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Disclaimer: jake 2.0 and all related elements, characters and indicia © Roundtable Entertainment and Viacom Productions, Inc., 2003. All Rights Reserved. All characters and situations-save those created by the authors for use solely on this website-are copyright Roundtable Entertainment and Viacom Productions, Inc.

Author's note: I've never purposefully written R, and I'm not good at it, so I do apologise. The title is taken from the Latin phrase 'Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori', which means 'It is good and proper to die for your country'.

Pro Patria Mori
by Demon Faith

Kyle had been staring at the file for the past ten minutes, flicking the pages absently and avoiding Lou's eyes. He'd never seen Lou cry, and he hoped he would be spared that pain at least. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath.

"It has to be me."

"Kyle, I can recruit someone else..."

He looked up then and stared directly into her eyes, and she stopped.

"It has to be me," he repeated, softly, and she nodded. He stood carefully, suddenly feeling far too old, and held out his hand to her.

"It's been a pleasure working with you, Lou."

She took his hand formally and shook it hard, holding on a fraction too long. "You could come back from this, Kyle."

"The NSA can't risk my capture. I send the files, I take a pill. It's what has to be done."

Kyle knew that she was trying to reassure, to make it all easier, but she knew his duty as well as he did. He was the most qualified agent for the job—bar one, and there was no way in Hell that he was sending Jake out there. He had made that quite clear to Lou from the beginning. The thought that Jake...

He shook his head. No point dwelling on such things. Kyle released Lou's hand and nodded to her, before turning and opening the door. Where Jake was poised to knock, face ashen.

"You can't..." he whispered.

Kyle grabbed his forearms before he fell down, and walked backwards into Lou's office. He sat Jake in a chair with minimal fuss, and held onto him tightly.

"How much did you hear, Jake?"

Jake met his gaze, and his voice shook: "You can't...I won't let you..."

"Please, Jake, you have to understand..."

"Someone else, please, someone else. Me...I can do it!"

"NO!" Kyle shouted, shocking them both, but he leaned in closer. "I will not let you near these people. It's my job, it's the possibility every agent has to face."

Jake was silent then, but he didn't look away. Kyle swallowed, as he saw every raw thought flit through Jake's eyes, and knew that one or both of them was going to do something stupid. In Lou's office.

He straightened and tried to pull away but Jake held on, pleading with his eyes.

"It can't be you..." he whispered.

"It has to be me."

Lou watched, and knew.

His mind was reeling, random impulses and nanites throwing his whole world into chaos. Kyle had a mission. Kyle wasn't coming back. Ever.

He was vaguely aware that he had been directed to Diane's lab, whilst Kyle had gone to...prepare. God, what was happening? Kyle couldn't leave him; there hadn't been enough time. Kyle was...when had he turned into such a teenage girl? Kyle *meant something*, and Jake couldn't lose him, not now, not ever.

This was how Diane found him.

"Jake? What's wrong, what's happened?"

"Kyle has a mission," he responded dully, aware that there may be tears building in his eyes. Damn.

"A mission? Well, that sounds fairly normal. What are..."

"He isn't coming back."

Diane's gasp said everything, and Jake closed his eyes against the world, wishing it could all rewind. To yesterday, to a week ago, a month, a year. To their very first meeting. Jake would take his mentor's hand and he'd...he'd...he'd do something, because fuck the NSA, he needed him!

His own revelation shocked him and he sat in stunned silence, only his rapid heartbeat marking out time. He needed a solution, he needed options—it was not going to be this way. He wouldn't allow it.

"Diane, can you plant a tracking signal?"

Diane frantically looked around and then leaned closer, conspiratorially. "It could jeopardise his cover, Jake. He might...not even complete the mission."

Jake swallowed, hearing loud and clear what she didn't say. He thought hard—there must be something, anything, that could help. Jake refused to give up on Kyle, because Kyle would never give up on him.

"What about nanites?" Diane's eyebrows flew skywards. "No, just one, one nanite! No effects, just tracking—that would work, wouldn't it?"

Diane was about to protest, but she stopped, and her mouth formed a perfect O. After several seconds, she nodded vigorously and dashed to a console, typing variables into her simulator.

"According to our research with the rats, one nanite will only have minor healing effects, barely noticeable. Maybe a couple of faster reactions, but otherwise..." Her eyes shone as she smiled at him, and he had to smile back. "Yes, I can do it."

"Do what?"

Kyle stood in the doorway, an awkward half-smile gracing his lips. Jake stared at him, a thousand and one thoughts flooding his mind, but Diane saved him.

"Stay here a minute—I need to prepare a shot for you."

"What shot? I have everything I need already."

Diane blinked at him from behind her glasses, and smiled slightly. "New directive. Sorry."

She moved out quickly, and Jake was instantly grateful for her quick mind. He moved over to Kyle a little faster than he should, and was soon standing beside him, leaning against the bed.

"I don't want to do this, you know."

Jake laughed, but it was a hollow, bitter sound. "No, really?"

Kyle sighed softly. "If there was any other way, Jake..."

"Let me go!"

Jake stood in front of him, hands on his shoulders, but Kyle was looking at him in utter horror and shook his head instantly.

"No, Jake, I won't..."

"I have the advantage, Kyle. I have strength and speed, and computers. I could do this!"

"But I don't want you to!"

Kyle pushed Jake away, and he stumbled backwards. Jake saw his pain mirrored in Kyle's eyes. It couldn't end, not like this.

"It's my duty, Jake. No one else is going to get hurt. Promise me—promise you won't do something stupid."

Jake turned his back, and walked away.

There was no honour guard, no party. No one knew the details, just that Kyle had a mission, Diane was quiet, Jake was distraught. Many people said 'Sarah', some said 'Diane'—Jake didn't even notice. He just found himself watching Kyle, spending every available moment with him. He'd only had a couple of days to get used to it, to give him up.

It felt like seconds.

Lou chose to say goodbye in her office, formal words and significant looks. Diane hugged him unabashedly, and told him he was brave. Jake walked with him to the elevator, and let the door swoosh shut.

"I have nothing to say, really. I...don't want you to go."


"But I accept that it's...your duty." Jake looked at him and stepped closer. "Take this with you."

He kissed him without warning, a move neither fully expected, and held on as if they were drowning in deep waters. One hand slid up the taut muscles of Kyle's back, as a hand tangled in Jake's curls. Condemned man's last wish.

They broke apart reluctantly, as Jake held the door shut, Kyle leaning against him, breathless. The world spun giddily, and the moment felt like it could last forever. But it wouldn't.

Kyle finally stepped away and Jake released the door. "That's not the last, it can't be. that can be final."

Kyle nodded wordlessly, and stepped out of the elevator, crossing to the car. Jake watched him go, and didn't stop gazing until the car had disappeared off the limits of his vision. Then, he pulled out the KMD and smiled.

"It can't be the last."

It was the longest flight of his life. It shouldn't have been, not by a way, but every second dragged out to its full potential, and he wasn't sure he wanted them to. He had a mission, and he wanted it over with. Yet he wanted that kiss to stay in his mind forever and a day.

At least it would last the rest of his life.

Kyle pulled open the file again, and reviewed the pages. Documents gathered from every intelligence service in the world, fodder for an urban apocalypse—all in one computer in one Mafia laboratory. Send the files to Washington, magnet the lot and...wait.

He wondered if he'd see Jake when he closed his eyes, when the little white pill touched his lips—would it burn Jake's path across his tongue, bring memories of cold elevator, or stolen nights at Lincoln, another time in Mexico perhaps?

He'd understood duty from the moment he joined the NSA, he knew there was always a possibility he wouldn't come back. He'd known as he asked Jake to stick a knife in his throat, almost didn't understand why Jake's acquiescence wasn't instant, unquestioning. But Jake had been confused, even with his logical argument. Any other agent, and he would be dead.

Jake wasn't just any other agent.

'My job is to get you out of here'—and Kyle was angry to be disobeyed, for the danger to the mission. He was reeling from Mei Ling, and Jake had just calmly taken him out, telling him that he had to trust him. Kyle trusted him—one look at those eyes, and how could anyone hurt that man? He was too beautiful to feel pain.

Kyle shook his head, angry with himself. He had a mission, and he was allowing himself to become distracted. Jake wouldn't matter anymore—nothing would, he wouldn't even feel. There was no point dwelling on the past when there was no future to keep it relevant.

It was these thoughts that guided him down with the plane.

"Entering the facility now."

The tinny echo was so removed from Kyle that Jake could almost convince himself this was someone else. Yet he'd grown out of pretend. He listened for the sequence of numbers, the hesitancy before each key—typical Kyle, oh-so-very cautious. 'I could have done that'—bitter thoughts of a sour man.

"No resistance. Security...abandoned."

Jake let out a breath he was unaware he was holding, and Lou glanced at him. The whole room was tense, as with any mission, but Jake anticipated applause when Kyle relayed the data. And he would stand there, knowing.

Two muffled shots rang over the comm., and Jake straightened, but soft reassurance soon followed: "Guards removed. Entering hub."

Hub...Jake smiled faintly, remembering the day he was dragged back to IT to fix the mainframe. All hands on deck, and Kyle had come to fetch him when it had hit midnight and Jake still didn't have a solution. Kyle had brought bagels and coffee, and sat patiently as Jake had ranted about being the best tech in the building and still not knowing how to fix a simple power problem.

Kyle had asked, with utmost gentleness, if perhaps Jake had checked the power connections outside the computer. Following a cable for miles around the room had finally yielded a frayed wire. It was strange what the mind chose to recall.

"Starting data transfer. Jake, get ready."

He shook himself free of memory and sat at the console. They needed a fast transfer, and not even the NSA computers could assimilate data at that pace. Jake would have to be their supercomputer, and he couldn't afford to be distracted.

The bytes flew through his mind, and he sorted it automatically, pure reaction with barely a thought. It was a matter of seconds before thousands of gig were safely stored in the databanks.

"Complete. Des...destroying comm."

Jake looked up at those words, as the dull buzz of a dead signal permeated the room. There was a brief celebration, before the significance of that action sunk in.

"Jake, I want..."

"I have somewhere to be."

He felt everyone's eyes falling on him as he left, but he paid them no heed. In the corridor, he pulled out the KMD and looked at the screen, frowning. The nanite indicated a heartbeat, though one considerably slower than normal. Had Diane given him the wrong pill?

Jake shifted into fully-fledged panic, and ran down the corridor, knocking aside his colleagues like skittles. He dived into Diane's lab and shoved the readout under her nose. Her eyes widened, and she pressed a few buttons on the side, frowning.

"This doesn't make sense...he's alive! The's dealing with a head injury! Oh, Jake, he never got to take the pill..."

"You mean...he's still out there? A prisoner? Diane, we have to do something..."

"Jake, what are you saying?"

They both looked up at Lou, who was standing in the doorway, looking horror-struck. Diane wordlessly passed her KMD and Lou took one look before closing her eyes.

"Lou, he's alive. We have to do something!"

Lou met his pleading eyes, and thought for a moment.

"Get on a plane," she said.

Kyle woke up in a dark roomü and groaned. He tried to reach his pockets: nothing. He could smell blood, and realised sticky liquid was trickling down his next. That...wasn't good.

He tried to check out the room, but found his hands and feet bound with strong rope. Huh. What had happened? He had just finished the date transfer, unwired the comm., and was just reaching for his pocket. Hesitant and unsure, mentally calculating all the doors he would have to unlock and knowing it was far too many.

Then, sharp pain in the back of his head and he'd crumpled like wet card. Now, he was stuck on a cold floor with faintly sparking vision and the knowledge that he should be dead. He needed to be dead.

"Well, that's fucking remarkable, Duarte. No one's ever come round so fast from one of Bobby's blows."

Cheerful New York accent, and he wasn't expecting that at all. Mexican Mafia didn't look too kindly on American interference, but the man was here, so...

"I took over the facility. Those hot Spanish tempers aren't good for business. You think those fucks could tie their own shoelaces?"

Kyle knew that accent, he was sure—the cultured take on the epithet was strangely familiar. The man was clinging to the shadows though, and that was obviously calculated. Then, he stepped forward, and Kyle knew he was in trouble. Never show your face—unless you know the other man won't be able to tell.

Recognition sparked at the face, and Kyle sucked in a breath.

"Mark! But you died...years...and you..."

An agent. A dead agent, and Kyle knew he didn't have a hope in Hell of surviving this.

"I didn't know you cared, Duarte." The sharp blue eyes narrowed, and a cold smile spread over thin lips. "But you will. Of that, I'm certain."

Jake was going to shoot someone. And if someone didn't give him answers soon, it was likely to be himself.

"Explain to me," he grated out, "why I can't go to Mexico, find my boss and bring him back. This seems perfectly standard to me."

Lou closed her eyes briefly. "Director Warner thinks..."

"Oh no, don't, don't give me that!" Jake threw up his hands, staring at Lou incredulously. "This is *Kyle* we're talking about—he is valuable, he's...he's...we need to get him back!"

"Jake, yesterday he was expendable. What makes today different?"

He couldn't believe the words coming out of her mouth. His mouth fell open and his hands trembled with rage. Kyle...expendable...

"I don't know what you thought of him, but Kyle was never expendable. And I am not going to sit here whilst you write him off. Permission for leave, extended, and as far away as possible."

He met her eyes squarely, his face leaving no room for mistake, and Lou found herself nodding. He smiled grimly, and left with barely a sound.

The first punch sent him reeling, and the kick that followed knocked the breath out of him. Only fits and gasps now, as sharp blows landed one after another. He heard bones break, and it struck him for the first time that maybe Mark didn't want information. Maybe he just wanted revenge.

Not an ounce of finesse, nor giving him time to speak—just strong NSA-honed blows, designed for maximum pain and little else. Kyle tried not to think, but it wasn't helping. He thought maybe he was past help.

"You didn't even look for me, did you? Found a replacement easy enough. Is your pretty boy watching your six, Duarte?"

Kyle drew a breath to shout, but it was knocked out of him and he flew across the room, hands crushed against the wall. The rope bit deeper, but he was angry now, and staying there wouldn't be hard. If that bastard laid a finger on Jake...

"Ooh, angry now, Duarte. That pretty boy must be a good fuck to draw you in—Kyle Duarte, the Ice Queen." Harsh laughter followed, as Bobby laid a punch into him and Mark kicked him hard. "If you miss him, Duarte, I'm sure one of my boys could bring back...sweet memories."

Mark dragged Kyle up by his collar, and stared into his eyes. "You fucked me over, Duarte, and I've had time to think. Have you?"

A sudden drop, and Kyle's head met stone. The world flashed red, before the black swallowed him whole.

Jake plotted a flight plan all over the country and booked a dozen hotels before climbing into his car and just driving. He wasn't sure he was thinking straight; all he knew was that he had to get to Kyle.

He winced as he remembered Kyle's words—'Promise me you won't do something stupid'. He was pretty certain this probably counted, jeopardising his career and his life, but...he needed Kyle. It was that simple.

Jake tried to concentrate on the road, and not the tornado of memories wreaking havoc in his mind. Every jot of sense was carefully catalogued, and now it came back to haunt him with a vengeance. He wondered if the movie in his mind would ever leave him alone, and if he actually wanted it to.

He glanced at the KMD again, biting hard on his lip. Multiple injuries—none life-threatening, but definitely torture. He didn't know how he'd find Kyle, but he hoped it was soon. An NSA badge would get him nowhere except beaten in an alley, and he wasn't sure what else he had to work with. He was just a computer tech with a little enhancement—what could he possibly do?

"I guess we're going to find out," he muttered, as he neared the Mexican border.

Kyle woke into silence, and that was fine with him, because silence meant respite. For now, at least.

He lay perfectly still, trying to calculate what he'd broken and what the time was. He had more luck with the former—the sharp ruby pain in his chest, twinges from his crushed fingers and his right leg screamed fracture; he wasn't too sure about his skull. Breathing was difficult, but he was alive. For the moment.

Which, he supposed, was an upside. He certainly hadn't expected that yesterday.

The door grated open, and Kyle tried playing dead, but a swift kick to his chest brought a sharp cry to his lips. So much for that plan.

"Welcome back to the world, Duarte. We're going to have fun today."

Kyle tried to think of a witticism, but the throbbing of his head was impeding his sarcasm. He spat out some blood, and Mark started laughing. It was a sound that ground together his vertebrae and sent a cold chill right through his heart. It wasn't someone walking on his grave; it was a fucking stampede.

"As much as Bobby would like to beat the shit out of you, it doesn't seem to bother you too much. The NSA trained you good, Duarte."

Kyle didn't like the sound of that, but tried to keep his face neutral. As long as they didn't hurt Jake. He could live with anything, die of anything, as long as Jake was safe. Jake, who thought he was dead. And Kyle was glad of it.

He focused fully on Mark who was holding a syringe and smiling strangely. Kyle wondered what had happened to him all these years, what had made him so unstable. He'd always been hard, ruthless, but this was a whole new level. This was pure insanity.

"This, Duarte, is a little something I picked up in Ireland. You remember Ireland, don't you? Fucked-up place, where your precious cover was blown, where you left me to rot. At least something good came out of that hellhole—here, Duarte, this will show you the true meaning of pain."

Kyle tried to shift away, but he knew it was futile. The needle sank into his arm, and a sharp shot of liquid was barely an annoyance compared to every other protesting muscle in his body. Mark backed away, grinning again, and shut the door.

So, he waited.

Mexico was a pretty big place. Jake had a vague idea that Mexico City would be a plan, but the facility Kyle had been trying to get to had been a lot closer to the border, in the Sonora state. He could follow a trail from there, he hoped.

This was going to be harder than he'd thought, especially without the NSA's infinite resources and technology. He had to play hero all on his own, and he wasn't sure he could handle it. He needed Lou, Diane and, most of all, he needed Kyle.

So far he had found nothing but desert. He was meant to be heading for their state capital, but so far, it just looked like an extension of Arizona. Huh. Kyle always got really excited about Mexico, especially the last time they'd been. Well, excited in the Kyle sense: extra eyebrow lifting and little half-smiles.

God, he missed Kyle.

Heading into Hermosillo, Jake was surprised by all the industrial buildings. He remembered them being mentioned in the days before Kyle's departure, but their vast number shocked him. The town seemed far too beautiful for them all, but they sprawled around like lecherous ivy, seemingly choking the place.

He found a place to stay through luck, and settled himself uneasily. He didn't want to rest, but knew Kyle needed him awake and alert. Still, his sleep was restless, his dreams only of being too late, too stupid, too Jake.

There was no rest for him that evening.

The room was unbearable hot, but his fingers felt like ice. Every muscle ached, and Kyle was reminded of suffering chicken pox, being coddled and fed soup until the nasty blotches went away. His mother had soothed him with lullabies, and against all rationality, he thought he heard them now.

What was left of his logical mind screamed 'fever', but he was in no mood to listen. His eyes burned and tears streamed down his face though he desperately tried to contain them. His arm felt too heavy to brush them away, and salt crusted on his cheeks. What was wrong with him?

At that moment, he could wish for nothing more than a soft mattress and a warm blanket, soothing broth and a lullaby. With Jake there, yes, Jake. He would laugh at him, but it would be gentle, and his hands would soothe the ache, perhaps lips against his burning skin...

Delusional, he thought dully. He could hear laughter, but it was far away and it wasn't Jake. Once again, Kyle hoped he wasn't doing something stupid. It was his last rational thought before cool darkness dragged him away.

'Making inquiries' was different in America, Jake decided. There, you talked to a man in a holding cell until he broke. Here, with no authority and no cell, Jake resorted to more traditional methods that had worked since the dawn of time—one punch, and the threat of another.

"The NSA Agent—dead! Dead for days!"

"They took him, torture. He's dead!"

"No man survives that, not even a US agent. Long dead—go home!"

Jake had ignored all their assertions, but he still felt part of him die every time someone proclaimed Kyle gone. He wanted nothing more than to scream and call Diane, but he restrained himself, dug deeper, found out information, locations, names.

Mark Jameson, American. Low-level drug deals, then a takeover. Any criminal activity in Hermosillo, and he knew—he was probably behind it. He had taken over the facility Kyle had been trying to reach, and he must have him now. Though not for long, if his 'informants' were correct.

Jake shivered, though it was hot and his car had forgotten the meaning of air conditioning. Seated outside the huge building, he had yet to think of a plan. Every second of delay angered and frustrated him, but getting himself caught or killed was not going to help Kyle. He needed a plan, one where he could gain access to the area where Kyle was being held and in which no one would ever suspect him.

Jake pulled open the dash drawer, desperate for inspiration, when his tech toolkit caught his eye. Smiling slowly, he pulled out the small set of tools and stared at them for a moment, before looking over to the building.

Straightening his shirt, Jake grabbed the glasses Kyle had once left in his car, slipped them on his nose and walked calmly towards the building, toolkit in hand and gun tucked into his waistband. Yes, this was a plan.

The door smoothly opened before him, as a distant alarm wailed and a stiff-looking lady sat at a desk, stabbing at a keyboard in frustration. She looked up at him with confusion, then glanced at the toolkit in his hand. She spoke rapidly in Spanish, then, noting his confusion, changed smoothly to English.

"Mr Jameson sent for you?"

"Yes, I expert." He smiled coldly, wondering exactly what a torturer looked like. He'd only met one, and had been far too busy keeping him from Kyle to really note his sense of style. The lady seemed to accept him though, and she led him down the corridor and into a small antechamber. From there, he could see around five smaller rooms, all with barred doors, and two guards stood watch over the one directly ahead. They stood when he approached.

"I was sent for by Mr Jameson, regarding the...problem." Jake glanced meaningfully towards the door, as the guards looked at each other. Finally, one spoke.

"Mr Jameson is out on business. can start, if you want to."

Jake nodded curtly, and fought to keep his face impassive as they opened the door. He was alive, Kyle was alive...

His breath was taken in an instant as he laid eyes on Kyle. Barely resisting the urge to rush in, he walked in slowly, and allowed the door to fall closed behind him. He knelt down and reached out with shaking fingers, shocked at the heat radiating from the bruised and bloody form.

"Kyle?" His voice trembled. "Kyle, can you hear me? It's me, Jake. I've come...I've come to get you out."

He touched at his bruised face, and Kyle stirred slightly. His eyes flickered open, and he stared at Jake for a moment, before blinking.

"Jake? Is that you?"

Jake smiled tearfully—god, what was wrong with him?—and nodded past the lump in his throat. Carefully, he bent closer, suddenly wary of the camera in the corner, and settled his hand across Kyle's cheek.

"How badly are you hurt? Can you walk?"

Kyle shifted uncomfortably, obviously in pain and not entirely with it. His cheek was burning to the touch, and Jake could see blood staining his clothes in several places.

"No, leg broken. Just...leave. I'm...fine."

Jake laughed, but it was a brittle sound and threatened to turn into a sob. With utmost gentleness, he raised Kyle to a sit, noting every wince with guilt. Jake let him do this—he should be dead, and he, Jake, let him go.

"Y'know, I think...this something...stupid..." Kyle breathlessly told him, and Jake had to smile. He knew that they couldn't pretend for the camera anymore, and he looked straight up at it.

Concentrating, he let his mind flow forward towards the camera, surging through wires and circuitry until there were only ones and zeroes, everything green and scrolling, flicking past faster than he could process. He touched at a stream of code with mental fingers, and it shifted. He retreated, as he saw the security system collapse with orchestrated grace.

Alarms started wailing on the far side of the building, and he heard two pairs of running footsteps depart from the cell. Jake realised he couldn't carry Kyle over his shoulder—his ribs were already far too damaged—so he lifted him into his arms, and shouldered open the door, looking both ways. Jake wished he'd given Kyle his gun, but seeing the man's drowsy state, knew it would be useless.

Walking through the now empty corridors, he kept to the wall, listening carefully both ahead and behind. There were faint footsteps, barely detectable underneath the blaring alarms, and abruptly, the lights went down: the facility was in lockdown. Jake swallowed nervously: he hadn't thought this through, he had no way to protect Kyle...

"'s gone dark..."

Jake pulled Kyle in closer to his body, and spoke soothingly in response to the panicked tremor in Kyle's voice. "It's alright, the lights have gone out. We're almost out."

They finally reached the reception area, and Jake could see the light from the glass door. The receptionist was ducked behind her desk, and Jake took advantage of the opportunity, and ran for the door. He kicked in open, just as a shot grazed his shoulder, but he kept running.

More shots followed, but were just wide of his head. He was running straight towards his rented car, and he heard multiple guns firing now. He had no choice—he jumped. Kyle gasped, as they leapt over the roof and landed on the other side without a scratch. Jake gently released Kyle, propping him against the car before drawing his gun.

The car shook with every impact, and Jake knew he only had a second to aim. Listening hard, he pinpointed the gunmen—three, in a semicircle. He prepared to shoot. Then, the gunfire ceased.

"Duarte! Think you can escape that easily? I've waited too long for this."

Kyle groaned softly, and Jake turned to him questioningly. Kyle waved his hand vaguely, before sighing, "Mark Lawrence. Ex-Agent...should be dead. Doesn' me much."

"Your piece-of-ass can't save you, Duarte. What, you had tracking on you? That was stupid, wasn't it? Should've just offed yourself, but you're not man enough for that."

Jake bristled, but Kyle laid a hand on his arm. " annoy. Just...ignore him."

Jake nodded curtly, then realised he could hear something. Footsteps, approaching—damn, he was a distraction. He closed his eyes, concentrating all the nanites' attention on the targets.

He came up swiftly—one shot straight, into the man's face; another to the right by a tree; last grazing stone as the man ducked. Jake sank back down, breathing heavily and cursing his idiocy. He could've gotten Kyle killed by falling for such a simple distraction.


"Two. One left. I'm...sorry."

Kyle looked at him incredulously. "You did good...Jake. more."

"Nice shooting, *Jake*." His name sounded like a leer, and he shivered. Kyle tightened his grip on Jake's arm. "But I can have reinforcements here in seconds—I'm going to take back what's mine. And you'll be a bonus prize. A man with your potential...would be such an asset."

Jake swallowed, but pushed the words out of his mind, listening to the directionality of the voice. He heard the gun cock, and knew Mark was about to shoot. Grounded by Kyle's hand, he rose quickly, and fired three shots. He briefly saw the three shots lined across the man's head before the body fell back. Dead. Kyle's torturer was dead.

Jake dropped the gun—it would be traced now, no point keeping it—and yanked open the passenger side door. Placing both arms under Kyle's shoulders, he helped him sit in the car, though the pain was clearly gnawing at him constantly.

"I'm...calling Diane. She'll be here real soon. I have...some Tylenol."

Jake shook out a couple of pills into Kyle's hand, and he just managed to swallow them dry. Jake noticed the slick of blood in his mouth, and grimaced. He swiftly shut the door, and ran round the other side, leaping into the driver's seat. He raised his hands to the wheel, and then pain flooded over his shoulder.

Staring at the bullet graze and the blood welling over his shirt, he gritted his teeth and started the car. He drove like a maniac, but the hotel wasn't far and they soon reached the street. Jake sighed, thankful that he'd thought to leave the fire exit open. Lifting Kyle from the car, ignoring his shoulder's protest, he moved quickly round the back.

There were stairs leading down from the exit, and they weren't hard to climb, even if his energy levels were through the floor. Carefully, he laid Kyle on the white linen, watching blood soak into the fabric with fear. He turned away to fetch his cell, but Kyle grabbed at his hand.

"God, you're hurt."

"No, it's just a graze. It's fine." Jake smiled with what he hoped was reassurance, and grabbed his cell before coming to sit on the bed beside Kyle. He took his hand without thinking and called Diane's direct line, watching as Kyle let his eyes fall closed. The phone only rung twice before Diane picked up.


"Diane, it's me. I have him, but I need you to come here quickly."

"Where are you?"

"Hermosillo, Mexico. Tell Lou. Please, I need you now. He's sick from something, and a broken leg, I think his ribs too."

The line echoed for a minute, before Lou's voice resounded down the line.

"We're bringing the medical jet. Diane can track you. I'm...proud, Jake."

Jake held the dead phone to his ear for a moment, before smiling and setting to work.

Kyle was dully aware of crisp linen settled on his aching limbs and a cool breeze drifting across the room. Opening his eyes slowly, he saw Jake wringing out a cloth in a bowl of water. It was then he realised his chest was bare, and his right leg firmly strapped to...what was that?

"Hey, you're awake." Jake smiled, then followed his gaze down to his right leg. A hint a colour appeared at his cheeks. "Uh...yeah, I couldn't find any wood so I took down the curtains. Does it hurt?"

The stiff material was actually quite soft, and Kyle shook his head, regretting it when he saw stars. Jake reached for some water and tilted Kyle's chin so he could drink.

"Yeah, don't do that. Some nasty wounds there—Diane's going to have a field day with you."

"I can't wait," he muttered, and Jake grinned again, though Kyle noticed it was shadowed. He swept the cloth across Kyle's forehead, then down over his chest to just above the ribs.

"We can wrap those now you're awake. Diane will be here in," Jake checked his watch, "just under an hour."

Kyle settled for a smile, and Jake bent closer, raising him slowly to a sit. He pressed the glass of water back into Kyle's good hand before picking up what must have one been a sheet.

"When did you last eat?"

Kyle took a slow sip, relishing the cool water, as Jake carefully wound the fabric around his battered ribs. It struck him that the room was spinning slowly, but Jake was there, letting him rest his arm across his shoulder. His still-bleeding shoulder.

"Jake, you need to dress your shoulder."

"You first."

Jake took a safety pin from his bag, something Kyle had insisted every agent should carry, and pinned the makeshift bandage in place. He tried to move away, but Kyle took hold of his arm with surprising strength and kept him in place.

"Let me see."

Jake sighed, and unbuttoned his shirt, carefully lifting the material over the shoulder. There was a furrow in the skin that was still leaching blood, but it appeared to have slowed now, already healing.

"See, no problems." Jake smiled again, but Kyle saw that his lip was trembling. He squeezed his arm hard, blinking back the tears in his own eyes, and closed his eyes. "Thank you."

"I wasn't going to leave you," Jake whispered, and touched two fingers to his chin, lifting his head and Kyle opened his eyes to the open face. Jake started to speak again, but Kyle raised his splinted fingers to Jake's lip, before removing them slowly and leaning forward. Jake came in to meet him, and placed a soft, sweet kiss on his lips.

There was no urgency here, just muted celebration, Jake wary of Kyle's injuries even as he steadied him with both hands splayed wide across his back. Kyle dropped his glass, and it spilled over Jake's legs, but he didn't break the kiss for several seconds, blinking stupidly at the mess.

They both chuckled softly, Jake still holding Kyle as they rested their foreheads together. Kyle finally regained control over his breathing, and heard his stomach rumble. "So, about that food...?"

Jake laughed softly, and reluctantly pulled away, settling Kyle back on the pillow. He brushed at his soaked pants in vain, whilst Kyle looked on with a mixture of guilt and mirth, before he reached into his bag for...a granola bar.

"Sorry, no haute cuisine here."

Kyle took the bar gratefully, and opened in with shaking fingers. He cursed the physical sign of weakness, but Jake just leant forward and laid his hands over his.

"It's alright. You're not superman, Kyle."

Kyle looked down at his hands, grumbling, "Says Mr Roboto."

"Dating yourself," Jake warned, playfully, nudging the bar towards Kyle's lips. He took one bite, before smiling faintly.

"Dating you," he said, voice low, and Jake blushed.

They were interrupted by a sharp knock on the door, and Jake moved over, obviously listening carefully. "Who is it?"

"Jake?" Diane's voice came back, and Jake swung open the door. "You're early!"

Diane entered, followed closely by Lou, who smiled at Jake's shocked expression. "I need to check up on my best team."

Kyle smiled to see them both, and Diane began to examine Jake's handiwork. "Well, this will last until we reach the airfield. Are you in pain?"

He shifted, and nodded slowly. "Jake gave me two Tylenol earlier, still hurts."

Diane laughed softly, as Jake and Lou both supported Kyle into a sit. "I'm not surprised. Most people would be passed out from these injuries." She prepared his arm for a shot of Morphine.

"I have a good nurse," Kyle said, resting his hand on Jake's arm, and Jake smiled back warmly. Diane's eyes flitted between the two, but she said nothing, just gave the injection with a half-smile playing on her lips.

"Okay, we can move you down to our car now. The airfield is not far, and Lou knows a shortcut."

"Why am I not surprised?" Kyle smiled, as Jake prepared to lift him again.

"We came in through the fire escape. You want to leave that way?

Lou picked up Jake's backpack and nodded, taking out her gun and straightened her bulletproof vest. Kyle noted that Diane was also wearing one discretely under her jacket, and thanked God for such well-prepared women.

Jake settled him into his arms with exaggerated care, and Kyle relaxed into the embrace. It was almost over. They were almost out, and he could forget almost-death, torture, taunting. He could forget it all with just these arms, or so he could hope. Right now, it seemed the most obvious thing in the world.

Lou slid out of the door first, with Jake and Kyle following close behind, and then Diane, who was also brandishing a gun. Kyle hated to see it there, and hated even more that it was necessary. Lou was just down the first step when gunfire rang out from below. Jake swung around to head back for the room when Kyle felt him jerk from impact, and he collapsed against the rail.

Breathing heavily, Jake continued to shield Kyle, as Lou and Diane returned fire. Kyle grabbed onto his shirt, as if he could will away the pain by the strength of his grip. Jake stared at her blearily, hand still covering Kyle's head though it shook with the effort.

Kyle saw Lou take a moment, find her targets and shoot methodically. One, two, three—they fell perfectly, and she nodded to herself, before turning back to check on her boys.

"Where are you hurt, Jake?"

He closed his eyes and bit his lip, before replying. "Back. Nothing...serious. We need to...leave."

Jake stood, a cry ripping from his throat. Diane moved to support him, as he staggered down the stairs. Kyle longed to offer comfort, but he had nothing to say. Jake had followed him to Mexico and now he was shot, and still saving him. Kyle felt...unworthy.

Lou opened the car door quickly, then covered them as they sat Kyle down, and Diane pushed Jake in so he was lying across Kyle's lap and the other seat. She took shotgun as Lou sat in the driver's seat, and started the engine.

Kyle pulled up Jake's shirt, as he balanced on his forearms across Kyle's thighs. Carefully, he probed at the wound, his other hand resting across Jake's head, soothing. He stared at the wound for several seconds, almost convinced he could see the bullet being pushed upwards. He wouldn't put it past the nanites, but at that moment, he was having a little trouble focussing.

"Kyle? Kyle! The morphine's making you sleepy, but I want you to stay awake. Okay?"

Diane's voice was sharp, and he opened his eyes, to see her smiling at him faintly and Jake's head turned in his hand.

"Yeah, keep it together. I need you here." A wan smile from Jake and Kyle was smiling as if all were right with the world: he needed help. Serious help. Or more morphine.

The car jerked to a halt, and Lou was opening the door even as Diane opened the other. Diane pulled Jake out, whilst Lou helped Kyle to a rough stand outside the car. He swayed violently, but Jake was soon staggering around the car, looking to carry him again.

"Jake, it's alright. The pilot can help. Just...get inside." Lou shooed him away, as a stretcher was brought out. Kyle almost collapsed with the relief, but Lou continued to hold him up. She was one strong lady.

"Did I ever tell you how attractive you are?" Were those words coming out of his mouth? When had he become this person? He heard her laughter in his ear.

"I think, Agent Duarte, that Jake wouldn't appreciate you saying that."

Lou gently lowered him onto the stretcher as his eyes grew heavy, and he realised that yes, now he was safe, now he could sleep. His last thought was that Jake would be all right. Please, let Jake be all right.

"Well, you're the only person I know who could take a bullet wound in your stride."

Jake sat up carefully as Diane applied a bandage, sitting back to admire her handiwork.

"It was relatively slow by the time it reached you, penetration wasn't more than a few centimetres. You're very lucky."

"How's Kyle?"

His eyes drifted back to the motionless form at the back of the plane, and he heard Diane sigh softly. "He's stable. The fracture was clean, so I've already cast it. The fever is a mystery—I've never seen a pathogen like this before. I've set up IV antibiotics and fluids."

Jake rose quickly, ignoring the flare of pain in his back and Diane's warning to be careful. He moved awkwardly towards the back of the plane, where Lou was sitting with a novel in her hand. She glanced up at him as he approached, a faint smile on her lips.



He sat on the opposite side of the bed, noting the raised part of the covers where the cast leg lay, and the bruises darkening on Kyle's face amongst Diane's careful stitches. Jake took Kyle's left hand in his, careful of the IV. He noted the soft gauze around his wrists, covering the rope burns that Jake hadn't been able to treat, and the padded splint over the middle and forefingers of his right hand. The treatment Kyle deserved, not some haphazard curtain work in a dingy hotel room.

"You did what you could, Jake. You kept him alive. It's all anyone could ask you do."

" I went in...without back-up, without Diane. It could've taken hours, maybe days for you to reach us. What would I have done then? I wasn't thinking, I just...left." Jake gripped Kyle's hand harder. "He deserves better."

Lou leaned forward, her eyes boring into his. "He deserves better than a government who would abandon him. He deserves better than to be tortured by an ex-agent we didn't catch." Her voices lowered. "And he deserves better than to left by those who should protect him. I left him, you didn't. Don't blame yourself."

He picked up on what she left unspoken, and met her gaze just as intensely. "It's not your fault, Lou. You were tied by the NSA."

"Besides, I'm here now." The rough voice drew their eyes down, and Kyle smiled faintly. "You can all stop taking the blame for it."

"You should be resting," Lou warned, but her voice was light, teasing.

"I should be drinking beer in front of the TV, but...our nation calls."

He shifted uncomfortably, and Jake reached forward to straighten his pillows. Lou tried to hide her smirk at the act of domesticity, and Jake dutifully ignored it. Once he was through blushing.

"How are you feeling?" Jake asked, striving to remove the red stain from his cheeks.

Kyle thought on this for a moment, before licking his lips. "Cooler. The pain's fading too, but everything's heavy and the room's loud, and bright..."

"You still have a fever, Kyle." Diane said, approaching their gathering with what Jake recognised as the KMD. "The antibiotics are fighting it, but it'll be a couple of weeks before you're back on your feet." Kyle started to protest, but Diane held up her hand. "Ah—no arguments. Jake's staying with you," Jake looked up at that, "and that is final."

Kyle and Jake exchanged glances, and reached an understanding, Jake's fingers tightening around Kyle's.

"Yes, Diane," said Jake, slowly, smiling, "I'll stay with him."