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5:29am

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There was nothing special about Monday morning except for people’s attitude, and that statement was one Owen would generally consider true.

However, not all Monday mornings were the same. 

And what a difference, he thought, sleepily leaning against the airplane window as the English countryside rolled further and further away by the second.

It was 6:36am on Monday morning, the plane's departure was delayed by exactly 10 minutes, and he was dead tired. But hey, long flight. 

Immediately, he attempted to fall asleep. When that failed, he attempted to read. When that failed, he attempted to strike up a conversation with the flight attendant, and that went even worse; as in, by the end of it, he was more bored than before and the flight attendant was very obviously undressing him with her eyes.

He tapped his fingers against his left knee, distractedly. The echo of a phantom pain responded. 

His mind ran to the box in his carry-on bag. Shiny, red, with a sort of mendacious metallic sheen. Just paper. But it wasn't the box that mattered, it was its contents. 

Owen wasn't stupid.

He knew very well that his partner was not okay and he was even more acutely aware of his part in it. His part was very guilty and in charge of making him feel better because it was the least he could do . So he'd gone to a little sweets shop in Soho, run by a lovely old lady, and asked for advice.

What do you give a friend to apologize , he'd asked her. She'd been surprisingly helpful. He hadn't been too specific, only saying that his friend had been injured and he'd had a part in it that, no matter how small or unintentional, he felt he needed to apologize for. 

The lady had suggested something soft ( something chewy ). She'd asked what kind of flavour Curt liked ( way too sweet, or maybe liquor-y) . How long the trip would be ( they'd excluded chocolate pretty quickly ). In the end, she'd shoveled a couple dozen assorted pieces of fudge into a red box and put a nice silver bow on top. 

Owen really hoped Curt liked fudge. As far as he knew, the man hadn't even tasted it.

So there he was, on a public plane because MI6 didn't cover travel for personal reasons and he'd taken a few months off with a little unexpected help from Director Houston.

Well, it wasn't exactly help , it was more like Cynthia sitting him down the day after the failed mission and telling him something along the lines of: "If I know that dumbass at all, he's gonna need adult supervision." and "Since it's mostly your fault, I figured you might need a good lesson, so good luck dealing with him for five fucking months. Make sure he doesn't get any of his colossally stupid ideas while he's there."

And that was how he'd found himself on a plane, sitting in the window seat next to a guy who'd been sleeping since the moment he'd sat down and a lady who was busily conversing with someone in the seat in front of her.

This was going to be a long trip.

 

Curt normally lived in a safehouse somewhere in the middle of Nowhere, Michigan. Nowhere wasn't the name of the town. The only Nowhere he knew was in Oklahoma, which was… somewhere. Owen hadn't quite figured all of US geography out yet, but he was working on it. The only reason he knew there was a town called Nowhere in Oklahoma was that Curt had told him. Although Michigan had its own strangely named town, aka Hell. Delightful.

But Curt was neither in Nowhere, Oklahoma nor Hell, Michigan. He was, in fact, on the outskirts of Ant Arbor, Michigan (not to be confused with the confusingly similar Ann Arbor, Michigan), which actually turned out to be a decently big town.

Still, Curt's safehouse was pretty isolated. Owen couldn't risk renting a car (it made the connection to him too easy), so he just settled for taking the bus as far as it would go and walking the rest of the way with his heavy-ass luggage. Oh joy.

He recognized the name on the doorbell.

Robert Crawford

One of Curt's aliases.

He rang. 

It took poor Curt a concerning amount of time to get up and open the door, but then again, that was why he was there. So he didn't take two minutes to answer a doorbell.

“Holy shit!”

Okay, not the welcome I expected, but-

“Hello, love. Missed me?”

“Terribly.” Curt grinned, “But seriously, what the fuck?”

“You’ll never believe me. May I?”

“Try me.”

 

“I don’t believe you.”

Called it , Owen thought with a certain amount of satisfaction, but he couldn’t deny that the story sounded unbelievable. It was Cynthia they were talking about, in all fairness.

"I swear on my life, Curt. She told me you would need adult supervision ." he shrugged, and enjoyed the indignant squawk that followed, "That sounds more like her, doesn't it?"

"Well, how dare she. That evil woman." his partner scoffed, but then quietly added: "Don't tell her I said that."

"I'll take it to the grave, dear."

Curt smiled sweetly at the pet name: "You'd better, or else the grave is closer than you think."

Owen laughed half-heartedly. They both knew death was around the corner at all times, whether Curt was behind it or not. The statement rang three times as true for them. Spies. Dangerous business. 

When a spy takes on the badge, they have to accept that their possibilities of spending their last moments in a cell, in agonizing pain, have just increased dramatically.

Curt knew that.

Owen knew that.

He knew that a broken knee was nothing compared to what might have been if he hadn't just so happened to be around to protect him. So actually being there, for five months , filled him with an indescribable emotion that was somehow both euphoric and terrifying. 

On one hand, he'd be there. When Curt was most vulnerable, he would be there. 

On the other hand, it was his responsibility. If something were to happen, whether it was in spite of his best efforts or because he'd screwed up, again , he wasn't sure how he would react. Blood would be spilled, probably.

"Anyway, these are delicious.” he mumbled, shoving another piece of fudge into his mouth, “I didn't take you for the caramel type."

"I'm not." said Owen, notorious dark chocolate lover that he was, "Those are for you."

"A guy can dream."

"Oh sod off, there's more for you this way." he scoffed.

“Fair.” Curt shrugged, immediately popping another piece of candy under his tongue. 

 

That same evening, a horribly jetlagged Owen lay awake in bed, thinking about how much better his  bed would have been. Curt’s couch (he was not going to let an invalid sleep on the couch and, much to poor Curt’s chagrin, he wasn’t sure enough that the apartment wasn’t bugged to feel comfortable sleeping in his bed) was rather stiff.

So there he sat, awake, at 3am, thinking about life and death. The works. 

There was one thing in particular that was bugging him, he came to realize as the minutes ticked by. Namely, his agency. He wasn’t retired and, in all honesty, it was just weird how much time off they’d given him, no questions asked. Not even Cynthia had that kind of power.

There had to be something more to it. Or maybe not. But, whatever it was, it was definitely spoiling the prospect of spending five months with Curt, and he didn’t like that one bit.

The hours ticked by.

5:29am

Knock knock .