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missed connections

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**

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community > missed connections > best of

To the guy I only see when I am late for work. –w4m

**

It doesn’t take you long to recover, a fact that the doctors and nurses at the facility in Langley discuss in hushed tones in the hallway outside of your hospital room.

“When she came in she was in an induced coma. How is it possible that all of her major injuries are mostly healed after a few weeks?” one resident (female, dressed in scrubs and ugly orthopedic sneakers) whispers loudly to another after checking your vitals.

“I don’t know. Dr. Schiller says she’s never seen anything like it,” the other resident (a man, lanky and sandy-haired) responds.

“And that’s not even the oddest part. I heard Schiller talking to an agent that stopped in to check on her—“

“What did she say?”

“That there was something strange about her injuries, and that Dr. Lyman agreed.” The female resident lowers her voice, leans in closer. “Apparently, the gashes and burns she sustained during the explosion could have been a lot worse, but someone else was there.”

“Acting as a human shield?”

“Yeah,” the resident says, incapable of keeping the excitement from her voice. “But the thing is, that person would have taken so much damage that they’d have to be dead. And a person with those injuries never showed up in the hospital.”

“So? It’s possible they could have been taken straight to the morgue. It’s not procedure, but sometimes it is done.”

“That big of a blast had to have been in the news somewhere, and the only place that matches the description is in Prague. Dr. Lyman called in all of his favors, and he found no one. Hospital or morgue.”

“That means they survived? Well, shit.”

“That, or Operations made the body disappear entirely.”

Their voices grow fainter and fainter as they move away from your room, stopping you from hearing any more.

You’re drifting in and out of sleep to the sounds of a daytime soap opera, the afternoon sun shining through the blinds, when a tread over the threshold of your hospital room jolts you into full wakefulness.

“David!” You blink and smile cautiously at your boss, who looks immaculate in a perfectly pressed suit, not a single strand of his white hair out of its proper place. “What are you doing here?”

“Just checking up on you, kid.” He walks, with his distinctive shuffle—the result of a gunshot wound he took to the knee in Beirut, early in his career—over to the chair next to your bed.

As he settles in, he sighs in relief. His bad knee must be more sore than usual. You feel a stab of concern. “It seems like I should be checking up on you. Did you go see that specialist like you promised me you would?”

David grunts. “It’s nothing. Just a change in the weather, making my bones ache.”

“As soon as I get out of here, I’m going over your head and getting Marcus to make you an appointment. And if you don’t go to that one, I’ll drive you to the specialist myself.”

Your mentor rolls his eyes, but lets it be. He’s the strong and silent type, not one to demonstrate affection easily, but he’s trained you since your first day at the Farm, and been your handler on several missions since then. You know he sees you as something like a surrogate child, and you have a mutual respect between you that makes him willing to entertain, if not follow, your advice.

“So.” His tone turns sharp as he gets down to business. “What happened out there?”

Is the room clear? You mouth to him, tapping your ear.

“I had it swept thirty minutes ago, while you were asleep.”

You hesitate, your instincts at war with one another. You trust David, and it would be great to unload your problems onto him, but every nerve in your body is screaming with suspicion.

You’ve had considerable time to mull over all of the details of the Prague mission. The series of misfortunes that you experienced were too well-timed to be a coincidence.

It’s growing increasingly likely that you were never expected to make it out alive, and you can’t afford to share details of exactly how you survived with anyone until you discover who tried to schedule a hit on you, and why.

So you tell David a heavily edited version of events. He listens intently, brow furrowed in concentration.

When you finish, he frowns. “So the bombs detonated early. And Natasha called for backup?”

You stop short.

“Yes,” you manage, heart beating in double time.

Joint missions between the CIA and S.H.I.E.L.D. have a very specific protocol. To protect their operatives from blown covers, both agencies are blind—that is, no one but the agents assigned to the mission and their handlers are supposed to know identifying details about their partners.

That David knows Natasha was with you in Prague is…concerning. You consider the implications. Is he trying to warn you? Or was it an accidental slip?

Since the knowledge is classified, someone is leaking information in one of two places: S.H.I.E.L.D. or the CIA. Either way, you’re not safe in this hospital bed.

You feign tiredness, yawning loudly.

“David?” you ask, “Can we finish this another time? The medication that I’m on makes it hard to stay awake for long.”

He hesitates, but stands up, brushing imaginary dust off of his suit jacket.

“Sure,” he says. “I’ll come back tomorrow.”

The door shuts behind you. You close your eyes and slow your breathing, feigning a gentle, natural descent into sleep. When you’re sure you’re alone, you swing your legs around the side of the hospital bed, bringing your bare feet onto the floor. You wince at the pain, your body protesting every motion.

Figuring out where to find clothing is a tad more difficult than it seems in the movies. There are no conveniently stocked storage rooms nearby, so you duck into another patient’s room and grab a loose cardigan from a chair back and slippers, which you find set neatly next to the bed.

From there, you find a locker room, obviously intended for use by doctors who need to change out of their scrubs. You pick the lock on one of the lockers and outfit yourself in the clothes you find there: a t-shirt, a pair of jeans, boots, and a suede jacket.

Finally, the hospital doors slide open with a hiss and you walk out into the twilight.

In addition to clothes, you’ve scooped up the unfortunate owner’s wallet, phone and keys. When you click the button on the key remote, a grey Mercedes beeps gently from across the lot.

Once you’re seated in the sedan, you think for a moment. Where should you go? Where can you go, without being seen?

You use the phone to make a call, then throw it out the window. Your tires roll over it with a loud crunch.

**
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community > missed connections > best of

Looking for girl in my apt who saw me fall down my stairwell naked. - m4w

**

“Here’s the thing,” Natasha says, as she tosses you a set of clean sheets and a blanket. “The leak isn’t coming from S.H.I.E.L.D.”

“How do you know?” you ask.

“I talked to Director Fury. He’s received a tip that someone is killing off high-level CIA operatives under deep cover. Only a handful of people have clearance for their cover information, and they’re CIA. No S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives, and no other agencies.”

You look at her, long and hard. “Can I trust you on this, Nat?” Her motivations, as always, are foggy at best. Maybe even more so now than they were in the past.

She grabs your arm and turns your wrist over, then traces the long, wickedly curved scar that runs lengthwise across the underside of your forearm.

Flashes of memory scream at you from the recesses of your mind, where you’ve buried them in a locked box and thrown away the key.

Worn ballet slippers. Your hands, chained to the bedframe. Needles and bandages and silence.

“You’re the closest thing to family that I have,” she says quietly. “Let me help.”

You close your eyes briefly, patching yourself back together. “Okay.”

“You’ll be safe here for a while.” Nat prowls the room, checking to see if the windows are locked. You sit down on the bed in the small, well-appointed bedroom of the apartment she’s provided for you to camp out in.

“I’m working on erasing your tracks and making it look like you’ve left the country. But don’t leave the building unless you have to. Get your groceries delivered. Don’t make friends with the neighbors. We’ll come up with a better plan once we have more information, and once you’re healed enough.”

You gesture at the bland, featureless décor of your new apartment—made boring purposefully, you suspect, to prevent anyone from analyzing its occupant too closely. “What did you tell Fury about me? To make him give me this place?”

“Your reputation precedes you, just like mine precedes me,” Natasha says as she heads for the door.

She pauses at the threshold. “But all I told him was that you were my friend. It was enough.”

When Natasha shuts the door behind her, you feel lonelier than you’ve been in years. You open the fridge and see nothing but empty shelves. You turn on the TV, only to be greeted by a news story about a mysterious bombing in Prague. Finally, you settle in with a glass of water and a paperback, dusty as if it hasn’t been picked up in some time, only to be distracted by faint voices from the hallway.

A man and a woman—you can hear her laugh all the way from your couch. You can’t help but be curious whether there’s any normal people in this building, or whether Fury is hiding them all from something.

For lack of anything better to do, and telling yourself that it’s better to be observant than surprised by your new neighbors, you peer through the peephole curiously.

You’ve always been an apt observer of body language, and the couple standing in the hallway is more interesting than most. They don’t know each other very well, but both are leaning towards each other, attracted despite their awkwardness.

He offers her his laundry machine (cheaper than the one downstairs), and asks her for coffee, which she declines, smiling apologetically. She explains that she’s just finished a rotation in the infectious disease ward and that he probably wouldn’t want her to wash her scrubs in his machine.

Her eyes dart to the side. A lie. Why is she lying? you wonder to yourself, and then realize that you’ve obviously become so divorced from normal life that you ascribe ulterior motives to a nurse trying to dodge a date.

You feel briefly protective towards her, wondering how many times the man, who stands with his back to you, has asked her out before. But she looks like she can take care of herself, and he backs off politely.

“I’ll keep my distance,” he says.

“Hopefully not too far,” she responds.

Then they smile goodbyes at one another. The man turns to unlock his apartment door, and it’s hard to see his face from this angle, but you do catch a glimpse of a pair of puzzlingly familiar blue eyes before you retreat.