Pairing: Jo Portman/Zafar Younis
Fic Title: Bright and Clear, The Second Labour
Link: Prologue: Bright and Clear, One: Again, Two: Wider, Three: Higher, Four: Further, Five: Divided, Six: Closer, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten and epilogue.
Rating/Warning(s): T/M. Discussion of rape, torture (all on a par with the show itself), character death, adult themes and language, spoilers through to 6.10 of Spooks
Genre: some H/C, political thriller, AU
Note: As with the previous fic recced, the author doesn't link on to the next chapter or tag the chapters together, hence why they're linked individually above so that you can use this post to navigate.
Why This Must Be Read:
Firstly, Bright and Clear can be read on its own as a tag for episode 6.10 and left there. However, what happens next is so brilliant, I'd suggest you don't.
I could re-read this fic again and again and still find new things to love in it. Taking the events of episode 6.10 as its launch, this AU is predicated on the idea that the Redbacks are after something specific: the destruction of Section D and its members, new and old. The team scramble to find out who's behind the group and to find and protect their own, even the ones who aren't supposed to be their own anymore. This sets up a marvelous, twisting story that brings back old faces to the Grid. It's hard to rec without giving away the best bits and it's hard to rec when half of what you could call the main pairing is dead before the story starts, but it's worth every second. Again, this is a brilliant ensemble piece, with the entire Grid written marvelously and some fantastic dialogue, particularly Connie. It's not a story you could call funny, but it has its moments of lightness.
Despite Zaf being dead, Zaf and Jo are absolutely the emotional centre of the story. Adam and Jo are perfectly pitched as the reeling, isolated survivors dealing with his death and their own capture and subsequent escape: although played platonically, their interactions, and how much of Adam's actions are based on a promise to his best friend, are fascinating and moving throughout. And it has to be said: Jo isn't an easy character to get right post 6.10 and londonsophie writes her perfectly.
Mid-length excerpt below the cut.
They reconvene in a disused warehouse somewhere off the North Circular.
“Why are we here?” Ben follows Connie in, bemused. He’s expecting a meeting room or at least a flat.
“Rules for operating in enemy territory,” Connie says with a trace of nostalgia. “Break up, separate, lose your tails, regroup somewhere new.”
“We had a tail?”
“No,” says Connie serenely. “It’s a principle.”
They pass through two sets of doors to enter the main warehouse, cavernous and lit only by narrow shafts of light from high windows.
“What is this place? Who owns it?” Ben finds the true extraordinariness of his new job is in the details.
Connie glances around. “Oh, one of Harry’s little finds. Very useful for hiding cars in, sometimes people and once a light aircraft, I believe.”
Ben, who has never felt the need to hide an aircraft, light or otherwise, is saved from replying by the arrival of Harry, trailing Malcolm who is clutching a large briefcase to himself.
“No problems getting here?” enquires Harry, whilst Malcolm opens the briefcase, which proves to contain an ordinary-looking laptop.
“No. Jo and Adam?”
“We have to consider Jo and Adam primary targets. That safehouse is the most secure place we have for them, and they’ll stay there until we absolutely have to use their operational capacity. I’ve put Jo to work tracing Tom and Zoë.” He doesn’t give Connie time to argue. “Shall we go over the current state of play?”
“Somebody wants us so badly they even want our rejects,” says Connie baldly.
Harry looks disapproving. “Our ex-employees.”
“Does it matter what we call them? Ros was tortured for information and most of that will be about us. Somebody wants Section D – or our work – to burn.”
“That narrows it down,” says Harry dryly. “We don’t know that it was Redbacks.”
“Does it matter?” Connie points at the laptop. “Malcolm has photos. There are certain similarities to Zaf. But the names of the thugs aren’t important. Who wants us wiped out, Harry?”
“Well, it’s all very odd.” Malcolm is sitting on a discarded packing crate, laptop on knees, looking thoughtful. “Ex-spies are, on the whole, useless. They know nothing current, they start to forget what they did know, and they’re usually in psychologically difficult circumstances.”
Connie looks at him.
“You were never an ex-spy,” Malcolm adds hastily. “You were paid a retainer.”
She ignores him. “Those of us who managed to retain possession of our faculties might still be useful. You’d be surprised what we know. Old sins – things best left buried.”
Harry scowls and Ben interrupts hastily.
“What about ways to get to current officers? Could Ros have released security details?”
“Security is regularly updated,” says Malcolm firmly. “By me.”
“Yeah, whatever. Anyone who’s worked on the Grid could give out a hundred vulnerable points in your daily routines. Jo gets coffee from the same place every morning, do you know that?”
“No, and neither should you,” says Connie tartly.
Ben continues without the slightest embarrassment. “Or if not that, they can get the dirt on you.”
“What a very journalistic phrase,” says Harry tiredly.
“They can blackmail you with it. Disgrace you, lose you your job.”
“There are plenty of people who would pay for that,” agrees Malcolm.
“Oh, Ros is a good choice if they want dirt. The things that girl knew. Five, Six and everything in between.”
Harry can tell by Connie’s voice that this is a compliment to Ros, but he is silent. He remembers Ros with a needle at her neck, her fear, her desperate eyes, her grimace of a smile. Nobody should have to go through that twice.
But it’s Malcolm who really puts his foot in it.
“But all they have to do is find Ruth,” he says, sounding alarmed. “That’s what I’d do. Anybody who could get Ruth’s story out of her would have Harry on a plate. Think how many people would contribute to that fund.”