do.’
You ran after the two men carrying the stretcher. The men secured the stretcher inside and turned to help you into the back of the plane. You pulled closed the small plane’s door and made sure that August was securely strapped in. It was going to be another long ride to the final safe house.
It was raining in London, and as the small plane approached, the cool precipitation rinsed away grey foggy clouds to reveal the golden city. Through your headset, you listened to the pilot talk to air traffic control and learned that you were headed to Blackbushe Airport.
‘How far is the safe house from the airport?’ you asked the pilot.
‘Not far. Maybe 20 kilometers. Not far.’
You were so ready to put your feet on land that you closed your eyes and envisioned a soft bed, a hot meal, and an even hotter bath. Glancing down at the still sleeping man on the stretcher at your feet, you felt a rise of tender feelings in your heart. Not only had your team recovered August Walker, alive, but you had a personal hand in his convalescence. Reaching down, you touched his face. He felt hot, but not as feverish as before and you were relieved. Elevated fevers for sustained periods of time were dangerous and although he wasn’t out of the woods yet, he was better. You brushed a curl of brown hair off of his forehead and smoothed the edge of your thumb across his eyebrow. Yes, he was going to heal well and regain his strength to be able to fight another day.
Blackbushe Airport was small but efficient and there was a black, solid paneled van waiting for you. You helped the men with the stretcher and once August had been secured, you pulled yourself into the offered front passenger seat. The driver nodded to acknowledge your presence and you put on your seatbelt as the van drove off.
Someone tapping on the window jarred you from the nap you didn’t realise you had fallen into. With a wet grunt, you sat up, reflexively swiped the back of your hand across your mouth, and dried the drool which had pooled in the corner. Hand still to your mouth, you shifted to look through the window. It was the driver and he made a gesture for you to get out.
You nodded to show that you understood and he moved off. Behind you in the cargo part of the van, you could hear men talking and then sounds of strain when they lifted the stretcher. Even unconscious, August wasn’t for the weak or fainthearted. You chuckled at your own analogy, unclipped the seatbelt and opened the door. Your legs wobbled when your feet hit the ground and you pressed back against the closed door until you felt that you could walk without collapsing. It took a while for your legs to finally firm and when they did you followed the men into the medium sized country manor house.
Inside smelt of cedar and pine. Your footsteps echoed on the hardwood floor as you walked into the charming front room and looked up at all of the old portraits and paintings and decorative weapons. Twin staircases, one on each side of the front room, dog-legged up to the next level. You approached a tall round table with a large vase of fresh flowers and walked around it. You peeked into dark rooms and soon found yourself in an equally as charming country kitchen. There was a man in there wearing a black jumper and blue jeans, drinking from a white mug.
‘Ah!’ he said when he saw you. ‘Come in, come in. Coffee?’
Aware that you looked particularly filthy and bedraggled, compared to his crispness, you cleaned your hands on your cargo trousers and stepped into the room.
The man obliged, saying, ‘It’s only instant, I’m afraid.’
Instant was fine and you didn’t protest when he handed you a cup.
‘And it’s terrible,’ he added with a laugh. ‘I’ve only just arrived and haven’t had a chance to flush out all of the pipes. Everything happened so fast.’
You nodded and drank the metallic tasting coffee without complaint.
‘Ayami, then. Right?’
You knew what he was asking. Ayami was the conductor of this orchestra and she deserved all of the credit.
‘Fuck… she’s a legend.’
Finishing the cup without much tasting it, you handed it back to him.
‘I’d like to clean up and make sure that he’s… that August is ok for the night.’
He took the cup and was nodding as he put both yours and his into the sink.
‘Sure, sure. I can do that. There is a room ready for the both of you. Come on, I’ll show you.’
You followed him up the stairs and down a quiet, thickly carpeted hallway which was also lined with gaily painted portraits. Upon reaching the room at the end, he stepped aside to let you go in first.
There was a trio of men in there, that you recognised as the medical team and the room had been set up like a well-stocked hospital room. The lemon yellow wallpaper with its sunflower print was a pleasant contrast to the medical equipment and other paraphernalia. The men greeted you and they all shared a happy look. You knew why and yes, you shared it too. You said nothing as you watched them undress and bathe August, glad that he could finally receive more focused treatment.
‘And my room?’ you asked.
August didn’t need you now and you had to look after yourself. Mr instant coffee led you back down the hall and showed you your bedroom and amenities. When he left you, you threw your rucksack on the floor by the bed, stripped out of your filthy clothes, and immediately ran a bath. When you finally emerged, refreshed, and clean down to your toes, you found a sandwich and cola waiting on the table next to the bed. You devoured it in a few bites but drank the cola slowly as you unpacked your rucksack. All the way at the bottom, and rolled around a pair of thick socks was a clean shirt and sweatpants which you quickly pulled on. You sat on the edge of the bed and finished the cola.
Flopping onto your side and closing your eyes, you intended to rest for only a moment. However, sleep had other ideas.
Sunlight streamed in through the windows behind you and you woke suddenly then rolled over. On the wall at the head of the bed, a pleasant-looking woman smiled down at you from a pastoral painting and you were groggy enough to smile back. Rubbing your face you sat up, yawned, and swung your legs over the edge of the bed, staying there a moment to contemplate the night before. You hadn’t slept that well in a very long time and you were grateful to have finally got some rest. That old bed was a godsend.
After washing and dressing in clean clothes, you stood in the corridor outside your room door and looked down the hallway to where August slept. His door was closed. The scent of coffee wafting up the stairs alerted you that someone else was awake and you wondered if it was Mr Instant coffee down there still flushing out the pipes and drinking metallic tasting coffee. You decided to leave him to it and you walked to August’s room.
You tapped on the door but there was no answer, so you turned the doorknob and let yourself in. August was still asleep. The IV drip bag was half empty and the bandages on his face were bright and clean. He looked much better in the warm morning light and you couldn’t stop yourself from smiling. You smoothed down the patch of IV tape on the back of his hand and August startled a yelp out of you when he moved.
His eyes were open and you found yourself under the clear scrutiny of the infamous August Walker. Before your inglorious meeting at the cabin, you had never been this close to him. The two of you never spoke nor had you even been in the same room.
His eyes moved all over your face as if hunting for something and you stood still letting him complete his inspection. When recognition finally bloomed in his eyes, he relaxed.
You ventured to put your hand over his.
‘Do you remember me?’ you asked.
‘I remember,’ he answered, voice raspy from disuse.
August fell silent and it seemed to take effort for him to speak.
‘I… remember you read to me.’
Your heart skipped with elation.
Breathing out a breath, August closed his eyes.
‘We’ll make him pay, August,’ you said when he was quiet. ‘All of them.’
It didn’t matter that he had succumbed to sleep again and probably didn’t hear you. Ethan Hunt was going to pay.
It was fortunate Mr. Instant Coffee, as you dubbed him, was around to cook and clean because you weren’t about to look after Walker and do the domestic duties as well.
As the weeks drifted by and August grew stronger, you turned your interest away from him and to revenge.
Retribution, you liked to say to yourself. It was a much better word and to pull it off, you needed a team.
Ayami, of course, was on board. She was always up for some violence and you loved her for it. She knew exactly who you needed and how to contact them. And, if you were going to go through with it, all the way, you needed a solid plan. Every piece had to be in place for the whole machine to move forward. No stone could remain unturned.
You spent a lot of time in that country kitchen with plans and schematics and blueprints spread out in front of you on the table. The first order of business was to find the persons responsible; Benji, Ilsa, Luther and Hunt.
Find them, and observe.
‘That’s it,’ you’d told Ayami. ‘Find them and observe. Record their patterns, their travel, their habits, their pubs, markets, clothing stores, everything.’
You made sure to have rotating team members on each target so that said target would not recognise any reoccurring faces and become suspicious. IMF was a clever, skittish bunch and the way to lure them into the trap was to be patient and deliberate.
Early one morning, about three months into your stay at the safe house, a heavy thumping down the stairs distracted you from your research.
You got up, refilled your coffee and then poured a second fresh cup. Returning to the table you put the second cup in the space across from where you had been sitting. For two weeks now, August had been testing his newly found strength and had insisted on getting up and moving around own his own. He’d recently been cut out of his arm cast and was able to navigate his way on crutches. And on mornings after breakfast when he could get himself out of bed, he usually banged down the stairs and hobbled into the kitchen.
After a few days of this, you started preparing a cup of coffee for him. Whether he was looking for coffee or not, you always put out a second cup when you heard him coming down. And August was actually polite and thankful for the gesture. It surprised you. You expected him to be this gruff and grumpy take charge team leader who didn’t have time for underlings. When, in fact, August Walker was a very pleasant man.
‘Morning,’ you heard him say from the kitchen’s doorway.
‘Morning,’ you replied, nodding to the coffee cup.
He took up his regular place across from you, and leaned the crutches against the bench seat.
You looked at him finally. The bandages were all off of his face now (except for the one remaining to protect his damaged ear) and the swelling had gone down.
What was at first considered full-thickness burns were actually only partial-thickness and he could heal without skin grafts.
He looked, you decided, pretty normal. Handsome, in fact and you wanted to reach out to touch him.
He saw you examining him and he made an aborted attempt to touch his face.
‘No, it ahh… it’s good. You look much better. Really,’ you said quickly.
He picked up the coffee and drank slowly.
‘Does it still hurt?’
‘No,’ he said into the cup and changed the subject. ‘What have we got?’
Right back to business, you thought. Of course. None of this ‘feelings’ stuff for him.
‘The only one we got consistent eyes on is Luther. I guess they’re not using him these days, so he’s staying put. He’s in the States and looks to have a vacation home in Florida. If he has a third place, we don’t know about it yet.’
August listened and nodded and you swore you could see a little smile starting to play across his mouth. Not wanting it to disappear, you showed him photos of Ilsa.
‘I think, she thinks she’s clever. At first she was darting around, doing the whole ‘spy’ thing. It was cute. Now, not so much. I’d like to take her… if you agree.’
August looked up at you and that little smile was still there. In fact he looked particularly pleased with you.
‘Don’t worry. Hunt’s for last. We’re saving him for you.’
August held your gaze and you felt a thrill race through you.
‘Excellent,’ he said. ‘I want you to do whatever you want to do. I trust you.’
You brightened considerably and resisted the urge to clap your hands with delight. Having August Walker’s trust had made the day golden.
A few days later, the thumping down the stairs distracted you from your work. Smiling a little, you got up and poured a fresh cup of coffee and sat it on the table across from you. Then as an afterthought, you got up again and plated a few chocolate Hobnobs that Mr. Instant Coffee had bought with the weekly grocery. You had barely put the plate down before August appeared in the kitchen doorway.
Seeing the mid-morning snacks waiting for him, he smiled a little and now down to one crutch from two, he hobbled into the kitchen and sat down in his usual spot across from you.
‘Look at you, speedster,’ you teased.
August’s brows rose with pleasure, but he smothered his growing smile by lifting his cup and drinking the coffee.
‘I prefer your coffee to the other one,’ said August, raising his eyes to meet yours.
You hesitated to meet his gaze, and when you did, the praise in his face melted you.
August quickly looked away and down at the plans on the table between the two of you.
‘So, tell me.’
He gestured with the cup to the papers.
You grinned, feeling pleased with your progress.
‘Ilsa. I finally got a bead on her. And I will be travelling to her location today.’
‘Today?’ he asked, sounding surprised and your brows drew together a little.
‘Too soon? I mean.. do you want to come?’
August shook his head and suddenly looked concerned.
‘I don’t want you rushing into something.’
Ah, was that it?
You reached out to tap the back of his hand with your index finger.
‘Whilst I thoroughly enjoy your concern, there’s no need for it. Do you umm, want a trophy? An eyeball? A finger?’
August was clearly surprised, and your offer startled a laugh out of him.
‘No,’ he said, shaking his head. ‘No, I don’t want any of that. But ah… I appreciate your vigour.’
You smiled at him.
He laughed a little, again, and asked, ‘And your flight?’
‘Coupla hours,’ you replied checking your wristwatch.
‘And your plan?’
‘Delicious,’ you promised.
And it was.
Los Angeles was hot and sweltering and you were not prepared for the weather. But you didn’t let that deter you, for you had a mission to accomplish.
You found the target sitting at a table beneath a colourful umbrella at a crowded outdoor cafe.
Carrying several bags emblazoned with names of high-end shops you stopped by her table, made a show of looking into the cafe and then down at the chair across from her.
She looked up at you and you tried a smile.
‘Hi, I am sooo sorry, but do you mind if I just sit here. I am dying in this heat!’
As you were actually dying in the western heat, you knew that you came across sincerely. She took a moment to consider you. Judging you harmless, she nodded to the chair and you collapsed onto it gratefully.
‘Oh, thank you, honey. That’s so good of you. I thought I was going to get all of my shopping over and done with before noon, but you know how it is. Just one more shop, one more try on…. maybe they got those shoes in the back in your size, right? Am I right?
You giggled easily and she nodded, then glanced into the cafe.
‘I gotta wear these gloves to that my hands don’t tan,’ you said watching her. ‘There’s nothing worse than having your arms one colour and your hands 5 shades darker.’
Ignoring you, she raised her hand hoping to alert the waiter standing inside.
He eased up to the table.
‘I ordered my…’
‘Yes, I know ma’am. We are working on it right now, please give us some time. The broiler is currently holding on by a thread. May I offer you a cold drink? On the house?’
You looked at her and she sighed.
‘Sure, go on. You want one?’
Her attention was on you.
‘Sure! I’ll have what she’s having.’
The two of you chatted amiably for a little while and the waiter returned with your drinks. You immediately sipped at the fizzy fruit drink and put your glass down next to hers.
Several minutes later someone inside shouted, ‘Janie Fellows?’
The woman across from you stirred and then stood up.
‘Finally,’ she said and went inside to pick up her order.
You watched her go and quickly, unobtrusively, dumped the contents of your travel perfume bottle into her glass.
Ilsa returned with a plate brimming with meat and salad and set it on her placemat.
‘Looks good,’ you said admiring the dish. ‘I might get one, but I do need to get on, I think.’
‘You can stay as long as you like,’ she assured you and began her meal.
You sat and chatted whilst she ate and finished her drink.
You were in the middle of a long drawn out story about your imaginary husband when she stopped devouring the rare steak.
Ilsa dropped her fork and you turned towards her.
‘Something wrong?’ you asked, faux concern in your voice as you let your natural accent slip. ‘You’ve gone quite pale… Janie.’
Ilsa’s wide eyes shot up to your face and she spat out her chewed mouthful.
‘I probably overdosed you,’ you said quietly. ‘I mean, you were ten pounds heavier the last time I checked. But you and your hot yoga classes have done wonders. I might take it up myself.’
Eyes bulging as the poison squeezed closed her throat, Ilsa gurgled and staggered upright. The chair screeched on the concrete, fell away and you got up.
‘August Walker says, hello,’ you snarled at her. Then changing your attitude to something more helpless you shouted, ‘Oh My God! I think she’s having a seizure, help, help!’
A crowd began to form allowing you to slip away, but not before giving the thumbs up to Mr. Instant Coffee who had posed as your waiter who had perfectly distracted the mark enough for you to poison her drink.
‘Went well, I take it?’ August asked when you bustled into the kitchen the next morning.
There was coffee waiting for you at your usual spot.
You threw your arms round his neck and gave him a hearty kiss in greeting.
‘Better than you could ever imagine!’ you crowed and left him in stunned silence.
Distracted by the noise coming from the upper floor, you looked up from the laptop. The thumping down the stairs had been sounding a little less clumsy lately, now that August had finally regained control over his healing limbs. You were glad for it, because it meant that the infamous August Walker was out of the woods and on the mend.
You got up, poured a fresh cup of coffee, and was just setting it down when August came into the kitchen.
‘Morning!’ you called brightly, like the little homemaker you fancied yourself to be.
Well, you fancied yourself to be the kind of homemaker who didn’t keep house, but made coffee and assassination plans. You turned the cup so that the handle faced August when he straddled the bench and sat down across from you.
‘Thank you,’ he said picking up the cup and drinking deeply.
Smiling fondly, you considered him a moment and looked at the fresh bandage on his ear.
‘It’s ear day soon, isn’t it?’
Ear day, as you called it, was literally when August got his new outer ear to replace the one that had been damaged. Contacts in one of the world’s leading biotech labs had been cultivating new skin and cartilage from his own cells and were ready for transplantation. August had been putting off the surgery, ever since the fire of killing off the IMF team had been lit. He wanted a clear conscience before proceeding with any additional cosmetic surgery.
August lifted his gaze, but not directly to you. He looked at a spot on the table which was still littered with papers and blueprints and your laptops and a muscle bunched in his jaw, alerting you that he was uncomfortable with this line of discussion. You were never one to back down from a subject you wanted to pursue, so you pressed him gently.
‘I think… well, I think it’s gonna be fine. The surgery will be fine. You’ll have a brand spanking new appendage and everything’s gonna be fine.’
You watched his eyes sweep the length of the table, in an obvious attempt to avoid looking at you.
‘You suffered no hearing loss, on that side, the skin is mending itself nicely and the doctors even said that there was no follicle damage. Those curls will be coming back in no time.’
‘I don’t care about that.’
‘Yes you do,’ you said with a tiny grin. ‘Yes you do, you care. If you didn’t care, you wouldn’t look like this.’
You waved an appraising hand in his direction.
‘August Walker, meet August Walker. He cares about his looks.’
‘I’m not vain,’ August scowled, putting the cup down and finally looking you in the face
You softened your teasing just a little.
‘I didn’t say you were vain. There’s nothing wrong with a man who looks after his appearance. It’s… sexy.’
That stopped him and a spark of pleasure brightened his face.
You continued to lay it on thick.
‘Come now, a good looking guy like you? And you don’t know it? I find that hard to believe.’
He snorted quietly.
‘Do you ever think something that you don’t say?’ he asked, lifting a dark brow.
You leaned in on your elbows.
‘There are loads of things that I think, that I don’t say. That doesn’t mean that I won’t say them eventually.’
August’s lips lengthened into an inquisitive smile.
‘Like?’ you repeated and decided to come clean. ‘I just said that you were sexy.’
You made an airy, dismissive gesture.
‘That’s not a new thought.’
You felt a chill manifest as a soft, insistent tingling that skittered all along your skin. Everything you’d hidden about your feelings for him was almost all the way out and you couldn’t stop yourself.
‘It’s not new that I’d do anything for the manifesto to be realised,’ you continued.
When August put down the cup, you reached out and clasped both hands over his.
‘That I’d do anything for you, August.’
The passion in your own voice stunned you. Surely, you had once again overstepped his boundaries.
First, it was kissing him without asking, and now this, though August didn’t seem bothered by your audacity. He turned his hands up to enclose yours.
‘And I reward loyalty,’ he answered, voice low and full of promise.
You drew in a long breath through loosely pursed lips, which August seemed to appreciate for his eyes lowered to your wet mouth. His own lips parted in response and you wondered if you climbed across that table and onto his lap, would it have been considered outlandish.
You didn’t think about any of that, as you stood up onto the wooden bench. With his handsome face brimming with delight, August held onto your hands and steadied you as you scrabbled across the table and landed astride his muscular thighs with a satisfied ‘ooof!’
He grimaced from the sudden pressure slamming down on his still tender leg and you were immediately contrite.
‘I’m sorry,’ you murmured, sliding your arms around his neck and curling your fingers into his shaggy curls. ‘I’m sorry. I’ll not play so rough next time.’
‘I like it rough,’ said August, running his hands over your hips to grip you close.
And then you kissed him, softly, fully, feeling his lips come apart beneath yours. Breathing him in, your thoughts ran wild.
I could get used to this. I could indulge in this all day. I could–
Then, ever a man of ill timing, Mr. Instant Coffee bustled into the kitchen, and it took him a moment to realise what he was interrupting.
‘Oh, shite, ok… uhh so that’s happening. Ok, great, but ah, you two… we need to get a move on. The car leaves in ten.’
And then he was gone, leaving you staring at the recently vacated kitchen doorway with your arms dangling over August’s shoulders. Reluctantly, you backed off of August’s lap and smiling, you cupped his cheek, pressed your thumb against the dimple in his chin and walked off to grab your travel bag.
It was back to the States again, the keys of Florida where Luther Stickell was vacationing on a secluded houseboat.
Stickell was not hard to find. His boat was moored in one of the farthest berths and was lit up like Christmas. He was having a party.
So much for keeping a low profile, you thought as you stepped off of the elegant cabin cruiser that had been rented for your mission. Your craft was berthed far enough away from his that no one in Stickell’s party could see August in his scuba gear, stepping off the low deck and into the dark water.
Standing on a nearby wooden piling, a pair of seagulls watched you suspiciously, the way birds do, and you lifted a finger to your lips, shushing them.
Holding a pair of strappy heels in your hand, you walked down the slatted dock between yachts and other smaller boats. You purposefully wore a skimpy sequined dress, in the hopes of talking your way into the party. There were casually dressed men standing on the dock and smoking and they stopped talking as you approached. They didn’t look like bodyguards, but just like regular blokes. Easy to manipulate.
‘Hullo!’ you called happily, flapping your hand at them in greeting, affecting tipsiness. ‘I couldn’t help coming over. I just came from another get-together, but I’m not done partying yet. Ya’ll mind if I… ’
You made a walking motion with your index and middle fingers towards the boat. One of the men smiled and swaggered towards you. He held out a hand which you took and he led you to the edge of the boat, then helped you down the stairs.
There were people milling about on the port deck and some people playing cards inside, but not a lot was going on. It appeared to be at the tail end of the party, where people were trying to drink the last of the booze and eat the last of the food before they were forced to go home. You spotted Luther at the card table. He was laughing around a huge cigar clamped between his front teeth and then he threw the cards down on the table with a triumphant cry. The men sitting there erupted in jeers and hoots as he raked in the pile of money from the centre of the table.
Scanning the area you then went down the stairs to the toilet and stood in the dark narrow corridor thinking about August swimming around beneath your feet as he planted bomb charges against the boat’s hull.
The thought of him down there was strangely arousing.
August was stronger now, strong enough to cause mayhem with his own hands, and it was all you wanted for him. You crouched by the toilet and dug about in your handbag, pulling out one of Ayami’s personal creations – something she’d called her ‘cherry bang bang’. You drew out a black device that was flat on the bottom and round on the top. It looked harmless enough, almost like a little cake, but you knew the massive power packed into that sweetly named bomb. She had given you and August a personal demonstration of the destructive power of her little sweets. You placed a kiss on its glossy surface and adhered it to the underside of the toilet bowl.
‘You are a gem, Ayami,’ you chuckled and pushed upright.
You made your way back to the upper level and moving about unnoticed you planted more cherry bang bangs, even adhering one to each of the fishing chairs bolted to the port side deck.
A chill settled over the harbour. The guests soon drifted inside and eventually left the party altogether.
You walked back to the rented cabin cruiser to find August waiting for you. His hair was curly and damp and there were pressure marks from the dive mask across his brow. You went up on tiptoes to kiss him. August caught you about the waist and wrapped you up in his arms, lifting you to deepen the kiss. Trapped like that against his big, hot body, your heart throbbed excitedly. If he could elicit such wonders from your body with just a kiss and an embrace, you couldn’t imagine what other magic he could work.
‘Ready?’ he asked, bending to put you back on your feet.
You nodded and tossing your shoes aside, went to sprawl on one of the long creme coloured couches. August started the engine and guided the cruiser out of the berth. When you were a safe distance away, he reached for your hand and helped you up to the top deck.
You could see the lights of Stickell’s boat twinkling in the distance. And after about twenty more minutes, once everyone was finally gone, Luther shut off the boat lights. You and August got up from your deck chairs. You held up the binoculars and adjusted them until the houseboat came into sharp focus. All you could see now was the red glow of Luther’s cigar as the man sat out in one of the fishing chairs and enjoyed the rest of his evening.
August put one arm about your waist, big hand splaying across your stomach, and held up the detonator with the other.
‘Two down,’ you said and he depressed the button.
The explosion was brilliant.
Through the binoculars, you watched the boat burn and sink, but August was more interested in kissing the back of your neck and exposed shoulders to pay attention.
‘Mmmm,’ you purred slyly, leaning your head back against his shoulder. ‘Did you like that? Was it good for you?’
‘So good,’ he answered giving you one last kiss before releasing you.
You opened your mouth to say something but the distant sounds of sirens broke the silence.
Time to go, you thought and the both of you disappeared into the night.
You didn’t want to go back to the safehouse right away. As nice as the country house was, being cooped up between those four floral walls drove you crazy. August paid for a few nights at the Shangri-la hotel in London so that you could shower in temperatures above lukewarm, and sleep in a broad bed beneath washing detergent scented sheets.
And when August made love to you on those soft sheets, your earlier conjecture regarding his sexual prowess, did not prepare you for the bliss you experienced with him buried deep inside you.
It was nearly nine in the morning, a few days after your expedition to the Keys, and propped up with a pillow under your armpit, you lay on your side across the hotel bed, a bowl of spag bol, and your open laptop on the white duvet in front of you. You were half under the thick covers and half out of it because the room was warm, but not uncomfortably so. August emerged from the adjoining bathroom, wearing one of the luxurious bathrobes and towelling dry his hair.
He tossed the towel across the footrest by the chair and stretched out on the bed behind you, looking over your shoulder to read the Miami Herald’s bold headline. He slid his hand beneath your tee-shirt and caressed the skin between your shoulder blades. How he figured out that you liked that, still remained a quandary, but you were glad that you didn’t have to ask for it.
‘Oh, dear,’ you said feigning distress. ‘Did you hear about the accident that happened in Florida? Tsk… such a shame.’
‘Is he dead?’ asked August, as he nuzzled your shoulder.
‘Yes, sir,’ you teased, reaching back to playfully push him off. ‘You are not paying attention.’
‘I am. I’m paying attention to what’s important.’
The implication of his statement drifted right over your head as you were too focused on proving him wrong.
He kissed your neck again and grunted when you jabbed him with an elbow.
‘Well, if you were paying attention to what was important, you’d know that…’
‘That Dunn is here in London,’ August finished for you and continued to lazily caress your back.
That shut you right up. How did he know?
‘Of course, you knew,’ you chuckled.
‘I suggest,’ said August, changing the subject and lifting his head to take your earlobe between his lips. ‘We take one more day here and then find him.’
As he spoke, August slid his hands beneath you, turned you away from the laptop and pulled you atop him. You wriggled with delight, and grasping the robe’s belt, you pulled the knot free and let it fall open.
‘Just one day?’ you asked, sliding down the length of his body to ease his cock into your mouth.
‘Anything!’ he gasped, the heat of your mouth robbing him of coherent through. ‘Whatever you want.’
You wanted at least two extra weeks after the mission.
When you woke hours later, August was gone. There was a note left for you on the nightstand and in his neat print he’d written, ‘Supply Run.’
You stretched under the duvet and tapped the stiff cardstock against your lower lip.
Supply Run either mean food, or guns and knowing August, it was probably the latter. You were just raiding the over-stocked minibar refrigerator when he returned to the hotel room, carrying a long black duffel which he dropped onto the chaise at the end of the bed.
‘Guns,’ you said aloud, looking up from the chilled box of chocolate.
‘What?’ he asked, shrugging out of his jacket.
You smiled and shook your head and switched on BBC World Service.
Unzipping the duffel, August asked, ‘what do you know about Sage Software?’
‘Nothing,’ you answered truthfully. ‘Who are they?’
‘They supply small business software. Dunn is working with them and hacking them.’
Taking the chocolates to the bed, you opened your laptop and searched the business. With a laugh, you rolled over onto your back and looked up at August with interest. He was smiling slightly back at you.
‘Well, what do you know?’ you said with amusement. ‘Sage is located in the Shard, which is… ’
August nodded to you and his grin widened.
‘Right downstairs,’ he finished.
‘Did you plan this? Getting a room here because he was downstairs?’ you giggled, when he leaned over to kiss you.
‘Of course. Leave nothing to chance, Princess.’
Well, that nickname was new, you thought, delighted.
‘What’s the plan, then?’
August stretched out on his back next to you and folded his hands on his belly.
‘He’s got an office on the 13th and is there most nights.’
‘Most nights,’ you repeated and waited for him to finish his thought.
Dunn was surprisingly easy to pick off. You had expected for him to have cameras and monitors and other high tech stuff to alert him to the presence of anyone who came unannounced to his office. And, you were surprised that /he/ was surprised when August quietly opened the thin office door and let himself in.
You stayed in the corridor and watched the scene unfold through the narrow decorative glass panel next to the door.
Dunn obviously recognised and remembered August, because he bolted out of his swivel chair and threw himself against the wall behind him.
‘I thought you were dead!’ you heard him shout before the silenced round splattered him across the frog poster that announced ‘work hard, play hard, live hard’.
You clapped lightly as August exited the office.
‘Well done, baby,’ you praised him. ‘But come on. I heard the lift bell. It would be stupid of us to get caught.’
All the little piggies had gone to slaughter. All except one.
Ethan Hunt was not a stupid man.
In fact, he was quite the opposite. He was cunning and clever and suspicious which were characteristics that helped him to remain one of the top Mi6 agents.
He also had a golden streak of very good luck and August Walker was just about to ruin that man’s whole career.
‘He went squirrely, ’ said Ayami who was pawing through a tin of broken Danish butter cookies from where she sat perched on the kitchen counter-top.
Two weeks after you returned from the Dunn business, Ayami just turned up at the country safe-house. Much to your delight, you’d found her one morning sitting at the kitchen table having a bagel and cream tea. And you knew why she was there. Things were winding up to the big payoff and the team needed to be as consolidated as possible.
‘What does that mean?’ you asked her but it was Mr. Instant Coffee who answered.
‘Means that he knew what’s good for him and went underground.’
‘Because all of his peeps were getting murdered,’ Ayami finished cheerfully and you half expected her and Instant Coffee to slap hands in a celebratory high-five.
August sat silently in his usual place, thoughtfully turning the small white coffee cup in a circle on the table.
‘Last time he was seen?’ he asked finally.
‘Park hotel, Berlin,’ Instant Coffee read from the reports supplied by the ‘boots on the ground’ team. ‘Been there for about a week, but he hasn’t really stayed one place for more than that. We should have moved earlier.’
‘No,’ said August, not looking at him, but at the cup. ‘No, we want to give him enough rope to hang himself. Let him get complacent.’
‘Do we have time to let him get complacent?’ Instant Coffee said. ‘I mean, the longer we wait, the more time he’ll have to burrow in like a fucking tick.’
You looked at Instant Coffee for a moment. He did have a point.
‘Okay,’ August replied easily. ‘You’re right.’
At that moment, your respect for August Walker increased ten-fold. That he was able to take in the opinion of the other members of his team was unbearably sexy. He may have earned a little leg over for later that night.
‘I’m going alone,’ August announced finally, drawing the sharp attention of everyone in the room.
You reined your own reaction because an emotional response in that instant would have been inappropriate. You knew exactly why August wanted to hunt down Ethan alone. Hunt had not only gravely wounded August’s body but also his pride. His revenge was personal.
‘That’s probably not a good idea,’ said Instant Coffee, obviously feeling confident that he had scored a few brownie points a few moments earlier.
August scowled and looked to you. Meeting his gaze, you nodded once.
‘August should face Hunt alone,’ you said to the room and then to him, added, ‘but I don’t think you should go alone.’
There was so much gratefulness in his eyes that you felt embarrassed and looked away. You didn’t want August to see the answering distress in your eyes. If the fight on the cliff side had been fair, and luck hadn’t been on Hunt’s side, August wouldn’t have lost. Tossing August over the edge was poor sportsmanship. You were afraid that Hunt would employ other clever tricks and defeat August for the second time. And now that August wanted to take on the IMF leader alone ensured that he would be left vulnerable to losing the upper hand.
You didn’t want to lose him again, but you remained silent. This was ultimately August’s decision and he had made his choice.
The two of you didn’t speak much on the trip to Berlin. There wasn’t much to say. You didn’t dare express to him your fears, because that would only serve to distract him with your possibly misplaced doubt. And distraction was the last thing August needed.
When he pulled up to a local hotel to drop you off, you stayed in the car, sitting quietly for a moment, unsure what to do or say. Sighing, you turned to him and reached to cup his cheek.
‘See you soon,’ you encouraged him. ‘Bring me a trophy.’
August nodded and you got out of the car.
Come back to me, you thought watching the car disappear in the afternoon traffic.
Your room faced the Berliner Fernsehturm and you could hear music from the festival going on in the square below. You took a long hot shower and stretched on the surprisingly comfortable bed. It wasn’t the Shangri-la, but it was charming and it wasn’t long before you fell asleep.
The room door thunking shut as if a heavy weight collapsed against it awoke you hours later. With a gasp, you shot upright and reached for your weapon. You couldn’t remember where the light switch was, so when you scrambled up from the bed, you backed up to the table under the window and jerked open the curtains to let in the artificial outdoor light.
The scent of sulphur and petrol filled the room and as your eyes slowly adjusted to the differences in the light you could just make out the bulky form sitting on the floor against the door. You knew that form as the impression of it was etched on your own flesh.
You put your weapon aside and padded barefoot across the hardwood floor, grabbing a towel and wetting it as you passed the small bathroom alcove. You crouched before the shadowed figure and put your hand beneath his chin. You lifted his face to the light and it was clear that Hunt had given August a run for his money.
You gently cleaned the dried blood from his mouth and chin, carefully working it out of his moustache and scruff.
You wanted to say something reassuring, something positive, but you were too overwhelmed with relief.
‘Well,’ you murmured, stroking his face. ‘I hate to see the other guy.’
August was silent and you hoped you hadn’t over stepped the line.
He then held up a small package wrapped neatly in butcher’s paper and tied with white twine. You took it from him, pulled the string and the paper unfolded to reveal your trophy. Holding it up to the light, it took a moment for you to recognise the carefully extracted evidence of Hunt’s death and you smiled.
‘Come on, you big brute,’ you said fondly, attempting to pull him up from the floor.
When August didn’t budge, you stopped straining against his weight and gasped with exertion.
‘You’re gonna have to help me here, babe!’
Groaning miserably, August managed to get his feet beneath him using the door and you to heave himself from the floor. You struggled to get him out of his clothes and under the soft yellow light above the sink you examined him. Big swollen bruises bloomed across his chest and back accompanied by several shallow scrapes and slashes. You wasted no time washing him up, patching his wounds, and getting him into bed.
Lying on his belly, August was still asleep when you woke the next morning. You went to the minibar refrigerator, withdrew your trophy and admired it in the morning sunlight. Your mobile beeped.
It was a message from Ayami.
‘Tell your boyfriend to be a little less conspicuous next time, ok?’ she’d written.
Curious, and glancing at August’s sleeping form, you rang her.
‘What’s that mean?’ you asked when she answered.
‘I mean that August didn’t need to leave that fucker’s burning corpse in the warehouse. He damn near burned down the place.’
‘He was obviously sending them a message,’ you answered, smiling gleefully, proud of your little murder puppy.
‘I can understand that,’ she shot back sounding uncharacteristically irritable. ‘But that also earned us more attention than we wanted.’
‘Is this something that needs to be taken care of?’
‘It’s already handled,’ she answered and some of her good humour crept back into her voice.
You sighed and relaxed, wrapping an arm about your midsection.
‘He’s not my boyfriend,’ you said after a moment with no conviction in your voice and she laughed incredulously.
‘When are you coming back?’ she asked, changing the subject.
‘I dunno. Depends on what August wants.’
‘Ok, you two lovebirds hash it out and I’ll see you… whenever.’
‘Thanks, Ayami. I love you!’
‘Get something from the Wall museum for me, ok?’
You disconnected the call and tossed aside the mobile.
Feeling a warm sense of well-being, you re-wrapped your trophy and stored it in the refrigerator again. Climbing into bed next to August, you lifted his arm, crawled beneath it, and curled your body against him.
August had exacted his revenge and you felt satisfied for him. But you weren’t sure what was going to happen now. The mission that had consumed so much of your year was over. You felt un-moored and a little panicked, but when August tightened his arm round you, your hamster wheel of thoughts scattered.
There was time to worry later, now in the heat of August’s embrace was peace and with a small smile still on your lips, you put your head against him and slept.
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