Almost Home

by Liz

Disclaimer: All Equalizer characters belong to Universal. I'm borrowing them for a while; no infringement is intended, and no profit is being made.
Thanks: to my beta, TAE for her commas, etc.!!

She hadn't seen him in almost three months and had barely heard from him, as well. There had been an assignment that took her from Paris to South Africa. He had been working tirelessly between New York and Washington, logging in long days with little sleep. But finally, her assignment ended and she came home. That day was a week ago and he wasn't at the apartment. His office wouldn't reveal his whereabouts. Even Robert didn't know where he was.

Thursday, she packed her bag and headed to Penn Station to take a bus to their getaway, as she liked to call it. It took two hours to get there, but it was worth it. Built in the late 1800s, it was originally a mill. Two years ago, she took a drive to get out of the city and stumbled upon it. It was in disrepair and was owned by the bank after the death of the owner. Immediately, she called a friend who was an engineer and he agreed to take a look at the house. He found it basically sound; just needing a new roof, and updated utilities. One month later, she owned it.

For the next six months, working closely with an architect, she redesigned the interior to work for the two of them. The three small bedrooms on the second floor were combined into a master bedroom and a sitting room. She added a sleeping porch off the back of the house, and combined the small kitchen and dining room into a comfortable kitchen with a table that could seat five, looking out into the forest that surrounded the house. She had the paint stripped from the intricate woodwork in the library and stained it a luscious walnut. Finally, she finished the basement, adding some practical amenities like a clothes washer and dryer, as well as some gym equipment. His favourite part of the getaway was the old mill itself. She had given that to him to use and design as he wished. He had had one wall replaced with thick glass, but left the large wooden beams untouched. There was a refrigerator, a Bang-Olufson entertainment system with an HD wide-screen television hidden behind a hydraulic wall panel, a large Rumsford fireplace, two comfortable chairs, and a large sofa with a coffee table. That was basically it. The mill connected to the main house through a corridor with thick stone walls and a rounded glass block roof.


He drove his Peugeot, listening to Chris Botti on the stereo. The clock on the dashboard glowed three a.m. The road was dark, the snow heavy, and not well-plowed. The news radio had said there were six inches on the ground with another six to eight expected. He had flown in yesterday, when only an inch had fallen, and then headed straight to the office, just leaving two hours ago. He went home, dropped his suitcase just inside the door, and found her note. He thought for a moment, looked at his watch, grimaced, and then decided to take the car and drive up to the house.

Finally, he pulled off the road and punched in a key code into a weather resistant box. The gate swung open and he drove through, waiting to make sure it closed behind him. He continued down the drive to the garage. The door opened automatically and he parked the car easily. Turning off the engine, he slowly got out of the car. He pressed his hand on a wall-mounted pad to the side of the door and heard the slight snick of the lock as it opened. He walked into the mud room and shut the door behind him. Carefully, he removed his overcoat and hung it up before walking upstairs to the bedroom and quietly opening the door. She lay on the bed, curled up under the comforter, her blonde hair spread on the pillow. He emptied the contents of his pockets onto the bureau and continued to the large walk-in closet, changing out of his rumpled suit and into a sweatshirt and khakis. He slid his feet into his moose hide slippers and left her undisturbed in bed.

Heading downstairs, he walked into the kitchen and wrote her a note; glancing at the wall clock, it read almost five o'clock. He set the note against the coffee maker and then walked through the corridor, looking up occasionally to see the snow on the glass roof, to the mill. He was exhausted, physically and mentally, from the last two weeks. He hadn't had a day off for months and he was just worn out. But he also knew that when he was tired like this, he often couldn't sleep. He poured himself a scotch, adding one ice cube, picked up the bottle, and turned off the interior lights. He pressed a button on a remote panel and slowly the landscape lighting started to turn on. He leaned over with great care and picked up another remote, this time scrolling through the music library until he found Yo-Yo Ma's Classic Yo-Yo. He gingerly sat in one of the comfortable chairs, sipping his scotch and listening to the cello music while watching the snow fall.

Jem stretched, lying in bed, watching the snow fall outside the large window. She looked at her watch and noted it was seven o'clock, although it was still dark in the early winter morning light. She got out of bed and changed her nightgown for a pair of sweatpants and a sweat shirt. She put her hair in a loose ponytail and went downstairs to make coffee. As soon as she walked into the kitchen, she saw his note. She read it twice, frowning at the sloppiness of the letters. It was his handwriting, but it was very loose. Fighting the urge to go find him immediately, she brewed her coffee. When it was done, she poured a cup and then went to the sleeping porch to check on him. The bed was empty, so she headed to the mill.

She entered the building silently. Walking around the sofa, she saw Control, lying on his back; the wool blanket had fallen on the floor. The bottle of scotch was all but empty. A rocks glass was in his hand, nestled against the back of the sofa. His hair was long and curling at the ends. He had a two week's growth of beard. He was asleep, but restless. Resting her coffee cup on the table, Jem picked up the blanket and covered him from the shoulders to his bare feet with it. He moved away when her hand touched his chest. She reached for him, running her right hand through his long hair and stopped when her fingers felt stitches over his left ear. Crouching, she looked at him closely. There was swelling over his left eye and she saw makeup under the eye as well. She reached her hand down to his chest, pressing softly to feel his breathing.

Suddenly, Control sat up, fully awake. Jem lost her balance and fell backwards to the floor. He stood up quickly, his right hand immediately going to his ribs. He reached back with his left hand and retreated away from her. Slowly, she stood, her hands open, palms facing him, at her side. He stopped when he reached the wall. Control leaned over, giving in momentarily to the pain in his side.

"I miss you," Jem said, her voice just above a whisper.

He straightened to look at her. His eyes betrayed his pain and fatigue. She walked towards him, very slowly. He lowered his eyes, staring at the floor, trying to get his head around the pain. Reaching for him, she felt him pull away, and she let him.

"Please, Jim," she said, her voice now a whisper, trying very hard not to cry.

She only called him by his Christian name when they were alone. He heard her tone and her pain. He stopped and stood still, breathing as shallowly as he could, trying to evade the throbbing in his chest. He looked at his feet. Very gently, she touched his right cheek and kissed him. His lips were hot, not warm to the touch. Frowning, she gently took his right hand and guided him, first to put on his slippers and second to head back into the main house. He followed slowly; almost like a zombie. Jem led him up the stairs into the master bedroom and then the bath. She opened the medicine cabinet and took out his pain pills. Shaking out two, she closed the small amber bottle and put it back. Filling a glass with water, she handed him his meds and watched as he swallowed them down. He handed the glass back to her as he slowly walked back into the bedroom. He stopped, swaying slightly. She was by his side swiftly, guiding him to the bed. He sat on the bed, grimacing. Jem knelt in front of him and took off his slippers before helping him out of his trousers.

"Jim, this is going to hurt," she advised.

"I know," he replied, his voice rough and low.

He raised his arms above his head and subconsciously started to pant against the pain in his chest as she removed his sweatshirt. She had seen many bruises and scars, but not like this, and not on him. She forced herself to remain detached. Jem helped Control lay back in bed and pulled the sheets up to cover his thin frame. His eyes were closed, sweat dried on his forehead and upper lip and he tried to relax into the pain medication. Five minutes later, he was asleep.

Jem left the door open and walked downstairs. She picked up the phone and dialed a well remembered number.


"Good morning, Robert,"

"Ah, Jem, good morning," Robert McCall said, relaxing somewhat as he stood in his kitchen, sipping his cup of tea, and leaning back against the counter.

"He's back; battered, bruised, exhausted, and in one piece, more or less. We're at the getaway." She said, quickly.

"I see. When he awakens, have him call me, would you? I'd like to come up." Robert said, more dramatically than normal.

"Sure, I just gave him some pain pills. He got in around five this morning." Jem said, smelling the coffee in the kitchen and realizing suddenly that she really needed a hit of caffeine.

"Ah, well, I look forward to speaking to him after lunch, then. Take care, Jem."

"And you, Robert," Jem said, hanging up the phone.

She walked to the mill and tidied up; folding the blanket and straightening the cushions. She turned off the stereo, although it had long since finished its song list. Jem took Control's scotch glass to the sink and washed it. Looking at the panel on the wall, she saw the landscape lights were on. After a few keypad strokes, the computer was back on schedule, planning on turning the lights on at dusk. Finally, she picked up the scotch bottle and her coffee cup and headed back to the house. She refilled her mug and left Control a note that she was in the basement, working out.


He woke up, confused, sore, thirsty, and only slightly less tired. Sitting up, he reached reflexively for his ribs and then shifted his hand to his head, which had started to pound. He sat until the pounding dissipated somewhat, before attempting to put on the sweatshirt and khakis which lay neatly at the foot of the bed. Finally, he was dressed and walked slowly downstairs. He heard some soft music and the faint smell of a fire and walked to the library. Jem was curled up in a chair, with Miles Davis playing in the background on the stereo, reading a book. His footsteps were silent on the rug. He reached his hand to the wall and knocked. She looked up quickly and smiled. Setting her book on the table, she stood and walked to him.

"Are you feeling any better?" she asked.

"A little, yes." He said, pulling her into a gentle embrace.

"I called Robert. He'd like to talk to you. I think he needs to see you."

"Yeah, just withdrawals," Control said, with a slight grin. "I'll call him. I need to eat something, first."

"Oh, all right. Let's go forage in the kitchen. What are you hungry for?"

"Something easy, soft, and quiet." He said, following her.

Remembering the stitches she'd felt, she nodded to herself.

"Spaghetti, maybe? With sauce or just butter and cheese?" she suggested.

"With sauce would be fine." He said, slipping into one of the chairs at the table, and looked out at the falling snow.

Subconsciously, he shivered, groaned, and crossed his arms. Jem looked at him and made him a cup of quick tea, as Robert called it; water boiled in the microwave and poured over a tea bag. Not real tea, by British standards, but good in a pinch. She set the mug in front of him and touched the wall-mounted Bang & Olufson CD player. Soon, Yo-Yo Ma's cello filled the kitchen and they both retreated into the music.

"Jim, here's your spaghetti," Jem said, setting the bowl in front of him and startling him slightly.

He smiled and slowly picked up his fork to eat the hot pasta. It was hot and he felt the first mouthful travel down to his stomach. Control got through half of his meal and then set the fork down. He stood up and silently walked over to where she was sitting, reading a book in the pale afternoon light.

"Thanks, I really have to sleep. I'm sorry," Control said, not able to lean over to kiss her.

She got to her feet and gently cupped his face in her hands. Kissing him softly on the lips, she nodded, watching him walk as though every step was an ordeal. He reached the small hallway at the top of the stairs and continued to the bedroom. She heard the door close and started to work in the kitchen. She saved his pasta and then she started to do the dishes. Finishing them quickly, she picked up her book and headed back to the library, stoking up the fire again.

He saw her clearly; her almost black hair, wavy and uncontrollable; much like her. It was an easy assignment; get her out, and yet from the time he entered the country to the time he left Turkish air space, the mission had been out of his control.

He relived the entire mission in a dream, especially the end, feeling the pain four times as much as when it really happened. Finally, the pain woke him, and just left him anxious and uncomfortable. He put on socks, picked up his cell phone, and walked quietly down to the mudroom. He put on his gators, Sorrels, cap, scarf, and finally, his parka. He tucked his phone into an outer pocket so he could hear it, picked up his glittens and walked out into the mid-afternoon squall. He knew the property well even in this near whiteout condition. Control walked down to a small open lean to, looking out onto the lake. The bench was protected from both wind and snow by its roof and slatted sides and he felt almost warm watching the snow in the waning light. He let himself float; not thinking about Istanbul, or Tima, or any of it.

"You'll catch your death, you know?" a familiar voice said to his right, breaking his reverie.

"I'm fine," Control said, looking around him, seeing the landscape lights were now on, wondering truly how long he had been sitting there.

Robert walked into the lean-to and sat next to his old friend. He kept his gaze neutral, looking out to the lake.

"It's slightly after five, care for a dram?"

"Yes, I rather think I would, please," Control teased, mocking Robert's educated British accent.

Robert smiled at him in a gentle way, knowing from his contacts a bit of what went on in Turkey and knowing, also, that Control was a man very close to the edge because of it. He reached into his overcoat pocket and pulled out a silver hip flask. He poured into the top one perfect shot and handed it to Control, who drank it quickly. Robert reached again into his overcoat and removed a traveling humidor. Opening one end, he offered Control a cigar. Suddenly, Control stood and walked out into the dark blowing snow. Robert knitted his brows and protected his vital cargo again before walking out to join his friend.

Jem looked out from the kitchen window and saw brief silhouettes of her lover and his best friend, down at the lake lean-to. Robert had appeared half an hour ago and immediately went in search of Control. She noticed they appeared to be heading back up to the house. She turned on the stereo, and again Yo-Yo Ma played quietly through the almost invisible speakers.

Control headed back to the main house, Robert at his side. They entered through the mud room and started to remove their outer clothing. Jem resisted going to see them, sitting in the library, the fire roaring, sipping a lovely Merlot, while listening to Faades by Philip Glass. It was over seven minutes long, but she loved to hear the clarinet and the cello. On the coffee table in front of the sofa was a plate of Port Salut and crackers. To the left of the other comfortable chair was a dish of cashews, Control's favourite. She closed her eyes and listened to the music.

Control walked in his stocking feet to the library and stood in the doorway, listening to the music, gazing at her. Robert had dressed for the country; not in one of his perfect Saville Row suits but rather, in L.L. Bean corduroys and a thick Irish sweater from his sister. He was warm and comfortable. He walked up to Control and put a hand on his shoulder softly, just to announce his presence as he walked by and sat on the sofa. Control stood for a moment and then walked directly for the wet bar. He saw that Jem was drinking wine and looked at Robert for confirmation. His friend smiled a familiar smile and Control pulled another rocks glass from the cabinet. He filled both with Tullamore Dew and a splash of soda before walking towards the warmth of the fire and handing Robert his glass. Robert noticed the bruised knuckles on Control's hands and the larger bandage covering his left hand, for the first time. He took a sip of the smoky Irish whiskey and smiled. Control sat opposite Jem and stared at the fire, absorbing its heat. The three agents sat in a quiet room in a small town in New York State, during a snowstorm, happy as clams not to have to say a word. The music continued and Robert amused himself identifying the singers, as it was obvious that this was comfort music for Control and Jem.

They had been sitting for almost an hour and, embarrassingly, Robert's stomach growled and broke the moment. Control sat for a moment and then looked at him. A deep laugh seemed to start within him and then flooded forward, as if this was the funniest thing ever. Robert looked at him with some concern, as it was an embarrassment, not a humourous thing that had happened. And just as quickly, the laughter stopped, replaced by a chilling silence. Control stood suddenly and walked out of the room. Jem rested her head in her hands as she knew she didn't have the need to know to ask him what was going on. The only one who did or, rather, who could get away with it, was the man slowly getting to his feet to follow. He walked over to Jem and crouched in front of her.

"He'll be his old self, soon. Just give him some time." He said, gently placing his hands on her shoulders.

She raised her head and looked at him, her eyes red; cheeks showing tear tracks. He kissed her forehead and then stood up. Robert took their whiskey glasses and filled them before heading to the mill. He walked slowly through the corridor, watching the light try to pierce the snow on the glass roof. Control was standing at the window, leaning on the column that separated the two giant panes of glass. Robert went up to him and handed him his glass. They stood, shoulder to shoulder, sipping their drinks.

Robert turned around and walked back to the fireplace and struck a match to start the pre-laid fire. He sat down in one of the chairs and waited.

An hour later, Control turned from the window and went to the cabinet by the refrigerator. He opened the cabinet and removed a bottle of Jameson 12. Pouring a generous amount in his glass he brought the bottle to the coffee table before sitting down opposite Robert. He looked at him; Robert's eyes betrayed no emotion. Control looked again into the fire and sipped his drink.

"I flew to Paris, stayed a few days and then took the early train to Brussels."

Robert straightened up a bit and devoted everything to the story he was hearing.

"I made my connection and continued on to Istanbul. Stayed at The Sultanahmet Palace,"

Robert nodded, remembering it fondly.

"She was in the Old City, it should have been easy," he started, his voice soft and hard to hear.

"What happened?" Robert prodded.

"My local contact was Lance, yeah, I know, too many western TV programs." Control said, noting Robert's look.

"He was twenty-one, maybe, and he was my contact, the one to lead me to her." Control said, looking into the fire.

"What was the mission?" Robert prodded, knowing the answer.

"It was an escort. I was sent, well you know why." Control answered.

"Jesus, Robert, it was like a Quentin Tarantino film." Control said, standing suddenly.

Robert looked at Control, who stood, pinching the top of his nose as if to stave off a headache.

"You know, when they recruited me, they gave me the name, Control. They said I had nerves of steel or, rather, no emotions." He said with a short laugh.

"We both know that you are a passionate, caring man. The job dictates you wear a mask, hiding your feelings."

"I suppose,"

"What happened?" Robert asked again.

"I was set up. Tyler Hamilton set me up."

Robert sat back in his chair and remained motionless, temporarily stunned. Control had just accused the head of European Operations of trying to kill him.

"Go on," Robert prodded after a mouthful of whiskey.

"Lance met me at the hotel and together, we met Tima at that old mosque with the blue floor, you remember?"

"Yes, I remember."

"We walked out to the square, sat at a café, drank some very good coffee and revised the plan. After our meeting, we split up and I went to have lunch with an old friend. The plan didn't start until rush hour." Control said, standing at the window.

"You saw Hannah?" Robert asked, hoping his hands would stay steady while he filled their glasses.

"Yes, Robert," he said, turning to look at him.

"How is she?" Robert whispered.

"She's good, Robert. The girls are grown and out of the house, but still live in Istanbul. She looks good."

Robert nodded, not trusting himself to speak.

"I picked Tima up at a bazaar in the Old City and we headed on foot to the train station. We were almost there when we were attacked."

Robert looked up sharply, his attention back to the present.

"I figured they were just punks looking for my watch, but they were pros, Robert. One had a knife and the other was bare-handed. We won, but not without injury. They sliced my arm and nicked my hand pretty good. Tima was fine. We continued to the train station and while she bought tickets to Zurich, I went to the toilet to check the damage. She went to the first class lounge. My arm hurt like hell, but I got the bleeding under control and the cut on my hand was an annoyance. I met up with her and we waited the hour for the train. We sipped coffee and ate cakes, trying not to be nervous. Twenty minutes later, I spotted them. They were Agency guys. I didn't know their names but I recognized their faces. They weren't there to help us. I escorted Tima out of the terminal but they were discreetly behind us. We started running and managed to lose them in that bazaar on the west side of the station. I hot-wired a Fiat and drove."

Robert smiled at the thought of his intellectual friend hot-wiring a car and then sobered, thinking of a time ten years ago, when neither of them would have thought twice.

"I had my Sig and that was it. She was unarmed. I drove, they followed, and night fell." Control paused.

He ground the meat of his hand into his eye, again seeming to try to push a headache away. He walked to the coffee table and poured himself a fresh whiskey.

"I don't really know what happened. I do know that I woke up, in the snow, under a thicket, hurt, cold and alone. I managed to stand up and in the shadows from the street lamp, saw the car, or rather the remnants of it. It had caught fire. Tima was still in it." He said, sitting down finally, opposite Robert.

Robert closed his eyes at the image and sipped his drink.

"I crawled up to the road and started to walk. I didn't know where I was. My watch had been broken on impact and its face read," Control stopped and lifted up his sleeve to look at his Tag Heuer. "Eight o'clock,"

"I saw a sign and sat down on the rail at the edge of the road. I called Hannah; I knew I couldn't trust anyone in the company. Then I passed out."

"I came to when she started to speak to me. She was scared, which, to be honest, scared me. She helped me into her car. I woke up again at a farmhouse. She kept me alive, Robert, both mentally and physically. I had the knife wounds, I had been shot and beaten and left for dead in the snow."

"And you are positive Tyler set you up? That's a serious allegation."

"I stayed in Turkey for two days and then started the trek back to New York. I saw Gerhardt in Berlin, Rene in Paris, and Trevor in London. They all had heard rumblings of a power play. They all knew the agents. I called a power play of my own and flew home Wednesday."

"What have you done?" Robert asked, a cold feeling coming over him.

"Hard to have a power play when the quarterback is on the sidelines." Control said, his voice chilling.

The two men sat, drinking their whiskey in front of the fire when Robert's cell phone rang. He looked at the name on the display and smiled.

"Hello, Mickey,"

"Hey, McCall. Are you with our friend?"

"Yes," Robert answered, his brows knit in concern.

"Okay, whatever happened in Turkey and whatever memo he sent has the whole place in an uproar. The Director is here, looking for him."

Robert looked at his friend, who sat in his leather chair, his eyes closed, his face pale, his right hand clenched in a fist.

"I understand. Should we be ready?"

"I don't know, McCall. I honestly don't know."

"Thanks, Mickey. I'll be in touch." Robert said, closing his phone.

"Have the vultures arrived?" Control asked.

"Yes, apparently,"

"What time is it?"


"Let's get you fed. I need some Aleve." He said, standing slowly.

Control stood for a moment and Robert watched the obvious pain he was in. He walked to him and gently embraced him. He was surprised at how thin Control had become in the last three months since Jem was away.

"Come on, let's see what we three can make in the kitchen." Robert said, sliding his arm over his friend's shoulders and walking back to the main house.

It had been almost an hour since Robert had followed Control into the mill. Jem had run the gamut of emotions from sadness to anger and back again. She had moved to the kitchen, knowing at some point Control would want to eat. She pulled three chicken breasts from the freezer and used the microwave to defrost them. Dousing them liberally with a lemon ginger marinade and then returning them to the fridge, she stood in front of the open door trying to decide what to have with the chicken. Five minutes later she decided on new potatoes and edamames. She prepared everything and also put two bottles of Sauvignon Blanc in the wine cooler before returning to her book and fireplace in the library.

They walked into the library and Jem was asleep, the book fallen to her lap. Control walked up to her and, with great care, knelt by her side. He reached for her face, caressing it with one hand. She murmured and moved into his touch before waking.



"You fellas ready for some dinner?"

"Famished," Robert remarked.

Jem stood and watched her lover slowly get to his feet, grimacing the whole way. She pulled his face to hers and gave him a kiss. He smiled briefly before leaving the room. Robert held his hand out to her.

"Come, let's make dinner," he said.

"Actually, things are well on their way. I need to turn on the oven. Would you start the potatoes?"

"Certainly," Robert replied, turning on the burner beneath the potatoes.

"Robert, how is he?" Jem asked her back to him.

"He's hurt mentally and physically. He was betrayed. For the details, you need to speak to him."

She nodded before walking to the table to set it. Robert leaned against the counter and watched her. He remembered when they started dating. He was against it, of course, as she was ten years his junior and a colleague. But, when he saw them together, he saw the magic.

Control walked in, his face paler than normal. She looked at him and took a double take. Walking to him quickly, she took his hands.


"No, I just don't feel well. General aches and pains."

"Control, did you see a doctor in Turkey or was in just Hannah?" Robert asked, concerned.

"I don't know, Robert, honestly."

Robert pulled out his cell phone and made a call. Thirty minutes later, the house phone rang. Robert pushed a button on a wall panel and waited. The doorbell rang and he went to answer it. A small man entered the foyer. He, too, was dressed to be in the country, except for a large bag and knapsack.

"Jonathan, this is Bob and Donna."

Control and Jem smiled.

"Sir, I need to examine you," Jonathan stammered.

Control nodded and led him to the bedroom. Jem looked at Robert and then gave him a hug.


"No problems. Shall we continue with dinner? What about wine?" Robert asked, his stomach growling again.

"Why don't you have a slice of cheese while we wait for him?"

Robert smiled, and cut himself a piece of the Port Salut from the library.

"Bob, Robert explained to me that you were in a car accident and did not receive proper medical attention. Is that accurate?" Jonathan asked, opening his bag.


"How many days ago?"

"A week, give or take," Control hedged.

Jonathan shot him a look but remained silent. He didn't like his patient's pallor, nor the sweat that had appeared in his hair line.

"Bob, strip to your shorts. I know you'll be cold, but I'll be as fast as I can."

Control stripped to his shorts, moaning slightly when he had to bend or twist. Jonathan started his exam with the stitches over Control's ear and ending with the removal of shards of glass in his hand. He bandaged, cleaned and fussed over every injury. Finally, he instructed Control to get dressed as he wrote his notes.

"How old are you?"

"Fifty two," Control replied.

"You're too thin. When did you eat last?"

"I had some spaghetti for lunch."

"Good start. Let's go down and join the others."

"Jonathan, I have a killer headache. It doesn't feel like a migraine but I'm nauseated as well."

"You have a concussion, Bob. You were hit on the head at least twice, once requiring stitches. Your back is out of alignment. You were shot in the shoulder, miraculously missing anything important. Your torso is a mass of bruises indicating you were beaten. Your knuckles are swollen and you have defensive wounds on your hands and forearms, so you put up a helluva fight. I would imagine your entire body is killing you. I can't believe you flew back from Europe and then drove up here without passing out. You are very strong, but you need rest, now. I want you to try to eat something before you take the pain pills I'm going to give you. You need the calories and the food will help you sleep as well. Come on, let's go downstairs."

They entered the kitchen just as Robert and Jem were serving dinner.

"He'll be fine. Rest, food, quiet, and some painkillers to ensure the former will happen." Jonathan said, setting the bottle of pain killers on the counter.

"Thanks for coming, Jonathan,"

"Anytime, Robert. Nice house." Jonathan said, slipping on his overcoat and heading out the door.

Control sat at the table, his head supported by his left hand, his right hand in a fist. Jem sat next to him, her hand slipping below the table to give his leg a squeeze. He smiled slightly as Robert poured two glasses of wine. He gave Control a glass of water and then read the pain killer instructions.

"You need to eat something before you can have these, they're very strong." He said, sitting at the table.

"Thanks, Robert." He said, before picking up his fork and slowing trying to eat something.

"No problem,"

They ate together, Jem and Robert keeping a close eye on Control. He finished half the chicken before stopping entirely.

"I can't," he said softly.

"Okay, okay, no problems. Take these pills and then we'll get you to bed." Robert said, his voice matching in volume.

He shook out the prescribed two pills and put them in Control's hand. With a shaking hand, Control took a mouthful of water and swallowed the pills. Slowly he stood and headed upstairs with Jem right behind him. Robert looked at the dishes and took them to the kitchen, cleaning up.

Jem got him into the bedroom and sat him on the bed.

"I think we've done this before." He said softly, his words beginning to slur.

"Yes and it hurt before, but I think now you won't feel it."

"I'm tired," he remarked.

"I know, sweetheart." Jem said, reaching for his pajamas.

"I don't want to wear p.j.s, tonight," he complained.

"I understand, but I think you'll be cold. Please, would you do this for me?"

"Okay. God, I am so tired." He said, getting into his pajamas before lying back on the bed as she covered him with the sheet and blankets.

"Just relax, Jim, I'll be up soon."

"Jem, I love you," he said, his eyes closed, as his mouth slacked from sleep.

"I love you, too," she said, kissing his forehead.

She made sure he was tucked in and turned off the lights, before walking downstairs.

"No problems?" Robert asked, hand drying a wine glass.

"No, no problems. Will you stay the night?" Jem all but blurted out.

Robert carefully set the glass on the counter and gently embraced her.

"Yes, I will, thankfully. Let's finish the dishes and pour ourselves a brandy before we go to sleep. We both need to relax."

Jem smiled at him while returning to the task at hand. They cleaned the kitchen, saved the leftovers, and ground coffee for the next morning. Robert walked to a cabinet and removed two lead crystal snifters and then filled them half-way with brandy. He handed her a glass and then settled his hand firmly on her waist, walking side by side to the library. The fire was low but still burning. Robert set his glass on the coffee table and then put on one more log. He sat on the sofa next to her, picking up his drink and settling his feet on the table. She smiled and sipped her drink.

"Uhm, Jem," Robert started.

"Yes, Robert," she replied, turning to look at him.

"I think I need to tell you what has happened. We may have visitors." Robert said and then proceeded to tell her the Control's story.

"And Mickey said the director was at the New York office?"

"Looking for Control,"

"Well, that doesn't bode well, does it?" she said, taking a large gulp of her brandy.

"Does he still have the closet in the basement?" Robert asked, seriously.

"Yes, fully stocked as if he knew this day might come." She said quietly.

"The alarm system is active?" Robert asked, his mind now going through the checklist.

"Yes. Did you put the Jaguar in the garage?"

"Yes, I did,"

"Then it is protected as well. Robert, we are one step short of Fort Knox. Any system fails, there are triplicates in place and a different audible alarm goes off. Last year, he even put in a panic room. Look, I'm sorry. It's been a long day and I need to go to bed. Everything is set up for you in the sleeping porch." Jem said, standing.

Robert stood as well and embraced her. She surprised him by kissing him on the forehead as he had done to her earlier.

"Thanks for being a loyal friend, Robert. You are one of a kind."

He blushed and remained silent, watching her leave the room. Robert sat and looked at the fire, sipping his brandy. He pulled out his phone and pressed a speed dial number.


"I think you should come up. I'll see you in a couple of hours. Take the Ford." Robert said before hanging up.

He walked back to the kitchen and poured himself another brandy, trying to keep the tension at bay.

Jem walked into the dark bedroom and was shocked at the absolute silence. Control normally breathed loudly, not a snore really, but a need for oxygen and occasionally talked in his sleep; unintelligible gibberish. She walked to the bed and turned on the bedside light. He was lying on his back, the blanket at his waist, his features were relaxed and his breathing was regular. She smiled and went to the closet to get into her nightgown. Jem padded to the bathroom, brushed her teeth and then went back to the bedroom. She climbed into bed and turned off the light. Rolling onto her right side, as was her habit, she was surprised that Control rolled as well and placed a hand on her stomach, spooning gently. She squeezed his hand slightly and then tried to sleep.

Early morning

Mickey drove onto the property, noting that there were no fresh car tracks in the snow. He got to the house and parked under a tree. McCall opened the kitchen door and let him in.

"You're a few hours late."

"Yeah, well, leaving the office was a little more difficult than I thought." Mickey said, dumping his full duffle on the floor.

"Food or drink?" Robert asked.

"Both," he said, honestly, shrugging out of his fatigue jacket.

Mickey sat on a stool in the kitchen watching Robert make him a roast beef sandwich. He cracked a beer and poured it into a lager glass.

"Meal fit for a king," Robert said, placing the food in front of him.

"As long as it's not my last." Mickey quipped, before diving into it.

Control woke up, not knowing why, but the hairs on the back of his head were standing on end. He got out of bed and took his gun from the bureau, checking it softly. He started down the stairs towards the noises he heard in the kitchen. The noises stopped as he neared the doorway.

"Freeze," he said, stepping into the room, his hands holding the gun in classic stance, rock steady.

Robert and Mickey looked up, startled, and froze.

"Control, it's just us, Robert and Mickey. Everything is okay. You're okay." Robert said in a calm voice.

Mickey's left hand had automatically moved to the gun in its holster.

Control looked at them both and then just as suddenly, he set the gun on the counter and stepped back. Robert picked up the gun carefully and engaged the safety. Setting it back on the counter, he slowly approached his friend.

"Can I help you back to bed?" Robert asked, softly.

"No, I just need to sit for a minute. I'm sorry..."

"Come on, Control, pop a squat," Mickey said with a smile, gesturing to a stool next to him.

Control sat on the stool and unbuttoned his p.j. top to mid chest before wiping his forehead with his sleeve. Both Mickey and Robert noticed the ugly bruises evident on his torso. Robert made quick tea for Control, carefully noting that it was caffeine free, and set the mug in front of him. Control frowned and simply put his hands around the mug. The warmth felt good to his battered fingers.

"Okay, Mickey, let's go over the plan, now that the quarterback is here." Robert said, refreshing his brandy and Mickey's beer.

They spent the next hour going over a plan. Control was totally alert until the last ten minutes when he really started to fade.

"Control, time for you to go to bed. As a matter of fact, I think we all should go to bed." Robert announced.

Control was falling asleep sitting on the stool. Robert and Mickey both caught him before he hit his head on the counter. Control woke up and smiled at Robert.

"I am helping you back to bed now." Robert asserted.

"I've got the couch," Mickey said, before taking his dishes to the sink.

Robert took Control's revolver and stuck it in his pocket before slipping his arm around his friend's shoulder. They walked up the stairs slowly and entered the bedroom. In the dim light from the hallway, Robert could make out Jem's body on the left side of the bed. He helped Control to the right side and watched him get in slowly. Robert pulled the blanket up to Control's shoulder and turned to walk out of the room.

"Thanks, Robert," Jem called softly in the darkness.

"Of course, think nothing of it," Robert replied, placing Control's revolver on the bureau, before leaving them alone.

7:00 a.m.

Jem woke up and looked at Control asleep beside her. His face was relaxed but his eyes were active behind the lids. She put on corduroys and a sweater before walking downstairs. The coffee smelled heavenly as she headed to the kitchen. She poured herself a cup and sat at the table looking out into the dark forest.

"Mornin'" Mickey greeted, walking into the kitchen.


Mickey poured himself some coffee and sat next to her. Five minutes later, Robert arrived.

"Morning," he said, proceeding to make himself tea.

"Good morning, Robert,"

"Mornin' McCall,"

The tea brewed and they sat together. Thirty minutes later, a ghostly figure came down the stairs. Control walked into the kitchen and poured himself a mug of coffee.

"Hi," he said, sipping the hot beverage and leaning against the countertop.

"Good Morning," Robert replied.

"Hey," Mickey answered.

"Morning, sweetheart,"

"I've been on the phone to New York and the other offices. I don't think we'll have any trouble. We'll know for sure in the next ten hours. The director is trying to find everyone to vet them. Until then, I'm afraid, we should hang tight."

"I'm not arguing," Mickey said, smiling at his superiors.

Control took his cup of coffee and walked off to the mill. Robert stood; ready to follow him, until he felt her hand on his arm.

"Leave him, Robert. He still has some things to work out."

Robert nodded and sat back down.

Control walked up to the stereo and within a minute heard the wails of Blind Boy Fuller telling of his Homesick and Lonesome Blues. The day was brightening somewhat, but it was still grey outside as snow began to fall. He sipped his coffee and began to pace in front of the window.

10:00 a.m.

"I need some fresh air. I'll be back." Mickey said, walking outside in his thick turtleneck sweater.

He watched the snow from under the roof before he heard the noise. He couldn't identify it and very carefully walked towards the rhythmic sound. He walked around the side of the house and found Control chopping wood in his shirtsleeves. They were rolled up to his elbows and although Mickey could tell that every movement caused him pain, he continued.

"Hey, do you want me to do that for you?" Mickey said, his hands empty.

Control dropped the axe and pulled his gun out in one fluid motion, taking aim at Mickey's chest.

"Leave here, this has nothing to do with you." Control said, his voice raw and low.

"No problem, I'm vapour, I'm mist." Mickey said, backing up with his hands in the air.

Quickly, he walked back around to the kitchen entrance and re-entered the house with his snow-covered boots on. He went directly to the library.

"Jesus, Mickey!" Jem cried, seeing him covered in snow.

"McCall, he's out chopping wood in his shirtsleeves. There's something going on." Mickey said.

Robert looked at Jem and stood immediately, as did she. They walked to the mudroom to get dressed for the outdoors.

"Robert, I think I need to do this," Jem said.

"Be careful, he's very angry and he feels a great deal of guilt over the death of that young woman."

Jem leaned over and kissed Robert before heading out into the snow. Mickey and Robert went downstairs to the safe room to watch it play out on the video monitors. Jem made her way around the house to the woodpile, following the noise. She came up noiselessly and simply stood in the snow.

Control was covered in snow, his shirt was wet, his hands were almost numb, the bandages had fallen to the ground, and his core was shaking with every movement. He split the log and then tossed the two halves under the lean-to. Jem quietly walked to the lean-to and gathered an armful of logs and carried them back into the house. If Control saw her, he didn't acknowledge it. This game went on for almost an hour, until all the fireplaces in the house were well stocked. Every time he raised the axe, he let out a low, deep, painful cry. Her eyes were wet with tears at his pain. Finally, she went up to him.

"Jim, we have enough firewood now. Please come back in the house."

"No, I have to finish the stack." He said softly.

"Mickey will finish it for you. He wants to do this for you."

Mickey ran up the stairs from the basement and slowed down to carefully walk to Jem's side.

"You want to finish this for me?"

"Yes, I would like to do this for you." Mickey said, following the strange speech pattern that Control had started.

Control looked at him and then at Jem, who carefully put her hands on his hands. He dropped the axe and folded her into his arms, his body shaking from the cold. She opened her jacket and tried to share her warmth as she helped him back to the house.

Robert ran up the stairs to the library and poured a liberal amount of brandy before taking off his sister's sweater, leaving him in just a t-shirt. Control walked into the mudroom and stood, shaking with cold and wet as Jem dried him with a towel, removing his shirt and shoes. Robert walked up slowly and put the brandy on the window ledge before helping Control on with his sweater. Control looked at him, his face a mask.

"I know you're angry. Drink this, before you get sick." Robert instructed, handing him the brandy.

Control stared at him, not breaking his gaze, as he drank the brandy. Robert felt a chill go down his spine from the look. He reached out to his friend, and with Jem on one side and him on the other, they walked him upstairs to the bedroom.

"You need to sleep. Are you in pain?" Robert asked.

"No, I'm cold, angry, and tired."

"Your hands are a mess." Robert commented.

Control looked at his pale hands, bloody from blisters. His face betrayed his confusion.

"Jim, I need you to sleep, right now. Can you do that for me? Please?" Jem asked.

"Jem, I love you more than I can say. I need to speak to Robert for a minute, okay?"

"Sure," she said, hoping that he didn't see the tears streaming down her face before she walked out of the room.

"What?" Robert asked.

"You're in charge, while I sleep. If something happens to me," he turned his body to face him straight on.

"Nothing is going to happen."

"If something happens to me, promise me, you'll take care of her, no matter what." He persisted.

"Nothing will happen,"

"Robert," Control said, grabbing Robert's t-shirt at the neck, "promise,"

"Yes, I promise,"

"Okay, now, please help me, Robert. I hurt and I need to sleep."

"Just like Kosovo? No worries, just listen to me." Robert said, guiding him to his bed.

Robert helped Control lie down and drew the covers up to his neck. He walked out and brought Jem back into the room.

"Keep him quiet, I'll get his pain meds." Robert whispered in her ear.

Jem nodded and sat on the edge of the bed. She ran her fingers through his long hair, hearing his breathing, hoping he would slow down. She rubbed circles on his arm and shoulder and spoke to him in low tones. With a sigh, he turned onto his side and fell asleep. Robert walked up with his pills. Jem put her finger to her mouth and he set the pills on the bureau before walking out of the room with her on his heels.

2:00 p.m.

"McCall, we have company." Mickey said, running up the stairs from the panic room.

"It's Logan. I need you all to go to the panic room." Control said, walking down the stairs, back in charge.

The three agents took their beverages and walked to the basement. Control poured himself a cup of coffee and stood at the front door, waiting for the doorbell. A few minutes later, the bell rang and Control opened the door. Logan walked in and Control examined him, as this was the first time in over a year that they had seen each other. Logan had gained weight and at just under six feet, he didn't carry it well. His shirt collar was tight, his face was red, and there were sweat stains on his suit. Overall, it was not attractive.

"Thanks for coming up here, Logan. Let's go to the library." Control said, noting the four agents stationed outside the house in the snow.

Logan nodded and followed Control to the library. He accepted a glass of scotch and sat down, taking out a handkerchief to wipe his brow.

"You're clear," Logan said, sipping the scotch.

Control simply looked at him; his face a mask to his emotions, still standing.

"What I meant to say was that Tyler Hamilton confessed before he committed suicide yesterday in Cyprus. He was trying to kill you."

"What about, Tima?"

"Excuse me?"

"I asked about the young woman who was burned to death in the car. What about her?"

"Her family is being compensated."


"Yes. The European division is being restructured. I want you in Washington in the next two days to help on this."

"What are you doing for Tima's family?" Control asked again.

"They're being paid $20,000." Logan said nervously.

"That's not good enough," Control said in a quiet, metered voice.

"What do you want?" Logan asked, his voice slightly higher.

"I want us to do the right thing. I want you to bring her parents and her brother here before the end of the week; permanently. Until that time, I want them under full protection." Control said, lighting a cigar and blowing a mouthful of smoke in Logan's direction.


"The fact that you asked the question at all, Logan, proves that you're too far out of the game. But I will humour you." Control said, taking a sip of scotch and a pull on his cigar.

"You have no idea who is or is not on Hamilton's payroll. The European division restructured? That's amusing. No one's loyalty in that office can be trusted at this point. To that end, I want Tima's family here, by next Sunday, under full witness protection-style security." Control said.

"You'll need to come to Washington no later than tomorrow night and explain all this." Logan said, his face pale at the ramifications of what Control had just explained.

"I'm sorry, I'm not allowed to travel for at least two days, according to my doctor." Control lied, easily.

Robert picked up the phone and called Jonathan to setup the back story.

"Oh, I didn't know. Call my office tomorrow and give me a prognosis report so I can set this all up. I'm sorry about Hamilton, Control." Logan said, standing.

"The signs were there, Logan. I missed them as well. But the others knew it was going to happen. This is not over, by any means." Control said, icily.

The two men walked to the front door, Control opened it for him and Logan walked out, standing under the eaves.


"You're welcome," Control said, smiling falsely at his boss.

Logan got into his car with his bodyguards and drove away. Control shut the door and headed to the kitchen to pour himself a fresh scotch. He pressed a button on the wall console and watched the car leave the property. As it did, he reprogrammed the computer with a different algorithm and hit <enter>. Satisfied that they were protected, he sat at the table and sipped his drink. Jem, Robert, and Mickey walked into the kitchen and looked at the man who linked them together. She reached to the wall panel and started the smoke eater device in the library and the kitchen to silently get rid of the cigar smoke.

"Are you all right?" Robert asked.

"No, but I will be." Control replied, taking a sip of his scotch and setting his extinguished cigar in an ashtray.

Robert looked at him and saw that the spark in his eye had returned. He looked at Jem and then back at Control.

"Mickey, we are needed in the city," Robert said.

"Right, thanks Jem, Control, see you on the flip side." Mickey said, gathering his belongings.

"Just bring Sally's sweater back with you, will you please?" Robert asked Control.

Control smiled and walked up to his old friend, and unreservedly gave him a hug. They stood apart and carefully shook hands. Jem smiled, wrapping her arm around her lover, giving him support as well as gleaning some from him. Robert kissed Jem while Mickey smiled at the two of them. Just as suddenly, they both were gone. Control turned to Jem and gently took her hand, leading her to the mill. He sat on the sofa, lay down, and then pulled her down beside him.

"I love you," he whispered, his eyes searching her face.

She slowly kissed him, gently, carefully, and at first he responded in kind. He reached his hand to her face as an anchor as his passion increased. She matched him, even as she felt him back down. He pulled back and looked at her.

"Got any plans for the rest of the day?" He asked, staring at her lovingly.

"Nope, maybe laundry, or grouting the tub, nothing major," she said, bending her arm to support her head as she lay on her side.

He grinned at her, running his hand through her hair.

"Why? What did you have in mind?" Jem asked.

"Honestly? I'd like to lie here with you and watch the snow fall." Control said, his voice dropping slightly, betraying his fatigue, both emotional and physical.

Jem rolled away from him, pushing her back against his chest gently to spoon. He reached his right hand and gently placed it on her stomach. She covered it with hers, mindful of the injuries to his hand. He leaned over and kissed her ear so softly she wasn't sure at first. Control settled, trying to get comfortable. His breathing slowed, but she knew he wasn't asleep.

"I love you, Jim," she whispered.

He pulled her into him as much as he could, ignoring any pain he was feeling. He tried to reply, but couldn't, resting his head behind hers, trying to regain control. She moved her legs, allowing him to turn into her, slipping his right leg over hers, in essence, almost lying on top of her legs. He sighed and looked out of the window at the falling snow.

"I love you too, Jem," he countered, his voice catching in his throat as he dropped his head against her back.

"Unequivocally," Jem added to her comment.

He raised his head, tightening his grip on her.

"Unequivocally," he added, as he tried to relax and focus on the falling snow outside the window.

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