Night had fallen two hours ago. The lights on Skybase had been dimmed according to their twenty-four hour schedule and the night shift had taken over. The jets were in their hangars, the pilots asleep but ready to scramble in case of an alarm.
Everything was quiet, only a murmur of maintenance personnel and the hum of electronics. Captain Ochre was on the treadmill in the rec center. Lieutenant Silver had just finished a late meal and was heading for her bed.
On the observation deck, Paul Metcalfe sat and looked out the huge windows, seeing only Skybase’s running lights reflecting off the dark clouds. Tonight, not even the stars were out.
A faint pain pulled at his stomach and he unconsciously rested a hand on it, feeling his muscles quiver.
He was perfectly fine.
He hadn’t been shot, stabbed, poisoned or pushed off a high building, out of a plane or into oncoming traffic.
He hadn’t died.
And still his body was going through the recovery.
Paul closed his eyes, evening out his breathing, letting the pain ebb away. It was far from the tearing sensation it would have been had he been injured himself. He might have called it a stomach flu with the fun cramps that could accompany such a flu, but he didn’t get sick anymore. Didn’t die, couldn’t get sick… And still…
He whispered a soft curse.
This wasn’t what he had wanted, what had been his future plans.
Not that he really had all too many.
Defeat the Mysterons. Pay back the bastards who had taken his life, that of Conrad Lefkon, that of so many. He had his own back, but it wasn’t his to live anymore. Paul wasn’t even sure he was himself anymore.
Adam had argued that he was human. Even if the body was a construct of the Mysterons, even if he had died on Mars and what had come back wasn’t Captain Scarlet, wasn’t Paul Metcalfe, was nothing anyone had ever known. His memories were his own. His spirit was there, his soul free of the control Black was still under.
Everything else… alien. He knew it.
He knew because sometimes things… knowledge, memories, flashbacks, he didn’t know what to call it… filtered through. Mostly when he was coming back from the dead. It was as if he momentarily wasn’t himself, had access to something that might be all alien, his true nature and heritage, and it gave him glimpses into the alien mind that had controlled him for those fateful days.
Scarlet had rarely ever talked to anyone about it. Colonel White knew a few things, as did Doctor Gold. Destiny… didn’t.
Adam… Captain Blue…
“Just hold on.”
The stabbing pain in his stomach was momentarily back and he curled in on himself for a second, riding it out.
Fuck, he thought.
But he let it happen. He knew what it was. He knew what it meant. It was all in his memories, those not his own. It was overwhelming him with the sure knowledge of what had happened.
“Maybe this indestructibility thing is rubbing off.”
“I wish it could. I would give anything.”
Paul groaned softly.
He had been so terrified to lose Adam. He had been so furious that it hadn’t been him, that it had hit his partner. That he had been forced to leave him behind, in the cold, alone, bleeding…
His fury had fueled him, had taken over, and he had never felt such pleasure as he had killed the Mysteron replicants and had destroyed the town before.
Only to find Adam lying in the debris, weak, dying, suffering from blood loss, onset hypothermia, and shock.
Paul hadn’t even thought about it.
He had… taken. The thing he was, the Mysteron, had stepped up and taken something without asking. The very real possibility of loss, of losing his best and probably only real friend had blinded him to the consequences.
He knew he had just cursed someone’s life to be like his: alien, that of a freak, standing out amongst those who had been colleagues and friends, and who now regarded him like he wasn’t the man they had known anymore.
And he wasn’t. He could die over and over again and again, save the world, but he would always be… different. Inhuman.
Now he had forced this existence on someone else, his best friend, the only person who had stuck by him, with him, and whose loyalty humbled Paul like nothing else.
“You’re not going to die.”
“Not enough time…”
But there had been time.
All the time in the world. Adam hadn’t died, but Paul had known… in that moment he had known that he had done something terrible to his best friend. He had forced his hand, in a way.
He had forced the last step.
“Don’t let them win.”
He hadn’t. And then again, they had. He was a Mysteron and he had won. He had surrendered and he had conquered in one.
Because he couldn’t lose Blue. He couldn’t lose Adam. He needed him and the need had become something more.
I’m so sorry, Adam, he thought desperately. I didn’t want this. I never would have let it happen. It had gone far enough already. I’m sorry.
* * *
Doctor Gold looked up from his report when he heard the doors open and he smiled a little as he discovered Captain Scarlet enter the med bay area.
“You are in quite early. Captain Blue is still sleeping.”
Scarlet glanced over to the door leading to the room where Blue was currently in.
“Something on your mind, Captain?”
The younger man seemed hesitant for a moment, then leaned against the wall, arms crossed. He appeared more pale than usual, his face almost haggard.
Like he hadn’t slept in days.
Gold knew that Paul Metcalfe needed a lot less sleep than a human being would. His metabolism was completely different, far from human, and far from what he as a doctor was used to. Actually, he didn’t really have a lot to do when it came to Scarlet. The man did everything himself. Gold simply had to make sure he had the time to recover from whatever had killed him.
“Paul?” he asked, leaning back into his chair.
The pale blue eyes looked haunted, almost in pain, and suddenly Gold knew this was far more than Captain Blue’s injuries and nearly dying in Scarlet’s arms.
“He survived,” Paul broke the silence. “He pulled through a gut shot.”
Gold remained silent, but he nodded.
“Against all odds, right?”
“Captain Blue is a young, strong man. As well as stubborn.”
“He lost so much blood, he was in the cold…”
“Which helped him survive, Paul. It slowed down the bleeding, as well as his metabolism, and as I said before, he is in perfect shape.”
The blue eyes looked haunted. So very human and so very painfully vulnerable. In the two years Gold had known the replicant before him, they had become closer than mere patient and doctor. Especially since Scarlet had been forced to undergo all kinds of medical examinations after he had so miraculously revived. In time, he had volunteered a few things here or there, until he had given Gold an insight into what his very human psyche was going through in an alien body.
It had been the beginning of a friendship, of a trust that Dr. Mason Frost valued. He knew a lot more about this incredible young man than anyone else. With the exception of Colonel White, maybe.
“He’s pulling from me, Mason.”
Gold slowly straightened. “Are you sure?”
“I can feel it.” Scarlet rested a hand on his stomach. “He’s healing himself and pulling from me. Not just a little. Massively.”
“I’m fine,” he said, voice soft, a little breathy. “I can take it. It’s… it tells me he’s going to pull through.”
Gold studied him, mind racing. “Paul, sit down.”
The dark-haired man shook his head, hand still resting on his stomach. He looked almost shell-shocked. His hand suddenly clenched into his sweater and he screwed his eyes shut.
Gold got up and walked over to him. “Sit,” he insisted.
He might not have the best bedside manner, especially with a man who didn’t really need his medical skills, but right now something else was required. Gold pulled a chair close and sat his most frequent patient down. That it had hit Blue this time had been a bit of surprise. Normally Captain Scarlet was right in the line of fire, no regard for his own life.
“Paul? Talk to me.”
“Something triggered, Mason. Big time,” he finally said, rubbing over his stomach. “When I held him. When he lost consciousness. It was so much stronger than before. I felt myself losing him. I couldn’t. I held him and I held on to him.” He shuddered.
“And?” Gold prodded.
“And I held on tightly. I surrendered to the inevitable that moment. It was like… I was the Mysteron then. That alien thing that can’t go on alone.” He sounded disgusted, nails biting into his palms. “I couldn’t stop it. I had to keep him with me. I knew he would die if I didn’t surrender to that instinct. If those… memories, the flashes, are correct… he will be whole again in no time.”
“You had them again?”
Doctor Gold had long since become an expert on Captain Scarlet’s condition, as well as an open ear to whatever was happening inside the younger man. A human soul trapped inside an alien body, remembering and knowing things that weren’t his own thoughts and memories. Feeling alien emotions sometimes. An aberration, a being created by aliens, used and abused and discarded when the human mind had reclaimed control.
But he was a Mysteron. He had their abilities.
When Paul had told him about the first whispers, about the rising knowledge, the fragments, he hadn’t been surprised.
Just like the closeness to Captain Blue hadn’t been surprising. Or the developing connection that was both ways.
“Captain?” he prodded.
Scarlet sighed explosively and scrubbed a hand over his tired looking face. “Not like I do when I… recover. It was more like… remembering what I’ve known before. I couldn’t… let him die,” he managed. “It felt like a band about to snap in two. It was worse than all the other times before. Bloody hell… I forced this on him! I let it happen!”
He let his head fall back, thunking against the wall.
Gold’s thoughts were chasing each other and he got up to check on the readings from the other room. Blue was sleeping and he was looking good. Blood pressure, pulse, heart, breathing, all good. He was a fighter, yes, but he had truly come out of this adventure a lot better than a man with a gut shot bleeding out in the freezing cold should have been. Hypothermia had been almost non-existent, the hours after the surgery without incident.
“This is it, Mason. Everything else was… something I could live with. There was still hope… Now that is gone. He didn’t get a say in it. He didn’t get to choose. I forced it like the aberration I am.”
Gold looked at the other man. “You don’t believe this yourself.” Straight-forward, honest, no lies. “There was no way back, Captain. None at all.”
The pain was almost palpable now. “Because I’m some monster. Because I’m not human.”
Gold met the blue eyes. “Maybe. All you have are hand-down memories. You know nothing about how you were recreated on Mars. Maybe it’s a glitch.”
Paul laughed humorlessly. “No glitch.” He tapped a finger against his head. “That much is in here. The Mysteron I am needs an anchor. Adam was the poor soul it had chosen.”
“You have chosen, Captain Scarlet,” Gold said firmly. “You are yourself. They have no control over you. And you finally have to tell him.”
Scarlet looked almost ashen. “I can’t… Not without losing the only friend I still have.”
Gold didn’t need a translator to understand the meaning. Adam Svenson was the only trusted friend, the only one Paul trusted to have his back in all situations. This… this was something that might change everything.
Hell, it did change everything.
“You owe him the truth,” he only said.
Scarlet bit his lower lip. “I owe him his life. He doesn’t have that anymore.”
“Tell him, don’t tell him, the result is still the same. He will find out one day. I would think you want to handle it now, get it out of the way.”
Scarlet bumped his head softly, repeatedly against the wall.
“Paul. Get some sleep. Let this settle. Captain Blue won’t push you away.”
The younger man didn’t respond verbally. He simply got up, moving slowly, almost like he was in pain. He cast a last look at the closed door, then left.
He truly believed that the moment Scarlet told Blue the truth, nothing would change at all. They were best friends and Scarlet trusted the other man implicitly. All Scarlet had to do was accept himself and his abilities now; completely.
He wasn’t human. He wasn’t a Mysteron. He was a hybrid and he had abilities that terrified his human mind.
“That’s what he’s for, Captain,” Gold sighed to himself.
Hopefully, Scarlet would understand that one day, too.
* * *
He should have known he would find his friend here. Alone, on top of the world, looking down and through the glass that showed nothing but clouds underneath Skybase.
It wasn’t an official part of the base and aside from the maintenance guys and Paul Metcalfe, no one ever made their way up rungs and ladders to look at the sky below. It had a spectacular view, though.
“Hey,” Adam greeted the silent man.
Paul wasn’t in uniform. He was in Spectrum-issue sweats. Adam himself had chosen the same because he was still off duty and he had just finished his last physical. Gold was very pleased with his recovery. It was a recovery that had Adam wonder what was going on because no one, except the man before him, should get over a gunshot to the stomach as easily as he had done. Well, not really easily. The pain had been bad and he had had to get surgery. But still, even with medical advancements and his physical fitness, there should be more than a red mark. He only had a bandage taped over it because Gold was careful.
No, he shouldn’t be doing this well.
Hence, seeking out his best friend.
Mainly because Gold had given him this strange look when Adam had commented on his fast recovery.
“Deep thoughts?” he asked.
The dark head came up and those intensely blue eyes in the too pale face caught his own.
Well, fuck, something was truly wrong here. The last time Paul had looked this haunted had been after seeing what a Mysteron retrometabolization looked like on tape. It had been gruesome to watch and had sickened Adam himself. He knew his friend had died on Mars, that the man before him was an alien shell that had Paul’s memories, his personality, and most importantly, his soul. Blue wasn’t a very religious man, but he knew that the human being Paul Metcalfe was gone. The person, the spirit, was this man before him.
His best friend.
And he had his loyalties, just like before. He had proven himself so often…
“How are you?”
Adam blinked. Oh-kay… “Fine,” he answered slowly. “But you know that. You’ve been haunting med bay ever since they brought me back. Doctor Gold commented on it.”
“You also never stuck around long enough for a chat.”
“Not that I really had to stay long.”
“So?” Scarlet echoed.
“Don’t play games, Paul! What’s going on?”
“Well, sue me for not believing a single word! It’s been a week since I was shot and nearly bled to death in Russia! I shouldn’t be up and about, feeling like new! I shouldn’t be looking at healed skin with a scar to show for my troubles! I shouldn’t be acing a physical!”
Paul had closed his eyes, his face even paler now, almost ashen. His hands clenched around the railing so tightly, his knuckles stood out white. The tension in his body was almost too much to take.
“I should have died! Nothing Gold can say about me being young and strong and in good condition can explain my survival, my recovery! And I know the Mysterons don’t give a flying shit about me. I didn’t die and come back, right? I’m still human.”
His friend flinched and Adam briefly groaned silently at his choice of words. This was a very sore topic for Paul. Very.
“What happened to me, Paul?”
“I did,” was the whisper-soft reply.
The blue eyes were filled with pain and despair and something that came close to hatred. It shocked Adam to see his friend like this.
“I happened, Adam! I did this to you!” Paul spat. “Because I’m not human! Because I’m a monster! Because I’m really nothing but a Mysteron shell inhabited by what Paul Metcalfe once was!”
Svenson stared at the shaking man, shaking his head, wondering where he had lost the conversation.
“Run that by me again?” he finally managed. “And I’m not talking about your identity crisis. We had that discussion before and you know what my opinion is. What are you talking about?”
Paul pushed away from the railing, pacing a little, then he abruptly stopped. He leaned against the metal wall behind him, only to slide down to sit on the floor. He looked miserable, hunched in on himself, hands covering his face. His fingers dug into his scalp and he shook his head.
“Every bloody time I come back from the dead, I get flashes,” he finally said. “Memories. Knowledge. Something that’s not me. Well, it is me. My Mysteron side, Gold calls it.” He laughed derisively. “There is no side. I am a Mysteron, whatever you say. I died on Mars and this body isn’t human, was never born… and my DNA proves it.”
Adam settled down beside him, feeling a little shaky all of a sudden.
“I know,” he murmured. “Doesn’t make you any less human, though. Doesn’t change that you are my best friend. Doesn’t change the fact that I’m gonna kick your ass if you don’t start making sense soon.”
Paul gave an almost desperate laugh. To his dismay, Adam noticed that the other man was trembling.
“Mysterons are… we, they…” Scarlet groaned. “They are far more advanced than we are. They are not human. Nothing can describe what I know they are. There are no words in any language. They create matter, but they aren’t… like us. And they are connected amongst themselves. They have this sense of each other. Like I can sense that Black’s out there, this Mysteron shell thing, this creature he and I are. He can feel me, I can feel him. It’s how my senses work when I get close to one of them.”
Captain Blue frowned a little. “Hive mind?” he filtered the most important out of the flood.
“No. Not like you might interpret. They are aware of each other, connected, but not in each other’s mind. They aren’t human and terribly difficult for us to understand.”
Adam hid a smile at the ‘us’. Maybe it was slip-up, but he far more believed in the human soul fighting the knowledge that this was an alien body Paul inhabited.
“Black… he’s part of that. When he gets disconnected, when he manages to break their control, he’s alone. Like me. It’s… weird. I know he knows what he has done then. I remember everything from every moment I was their puppet.” He shook his head. “Not what we’re talking about,” he breathed.
Another shake of the dark head. “No. We’re not talking about that.”
Now, Adam thought. Because they had had talks like that in the past. He was too good a friend to Paul not to talk about the bad stuff sometimes. He was his best friend. He trusted him, always had, still did. If not for a few events in their lives, there might have been another layer to their relationship. Sometime she thought it was there, underneath the shields, the masks, a longing and a closeness neither man pursued.
Okay, also not the topic, he reminded himself.
“Connections. Memories,” Blue probed.
“Yeah, memories. Because I’m a Mysteron construct, I… feel like one sometimes. I get these intense sensations.” He closed his eyes. “That I’m alone. That I shouldn’t be alone, can’t be alone. That it’s unnatural for a Mysteron.”
“Don’t, Adam!” he snarled.
“You’re not alone. That’s what I was going to say, you idiot!” he snapped back.
Paul laughed, but it sounded faint, almost like a sob. “I’m not human. I am alone. Whatever I am, I’m of their origin. Their matter created me and their abilities are mine. And because of that… I followed… a need… looked for an anchor.”
Another laugh. Paul bowed his head, resting it on his hands. The balls of his palms dug into his eyes.
“Apparently it’s survival instinct against the loneliness. They might be sophisticated and more advanced than we are, but they need this shared… consciousness. They need at least one other mind. The anchor. I’ve been completely disconnected from this Mysteron…consciousness for two years. It… grates on me. It… it’s uncomfortable. I tried not to give in, Adam. I didn’t want this. I never wanted this.”
Adam stared at the other man.Anchor, he thought, mind racing. He needs an anchor. Someone to trust. Someone… Holy shit!
“Me,” he managed, surprised how steady he sounded.
Blue wasn’t stupid. He could connect the dots. He understood that there was something between them and had been for the past two years.
Paul’s eyes were burning, almost inhuman in their intensity, and it constricted something inside the blond, had him swallow. It was an almost possessive need that was quickly swallowed by loathing… self-loathing… and disgust.
“I didn’t want this, Adam. Never… I never wanted to involve you any more than you already are. You are my partner, but you didn’t have to be my anchor. You never had a choice! I gave you no choice! I just took!”
“Who else?” Adam heard himself ask, still shocked by the revelation, though he didn’t really understand all the implications yet. “Destiny?”
The other man winced. “No. We… we found something together over Conrad’s death, but she wasn’t the one. She’s… not. Couldn’t be. She likes me, yes, but she wouldn’t be able to give up everything.”
“And I would…?”
Paul swallowed. “You already did. You trust me. You keep sticking around. You don’t leave. You’re there. Always. You… you’re a constant. You don’t back down. You fight back. You don’t fear me.”
He opened his mouth to say something, but the expression in Paul’s eyes stopped him.
“This instinct… it’s… hard to explain. I just know that you would accept me. The alien shell. The monster.”
“Paul…” he tried again.
“I’m a Mysteron! Okay? Deep down you know it. Everyone does. But you trust me. You’re the only one assigned to me, Adam! The only one!”
“I know. Colonel White asked me if I would be your permanently assigned partner in the field, Paul. I said yes. Didn’t have to think about it.”
For so many reason.
The other captain smiled a little. “And I know that.”
Adam reached over and curled his fingers around one pale wrist. He squeezed it gently. The contact wasn’t electric, but it was more than just a simple touch. He felt it, but he couldn’t put it into words.
“You are my friend. And now I’m your anchor? That much I understand. Care to explain what that means?”
“That you’re a monster like me?” Scarlet whispered faintly.
“In more words and less derogatory? ‘Cause I will kick your ass.”
The contact was still there and Adam didn’t break it. An anchor, he thought, keeping Paul focused, keeping him there.
“You keep me sane. I keep you alive.”
“Not a lot more words, but better,” Adam replied. “How can my simple presence keep you sane? How can you keep me alive?”
Paul looked at the fingers holding his wrist and Adam took a gamble, listening to his own instincts. He opened his hand and slid his fingers to interlock with Paul’s.
“How?” he repeated his question.
“You pull from me.” The blue eyes were fixed on their hands, confusion and wonder warring for dominance. “You recovered because this anchor… connects us. My life to yours. Like I said, Mysterons are connected. They are immortal. They rebuild what is destroyed. It’s in their energy. I’m not one of them, but I was created by them and I need to be connected to someone. Someone who will be with me. Not interchangeable. The Mysteron chose you. My life connected to yours. Like an open flow between us.” Paul fell silent, eyes closed, radiating misery.
Adam knew he was staring. His mouth hung open and he was staring like a lunatic. They were… their lives were… connected? Their lives?!
Only when Paul tried to let go did Adam react and he tightened the grip, drawing a wide-eyed look from his friend.
“I survived because of you? Like a blood donation?”
“Life energy, yes. Mysteron energy,” was the whisper-soft addition.
“I don’t fucking care what it is, Paul! You saved me!”
Metcalfe flinched a little.
Adam reached over with his free hand and grabbed the unshaven chin, forcing those intensely blue eyes to look at him. Paul looked so incredibly ashen, so terrified, so unlike his usual, confident self. His control had broken and there was just the frightened human, not the confident Spectrum agent now.
“I heal faster because of you?”
A small nod.
“And it wasn’t the first time?” he hazarded a guess.
“So, the R.A.T.? Elysium? The trap with me as bait? Or that crazy computer virus? Falling out of the Cheetah and barely having a scratch on me? You already knew then?”
Paul shook his head. “I didn’t think it was so deep back then.”
“But you thought it was there? ‘Cause I remember that the deep bruises on my arm from the R.A.T. had faded almost by the time I was back home on Earth. The Doc never commented on it. He knew already?”
“Gold… we talked. He knew about the memory flashes.”
“He suspected. As did you. Just not that it would go this deep?”
The terror was now plain to see.
Gawd, Paul, no, Adam thought.
He wanted to tell him it was alright, that he was fine with it. His last words before he had given in to the blood loss and shock had been the wish to have Scarlet’s recuperative powers.
“That explains why I never felt too sore after getting thrown around on missions. Or why my bumps and bruises were rather faint.” He grinned little.
“Here I thought I was in shape.”
“Gotta keep up with you, Scarlet.”
Paul didn’t really meet his eyes. There were lines around his eyes that Adam didn’t like.
“Does it hurt you?”
Paul stared at him, a little confused. “What?”
“Does it hurt you?” Adam repeated patiently.
“I don’t feel it when you injure yourself.”
“But you feel the recovery?”
“Faintly. I know when the pull starts.”
“This time was the biggest one, right?”
Another small nod. Of course. Captain Blue had never been shot before. Beaten up, hit over the head, almost run over, crashed with various vehicles, but never more.
Paul laughed softly. “You nearly died, Adam.”
“And you caught me, brought me back. I should thank you for that. If me keeping you sane means I can survive severe blood loss, okay. I’m all for it. I’m your partner, right?”
A shadow crossed he pale face.
“What?” Adam demanded.
“I’m virtually indestructible.”
“I can’t die, Adam,” Paul said slowly.
“I wasn’t brain-damaged, Paul.”
His friend was silent. The blond waited, then something slowly dawned on him.
They were connected. Paul’s life flowing into him. His indestructible, immortal life.
Paul suddenly let go of his hand and stood, movements almost jerky. Svenson was a little too slow, still shell-shocked as his brain registered what this meant, trying to digest it. His brain couldn’t really grasp it, couldn’t make sense of it just now.
This has to be how he felt when he found out, he thought giddily. That he was immortal. That he couldn’t be killed by anything.
“Sorry, Adam. I… I didn’t want this,” his partner said, jerking him out of his thoughts. “And maybe it resolves itself when the Mysterons are gone. Every single one of them and their agents. It might take a while, but one day we’ll be free of their terror. And you will be free, too.”
Adam shot to his feet and quickly caught Scarlet’s arm. “Wait a fucking minute!”
“Adam… let me go.”
“Make me! If this is what I think it is, and you haven’t even confirmed it, I won’t even have a bruise by tonight!” he snarled.
The guilt was tenfold now. Well fuck!
“You think too much and don’t ask a lot of questions yourself, Paul!”
“You think this is a burden for me?”
“You are my friend, you moron!”
“This means forever, Adam!” Paul exploded. “I can’t bloody well die! Maybe if someone tries hard enough! Throws me in a vat of acid! Buries me in a volcano! But maybe even that isn’t enough! I can’t die! I’ll be here forever!”
“And I’ll be there with you!”
Paul tore away and stumbled back. “That’s not what I wanted,” he whispered, sounding so desperate and broken.
“It’s what you got. You said it was instinct to choose me. Trust your instinct.”
“You can’t be serious! You have no idea what it means!”
“Do you?” Adam challenged.
Scarlet stared at him, mouth opening, then closing again.
“You don’t. All you think about is what a burden this might be for me. You never asked, Paul! Maybe I don’t mind being your anchor.”
“You will hate me one day. You’ll watch everyone die.”
“You’ll be there.”
“What about Serena?!” he yelled, sounding almost desperate.
“What about Simone?” Adam shot back.
“She was never meant to be more than a good friend.”
“Paul… just listen, okay? Let it settle. Something you call a monster chose me as your anchor and cemented that fact. We can’t change it, right?”
“No,” was the soft answer.
“What else does your Mysteron side remember?”
“There is no Mysteron side,” was the sharp reply. “There is only the Mysteron!”
“Humor me. As your anchor, I can see you as I want to see you. Now, what do you know?”
Paul swallowed. “That I choose who I trust. That it’s only this one person. That it’s permanent. Till death.”
“Mine or yours?”
“Mine. You are… mine.” The dark-haired man looked away. “You… you’ll always pull from me.”
“Even from death?”
Paul swallowed hard, looking sick. “Yes,” he whispered.
“And?” Adam dug, storing the ‘you are mine’ for later.
“Once chosen, no one can replace you.”
“Absolute trust. Compatibility. But mostly this sense that I can rely on you, that you won’t… run.”
Paul shook his head. “It’s enough. My trust in you to never betray me. To protect.”
“To be there as a friend and what?”
The burning blue eyes said it all. Adam cocked his head and smiled.
“Think about what your instinct tells you, Paul. You protect the anchor, the anchor protects you, right? Think about it.”
Silence fell between them. Adam waited. This man had all the memories and emotions of the man who had died on Mars. This was Paul Metcalfe. His friend of four years and counting. The man he would always follow, would trust blindly in any situation.
His fellow Captains had once asked why he even tried to keep up with Scarlet, why he tried to stop him from killing himself in the line of duty. Blue had been almost livid in that moment. Scarlet wasn’t suicidal. He did what was necessary. Even if he knew he would be able to recover, the pain was real. He felt the bullets that took his life. He felt the agony of suffocation, of poison, of radiation.
And still he did it.
Every single time.
“I…” Paul broke the silence. “It’s… not fair.”
Adam laughed softly. “Life never is.” He stepped closer. “We make the best of what’s handed to us. I’m not going to ask White for a reassignment over the news. Old news, when I think about it”
“You’re okay with this?”
It sounded almost like wonder. Like reverence. Like hope.
“Why? How can you cope with this, Adam?” Paul demanded. “You’ll be a freak like me!”
“You keep bringing it up, but it’s not a topic for me.” He closed the distance, pushing the slightly taller man against the wall. “Maybe you’re a Mysteron. Maybe you’re something else. Maybe you’re a hybrid. Maybe you’re just Paul. Ever thought about that? You’re not a tool to be used. You’re a soldier, a Spectrum agent, but you’re not a weapon. No one can use you. No one! You’re my friend and whatever you can and can’t do, you’ll always be my friend.”
The hope was bright and almost painful now. Painful for Adam to see. Scarlet’s walls were coming down and he was fighting it every step of the way.
Please don’t, Paul, he thought. You’re only hurting yourself and there is no reason to.
“We’ve known each other for four years,” he said out loud. “I’ve always been there. I even forgave you for trying to kill me. You kept me from killing you a few times, too.” He quirked a smile. “We hit it off when we came here and maybe this chemistry is what had your Mysteron side imprint or anchor or whatever.”
Paul swallowed at the last words, evading his eyes.
“We both know there was something there. If not for Mars, it might have had time to grow. I learned to trust you again,” Adam went on. “On the job and off it. This is both. If you ever quit Spectrum, I’ll be there. You’re stuck with me. Get used to it.”
“But you didn’t trust me after I was clear of the Mysteron control.”
“You tried to kill us. Takes a while to work through that.”
“Well, yeah, there’s that.”
“Took you a while to let your guard down, too.”
Those first few weeks had been hard on them. Adam still remembered the reluctance, the walk on egg-shells, until both men had found that despite everything, their friendship was still there. Paul’s memories and emotions were all there. In time, the rest might come back, too.
But Captain Scarlet had become Spectrum’s number one weapon against Mysteron plots. It seemed he had cancelled his private life. There was only the soldier, the field agent, but never Paul anymore. He was always the first to leap into action and Captain Blue had been at his side. Always. They had spent more and more time together. Still, there had been one last step that they hadn’t taken, even though they had been dancing around each other before the mission to Mars.
“I’m your choice. And I’m okay with it. We both know there was something before Mars.”
“This happened because of Mars,” Scarlet growled.
“’This’ is just that. We just chose not to act on it for various reasons. Like careers. Now… You really think it matters now?”
The blue eyes widened a little, Paul clearly fighting against himself.
“We have forever, Paul. Or as long as it takes for someone to find a way to kill you off for good,” Adam said pragmatically. “I’ll be there every step of the way. I’ll always be there.”
And then he pushed away, taking two steps back to give the other man breathing room.
Paul stared at him, clearly overrun, but part of that expression was also mixed in with something else. Adam smiled a little.
He turned and walked away.
Skybase was big, but small enough for Paul to find him and they both needed time. He might have to talk to Gold, maybe even the colonel, but for now he wanted to give his best friend time to think.
It was raining over the Bering Sea. Dark clouds churned underneath Skybase. They had risen higher above the rain clouds, the winds howling around them, and underneath the cloud cover, the sea was churning, the wall of rain was beating down.
Captain Scarlet had spent most of the day in the rec room and the gym, running miles upon miles, pushing weights, doing sit-ups, crunches, and generally trying to exhaust himself. With his metabolism it was almost an impossible task.
No one had disturbed his run so far. He had chosen the treadmill because of the monotony of each move, because he could let his thoughts run freely, and because it gave him a chance to just… be himself.
Nothing else but running.
He wasn’t really out of breath and while he felt the muscle movement, there was no real strain. Fifty kilometers and counting.
He wasn’t anymore. He had stopped looking at the display. He knew his heartbeat and pulse remained steady, that his lungs were not even at their limit, that he could go another sixty.
Below, the clouds grew even darker.
It had been two days since his talk with Adam, telling him everything. Well, close to everything. There was still so much more.
And they had the time to share.
Because Adam had accepted… this. Him. All of it.
It had floored Paul, the easy acceptance. Adam would be sharing his life, his eternity, and he… hadn’t really looked all too shocked or had protested.
Could it be this easy?
Would it last?
That was the most painful of his many thoughts. What might happen in ten years down the road. Twenty. More. Adam was stuck with him. Like him, he wouldn’t age. Like him, he would always look his thirty-two years.
No family. No children.
Freak. Monster. Aberration.
He almost stumbled and quickly found his rhythm again.
“Thinking,” a soft voice had him stumble again.
He had missed the sound of the door to the gym opening. He had missed the approach of the man he had been thinking about. Adam walked over, leaning against the curving metal beam next to the treadmill, arms crossed in front of his chest, an easy smile on his lips. He looked a bit pale, fine lines of the past stress and pain of the recovery still there.
“Couldn’t sleep. Feels like I’ve slept forever. And I keep thinking.”
Scarlet slowed down and finally stopped the treadmill. Dread rose inside him.
His fellow captain gave him another easy smile. “I’m still in. Give me some time to digest it, okay? I’m not going to pull out of something that big. Not like I can, right? You’re stuck with me, Paul, like it or not.”
Paul stepped down and grabbed a towel, shaking his head. “This isn’t about what I like or not.”
“It kinda is. Like I told you, you’re my best friend. And you know we had something before Mars.”
Yes, there had been an undercurrent between them. Neither man had pursued it. Attraction was a common thing. Attraction could lead further or it would fade one day. Adam had come to Spectrum as a highly decorated US Army officer. Captain Scarlet had been with the US Airforce and in Special Forces. Both men had become fast friends and the low vibes between them had gone no further.
Just like Paul’s friendship with Destiny Angel had never taken another step forward. Relationships amongst co-workers were a difficult topic. Emotions got in the way.
Now… now it was something else that connected them and the emotions were secondary, but they were there, the low-key hum, the still steady attraction. Scarlet knew that he could give in, but he wasn’t who had gone to Mars. He had no idea what the Mysteron body would make of this.
He was jerked out of his thoughts and Adam’s grin was almost infectious.
“You said I’m not interchangeable with anyone else, right?”
He nodded wordlessly.
“And I kinda doubt you’d anchor yourself to someone you don’t like. Or who doesn’t like you. So this is what we work with, okay? We both had to learn to live with it. I told you I’m okay with it. I know we need time, talk, get to know this thing… even you don’t know all about yourself. And I want to know what your Mysteron side flings at you, understood? Flashes, memory jolts, everything. I’m in and I deserve to know everything.”
Captain Scarlet swallowed, then nodded. “You do,” he said, mouth a little dry. His mind was in uproar.
“I’m also stuck in my own personal rehab hell. That means you get to suffer with me. I’m grounded and I don’t intend to sit in my quarters all day. I think we can spend that downtime getting me up to speed on Mysteron anchor bonds.”
Paul nodded again. Inside, he was drawn between happiness and terror. Absolute terror.
Adam leaned forward, holding his gaze with his own. “No lies, no obfuscation, no silence, Paul. Everything. Good, bad and absolutely ugly.”
Below them, the clouds kept churning, now and then a flash of lightning danced through the murkiness.
“Good. Get some sleep, Paul. We’ll start tomorrow.”
And then Adam was gone. Moving a little stiffly, which was to be expected, but on his own two feet and so very much alive.
Scarlet sat down on the treadmill, running his fingers through his tousled hair.
No more lies. The truth about himself, about everything he experienced and had never told anyone else but Doctor Gold before.
He could do it.
This was Adam.
* * *
They talked a lot.
More than they ever had before, about more than just family and their lives before Spectrum.
For the first time, Adam Svenson understood what had happened to his friend, what had happened to Captain Scarlet, to Paul Metcalfe. He listened, he asked questions, he filed away everything to memory. He heard of the pain, the loss, the agony of death and regeneration.
“I didn’t know,” he said.
“No one does. The doc, yes. No one else understood.”
“You never mentioned it.”
Paul gave him a hollow laugh. “What would you want me to say? It hurts like hell every time? That dying is slow and agonizing, that my nerve endings scream when a bullets tears into me, that I feel life leave me? What would it change? I am what I am, Adam.”
“You’re human, Paul. You feel. You are afraid of death, like all of us.”
“I’m… the only chance we have sometimes.”
Adam lightly nudged his leg with his own. They sat comfortably on the ground, up on the service platform, where aside from them, no one came.
“You’re entitled to be terrified. We all are. No one would think less of you. You run into deadly situations with no regard for your own life, your pain. That’s why no one asks. Some think you don’t feel pain anymore.”
“Because I’m a Mysteron.”
Adam took one pale, cold hand and squeezed it. “No. They look at the other replicants and see their detachment. They see you and see… emotions. It was hard to understand in the beginning. You know I had doubts, too. No one could be sure you were completely free of their control. And then you would give your life again and again.”
“Sometimes I wonder how free I really am, too.”
“They no longer control you,” Adam stated.
“I can still hear them. Once I thought I felt their minds, trying to get back into mine, erase the human part. It was like a constant thrum against my mind. I fight them, every single time, and every single time I’m afraid I might lose.”
The blond shook his head. “They won’t get you back.”
Paul smiled thinly. “Not anymore, now that you’re there. Completely.”
“Would you ever have told me? If this had remained a partial anchor?”
He shrugged. Adam frowned at him, but he let it drop.
“What about Destiny?”
The pale blue eyes widened briefly. “What about her?” Paul asked, trepidation in his voice.
“You and her. Something’s there. Don’t deny it.” Adam shrugged. “You… bonded.”
“Over the loss of a good friend. Over the loss of a lover. She and I… We’re friends and that’s it.”
“Not even a partial anchor?”
“There can only ever be one, Adam.”
“But you thought it might be her?”
Paul shook his head. “Never thought it, never hoped it. With the memory flashes I knew it was you.”
“You never hoped it was her?” Adam prodded gently. “Because you two would have been great.”
It got him a thin, brittle smile. “No. Never hoped. And we wouldn’t have worked out. She loves Conrad; still does, always will. I got glimpses of what they could have become and it was… beautiful. The two of us, Destiny and me, it was desperation on my part, to have a friend, to feel human. She made me feel human. There were emotions, even jumbled ones, and it was nice for a while.
She care for me. I know she still does. That kiss we shared… it was nice. It wasn’t us, though. She wanted and needed a friend, to connect to something of Conrad’s. Someone who might understand that while he’s dead, he’s still there somehow.”
Adam was silent, still holding his hand, still anchoring him in so many ways. His thumb brushed over Paul’s skin, a calming, repetitive motion.
“You got me,” he finally murmured. “I’m not saying I’ll jump into a firefight without an ounce of survival instinct, but I’ll always be at your side.”
It got Adam a fine smile. “You were at my side before you knew about this.”
“Hm, think about it, Metcalfe.”
Paul rested their interlaced hands on his thigh.
Adam let him do his processing.
One step at a time.
“I feel this way because I’m no longer under their control,” Paul broke the silence. “Puppets experience no pain. Black… he dies, he recovers, he goes on. That’s why he has an advantage over me.”
“I believe emotions are always an advantage over being an automaton.”
“They are,” Adam insisted. “We beat them because you’re not like them!”
“A human psyche in a Mysteron body,” he said softly. “Neither of one species, nor another.”
“Very much human.”
It got Adam a small smile.
“This isn’t… exclusive,” Paul said one late night over a bowl of crisps and some damn good beer.
Adam was simply happy he was allowed to drink something other than water or tea by now. Gold had been adamant. Since he was off duty – and Scarlet metabolized alcohol like water – both had chosen beers.
“You are my partner, Adam, my anchor now, too, but you’re not attached to me by the hip.”
“Huh. Could’ve fooled me.”
“I meant off duty.”
“Yep.” He popped the ‘p’ a little.
Paul rolled his eyes. “What I mean is…”
“I know what you mean, buddy. And you know I’ve made my decision.”
“What do you want from me, Adam?“
“Whatever you have to give.”
“No! Don’t… Don’t give me that crap! I’m not using you! I never will! You’re not a tool for me!”
“I said don’t!” Scarlet snapped furiously. “What. Do. You. Want? You, Adam!”
Adam studied the angry man, took in the hardness in the pale blue eyes, the set to his jaw. “I want you,” he said calmly. “I want to be your friend. I want to be your field partner. And I want to see what can happen outside that.”
“And if it doesn’t work out?”
“Then it doesn’t. I like you, Paul. No matter what happens between us, it can’t destroy what we already have.”
“You’re making all the compromises,” Paul said softly. “Sacrifices.”
“No. We both lost and won. You lost the most, but you stayed on. You fight for everything you are and want to be, Paul. So will I. With you.”
“I’m not sure I can be that person for you.”
“What person?” Adam prodded, taking a swallow.
Paul grimaced. He saw the amused light in the blue eyes, the flicker of mischief.
“You’re confusing me with Magenta. He’s the charmer, the ladies man and womanizer. Well, he thinks he is. Must be the Italian roots.” Adam smirked.
“You could have a relationship.”
Pale blond eyebrows rose.
“With a woman. Have a family.”
“You think I’m that kind of bastard?”
“What?” Paul blurted.
“I’m ageless now, right? Thirty-two. Stuck. Sure, it might become awkward in ten years. In twenty it would be unbearable. Paul, I’m not looking for the white picket fence and the kids and the dog. I chose a military career. We all did. Serena is a career officer, White’s executive officer. She turned down a promotion to Captain for that. And Symphony’s a passionate, born pilot, like all the Angels.” He met the pale blue eyes seriously. “I’m not looking for any of that. You got me. Whatever you need, I’m here.”
Paul was silent.
“And you know I like who I like. Man or woman. I wouldn’t do it to either. It’s my choice and I made it.”
The blue eyes darkened a little and Paul looked away.
“I’m not someone to start a fling, get my rocks off, Paul. I’m not a player. I’m not playing with you, either.”
“I know,” as the soft reply.
“Then listen to me for once. Just this once.”
It got him a faint smile. “I listen to you.”
“Not enough, it seems. And never when it’s important. Like now. So listen.”
Paul huffed a laugh, shaking his head. He finally looked into the blue eyes.
“I haven’t felt like this since… my death. No urges. I’m a Mysteron, Adam. They aren’t physical.”
“You’re part-Mysteron, a hybrid. You have a body, they apparently don’t. They need a mental connection, but you react physically, and don’t you deny it.”
“Not in a way that is human.”
Adam gave a huff of annoyance. “You really think I’m making this about a roll in the hay? Think again, Scarlet.” Adam’s brows lowered into a frown, eyes narrowing. “Relationships aren’t solely for the good time fuck, okay? I’m not saying I’m asexual, but this is about so much more, Paul.”
“So you don’t expect me to jump your bones?”
“I expect you to follow whatever you feel is right. I’m not expecting you to feel anything, Paul.”
“You sound like a martyr. Just taking it. No complaints, no anger, no fear, nothing.” The blue eyes appeared almost inhumanly pale now. “You’re not a tool for me, Adam. You can rant, you can be furious. You also don’t have to comply to whatever I want.”
Adam leaned in closer. “I’m not. I like you, Paul. And I told you, I did so already before everything went to hell in a handbasket. I know you were attracted to me back then and the guy you are now is the same guy you were back then. You want to act on what you feel? You don’t want to act on it? Your choice. Think about it. It’s your decision, not mine.”
“What if me acting on it isn’t what you think it would be?”
“I’m not going to run.”
“I’m not so sure.”
“You said having a friend is what you need. The anchor. Everything else is just add-on pleasure.” Adam smiled gently. “I am your friend. Nothing can change that. Just think about the rest.”
“Isn’t that short-changing you?”
So simple. Such an easy answer.
Adam simply let him think.
They had time to work on this. Work it out. Make it work.
They spent the rest of the evening watching sports, rooting for opposite teams, and Paul relaxed against him.
Adam smiled, letting himself doze off. It felt good. And he had told Paul the truth: this was about so much more than just a physical aspect. It was about trust, about companionship, about keeping Captain Scarlet balanced and sane. They were slowly finding back to what had been in the making four years ago.
And they had all the time in the world.
“So… those memory flashes…” Adam raised an eyebrow.
They were on the maintenance platform again, the sky underneath clear and sunny. Skybase was currently hovering over Tasmania.
Paul, knees pulled up and lower arms resting on them, shrugged. “Yes?”
“You ever got any intel on the Mysterons through them?”
He laughed softly. “I wish. It’s nothing like this. Even though the Colonel hoped I might get something that could give us an advantage. I’m still the only advantage we have. Doctor Gold’s riding me to write everything down.”
Adam nodded. He had noticed that in the past. Scarlet was sometimes working with a tablet, brows furrowed, deep in thought, typing away. He had never asked what he did; now he knew.
“What I get is mostly concerning me. In the beginning it was complete gibberish. Then it got clearer and clearer. It drove me insane sometimes, waking up with this mess of alien things in my head. It was like I had had a life before my own or while I was living my own.” Paul folded his hands, gazing at the azure sky outside and below. “It took me a few weeks to work out that what most of it meant was that I needed someone. A companion, an anchor. Doctor Gold figured that a replicant doesn’t feel the same need I do because they are created for a purpose and then are… discarded of. I lived on.”
Adam silently watched the pale, tense features, noticing that tension creeping through Paul’s whole body. He leaned a little closer, almost in physical contact but still with a tiny gap between them. He let one knee bump against his friend’s.
Paul started to relax a little.
“I’m the exception to the rule. I regained my old memories. I became myself again, but this body and the energy it created aren’t human. Mysterons aren’t physical, but I am both. I’m a hybrid and that started his mess. I began to understand that I needed someone with me and then I understood that apparently the Mysteron had chosen you.”
“And you ignored your instincts.”
Paul glanced at him, a rueful smile on his lips. “Yes.”
“And you started to hang out with Destiny, helping her with her pain, and thought it would help yours?”
A shrug. “It was a distraction. Until Ragnarok.”
Adam let himself lean lightly against the other man. Paul didn’t move away, just tensed for a moment, then relaxed again.
“Drastic measures,” the blond remarked.
“It was a catalyst in so many ways,” Paul agreed, closing his eyes.
Adam didn’t prod any further. He enjoyed the silence that fell between them, smiling softly.
Captain Blue was declared fit for light duty a week later. Doctor Gold didn’t want to draw any kind of attention to the fact that Adam had already healed completely. Colonel White agreed and Blue did the same. He would be eased back into active duty within a month, with light case work, and finally he would be back on normal missions.
White had talked to him already, had been far from surprised that Captain Scarlet had broached the subject and told his partner what had happened.
“I don’t mind, sir,” Blue told his superior officer. “I can live with it, so to speak.” He gave White a small smile.
The colonel’s expression was still worried. “You know the consequences, Captain.”
“I do. Nothing can be done about it anyway. Doctor Gold said as much. And Paul’s tearing himself apart over this already. Enough for two, actually. I know it’s not his fault.”
“He shoulders a lot of guilt.”
“I’m quite aware of it.”
White inclined his head. “I’m glad he found an anchor in you, Adam. He needs a friend and you are that person to him.”
Captain Blue nodded and rose to leave.
He turned back to meet the calm expression.
“This makes you both special. I am aware that the closeness this anchor bond means can lead to intense situations. Let me reassure you that you have my full support.”
Blue blinked, then nodded almost automatically. “Sir,” he managed.
And he walked away, mind whirling.
Shit, he thought faintly. Did White just sanction what I think he sanctioned?
Remember who you are.
Trust your instincts.
I’m human. Not a Mysteron.
But his mind wasn’t convinced. Whenever something flashed through him from deep within what was left of the Mysteron consciousness, he would be thrown back into this well of doubt.
He had never let the attraction to Destiny develop into more. She had never made the last step either. A hug. A smile. Nothing else. She had been there when he woke, she had been there for him to talk to, as Paul had tried to keep away from Adam. Stop the anchoring effect to go any deeper.
Look where it got you, part of him sneered. You still connected. Why not let it happen?
Because it might be too much for either man. Paul had no idea how his body would react. He had never gone that far with anyone else.
Because he was afraid.
Because he didn’t want to hurt anyone, least of all Adam.
Adam helped him in so many ways already.
Their talks helped.
Adam’s conviction that they could do this.
It didn’t help that White sent him on a solo mission.
“Sir, I’m able to go with Captain Scarlet!” Blue protested.
“Officially, you are far from fit for duty, Captain Blue,” White said evenly. “You were shot barely two weeks ago. No matter your recovery, the changes between the two of you, or your personal feelings, I am not changing my orders.”
Adam stared at his commanding officer, drawn between yelling and just accepting the orders. Paul was very well capable of running the rather simple op, but knowing Scarlet’s penchant for trouble, he would need back-up.
“Yes, sir,” he only said and left the office, silently seething.
Of course Paul got into trouble.
Of course he took a bullet.
Actually, he took five and he was a mess when he was brought back to Skybase.
Adam felt sick to the core, knowing that it had been a slow death, bleeding out, and looking at the placement of the shots, the shooter had known it. Incapacitate, no kill shot.
But the op had run successfully nevertheless.
Green crawled over the scrapes and bruises, healing, alien and strange and still so normal by now.
When Scarlet’s eyes blinked open, Adam was there, smiling faintly. He had been there ever since Paul had been brought in.
“Hey,” he said softly. “Welcome back to the land of the living.”
“Had any doubts?” was the breathy whisper.
* * *
Paul was… Paul. With a difference. There was a hesitancy there that hadn’t been between them before. He was working through the latest change in his life and he was chewing on it. Quite hard.
Destiny Angel had watched him with worried eyes. She approached him a few times, but Paul politely declined whatever she offered.
They were friends.
And never would be.
She knew that Captain Blue’s close call had shaken the other field agent, but that was only to be expected. The two men were close, and lately they had grown closer.
She wasn’t blind. She saw Blue’s protectiveness, even though he was still recovering himself. A fast recovery.
Something had happened, something bad, and while it was painful for Destiny to understand, it was also the beginning of something like a healing for herself. They were good friends, connected by what had happened to Conrad, to Paul, to them. She still loved Conrad, deep down inside, and she had this surreal, faint hope that he might just be able to break out of the Mysteron’s control.
Even if he would remember everything he had been forced to do as their puppet.
Even if he wasn’t the man she had close to been engaged to just before the fateful Mars mission.
Destiny smiled a little as she watched Captain Blue, still off active field duty, say something to Scarlet, grinning, and Scarlet chuckled.
Whatever had happened, how bad it had been, it had gotten better and turned into this.
It was two weeks after the revelation that Adam was his friend’s anchor that they found themselves in Adam Svenson’s quarters, sharing a drink. Their talks had migrated from the maintenance platform to the privacy of their quarters. Late nights, or throughout the day, whenever they found time.
“I was always secretly jealous of Black,” Paul said softly, playing with the label of his beer bottle, peeling off the edges. “Because of Destiny.”
Adam nodded. He had known that.
“When we died on Mars… when I came back in this body… Destiny talked to me… about him. All we did was talk. He connected us in some absurd way. I was her link to him, as if I could channel his soul or something. Aside from you, Destiny was the only one willing to spend time with me in the beginning.”
Adam was still silent. They sat on the bunk bed, backs against the wall. It was friendly, far from pushy and oppressive, with the option to leave if this got too intense. Adam was ready to go with the flow, wherever Paul decided to take it.
They were in this for the long haul. A very long haul.
“I didn’t anchor to her.”
“No, you didn’t,” he confirmed quietly.
“I wanted her close. So many times, when she was there when I woke up. When she got me out of a tight spot, when I returned the favor. When she hugged me. I wanted her close, but it didn’t feel right. More like a necessity, but nothing I needed.”
Adam watched him quietly.
“I want this with you. And I’m terrified of it. I chose you, Adam,” the dark-haired man said, voice low, a little gritty. “And I’m afraid of what this closeness I now want will change.”
“Doesn’t have to mean a change. Won’t change what I always felt for you. You’re my best friend.”
Paul met his eyes, his own open and vulnerable. The last shields were slowly crumbling.
“I haven’t allowed myself this closeness ever since I woke up in this body. I don’t know who I am, Adam. I don’t know what can happen. All I know is that I’m a weapon. I was created as an instrument of terror and death. I’m more resilient. I can’t die. And emotionally… When Destiny offered, I couldn’t let myself go… I was afraid, Adam. Of what might happen. Of losing control. Of losing myself. They still talk to me, try to get to me sometimes. They might take over, make me hurt the person I’m with. I might do something… alien. I’m not the man Destiny wanted. I’m not the man you got to know.”
Adam watched him, noted the lines of renewed stress and emotional pain. He put down the beer bottle.
“Elysium brought that home quite clearly. I’m theirs, they want control back.”
“They can’t have you,” the blond stated evenly.
Scarlet laughed hollowly. “Who stops them?”
“You. You are in control. They lost you when you fell through the plasma generator field.”
“You mean when you shot me.”
“You were trying to kill us all, Paul,” Adam said with a faint smile.
“Yeah. That. I never thanked you.”
“No thanks needed. And I mean what I said: you are in control. That human soul. They have lost you and you have anchored yourself to another human soul. I’m not asking for anything, Paul. You know what I feel. I’ll always feel that way about you. I don’t want a fuck buddy,” he stated openly. “I’ll be happy to be what you need: your anchor. Yes, I’m attracted to you. But attraction doesn’t mean anything but an appreciation.”
Adam held out his right hand and Paul slowly touched it with his left. When he interlaced their fingers, Svenson smiled warmly.
“Sometimes this is enough,” he said softly. “Just sharing touch. Like you said, there hasn’t been any human closeness for you in almost two years. Your Mysteron side wants someone close. You can’t have another Mysteron, so let me be there? I doubt Black will offer,” he added with a grin.
Paul grimaced. “Gawd, no! It’s enough that I get these vibes from him sometimes.”
“So, let it happen? Let’s see if this goes any further or not.”
“That’s not fair to you, Adam.”
“I’m an informed, consenting adult.”
Metcalfe groaned. “That sounds so bad.”
“Only when you think the wrong thoughts. And you know what I told you and what I will repeat till it gets into that stubborn brain of yours: listen to your friend and partner.”
It got Adam a little laugh.
And without thinking Adam was suddenly there, so close he could see the lines of strain, of no sleep, of worry and determination.
He reached out, wrapped an arm around the other man’s waist.
It was like a jolt to his system and Paul’s eyes widened. His face reflected his shock, his surprise, his… hunger. He was still so very much human. So in need of human contact. Adam didn’t care whether this body was alien or not; he felt something inside of him react to the soul it housed. He felt this connection, the anchor line, and it confirmed something part of him had been thinking about.
This was them.
It was growing now that the anchor knew what he was, and to whom he was this stability. Adam was ready to give this, to be that person.
And he felt it.
Awareness, knowing about the other, about emotional states of mind, about troubles, about worries, about pain. This was what being an anchor meant. Not sex. Not so simple. It was complicated; and so much more. Care. Worry. Pushing if necessary, leaving it be if the matter called for it. Being strong for both of them, giving in if he had to, but never submit.
They were equals in this.
Adam felt a shudder run through the other man. Like this was what he had needed and had been afraid to ask for.
“You shouldn’t have to ask,” Adam said softly.
“It feels like I’m using you.”
“You’re not. And you give something back.” He smiled a little. “Why can’t you believe me?”
“Because nothing good has come out of this mess just yet. Everything the Mysterons have touched, they destroyed.”
“Not this time.”
“Stop thinking, Paul.”
“I can’t.” He rested his head against Adam’s. Fine tremors were racing through the slender form. “They’ll know. They probably already do. They’ll use you.”
“They use everyone, Paul. They have tried to use me against you before. To trap you. To destroy you. Nothing new there, just that I’ll be a lot harder to kill now.” He quirked a little smile. “Let it happen. It heals you.”
He cupped the dark head and hugged the man tightly against him. He knew physical contact helped. It was one reason why Paul slept so soundly at night.
“You’re not giving up, are you?”
“Nope,” the blond replied.
It was as if something that had been buried for too long finally rose and took its rightful place. It was a pure sensation, nothing dark or malicious, nothing devouring or overwhelming.
The connection between them, meaning… life… meaning companionship… no loneliness.
“You’re not alone, Paul,” he murmured, lips brushing over soft skin. “You never were.”
Scarlet’s fingers dug into the gray sweats with their blue markings and he held on like Adam Svenson was the only real thing in his life.
Maybe he was.
And Adam had no intention to ever let go.
It was how they slowly eased into this new partnership, with the blessings of Colonel White. The man knew more than he let on. Doctor Gold would ask questions sometimes, updating his files, keeping track of the changes.
“No telepathy, doc,” Adam joked.
“Captain Scarlet’s humanity makes a telepathic bond to a Mysteron consciousness impossible. It might just enable him to connect to his anchor’s mind,” Gold stated.
“Not that I noticed.”
“You said he sleeps when you share physical closeness?”
“Yeah. Like a log.”
Gold examined the scarred bullet wound, nodding his satisfaction. “Perfectly healed. I detect no Mysteron energy in you, Captain Blue.”
“Not a Mysteron, Doc. Still quite hopelessly human.”
“I’m quite aware of that. I’m simply speculating as to what the energy transfer between Captain Scarlet and you might mean for you physically.”
“I’m still as human as Paul.”
Gold looked at him through his glasses, mouth twisted slightly. “We both know that statement rings only half true. Captain Scarlet is for all intents and purposes a Mysteron replicant. That is a fact that cannot be changed, whatever we wish. The captain and I have been talking for a longer time than you two have been anchored now. I’m quite aware of what he is, what he can do.”
“And I’m saying that he is human to me, doc. With a touch of Mysteron. Nothing can change that,” Adam stated firmly.
“He is very lucky to have your confidence and support, Captain Blue. I believe his instinctual choice was correct.”
Damn right it was!
“You are aware of him,” Gold now stated.
“Kinda. Not telepathically. Just, there.”
“Maybe that is all that is needed for him and his sanity.”
Adam knew it was.
“Should there be changes, please let me know, Captain Blue. I am fully aware of the privacy of what you share, but I am your physician. I need to know, even if it concerns personal intimacy.”
He grimaced. Great!
Gold chuckled. “Let me reassure you, it’s nothing I don’t expect. Sharing many a night talking with Scarlet has given me an insight that you share with him as well.”
Gold smiled more and simply nodded, then turned back to his work. That was as good as any dismissal. Captain Blue left the med bay
Away from Skybase, spending the night in a motel room or a Spectrum safe house, both men slid together, seeking closeness. Scarlet found himself wrapped around his partner every time when he woke.
Which also meant he slept every night, which was rather new to him. When Blue was there, he slept. When they weren’t in the same room, he didn’t seem to feel that need. He stayed awake, worked on angles and clues and reviewed security videos.
The moment Adam caught on to it, he simply stayed in the room Paul was in for the night.
And he slept soundly.
Adam never said a word, just ran his hands over the other man’s back, his neck, sometimes pressed his lips close-mouthed against one temple before he got up.
It was a lot more human contact than in the past twenty-four months, that was for sure. It also got Paul very much acquainted with every beat of Adam’s heart, every breath, the sensation of his skin, his very energy.
Nothing else happened.
Just the physical closeness, the awareness of Adam with him, and the reassurance that he wasn’t on his own. Never again.
He only died two times in that time.
Both times Adam was there when he opened his eyes aboard Skybase, with Gold puttering around in the back, their eyes meeting silently.
Both times Adam would smile, squeeze his hand, then return to duty. Nothing new there, but the expression meant more now.
And both times, when he was released, he would find the other man with him at night, both sliding together naturally, and Paul slept like a log. Safe and secure.
* * *
The first change Captain Scarlet noticed was his persistence when it came to the Mysteron influence. He had heard their voices now and then. They had been in his head, leaving him confused and slightly disoriented for a fraction of a second. One time it had nearly been too long as the R.A.T. had attacked Adam.
Now… now there was nothing but a soft pressure, as if someone was trying to get through, then nothing. He didn’t realize what it meant until one of the replicants they were facing snarled and tried to hit Captain Blue with a baseball bat, calling him the aberration.
Adam was like a shield between him and his former masters.
It was… new. It was… strange.
Adam felt nothing. But Paul was quite aware of that shield around his mind.
“Keeping you sane?” the blond captain asked, a teasing smile around his lips.
Paul chuckled. “I guess.”
“Good. Can’t having a raving lunatic in a Spectrum uniform running around. At least not another one. Black’s enough.”
It had been inevitable that they had to run into Captain Black. That it was a trap was almost normal. A warehouse in an abandoned shipping district in Shanghai, almost crumbling in on itself. The roof was nothing but a rusting structure, the walls full of holes. The ground was covered in debris and dirt and possibly poisonous substances.
Yeah, they had walked into a trap.
And had killed at least five Mysteron agents up until this moment, when they faced their most persistent adversary.
“Scarlet. So you found a way.” Black’s voice sounded almost hateful. The black eyes were burning with an emotion Scarlet was hard-pressed to name. “How quaint.”
“Not that it’s of any interest to you,” Adam snapped, gun never wavering from the Mysteron agent.
“Oh, it’s very interesting to us.”
“Really? What’s new? Not like you can’t use one of us against the other already.”
Black’s smile was cold and cruel. “It makes for entertainment, Captain Blue. Captain Scarlet is already very protective of his friends, but his anchor he will always put first.”
Blue snorted. Scarlet regarded his former friend, torn between the hatred he felt for the Mysterons and the compassion that always rose when he tried to think of a way to help Conrad beat their control. It had happened before. He knew it was possible. He had beaten them; Conrad could, too.
“To find an anchor in a human,” Black went on, disdain dripping from his voice. “Disgusting, but so very you, Scarlet. We could have given you the same. Your mind craves the Mysteron consciousness, their cool, logical control.”
“I’m not your puppet, Black!” Paul spat. “I never will be again.”
“So you took not even second best?”
“Hey!” Blue called.
Black didn’t even deign him worthy another look. “How desperate were you, Scarlet? To consider him?”
Scarlet was silent, eyes burning with anger.
“Too bad for your little human toy,” Black stated.
There was sudden movement in the shadows and Blue brought his gun around. That was the moment Black drew his own weapon.
The bullet slammed into Adam’s shoulder, the next into his thigh. His leg was yanked out under him just as he stumbled from the dual impact and he went down hard, gasping as his shoulder slammed into the ground.
“Adam!” Scarlet yelled, his own weapon discharging almost simultaneously and killing off the Mysteron replicant with two well-placed shots.
Black stood over the fallen Blue, grinning nastily. Adam’s fingers were curled around his bleeding leg, his face pale, breathing hard. Black’s gun steadily pointed at the downed man.
“Do you know how it feels when he pulls from you as he revives, Scarlet?” he whispered, shooting a glance at his opponent. “To have him suck your life out of you like the parasite he is to your system? Can you feel his claws buried in your Mysteron soul? Can you feel his control over your very life?!”
“He’s my friend, Black!” Scarlet whispered sharply. “My anchor. Nothing else.”
“Oh, he’s more. He’s your leash and collar. He will drain you with no regard to your own condition, Scarlet. Because he isn’t one of us. You will see that when he dies. I’d be happy to give you a demonstration of the foolishness you permitted.”
“No!” he breathed. “Please, Conrad, stop this!”
“You like him. You want him. Your human plaything.” He barked a laugh. “Oh, you have fallen so far, Scarlet. You could have been so much more with us.”
Another grin, showing teeth. Adam lay on the ground, breathing hard, eyes clouded in pain, and blood stained the floor. The blue of his uniform jacket had by now taken on a darker red color.
“This one… he’s so useless. Fragile. Human. Weighing you down. Making you human.”
“I am human!” Scarlet spat.
“You were made by the Mysterons. It’s where you will always belong. It’s what they see, am I not right, Scarlet?”
Black’s weapon swiveled from the downed Spectrum agent to come to rest on Scarlet.
“Have you thought about what it will do to you if I kill you while he tries to pull your energy? He will feast on you, Scarlet. He is a leech. He is a parasite. You were already an aberration, now you are truly a monster, even amongst the Mysterons.”
Scarlet clenched his hands into fists, grinding his teeth.
“Just like you are nothing but a parasite to him,” Black went on, laughing. “You use him. You abuse him. You keep him like a pet. That’s all you are to him, Captain Blue. A tool. A toy. Scarlet is Spectrum’s weapon against us and when he loses his value, his bite, they will turn on him like he is nothing. They will destroy you both. Unless the Mysterons manage that first.”
His grin was nasty, inhuman.
“Fuck off,” Adam whispered and brought up his gun, fingers stained a deep red, dripping blood, and he pulled the trigger.
The shot was a little off, but it hit Black nonetheless, though not fatally. He whirled around, shooting at Scarlet, catching him in the side, then he was gone. The door slammed behind him, leaving the two men alone in the old warehouse.
Paul fell to his knees next to his injured friend. His own side jarred a little, but he ignored the pain. He had gotten good at that.
“Fuck, that hurts,” the blond muttered, teeth clenching.
He quickly checked both wounds. “Through and through,” he told Blue.
“Good news,” was the breathy reply, followed by a groan. “Still, hurts like hell, Paul.”
“It always does.”
The dark blue eyes were filled with understanding, though it was quickly wiped away by another wave of pain.
“I need to wrap this, staunch the blood flow. Gonna hurt more,” Scarlet said.
He was already taking off his jacket and then the black shirt underneath. He stripped off his undershirt and began to tear it apart. He used the strips to wrap a tight knot around both bullet wounds.
Blue’s eyes were on him, a faint smile on his lips. “Didn’t have to strip for me, Paul.”
“Whatever keeps you with me.”
“Hey, I’m not that cheap… I don’t just like you for your body, so you’re not getting rid of me.” He broke off, gasping sharply.
“Help’s coming,” Paul told him, taking his hand, holding it as Blue rode through another wave of pain.
“Black knows,” Adam whispered, blue eyes burning into Paul’s.
“Inevitable. They probably knew for a while now.”
“How much am I pulling?”
“Nothing I can feel right now.” The dark-haired man smiled faintly. “You’re taking your time,” he teased.
It got him a weak laugh. “No idea what I’m doing, Paul.”
“Neither am I.”
So he just sat with the other captain. He had spread his jacket over him, wearing into his black shirt, listening to each breath, each moan. Woozy, consciousness fading, Blue tried to hang on, but it was getting harder and harder.
When the pull began, it was a sharp, sudden jolt that had Scarlet groan, grabbing one thigh.
“Paul?!” Adam sounded tired but a little more alert.
“Nothing,” he gritted.
Scarlet’s free hand flew to his shoulder, grimacing. “I think so.”
He felt like his blood pressure had suddenly dropped, dizzy and detached, like part of him was tearing away, and then there was nothing but the soft hum he had noticed months before. His thigh cramped painfully for a minute, then that was over, too.
Scarlet released a soft breath.
Adam’s eyes had closed, his own breathing quite regular, and Paul leaned back against the wall, never letting go of his hand.
Help came almost six hours later.
“Not a monster,” Adam murmured when he pulled his partner into an embrace close to thirty hours after Black’s trap.
He had been unconscious by the time they had arrived on Skybase. He had woken in med bay, Gold near-by, running test and scans and probing the healing wounds.
Colonel White was aware of what had happened, how serious the injuries had been. Doctor Gold had downplayed them for every visitor, calling them scrapes at best. With the blood on the uniform and the mess both men had been in, neither Captain Brown nor Captain Grey had truly seen the full extent of Blue’s injuries. They had airlifted both captains out of the area, leaving Scarlet to tend to his partner, fabricating a story about Black getting the drop on Blue, stunning him, then shooting him.
On Skybase, Gold had smoothly taken over.
And he had kept Blue under observation for twenty-four hours.
Now, in the privacy of an examination room, after Gold had left them with a knowing look, Paul wrapped his arms firmly around the other man. He buried his face against the warm neck, trembling a little with the stress and still lingering shock.
His stoic façade had cracked by the time Gold had closed the door after him and Adam had known how much this had shaken his partner.
“He got to you,” he said softly, tightening his arms. “I can see it. You’re more morose than normal.”
“I’m not morose,” Scarlet protested, though he didn’t fight the embrace. He actually clung to Adam like he needed the full body contact like he needed air to breathe.
Adam chuckled and pressed his lips to the dark hair.
“Right. Mr. Sunshine all the way. You get this look in your eyes after a regeneration, when those memory flashes hit. When you remember something Mysteron. And right now, even without that, you look ready to throw yourself off Skybase. He got to you.”
“With the truth.”
“That I take life energy from you? Yeah, we knew that. That your Mysteron side thinks it’s a smart idea to rely on me for your sanity? Check, knew that. I leech, yeah. But that was to be expected. You told me.”
Adam stepped back, looking into the pale face. He hated the pain he saw there, the worry and pain.
“He’s playing a game of nerves, Paul. He looks for weaknesses. They, the Mysterons, do. They know you are human. You have very human emotions. They want to use that against you. They want to use me. We knew that, right?”
The pale blue eyes were filled with the answer.
“As I said: you’re not a monster. Not to me. Never to me. Black can think whatever he wants to. You found what you needed and this, between us, it works. I’m just worried that it pains you.”
“Small price to pay for your life, Adam.”
He smiled, squeezing one shoulder. “Probably.” He tilted his head a little. “But you’re still thinking about what Black said. About you and me, both dying. What would happen to you when I start pulling.”
Paul shrugged and slumped on the couch.
“I would recover,” he said. “If I can. Atomization is permanent.”
“We had this talk. A dozen times. We’re bound together, Paul. I wouldn’t want to be the one left standing. I’m not going to bury you, hold your eulogy. Together.”
Blue eyes, pale and sometimes glacially cold when on a mission, widened. It caught up to Adam in those moments, how vulnerable Paul Metcalfe really was.
“You like to punish yourself,” Blue stated neutrally. “It’s apparently a knack. You take all the blame and can’t catch a break. News flash, buddy: I’m that break.”
“I use you, Adam.”
“Uh-huh. What for? Cheap entertainment? I’ll have you know I’m not cheap.”
“A replacement,” was the quiet, too serious answer.
Adam wrapped an arm around the other man’s shoulders and pulled him close. Paul almost collapsed against him.
“Replacement for what? The Mysteron mind control? Hey, I’m all for it. Use me all you want. I get something out of this, too. It goes both ways and I’m going to beat this into your thick skull if I have to. For the rest of our lives, Paul.”
Scarlet smiled, a laugh escaping him.
“That’s more like it!”
He slid his fingers into the dark strands and pressed his lips to the tousled hair.
Paul relaxed against him, the tension bleeding out of his frame.
* * *
“Have you ever thought about the future?”
Paul looked up from the study of his tablet. He had a ton of backlog reports to read and most of them were utterly boring.
“Not since my last moment as a human being.”
Adam scowled, but he didn’t argue again. His expression said it quite clearly, told Paul that he wanted to, though.
“Why?” he only asked.
It got him a shrug. “There’s none to plan for. I‘m immortal, Adam. As long as I breathe I will fight, be an agent. There is no retirement, nothing like it. I won’t age. They won’t leave us alone.“
Adam was silent, studying him with an almost unreadable expression. “And then?”
“After the Mysterons? I don’t know.”
Because he might not survive. He might get obliterated. He might not be able to exist without them. They might win and destroy Earth. Maybe they could work out a truce. Maybe the Mysterons could be convinced it had all been a mistake. Maybe…
“What about you?” Paul final asked, fearing the answer.
“Career soldier,” Adam answered easily. “That’s my future. Now even more so.” He gave Paul an easy grin.
“But not the way you wanted.”
The blond lightly kicked him in the shin, scowling again. “Paul,” he admonished.
“What about your family?”
Scarlet’s was dead. He had no one to think of but himself. It was so much easier in a way, and still so much harder. His parents were dead and so were his grandparents. No siblings, no cousins. So, so easy.
Adam had two living parents. He had two older brothers and one younger sister. Of course, relations with his father were strained at best. The man had wanted his son to follow into his footsteps, just like his older brothers had done already, but Adam had become a soldier. Paul knew there had been little personal contact outside family festivities over the years. It didn’t mean Adam Svenson had no family.
“What about them?” the blond now asked. “I can’t tell them half of what I so. Secrecy and all. It was like that in the Army and it‘s like that now.”
Paul was silent again, fingers playing along the tablet’s edge. Adam caught them, holding the pale blue eyes.
“We’re good, Paul. Relax into this. We’ll take this one day at a time. I’m not going all the different scenarios now.”
Scarlet looked at their joined hands and squeezed Adam’s. “Can’t help it, Adam. I haven’t given my life much of a thought. It was just me and my virtual indestructibility. I’m a weapon and that was all. No plans.”
“Doesn’t mean you never had a life to live, Paul. To lead. You’re not a thing. Spectrum doesn’t own you.”
“Sometimes it feels like it.”
“I’ll start kicking your pale, British ass if you don’t stop talking like that, Metcalfe!” Adam snarled and tugged at the hand he kept holding. “We’re in this together. Equally. I’m your anchor and you’re not responsible for whatever you think you did to make me your partner in your life. This is us. Two people. Not you and poor me. You’re Paul Metcalfe. You’re human, Paul. To me, you’re absolutely human. We’ll face this together. Always together. Not attached at the hip, but you won’t be alone.” He lifted a corner of his mouth in a small smile. “And it’s not a hardship, Paul. I want this.”
Paul knew it and it humbled him. Adam pulled him close, the physical contact somehow calming and wanted. He had never realized how much influence Adam had on him.
Since completing the anchor.
Since accepting that he was a Mysteron and needed this.
“You better well are.”
“Threats always work so well.”
Adam chuckled and groped for the remote, then found a channel with a nature documentary. Paul leaned comfortably against the blond and returned to reading the files on his tablet.
Sometimes there was a kiss. A brief contact, lips against lips, never more than that. It happened almost unconsciously, an almost chaste contact just before one left the room they had shared for a night. It was always in private. It was never something that led to more.
Touches were more frequent. Especially after an assignment that had them confront a Mysteron replicant. On one occasion Blue held his friend as Scarlet recovered from a bad fall that left him weak and trying to heal a dozen broken bones, as well as take care of the stab wound in his chest from where a wooden stake had speared him.
Adam had had to remove the stake.
He had nearly thrown up over it.
He had had to look at his friend in all kinds of states, from burns to acid to radiation poisoning. Somehow he had gotten used to it, but then again, not so much. He was human and he knew the pain Paul was in was real. He experienced it just as intensely as any of them would have.
Touch helped. It eased Paul’s mind, let him rest more easily as his body did its amazing trick. Every time he woke, he looked more relaxed, younger, calmer. And waking up no longer was a sudden gasp or eyes opening wide, fighting for that first breath.
After one such recovery, Adam pressed a relieved kiss to his forehead, smiling brightly.
“Good to have you back.”
Paul’s smile was real; tired but real.
The next kiss was on the lips.
Warm, deep, slow, speaking of emotions Paul was still working through.
Rescue found them half a day later, none the worse for wear. Blue was simply happy to get out of the woods and back into civilization, even though he was a passionate outdoorsman. This hadn’t been a vacation, though. There had been nothing to enjoy.
Paul kissed him again when they were in Adam’s quarters, both reluctant to leave the other alone.
This time it had been on his initiative.
Nothing else happened.
Until one morning, in a hotel suite they had spent the night after a grueling week of chasing a Mysteron agent.
Blue had ended up a hostage, with the chafed wrists and concussion to show. The agent was dead, both field agents more than ready to go home, but pick-up wouldn’t be until the next morning. His new healing factor had taken care of the headache and the raw skin around his wrists looked a lot better, though it was still red and tender.
It was Paul who initiated the kiss then. It was almost desperate, the pale blue eyes burning. Adam followed his gut feeling and opened up under the kiss, letting their tongues slide together.
It wasn’t the angels singing or sparks flying or explosions of lights behind his eyes. It was far more subtle, like a hum between them, a confession made without words.
Paul pulled back slowly, looking into his eyes, quizzical and slightly hesitant. Adam waited.
He was paid in full for his patience by another kiss.
One that was by far deeper and more meaningful than before.
Paul didn’t fight it.
For the first time, he didn’t fight it.
He went with the flow, touched and kissed, and Adam held him close. That connection between them, the anchor, seemed to hum and vibrate with something that seemed to want to get out, too close to the surface and still not breaking free.
“Paul,” Adam murmured against the other man’s lips. “Let go.”
It was a soft groan that answered him. Adam rolled on his back, Paul easily settling over him, and taking the lead. The blond took a gamble and slid his hand under his partner’s shirt. He was rewarded with a stuttering breath.
“Not doing anything. Your lead.”
Paul groaned again and buried his head against Adam’s neck. Svenson just curled his arms around him, a smile playing over his lips. His fingers carded into the longish, black strands. He lightly scratched his nails over the other man’s scalp, feeling Paul relax a little more.
A soft sigh confirmed it.
He kissed the square jaw.
It got him a grunt.
“You okay with this?”
“I think I’m still human enough to enjoy it, yeah.”
Adam chuckled. “You always stop. And you are human.”
Paul pushed himself up, looking into the bright blue eyes, taking in the ease, the calmness, Adam’s relaxed state.
“You are, Adam. Fully human.”
“Hopelessly human, as I’ve been told,” he joked. “Doesn’t make you alien when it comes to your own emotions.”
Paul exhaled sharply.
“Stop thinking, Paul,” Adam said softly. “You won’t know what happens until you give in just a little.”
He curled a hand around Paul’s neck and pulled him into another kiss. Opening up. Inviting Paul in. Giving him the choice. He nipped at the retreating lips, grinning when he took in the flushed cheeks.
His partner’s eyes were glacially blue, blown wide, his control waning.
The next kiss was initiated by his partner and Adam happily replied. He left his hand under the shirt, felt the warm skin, the muscles underneath, and he knew they were good. Paul was good.
Paul Metcalfe had never known how much he needed human contact, had missed it and wanted it, until Adam had forced him to accept his needs.
He was different from everyone else and then again he wasn’t. He was a Mysteron, but he was also human. He was Paul Metcalfe, he was Captain Scarlet, and he was the man who needed Adam Svenson, Captain Blue, as his anchor. And who had bound Adam to him because he would always need him.
As long as he lived.
There was a soft huff against his skin and he smiled when the arm around his waist tightened.
“Thinkin’,” the blond complained sleepily. “Loudly.”
“Sorry,” he replied.
Blue eyes, darker than his own, cracked open, glaring. Adam looked tired, but not worn, and Paul turned to kiss him softly. It had become an addiction and he liked it.
Nothing had happened between them. It had been a make-out session, almost like they were teenagers, getting to know each other.
In a way they were.
They were moving slow; glacially slow, if he was any judge of it. It was fine by him and Adam had made no move to change the speed. Tonight had been a lot closer than they had ever been before. He had never allowed himself to lose himself in the kisses and touches.
Part of Scarlet was still terrified of what would happen if he gave up control completely. He was a Mysteron and Mysterons didn’t have physical relationships. That much he had gleaned from the memories surfacing sporadically. This wasn’t anything he could reliably call upon from the leftover Mysteron mind control. Adam had been a very patient man, listening to his fears, and then he had simply pulled him into an embrace.
“We’ll burn that bridge when we get there,” he had replied philosophically.
“I thought we should cross it.”
Paul let his partner pull him closer and he rested his head on the muscular chest, his right hand playing over the flat stomach.
They were mostly naked.
A first time for them. They had seen each other naked throughout their Spectrum careers, but that had been before a new flavor had been added to their partnership. Wearing only pajama pants, no shirts, was a novelty.
And the playfulness was new, too. His fingers brushing over the warm skin, feeling the life underneath the deceptive vulnerability.
The scar from that fateful shot was still visible. It was a clear reminder of the day he had chosen Adam Svenson over everything and everyone else. It was a reminder that his anchor was still human, not a Mysteron, not a monster.
Adam caught the hand and placed his own over it. Paul let a soft sigh escape.
Adam’s fingers were in his hair, playing with it. “Good,” he only said, smile audible. “Your speed, Paul.”
He looked into the ruggedly handsome face, took in the still present ease.
Paul leaned down and kissed him, pouring everything into the contact.
* * *
It had been his father’s sixty-fifth birthday and while Adam hadn’t been ecstatic to go, he had gone. White had given him four personal days, though he had argued two would be enough. Of course, no one knew if there wasn’t a mission or a Mysteron plot. No one cold plan for that and it would have put a crimp into his plans.
As it was, nothing was on the horizon, though Adam was reluctant to leave. It wasn’t as if he was truly welcome. His father would lecture him about throwing away his education, his high grades, his career in business. He would tell everyone who listened that his son had had such a promising future and now was nothing but a mere soldier for an international organization that would get him killed.
Adam would hold his tongue, would bite back his comebacks, and he would try and escape the scathing remarks to talk to the few people in his family he counted as true family. Like his younger sister. Or one of his brothers.
Yes, he would have loved to remain on Skybase. His new relationship, the meaning he had for his partner, was still slightly rocky. Paul would have these moments of broodiness, the faraway look in his eyes that told Adam he was going over everything again and again. He would try to figure out a way to handle the anchor connection, give Captain Blue a measure of privacy and freedom, and Blue would argue with him until Paul folded once again.
“Go,” Scarlet simply said.
“You could come with.”
“As your plus one?” he teased.
Adam grinned. He liked the light-heartedness of the remark. “Maybe? Sounds about right.”
“I’m on duty.”
“The Colonel might just say yes.”
He probably would. White was very much aware of the growing closeness. Doctor Gold was keeping a record of things and their commanding officer was the recipient of frequent updates.
And it might shock his father into silence for a while, until the moment he would rant about something else about his no good son.
“Go, Adam. Have fun.”
He grimaced. “Yeah, right.” But it would be good to see his family again.
So he went.
* * *
Three days later, coming home from a family dinner, actually on his last day and a day after his dad’s birthday, Captain Blue received a call. His father raised an eyebrow as the Spectrum-issue cell beeped.
“I thought you were off duty until tomorrow,” he remarked, voice acidic and sharp.
Adam ignored the tone of voice, like he had done a hundred times in the last days. Part of him had hoped for a call the moment he had walked into his parents’ home, seeing his old man, meeting the cold, gray eyes full of disdain. He hadn’t been that lucky until now.
“Must be urgent.”
“Well, you’re not the only agent in that superfluous, pseudo-military…”
Adam ignored the rest and just stepped away to check the messages.
His father was correct that he wasn’t the only agent, which was something that worried Adam. For White to call him, there was only one single reason: Paul. Something had happened to Paul, to Captain Scarlet, and it had to be severe. If he had been sent on a mission and injured or killed, well, as bad as it sounded, it was nothing new. So it wasn’t something as straight-forward as this.
Adam pulled up the message and found his fear verified. ‘Scarlet down,’ it read. This was bad.
“I need to call,” he murmured, already turning away and hitting the call button, ignoring his mother’s expression. This was more than serious.
“Captain Blue,” Lieutenant Green greeted him, voice tight.
“What happened?” he demanded, stomach already constricting at her tone of voice.
“Captain Scarlet was injured on a mission. Colonel White requests you return ASAP. You’ll get briefed the moment you are on the way.”
He didn’t need more. Something was utterly wrong.
“Pick up?” he only asked.
“On their way. ETA ten minutes.”
Adam turned to his parents, ignoring his father’s constipated expression. His mother sighed and just hugged him.
“Take care, Adam.”
“I always do. Sorry. I gotta do this. It’s my job.”
His father huffed, but he was saved another speech when his siblings said good-bye just as he heard the rumble of the approaching Hummingbird.
Adam immediately called Skybase the moment Lieutenant Silver lifted off. He didn’t even look back at the quickly disappearing members of his family.
The image that greeted him with that of Lieutenant Green. She looked serious, maybe a little gray around the edges, and her smile didn’t reach her eyes.
“Captain Blue,” she said.
“What happened?” he demanded, voice maybe a bit sharper than normal.
“Captains Ochre and Grey investigated the disappearance of the lead scientist and founder of PanEn, a research lab under military funding. PanEn handles Mysteron research,” Green told him. “Their goal is to find a way to detect and neutralize Mysteron energy in replicants, biological and non-biological.”
Adam felt something inside of him constrict with foreboding. He had read about this kind of research, that it was top secret, that Earth was trying to keep it under wraps in case the Mysterons caught wind of the research facility. Adam had felt more than apprehensive the first time he had heard White mention PanEn’s final goal. One of their own was a replicant and whatever they did, it would prove to be fatal to Paul Metcalfe.
“When Ochre was injured, Colonel White ordered Scarlet to take over.”
“Shit,” Adam muttered.
Serena nodded, face serious. “Colonel White knew it was dangerous, but it was the only way. Captain Scarlet agreed.”
“Of course he would,” Blue muttered under his breath.
“It seems that half of the team had been replaced by replicants and all the research had been compromised, corrupted or completely eradicated. The probe went out of control, attacked everyone, including Captain Scarlet. Grey was knocked out, as were several security guards, and Paul… Doctor Gold thinks he received a massive energy shock, like an electrical overload, before the probe… hurt him,” she added, voice hesitant.
By now they were in approaching Skybase and Silver skilfully landed on the flight deck.
Colonel White’s tall, slender form was easily visible through the huge glass windows that led into the base. His face was neutral as he faced Blue, who was hurrying from the helicopter inside.
“Thank you for coming back, Captain.”
They walked briskly to an elevator that took them to med bay. There was no one else around and the grave expression from the nurse Blue passed by told him everything.
“I wouldn’t have recalled you for anything but a dire emergency,” the Colonel went on.
“I understand. Lieutenant Green just filled me in. How is he, sir? Really?”
“In a very serious and unstable condition,” Doctor Gold answered from behind. His voice sounded clipped, slightly stressed. “Captain,” he nodded at Adam. “Thank you for coming.”
“He was hit by electricity?” Blue probed.
“Not mere electricity but a plasma energy designed specifically to eradicate Mysteron energy from a replicant, not unlike what happened to Captain Scarlet when you shot him that first time. Dr. Ortiz, the chief researcher behind this new weapon, theorized that if Scarlet’s personality and memories persisted in the replicant after the Mysterons’ control over his mind was broken, the same could be effectively done to any captured replicant.”
“The research was highly secretive and only a handful of people knew,” Colonel White added, voice slightly brittle. “We have yet to understand how the Mysterons caught wind of it.”
“And Paul was hit by this weapon?”
“Yes. Rather severely. Now, we have to understand that Scarlet has already shucked off the Mysterons’ control and is himself. His body is that of a replicant and basically Mysteron and alien. Unlike other replicants you have faced, he can completely recover from almost everything that is thrown at him,” Gold explained patiently. “As such he isn’t the perfect test specimen.”
He’s not a test specimen at all, Adam thought angrily.
“The effects are different for him. I believe if the probe hadn’t physically attacked him, too, he might already be whole again. As it is, his recovery rate is incredibly low. The probe close to tore him apart. Luckily there was no loss of limbs and most inner organs have restored themselves.”
Adam bit back a grimace.
“The outer wounds have barely closed and Captain Scarlet is in no condition to leave med bay,” Gold added.
So far this sounded like a purely medical problem, though a very serious one and also one Blue would have come back for no matter what. This was his best friend they were talking about.
“Why was I recalled?” Blue asked, the sense of dread rising.
“Because the good captain is highly combative, has trouble focusing on where he is and who we are, and he seems to slip in his memories.”
“A form of it. He knows where he is most of the time, as well as who he is, but he keeps slipping.”
“And you think he recognizes me?”
“You are his anchor, Adam,” White said, voice even. “So we hope he recognizes you.”
“And if he doesn’t?”
The two men looked equally serious and Adam groaned silently to himself.
The sight that greeted him was… terrifying.
Quarantine. Heavily secured. No one inside but the one patient who was strapped to the bed and hooked up to two IVs. Captain Scarlet was out of uniform – and actually out of most clothes. His upper body was bare except for the bandages wrapped around most of it, and he was wearing gym shorts.
Adam had watched the unconscious, or sleeping, man for a while, making up his mind.
He could do this. Alone. Only alone. No cameras, no surveillance of any kind.
The Colonel had nodded, even though Doctor Gold had voiced his protests.
“The IV goes,” Adam decided. “As do the restraints.”
“That is highly dangerous, Captain Blue. We have kept him sedated ever since he attacked the staff…”
“Doc, you wanted me here because you think he recognizes me as his anchor. So let me work as that. I’m pretty sure Paul won’t attack me.”
Gold didn’t look happy, but White nodded his agreement.
“It’s why we called Captain Blue,” he reminded the chief medical officer.
So the IV was removed, as were the restraints. Surveillance was switched off.
And Adam Svenson walked into the quarantine unit.
He had seen Paul in all states of death before and it shouldn’t terrify him as much as it did right now. It was different this time. Paul had been hit by something intentionally built to kill Mysterons and the man was, for all intents and purposes, a Mysteron replicant.
The nurse had removed the IVs and the red marks stood out brightly against the pale skin. Paul was naturally pale, but this was almost ashen.
And the marks had yet to heal.
Yes, terrified was a good state to be in right now, Captain Blue decided.
There was minute movement as the sedatives were quickly absorbed by Paul’s metabolism. His breathing quickened and he started to move, hands twitching, eyes rolling behind closed lids.
Adam curled his fingers around Paul’s wrist and for a moment the other man quieted down. Then his eyes flew open, pale blue in a pale face, barely focusing. He had no idea how Paul did it, but the next moment Adam was flat on his back on the floor, winded, his wrists in a vice-like hold, and Paul Metcalfe above him.
Damn, the man was fast if he wanted to be. And strong!
His expression was almost… feral. The eyes burned, lips pulled back from his teeth, and it would have been fitting and not really surprising if he had growled.
He wasn’t growling.
Actually, he didn’t make a noise at all.
Adam felt something between them rise, like a tidal wave that would swallow him and sweep him away.
He didn’t fight it.
He let it roll over him and take him down, tear into him, painless and still so invasive, and he weathered the storm.
Trust me, a voice whispered and he thought it sounded like him. I’ve got you. You’re safe.
And then reality slammed back, with the weight of his partner still on his ribs, the pale blue eyes still primal and cold.
“Aw, fuck, Paul,” Adam hissed, drawing air sharply. “What the hell…?”
The blue eyes blinked and the other man’s face shifted into a frown. “…Adam…?”
“Yes, you lunatic! Let me up!”
Paul still held his wrists, but the pressure eased somewhat. “What…?”
“You got zapped. Something scrambled your brain,” Adam said sharply. “And our knee is digging into my ribs.”
Another confused blink. “What?”
“Knee. Ribs. You’re heavy!”
A shudder passed through the lean frame. It was like his brain was trying to wrap itself around the facts presented to it and failing.
“Paul,” he wheezed. “You’re on Skybase. In med bay. Your brain was scrambled, along with the rest of you.”
“I…” Suddenly Paul bent over with a soft groan.
“Paul?” Adam exclaimed in alarm.
Scarlet curled an arm around his midsection and sank to one side, sliding off his partner.
“Shit, shit, shit,” Adam muttered and got up, scrambling over to his friend. “Gold said you haven’t healed all that well. That blast really messed you up. Including your brain. You there, buddy? Talk to me!”
“What do you want me to tell you?” Paul whispered, voice filled with pain. “That it feels like my insides are trying to get out?”
“Not in detail, but yeah. You think you can get up? Into bed?”
Paul’s eyes were screwed shut and his breathing was labored, like he was fighting the pain. The muscles in his shoulders and neck stood out sharply and Adam carefully touched one cool cheek.
“Paul,” he cajoled. “I need to get you off the floor.”
The other man nodded, moving weakly.
It was almost too much and Adam hated to hurt him so badly, but he finally had Paul on the bed, curled up on his side, eyes still screwed shut. Adam carefully touched the arm protecting the injury.
“Let me see?”
Paul let him and he grimaced at the blood on the bandages. Underneath he found a mess of more blood and raw skin. He was about to say something when the edges of the wounds started to glow green and… mend. It was as horrifying as it was fascinating to watch as torn skin became smooth and unblemished, without a scar to show.
“Always do,” Paul whispered, sounding exhausted and still in pain.
“According to Doctor Gold you didn’t. You’ve been here for over a day and that messed up probe really did a number on you.”
Paul touched the smooth skin, wincing. “Still feels bad.” He inhaled sharply and groaned all of a sudden. “Fuck!”
Adam grabbed his wrist and suddenly Paul held on to him like there was no tomorrow. He helped him ride out the pain, worry doubling again.
“Hey,” he murmured when the pale blue eyes opened.
“Hey,” was the equally soft reply.
“Still in pain?”
“Yeah. Nauseous. Headache. Not normal.”
“Hell, the whole op wasn’t normal.”
Paul blinked and looked around. “We’re alone?”
“Quarantined. You were completely out of it when they got you here. When you were lucid, you fought everyone. Bled a lot all over the floor, too. White recalled me.”
“Sorry,” Paul breathed, eyes sliding shut.
“Don’t. I’m your anchor. He thought I could do some good and I did.” Adam smiled and gently squeezed the hand he was still holding, “Get some rest. Gold will be poking and prodding at you in no time.”
“Fun.” Paul yawned. “Stay?”
“Nothing can get me to leave you now.”
Adam let Gold know what had happened, that they were both okay, that Scarlet had started to heal exterior wounds but was still suffering from pain.
“I don’t expect it to be over just yet, Captain Blue,” Gold told him. “You should be prepared for anything.”
As usual, he thought, settling down on the second bed he had pushed next to Scarlet’s.
Gold wouldn’t let them leave for the next forty-eight hours. Those hours had Paul throw up twice, suffering a blinding migraine, stomach cramps and a brief, high fever. His memories slipped sometimes. He woke and had no idea where he was, fought against Adam’s touch until he recognized who he was, then curled up and suffered through the debilitating pain.
It was agony to watch him and be unable to help.
At last he didn’t die.
It was a close call once, though.
Touch helped to ground him, helped him focus, and Adam would just sit on the bed, Paul half on his lap, riding out the agony of what the plasma energy had done to his system.
“You look like crap,” Paul whispered when he finally woke without a headache accompanying his every heartbeat.
There were no wild lights at the edge of his vision, no acid burning in his throat, and his inner organs seemed to want to stay where they were supposed to be. All in all, he felt great, considering.
“Look who’s talking,” Adam commented.
He was pale, with dark circles under his eyes, and there was a faint shadow of a beard.
“Hey,” Paul protested.
“Nothing but the truth. You still look like a crash test dummy. Still feeling lousy?”
“Yeah, but better than before.” He sat up and gladly took the Styrofoam cup Adam held out to him. The smell didn’t make him sick anymore, which was a plus.
“Gold said he wants to run an exam on you if you don’t fight him again.” Adam grinned mischievously.
“After coffee. Lots of coffee.”
“Sounds like a plan.”
Gold came in three hours later, after Captain Scarlet felt a lot more human. In so many ways. His body had apparently finally gotten with the program and he was recuperating at his normal speed. Adam’s expression was one of amazement, coupled with relief.
Gold’s verdict was a clean bill of health.
“Your encounter with the altered plasma energy seems to have left you with no ill effects,” he remarked.
“Aside from the ill effects he had for the past week,” Adam muttered.
Paul just shot him an amused look, feeling Adam’s hand brush over the small of his back. “I’m fine,” he remarked.
“Remarkably, yes, you are. I wouldn’t have thought it possible since the weapon was constructed to specifically destroy a Mysteron replicant. Your cell structure was compromised in a way that I believed it impossible for you to recover this completely.”
“Has someone ever told you that your bedside manner is lacking, doc?” Adam said, raising his eyebrows.
“Well, the truth is the truth. Now, I believe you have a job to get back to.”
“Thankfully,” Blue muttered.
Gold gave them a brief smile and left the quarantine room.
“He really is something else.”
Paul chuckled. “Spend as much time in here as I do and you get used to it.”
“Don’t want to. So, ready to blow this joint?”
“More than ready. But before we go…”
The kiss was long, slow, deep. Paul pulled back, looking into his eyes, and Adam smiled as he cupped the freshly shaven cheek.
“You’re welcome,” he said roughly.
He kept his hands running over Paul’s back and sides, just like he had done in the past two days when the man had been wreaked by agonizing cramps.
“You feel good,” Paul told him, voice wavering a little, almost filled with wondering realization.
“Hm, I hope so. I think an anchor should.”
“He should,” his partner confirmed.
Adam pulled him into another kiss. “C’mon, let’s leave. I think Skybase is already bursting with rumors. If you keep this up, they’ll know something’s going on the moment we step out of quarantine.” He grinned cheekily.
Paul regarded him, clearly drawn between giving in to the hum between them and slapping his usual shields back into place. He did the latter, taking a step back, and nodded.
Adam nodded back.
Time to go.
* * *
It was eight months after the anchor had formed fully, after Captain Blue had become aware of his place with Captain Scarlet, his importance to his sanity and well-being, that the rest of the agents aboard Skybase found out.
In the worst possible way.
Coming around was painful.
Captain Blue’s head pounded, his mouth felt dry, his eyes refused to focus. His neck seemed to be one big bruise and swallowing was painful. The rest of his body refused to separate the pain signals, which made him one big bruise.
Instincts came online, flaring, pushing adrenaline through his system, and he finally managed to focus on his surroundings.
Old, abandoned warehouse.
He blinked and before he could his bearings, he was pulled up. He couldn’t suppress the groan escaping his lips.
“I wouldn’t have thought he would keep you around,” Black smiled coldly. “Then again, Scarlet has a bleeding heart. In so many ways.” The smile was downright nasty now. “He’s so desperate to be human, he even anchors himself to one.”
Blue looked up from his kneeling position, hands bound tightly behind his back, feeling every muscle scream abuse from the violent capture.
“Yeah, well, you thought wrong, Black,” he spat.
His throat hurt with every word. Getting nearly choked by a massive brute of a man wasn’t healthy to one’s vocal cords.
“He was always weak,” the former Spectrum operative went on. “Too attached. Too emotionally invested.”
“Too good?” Blue taunted.
It got him a sneer.
“He got rid of the Mysterons’ control, Black. You failed at that. You’re still their pawn!”
It got him a gun butt whipped over his face. Adam felt blood pool in his mouth from where he had bit his tongue and pain radiated from his cheek bone. Still he looked up at his captor, defiant, unbroken.
Paul lay in a crumbled heap behind Black, ashen-faced and quite dead. Adam had seen him die, brought down by something alien, something Mysteron, screaming in such pain, he had almost felt it himself. It had been torture, for both men, and when Paul had finally succumbed, had died, it had been almost a relief.
“I still felt him with me,” Black went on, voice harsher now. “When I woke. I knew there was another one like me. I was aware of him. Like he felt me. I just knew he was alive, but no longer part of the Mysteron consciousness.”
“Don’t have that anymore?” Blue laughed, fully knowing it was the truth.
Paul had told him. Ever since he had completed the anchor, Scarlet had lost that faint awareness of Black.
“You think you could have been Scarlet’s anchor? Well, too bad. He didn’t want you.”
This time the goon kicked him in the ribs and he wheezed.
Black went down on one knee, grabbing a handful of blond hair and forcing Blue to look into the inhuman, dark eyes.
“He could have been that, yes. It would have brought him back. But he was too damaged. He was a failed construct. We should have terminated him before now.”
Blue glared at him, furious at his own helplessness.
“What did you do to him?”
Black chuckled maliciously. “Showed him who his masters are, Blue. Punished his disobedience. I sadly overdid it. I wanted him to see you die.” The grin grew nasty. “That he could experience real pain, feel what it means to get his life sucked out of him.”
“You sound like a jealous girlfriend,” Adam snarled, almost laughing at that.
Black snorted and rose, letting go of him. Blue sagged back down, his body screaming abuse even more now.
“Jealous? Of this aberration of a consciousness shared? He could have been one of us. He still heard us. Now, with you, he is all but useless.”
Adam sneered. “Why don’t you get it over with, Black? Stop yammering and just do the deed!”
“I might just want to wait for him to wake and watch now.”
There was an explosion outside and the doors suddenly flew open. Black looked up, eyes narrowing.
And he pulled the trigger.
This time there was nothing for Doctor Gold to gloss over. Scarlet had been dead when Captains Indigo, Ochre and Grey had stormed the building. They had seen Blue get shot point blank.
Two bodies had been brought to Skybase, everyone in deep shock over the loss of Captain Blue. Scarlet they expected to recover, but Blue was one of them. Human. Not indestructible.
Colonel White stood in med bay, hands clasped behind his back, looking at Scarlet, whose life signs were faint, weaker than they should be, his fingers twitching, face contorted in pain.
On the bed next to him lay Captain Blue. Gold had removed the bullet, had cleaned all the wounds, had taken care of the dislocated shoulder and broken wrist, as if the man was expected to live.
And live he did.
As faintly as Scarlet, with barely a pulse, his heart beating erratically, but he was growing stronger.
“Will they make it, Mason?” White asked quietly.
“Indeed they will, Colonel, but it will take time. Scarlet has nothing left to heal himself. Blue is his priority. It’s not a conscious decision either.”
White nodded slowly. His eyes were drawn to the bandages wrapped around Scarlet’s middle, hiding terrible burn wounds. Like those underneath the additional bandages around his arms and legs.
A soft moan escaped the recovering man and suddenly the pale blue eyes cracked open, feverish, delirious, barely coherent. They closed again before White could even catch them.
“It will no longer be their secret,” Gold remarked, straightening from checking on Adam.
“No. Three of my men saw Blue getting shot by Black. They saw him die. I believe it is time to let this particular cat out of the bag, but not until Captains Scarlet and Blue are in any condition to handle the outcome.”
That night Gold sat with his two patients, recording every twitch, every spike in either man’s heartbeat, breathing or pulse. He listened to Scarlet’s cries of pain as the energy leeched out of him, refusing his own body to heal, and he lost him twice more.
Each time Gold sighed, curbing his automatic instinct to go for the crash cart.
Captain Blue’s vitals stabilized in the early hours of the morning. It was around that time Captain Scarlet showed massive and very fast signs of improvement himself.
Adam was the first to wake. He felt dizzy, slightly nauseous, and there was a painful twinge in his chest.
“Easy, Captain,” Gold’s voice filtered through.
“Paul,” he croaked.
“He’s asleep. Alive and asleep.”
He turned his head and saw the dark, familiar head in the next bed. Adam couldn’t make out the readings over the bed, but he didn’t really have to. Scarlet was a survivor in every sense of the word.
“It was touch and go for the two of you for a while. I didn’t think he would slip twice,” Gold said, as straight-forward as usual. “His body tried to compensate for the amount of energy you were pulling from him. It was actually rather amazing to watch.”
Adam’s eyes widened and he tried to sit up. “What?!” Something inside his chest twinged sharply and he groaned.
“I said easy, Captain Blue. Captain Scarlet is perfectly able to restore himself. Just like he healed you.”
“At the price of what?” he demanded. “His own death?”
“Scarlet cannot die,” Gold reminded him. “You, on the other hand, can. I doubt there is anything in my power, or anyone else’s, to stop this process anyway.”
Adam touched the reddish mark on his chest, right where his heart was. He had died. Paul had died. They were both alive.
“I advise you give yourself time to rest,” the chief medic aboard Skybase said evenly. “Even with the speedy recuperation you went through, you have been shot, Captain Blue. You need to let your body adjust to your partner’s donation of energy.”
“But he will be all right?” Adam asked.
Adam looked at his partner again. He looked almost peaceful. Face smooth, unblemished, just a five-o’clock shadow, eyes closed and looking… at ease.
They were okay.
It was the last the last thought before he fell asleep again.
The next time he woke, Paul was sitting up in his bed, a bit pale, face still unshaven, but very much alive and awake. His cheekbones stood out a little too sharply for Adam’s liking, but the eyes were clear and filled with life.
“Hey, sleepy head,” the dark-haired man called, smiling brightly.
“Look who’s talking,” Adam grumbled.
He tried to push himself up, but he felt shaky and there was still the sharp pull where a bullet had torn through his chest.
“Whoa, wait a minute.”
Paul quickly slipped out of bed and walked over to him. He was dressed in Spectrum issue sweats and looked like he should be getting ready for duty, not lounging around med bay.
Adam grimaced a little.
A cool hand wrapped around his wrist, squeezing it. Paul’s eyes were on him, intense and unwavering.
“Help me up,” Adam demanded and his partner complied.
“I’m glad you’re okay,” he said softly.
“Yeah, me, too. Black’s a psychopath,” the blond growled.
“That’s news,” was the wry reply.
He chuckled. “I hope it’s not his new hobby.”
“I won’t give him another opportunity.”
“What did he get you with?” Adam wanted to know.
Paul shrugged. “From the feel of it, something very bad. I thought someone was trying to tear my brain out and my every cell apart. I heard them again. The Mysterons. And the flashes were worse than ever before.”
Adam turned his hand to slide their fingers together. Paul looked at their hands, squeezing the blond’s fingers gently. Adam smiled, then turned serious again.
“What did it do to you?”
“Aside from torturing me?”
“It opened the flood gates. It was like Black tried to overload my brain. In a way he did. I never felt such pain, Adam. Never. Getting all of this crammed into my mind… it felt like I was getting torn to pieces.”
Svenson’s brows lowered, worry the most prominent emotion rushing through him. “Paul…”
“I’m fine. It was over in seconds. The pain, everything. I was knocked out.”
“Didn’t look like seconds.” He still remembered he screams.
Paul sighed. “Felt like ages,” he murmured. “I still get those flashes. Most make no sense.” He nodded at the tablet lying on his bed. “Gold made me write down what I can remember or actually put into words.”
“Anything concerning the anchor?”
Paul sighed again and rubbed his thumb over Adam’s hand.
“Paul? Remember what you promised? No lies, no obfuscation, no secrets.”
“The anchor is the first claim I have on you,” he finally said, not looking into the dark blue eyes. “That we can expect it to deepen. That my instincts… could get a bit… out of hand when it comes to your safety.”
Adam chuckled. “Not really big news. So, deepening connection? Anything I need to know?”
It got him a shrug. “I’m not sure how to translate what I see in my mind. No telepathy. Mysterons aren’t telepathic. I’d read this as very much aware of each other. Of where you are, how you are, whether you are okay or hurt.”
“Could come in handy.”
“It’s a breach of privacy that might go deeper, Adam.”
“Reading my mind would be,” Adam answered seriously. “Knowing I’m okay is vital for you, Paul. And we’re partners in the field. Might give us an edge.”
“Hey, we knew, okay?” he insisted, squeezing his partner’s hand. “Co-existence, right? Inter-dependence or something. No guilt trips, please.”
“Not sure I can stop it. It just happens.”
“Yeah, because the world is on your shoulders, Scarlet. You got this self-flagellation down like a pro. You’re not to blame for anything that happened. You were a victim and you still are. You made the best of it up until now. Now you got me, too. I’m an adult,” Adam repeated what he had said before. “Consenting, informed, whatever. We’re in this together, no matter what you Mysteron side throws at you. I’m sure Black will grow tired of poking at the same old wound in a decade or two.”
Scarlet rolled his eyes.
“I think he’s simply jealous,” Adam added. “Of me. And you. He mentioned something.”
Paul nodded. “We are the same. He isn’t a Mysteron, just a puppet, and he feels his human soul trying to break free, but their power is too strong.”
“With your help.”
“Yeah. I shot you.”
“Like I said, your help.”
“I’d gladly shoot him and throw him into a power conduit,” Adam offered, tugging at the hand and Paul sat down on the bed with him. “You’re not the same. Ignore what I yelled at you before.”
“Back then you were mostly correct.”
Adam smothered a yawn. His partner’s eyes narrowed a little and he chuckled.
“Still human,” he teased.
“I know. Get some more rest. After what happened, we won’t be getting much after leaving med bay.”
“Guess everyone knows by now. It’s hard to keep your suddenly resurrection a secret.”
“White had no other choice.”
Adam shrugged. “It had to happen one day,” he said almost philosophically.
He closed his eyes, still holding on to Paul’s hand. He felt Paul’s touch, a gentle, almost hesitant caress through his hair, and he smiled sleepily.
Maybe it was a dream that he felt dry lips against his forehead. Maybe it was just another step forward in their relationship.
Whatever it was, it was a good feeling, and Adam took it with him as he fell asleep.
There was nothing but a world of shrill, eardrum-shattering, agonizing sound. A migraine of noise and burning pain that left all his other senses dead, that wiped out his world to exist only in this pain.
He dropped to his knees screaming, slamming his hands over his ears, desperate to shut out the infernal high-pitched noise, while at the same time trying to keep the contents of his roiling stomach. His senses overloaded by a blast of sound that left him nauseous, blind and deaf and whimpering, pleading with all he was worth for someone, anyone, to just make it stop, end the agonizing skull-splitting resonance.
Paul screwed his eyes shut and suppressed a groan.
What he had told Adam was nothing but the truth: the pain had been excruciating. The noise had been only in his head, drilling into his very soul. The flood of alien memories, information and thoughts had been impossible for his mind to process. He was a Mysteron product, but he wasn’t one of them. He was alien, inhuman, but not like them. He was a hybrid and so much of his Mysteron side was unfathomable for him.
Like the information now buried deep within his mind, coming back in flashes at the most inopportune moments. Mostly just right before he woke from another dance with death.
Paul sat cross-legged on his bed, tablet balanced on his legs, trying to think of a way to get his thoughts into words. They weren’t even his own thoughts.
Adam was sleeping. Deeply. Soundly. And he was alive and well and healed. Gold had been in an hour before, checking on the healed gunshot wound to the heart. Nothing but a red, slightly jagged scar had remained of the entry wound. Gold had removed he bullet.
Might not need to do that one day, a thought whispered through him. Because the connection would change Adam Svenson. It already had. The Mysteron energy was always there, at his disposal, and it would adapt to the fully human anchor. Scarlet’s own body absorbed anything lodged within him. Gold hadn’t had to do more than just keep him comfortable and safe within med bay ever since his change.
Paul looked up and his eyes were drawn to the blond. He still felt like apologizing every hour of the day for what he had done to his partner and friend. It was a miracle that Adam hadn’t run away screaming by now.
They had only grown closer.
Maybe because the attraction had always been there and now… neither could give a damn if it had them booted out of Spectrum or any other organization. Scarlet’s life had ended on Mars. Blue’s… Paul didn’t want to think he had ended Adam’s life, but in a way he had. His life, his career, everything. And the moment they got out, who knew what else he would end.
Paul growled in frustration and pushed those thoughts away. There was a mumble coming from Adam and he moved a little restlessly.
Sorry, he thought.
Their closeness was different from any form of relationship he could think of. He couldn’t even call it sexual. There were moments of physical intimacy, the kisses and caresses, but it stopped there. It was enjoyable, but it wasn’t the sole focus of their partnership. Then there was another kind of intimacy. The closeness that came from this alien connection, the hum he felt and heard in his body and soul. It was purely Adam, there only for him. It was just this one man, his whole world, his sanity and balance.
The touch was what completed him. The rest was icing on the cake.
Personally, they moved at a pace that would frustrate anyone, but it was their pace. He liked Adam’s touch; it calmed him, evened him out.
Helped him through each rebirth.
It acquainted him with the man he would spend the rest of his, hopefully, very long life with. He had gotten to know him better and more thoroughly than anyone else before.
And it won’t stop there, the memories whispered. You will grow even closer. He is what we could have been to you. You want to feel him with you. You should have chosen us.
He pushed them away.
The memories were not like the voice of the Mysterons, but they were just as insistent. Sometimes dark, sometimes neutral, sometime filling him with hope. Right now, the darkness was there again, almost sinister.
Adam grumbled and rolled around, wincing a little in his sleep, and suddenly his eyes cracked open. Paul was mesmerized, looking into the blue that was darker than his own.
“Sorry,” he whispered after a long moment of silence.
“Major ass-kicking,” Blue threatened, voice sleep-rough.
He sat up, massaging his chest unconsciously. Without a word he crossed to Scarlet’s bed and slid on it, close, letting his head fall on one muscular shoulder.
Paul smiled and willingly turned into the embrace, letting the other man pull him down, arms and legs and the two bodies arranging themselves to lie tangled together.
“That’s more like it,” Adam sighed happily.
The tablet was forgotten.
The memories rumbled between them, but they were drowned by the presence Paul felt envelop him.
“What they say this time?” Adam asked, voice muffled against his neck.
“Have you developed telepathy?”
“No, just a sixth sense when it comes to you.” And it sounded only half-joking. “So?” Adam prodded.
“Running through the memories. It’s a mess. Gives me a headache.”
“I wish I could. Like I said, it makes no sense.”
“Then tell me what does. Or let me help. I like jigsaw puzzles.”
Paul closed his eyes as he tried to straighten out the tangled lines in his head.
“This… between us… we will get closer. Sensations. Transference. Awareness. Like the Mysteron joined minds.”
“No. Don’t think so. They aren’t telepathic. They are… not one… mind… whatever. There are different… factions.” He fought to get the images and whispers into human terms. “Different opinions. A governing control. Politics rule. But above all is the sense of… another. Not everyone. Sometimes a few, sometimes just one.”
“Yes. So close. When you’re there, it’s easier to bear.”
Adam’s hands ran over his back. It wasn’t distracting. It was actually helpful. Like clearing the debris from his mind.
“Entwined lives. Shared. Touching every part of you. You everywhere.” Paul’s voice was soft, thoughtful, like he was translating a terribly difficult text. “This...”
“This,” Adam confirmed. He sounded happy.
“I think it will get more… intense.”
“We’re forever interwoven. It's a life cycle. Our lives running through each other, looping back again and again. There's no beginning, no end. Just life. No difference between us. The Mysterons, they’re not physical. They don’t have… this. It’s their minds… energy… I can’t… because I’m a hybrid.”
“Not a Mysteron,” the blond agreed. “Told you. Took you long enough.”
Paul chuckled. “Slow learner.”
“That you are.”
“So… more intense?”
“Your mind… and mine… we are that together and the anchor means sanity for me. Your place with me is a shield, Adam. If I understand it, the shield…” He stopped, shaking his head as if to dislodge the right words. “You’ll know me.”
“Connect to me… to know about me.”
There was silence. “You’re right,” the blond finally said with a trace of humor. “Doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
Paul sighed in defeat. “The best I can think of is that you’ll know whether I’m okay or hurt. It sounds too crude, though. Not like what it really is.”
“Then we’ll just wait and see. Not much we can do about it anyway, right?”
“So, anything else?”
“I think that’s enough, don’t you?”
“Ask your mind. It keeps throwing curve balls at you.”
He huffed a soft laugh. “I’ll still have to write it down.”
He had to agree.
Adam slowly fell asleep, a warm, solid, real presence in his arms. Paul felt completely at ease.
No words were needed. Adam’s simple presence was enough.
As they said, talking was highly overrated.
Something inside of him seemed to relax, even out, almost hum with contentment.
* * *
They had forty-eight hours to themselves. Doctor Gold was a constant presence, though he gave them privacy. Colonel White came to inform them that the others had had to be briefed.
Inevitable, as Blue had stated.
Paul didn’t know what to feel. He had come to accept his difference. Despite working with everyone, there was a distance. At the end of the day, when an op or a mission was over, when he came back from death or had healed his injuries, they knew he wasn’t like them.
He knew he wasn’t like them.
The gap would always he there, the suspicion as to what he was, what he might turn into. Would he stab them in the back or was he really free of Mysteron control?
Now Adam was part of that suspicion, too.
Paul hated it. He absolutely hated it and if there was one thing in his life he could change right now, it was that this particular cat was out of the bag. Before today he might have wished for the whole anchoring mess to be reversed, that it would never have happened.
He blinked, pulling himself out of his thoughts, and found Adam watching him with a faint smile of amusement.
“You’re there again. The point where you regret everything that ever happened, where you want it all undone?”
He chuckled. “Only one thing now.”
Adam raised an eyebrow.
“That your involvement with me is common knowledge now.”
“’Involvement’?” He grinned. “No one would bat an eye at any kind of involvement.”
He grimaced. “You know what I mean. You think anyone can understand what happened between us? No one understands what happened to me on Mars in the first place, Adam! All they’ll hear is that I bound you to me.”
“Which is the truth and nothing but the truth, Paul.”
Adam gently pushed the taller man back against the wall, claiming a soft kiss. Paul immediately wrapped his arms around him, answering the kiss with an intense one of his own.
“I’ve got your back. One hundred percent,” the blond whispered against the moist lips. “Nothing they say or do can change what I am to you. Your friend. Your anchor. Your partner. Nothing.”
Paul leaned into the next kiss, one that spoke of more emotions that he usually let on. Adam was only too happy to answer the quizzical nips.
A tremor passed through the taller man and Adam held him tightly.
“We got this,” he promised.
Paul finally stepped back. His face held an unsure expression. “I… I don’t know what this is for me, Adam,” he said hesitantly.
“Hey, it’s okay. I don’t expect anything you can’t give me, remember? I’m okay with what we have, Paul.”
“I like you,” was the soft answer. “I want this, but I can’t tell you what ‘this’ is. What I feel… is not what I thought I felt for Destiny. It’s not what I felt for whoever I was with before. You’re not just that, Adam. You mean more to me. I want to spend my life with you because I can’t think I could lead it without you.”
Adam nodded. “You know I feel the same, Paul. I’m not going to sing love songs or tell you I love you. I know you can’t tell me the same. I want this. No matter what we face on the other side of that door.”
A look of trepidation crossed Paul’s features and Adam smiled reassuringly.
“We can do this. Ready to face the music?”
“No. Got no choice, though.”
Adam shrugged. “Had to come out one day. Worst way, but it happened.” He kissed his partner’s lips again, so incredibly relieved that they were both alive, healed, and getting better.
Paul rested his head against Adam’s, visibly steeling himself.
It was time to face the world. Isolation as an excuse, a quarantine to make sure they were both okay, only ran so long.
Finally, Captain Scarlet pushed away, face sliding into the professional indifference, eyes hard and distant. Captain Blue smiled.
Colonel White had briefed his field agents and lieutenants, as well as the Angel pilots, on the new situation concerning Captains Scarlet and Blue before the two men were released from med bay. It didn’t change the fact that Adam felt like a zoo animal the moment he walked in on the assembled men and women who were on Skybase and not running an op.
“Okay, now I know how you felt, Paul,” he muttered.
Scarlet gave him a brief smile. “Oh, it was a lot worse for me. I’m an alien. You’re human, Adam. You freak them out more.”
“Thanks,” was the growled answer.
The Q&A was mostly as expected.
Was Blue a Mysteron? -- No.
When had it happened? -- Quite some time ago. Actually, the anchoring effect had come to life after Scarlet had torn free of Mysteron control.
Had Blue been aware of it? -- No. Wouldn’t even know it now if it hadn’t been for the events surrounding Ragnarok, Russia.
So he was invincible? -- No, still human, still very, very vulnerable compared to Paul’s abilities.
But he could come back from death? -- Kind of. Not that it made him as suicidal as Scarlet was sometimes.
That got Adam a slight grimace from the other captain. Of course Scarlet took more chances. He knew what he was, what he could do, and sometimes he thought of himself as expendable. He was the weapon. He did as ordered.
Why Captain Blue? -- Because he… fit. It had been instinct, a choice made unconsciously, and it could have been anyone. The Mysteron had chosen Blue.
No, Adam thought. You did. Not your Mysteron side.
They really had to talk about that again. It would take longer than the few months of complete openness to drive it home in Paul that he wasn’t the Mysteron. He was the hybrid, human and alien in one. He wasn’t an enemy vessel, housing a human soul. Adam was intent on making him believe that. He had forever to get the job done.
So you’re bound together? -- Yes.
Forever? -- Depends on your definition. But yes.
But you are human!
And I’m sharing Paul’s life energies. He’s immortal. Go figure.
That had been a very clear expression and Captain Ochre hadn’t even looked apologetic when she had let it slip.
Adam chuckled. “I’ve had time enough to get used to it.”
He knew this would take time to settle in for real. He knew to expect distrust and suspicion. All the fun things Paul had had to go through himself. Well, he was prepared.
He would stand by his partner every step of the way. This was their life together now. He was Captain Scarlet’s anchor and whatever happened, he would be there.
Adam glanced at Paul and found the other man giving him a faint smile.
Destiny, Simone, smiled at him. She looked composed, almost relieved, and Paul felt some relief of his own. Coupled with guilt.
“There is nothing to be sorry for, Paul. We both knew. I like you. I’ll always think of you as my friend. And I still love Conrad. The hope that he might be able to come back one day… it’s there.”
Paul opened his mouth to say something, but she stopped him.
“I know he died, just like you. I know he is a Mysteron replicant. But inside him… you said he has all of Conrad’s memories of before.”
“Then he remembers me.”
“He does. And he loves you.”
She smiled sadly. “So my hope runs on.”
She shook her head and he didn’t continue.
“Adam… You’re lucky you found him.”
“He’s your best friend. He trusts you. I think it had something to do with it.”
Paul stared at his hands. “I don’t know why I chose him.”
She reached over, covering his clasped hands with her own. “You don’t need a reason. He is what you need.”
A lot more was left unsaid. Paul wasn’t sure how much the others had interpreted into their new relationship, because neither man had ventured into how close they were off duty. From the way Destiny looked at him, she suspected.
“I’m happy for you,” she said softly, then rose gracefully and left the room.
Scarlet watched her go.
Part of him felt guilty over it all; another part was immensely relived.
* * *
Paul gazed out the huge windows. They were back up in the maintenance area again. It was dark outside, Skybase hovering over South Africa, and only the running lights shed a little illumination. Adam had found him there, wordlessly joining his partner at the safety rail. It was almost eerie how relaxed Paul felt when the other man was there.
They had talked about the revelation to the other Spectrum agents and the Angel squadron. It had gone better than expected, but then, all men and women hired by Spectrum had undergone a rigorous selection process. They had accepted aliens on Mars. They had accepted the new Captain Scarlet a human mind in an alien body. They had persevered against the very real danger of complete annihilation through the Mysterons.
That Captain Blue was now bound to their best weapon against the Mysterons, well, it would need getting used to, but it wasn’t really that much of a shock. Paul’s death and resurrection had left more of an impact.
“So you think Black might be able to break free one day, too?”
“I don’t know, Adam. Whenever he managed to be himself for a moment or two, the Mysterons got him back right away.”
“The offer still stands: I could throw him into a plasma conduit.” He flashed a small grin. “Might help, one way or the other.”
Paul chuckled. “Maybe. But maybe I had all the luck in the world that day. I survived, I broke free, I’m me.”
“And don’t you forget it.”
“Black’s a lost cause then?”
“Even if he breaks free, if he comes back and is no longer in danger of reverting back, what would his life be like? He’s a killer. He’s an enemy agent. No one would trust him.”
“I hear a ‘like me’, Paul, and you better forget about it. You’re not him. You didn’t kill anyone. He’s a psychopath in their hands.”
“And he would be tried and sentenced.”
Adam nodded. “Not that I would feel sorry. No offense, but he’s truly not the man he was, Paul.”
“Neither was I when they had me.”
“Would you forgive and forget?”
“I would make an effort.”
“Could he live with that guilt?” Adam suddenly asked.
Paul’s eyes were on the darkness outside. “I know I couldn’t.”
They were silent for a while, each pondering his thoughts.
“You think Destiny could be his anchor?” Adam wanted to now, voice soft.
“I think she would want to be.”
“Could she be?”
A soft sigh. “Only Conrad would know. It’s not a matter of wishing for it, hoping for the best. It’s… compatibility. As long as he is under their control, we will never know. And should he ever break free… who knows?”
Because Paul wouldn’t be able to live with the guilt of so many lives on his conscience. Conrad Lefkon was a different kind of man. He had a different mind-set. He might be able to lead a normal life, even remembering all the horrible things he had done under the Mysterons’ control. And he might find his anchor. It might just be Destiny Angel.
Then again, all of that might never happen.
Adam was so close to him now, they weren’t touching and still it was a physical sensation. He turned his head slightly and gave his partner a brief smile. Adam bumped their shoulders, grinning a little.
“Heading for the gym,” he remarked, changing the topic away from the rather depressing one of Captain Black. “Coming?”
It might be good to just run a few dozen miles, let the repetitive motion take his mind off things. It might be what he needed.
Before Adam turned away, Paul pulled him close, the kiss tentative and almost shy. The blond smiled into it and deepened the contact.
“Very,” Paul answered.
Adam petted his chest, still a smile on his lips. “Good.”
It was to be expected and Adam sometimes had to hold back not to laugh out loud. Now that it was out in the open that he was Paul’s partner in more ways than just in the field, more than a mere friend – and he had always been more, in his opinion, than ‘mere’ – people were watching them.
“You’re not obvious,” Grey remarked one calm afternoon as they were in the gym together.
Adam frowned. “Come again?”
“You and Scarlet. Wouldn’t have figured.”
“What did you expect?” he asked mildly.
It got him a shrug and Iain put down the weights.
“Do you want us to hold hands and kiss passionately in not so dark corners of Skybase?” Adam teased, laughing at the other man’s expression. “We’re not like that.”
“But you are… together, right?”
“I’m his anchor, Iain.”
“Yeah, we got that. We all got that. And that it’s something very close and intimate and binds you together and shit.”
Especially ‘shit’, Adam thought, amused.
“There’s not more?”
“There’s more,” he answered truthfully. “But it’s something we’re still figuring out, so whatever you think we’re doing, we’re probably not.”
Taggart snorted. “Probably,” he echoed.
Adam grinned unrepentantly. No one had any idea what their relationship was like or what had already happened, aside from Paul and himself. No one had to know that they shared bed space to calm down Paul’s mind, to get him to sleep. No one had to know that touch helped the other man relax, let go of the tension he was always under. No one had to know that the kisses meant more than a semi-erotic, intimate contact.
No, no one had to.
“Whatever it is, still means you’re partners. Exclusive, right?”
Adam shrugged and grabbed a towel. “Kinda.”
Iain shrugged and changed the weights on the bar.
Adam had to grin and finished his found on the treadmill.
This was going to be highly entertaining.
* * *
White sent them on enforced leave after a grueling mission that had Scarlet close to losing it in the end. The Mysterons had left a path of destruction, eradicating a whole town with a virus they had wanted to unleash unto the whole world, and the town had been the lab experiment.
Scarlet had died of that virus and come back alive, but he had seen twenty men, women and children fade away in person, all trapped with him in a restaurant, and there had been nothing he could have done.
Captains Blue, Grey and Magenta had been able to deliver the antidote to those not yet affected. Of four hundred inhabitants, only a handful had survived.
It had been catastrophic.
“Not your fault,” Adam whispered when they lay together that night before their leave, sharing Adam’s quarters.
Paul had come to him, silent, pale, in pain, and Adam had simply pulled him close.
Of course it wasn’t anyone’s fault. The Mysterons were a coldly calculating bunch of alien bitches, in Adam’s opinion, and even if there were factions opposed to this War of Nerves against Earth, he would rather see the whole of them blown to Hell. He pushed those thoughts aside, aware that his own fury was talking, not his more controlled, logical side.
“Paul,” he murmured.
Paul’s eyes were closed and his face was buried against Adam’s chest, fingers digging into his shirt.
“I want this to end,” the dark-haired man finally whispered, voice harsh, almost broken.
“We all want that.”
“They’ll never stop.”
No, probably not.
They left the next morning. Dressed in civvies, bags in hand, and both men looking forward to their time off. It was an unscheduled vacation, with no fixed plans. They would decide on a whim where to go.
Adam gave his partner a smile and Paul’s smile looked close to real now, compared to what he had looked like when they had come back from their mission.
Lieutenant Silver dropped them off at an international airport.
From here out on, they were on their own, with no trail for anyone to follow; especially Mysteron agents. White had only asked them to have a communicator with them, just in case.
Adam had it on him, switched off, of course, and it was a bit of a safety net, but he wasn’t really worried.
* * *
It had been almost like playing the lottery, but in the end they had taken a flight overseas and ended up with a rental car -- a jeep --, a cottage, and a lot of nothingness around them. Well, not nothingness. Just landscape. Lots of it. Some horses, some birds, a lot of mountains and the occasional hot spring.
Adam had taken it all in, breathing in the crisp, clear air, then he had started to unpack their mountain of groceries.
The cottage was big enough for them, had one bedroom, a good-size kitchen, a bathroom, and an attic with a large, triangular floor to ceiling window. The view was incredible.
They had running water, which was a big plus, and their heat came from geothermal water. The stove was connected to a gas tank.
“You cook,” Adam stated evenly when he walked back inside from a long stroll.
Paul raised his eyebrows. “Yes?”
His eyes lingered on the flushed cheeks, the glowing eyes, the wind-torn hair. Adam, dressed in a knit sweater, blue jeans and hiking boots, did something to him that Paul Metcalfe had tried to deny himself for a very long time now. It shivered through him in a way that made it hard to suppress an immediate reaction.
This was just them, civilians away from Skybase, with enough time to work out what was still happening between them, and it didn’t help that Adam looked… like that. His partner didn’t do more than before, never pushed, but something was building and it was getting so much harder to tame the instincts to… take.
“Didn’t know that about you,” Adam jerked him out of his thoughts.
Paul chuckled. “Finally something.”
Adam leaned against the kitchen counter and watched him chop onions. “So, what’s on the menu?”
“Lasagna and salad.”
And he stayed to watch.
It wasn’t an oppressive presence, just… Paul was very much aware of the other man anyway and now he was so close, to temptingly near, and something primal inside him wanted to bridge that last gap, cross that bridge, take Adam up on his still standing offer.
Paul didn’t know what would happen if he did. He was terrified of himself.
Adam started on setting the table as he pushed the lasagna into the oven. He glanced at his partner and felt the steady hum of the connection between them, unwavering and strong.
He turned away and glanced out the high windows.
Outside, the weather had abruptly changed, clouds riding low and obscuring the mountains, and the wind pushed them lower and faster across the land.
Adam casually wrapped an arm around Paul’s waist as they looked out the window. It was a loose hold, but still relayed an intimacy that had Paul want to do things…
Adam’s chin rested on the muscular shoulder, his body aligned with Paul’s.
“So much for another hike,” he sighed.
Paul let himself lean against the blond. It was an unconscious move, like the way they curled together in bed.
“Don’t like the weather, wait fifteen minutes,” he quoted a brochure.
It got him a soft chuckle. “Yeah.”
“Just call yourself lucky you aren’t stuck in the mountains right now.”
“Good instincts,” the other replied lightly. “Now, food?”
The lasagna was perfect.
The weather didn’t really lift and they stayed on the couch, watching satellite TV. Adam was a solid, comforting weight at his side and Paul smiled when the blond head slid lower until he was snuggled up under Paul’s arm.
A light dusting of snow blew past the window and Paul watched it, feeling himself relax completely.
They made it to bed, Adam sleepy but more alert than he looked. There was no thought lost about not sharing a bed; it was natural by now. Paul curled up to the other man with an involuntary sigh. He closed his eyes, letting himself slide off into sleep.
Adam kissed his head, his breathing evening out soon.
Outside, the snow stopped falling, the wind driving the heavy clouds toward the ocean.
* * *
They lay together at night and Paul slept deeply, as always. He woke up before Adam and made coffee, enjoying the early morning. His partner woke half an hour into his silent contemplation of the quiet landscape and shuffled into the open concept kitchen.
“Weather’s still not our friend,” Adam remarked after half a cup of coffee, gazing out the window.
Their cottage was surrounded by low clouds. The mountains were invisible and the temperatures had dropped considerably. Paul found the fog strangely calming. Maybe it was Adam’s presence, maybe the solitude, too. Maybe all of it together.
“Had any plans?”
Adam shrugged. “Not any more.” He refilled his cup. “At least not outside, unless you want to hike in the fog.”
“Then we’ll wait. Weather will clear up.”
“Clairvoyant?” Paul teased.
Adam grinned. “Don’t have to be. This won’t last.”
“If you say so. How about breakfast?”
“I’m all for it.”
The weather really did clear up by noon and they grabbed their gear.
“What are you afraid of, Paul?”
The pale blue eyes seemed to flicker, indecision written all over the handsome features of his partner. They had been on a day-long excursion with their jeep, driving up and down the unpaved slopes, crossing rivers, without actually meeting another soul. Horses had been their only companions as they had hiked a rather nice trail that had ended near some hot springs.
Paul had clearly enjoyed himself and Adam had seen a side of his best friend and partner that only rarely surfaced. There had been no mission, no pressure, nothing that had the other man constantly on edge. He had been himself. Paul Metcalfe.
Adam liked seeing that person.
He wanted to see him more often.
Now, back at the cottage, he had decided to meet the ghost between them head-on. Adam knew Paul was interested, that he wanted something that Adam wanted, too, but he didn’t act on it.
He never did.
“Losing control,” was the soft reply.
“There’s control and there’s you.” Adam smiled openly. “Loss of control should be a given if you really get invested. And I know you are. At least in the kissing.” He raised an eyebrow.
Paul shook his head. “That’s not the same.”
“You think getting physically closer than we already are makes you want to what? Bite me? You’re not a vampire. At least I never caught a hint of fang. And you’re not some kind of animal either. You don’t shapeshift, Paul. You’re human. Only human.”
Adam was close again and Paul fought the urge to push the man back against the wall, catch that mouth and kiss him. He wanted to… very, very much. And he wanted more. He wanted something that frightened him because of the intensity he felt with.
“We don’t know anything about the Mysterons,” he managed, sounding harsh and gritty to his own ears.
“Hm, yeah, but not relevant. Human, Paul. You have a human body and human reactions. I’ve been privy to them for a while no.”
“Adam…” he protested.
“You don’t know what might happen unless you try,” his partner offered.
“And hurt you in the process?”
“You’re not that kind of guy. And I heal. Thanks to you, I might add. I’m also very much capable of kicking your scrawny butt clear across the room if you try something funny, Paul Metcalfe. I’m not defenseless and you don’t have superpowers.”
Now Adam was very close and the pressure Paul felt was rising. The anchor between them was a steady hum, neither pushing nor pulling, and he knew this was solely him. He wanted this, wanted this man, and he wanted him badly. He had finally opened the door to the emotions from two years ago, letting it all out.
It was frightening in its intensity, in the clear, sharp want and hunger, and part of Scarlet wondered if this was the Mysteron or the human soul. It had intensified ever since they had started their little vacation. Being around Adam, completely free of any prying eyes on them, without a mission or his duties as a Spectrum officer to think of, things had… developed. It was getting harder and harder to push his emotions away.
Adam slid a slow hand over his rib cage, around his waist, pulling them close, and then his lips brushed over Paul’s.
It was so easy to open up, to fall back on what he knew, on what they had both become really, really good at, and to feel the familiar wave of content and calm.
Mixed with the trickles of hunger. And lust. He couldn’t deny that anymore.
“Adam,” he murmured against the wet lips.
“Trust yourself, Paul. Because I do.”
The next kiss was even more intense. It touched something, scratched at the shields Paul still kept up, wriggled through the cracks that had started to appear lately. It was powerful, relentless, and it was so familiar.
Adam bit him lightly, startling him a little, and the groan that left his mouth shocked him.
He looked into the intense eyes, dark blue, filled with a fire he had seen in the field before. Now it was directed at him.
His next action shocked him even more, actually frightening him for a second or two. Or five.
Paul whirled them around, pushing Adam against the wall, pinning his wrists and capturing the teasing mouth in a hard, demanding kiss. Adam’s reaction was almost beautiful. His mouth opened, pliant and warm and so familiar, and his whole body seemed to welcome him.
He felt the sharp twist of building pleasure, his own reaction to the tension that was building in anticipation of his next step, and when Adam bucked against the leg he had pushed between his thighs, he almost lost it.
“Fuck,” he breathed out loud, trembling, still holding on to those wrists.
The look in Adam’s eyes, dark with arousal and want, nearly broke the last wall.
“Don’t think,” the blond murmured, making no move to free himself.
“Don’t. I’ve got you. I’m here. I’m your anchor, even now. Paul… let go.”
And he did.
He woke in bed, wrapped in a familiar embrace, feeling warmth along his back and side, ensconced in the arms of his partner. The warmth wasn’t just physical but also in his mind, and memories lapped at his consciousness.
He felt the heat rise in his face and fought down a very physical reaction to the memories. Very passionate, intense and hot memories.
Well, fuck, he thought.
In every sense of the word.
Paul had never been this wired, this close to the edge, this… dominant… demanding… possessive. There had been a sliver of fear, a harsh, inner debate whether he was too alien, too Mysteron, that he was taking and not giving. That he was not himself. Because Paul wasn’t rough, disregarding his partner’s pleasures.
Adam had silenced those voices. That one voice that had been low and dark and like the voice of the Mysterons.
He hadn’t taken by force. He hadn’t forced Adam in any way. He hadn’t dominated. Yes, there had been a lot of passion involved, some cursing, probably leaving a few bruises on each other’s skin, but nothing showed now. Paul healed fast and Adam was his anchor.
In so many ways.
Paul felt himself smile involuntarily, looking at the blond head. He was human where it mattered. Adam had shown that to him.
The pleasantly hard, warm body next to him moved a little.
“Adam,” he murmured.
“Here,” was the low rumble.
Paul smiled more and buried his face against the warmth automatically. He felt incredibly relaxed. The connection between them was close to alive, an almost physical sensation.
Adam trailed his fingers over the naked skin within his reach, all comfortable heat and well-known scent.
“Stop thinking,” he rumbled.
It got him a grunt.
“That would be news,” was the lazy comment.
Paul finally pushed himself up and looked into the handsome face of his partner, his best friend, the man who would be at his side forever. He took in the blue eyes, the pale blond stubble, the short-cropped, equally pale bond hair. He touched the strong jaw, felt the bristles, felt the warmth.
“Newsflash,” Paul teased and leaned down, the kiss exploratory and warm, slowly opening up.
Adam made a pleasurable noise.
“Worked, hm?” he murmured when they parted. “Got you to let go.”
Oh yeah. He had. He had let go and taken.
“I still lost control.”
There had been a bite mark, but it had looked more like a hickey. No blood. It was gone now.
“In a good way,” Adam added, the grin cocky and very, very pleased. “Like I said, there’s loss of control and then there’s you. You’re not my first, Paul. This was intense, sure. Because of the whole UST between us. Because I really wanted you. Because I wanted this. Intensity and all. It wasn’t unwanted, though. It was you and I wanted you and still do. I’m not breakable. Not made of glass.”
“Nope, no guessing. It was fantastic. Also very human, Paul. No glowing eyes or shifting body parts where there shouldn’t be.” The grin was wider now. “Did you some good.”
“Yeah,” he agreed.
He silenced the mocking tease with another kiss.
Paul felt something shiver through him. It was powerful and pushy and hungry.
Adam teasingly nipped at his lower lip.
“Go with the flow,” the blond whispered.
Hands slid over naked, warm skin.
Warm skin between them and no clothes.
Glacial had gone out the window last night.
And Paul gave in to the need, easy and almost calm in the eye of his emotional storm. He let himself go, experience something he had denied himself for so long, and it was wonderful.
It freed him.
And it made him so much more human than anything else before.
Adam’s face was flushed and he was breathing harder than before.
Paul lay next to him, breathing equally hard, hearing his heart drum in his ears. Tremors raced through him from the intense climax he had just experienced. Gentle strokes over his sweat-slicked skin made him shiver and a kiss was placed onto his heaving chest. He turned his head and looked into the dazed blue eyes of his lover.
“Hot damn,” Adam sighed.
“My thought exactly,” Paul answered, the rush of his own release still ringing between them.
Adam grinned, then his brow rose as he discovered that his partner was still hard. “Recuperative powers, hm?”
“I think we’re going to have a lot of fun with that. If you give me a moment to get over how sore I am.”
Paul chuckled and drew him close, lips playfully nipping at Adam’s. Strong arms came around him, pillowing his head against one shoulder. Warm skin, Adam’s scent, the soft breath against his hair, it all made him relax even further.
Paul wrapped an arm around the slender waist and snuggled closer, feeling incredibly content all of a sudden. Safe and content.
The embrace tightened briefly and Adam nuzzled his hair.
“Y’know I got you to help me along with soreness, Paul,” Adam remarked after a moment.
Paul snorted. “Worst come on ever.”
“I can feel you, Paul.” A hand slid lower.
“Stop thinking, okay?”
Adam pushed himself up and straddled the dark-haired man. Paul groaned softly into the kiss and let his partner take the lead.
He had dozed off, which was still a novelty to date and never ceased to amaze him. Paul woke to the pleasant smell of coffee. Adam had left the bed and judging from the lack of warmth and the enticing smell, it had been a while.
“Ready to face the world?” Adam called, sounding too amused and too awake for Paul’s liking.
He was offered the coffee and sat up, still naked as the day he was born, and sipped at the black liquid. From the way Adam was watching, he enjoyed the display.
“Showered already?” Paul asked, taking in the clean look, the clothes, the damp hair.
“You were out like a light, partner. If I didn’t know it means you’re relaxing, I’d take it personally that I can put you to sleep.”
Paul grimaced and Adam smiled more.
“Any plans?” the blond asked.
“Not so far. Haven’t had time to read the brochures.”
Adam leaned against the door jamb. “No brochures. We got a cottage, we got a car, we got miles of landscape and fun times ahead.”
“It’s Iceland in March, Adam. It’s not even daylight yet and it’ll be dark by five.”
“There are a lot of ways to have fun.”
“One track mind.”
“You, maybe,” Adam replied mischievously. “I was thinking DVD marathons.”
Paul chuckled and emptied the coffee. He rose, the blanket sliding away, and from Adam’s expression, the show was very much enjoyed indeed.
“I’ll have a shower, then we can make plans for today,” he said casually.
“Uh-hn,” his partner managed, holding the empty mug, clearly trying to pull his mind out of the gutter.
Paul shook his head, still smiling, and disappeared in the bathroom.
He wouldn’t have believed a word if someone had told him that they would spend a week in Iceland, with no mission to call them back, with no emergency requiring their return, with no one after Captain Scarlet. No Mysterons, no nothing.
Paul had never felt so at ease, so relaxed, so completely… himself, for years. Two years.
A very long time.
It wasn’t just the fact that he and Adam had taken a big step in their relationship, adding the complete physical aspect to the already growing intimacy between them. It was how he looked at his partner now.
Adam had trusted him. Had taught him to trust himself. Had shown him that there was no monster lurking underneath the human façade, ready to lash out and harm and hurt and destroy what they had. He hadn’t lost himself in the tidal wave of emotions. The fear had been unfounded. Yes, he had lost control, but in a good way.
Adam only agreed.
It was amazing. It was liberating. It was… like a door closing and so many new ones now open to him.
Closing his bag, he looked at the blond puttering around outside, loading the car, checking the car, or just enjoying the serenity of the silent land around them.
Paul had never allowed himself to experience the absolute calm and happiness that had come with the realization that he was now complete. He had been scared, actually terrified, and he had wanted to protect his partner.
From himself. From the Mysteron he was.
“Deep thoughts again.”
The remark had him chuckle and turn. “Kinda. This was… great, Adam. All of this. Away from Skybase, from the others, from the Mysteron threat. I could get used to it.”
“Then we repeat it. Somewhere else undisclosed. Keep them guessing.” Adam smiled. “You have so many vacation days left, Colonel White wouldn’t mind.”
“I’ll tag along and keep an eye on you.”
Paul chuckled and hefted his beg. He walked up to Adam and leaned in for a quick kiss.
“Let’s go home.”
The helicopter picking them up was piloted by Lieutenant Ochre, who took one look at them and grinned broadly.
“Iain better hand over those bills now.”
Adam sighed and shook his head.
Paul just groaned softly and slumped into his seat.
He should have figured.
* * *
Colonel White stood at the observation window and looked down onto the flight deck. The helicopter with Scarlet and Blue had just returned and the two men, still in their civilian outfits, had stepped off. They were by now in the closed off and protected area that led straight into their flying home.
White smiled a little to himself as he noticed the ease between the partners, how close they were without actually showing it with physical gestures.
It had been a good decision. One of his best, maybe.
Of course, he hadn’t made the decision to choose Adam Svenson as Captain Scarlet’s anchor. That had been Scarlet’s instinctive decision all on his own.
No, he had supported it. Like Gold supported it. Scarlet needed Blue. Paul needed Adam. It was so simply and yet so complicated, too.
White didn’t care how this anchor expressed itself. The bond was there to stay and nothing anyone could say or do would change that. Everyone would have to adapt and in this war, adaptation was mandatory. It was needed and it was a given.
The door to his office slid open and he turned, giving the two men a nod.
“Colonel,” Paul said formally.
They had yet to change into their uniforms. White took in the way they stood slightly to attention, close and yet apart, and how the tension that always seemed to flow through Scarlet was missing. His eyes looked so much more alive, so much more like that man he had been before that fateful day on Mars.
“I take it you enjoyed your time off.”
Adam smiled, eyes just as alive as Paul’s. “Yes, sir. No troubles.”
“Aside from a few minor incidents, none of them related to Mysteron activity, it was a quiet week here as well. Let’s hope we can enjoy it a little longer.”
“You’re back on duty tomorrow morning,” White continued. “Make the most of the rest of your vacation.”
He gave them a brief smile and could have sworn there was almost a smirk on Adam’s lips.
“Thank you, sir.”
There was an exchange of looks, then Captain Blue left.
“Captain?” White asked, raising his eyebrows slightly as Scarlet remained.
“Sir. I’d like to… thank you for… your acceptance.”
Now the brows lowered.
“The anchor is one thing, but the connection that as now formed between me and Captain Blue has grown quite… intense and more…” he hesitated, “intimate,” he finally said.
“Paul,” White said softly, walking around his desk and facing his younger subordinate. “What happened to you in the past was one of the worst things I can imagine happening to someone. I am your superior officer here at Spectrum and as such I will put to use your skills and abilities, but I never forget that you’re human, Paul. Like all of us. You give your life on a regular basis, with no regard to the pain and possibility that it might be permanent.”
Scarlet looked away, face a little paler now. White knew next to nothing about the pain, true, but he knew this man. Paul Metcalfe was a soldier, a warrior, but he was also human and he had a human soul. Dying again and again… it tore into that human soul.
“The anchor forming was a gift. That it progressed this far, that you allowed it to go this far, was a blessing. Paul…”
Scarlet looked at him.
White gave him a calm smile. “I don’t care what you two do, how this connection is expressed, as long as there is no overt public display of affection.”
Scarlet opened his mouth to protest, but his commander raised a hand.
“Let me finish. I have watched you in the past years and I know you have been best friends throughout those years. I know you have become more and that you need it, Captain. You are nothing if not professional and so is Captain Blue. Keep it that way in the public eye. You are both past the teenage stage, I take it.”
Scarlet flushed a little. “Yes, sir.”
“Good.” He smiled a little. “Let me reassure you, Captain, that I support the anchor and your connection to Captain Blue. You chose him. You need him. He isn’t a liability and never has been. You two are partners, a team, and you trust each other. That is all I need to know.”
“Sir,” he said, swallowing.
“Now, I believe you still have a few hours of your vacation left. I’d say enjoy it.”
Scarlet nodded, the tension that had crept up into his stance easing. “We will, colonel.”
And then he was gone.
White chuckled a little to himself. He would keep an eye on the two men, as he had always done. Captain Scarlet was a capable soldier, their best asset in this war, and Captain Blue was his anchor and his shield. Scarlet wouldn’t be alone in this, in his future. He would have companion he needed and accepted and, most importantly, one he trusted.
Yes, it would be interesting to see the developments. He was sure there would be more to come.
* * *
Adam visibly held back not to laugh out loud an Paul shot him a scowl.
“This is priceless,” his partner finally blurted and chuckled.
Paul plopped down beside him and elbowed him gently. “Stop it.”
“You know that the Colonel more or less told us to make out as much as we want as long as we keep it behind closed doors?”
He grimaced. “He didn’t.”
“I said more or less.” Adam pushed himself up and straddled the dark-haired man, smiling softly. “And I’m all for it. ‘Cause I like making out with you. It also keeps you evened out, right?”
Paul’s hands were on the slender waist, brushing over the black shirt his best friend and partner was wearing.
“Good deeds and all. Let’s just say I’ll gladly follow orders then.”
He leaned down and kissed Paul, and Paul opened up, feeling the familiar shiver or pleasure. This would never get old.
His hands slid over the firm buttocks and Adam slid closer, lips sliding off lips, and Paul took the opportunity to trail a wet path of kisses, licks and nips down the strong throat.
They fell together, easy, comfortable, familiar with the other body already. And still there was so much they were still learning. Paul was amazed at the ease with which he had slid into this next step of their relationship. It was pure wonder for him to experience Adam this way, to feel him move into his touch, into his caresses. Or to feel Adam with him, the hands on Paul’s body so sure and calm and balancing.
The one who made him absolutely human.
Adam came with a low groan, spilling into Paul’s hands, and he kissed him hard, mouths clashing roughly, fervently.
“Adam…” he breathed.
“Got you,” was the soft answer, filled with so much passion and hunger.
Adam groaned again when Paul continued to pump him, sensitive and needy in one. Paul released him after a last tug.
“You think you can keep your hands off me tomorrow?” the blond asked, sounding malleable and sleepy in one, but the teasing note was audible.
“Will be hard,” Paul replied and kissed him.
“Since you’re such a shining example of uncontrolled behavior on duty…”
“Oh, shut up.”
Adam grinned and stroked along his sides. “I know the switch you throw, Paul. You’ll be completely professional the moment we walk out that door tomorrow morning. PDA is something White won’t have to worry about.”
“Definitely not. But this isn’t public, so…”
“Insatiable much?” Paul asked, but easily accepted the offer.
Adam didn’t reply, just latched onto him with a hard kiss.
I know this isn't a large fandom, so I want to thank the handful of people who read this for giving it a read :) Hope you enjoyed it.